The Gospel Coalition is gaining an amazing reach into the Evangelical churches in North America (if not even internationally at some levels). Indeed, even my own local church has been and is being influenced by the reach of TGC (and the "denomination" our church is in [Calvary Chapel] is usually known to be more Arminian in orientation [if indeed Calvary Chapel's have a articulated theological orientation---which in fact they really don't!]). They offer and sponsor video series for church ministries (like on how to be missional or kingdom builders in urban settings), conferences for pastors (and lay folk alike), and now they are (at the least) associated with a "training" program offered to pastors that is said to be at the level of a 'Masters' level course load.
I understand that most pastors who associate themselves with TGC are certainly well intentioned guys who love Jesus, and want to be up on all of the cutting edge (what is perceived as such) ministry tools and trajectories that they can avail themselves of; I understand that! But from my perspective there is something more insidious going on here (from TGC's side); the fact is, is that what counts as the Gospel for The Gospel Coalition is this:
The Plan of God We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them. We believe that God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that he will one day glorify them—all to the praise of his glorious grace. In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe, having set his saving love on those he has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer. [taken from The Gospel Coalition's 'Confessional Statement', point 5]
The Kingdom of God We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace.... [taken from The Gospel Coalition's 'Confessional Statement', point 10]
So what counts as the 'Gospel' for The Gospel Coalition is the same theology that funds the so called 5 points of Calvinism---indeed, it is The 5 POINTS of Calvinism, straight up. The reason that I said, earlier, that I think this is insidious (that is, TGC's mode of operation by framing themselves as simple purveyors of the Gospel, is that they speak and move, often, in cloaked ways; and intentionally so!), is because as I just noted, parenthetically, TGC knows that the theology of 5 point Calvinism in its naked, explicit form is offensive to many Evangelical Christians. So they have crafted a method, language, and a cultural posture that will make what they think counts as the 'Gospel' more acceptable to the masses of Evangelical leadership who finds their many resources (for pastors) appealing.
Mark Driscoll's Resurgence ministry which is seeking to instill his idiosyncratic mode of doing 'missional' ministry into the body lives of local churches all across America. I have just become aware of this, because one of the pastors from my own church (I just noticed on a social feed) is attending this training program put on by Driscoll's Mars Hill church in Seattle, WA; the training program is called RE: Train. Here is how RE: Train describes what they are about:
The Resurgence Training Center (Re:Train) is a one-year, intensive, cohort-based program designed to train leaders practically and theologically. The program is designed after popular “executive style” graduate programs to serve students currently serving in full-time ministry or for those who do not have time for semester-long courses. Students meet physically eight times per academic year; six weekend courses at regional hubs and two one-week courses at Mars Hill Church in Ballard. [taken from here]
And they say of their doctrinal commitments, this:
The administrators and teachers of Re:Train gladly embrace the Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement, and are members of Mars Hill Church or other like-minded congregations and institutions. All professors are chosen because of their exceptional knowledge in their respective field of study and their ability to teach in a useful and practical way. All professors will be world-class academicians in well-respected institutions or pastors who have the appropriate teaching credentials and ministry experience. [from here]
No matter how "good" the intentions of these folk are (and I mean at 'Resurgence' and The Gospel Coalition), they are covertly (in my estimation) conditioning an uncritical Evangelical church in America to believe that the theology that funds the 5 points of Calvinism is actually the Gospel! So all in all, this cultural Christian movement is dangerous; because they know exactly what they are doing, and they are doing so in an under-handed way. Although, I would imagine that many of the attendees at RE: Train know full well what is going on theologically behind RE: Train (and TGC), and they are fine with it.
All of the above said; I am more than concerned about how many pastors in the American Evangelical church are being taken captive, and in many instances, uncritically, by the theology of The Gospel Coalition and now RE: Train. It is not possible to attend an institution like this (which is explicitly and unabashedly committed to American 5 point Calvinist theology), weed out the bad, and end up with some sort of ecclesiastical (churchly) good. If the root is bad ... well, you know the rest. I am sincerely saddened by the fact that this movement is having such an impact on American Evangelicalism, they are making their move in an intentional fashion by grabbing hold of the pastors from all over America. They know that once they reorient the leadership in American Evangelical churches, then they will also reorient all of these pastor's local flocks.
In my next post (which will probably be later today), I will break down how those two statements that I shared above from TGC's 'Confessional Statement' are pure unadulterated statements of the TULIP.
PS. Here is a link that gives a fuller picture of the Vision of RE: Train.