Tuesday, August 12, 2014

All Saints Presbyterian Church

 We are a family church in Christ that desires to reach out to the peoples of the Nations.
If you are looking for a church, do join us at our 10am Sunday service @ All Saints Presbyterian Church, Bible House, 7 Armenian Street, #B1-01, S(179932).

If you wish to know more about the Christan faith, visit us or email us

1078th post

This is the 1078th article posted in this blog up to date.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Decision Making

“If an important decision is to be made, they [the Persians] discuss the question when they are drunk, and the following day the master of the house where the discussion was held submits their decision for reconsideration when they are sober. If they still approve it, it is adopted; if not, it is abandoned. Conversely, any decision they make when they are sober, is reconsidered afterwards when they are drunk.”

It is better for Bible Presbyterian pastors to drink a few cup of wine before they make decision.

Rather than quarrel all the time, and then split our Bible Presbyterian Churches....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

B-P Pastors' retreat

B-P Pastors' retreat (including elders and church staffs). Pulai Spring, Johor. Organised by the B-P Presbytery in Singapore.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bible Presbyterian Church.

Bible Presbyterian Church. A small Presbyterian denomination born out of the modernist-fundamentalist controversy. In 1936 The Presbyterian Church of America (later Orthodox Presbyterian Church) was founded by a small group of pastors and elders who left the Presbyterian Church-U.S.A. The immediate cause for this exodus was the suspension of J. Gresham Machen and J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., from the Presbyterian ministry due to their support of an independent mission board that sought to insure biblical teaching on Presbyterian mission fields. The newly formed denomination was soon drawn into internal conflict. Genuine differences in doctrine, ethics and church government, coupled with suspicions and disagreements, led Buswell, Carl McIntire, Allan MacRae and others to separate and form the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC) in 1937.

At its first synod the BPC amended the Westminster standards to teach premillennialism. A piety which included alcoholic abstinence was enjoined, and a church government allowing greater freedom to the local church and both independent and church-controlled agencies was established. The chief characteristic was a self-conscious denominational “testimony” for the Bible and Jesus Christ, which issued in separatist stance calling for separation from apostasy as well as from those having fellowship with apostates. This ultimately isolated the BPC and hindered evangelistic efforts.

The BPC was originally supportive of the American and International Councils of Christian Churches (ACCC; ICCC) presided over by Carl McIntire. Disagreement during the 1950s over the denomination’s association with the ACCC and ICCC and the autonomy of BPC agencies led to the withdrawal of McIntire and others at the 1956 General Assembly to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, Collingswood Synod. The majority continued as the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod, until 1961, when the denomination changed its name to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). In 1965 the EPC then merged with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod, to form the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.    G. P. Hutchinson, The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1974); The Constitution of the Bible Presbyterian Church (1946).
J. H. Hall

copied from
Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).

MCINTIRE, Carl (1906–2002)

MCINTIRE, Carl (1906–2002), militant separatist fundamentalist and anti-Communist crusader, was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 17 May 1906. His father, Charles Curtis McIntire, was a Presbyterian minister, and his mother, Hettie, was a teacher and librarian. Soon after McIntire’s birth, the family moved to Durant, Oklahoma, where his grandmother had been a missionary to the Choctaws. His father suffered from delusions and spent 1914 to 1919 in a mental institution, forcing Hettie McIntire to raise her four sons on her own. She sought a divorce in 1922, fearing for her own safety and that of her family, and eventually became dean of women at a college in Oklahoma. When Carl McIntire reached college age, he began to attend Southeastern State College in Oklahoma, but then transferred to Park College in Kansas City, Missouri, where he received his BA in teacher education in 1927. Although McIntire contemplated a law degree, he decided instead to study for the ministry and entered Princeton Seminary in 1928, where he was elected president of the entering class.

Princeton in the late 1920s was caught up in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, and McIntire soon came under the influence of the renowned scholar and fundamentalist leader J. Gresham Machen. When the Presbyterian Church placed Princeton Seminary under a liberal governing board in 1929, Machen left to found Westminster Seminary in Chester Hill, Pennsylvania. McIntire followed his professor and graduated from Westminster in 1931. Soon afterwards he married Fairy Eunace Davis of Paris, Texas. On 4 June 1931 McIntire was ordained into the Presbyterian Church and installed as pastor of the Chelsea Presbyterian Church in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which had been decimated by the suicide of the previous pastor. Through aggressive evangelizing and outdoor preaching on the ocean boardwalk, McIntire added almost 200 members within two years. On 28 September 1933 McIntire was called as pastor to the 1,000-member fundamentalist Collingswood Presbyterian Church in Collingswood, New Jersey, a position that he would hold for the next sixty-six years.

