January 25, 2021

The New Calvinism

The third week of our conversations about “Three Streams of Post-Evangelicalism” will focus on a movement that has received attention from the secular media as well as from within the church. It has been deemed the “New Calvinism”.

We are responding to Scot McKnight’s recent article in which he identified three alternative paths replacing the old “neo-evangelical coalition”: the Emerging movement, the Ancient-Future movement, and the new Calvinism. We invite you to join us this week as we discuss this third alternative, keeping in mind that we are aiming for a robust and healthy discussion.

We are doing this precisely because we are NOT experts with regard to these movements. We want to learn more. We want to hear your experiences. As pilgrims trying to negotiate the post-evangelical landscape, we are interested to hear of your involvement and interaction with these groups that have grown so much in recent years. Please join the conversation.

On March 12, 2009, Time magazine presented a list of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now”. Number 3 on the list? David van Biema said it is “The New Calvinism”.

Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don’t operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, “everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world” — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle’s pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom’s hottest links. (emphasis mine)

Without question, much of the inspiration and energy for this movement has come through the ministry of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, and primary voice of Desiring God Ministries. The church’s brief bio page describes Piper’s calling in these terms: “John’s life and ministry are driven by a desire to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” Piper has been influential, not only through his books and Desiring God site, but also in the lives of young people who hear him at the huge annual gatherings for spiritual awakening known as Passion conferences.

The Calvinistic approach to the faith has always been heavy on content. As in past generations, the output of material from the new Calvinist movement is prolific. The internet has provided a perfect environment with unparalleled opportunities for them to broadcast their message. Here are some of the key voices, in addition to Piper:

I encourage you to check out these sites, especially if you are unfamiliar with the new Calvinism and its strong voice on the web. See what you think. Then, feel free to come back, present your observations, and discuss what you think with others.

To further introduce our subject this week, here is a brief video explaining the distinctives of Reformed theology from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). It features Ligon Duncan, theologian, professor, author, and minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He is currently the senior pastor of historic First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi.


  1. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I’m admittedly not a real big fan of Calvinist theology. That said, one of the preachers/teachers that has had the biggest impact on my spiritual walk is a Calvinist, Steve Brown. He used to be a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, but recently retired or became adjunct or something. I also think the ESV Study Bible is one of the best one-volume commentaries around. The maps, commentaries, articles, etc. are absolutely superb. And I haven’t really found the Calvinism in the commentary to be too heavy-handed. It’s there, but only a bit. The ESV was my translation of choice for several years, though I’m currently using the NRSV more.

  2. In my own path in the wilderness, I started down the “new calvinist” path, but it took me a direction I never thought it would go. As I worked my way through history, I didn’t stop at Calvin, I kept going back through Luther, the councils, the creeds, and the early church fathers.

    Then, as I was a part of a New Calvinist church, I realized the movements three biggest problems for me. 1st, large numbers of the New Calvinist are too extreme, especially after I read the Council of Orange. 2nd, most of the new Calvinist teachers are strong believers in submission to the elders of the local church. Logically then, if they believe in submission to church authorities, why not either the Pope or the Eastern Patriarch? 3rd, many of the leaders have kept the parts of evangelism I despise the most (Young Earth Literalism, an over emphasis on the nuclear family and the role of the male, and the Pastor as CEO)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      As I worked my way through history, I didn’t stop at Calvin, I kept going back through Luther, the councils, the creeds, and the early church fathers.

      “Can’t be too careful about stepping outside your door, Frodo. You never know where it might take you.”

  3. Can you be a “New Calvinist” and also be Egalitarian?

    • “Can you be a “New Calvinist” and also be Egalitarian?” This leads to another aspect of New Calvinism. It depends on who you call the leaders. If you call Piper, Driscoll, and Mohler the leaders then the answer is a strong no. Yet, I have met other parts of the movement which seem to have dropped the more traditional fundamentalist views of complementarism, YEC, and elder submission. Some are stricter then others. For example Mohler is strong YEC, even suggesting I can’t be a Christian because of the original sin problem of old earth, yet Piper (and probably Driscoll) seem OK with old earth. The common thread I find in almost all of the public leaders is a very strong belief in both complementarism and submission to the elders of the local church.

      On a personal level, my strongest emotions are tied to the submission to the elders problem. I have two questions I have debated in my heart 1) Should I submit and 2) Who should I submit to? I haven’t answered the first question in my heart. Whatever the outcome, I am not going to submit to the self appointed elders of a local, independent church.

      • The common thread I find in almost all of the public leaders is a very strong belief in both complementarism and submission to the elders of the local church.

        Having seen where “submission to the elders/leaders” can lead – e.g., I sometimes attend an ex-cult group of former members of authoritarian Christian churches and groups – I am less than enthusiastic about a movement that seeks to affirm and promote submission to a church’s leaders.

        And “Complementarianism” aka Patriarchalism is a no-starter for me.

        • As someone who has had the misfortune of experiencing the ill effects of the teachings on patriarchal/complementarianism and submission to elders in a New Calvinist church…yeah. *sigh* I left fundamentalism for New Calvinism (a pretty common phenomenon, due to the many similarities between the groups), and now I’m not quite in that camp, either. Yes, it’s possible to be egalitarian and Calvinist, but we’re definitely a much-maligned minority.

          • The whole concept that women are somehow more deceived/deceivable than men and hence can’t teach men or preach to men or have leadership positions in a church unless they’re under some male leader’s “covering” or “umbrella of authority” is on its face so absurd and risible that it’s hard to take seriously those who promote and continue this belief, let alone choose to be under the authority of such persons.

          • A long-time friend recently signed on to grade a Bible correspondence course, primarily given to male prisoners.

            They notified her that married women have to have their grading and comments reviewed by their husbands, and the husbands will sign the papers and the husband’s name is what the student will see, so they’ll think the husband did the grading.

            For single women (my female friend is widowed and hence “single”), the woman’s pastor/elder (male, of course) does the above, and he, too, gets the credit for having done the grading, as far as the student knows.

            This woman is in her mid to late 60’s, has been to Bible school (at least one, maybe several), took NT Greek under Dr. Charles Ryrie, and is probably old enough to be the mother of most of the chauvinistic wet-behind-the-ears whippersnappers at this correspondence institute who treat her like she needs her parents’ permission to grade papers.

            S.T.U.P.I.D.I.T.Y with a capital “S.”

        • Agreed. I’m always cautious about people whose views seem to read.

          1. I had a lot of preexsisting sexist ideas about women about their role in the family the church and society.
          2. Then I seriously studied the bible on the issue.
          3. All of my prexsisting sexist ideas turned out to be true.

