The Rise and Fall of the Evangelical Elite

The penultimate “Together for the Gospel” conference in 2020 in Louisville, Ky. 
(Together for the Gospel Coalition)
Image Source: Chronicles

 By Stephen Wolfe - Posted at Chronicles:

I converted to Christ in the year 2000, leaving behind my atheistic contrarianism. I entered American Protestantism completely unaware that something unique was occurring. In the 1980s, Calvinism reemerged as a potent intellectual force in evangelicalism, spearheaded by Baptists John Piper and John MacArthur and Presbyterian R. C. Sproul. In the early 2000s, young Gen X seminary graduates and writers who were influenced by these men became a movement known as the Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR). New personalities and publishers emerged, and megachurches were formed. Centered on Calvinistic doctrines of salvation, these Baby Boomers and Gen X Calvinists achieved a good deal of theological unity.

Their cross- and intra-generational unity was most evident in the Together for the Gospel conferences (T4G), which began in 2006 and held every other year. It was organized by four friends, already well-established in their own circles in the pre-social media days—Mark Dever (Baptist), Ligon Duncan (Presbyterian), Albert Mohler (Baptist), and C.J. Mahaney (Charismatic), along with three invited speakers: Piper, MacArthur, and Sproul. What unified them were belief in biblical inerrancy, male headship of families, and the “five points” of Calvinism, which can be reduced (albeit simplistically) to the traditional Reformed doctrine of predestination. Thus, they were opposed to feminism, modern “critical” biblical scholarship, and the freewill doctrines of Arminianism. The conference grew over the years to include younger pastors such as David Platt (Baptist), Matt Chandler (Baptist), Kevin DeYoung (Presbyterian), Thabiti Anyabwile (Baptist), and others.

I attended the 2008 T4G in Louisville, Kentucky, seeing the men I had read for several years joyfully sitting on panels together, despite their important differences. This togetherness was real. But it was also entirely a product of the time. It was in the middle of what Reformed writer Aaron Renn has labeled the 20-year “neutral world” period from 1994 to 2014—a world in which Christianity no longer had a privileged status but was not disfavored. Most everyone in these evangelical circles was a political “conservative” or typical evangelical voter, against abortion and homosexual marriage. Nevertheless, on political questions, the YRR leaders approached politics very differently. Piper was an outspoken Christian pacifist who would have even refused to defend his own family against violence. MacArthur regularly proclaimed his sentiment that “government can’t save you.” In contrast, Mohler (along with the Presbyterians) devoted attention to “engaging” the culture. But in the neutral world these differences were seemingly less pertinent; the glue of their unity was opposition to theological liberalism.

Editor's Note:
I posted this because Mr. Wolfe makes some good points. I became a Christian in 1993 and immediately involved with Christian Coalition and Christian conservative political movements (Constitution Party, etc.). So, I saw mainstream evangelical resistance to anything political years before the YRR movement. - AW


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