The Hallway and the Rooms

Wednesday, 21 Apr 2010

Movements are funny things.  Especially in the Internet Age, they can be like a summer monsoon in the Arizona desert, gathering impressive force with lightening and showers and then dissipating just as quickly.  For example, the Tea Party movement in U.S. politics has been grabbing the headlines recently, but time will tell whether it’s a tempest in a teapot.

All the hoopla over John Piper’s invitation to Rick Warren to speak at an upcoming Desiring God conference points up the vitality and challenges of the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement. Almost as soon as TIME Magazine hailed this as the third of the ten trends shaping our world today (March 12, 2009), fissures and fault lines became apparent.  Currently on Christianity Today’s liveblog, Collin Hansen (author of Young, Restless, and Reformed) has a good summary of the recent debate over the Warren invite.  David Mills over at First Things has just added a thoughtful take on it. Since both of these quote some of my comments from this blog, I thought it might be worthwhile to expand a little bit on some wider concerns.

The Hallway and the Rooms
Evangelicalism is a movement, not a church, and that’s been part of its strength.  In the wake of the Evangelical Revival in Britain and various “awakenings” in North America, a grassroots cooperation in missions and mercy ministries was formed between conservative Protestants ranging from Anglican to Anabaptist.  Ever since Wesley and Whitefield, the evangelical movement has struggled to keep flying with its Arminian and Calvinist wings.  Though dominated ever since the Second Great Awakening by Arminian sympathies, the “New Calvinism” of recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal.

However, evangelicalism—even in its “Calvinist” manifestation—is a movement, not a church. Movements are led by impressive and charismatic figures.  Even Ben Franklin wanted to cozy up to George Whitefield, a Calvinistic Anglican leader of the Great Awakening who was the closest thing to a rock star in 18th-century America.  Yet the tendency, then as now, has been to downplay the ordinary ministry of the church in favor of the extraordinary movements of the moment.

I’ve argued elsewhere that evangelicalism is like the village green in older parts of the country, especially New England.  There may be two or three churches on the grounds, but the green itself is a wide open space where people from those churches can spill out in conversation and cooperation. Evangelicalism is not a church, though it often acts like one.  It isn’t the big tent (more appropriate, given the history) that encompasses all of the churches on the green.  It’s just…, well, the green.  When it tries to adjudicate cases of faith and practice through conferences, press releases, and blogs, evangelicalism (including Calvinistic versions) exhibits its movement mentality.

My analogy echoes C. S. Lewis’s “mere Christianity”: a hallway in a large house where believers mix and mingle, often opening the door as non-Christians knock.  But, as Lewis insisted, it’s in the rooms where people actually live as a family—where they sleep, are warmed by the fire, fed and clothed, and grow.  We are formed in the family life of Christ’s body by particular churches, with their distinct confessions and practices.  You can’t live in the hallway.

I’m not against evangelicalism as a village green or hallway.  In fact, I think it’s a wonderful meeting place.  However, when it acts like a church, much less replaces the church, I get nervous.

Young, Restless and Reformed?
Like wider evangelicalism, the “young, restless and Reformed” movement is a grassroots trend among people who are, generally speaking, not Reformed.  I’m energized by this movement every day, as I interact with people from a variety of churches, backgrounds, and traditions who are drawn to the doctrines of grace.  I spend a lot of my time in this hallway and am enriched by it.

Nevertheless, not even a “Reformed” hallway is anything more than a hallway.  “Reformed” has a specific meaning.  It’s not defined by movements, parachurch ministries, or powerful leaders, but by a confession that is lived out in concrete contexts across a variety of times and places.  The Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort) define what it means to be Reformed.  Like Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Anabaptism, Reformed Christianity is a particular tradition.  It’s not defined by a few fundamentals, but by a whole system of faith and practice.  If being Reformed can be reduced to believing in the sovereignty of God and election, then Thomas Aquinas is as Reformed as R. C. Sproul.  However, the Reformed confession is a lot more than that.  Even the way it talks about these doctrines is framed within a wider context of covenant theology.

It’s intriguing to me that people can call themselves Reformed today when they don’t embrace this covenant theology.  This goes to the heart of how we read the Bible, not just a few doctrines here or there.  Yet what was once recognized as essential to Reformed faith and practice is now treated merely as a sub-set (and a small one at that) of the broader “Reformed” big tent.  Yet now it would appear that the identity of the “young, restless and Reformed” movement is at stake over whether Rick Warren gets an invitation to speak at a national conference.

Nobody thinks a Roman Catholic person is narrow and exclusive for embracing papacy and the sacrifice of the Mass.  People don’t call themselves Lutheran just because they believe in justification. Baptists (at least historically) do not even recognize as valid the baptism of non-Baptists.  Yet increasingly those who affirm the Reformed confessions are treated with suspicion as narrow and divisive for actually being Reformed.

