The Decline and Fall of the YRR

Lessons from the Death of the New Calvinism

Editor’s Note: The following speech was delivered at the New Christendom Conference in Ogden, Utah on June 7, 2024—with slight modification.

Together for the Gospel was a biennial conference held for Christian leaders that began in 2006. Formed by Mark Dever (45), Ligon Duncan (45), C.J. Mahaney (52), and Albert Mohler (46), this conference was a type of culminating work amongst various leaders in what was called New Calvinism or the Young Restless and Reformed (YRR), a movement that was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 2009. The first gathering of Together for the Gospel, or T4G, in 2006 featured not only these four founders but also John Piper, John MacArthur, and RC Sproul. Their history states, “These friends differed on issues like baptism and the charismatic gifts. But they were committed to standing together for the main thing—the gospel of Jesus Christ.” What was the central feature of this particular conference? “T4G is convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many Churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ. Therefore, these friendships, conferences, and networks aim to reaffirm this central doctrine of the Christian faith and encourage local Churches to do the same.”

This was an animating feature of T4G’s angst and that of those associated with the conference and the broader New Calvinism movement.

Despite its relatively small size, New Calvinism significantly impacted the evangelical landscape in America. Although constituting only 10% of the evangelical community, this movement was not just a passing trend, but a transformative force that shaped the lives of its members. For them, it was more than a movement; it was a way of life, a set of beliefs and practices that guided their every action and decision. 

The leaders in this New Calvinism movement, or what sociologist Brad Vermeulen has called the Reformed Resurgence, were friends. They founded institutions such as The Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks and occupy elite positions in evangelical seminaries such as Southern Seminary, Reformed Theology Seminary, and Bethlehem Seminary. Each had a track record of ministry, from pastoring to writing books and speaking at various events. They endorsed each other’s works, collaborated on projects, and were considered the pastoral heroes for many.

And yet, where do we find this New Calvinism movement today? Together for the Gospel held its last conference in 2022. Today, the movement has nearly wholly been torn apart. Some have passed on, while others still hold prestigious positions in evangelical institutions. I’m sure there is still coordination and friendship amongst these men who occupy powerful positions, but today, they are disregarded. One such institution that started in 2005, the same year I graduated from high school when I had no idea about this broader movement, was The Gospel Coalition. It was founded by Tim Keller and D.A. Carson. They were a clearinghouse of sorts for all things New Calvinism. And yet today, the name of “The Gospel Coalition” has become a byword for compromise and cowardice for many of us who once lauded these men as heroes and counted ourselves among their acolytes. 

The crucible of 2020 proved too great for this movement. While no one could necessarily anticipate what happened in 2020 unless you were listening to specific fringe figures, this movement became divided and fractured on everything from politics to ecclesiology and basic biblical application of God’s law. 

This fracturing came home to me in 2023 when our church was unceremoniously removed from one of these new Calvinist organizations, the Acts 29 Network. With no warning and a request to get on the phone in 30 minutes, we were informed that our church was being removed because we “demonstrated a pattern of behavior that is combative and critical in nature, and they are not going forward with churches that can’t wholeheartedly cooperate with their leadership and their work to plant churches worldwide, so the entire senior leadership of the network is in agreement to remove us from the network.” 

We had been members in good standing in Acts 29 for 12 years. There was no indication that this action would be taken against our church. It was a unilateral decision made by the board of the network. No tangible evidence of the vague charges resulting from this action was presented. There was no process of appeal. The fracturing of this broader movement came right to the steps of our church. For what? Because we asked some questions and challenged some leaders in private regarding concerns about worldly ideologies in Acts 29 teaching and Acts 29 churches? And where does Acts 29 stand today? Their reputation has been tarnished beyond repair. By some estimates, they have lost nearly half of the churches affiliated with the network in the last 12 months. Their supreme leader, Matt Chandler, is nowhere to be found except for promoting his latest book. They are back to partnering with Ed Stetzer, who was on the original board of Acts 29 when it was founded in 1999 and who finally came out of his doomsday Covid bunker. What happened to these movements? Was it cultural Marxism? Was it leftist ideology? Was it simply cowardice?