In 1934 McIntire became a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which Machen had created as an alternative to the increasingly liberal Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. The creation of a rival missions agency provoked the ire of the Presbyterian General Assembly, which brought McIntire, along with Machen and his followers, to trial for creating disorder. McIntire responded by broadcasting his evening services on a local Philadelphia radio station, giving full vent to his dispute with the Presbyterian Church. He began publishing The Christian Beacon, a weekly newspaper that chronicled his struggles, on 13 February 1936, and he continued to publish it for more than five decades.

On 15 June 1936 McIntire and the others responsible for the Independent Board were found guilty and ousted from the Presbyterian Church. Those expelled immediately formed the Presbyterian Church of America, but this new denomination was soon racked by internal conflicts. Two factions developed, one (represented by McIntire) that supported premillennial dispensationalism and another (represented by Machen) that accepted premillennialism but viewed dispensationalism with suspicion. Machen managed to hold the denomination together until his death in 1937, but soon afterwards McIntire’s followers formed the Bible Presbyterian Church, while those loyal to Machen formed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. McIntire founded Faith Theological Seminary in July 1938 to train ministers for his fledgling denomination.

All but eight of McIntire’s congregation voluntarily left the Presbyterian Church when McIntire was expelled, but as a civil court in 1938 refused to grant them ownership of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church property, they were forced to meet in a tent while a wooden ‘Tabernacle of Testimony’ was built, which served the congregation from 1938 until 1957. Denied the Collingswood Presbyterian Church name, the congregation changed its name to the Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood.

Ruthlessly insistent on doctrinal purity, McIntire formed the American Council of Christian Churches in 1941 and the International Council of Christian Churches in 1948 to oppose and offer an alternative to the ecumenical positions of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. McIntire’s extreme separatism created a schism within the Bible Presbyterians that caused more than three-quarters of the denomination’s hundred churches to disassociate themselves from him in 1956. The American Council of Christian Churches followed suit in 1968. However, McIntire was far from beaten by these struggles. He continued to pastor his large Collingswood church, maintained control of Faith Seminary and the International Council of Christian Churches and reached millions more through his radio broadcasts and The Christian Beacon.

On 7 March 1955 McIntire began broadcasting ‘The Twentieth Century Reformation Hour’, a thirty-minute radio programme on WCVH in Chester, Pennsylvania. He daily excoriated the twin threats of apostasy and Communism, and his message proved popular in the Cold War era. Within five years, he was heard on 600 stations throughout the country and was receiving almost two million dollars a year in contributions from an estimated 20 million listeners. These funds enabled him to buy several hotels in Cape May, New Jersey, which he turned into fundamentalist conference centres. In addition, he assumed control of Shelton College (formerly the National Bible Institute) in 1964. He founded a secondary school in 1968 and a primary school in 1973.

McIntire worked closely with Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Affairs Committee to identify suspected Communist clergymen. He also regularly attacked the National Association of Evangelicals, Billy Graham and other ‘New Evangelicals’ for their refusal to separate themselves from non-fundamentalists. His other targets included the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the Roman Catholic Church and the Civil Rights movement. He used protest demonstrations at the meetings of groups he opposed to attract publicity. In 1970 and 1971 McIntire garnered national media attention by rallying at least 50,000 people for a series of ‘Victory Marches’ in support of the Vietnam War.

McIntire’s influence waned greatly after 1971, and he faced insurmountable obstacles. In 1971 Faith Seminary was rocked by the departure of the institution’s president along with all but two of its staff and half the student body in protest at McIntire’s dictatorial style. McIntire fought the Federal Communications Commission for years over the licensing of his radio station WXUR. McIntire’s conference centres in Cape May proved unsustainable when the city decided that they did not meet the requirements for tax-exempt status. Shelton College faced twenty years of struggles over accreditation with the state of New Jersey. McIntire attempted to move the school to Florida, but financial difficulties forced a return to New Jersey, where the accreditation struggles continued until they were settled by the US Supreme Court in favour of New Jersey in 1985. By that time, the school had been reduced to a handful of students.

Despite these obstacles and a near-fatal pancreatic disorder in 1978, McIntire continued to fight Communism and ecumenism well into the 1990s. Yet his situation worsened. His wife died in 1992 and a car crash almost killed him in 1993. The Christian Beacon ceased publication soon afterwards. In 1996 financial problems forced the sale of Faith Seminary, which according to some insiders had become a money-oriented diploma mill. In 1999 the Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingswood ousted McIntire after he refused to retire. The ninety-two-year-old McIntire responded by holding Sunday services in his home. Carl McIntire died, aged 95, on 19 March 2002.


J. Fea, ‘Carl McIntire: From Fundamentalist Presbyterian to Presbyterian Fundamentalist’, American Presbyterians, 72, 4 (1994), pp. 253–268; E. Fink, 40 Years …: Carl McIntire and the Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, 1933–1973 (Collingswood: Christian Beacon Press, 1973); C. McIntire, ‘Fifty Years of Preaching in Collingswood, N. J.’, Christian Beacon 48, 33 (1983), pp. 1–5, 7.

copied from
D. K. Larsen, “McIntire, Carl,” ed. Timothy Larsen et al., Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 393–395.

