Can “Prodigal God” and “Prodigal Christianity” Co-Exist?

I am the co-host of the Gospel Neighboring Podcast where my comrade Andy Stager and I interview church planters, missional practitioners, academics, and grocery workers on what it means to obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors.

Andy and I are both in a confessional Presbyterian and Reformed denomination called the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, so we have enjoyed interviewing RUF campus ministers, PCA minister George Grant, fellow ARP pastors, etc. Yet, we’ve also interviewed our fair share of neo-Anabaptists such as Geoff Holscaw, David Fitch, and Zach Hoag.  We also have interviewed “tweeners” such as Caesar Kalinowski and Seth McBee.  Then, there are the folks that everybody loves, 3DM (Mike Breen, Jo Saxton).

While old debates raged about Calvinsim versus Arminianism, dispensationalism versus covenant theology,  paedobaptism versus credobaptism, the new debate on stage is that of the so-called neo-Reformed verus the neo-Anabaptists.  The neo-Reformed are those who dig The Gospel Coalition, Together 4 the Gospel, and Wayne Grudem.  The neo-Anabaptists think that Missio Alliance is cool and that Acts 29 isn’t really missional.  There is also the more academic side where the neo-Reformed dig Calvin and Warfield while the neo-Anabaptists embrace Hauerwas and N.T. Wright.  (Throw in the Reformed 2K crowd who all claim Hauerwas as their own!)

While I sometimes feel pressure to “pick and side”, I am grateful that there are conversations happening between both neos.  Andy and I received a cordial e-mail from some Neo-Anabaptist friends with the subject line reading, “We Don’t Hate the Reformation!”  Our podcast has positively reviewed Center Church and Prodigal Christianity.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t disagreements or that such disagreements aren’t important.  Yet, I’ve found myself comfortable enjoying my classic Calvin along with some Hirschian Apostolic Genius.  I think Warfield is better than Barth on Scripture, but I always want to know what Hauerwas and N.T. Wright say about a particular matter.  Newbigin helpfully changed our missional conversation, and I enjoy his missional heir, Christopher Wright, but I am a Tim Keller and Herman Bavinck homer.  (Note: Deb Hirsch and Kathy Keller both beat out their husbands.  Those ladies make me think about becoming an egalitarian, until I read Kathy Keller’s stuff on gender roles.)

In other words, I enjoy both Prodigal God and Prodigal Christianity, and both books have shaped my thinking and ministry.  I read both TGC and Missio Alliance content as stuff is hit or miss on both web sites.

My admiration for both movements and their talking points is probably due to my Framean perspectivalism.  So I guess the Reformed wins in the end.  🙂


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