Via Justin Taylor comes Mark Dever’s top-ten list on the factors that spawned the New Calvinist phenomenon (given Tim Keller’s precise definitions, I’m loathe to describe the young and restless as a movement). Here’s the list (each one receives a separate post at Dever’s blog):
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
Before offering an OldLife perspective, it is worth noting that Dever buries his lead by ranking John Piper at number nine. My impression, after reading Collin Hansen’s book, is that Piper and Desiring God (DG, you know, not always about me) is largely responsible for turning Millenials into Jonathan-Edwards-is-my-homeboy T-shirt wearing evangelicals. Dever agrees even if number nine doesn’t reflect the agreement:
When all those seminarians and ministers in their 20′s stood up at Together for the Gospel in April of 2006, if I couldn’t give a 10-part answer, but if I had to give a 2-word human explanation for their presence there, I know what two words I would utter: “John Piper.”
What is curious about this list, with all due respect (going Hollywood alert) to my friend, Mark Dever, is how culturally and historically thin it is. Granted, as an OPC elder, I am surprised that the PCA (nos. 4 and 6) gets more credit than my own communion and its influential scholars such as Machen, Van Til, Young, Murray, Stonehouse, Kline, VanDrunen, Fesko, and even — dare we say — Trueman.
But denominational bragging rights aside, the list is decidedly Anglo-centric and recent. Nothing on the list suggests the sixteenth-century origins of Reformed Protestantism in Zurich and Geneva, nor the huge contribution that French-speaking Protestants made in the initial phases of Calvinism (Calvin, after all, was not English). Nor does this list acknowledge the remarkable nature of the Dutch Reformation, both in its hiccups and fits during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and in its modern phase guided and inspired by Abraham Kuyper. And not to be discounted is the influence of Scottish Presbyterianism (though Banner of Truth is in Edinburgh) again in the initial phases of reformation, a presence at the Westminster Assembly, and the important struggles of the nineteenth century in which Thomas Chalmers figured so prominently. This does not begin to admit the important influences on American Calvinism by immigrants from these various communions who settled in North America and established denominations and schools to propagate the Reformed faith. Princeton Seminary would surely be high on such a list, as would its step-child, Westminster. So too would be the Dutch-American contribution from western Michigan.
All of this raises a question about how well the New Calvinism represents the Old Calvinism. Does it stand in continuity or is it really new? And if new, how much might it need to learn from the old, especially if wearing the Calvinist badge? If most of your sources of influence and inspiration come from the twentieth century when a theological tradition is four hundred years older, and if it draws largely on the English variety of experimental Calvinism without listening to French, German, Dutch, Scottish, and Swiss voices, you may be guilty of selling a Wendy’s hamburger when you could be serving Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.