Where Did All These Calvinists Come From?

Seven years ago this fall, a young journalist named Collin Hansen wrote a cover story for Christianity Today titled “Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism Is Making a Comeback—and Shaking Up the Church.” In it he remarked:

Partly institutional and partly anecdotal, [the evidence for the resurgence] is something a variety of church leaders observe. While the Emergent “conversation” gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon.

Two years later, Hansen released his movement-defining book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists (Crossway, 2008). Traveling to destinations like the Passion conference in Atlanta, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Southern Seminary in Louisville, and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, he sought to tell the stories of young people discovering Reformed theology. (Hansen, now editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, has since reflected on the book and the movement herehere, and here.)

One year earlier in 2007, Mark Dever proposed in a series of blog posts 10 factors that sparked this resurrection of Reformed theology among younger American evangelicals.


Now six years later, the “young, restless, Reformed” movement has only grown. The fact you’re presently reading The Gospel Coalition blog, which didn’t exist as recently as 2009, offers additional evidence.

Last week, Dever dusted off his 2007 series and delivered it, with a few changes, as an hour-long lecture at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. “If there were so few self-conscious Calvinists in the 1950s,” the pastor-historian asks, “how did we get so many today?” In what follows I offer a taste of his non-exhaustive, roughly chronological attempt to answer that question—12 sources God has used to reinvigorate Reformed theology in this generation (timestamps included).

1. Charles Spurgeon (10:39)

Dever likens the 19th-century Baptist preacher to an underground aquifer “bringing the nutrients of early generations to those after him.” Surprisingly, though, the “aquifers who brought Spurgeon to us” were countless 20th-century pastors—many of them anti-Calvinists—who enthusiastically commended his sermons.

“If you keep being told to buy Spurgeon, eventually you’ll read Spurgeon,” Dever says. “And if you read Spurgeon, you’ll never be able to believe the charge that all Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists and cannot do evangelism or missions.” Indeed, the Prince of Preachers seemed about “as healthy and balanced as a Bible-believing Christian could be.” It’s an irony of history that many of the ministers who “now decry what young Calvinists believe are the ones who recommended Spurgeon to them.”

2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (14:43)

Though lesser known in America than in Britain, “the Doctor” had a preaching ministry for more than 50 years that “shaped countless thousands of Christians” in the mid-20th century. “Even if many born in the 1970s and 1980s haven’t heard of Lloyd-Jones,” Dever remarks, “chances are their ministers have, and have been influenced by him. Both John Piper and Tim Keller have offered eloquent testimony to ‘the Doctor’s’ influence on their own preaching.”

A pastor of enormous influence, Lloyd-Jones was “the one man in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s British evangelicalism you had to deal with.” As Dever recounts, “No other figure in the middle of the 20th century so stood against the impoverished gospel evangelicals were preaching—and did it so insightfully, so biblically, so freshly, so regularly, so charitably—all without invoking a kind of narrow partisanship that wrongly divided the churches.”

3. The Banner of Truth Trust (23:03)

Have you ever read a Puritan book? Chances are you can thank Banner of Truth. In 1957 Iain Murray and others with a shared vision and budget began reprinting classic Puritan and Reformed titles. ”No such editions from the English-speaking tradition had been popularly published for a century,” Dever explains.

Motivated by truth more than by sales, the Banner’s “assiduous work in publishing in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s has clearly helped to bring forth a harvest in the 1980s and 1990s and still today.” The libraries of pastors today are filled with books written centuries earlier due in large part to this vital publishing ministry.

4. Evangelism Explosion (27:15)

The charge that “Calvinism kills missions and evangelism” has long been leveled against Reformed theology. Therefore, Dever believes, an “unlikely aide” to the Reformed cause—and probably least expected of all his sources—was the widespread popularity and apparent success of Evangelism Explosion. Created by a Reformed pastor (D. James Kennedy) and promoted through a Reformed church (Coral Ridge Presbyterian) beginning in 1962, this evangelism program became a “quiet but telling piece of counter-evidence against the stereotype of Calvinism killing evangelism.”

5. The inerrancy controversy (34:08)

By the mid-1970s, American evangelicalism’s “battle for the Bible” had reached its boiling point. Touching several denominations including the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention, this controversy gave prominence to several Reformed theologians (e.g., J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, Carl F. H. Henry, James Montgomery Boice, Roger Nicole) and reintroduced the Old Princeton divines (e.g., Charles and Andrew Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen) to a new generation.

Not only did the debate get people talking about theology, but the “very shape of the arguments used to promote inerrancy” exemplified the Reformed view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. (Was Romans written by God’s absolute sovereignty or by Paul’s willing choice? Yes. Were you saved by God’s absolute sovereignty or by your willing choice? Yes. You get the idea.)

6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) (37:50)

Born out of theological controversy in 1973, this denomination’s official doctrinal standard is a revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith—a document “so associated with the history of Calvinism,” Dever suggests, “it could almost be said to define it in the English-speaking world.”

“By the late 1990s,” he recalls, you could virtually assume the “most seriously Bible-preaching and evangelistic congregations near major university campuses would not be Bible churches or Baptist churches, but PCA congregations.” From the success of various seminaries to the influence of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) on campuses to Tim Keller’s ministry in New York City, it’s clear the “organizing and growth” of the PCA has been a major contributing factor to the Reformed resurgence.

7. J. I. Packer (40:50)

First published in 1973, this Anglican evangelical’s landmark book Knowing God has been read by hundreds of thousands of Christians. In fact, Dever surmises, it’s probably “the most substantial book of theology” many American Christians have ever read. The “current grandfather of this Reformed movement,” Packer’s voluminous body of work over the past 60 years has made him one of the “clearest and most popular theological tutors of Christians who grew up in the evangelicalism of the 1980s and 1990s.”

8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul (43:52)

Thanks in part to the advent of new technologies like cassette tapes, radio broadcast, CDs, and digital audio files, the teaching ministries of these two men have enjoyed remarkably far-reaching effect for more than four decades. “Their conferences are attended by thousands; their books are legion; their characters are, by God’s grace, unquestioned,” Dever states. “More steady than spectacular, more quiet and consistent than sudden and electrifying,” the manner of their labor smells of Wesley more than Whitefield. Thousands of contemporary Calvinists cut their theological teeth on the teachings of Sproul and MacArthur and their respective ministries, Ligonier and Grace to You.

9. John Piper (46:41)

“This is the one you’re all waiting for,” Dever quips. Though he hesitates to say so given the stature of the foregoing sources, Piper is probably “the single most potent factor in this recent rise of Reformed theology.” Dever explains:

All the previous factors are part of the explanation, but they are part of the explanation for how the wave became so deep, so large, so overwhelming—all preparing the ground, shifting the discourse, preparing the men who would be leaders in this latest resurgence. But it has been John who is the swelling wave hitting the coast. It is John who is the visible expression of these earlier men. He is the conduit through which many of them now find their work mediated to the rising generation.

Through Piper’s sermons, books, and appearances at conferences like Passion, his and Desiring God‘s role in the contemporary resurrection of Reformed theology can scarcely be overestimated.

10. Reformed rap (51:46)

The first time I met Dever, the stairs leading up to his study buzzed beneath my feet. Opening the door, I was startled to hear hip-hop music blaring through the speakers of an old boombox in the corner. “Hi, I’m Matt,” I shouted. I had no clue how Cambridge grads rolled.

Christian hip hop has provided a unique soundtrack for the new Calvinist movement. Reflecting on the formative rise of The Cross Movement in the mid-1990s, Dever insightfully observes how an aggressive focus on the glory of God makes sense as a response to secular rap’s aggressive focus on the glory of man.

After highlighting the influence of Lamp Mode (e.g., Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Stephen the Levite, Json), Reach Records (e.g., Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, KB, Andy Mineo, Derek Minor), Humble Beast (e.g., Propaganda, Braille, Beautiful Eulogy), and others (e.g., Flame), Dever remarks:

There are groups of young people all over the place, in less-than-healthy churches, who are being taught and equipped theologically by these artists. Even our intern program has served our church in ways we never intended. Shai Linne, Trip Lee, Brian Davis [God’s Servant], and others have given our congregation a much closer look at and acquaintance with this part of the Reformed resurgence.

11. Influential parachurch ministries (57:37)

Many of the parachurch ministries that dominated the mid-20th century evangelical landscape had either a Reformed heritage that faded (e.g., InterVarsity, Christianity Today, Southern Seminary) or none at all (e.g., Campus Crusade, various mission agencies). But in the last 20 years, Dever points out, the tide has turned.

In addition to the remarkable theological recovery at Southern Seminary under the leadership of Albert Mohler, Reformed influence has been steadily reaching church leaders (e.g., 9Marks, Acts 29, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Redeemer City to City), college campuses (e.g., RUF, Campus Outreach), and lay people (e.g., World) alike. All of these organizations, Dever explains, have “either explicitly or implicitly public commitments to Reformed theology,” presenting young Calvinists with “ministries they trust” and equipping them with solid resources for both their churches and themselves.

