On the Free Grace Alliance web site, the president of the organization recently posted a letter from a younger member of the organization which included this quote:
●The Free Grace Movement and FGA are not reaching the younger generation like the Neo Calvinist movement is.
I sense there is a serious problem in the Grace movement — a communication problem. It’s not reaching out to young men and women. At the 2010 conference I counted only three other people under the age of 23. As friendly as people were, at times I really did feel a bit marginalized. Why is an entire generations virtually absent?
There are good excuses for the problem — the best of the Free Grace leaders (such as yourself) are extremely busy and doing much good. And I know you are mentoring people. I am simply frustrated that the Neo-Reformed movement has such a large voice and the Free Grace movement hardly has a voice in the first place. It is trite but true: the young generation is the future. The “Millennials” as we’re called are idealistic, passionate, ready to go do something big, to take action, and go further than our forbearers. Whether we will or not remains to be seen, but that is our mindset. If you want Free Grace Theology to spread and survive, it must be with these people. Despite this, the Free Grace Movement has been, frankly, terrible at engaging this generation. It doesn’t help that it contains a large corps of older fundamentalists, which young Christians (wrongly or rightly) dismiss as out of touch. On the other hand, people like you, John Correia, Charlie Bing, Larry Moyer, and Michael Eaton are the sort of people they would listen to, but they haven’t heard about it. Nobody is talking to them, or even trying. ●We are not using the social media to its fullest impact.
….Related to this, is to make a larger online presence. Free Grace leaders need to get twitter, YouTube, etc. and use them. John Piper, Tim Keller, and others twitter insights from their daily devotions, verses, links to sermons, blogs, etc. I’ve often wished I could re-tweet something from Free Grace people so my Reformed friends would have more exposure to it. But I have only found Larry Moyer active on twitter and Facebook. The FGA blog is great, but it’s not posted on very much. People don’t visit stagnant blogs as often as blogs updated weekly. It’s a bit better now, but in summer entire months had nothing new.
This is all quite true. However, I actually see a lot of room for hope.
- Neo Calvinists First, I just listened to a series of teachings by R.C. Sproul on the essentials of reformed (calvinist) theology, and I am more convinced than ever that there is no such thing a calvinist who is not hyper-calvinist. There is just no room for human autonomy at all in a strong calvinist position, and if you are not holding a strong calvinist position then you are not really a calvinist. However, I am convinced that this is the wrong tactic. What use is it to try to argue with people who call themselves calvinists that they are not strong calvinists, if that aligns them more closely with free grace thinking? Most neo-calvinists would resist being called a hyper-calvinists, and are in fact quite passionate about evangelism and seeing people enter into grace. The neo-calvinist movement really is strong, and is finding a huge audience online. The fact is, they don’t believe too much differently than strong grace non-calvinists, and there are splinter movements within neo-calvinism. Few people are as strong and as consistent an advocate of grace and the gospel as some of these neo-calvinists. There is much to rejoice in in the success of neo-calvinism, and even if I am not really a neo-calvinist, I can lock arms with them in their emphasis on grace. While I reject such teachings as those of John Macarthur, I can wholeheartedly endorse the message and general tenor of men like Tullian Tchividjian, with his extremely strong emphasis on grace.
- GREAT grace web sites In particular, one of the best Christian sites on the web is mbird.com. These are people who really get grace, and apply it to pop culture and general culture so well that I am just awestruck by them. These people are extremely powerful allies for the free grace movement, and they are clear that they really are not calvinists. They also embody the spirit I’m talking about, because David Zahl frequently guest posts on Mr. Tchividjian’s blog, even though they have certain theological differences. All of us who believe in the
- There are a number of blogs out there which may not be huge like The Gospel Coalition, but we are certainly trying. It is true that I need to try harder to get my book published through a real publisher, which is why I am resisting independent publishing through Xulon or Westbow; these self-publishing services are certainly easier move forward with, and most print houses are desperately behind the times when it comes to acknowledging the digital world exists. It is also true that the marketing efforts of most traditional print publishers are anemic and they lean heavily on the efforts of the author to promote their book, while taking most of the proceeds of the sales and leaving authors impoverished and in need of other ways to make a living. However, there is a legitimacy to traditional publishing and this is something the free grace movement strongly needs.
- I’m not sure that I’ve seen that the free grace movement is really trying to distance itself from all of neo-calvinism or the wider world. In fact, I’ve been able to interact pretty well and I’m not even sure that all of my beliefs would be acceptable within the inner circles of the Free Grace movement. I don’t really know exactly what the free grace movement essentially is. I have come to think that I am not completely on board with Zane Hodges and all of that; I think that belief in the propitiatory death of Christ is an essential element of faith. However, I am not so interested personally in who I should distance myself from, but rather who I should get involved with for the furtherance of the grand message of the grace of Christ.
- The truth is, most of the message of the Free Grace Alliance is being put forth in dry white papers, whereas the world has gone the way of Mockingbird ministries’ style of communication. Even though they are not calvinists, many neo-calvinists love them, and it would behoove Free Gracers to have a similarly inclusive stance. The very quote I put at the top of this post was from a PDF which was printed out from a word doc, the kind of thing that a young netizen is simply going to ignore. This is not a criticism; I read it, but it is an observation.
The point is, grace and strong belief in the gospel and the centrality of Christ’s propitiation links all believers, and there is no reason for us to sequester ourselves away from neo-calvinists in general or from anyone on earth who essentially promotes the gospel.
15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;
16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;
17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.
(Philippians 1:15-18, NASB).
Sorry for commenting on such an old post, but I believe this question is just as relevant today.
I think most millennials that you see drawn to the “Hyper-Calvinist” faith are ones that come from “easy” childhood conversions and have been raised up with strong, solid, faith communities.
I think that you see a lot of spiritually sheltered young men following like John Piper because they are -looking- for struggle. Assurance for them isn’t a consideration because they have never violated their consciences in a way that -they- believe is truly in need of grace.
I think this way because this has been my experience. I never called myself a Calvinist or Neo-Calvinist but I certainly had a self-righteous heart. Woe to anyone who transgresses the law in these faith communities.