Monday, March 30, 2009

New Calvinism versus Old Calvinism

I want to briefly comment on Marc Driscoll’s blog post about the New Calvinism. Apparently Time Magazine has called the New Calvinsim is the third most powerful engine changing the world. That is exciting news. I am not really writing to pick on the New Calvinism. I just feel I have to pick on Marc Driscoll’s definition of Old Calvinism. I think it shows a real lack of historical understanding, and probably a real lack of self-reflection as well.

He has four points of difference between the New Calvinism and the Old Calvinism. He touts his first difference as Old Calvinism withdrawing from culture while New Calvinism transforms it and is missional. Again, a made up word used to define this new movement does not speak well of transforming the culture or “Culturalizing” (since we are making stuff up). It also hard to believe that the Reformation did not transform the culture. I am not sure what history books Driscoll reads, but they are not the right ones. The Reformation and Old Calvinism changed the world. New Calvinism on the other hand likes to use Twitter during worship services and cuss like sailors and use provocative language to titillate the listener. Hardly transforming, in my opinion.

His second definition has Old Calvinism as fleeing from the cities and New Calvinism flocking to them. I will just give him this one as how “old” Old Calvinism is he attacking? This probably has a little merit to it, so we will give him this one.

His third definition has Old Calvinism as favoring cessationistic with regards to the Holy Spirits miraculous gifts while New Calvinism embraces Continuationism. This is dead on and one major difference. I will not debate how wrong New Calvinism is here, but this is a very major difference.

His fourth point has Old Calvinism as fearful and suspicious while the New Calvinism is loving and open to others. While this is clearly a slanted view, I think he underestimates the value of fear. Bridge building is one thing, but unwilling to denounce is quite another. I also think that this point undercuts his first point. They are not transforming culture, but building bridges to it. If you have not read the book Young Restless and Reformed you probably ought to. That is a good tour of New Calvinism. But in that book we see people trying to minister the gospel in the milieu of the culture. Rap songs speaking Calvinism. Driscoll would no doubt point out that it is bridge building and reaching the young, but is it compromising? New Calvinism is not really dealing with these tough questions just as they ducked them in the book. Fear sometimes protects. Suspicion is often founded on solid ground.

I am not saying New Calvinism is dumb or wrong. I am all for people holding to New Calvinsim, but it is not Reformed. I will not be wearing a Jonathon Edwards is My Homeboy T-Shirts, but I would rather someone wear that than a Che T-Shirt. Still, I believe the main difference is that Old Calvinism is Time tested and allows Biblical Truth to sink to every area of life. New Calvinism is enamoured with the truth of Predestination and Sovereignty, but they have not yet had time to work out the kinks. When they do, they will either be a fad passed away or they will become Old Calvinists too.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your assessment of the Old vs. New Calvinism...

While I do really enjoy the New Calvinists and consider them a breath of fresh air, I Nintendo Generation old school Reformed Christian.

I am always on the look out for Reformed Folks to network with and befriend. Check out my profile and befriend my facebook page or email me if you are interested.

Oh, and by the way I am live about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, and I here you are a Pirates fan! Nice!

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Anonymous said...

I dislike the emphasis on Calvinist/covenant theology. It abdicates personal responsibility in matters of Christian living. Too many Christians think they can embrace the culture and see no need to make personal lifestyle changes as a result.