Jiggling one's Jenga

See: I know you people have read the bit by Dr. Peter Masters about the massive failings of the “New Calvinists”, particularly his criticism of loud music and Colin Hansen’s apparently-wrong evaluation of Calvinism in the U.S. in the 20th century.

And then some of you have nothing else to do but wait for iMonk to write the next thing which will make me call him a turkey, and you have read his response to Dr. Peter Masters which, in effect, says, “eh. So what? He’s a fundamentalist, and that’s what a fundamentalist would say about this.”

And now, because I baited you, you are hoping for the show because you bought your popcorn and a large coke, and it’s refillable, so this better be long and good.

Well, it’ll be good. Turns out it’s also pretty long – standard 3 pages.

First thing: I agree with both of these guys. I mean: there’s no question that the Calvinism of John Piper and John MacArthur are not really much like each other, let alone like the Calvinism of Owen or Edwards – and that’s actually a good thing in spite of Dr. Master’s claxon of warning. But it’s not hardly as bad as Dr. Masters makes it out to be – which is where I find fault with the Appalachian podcasting genius in his assessment of Dr. Masters.

Here’s what I mean: it’s a good thing that Calvinism in 21st century America doesn’t look like Calvinism in puritan England because these are two different cultures. Calvinism will not look like Puritanism in the center of modern China; it will not look like Puritanism in the middle of the Sudan. It will not look like Puritanism in Labrador amongst the isolated white Canadians there, and it won’t look line Puritanism if it ever breaks out in Mexico. In fact, the Puritans themselves were not hardly as uniform and frankly-rigid as Dr. Masters would have us believe.

For example, John Milton is often counted among their number because of his non-conformist views, but he was in fact also non-trinitarian in spite of his idolization of Cromwell as an epic, religious hero. Speaking of which, Cromwell is another kind of Puritan really not much like Owen or Baxter or Sibbes. So I think that the actual diversity among the 2 centuries of actual English puritans (not to mention their American pilgrims) sort of jiggles Dr. Masters’ Jenga tower a little harder than he’s letting on.

I will give him this: the central concern for holiness is a serious and useful concern. There’s no question at all that many (a-hem – yes, that’s what I mean) younger guys could be more serious and could get more serious about what it means to consider God’s holiness. Therefore our own holiness would be a good bit more consequential in what we say and do as a reflection of the actual work of Christ for us and in us.

I might even give Dr. Masters a half-credit for his distinction between edifying music and other genres like metal and rap – that somehow there really is a place where the art in a culture reflects its depravity, and we can and should avoid aping the culture because we can’t think of ways to simply be right-mindedly foolish, or right-mindedly creative.

But is it really anti-sanctification to praise God loudly with music and song? My thought here is that there’s a difference between edifying conference music and corporate worship at the local church – and I would think that Dr. Masters, in his experience and wisdom could see that difference. Especially, if I may be so bold, when one is posting one's newsletter on the internet. Something can be edifying, and public, and not be formal, ecclesiastical worship – and can therefore also be held to a more informal and populist standard.

That said, iMonk is actually right about Dr. Masters in this respect: he honors and confesses a proto-fundamentalist view of all things, down to making even matters of style and context into urgent doctrinal crises and therefore matters over which to separate. And it’s a shame – because in Dr. Masters’ view, Calvinism has always been alive and well and living in America because there have been Calvinist presses and Calvinist bookstores and Calvinist congregations which have invited him to speak. Sadly, that’s a provincial view of where Calvinism has been for the last 150 years in America – because with the sharp decline in Presbyterianism and true Episcopalian/Anglicanism, and the Baptists not hardly holding up their end of the bargain (becoming by and large a theology-free zone in spite of the SBC resurgence) what America has had, frankly, has been a drift away from the historic reformational truths.

Ignoring that for a rosy view of one’s own movement doesn’t do anyone any good.

So here’s what I’m thinking: if Dr. Masters is right about “us”, and iMonk is right about Dr. Masters, maybe what “we” have to do is receive what they both have said about “us” and step it up. Get serious about your filthy mouth and your infatuation with movies and comic books and the down side of town. Stop thinking you can be the pastor who finally can say from the pulpit, “and the colored girls sing, ‘do-do-do-dotodo-do-do-do’,” like Lou Reed and people will think you are cool.

You’re not cool. And they are not going to think you are cool if they hear you preach the Gospel, because the Gospel is not cool. You don’t have to be a self-righteous thundercloud of disapproval – you could be the mortified chief of sinners. It’s a time-honored tradition. Let’s try that, and then we won’t have to worry about edicts from either the chapel of Spurgeon or the tavern bar stools.