In some ways, movements can be destined to die. The Reformed Resurgence was no exception. Movements are typically marked by a group working together in a coordinated fashion, whether formal or informal, towards a common goal or vision. The first problem is that the movement, whether key leaders or institutions, never identifies when they will achieve their shared vision in concrete and tangible terms. It should be clear to all what the end goals of the movement will be. What’s the movement going towards? What’s the point and direction? They never plan out their own funeral. Instead, the movement treats itself as an enduring reality. In this way, movements easily become less focused on concrete action and instead become an ideology into themselves. Nehemiah was a movement leader; once the wall was built and right worship restored, the movement was unnecessary. Movements are often a correction to what currently exists. Once it’s corrected and established, they can move on. Whether we are talking about the fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century, the Reconstructionists in the 70s and 80s who just couldn’t seem to get along, or the declining and dying Reformed Resurgence. 

If movements are designed to be temporary corrections and will inevitably die once they reach their goals, then why even give this speech? To the degree that the men in this room are part of a new movement, is there simply no hope? Is this just doomerism, we lose down here thinking? No, it is merely a sober reality to any such movement. But even if movements are doomed to die, and they should do it after achieving their goals, however lofty or minimal. Certain things will prevent a movement from achieving its goals in the first place. While all movements die, certain things will kill them ahead of their time. The Reformed Resurgence movement was killed by self-inflicted fatal flaws. It was not that Reformed Resurgence lived a long, healthy life and expired at an old age. It was that it had taken poison. And these fatal flaws should serve as warnings to any of us seeking to advance a movement today.

Specific vital weaknesses were baked into the new Calvinism or Reformed Resurgence movement. I want to highlight three specific ones. Think of this like an autopsy. It will be a little gross, but it is necessary work if we are to learn any lessons from their death.

First, It Failed to take into account the limited goal and ability of the movement.

While the Reformed Resurgence was animated by a passion for the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation, they often strayed from this limited goal into all matters of life. That’s how you get articles about gospel themes in Taylor Swift published in The Gospel Coalition. The goal for them, while noble, was not clear enough initially. They failed to take into account the implications of this teaching in comprehensive ways. When you seek to increase your understanding of one doctrine, for the Reformed Resurgence it was soteriology, it will inevitably impact other doctrines. You cannot say we will focus on soteriology, even ecclesiology, or the doctrine of God without that affecting the whole system. 

In systematic theology, a discipline very popular in the Reformed Resurgence, how you situate certain doctrines will affect all the others. For example, you can look at the table of contents in systemic theologies and determine their theological method and which doctrines are steering the ship. That’s because you cannot just tinker with one doctrine without affecting all the others. Think of changing an engine in a car. I drive a Toyota Tacoma, which is notoriously sluggish getting off the line and entering the highway. I have dreamed about what it would look like to put a v8 in my truck to replace the v6. But the problem is that if you do that, it will affect the entire drivetrain. The same thing happens in theology. When you fail to consider how your particular theological emphasis affects other doctrines, you will be unclear on the goal and fail to push the doctrine to the extreme. You leave yourself open to capture. Furthermore, by pretending you can just focus on one doctrine and make that your primary point of emphasis to the exclusion of others, you fail to consider the comprehensive nature of Christ’s Lordship. This is part of the reason I remain a Baptist and Amillenial. It isn’t because I don’t see the vibe appeal of Postmillenialism. It is because I know that adopting different doctrinal positions changes the entire system of your theological thinking. It is not that I am opposed to the work that would require; I want to be careful about tinkering with what is now a workable system, and I don’t want to adopt new positions just because of vibes.