12. The rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism (59:36)

“There’s no reason my Arminian friends should disagree about the effect of any of the previous 11 influences I’ve noted,” Dever contends. Number 12, however, is another story.

This final two-pronged factor has served to “shape a theological climate in which weaker, more pale versions of Christianity fade and in which more uncut, vigorous versions thrive.” Arminian theology, Dever fears, is too frail to be helpful. ”In a nominally Christian culture, Arminianism may appear to be a satisfying explanation of the problem of evil,” he admits. “But as the acids of modernity have eaten away at more and more of the Bible’s teachings and even presuppositions about God, that explanation has proven woefully insufficient to more radical critics.”

Dever’s conclusion is worth quoting at length:

This world’s increasingly open and categorical denials of God and his power will likely be met not by retreats, compromises, edits, and revisions, but by awakenings and rediscoveries of the majesty and power of the true God, who reveals himself in the Bible, the God who made us and who will judge us, the God who in love pursued us even to the depths of the incarnation and the humiliation of the cross. This is Christianity straight and undiluted, and the questing, probing spirit of the rising generation has, by God’s grace, found this rock.

The contemporary resurgence of Calvinism is a phenomenon many celebrate, many lament, but none can deny. May Christ grant us grace to press forward in a hostile world with truth, humility, unity, and love.

  • Andrew Orlovsky

    At the Campus Crusade for Christ for the school I attended (Penn State), the leaders were actually very Calvinist. One of our leaders (Roger Hershey) gave a lesson on Romans 9 that was one of the most powerful sermons I ever heard, and its what started me in becoming YRR. I just always hear of CRU as non or even anti-Calvinist ministry, but my experience my completely opposite.

    • Jonathan

      Ditto Andrew.

      CRU may not be officially Calvinist, but the growing culture of it is. Almost all of the young people in CRU are being recommended Piper’s or other Reformed theologian’s books to read. It’s hard not to recommend “Don’t Waste Your life,” “Crazy Love,” “Radical,” “9 Marks of a Healthy Church,” or some of Keller’s books. But I don’t think it’s a push from CRU, so much as it is a reflection of the changing tides in the younger generation as a whole embracing the doctrines of grace.

      As a side note, it seems like Calvinists are doing better marketing and publishing as well. Perhaps I’m ignorant, but I don’t know of an Armenian equivalent to The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Ligonier Ministries, etc.

      • David

        I would point you to seedbed.com and ministrymatters.com. These are two strong Wesleyan publishing efforts that are filling a need for Christian resources that are not reformed.

        • Robert R. Cuminale

          I stopped in a Asbury(?) bbok store one time while working next door and decided to look at a set of commentaries. I purposefully looked up certain texts from Romans and Ephesions and wasn’t surprised that some verses were skipped and some carried a statement that despite what the text says there should never be the idea that God has chosen some to receive grace not available to all.
          No one needs books that teach them to ignore the plain meaning of scripture.

    • http://twitter.com/mattsmethurst Matt Smethurst

      Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for commenting. Dever is referring more to Cru’s roots (think Bill Bright) than to the state of things on the ground today. My story is much like yours; I became Reformed largely through the influence of my Cru leaders.

      By the way, I love Hersh.

      Blessings in Christ,

      • Joe Howard

        I would like to know what is meant by “Reformed.” It appears to me that the logic being expressed is that if you are not Calvinist, then you are not Reformed…

        My understanding is that the Reformation awakened our desire/obligation to view Scripture as the sole authority, that we can read the Bible for ourselves and not through the lens of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. If this is accurate, aren’t Calvinists, then, one of a number of groups born from the Reformation, and hence, one of multiple family members of the Reformed Tradition? Everyone now has a Bible. Why are/should Calvinists be credited as the only group bringing something Biblical to the table?

        • http://twitter.com/mattsmethurst Matt Smethurst

          Thanks for weighing in, Joe.

          Near the beginning of the lecture Dever explains he’s using the term “Reformed” in its narrower, and probably more common, sense to refer to Calvinistic soteriology.

          Regarding your two questions:

          “Aren’t Calvinists, then, one of a number of groups born from the Reformation, and hence, one of multiple family members of the Reformed Tradition?” Broadly speaking, yes.

          “Why are/should Calvinists be credited as the only group bringing something Biblical to the table?” They shouldn’t.

          • JohnM


            Kudos to you for your correct answers to those two questions.

        • Matthew Abate

          In a broad sense, Reformed may apply to the denominations, which sprang up from the Reformers like Martin Luther (Lutheranism) and John Calvin, John Knox (Presbyterianism). Today, I believe the word Reformed has been co-opted by modern-day Calvinists to refer to their brand of soteriology.

          There are some in the new old guard of Presbyterianism who believe that the New Calvinists aren’t Reformed because of their lack of confessionalism. Their argument is that the Presbyterian church has been known throughout church history for its embrace of the Westminster divines and the Three Forms of Unity. Check out R. Scott Clark’s The Heidelblog, Michael Horton’s The White Horse Inn, and Kim Riddlebarger’s The Riddleblog are good representatives of this view.

          • MichaelA

            Good point.

            The original definition of reformed meant reforming the Church, and Anglicans were also very much within that.

            Today many (probably most) Anglicans are “calvinist” in the sense of holding theology very similar to that of John Calvin, on all but a few points. For example, Calvin’s Institutes are required reading at Moore Theological College in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

          • Harold

            Reformed has more to do with the Continental Reformed Churches, i.e. Dutch Reformed, Belgic Reformed, Swiss Reformed, et al and then to the Scottish Reformed Church, who adopted the the Three Forms of Unity, i.e. the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort, as their confessional standards, and then by extension to the Presbyterian Church and the Westminster Standards, i.e. Confession, Shorter, and Larger Catechism as Westminster is an extension of the Three Forms of Unity…if a church holds to one of, or both of these Standards, it is Reformed. I was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, which was an off shoot of the Dutch Reformed Church. I’m part of the Not-So-Young-and-Reformed movement The CRC is no longer to be considered Reformed as the denomination no longer abides by the Three Forms of Unity.

            I hope this clears things up for you YRR guys

            • Harold

              And not to forget our Baptist brethren, any church still holding to the 1689 London Baptist Confession is Reformed, otherwise not. To be Reformed is to hold to one or more of these Confessional Standards.

  • a.

    and 0. the Spirit poured forth from on high

    may He continue to grant us, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; and may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    All Praise to God Almighty – no purpose of Yours can be thwarted

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  • http://www.classicalarminian.blogspot.com/ William Birch

    “All these Calvinists” seems a bit over the top, since Calvinists are still by far the minority among worldwide believers. Calvinism has always experienced an ebb and flow. It’s flowing now, but the ebb is coming. http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/2013/10/where-did-all-these-calvinists-come.html

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Actually, “Calvinism” was the dominant theological conviction of non-Lutheran Protestants until the rise of evangelical Arminianism with Wesley and the Methodists. As the anthropocentric assumptions of that theological system eventually destroyed it, the theocentric theology of Calvinism is again taking its rightful place. Arminianism, as the last point suggests, thrives in a nominally Christian context and so it’s unlikely to arise again unless there is such a culture again, which doesn’t appear likely in the foreseeable future.

    • Michael Jamison

      “All these Calvinists” is about the recent increase in Calvinism when there were barely any, not that there are now some kind of majority. It was on a decrease and now all of a sudden there’s a rise in the younger generation thanks to the likes of Piper, rap, and others mentioned here.

  • Daphyne

    I’d add one category: Homeschooling.

    We are finding many families who are being introduced to Reformed theology for the first time through classical homeschool curriculum. It has been exciting to see.

  • Riley

    “I had no clue how Cambridge grads rolled.” Nice! Love me some Smethurst!

  • Andrea

    This talk was so encouraging! I came away so grateful to be the beneficiary of these providential factors.

  • Donn R Arms

    13. Dr. Jay E Adams and the biblical counseling movement.

  • David Juniper

    John Stott?

    • Kraz

      Definately John Stott, especially in the UK. Also Terry Virgo and New Frontiers helping to spread Reformed beliefs in Charismatic circles.
      The fact that Vineyard churches are happy to have Calvinist speakers at their conferences really shows how far Reformed teaching has come.

  • David Juniper

    American Christianity has finally recovered from its revolution.
    The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. Hatch
    Yale University Press, 1989

  • http://chriszavala.blogspot.com Chris Z

    Really fascinating to me to see the trail of influence.

    I might add another one to Mark’s list: the younger generation of influential church leaders (e.g. Driscoll, Chandler, Platt, Dever himself) who are impacting many through their sermons and books.

    Those men (along with Piper, MacArthur and the reformed rappers) have had a huge influence on my theology and have subsequently introduced me to the wider world of some of the others on this list

    • Ryan

      I would say this is by far the biggest reason, IMHO. A lot of the young Calvinists I know hold to their beliefs because of these influences. In fact, many of them aren’t even all that aware of what Calvinism is, typically being fairly ignorant of alternate positions and often being fairly surprised when they encounter an “old-guard Calvnist” who laments the existence of credobaptist Calvinism.