The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism

“The King James Version is superior to all modern English translations of the Bible”—so say many popular books and pamphlets. The King James Version Debate is the first book-length refutation of this point of view written for both pastors and laymen. The author concisely explains the science of textual criticism, since the main premise advanced by KJV proponents is the superiority of the Greek text on which it is based.
After showing the problems with this premise, the author refutes the common propositions that:
  • The KJV is the most accurate translation
  • It’s the most durable
  • Its use of the Old English forms (e.g., “thou”) makes it the most reverent
  • It honors Christ more than other versions
  • It’s the most easily memorized
  • It’s the most suitable for public reading
Concluding the book is an appendix in which, on a more technical level, the author answers W. N. Pickering’s The Identity of the New Testament Text, the most formidable defense of the priority of the Byzantine text yet published in our day.

D.A.Carson wrote in this book:
Thesis 3The Byzantine text-type is demonstrably a secondary text. I am not here arguing for or against a theory that sees the genesis of the Byzantine text as a systematic conflation of other texts, even though some conflation certainly occurred. Rather, I am saying that textual critics who pore over manuscripts (or photographs and transcriptions of them) begin to detect clear signs of secondary influence. For example, harmonization is, indisputably, a secondary process. In general, scribes do not purposely introduce difficulties into the text; they try to resolve them. One might argue that particularly heterodox scribes might well make a text more complicated. However, a heterodox scribe is likely to change the theological content rather than relatively minor historical and geographical details; and in any case the Byzantine tradition does not reflect merely an odd manuscript given to harmonization, but rather the whole tradition. This is especially so in the Synoptic Gospels. In the article to which I have just referred, Fee points out a particular section in which the Byzantine text contains some thirty-eight major harmonizations, as compared with one harmonization in the Alexandrian text.11 Thus prompted, I made some checks myself in other passages and found similar proportions. The only way to circumvent the evidence is to deny that they are harmonizations, or to argue that harmonizations are not secondary; and I find it very difficult to conceive how either of these alternatives can be defended by the person who has spent much time poring over the primary data.
Thesis 4The Alexandrian text-type has better credentials than any other text-type now available. Some of the literature put out by defenders of the TR gives the impression that the great fourth-century uncials, Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (א), are the only exemplars of the Alexandrian text; and therefore, it is argued, the Alexandrian text is itself a product of the fourth century.12
This is manifestly untrue, as the more able defenders of the TR have been forced to admit. Not only is the Alexandrian text-type found in some biblical quotations by ante-Nicene fathers, but the text-type is also attested by some of the early version witnesses. More convincing yet, Greek papyri from the second and third centuries have shown up, none of which reflects a Byzantine text and most of which have a mixed Alexandrian/Western text. The famous papyrus p75, which dates from about A.D. 200 and is perhaps earlier, is astonishingly close to Vaticanus.13 This find definitely proves the early date of the Vaticanus text-type.14
In addition it has been shown that the Alexandrian text has another point in its favor. Any text-type is either recensional or not recensional. By “recensional” I mean that a text has come into being by conscious revision, editing, or conflation, or by change over a period of time as part of a directed developing process. If this does not explain the genesis of a particular text, ...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Evangelicals Find Themselves in the Midst of a Calvinist Revival

