Monday, May 31, 2010

New Calvinism considered

Over at the Wanderer, Jeremy Walker has posted a very perceptive article on the "New Calvinism". He lists down 21 general characteristic of the movement, not all good and not all bad, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Have a desire for the glory of God
  2. Have a deep-rooted joy
  3. Possess missional zeal
  4. Emphasize the gospel of grace and grace of the gospel
  5. Complimentarianism, to the extent it has almost become a sine qua non of the movement
  6. Return to biblical masculinity
  7. Promotion of the family as basic unit of church and social life
  8. Charismatic convictions regarding the spiritual gifts
  9. Calvinist soteriology, with some departures and aberrations
  10. Generally thoughtful ecumenism
  11. Often pragmatic ecclesiology (i.e. multi-site campus church)
  12. Neo-Kuyperian view of culture
  13. Doctrinal if not practical Antinomianism (primarily related to embrace of some form of NCT or New Covenant Theology)
  14. Practice contemporary worship
  15. Driving force of several key personalities
  16. Ready embrace and employment of new technologies
  17. Concentration of a younger and more urban demographic
  18. Desire to be big and have a seat at culture's table
  19. Have an ambivalent relationship to church history
  20. Sensitivity to the judicial and social aspects of the gospel at work in society
  21. Americocentrism, or largely influenced by American culture

Point 5 is what I have seen earlier on as I have stated in my Credo500 paper on the New Evangelical Calvinism. While complimentarianism IS important, the disproportionate stress on it is unhealthy. As I have stated in that paper, "what make this flashpoint [doctrine] more worthy of contending for as compared to the other doctrines and practices of Scripture"? I am not advocating for a more latitudinarian approach to doctrine, but a more robust view of the other doctrines which are similarly important.

An example of point 13 is the case of John Piper, who leans towards New Covenant Theology. While NCT by itself is not technically antinomian (except with regards to the 4th commandment), there is such a tendency in it due to a strong division between the Old and New Covenants to the extent that it approaches Dispensationalism in its view of Law and Gospel.

Besides these 21 points, the overt triumphalism of the movement irritates me to no end. One benefit of facing severe trials in life is that you learn and grow much quicker and inherit a strong dose of realism. The idealism of youth has been burned out by the harsh reality of this wicked world, and it thus irritates me when these people around or slightly younger than my age are so naive in their view of the world and ministry. Yes, we can "change the world", but change in God's plan comes from faithfulness to His Word, not youthful passion and bull-headed rashness. The use of cliches like "Gospel-centered" for example is one area whereby the youth of the movement is showing itself. The Young, Restless, Reformed crowd really need to grow up, seriously.

The world is a broken world in many respects. The Church is called to proclaim the Gospel and live that Gospel in the midst of this broken and sin-soaked world. We need pastors and leaders who are mature in their thinking, not hot-heads where their way of doing church changes as the years go by, as seen in the example of Mark Driscoll. That is incidentally why pastors are to be knowledgeable about many doctrines of Scripture and to have thought through them deeply. What kind of shepherd would we call those who know little of the Scriptures and thus cannot apply them in a mature manner? Do we for example want pastors who believe in a Episcopal system one day, and within one month later is convinced of Independency, and within the next month convert to Presbyterianism? While certainly pastors and leaders can and should change their beliefs and practices if it has been revealed to them that they were wrong according to Scripture, such should be done in a thought-out manner based upon mature thinking, not flippantly based upon a book here and an article there.

Unless the YRR movement matures into a geniune biblical movement, all of such characteristics would cripple it. And that would be rather sad indeed.


Denise said...

Thank you, Daniel. One thing not mentioned in Walker's assessment of New Calvinism is their acceptance of contemplative spirituality. This is found on Driscoll's Resurgence blog in his condoning the practices of Brother Lawrence and other "ancient fathers". (mysticism) It is also found in those who are part of Acts 29 Network; a new Calvinist network whom also advocate these pagan prayer practices.

There creates a most peculiar kind of "Calvinism". These practices are contrary to scripture and it is mind boggling to view "certain men" justify it.

MacArthur certainly is far from this culturally, relevant, engaging "new Calvinis"t movement.

PuritanReformed said...

Hi Denise,

you're welcome.

While Acts29 seems to be promoting Contemplative spirituality, that does not seem to be the case for the Sovereign Grace movement (Mahaney/Harris) and those who follow Piper/Carson/Moo etc. So while it is a problem within a certain significant group within the New Calvinist movement, it does not seem to me to be symptomatic of the entire movement, as yet.