What if Mark Dever were Ted Cruz?

Sure, like Roger Olson, I would have liked to have received better treatment in the recent Times story on the so-called “new” Calvinism. (For the record, Olson was quoted and I was not, but Olson still complains.)

But in addition to observing which figures — Piper, Keller, and Driscoll — are responsible for a phenomenon that is hardly new, also noteworthy is the way the national press covers religion. You either have the religion-is-bigoted meme which haunted Phil Robertson’s employers, or you have the Gee-Golly approach of religion is nice, inspirational, and alive. Why this particularly comes to mind is that the reporter who wrote this story, Mark Oppenheimer, came out with it (not on his own — his editors are also implicated) just after a dustup over one of new Calvinism’s celebrities’ damaging admissions of plagiarism. Granted, Driscoll is not at the center of this story. But Oppenheimer does mention him and chose not to look into the less reputable parts of new Calvinism (which might include the modernist-like agreement among the Gospel Allies not to talk about a central feature of the Great Commission — how to baptize and what it means). Oppenheimer’s piece, in effect, vindicates Carl Trueman’s observation that the Driscoll imbroglio would settle and the gospel business would go back to business as usual.

On the plus side, the story did vindicate those Presbyterians who opposed modernism when it looked for critical comments (again, not from all about me) from Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary:

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.”

Calvin makes up Scripture passages? Wow! I thought that was Harry Emerson Fosdick’s job. But it is good to see where liberal Protestants and neo-Calvinists (the real ones) agree — not the making up Scripture bit but the civic engagement is central rendering of Calvinism.

42 thoughts on “What if Mark Dever were Ted Cruz?

  1. I thought the NYT piece demonstrated two key things:

    1) The intellectual left, as embodied by the NY Times, is largely ignorant of what historic Calvinism is, and how the ‘New Calvinism’ is a somewhat dubious moniker. Not a big deal as far as I am concerned, but the article could have been greatly improved had it addressed this tension.

    2) Those who are comfortable with the label of ‘New Calvinist’ are inescapably celebrity driven, and many of their leaders possess about as much understanding of historic Calvinism as their secular liberal counterparts over at the NYT. To me, this is where the bigger problem lies.

    The YRR express keeps on barreling down the tracks, with nothing to slow down the excesses of the movement, and no-one seeming to care where the train is headed, so long as they make good time and pack out their conferences and sell their books.

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  2. The “making up Scrupture” bit reminded me of when I came acrossthis a number of years ago, and was quite disturbed. Sounded like a Wikipedia type project, but for the creation of a Bible, as opposed to an encyclopedia. Will the wonders of the interweb ever cease?

    Yeah, I wonder where the president of Union seminary is pulling that little bit about Calvin from. Hmph.

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  3. Carl, the Driscoll controversy blew over because the coalition types are mostly dependent on the same publisher, who has gone so far as to give Driscoll his own imprint. Follow the money.

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  4. 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.”

    Now you know how the Catholics feel after reading a DG Hart.

    But seriously folks [actually I was serious], I’ll be happy to get your back on this. If you think it’ll help. Actually–Old Lifers wouldn’t know it–I spend most of my time on the internet defending religious freedom and pluralism, often of the fundies.

    That Calvin and Reformed theology are so ill-used by the NYT here is an outrage. They would never print such a comment that was this dismissive if not slanderous about Islam or even Mormonism, even from a co-religionist.

    Frankly, even with all its Protestant critics and own liberal dissidents such as Garry Wills or the Nuns on a Bus, the NYT would NOT print a quote this disparaging even of the Catholic Church’s theology, which they hate.

    I’m angry on you Calvinists’ behalf, and I don’t doubt that the Driscoll tempest-in-a-teapot triggered this story. [Driscoll holds no charm for me, but the plagiarism “scandal” was over Bible study guides that were worth mere hundreds of dollars, tops. The guy’s worth millions. This was the equivalent of a speeding ticket.]

    Anyway, I thought I should say something [sort of] nice to you guys. I’m genuinely outraged for you. If you can’t get behind politics and religion–and I respect that–there’s still the culture war, and Jean Calvin just got the brown end of the stick. Take your allies where you find them.