For those who are sad that the year-end news quizzes are past, here’s one to start 2014: If you have joined a church that preaches a Tulip theology, does that mean a) the pastor bakes flowers into the communion wafers, b) the pastor believes that flowers that rise again every spring symbolize the resurrection, or c) the pastor is a Calvinist?
As an increasing number of Christians know, the answer is “c.” The acronym summarizes John Calvin’s so-called doctrines of grace, with their emphasis on sinfulness and predestination. The T is for man’s Total Depravity. The U is for Unconditional Election, which means that God has already decided who will be saved, without regard to any condition in them, or anything they can do to earn their salvation.
The acronym gets no cheerier from there.
Evangelicalism is in the midst of a Calvinist revival. Increasing numbers of preachers and professors teach the views of the 16th-century French reformer. Mark Driscoll, John Piper and Tim Keller — megachurch preachers and important evangelical authors — are all Calvinist. Attendance at Calvin-influenced worship conferences and churches is up, particularly among worshipers in their 20s and 30s.
In the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, the rise of Calvinism has provoked discord. In a 2012 poll of 1,066 Southern Baptist pastors conducted by LifeWay Research, a nonprofit group associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, 30 percent considered their churches Calvinist — while twice as many were concerned “about the impact of Calvinism.”
Calvinism is a theological orientation, not a denomination or organization. The Puritans were Calvinist. Presbyterians descend from Scottish Calvinists. Many early Baptists were Calvinist. But in the 19th century, Protestantism moved toward the non-Calvinist belief that humans must consent to their own salvation — an optimistic, quintessentially American belief. In the United States today, one large denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, is unapologetically Calvinist.
But in the last 30 years or so, Calvinists have gained prominence in other branches of Protestantism, and at churches that used to worry little about theology. In 1994, when Mark Dever interviewed at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Washington, the hiring committee didn’t even ask him about his theology.
“So I said, ‘Let me think about what you wouldn’t like about me, if you knew,’ ” Mr. Dever recalled. And he told them that he was a Calvinist. “And I had to explain to them what that meant. I didn’t want to move my wife and children here and lose the job.”
Mr. Dever, 53, said that when he took over in 1994, about 130 members attended on Sundays, and their average age was 70. Today, the church gets about 1,000 worshipers, with an average age of 30. And while Mr. Dever tends not to mention Calvin in his sermons, his educated audience, many of whom work in politics, knows, and likes, what it is hearing.
“I think it is apparent in his teaching,” said Sarah Rotman, 34, who works for the World Bank. “The real focus on Scripture, and that all the answers we seek in this life can be found in the word of God. In a lot of his preaching, he does really talk about our sinfulness and our need of the Savior.”
That focus on sinfulness differs from a lot of popular evangelicalism in recent years. It runs contrary to the “prosperity gospel” preachers, who imply that faith can make one rich. It sounds nothing like the feel-good affirmations of preachers and authors like Joel Osteen, who treat the Bible like a self-help book, or a guide to better business.
“What you’d be hearing in some megachurches is, ‘God wants you to be a good parent, and here are seven ways God can help you to be a good parent,’ ” said Collin Hansen, the author of “Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists.” “Or, ‘God wants you to have a good marriage, so here are three ways to do that.’ ” By contrast, Mr. Hansen said, those who attend Calvinist churches want the preacher to “tell them about Jesus.”
Some non-Calvinists say that the rise of Calvinism has been accomplished in part through sneaky methods. Roger E. Olson, a Baylor University professor and the author of “Against Calvinism,” is the Calvinists’ most outspoken critic.
“One of the concerns is that new graduates from certain Baptist seminaries have been infiltrating churches that are not Calvinist, and not telling the churches or search committees who are not Calvinist,” Professor Olson said. According to what he has heard, young preachers “wait several months and then begin to stock the church library with books” by Calvinists like John Piper and Mark Driscoll. They hold special classes on Calvinist topics, he said, and they staff the church with fellow Calvinists.
“Often the church ends up splitting, with the non-Calvinists starting their own church,” Professor Olson said.
At its annual meeting in June, the Southern Baptist Convention received a report from its special Calvinism Advisory Committee, which addressed charges both of anti-Calvinist prejudice within the denomination and of unfair dealing by Calvinists.
“We should expect all candidates for ministry positions in the local church to be fully candid and forthcoming about all matters of faith and doctrine,” the report read.
While many neo-Calvinists shy away from politics, they generally take conservative positions on Scripture and on social issues. Many don’t believe that women should be ministers or elders. But Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, said that Calvin’s influence was not limited to conservatives.
Liberal Christians, including some Congregationalists and liberal Presbyterians, may just take up other aspects of Calvin’s teachings, Dr. Jones said. She mentioned Calvin’s belief that “civic engagement is the main form of obedience to God.” She added that, unlike many of today’s conservatives, “Calvin did not read Scripture literally.” Often Calvin “is misquoting it, and he makes up Scripture passages that don’t exist.”
Brad Vermurlen, a Notre Dame graduate student writing a dissertation on the new Calvinists, said that the rise of Calvinism was real, but that the hoopla might level off.
“Ten years ago, everyone was talking about the ‘emergent church,’ ” Mr. Vermurlen said. “And five years ago, people were talking about the ‘missional church.’ And now ‘new Calvinism.’ I don’t want to say the new Calvinism is a fad, but I’m wondering if this is one of those things American evangelicals want to talk about for five years, and then they’ll go on living their lives and planting their churches. Or is this something we’ll see 10 or 20 years from now?”

