In part 2 of his interview with Tim Challies, Paul Washer identifies some concerns he has regarding younger Christians who’ve rediscovered the biblical doctrines of the Reformation – each of them involve a “disconnect” (my word) between those doctrines and their necessary application in faith and practice.
Three of Washer’s concerns, in particular, stood out to me.
#1 Embracing Reformation doctrines without letting go of unbiblical models of church life:
We must realize that much of what is wrong with current evangelical practices has to do with a departure from the biblical theology that was set forth in the Reformation. If we truly grasp these doctrines, especially Sola Scriptura, then it demands that we conform our organizational structures and methodologies of ministry to the Scriptures, not the other wayaround.
#2 Comprehending Reformed and Puritan theology without practicing its piety:
Their prayer closets were just as familiar to them as their libraries. They longed to be conformed to the image of Christ. They were by no means perfect men, but they painstakingly sought to conform every aspect of their lives to the dictates of Scripture. The transformation in their theology produced a transformation in their doxology and praxis.
#3 Attempting to appear contemporary, hip or cool:
This flirtatious relationship with culture is dangerous, and it makes it very difficult for the world to take the minister or his messageseriously.
I am grateful that Washer identified these three concerns. They are pressing in my own life and also seem to me quite conspicuous in our generation. There are many “disconnects” between our biblical doctrine and our church life, our devotional life, and our relationship with the world. We may love the doctrines of the Reformation, but do we love what they must mean?
You cannot marry Sola Deo Gloria and the man-centered consumerism assumed by most within the average evangelical church. It’s impossible to reflect on the theology Calvin’s Institutes in the morning and then peruse Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Churchin the afternoon, while assuming yourself to be consistent. Many try this, but there’s no middle ground between the two – the foundational presuppositions of modern evangelical (“it’s all about keeping you happy and entertained”) pragmatism are at odds with the doctrines of God’s grace.
Neither can one say with integrity that they love the theology of God’s sovereignty and glory in Romans 9 without being led to the doxology of Romans 11:33-36. The Reformation was more than an ideology for intellectuals, it was a pastoral movement for Christian piety.
And there’s a reason that the Reformers and Puritans were despised, forsaken, and rejected by men – just like the Apostle Paul (2 Cor 4:8-10) – because the doctrines of grace assault man’s pride (1 Cor 1:26-31). If the world loves your hip “relevance” (see Luke 6:26; John 15:19; 1 John 2:15; Jas 4:1; et al), it may be because you have not consistently applied these doctrines to their humbling end – “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:30).
Do not resist believing doctrines of grace. And also do not resist applying their necessary and biblical implications to our churches, our lives and our relationships.
If you’re interested in more from Paul Washer on how to connect our doctrine to our practice, I would recommend reading his booklet, Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church. (There’s also a free Kindle version).
But let me warn you that it is well-titled. And it is indicting!