As I have mentioned before, I used to be involved in a Calvary Chapel here in Santa Fe, and noticed that when people left Calvary Chapel, but not the area, they tended to either go to a more charismatic church or to one with a Reformed theology. One of my charges in the Bible study I was teaching at the time was part of a group that was entertaining the idea of leaving Calvary for a nascent Orthodox Presbyterian Church group that at the time wasn’t actually a church, but a loosely-organized group of Bible studies. She asked me to visit an OPC Bible study with her and check it out.
The host’s text for the evening was a chapter in Malachi; I honestly don’t remember which one, and with good reason. He started his teaching for the evening by stating
The Bible is the story of the conflict between the elect and the damned.
And he proceeded to start at Genesis and cast all of Biblical history up to the time of the minor Old Testament prophet Malachi in these terms, identifying who were the elect (hint: Israel, mostly), who were the damned, and what was the conflict. About forty minutes later he arrived at Malachi, where if I remember correctly he waxed poetic on the subject of the struggle between the elect and the damned within the nation of Israel itself.
Fairly or otherwise this has since colored my impression of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Which brings me to a recent blog post [link] by Darryl G. Hart on the subject, more or less, of the objective and subjective elements in public worship. Here’s the pull quote:
The Old Life answer is – surprise – take the objective highway to true religion: worshipers really should have their private piety conform more to public worship. They should let the nature and cadence of prayers, the exposition of Scripture, and the idiom and content of hymns (preferably psalms) inform the way they express their own devotion, even in the hot and congested confines of their prayer closet.
But I would recommend reading the whole thing, not just because it’s a terrible piece of argumentation, but also because it exemplifies so much of what is wrong with what is broadly called “the Worship Wars.”
First of all Hart sets up a straw man advocating some sort of emotional or experiential corporate worship. Then he appeals to his reader’s supposed shared belief that worshipers have left Reformed churches because they share the opinions of his straw man. Then he proposes the remedy summarized in the quote above. It’s awful and I’m embarrassed for him.
I don’t understand the tendency among apparently otherwise fine minds to resort to this sort of argumentation. I’m given to wonder if Hart actually knows anyone who has left a Reformed church. And, more importantly, I wonder if he really can’t tell the difference between concepts like “shared” or “traditional” and “objective.” Public worship isn’t objective; it’s merely public.
There is some validity in Hart’s underlying beef with the democratization of (American) Christianity, but I’m not sure that he hasn’t made the mistake of locating the remedy in something that is merely old rather than true.
Surely I’m the last person on the World Wide Web to hear about The Barna Group’s nondiscovery of the Reformed resurgence [link]. After all if Darryl Hart is talking about it [link] it must be old news.
The takeaway is that in a sample of 600 pastors over survey years (2000, 2002, 2003, and 2010) the percentage calling themselves Calvinist/Reformed stayed stable at about 30%; ditto for those calling themselves Weslyan/Arminian. There’s variation year over year, but that’s to be expected if study director David Kinnaman is changing his sample every year. Both kinds of churches have grown over the last ten years:
The Barna study also examined whether Calvinist churches have grown over the last decade. In 2000, Calvinist churches typically drew 80 adult attenders per week, which compares to a median of 90 attenders in the 2010 study, about 13% higher than 10 years ago. Wesleyan and Arminian churches have also reported growth during that period, increasing from a median of 85 adults to 100 currently, reflecting an 18% change over the last ten years.
This against a U.S. total population that grew 10% over the same ten years [link].
I don’t have much to add here. I am not sure that a pastor self-identification survey is the best way to identify a change in doctrinal positions; I mean, both Robert Schuller and Harold Camping are still nominally Reformed, aren’t they?
Regardless, if just for the sake of argument Barna is right, it certainly seems like there are a lot more Reformed types online. And I’d be interested in seeing an explanation for that.