Should being a Christian have a visible effect on our lives?

There are a couple of articles today that I think are worth pointing out. The first is, The Death Of New Calvinism by Stephen McCaskell. In his article, McCaskell addresses what he sees as a problem within the “New Calvinist” movement:

The idea of holiness is almost a peculiar doctrine for the new Reformed movement. I know many young and old in this tradition who feel no obligation to actively and passionately with their entire being, to pursue a life of holiness. They wouldn’t explicitly say this, but their lives wouldn’t reflect otherwise. …

The problem young reformers seem to have is in regards to the fruit of that “Great Exchange” – the fruit of our lives, the good works we are to do, the life of holiness. It’s clear throughout God’s word that we are to love our neighbor, serve the poor, give generously, cloth the naked, etc. We aren’t doing these things to obtain Jesus, but because Jesus has obtained us we do these things. In other words, we are to do these things FROM our position in Christ, not FOR our position in Christ.

His concern is that this new brand of reformers have forgotten that as Christians our lives should be marked by a pursuit of holiness. Not because we make ourselves worthy of Christ, but because He has already made us worthy. Our lives should show evidence of His work and the work of the Spirit. I think he makes a very good point.

The other article while published separately and unrelated to the first is a good illustration of what McCaskell is talking about. The Trouble with Cussing by Carolyn Arends discusses a trend among some Christians to defend using expletives or foul-language:

Except … it’s cool these days to be a Christian who swears. It gives the curser an “I’m into Jesus, but I’m not legalistic” badge. A recent tweet about a behavioral study that linked swearing and honesty went viral among my church friends (although no one could produce a link to the actual study). Many of these friends point to the arbitrariness of the cuss-word system. …

Contempt is a mixture of anger and disgust, expressed from a position of superiority. It denigrates, devalues, and dismisses. It’s not hard to understand why even subtle levels of contempt are damaging—not only in marriages but in all human interaction.

If profane language has a privileged place in the lexicon of contempt, then Christians have a unique mandate to avoid profanity. It’s not that abstaining from pejorative language outfits us with some holier-than-thou halo. It’s that we are called to live with a servant’s heart, affirming the dignity of every human and the sacredness of existence.

I have heard at least one pastor in the PCA say that cussing (to use the Southern word) isn’t a sin. I’m not so sure he’s right. It seems to me that Arends makes a good point. I think that the Scripture gives plenty of warning to us on the need to control our tongues. I think we should expect our lives to bear witness to who we are as believers.

What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Should being a Christian have a visible effect on our lives?

  1. Pastor Timothy says:

    I get the impression that we in Reformed circles are so busy proving our justification by faith alone in Christ alone, that we punt the idea of holiness all together because to pursue holiness looks too much like someone trying to earn something from God. Yet, we are called to be holy and it is our duty, which is our choice when we are in Christ.

  2. Nathaniel Stamper says:

    I wrote briefly on this in one of my blogs, Coolvinism (as Dr Carl Trueman refers to it) appears to want to mirror the world in order to entice it. It has an attitude of ‘look at me, I’m just like you’ instead of mirroring Christ to the world. I am not suggesting a smug, self-righteous attitude but we cannot expect to entice the world by imitating it. The Spirit’s sanctifying work is restore us to image of Christ and less like this broken world.

  3. Ron says:

    Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

  4. Jared Moore says:

    I must be missing this lack of holiness in the Reformed movement. Who are these Reformed Christians that don’t care about holiness? As if it’s somehow a mark of those in the movement?

    • Joel T. says:

      I’m going to echo Jared Moore’s comment. One thing that’s really frustrating about this article (and the others cited) is the lack of specificity. According to the first article cited, “I know many …” The article about cursing Christians is introduced as, “a trend among some Christians.” “One PCA pastor,” purportedly said that cursing is not a sin.

      Who are these people? Have they put these views in writing? Do you have specific examples of pastors or other “leaders” in the New Calvinist movement who do this? (And what, specifically, do you mean by “New Calvinist”? I think it’s worth defining. Is it about beliefs? Aesthetics / appearance?)

      Anyway … I just think holiness is too important for us to be vague. I’m not trying to be critical of your central premise. Holiness does matter! I just think you could make the case more effectively if you (and the people you cite) actually took the time to discover whether or not your opponent actually exists. If he / she doesn’t exist, why not just make the case positively: “Hey, everybody! Holiness is really important! Remember, we were predestined for holiness (Eph 1), we are to strive for holiness (Heb 12), we are to sanctify ourselves in the truth of God’s word (John 17) … etc.”

      • Rachel Miller says:

        Joel~ I can’t speak for the authors of the two articles I quoted. I have come across pastors in the PCA and greater reformed world that illustrate what each author is discussing. Enough so that the articles both resonated with me. I can relate to them. I’m hesitant to name names here. One of two things would likely be the result. One, the conversation would boil down to a discussion of the good intentions of those pastors with reassurances that I’ve just misunderstood them. Two, I would be asked if I had contacted them directly first, Matthew 18 would be invoked, and likely 9th commandment violations threatened.

        I’ve experienced this approach towards holiness as discussed in the articles. Others have too. If you haven’t, then I’m very glad for you.

      • Jared Moore says:

        Rachel, can you provide examples of unholy acts being justified without naming names? Also, can you tie it specifically to the New Calvinist movement? I’ve seen cussing sanctioned by Christians across the “Christian movement” spectrum. That doesn’t mean they’re the “representatives” of whatever movement they associate with. Maybe they’re the exception… or, maybe I’m in the a bubble? Maybe a little of both?

  5. Mark B says:

    I share a concern over lack of piety in the modern Reformed church (to say nothing of broader evangelicalism). If we are living as Christians, the world will think we are legalistic. Another example you could add is drinking. Too often I see our Freedom in Christ flaunted in the face of weaker brothers. However, I can understand that viewpoint a little (the trend to defend using expletives), perhaps many can think of a person who is a reprehensible human being, but on the surface is very polite and proper. Sort of the “straining at gnats and swallowing camels” type, they won’t cuss at you, they are just insulting while using bigger words.

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