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It’s Back! –No, not Creed or Chaos. Calvinism, apparently.

1 April, 2010

b picOkay, Creed or Chaos is back, too.

In America’s Christian faith, a surprising comeback of rock-ribbed Calvinism is challenging the Jesus-is-your-buddy gospel of modern evangelism.

So says a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor. As always, it seems, the author does a pretty good job of capturing feel good American religion, but does a pretty poor job with Calvinism, even the ‘New Calvinism’ version of it. Aside from the unsurprising caricature, however, there were some good and thoughtful things to chew on. Some excerpts:

By most logic, the stern system of Calvinism shouldn’t be popular today. Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help.

Many members were drawn to [Capitol Hill Baptist Church] precisely because they had yearned to be “convicted of their sin” again and grown frustrated with “watered-down preaching.” School vice principal Jessica Sandle says she came after the pastor at her former church read a book on growth and became consumed with filling pews. “So he stopped talking about sin, and why we need God,” she says.

New Calvinists talk about their sin a lot. Despite that – or rather because of it – they exude not guilt but great joy. Their explanation: If we play down our sinfulness, we’ll play down our gratitude for the magnitude of God’s love and forgiveness.

And here’s a slideshow of their visit to Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, pastored by Mark Dever.

I’m not one to readily jump onto criticism of such ‘New Calvinism’ — this isn’t really Calvinism, they’re not Calvinist enough, real Calvinism never went away, it’s just not popular, and so on. We can all disagree about certain things, Old Calvinists and New, and many of them are important enough to disagree about, but there’s a point at which such criticism becomes shrill. Read the article, read the statistics about American Christianity in general, and then make sure your criticism is not flowing from a critical spirit (because they’re not the same thing!). Let’s not be ‘more Calvinist than thou’ and by doing so make anything a gospel issue other than the gospel.

Finally, on that note, here’s Dever summarising the ‘New Calvinist’ gospel:

  1. 1 April, 2010 4:04 pm

    Thanks for that video, it was timely
    considering I am being Baptised
    this Sunday.

    The thing about Calvinism is we
    can’t really digest his writing unless
    we have it explained. Being part
    of a Reformation church gives me
    the opportunity to understand

    I pray to God that I understand Calvin
    through the Epistles of Paul.


  2. 3 April, 2010 5:16 am

    I think it’s interestingly ironic that the article was published in a newspaper sponsored by a non-Christian religion – Christian Science. In a similar way, I wish we Protestants (Reformed and otherwise) had a magazine or journal half as good as “First Things,” the Roman Catholic publication. And, no, “Christianity Today” isn’t it…

    • 3 April, 2010 8:42 pm


      I’m a big fan of Modern Reformation, although it doesn’t have nearly the circulation of Christianity Today.


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