For the Reformed Resurgence, it was a failure to have a vision for how their particular movement fit within the dominion mandate. I would even say that focusing on doctrine as a system of ideas, hermetically sealed off from life, has been part of the problem lately. We should be thinking about how these doctrines apply to our duty before the Lord in every aspect of our lives. We cannot just sequester doctrine away from our lives. It must be applied. It demands application. The Reformed Resurgence failed to apply theology to all of life. Theology applied was a major weakness of Acts 29. The only applications of theology that were acceptable were those that pandered to the left. You can apply theology to black lives matter, but you cannot apply theology to the right otherwise, you are a nasty fundamentalist.

To further press the point, when a movement defines itself on certain ideals detached from the Bible and church history, it will kill it because it has cut its legs out from under it. For example, if you simply use modern buzzwords like “authenticity,” “winsomeness,” “mission,” or “contextualization,” and that becomes your reason for existence, and it ignores large swathes of Scripture and church history, the movement is doomed from the start. 

When you partition off church history, confessions, and creeds from the particular aims of your movement, you are asking for trouble. This creates a movement mainly focused on vibes rather than obedience to Scripture. Jude says that we are to contend for the faith entrusted to us. There is a tradition that has been passed down and entrusted to us. Movements must find themselves rooted in a particular tradition and be clear about that. But when a movement focuses mainly on vibes rather than passing down the tradition handed to us, it is destined to fail. This poses a challenge to us because a byproduct of theological learning from the tradition is that you become humble. We shouldn’t be attracted to good theology merely because it is fun and not Acts 29. We should read the primary sources. We should be students. And this temperament of being a student, meaning you always have room to grow and learn, is integral to movement success. Acts 29 and the Reformed Resurgence were more broadly stuck. There was no sense that they had room to grow theologically and in the application. They adopted certain buzzwords, sealed them from critique, and stagnated. 

One key indicator of this was that they took themselves too seriously. They could not laugh at their insufficiency in light of God’s sovereignty. When a movement fails to be able to laugh at itself, it is a sign that it is dying. Chesterton wrote:

“Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”

This leads to these ideas being cut off from tradition and becoming a brand. It becomes all about the brand. You develop certain Shibboleth-type words, like “gospel-centered” or “missional,” which become keywords you guard and protect in your particular way. And you must protect the brand at all costs. This is the danger for movements based on branding rather than truth. They become captured by trends. Movements based on trends lead to significant risk. Why? Because they inevitably become about catering to people and whatever the market will permit, rather than standing for some things and against others. Now, you can get a lot of fans by chasing trends. A movement can generate a lot of momentum simply by good branding. Entire institutions can be formed off this momentum.

But the problem is that fans turn into mobs. They can turn on a dime. This is a lot of what happened in Big Eva. They created many fans who became mobs once Big Eva got exposed. The mob turned on them. Many of us would count ourselves as part of that mob. 

It should be a cautionary tale for us. Being a Twitter warlord with legions of anons at your disposal can be fun. But, you must ensure that your positions and dispositions are rooted more in historic Biblical Christianity than simply the latest fad.

The question then arises: How do I avoid just chasing the trend and building the movement on a trend? I don’t know that you can. I think it is an inevitable liability that has to be taken into account when you are weighing competing options. The problem is that Team Winsome never took this into account. After all, how could the gospel become a brand?

When a movement fails to account for the limited goals and chases trends, it easily becomes an anti-movement, being known for what it is against more than what it is for. Now, I do not espouse that silly sentiment that you need to be known for what you’re for more than what you’re against. It has some wisdom, but knowing what you’re against is good. 

