Quick: without giving the title of this post too much thought, how would you answer the question? What’s the first thought that comes to your head? The first impression that rises unbidden to the surface of your soul?

There are a number of legitimate dangers that need to be heeded when it comes to the New Calvinism. This could be, for some people, just another fad, just another chasing after the It Thang. The movement could crumble under the weight of self-importance. There is the danger of idolizing our heroes and envying our colleagues. There is the danger of minimizing important doctrines in an effort to promote gospel-centered unity. There is the danger of not being careful enough with our associations–and the opposite danger of taking glee in deciding who is in and who is out.

We have all the problems that any movement has. For starters, no one knows who “we” is. There is no established confession that binds us together, no official spokesperson, no adjudicating assembly. At many times, we still have to figure out how to disagree profitably among ourselves. Some of us need to grow up to be better churchmen and invest in formal denominations and institutions, not just informal networks. We need to be wary of pride. We need to be careful not to be too derivative in our thinking. We need to be anchored not in the passing fancy that is our social media world, but in the old Calvinism of the Reformation, and, more importantly, in the oldest “Calvinism” found in the Bible. We need to be sure our deepest and most sustained energies are poured into that one institution Christ promised to build and against which he promised the gates of hell could not stand.

In other words, almost every critique has some merit; almost every warning should be considered.

But this is what I think of when I think of the New Calvinism: gratitude. That’s my jump-out-of-the-box disposition.  Not “yeah, but.” Not suspicion. Not a roll of the eyes. Gratitude. I am thankful to God for what he seems to be doing in our day–immensely thankful.

We had our Sola 13 conference over the weekend. To my great surprise, we had almost 3,000 people in attendance, two-thirds of whom were younger than me. Think about that. Here in Lansing, Michigan–the 109th largest MSA in the country–we have thousands of people gather, mostly young people, to hear 7 hour-long sermons on the solas of the Reformation. I met brothers and sisters from throughout the Midwest, a family from Brazil, and whole bunch of people from Canada (lots of people from Canada). I met Lutherans and Methodists who were happy to find something so meaty in their backyard. I met young people with stacks of old books. I had the privilege of looking out over a crowd of people who would hear from two (almost) lifelong Michiganders, a cancer survivor from Texas, an African-American pastor and former football player from Atlanta, a Korean-American scholar and pastor from Boston, and a preacher from Minneapolis who is old enough to be a parent of most of the attendees. And they sat through long, sometimes dense messages exulting in the grace alone, that comes through faith alone, in Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. How can we not give thanks.

I was on a phone call last week with a number of brothers from the T4G and TGC circles. It was a relatively brief call, just for the purpose of catching up and for prayer. But in the course of the hour long conversation each man shared where he was seeing God at work. It was wonderful to hear of gospel advance in the Middle East, in Asia, in Brazil, in our seminaries, in the African American community, in our local communities, and in many other places and in many different ways.

Those of us who are young should learn from our fathers and mothers in the faith. I do not hear from them triumphalism, but neither do I hear cynicism or defeatism. I hear from them tremendous gratitude–gratitude for church plants and a growing burden for missions and a hunger for good theology and a rejection of gimmicks and passion for the supremacy of God in all things. The name doesn’t matter. Call it New Calvinism or Young, Restless, and Reformed, or the Reformed Resurgence or simply Big God Theology. No one I know is looking to trademark a tag or to defend everything and everyone that may be associated with a five-year-old label. The substance is the thing–at least on our best days.

It was a joy to spend the weekend with John Piper for a number of reasons. But let me mention two things that were particularly instructive. One was to see John marvel–repeatedly and wondrously–at what he has witnessed over the last decade or two in the church in North America and increasingly in the church around the world. Thousands of people gathering for expository preaching, Reformed theology, and books by dead guys is not the norm, even though it’s all some young Christians have ever known. I understand that the proof is in the churchly pudding, not in a big blast conference. Of course, blog and book and conference “success” means nothing without lasting faithfulness and fruitfulness in the local church. But this conference in particular was the fruit of many good things happening in local churches and these local churches and pastors celebrating each others’ faithful gospel ministry. From all that I see and the conversations I overhear, pastors and churches are where the best of the good things are happening. When I hear older men say they’ve never known a better time to teach at a seminary or to find church planters or to train men eager for expository preaching, I want to stand up and say “Thank you Lord.”

