Tuesday, March 22

The Problem with Trendiness

This is being re-posted from the Desiring God blog.

Confessions of a Non-Hipster

A student recently asked why I hate trendiness so much. From my taste in music to my choice of shoes, I go for what I regard as the timeless (classic rock and brogues) rather than the contemporary (i.e. anything recorded or designed since about 1985).

I answered that we live a large part of our lives before the age of 25. By then, tastes are fixed. Further, the Lord has delivered me from the need to dress like a scruffy dropout, talking in embarrassingly fake street jargon to pretend that I can still connect with `the youth.’ I am, after all, an Orthodox Presbyterian minister. It is hard to imagine a less trendy or more culturally inept calling. Plus, anyone who has heard any rock music produced in the last twenty years knows what an utter insult it generally is to the genre.

Reformed Theology: The Hip Factor

The conversation did, however, tend in a serious direction: is the current revival of Reformed theology driven by the fact that people think it is cool, or by the fact that they think it is true? 

I rejoice seeing the growing appetite among men and women under 40 for the great exponents of sovereign grace, Christ’s atonement, justification by faith alone, and the centrality of preaching. That these things are back on the agenda that could never have been anticipated ten years ago is a stunning testimony, both to God’s grace and the hard work and commitment of a generation of Christians.

Yet I still have the misgiving—perhaps a function of my English pessimism?—that we may be witnessing something trendy rather than true.

Genuine Revival: A Primer for Hipsters

What would the signs be that this revival of Reformed theology is genuine?

Long term, it will be the existence of organized churches (i.e. with elders and members) where this material is faithfully preached and the gospel is lived out daily. And it will build on more immediate developments: a piety that does not feel the need to shock or be self-conscious in its hipness.

This piety will place a primacy on the qualities of character and practice that Paul outlines in his letters, rather than on the celebrity aesthetics he decries in his words to the Corinthian church. It will manifest itself in humble commitment to the gathering of the church, humble attention to the preaching of the Word, and humble service for the church. It will be shown in the careful guarding of our minds and our hearts (that’s the hard part) from erroneous doctrine and behavior—not to earn God’s favour, but rather because God has already blessed us with every good thing in Christ. It will not be brash or loud. It will not even be cool or relevant, except by accident.

And that churchly piety is, I fear, what could be the missing ingredient in the current climate.

Carl R. Trueman is Vice President for Academic Affairs at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and teacher at Cornerstone Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ambler, PA. A regular columnist for Reformation 21, he’s also a specialist in the development of theology during the 16th and 17th centuries. A proud Englishman, supporter of Gloucester Rugby Club, and marathon runner, Carl is married to Catriona, and they have two sons. He is also the author of Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative and The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

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