Apparently another risk for young restless Reformeds: highly inconsistent blogging. (Yes, I’m addressing that. With all of these real-life relationships and community, with family and friends to consider, I just don’t have the zone-out-on-internet time that’s so much more important.)
A recap: I’m Reformed myself, and by that I mean not just books, dry theology and asking John Calvin into my heart but a perspective of trying to see everything in a God-centered way. God is large and in charge, perfectly holy, true and loving (and He defines holiness, truth and love) and His sovereignty is not only over salvation. It’s over everything: heaven, Earth, spiritual things, material things, all “menial” things.
So how come more Reformed folks aren’t thinking this way about our physical eternal destiny?
4. Missing the New Earth and its implications.
Perhaps it’s because we’re all still Reforming. None of us is Reformed, past tense, as if we already came to some zenith of knowledge and applying God’s truth and love. That won’t come until the Resurrection. But even now we do know enough about the coming Resurrection to apply its truths better in our lives — and I see some Reformed folks quite stunted in this area.
Am I all “there” yet myself? Not at all. But perhaps it helped that I didn’t just read Desiring God by John Piper and then immediately go read Jonathan Edwards and R.C. Sproul; my Desiring God reading was alongside my reading of Randy Alcorn’s fantastic book Heaven.
Piper’s book stressed that God exists primarily to exalt Himself, and thus the highest good He can give His people is not faith, not gifts, not even salvation, but all of those things for a greater goal: giving people Himself. Otherwise He would be both mean and an idolater. And Alcorn’s book stressed some very similar themes: for those who love God and are redeemed, their ultimate purpose is not some unearthly spiritoid existence in a “heaven” unlike Earth, but in a revamped and physical New Heavens and New Earth, with Christ reigning personally.
Many YRRs are indeed talking about that. For example, just today Collin Hansen, the very guy who coined the “young restless Reformed” phrase, Tweeted: “There will be no car repair in the new heavens and the new earth.” I think he must be having vehicle trouble.
But in response I asked: “How do you know? Car mechanics could glorify God!” And that is likely unnecessary to nitpick. Other issues, though, seem to be causing Reformed Christians more difficulty, and perhaps it would help if we not only acknowledged the physical nature of the coming New Earth, but considered more actively how that truth affects us now. Examples:
Do we act or speak as if God gives no blessings at all, even before the New Earth, such as rest, fellowship and even Stuff? After Francis Chan quit his California church, sure he was meant to do something even more “radical” than that, YRR-dom has been abuzz. That’s a debate we need to have, and optimally centered on questions like these: does the Bible really call all Christians to be ascetics like Chan implies? Is that kind of lifestyle really more “spiritual”?
Are we sure that in all our “Gospel-centered” emphases that we aren’t defining the Gospel’s effects too narrowly? Some, for example, imply that Christians just need to preach the Gospel, and minimize fields such as politics. Yet the Gospel also includes Scripture passages such as Romans 13, and examples of good and bad rulers in the Old Testament, and other passages that apply to human governments — and rulers will certainly be present in the New Earth. So how should Christians rightfully, honoring Christ, engage in civil government?
Might Christians accidentally get into such a “wartime mindset” (borrowing Piper’s phrase) that we forget God’s peace? Last night I was talking with a friend about this, and I had to high-five him after he said that some YRRs are too enamored with the ideas of suffering and persecution. That’s partly because previous Christians have minimized the fact that God may want us to suffer. But He might also not want that. We’re to have God’s peace either way, my friend said. And that rest that we’ll have is not only in the afterlife — the New Earth — but seeps in advance into this life as well. Let’s make sure we’re not treating the battle as more important than the victory. After all, in New Earth there won’t be any more villains to fight!
Christians who emphasize ministry as teaching, evangelism, church work — are we forgetting how God works in different vocations? More on this in my next column, but in summary, this oversight comes through not as much from pastors or authors saying, “Church work is more spiritual than your work,” but not saying all God-honoring callings are important.
For example, David Platt’s book Radical was all about asking yourself how much Jesus really means to you, and if He means everything, you will want to give everything. Platt, however — likely just because of incidental myopia — only cited examples of how Christians give up their Stuff or secular jobs in order to do more specifically Church-related work. Yet if the New Earth is our future, then we know that Christians there will be doing more than just teaching and discipleship (oh, but imagine how great that will be). And even now, I seem to recall Paul encouraging people to be “radical” in even the not-very-spiritual-sounding ways, such as being a good employee at work (Colossians 3) or loving your wife and family (Ephesians 5).
How we see our lifestyles, our worldview, our battle plans and vocations ought to be more clear when we consider our future physical existence in a physical world. There we’ll have no issues with thinking of spiritual things versus “earthly” things because “now the dwelling of God is with man” (Rev. 21:3). There we’ll not just have bad guys to fight, but God’s perfect peace, at rest and at Home forever. Implications from that truth, not just the truth itself, are things that “young restless Reformeds” ought to consider — and even daydream about! — more often.
Next: Among young-restless-Reformed types, radical church work is in, glorifying-God-just-as-much- in-work-and-motherhood-and-business not so much. Why?