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  5. Tom, thanks. Not wanting to make light of Christian brothers in other parts of the world undergoing real persecution,Matt 24:9 is one of many such verses (OT or NT). One doesn’t become a Christian for the material perks, or for the praise of men.

    Peace.

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  6. “I’m genuinely outraged for you.” -TVD

    Really? We serve a Savior who conquered death, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the Father’s right hand, where He works all things for the good of His covenant people. With all due respect, I’ll take Christ’s grace over your outrage any day of the week.

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  7. Andrew Buckingham
    Posted January 8, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
    Tom, thanks. Not wanting to make light of Christian brothers in other parts of the world undergoing real persecution,Matt 24:9 is one of many such verses (OT or NT). One doesn’t become a Christian for the material perks, or for the praise of men.

    Peace.

    Cheers, AB. Most every Christian in America these days gets him/herself slimed and their faith too–directly or indirectly–if they dare to express it. [Phil Robertson, name it.]

    Most people don’t even know what the Reformed faith is, but if it doesn’t have women ministers and gay marriage and theological indifference to abortion, it’s a threat that must be buried.

    Hence the New York Times article.

    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.”

    You know I’m not a John Calvin subscriber, but even if there’s a passage or two where John Calvin might be accused of this, it’s garbage to speak of Calvin or the Reformed faith this way. The exception is not the rule.

    Not wanting to make light of Christian brothers in other parts of the world undergoing real persecution

    Yeah, there’s that. We do need to order our priorities. I’m not a Calvinist but if y’all want to evangelize the Word to the world, I trust the Holy Spirit to help them sieve out your theological errors. 😉

    And whatever Brother Bobby’s on my ass about [above], pls give him my regards. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a

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  8. Hey, Romeys — the above-quoted Ms. Jones should be a big fan of Popus Currentus:

    “I think of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement that began during the depths of the Great Depression, and which continues today to give care and comfort to the forsaken. I think of Thomas Merton and his outspoken protest of the Vietnam War. I think of the Catholic bishops who stood side by side with César Chávez in his fight for justice among the farm workers of California’s Central Valley. I think of Archbishop Óscar Romero and the struggles of San Salvador. And I think of blighted neighborhoods across America where all-but-ignored nuns, priests, and committed laypeople offer hope to the nearly hopeless through soup kitchens, schools, and community centers. For them, and for energetic Catholic women I work with and teach — so unjustly banned from a priesthood that sorely needs them — the importance of justice-making always exceeds the importance of collars and confessions.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/serene-jones/not-throwing-stones-a-pro_b_519126.html

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  9. Until starting to read Old Life, I hadn’t really payed much attention to Driscoll, other than knowing that he cursed in his sermons and was emergent for a while, playing around with McClaren et.al, then not so much. The plagiarism scandal may not have completely died down, but that seems like small beer in light of his apparent real, deep seated, weirdness. See http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/01/06/dreamweaver-the-visions-of-mark-driscoll/

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  10. Dan, if history serves as any guide, folks like MD are just getting started. Stay tuned for whatever comes next in the world of evanjellyfishism. It rivals papalism for its entertainment value.

    Cheerio.

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  11. Don’t tell my presbytery, but I hear Hitchens took up those reigns. Yes, we can mourn those who have gone before, though their writings remain (kinda cool thing about written word, that).

    Good call.

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  12. Andrew, thanks for the link. I always thought of Hitchens as more of an Orwell wannabe. I never really minded his atheism– I know that one of the campus ministries at the state University near me sponsored discussions of God is Not Great for three or four semesters in a row and reaped many converts.

    I guess I need to get out more. The more I learn about what is behind these celebrity preachers, the more I am convinced that prayerful ridicule is the best response.

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  13. When John Cleese descended on my university during Frosh year, I went and heard a roaring good time. The Q&A was interesting, and evangelly got up and asked the “what would you do if Jesus appeared to you right here.” Silence in the auditorium, before JC gave a good snarky repsonse, the place roars in laughter. I couldnt help but feel something true behind what what experiencing there. Thanks for sharing, fellow stranger of the interweb 9-Jan-2014.

