Quick Takes on T4G ’08 and the reformed resurgence

I have spent the last couple of days with 5000 friends at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville. OK, I’m stretching the truth a bit. It hasn’t really been two full days. But there are 5000 people here. The preaching has been good and the conversations between the speakers has been fun and encouraging as an example of the value of friendship.

It has been great to bump into several old friends and to make even more new friends. I am encouraged to hear the stories of God’s work in various churches and minsitries around the nation–stories of conversions, church plants, church restarts, God’s deliverance and providential ordering of lives…. It has been a good reminder of what has been rather quietly taking place across the evangelical world the last couple of decades.

The resurgence (in the case of the SBC, “recovery”) of reformed theology has begun to catch the attention of more and more folks. Collin Hansen’s book, Young, Restless, Reformed, will further help to tell some of the story of this resurgence. I had lunch with Collin yesterday. Though he interviewed me for the book, this was the first time I had the privilege of meeting him face-to-face. He is a great guy and it was interesting to hear his “outsider’s” perspective on Calvinism in the SBC. Be sure to read that chapter in his book. What Collin observed is exactly what some of us have been saying for the last 8 years. Some (much?) of the response to the revival of the doctrines of grace is more politically than theologically scripted. Collin found this surprising, which simply confirms that he is, indeed, an SBC outsider.

The resurgence is being noticed by those across the spectrum in SBC life. Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary’s theological journal, which is scheduled to published in the next few weeks, contains an article by me entitled, “The Way We Were and Are Becoming Again: The Resurgence of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention.” I also was interviewed this week by the Texas Baptist Standard that, in conjunction with some other state Baptist papers, are doing a package of stories on this very issue. Who knows how those stories will turn out? But I must say, I was impressed with many of the questions. They were thoughtful and seemed not to be agenda-driven.

Some have raised honest questions about how widespread the resurgence is. Compared to the larger evangelical world, it is true–the reformed movement is still very small. But unlike other movements, it is theologically driven and is recovering doctrinal and biblical insights from the past. These distinctive features give it some strength and substance that will make it more formidable for the long haul than the fads that come and go with some regularity.

Those who believe the doctrines of grace have reason to be encouraged, and no reason to be complacent. There is a real recovery of the Gospel taking place. Those who are reformed are helping lead the way. We have many reasons to pray and to keep pressing forward in seeking the renewal of existing churches and the planting of new ones.

I plan to write more about this in the weeks ahead.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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