For years now I’ve been carrying on an ongoing dialog with a Pentecostal minister. He was the one who first used the term, “the Charismatic-ization of Evangelical worship music,” while at the same time indicating that in many Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada churches, there is a decreasing presence of the gifts of utterance (particularly tongues and interpretation) such that the weekend service at a Pentecostal church now more resembles that of a mainstream Evangelical denomination, and the worship at the mainstream Evangelical church is slowly adopting elements (worship flow, extended songs, hands raised, etc.) once found only in Charismatic churches.
I was explaining that to someone this week when it suddenly occurred to me that the same time as there is a drawing together taking place along the charismatic axis, there is an increased distancing taking place along what we could label the Reformed continuum.
I call it the Reformed continuum and not the Calvinist-Arminian continuum because the issue is not predestination or eternal security. Those differences have always been, always will be, and do not come as a surprise to our Heavenly Father. I’m referring instead to the way in which the New Calvinists, militant Calvinists, or YRR (Young, Restless, Reformed) crowd are slowly inching away from everyone else; slowly separating themselves from mainstream Evangelicalism, if — as some will want to argue — they were ever there.
I have written before how one of their number refers to insiders in their movement as “real friends of the gospel;” implying that the rest of us are not friends of the gospel; and how a popular online book distributor had to create a Reformed boutique site to earn the trust of Calvinist customers.
In August of 2010, I called this phenomenon the Cultization of Calvinism.
The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness. It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.
I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship. Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard. Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere. Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.
Two years later, I don’t want to return to that discussion here except to say that it’s notable that there is a shrinking of differences taking place along the Charismatic axis at the same time as differences become more pronounced — or perhaps, better to say borders become more pronounced — along another; not unlike the situation where the earth is at times closer to some planets and farther from others.
The subjectivity in this is huge. If you are old-school Pentecostal, and mourn the loss of tongues and interpretation, you have reason to be concerned. If you are Baptist, and find it genuinely upsetting when people raise their hands in worship, then you will dig in your heels and seek a more conservative faith family. If you are Reformed, you may find yourself become intolerant of mainstream Evangelicals if you view their views as heretical.
How this effects the corner of the Christian universe you call home I suppose depends on what potential interaction you have with people of both groups, or in which group you personally reside.
A wise person is one who will step back far enough to see the big picture, and note the trends taking place.
Image: Although the book in the graphic isn’t referenced in the article, the image was priceless, and I decided it was only fair to use the full jacket, acknowledging author Mark Johnston and Christian Focus Publications. Learn more about it by clicking here.