5 Reasons Why the New Calvinism is Worth Rejecting

If no other reality is true with regard to the New Calvinists -- that is, if one is to assess their own comments regarding their own movement with a critical eye and attention to detail -- this one fact is true in an absolute sense: the New Calvinists are very self-aware of their own presence and enthusiastic significance within a subset of the Christian subculture. Take, for instance, a poem penned by New Calvinist John Piper, read by Piper in a video featuring New Calvinist Derek Rishmawy, a work dedicated to the New Calvinist entitled "The Calvinist." (Keep in mind that a chief complaint by Calvinists against Arminianism is that the system is man-centered.)

Jeffrey K. Jue writes a brief article featured on The Gospel Coalition site entitled: "5 Reasons Why the New Calvinism is Worth Supporting." Using his piece as a springboard, I endeavor to offer five substantial reasons why the New Calvinism is worth rejecting. Having read the brief piece twice, I have concluded that the perception the New Calvinists maintain about themselves resembles that of the character Luisa of The Fantasticks, who, when placing rose-colored glasses on her nose, sees the world not as it is in reality but as others would like her to perceive the world.


Jeffrey would have us believe that the New Calvinist movement is focused on pastors. Well, that may be a self-perception or an intended goal, but all we have witnessed among the New Calvinists is a focus on its own movement -- on Calvinism, on publishing Calvinism, on promoting Calvinism online. But even here the movement is failing. When the New Calvinist movement, in the form of Together for the Gospel, decides to host C.J. Mahaney as a plenary speaker -- a New Calvinist leader, founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries, who is still under investigation in what Boz Tchividjian names "one of the most disturbing accounts of child sexual abuse and institutional 'cover up' I have read in my almost 20 years of addressing this issue" (link/link) -- we can be assured that the New Calvinist leaders care not about pastors, certainly not about sex abuse victims, but only about their own New Calvinist agenda.

Thankfully, some Calvinists are beginning to see the corruption and toxic environment of the New Calvinist movement and its leaders, Carl Trueman among them. Even the PCA, the Presbyterian Church in America, strongly objected to Mahaney's presence at the conference. This is especially good news in light of Al Mohler's exaltation of C.J. Mahaney at the recent Together for the Gospel (more like Together for Calvinism) event, while he cracks a joke at the expense of Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse survivors. I seriously doubt many Calvinist bloggers are reporting on Mohler's heinous words and attitude. This is because New Calvinists protect each other even when wrong.


The Church catholic needs sound, scriptural theology, and sermons that reflect the same. In the New Calvinist movement, however, what one receives is Calvinistic theology presented to the church as "biblical" theology and "the Gospel" proper. In other words, attention is not given to the absolute necessity and significance of hermeneutics, but the Calvinistic ideology of the New Calvinists is presented to God's people as merely "what the Bible teaches." Hence, every person in the Bible from Adam to Jesus to John, Peter, and Paul are Calvinists teaching Calvinistic theology. Not only is this a tragic form of naïve realism, but it is also, even if unwittingly so, quite deceptive, leading God's people to think that Calvinism is not merely one among other viable interpretations of Scripture but is the only biblical and Spirit-approved interpretation of the Bible.


Jeffrey paints a beautiful portrait of the New Calvinist movement recognizing racial diversity in North American evangelicalism. But, sadly, what this really amounts to is a recognition of a racial diversity within its own New Calvinist movement. He writes: "By God's grace, the evangelical church in North America is becoming more racially diverse." (emphasis added) But the American church has been "racially diverse" for quite some time now -- Blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc., have been part of Christ's Body of Believers for a very, very long time, leading me to think that what he means is that local churches are becoming more diverse: i.e., Blacks and Asians and Latinos and Caucasians are all worshiping together. Honestly, this has been a reality in my own denomination, The Episcopal Church, for decades upon decades and is not news to us.