For centuries, the “Reformed” label has been embraced by people from Anglican, Presbyterian, and Reformed traditions.  Only in the last few decades has it included those who do not embrace a covenantal interpretation of Scripture, which encompasses baptism and the Supper, the connectional government of the church, eschatology, and a host of other issues that distinguish Reformed from non-Reformed positions.  I often run into Christians who say that they are Reformed—and also dispensational or charismatic, Baptist or Barthian, and a variety of other combinations.  Like the term “evangelical,” “Reformed” is whatever you want it to be.  It’s hard to challenge pragmatic evangelicalism’s cafeteria-style approach to truth when “Reformed” versions seem to be going down the same path.

In this situation, whatever divides confessionally Reformed and Presbyterian folks from others who affirm the five points of Calvinism has to be treated as secondary.  Most obviously, the baptism of covenant children and the nature of the Lord’s Supper are treated merely as relatively unimportant.  But the nature of the visible church and its ministry, especially the sacraments, have always been regarded as relatively unimportant in evangelicalism.  By the way, when a Baptist brother refuses to acknowledge our baptism as valid, it’s hardly secondary to Baptists.  I respect those who hold this view at least for the importance that they give to a crucial biblical doctrine.

Evangelicalism’s conversion-centered paradigm is different from Reformed Christianity’s covenantal paradigm.  It’s not just a divergence here and there, but a difference that affects (or should affect) how we understand, experience, and live out our faith in the world.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hang out in the hallway from time to time; we should just be aware that it’s the hallway.

Regular listeners to White Horse Inn and readers of Modern Reformation are familiar with our regular reminder that we’re not a church, but a conversation.  Our organization isn’t Reformed, but a conversation between Calvinistic Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans, drawing from our common agreement in the truths rediscovered in the Reformation.  Sometimes views are expressed that I don’t agree with as a Reformed person, but that’s fine.  Even when we defend truths we all agree on in substance, we are coming at it from the depth of our own traditions, which we did not invent.  We’re not looking for a lowest-common-denominator, a quasi-confession for a movement, but are hoping to provoke discussions that lead people back to their rooms with more understanding of the other rooms and resources for vital engagement with the issues of our time and place.  The old-style evangelicalism, where the movement is defined by parachurch conferences, networks, and personalities, is hopefully on the wane, as younger generations enjoy the conversation in the hallway but take the church more seriously.

Movements can serve an important role in shifting broad currents, but they are shallow.  They rise and fall in the court of public opinion, not in the courts of the churches where Christ has installed officers to shepherd his flock.  That doesn’t mean that they are wrong: it’s wonderful when thousands of brothers and sisters encounter the God of glorious grace in a deeper way.  Yet movements can’t go very deep: when they do, differences are bound to emerge.  The usually rise and fall with the personalities who lead them.  Nor can movements pass the faith down from generation to generation.  Only churches can do that.

If Not “Reformed,” Then What?
So I’ve wondered about a new term that we can use for the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement: “Evangelical Calvinism.”  Why not?  It’s the sort of term that can encompass J. I. Packer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R. C. Sproul.  Reformed Christians should swell with excitement when brothers and sisters embrace the doctrines of grace and “evangelical Calvinism” distinguishes us from evangelical Arminianism.

I’m suggesting this not just out of a concern to protect the distinctives that I believe are essential to Reformed Christianity, but also out of a concern for the ongoing vitality of the movement toward the doctrines of grace.  Right now, it seems to me, this movement is being threatened by the movement mentality that characterizes evangelicalism more broadly.  The very lack of a doctrine of the church lies at the heart of this.  There are “evangelical Calvinists” from other traditions who realize this.  For example, my friend Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church has a strong Baptist ecclesiology.  In comparison with mainstream evangelicalism, it isn’t “weak” in the least, although it’s also not Reformed.  He hasn’t settled for a movement-oriented evangelical ecclesiology, but bases his ministry in the local church.  In other words, for him, the hallway isn’t a substitute for the Baptist room.

Right now, though, the “young, restless and Reformed” movement is in danger of succumbing to the fate of all movements at their peak: splintering.  Our confessions help us major on the majors, leaving secondary matters open.  Yet the “New Calvinism” movement is already showing signs of stress over questions like the age of the earth. Churches have ways of dealing with questions of fraternal relations and cooperation, but leader-driven movements can’t handle the stress.  Conferences operate as quasi-official church courts, with vigilante benedictions and excommunications determining who’s in or out. It’s like the wild west.

Christ promised to be with his church to the end, expanding his embassy to the ends of the earth. Christ pledged that the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church.  The same promise can’t be invoked for a movement.  May God swell the hallway with new visitors!  And may we all have the charity to come out of our rooms every now and again to bless each other and bear witness together to God’s sovereign grace.  But discipleship has to be formed in the rooms—in real churches, where the depth and breadth of God’s Word is explored and lived.

-Michael Horton



  • 21 Apr 2010
    Henry Thompson says:

    Dr. Horton,

    Thank you for your honest criticism and critique of the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement! As someone who has been blessed by this movement and now hangs out a lot in the ‘Presbyterian Room,’ I share the same concerns that you mention here. The Reformed heritage/tradition is more than just the 5 Points, and my prayer is that folks who are coming to accept the 5 points will ‘drink deeper.’

    Thank you again for this article and your ministry, and God Bless!