      Calvinist theology hasn’t become any more or less convincing or Biblical in the past fifty years or thereabouts. Rather, we’ve seen a new sect of celebrity preachers arise who are New Calvinists, and as a result their towering influence has caused their theology to spread far and wide. Personally I don’t expect it to be a permanent trend and I suspect that many young men and women who have espoused the movement will find their children eventually rejecting it – not necessarily due to any particular flaw in the movement itself, but simply because that’s the way of these things.

      However, I do think it’d be worthwhile for the neo-Reformed to be thinking ahead. When the bubble inevitably bursts and evangelicalism becomes fascinated with something else, New Calvinist ministries will suffer as a result, with churches shrinking and ministries receiving less influx. This doesn’t mean they’ve failed – membership and budget are hardly measurements of success in the Kingdom of God – but it does mean that they may find themselves with less resources to draw upon, and it helps to be prepared for that sort of thing.

      This line of thought often leads me to deeply admire the Catholic Church – while I may have all sorts of doctrinal disagreements with them, sometimes you have to admire their sheer tenacity and stalwart attitude towards the shifting sands of cultural trendiness.

      • Robert Demarest Cuminale

        A statement I expressed to Roman Catholic friend this past week. A large church here refused to host a combined ministries function because of the anti-Christian views they held on marriage equality for Homosexuals.
        “Despite my strong disagreement with Catholic doctrines and tradtions If they fall completely to the Liberals Christianity will be unrecognizable” His major fear for the church is that the Bishops are doing too much to accommodate these views and others. It’s a tough job because the majority of their members are in disagreement with church doctrines. How else to explain a Jaguar with a Knights Of Columbus bumper sticker with one for for Abortion Rights and another for Barak Obama?

    • Kraz

      I would agree, Driscoll, Chandler, etc have had a huge effect on young men. Also, the fact that they are Charismatic Reformed had a big influence. It made it a lot easier for some churches to adopt a Calvinist view of soteriology knowing they could keep their views on the Spirit.

  • Brad babcock

    Now that harvest bible fellowship has approximately 100 church’s in its fellowship, I would contend that they are part of the resurgence as well. As a member of a Harvest church, my reformed theology has been sharpened immensely. To God be the glory.

  • JohnM

    When speaking of a version of Christianity that is weak, pale and too frail to be helpful, if you substitute contemporary generic mainstream evangelicalism (historically rooted in Calvinism as much as anything else) for Arminianism then you will be right.

    On the other hand if by Arminian you mean anything not explicitly Calvinist, as Calvinists so often do mean, you will be wrong.

    • Anastasios

      Indeed….Eastern Orthodoxy (for instance) has MANY disagreements with Calvinism, but it’s hardly frail. Orthodox churches are among the few churches that are actually gaining in male members, for instance, and that’s why.

      A poster stated above that the Reformers introduced the idea that you could read the Bible “by yourself” instead of “under an ecclesiastical hierarchy”. I’d like to point out that that view of church history is 1. Western-centric (ignoring the existence of Eastern churches) and 2. presupposes a false dichotomy.

      The extremely fissiparous nature of Protestantism in general (including Calvinism) over issues like baptism, eschatology, etc., is the result of people reading the Bible “for themselves”, in the sense of American individualism (which is not a Biblical virtue anyway). This was a reaction (indeed, an OVERreaction) against the Roman Catholic view of the magisterium or teaching church, in which only the ordained were allowed to teach Scripture, theology, etc.

      Orthodoxy views the Scripture as being given to the Church, and as belonging to the Church, not to each believer for himself. As such there’s less subjectivism than in Protestantism. Bible reading plays a HUGE part in Orthodox worship (they go through the entire New Testament in a year). Instead of a pastor adding to Scripture his own interpretations (which is what “expository” preaching actually is; adding to Scripture), the entire congregation reads the books out loud in unison, as they were originally read by the early church (not holed up at home alone in a study by yourself).

      That’s why there have been far fewer schisms, diverging schools of thought, and “isms” in the history of Orthodoxy than in the Western churches. However, the Orthodox have a holistic understanding of the Church; it’s not a hierarchy. It’s something of a middle ground between the extremely top-down nature of Catholicism and the bottom-up (and consequently very atomistic) nature of Protestant sects.

      As an illustration, the Eastern churches were active in translating the Bible, liturgics, etc., into the vernacular languages since the 2nd century at least. They NEVER opposed worship in the vernacular at all. The Roman Church preferred to have everything in Latin because that was one of the only three languages in which the placard on Jesus’ cross was written (and thus, they felt that other languages were “unfit” for church usage).

      Many evangelicals prefer to just pick and choose whichever doctrines they like, fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. If that subjectivity is bothering you, but you don’t want to return to Rome, just remember there’s a third option too.

      • Matthew Schultz

        I think you’re confusing the freedoms afforded by the Enlightenment tradition with the beliefs of Protestantism. Early Protestantism was rather united, and so is a good portion of modern Evangelicalism when you consider its unity over what it considers the essentials. (This is certainly born out in relevant scholarship–cf. Barrett’s work on Christian denominations.) Orthodoxy itself has a large number of significant divisions, although these are more an expression of patriotism than anything intrinsic to the beliefs of Orthodoxy.

        The major reason we have division in the United States is freedom of religion and a philosophical commitment to the freedom of the individual to determine his or her belief. There’s nothing intrinsic to the propositions of classical Protestantism that entails division.

        Many evangelicals prefer to just pick and choose whichever doctrines they like, fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. If that subjectivity is bothering you, but you don’t want to return to Rome, just remember there’s a third option too.

        It would be better to say that many followers of the Enlightenment tradition pick and choose whatever they want to believe. The disease of division has its roots in the idolatry of individual autonomy, not Protestant doctrine.

      • Ryan

        I would largely agree with this. I would go so far as to say that Protestantism is inherently post-modern – or at the very least, that the Reformation was the planting of the seeds that would grow into post-modernism.

        • Matthew Schultz


          Perhaps you’re more well-read in philosophy, but I do not see anything “inherently postmodern” about Protestantism, especially when we consider the Reformation. Protestantism has been traditionally rooted in inerrancy and a commitment to God’s Word as true, normative, etc. Postmodernism is “best” defined as incredulity toward metanarratives. These seem diametrically opposed. It is only with the rise of liberal Protestantism (which is not really “Protestant” at all), which as a methodology denies inerrancy, that you have compatibility with postmodern ideology.

          The seeds of postmodernism arose from the Enlightenment. You can thank non-Christians such as Kant for starting that!

          • Tim Keene

            Reformation theology cannot really be said to be postmodern; rather it is premodern. But it does not have a metanarrative in the sense used by Lyotard in his book The Postmodern Condition. A metanarrative is much more visible in liberal Christianity and then later in evangelical Christianity. With the rise of postmodernism there is increasing space for a Calvinist or Arminian version of Christianity as in their origins they too reject the metanarrative. What they have is an appeal to a overarching narrative rather than a metanarrative.

      • Robert Demarest Cuminale

        You are confused about the differences between the Reformed and other groups. I was taught to interpret using commentaries that carefully define words as they were used when written. Just reading in unison doesn’t convey that. I’ve used a bible reference numerous times to Catholics and Orthodox and have yet to see one recognize the source of it. I was taught to memorize scripture in order to present a defense for why I believe as I do. I can’t imagine how many times I have explained 2 Peter 3:9 in light of the two preceding chapters or James 2:14 with consideration of verses between it and verse 26. I came from the Dutch Reformed tradition and this is still the method used by us along with study of the Catechism and Confession and the Canons of the Synod of Dordrecht. Shallow teaching leads to shallow beliefs and shallow actions.

  • steve

    You forgot the resurgence of the street preaching culture – they are mostly Reformed and have been influencing those around them in that direction as well.

  • http://www.intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

    I first learned about Calvinism from a missionary couple in Sasebo, Japan way back in 1983 (I was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan at the time and the ship I was on made a port visit to Sasebo). The couple was from the Christian Reformed Church and they put me in contact with a CRC in San Diego, CA (where I was transferring to at the end of the year).

    Despite forays into Roman Catholicism, the Unitarian Universalist Church, and a return to Pentecostalism (I spent most of my early years as a Christian in an Assembly of God church; when I returned to Pentecostalism, it was first to a oneness Pentecostal denomination and then back to the Assembly of God), I continued to have what I called “heavy Calvinist leanings.” The pastor at the last Pentecostal church I attended was heavily influenced by Packer, C. J. Mahaney (who my then-pastor considered to be his pastor), Wayne Grudem, John MacArthur, among others, and his close friend was (and still is) the pastor of an independent Reformed church in the same city. When my then-pastor was ousted in a coup by a couple of his elders (who themselves were following after the likes of John Bevere), my journey led me to that friend’s church, where I eventually became a member and was a Bible teacher before embarking on my current tentmaker ministry in Kazakhstan.