Emphases of Neo-Calvinism

  • Jesus is Lord over all of creation. Jesus’ Lordship extends through every area and aspect of life – it is not restricted to the sphere of church or of personal piety.
  • The idea that all of life is to be redeemed. The work of Jesus on the cross extends over all of life – no area is exempt from its impact. All knowledge is affected by the true knowledge of God through redemption in Christ.[5]
  • Cultural Mandate. Genesis 1:26–28 has been described as a cultural mandate. It is the mandate to cultivate and develop the creation.[6] There is a historical development and cultural unfolding. Some Neo-Calvinists hold that the Cultural Mandate is as important as the Great Commission.[7]
  • Creation, fall and redemption. God’s good creation has been disrupted by the fall. Redemption is a restoration of creation.[8]
  • Sphere sovereignty (Soevereiniteit in eigen kring). Each sphere (or sector) of life has its own distinct responsibilities and authority as designed by God – for instance, communities dedicated to worship, civil justice, agriculture, family, etc. – and no one area of life is sovereign over another. Hence, neither faith-institutions nor an institution of civil justice (that is, the state) should seek totalitarian control or any regulation of human activity outside their limited competence.[9]
  • A rejection of dualism. Dualisms are (purportedly false) bifurcations, dichotomies, contrasts, or oppositions, such as the dualism between nature and grace that [allegedly] dominated much of Scholasticism. In the Neo-Calvinist view, nature is the God-created and sustained cosmic order, not a "non-supernatural" category, and grace is God's means of renewing the cosmic order, it is not something "non-creational" added onto nature (albeit eschatological in consummated glorification of bodily resurrection to eternal life and cosmic transformation of the new heavens and earth).
  • Structure and direction. Structure denotes created laws and norms for (other) created things. Direction denotes relative deviation or conformity to norms; primarily regarding the central orientation of the human heart toward or away from God in Christ.[10]
  • Common grace. God providentially sustains the created order, restraining of possible evils and giving non-salvific good gifts to all humanity despite their fall into sin, God's curse, and his eventual condemnation of the unredeemed.[11]
  • Presuppositional apologetics. The only framework in which any fact about the world is intelligible is the Christian worldview in general, and the theologically Reformed worldview in particular. The principles of logic and the use of reason assume the existence of God. Presuppositionalism is a reductio ad absurdumapproach to Christian apologetics, in that it attempts to demonstrate that all non-Christian worldviews are internally inconsistent.
  • The antithesis. There is a struggle in history and within every person – between submission to and rebellion against God; between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness; between the age to come (already inaugurated in Christ) and this present evil age (of sin).[12]
  • World views. Neo-Calvinists reject the notion that theoretical thought can be religiously neutral. All thinking and practice is shaped by world views and religiousground motives. For the Neo-Calvinist, life in all its aspects can be shaped by a distinctively Christian world view.[13]
  • The role of law. For Neo-Calvinists, "Law" is more than the Mosaic Decalogue, or even the entire abiding moral will of God. Law is, rather, the order for creation (or creation ordinances) established by God and includes a variety of types of cultural norms including physiological, psychological, logical, historical, linguistic, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, and faith norms.

More on the new Calvinism

I have a particular interest in this because, as some may be aware, a few months agoEvangelical Press published a short study of mine called The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment ( and In it, I set out to consider the characteristics of the new Calvinism, offer some commendations, and then identify some cautions and concerns, before offering some conclusions.

Of course, it is vital to remember that the new Calvinism is not monolithic. John Piper is a key spokesman, but not the sole spokesman, so his assessment may not be endorsed by everyone else who carries the label of the new Calvinism. Indeed, we should also take into account the fact that what we label Calvinism, up to the end of the 20th century, could hardly be considered monolithic either. Beyond that, we must maintain some awareness of continuity and discontinuity between what many will call the old Calvinism and what is generally described as the new Calvinism.

Here I try to map Piper's assessment - "twelve features [not unique and exclusive distinctives] of the movement as I see it" which are, he said, "not dividing lines" between the old and the new Calvinism, matters of separation - over mine for the purpose of a very brief analysis. I understand that we are not always saying the same things, but it is interesting to look at the points of contact.

I suggested that the characteristics of the new Calvinism were:

  • Calvinism that owes a great deal to Edwards, and - in some - offers more than a nod to Amyraut. (Piper #1 and #2)
  • Characters (or figureheads, personalities, celebrities or gurus, depending on how pejorative a label you wish to apply, or what kind of a follower you are dealing with).
  • Conglomeration - it is a movement of coalitions, of conferences, of networks, and of networks of networks, numbers of men and churches operating together. (Piper #7 and #11)
  • Consolidation - a settling over time.

Then there were six qualified commendations:

  • New Calvinists set out to be Christ-oriented and God-honouring. (Piper #1 and #2)
  • The new Calvinism is in many respects a grace-soaked movement. (Piper #1, #2, #9 and #12)
  • The new Calvinism is an avowedly missional movement. (Piper #6, #11 and #12)
  • The new Calvinism is substantially a complementarian movement. (Piper #3)
  • New Calvinists tend to be both immersed and inventive. (Piper #4 and #10)
  • The new Calvinism is committed in principle to expository preaching. (Piper #5, #7 and #12)

Then six nuanced cautions and concerns:

  • A tendency in many new Calvinists to pragmatism and commercialism. (Piper #4, #5, #10 and #11)
  • There is in much of the new Calvinism an unbalanced view of culture. (Piper #4, #6, #10 and #11)
  • Many within new Calvinism manifest a troubling approach to holiness (incipient antinomianism and confusion about the nature of sanctification). (Piper #9)
  • There is within the new Calvinism a potentially dangerous ecumenism. (Piper #7 and #11)
  • For many new Calvinists there is a genuine tension with regard to spiritual gifts. (Piper #8)
  • A degree of arrogance and triumphalism in some new Calvinists.