Curious, though, that Jeffrey then tips his hat to a separate Together for the Gospel women's conference this summer, 2016, that is also attempting "racial diversity." So, while the New Calvinists are attempting to gain racial diversity, they cannot yet attain gender diversity. Why? I am quite confident the reason cannot be found in their Complementarian theology. No, women cannot pastor a New Calvinist church, and are even relegated to a segregated "Together for the Gospel" women's conference. Just how "Together" is the New Calvinist movement? Women are excluded, at least in a pastoral sense; Arminians are excluded, period; any other "non-Calvinist" group is excluded. New Calvinist Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, refuses to partner with Arminians. So much Togetherness in one annual conference!


Our author insists that the New Calvinist movement "promotes solid Christian writing." Forgive my protest, please, but the New Calvinist movement promotes its own writings, its own ideology, its own theology. I sincerely do not believe that Jeffrey is painting an accurate portrait of the New Calvinist movement; and this statement derives not merely from an Arminian with an ax to grind. Calvinist D.G. Hart has spent much time exposing the errors of the New Calvinists. (link) Yes, some within the New Calvinist movement have provided Calvinist pastors with Calvinist literature, and this cannot be denied. But Jeffrey, again, equates Calvinist literature with Christian literature. This conflation is telling. Yes, the Calvinist literature is Christian in nature, but "Christian" is not to be confused in restrictive terms with "Calvinist" or "Calvinism."


Jeffrey lists his final reason as a commitment to "the Reformed tradition." Here, again, I will protest. That the New Calvinists have hijacked the term "Reformed" is no secret -- not to Lutherans, who are Reformed, not to Anglicans, who are Reformed, and not to other Protestant traditions that are, truly, Reformed in nature. Calvinism does not alone claim the Reformed moniker. But what is a bit more difficult to swallow is all the Calvinist Baptists claiming to be Reformed within the New Calvinist movement: Calvinist Baptists are not Reformed. They are not even Reformed by the standards of those Calvinists who define being Reformed by the adherence to the Three Forms of Unity: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt. A Baptistic Calvinism is not the Calvinism belonging to John Calvin and his successors.


Of course, our author makes another blanket statement in his conclusion, and one that belongs to a particular referent: "Just as [Westminster Theological Seminary] is an independent organization with a confessional identity wanting to serve the church, the same is true of sister ministries like T4G [Together for the Gospel] and TGC [The Gospel Coalition]." (emphasis added) If this statement were true, then Westminster, T4G and TGC would actually attempt to serve the whole Church, regardless of theological proclivities. But this is not the case whatsoever. By "serving the church" Jeffrey means "serving Calvinist churches." This is because, whether the New Calvinists want to admit this or not, they are self-serving, self-involved, and theologically inbred.

Of course, many more reasons can be granted as to why people ought to reject the New Calvinism, such as its propagation of testosterone-driven psuedo-manliness masquerading as biblical manhood; insisting that God is sovereign in such a manner that He has decreed, from eternity past, even our sin and desires to sin, since God, allegedly, influences our desires; that God somehow "loves" the world but has only pre-selected unconditionally to monergistically save some; all the while insisting that this motif lends confidence in evangelism, since God has predetermined to save such eternally-unconditionally-fortunate people. There are even more reasons than these brief offerings to warrant rejecting New Calvinism. But what is listed in this post will suffice.

Like an ostrich with his head in the sand, or a horse walking with blinders, the New Calvinists are so self-focused and partial in the company they keep -- to say nothing of so many of them condemning as overtly heretical any other theological notion than their own -- the New Calvinists run from conference to conference, video presentation to video presentation, John Piper book to John Piper book that all they see and all they hear and all they know is what is being experienced in one large Calvinist echo chamber. But to suggest that such a movement is centered on helping all pastors, focused, in a generally biblical sense, on "sound, scriptural theology," recognizing racial diversity in all churches, while promoting "Christian writing" and being committed to "the Reformed tradition" and serving the local church is far more than what anyone with her eyes wide open, rose-colored glasses taken off, can accept and embrace as viable truth.


Wayne A. Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, ed. Jeff Purswell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 143; The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree: i., ii; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 1.18.1.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.