The second thing I saw was a constant stream of well wishers waiting in line to have their 30 second or 3 minutes with Piper. Did many of them take pictures? Sure. Did some want him to sign a book or a Bible? Yes. Were some of the people waiting in line because they are fan boys, John Piper is their homeboy, and they want to tweet their celebrity photo to all their friends? Perhaps. But after standing next to John for three days, here’s what actually happens over and over and over. People come up in tears just wanting to say thank you. People come up with hand written notes of how God has used his preaching so mightily. People wait around for a long time so they can tell John how a book changed their lives, a sermon saved their marriage, how they will never be the same after listening to his series on Romans. I don’t know if John Piper is a celebrity. I guess it depends on your definition. What I do know is that I saw nothing like teenage girls swooning over the Beatles, nothing like a rockstar or superstar athlete holding court with the adoring throngs. I saw a small man who preaches a big God stand patiently and smile tenderly as person after person thanked him for showing them more of God. It was an affection for the man borne out of the affection his ministry has kindled in them for the truth of the Bible and the glory of God.

We are all strugglers, all sufferers, and all sinners. When it comes to the human heart and human movements–and human churches and human denominations and human tradition and human confessions–there will always be room for warnings, corrections, and repentance. But when God is at work there will also be room for gratitude. And when I think of what God is doing in our day I want my first reaction to be a sense of his overwhelming grace.

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47 thoughts on “What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism?”

  1. a. says:

    “ …a sense of his overwhelming grace.”

    amen Lord :”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpHiAmL8-b0&feature=related

    no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made him known. John 1:18 I have made Your name known to them and will make it known so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:26

  2. Curt Day says:

    Fully agree with the last paragraph. However, is the new Calvinism merely an attempt to save Calvinism’s influence on Christianity? Because if it is and, as Kevin has written that, the new Calvinism must be “anchored” in the old Calvinism, there is a problem. The problem is that we will not be critical enough of Calvin and thus, we are merely exercising an authoritarianism exhorting of people to do things in the name of Calvin. To mention just one of the weaknesses of Calvin was his participation in Geneva’s justice system that burned people at the stake. Along with his dominionism, if we don’t adequately criticize his weaknesses, we will limit our audience to being merely church people and social conservatives as well as failing to correct Calvin’s errors.

    Also, what I find in the new Calvinism, besides its commendable attempt to make the Gospel relevant to today’s individuals, is that it fails to adequately address society’s sins. By society’s sins I don’t mean the sins committed by the majority of those in society. What I mean is the sins committed by the systems of society and how society acts as a whole. Certainly it is making more than adequate attempts to deal with racism. But the new Calvinism is not challenging the economic classism that comes from our current form of neoliberal capitalism nor has it challenged our country’s use of force with impunity. In these areas, the new Calvinism falls prey to the left’s criticism of the Church in general in that it is just another institution of indoctrination to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power. As a Christian and a Calvinist, who is also a member of the Occupy Movement, I long for the day that the Church or just one of its branches forges ahead with Biblical challenges to the systems our society so heavily relies on.

  3. Frank Turk says:

    I think of all the t-shirts that we could be selling. I won’t link them here for obvious reasons, but the t-shirt concession alone has to be worth enough to pay for my next trip to Louisville.

    (linked here because that’s the punchline.)

  4. Deb W says:

    Thank you, Kevin! I wasn’t sure what you were going to key in on exactly, but I’m so grateful to have read the entire post. Like you mention early on, lately, the first thing to come to mind has not been gratitude, but rather some issue/concern etc… This post reminds me of why I came to the reformed faith to begin with when I was around 30 years old. It was primarily because of the ministry of men and women on the internet, including John Piper’s, and then meeting and finding like-minded believers in my local area and joining with them in membership in the local church.
    So, AMEN – and thank you.

  5. Daryl Little says:

    Thanks for this article Kevin, but even more for the Sola13 conference.

    I’m one of the “bunch of Canadians” you met at the door after your 11 o’clock service on Sunday.
    It was a joy and a great encouragement to sit under that quality of teaching with my wife and also to attend church with your flock on Sunday.
    I should add that, as far as the celebrity culture goes, I find that there’s nothing like meeting someone face to face to both increase my admiration while at the same time eliminate the celebrity-ness of people. I found Dr. Piper to be just as you described him. As small, humble man, shyly accepting the thanks so many offered him that morning.
    And, to be honest, meeting you, with your son in your arms, helps to add a sense of reality somehow, to the whole thing. Men are men. Nothing more.

    I found Dr. Piper’s comment revealing as well. When I thanked him for his Romans series, which solidified so many things for me and he simply responded with a smile and “It is a solidifying book.” Nothing else, but thankfulness to God that a book could do for one more person what it has done for so many others.