    Young, Restless and Reformed is a book worth reading, if you’re interested in some of the “wherefore and the why” (to quote a Gordon Lightfoot song) behind the Calvinist resurgence.

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  • Steve

    Interesting – although it seems to me that it was guys like Driscoll that made Calvinism/Reformed Doctrine cool for a bunch of guys who had been told theology wasn’t as important as loving people and/or practical application sermons

  • Andy Smith

    We need to be careful in using Calvinistic and Reformed synonymously. They really are not, at least in the categories we speak of them today. While there are many new Calvinists (as the article states), there are relatively few historically reformed Christians out there. Of course I’m thrilled with the resurgence of monergistic calvinism, I wish more would go ‘all the way” so to speak, to reformed theology (regulative principle of worship, church membership, presbyterian government, views on the sacraments, covenant theology, federal theology, etc.).

  • Bart Barber

    Please note: The following comment comes from one who is a non-Calvinist, non-Arminian semi-Cessationist.

    The idea that Arminianism is dead, has destroyed itself (from the comments), thrives only in environments of nominal Christianity (from the article), etc., is—I shudder to say it this way, such respect I have for Mark Dever as a scholar, generally!—downright foolish. It fails to take into account the phenomenon of thoroughly Arminian Pentecostalism and related movements around the world precisely in those places where nominal Christianity is the least possible.

    • http://viaemmaus.wordpress.com David Schrock


      I believe your counter-example compares apples to oranges. Mark’s historical survey is only speaking about the rise of Calvinism in Britain and America. He’s not grappling with the rise of Christianity in other parts of the world. So to recruit a global counter-example is a bit misleading. Were Mark to speak about Christianity on a global scale, his approach would have to look different and be more perceptive to the various theological streams leading the nations to Christ.

      Another thought. Are the places you mention globally, ones that disallow nominal Christianity, gripped by the kind of rampant secularism that has arisen in late twentieth century America? There are at least two reasons why nominal Christianity might be stamped out. The first is rampant secularism or any persuasive worldview that seeks to undermine Christianity through cognitive arguments. The other is physical violence which threatens the life of believers. I would argue that each of these oppositions to nominalism have different effects on the church.

      In the latter, the believers are forced to pray and FLEE. Many in the global South who have been won to Christ by Arminian ministries do not have as much time to question their beliefs. Born again by the Spirit, they cling to Christ and his promises of deliverance. In this case, nominalism is non-existent but so is the opportunity (or the need) to question the ordo salutis. They know that their Redeemer lives and so they cling to him in the face of violent opposition.

      It is different in the case of secularism. When God-denying world-views threaten the church, Christians must pray and STUDY. And when they do, their understanding will of necessity go deeper. This is by no means to say that those fleeing don’t study. Joseph Tson is a great example of someone who did both–he suffered physically and wrote a doctoral dissertation about it. But it is to assert that in the last 30 years with the rise of Calvinistic literature, young people’s response to secularism has been to study and to think deeply about God’s word. And when they have, many have been convinced of Calvinism.

      Of course, it is not automatic that such study will produce a Calvinist, but it might. And I would argue, following Dever, that it has—hence the growing number of Calvinists. If secularism is not a contributing factor to the birth of many Calvinists, I would ask what effect secularism has had on the thought life of the American church? Or to put the question to you, what sociological factors, if any, would you point to mark the rise of Calvinism in the last half-century?

      I think Mark’s twelfth point makes great sense of out our American context, and so I don’t think its foolish. I am happy, however, to hear of a better sociological reading of what has happened, under God, if there is one.


      • Bart Barber

        For the theory to hold, I think you’d still need to show that Arminian Pentecostalism and associated movements are declining precipitously in the United States. As recently as 2011 the Assemblies of God were reporting growth rates higher than the population growth rate.

        I do not have to know the right theory in order to recognize a wrong one. :-) A hypothesis is tested and it either survives or fails, whether a better hypothesis is available or not. The theory that Calvinism is growing because it is better adapted to our times than Arminianism is only true if one can show that Arminian denominations like the AofG are experiencing a marked decline in this era to be juxtaposed against burgeoning Calvinism. But Dever did not endeavor to show this, nor have you, and I doubt your prospects of doing so.

        Perhaps a better theory would be to drop the comparison between Calvinism and Arminianism entirely and go instead with “The advance of secularism and the corresponding diminution of nominal Christianity makes a better environment for burgeoning Calvinism than did the era the preceded it.” This leaves open the possibility that it makes a better environment (or just as good an environment) for other theologies as well, and it therefore removes from the one who asserts it the burden of doing all of the comparative statistics with other faith groups.

        Of course, even with that approach, one would have to explain why the precipitous decline in Calvinism at the beginning of the 20th century could take place during the Modernist controversies and the thought-challenges of World War I.

        • http://viaemmaus.wordpress.com David Schrock

          Bart, thanks for the thoughtful response.

          It’s interesting that you bring up the Modernist controversy. As I read early twentieth century church history, I see a twofold response to the thought challenges of Modernism. Some battened down the hatches, published documents like ‘The Fundamentals’ or ‘Christianity and Liberalism’ and approached the matter theologically–albeit in different ways (Dispensationalism vs. Westminster Presbyterianism, for two examples).

          Others in that period decried academics, adopted an anti-intellectualism, and distrusted scholarship. At the same time, since they needed to have a response to the threat of Modernism, they pressed into personal experience with things like tongues coincidentally (??) arriving in the same era–hence Pentecostalism. (I am showing my theological colors here, but humor me).

          Broadly speaking, the thought challenges pressed American Christians towards theology or experience. In both cases, fundamentalist theology and spiritual experience served as the apologetic against the bogeyman of Modernism which swept through Mainline Denominations and eviscerated trust in the Bible. Both movements grew, or sustained themselves from extinction, by means of theology or experience.

          Might such a sociological reading explain why there is both a theological resurgence of Calvinism (Together for the Gospel, TGC, etc) and (as your report) a rise in Pentecostalism and experience-based Christianity?

          Of course, the division I’ve made here is far too broad. There is overlap and nuance. Many Calvinists rightly want to experience the truth. And there are plenty of Pentecostal scholars. But might not the Modernist controversy and its subsequent responses—Pentecostalism on one side and Fundamentalism and later Neo-Evangelicalism on the other present an analogy?

          A final thought, on your point that secularization creates an environment for burgeoning Calvinism and other theologies, do you see a rise of young people who are responding to the increased anti-Christian sentiment of our nation with an appeal to Arminius, Wesley, and others? Is there a groundswell of young people finding solace in the theology of Anabaptists? In my circles, I don’t see that, so that’s why I am asking.

          • Anastasios

            There is a small, but very vocal group of young people interested in Eastern Orthodoxy. Not as numerous as the YRR, but steadily growing. Check out Ancient Faith Radio, for instance. It could well be Maximus the Confessor, rather than Wesley, who proves to be Calvin’s primary rival in the 21st century….

            • Anastasios

              In addition to being less numerous (for now) the YRO tend to be geekier and less hipsterish (from what I can gather) than the YRR. Calvinism is “cool” right now; Orthodoxy is so “uncool” as to be a nerd paradise for those who know they will never be the “in crowd” and don’t want to try. Orthodoxy has never been part of the cultural mainstream in America (except for Alaska, where the first missionaries to arrive were Orthodox!), but for some people that makes it MORE attractive.

              I think that John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference may actually be the moment where the new Calvinism “jumped the shark”, so to speak. Lots of people don’t know just how much of an anti-ecumenical, anti-everyone-who-doesn’t-believe-exactly-as-I-do type of guy he is (have you heard what he’s said about Catholics, Lutherans AND Orthodox?) To justify his narrow sectarianism, he actually claimed that Jesus came here INTENDING to divide people (which is a complete misrepresentation of the Gospel passage; he was giving a sad but true prophecy about how people would be divided by his name in the future). Lots of YRR folks are at least open to continuationism, and MacArthur & Co’s vitriol could well spark a YRR civil war whose fallout might be enough to turn them off of Calvinism for good. If Calvinism is the true gospel, why is its church culture so nasty? MacArthur just shot himself, and his movement, in the foot with this one.

              Orthodoxy, for its part, is never cessationist. But they don’t abuse the spiritual gifts either. Because, again, it’s not about selfish INDIVIDUAL experiences but rather about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the CHURCH (Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would never leave the Church, after all).

              I’m not Orthodox….yet. But I could cross the Bosporus in the future. Right now I’m just researching it.

            • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

              I’ve been to Orthodox services (both in the US and in Kazakhstan). I have serious problems with all the icons and incense and lack of engagement (particularly in Kazakhstan) between the priests and the congregation. Then there’s that whole thing with Mary and the fight between Nestorius (of Constantinople) and Cyril (that spawn of Satan from Alexandria, the seat of that evil theological school which is the ancient source of modern Preterism and allegorical, “spiritualized” scripture interpretation; Cyril, who bore false witness against Nestorius and conspired with Celestine, the Bishop of Rome, to get Nestorius excommunicated).

