The New Calvinism

I just came across an informative article chronicling the recent resurgence of Calvinism.  I agree with the writer’s assessment that this uprising is in response to the shallow, watered down Christianity-lite of modern Evangelicalism.  Why?  Well, because that’s basically how I came to embrace the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was part of a world-wide movement.  I felt like I walked entirely alone for the first couple of years. I battled alienation and discouragement during that period yet I latched on to the teachings of God’s absolute sovereignty with bulldog tenacity.   No one, and I mean absolutely no one, agreed my new outlook on the scriptures.  I sought refuge and companionship through my blog and found a growing, enthusiastic subculture on the internet where I could work out my theological wranglings among friends, who are also my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

I’ve seen the sovereignty and wisdom of God in allowing pernicious error to infiltrate the visible church. The destructive heresies have helped open our eyes to the glory of God’s truth.  These heresies serve to cut off God’s supply line that feed his sheep with the milk and meat of his word.  Hungry, thirsty and gasping for the breath of life, many of us have pleaded desperately with the Lord to show us the difference between what is true and what is false.  Calvinism, or simply the historic orthodox Christian faith, has been uncovered because many earnest believers have asked, sought and knocked with due diligence.  God has answered our cries for insight and clarity into the scriptures.  His word is true, his testimony stands and we stand firm with Him.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Welcome to the austere – and increasingly embraced – message of Calvinism. Five centuries ago, John Calvin’s teachings reconceived Christianity; midwifed Western ideas about capitalism, democracy, and religious liberty; and nursed the Puritan values that later cast the character of America.

Today, his theology is making a surprising comeback, challenging the me-centered prosperity gospel of much of modern evangelicalism with a God-first immersion in Scripture. In an age of materialism and made-to-order religion, Calvinism’s unmalleable doctrines and view of God as an all-powerful potentate who decides everything is winning over many Christians – especially the young.

Twenty-something followers in the Presbyterian, Anglican, and independent evangelical churches are rallying around Calvinist, or Reformed, teaching. In the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant body, at least 10 percent of its pastors identify as Calvinist, while more than one-third of recent seminary graduates do.

New Calvinism draws legions to the sermons of preachers like John Piper of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Here at CHBC, the pews and even rooms in the basement are filled each Sunday, mostly with young professionals. Since senior pastor Mark Dever brought Calvinist preaching here 16 years ago, the church has grown sevenfold. Today it is bursting at the stained-glass windows.

Yet the movement’s biggest impact may not be in the pews. It’s in publishing circles and on Christian blogs, in divinity schools and at conferences like “Together for the Gospel,” where the rock stars of Reformed theology explore such topics as “The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability.”

“There is a very clear resurgence of Calvinism,” says Steven Lemke, provost and a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Read the rest of the article HERE:

HT: Phil Johnson

Curiously, toward the end of the piece the author threw in  a few thoughts from Phyllis Tickle, a prolific religious writer.  She doesn’t view the Calvinistic renewal as a positive movement but rather as a security blanket clutched by those who who are afraid of the encroaching influence of Emergence Christianity in the western church. EC is the offspring of a post-modern mentality that embraces mystery over absolute truth. Broadly speaking, it is simply liberal Protestantism re-branded and repackaged.

I couldn’t disagree more with Tickle’s quote.  First, I think she has mis-diagnosed the cause.  The article states, as I noted above, that Calvinism has grown out of a weak, watered down seeker-sensitive church model that has overtaken the church over the past 20+ years.  I believe this is apparent.  The Emergent movement is a more recent development that itself has also been birthed in protest against the shallow, market-driven church model, only in a more liberal direction.  Both the Calvinistic and Emergent rebellion against modern Evangelicalism is youth-oriented as a whole.

Ms. Tickle has prescribed a dubious cure.  In her book, The Great Emergence she writes that the church goes through a dramatic metamorphosis every 500 years or so.  The last paradigm shift took the form of the Protestant Reformation and now Emergence Christianity.  These movements are God-ordained evolutions that empower the church to adapt, survive and thrive with the changing times.  At least, that is my understanding of the book.  I’ve read a little of it here and there.  If that isn’t an accurate summary someone please correct me.

When Ms. Tickle says ‘there’s always those who absolutely need the assurance of rules and a foundation” I sense she’s implying the New Calvinists are relics of an increasingly irrelevant past who will be left behind as Emergence Christianity takes the church into a another golden age at the birth of the new millennium.

I believe a return to the simplicity of the absolute majesty and glory of a sovereign thrice holy God as revealed in the perfect, infallible word of God is the only hope for a church gone astray.

Well, those are my raw and unfiltered thoughts on the matter.

What sayest thou?

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3 thoughts on “The New Calvinism

  1. Having just read her book (actually finished it this afternoon) your brief assessment of “The Great Emergence” is correct. There are a couple of things that I got from the book that were useful in terms of understanding emergent culture.

    1) The book leads me to conclude that “Emergents” are a blend of Roman Catholic, Anabaptist and Quakers.

    2) The every 500 year “garage sale” is not really the main theme. The main theme, as far as I was able to tell, was deconstructing Sola Scriptura. The one question she came back to was “Where now is the authority?” She does not correctly define Sola Scriptura, nor does she understand it’s proper application.

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