    Henry Thompson

  • 21 Apr 2010
    Chris Greenwood says:

    I went to a reformed baptist church that dropped their baptist label because they didn’t want people to offended with the so called baggage attached to the baptist label then they did 40 days of purpose as well as all the saddleback sold programs, and in the last few years they’ve gone multi-site, and now one of the staff members is allowing a speaker with out regard for the fact that the speaker is a semi-pelagian, I wrote to critique the choice of speaker and a person running that ministry dropped me as a face book friend, so I am writing say that dropping your distinctives for numbers will lead to a solid church going heretical like the church I attended went,I converted to the Lutheran Church to get away to the tolerance for heresy in general evangelicalism

  • 21 Apr 2010
    Andy says:

    Great article. I attend Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper’s church) and I worked at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan for three years. I have struggled over some of these same issues. You can read some of my thoughts here.

  • 21 Apr 2010
    Andy says:

    Here’s the website for those thoughts.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Venkatesh says:

    Dr. Horton,

    I come from India. I follow both the WHI blog and the Heidelblog regularly. I respect both you and Dr. Clark very highly. I also agree with your logic that people should not flippantly apply the label “Reformed” to anyone who believes in the Doctrines of Grace only. I have stopped calling myself “Reformed” since I have not made up my mind on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism and many more things which pertain to this tradition (I just ordered a series of books to make up my mind on baptism and Covenant Theology).

    However, having said all of this, I do not think that the fault of diluting the word “Reformed” lies squarely on those who belong to the “YRR” movement. Some of your very own have used the word in a way which would object. For eg. I saw an interview of R C Sproul by Mark Driscoll, where Mark thanks RC for providing “Reformed Theology” resources available. I am sure Mark does not use the word “Reformed” in the same way as you do. But RC never raised any objection in that interview. And again in his website for his signature lecture series – What is Reformed Theology – Ligonier quotes CH Spurgeon this way – “C.H. Spurgeon once said that Reformed theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.” ( I once saw this link and said woW! RC does not seem to be on the same plane as RSC. Also, your own seminary has ties with Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies. Does it not dilute the label “reformed”? I know Dr. Clark has offered an explanation, but I am still not convinced. Also are presbyterians and reformed according to your standard) refer to many blogs as “reformed” blogs ( Jonathan Edwards, CH Spurgeon, John Bunyan (people who are not reformed according to you) are in many of the banners of their website –, These examples may seem trivial, but they do affect popular thinking – such as mine, especially one coming from India who had no clue whatsoever of what is “reformed” theology.
    I am not up in arms here over a label but I just want to make a point that this monster which you have identified, is not a making of just those in the YRR. Many of the people from your own denomination have contributed to it.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Debbie says:

    Hi Michael,
    I am a single mum of four and have a general education. I read the Gospel of John in a hospital a few years ago and wept and thanked God for Jesus and for the forgiveness of my sin. I then went to a church and my oh my I was not prepared for what I experienced – at one the pastor’s wife said people like me are just too needy and the other one I tried, the teaching was very good yet no-one offered any help or even came to visit me except for the pastor and another couple occassionally. I was very discouraged and then guilt ridden because I thought maybe I should just suck it up and do my best to love others and not worry that it wasn’t coming back my way. then I relapsed and no-one came. Anyway, before I write a book, I just want to thank you for writing yours. I have spent the last month soaking up Christless Christianity and The Gospel-Driven Church and wept many times. You helped me see and I am very grateful – thank you.
    P.S – I am not sure you even need to change any ‘label’ to be distinctive from others. What you say about the sacraments and the importance of them has you already very distinct yet if you would like a label I vote for – Jesus Said.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Ken says:

    I am a youth pastor who is trying to be ‘reformed’ in what I believe and how I live in a PCUSA church and I have got to tell you, as I read over some of the comments and rhetoric that is being written about this issue it reminds me of being at a lock-in at a middle school event.You’d think John Piper had brought Uriah back from the dead and invited that non-part-of-the-Hebrew-family-Hittite to speak. Oops, sorry, I forgot, Uriah had more moral stamina, intergrity and faithfulness than King David did! Do I agree with everything Rick Warren is doing and/or teaching . . . of course not but does that give me the right to write things about him that I wouldn’t write about a non-believer never mind a fellow brother in Christ. For heavens sake are we so tied to every little detail of what we ‘think’ Jesus would believe in that we cannot even be civil in our conversations. And by the way if John Piper wants to invite Rick Warren to his conference, then he has every right to do so. Don’t go if you don’t like it, in fact if you really want to get back at John just stop prying for him and his ministry, that will teach him! How silly, childish and un-Christian in my opinion. This reminds me of what the world looks like and how it acts. Dr. Horton is right; movements come and go, speakers and leaders come and go, conferences come and go, and do we really believe that John Piper having Rick Warren at his conference is going to somehow affect God’s plan of redemption for his creation . . . give me a break. I heard this quote once by someone who, talking about doing God’s work said, if they are not against us then they are for us, now who was that . . . oh yea, it was Jesus! It really makes me wonder if some who are writing these critiques of John Piper’s decision if he had invited Jesus he would have got the same kind of treatment?