              However, I adhere to the Orthodox version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 A.D.

            • Matthew Schultz

              The Eastern Orthodox have been claiming an increase in interest for years. That was what I was told when I considered converting when I was younger, and I continue to hear it today. But what demographic evidence supports the idea that the number of converts is growing substantially?

              I also wonder why numbers matter. Popularity is a Western preoccupation, is it not?

              As for your comments about MacArthur, while his stridency is as distasteful as it is unhelpful, it would be illogical to therefore find Calvinism itself wrong or incorrect or some such thing. There are plenty of better representatives of a congenial, yet orthodox Calvinism (such as Keller or Piper). That would be a classic case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

              If Calvinism is the true gospel, why is its church culture so nasty? MacArthur just shot himself, and his movement, in the foot with this one.

              I’ve met some pretty nasty Eastern Orthodox apologists. I realize they are probably the exception, rather than the rule.

              I think it has a lot more to do with the nature of online discourse and the sensationalization of Christian interaction through a faceless medium.

      • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

        Sadly, a church elder in an Assembly of God church I attended once told me that I shouldn’t study the Bible, but should just read it “devotionally.” Another elder in that same church boasted about how he never studied when he prepared for Bible Study or for preaching on Sunday morning, but just let the Holy Spirit tell him what to say. Well, there might have been a spirit telling him what to say, but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. He was all over the place and there was no coherent message.

        • BruceS

          This is evidence of what exactly?

          • http://www.intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

            BruceS, I wasn’t aware that I was presenting evidence. I thought I was just participating in a conversation (I was responding to, I think, David Schrock.

        • Robert Demarest Cuminale

          I remember one telling me not to interpret the Bible but to just believe it. Say what?

  • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

    Andy Smith, today the two terms are pretty much synonymous and there is a range of views held outside the common doctrines of TULIP, God’s sovereignty and monergistic salvation.

    • Andy Smith

      I’m sorry sir, but I would argue that they are not. In the TGC community they are, but outside they are quite different. One need go no further than wikipedia to see the confusion caused by this.

      Just as an example, Mark Driscoll is categorized on Wikipedia as coming from the “reformed” tradition, which will send you to a page called “Calvinism,” which describes calvinism (or “reformed” as it says in the first sentence) in all sorts of ways that Driscoll would not associate himself.

      They are sometimes used synonymously without questions, but I am arguing that to speak this way is confusing and wrong.

      • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

        Andy Smith,

        Wikipedia? Seriously? You want to cite Wikipedia as a credible source?

        When I was first introduced to TULIP by a missionary couple from the Christian Reformed Church, that couple used the two terms (Calvinist and Reformed) synonymously. The CRC I attended in San Diego for the next few years afterward used the two terms synonymously.

        Whether it’s correct to use them synonymously is subject to debate, but I was simply pointing out that, at least since the early 1980s, I’ve heard the terms used synonymously and that this is how they’re commonly used today.

        • MichaelA

          I think Andy was actually using wikipedia as an example of an incorrect (or partially incorrect) source, if you read his post carefully.

        • Robert R. Cuminale

          When I was younger a man I studied with used a Capitol R to described the doctrines of Calvin and others and a small r for the general movement away from the offensive accretions of Roman Catholicism.

  • http://dyslexictheist.wordpress.com/ Michael Harrell

    Uh, Calvinism never went away. I mean, hello, the founding of America proper by the Puritan movement, the two Great Awakenings, the Presbyterian Church (and its connection to the Anglicans vis a vis the Westminster Confession and endorsement of KJV)…I mean, Calvinism has sort of been the absolute norm in the USA. Calivnism is ingrained in the American culture, so it should be no surprise that non-denoms swing Calvinist during resurgence movements.

    • Robert Demarest Cuminale

      Might I remind you of the Dutch and French Reformed churches which preceded the first Prebyterian Presbytery by 100 years? That the oldest church congregation is America is Marble Collegiate Church in New York City was founded in 1628?
      Few realize that the American Revolution was a Calvinist enterprise. Having been persecuted by Spain, France, Germany, England and other nations. Calvinist’s strong doctrines on the separation of church and state and the fight to worship without state interference made it possible. One of my ancestors fought the Church Of England and the governor of New York in refusing to pay a tax to support that church.

  • Andy T.

    For no. 10, I would add contemporary Christian music in general. We have seen a rise in Calvinistic-leaning music with groups like Caedmon’s Call, Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, etc. And in the modern praise & worship scene, guys like Tomlin and Redman certainly produce lyrics that are Calvinist-leaning (even if they themselves are not Calvinist). And there are the more openly Calvinist musicians like Townend, Getty and Sovereign Grace Music. All of these I think have contributed to the new wave of Calvinism.

    • Bart Barber

      One reason why Contemporary Christian Music contributes to Calvinism is the influence of a particular feature of market-driven evangelicalism. Because really, at its true core, that’s what evangelicalism has become: a market. Hymnody, music, books, etc., produced within evangelicalism benefit financially when they stay away from ecclesiology, pneumatology, and a whole host of other -ologies that are involved in denominational distinctives within evangelicalism.

      What’s left? Not that much. Moralistic therapeutic deism lives in that space. So does soteriology. Evangelicals are united on the subject of soteriology. And so, the existence of this market-driven evangelicalism contributes to voluminous productivity in the area of soteriology.

  • Alex

    This article actually piqued my interest in the rise of Arminianistic theology in modern evangelical culture post reformation. We know the church growth movement probably had something to do with it, with it’s emphasis on manufactured numerical growth and cultural relevancy, but would be interesting to trace the development of it into full blown Arminian practical theology that we see in the Church today.

  • http://n/a Sarah Eremic

    For thousands of us who were purchasing Tim Keller’s cassettes (before they gave way to CDs, MP3s, and now multiple books consolidating these recorded truths), I would have made him one of the “sources” and not just a mention inside #6 of the PCA. We would listen to the same cassette multiple times, allowing these great truths to alter perceptions, cast down untruths about law and help us revel in grace, as his words help cement reformed biblical foundations into our thinking patterns.

    This resource was invaluable for us as church planters in very secular, post Christian Europe, where our assumptions were constantly being challenged. Priase God for these and many other great resources made available.

    Btw, as the daughter of a reformed evangelist, I love that Dever begins with Spurgeon! An overlooked fact with many of my reformed friends…

    • http://greenhouseproject.net Sam Harrell

      Each commenter will have their own experiences of when it all started for them and which parts of the movement hit them most uniquely. I’ve paid attention to MacArthur and Sproul for years, but nothing hit home. Then out of nowhere, Keller started dropping bombs and Piper started making sense… hmmm :-)

  • Abraham Quinones

    Loved the article. As a member of the metal community, I would like to include Christian Metal and it’s sub genres as another major influence that has steered youth towards Reformed Theology. There is no time or space online n this forum in which a debate between how much influence Christian Metal has had in the young Reformed community over the Rap genre but in my own subjective point of view, I would like to submit the history of the Metal and Hardcore scene as a major venue for today’s young reformers. Bands such as As I Lay Dying, Saving Grace, Living Sacrifice, Harmony and Becoming the Archetype have paved a direct line towards Calvinism for a huge demographic. Also labels such as Facedown Records and Solid State. These bands have spawned a new generation of bands such as; Phinehas, Mouth of the South, Yesterday as Today, Reformers, Colossus, Dynasty and Impeding Doom which are bringing Reformed Theology to an even younger demographic.

  • Nell Parker

    “By the late 1990s,” he recalls, you could virtually assume the “most seriously Bible-preaching and evangelistic congregations near major university campuses would not be Bible churches or Baptist churches”

    I was in two Bible churches during the time frame mentioned, both located next to well known universities. Those churches shaped and molded my theology in very deep ways. I find this comment not only wrong, but unnecessarily divisive.

  • http://bryanavillar.wordpress.com BryAna

    I, for one, am thankful to be part of the “new Calvinist movement”… great to see how I got here.

  • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

    I think it illustrates Christianity’s plasticity. Theological movements rise and fall in a relative blink of an eye nowadays. It almost doesn’t matter whether Calvinism or Arminianism have the correct reading of the Gospel; right now all of the hype and the charismatic leadership lies on the Calvinistic side.

    I hate to compare theology to politics, but modern Arminianism reminds me of the Democratic Party circa the post-Reagan period in the late 80’s. Everyone could name dynamic Republicans (= Calvinists), but discussing the Democrats’ future brought head scratches and laughter. A big reason why Calvinism is popular now is because all of the dynamic evangelical authors and pastors are Calvinists. How many bestselling authors are there who explicitly identify themselves as Arminian? Not many, and your average Christian probably couldn’t name any. In that sense being Arminian nowadays is like being liberal in 1988: there were plenty of them, but most didn’t want to admit they were liberal.

    So give it a decade or so and the trends will start shift in favor of the Arminians. The current crop of Calvinists will get older, less hip, or retire from ministry, and people will be eager for a fresh take on the Gospel.

