Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Role of the Web in the Reformed Resurgence

Mark Dever is almost done with his series, Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?

Here's the recap:

1. Charles Spurgeon
2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
3. Banner of Truth Trust
4. D. James Kennedy's "Evangelism Explosion"
5. Defense of inerrancy
6. Presbyterian Church of America
7. Packer's Knowing God
8. John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul
9. John Piper
10. ?

Any one want to weigh in on #10? (Charismatics have an unfair predictive advantage here, so give others a chance!)

One possibility would be God, though Dever seems to be looking at secondary causes under God's providence.

I want to suggest a factor that some may overlook in the Reformed resurgence: the role of the internet.

The internet itself, of course, creates nothing (even under God). But I think that the web has been a means to accelerate the growth of the movement.

The rise of the blogosphere has been one aspect of this. The blog can be an ugly place. But there are a lot of evidences of good and godly things going on there. A good example is Tim Challies. Consider these endorsements for his forthcoming book:

Tim Challies is uniquely qualified to write on the subject. I don’t know of a more reliable or more prolific commentator on the contemporary evangelical scene. His weblog is a favorite stop for thousands of Christian readers every day. His book reviews and his comments on evangelical trends are consistently even-handed, thorough yet succinct, and full of perceptive insights… The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is a truly important work—one that should be required reading not only for church leaders, but for all sober-minded laypeople as well.

John MacArthur
Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA

“If you were more discerning you’d probably buy this book. If you do read this book, you will be! Tim Challies has written on a topic that is both important and rarely addressed. This book on discernment is simple, clear, well-written and well-illustrated, accurate and even insightful. I read it all. I liked it all. I will recommend it often. 10 short, pithy chapters. Read 1 a day for 10 days, and I guess that you’ll find yourself more discerning—or at least wanting to be.”

Mark Dever
Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC.
The remarkable thing is that Tim is an ordinary guy with a modem. For good or for ill, that's all it takes to become an influencer. Thankfully Tim loves God, is committed to excellence, is generous with his time, and desires to serve the body of Christ. That's what's made him one of the go-to people on the web.

So the blogosphere is one factor, daily influencing what we think about, read, and listen to.

But with regard to the acceleration of the Reformed resurgence in particular, I don't know if enough people have recognized the revolution that Desiring God has slowly created in the way in which they distribute resources. (Full disclosure: as most of you know, I was an employee of DG for six years.)

Piper receives no personal royalties for any of his books--they are all funneled back into the ministry of Desiring God and Bethlehem Baptist. Further, a number of years ago they made a radical decision: make everything that can't be boxed available for free. As the web accelerated, they invested a great deal of money and manpower into converting all of the old audio tapes (which I used to help label by hand!) into free MP3s for the web. They don't place any limits on what you can download or distribute, and they don't require you to register. They've set a high standard with regard to the twin e-virtues of speed and freedom.

Mark Driscoll, who has sought to follow the same policy in the distribution of Mars Hill and Resurgence resources, captured the logic beautifully. He once told me, When you give up control, you gain influence. Exactly.

There are legitimate arguments that can be made for charging for resources or just requiring registration. I used to make them myself. But who can argue against the influence DG has made by their radical decision? No other ministry that charges or requires registration has--or, I'd suggest, will ever have--the influence that is created by the viral effect that DG captures.

Make no mistake: there's a risk in using this model. Someone has to pay for the bandwidth and the lights and the salaries. (Hey, if you want to donate, here's how!) But staying in business has never been DG's ultimate goal.

I, for one, am thankful, and I believe the Lord has used this to play a huge part in the acceleration of the Reformed resurgence.