It is interesting to me that there in the last couple of weeks I have happened across several different takes on what is commonly being called ‘the New Calvinism’. The range in perspectives has been interesting to observe.
In one article, David Fitch suggests that the New Calvinism is perhaps nothing more than a new fundamentalism. It’s a place where people who think alike (and who alike think they alone know truth) can gather to feel safe as they exclude others in their arrogance. If this is true, the New Calvinism is stupid. Fitch doesn’t say that, but if that is what the movement amounts to, then it’s the obvious conclusion.
Another writer, Craig Carter, suggests that the New Calvinism is the best kind of theology, most ‘capable of sustaining a vigorous Evangelicalism’ over the long haul, preventing an evangelical slide back into liberalism. At the January Theology Pub here in Toronto, Dr Carter will lead a discussion with the heading, ‘Why the Young, Restless and Reformed will Save Evangelicalism in the Next Few Decades. From that view, the New Calvinism sounds like salvation (at least for evangelicalism).
Somewhere in the middle of those two positions, I think, lies two particularly helpful cautions. One is the video I recently posted, where John Piper warns the New Calvinists about ‘dangling, unconnected wires’ in their lives which hang between doctrine and practice, between the sovereignty being preached and the sanctification of those preaching (see the video here). Piper reminds the young Calvinists that while their ‘movement’ has the potential to do great things, if their practice doesn’t match their preaching, the whole movement will fall apart.
Just this morning I read a brilliant little article on a similar vein from Tony Reinke, called Young, Restless, Reformed, and Humbled. There we are reminded of the absolute necessity of humility (especially!) in those who claim to be Calvinists of any sort. To believe in the doctrines of grace, but not be humbled by them and your ability to live them is profoundly inconsistent. Reinke writes, ‘First, look at the depth of your theological convictions. Thank God for that–it’s a gift. Second, compare those convictions with the shallow daily decisions that are made totally uninfluenced by them.’
What I appreciate in what both Piper and Reinke are saying is this: The movement in and of itself is nothing; but it may be something, if we let the gospel do its full-orbed work of changing us from the inside out. If we are changed by what we preach and live like what we preach is really true, then maybe this movement is save-able. Maybe God really will use it to do great things for his great name in our day, in our part of this world.
That’s my hope, anyway.