If you can attribute American patriotism or the Tea Party to Calvinism, you have a term that is almost as much of a wax nose as evangelicalism. This is why the phrase Reformed Protestant is better than Calvinism. Reformed Protestant has a definite meaning that Calvinism doesn’t.
And this is why the so-called New Calvinism thrives (at least in its own promoters’ minds). Take for instance the question of diversity, a factor that lets New Calvinists think they are the mainstream. Here is Matthew Barrett on John Piper:
Some today are surprised by the wide diversity within New Calvinism, including everyone from Lecrae to the Gettys, or R. C. Sproul to Francis Chan. Piper points out that this diversity among Reformed-minded folks has always been present. All one has to do is look back at the long list of Calvinists in church history. Piper suggests comparing Augustine and Adoniram Judson, Francis Turretin and John Bunyan, John Calvin and Chapiper-writingrles Spurgeon, John Knox and J. I. Packer, Cotton Mather and R. C. Sproul, Abraham Kuyper and William Carey, Haynes and Dabney, Theodore Beza and James Boice, Isaac Backus and Martin Lloyd-Jones, etc. “If there is such a diversity in the Old,” Piper argues, “then we really cannot find dividing lines between the Old and the New.”
He goes on to say, “The Old is too diverse and the connections between Old and New too organic to claim things that are new in the New that were not present in any aspects in the Old.” The New is too assorted to claim any “downgrade” or “upgrade” from the Old. History is too complex for “broad brush commendations of one over the other or condemnations of one under the other.” Hence, any “given issue that you try to address you can find periods and persons and movements among the Old that would outshine the New.” Piper concludes, “There is no claim, therefore, in my assessment that the New is better.” From here Piper goes on to give 12 features that define the New Calvinism.
I wonder what Piper or Barrett would say about New Calvinism’s diversity being the product (as Nate commented) of waffling, for instance, on baptism and charismatic gifts, the way that Old Calvinism doesn’t. In other words, diversity is a sign of failure, not an indication of strength.
Plus, if you define Calvinism by the creeds and confessions of the Reformed churches, which is how Calvinism started, you find remarkable coherence. Spurgeon, Judson, and Piper are out. Knox, Kuyper, and Dabney are in.
And this is what Old Calvinists find so alarming about the New Calvinists. They can understand themselves entirely as a categorical abstraction (Piper’s 12 points) without relationship to word, sacrament, or discipline — the marks of the church (as in, Reformed according to the word). In fact, aside from the implicit hubris in the New Calvinists’ understanding of the past, do these guys, as Tim Challies apparently believes, think they are in the mainstream? Can you really be in the mainstream when instead of church you chart your existence by conferences and organizations like Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, and Sovereign Grace? Have I got a book for Tim.
My understanding of earth sciences is spotty, but new bodies of water generally do not become the mainstream within three decades unless you do some serious dirt moving (and that didn’t even spare New Orleans). But cheerleaders always think their team is number one, even when they are losing.