In many ways, the Reformed Resurgence movement was an anti-movement. They were anti-certain things, some of which we would agree with, but much of their trend and vibe was anti-middle-class America. It was all about coastal elites. More particularly, to hedge their brand for the future against what some call demographic trends, they became anti-white and anti-male. This is seen most obviously in their classic punch-right coddle-left tactic. It was about catering to coastal elites. They adopted typical out-group preferencing, which is shared only with progressive whites. Then, they attempted to baptize that with specific Bible verses, “gospel” language, and words like “diversity” and “inclusion.” They were a reactionary movement. When you base your movement simply on who you are not, it can generate much heat but not much staying power. It is essential to know your audience, but only insofar as you’re trying to lead that audience, not cater to them. Ultimately, this inability to lead coastal elites instead of just catering theologically to them killed the Reformed Resurgence.

This leads to the key weakness of ministry in the neutral world: they were not explicitly anti-left wing. When a movement bases its identity on simply what the market demands or where it sees opportunity, it will invariably drift into liberalism. Instead, a movement must decidedly say, “We are not left wing.” To borrow from the second of conquest’s laws, which state that “Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.” If a movement tolerates left-wing ideas, those left-wing ideas will necessarily hollow out the institution. For example, is the movement tolerant of the liberal ideals of equality contra hierarchy, tolerant of same-sex unions, or tolerant of socialism? Those ideas themselves will eat the heart of the institution. You may be asking yourself, “Why, though?” And to that, I would simply say, “That’s just the way the world works.”

This is the movement’s first fatal flaw. You don’t consider the movement’s limited goals; your goals are defined by the market and certain ideals, detached from Scripture and church history. You create a mob, and you drift into liberalism because you never clearly defined your goals. 

Second, The Movement was defined by reactivity and anxiety.

It’s inherently reactive—letting individuals’ desires control your ministry or movement. This is related to the fatal flaw of limited goals, but it is more pervasive than that. This has more to do with emotions and desires. 

When you let emotions drive the ship rather than core convictions, danger is ahead. There is much talk of politics today, and for good reason. America is coming apart. We live in a cold civil war. Christians need to think deeply about politics and recover the convictions of their forefathers on these matters. But we must be sober-minded during these times. We must display maturity that is beyond us. 

When a movement is defined by reactivity and anxiety, it is led by worry and anxiety. Think about the possibilities of an entire movement based on worry. This is where you get the “concern bro.” That is not a masculine way to lead. Yes, there are legitimate concerns, I suppose, nevertheless I’ve tried to strike the word “concern” from my lexicon. 

Another way of saying this is to become effeminate in the movement. A woman living in her femininity is a beautiful, godly thing. A man becoming effeminate is a disgusting thing. This happens when you let liberal notions of equality fester in your movement because you will inevitably put women in places of leadership over the organization. Or perhaps worse, you put men who act like women and are afraid of women over an organization.

When this happens, the movement becomes governed by implicit rather than explicit rules. Rather than being clear and courageous on critical contested matters, rather than focusing on protecting and fighting, the movement’s customs and norms become inclusive, nurturing, and making everyone comfortable. 

When a movement is driven by reactivity and anxiety, it doesn’t allow for different tactics and strategies within the movement. Why? Because that would disrupt harmony. Creativity and camaraderie are traded for whatever is least upsetting to the greatest number of people. In this environment, those with new ideas and tactics are not championed, but instead treated as threats. For example, when we started asking what strategies could be coined “missional” instead of being winsome, we were quickly sidelined. When we started to apply theology in the rightward direction at all, like suggesting that the term missional was malleable enough to include the likes of Doug Wilson, that was unacceptable. 

Reactivity is rooted in apathy many times. Why? Because it is easier to avoid hard conversations or hard topics. In doing that, you are defining yourself in terms of reacting to the big issue in the room. Or, as our friend Joe Rigney puts it, you are being steered. You avoid the needs of the day in favor of people’s desires. Looking at people’s desires is apathy because you fail to address what people need and display an unwillingness to adapt to your situation. This shows an unwillingness to adapt to new trends and developments. 

We’ve covered two of the vital weaknesses of the new Calvinism movement. Fail to define the limited goal of the movement and define the movement based on reactivity. 