I am not going to rehash all these here or offer particular conclusions (that is what the book is for). I must admit that - in the face of some reviews which suggested that my assessment lacked nuance (and I admitted all along that mine was a necessarily broad brush treatment) - there is some amusement in the fact that John Piper has suggested so much of the same substance with similarly and necessarily broad strokes.

What is of more interest in this comparison is that, despite the similarity of substance, there is a real difference of emphasis and appreciation. This is significant at times. For example, to choose a stark instance, there is agreement that the new Calvinism includes charismatics and non-charismatics. To Mr Piper and to many new Calvinists, that is evidently a neutral feature; to me and to others, that would be a matter of genuine concern. I do not know that that is a matter decided by one's allegiance to what is called old or new Calvinism.

For the record, I do not think of myself as an old Calvinist. Neither do I think of myself as a new Calvinist, and was somewhat interested that a number of those who have interacted with the book suggested that I was a de facto new Calvinist. That said, as a reasonably young Calvinist, I am an interested party, with a vested and sincere interest in the glory of God and the good of my fellow believers. If these two assessments, from different perspectives (and very different levels of prominence, opportunity and gift, lest anyone should think that I am suggesting parity), show anything, it is that there is at least a measure of agreement on what is prominent within the new Calvinism.

What remains, of course, is the disagreement about how much has been carried over, and what has been added, and how healthy or otherwise these features will prove to be. I have my own hopes and fears. I think that history suggests that many of these questions will be answered, one way or the other, not in the next thirty months, but in the next thirty years.

The New Calvinism: A Triumph of the Old

John Piper's address for Westminster Theological Seminary's Seventh-Annual Gaffin Lecture was a notable example of an event being the very embodiment of its message.  I say this because Piper spoke on the relationship of the New Calvinism to the Old Calvinism, a relationship that could hardly find better symbolism than New Calvinist Piper lecturing at Old Calvinist Westminster.  Predictably, blog articles have cropped up critiquing and interacting with Piper's remarks.  I would like to do the same, making observations about the intersection of the Old and the New within big-tent, big-God Calvinism in these early years of the 21st Century.
My observations will come in four posts that make these points:
1.       Old Calvinism should avoid being overly critical but should rejoice in the New. 
2.    Old Calvinism should not be threatened by or feel pressure to conform to the New. 
3.    Old Calvinism should humbly listen to the New, benefiting from its insights and critiques.
4.    Old Calvinism should zealously seek to serve rather than to undermine the New.

In this first post, I would suggest that Old Calvinism should avoid excessive criticism but should generally rejoice in the New Calvinism.  I say this because the New Calvinism represents a remarkable triumph of the Old.  As Piper pointed out, the New Calvinism has arisen directly from Old Calvinist sources like the Banner of Truth, James Boice & the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and R. C. Sproul & Ligonier Ministries.  It is in this respect that I consider the New Calvinism a triumph.  Not the triumph of Old Calvinism - that would be Old Calvinism itself! - but a signal achievement by God's grace, for which we could scarcely have hoped thirty years ago.  The most gospel-zealous leaders of the Old Calvinism longed to see the doctrines of God's sovereign grace spread far into the broader Baptist and Charismatic world of evangelicalism.  Now that this has happened, how can Old Calvinism fail to rejoice in it?
Much of the commentary that I have read on Piper's lecture has labored to highlight the deficiencies of the New Calvinism from the perspective of the Old.  As a committed son of the Old Calvinism, I may share some of these criticisms.  However, the overall attitude of Old Calvinism should be a delighted affection and brotherly delight in the big-God, sola gratia gospel trumpeted by John Piper and others.  We are seeing the Spirit-fueled spread of doctrines that we most cherish among fellow Christians who previously had forgotten or rejected them.  It is true, oddly enough, that Calvinistic Baptists have remained Baptists and that Charismatics who have discovered the glory of God's sovereign grace have not yet shed their view of continuing revelation.  Would I be happier if the New Calvinism included a commitment to covenant theology and sacraments, together with Reformed cessationism?  Of course I would.  But can I smile and offer a prayer of wondering thanks to God that these church bodies, so sociologically distant from mine, have embraced truths that I most cherish from God's Word?  How can I do otherwise?  Can I participate in preaching conferences that extol the big-God glory of our Lord without making snide remarks about matters in which we differ?  You bet I can.  And I praise God for it.
Along these lines, I will agree with observers who downplay the theological differences between New and Old Calvinism.  Theologically, the New Calvinism is mainly an extension of the broader rim of Old Calvinism that was expressed in Charles Spurgeon and populist Presbyterians like James Boice.  In fact, Boice's main target was the very evangelical audience that largely comprises the New Calvinism, and I often heard him predict and rejoice in the Reformed resurgence that blossomed shortly after his death.  Instead of a theological shift, the New Calvinism represents a major sociological and ecclesiastical extension of Calvinism in general.  The "Young, Restless, and Reformed" movement mainly involves Calvinistic soteriology being recovered in long-time Arminian strongholds like the Southern Baptist Convention and being discovered in once far-distant fields like the African American churches and Charismatic quasi-denominations.  This being the case, we should not be surprised that Calvinistic soteriology has not caused a similar penetration of Reformed sacramentology and ecclesiology, especially since the historical distinctives of these denominations lay in these very areas.  (They aren't called Baptists for nothing, after all!)  Despite these differences (Baptists remaining Baptists, etc.), Old Calvinists should look on the New as a signal advance achieved by the labors of our own preachers and authors, in answer to long-offered prayers, in spreading glorious salvation truths to brothers and sisters who need them.  We should heartily rejoice that while these fellow Christians retain secondary differences* they now embrace the sovereignty of God over salvation, giving glory to Him in all things.
This affection and joy should not keep Old Calvinists from offering the occasional advice of a loving uncle.  Like grandparents -- a metaphor I do not use for Old Calvinism, since we are most definitely not fading away! -- an uncle should be generally cheerful and selective in his advice.  For instance, from an Old Calvinist perspective, the current trend of multi-site, video satellite church campuses is a Finney-esque horror, and we would dearly love it if our friends in the New Calvinism would prayerfully reconsider this colossal mistake.**  With this being said, Presbyterian Old Calvinists should realize that we do not own the New Calvinism and that it is bound to reflect the more populist Baptist-Charismatic sociology in which it has emerged.
One of the best reasons for Old Calvinists to rejoice in the New Calvinism is that our young people are doing so.  A couple of years ago, I was attending the bi-annual Gospel Coalition Colloquium, in which the council members engage in the closed door celebrity hob-knobbing that drives Carl Trueman crazy.  I emailed my teenage son and asked him to pick one person whom I would ask to send him an electronic greeting.  I started rattling off names of people there: John Piper, Tim Keller, C. J. Mahaney, Lig Duncan, Shai Linne... "You know Shai Linne?!!" came back his response.  "Why, of course," I answered.  "Shai is an old friend from Tenth Presbyterian Church," the Old School bastion where the rap artist first fell in love with Reformed theology.***   So I walked over, hugged Shai and asked him to send an email to Matthew, and my cool rating went up enormously.  And so it is that my Old Calvinist children rejoice in the God-saturated Reformed message sounding out from the New Calvinist voices that are our ecclesiastical nephews and our dearly beloved brothers in Christ.  What a blessing the New Calvinism is, and my Old Calvinist heart rejoices for it with praise to God!

