The Traditional Evangelical/Reformed Veiw of the Kingdom?

The conflation of “evangelical” and “reformed” is so typically that more often than not it is taken for granted.  We see it in Dr. D.A. Carson’s recent rebuttal of “kingdom” theology which he sees as too focused on communal ethics rather than individual salvation (it is found in Themelios, the academic arm (journal) of The Gospel Coalition).

Here is the first sentence of his editorial:

In recent years a number of stances have arisen that have set themselves over against traditional evangelicalism and traditional Reformed thought, not a few of them arguing, in part, on the basis of a particular understanding of the kingdom.

Carson is worried about divergences from “traditional evangelical” and “traditional Reformed” understandings of the Kingdom of God, outlining six interpretations and how they are generally “ethically” oriented rather than “salvation” oriented. He then offers his brief exegetical reason for why they are reductionistic (i.e. the Kingdom is so much more complex than each of these can account for).

But what really urks me is the conflation of “evangelical” with “reformed” theology.  I know that in Carson’s mind he is not intending to mislead, but this is borderline propoganda for the Neo-Reformed who would like everyone to think that true evangelicalism is judged by its faithfulness to Reformed theology.  But this is patently false.  Evangelicalism has always been a much larger grouping of Wesleyan-Methodist-Holiness churches, Pentecostal and charismatic churches, and yes, Reformed oriented churches.  But “traditional evangelicalism” can not and should not be equated with “traditional Reformed” thought.

Of course I think many actual Reformed thinkers will bristle at Carson’s suggestion that he and his Gospel Coalition ilk are representing “traditional Reformed thought” when it fact it is more of a pietistic blend of Reformed soteriology and revivalist conversionism (this is why we call it Neo-Reformed).  In fact the more I studey the history of evangelicalism and the Reformed theology, I’m beginning to think that if we look farther back than the 1920s fundamentalist/liberal schism the more I wonder if Carson is wrong about being either traditionally evangelical or traditionally Reformed.

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You can read more of how myself and David Fitch talk about the New-Reformed views of the Kingdom and the Gospel and how they are actually reductionist in chapters six (Gospel) and seven (Church) of Prodigal Christianity. And if you have read it please like our FB page or write a review for Amazon.  

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8 Replies to “The Traditional Evangelical/Reformed Veiw of the Kingdom?”

  1. I got picked on in comments to a piece I’d written for on evangelicals and morality. I was told that my Wesleyan view was a minority position in opposition to what has “always been mainstream evangelicalism”. I was so dumbfounded by the claim that I did a fairly poor job of rebuttal. The commenter’s claim was that because I wasn’t HIS kind of evangelical, I might as well be a zeitgeist loving mainliner.

    1. johnhawthorne Yes, that is exactly the problem.  The Neo-Reformed want to claim a conservative/liberal dichtomy and that everyone who is not thier brand of evangelical is a liberal, when in fact historically they are the minority position among evangelicals (although not necessary post-Fundamentalist neo-evangelicals, which is what TCG and SBC are).  Really the Wesleyan/Holiness/Pentecostal position is a more radical position beyond conservative/liberal. 
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Good article, but I think to the population in general evangelical = reformed. I call it the Wal-Mart market effect. The Christian authors you see at Wal-Mart are who people associate with Christianity. Right now at Wal-Mart you will see books from Osteen, Piper, Keller, Chan, and Driscoll. 
    The general population couldn’t tell you why these authors are different from other authors like Wright, Bell, or others outside the Reformed movement. They equate reformed with Christianity because that is what is popular.

    1. methodistmonk Oh, that is depressing. But you are probably right.  
      So the only way to turn this around is to write popular enough book to be sold in a Wal-Mart that I generally boycott (Crawling into hole, and giving up).
      But on the other hand, I think my purpose isn’t to change popular sentiment (at least not right away), but to help non-reformed evangelical leaders to put off an inferiority complex and be more confident in their heritage rather than being told/believing they are the step-kids.

  3. Aside from the conflation of Reformed with evangelical in Carson’s article (I’ve also heard him conflate “compatibalistic determinism” with “biblical sovereignty” too, for the record), do you take issue with any of his concerns?

    1. sethrichardson Yes, I have several concerns, but I didn’t make that the people of the post.  His separation of reign and people seems to totally ignore the OT connection, and the easy move of biblical scholars who say, “it is more complicated than that, don’t be reductionistic” when speaking of other views but then their own view is reductionistic in another way. 
      I do agree with him that it all comes down to what is the “gospel”. So we at least can stand on that. 🙂
      What issues did you see?

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