The conflation of “evangelical” and “reformed” is so typically misleading that it more often than not taken for granted. We see it again in Dr. D.A. Carson’s recent rebuttal of “kingdom” theology that focuses on communal ethics rather than individual salvation (it is found in the recent issue of Themelios, the academic arm (journal) of The Gospel Coalition).
Here is the first sentence of his editoral:
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.
If feel like you or your institution is part of the non-Reformed evangelical community, please connect with Missio Alliance.
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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