Future of Protestantism

There aren’t many events that could possibly drag me out of bed at 3 AM in the morning, but a rigorous and lively conversation among four thinkers who I have an incredible amount of respect for is among them.

I’m probably biased because one of the participants is a hero and friend of mine, but I couldn’t be more excited about seeing Fred Sanders, Carl Trueman, Peter Leithart, and Peter Escalante discuss the Future of Protestantism April 29th at Biola or, if you can’t be in the area, livestreamed into your computer or church through the joys of internet wizardry.

The conversation stems from Peter Leithart’s controversial essay on the same theme, and aims to extend that further.  I’ll be getting up at a ridiculous hour to watch live because…why wouldn’t I?

Seriously, look at that list of names again. Think about what fun this is going to be.  Sanders, Trueman, and Leithart are probably best known to readers of Mere-O…and in my opinion they represent about the best and most rigorous of Protestant though.  Peter Escalante is an astonishingly well read fellow whose work at the Calvinist International is newer to me, but I’m awed by his intellect and his knowledge of Reformational sources.

We’re Mere Orthodoxy, and while we skew Protestant (and evangelical) in our attention because of my own natural proclivities and interests, this is just the sort of conversation that I would hope any reader would be interested in.  It’s sponsored by the good people at First Things, who for years have had a reputation for being mainly a Catholic magazine.  That reputation isn’t really fair…as their sponsorship of this event makes abundantly clear.

And then there’s the Davenant Trust, the other co-conspirator, which has been started by (among others) my friend and sometime Mere-O writer Brad Littlejohn. They’re up to the right sort of mischief, what with this event, a convivium that I desperately wish I could attend, and a new center aimed at studying the Reformation.  It’s all so great that I’ll almost forgive them for housing it at New St. Andrews, rather than my alma mater Torrey Honors.  Almost.

I hope you’ll join the event online or in person, if you’re able.  It’s easy to sometimes be discouraged about the state of the Protestant churches, but this is an opportunity to hear directly from theologians at their best in an environment that is aimed not at wowing the crowds but ploddingly, patiently, and cheerfully taking on difficult questions in an irenic and constructive way for the good of the church.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. What time of day, pray tell?


  2. Will they have this recorded on video or MP3? I am really excited to listen to it but I doubt I will be able to catch the live stream.


    1. Rick, I saw on the FB Event page that this will be recorded and available for download later.


  3. This promises to be an interesting discussion. But I have the same thought that I had when I read Leithart’s essay last year: Is this really that big of a deal?

    From my vantage point (in a thriving urban PCA church in a major city), I see very few people giving any serious thought to Roman Catholicism or to the issues that Leithart addresses. For most of us, the bigger question is: Can we carve out a space within evangelicalism that’s historically true to the Reformation but that also eschews the pietism and idealism that have led us astray (e.g., into the Culture Wars). I think we would probably envision a thicker orthodoxy within the church, but a greater ease with pluralism outside of the church. I’m not sure that the move toward “Reformational Catholicism” addresses this point, at least to the extent that it gives credence to the “new natural law theory” of the First Things crowd. For it to address the concerns that animate the dissatisfaction of urban PCA folks, such a move would need to adopt an approach much more consistent with the theology of Alasdair MacIntyre and Paul Ricoeur. Further, I suspect that this explains much of the revived interest in neo-Barthian theology (e.g., Haurwas).

    Therefore, for Reformational Catholicism to take root in the long term, it has to engage itself much more seriously with some combination of MacIntyre, Ricoeur, Hauerwas, Barth, and the like. I don’t see that happening among this crowd, namely, because they’re all fairly committed to the Culture War. In contrast, the folks who occupy the pews in urban PCA churches have little interest in directly engaging the culture on issues like civil same-sex marriage.


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