    What a great blessing to have been there. And even more to have been brought to the doctrines of grace by godly men such as yourself, Dr. Piper and a host of others.

    Thanks again for the conference.

  6. Zach Nielsen says:

    So well said. Thanks Kevin.

  7. david carlson says:

    How about “disunity”?
    Nothing like a little strange fire to seperate the sheep and the goats. Of course, which one is which?

  8. Moe Bergeron says:

    Dear Kevin,
    This post was so refreshing to read. I admit it brought tears of joy to my own eyes. Not for any other reason than to hear that our God continues to be lifted up for all men to see. Be it John Piper or the humble preacher at the street corner rescue mission God is being glorified. Poor and needy sinners who hunger and thirst for righteousness are being filled and satisfied with God’s provision in his Son. Thank You.

  9. george canady says:

    I think we will be alright if we don’t try to get rid of all the “outgroup”. By the way, what was the ethnicity of the pastor from Boston?

  10. george canady says:

    I mean Minneapolis

  11. george canady says:

    This is sometimes what I think of when I think of the New and Old Calvinizim

  12. Robert Turner says:

    Thank you for such a great post. I, like a host of others, have been immensely blessed by the ministry of John Piper. To be honest with you when I was first introduced to Dr. Piper’s Christian Hedonism, and his preaching of the five points, I resisted. I didn’t want to be one of those, you know, “Calvinists.” But God in His kind and gentle mercy broke down my resistance and showed me His glory in this Biblical theology. Dr. Piper showed me God’s revealed glory in enjoying all that God is for me in Jesus. God is sovereign in all He does. I owe my life to One, Jesus Christ, but am also indebted to men such as yourself, John Piper and a host of others for graciously teaching the sound Biblical doctrines of Reformed Theology. Thank you from San Diego, CA.

  13. Brian Bish says:

    My answer to your question: “Solid, passionate men preaching the Gospel of Jesus.” That’s what comes to my mind.

  14. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism?

    Still trying to figure out how it’s different doctrinally from Old Calvinism.

    and thinking that New Calvinism is better than:

    o Arminianism, old and new
    o Lutheranism, old and new
    o Catholicism, old and new
    o Eastern Orthodoxy, old and new

  15. JHS says:

    There is a movement, within a movement of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), that love the doctrines of grace! We see ourselves as “New Calvinist or Young, Restless, and Reformed, or the Reformed Resurgence or simply Big God Theology” people. Especially among the inner city circles of Cru! Dr. Piper, David Platt, DA Carson, Thabiti M. Anyabwile, Grudem, Dr Eric Mason and so many others have had a big influence on our movement. But especially Dr. Pipers teaching ministry. He has stood by Cru when it should have been strongly criticized but his love and support was always there….filled me with GRATITUDE!!

  16. Mike Johnson says:

    Very encouraging post. Thank you.

  17. Eric F says:

    My first response is “doctrine.” Why do we have to settle on doctrine first? Should men make a foundation of doctrine? Should Christ not be the foundation, and then the doctrine merely a description of the revelation of Him?

  18. Kyle Grant says:

    I am over it. Recently moved to a “paleo calvinist” church. I am posting this after reading your first 2 sentences. I am going to go up and finish the article now.

  19. Kyle Grant says:

    Kevin, I read your blog pretty regularly. It is on the flagship New Calvinist website. And you are relatively young. Beyond that I am not sure why you see yourself as a “New Calvinist” You seem leary of transformationalism. You are part of an old established denomination. You are not an antinomian (in the practical, Mark Jones sense of the word). So frankly, I am curious what about you makes you identify so closely with the movement. What are some positions you hold as a New Calvinist that you feel distinguish you from an Old Calvinist?

  20. A Former Calvinist says:

    What comes to my mind is: Look before you leap. Exclusivity. Division. And in some cases, dishonesty. Also gratitude in one sense. Here’s why.

    I say “look before you leap” because it’s what I wish I had done before accepting Calvinism some years ago; I say dishonesty because I felt deceived by the common misrepresentations of Arminianism as semi-Pelagianism, works-based salvation, etc., by Calvinist teachers (i.e. Sproul, MacArthur, et al); I say exclusivity because so many tout Calvinism as THE GOSPEL and vice versa, thus “passing over” half the body of Christ as if they are illegitimate children of God; I say division because this exclusivity causes a real division in the body of Christ, who prayed that believers would be united, not just Calvinists. We need one another. But I say gratitude because I’m thankful for the hard work and serious commitment my Calvinist brothers have put in to teach the body of Christ, though I no longer agree with the doctrines of grace. I hope that the Lord will continue to raise up men and women who are serious about God, but I also pray that whatever camp they fall into we can truly seek to be united and glorify Christ together, not just with a tip of the hat.

