Tag Archives: New Calvinism

Theologically Thirsty? Quench it with New Calvinism…

This is a great column by Kate Shellnutt from the Houston Chronicle.


Next generation of theologians craves historical tradition

The newest thing in Protestantism is really the oldest thing in Protestantism: Reformed theology.

Young Christians are turning to the centuries-old teachings of church fathers such as John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards — reading their work, watching pastors talk about them on YouTube and sporting their faces on sweatshirts.

ReThe nationwide renewal of Reformed theology has been going on for about a decade, and it has finally made its way to Houston. Two Reformed seminaries opened local campuses this fall, Redeemer Seminary, which recently broke off from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Reformed Theological Seminary. They are holding classes for a couple of dozen young Christians from Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical and Baptist churches.

“We’re offering that historical, Calvinist tradition to a generation that’s interested in it,” said the Rev. John Crimmins, the interim director of RTS’ Houston campus and the senior pastor at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where they meet.

He describes their theological stance as “winsomely Reformed,” focusing on the sinfulness of man, the grace of God and his sovereignty over all things, including salvation.

This Sunday is Reformation Day, marking 493 years since Martin Luther nailed his disputes on the door of a Catholic Church. Since then, Protestants across denominations have relied on the early thinkers of their tradition.

But after many American baby boomers distanced themselves from the theology side of religion, their children have returned to it with particular interest and passion, said Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed. For this generation of Christians, deep, nuanced theological teachings are a turn-on.

“There’s a certain type of tradition that to a young person looks cheesy, looks hokey,” Hansen said. “There’s another that goes back further and connects them to an older, broader church.”

That’s what Calvinism does for its young followers, who say it offers more historical depth and groundedness than America’s contemporary Christian movements.

Its “less of me, more of God” mentality and the salvation of the elect through grace makes more sense logically, spiritually and biblically, said Kyle Worley, the youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Groves and a student at Redeemer Seminary, which meets at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Houston.

Worley, 22, grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, the son of a Baptist minister and a graduate of Dallas Baptist University.

“It views the Bible as a complete narrative. The dispensational perspective is too much of a bits-and-pieces kind of worldview, and people couldn’t find their place in that,” he said.

Plus, there’s a whole cadre of popular pastors and authors who are making Reformed doctrine compelling to young churchgoers, seminarians and pastors-to-be. John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and others present a Reformed perspective in their popular books, sermon series and web postings.

Beyond Presbyterian and Reformed churches, the Calvinist resurgence has had an effect on Baptists that can’t be ignored. At least 10 percent of pastors belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention identify as Calvinist, according to Lifeway Research. Among recent graduates of Southern Baptists seminaries, that number is up to a third.

A number of Southern Baptist leaders – most prominently Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville – consider themselves Calvinists, evidence of the range of beliefs within the Baptist tradition, where some reject Calvinism, some accept certain teachings and some don’t follow the theological debate enough to care.

“Right now, there’s a movement to be more explicitly Reformed,” said Jim Denison, the theologian-in-residence for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Denison is non-Calvinist.

He says it’s the most divisive theological topic today, but “it doesn’t really affect a lot of practice. Most folks in the pew don’t follow the issue.”

Across the country, the resurgence of Reformed theology in the 21st century initially took hold in places where being an evangelical Christian wasn’t exactly the norm, in urban hubs such as Chicago and in the Northeast, Hansen said.

In these places, Christians studied theology deeply as a way to secure and defend their faith in a “sink or swim” mentality, he said.

Driscoll started Mars Hill Church in Seattle, in the middle of the “secular Northwest.” His church-planting network, Acts 29, has fostered Reform churches across the country, and its small-but-growing presence in Houston, in part, brought Redeemer and RTS to the area.

“We have a particular interest in missions and church planting, so Acts 29 has been a strong source for students,” said Steven Vanderhill, president of Redeemer Seminary, which is headquartered in Dallas.

Redeemer was the Texas campus of the Presbyterian Westminster Theological Seminary until last year, when it split off to focus more on starting new campuses across the state. Its Houston and Austin campuses both launched this fall.

In Dallas, Matt Chandler’s Village Church, a member of the Acts 29 network and the Southern Baptist Convention, has grown to 8,000 attendants. The Austin Stone Community Church, an Acts 29 church founded by Matt Carter in 2002, has 5,900.

Houston hasn’t seen that scale of Reformed presence yet and the city’s largest Baptist churches aren’t Calvinist.

The dominance of megachurches in Houston, plus the city’s size and diversity, make it a little intimidating for new pastors and church-planters but an exciting mission field.

“Houston is different than Austin or Dallas,” said Paul Duffin, the campus director for Redeemer. “There’s a large crossroads of people of different backgrounds and faiths. It’s an excellent place for us to be.”

The Calvinist emphasis on man’s depravity and God’s grace can counter the lessons of morality and self-empowerment preached at existing congregations.