          • haha, so true! I was undecided about what God’s view of gender roles before attending a New-Calvinist church, now after 3 years of having complementarianism drilled into my head, I have exited that church pretty much a full-fledged feminist (at least that’s how they would see me…”real” feminists might disown me)

          • @ Witten, Marie, and everyone else in this thread: It’s nice to be reminded that I am not alone on having an egalitarian / feminist understanding of gender roles. Come to Annapolis & the beer is on me. 🙂

          • @Danielle: I’m tempted to crack a joke about gender-confusion and micro-brewed beer consumption , but I’ll desist…. the New Calvinists might be watching…. if you are ever in KC, the beer’s on me.

            Greg R

          • Greg R:

            Would that be Boulevard Beer?

            (We lived in KC from 1974-1990 – went through the whole “Kansas City Prophets” thing, too.) 🙂

          • @EricW: what is it about you that attracts odd and manipulative theology/churches ?? was the Dallas thing before KC ?? are you just doing a weird church tour for 20 or 30 yrs ??

            If ever in KC, look me up and the Blvd.wheat is on me ……
            Greg R

          • Greg R:

            We distanced ourselves from South Kanas City Fellowship not long after the “Blow the Trumpet in Zion” message (April 17, 1983). But we still occasionally visited it and Gruen’s church during the next several years and I went to hear John Wimber when he and Bickle did their cross-pollination conference. I have a friend here who has known Paul Cain for many, many years.

            Yeah, the Dallas (actually Denton) cult thing was after KC. We thought we were going to be committed members of a real committed church. “Committed” is the word, all right. As in: the leadership and some of the members could benefit from institutionalization.

            I’m still dealing with the fallout from that.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Having seen where “submission to the elders/leaders” can lead – e.g., I sometimes attend an ex-cult group of former members of authoritarian Christian churches and groups – I am less than enthusiastic about a movement that seeks to affirm and promote submission to a church’s leaders.

          I don’t need to attend such a group. I got my scars firsthand.

          And “Complementarianism” aka Patriarchalism is a no-starter for me.

          Like “Intelligent Design” came to mean “Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles with a new coat of paint.” No matter what “Complementarianism” (now that’s a mouthful to spell) originally meant, it has been redefined as (or at least invoked to justify) Male Supremacy as in “Me Man! You Woman! Woman, Submit! God Saith!”

          You know, Extreme Islam is also famous for extreme predestination and extreme male supremacist behavior. Is this a general characteristic of such beliefs, or is this a case of “When Christianity goes sour, it starts to resemble Islam”?

      • I also have a very hard time with the usual New Calvinist conception of church authority. There are two elements here that are difficult for me.

        (a) New Calvinists adhere to such a specific theological system and believe that everything must be interpreted through that grid. This means that there are a ton of boundaries to trip over. In a highly sacramental church or a ‘warm-hearted, we all come to the table’ orientation of Methodism, I can feel uncertain about 2 or 10 theological points, but still participate on the basis of what I DO believe and on the basis of shared practices and experience. By contrast, Calvinism is so cerebral and so propositional and so dedicated to its system and so well policed by its most ardent adherents that it would be hard to feel a part of the community without immediately confronting and overcoming the missing 2 points. And I certainly wouldn’t be allowed near any form of leadership (assuming that my sex did not already disqualify me).

        (b) I also struggle with assigning that kind of authority your describe to the pastor and elders of a tiny local church. For me, it is one thing to kow-tow a pronouncement issued from very high in a hierarchical church structure, partly because bishops and authorities of that sort don’t operate in tiny little vacuums. When they speak up, even if I think they’re wrong or acting politically, I respect that they are responding to some issue that is really pressing on the community. They speak as persons responsible for overseeing many people and as persons who are in their positions after many years of service to their churches. Therefore, I accept some responsibility to pay attention to them and exercise humility. But when Joe Elder in Topeka, Kansas decides some issue is really, really important, I have a hard time seeing his opinion as any more valuable than mine, especially since my education and hours of hand-wringing probably match or exceed his. (I do a lot of hand-wringing!)

        And yeah, I know he would be an elder because of his theological integrity and Christian walk. But this was determined by a church of 250 people …

        • Danielle, Marie and others,

          While my story isn’t nearly as intense as others, I, too, have seen male-New Christian trump female-longer time Christian. And it hurts to have a less educated, less wise person to whom you are supposed to submit to.

          I admit that I went through a period of submission in college, but it didn’t last very long.

          If we decide to meet in the middle, I’m in Ohio.

  4. I’ve attended a PCA quite often over the past year after moving to a new area. I enjoyed the liturgy, the creeds and confessions, the weekly communion. The sermons were gospel centered and the people gracious. I knew Reformed theology was it’s foundation and appreciate much of it. I was hopeful that there had been a softening on strict adherence to the TULIP as I have some reservation on a couple of these points but not to the extent I needed to personally crusade against them. However, when it came to membership, I was told that I would be welcome to join but would never be allowed to be in a position of teaching or leadership unless I fully embraced the TULIP doctrine. I initially felt I couldn’t fellowship in a church that set up what felt like dual citizenship, then tried to accept and live within the constraints of it, but in the end I could not. As I listened to the above clip, I hear the hint of a similar tone of exclusivity in the New Calvinism that I didn’t hear in the conversations on the emergent or Ancient/Future streams. The irony for me is how big grace appears in their theology, as long as you believe the gospel according to their theology. I guess we can all be a bit that way.

  5. I respect many Calvinists very much, but Calvinism seems to me a reduction of the Gospel, not just a clarification of it. As I read the Bible, I find I can retain a Calvinist mindset with some — though not all — of the epistles, but Jesus’s words in the Gospels demolish many of Calvin’s constructs. Or perhaps they just demolish my understanding of Calvin — I don’t want to misjudge him through ignorance.

  6. Buford Hollis says

    Okay, my impressions:

    First of all, I fail to see what makes the neo-Calvininists “post” evangelical, or for that matter, all that different from the paleo-Calvinists. Why were they chosen to be one of the three streams? Is it just because they seem to be growing in influence?

    I had a look at Piper’s site, and clicked around. A lot of it is sermon-like content (or thought-for-the-day type content) which does not so much try to set forth his own distinctive ideas as express something the whole church can nod to (or nod off to!). I clicked on his article on scriptural inspiration and interpretation, since that seemed likely to contain controversial material. Strangely, he said little that I could disagree with. Scripture must be interpreted in historical context? Check. We should acknowledge the role of ancient editors? Check. The catch is, he alludes to certain beliefs as “a priori” confessions of the church, which apparently supplement his exegesis in much the same way that Marxist-Leninist doctrine was expected to inform all scholarship back in the USSR.

    The next guy on the list, Tim Challies, had a series of articles about sex, including one on self-pleasure (he avoids the m-word on the grounds that it attracts spambots). That particular article begins by noting that the Bible does not specifically address the issue (Onan the Barbarian notwithstanding), and goes on to describe the general role of sex within Christian ideology. It seemed very boilerplate–the sort of thing any Baptist church might have sitting around as a pamphlet somewhere. So, self-pleasure–good or bad? The article halted abruptly, apparently to be continued somewhere, but I have not yet succeeded in discovering the continuation. I did however find a guest article by Mrs. Challies on the special sexual needs of women, the earlier articles apparently having assumed the readers would be lusty males trying to overcome the defences of reluctant females.

