Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spiritual Oedipus Complex--Some Thoughts

I am back from a long drought of posting, largely due to summer Greek at RTS Jackson. I thought I would share some thoughts on one of the most helpful articles I have read. I read it over two years ago but it has still stuck with me. The article is by Carl Trueman titled The Freudom of the Christian and it hits on what I perceive is the chief problem with what has been called the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" movement. Carl Trueman notes, as others have, that although young people today in our churches may be in an uncanny fashion embracing the finer points of Reformed orthodoxy, it is many times more of a reaction to what they were fed in their bland-evangelical churches than a recognition of the Gospel and its need demand for Gospel obedience. What this machine-like-movement turns out is bunch of young people who are more concerned about not being like their old dispensational-fundamentalist-tee-totalin'-[insert "We don't want to be like that!" term here] Church family than being Christ-like.

Don't get me wrong, I was and still find myself doing this very thing, although my Spiritual parents weren't as Fundy therefore I suppose I'm not as reactionary. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches, was regenerated at a mega-church in the Dallas area, was a member of Matt Chandler's church and then a member of a Sovereign Grace Church in the Chicago area. Thus, I know what fundamentalism is (I graduated from Moody Bible)! I also know what the young Reformed movement looks like as well. Matt Chandler and Sovereign Grace Ministries are at the forefront of the movement and I was the typical feisty Calvinist who deserved a cage rather than a debate. Let me be frank, I just don't think that the Iain Campbell's of the world who want to defend the movement from those who criticize it are understanding that movement very well (FPC Jackson is hardly the center of the young Reformed movement, if anything, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Al Mohler are much more near the center)! In fact, as John Macarthur has pointed out, Mark Driscoll is quite crude at times.

Now I must immediately make a disclaimer: Iain Campbell is right to point out that we ought not to proverbially "throw everyone under the bus." After all, John Piper, Al Mohler, and many others in the movement are extremely pious and emphasize holiness very much. However, when looking at those young people who follow these men, I find, by and large, a general lack of holiness and sometimes as Trueman's article acknowledges a vice-filled group of theologically savvy young people who sin under the guise of "Christian Liberty." Worse, if you call them out on it, they think you are being a legalist or even-worse "crusty." Of course, seemingly unaware of Eph 5:4 and 1 Tim 1:5. Well, I suppose the desire I have of myself, as with all of my other young Reformed brothers is for us to be committed, above all else to be God is holy. This is, by the way, something where the Puritans should be our examples!

If we can be more Christ-like than our Arminian-Dispensational-Whatever brothers, maybe they would find our theology more attractive. There is nothing more attractive to me (and an example for me to follow) than a brother or sister in Christ who finds the doctrine of election precious because it accentuates the mercy of God and who lives beyond reproach where glorifying God by being holy is one's chief aim!


  1. Not quite sure I'm fully grasping your meaning on this post. Would you mind clarifying for me?

  2. Sorry. I should have been clearer. The gist of the post, largely based on Carl Trueman's article linked above in the post, is a mild rebuke of those who call ourselves (or have been called) young and Reformed and do not seek to be holy in ways which we ought. (i.e. Crude jesting, heavy drinking, theological snobbery)

    Does that help?

  3. I have known young reformed guys who were like this. I think anytime you proclaim the Gospel you run the risk of people abusing God's grace; Calvinist or not. Do you think these problems of unholiness can generally (everything we're saying here is "in general"!) be attributed to the teaching that the Young Calvinists are receiving, or do you think it's something else? I tend to think it must be something else, because where I have heard the young reformed preachers (many of them would not like that title, but whatever; it works), the behavior you're describing would not be consistent with what they're teaching.

  4. I'm still trying to figure the title out. Isn't an Oedipus Complex when you are sexually attracted to your mother?

  5. Kevin,

    Yes, although I'm not using the term in that way. It comes from Carl Trueman's article I linked. I'm hitting more on the killing father aspect than the marrying the mother aspect.

    For instance Trueman writes,

    "Yet so many Christians, particularly in America, seem to be driven by an overwhelming desire to slay the parental religion -- if not the religion of biological parents, then often the dominant religion of previous evangelical generations. Spiritual Oedipus syndrome, aka, Christian Freudom."

  6. One of the biggest issues I have with Christianity is the seemingly lack of power the Gospel has to produce holiness. I do not want to fall into "the church is full of hypocryts" complex, but it does seem to me that your gospel is quite impotent at times. Please forgive me if I seem to being intentionally offensive; I am not. I just want you to understand where the doubts of many come from (as I am sure most of you do understand).

  7. I am not claiming the gospel is not true. I have been trying unsuccessfully to formulate a consistent atheistic worldview and have as of yet been unable to do so. The funny thing is that I see in myself a spiritual problem in a sense, but am unable to shake myself from the belief that there has to be a better alternative. I am getting off topic of the post so I will end. I apologize for the bunny trail.

  8. "I have been trying unsuccessfully to formulate a consistent atheistic worldview and have as of yet been unable to do so."

    I was typing quick and wanted to apologize for the redundant sentance.

  9. Wizard,

    I would tend to agree with you that Christians do not live up the the standard they ought to. But this seems to me to be proof for Christianity and not against it. After all, the Bible tells us this will happen. This is why we need a Savior in the first place. We are sinners.

    Ask any of my friends here at RTS and they will tell you I have had a hard time here with other Christians. But this does not push me away from Jesus; rather, it causes me to draw closer to him. In times of hardship we need to look to Jesus all the more, not doubt his existence, not question him.


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