Third, suppress dissent. 

One way to suppress dissent is just to avoid conflict. This can happen inside the movement or outside the movement. Because a movement doesn’t want to police people, it becomes a seedbed of backbiting and accusations. Instead of leading in a masculine way by taking responsibility and holding people accountable, the movement takes on a passive role in which conflict is avoided at all costs. Instead of being peacemakers as we are called to be as Christians, the movement leaders and those within the movements become peacemongers. Trying to maintain peace without openly addressing conflict. At best, they sweep conflict under the rug. At worst, they smile to your face and then stab you in the back.

This would look like failing to deal with actual conflict between members or ideas within the movement. At the very least, you could assertively own the fact that, yes, this is a tension within our movement. At best, you could work towards peace within the movement. What this doesn’t look like is feeding your allies within the movement to the dogs to maintain a faux peace. For example, it was trendy to punch right and coddle left. You publicly repudiate your private friends in order to feed them to the dogs. Internal conflict should be handled internally. We see this principle in God’s Word when Paul encourages the church in 1 Corinthians 6 to maintain their peace with one another internally. 

A movement that suppresses dissent often picks stupid fights instead of the fights they need to have. Rather than focus on that dragon attacking the keep, the movement that suppresses dissent argues about the right color of paint for the cottage. What does this look like? Well, while the church is actively being persecuted during covid, it would look like having a fight about which version of online church is best. Instead of spending time discussing the utter blasphemy of having a trans flag adorning our White House, they want to call out the confederate flag. Instead of asking the real question, must we obey the government on this matter, we just ignore that fight for one that we can argue about without any social cost. 

A movement must have clear and just processes for handling dissent and follow them. The king of the movement can make exceptions, for he who makes the exception is the sovereign. But if there are no processes for accountability or agreed-upon norms for how to handle dissent, then Satan would love nothing more than to get the movement off track through bad actors who distract the movement from the mission. I saw this time and time again in Acts 29. There was no process for handling disagreement. Instead, it was governed by feminine sensibilities regarding inclusion and being a global network. For example, one time a pastor I work with posted a funny comment on an Acts 29 forum that I thought was a little gay, and so I commented on his post and said that’s gay because it was gay. This caused quite the stir in the network, unbeknownst to us. Legend has it that the “entire senior leadership team” flipped a coin to determine who would have to call us to tell us to take my comment down. I didn’t take it down, but they deleted it because they were governed by feminine sensibilities and didn’t want to offend gays.

Another way to suppress dissent is to gate keep. Now, something must be acknowledged: gatekeeping is integral to the success of a movement. There is no movement worth its salt that does not gate keep. This is a key factor in movement vitality. But, the gatekeeping must be extremely selective and agreed upon so that those within the movement know, “this is where we gate keep.” Gate keeping can be as simple as saying “hey, do you trust this guy?” or it can be access to a group chat. But there must be gate keeping without concern bro tactics. How do you keep people in or out? One key way to do this is by following conquests laws and applying theology. If your movement has key statements and convictions about how you will apply theology, this can serve as healthy gatekeeping. This is why church confessions are so helpful. They provide a historical document articulating how we apply theology. 

One fundamental way to suppress dissent and kill a movement is to rely too heavily on one form of currency for access. For example, crendentialism was the main currency in the Reformed Resurgence. If you could grow a church, people would see you as legitimate. How many leaders in the Reformed Resurgence are only there because they could attract a crowd? And that in itself was seen as a credential. This was a problem in Acts 29 because most church planters are fairly entrepreneurial. And in that game, if you can grow your church or your business, you are seen as a success. And how was success defined? You grew your church. And if you did that, you could enter the credentialed class. You could join the groups of specials, be invited to speak at conferences, get book deals, and join secret leadership organizations. 

