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Have Time for Some Calvinism? It’s Changing the World!

For the record, I’m not a Calvinist. For the record, I’m not threatened by Calvinism and some of my greatest heroes are/were Calvinists (W. A. Criswell, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield). And for the record, I’m definitely not an Arminianist either.

If you haven’t heard, Time Magazine has declared “New Calvinism” to be third on it’s list of 10 world-changing movements. (Mark Driscoll explains the differences between old and new Calvinism. I like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Al Mohler, all of whom the article names as leading voices among modern Calvinists who definitely have a heavy influence in modern evangelical thinking.

I don’t want to use this post (or the comments) to debate the theological issue of Calvinism itself. Rather I wanted to offer some of my own personal reflections on this movement in the form of what I appreciate about it and what annoys me. Feel free to disagree. I’ve already said I will love you anyway.

Ten Things I Appreciate About Leading Calvinistic Thinkers Today

  • A strong defense of the five solas: Scripture, grace, faith, Christ, and the glory of God alone.
  • A strong stance on Scripture as the only source of absolute truth and authority.
  • A commitment to thorough expositional preaching, even if thematically presented.
  • A commitment to purity and holiness in life and in the church.
  • A willingness to converse with the world about deeply theological issues.
  • A willingness to deviate from the eight or ten topics you would find on Reader’s Digest.
  • An emphasis on God’s sovereignty and glory.
  • The centrality of Christ in life, history, and church activity.
  • The resurrection of ideas from wise old dead guys.
  • A renewed emphasis on scholarship, writing, and strong teaching.

Ten Things That Annoy Me About the New Calvinism Movement

  • The idea that if John Piper wrote it, it’s only slightly less inspired than Scripture (and I like Piper’s books, by the way).
  • The idea that I’m just “not deep enough” or “not smart enough” to “get it.”
  • The idea that Calvinists are the only ones standing for biblical theology, or are the only ones calling for a revival of true discipleship.
  • The idea that if you’re not a Calvinist, you’re not in the club of the cool.
  • The idea that if you’re a non-Calvinist, you don’t revere God or consider Him sovereign (I do both).
  • The replacement of KJV-onlyism (which I loathe) with a growing, implied ESV-onlyism (oh, and I like the ESV).
  • Continuationism and the idea that cessationists (me) aren’t open to the Holy Spirit’s work.
  • Limited atonement.
  • The tendency for Baptists in this category to soften on the issue of beleiver’s baptism by immersion and their rejection of pedo-baptism.
  • Oh, to be fair, I’ll make it nine things that annoy me and ten things I appreciate.

Now, before anybody gets upset, understand that I’m also deeply annoyed by the whole “we have to get rid of the Calvinists” mentality too. I just wanted to vent in a slightly humorous way. if any of these things strike home with you, just realize that rather than trying to divide us, I’m simply urging you to find a biblical balance and to be yourself just as God made you.

If you’re a non-Calvinist, don’t compromise just to fit in. If you’re a Calvinist, be a good evangelistic and missional Calvinist and go a little easier on those of us who also revere God’s sovereignty but disagree on the finer points.

Now, feel free to weigh in in the comments. I’m ready for it – but be friendly – I moderate here.

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  • Tom Fellows

    Everything you wrote can be summed up in one word in your post. Balance. Like yourself, there are many things I appreciate about Calvinists. However, the bulk of my reading also reveals almost an utter contempt for anyone that is different.

    I’ve shared this with others before, and I’ll share it here. We’ve got a lot more Calvinist in us that we want to admit, and a lot less Arminianism in us than others want to admit.

    Truthfully the “balanced” answer to our theology lies somewhere in the continuum between Calvinism/Arminianism. Like the Lord instructed Joshua in Joshua 1:7, “…observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever though goest.”

    That particular verse has always spoken volumes to me personally about the need for balance and proper perspective when serving the Lord. If we go too far to either side, we find ourselves chasing theological rabbit trails, and that serves no purpose whatsoever.

    We desperately need solid, fundamental “middle of the road” theology, and not so radical or liberal that it pegs the meter.

  • Lori

    I have been a christian for 28 years and my mentor has always used one word to keep me on track and your comments speak loudly in agreement with that word – BALANCE. Thank you for your kindness in explaining your stance on these issues. One of my pet peeves with Calvinism is the lack of love and the superior attitude in the presenting of their theology. You express perfectly and biblically the balance of these issues with an attitude of love. Thank you.

  • Rick

    Seems that “balance” means it’s ok to embrace the rigid Calvinists warmly, but whack those rigid KJV folks with the word “loathe.” Is it not ok to have “balance” toward those of us who believe strongly that the revered KJV is the best version? Are the Calvinists more flexible with their beliefs than KJV folks are with theirs, thus deserving the kind review given here. I am just asking a question that seems to go unasked far too often. I get the feeling new evangelical types promote balance and tolerance for every group except for fundamentalists who hold to the King James Bible. Am I missing something here? If the answer is that KJVers are intolerant, would we not be able to say that Calvinists are also very intolerant and therefore deserve to be “loathed” as well? Perhaps you have written a balanced review, similar to this one, with a charitable view of KJV folks as well. If that is the case, then I withdraw the question and apologize for not searching out your site better. In Christian kindness.

    • Brandon

      Rick, to be clear, it’s the -ism I loathe, not the -ists. I believe KJV-onlyism has threatened the proper hermeneutical approach to Scripture. But guys like Paul Chappell, Shelton Smith, and Clarence Sexton, all KJV-onlyists are heroes to me.