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Before Mark Dever became a pastor he did his PhD work in historical theology at the University of Cambridge. In 2007, with the resurgence of evangelical Calvinism, he did a series of 10 blog posts that combined his historical gifting with his insider look at the roots (under God) of what has been happening and why.

Of course, theologically, the answer is “because of the sovereignty of God.”  But I’ve never been convinced by hyper-Calvinism’s argument that because God has determined the ends, the means don’t matter.  Means do matter.  And as a Christian, as an historian who had lived through the very change I was considering, I wondered what factors had been used by God.

The whole series is worth rereading for those who are interested in this kind of thing. I’ve provided a table of contents below, with the title of his conclusions as the title:
  1. Charles H. Spurgeon
  2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  3. The Banner of Truth Trust
  4. Evangelism Explosion
  5. The inerrancy controversy
  6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
  7. J. I. Packer
  8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul
  9. John Piper
  10. The rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism

Some additional pieces worth reading:

If Dever’s list were ongoing and updated, I would also add the following factors (focusing on the American context):

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37 thoughts on “Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From? A (Serious) Top 10 List from Mark Dever”

  1. Chris says:

    Out of curiosity, why a picture of Dr. Naidu of Talbot School of Theology? I had him as a professor–and he was a great one–but I don’t find reference to him in the article? Is it just because he’s holding a book on John Calvin?

  2. CG says:

    I know Piper has spoken at Passion a number of times, but I’m curious what link the Passion conferences have with the new calvinist crowd.

    My own turn to reformed theology came by way of the Team Pyro guys. Around the 2008 election season, so much of the church seemed to be so swept up in political concerns, and here were these guys being outspoken about a different kind of “election.”

    I remember thinking, “Wow, these guys are kinda off-putting. They need to turn it down a bit.” And yet, God used them as the spark (pun sorta intended) to open my eyes to the truths underlying reformed theology.

    1. J. Clark says:

      I believe Louie Giglio is a Calvinist.

      1. Timothy Stewart says:

        For me, I was introduced to the reformed resurgence by Louie Giglio in a four-week series he did while at 7:22 with Andy Stanley in 2005. It was called “History: Welcome to the Story of God.” It was the first time I heard about the ultimacy of the Glory of God and the centrality of the Gospel. It also introduced the redemptive historical narrative in a very creative way. For me, at the end of the series, I describe my Christ-revealing moment as “I got Nebuchadnezzared.” The series coupled with the text from Daniel 4 cemented in my head the sovereignty of God, the ultimacy of the glory of God and the centrality of the Gospel. It wasn’t until almost four years later that I was exposed to Matt Chandler, John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and Wayne Grudem…among others while planting a church. What I discovered was that each of them gave me more robust language to convictions I already had from scripture after 2005. I found myself resonating with reformed theology, and now, I’m caught up in it as a member of the Acts29 Network.

  3. Roger Upton says:

    I know you mentioned Acts29… but there has to be some credit due, humanly speaking, to Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and Francis Chan and their widespread appeal to the under-50 crowd.

  4. Justin Taylor says:

    @Chris It’s hard to find a good picture for this kind of post. Instead of something stereotypical of New Calvinists (tattoo of Calvin, perhaps?) I thought it might be refreshing simply to show someone reading the Institutes.

    @CG The Passion conferences were a catalyst to introduce Piper to a wider and younger audience. In my opinion their emphasis on God’s global glory has done a lot of the spade work to make Calvinism seem natural rather than strange.

    @Roger Upton. I agree. Acts29 was sort of a catch-all term to describe that.

  5. Chad Gibbons says:

    I have several friends who have started calling themselves Calvinist over the past few years and they all do so for the exact same reason: Calvinism’s web presence blows away any other rival system.

    Every young person who becomes passionate about God and turns to the internet for resources will find themselves inundated with Calvinist teachers. There are hardly any other options for people seeking to learn more online – especially when the people searching don’t know there are even different theological systems to begin with.

    I’m not saying the internet is the only factor, but it’s definitely a huge one for young people nowadays.

  6. Stephen Mook says:

    Justin, I agree, many of the younger pastors who have connected themselves with this new movement have had some of the biggest influence on the younger generation, especially in pointing people to the works of Piper and other seasoned or dead pastors/theologians…

    Also, I couldn’t agree more with you about the Passion conferences. Especially with the rise of the new atheism and how they appeal to many young people because of the passion behind the movement; in the other direction many thankfully have found a home that encourages passion in the new calvinism movement because of the Passion conferences and the global passion for God’s glory with thinkers and pastors like Giglio and Piper. The influence of Tomlin and other Passion music (along with others) has had a huge impact on many because the songs that are being written along with the messages that are being preached are pointing a generation to the God of the Bible, which is the essence of new Calvinism (so we should pray!)

  7. James Pruch says:

    R.C. Sproul and John Piper were certainly the means God used in my life to embrace Calvinism. *Chosen by God* and *Don’t Waste Your Life* were the first two Reformed books I read.

  8. Alex Philip says:

    It’s not just that Desiring God and John Piper were trumpeting the Biblical doctrines associated with the rise of the new Calvinism – it’s also the fact that they were aggressively disseminating them for free. To access such a wealth of resources and to not have to even register as a subscriber spoke volumes of the generosity and grace of the God they were proclaiming.

  9. I suspect the Passion conferences played more of a role than all the others combined, at least in terms of pure numbers of young believers coming to accept a Reformed approach to divine sovereignty.

  10. Josh Alfaro says:

    it would be interesting to see the statistics and trends globally. sure Calvinism is seeing a major growth in evangelical circles in the States and maybe the West in general, but in places like China, Africa, and Latin America where Christianity is growing the most, Pentecostalism and other varieties of charismatic theology (which tend to be Arminian in their view of salvation) seem to figure dominantly.

