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Practical deism, a stinging arrow

Sometimes a reviewer hits the nail on the head and the person being reviewed is publicly stung. This happened recently when Michael "iMonk" Spencer wrote an article for the Christian Science Monitor about the "coming collapse of evangelicalism." A reviewer deftly labeled the claim "autobiographical." (Spencer, an evangelical preacher, had just been through the rather unpleasant and embarrassing ordeal of witnessing his wife convert to Roman Catholicism.) The iMonk was stung.

Part of the sting is the unexpectedness of the truthful characterization.

Now we have another example. R. Scott Clark, the vicious warrior against all things mystical and anabaptist in Reformed Christianity, was recently nailed in a review of his book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, as a "practical deist."

The reviewer of Clark's book stated:

A problem that often bedevils Reformed spirituality is what Larry Wilson has pegged as the tendency of the Reformed to fall into "practical deism": God is out there and we are down here with our theology, lacking vital communion with and connection to our gracious covenant God. [link]

Clark responded with:

The review raises concerns about the piety advocated in the book, even associating it with "practical deism." One might have expected such an insinuation from Azusa Street but not from Dyer, Indiana. [link]

In other words, in a clear state of having been stung (unexpectedly) by a true characterization Clark basically sputters: "And you're a fag."

The reviewer answered:

Clark takes issue with my reference to "practical deism," about which I believe all the Reformed must ever be watchful: the temptation to see God in His sovereignty as "up there" and the means "down here" in such a way that the vital spiritual link is severed. The sovereign Spirit must always make effectual the means appointed, and we must wait on him in prayer for that. [link]

Clark was stung. Why? Because he (and many if not most Reformed academics of our day such as his very active book-writing friends Michael Horton and Darryl G. Hart) is a practical deist.

I've said before Calvin was a barefoot mystic compared to these guys. It's just another way of putting it. Somewhere along the line Reformed academics (teachers, church leaders) stopped talking about spiritual warfare, they ceased to write about such New Testament teachings as 'watchfulness', they lost the distinction between the fear of man and the fear of God, they lost touch with the pure and whole - received - Word of God; they know nothing about such things because they have not experienced them. But their arrogance and position of 'honor' (which they covet and protect as much as any in secular academia) denies them the self-awareness and humility necessary to get a clue. Or at least to stop affecting to be teachers of Christians.

Read the entire review of Clark's book.


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