  21. anaquaduck says:

    We can always be thankful when it comes to God’s grace in Christ.When I think of Habbukkuk’s prayer or Miriam’s song of praise I have equal need of praise & trust.

    whether its the Heidelberg catechism rap or the Apostles creed a grateful heart is a good thing.

  22. Joe Sobran says:

    Kyle -

    Plenty of the ‘Old Calvinism’ is Kuyperian or, in the older Puritan sense ‘transformationist’. Also lots of the folks involved in TGC and T4G would be 2 kingdom. And controversies over antinomianism go way back in the established Reformed churches. Think of the Marrow controversy and the ‘free offer’ controversy. So I don’t think your implied list of ‘New Calvinist’ marks is very helpful. Your question to Kevin–about what he thinks of as the marks of ‘New Calvinism’ is still a good one.

  23. Krister S says:

    If New Calvinism as a system of thought is sound, supportable in Scripture, and unifies the Body of Christ under His banner of love, I join you in your gratitude. May it’s adherents live as an answer to Jesus’ prayer:

    “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

    I’m directing my thanksgiving to shepherds like Kevin who love and pastor their flocks. I’m thankful for the fully devoted disciples who are charged up through NC and direct their passion towards the Great Commandment. God does work in and through myriad movements, beautiful in their diversity and tools in His mighty hand. Cheers.

  24. JHS, could you explain your comment about Cru? I would hope that everyone at Cru loves the Doctrine of Grace. The idea that accepting it is a new idea or that it requires a movement to gain respect is very disturbing.

  25. Mark B. says:

    What do I think?

    I am glad many people are taking interest in theology and doctrine. I am saddened they are turning to Calvinism. The “New Calvinists” tend to be divisive and dishonest when presenting other interpretations of Scripture. I’ve had some “new Calvinists” blatantly tell me I am unsaved because I hold to Arminian theology.

    I would love to see these “New Calvinists” begin to work with Arminians and others for the sake of the gospel.

  26. MarkO says:

    “7 hour-long sermons on the solas of the Reformation”

    > speaking of gratitude. I am thankful that Calvinists are more inclined than most others to craft 7 sermons on 5 solas.

    MarkO

  27. May says:

    I think of an incredibly divisive movement that seems to celebrate Calvin more than Christ (just look at Piper’s latest poem) and which has led many a young person I know down blind alleys of predestination and limited atonement. They spend their time more concerned about which Puritan to quote than actually reading the Bible and keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

    I think of a movement that has marginalised women and given them non-biblical prescribed roles. A movement that has removed from women opportunities to use their gifts for the church. In Piper’s church, to take an example from ‘the main man’, women cannot read from Scripture publicly. In my own denomination I have seen the influence of New Calvinism relegate women and remove them from leadership positions – after all, it’s is a movement which believes the church should have a ‘masculine feel’.

    I think a movement wherein the leaders spend massive amounts of time and money promoting each other’s books, conferences, blog-posts and generally engaging in back-slapping.

    I think of a movement that rallies round Christian leaders accused of heinous behaviour just because ‘they’re in the club’ or have the so-called right doctrine, even if this support undermines the most helpless and vulnerable in the Kingdom.

    I think of a movement that has shaken my Christian faith to the core because as a highly educated woman I do not see that there is a place for me in it.

    I think of a movement that to my mind has done irrevocable damage to the Church.

  28. Moe Bergeron says:

    Sadly some Calvinists have been rude and even mean spirited. They’ve failed to exhibit the grace that they profess to have received. On the other hand some non-calvinists have also failed to exhibit the love of Christ. I know, my roots were there. So rudeness, snobbery and pride are not the exclusive property of any one group or movement. What has made new calvinism superior is a willingness to listen and understand one another and not just calvinists. New calvinism is a very large tent. John Piper, Don Carson, Tim Keller and others are often faulted for reaching out to brethren who do not fully share their theology. I wish more exhibited the love of Christ as they have modeled.

  29. Gary says:

    Thanks for asking! What I think is that “Renewed Calvinism” might be a better name for a movement which works to scrape away the macula accumulated over the 470 years or so since Calvin formalized what the Gospel has taught since Eden.

