This past month was a huge conference in Chicago called the Gospel Coalition. It was a huge gathering of pastors and leaders from all kinds of Reformed churches. From John Piper to Tim Keller, Don Carson to Mark Driscol the who’s who of the New-Calvinist were there.
I however, was not.
To be clear, this was because I didn’t have the money to go. I had to make a choice between this and another conference that my wife and children could attend with me in June.
Oh yeah, and my wife was in the hospital.
A few years ago when I attended the conference, I think the thing that struck me the most was the amount of young people. The eyeball estimate put half the crowd of thousands under the age of 40. This movement of the young and Reformed has been chronicled from Time to Christianity Today. The influx of young men and women to the Reformed church has been led by a number of superstar Pastors from huge churches. Many of these Young Calvinist (which is probably the most accurate description; the ecclesiology of the Reformation can be pretty divisive among them) asked Jonathan Edwards into their hearts because they were attracted to the ministry of the men speaking at the Gospel Coalition.
So while the throngs of the Young Calvinist gathered in Chicago, I paced around a hospital room. Thankfully, I came equipped with my iPad and the hospital came equipped with Wifi. I was toying around with a new app called Instapaper, which I was quickly falling in love with. It functions like Pandora for blogs and articles from the internet. The program turned me onto the blog of a young woman who was about my age and had a some strong similarities to my faith story (particularly some the fundamentalism stuff). She wrote a post I found interesting and told Instapaper I liked it.
Life moved on.
A few days ago, my Instapaper (which really looks like a newspaper, by the way) delivered a post by Rachel Evans promoting the idea of a week dedicated to restoring unity. Right next to it was an article by DG Hart about the Gospel Coalition and the awkward unity it creates. You can read it here.
So what are we to do with all of this unity, all of this disharmony. Let’s be honest, everyone is in favor of unity. It falls on the list right below motherhood and apple pie. But at the same time, the idea of every Christian joining hands and giving the world a great big hug doesn’t seem realistic.
I am a cessasionist, mostly out of lack of experience. Some other Christians would disagree, which they have every right to do. Meanwhile, some of my best friends believe in a strongly hierarchical ecclesiology. I don’t. Certainly unity means getting passed all these things, right?
So after 500 words, what am I getting at? No one, at least I can’t imagine anyone, wants a mealy-mouthed uniformity so we can say we have unity. We will never all agree when we get to a tough passage like Hebrews 6 on what God is saying, or how we are to even approach scripture to ascertain what/if God is speaking for that matter.
I think unity comes through understanding boundaries and relationships. We all have neighbors, friends and family.
Our neighbors live near us and we do our best to enjoy them. Every once and a while, we’ll even have a block party. But some of our neighbors are different than us. We have Azaleas, they plant gardenias. But at times, our differences are more superficial than our choice in topiaries. They let their kids watch movies I don’t. They have different values than we do. But they are still my neighbors. I like them. We wave at each other when we walk our dogs; we talk about things, especially when the weather is nice. We live in the same place, but we are different. And that’s OK. We aren’t trying to be best friends.
While we know our neighbors, we also have friends. Our friends are not as geographically close to us as neighbors (most the time, anyway), but we have deeper relationships with them. We have more in common with them and do more things. We often vacation with them and have them over for dinner and Parcheesi night.
Finally we have our family. We have our deepest connections to our family. We have some of our hardest fights within our family. And we receive our greatest encouragement from our family. We love them above even our friends. We celebrate holidays the same way. Christmas and Easter are family holydays.
And maybe, just maybe, that is the way we should have unity in the Catholic church; by understanding that we all agree on some central (read:Creedal) issues. Lets celebrate that with block parties and cordial friendship. Some of us share deeper connections than that. Let’s partner together. And finally some of us are a part of the same family (read:faith tradition). Let’s keep our fights in house and not judge our friends and neighbors by our family values. By the same token, it would be weird to treat our neighbors like our family.
This week I have the privilege of being in Chicago for the Gospel Coalition Conference. It has been amazing. Yesterday I heard messages by Tim Keller, John Piper, Phillip Ryken, and Mark Driscoll. Far and away the one that struck me the most was Keller. Keller did a fairly typical “Keller-esque” message on idolatry of the heart. He artfully identified and tore down numerous God’s that we as Christians bow down to.
This was an interesting contrast with the hotel we are staying at. The hotel is called “Aloft”, but should, perhaps, be called “Aloof”. I am grateful for the church providing a hotel near the conference center and grateful that I am staying here. Nevertheless the attention to detail in the hotel is astounding. The entire hotel seems to have been designed, decorated and furnished by Ikea.
Cool color schemes that bounce alternately from stark solids to vivid patterns.
Even the music in the elevator music is cool.
In fact the elevator is a great microcosm of the hotel as a whole. The elevator is brush finished stainless steel from top to bottom and from a crown near the ceiling, a soft and beautiful blue lights seeps out. Then from some unscene (sic) speakers, a barrage of hip European sounding techno lurches out.
I walked in the hotel and (at least in my mind) made a motion like a 5th grader. I pumped my fist and elbow by my side and said in a loud whisper, “Yessssssssss”. Again, this is all going on in my head. I love cool. A lot. A whole lot.
In fact, I worship cool. I kneel at the altar of pop culture and drink deep of the swill-y Kool-aide.
God help us, because I have a feeling, I am not alone.