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Robert Biz. says:

    Once again Dr. Horton has explained things so that even I can understand them. Thanks Dr. Horton for this. We need this more and more in the Church. That is why I am commited, and also feel called by God himself, to going back to school after all these years. We need more men to rise up as leaders to help articulate our faith better. I think Micheal’s continued reminder to us that “movement’s” are just that “movements” and can not and must not, be confused with the Church.” The Assembling of ourselves together” on Sunday morning must be exactly that. So that we can be fed fully by the word and sacrement, balenced equally, as the word prepares us to receive the word become flesh. And then and only then, as Dr. Horton has mention so often, can we go and minister to the lost.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Doc B says:

    I grew up in a semi-pelagian church, and in college, moved over to an Arminian church. Only in the last few years (now in my mid-40s) have the ministries of (primarily) Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, Horton, Ascol, White, et al, drawn me toward the doctrines of grace.

    Having made a full turn toward these wonderful doctrines, I have been taken aback at being called a bastard by those in the reformed churches as communicated mostly on blogs and websites (since much of this hasn’t hit the print world yet). This essay by Horton has done a great deal in the way of healing for me, but I wonder how many ‘seekers’ like myself, drawn to the doctrines of grace, are being driven away by poor communication (or even wrong ideas) of the differences between calvinistic soteriology/christology and reformed ecclesiogy.

    I’ve peeked in the Presbyterian and Lutheran rooms, and I just don’t belong there. Nonetheless, I’ll fight for the solas side-by-side with those folks. Because of this, I hate the thought that like-minded folks of different ecclesiological backgrounds might be driven away by the splintering Horton describes. By way of example, look at the blog of the Internet Monk…reformed but fighting as hard as Dawkins/Hitchens for an evolutionary worldview (Horton hints at this above). Or the ubiquitous commentary on Piper’s invitation to Warren.

    I hope we (as a movement) can move away from this in-fighting straight away, for the well-being of those the movement has yet to touch, and re-focus on the gospel (which is what drew me here in the first place!).

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Eddie J says:

    Excellent distinction with “Evangelical Calvinism.” In college at Biola I became a Calvinist, but had no idea what Reformed meant or who the Reformed were! It wasn’t until seminary at Westminster California that I discovered what it meant to be Reformed!

  • 22 Apr 2010
    louis says:

    “‘Evangelical Calvinism’. Why not?”

    Because they’re not really Calvinists either. How about “evangelical 4 or 5 pointers, more or less”?

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Chuck Fry says:

    Thank you, Dr. Horton, for the proposal of calling the “green” or the “hallway” Evangelical Calvinism. Sounds good.

    The term I have used when people ask me what I am is “Historic Protestant.” This term encompasses all that the original Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Independents, Congregationalists, etc., have in common: the solas, election and predestination, a God-centered view of the world, a clarity on the gospel and grace, the Law/Gospel distinction… even a primitive and basic form of covenant theology? (cov. of works, cov. of grace…).

    When I use this phrase (“Historic Protestant”), I am usually able to fellowship with someone from another denomination than the one I am in because it allows me to share with them what their particular church has believed in the beginning… and what we have in common. It enables our conversation to get directly to the gospel.

    I wonder if you- or anyone reading this- would consider this to be a good term to use?

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Michael Adams says:

    Did I miss something?
    Although this article gives us a well needed step back a second, and examine our selves, wake up call.
    I believe it managed to slip around addressing the “hoopla over John Piper’s invitation to Rick Warren”.

    I could agree with this fully “IF” Dr. Piper had not thrown his endorsement of Rick Warrens Theology, by calling it soundly rooted.

    If this were a man who said this of Warren, who has not written books, given conferences, and preached against the very thing he now calls “solid”. I think it would be “hoopla”.

    However is is not. And as a former believer in Rick Warrens gospel, which is completely different than the Biblical Gospel, I and others who have been deceived or seen the deception are not creating “hoopla” but sounding a warning…

    A warning that a trusted man who has preached against something for so long, is now started an about face.

    And we pray that he will hear our cry, and avoid turning to another path and steer back to the straight path that he (Dr. Piper) has been preaching on for so many years.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Paul says:

    Hi folks,

    As one who is disturbed by the dilution of what ‘Reformed means in it’s present day use, I find this debate is timely and necessary. It is clear that virtually any Tom, Dick or Harry can now call themselves ‘Reformed’ and get a ticket to credibility and acceptance. For example, here in the UK charismatic apostle types like Terry Virgo and the burgeoning New Frontiers set up have gained widespread acceptance in many circles with claims to be ‘Reformed’. Should they and others like Sovereign Grace Ministries be welcomed without reservation into the village green, or be scrutinised far more for the long term trends they may be deliberately setting?

    And Mike’s confident assertion that ‘the old-style evangelicalism, where the movement is defined by parachurch conferences, networks, and personalities, is hopefully on the wane, as younger generations enjoy the conversation in the hallway but take the church more seriously’ seems curiously wide of the mark as again here in the UK all of the above markers, especially personalities, dominate and set trends in a way which deserves far more critical appraisal.
    Where ever men set up conferences, networks and lead with strong personalities, I am afraid that too many pay them undivided attention and time which could be better spent. This is born out in the clamour for new books by such men which often duplicate teaching on a particular subject (like sex and marriage!) for what purpose? May the noise and buzz of evangelical activism in these negative senses die down and be replaced by the daily routine of local church life and service. This doesn’t hit the Christian internet headlines or tickle ears, but it is far more fruitful.