If you had the right degrees or knew the right people, you could rise through the ranks and garner respect, book deals, and influence. And they relied on this currency to their own detriment because anything that threatened one’s credibility, such as speaking boldly and courageously in ways that might upset women, was seen as dangerous. Or they said that you did not have the proper degrees to speak with authority, a tactic that was often used against Jesus you may recall. But for the Reformed Resurgence, suppressing dissent looked like not having a diverse portfolio when it came to offering access. 

Another way to suppress dissent is to treat every tension as something that must be solved. Tensions always exist. You can’t get away from them. Healthy movements have tension. But problems are things that must be solved. If you run out of gas on the highway, that is a problem that must be solved. But tensions are like certain idiosyncrasies of your car, like built in limitations, like my v6 engine. The movement that seeks to suppress dissent will not even allow for tension. They will either try to solve the tension or pretend there is no tension. For example, in our movement, one of the tensions we face is that there are vast networks of people with deeply embedded relationships. And some of those friends that you have, I don’t really respect anymore, and some of the friends that I have, you don’t respect anymore. This is a tension. It will not be solved. That’s fine. To attempt to solve it will suppress dissent.

The Reformed Resurgence might have needed to die, but these key things undermined its goal of propagating a right understanding of salvation. In fact, they killed the movement. 

Today, we have a new movement. There is a renewed interest in political theology, historical Protestant thought, spiritual disciplines, exploring the expanse of biblical truth, rhetoric, and wisdom, and things like masculinity and patriarchy, even some people that are really into aliens. I’m unsure what the sociologists will coin our movement in 20 years. Maybe the Truly Reformed Resurgence or the Old Calvinism or Based Anons for America. We have to make it that far to garner the interest of some poor PhD candidate or Crossway author for a study conducted by nerds where they visit Ogden and Moscow and write 400 pages on it. In some ways, it feels like the wild west. Because, once you decide to reject the normie wisdom of the late 20th century and return and do the reading and apply theology, the possibilities are vast. 

We should be aware of the things that killed the Reformed Resurgence movement. But I want to ask: What are particular dangers to our movement? Yes, we should be aware of the risks of the movement that came before us. And it is hard for me to tell if any of these that I’m going to share were also in the Reformed Resurgence, but these are temptations that I think all of us face in our day, including myself. Consider this my pastoral exhortation. I have four.

First, bitterness. This was one thing I became acutely aware of in 2020. Bitterness is in high supply today. It trades on that resentment that our culture is bathed in. Why is bitterness so tempting today? Younger generations see the current landscape and face the prospect that their lives and the lives of their progeny will be worse than those who came before them. They probably will not own a lake house or get to take trips to Europe to see what our ancestors built. They watch boomers go over and celebrate the remnants of Christendom and then come home and continue to vote for its demise. 

Furthermore, it seems like the ivory tower theologians cannot be bothered to lift a finger to those in the pews. The artillery they claim to have in their vast books and a lifetime of credentials, working their way up to prestigious positions of power, will not be deployed. We who are on the front lines are calling for air strikes, and yet their planes remain grounded. They have at their disposal legacy evangelical publications, access to writing journal articles, speaking at conferences, and institutions they control, and yet when our country is ripe for judgment with abortion and tyranny and transgenderism, they are still tinkering with the artillery which will never be brought to bear. 

I think of these seminary professors who can articulate the intricate nuances of Reformed theology or the particular theological method of Jonathan Edwards. Yet, they are unable to enter the arena and deploy any of their resources to provide cover fire for us doing the grunt work. Who would not be bitter? 