Reformed theology teaches that God secures salvation, rather than prompting Christians to do something to “get saved,” said Dru Bennett, a student at Redeemer. She grew up in the Methodist church but now attends Kaleo, a 4-year-old Reformed church plant.

Redeemer and Reformed Theological Seminary join Houston’s Baptist and evangelical schools, who view them as a necessary part of the religious landscape rather than competition. Houston may be the “city of churches,” but for its size, it’s not the city of seminaries.

Andrew Dearman, director and associate dean of Fuller Theological Seminary-Texas, called Houston “one of the most underserved theological communities in the country.”

Southwestern Baptist Seminary opened a campus in Houston in 1975, making it the city’s oldest. Denny Autrey, dean of the school, is pleased to see new seminaries open, even if they vary theologically.

“I think it shows that there is a healthy, spiritual thirst for truth in the city,” Autrey said.

The new seminaries, and their dozen students each, are eager to address those theological needs.

Crimmins, of Reformed Theological Seminary, describes their approach in Christlike terms: incarnational.

“You’re not going to class to be learning the data points, you’re going to be living them out authentically in day-to-day life,” he said, engaging the culture because “the Reformation emphasizes that God is present in the totality of life.”

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Mark Driscoll on the Emerging Church

Mark Driscoll gives a summary of his views on the four streams of emergent church.

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R.C. Sproul influences a younger generation of conservatives

This is a column I found on the Orlando Sentinel website, which speaks about R.C. Sproul’s influence on New Calvinism and Reformed Evangelicalism as a whole. It is filled with insightful information about Dr. Sproul, which, if you are a fan of his (As I am), you will aprreciate. The hyper-link I inserted will direct you to watch a short video of Dr. Sproul speaking of his new Bible College. Dr. Sproul has influenced my theology greatly, as I believe he has to anyone that has heard him teach or read his books.

The pulpit of Saint Andrew’s Chapel isn’t off to one side in deference to the altar, as it is in a Catholic church. It isn’t a lectern wheeled onto the stage after the Christian rock band sits down, as it is in many nondenominational megachurches.

The pulpit that conservative evangelist R.C. Sproul ascends every Sunday is a large, imposing wooden centerpiece in a church designed to embody his throwback theology. Opened a year ago, Saint Andrew’s Chapel is modeled after the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, just as Sproul’s preaching is a return to the days of John Calvin and Martin Luther.

At 71, Sproul is one of the old guard in what’s known as the “New Calvinism” movement, which Time magazine identified in 2009 as one of the “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” Sproul has influenced a generation of younger conservative evangelists and this month announced the creation of a Bible college on his Sanford compound that could extend his influence for generations.

Sproul’s Reformed theology is a return to Scripture-based worship. It is the opposite of church made to feel more like a music concert than a religious service.

“Church is not supposed to be a pep rally. It’s meant to be a worship service,” said Chris Larson, vice president of Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. “What you are seeing in the American church today is an entertainment mind-set driven by the cultural revolutions of the past 40 years that take church practice more from popular culture than from Scripture.”

Sproul has no tolerance for the liberal tilt of a secular society, religion influenced by culture or a government that tries to take religion out of the schools. He is equally dismissive of ministers who preach the “prosperity gospel” and churches that have “traditional” services for older members and “contemporary” services for younger people.

The launching of the college, which will offer bachelor’s and associate degrees in biblical and theological studies, comes as Sproul’s old-school brand of religion is catching on with young people. A generation raised in the come-as-you-are philosophy of religion is returning to the Sunday-best religion of its grandparents.

Mike Milton, president of the Reformed Theology Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., said Sproul was a leader in the Reformed movement when it began in the 1970s and has been rediscovered by young people as it has picked up steam and converts in recent years.

“He was a best-selling author in the ’70s and ’80s, and he’s back in vogue,” Milton said. “R.C. Sproul is cool again.”

Thomas Holcombe, 35, said he and his wife joined Saint Andrew’s two years ago because the traditional hymns, the emphasis on Scripture and the formality of the service seemed more spiritually fulfilling than the more contemporary churches they attended before.

“A lot of churches try to cater to everyone. Here, it’s because we worship God,” Holcombe said.

Because of his emphasis on old-style worship, R.C. Sproul has never been as high-profile as Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren or Joel Hunter. But his serious study of theology has made him, in many ways, just as influential.

Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said among his students, R.C. Sproul is regarded as a rock star. Sproul’s appeal, Mohler said, is his ability to think deeply about complex theological issues, providing young evangelicals with an alternative to the “theology lite” of many popular preachers.

“His books have become some of the most influential among evangelicals precisely because they represent serious theological engagement,” said Mohler, another leader in the New Calvinism movement.