    • Ryan

      That’s unfortunately true. And, again unfortunately, like America’s bipartisan system, the debate is seen as being squarely Calvinism vs Arminianism – never mind the fact that this is an utterly false dichotomy and that there is a broad spectrum of differing orthodox theological systems out there.

      Similarly, there’s the fact that Calvinism and Arminianism are often reduced to simply meaning “determinism and free will,” which isn’t really an accurate or helpful way of viewing either of them.

      Anyway, all of that is to say that similar to American politics, there are plenty of Christians out there who are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but who feel forced to choose a side, and who are told that those two sides are really the only options. As a result, they identify themselves with whichever option is the most prominent. Fifty years ago that was Arminianism. Today, it’s Calvinism. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe evangelicals will surprise everyone and make Thomist theology the next big thing. Hey, it could happen ;)

      • Ryan

        Heck, even Amyraldianism is often seen as “not a real position” – a constant source of vexation to four-point Calvinists everywhere.

  • Bruce Zittlow

    Don’t forget who is scraping up all the young, restless, burnt out Calvinists. It’s the Lutherans, where forgiveness of sins is actually delivered to them. There won’t be any articles about the burgeoning confessional Lutheran movement because it doesn’t fit the modern evangelical mind meld. But we’re here, with a gospel that is ‘nothing else than the mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins.’ (Smalcald Articles)

  • Ken Stewart

    The factors named are certainly all relevant, but the combined thrust of them (all post-Spurgeon) combined with what is passed over goes far to suggest why there are nagging, recurring problems with “new Calvinism”.
    1. No made-in-the-USA factor, earlier than the 1973 founding of the PCA is highlighted so as to explain how the ‘flame’ of the Reformed theological tradition was kept burning on this continent before “new Calvinism” emerged in recent decades. An elucidation of this would bring Calvin Seminary, Grand Rapids (seminary of the CRC), Western Seminary, Holland, MI (a seminary of the RCA), Columbia Seminary, Decatur, GA,(a seminary of what was the PCUS) and Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia into view. Today’s new Calvinists are still reading standard theological texts produced in these institutions in the first three quarters of the twentieth century; but strangely they are reluctant to acknowledge this legacy.
    2)As for the UK, we need a much more candid assessment of the mixed doctrinal legacy left by MLJ. Yes, I listened to a lot of his tapes too! But MLJ left a legacy of division, a predilection for theological literature of a past age, and a fixation on the eighteenth century. British evangelicalism is in certain respects still “in recovery” from unfortunate emphases MLJ bequeathed, along with his undoubted attainments.
    3)The ongoing influence of historic Reformed Confessions is not acknowledged. These have awaited (and in many cases, still await)encounters with today’s “new Calvinists”, who as they consult them will be saved from idiosyncratic theological emphases. The Reformed theological consensus does not await definitive statement (though, under Scripture, it is quite capable of refinement).
    4)The “new Calvinist” movement, defined in such twentieth century terms has an unacknowledged affinity with fundamentalism in that it has a predilection to be reiterative,combative and pugnacious. It is a true observation that generic American evangelicalism is in process of gradual doctrinal regress. But it does not follow that new Calvinism will “inherit the land” — especially if, with its default setting towards preferring theological books and statements borrowed from the nineteenth century and older — it declines to participate in the creative evangelical theological thinking required in our new setting. Standing still is not a prescription for any kind of advance we would identify as real progress.

    • Quincy A. Jones

      these are great observations. I believe #3 (“new Calvinism’s” inability to interact with and embrace historic Reformed confessions) & #4 will make it a short lived phenomenon/fad by marginalizing itself as an unattractive and irrelevant. Any New Calvinism/Calvinists (or those connected) that become relevant to the broader evangelical sphere (and beyond) will not resemble New Calvinism as much as they will Neo-Evangelicalism (e.g., Russell Moore)


    • Chuck

      Well said, Ken. It seems particularly important that ‘new Calvinists’ drink more deeply from the stream of the Reformed confessions or from the headwaters of Calvin himself. It is unfortunate, and dangerous, to reduce Calvin’s legacy and influence to soteriology.

  • Tuad

    “It fails to take into account the phenomenon of thoroughly Arminian Pentecostalism and related movements around the world precisely in those places where nominal Christianity is the least possible.”

    Thoroughly. Arminian. Pentecostalism.

    Nuff said.

    • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

      Well, more Semi-Pelagian than Arminian anyway.

  • Ryan

    I would caution Dever with regards to his twelfth point. What he says is essentially a reiteration of what sociologists have been saying for a while now: For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is information overload, we are seeing a surge in fundamentalist religion. People become exhausted of the myriad perspectives and data that are being forced at them and as a result desire a teaching that lacks nuance – it’s black and white, it tells them what they believe so they don’t have to think about it and can instead devote their time and energy to more mundane things.

    And I think Dever does the New Calvinism a disservice when he relegates it to fulfilling this role.

    Now, there is an extent that Christianity ought to be black and white, but I would suggest that it is a very small extent. Yes, you are saved. Christ died for your sins, conquered the grave, and now you can know freedom from sin and eternal life in loving relationship with Him – beginning now. That is something we can say with authority. However, there are precious few other theological statements we can make with similar conviction. What the attitude referenced in point twelve wants is a clear-cut truth. What they want to hear is people saying “Yes, this is exactly how it happened! Yes, our interpretation of Scripture is correct and everyone else’s is wrong! Yes, you can confidently believe that everything we say is the truth of God!” What they don’t want to hear – but usually need to hear – is the opposite: “Well, this is how we think it happened, and we’ve got evidence to support that, but there are valid reasons for looking at it a different way. Well, while we do believe that our particular denomination is generally more in line with Scripture than many others, we still look to those differing denominations understanding that they’re our brothers and sisters in Christ and that we can learn a lot from them. Well, while we do our best to bring you the truth of Scripture, you need to constantly be testing us, because we will sometimes get it wrong.” People don’t want wishy-washy religion, but honest, avid pursuit of the truth is almost always wishy-washy, because it knows that it doesn’t really know all that much.

    I say this especially because the New Calvinism seems to have been moving, recently, in a much more broad direction. I saw on this website a thoughtful, charitable interaction with Lutheran theology. I saw Piper and Keller sit down and say “Yes, Lewis denied the doctrine of inerrancy, but as he shows, it’s quite possible to do that and still have a high view of Scripture.” Heck, I think that one of the reasons why New Calvinism is attractive is that it is very soft on the issue of Genesis. I’ve never seen any of the major representatives claim that it’s a central issue, and the movement has prominent leaders who hold to YEC, OEC and created evolution. In other words, the movement has more or less managed to completely extricate itself from that entire controversy and create an environment where people of many different persuasions feel welcome.

    All of this is to say that I think it is unhelpful to declare that Calvinism has become popular again because it preaches hard, no-compromise truth. Partially because it’s disingenuous, and partially because I think that encouraging pastors to do this will actually limit the growth of the movement, causing it to lapse back into a “We’re right and everyone else is wrong” sort of triumphalism.

    • Anastasios

      Indeed, and that’s why I do have a soft spot for some of the New Calvinists (especially the younger, more winsome ones). I hope the blowhards like MacArthur (who is like the Rush Limbaugh of pastors) don’t end up poisoning the movement. I wouldn’t consider myself Reformed (I’m unaffiliated right now but interested in Eastern Christianity), but hey, if God uses the YRR movement for his ends, to win more hearts to Christ, I say hallelujah.

      By the way, considering the doctrine of inerrancy, did you know that when Paul said the scriptures were without error, he meant the Septuagint (which is the Old Testament canon that the earliest Christans used, regardless of whether they came from a Jewish or Gentile background), and not the Hebrew texts that the Reformers would later rely on?

      I will never understand why the Reformers switched to the 9th century A.D. Masoretic text (which was compiled by rabbis who, needless to say, would not have been favorably disposed to the Christian faith anyway) instead. There are very real differences between the two versions, too; the Septuagint Psalms contain some very Trinitarian-sounding language that will knock your socks off. No wonder the Jamnians and Masoretes didn’t like it. Likewise the books that Protestants consider “Apocrypha” because they were in the LXX but not the Masoretic text, often contain much more strongly proto-Christian imagery than the Hebrew books contain.

      I think all this emphasis on the “original manuscripts” in Reformed and evangelical circles, and the belief that a derivative work like the Septuagint can never be as authoritative or inspired as the “original”, may have originated out of Renaissance humanism (Zwingli was practically a Renaissance humanist, and Calvin leaned in that direction at times). Textualism, as it was called, was a big characteristic of that period.

      For the Orthodox on the other hand, the Scriptures are inspired because the Spirit uses them to guide the Church, not because they fell out of the sky all at once. So whether or not Moses wrote every last word of the Torah (for instance), or whether or not there were any changes between the original writings and the LXX version, does not have any bearing on how high your view of Scripture is. Ditto for Genesis; Orthodoxy is as open on Genesis as the New Calvinism is. There were church FATHERS who didn’t take the literalistic YEC views on every issue!