    I guess I should really be reading their books, if I want a systematic or representative look at what makes their theologies distinct. Unfortunately, it is not very likely that I will ever get around to this, my reading tastes being what they are (predestined to the pit, one might say). Perhaps others will enlighten me as to exactly what is so hip about this Calvinism.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      I think the “neo” aspect of the neo-Calvinists is that it’s a resurgence. From what I understand, Calvinism had almost died out until maybe 10 years ago, except among some traditionalist circles. In its resurgence, it’s become much more mainstream.

    • They can be considered post-evangelical in another sense, too.

      In terms of historical development, fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism are really interdenominational coalitions with strong Calvinist and Wesleyan influences running through them.

      Conservative Presbyterians and Reformed churches are their own tradition and have developed parallel with the fundamentalist and evangelical movements. There’s some significant cross-over between them, but they’re different.

      The New Calvinism is post-evangelical path not because it is new or totally unrelated to fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but because it is a common destination for evangelicals who become very uncomfortable with some aspects of evangelicalism — especially its lack of doctrinal precision or its ‘therapeutic’ culture. Reformed churches hold familiar convictions, but they offer a strong allegiance to a historic theology and that theology’s founding figures and documents (esp. the Westminster Confession). They also reject evangelicalism’s more warm-hearted, feel-good ethos for a hard-nosed and sometimes mystical appreciation for God’s sovereignty and glory.

      Also, although they often hold many similar positions to fundamentalists, the Reformed Churches never really acquired the anti-intellectual ethos and rhetoric that fundamentalism did. They’ve always been a very bookish and hymn-loving lot, and that appeals to people who feel evangelicalism is anti-intellectual, ungrounded, or otherwise ‘light-weight.’

      In my experience, friends who have jumped form their childhood churches to a Reformed church see the Reformed tradition is a new and correct path that gives them a whole new orientation & and a critique of the evangelicalism with which they grew up.

      Hope that makes sense — admittedly, I am painting in very broad strokes.

      • It’s included because many who are embracing it are doing so because of deficiencies they see in evangelicalism. They too are seeking a more historically grounded, theologically substantive faith. They find it in the Reformation and the theology that came forth from it, especially in the specifically Reformed or Calvinist stream.

      • David Morris says

        I agree with a lot of your broad strokes, but I’d just mention that the original “fundamentalists” (as in fundamentals of the faith) were a bunch of bookish northern presbyterians from Princeton who were reacting against modernist theology.

        (I don’t mean Fundamentalist in the Plantinga manner ;))

        I do think the intellectual content and system, and dignified services in many cases, have a lot of appeal. I just haven’t got over my fear of strict and particular baptists yet….

      • Well said

  7. I believe this will be the biggest of the 3 streams of post-evangelicalism because the SBC & other evangelical groups could easily join in this stream:

    can we be judgmental? – Check – we’re the elect!
    can we still believe in YEC ?- Check – we are Bible literalists!
    can we still keep women from speaking – Check- we are Complementarians!
    can we still be the Religous Right – Check – many of us are Theocracts!

    new Calvinism scares me 🙁

  8. My problem with Calvinism in general is the proposition that God creates two types of people: one to everlasting glory and another to everlasting punishment, and that there is no choice in the matter but what God has preordained an individual to make.

    I think that this is just an attempt to make the bible an operations manual that leaves no questions unanswered and no doubt to the outcome of the operation. I question whether the ancient writers (Paul, Peter, John, etc.) or the early Church fathers ever intended it to be this way, or even THOUGHT along that logical line of reasoning. To MY thinking this is just a typically Western way of looking at things and therefor heavily freighted with cultural bias.

    Although I reject strict Arminianism and its uncertain salvation I absolutely reject such a mechanistic view of soteriology as the New Calvinism portrays. Neither doctrine can be derived from solely Jesus’ words

    • “I think that this is just an attempt to make the bible an operations manual that leaves no questions unanswered and no doubt to the outcome of the operation”
      very true – work the equation right & you’ll be saved – oh course your neighbor will be damned!

      • Here’s how I try to resolve Calvinism and Armenianism: Salavation occurs (or begins) when God’s choosing of a person and drawing of that person to Himself intersects in space and time with that person answering God’s call and choosing Christ. As far as whether or not God chooses or draws all people, I’ve opted to believe that He does (love hopes all things) — but I’m not arrogant enough to think that God is bound by my belief, or that I’m even smart enough to fully comprehend what salvation means or the exact mechanics of how it works. And that is my primary beef with, not just Calvinism, but with precise, carved-in-stone, systematic theology in general — this underlying, unspoken premise that even though we may define God as absolutely soveriegn, He is still somehow bound to act and move only along the theological avenues we have allotted to Him. But that’s a trick we Christians have never really mastered — the ability to balance zeal for Christ, His gospel, and His kingdom with the humility to acknowledge the brutal truth that these belief systems we’ve developed around Him are not perfect. They are all incomplete, and they all contain errors. And that’s why I think Christ gave us love as the greatest and most central of commandments — basically because, compared to His knowledge and wisdom, we fallen humans are pretty screwed up in the head.

        • Speaking of being screwed up in the head, please pardon my misspelling of Arminianism. And I can’t believe I wrote “Salavation” instead of “Salvation”. Maybe it’s because it’s getting late, and I’m starting to drool on myself.

        • Love as an imperfect understanding of God’s will. I’m not sure I agree, but after reading this I felt a deep desire to re-read the gospel of John.

    • It answers a current problem in American Christianity though. That current problem is that less people as a percentage of the population are interested in Christianity. The seeker sensitives attempted to copy with this by changing the church to attract people. The Calvinists reject that and just say well, if less people are interested, it just means that it is ordained that less people will be saved. Either way, it seems a reaction to current trends.

      • Buford Hollis says

        Not “less” people–FEWER people. In view of our trend toward obesity, the collective mass of churchgoers may have remained constant.

        : )

  9. Aside from perhaps one or two of the men in the list – those guys are at the forefront of uncomprimised, sound and biblical teaching.

    I’d recommend taking a good hard look into the teaching of;

    – C J Mahaney
    -John Piper
    -Al Mohler
    – John MacArthur
    -RC Sproul
    – definatley Mark Dever

    I have concerns over the “new-calvinism” but that is primarliy regarding the incorrect contextualising that has [driscoll] and does occur.