    With respect and peace to you all,


  • 22 Apr 2010
    Steven says:

    I’m a bit unhappy with this use of the term “Evangelical Calvinism” simply because I’m unhappy with this use of the term “Calvinism”. I don’t like people boiling Calvin’s theology down to a boiled down presentation of the 5 points of the Synod of Dordt much more than I like people boiling down “Reformed” to a boiled down presentation of the 5 points of the Synod of Dordt.

    I’m not sure I have a better term to offer though. Perhaps the Doctrines of Grace movement?

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Aaron says:

    “For centuries, the “Reformed” label has been embraced by people from Anglican, Presbyterian, and Reformed traditions. Only in the last few decades has it included those who do not embrace a covenantal interpretation of Scripture, which encompasses baptism and the Supper, the connectional government of the church, eschatology, and a host of other issues that distinguish Reformed from non-Reformed positions. I often run into Christians who say that they are Reformed—and also dispensational or charismatic, Baptist or Barthian…”

    “Our organization isn’t Reformed, but a conversation between Calvinistic Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans, drawing from our common agreement in the truths rediscovered in the Reformation…”

    Dr. Horton, I wish you and your colleagues at WSC could be more comfortable with the phrase “Reformed Baptist.” Dr. Jones adheres to the 1689 London Confession, which is 99% WCF. He and others like us should be given more credit, and distinguished from the general Baptists, or even “Calvinistic Baptists” such as Dr. Piper and Mark Dever. We fall into the “For centuries” column, and not the “Only in the last few decades” column. And we like Presbyterians, too!

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Doug says:

    “Baptists (at least historically) do not even recognize as valid the baptism of non-Baptists.”


    “By the way, when a Baptist brother refuses to acknowledge our baptism as valid, it’s hardly secondary to Baptists.”


    When you say “our baptism”, do you mean to infer that your baptism is exclusively paedobaptistic? If not, do Baptists really refuse to acknowledge as valid those baptized after evidence of conversion simply because it was performed by a non-Baptist?

    I find that an incredible declarative. You paint with too broad a brush, methinks.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Michael says:

    I agree that a movement does not equate to a church.

    But I find your discussion of who can use the term “Reformed” interesting. This sounds very similar to the argument Dr. Clark puts forward on his blog, which always boils down to this: without infant baptism, you are not allowed to use the term Reformed.

    It’s also interesting to me you imply that Anglicans are closer in their theology to a “Reformed” church than a Reformed Baptist, whose confession is very similar to the WCF.

    Are the confessions of faith infallible, never to be changed? Of course Reformed churches would answer no, they are not. Yet when a point is changed here and there, and reclassified as a “Baptist Confession”, it is frowned up when called Reformed.

    Yet revisions are made to the Reformed confessions and have been since they were first written.

    Would Calvin be classified as Reformed, meaning that he holds to your above list of Reformed confessions? I think you would agree he was. Yet Calvinism or Calvinistic is not a guarded term like Reformed is.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Garrett says:

    I’m a Calvinistic baptist. I can see why calling myself “Reformed” might be stepping on your toes. I wanted to go the whole 9 yards, tried reading Horton’s material on infant baptism, but just couldn’t swallow it. Therefore, “Evangelical Calvinist” does seem more precise. I hold to the London Baptist Confession of 1689, so I am not, I hope, standing in line at the cafeteria.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Mark says:

    I have met some young people, who had lost sight of the stark differences between dispensational and covenantal biblical views.

    I have viewed RC Sproul’s “What is Reformed Theology” video series and I must say that perhaps more than a single lecture on the covenants should have been included, especially when half a dozen were devoted to TULIP. I did appreciate a clear definition of terms in that series, however.

    Appreciate much your thoughts about the church. There is a real sense of faddishness in the new calvinist movement.

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Andrew Meredith says:

    Thank you, Dr. Horton.
    As part of the so-called “young, restless, and Reformed” movement, I would consider myself an evangelical who has been significantly impacted by the Reformed tradition. Although I have respect for the “Reformed rooms,” I could not agree with the Reformed confessions. My question is twofold: on what basis does one accept these confessions as one’s own belief, and what exactly is there authority in the church?

  • 22 Apr 2010
    Jesse Wisnewski says:

    Dr. Horton,

    Excellent post to add to a host of others, especially by your peer Dr. Clark. Personally, I would fall more in line with Dr. John Frame on what it means to be “Reformed.” From his review of Dr. Clarks book, Recovering the Reformed Confessions, Dr. Frame said,

    I would propose understanding the Reformed community as a historical community that began as Clark describes, but which no longer follows the original pattern in detail. Even the original community was not as uniform as Clark presents it, and of course greater diversity entered later. In this respect, the Reformed community is like other religious and nonreligious communities. It should be described in all the diversity it had originally and has developed over the years, far more diversity than Clark’s approach admits. In my view, that diversity is not necessarily wrong. It is not necessarily, as Clark would propose, “non-Reformed.” In some ways the newer views and practices represent growing understanding and legitimate applications of biblical truth.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Keep up the great work and I really enjoy your broadcasts and books.