* To call differences secondary is not to label them as unimportant.  But the mode and recipients of baptism, for instance, should not be treated as a difference that bars fellowship or shared ministry.
**I lovingly dedicate this comment to Darrell Hart.
*** Pray for Shai, who has gone back to Philly to plant a church reaching out largely to the gospel-needy African-American community there.

Twelve features of the New Calvinism:

  1. The New Calvinism, in its allegiance to the inerrancy of the Bible, embraces the biblical truths behind the five points (TULIP), while having an aversion to using the acronym or any other systematic packaging, along with a sometimes qualified embrace of limited atonement. The focus is on Calvinistic soteriology but not to the exclusion or the appreciation of the broader scope of Calvin’s vision.
  2. The New Calvinism embraces the sovereignty of God in salvation, and in all the affairs of life in history, including evil and suffering.
  3. The New Calvinism has a strong complementarian flavor as opposed to egalitarian, with an emphasis on the flourishing of men and women in relationships where men embrace a call to robust, humble, Christ-like servant leadership.
  4. The New Calvinism leans toward being culture-affirming rather than culture-denying, while holding fast to some very culturally alien positions, like positions on same-sex practice and abortion.
  5. The New Calvinism embraces the essential place of the local church. It is led mainly by pastors, has a vibrant church-planting bent, produces widely-sung worship music, and exalts the preached word as central to the work of God locally and globally.
  6. The New Calvinism is aggressively mission-driven, including missional impact on social evils, evangelistic impact on personal networks, and missionary impact on unreached peoples of the world.
  7. The New Calvinism is inter-denominational with a strong (some would say oxymoronic) Baptistic element.
  8. The New Calvinism includes charismatics and non-charismatics.
  9. The New Calvinism puts a priority on pietism or piety in the Puritan vein, with an emphasis on the essential role of affections in Christian living, while esteeming the life of the mind and being very productive in it, and embracing the value of serious scholarship. Jonathan Edwards would be invoked as a model of this combination of the affections and the life of the mind more often than John Calvin, whether that’s fair to Calvin or not.
  10. The New Calvinism is vibrantly engaged in publishing books and even more remarkably in the world of the internet, with hundreds of energetic bloggers and social media activists, with Twitter as the increasingly default way of signaling things new and old that should be noticed and read.
  11. The New Calvinism is international in scope, multi-ethnic in expression, culturally diverse. There is no single geographic, racial, cultural governing center. There are no officers, no organization, nor any loose affiliation that would encompass the whole. I would dare say that there are outcroppings of this movement that nobody (including me) in this room has ever heard of.
  12. The New Calvinism is robustly gospel-centered, cross-centered, with dozens of books rolling off the presses, coming at the gospel from every conceivable angle, and applying it to all areas of life with a commitment to seeing the historic doctrine of justification, finding its fruit in sanctification personally and communally.