      • Matthew Schultz


        Aren’t our earliest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint several centuries after Christ?

      • MichaelA

        “By the way, considering the doctrine of inerrancy, did you know that when Paul said the scriptures were without error, he meant the Septuagint (which is the Old Testament canon that the earliest Christans used, regardless of whether they came from a Jewish or Gentile background), and not the Hebrew texts that the Reformers would later rely on?”

        No I did not, because Paul didn’t! Paul endorsed the scriptures (as Christ did), not a particular translation of them. The Septuagint is only a Greek translation of the original Hebrew and Aramaic. It was only one of many Greek translations, and the Septuagint we have now is not necessarily the same that Jesus and Paul used.

        “I will never understand why the Reformers switched to the 9th century A.D. Masoretic text (which was compiled by rabbis who, needless to say, would not have been favorably disposed to the Christian faith anyway) instead.”

        The Reformers didn’t, in that sense. The movement to seek more accurate translations of the scriptures in Western Europe started well before the Protestant Reformation.

        In the 13th century, Robert Grosseteste commissioned a Hebrew Psalter with a literal translation into Latin written between the lines. Several copies of this ‘superscriptio lincolnensis’ are still extant, indicating wide distribution. Grosseteste was one of the most influential theologians of his time, and he placed strong emphasis on using as many sources as possible to obtain the most accurate translation of scripture. He in turn influenced Roger Bacon, who pushed the same line, and William of Occam.

        Thus by the time we get to the great bible translators of the early 16th century – Erasmus, Luther and Tyndale – they are simply building on a long tradition of getting the best sources possible for bible translation. All emphasised referring to the Hebrew, although Erasmus had limited facility in that language, Luther was somewhat better, and Tyndale was a gifted Hebrew scholar.

        Note that only one of these was a church reformer.

        “Likewise the books that Protestants consider “Apocrypha” because they were in the LXX but not the Masoretic text, often contain much more strongly proto-Christian imagery than the Hebrew books contain.”

        There is no evidence that the Greek translations of the Bible used in Jesus’ day (some of which we now label ‘the Septuagint’) included the Apocrypha. This idea is based on codices from the 4th century AD or later, which bound scriptural and apocryphal books together – that isn’t evidence of what was done many centuries earlier, nor does it per se indicate that apocryphal books were considered scripture even in the 4th century AD. Jerome and Athanasius both considered the apocryphal books to be useful for Christians to read, but they didn’t count them as scripture.

        In the same way, there would be little doubt that both Jesus and Paul had read apocryphal books, just as they read secular books (Paul quotes from pagan authors). That doesn’t mean they regarded them as divinely inspired, hence why we don’t either.

        “I think all this emphasis on the “original manuscripts” in Reformed and evangelical circles, and the belief that a derivative work like the Septuagint can never be as authoritative or inspired as the “original”,…”

        Its not really a belief in original manuscripts – we do not have any of those. You are quite correct that the Masoretic Text, for example, is not ‘original’. Rather, reformed and evangelical bible translators believe that original manuscripts once existed (written by Apostles or Prophets, or under their direct authority). Therefore, they need to read all possible sources in order to give the best guide to what was in those original manuscripts.

        I know some Roman Catholic apologist websites in particular claim that the Masoretic Text is “the Protestant Old Testament”, but that is simply not true. The MT may be a major source for bible translators, but it is not and never has been the only source.

        “For the Orthodox on the other hand, the Scriptures are inspired because the Spirit uses them to guide the Church, not because they fell out of the sky all at once.”

        That is not what is distinctive of reformed views on scripture. We know that the Bible was written over thousands of years. Rather, what is important is that each scriptural book was written under Prophetic authority (in the Old Testament) or Apostolic authority (in the New Testament). That is the criterion for canonicity, which is important because we do not follow mere human writings.

        “So whether or not Moses wrote every last word of the Torah (for instance)…”

        Of course he didn’t (although he did write or dictate the vast majority of it), but our belief is that every word of the Torah was written under Prophetic authority, whether by Moses, Joshua or later prophets who edited it and occasionally updated it.

      • http://www.intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

        Anastasios, if you’re really interested in Eastern Christianity, I recommend going further east than the Eastern Orthodox Church. There’s an entire Church history that is overlooked by the Western Church, the Church that grew out of Antioch and not Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople – the Church that even before the fifth century took the gospel further east, even as far east as China and Mongolia.

        • MichaelA

          Good point.

  • BK

    I’m surprised at the omission of one crucial factor – the internet.

    (Also, as a passing comment, as someone from the Majority World, I will say that yes, the YRR are still very much a minority, but they are growing…and that’s in no small part thanks to the internet).

    • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

      BK, You hit the nail on the head. Prior to 1995 or so there was no new movement. http://tinyurl.com/cqsrlzv

  • john bricker

    Each new day it seems, over the past two years reveals to me that my own venture into Calvinism has been orchestrated by God. After 50+ years in a prominent Pentecostal denomination I found myself questioning my own confused perception of the gospel. In the most extraordinary ways, God brought one new influence after another that caused me to begin asking questions of my faith. In a very real sense I felt as though I had heard the gospel for the first time in my life.
    Today I find myself planted in the Word as opposed to “hovering.” I find that the gospel isn’t a beginning thing only, it is a sustaining thing each day. Never before have I experienced such peace and rest.
    There’s so much more I could say, but I am so grateful to Jesus for his relentless pursuit of me.
    I would love to hear from other “transformed” Arminians.

    • Tuad

      Like +100

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  • Marty

    Someone mentioned the great Stott earlier. We could also mention the Proclamation Trust in London. But in terms of world wide Reformed resurgence? There was a wee Bible preacher in Aberdeen called Still, who took on a young student by the name of Ferguson. You may have heard of him….!

  • Bob H

    I would add Carson to the list. His ability to exegete texts and connect all of the contours of the bible to Christ is unsurpassed. My understanding and acceptance of reformed theology has been significantly influenced by his works.

  • David F

    I’ve been wondering what role the Emerging church (movement or whatever) has played in driving people to a more Calvinistic position. The Emergents can’t answer any questions and there is no question the Calvanists can’t answer with completely certainly. People are not comfortable with uncertainty. Hence, when a movement offers complete certainty with very clear boundaries many people are attracted to it.

    • JohnM

      David F

      “Hence, when a movement offers complete certainty with very clear boundaries many people are attracted to it.” – I believe you are correct, that, along with an apparent way to connect the dots, offered by Calvinism, explains as much as anything what is attracting people to it. Of course, being certain is not the same thing as being right.

    • Matthew Schultz

      I don’t think the Emergent Church had any real influence at all beyond raising the alarm of some apologists. It did serve as good theological bogeyman, though–a sort of lurking, ubiquitous, amorphous threat, occasionally denounced for good rhetorical effect.

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  • Austin

    Paul Washer’s sermons were what first drew me to some Calvinist old preachers like Spurgeon, Martyn LLoyd Jones, the puritans, etc. He kept mentioning these guys in his sermons so I had to research more. I’ve never looked back since then.

    • Sean

      Paul Washer was a major influence for me as well. I am thinking there are quite a number of people who would place him on this list.

      • Sean

        I guess I should say is a major influence instead of was!

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

    Spurgeon is a great place to start. Many need to heed his warning that “it is a dangerous state of things if doctrine is made to drive out precept,” http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

  • Jim

    Dever, Piper, Chandler are Calvinist sotiorologically. However, they are far from Reformed or followers of Calvin as it relates to ecclesiology, the sacraments (both communion and baptism)and the role of the church in culture. Some follow mainly New England Puritan theology influenced by the First Great Awakening. There is a huge difference between American popular “Calvinists” and the Contintental Reformers. Some go so far as to say TULIP is a summary of Reformed Theology. TULIP was born out of a controversy in the Netherlands long after Calvin. A great exercise is to go to original sources–read Calvin’s Institutes!

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  • David Juniper

    Reformed Christians tend to put a lot more effort into preparing pastors than preparing worship leaders or liturgical dancers.

  • Robin

    Historically speaking, one cannot separate Reformed theology from the Reformation. Right at the crux was the doctrine of the sovereignty of God over all things. Luther wrote to Erasmus about the freedom of God vs. the freedom of man…

    He wrote in 1525 to Erasmus of Rotterdam, with whom he had been debating the Sovereignty of God’s grace (in election and salvation) and the freedom of man’s will:

    “I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account – that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like – trifles, rather than issues – in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen _____THE HINGE ON WHICH ALL TURNS____, and aimed for the vital spot.”

    Hard to argue with the man who started it all…

    • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

      The sovereignty of God, especially in salvation, is indeed the real issue. Those who adhere to synergistic (or, perhaps more accurately, sinnergistic) salvation – where God is essentially prohibited from saving anyone unless that person somehow cooperates in the process (e.g. by exercising some supposed “free will,” which, as it is so often defined, is actually just “will”) – must essentially deny God’s absolute and total sovereignty (some of them have even gone as far as to say that God “surrenders some of His sovereignty so that man can exercise his free will”), thereby making man essentially sovereign over God.

