What’s Wrong With the “New Reformed” Movement?

A little over three years ago, I was part of the center of the New Reformed movement.

One of the final straws for me was an event of which I was the Director: Advance09. We brought in heavyweight speakers like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Ed Stetzer, and a few others. The event was held at the Durham Performing Arts Center, and approximately 2500 people showed up.

jrc_advance_2009-06-05_0003

Overall, as a business venture, the conference went really well. People seemed to really enjoy it. And, it made quite a nice profit.

I’ve written previously about my own obsession with Driscoll and the movement he has definitely helped bring to the masses. In another post, I basically said that the “Prodigal Christianity” model is not that much different than the New Reformed, and will increasingly be perceived as the New Fundamentalism (with the rest of evangelicalism). Then, a few days ago I wrote about my experiences with abusive leaders and enablers at the last church I worked for.

In response to posts like these, some people have asked me why I can’t just let this go. In one of those posts, I made a public commitment to ignore the New Reformed movement. But, I think I’ve realized over the past few months that, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t ignore it.

I know too much.

I can already hear the responses to a statement like this: “What do you know?” “What happened?” “I NEED DETAILS!”

Maybe that day will come. But, for now, I will just state my main reason for lacking the ability to ignore this movement: I believe that the movement is hurting people. I believe it is doing more harm than good.

Just to clarify, I am not saying that each and every person who is somehow involved in the movement is evil, or even intends on hurting people. From my years of experience in the movement, these are some of the most well-intentioned people I’ve ever known. But, as the saying goes…

I hope to spend more time thinking through the reasons why I think this. And, of course, I can only tell my story. But, the more people I talk to who are currently involved in one of these churches, or who have recently left, the more I realize that I am not alone. I don’t think my criticisms are extreme. And, I’ve dealt with my own bitterness and resentment. I can honestly say that I am more happy about life today than I’ve ever been. My criticisms are not a personal vendetta.

If you haven’t heard about the controversy surrounding Sovereign Grace Ministries (a large network within the New Reformed movement), please take a few minutes and read this article. As the author points out, this kind of thing should not be seen as rare; it is inevitable. The culture that has been created is toxic. It’s only a matter of time before more of these stories come out.

I hope to keep telling my story. I hope you will listen. And, I hope more and more people will continue to disconnect from this movement.

  • http://www.jimkastkeat.com/blog Jim Kast-Keat

    Rob, do you see this as characteristic of only the “new Reformed movement” or the traditional Reformed movement as well? As someone studying at a Reformed seminary and a member of a Reformed church, I find myself at quite the opposite end of the spectrum of the “new Reformed movement” (as well as the opposite end of many of my RCA colleagues and churches).

    Thoughts?

    • http://about.me/iamrobdavis Rob Davis

      I’m trying to avoid the “cult” language as much as possible, but I’ve read a lot about how cults work over the past few years. And, PTSD, depression, and other mental problems associated with cult-like groups. What I am seeing is that this movement functions very similarly to a cult. I’m no expert, so all I can do is speak from my own experience.

      I also don’t have much experience with other Reformed groups. I would like to know what the differences might be.

    • spinkham

      IMHO it has little to do with Reformed Theology itself, and more to do with the high-certainty environment that flourishes in the movement right now. For various reasons (some of them theological) the “new Reformed” have acted like a magnet, pulling tons of high need for closure people, with rather predictable results for both inter and intra group relations.

      • http://about.me/iamrobdavis Rob Davis

        Steve, do you think there is anything inherently wrong with Reformed theology in general, beyond the high-certainty problem?

  • Rohmeo

    Rob, I think linking in Mahaney with the terrible SGM situation is really stretching things. He didn’t even get close to the Neo-Reformed movement until the middle 2000′s way after they had internal issues.

    To me the Mahaney situation was more a part of the old model of church that everyone in our age group reviled when we got older and started movements like “emergent” in the first place but then again sin doesn’t discriminate. I don’t like the insinuation I’m feeling from your vibe.

    The New Calvinists also spawned from the old way of doing things while staying conservative theologically (opposite of Emergent). Just because you have issues/concerns with Driscoll’s leadership style does not define a movement. Are u telling me Platt, Chandler, even Keller would give u concerns?

    The reality is there is no perfect model so there’s going to be issues with anything under the sun. The danger just like any impactful movement like the new Calvinism is making certain populars into idols. I know that’s a big rub with you. I completely understand which is why we have to check ourselves and test all things to make sure we stay accountable.

    If this is a theology debate it’s another story because this mainstream culture or american church culture we live in will never embrace this movement because of inerrancy of Scripture among other things.

    I would love to hear other concerns you have. My concerns would be the same for any church or movement. The Spirit jas encouraged & challenged me and my faith thanks to many of these teachers.

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  • Rohmeo

    Dangerous is a loaded word. Any movement or denomination has to check itself against the faithfulness of Scripture so I get that. The Rock Star heads of the group could also create a culture of too great of influence so I get that too. But predicting “determinism” or a certain outcome or connecting dots of abuse and things like that just smells of underlying bitterness in my opinion…especially if you want something bad to happen. Even if you’re an atheist now why wouldn’t you want that movement to work out for the good?

  • Rohmeo

    Rob, Dangerous is a loaded word. Any movement or denomination has to check itself against the faithfulness of Scripture so I get that. The Rock Star heads of the group could also create a culture of too great of influence so I get that too.

    But predicting “determinism” or a certain outcome or connecting dots of abuse and things like that just smells of underlying bitterness in my opinion…especially if you want something bad to happen.

    Even if you’re an atheist now why wouldn’t you want that movement to work out for the good?

  • Dude

    Article is titled “What’s wrong with the new reformed movement”. However it never details what is actually wrong. Perhaps I can be dismissed as having “a high need for closure”.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/ben.davis.hammond Ben Hammond

    He links to several articles, that in return link to others when he refers to where he and others have previously detailed things that seem to be wrong with it.