New Calvinism

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This article is about a movement that emerged in the late-20th century. For the Dutch Calvinist movement, see Neo-Calvinism.

New Calvinism is a movement within conservative Evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th century Calvinism while seeking to engage these historical doctrines with present day culture. In March 2009, TIME magazine ranked it as one of the "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now."[1] Some of the major figures in this area are John Piper,[2] Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Al Mohler,[1] Mark Dever,[3] C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris.[4]

"Old" and New Calvinism[edit]

Rooted in the historical tradition of Reformed Theology, New Calvinists are united by their common doctrine. In a Christianity Today article, Collin Hansen describes the speakers of a Christian conference:

Each of the seven speakers holds to the five points of Calvinism. Yet none of them spoke of Calvinism unless I asked about it. They did express worry about perceived evangelical accommodation to postmodernism and criticized churches for applying business models to ministry. They mostly joked about their many differences on such historically difficult issues as baptism, church government, eschatology, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They drew unity as Calvinist evangelicals from their concerns: with seeker churches, church-growth marketing, and manipulative revival techniques.[4]

The New Calvinists look to Puritans like Jonathan Edwards who taught that sanctification requires a vigorous and vigilant pursuit of holy living, not a passive attitude of mechanical progress[5] (see Lordship salvation); however, as implied by the "New" designation, some differences have been observed between the New and Old schools. Mark Driscoll, for example, has identified what he considers to be four main differences between the two:

  1. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
  2. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
  3. Old Calvinism was generally cessationist (i.e. believing the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as tongues and prophecy had ceased). New Calvinism is generally continuationist with regard to spiritual gifts.
  4. New Calvinism is open to dialogue with other Christian positions.[6]

This fourth distinctive is what Driscoll considers a vital component in being able to engage with contemporary society.[7]

Criticism[edit]

R. Scott Clark, professor of church history and historical theology from Westminster Seminary California, argues that New Calvinists like Driscoll should not be called Calvinists merely because they believe in the five points of Calvinism, but rather he suggests that adherence to the Three Forms of Unity and other Reformed confessions of faith is what qualifies one a Calvinist. Specifically, he suggests that many of the New Calvinists' positions on infant baptism, covenant theology, and continuation of the gifts of the Spirit are out of step with the Reformed tradition.[8]

J. Todd Billings, professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary argues that the New Calvinists "tend to obscure the fact that the Reformed tradition has a deeply catholic heritage, a Christ-centered sacramental practice and a wide-lens, kingdom vision for the Christian's vocation in the world."[9]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]