    • You just oozes Calvin! 🙂

      • hardly Calvin – in oozes a very wierd American (developed) version of Calvinism that i doubt Calvin would have anything to do with

    • I’m all for sound, uncompromised and biblical teaching, but In my experience a lot of the neo-calvinists build a hedge around it at the far perimiters, far away from the core of Christian belief. And there they erect barriers that ought not be crossed and theological views that must not be controverted. Not so sure about YEC? You’re being unbiblical and unsound and your faith may be compromised. Question complementarianism/patriarchy? You don’t have a sound view of scripture; there’s a deficiency. And they’ll keep at it until the argument is won. Very little focus on the person asking the question or having real doubts or struggles. That’s been my direct experience. YMMV, and I sort of hope it does. Peace.

  10. John Piper is an amazing man and some of his sermons have at times tremendously helped me out. However, I think his theology should be examined seriously by other academic biblical scholars. I have major issues with his conclusions about the true motives and character of God…

    Also, many of the neo-Reformed, such as Al Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and John MacArthur take such a strong literalist/fundamentalist view of the Bible and Creation that it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

    • “it makes me extremely uncomfortable.”

      Good. 😉

      • David Morris says

        Fine, but they are moving away from traditional neo-evangelicalism, with it’s old earths and agree to disagree. I don’t think Mohler is a proper evangelical as a resutl, and as he is head of our biggest seminary (SBC), that makes me nervous. Have you read the polemics produced by MacArthur on creation? There’s no agree to disagree there….

        • I can shoot holes in a number of things MacArthur believes……….and definatley vice versa!

          The trouble is; why would anybody attack the man? He proclaims the Bible in its fullness – not in its water down form

          • Here’s a possible answer. It wouldn’t be for his particlular views on an issue as much as his increasing vehemence in boundary patrol, his inability to accept anything other than his interpretation as possibly biblical. In context, I’m referring to his recent YEC thread and the outright hostility to anyone who dare suggest anything other than YEC. I don’t mean to harp on one issue/thread, but it shows a stubborn inflexibility and frankly, lack of charity, all in the name of being “biblical”.

            Certainly much of what he writes is not like this, but he shows this often enough to get called on it, IMO.

            Greg R

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

            Yeah, my problem with MacArthur is that he’s just mean and nasty, even when he’s theologically and doctrinally sound. I’ve never heard the love of Christ in his preaching. I’m not saying he should be a fluffy snuggly care-bear or anything, but “Grace to You” as the name of his radio show is incredibly ironic.

          • I wouldn’t attack him, but I certainly would criticize him, precisely because with him and many of his followers, it’s their way or the highway, and that over exteremely peripheral issues.

            In my experience, it’s a form of spiritual elitism that borders on the bizzaire. You don’t see it until you disagree with them on something, but when you do, the gloves come off. This complete rejection of criticism is dangerous because i can blind people to their own sin. I’ve seen this.

          • would be better if he proclaimed Christ instead of his strange version of nominalism

  11. Buford Hollis says

    Clicking around some more, the first thing I see on Mohler’s site is a complaint that the Wall Street Journal is trying to “prettify” Darwin (by praising the Catholic position on evolution). One of the articles on Taylor’s website is also about Mohler–defending him from a criticism by Biologos, a pro-evolution Christian website that was mentioned here awhile back. Whatever one makes of this particular exchange, I tend to tune out creationists and websites supporting them, or treating them as a respectable intellectual option. Blame it on my innate depravity.

    Taylor’s site has a better design than many of the others, and I was able to see his thoughts on a number of subjects. The first was a description of a second-century church service (relying on Justin Martyr, I think), which seemed mostly right. A few posts down he had a catechism-style explanation of his theology, which I found bizarre, though I recognize the traditional sources. (Can we really deduce the nature of God from the natural world? If God “hardens our hearts” then doesn’t that make him capricious and evil? etc., etc.)

  12. Buford Hollis says

    The Driscoll / Mars Hill blog is about half on gender relations, in support of what, I’ve learned, si called “complementarianism.” This the “Month of Woman”–they just finished a Month of Man–so that might skew my impressions. (Do they do this every year? Is one-sixth of the church calendar really given over to gender relations?)

    The other half seems to be pure self-promotion. Apparently Mars Hill (their website is affiliated with some sort of church) is moving up in the world and getting lots of You-Tube coverage. The site is glossy and well-designed, though.

    • The month of woman/man thing is new (everything is always new there) but the extreme focus on gender relations is not. Our problem is that men don’t know how to be men, and women want to be men you know…*sigh*

      As for self-promotion…yes. Glossy and well-designed all in the name of Jesus. I still feel sick sometimes when I think about how much money they spend on things that will make them look good, all the while telling their members that they must give more and more…for Jesus of course.

  13. This is one of the better descriptions of “New Calvinism” that I have read:


  14. Well…I spent 3 years at Driscoll’s church and have almost nothing good to say about it. Like I wish it would disappear from the face of the earth and have all memory of it wiped out. And that’s what I have to say when I’m feeling generous. So feel free to read the rest of what I write in that light. I’m not exactly an impartial observer. However, I feel like I have a pretty clear understanding of why it is so popular and what about it attracted me in the first place.

    I spent my childhood in a fundamentalist, dispensationalist church, then my teen years in a thoroughly evangelical, non-demoninational, kind of armenian, slightly conservative, suburban church, spent some time in college trying out different kinds of church (everything from pentacostal to emerging to Joel Osteen-like churches), then returned to my high school church after college to serve as a youth leader.

    I quit being a youth leader at a point where I felt like I would lose my faith if I continued, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that was conflicting with my faith, it seemed at first that Mars Hill offered a safe place to rediscover what it meant for me to follow Jesus. They were cool with alcohol, swearing, R-rated movies, smoking, and night church, and they made a point not to talk about politics or play silly culture war games. It was a place where I finally started to feel like I didn’t have to join some strange Christian subculture just to be accepted at church. I could be me and not try to hide. It was refreshing, healing, and freeing…for a while.

    I had also grown weary of empty sermons at my previous evangelical church, and the constant pressure to “invite your friends!” “Witness!” “Emotionally manipulate people into saying the sinner’s prayer!”. All of these problems seemed blessedly absent from Mars Hill, and I was willing to push the red flags out of my mind (The yelling in sermons, the hard stance on gender roles that sounded suspiciously like sexism even though we were assured it was the only stance in the world that actually freed women from sexism, the constant nagging that Driscoll was stretching Biblical texts to make a certain point)

    I look back now and kind of wish I could have told myself to go with my intuition and run. But I decided to give it a try, to learn to submit to leaders, to learn to be okay with conservative gender roles, to become involved in the church and see if maybe they were right, that maybe my problem really was a rebellious spirit. Umm, no. Horrible, horrible mistake. It’s a very long story and I’ll spare you the details, but I finally left that place with my faith hanging by a thread, and I now twitch whenever I hear someone say that something is “biblical”, whenever I hear a woman say she wishes she were more submissive, or whenever I hear someone say they’re drinking orange juice to the glory of God.

