The New Calvinism

New-calvin1
According to Time, the New Calvinism is one of the 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now. I had to look twice to make sure. That took me by surprise!
  1. Jobs Are the New Assets
  2. Recycling the Suburbs
  3. The New Calvinism
  4. Reinstating the Interstate
  5. Amortality
  6. Africa, Business Destination
  7. The Rent-a-Country
  8. Biobanks
  9. Survival Stores
  10. Ecological Intelligence

This is what the Time article had to say about the New Calvinism:

If you really want to follow the development of conservative
Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have
heard "The Old Rugged Cross," a celebration of the atonement. By the
1980s you could have shared the Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of "Shine,
Jesus, Shine." And today, more and more top songs feature a God who is
very big, while we are…well, hark the David Crowder Band: "I am full
of earth/ You are heaven's worth/ I am stained with dirt/ Prone to
depravity."


Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century
reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses
is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly
sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the
combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that
before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected
by any subsequent human action or decision.


Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a
bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who
orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home
foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don't have to
second-guess. Our satisfaction — and our purpose — is fulfilled simply
by "glorifying" him. In the 1700s, Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards
invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon
overtaken in the U.S. by movements like Methodism that were more
impressed with human will. Calvinist-descended liberal bodies like the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discovered other emphases, while
Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine — and the triumph
of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus — seemed to relegate hard-core Reformed
preaching (Reformed operates as a loose synonym for Calvinist) to a few
crotchety Southern churches.


No more. 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.


Like the Calvinists, more moderate Evangelicals are exploring cures for
the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket
assurance. "A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness,
divorce, drugs or sexual temptation," says Collin Hansen, author of
Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists.
"They have plenty of friends: what they need is a God." Mohler says,
"The moment someone begins to define God's [being or actions]
biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally
classified as Calvinist." Of course, that presumption of inevitability
has drawn accusations of arrogance and divisiveness since Calvin's
time. Indeed, some of today's enthusiasts imply that non-Calvinists may
actually not be Christians. Skirmishes among the Southern Baptists (who
have a competing non-Calvinist camp) and online "flame wars" bode
badly.


Calvin's 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to
see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant
backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians
searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely
demanding God of their country's infancy.

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Despite Time's somewhat cutesy and sarchastic conveyance of the New Calivinism, must confess (ssshhhhh…) that I resonate in places with the New Calvinism–not at the level of PreDestination or "Election"–but at the level that Albert Mohler describes in Time's article–"they have plenty of friends, what they need is a God." Despite the concerns I have about aspects of New Calvinist theology, I am thankful for the energy and "theocentrism" that they are injecting into mainstream evangelicalism…which I believe drifts toward "holy humanism" at times.

How interesting that Christianity is back in the news for something other than a scandal as a contemporary shaper of ideas…

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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Share Your Thoughts

3 thoughts on “The New Calvinism

  1. The New Calvinism seems like little more than Fate written large. It seems that God takes our freedom more seriously than we do. Remember that many of the most vocal advocates of this New Calvinism believe that it’s double or nothing -either you believe in double predestination or you don’t believe in Calvinism at all (e.g., R. C. Sproul). “The mystery of our religion is great” (1 Timothy 3:16). Pure Calvinism makes it irrelevant and flat. I’ll take my chances with the mystery.

    • But my question is: why is a rise in New Calvinism required to renew interest in theology? As if Reformed doctrine is the only doctrine out there to renew interest in theology.