  • 23 Apr 2010
    don g says:

    I’m with Aaron. I wish the “proper” Reformed people would recognize Reformed Baptists. You can, in fact, hold to believer’s baptism and covenant theology.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    KM says:

    @ Doug,
    Baptists do not accept as valid the baptism of an infant. If I were to go join a Baptist church, having only received baptism in my infancy, they wouldn’t legitimize it–I’d have to be rebaptized.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    Annette Gysen says:

    Thank you, Dr. Horton, for your reminder that the word “Reformed” has a historical definition, and that church confessions define what that word means, just as historical confessions define Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Baptists. Having grown up a Baptist (something of an evangelical Calvinist) and having become Reformed as an adult, I’m very aware of the distinctions. I’m also concerned that those who are members of confessional, Reformed churches no longer understand the distinctions that make them Reformed. I appreciate this helpful post.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    John Thomson says:

    My problem lies with capital letter labels altogether. Now, I know we need ways of self-identity beyond the word Christian or Evangelical. I accept their is a difficulty here. Yet, I am concerned for so many capital letter labels seem more about ego and divisiveness than simply an identity marker. I am Reformed, Charismatic, Wesleyan etc all seem to buy into the spirit of factionalism that Paul so roundly condemns in Corinthians; the ‘I am of…’ spirit.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    John Thomson says:


    Re the village green – is it not just another word for fellowship between churches. Should not each church be autonomous yet organically (rather than organizationallyand/or confessionally)connected to other churches. And is not the basis of this fellowship broader than any confession however good.

    If a church is a true NT church and my church refuses to fully accept it because it does not adhere to a particular confession, is my church acting schismatically?

  • 23 Apr 2010
    Clint says:

    Maybe this sounds very immature but it seems very strange for people to devote so much energy in defending a man-made label and reminds me of the problems that Paul writes about in 1 Cor. 1:12-13.

    “You’re not Reformed. I’m Reformed. We’ll just have to call you something else.”

    If I replaced the word “Reformed,” then I had this same conversation several times when I was a little boy.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    Clint says:

    By the way, I don’t really have a solution because labels can be helpful. I guess I’m an Evangelical Calvinist by your standards. But, even some commenters are dissatisfied with whether I merit the term “Calvinist.” Not to mention that I’m a 4-pointer which is considered low-class and contemptible to some (only to shake hands in front of Arminians). Where does it end? Doesn’t it seem a tad bit ridiculous? Will this kind of defense of creeds and church history be the wood, hay, or straw that is burned up or will it endure for eternity?

  • 23 Apr 2010
    M Burke says:

    What Dr. Horton misses (and echoes R. Scott Clark in so doing) is that the 1689 confession was formulated in 1677 mostly based on the WCF. If the WCF is a Reformed confession and the LBCF is not, the only reason must not be covenant theology, a specific view of covenant theology which necessitates infant baptism regardless of any New Testament command, suggestion or even hint of it.
    It is appalling that, in seeking to ~define~ Reformed both well educated men place confessional, covenantal Baptists outside their “Reformed” camp.
    Personally I believe the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster needs to stage some sort of reminder to their paedobaptistic brethren that they’re Reformed and in their midst.

    I have great respect for both Dr. Horton and R. S. Clark, but this constant fencing of Reformed-dom to deny Reformed Baptists any part in the title is wrong.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    Stephen says:

    As is often the case, Dr. Horton hits it out of the park. “Evangelical Calvinism” — I like it! My journey began like many of the “young, restless, Reformed” folks listening to John Piper and embracing Calvinist soteriology. Thanks in part to MR magazine and WHI I’ve come to embrace a more confessional and churchly Reformed faith. Now I’m blessed to serve as an elder in a small, ordinary, conservative PCUSA church. I still love Piper, but who he invites to his conference seems fairly unimportant.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    DJ Cimino says:

    I have learned from you folks that it is not technically correct to call myself Reformed since I am not a paedobaptist. However, if I was equally as strict and consistent, I could not call myself a Calvinist either since I, once again, am not a paedobaptist (and don’t hold similar views with Calvin on some other issues too)! I use the term my church uses – “essentially Reformed”, and then explain things if need be.

  • 23 Apr 2010
    oswald chamagua says:

    Excellent reflection! In El Salvador Reformed Church is moving in order to have more presence. Regarding my knowledge, there are only two or three established churches here. Your reflection has encouraged me to be congruent with the reformed legacy if we want set the line of reformed influence in evangelicals abroad this little country, and not to compromise our particular beliefs just to be ‘accepted’ or less comfortable to our brothers in faith.

  • 24 Apr 2010
    Lou Martuneac says:

    Dr. Horton:

    You wrote, “I’m not against evangelicalism as a village green or hallway. In fact, I think it’s a wonderful meeting place. However, when it acts like a church, much less replaces the church, I get nervous.”

    This is a concern I’ve been speaking to for some time now. The interconnection in the “new” Calvinism between some of the high profile men (MacArthur, Dever, Piper, Duncan, Mahaney, Mohler) and especially its conferences is beginning to take on the appearance of an ecclesiastical union that does not yet replace, but in some ways may be supplanting the church.

