There are a slew of ministries today that are promoting an enlivened Calvinism for the masses; whether that be by radio, books, pulpits, or the internet. Off the top I can think of just a few that are making quite the impact:
- John MacArthur, through his radio/preaching ministry, his church, his books, his study Bible, etc., etc.
- Michael Horton, through his radio program (White Horse Inn), books, and lectureship at Westminster Seminary.
- John Piper, also through his radio/preaching ministry, his church, books, etc., etc.
Each one of these characters has their own unique brand and emphases, relative to their articulation of Calvinism. MacArthur follows a more ‘Baptistic’ “Spurgeonized” Calvinism, with an emphasis upon good expositional preaching; and a call for holy living (he is more Fundy in approach and socio/culturally). John Piper is similar in many ways to MacArthur, although he is more steeped in the ‘history’ of Covenantal Calvinism drawing off of his background with the Puritans; in particular his appeal to many of Jonathan Edwards’ themes. And then Michael Horton, who is a full-fledged Federal Covenantalist who approaches things much more “historically” and “academically;” which is only natural given his profession as an professor.
Each one of these figures offers a different angle on Calvinism —some more consistent, historically, than others— but they also offer an certain commonality in emphasis; and that is, that they all follow the style of Calvinism codified at the Synod of Dordrecht and evinced through the Westminster Catechism. As far as communicating salvation goes, each of these fellows find their directive from the TULIP.
Instead of trying to unearth (re-invent the wheel) the history and theological (loci) focal points of Calvinism, of which there is legion; I just want to comment on this rather amazing phenomenon that seems to be sweeping large pockets of Christendom. And that is the in-roads and re-emergence that Calvinism seems to be making amongst both the young and old, Christian. Let me posit a few reasons why I think this is happening:
[B]ecause of the shallowness and decline exemplified in much of ‘Evangelical Christianity’.
[B]ecause of the lack of doctrine being promulgated within ‘Evangelical Christianity’.
[B]ecause people want some guidelines, they want some real-life structure and infrastructure for what they believe.
[B]ecause people are tired of hearing sermons about themselves, and they want to hear an emphasis upon Christ through biblical exposition.
[B]ecause there really are no other alternatives but to return to the “Old Paths” that Calvinism appears to offer.
I know there are plenty more reasons why folks seem to be turning to Calvinism (have any suggestions?), but by-and-large I think that it has something to do with the realization that ‘Evangelical’ Christianity (whether the style be: ‘Purpose/Market Driven’, ‘Emergent Driven’, or ‘Independent Fundamentalist Driven’) is becoming quite bankrupt in regards to providing a Christianity that is robust enough to answer the deep felt questions that the issues of this life throw at us every single day.
When people (and many are) get to this point where do they turn? Either they completely leave the church (and I know some are doing that, according to the “statistics”), become ‘Liberal’ and find the substance and community they are looking for in political causes and social justice issues; or maybe they see the arms of MacArthur, Piper, and Horton opened up saying: “. . . come find rest for your souls weary pilgrim.”
Do you see what I am getting at (and indeed, I am generalizing)? There has been a vacuum created through the “man-centered” approaches and [non]doctrinal forays provided by the broader portion of “Evangelicalism” for years. Calvinism offers just the opposite, by reputation and assertion. It offers doctrine, devotion, and depth for the disenfranchised ‘Evangelical’.
But what if the sparkling beacon of rest that Calvinism appears to be (for your average church person searching for depth) turns out to be just as “man-centered” as the “Evangelicalism” they are fleeing? What if “Calvinism” is promising more than it can deliver? These are questions that should be considered by the tired souls in search of the “truth” of the Gospel. But indeed, that is part of the problem, so many are ‘tired’ they just want rest; they just want someone to tell them that it is all okay, “here’s the doctrines of Grace that they have been deprived of for so many years.” People, tired people, especially, are ready to hear that! They begin to immerse themselves in this new deep culture, they read books by MacArthur —not the fickle flamboyant stuff they are used to, mind you— with titles like: The Gospel According to Jesus, or Hard to Believe. This isn’t the flimsy-flighty stuff their CEO’s, uh *#&% argh, I mean their mega-church pastors were slinging at them from their pulpits. No, oh no! This has guts, it sounds like Jesus’ kind of stuff in chapters like John 6; finally, the depth, the substance these folks have been longing for. No more of that Christless Christianity, they have finally come into a Christian situation where Desiring God is emphasized; a place where there is an opportunity for Putting Amazing Back into Grace!
Maybe what I am describing sounds curiously true to your own situation. Maybe you’ve even swung this way, believing that popular Calvinism was the answer to your “Evangelical woes;” but now you are realizing that maybe, theologically, there are certain problems (along with certain pros) that didn’t appear at the euphoric ‘honey-moon’ stage you were in when first introduced to this ‘new-way’.
I haven’t (in this post) really elaborated on the ‘problems’ that are inherently endemic to ‘TULIP’ style Calvinism; but maybe I don’t need to, maybe you know those all too well. Certainly you recognize an array of variable “truths” packed into the Calvinist themes; but you realize that there might be something ‘rotten in Denmark’, that Calvinism still seems to be pointing you in the direction of yourself. Sure you have found quite a bit of substance, relative to the ‘old Rick Warren’ days; but now you are wondering if the ‘substance’ measures up to the right kind of ‘substance’.
Or maybe you have found what you were looking for in the halls of ‘Dordt’, and you think that, especially by now, I am full of hot air 😉 (indeed)!
Either way, let me know . . . what you think on this front.
P. S. By the way, I’m not an Arminian or a follower of Popular/Contemporary Free Grace Theology —- I am quite ‘Reformed’ (an Evangelical Calvinist, don’t you know)!