‘The Hallway and the Rooms’ is the title of an essay in which Michael Horton contasts the difference between ‘movements’, such as ‘evangelicalism’ and the churches. A movement can be a wonderfully fruitful means of carrying out mission and ministry, but they are not a substitute for churches.
Movements can serve an important role in shifting broad currents, but they are shallow. They rise and fall in the court of public opinion, not in the courts of the churches where Christ has installed officers to shepherd his flock. That doesn’t mean that they are wrong: it’s wonderful when thousands of brothers and sisters encounter the God of glorious grace in a deeper way. Yet movements can’t go very deep: when they do, differences are bound to emerge. The usually rise and fall with the personalities who lead them. Nor can movements pass the faith down from generation to generation. Only churches can do that.
He also makes a suggestion that the comtemporary movement that has emerged in conservative biblical circles identify itself as ‘evangelical calvinism’ instead of ‘reformed’ since many of its proponents do not hold to the historical distinctives of reformed theology.
For centuries, the “Reformed” label has been embraced by people from Anglican, Presbyterian, and Reformed traditions. Only in the last few decades has it included those who do not embrace a covenantal interpretation of Scripture, which encompasses baptism and the Supper, the connectional government of the church, eschatology, and a host of other issues that distinguish Reformed from non-Reformed positions. I often run into Christians who say that they are Reformed—and also dispensational or charismatic, Baptist or Barthian, and a variety of other combinations. Like the term “evangelical,” “Reformed” is whatever you want it to be. It’s hard to challenge pragmatic evangelicalism’s cafeteria-style approach to truth when “Reformed” versions seem to be going down the same path.
Horton’s concern here is not to ‘unchurch’ those who do not agree with his position, instead his motive is just the opposite:
I’m suggesting this not just out of a concern to protect the distinctives that I believe are essential to Reformed Christianity, but also out of a concern for the ongoing vitality of the movement toward the doctrines of grace. Right now, it seems to me, this movement is being threatened by the movement mentality that characterizes evangelicalism more broadly. The very lack of a doctrine of the church lies at the heart of this.
Read the whole essay here.