Where Did the New Calvinism Come From?

“The New Calvinism is no exception. While the theological seeds had been planted in previous years and decades, the movement was awaiting a catalyst that would allow the isolated individuals to coalesce into a movement. The catalyst in this case was the Internet and social media.”

“The New Calvinism is a distinctly twenty-first century, digital-era development. It is the Internet in general, and social media in particular, that first tied the movement together and that have since drawn people in.”

Where Did the New Calvinism Come From?

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jimfrank's picture

I read John MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus in 1988.  It did not make me a Five Pointer.  My views on Calvinism have changed little since then, even after three years of formal study.  MacArthur was willing to use the classic writings of Reformed thinkers to bolster his case against "Easy Believism."  That was almost novel in 1988.  One of the comments to the article indicated the movement should watch for and deal with spiritual pride.  Although Reformed Calvinists certainly haven't cornered the market on pride, it is a valid concern.

Steve Newman's picture

I have not seen on these "top ten lists" the influence of Jay Adams and nouthetic counseling. Many from dispensational schools cut their teeth on the reformed theology of Adams and found it more serious and distinctive than the dysfunctional lack of counseling in many Baptist colleges and seminaries.

JobK's picture

To be fair, Calvinists are as confident their beliefs as other Christians (rather than being self-effacing or apologetic) that often gets taken for pride or arrogance. It is almost as if people believe that Calvinists to have the same misgivings about their system as everybody else does and choose to adhere to it anyway for reasons that must be "tolerated" and "respected" but ultimately make no sense. In other words, anything more than "yes I am a Calvinist but I am really ashamed of it" gets taken for arrogance. Calvinists may not have cornered the market on pride, but Calvinists do dominate the market share among those that are accused of being prideful merely for refusing to apologize for adhering to Calvinism. 

 

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

JobK,

I think your point is well taken, and every believer is susceptible to pride (the seedbed of all sin). However, there is undeniably a contingent of neoCalvinists who are arrogant and combative. Despite my personal 4.95 pointedness, I am ashamed of this branch or the young, restless reformed.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

Chip, may I ask how you describe being a 4.95 pointer?  Never seen that before!

Jay's picture

Is being a 4.95 pointer better than being a 3.3785 pointer?  I didn't realize we could round down to decimal points in the millionths. Biggrin

I suppose 4.95 > 2.785 in matters of theology (just like math), but I've never see anyone go by decimal points on the TULIP scale.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jay wrote:

Is being a 4.95 pointer better than being a 3.3785 pointer?  I didn't realize we could round down to decimal points in the millionths. Biggrin

I suppose 4.95 > 2.785 in matters of theology (just like math), but I've never see anyone go by decimal points on the TULIP scale.

Stole it from Phil Johnson on Pyromaniacs who stated it because the issue of particular redemption is not as clearly stated in scripture as the other four points. Mostly just tongue in cheek. And yes, 4.95 is much more orthodox than 2.785.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ed Vasicek's picture

JobK wrote:

To be fair, Calvinists are as confident their beliefs as other Christians (rather than being self-effacing or apologetic) that often gets taken for pride or arrogance. It is almost as if people believe that Calvinists to have the same misgivings about their system as everybody else does and choose to adhere to it anyway for reasons that must be "tolerated" and "respected" but ultimately make no sense. In other words, anything more than "yes I am a Calvinist but I am really ashamed of it" gets taken for arrogance. Calvinists may not have cornered the market on pride, but Calvinists do dominate the market share among those that are accused of being prideful merely for refusing to apologize for adhering to Calvinism. 

 

 

I think that presuppositionalism with the "shout louder" mentality can bleed down into personalty and theological arrogance and persuasion by 'certainty.'  But not always, by any means. 

"The Midrash Detective"

edingess's picture

Pride is a common threat to every stripe of Christian. To say it is a particular threat to those of the reformed stripe, in my opinion, is odd. We all must be on guard against pride and every other work of the flesh.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

pvawter's picture

Of course, Calvinists are no more prone to pride than anyone else. I mean, really, none of us is as prideful as the person who disagrees with us, right?

Each person who reads this article ought to examine his own heart in search of pride, but I don't think the intent was to label Calvinists as especially prideful in contrast to those humble Arminians.