Friday, May 16, 2014


John Piper recently gave a lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary about the New Calvinism that is already getting play at several Reformed sites (see herehere, and here). His aim was to argue for an interrelationship between Old Calvinism and New Calvinism and to attempt to ground the ethnic diversity of the movement in classic Reformed doctrines. If anyone has the stature and force of personality to will a connection between Old and New, it’s John Piper. Nevertheless, the probabilities are that Old Calvinists, who are better understood primarily as Old School Presbyterians, will remain unconvinced even if they think an alliance is the most effective way forward.
Old School Presbyterians had a more strident interpretation of Presbyterianism, complete with Sabbath keeping (no sports or other kinds of activities on the Sabbath) and following the old Reformed Directory of Public Worship. Raised a Missouri Presbyterian, Mark Twain once quipped about sabbath keeping that “we were good Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did wander a little from the fold” (I imagine there are plenty of good Presbyterians in the northeast and Midwest this winter). On the whole, this reflects mid-nineteenth century Old School ways, not necessarily early twenty-first century. Yet, there remains a concern for proper worship and a distaste for revivalism commensurate with the Old Princeton theologians, Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. The New School Presbyterians, conversely, were very much in line with revivalism as it unfolded in the nineteenth century and had a looser view about worship as a result.
It is the revivalist style of at least some members of the New Calvinism punctuated by constant references to Jonathan Edwards and the rise of charismatic Calvinism that has many Old School Presbyterians concerned. Piper side-stepped the main issue between the two camps: from an Old-School perspective the New Calvinism smacks of the evangelical revivalism of a D. L. Moody, or, more to the point, the baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday (insert Mark Driscoll reference here). Sunday once called the novelist Sinclair Lewis  “Satan’s cohort” in response to Lewis’s 1927 satirical novel Elmer Gantry, whose main character—a hypocritical evangelist—was modeled on Sunday’s flamboyant style. 
That older coalition of Congregationalists, Baptists, and New School Presbyterians combined dispensationalism, celebrity revivalism, and fundamentalism—the very traits that Old School Presbyterians disliked then and now. It is not without some irony that Piper acknowledged the important role of Westminster Seminary while not even mentioning that it was the epicenter of Old School Presbyterianism with its anti-revivalist and cessationist stance (at the end of his lecture Piper got a laugh when he said, “you don’t even want to know my eschatology.” Indeed!).
Because of the Baptist and charismatic impulses within the New Calvinism, at least some Old School Presbyterians will continue to look on it with suspicion as a kind of half-way house for a genuine Reformed Christianity that must be Reformed and Presbyterian. Nevertheless, as Greg Forster has observed, there is an implicit recognition that Old School Presbyterianism does not have the numbers to make a significant impact. There would be no Reformed resurgence without the Baptists and revivalist groups that form the heart of the New Calvinism.
At the same time, Piper’s description of the New Calvinism as strongly complementarian glosses over recent trends within Presbyterianism that parallel what is happening within confessional Lutheranism. Two of the largest conservative Presbyterian bodies are the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). The former is comfortable within an Old School Presbyterian framework while the latter is largely charismatic and allows for the ordination of women. The EPC could be described as the heir of New School Presbyterianism. Ironically, the one form of Presbyterianism whose ethos fits the New Calvinism most is not complementarian.
With its recent addition of 89 new congregations due to the slow break up of the mainline Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA), the EPC is the elephant in the room of the New Calvinism since it reflects the charismatic and revivalist impulses while also being firmly committed to allowing Presbyteries and local churches to ordain women. Ten of the twelve presbyteries in the EPC have already ordained women teaching elders. The EPC has created space for ordaining women as teaching and ruling elders by declaring the issue as a “matter of indifference” and thus a second-order doctrine. Groups like The Gospel Coalition appear to be moving in the opposite direction.
When one adds to the mix the newly formed ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, which at 116 congregations is already larger than many other conservative Presbyterian bodies, it appears that egalitarianism will remain a firm part of the conservative Presbyterian landscape. With churches continuing to leave the PCUSA, it would not surprise me if in the next fifteen years egalitarian Presbyterianism emerges as the largest group of conservative Presbyterians.
All of this is to say that the New Calvinism looks a lot like the old New School Presbyterianism with a Baptist and charismatic flair to it. Piper chose not to deal with this issue between the Old and the New just as he neglected the EPC’s stance on women. For now, the coalition is holding together on a Reformed understanding of salvation buttressed by complementarianism and a commitment to inerrancy. Only God, in his sovereign will, knows whether the anchor will hold.