Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster Theological Seminary (California) has a thought-provoking piece today. He addresses something that has puzzled (and frustrated) me for some time -- people who affirm reformed theology but stay in churches that do not or sit under pastors who only affirm reformed soteriology.
"First, there are lots of folks who attend congregations which, shall we say, are part of the problem more than they are part of the solution, where the gospel is not preached purely, where the sacraments are not administered purely, and where discipline is not practiced. These folk also attend Reformed conferences. They attend because they are “fed” there, because they can fellowship with like-minded folk there, because, in some cases, it’s a relief from their congregation. Still they stay in their congregations.
I know this happens because I’ve heard the stories and I’ve met such folk. In some cases I’ve seen some of the same folk at more than one conference."
He goes on to define the term "Nicodemite" as a reference to John 3 and the secret meeting Nicodemus had with Jesus at night. His point is quite simple: Just as Nicodemus didn't want to publicly identify with Jesus so there are many in our day who don't want to publicly identify with a confessional and reformed church. This isn't a new problem, as Clark shows, for the same thing happened during the Protestant Reformation with people privately affirming reformed theology but publicly attending Mass.
"There are discontinuities, of course, between 16th-century Roman Catholics and 21st-century evangelicals, but there are continuities too. There are strong external reasons not to leave the local mega-church. There is a comfortable anonymity and safety in the theater seating, at the coffee bar, or on the couch with the candles. The services might not be great but the small groups are fantastic. It’s the place to be. The band is hot. One can dress casually. All one’s friends attend. There’s a peer pressure or family pressure to conform.
There are things to be lost in walking away from one’s comfortable evangelical congregation. Indeed, I’ve known more than a few Reformed folk who, upon leaving their evangelical congregation have been shunned, have lost business or business opportunities and have hurt family connections."
He promises a series on a pamplet written by John Calvin addressing this very topic. I will post updates and comments as I see fit. Click here to read the entire post.