9/11 and the New Calvinism

Posted: September 6, 2011 in america, calvinism, culture, current events, history, misc, providence, suffering, theology

Trevin Wax has written a thought-provoking piece exploring the possible impact of the attacks of Semptember 11, 2001 on the recent resurgence of Reformed theology among American evangelicals.  His main points are as follows:

1. September 11 forced “the problem of evil” to the forefront of theological reflection.

Terrorism brought the concept of “evil” back from a purgatory of positive thinking and practical theology. Politicians started using the term again. Preachers began sermon series on the reality of evil and suffering. Our society’s aversion to words like “evil” and “sin” suddenly appeared like an ostrich trying to avoid the truth…

Having witnessed the carnage of the terrorist attacks, I questioned whether free will was worth the trouble. Is it worth it having free will just so God can be loved without force? Isn’t there something bigger than our love for God?

I also realized that the free will response didn’t get God off the hook; it just pushed His presence into the distance a little further…

2. September 11 created an environment in which the easy answers of pop evangelicalism were no longer satisfying.

The typical evangelical response to “9/11 problem of evil” questions was to shrug them off and take comfort in the “God-moments” that occurred on that day…

But I remember how these responses seemed so inadequate. The towers fell. Some people survived. Praise God! But others died. Do we still praise God? If God were involved in a person’s survival, was He not also involved in the life that perished?…

The vision of God put forth by many evangelicals was that of a doting grandfather who arrived too late to stop the tragedy, but in time to help us put the pieces back together again.

3. The post 9/11 culture was ripe for a generation of young people to dig into the Bible for answers to some of life’s most perplexing questions.

The typical evangelical responses were superficial, and I rejected them. They offered temporary comfort by pushing aside the hard questions…

Many of us started digging deep. We wanted answers. And Reformed theology didn’t shy away from the hard questions…

In a post 9/11 world, shallow evangelicalism didn’t have the answers that many younger evangelicals were longing for. Many of us eventually came to grips with a majestic, ferocious, and irresistibly attractive God who burst all the boxes we had wanted to keep Him in.
God was in control…

4. September 11 has marked the ministry of a younger generation of pastors.

Many of today’s young preachers and teachers have different sensibilities than the baby boomer generation that proceeded them. Listen to Matt Chandler and David Platt and you won’t hear messages filled with practical tips to bettering your life today. Instead, you hear men with distinctive styles addressing some of the toughest questions of life. Chandler preaches through Habakkuk while recovering from brain surgery for a tumor. David Platt leads his church to reflection (theology) and action (service) on behalf of a Birmingham ravaged by tornadoes. The preaching ministry of many younger pastors has been significantly shaped by the reality of life in a post-9/11 world…

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