    Peace.

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  14. I might add, in light of the title of this thread , that I have an acquaintance who went to DC on a temporary assignment that lasted almost two years instead of two months. He ended up going to Dever’s church a lot, and was very impressed with Dever and many of the members he got to know. None of my remarks should be taken as directed at him, though he may be problematical for reasons unknown to me.

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  15. Shame, chort. Atheists are a fun lot..

    I do remember almost verbatim the JCs reponse that when I was a teenager. I would recall such when working as a teller at bank of America and his accountant came to my window on occassion. I actually got to see where JC was doing business. Thus the life of a Santa Barbarian..

    Follow the money, indeed (emoticon).

    PS it was more exciting when Sigourney Weaver (or Dennis Miller!) came to (all about) my window, but that’s a story for another time.

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  16. 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.”

    That’s not even within six degrees of the credibility of talking out of her rectum.

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  17. Olson: … a reader who doesn’t know better could easily conclude from it that evangelicals are divided between those who take Jesus and theology seriously and those who flock to mega-churches that promote a feel-good theology that is distinctly American (non-Calvinism.)

    and just where is the problem here, Roger?

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  18. CW, Peter Hitchens “The Rage Against God” is a fairly engaging memoir, though not a point by point refutation of “God is Not Great.” From this distance in time (it has been a few years since I read either book), the lasting impression that I have is that both brothers religious commitments were determined by their politics- in CH’s case, his unrequited romantic Trotskyist longings, in PH’s case, his revulsion in having lived for a while as a journalist in Russia.

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  19. Poor Roger Olson, used and abused by the NYT.

    Hope he wasn’t walking around in his puffy shirt over what a big wheel he was and then was shocked at how they screwed him over.

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  20. The “Driscoll controversy” isn’t much of one compared to his “I see naked people” schtick. That should be the controversy in “Calvinist” circles. Driscoll is not an academic who footnotes well. No shocker there. He just needs to find a better editor.

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  21. Tom – But seriously folks [actually I was serious], I’ll be happy to get your back on this. If you think it’ll help.

    Erik – Thanks, no.

    Tom – Actually–Old Lifers wouldn’t know it–I spend most of my time on the internet defending religious freedom and pluralism, often of the fundies.

    Erik – And the internet is a better place because of you. Now if you can only move on to conquer the realms of penis enhancement e-mails and time-wasting cat videos.

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  22. Tom – Anyway, I thought I should say something [sort of] nice to you guys. I’m genuinely outraged for you. If you can’t get behind politics and religion–and I respect that–there’s still the culture war, and Jean Calvin just got the brown end of the stick. Take your allies where you find them.

    Erik – Tom, cut out the Minute Maid before bed and go back to the Scotch. I like you more when you’re nasty.

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  23. No doubt, Dan and Erik. I could add CH or PH to my android kindle app carousel, fir reading while exercising. I have a virtual stack of Westminster west thinkers currently preloaded. So maybe after 1000+ pages of Horton, I’ll earn my way to some of that other stuff (emoticon).

    Later.

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  24. Dan, my favorite Peter Hitchens (Anglican) line on church experience is how much he hated services where he had to shake everyone’s hand. He prefers skulking in the shadows. No one like that around here.

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  25. Hitch’s finest moments were trying to keep John McGlaughlin and Robert Novak from ripping each other’s face off during the early and glorious days of that PBS show (which is still on???? sad….)

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  26. Andrew: I have a virtual stack of Westminster west thinkers currently preloaded.

    And I thought I needed to get out more. (Double emoticon)

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  27. Dan,

    RCR has featured articles from JE on occasion, as have they featured OLTS on occasion. Not that it means too much, but it prolly feels fun knowing someone’s nerve has been struck.

    We have yet to see a CtC make the RCR daily circuit. Anyway, thanks, I’ll take when a read when I get some time.

    Regards,
    Andrew

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  28. Dan, thanks for that. Peter also plays footsie with Doug Wilson but I don’t blame him — he’s not theologically or ecclesiologically sophisticated enough to know better. At least progressive Catholics are ag’in him.

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