The young and the Reformed….Christianity has a new voice.
Having finished research on Ruth, I am now turning my attention to New Calvinism. I will not say much about it here as I am just now starting my reading on what has been vaguely familiar to me, but I will say I am surprised at the amount of press it has received, no small amount of it due to the success of theMars Hill Church in Seattle where Pastor Mark Driscoll presides over an unapologetic (ie apologetic) orthodox yet youthful congregation.
I will say however that New Calvinism is bringing the old Calvinism back into the mainstream of American religious thought in a big way. In 2009 Time magazine called it one of the ten ideas that is changing the world. On a certain level it seems to be the anti-Emergent church. Then again it also seems to be a partner to emergent Christianity in trying to get what has been called the new Reformation off the ground.
I am looking forward to finding out more about the movement ( Protestants are very fond of talking about movements) but in the meantime it may be wise to see what New Calvinism is and is not.
1. It is Calvinism and yet it is new: Calvinism is a very intellectual take on Christianity that forms one of the two pillars of of magisterial Protestantism. Lutheranism is the other. Neo-Calvinists are in agreement with Calvin (they do agree with TULIP) but they operate from the perspective of American evangelism rather than the continental Protestantism of John Calvin. American evangelicals are very fond of invoking the names of magisterial Protestantism, but do come from a different place, one that has been filtered through Puritan thought and revivalist fervor.
2. It is not Neo-Calvinism. Neo-Calvisnism (Kuperniaism) is a brand of Calvinist thought from the turn of the twentieth century that gave new language to Calvinism. Neo-Calvinism emphasized such things as sphere sovereignty and the role of redemption in restoring a good creation rather than adding something to creation that it be made good. (New Calvinsits do draw from Neo-Calvinist thought.)
3. New Calvinists see a sickness in American evangelicalism that is quick to condemn people before listening to their stories. It does not excuse the actions of people, but it does take into account where they are coming from.
4. New Calvinists do not apologize for Christianity nor do they ask Christianity to accommodate culture. You won’t often hear a new Calvinist talk like those in the mainline or emergent Christianity. Relativism is downplayed for mission and what has been thought of as a loss of traditional church culture is revived with a modern twist. People may show up with body piercings, but they also have very traditional ideas about things like the role of men and women (complementarianism.)
5. New Calvinists are ecumenical. Most seek to build rather than burn bridges between Christians. They are Reformed, but do not seek to make the Reformed tradition the totality of Christianity.
How much influence the New Calvinists will have remains to be seen. They are one of the two branches of the New Reformation (along with the Emergent Church) and they do quite well in attracting a following in some of America’s most secular bastions of thought. New Calvinists are almost strictly American, but that may be changing. In any case they are a people of missional zeal who are adamant about making Christ known in the world and as such, whether we agree with them or not, they deserve our attention.