  11. MarkO says:

    Justin, there seems to be a problem with Dever link #7. Thought you might want to know.

  12. MarkO says:

    here’s a better link for #7:
    the link you currently have has a stray vertical on the very end of it.
    thanks for posting this. very encouraging and helpful.

  13. nick says:

    For me personally it was Paul Washer sermons and John Piper. My life and ministry lacked power from God and I couldn’t find the answers in my arminian denomination. I needed to know more and all my questions were given cheesy anecdotal answers. I listened to Paul Washer sermons and struggled to disagree with much of his reformed preaching. Then I read “God is the Gospel” by Piper. The introduction chapter to that book changed my life, the paradigm shift was total and sudden. Praise God!

    1. SLIMJIM says:

      I know of some who became Reformed as the result of John MacArthur also as well! My own personal road to Calvinism was through Presuppositional apologetics and John MacArthur, which open the flood gates to everything else.

  14. Daniel says:

    I would add one more factor that I think is bigger than most people realize:

    The Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention

    This change took place from about 1979-1993, and it made the primary emphasis of the nation’s largest denomination “Believe your Bible.” People like me were kids in SBC churches at that time, and we grew up hearing constantly that it is important to read your Bible and believe every word of it. When I actually started doing what my SBC church told me to do with my Bible, the Apostle Paul convinced me that God is sovereign in salvation.

    I know that my story is not unique. When a huge (and largely non-Calvinistic) denomination tells an entire generation that it is important to study their Bibles, some changes are bound to happen.

  15. Ryan Fishel says:

    I think over the last few years a huge help to the movement has been the free dissemination of top-quality preaching & teaching (i.e., tons of great John Piper and Mark Driscoll stuff—and on Youtube you always had preachers like Paul Washer).

    We all ate it up.

  16. SeekTruthFromFacts says:

    I blame N.T.Wright….. His first published work, written in the early 70s when he was still an undergraduate leader in the OICCU, is strongly conservative Calvinist ;-)

    “it would be interesting to see the statistics and trends globally. sure Calvinism is seeing a major growth in evangelical circles in the States and maybe the West in general, but in places like China, Africa, and Latin America where Christianity is growing the most, Pentecostalism and other varieties of charismatic theology (which tend to be Arminian in their view of salvation) seem to figure dominantly”

    Reformed thinking is definitely gaining ground in mainland China, thanks to Jonathan Chao amongst others. The Banner of Truth (mentioned above as one of Dever’s 10 key factors) are trying hard to get Reformed authors published in Mandarin in the Mainland.

  17. Sam says:

    Piper needs to at least be in the top 3. His book “Dangerous Duty of Delight” got a nod from Rob Bell in “Velvet Elvis.”

    Now THAT’S influence.

  18. Andrew K says:

    I’m very surprised that John Stott hasn’t been mentioned anywhere, especially in Mark Dever’s original list.
    What am I missing?

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  20. Mark says:

    I agree w/ Andrew K that John Stott should be mentioned though many will not put together why. If you’ve read many of his writings you will notice he quotes Calvin quite often. Though he did not care to call himself a Calvinist because he followed the thinking of another quiet Calvinist named Charles Simeon. He also was a double major in Theology and French as an undergraduate. I’ve not found confirmation but I would not be surprised to learn that he may have read Calvin in the original French.

    I also think that InterVarsity Press and Gordon-Conwell should be mentioned as well. IVP is the press that brought Packer’s and Stott’s writings to a North American audience. Certainly they should be mentioned ahead of Eerdmans or P&R. GCTS is Dr. Dever’s Alma mater after all, where he studied under Roger Nicole. It might also be where he would have been influenced by Packer as a visiting lecturer. Tim Keller’s not been mentioned but the two lines I just wrote about Dever’s time at GCTS would apply to him as well.

    Dever’s very first post alludes to “dinner in Manhattan a couple of years ago, seated between a couple of older prominent evangelical Anglicans”. Anyone want to guess who that was? I’m putting my money on Stott and Packer and wondering if Keller and Dever rounded out the group.

  21. Jim says:

    I may be personally biased, but I would include Dr. Carson’s books and his teaching at TEDS. As one who came from a more liberal “Reformed” college (in Western Michigan), I came to TEDS and found a home in the calvinist crowd after learning what it means to be a conservative reformed guy from Dr. Carson and others at TEDS.

  22. Jason says:

    I’ve been a Calvinist since 1999 when a friend of mine had a Bible professor teaching it in their Christian Doctrine class at Central Baptist College in Conway, AR. The professor was almost fired on a couple of occasions for even brining up the subject (it being a missionary baptist college and all). However, the next school year I began attending the college myself and under his influence began growing more and more in my understanding of Scripture than ever before (even though I was probably too immature for all the information I was getting at the time). That professor has since went home to be with the Lord, but his influence on so many of us young pastors that had the privlege of sitting under his tutelage has changed the landscape of our association for years to come. You are missed greatly, Dr. Ron Mitchell.

  23. Rewv john B. Rhodes says:

    I belive there are some good things about the PCA. However I believe hey are victims of a knee jerk hermenutic in which they think that they are the only Presbyterians. There are many others such as myself who hold to the reformed faith who do not believe that tghe answers to many questions are not as simples the PCA would like to believe. The whole idea of thinking that they are the only Presbyterians is question beging. In my courses at Covenant Seminary,women had little if any influence in Church history.

  24. Mark says:

    How about reading Grudem’s Systematic Theology? Yuuuup, that’s what happened to me year ago.

  25. Adam Nate says:

    Two other names should be added to the updated list: James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries and an elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, and Doug Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, ID.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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