Reformed rock stars. No, I don't mean Alice Cooper. I'm talking about the pastors, theologians and other experts that we in the Reformed world lift up to celebrity status. And when people have celebrity status, the things they say become more important, more worthy of a listening ear, and, well, more correct.
Now, as is sometimes the case, I've been wanting to write this for quite some time, and somebody else posts something similar. This triggers all the necessary tools into operation to create a blog post. Much thanks to Eric Carpenter at A Pilgrim's Progress for posting The Reformed Tendency to Create Superstars.
Eric lists some names, and I'll list many of the same, plus more. The Reformed celebrities to which I refer are John MacArthur, John Piper, RC Sproul, Michael Horton, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever. These are general, overall celebrities. There are other celebrities that have been given special status as experts in a specific field. Jay Adams and Wayne Mack in the area of counseling. Tedd Tripp is the child rearing expert. Martha Peace on what you need to be an excellent wife. Joshua Harris is the dating and courtship guru. DA Carson on theology. And all these celebrities have their groupies. Now, I'm not necessarily blaming the celebrities here, as Jesus had plenty of groupies too. You know, all those who followed him for the magic tricks and being fed the bread he pulled out of his hat? He rebuked them for their idolatry.
One by-product of the celebrity hype is that their material on a subject can become a formula for godly living. Or even the formula. Many people, for example, hold Tedd Tripp's Shepherding A Child's Heart book to be the biblical model for child rearing. I know this first hand. When you've got a kid who doesn't fit the box people have made of Tripp's book, then you're the one who is failing as a parent. Nevermind that your other kids are fine. Nevermind the special circumstances your family has that prevents you from following his formula, his formula is the only way to achieve godly kids. Unable to follow his formula? Well, then just follow his formula! You have no choice. It doesn't matter how well you explain how your family can't fit the formula, the formula works, because it's biblical after all. And you're not. And you're told so every time your kid has a problem, because you didn't follow the formula.
One humorous story that should shed some light on this formula bit comes from a men's discipleship class I took at my church in the late 90's. One of our books to read was on marriage, written by one of the Reformed celebrities. The problem was that this book was written 25 years earlier, in the early 70's, and true to conservative tendencies, the author had a cultural view of things from several decades earlier. So, in this book, gender roles from the 50's golden age of TV were being advocated as biblical. Of course, the book made it home with the men, and their wives and wives-to-be read the book, too. And there were some ticked off women. Some of the advice to women on how to be a biblical wife were like making sure you have his pipe and slippers ready when he comes home from work to read the evening paper. Practice putting your makeup on, because even though you're married you've got to do your best to keep your man. And the best was advice to the young single woman. College is a great place to meet your man, so enroll, ladies, and get your Mrs. degree! All this gave us some big laughs, as even by conservative standards in the 90's we viewed some of the stuff in the book as patronizing or demeaning to women.
I had only been a Christian for several years, and it taught a good lesson in discernment. Don't swallow things whole. Chew them up first. Pick and choose between what is actually from Scripture and what is a cultural norm, especially if it's somebody else's cultural norm. A formula for success is usually a recipe for disaster for people who don't fit. It's a good thing to question the ideas of the celebrities, even if it makes you less popular.