Thinking Out Loud

January 8, 2013

Protect the Brand at all Costs

Some of my best friends are from the Reformed tradition. Well, maybe not best friends, but you get the idea. Heck, I’ve even preached the Sunday morning sermon in a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and I wasn’t reading it off a website transcript as some of their own people are required.

While I don’t agree with five-point Calvinism per se, I am really into total depravity. (Maybe I should re-phrase that?) I regularly include links here to some bloggers who I know represent the various aspects of the Reformed tradition. And I can disagree violently with someone on Tuesday and included a link to one of their stories on Wednesday. I think that’s what attracts people here. I am committed to the idea of the “holy catholic church” even though I wish the framers of the apostles creed had used a different word than “catholic,” which in this context means worldwide or universal.

What I have issues with is Calvinist bloggers who only read their own authors, only quote their own leaders, only attend their own conventions, basically now only use their own (ESV) Bible translation, and — this is actually happening — only sing their own songs.  I have written before how a previous generation longed to see a coming together of The Body of Christ in unity and now we are seeing increased fragmentation. And this fragmentation even extends to exclusivity, which is a mark of cult faith. And the printed and online output by Calvinists is so out of proportion to their actual numbers that they tend to dominate everyone’s lists of best books and best blogs.  Basically, a doctrinal preference has become a fortress wall.

Kevin deYoung's BlogrollNearly five years ago on this blog, I observed that perhaps the issue is that while this brand of Christ-follower prefers to make a massive, prolific literary output, other brands of Christ-followers are out living their faith. (I should add that the Reformed bloggers are one of a number of groups disproportionately represented online.)

Enough lead-in. What sparked this today? Actually it was a post on The Wartburg Watch about Tim Challies’ glowing — dare we say sparklingreview of a new book by Mark Driscoll.  I’ll leave you to click through to see that TWW writers have identified the over-the-top superlatives used in this puff piece. Defend the brand at all costs! Power to the mutual admiration society! For the writers at TWW, something doesn’t ring true.

One of Tim‘s readers writes:

If anything Tim, you definitely know how to kick the hornets nest.. A fair review, but it builds up a man that has done much to divide the brethren.You’re blog traffic should explode now. The Driscolites are loving you.


No. A good review to a good book is acceptable. But there are plenty of good books on this subject, and it is a disservice to the church to fail to point out along with the good review that this man is unqualified for the ministry by his lack of dignity, poor character, weak doctrine, obsession with sex, misuse of Scripture and abusive leadership style.


I’m not sure how I feel about people continuing to speak of Driscoll and review his books favorably. It seems to me that he’s ventured into dangerous territory, both sexually and spiritually, and that other pastors would be wise to take a step back from endorsing him as a consequence.

and whatever comments Tim Challies chose not to share on the blog.

So what would I like to see? Let’s give Challies the benefit of the doubt and assume he enjoyed the book in question. But let’s also suggest that someone in the movement take a deep, deep breath, and take a big, big step back and look at where their movement is heading and say, “Do we really want to cut ourselves off from everyone else?”

‘Cause honestly guys, I think you’re better served with some of us than you are without us. And someday you may need us to defend you.

Use the TWW link to locate Tim’s review of the Driscoll book.


  1. There are some people that if asked what their religion is they say “Baptist.” They have the Bible and the Baptist Hymnal, Lottie Moon and Annie Annie Armstrong are their saints, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow is their liturgy, and in some instances they are so Baptist they forgot how to be Christian. It’s kind of funny, but the same thing is happening with the 5-Pointers, when that “brand” is the first and foremost identification not an identity hid in Christ.

    The New Calvinism has an attitude similar to the New Atheists. Both groups now share their faith, win converts and make disciples. Like we might plead with a lost soul to believe the Gospel, Calvinists take their doctrine just as seriously. I could be a good 3 1/2 point Calvinist, but those last couple of points are real sticking places. I simply find they do not all line up with scripture.

    Finally I see the issue as somewhat academic. It attempts to understand something that we just don’t need to understand, an insight into the working of salvation from the mind of God. I got up this morning, read the scripture, prayed, and will attempt to go out into the world in a little while and be conformed to the image of Christ. My Calvinist friends will do the same; we all turn thanks at each meal, invite others to church, tithe. I’ve seen professed Calvinists become much more pragmatic during the invitation, when they just keep asking the piano player for one more verse of Just As I Am.

    I’m a big fan of the ESV; didn’t realize that made me one of them.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — January 8, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  2. I am constantly amazed how you manage to stay on top of these things!

    The Apostle Paul would have no problem expressing his view on this adoration of a man who was dividing the kingdom (aka Judaizers in his day)…he might well be heard bellowing “I would that they were cut off!”

    Comment by Cynthia Clarke — January 8, 2013 @ 8:55 am

  3. TWW did a folllow up piece a few days later on this which I missed. There’s a rather funny review there that Stephanie Drury (Stuff Christian Culture Likes) wrote on Amazon for Driscoll’s book. And lots of comments.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 26, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

  4. […] wrote about their brand loyalty here several months ago; and for the lesser lights in the movement, spiritual brownie points are earned by constantly […]

    Pingback by New Calvinists Must Support the Brand at all Costs | Thinking Out Loud — April 20, 2013 @ 8:49 am

  5. […] particularly those from my local CRC church — are actually most pleasant; it’s the online persona of more militant Calvinists such as the author of the quote which leads today’s article that […]

    Pingback by Calvinist Doctrinal Diatribe Continues Online | Thinking Out Loud — June 11, 2013 @ 6:39 am

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