We probably could start every discussion here with an admonition to deal with spiritual pride, but then things would be a lot more dull around here. Smile

edingess's picture

Sometimes I wonder what the typical charge against the Calvinists really concerns. If you listen to certain scholars, so-called, any hint of realist hermeneutics is arrogant. To be sure, many confident Calvinists are unjustly accused of pride or arrogance because some cannot recognize conviction. These days it seems that unless you preface everything you say with "in my opinion," then you are proud.

That being said, of course I agree that each of us must constantly battle pride. I merely think it unwise to go out of our way to associate pride with a particular theological stripe or school. Let us mortify all the deeds of the flesh that constantly serve to distract us from the service we are all called to perform.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Dave Gilbert's picture

In matters of theology, I get my understanding through the Holy Spirit and God's word. "Influence" is irrelevant to me. I accept the Doctrines of Grace mainly because I see them reflected in the Scriptures, and biblical election is something God has worked in mankind since the beginning. God being selective doesn't offend me...what offends me is that so many people try to divorce man's responsibility with God's sovereignty, which can't be done...because the Bible has a great deal to say about both.

 

Arminians tend to ignore passages on election and reprobation and focus on man's responsibility, while Calvinists ( especially the hyper kind ) tend to downplay man's responsibility and let God do all the work...true, He does do all the work ( through the Holy Spirit ), but then why the exhortations regarding quenching the Spirit, presenting our bodies as living sacrifices and living holy lives? Romans 7 comes to mind: " Oh wretched man that I am...", by the way.  There are also passages regarding not being high-minded, and I see this in some who hold to "Calvinism" ( by the way, I'm about a 4 1/2 pointer, if one were to categorize me in terms of the T.U.L.I.P. ). But  I don't adhere to "isms" or systems of belief; I believe the word of God.

 

While I happen to agree with most that Calvinists say, I don't trust any man for my understanding of Scripture. IMO, "New Calvinism" seems a chip off the old block of Calvinism, and stretches even further from God's word in supposition ( perhaps ), and relying on the writing and wisdom of others to define their beliefs instead of just trusting God at His word. My take, and I might be a bit off-track here, but it appears this way to me.

 

By the way ( having been raised as one ), Fundamental Baptists are aware and alarmed by this new movement...why? I have no idea, other than they don't really believe in election as laid out in the epistles and elsewhere....probably because they are for the most part, Arminian in their treatment of Scripture IMO. It's been observed that some of them have made the assertion that Calvinists are prideful and arrogant, much like what has been said above in previous posts. However, I tend to agree with JobK in his observation.

 

Finally, in my estimation:

 

 

The Gospel is not Calvinism, and Calvinism is not the Gospel, just as the term, "Arminianism" could fill that blank ( replacing the word, "Calvinism" ), as well as a whole host of other "isms". The Gospel is the Gospel ( Christ came in the flesh, lived a life perfect before God, was beaten, bloodied and crucified for sinners, died on that cross and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures ) and Calvinism is Calvinism...while the body of Calvinism and its theology includes the Gospel, I've seen far too many adherents to Calvinism ( and Arminianism ) appear to go farther than what Scripture does and declare the truth of it as Scriptural. Having private thoughts or even expressing ideas about what is in Scripture is OK, in my opinion, but codifying them can cross the line.

 

Dave.

edingess's picture

The various schools of theology by which we are known are merely a matter of convenience. I find them to be quite helpful in creating efficient dialog. Well, I suppose they are more than simple ways of helping one understand where another lands in terms of theological presuppositions. In reality, from the standpoint of rational thought, they are unavoidable. How one understands the gospel will, in large part, depend on which school of theology they adhere to. The Calvinistic scheme begins with total depravity while other schemes deny it. Does a man cooperate in his own salvation or does he not? If he does, then the gospel is about how God made it possible for men to willingly do "something" in order to save themselves. If man does not cooperate because he is dead in his sins, then salvation is entirely the work of a very gracious Patron indeed who distributes His act of kindness to helpless and unworthy benefactors, wicked men who deserve death.

There are far fewer hyper Calvinists than most imply. It is hardly a problem in the grand scheme of things.