    IMO, the Internet is the glue and conduit for this growing union.


  • 24 Apr 2010
    Lou Martuneac says:

    Dr. Horton:

    I’d like to recommend an article that touches on some of the themes you identified here. The article is, The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness by Dr. Peter Masters.

    “But now, it appears, there is a new Calvinism, with new Calvinists, which has swept the old objectives aside. A recent book, Young, Restless, Reformed by Collin Hansen…. A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.”

    I trust your readers will find this from Dr. Masters helpful.


  • 24 Apr 2010
    Tad says:

    I feel that that definition of reformed is to narrow.
    It seems to me that a Reformed Christian must only agree with the five sola’s of the reformation, not some specific creeds.
    Almost all protestants trace their lineage back to the reformation (whether radical or magisterial, except for some crazy baptists who say their have always been baptists).
    I personally think the term reformed has more than one definition and thus must be taken in context. If a Baptist says he is reformed he probably means he agrees with the five points of calvinism. If a Presbyterian says he is reformed he is indicating that he is in agreement with a specific catechism.

  • 24 Apr 2010
    Venkatesh says:

    I totally agree with the views expressed by DJ Cimino, M Burke, Clint and John Thomson. This kind of belligerent attitude in defending the “sancity” of Reformed puts me off, even though it may be technically correct. (However, John Frame’s argument is also strong about what it means to be ‘Reformed.’) All in all, I dont think I bother too much about the “Reformed” tag anymore. As correctly pointed out before, it only encourages factionalism.
    Dr. Horton’s village-green model (as what I infer from this post and other blogs; havent read his books)may work in America, but in it is a non-starter in India. For eg, I want to go to a “Reformed Church.” I want to learn about Covenant Theology. I want to learn about infant baptism. But there are is no “Reformed” church in my city (except for ONE which Dr.Clark and Dr.Horton may not agree that it is one) So, even though I know my parents, yet I am left an orphan! I have to remain perinnially in the hallway I guess; a reformed room is not here. Where is a “Reformed”Church in India? Where is “Reformed” literature in India? It is unheard of.

    John Frame summed Village Green with its “shared interest” model perfectly – “triviality of the unity of Jesus body”. I really cant imagine Jesus having village green on his mind when he prayed “may they be one as we are one.” I am now reading John Frame’s book Evangelical Reunion. He makes the point that God does not want just spiritual unity (leave alone “shared interests”) but organizational unity as well. Even though this seems impractical given the differences in the Church today, this is what we will have in heaven. Right? Shouldnt we taspire for that on earth as well? Denominationalism may be a neccessay evil but it is evil nontheless.

  • 24 Apr 2010
    Jason says:

    Why not “Particular Evangelicals” or “Sovereign Grace Evangelicals”? Isn’t that more fitting than Calvinistic?

  • 25 Apr 2010
    EJ says:

    Dr. Horton,

    A particular baptists believe in:

    1. 5 solas
    2. doctrines of grace
    3. covenant theology
    4. regulative principle
    5. confessionalism (1689)

    Yes, we believe in a more realized new covenant. But really, we’re not reformed? I believe we have more than the “lowest common denominator.” Oh well…

  • 25 Apr 2010
    Tom Hardy says:

    I consider myself to be Reformed Baptist, because like my Paedo-Baptist friends I believe in CT. I realize that many Paedo-Baptist would not call a Credo-Baptist either Reformed, or CT, but I do.
    As I read the writing of John Owen, although I don’t come to his final conclusion concerning Paedo-Baptism, never the less for the most part I am in agreement with him.
    A.W Pink who was a Baptist wrote on the same subject concerning CT writing, mirrored in many respects John Owens, yet like me his final conclusion was Credo-Baptism.

    The reason I bring this subject up is not to debate the issue of Paedo vs. Credo, but because I really don’t think calling myself a “Reformed Baptist” is wrong.
    However, unlike some of my Baptist brothers and sisters, I would never make this particular issue one that requires me not to allow into membership into a local Baptist Church someone who is a Paedo-Baptist. With one exception, a Paedo-Baptist who isn’t willing to respect the Baptist distinctives concerning baptism; where it is clear that allowing into membership will create division.
    I believe that Reformed Baptists have more in common with other Reformed Christian denominations than we do with Arminian Baptists.

  • 26 Apr 2010
    Chris E says:

    The old-style evangelicalism, where the movement is defined by parachurch conferences, networks, and personalities, is hopefully on the wane,

    Though the YRR is characterised almost exclusively by a set of conferences, networks and personalities. This isn’t the fault of the personalities themselves, who are largely very Godly, above reproach but the very nature of things means that their ‘authenticity’ – for want of a better word – becomes part of the attraction.

    As such, the YRR is a thoroughly modernist movement – the ‘Reformed’ brand is appealing because of its authentic catchet.

