John MacArthur was interviewed by Christianity.com about his views on the Reformed revival of the last fifteen years; what is often called the Young, Restless and Reformed movement (YRR). He has some strong misgivings about a number of things that he’s seen and predicts that there will be a reversal of the movement in the future. He has a number of good points, the foremost being his stress on ecclesiology. His concern is that many YRR have a shallow ecclesiology; all style, no substance. He is right, if Calvinists think that because they’ve got their soteriology down that they get a hall-pass on everything else, the YRR will implode. Any gospel-oriented movement, like the Reformation of the sixteenth century, must be deeply grounded in the church. Otherwise, it is floating on air and will go wherever the wind blows.
If I may, respectfully (that’s not a mere sentiment), interject a request: I would like to ask Dr. MacArthur to be more specific in his critique. I know that he has had some strong criticisms of Mark Driscoll in the past, and I suspect that it is Driscoll and Acts 29 that MacArthur is thinking of especially. But, at least in my understanding, based on those covered in Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, and Reformed book, the YRR movement is much larger than Acts 29 and the emerging church blend of Reformed theology. When MacArthur uses the term, does he include other young Reformed leaders like Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, Owen Strachan, Denny Burk, the Reformed Forum guys or Justin Taylor? It strikes me that these guys are catalysts for this movement, but all have a fuller orbed understanding of theology than just soteriology. And what of some of the older men who have worked so closely with YRR that, aside from age, they are virtually indistinguishable from it like Don Carson, Tim Keller, James White, Ligon Duncan, R. C. Sproul, John Piper (though he gets a critical nod), Mark Dever, Carl Trueman, Russ Moore, Mike Horton, Doug Wilson and even John MacArthur. This latter group are a huge reason for YRR and share some of the same cultural sentiments as the movement, some even drink. Are they also included in the terminology?
It would be great if MacArthur could be clearer. I think it would help those of us who have been unnecessarily lumped in with what he sees as a theologically immature crowd. Maybe we could come up with a name to distinguish them from us. If it is just Acts 29/Driscoll, maybe it would be better just to deal with them specifically. I definitely don’t feel as though MacArthur describes me, my theology or my practice in his critiques. I agree with his warning (though the tone is off-putting) and would hope that I don’t fall into the trap he sees awaiting YRR. If he named names, so that those of us watching could have specific examples of problem areas, and those who are named would know that it was them that had the problem, all of us involved would have greater clarity on how to move forward. These generalities aren’t as helpful.
I look forward to the second part of this interview.