    • You have my sympathies. The damage that Christian Patriarchalism (euphemistically called “Complementarianism”) has done to God’s daughters seems to have only recently begun to be talked about in a major way. Your voice is important, Marie. And the pain the buzzwords trigger is completely understandable. The teaching and doctrine are as damaging as any cult, and indeed it’s found in many cults.

      • Thanks 🙂 I feel lucky that I’m single and could just walk away and look back at it as a bad dream, an ill-advised stop on the journey. I feel really bad for the women I know who struggle with it, yet are still married to men who are convinced that a strict complementarianism is the only biblical way. It’s not that they’re bad men, for the most part, they’re great husbands. But to have to figure out a way to have a mutually submissive relationship with a man who still believes what they no longer can. Now THAT is tough.

        • Marie, I’m glad that your ok. I’m not glad that people who, falsely, spoke in the name of Christ put you through that.

        • Just wanted to say that I identify with what you’ve said, since I’ve thought very long and struggled long with the dialog in the evangelical world with godly womanhood. I refer both to partly to the real colorful and unusual stuff from the far reaches of the fundamentalist/evangelical continuum, which I encountered mainly be being a very dedicated new convert, fundamentalist, and teenager in the home school movement. (Think: house churches in which 2-3 fathers teach and all women are silent; courtship and arranged marriages; quiverfull; et al.) I mean mostly the larger evangelical dialog about complementarian gender roles and godly-passive-Christian womanhood. It’s odd, but after imbibing this perspective so deeply, then slowly shedding it, the buzzwords really are loaded for me too. There’s so many discarded emotions and personal thinking and wrestling behind each one. Even if, for me at least, they’re pretty much de-constructed. I did to this matter what all good scientists do to interesting topics: Death by scholarly vivisection!

          In any case, in retrospect I am so glad that I got married after I had come full circle to my current view of myself and home life. Funny story: In the end, I joined a Christian dating site, where I called myself “feminist” and wrote a whole bunch of assertive things in the hopes of scaring off the would-be patriarchs. I wasn’t sure if I was being serious or performing an experiment. Then someone responded to me because my username was feminist. So I married him and haven’t looked back! :p I’m very grateful now that I can worry about these things in work and in church, but don’t have to go home to it. I’m safe at home.

  15. My question for Neo-Calvinism is… are they really Calvinists? The question is can you follow Calvin’s soteriology but nothing else of his sytematic thought? Neo-Calvinists would not agree with Calvin’s ecclesiology or sacramental theology (from what I’ve read), so the question remains, can they be properly called Calvinists?

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Something my church history textbook pointed out is that Calvinism really developed into its concrete “core” attributes a generation or two after Calvin’s death. E.g. that’s when Westminster was written.

  16. Paul Davis says

    This is a movement that scares me, it’s the dark side of calvinism unhinged. I did a stint in the reformed church and the first time they preached election from the pulpit I challenged it. I never did get a good answer, but mostly a run around the issue and non exegetical bible readings to make their issue. At the end when I finally asked how I would know if I was one of the elect the answer was because I was asking!!, in my mind I heard the Mormon ‘Burning in the bosom’ quote playing over and over.

    I’ve read a few on that list, and to be honest I’ve not been impressed. To this day I don’t understand why Sproul is held in such high regard, same with MacArthur, he’s far too polemic for me to really take him seriously. Michael Patton over at Reclaiming the Mind has done more to explain Calvinism in a calm, informed and irenic fashion than any of the people on that list.


  17. Oddly enough, I am grateful to some of the Calvinist scholars of the early 20th century for giving me a love for philosophy and sound thinking. Herman Dooyeveerd and Cornelius Van Til were two Calvinist philosophers who were of the opinion that philosophy was good and should not be avoided. I have read some of both of them. Van Til was the teacher of Francis Schaeffer (the dad, not the son) who had such a strong influence on American Christianity in the late 1960’s through the late 1970’s.

    As a result of Francis Schaeffer, I became quite interested in philosophy and eventually did a Master’s degree in Philosophy after my seminary degree. I deliberately chose a secular university because I wanted to be challenged and forced to think logically. To this day I appreciate clear and logical thought and to this day my studies in philosophy and its applications to theology have helped me to formulate my thought in a more clear fashion.

    However, it is also true that at the same time as Francis Schaeffer, another movement sprang up. That movement owed more to Abraham Kuyper (Netherlands, end of the 19th century) and was the beginning of much of the theocratic emphases that we see today. I am very much against that particular approach in Calvinism.

    • Father Ernesto,
      Not to quibble, but you realize that both Dooyeweerd and Van Til were Dutch Reformed Kuyperians. Both men were heavily indebted to Kuyper. For example, Dooyeweerd’s whole modal analysis was an epistemological outworking of Kuyper’s doctrine of sphere sovereignty.

  18. This is probably because of personal reasons but I feel a little pissed off reading some of these less than loving comments toward Calvinists here. God got my attention in life by my reading of a John Piper book and I have been discipled by a thorough Neo-Calvinist. I realize that Calvinism has its theological and practical faults like every other branch of Christianity. I no longer consider myself a Calvinist due to some theological problems I encountered. I think it is great that the imonk community is having a discussion on post-evangelicalism. However, i believe we should treat Calvinists with respect as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of the articles I have read from leading Neo-Calvinist are genuinely Christ centered. Even if we don’t agree with them we should still love them and derogatory comments are not needed.

    • Nate, feel free to chime in throughout the week. This is a discussion, and I would like to hear all points of view, especially if those involve experiences with the movement.

  19. Actually, hearing John Piper preach in person several times at a couple of the Passion conferences was probably the thing that turned me off from Calvinism for good. The first thing was his attempt at laying out a theodicy (mind you this was in front of several thousand college students) where he outright said that God ordained evil – no lie. In another message, he was talking about atonement, and how important the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is. He said, “Jesus is holding God the Father back from killing you.” I almost got up and left, but unfortunately, I was there with my students, and I couldn’t. Seriously, there are different ways to explain what the wrath of God is, but presenting the Father as some monster is just unbiblical. It’s almost like he was saying the Father and the Son are of two different minds.

    Now, I realize I may be accused of being somewhat uncharitable, but to me, these kind of statements are so reckless, they just should never be said. I’ve met so many students who have trouble believing the Father actually loves in the first place that we certainly don’t need to be playing into those fears.

    • “In another message, he was talking about atonement, and how important the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is”

      Are you serious? 🙂

      Have you asked yourself, just why substitutionary atonement is very important?

      • sarahmorgan says

        If you reread Phil’s message, there’s *nothing* in it that says Phil doesn’t believe the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is very important….you yourself are adding that in to what he says. And it’s distracted you from the really important sentence in Phil’s message:

        “I’ve met so many students who have trouble believing the Father actually loves in the first place that we certainly don’t need to be playing into those fears.”