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  • Ron

    I can’t believe you left the ministry of Dr. James White off your list. His defense of the historical Doctrines of Grace against the Free Grace movement and claims of Rome were a huge influence in my embracing of Reformed Theology.

    • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

      He definitely should be on the list. So should this ministry: http://againsttheworld.tv/.

  • ? Jacquelyn Hartland

    I would like to see more of how Calvinism works for evangelizing and want to feel sure the witnessing programs are there and not diminished somewhat. If so, How are they different from the Baptist church, for instant. This is the church – the Baptists – are slam-bang against Calvinism. I believe it is not rightly understood here. You talked much about the men in it and a little that we can pick up and get to understand. Maybe you are speaking over our heads. We are just laymen.

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  • David Gilleran

    From the 50’s-70’s Pensacola Theological Institute.
    From the 60’s-80’s Reformed Theological Seminary-Jackson MS
    From the 70’s-80’s Reformed Youth Movement.

    All of these brought Calvinism back to forefront in churches in the South,

  • J. David Gilliland

    Great historical overview of a God’s work to revive his people. I certainly am one who is thankful, and who’s life is a virtual retracing of these steps. I was converted in College during the 70’s while reading J.I. Packer’s “Knowing God” — how I came across it, I still don’t recall. But I do remember being forced to my knees in the chapter on the Holiness of God thinking, “I grew up in the church, but I have never met this God before.”

    The other man I would include in the discussion is Francis Schaeffer, who provided for me a link to the reformation past with a vibrant apologetic, practical godliness, and gracious humility.

  • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

    We must not forget the seed planting work of the Reisinger brothers (Ernest, John and Don) and in particular the combined labors of John Reisinger and Ron McKinney through their Sword & Trowel publication. That paper made its way into the hands of young seminarians, pastors and ordinary folks throughout North America and beyond. Reisinger would also continue his work with the Sound of Grace publication. If that wasn’t enough he went from church to church preaching the Doctrines of Grace from the 60’s and up until just a few years ago. I think when we are gathered before the throne we are going to be amazed as to who really God used to glorify His name. I thank God for those bold seed planters that went before us.

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  • Jason

    One of the most influential persons and ministries for me, aside from R.C. Sproul, is Gary DeMar and his work through American Vision. I hope you’ll add them to future lists.

  • Jacquelyn Hartland

    Too much about men and not enough about what is being dealt with. Men must take more time on how to be spiritual and no longer carnal. You have to hit people with a bat to convince them they are still carnal Christians and that God expects us to move forward instead of trying to cope with who is reformed and who is not, etc. etc. Martyn Lloyd’s main thrust and best book, “Joy Unspeakable” is sadly overlooked for just his name mentioned and everyone loses the joy that God has for us in becoming Spiritual. No one knows how, even.

  • j david gilliland

    There are various ‘brands’ of ‘Reformed Theology”: broadly distinguished as paedobaptist (WCF, Belgic, etc) and baptist (LBC 1646, 1689, etc) and disagreeing amongst each other on other secondary issues of ecclesiology, sabbath, etc. But generally speaking, and more so amongst the “YRR,” the term “reformed” is taken more specifically as designating the “Doctrines of Grace,” “Calvinistic soteriology,” or the 5 Solas.

  • Ed

    Two absolute truths…God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It seems to me that many in the Reformed movement takes the position that God’s sovereignty trumps human responsibility e.g. “You did not chose me but I chose you vs. whosoever will May come”.

    • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

      God’s sovereignty must trump human responsibility and we who embrace this position are not ashamed of the power of the Gospel. If this truth fails to humble those who carry the Gospel then they haven’t begun to grasp the immeasurable power of God to save and deliver those bound through sin and death.

    • http://www.intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

      Ed, what you’re missing is that the only ones who “will” are those whom God chose from before the foundation of the world. Further, there is no scripture that specifically says “Whosoever will may come.” People need to stop bearing false witness against the word of God by using that sentence as if it were a quote from scripture. Remember that Paul said in Romans 3, quoting from what we call the Old Testament, that there is NONE who does good, NONE who seeks after God (emphasis mine). God doesn’t prevent anyone who wants to come to Him from doing so. The problem is that, on their own, no human wants to and this is because man’s own sinful nature, inherited from Adam, prevents him from wanting to.

      • Ed

        “Whosoever will may come?…try John 3:16. Explain to me why we should be missionary minded when you read Eph:1:4-6. I know we are commanded to take the Gospel to the world but why if it’s a done deal. My personal opinion is that if anyone thinks they can get into the mind if God relative to how he chooses to save is a shallow thinker. I suppose Graham , Sunday, Finney, and Moody would be considered false teachers.

        • MichaelA

          “I know we are commanded to take the Gospel to the world but …”

          No buts.

          If our theological theories seem inconsistent with a direct command of God, then that may well be a warning to us that our theories are inadequate, or that our understanding is more limited than we thought. So perhaps we need to re-think our theology.

          But that doesn’t change the fact that we have a clear command, and we have to obey it. If our theological understanding can’t explain it, then that is OUR problem, not God’s! His command is right and good and it should be followed – regardless of our inadequacies.

        • http://www,intelligenceisnotasin.net Chancellor Roberts

          I asked for the passage that has EXACTLY those words “Whosoever will may come.” I didn’t ask for the passage people are interpreting as saying that. If the exact words aren’t there, then we need to stop bearing false witness against the word of God by saying “the Bible says…”

          Now, to answer your question “I know we are commanded to take the Gospel to the world but why if it’s a done deal?” It is enough that God has commanded us to go. It’s clear that God has chosen to use the Church as the means by which He commands all men everywhere to repent, the means by which He sends out the general call (to everyone) and the effectual call (only to the elect) of the gospel. God certainly doesn’t NEED us in order for Him to bring the elect to salvation, but we should be extremely honored that God has chosen to use us worms in some small way.

          • j david gilliiland

            While I agree with your comments on the Great Commission and the responsibility of Christ’s ministers to preach the gospel, your point on “EXACTLY those words” seems overstated and actually not the main point. First of all, almost no English phrase corresponds to ‘word for word’ translation in the original text. Second, there are many truths that are biblical that aren’t found in ‘word for word’ statement, e.g. Trinity.

            The issue for Calvinists is not the reality of the statement “Whosoever will may come,” for that is certainly biblical, e.g. Matt 11:28. The issue for the Calvinist is not that we come willingly, but what makes us willing. The ‘what’ of course is the sovereign regenerating work of the Holy Spirit — we come because we have been born of God, and that new life issues forth in faith and repentance (conversion).

            • Chancellor Roberts

              The problem, though, is Semi-Pelagians and Arminians “quoting” the sentence as if it were actually found in the Bible, which is bearing false witness against the word of God. They use this “verse” to claim that the Bible teaches “free will” (which, when pressed, will be admitted as meaning not that man has the right to choose, but merely the capacity to make choices, which is simply “will”). It’s no different than those who say “the Bible says God helps those who help themselves” or “God casts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more.” There’s a difference between claiming the Bible says something and how what the Bible says is to be interpreted. That was the point I was making.

              Yes, “whosoever will” may indeed come to Christ. However, as we Calvinists are well aware, the only ones who “will” are those whom God has chosen from before the foundation of the world (the elect) and has regenerated, causing them to find the gospel so wonderfully irresistible that they will want nothing but to come to Christ.

  • j d gilliland

    Yes, you are correct if you are referring to the ultimate cause of our faith/choice. A right understanding of God’s sovereignty doesn’t make man’s responsibility/choice less important, it is just not the most important or ultimate cause. Furthermore, man always choses according to his nature, and apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit, will always choose what is most attractive to the natural man — human autonomy. The Reformed ordo salutis, therefore, differs from arminianism by holding that regeneration must proceed faith. Men believe because they have been “born of God” — John 1:12,13.

  • j david gilliland

    First of all, we go because we are sent, regardless of the finer points of the election / man’s responsibility discussion (The Great Commission). Second, God decrees the means as well as the end; God has decreed to save his elect, and he has also decreed the means he will use, i.e, preachers, preaching, and the Word (Rom 10:17). The same relationship applies to prayer. Certainly Daniel knew that God would fulfill the prophecy given to Jeremiah, and yet Daniel was faithful in his role as one of the means, and prayed accordingly (Dan9). Daniel didn’t say, “God has promised, I don’t need to pray.”

    We don’t try to “get into the mind of God,” but we are expected to believe what He has revealed to us about His character and purposes. God has revealed the doctrine of election for our blessing and encouragement.

    The term “false teachers” is a loaded term theologically — it means more than simply error at some point, which is true of all of us. With respect to the doctrine of election and its relationship to the gospel, yes, I believe Moody and Graham are wrong. Finney on the other hand for reasons too complicated for this thread, I believe was a false teacher.

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