But we must put away bitterness. Hebrews warns about this root of bitterness. It will poison our movement. Instead, we should receive with gratitude whatever the Lord has for us, mourn what possibilities we sense have been lost, forgive those who came before us, and move forward with strength and courage. If I can be honest, I am tempted to resent the Lord’s timing for placing us in our day. I would have preferred to not be known as the guy who got kicked out of Acts 29. I would rather these theologians with prestigious pedigrees speak up. I would be glad for them to take the shots. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

A second danger is relying too heavily on the currency of our movement—courage. Courage is the currency for access in our circles. We see Big Eva’s cowardice, and we spurn it by being courageous. Good. There is a great need for courageous and bold proclamations of biblical truth in our day. But there is a temptation to platform and seek an alliance with anyone willing to violate regime blasphemy laws. All edge-lording is not created equal. We must have various forms of currency to gain access and prestige in the movement. Courage is a big one for us, but it cannot be the only one. We must be discerning and mature. 

One danger with the currency of courage is that of outdoing one another in basedness. This leads to a purity spiral, and the relational dysfunction in the Christian reconstruction movement played itself out in this way. A movement must have a way of credentialing people. This may look different from the same credentialing in the neutral world. It probably won’t look the same. You won’t see me putting in my Twitter bio “PhD candidate” for a good reason. It used to be a signal that you are legitimate, and now mentioning your PhD causes suspicion. But, we have yet to figure out the credentialing mechanism for our movement. We know that crowds are not it. We know that degrees are not it. Maybe group chats are the new credentialing mechanism. This is something worthy of serious consideration. 

Third, becoming jealous of others’ success. Girard made the argument that the 10th commandment against covetousness drives society and undergirds the other commandments. There is a temptation when you’re part of a movement to jockey for success. There is something good and normal about this friendly competition amongst brothers. Fight for credibility and influence. We should not despise it. 

However, you know that prick in your heart when you see someone succeed and think, “That’s not fair” or “Why not me?” that is typically rooted in ungodly envy. Instead, we should inspire one another towards excellence, using our masculine competitive drive to outdo one another in showing honor. At the end of the day we should have a biblical attitude that wherever the gospel is preached, that is great and that if God wants to use me in this particular instance, I’m thankful but if He doesn’t, I am thankful. It is not about me, or you, it is about the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him, and we have the blessing of making disciples of all nations. This movement can be great if we will channel our godly ambitions into productive ends as we collaborate and inspire one another toward excellence. But if we ourselves are riddled with jealousy, it will not be godly ambitions we have. We need ambitious Christian men aiming to accomplish great things for God. And this isn’t that hard in our day. But if your primary aspiration is to build a kingdom for yourself and make a name for yourself, then baked into whatever you make is your own destruction.

James 3:14-16 speaks to both of these: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

Fourth, exceed your limitations. One reality about being human that our modern world despises is the God-designed limitations we have in our lives. We should be humble and not seek to accomplish more than we ought. That means that you might see others who are capable of accomplishing many things. And you may not be able to accomplish those things. We must have godly priorities in our limitations. We must be rooted in God’s Word and Christ’s Church. We must raise our children in God’s ways and have homes that honor Christ in their schedule. There are certain things that you or I may not be able to attain in this life. That shouldn’t be depressing news but liberating news because true creativity comes from the godly limitations that God has divinely appointed for you. If we seek to go beyond our limitations, we are often in grave danger. But in order to know your limitations, you need to find the limit first. You can’t grow if you don’t know your limits. Think of working out. You have to know where to start and what your limit is and what your goals are if you want to get bigger. But if you think that you can just get in the gym and bench press 315, then you will injure yourself. You should work hard, push hard, and be ready and willing to back off should you find that you are limited. 

Friends, there are great things ahead. Because the vision for the movement is vast and all-encompassing, following the biblical mandate to make disciples. We aim to walk in step with those great men in church history who came before us, who conquered lands and ruled nations, and started churches and universities. There is much room to build, collaborate, and create. We want Reformed Christendom, for goodness’s sake. But we must heed the wisdom God has given us in his Word, and we must guard ourselves against how our movement could poison itself. 