        There are ways of communicating the importance of substitutionary atonement without having to use a version of the phrase, “God wants to kill you.”

      • I wasn’t actually commenting at all on how important that doctrine is. I think like virtually anything there are good and bad ways to describe it. Personally, I think I’ve more heard far more bad presentations than good. As to what I think “good” is, I’d say it needs to be rooted in the story of Israel, the covenant, and deliverance rather than individualistic notions of sin and punishment.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Have you asked yourself, just why substitutionary atonement is very important?

        Other than “From his postings in IMonk’s comment threads, Matt seems very obsessed with it”?

    • But the Almighty had to have created evil. After all, he created heaven and earth, and saw that it was good. At each day of creation, he sees that it is good. And then the serpent offers the fruit to Adam and Eve. Well, who created the serpent? It had to have been the Almighty, no one else was around creating anything. And when everything was created it was good so the serpent was good. This leads me to believe that the Almighty wanted the serpent to tempt them so that they might have a choice between good and evil.

      I find the same theme in Job. Satan and the Almighty aren’t adversaries there, exactly.

      • God did not create evil – evil is a absence on Good.
        God created freewill – the world walked away from Good.

      • Well, yes, God created Satan, and I assume He created him with a free will. I don’t believe God ordained Satan (or any of His creation, actually) to reject Him. Evil is ultimately a creature choosing its will over God’s. So while God did create beings with that ability, that is in no way saying He ordained those choices. The term “ordained” means set apart for a special purpose or decreed by divine fiat. God can and does use evil towards His purposes, but I don’t believe that was Hid original intent.

        My thoughts on theodicy have largely been shaped by N.T. Wright and Greg Boyd. I found Boyd’s books God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil especially helpful.

        • I see what you mean. I believe the Almighty created good and evil things, but certainly not that he ordains our choices. Why would He when He created good and evil to give us a free choice between them.

      • Surd evil is evil that may have been there at the creation. “Now, the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.” That sounds evil. Then God says let there be light, and he separates and pushes back the those deep waters.

        And the snake was “more crafty than any of the wild animals God had made.”

        Then in Job you have God shutting up the sea behind doors, and telling it “this you may come and no further.” And saying about the leviathan, ” Nothing on earth is his equal… He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over all that are proud.”

      • Evil is not a created thing on the first order; It is always a perversion/deficiency of some already created thing or idea. God created free will and both Satan and humans perverted this free will to rebel against God and God’s will.

        • But the Almighty had to have created Satan. And why would the Almighty create things not perfect with perversions or deficiencies? Especially when after he each day of creation, he sees that it’s good?

          I’m currently fighting my way through the creation story in Hebrew. I do a verse a day. Over the weekend I had the great crocodiles of the sea and the chickens that fly in the heavens. Turns out the word for crocodile can also mean monster (the great sea monsters) and the word for chicken also can mean fowl. Which was a relief, because my reaction was, wait, I don’t remember that!

          • Define Perfect? Does that mean without the capacity to turn away from God? From what we can gather Satan was an angel that rebelled against God. So I assume even he was created good. But he turned away – even Augustine talks about Evil as the perversion of the Good – Not a created/ordained thing by God.

          • This is really getting into the area of philosophy more than pure theology, but one thing to consider is this. If God created a being that in essence could not do anything other than what God wanted it to do, it would in reality simply be an extension of God Himself. In order for there to truly be “otherness” from God, a created being has to have some sort of free will. There was always, in other words, the chance that beings God created could do something He did not will them to do.

            By the way, this does not mean that the author of Genesis was incorrect when he talks about God calling creation “good”. The Hebrew notion of good is different from the Greek notion of perfection. Goodness relates to the concept of shalom – things being ordered and at peace. It doesn’t really speak to the inherent quality of a thing. The Greek notion of perfection has more to do with an unchanging essence of a thing. It would be a rather foreign concept to a Jewish audience.

  20. David Morris says

    I guess this is something of a testimony. We left a large church in town to find a smaller fellowship. We visited a few places, including an SBC church. To my wife’s surprise, it had strong expository preaching and a traditional, simple service, and a delightful fellowship. But the Calvinism preached from the pulpit started awakening scary memories of strict and particular baptists from my childhood (I grew up Baptist Union). I almost became convinced that God was bad and that we were trapped with election or damnation. It was a mighty struggle for us. God has pulled a wiser and more thoughtful Christian out of this and the church has had a useful counter-reformation of sorts.

    I do now have a much stronger appreciation of Calvinism and some Calvinists, and am slowly coming round. Reading Richard Mouw’s book, “Calvinism in the Los Angeles Airport” has really helped me. I highly recommend it. I think now that I now understand what was wrong with the Calvinism I was presented with (lack of generosity in the main) and can now see it and it’s highlights better. I guess you might say that I am a Heidelberg One small c semi-calvinist (or Amyraldian).

    “What is your only comfort in life and death?” “That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Chirst”

  21. I’m 25, so young enough to know everything, so I’ll throw my two cents in.

    Of the list given above…


    # Tim Challies, Informing the Reforming
    # Justin Taylor, Between Two Worlds
    # Kevin DeYoung, DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed
    # C.J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries
    # Al Mohler, AlbertMohler.com
    # R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries
    # Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Blog

    DO NOT LIKE (maybe even despise)
    # Phil Johnson and “TeamPyro”, Pyromaniacs
    # John MacArthur, Grace to You

    # Mark Dever and others, 9Marks.org
    # Rev. Eric Costa and others, Reformation Theology
    # Monergism.com
    # Founders Ministries (SBC)

    I don’t like TeamPyro/MacArthur because of that super strict literalist Biblical interpretation. I think they write some good stuff that I can respect, but then they stick their foot in their mouth without fail. Especially when they take shots at other Christians because some Christian wore the color red and they prefer the color blue. Also, they come across as arrogant jerks at times. I know one or two of them used to guestpost here on Internet Monk, which is when they seemed to be on their best behavior. I lump MacArthur in with Pyro because of Phil Johnson. Also, it’s a perverse irony that they are the keepers of all things Spurgeon online, when if they had been contempories of Spurgeon, they would have hated him.


    I grew up basically Keswick Arminian before getting a brief taste of old Calvinism then going Charismatic Pentecostal with strong touches of Keswick Pelagian/Arminian while calling themselves Reformed Charismatic. What brought me out of that was almost entirely the preaching of Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and the books of John Piper (not the preaching, lol, despite his church being half an hour from my house).

    New Calvinism, to me, represents freedom. It’s large God, it’s historical to a point, it upholds true biblical fundamentalism while ignoring the craziness of fundamentalism (ie, secondary secondary separation), it’s intellectual while practical, it’s concerned about society, it’s concerned about being missional, and it holds the Bible up to the highest standard while not worshiping it as the third member of the trinity. It also seems to work; those churches that hold to it are growing, are bringing in the people of my generation, and people seem to be sticking with it. It’s concerned about worship that is both contemporary and cultural, while still acknowledging the past. When liturgy is concerned, it’s honored yet flexible.