Sproul, who would not be interviewed for this story, is well-known for his daily radio program, “Renewing Your Mind,” and his books on theology such as “The Holiness of God” and “Chosen by God.” His decision to move his Ligonier Ministries from his native Pennsylvania to Central Florida in 1984 led the way for a dozen other international ministries, evangelical organizations and seminaries that have turned Orlando into a religious center for conservative Christians, said Steve Strang, publisher of Charisma magazine in Lake Mary.

Sproul’s sermons take the congregation through the Scripture, line by line, providing insight, context and understanding to what the Bible says. His growing popularity is based in part on his ability to translate his scholarly theology into terms the common man can comprehend, said Robert C. Cannada Jr., chancellor of the Reformed Theological Seminary.

Some of that ability to speak the same language from his elevated pulpit as the folks sitting in the pews comes from Sproul’s own background. The son of an accountant, he grew up in Ligonier Valley in the western Pennsylvania of coal mines and steel mills. He is a longtime, die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Until slowed by a stroke in 2003, he was an ardent golfer. He plays jazz piano, enjoys oil painting and has been taking violin lessons for 10 years.

His son, R.C. Sproul Jr., said his father was always encouraging his two children. The father showed the same full-bore enthusiasm for whatever interest the son expressed as he did for his own pursuits.

“Whatever cockamamie idea I came up with — ‘I want to be a rodeo clown’ — he’d say, ‘Oh, great; let’s get you all the books about rodeo clowns,’ ” said Sproul Jr., 45, who eventually followed his father into the ministry.

The creation of the Bible college is a sign to his supporters that R.C. Sproul remains energetic, enthusiastic and relevant.

“At this season of his life, he established a church and started the Bible college,” Mohler said. “I think it represents a maturation of his ministry and signifies that it is making a very clear commitment to the future.”

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What Cautions Do You Have for The New Calvinist Movement? By John Piper

The resurgence of New Calvinism has been greatly embraced by most in the evangelical world, but John Piper weighs in with some cautions about the movement. This was an edited transcript of the audio from the Desiring God site.

Would there be any cautions that you would have for the New Reformed/New Calvinist Movement you referenced earlier?


I will give you one that is from a prophetic word given to me yesterday—take it or leave it. I’m cautious when people come to me with these kinds of things. But this rung true, and you can see that it is true without making a claim to special divine authority.

My caution concerns making theology God instead of God God. Loving doing theology rather than loving God.

Sam Crabtree said to me once, “The danger of the contemporary worship awakening is that we love loving God more than we love God.” That was very profound. And you might love thinking about God more than you love God. Or arguing for God more than you love God. Or defending God more than you love God. Or writing about God more than you love God. Or preaching more than you love God. Or evangelizing more than you love God.

Reformed people tend to be thoughtful. That is, they come to the Bible and they want to use their minds to make sense of it. The best of them want to make sense of all of the Bible and do not pick and choose saying, “I don’t like that verse. That sounds like an Arminian verse, so we will set it aside.” No! Fix your brain, don’t fix the Bible.

The kind of person that is prone to systematize and fit things together, like me, is wired dangerously to begin to idolize the system. I don’t want to go here too much, because I think the whiplash starts to swing the other direction, and we minimize the system, thinking, and doctrine to the degree that we start to lose a foothold in the Bible.

But that would be a big caution. We should be intellectually and emotionally more engaged with the person of Christ, the person of God—the Trinity—than we are with thinking about him. Thinking about God and engaging with him are inextricably woven together. But the reason you are reading the Bible, and the reason you are framing thoughts about God from the Bible, is to make your way through those thoughts to the real person.

The danger on the other side is to say, “All that intellectual stuff, no, no, no. Doctrine, no. Intellect, no. Study, no. Experience, yes!” People who do this wind up worshipping a God of their own imagination. It feels so right, so free, and so humble because they are not getting involved in all those debates. But it isn’t. It is losing a grip on reality. So we are compelled to think hard about God and the Bible.

Hanging on with the danger I am speaking of is pride—a certain species of pride. There are many species of pride, and this is just one of them. You can call it intellectualism. There is also emotionalism, but that isn’t the danger we are talking about right now. Intellectualism is a species of pride, because we begin to prize our abilities to interpret the Bible over the God of the Bible or the Bible itself.

When I asked Rick Warren, “What is your doctrine of the Bible?” He said, “Inerrant and authoritative. But I don’t mean all my interpretations of it are inerrant and authoritative.” And that is of course right. We should talk that way.

So that would be my flag, the danger of intellectualism. And maybe the danger of certain aspects of it becoming so argumentative or defensive that it becomes unnecessarily narrow. That is funny for me to say because I think I am a really narrow guy, and a lot of other people think so too.

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Calvinism & Arminianism


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To keep on with our Mark Driscoll Theme, watch as Mark Driscoll gives a great teaching on Calvinism & Arminianism.

Leave a comment with your thoughts on his teachings or your thoughts on Calvinism/Arminianism.

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