  • 29 Apr 2010
    McWilliams says:

    Well, for me this seems to bring more questions than answers as it would appear to once more suggest we cozy up with those of different faiths in the hallway and to not come out from among them and be ye separate! I’m almost hearing the appearance of ecumenism again and I wont go there to call ‘brother’ those that are not but to speak the gospel to them and plead with them to know scriptural truth. If there is only one scriptural truth then why do the multitudes of believers show a lack of unity? I believe it is too much of man’s opinion and too little time in the Word itself seeking Him! I love to call myself a five point flaming calvinist, but only as to clarify that I love His word and His truth. Taking on one more label will not make any of us more like Him as should be my goal and that of others. The only answer to this maze in my mind is knowing Him and spending more time in His presence.
    P.S. FWIW I would still object to Rick Warren being the speaker I choose to listen to and question the wisdom of seeking his collaboration in what is spoken to the multitude as Truth!

  • 05 May 2010
    Paul Parson says:

    I want to second McWilliams comments above…and a few other thoughts.

    We already have a term to declare exactly what we as Reformed Calvinists believe…Christian! Let us not forget our confessions and creeds affirm only biblical truth. It’s not open for interpretation. Why do we surrender words to contemporary vernacular?

    Also, if the LORD has brought people into the hallway, they aren’t just visiting. Can they resist the call to enter a room? Or leave the home altogether? Of course not, thats the ‘I’ in TULIP.

    For more on John Piper’s decision to invite Rick Warren to DGC check out my post with a video of Piper defending Warren’s theology. Wow.

  • 19 Aug 2010
    Frank Octigan says:

    I think:
    Bloggers need to learn from corporate executives
    Give me the executive summary
    Skip the filler
    Bullet points only
    Don’t coddle me or the subject
    “Cogent & pithy” as Dr. John Van Till said.
    Thanks all.
    Please don’t confuse terse with rude.
    Thanks again.

  • 22 Oct 2010
    Is Being A Calvinist The Same As Being Reformed?  Tullian Tchividjian says:

    […] Horton shares his thoughts in an article entitled The Hallway and the Rooms: If being Reformed can be reduced to believing in the sovereignty of God and election, then […]

  • 24 Oct 2010
    Peter Catalano says:

    This was an informative article. I love listening to the boys on the White Horse Inn. They have been a blessing to me. I come at this issue from a baptist perspective and believe that if one embraces the doctrines of grace and the solas of the reformation, that qualifies one to be labeled reformed. BB Warfied and John Calvin would have disagreed over the age of the earth, which one would not be deemed reformed? I embrace covenant theology over against dispensational theology, not over against believer’s baptism. I embrace Reformed theology and calvinism over against Arminianism. It seems to me the argument centers on the baptism debate in covenant theology. Do you really have to believe that infant baptistm replaces circumcision in order to be an authentic covenant theologian? Dr. Horton believes one must believe and practice infant baptism in order to be properly deemed as covenant (What’s So Amazing About Grace?). I loved the book until he started hammering away about infant baptism and wondered what this had to do with the title of his book. Currently, I am reading Christless Christianity and thoroughly enjoying it!

  • 29 Mar 2011
    Monergismo » Blog Archive » Ser calvinista é o mesmo que ser reformado? says:

    […] Michael Horton compartilha seus pensamentos em um artigo intitulado “The Hallway and the Rooms”: […]

  • 22 Jun 2011
    Candi May says:

    I do believe that creeds and confessions are very important. I do believe that labels can be useful to quickly identify what one believes, thus making it easier to know where one stands. I do not believe that having a “Tell me the password or you can’t get into my club” mentality towards creeds and confessions reflects the brotherly charity Paul stressed in Romans 14:1-15:7.

    BUT, these issues were not the main point of this article. Look at the title, “The Hallway and the Rooms”. Look at the analogy draw from C.S. Lewis (found in the last two paragraphs of the Preface of ‘Mere Christianity’). The whole point is to make the main thing the main thing!!

    Yes, we should know what we believe and why we believe it. No, we should not toss labels around so carelessly so that they have no meaning (Lewis also deals with meaningless words in the same Preface to the same book). But what is of primary importance is that we ‘get into our room’and get busy doing its work.

    We need to become intimately involved in the visible, local church of which we are members. Not activities, fund-raisers, or senior van trips. Those are fine and dandy, like pretty curtains on the wall, or a lovely vase on a shelf. The add a nice little touch to the atmosphere.

    A room, however, has far greater purposes: fellowship, meals, instruction, encouragement, protection from the elements. The intent of this article was to cause us to recognize the difference between the hallway (the areas upon which we can agree) and the rooms (the distinctives that make us unique members of the same body) and drive us to spend our time and energies primarily in our own particular room.

    Rather than standing guard at the door of our room deciding who we’ll allow to enter, let us strengthen those who are already in our room and allow ourselves to be encouraged by them. Let us encourage the weak brother and not turn him away.

    Lewis’s first instruction in the ‘rooms’ analogy was to prefer a room over the hall (which is the same as this article of Eric Landry’s):

    “It (Christianity) is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in…And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?'”

    But Lewis’s next paragraph address the crisis of disunity evidenced by the collective responses given to our present article:

    “When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

    Let us be more concerned with being a viable, living ‘body of Christ’ than who is an ‘eye’ or ‘foot’ or ‘ear’:

    “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

    If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

    If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.

    And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

    And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Corinthians 12:12-27)

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