    In short, it feels like freedom. It means holding on to my faith and the Bible while ditching the mental anguish that Arminiamism brings with it. It’s solid. It’s certain. It’s something I can get behind. Yeah, some kooks are a part of it, and I can no longer just go along with some of the theologies presented (such as YEC), and I do have massive doubts about some parts of TULIP…but it seems the best that’s out there until we have a new Reformation.

    Also, to my generation, Driscoll is a shot of cold water…we need that men month and women month. Beats just being lumped in with everything. Frankly, Driscoll and Chandler and DeYoung…and Michael Spencer/IM to a large part…are the reason I’m still a Christian. Because after struggling out of Keswick/Pelagian pentecostalism, I was ready to quit.

    But I’m not there yet. Not anymore at least.

    • “I lump MacArthur in with Pyro because of Phil Johnson.”


      Does that mean if I wear Nioke runners I am a slave labour advocate?

    • *Nike

      You said “(maybe even despise)” – regarding Phil & John……

      Thats a very strong word young chap.

      • I’ve never met them. I appreciate some of what they write, but not the majority. And they tend to be less than gracious in their exchanges online. Despise? Yes, in the sense that they can make others look bad who believe as they do. Despise in the sense that it is just tiring at times to see what they will talk about next. Despise in the sense that they just don’t seem to get “it” whatever it is being discussed.

        I’ll use the word despise knowing full well I will give an account of it one day.

  22. And this is exactly why I love Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. Hopefully it doesn’t turn sour on me, but it could. All I know is this is what I need right now in my life.

    • With growth comes change. We take what we need when we need it and then discard it as our needs change. I have been thru a number of “phases” in my Christian walk so I cannot gainsay where someone else is at any one time. My advice: Just don’t marry yourself to a person OR ministry. Let God be sovereign and let the Good Shepherd lead.

      • Well said Oscar.

        StuartB, I honestly hope it doesn’t turn sour for you. Everyone experiences things differently and I still have good friends who go to Mars Hill.

        It probably will go better for you just for the fact that you don’t actually attend that church and won’t have to see the dark underbelly of what goes on there. Most of the original members have either left or been kicked out, and they have less than positive things to say about it for the most part.

        It is my instinct to tell people to run as fast as they can when I hear they are going there, but I usually resist. Even if it ended badly for me, it may very well have been what I needed at the time and may be what you need right now. Jesus can still be communicated in the midst of corruption and darkness. Let’s face it, that’s pretty much the only way we ever experience Him 🙂 I think Driscoll has some fatal flaws, but I actually have a lot of hope for him, and still see a lot of good. My dream is for him to take a several year sabattical, then come back and disolve Mars Hill Church and move on to actually using his gifts without the burden of being a god-like figure to thousands.

  23. it seemed at first that Mars Hill offered a safe place to rediscover what it meant for me to follow Jesus. They were cool with alcohol, swearing, R-rated movies, smoking, and night church, and they made a point not to talk about politics or play silly culture war games. It was a place where I finally started to feel like I didn’t have to join some strange Christian subculture just to be accepted at church. I could be me and not try to hide. It was refreshing, healing, and freeing…

  24. And not to get too crazy…but Greg Boyd makes a lot of sense, even if he’s nuts.

  25. I could write a book here, but I’ll try to be as brief as possible.

    – I’ve been a “Calvinist” since five years before my conversion to Christ 16 years ago.
    – The term “New Calvinist” is new to me, as I heart it first a few years ago.
    – New Calvinism can be considered post-evangelical in a way. When I read iMonk’s
    “Mere Churchianity,” the first part of the book where he laid out all the problems with
    evangelicalism sounded just like everything I ever heard in Calvinist churches, and
    I feared it wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t know. The last part of the book changed
    – I understand Mike Horton’s concerns about wondering if these people can be called
    Calvinists. Much of the movement seems to be Baptists and garden variety
    evangelicals who just tack on the five points. Not that there isn’t a great amount of
    reforming of their own views, but there seems to be a decent amount of the same
    anti-intellectualism within NC that they complain about in evangelicalism.
    – I think there are some problems with church authority within NC. I’ve witnessed and
    experienced some abuses from leadership, but that’s normal in many other traditions.
    – I’m concerned about the unquestioned acceptance of NC’s celebrity pastors on many
    issues as NC grows. But that’s to almost be expected. Can’t wait for post-new-
    calvinism. 🙂 Many of these pastors/leaders have the same rock star status that is
    complained about in mainstream evangelicalism.
    – I’m with Fr. Ernesto about Van Til and others who rightly see the need not to exclude
    philosophy from the Christian mindset.
    – Overall, there is good and bad, just as with any other movement. Hopefully, the good
    will be accepted and the bad rejected.

  26. Michael McLarney says

    I discovered what some refer to as the New Calvinism not long after I became too disabled to physically attend church services, bible studies and other fellowship meetings that were so important to me.In the teachings of Piper, MacArthur, Sproul and others I found some answers that enabled me to draw yet closer to the God I so loved and desired. The God who never abandoned me no matter how far I ran. In those teachings i learned full surrender to the Will of God without any need to understand what He was up to. It was no longer about me and God. It was just about God and His simply astoiunding Grace.

    On August 8 when an ER exam discovered the tumors that were the cause of my neurological disabilities and which had been hiding do long, I was ready to accept this pronouncement of my end with a sense of peaceful fulfilment. This knowledge gives me great peace at a time when the pressure should be driving me bonkers. My wife and children are nearly prepared and I am ready because of the confident faith that comes as a gift from God rather than a result of my own efforts. Don’t get me wrong, I do weep, but for my little ones and for others in this treatment facility that do not have my confidence in God’s supreme power and great design. I continue in His great power and design anticipating the unveiling of the great tapestry that is His will.

    • Michael, I’m deeply moved by your story. God’s grace in Jesus is indeed our shelter. May he give you and yours comfort and strength.

    • God bless you.

    • I too only discovered the reformed when stuck in bed due to neurological disability, far away from my home church, through the generously available years of sermons and talks on the web. No one is saved in my apartment but me, and that virtual fellowship and teaching, supplemented by my own study, is what maintained my felt connection to the church at large.

      Disclaimer: I don’t think soteriology matters, or at least our understanding of it. The reason we have to torture the text to get a systematic soteriology is that the Bible writers obviously didn’t think it was that key. WHY we are redeemed, WHO redeemed us, WHAT do we do now… that is all laid out clearly, but the HOW – through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It doesn’t dwell on the matter past there, and neither do I. Who reached what hand first is academic, God gives the grace we need for repentance.

