Most of us don’t go from one paradigm to another quickly, or in one move. Some have, but most don’t (my opinion). I know it was a slow process for me (maybe I’m just slow!). It was a series of awakenings over time. In popular culture, we talk about “gate-way” drugs. Supposedly, some moderately dangerous drugs lead to more dangerous ones. The Reformed tradition and theology were, for me, a “gateway” theology leading, not to something more dangerous (although, maybe…) but out of funda-gelicalism, so, I think toward a better way, a “gateway” then, in a positive sense. You get my point—this was a good gateway.
Although I was Southern Baptist, I wasn’t really that familiar with the Reformed tradition (other than in a very general sense). I thought of Catholics in a Chick Track sort of way (ignorantly) and knew that Southern Baptists were Protestants (and right about everything, of course…). The first awakening for me was in seminary. In seminary, even evangelical ones, students are made to read outside (thank God!) their normal parochial favorites, which is often the best-selling popular pastors or theologians writing practical helps or theology for laypeople. Simply having to read the writings of those outside modern popular fundamentalist and evangelical authors, including the ancient Fathers, the Magisterial Reformers, etc., was significant in my journey.
The next awakening, was being drawn to pastors and theologians who, in my mind, were so insightful in their critiques of fundamentalism and aspects of evangelicalism. They often touched on, or articulated, many of the things I also felt regarding funda-gelicalism’s teachings, methods, worship, and sensibilities but couldn’t quite put my finger on. I began to notice a common thread. These critiques were drawn mostly from the Reformed tradition (for more on the difference between the Reformed tradition and fundamentalism/evangelicalism see here). Some of the people I read were Michael Horton, Peter Leithart, Doug Wilson, David F. Wells, Kim Riddlebarger, R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever, James Montgomery Boice, people from the White Horse Inn, Ligonier Ministries, etc.
It didn’t, of course, stop there. There were many more awakenings (more posts on that in the future). But that is part of my journey. Note too that it wasn’t simply reading different information, or obtaining different head knowledge that made the difference, part of these awakenings, for me anyway, were in sensibility, and with my spirit, my heart.
So, watch out kids, don’t drink too deeply from the Reformed tradition or those evangelicals serious enough to be critical of their own tradition, you may (or may not—we’re all different) find yourself imbibing even more powerful elixirs of faith, practice, and theology.