I understand and appreciate your desire to stick to the gospel and I respect that. But most of the rest of us who don't have a problem with these titles or labels will also say with great enthusiasm as well, that we too, prefer to just stick to the gospel.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Ed Vasicek's picture

John Frame, speaking from within, summarizes a problem I have noted from without,  It exists everywhere, but I am not sure to the same degree. The boldface is my editing

 

Given the difficulty of formulating a normative emphasis for preaching, or for a church’s ministry, given the “subtlety” of the question, I would think that we should moderate somewhat the language of our critique. We should be wary of cocksureness and dogmatism. We ought to discuss these matters in an atmosphere of brotherhood, charity, and civility.

"The Midrash Detective"

Dave Gilbert's picture

...Here into thinking I'm "toeing some line" between Calvinism and Arminianism...I'm not. If one were to pigeon-hole me into a particular "camp", I would definitely end up being a 4 point Calvinist, leaning away from the "L" because of passages like 1 John 2:2 and 1 Timothy 4:10, but still firmly convinced of God's electing and calling in my own life, and all the other "points" that Calvinism ( not even really an "ism", but was codified into 5 points because of Jacobus Arminius' 5 points at the Synod of Dort, so "Arminianism" came first.

 

As for the various schools of theology, I like to let the Bible dictate what I believe. If calling me a "Calvinist" helps people to identify what I believe, then so be it. Wink

edingess's picture

I love and appreciate John Frame's contributions. I find them to be invaluable to my study of Scripture. However, Frame certainly has his own dogmatic views and he is right to do so. There are some things about which we simply cannot be dogmatic. With that I am in complete agreement. But if we push that sort of posturing too far, we end up in the land of agnostic hermeneutics where the idea of "certainty" is viewed as a naive and fruitless goal never to be realized. So we must examine the Scriptures and the attitude that they reflect about the reality of truth. The perspicuity of divine revelation is a very important concept. If we slide into a more enlightened hermeneutic concerning Christian dogma, I fear we shall forever be chasing our tails. Nevertheless, I do understand that we should always attempt a humble approach in our investigation of God's truth. After all, should we be privileged enough to come into its possession, that accomplishment is nothing for which we can take even the slightest credit.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Ed Vasicek's picture

edingess wrote:

I love and appreciate John Frame's contributions. I find them to be invaluable to my study of Scripture. However, Frame certainly has his own dogmatic views and he is right to do so. There are some things about which we simply cannot be dogmatic. With that I am in complete agreement. But if we push that sort of posturing too far, we end up in the land of agnostic hermeneutics where the idea of "certainty" is viewed as a naive and fruitless goal never to be realized. So we must examine the Scriptures and the attitude that they reflect about the reality of truth. The perspicuity of divine revelation is a very important concept. If we slide into a more enlightened hermeneutic concerning Christian dogma, I fear we shall forever be chasing our tails. Nevertheless, I do understand that we should always attempt a humble approach in our investigation of God's truth. After all, should we be privileged enough to come into its possession, that accomplishment is nothing for which we can take even the slightest credit.

 

I agree with you.  The point I am making is more about an attitude, not convictions themselves.  The stomping snorting type of independent Baptist has some mighty good convictions, but the attitude is the problem.  I myself would align with 4 points, but I do not consider myself a Calvinist, except when talking about Sovereign Grace vs. Arminian views. 

A few years ago, I asked a Reformed pastor friend what his views were about divorce and remarriage.  He answered, "The Biblical One."  That sort of arrogance is what I am talking about -- the implication that the Scriptures are clear on these sorts of things and that those who see otherwise are therefor unbiblical.

I remember reading Os Guiness book on "Fit Bodies, Fat Minds," in many ways an excellent book.  But his condemnation of dispensational premillennialists was condescending and unfair.  It is this sort of snobbery and superiority that gets my goat.

I got a piece of floating email, obviously from a  Reformed Covenant viewpoint, contrasting Dispensational Scholars with Covenant. For Covenant, it listed lots of big name scholars, like Berkhof or D.A. Carson or Grudem; for dispensational, it listed non-scholars, like Ironside or Swindoll.   They never mentioned the real scholars, like Ryrie, Walvoord, Unger, Pentecost, or Feinberg, for example.  

I am not saying that all or most Reformed are snobs.  I am saying that many are, and those that are not often look the other way and do not police those who are. 

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"