You Can Take the Curmudgeon out of Presbyterianism . . .

But you can’t take Presbyterianism out of the Curmudgeon.

The best priest we know serves up even more reasons for thinking New Calvinism is a sham:

Drs. Moore and Mohler have also been involved in another SBC fight. They are Calvinists in a denomination that has embraced evangelism and church growth of first of the Second Great Awakening sort (100 verses of “Just As I Am” waiting for one more sinner to be converted or one more backslider rededicate) and then of the church growth/contemporary church sort (rock bands, smoke machines, and preachers sitting on stools). But large number of Southern Baptists have embraced what they call “Calvinism” (How is a credo-baptist really a Calvinist?), or “the doctrines of grace” (“soteriological Calvinism, though one must also ask what kind of soteriological Calvinism denies a means of grace, baptism, to children?). The tension between traditional Baptists and the so-called Calvinistic Baptists is another fault line in the Convention, though a piece of plywood has been put over crack.

To keep it straight, the Gospel Coalition attracts and promotes Calvinists (think Tim Keller and the PCA) who do not minister as Calvinists, that is, Calvinists who look the other way when it comes to worship and the ministry of the word. To be sure, New Calvinists care about ministry, but their concern is for relevance, influence, size (matters). Their concern is not like Calvin’s or Bucer’s or Ursinus’ to make ministry conform to Scripture — Reformed according to the Word.

That is where tranformationalism goes. It sups with practices designed to be strategic, to win a hearing, to sit at the table. And all along, the freedom to minister word and sacrament, follow the regulative principle, administer church discipline is still overwhelmingly available. The problem is that the traditional means of grace and serious worship won’t rise above the hum drum of congregational life to amount to a movement, a following. Shouldn’t New Calvinists trust the God-ordained means of grace? Or do they know something God’s word doesn’t?

It reminds me of Hughes Oliphint Old’s point about contemporary worship:

In our evangelistic zeal we are looking for programs that will attract people. We think we have put honey on the lip of the bitter cup of salvation. It is the story of the wedding of Cana all over again but with this difference. At the crucial moment when the wine failed, we took matters into our own hands and used those five stone jars to mix up a batch of Kool-Aid instead. It seemed like a good solution in terms of our American culture. Unfortunately, all too soon the guests discovered the fraud. Alas! What are we to do now? How can we possible minister to those who thirst for the real thing? There is but one thing to do, as Mary the mother of Jesus, understood so very well. You remember how the story goes. After presenting the problem to Jesus, Mary turned to the servants and said to them, “Do whatever he tells you.” The servants did just that and the water was turned to wine, wine rich and mellow beyond anything they had ever tasted before.


7 thoughts on “You Can Take the Curmudgeon out of Presbyterianism . . .

  1. I wonder how many members at my childhood Strict Baptist church were Calvinistic.

    Could have used their views growing up, but I guess things happen in their proper time.


  2. If only Dr Williams spent more time talking about the nature and the justice of Christ’s atonement, and less time talking about Russell Moore being less racist than some other people. If only Russell Moore would begin to talk about Christ’s atonement instead of attempting to become the next Tim Keller or CS Lewis (ie, by the translation of confessional antithesis into some “mere Christian” not-Protestant kingdom)

    Jarvis Williams–“Jesus died for all of the sins of all of the people in the world without distinction instead of dying for all of the sins of all of the people without exception. That is, Jesus died for all of the sins of all of the races of people whom God specifically chose to be saved before the foundation of the world. God chose to save the elect based on God’s good pleasure apart from foreseen faith (Rom. 8:29-30; 9:1-29), and God sent Jesus to die on the cross for their sins so that they and ONLY THEY WOULD receive salvation.”

    Jarvis Williams-“God is the justifying God of both Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus This redemption is exclusively “only” for those who have been justified freely by faith by God’s grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus (3:21-22, 24-25; 5:1). God upheld the integrity of God’s justice by satisfying God’s wrath in the cross of Jesus on behalf of the Jewish and Gentile sinners who are justified, reconciled, and saved by Jesus’ blood and resurrection (4:25; 5:6-10; 2 Cor. 5:20).”


  3. Thank you for this constructive post. In particular, I appreciated this line:

    “The problem is that the traditional means of grace and serious worship won’t rise above the hum drum of congregational life to amount to a movement, a following.”

    It reminded me that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed… small and obscure– “powerless.” Yet in the end , it takes over the earth. So too with God’s “mundane” and “hum drum” ways. This truth is a marvel I hope to never get over.


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