Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ed Young's Take on Reformed Theology

Huh.  That's about all I've got to say about this video (the anti-Reformed theology rant starts at about 27:00).  There's just not much more that can be said about someone who is so willfully ignorant about Reformed theology.  Obviously I disagree with everything the distinguished Pastor Young Jr. says in this rant.  In fact, I think his presentation of what Reformed theology is and its implications on ecclesiology was so over-the-top ludicrous it almost demands no response.  It's easily recognizable as something that is reactionary, full of over-reaching generalizations, and logical fallacies.  See here and here to get some context on Ed Young Jr.  This guy is the king of pragmatic, so-called "sexy" ministry for the purpose of getting results.  If you follow the links, you'll soon see that for him to say that Reformed people are only into "sexy" theology and the social gospel (which is strange - I've never equated the Reformed crowd to be too much into the social gospel) for the sake of looking good is a case of the pot calling the kettle black if ever there was one.

Since so many people are responding to this particular rant against Reformed theology (and probably doing so much better than I can), I'll just say two things in response to this rant:

1. I'm always amused when someone accuses someone else, or a group of people, of putting God "in a box."  This phrase implies that the one accused of putting God "in a box" has God figured out, and can therefore define him and control him by putting him, "in a box."  The irony of this accusation is that to suggest that a person could presume to put God in a box is, in itself, putting God "in a box."  That is, if you say that no one can figure out God enough to put him in a box, you're making a claim that you at least know enough about him to be able to claim that he cannot be "boxed."  Isn't this assertion, at least to some extent, putting God in a box?

We all have boxes that we put God into.  In fact, we are forced to box God in at some points simply because we are linear beings.  We put God into the boxes of space and time quite frequently.  So instead of accusing others of putting God in a box, let's just admit that we've all got a nice set of boxes that we frequently put God in.  Admittedly, Reformed folks can be guilty of this as a result of their theological construct, but so can and does everyone with any kind of theological construct (which is everybody).

2. What I believe is the one and only valid objection Ed Young brought up against Reformed theology is also probably the most widely known and easily answerable one.  He claims that most Reformed folks don't care about evangelism or winning lost people to Christ.  He supports this claim by calling Reformed churches to account for their supposed small baptism numbers (read this little bit about reporting numbers, then get back to me, Pastor Young).  This is a common objection that mostly stems from the Reformed doctrine of election, and usually manifests itself in questions like this: "If God has already predestined people to be saved, then why bother with evangelism?  If God has elected people to be saved unto eternal life before the foundation of the world, then what is the motivation for preaching the gospel?  For outreach?  For missions? (UPDATE: Tim Challies has posted some very helpful thoughts on Calvinism and evangelism.  You can read his post here.)

Again, this is a common question, and it has (I think) an easy answer - an answer that Ed Young even mentioned in his rant: we don't know whom God has predestined.  Has God predestined believers from before the foundation of the world?  Yes.  But I have no idea who those people are.  Additionally, God has commanded believers to go to all corners of the earth to preach the gospel, presumably for the sake of partnering with God in his purpose of bringing the salvation of the elect to fruition.  When we combine these two ideas, we come up with the notion that God has indeed ordained those who have been saved from before the foundation of the world, and he is using, in his sovereignty, the preaching of those who would be obedient to his great commission to complete the work that he began before the world was created.  The motivation for what I'll call "Reformed Evangelism," then, is obedience to God - not inflating baptism numbers, church attendance, or even the potential salvation of lost souls.

That last part is kind of tricky.  Do I preach so that souls might be saved?  Yes.  Do I want people to hear and believe the gospel unto salvation?  Absolutely!  But since God has predestined those who would come to salvation, it would be incorrect to assume that the salvation of lost souls is dependent upon my willingness to preach.  In other words, Reformed theology says that nobody goes to hell because Christians were too lazy and didn't preach.  Our motivation for evangelism is obedience, nothing more and nothing less.  I preach the gospel not because I think it might save souls (after all, God already has that covered), but because I want to be obedient to what God has called me to do as a Christian, and because I want to be a part of the incredible things God is doing in the world (saving lost people being chief among them).

Put simply, then, anyone who holds to Reformed theology but has no urgency for evangelism is guilty of two things: 1) not holding to a true and right understanding of Reformed theology, and more importantly, 2) living in disobedience to God and his word.  Evangelism isn't unimportant to Reformed crowds - it is of vital importance, because it has to do with obedience.

The biblical case study for what I've just described above is that of Esther.  Esther wisely realizes that, in her situation, God would do what he would do (save the Jews), and if she didn't want to be a part of what he was doing in the world, he would find someone who was.  Her motivation for approaching the king unrequested, then, was not saving the Jews (although that was certainly in her mind), but it was first and foremost, obedience to God.  To reiterate then, if I am disobedient and choose not to preach the gospel, God will find someone who will.  That's not a position I want to be in.  I want to be obedient.  Read Esther 4 for all the details and to see how this "works."

Above all, I guess I'm just disappointed that he did this.  It seems rather low-brow and amateurish.  Let's rise above this kind of stuff.  It certainly doesn't help the state of the church in America, and it makes us all look rather uneducated (on that note, how did Young not come across these answers to the objections to Reformed theology he raises in his schooling?  He says he knows the Greek and Hebrew and theology behind it, although it sure didn't seem so from the clip).  Let's all resolve to treat each other better in the public square and put some time and effort into studying and researching claims and arguments before we comment on them.  And I don't say this lightly.  I certainly have my own bit of repenting to do when it comes to this.  One need not peruse the pages of this very blog for too long to find my own shortcomings!

Soli Deo gloria, Pastor Young.

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