In the previous post I postulated that the current "resurgence" of sound doctrine seems to have peaked and is now on a downward slope. My view of this is two-fold: Practice and Doctrine.
In the area of Practice: Local churches arose during this resurgence, preaching the doctrines of grace, aiming at a truly-regenerate membership, exercising Biblical church discipline, emphasizing expository preaching, etc. Now, at this point in the journey, I see the leaven beginning to work. All around these "sound" churches were the world's pseudo-churches with their Word of Faith, prosperity "gospel" teachings, big crowds, big budgets, high-flying celebrity preachers. Some of this has been assimilated into the doctrinal assemblies.
One begins to hear the distant echo of "prosperity" preaching amongst the nuggets of Truth. As budget shortfalls occur, as leaders try to maintain their salaries and their multi-million dollar edifices, the appeals for increased offerings include tales of "how God blessed me" for various feats of giving money. Of course, since my experiences are almost 100% Baptist, one is never far from Malachi 3:10 and the absolute dictum that all giving must come to the local church.
The Doctrine side, however, is even more telling, it seems to me. Basically, the Reformation was about Justification by faith alone, apart from works. Now, as we approach the 500th anniversary of Luther's declaration, we see this doctrine in dispute again. Today, however, the idea of Justification by faith alone is not being undermined by Rome and their Tetzels selling indulgences....but by men who are labeled by themselves and by others as "reformed".
First, a bit of an aside as to what I see as an underlying element in the problem today. If one is labeled "reformed" he is "in".....whatever else he might say or do is acceptable to the "reformed" world. That's why we have foul-mouthed pastors like Mark Driscoll being pampered and tolerated: oh, he's "reformed" That's why we have theologians pushing heretical doctrines like "conditional justification" being welcomed by prominent leaders: oh, they're reformed.
I'm not going to re-hash all the fine points of the doctrines involved here. I've ranted about them elsewhere and any Google search you do will provide loads of details if you are not familiar with the "New Perspective on Paul" born out of the writings of N. T. Wright and the idea of "Federal Vision" promoted by Doug Wilson among others. These are tied in with modern views on Second Temple Judaism and all involve "conditional justification" in one way or another.
What is eye-catching: the "welcome mat" being rolled out for these heresies by John Piper and those who are in his "camp" within "reformed" theology, within this resurgence of the past 30 years. Piper defends to some degree or another both these men and their philosophies and flatly will not say that they are preaching "another gospel" when in fact that is exactly what they are doing. These guys are great intellects. Calvinism has always had a weak spot in that there is such a great appeal to the intellect; calvinists are often accused (and often rightly so) of being intellectual snobs and possessed of an air of academic superiority over the lowly, ignorant arminians. The younger set in this resurgence is enamored of Piper and now enamored of the following generation: Driscoll, Chandler, Chan....They are also impressed by the intellectual prowess of Wright and perhaps of Wilson (who is not an academic). There is some fallow ground for these poisonous seeds......and here's the "father-figure" to all these young calvinists fawning all over these heretics.
R. Scott Clark has written very well on the technical, theological aspects of this, far beyond my abilities. I want to give you a brief, summarizing comment from one of his articles:
"Here's a gift and here's what you have to do to keep it" isn't good news for sinners who cannot do "their part," not even with the help of grace. If "grace and cooperation with grace" is such good news, why not skip the FV and simply become Roman Catholic? Honestly? That's been the consistent Roman doctrine since the early middle ages. It's been the official Roman doctrine since the session 6 of the Council of Trent.
"...simply become Roman Catholic".....exactly! That's where this is heading folks....not a surprise if you've ever read the Revelation. A week of so ago, I was reading on a particular point in The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement by Oxenham. Their idea of "infused" righteousness as opposed to "imputed" righteousness fits right into this "conditional justification" heresy. The idea is, basically, that rather than having the Righteousness of Christ put on us as sinners (imputed), we have righteousness put into us (infused) by Him and thereby become righteous in and of ourselves. And now, Wright and Wilson say that in the final judgment we shall learn if we did well enough with that "righteousness" and have earned the reward of eternal life.
And this kind of stuff is coming from "reformed" preachers and being promoted by the leadership of the "reformed" church today. I think I can see the Seven Hills on the horizon.