  30. jdg says:

    It certainly would be wrong to believe that there are not sincere believers that hold to aspects of arminian/pelagian soteriology. But it is also not wrong to assert that the ’5 solas’ or other aspects of calvinistic/augustinian soteriology are the best summary of biblical theology if that is what you believe. To make a distinction between what you believe is right or wrong does not have to be dishonest, nor does asserting that assertions are divisive make any sense; the famous quote by Luther in “The Bondage of the Will” comes to mind:

    “It is not the mark of a Christian mind to take no delight in assertions. On the contrary, a man must delight in assertions or he will be no Christian. And by assertion – in order that we may not be misled by words – I mean a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, maintaining, and an invincible persevering… I am speaking, moreover, about the assertion of those things which have been divinely transmitted to us in the sacred writings… Nothing is better known or more common among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions and you take away Christianity.”

  31. ScotT says:

    I think of a bunch of middle-aged, middle class, white guys that spend more time talking about one another than Scripture.

  32. Mike Donahue says:

    What is the difference between neo-Calvinism and New Calvinism? Is it the two=kingdom controversy? Or is there more?

  33. Caleb says:

    Thanks for this!

  34. Dan says:

    I think of a lot of younger types, who are over the top, arrogant know-it-alls. Folks who believe they’re the generation the world has been waiting for. Folks who, quite ironically, talk about grace, but seemingly never extend grace to anyone. Well, actually, when it comes to guys in their camp, they get grace all the time for whatever they do. I think of folks who think that “leadership” in the church is all knowing, while the dumb folks in the seats are just blessed to be in the presence of the guys in the skiny jeans and black rimmed glasses that contain no prescription. Finally, I think of a bunch of people who are really antinomian, believing that Christianity…..sorry, strike that….being a Christ follower means giving mental ascent to the right set of doctrinal beliefs. The character requirements in 1 Tim and Titus are irrelevant because how you actually live your life doesn’t matter.

  35. jdg says:

    I am one of the old guys now, but I would love to know which style of jeans will correct my theological errors. Thankfully we all mature as the Spirit teaches and applies the word. I am just happy that we have a group of young people that haven’t fallen for the “you don’t need theology, let’s just love Jesus” trap.

  36. A. Amos Love says:

    Dan

    Hmmm? “What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism?”

    I think we’re kinda on the same page when you write about…
    “The character requirements in 1 Tim and Titus are irrelevant…”

    I’ve noticed, most congregations looking to hire a pastor/elder/overseer, and most who desire to be a pastor/elder/overseer usually “Ignore” or “Twist” the Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9. So they can obtain for themselves this position of pastor/leader/reverend that today comes with, Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Recognition, Reputation, Celebrity, etc.

    ALL those things Jesus seemed to speak against.
    ALL those things that become Idols of the heart, addictions, hard to walk away from. Ezek 14:1-11.
    ALL those things Highly Esteemed among men but, is abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:15.

    Titus 1:5-8 KJV
    5 …ordain elders in every city…
    6 If any be *blameless,* the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    7 For a bishop “must be” *blameless,* as the steward of God; not self willed,
    not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
    8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, *just,* *holy,* temperate;

    Here are just 3, of over 16, very tough qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9.
    1 – For a bishop (overseer) “must be” *blameless.* 2 – Just. 3 – Holy.

    1 – That *must be* is the same Greek word as: …You *must be* born again. John 3:7.
    *Must Be* – Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
    *Must Be* – Thayer’s – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.
    Seems to be a small word but very important.

    1 – Blameless – Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
    Blameless – Thayers – that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
    Blameless – Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    How many Elder/Overseers today, who honestly examine themselves, seriously considering this one qualification, (*Must Be* Blameless,) can see themselves as *Blameless,* without fault, above reproach, and thus qualify to be a pastor/elder/overseer? And, if you can see yourself as *blameless?* Is that pride? And no longer without fault?

    2 – Just
    Strongs #1342 – dikaios {dik’-ah-yos} from 1349;
    Thayers – 1) righteous, observing divine laws. 1a2) innocent, faultless, guiltless.

    3 – Holy
    Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
    Thayers – 1) undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, religiously observing every moral obligation.

    Now that’s three tough qualifications for Elder/Overseers. Makes an interesting study, checking out ALL these tough Qualifications for Elder/Overseers. Then checking out those who say they are Elder/Overseers compared to the qualifications. :-)

    Which Qualifications, are WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, allowed to “Ignore” and “Twist?”
    Which Qualifications are NOT important?

    If WE, His Sheep, take seriously the Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9…
    The potential pool of Qualified – pastor/elder/overseers – is quite small. ;-)

  37. Gary says:

    A. Amos Love, the qualifications are tough indeed; Christ died so that they could be imputed to His own. Any man who thinks he meets those qualifications in his own strength would be a dangerously poor pastor/elder/overseer.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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