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J. Chase Davis

J. Chase Davis is Lead Pastor of Ministry of The Well Church in Boulder, Colorado. Chase is married to Kim and they have two sons. He is the author of Trinitarian Formation: A Theology of Discipleship in Light of the Father, Son, and Spirit (2021) and hosts the podcast Full Proof Theology. He was a 2023 Cotton Mather Fellow with American Reformer.

12 thoughts on “The Decline and Fall of the YRR

  1. Great article/speech! I particularly like the warning towards the end about trying to outdo one another in “basedness.” Our modern era does have us reevaluating the postwar consensus and liberalism altogether, but there is certainly an impulse to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  2. Besides a few instances of projection, if any Christian movement can be tied to Marxism, it is Christian Nationalism. In saying that, I am not saying that Christian Nationalists are Christian Marxists. I am saying that Christian Nationalists are Marxist Christians.

    The difference between the two is that while Christian Marxists would have Christianity influence how one is a Marxist, Marxist Christians allow Marxism influence how one is a Christian. And when one looks at Marx’s model of oppressed/oppressor and the proletariate dictatorship replacing the bourgeoisie dictatorship, we see that secular liberalism is viewed by Christian Nationalists as the oppressor of the Church and others as the oppressed and Christian Nationalism (a.k.a., a Christian dictatorship) is replacing secular liberalism’s democracy with equality. And what is being copied from Marx the most is Marx’s black-white worldview that allowed him to divide both the world into the proletariate and the bourgeoisie and his solution of replacing the bourgeoisie dictatorship with a proletariat dictatorship.

    What we should note about black-white worldviews is that they are part and parcel of authoritarian perspectives and practices. And seeing the antagonistic views of equality and pluralism expressed on this website, we see the promotion of hierarchy as being further evidence of this authoritarian perspective.

    We should also note that the traditions followed by the kind of Christian Nationalism expressed here are not are not the Apostolic traditions, they are traditions of Western Christianity as it existed under Christendom. The context provided by Christendom was not the same context in which the New Testament was written. The context of the Apostolic times more closely resembles the context provided by today. Here we should note Renn’s Negative view of the Church by American society. And so we see the Apostolic reaction to a negative view of the Church has little if anything in common with the response by Christian Nationalists to today’s negative view of the Church. The only significant contextual differences that today’s America has with that of Apostolic times are that now the Gospel has been preached throughout most of the world and we live in a democratic society vs an authoritarian one.

    But when we add the teachings of Jesus that prohibited ‘lording it over’ others along with the Apostolic teachings that we have no home on earth and thus we are to live as exiles somewhat similarly, but not exactly, to how the Jews lived in exile, it makes the following point more apparent. The impetus for promoting Christian Nationalism does not come from the New Testament and the Apostolic traditions. Instead, it comes from authoritarian perspectives and practices. And, though unintentionally, that is what Marx’s black-white worldview contributed to noting that authoritarianism was not really challenged until some time in the 20th Century.

    1. “The Reformed Resurgence failed to apply theology to all of life.” Very insightful! Much appreciated.

      1. Dewey,
        I think that you meant your comment to be directed to the article rather than to my comment.

        In any case, when I look at the scope of the material from the Gospel Coalition, I disagree with the view that the Reformed Resurgence failed to apply theology to all of life.

        1. Thank heavens for the gospel coalition’s detailed explanations about how to apply my guilty passion for taylor swift lyrics to the gospel! Such theology! All of christ for all of life! What would we do without them!?

          1. Honestly, I’m not that interested. I just find your reflexive need to leave blog post length comments making the same arguments over and over against half the posts here annoying.

          2. Gordon,
            My comments vary in length. In addition, being annoyed does not imply wanting someone to be blocked from making comments. And an easy solution to your annoyance is to ignore my comments.

          3. It’s hard to ignore the huge amounts of text you leave. Plus, I’ve noticed you don’t seem to practice what you preach here when it comes to comments (or posts) you don’t like. Why is it I’m supposed to ignore you but you can’t ignore this site and the articles here?

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