      That said, I find the fact that Ephesians promises there were good works ordained for me enormously comforting. It is hard to see what they are in this place that I am in, but knowing there is a why for why I’m here is more important than knowing what it is. The reformed’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God is like a healing balm to me, reminding me always that the Captain of this ship is good and is going the right way, even if it seems never ending storms.

  27. Unless I overlooked him being mentioned, would not Tim Keller fall into this category as well? I am surprised his name has not been mentioned. He is able to transcend groups, so perhaps he is not so tied to this one stream.

  28. Is there any Mystery in Calvinism? Do they have all the answers? the more sure someone is about how God works, the more sure I am they are sadly mistaken. peace

  29. The one thing that bothered me most about the video at the end was the constant claim that they were simply seeking to be “biblical.”

    Inference: if you don’t adopt our theological views, you obviously haven’t read the Bible or care what it says.

    • Copy that….who out there is going out of their way to NOT be biblical ?? well, maybe Neale Donald Walsh or Eckhart Tolle….but you get my drift. This comes across like WE”RE the ones who really understand\follow the bible. As for the rest of ya…….

    • I’ll go out on a limb and say this will ultimately be the downfall of neo-Calvinism. If/when it eventually falls out of vogue, the general contempt it shows for those who disagree will be one of the primary reasons.

      I grew up in a pretty classic midwestern evangelical church. We were fairly firm on a number of things I now consider to be wrong–or at the very least optional–beliefs (YEC, a particular definition of inerrancy, premil, etc.). But Calvinism/Arminianism were waters we mostly didn’t wade into. In fact, when two members got into a rather heated exchange over the topic, my pastor stepped in and clarified that, while discussion was accepted, this was not an issue our church was prepared to divide people over. I respected that.

      Fast forward to my ~10 years of wandering in the post-evangelical wilderness. I needed to think and rethink a lot of things. I needed to try on a bunch of things, scrutinize them, evaluate them…and then repeat the process at least half a dozen times. The reason I ultimately found myself more drawn toward the emerging stream (though I never was officially “emerging”) was because they respected and even encouraged that process, versus the neo-Calvinists who labeled the entire thing “unbiblical”–unless of course I wound up landing on a few very specific beliefs. And quite a few will also tell you that Arminians can only be Arminians if they are intellectually dishonest. People had called me a lot of things, but “intellectually dishonest” was a new one.

      Antipathy toward fellow believers ultimately won’t fly. Ultimately, I think the movement has to move toward people like Tim Keller, who is clearly Reformed but lacks much of the strident, negative characteristics of the movement as a whole, or it will die out. And no, I don’t think all Calvinists are jerks. I don’t want to broad brush the whole movement. But that general perception does exist for a reason.

      • well said, and I’d agree with what COULD become the achilles heel: a smug certainty and arrogance that just does’t disagree with others, but demonizes them and makes them anathema…

        over time, this will not (surpirse, surprise) be all that attractive
        Greg R

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          …a smug certainty and arrogance that just does’t disagree with others, but demonizes them and makes them anathema…

          In my early days as a gamer, this was called “One True Way-ism”. And you got the same attitude in slow-mo APA flamewars over which variant of D&D was True D&D. (Pattern: to gamers with this attitude, Their Way was ALWAYS the One True Way. There was even a filksong written about it.)

  30. Imagine no Arminianism
    It’s easy for you to see
    No questions of salvation
    It’s all God’s sovereignty
    Imagine all the Calvinists
    Living life in peace


    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the church will be as one

  31. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Does this “Neo-Calvinism” have anything to do with the “Hyper-Calvinists” that have been hassling my writing partner for a while? He reports run-ins with young on-fire “Hyper-Calvinists” who are so into double-predestination that they even claim God is subject to Predestination — a claim my writing partner describes as “going over the top into Socratic Atheism.”

    To me, Calvinism means extreme emphasis on Predestination, often combined with Total Depravity Worm Theology. Am I accurate, or is this the over-the-top Hyper-Calvinism?

    And in a time of chaos such as the present, I can see where Extreme Predestination can be very comforting. “What, Me Worry? Everything has been Predestined by God from before the Creation of the World…” Kind of like Islam’s “In’shal’lah…”

    Unfortunately, Extreme Predestination leads to the same side effects that have handicapped Islam for most of its history. Passivity (“It’s all Predestined, so why bother?”), Fatalism (“Whatever Will Be, Will Be…”), and use as a ready-made trump card and excuse machine (“Not my fault! God predestined it!”)

    • Buford Hollis says

      So do they think God is destined to be saved, or not? The latter opens lots of interesting theological possibilities…

      This reminds me of a group of Swedenborgians–recall that Swedenborg’s writings interpret the Bible symbolically–who interpret Swedenborg’s writings symbolically as well, applying the same principle one meta-level above (if you see what I mean).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        More like God can only do what God has been Predestined to do. Which makes Predestination into the real God, and God just Predestination’s puppet. Hence the term “Socratic Atheism” — if Predestination trumps God, then God is not God, Predestination is.

  32. As a lifelong “Old Calvinist” of the PCUSA variety I am encouraged by the interest in this movement. I am probably way more theologically liberal than many, but it is my sincerest hope that this theological approach will help many individuals in their faith journeys. As evidenced by many of the posters on this site, study and exposure to reformed theology has been part of their spiritual development. May it continue to be so, whether you accept any of the 5 points or none.

    I share the concerns of earlier posters over complementarianism, inerrancy, YEC. The anti-intellectualism is not obvious, but very real. I wonder what will become of “The New Calvinists” when the congregants begin to ask questions about these explosive topics.

    This series on the post-evangelical world is fascinating to me as a mainline protestant. Much to my dismay, as a member of somewhat conservative PCUSA congregation, I have witnessed the implementation and failure of nearly every evangelical/emergent trend in this same congregation for 10 or more years. The bad news is that because of these actions we are probably looking for a new church in the near future.

    I often wonder what influence the evangelical movement had for good or ill on the mainlines. The declining numbers are old news, but I can’t be the only one from a congregation that I think was severely damaged by buying into many trends associated with the evangelical movement.

  33. I go to college, read some Sproul, Warfield, and Owen in between (or, more accurately, in lieu of) studying for O-chem and histology exams and, wouldn’t you know it, I was part of a burgeoning movement that I wasn’t even aware of. That’s God for you. Good times.

    I remember this one time during winter break a few years back my Dad asked me “What ya readin’ there?” “Oh, nothing, it’s called ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.” He looked at me funny, shook his head and walked away saying “You better have the grace of God on you boy.” Love my Dad. He did like the Edwards bio I let him borrow, so we’re cool 😉

  34. I generally steer clear of capital “R” reformation type stuff. I did listen to about five of Driscoll’s podcast some time ago. I enjoyed his sermons like I enjoy frat-boy hazing -which is exactly what his sermons felt like.

  35. Very decent and interesting introduction and resource post to introduce others to this old stream of Christian thought. This particular stream has been there all along, but I suppose fads come and go. 😉

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