“Life in the Republic grows increasingly uncomfortable to men of the more urbane and seemly sort, and, despite the great material prosperity of the country, the general stock of happiness probably diminishes steadily. For the thing that makes us enjoy the society of our fellows is not admiration of their inner virtues but delight in their outward manners. It is not enough that they are headed for heaven, and will sit upon the right hand of God through all eternity; it is also necessary that they be polite, generous, and, above all, trustworthy. We must have confidence in them in order to get any pleasure out of associating with them. We must be sure that they will not do unto us as we should refuse, even for cash in hand, to do unto them. It is the tragedy of the Puritan that he can never inspire this confidence in his fellow-men. He is by nature a pedant in ethics, and hence he is by nature a mucker. With the best of intentions he cannot rid himself of the belief that it is his duty to save us from our follies— i. e., from all the non-puritanical acts and whimsies that make life charming. His duty to let us be happy takes second, third or fourth place. A Puritan cannot be tolerant—and with tolerance goes magnanimity.
The late Dr. Woodrow Wilson was a typical Puritan—of the better sort, perhaps, for he at least toyed with the ambition to appear as a gentleman, but nevertheless a true Puritan. Magnanimity was simply beyond him. Confronted, on his death-bed, with the case of poor old [Eugene V.] Debs, all his instincts compelled him to keep Debs in jail. I daresay that, as a purely logical matter, he saw clearly that the old fellow ought to be turned loose; certainly he must have known that Washington would not have hesitated, or Lincoln. But Calvinism triumphed as his intellectual faculties decayed. In the full bloom of health, with a plug hat on his head, he aped the gentry of his wistful adoration very cleverly, but lying in bed, stripped like
Thackeray’s Louis XIV, he reverted to his congenital Puritanism, which is to say, bounderism. (“From the Memoirs of a Subject of the United States,” Prejudices, Sixth Series)
John Piper tells us never to give up in the pursuit of improved race relations:
No lesson in the pursuit of racial and ethnic diversity and harmony has been more forceful than the lesson that it is easy to get so wounded and so tired that you decide to quit. This is true of every race and every ethnicity in whatever struggle they face. The most hopeless temptation is to give up—to say that there are other important things to work on (which is true), and I will let someone else worry about racial issues.
The main reason for the temptation to quit pursuing is that whatever strategy you try, you will be criticized by somebody. You didn’t say the right thing, or you didn’t say it in the right way, or you should have said it a long time ago, or you shouldn’t say anything but get off your backside and do something, or, or, or. Just when you think you have made your best effort to do something healing, someone will point out the flaw in it. And when you try to talk about doing better, there are few things more maddening than to be told, “You just don’t get it.” Oh, how our back gets up, and we feel the power of self-pity rising in our hearts and want to say, “Okay, I’ve tried. I’ve done my best. See you later.” And there ends our foray into racial harmony.
My plea is: never quit. Change. Step back. Get another strategy. Start over. But never quit.
While Piper thinks there’s hope, Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t (as summarized by Thomas Chatterton Williams):
It’s not just black kids in tough neighbourhoods who are hapless automatons. In Coates’s view, no one has agency. The young black shooter doesn’t have to think too hard about what he might do because ‘the galaxy was playing with loaded dice.’ What’s alarming, though no doubt comforting to his white readership, is that in this analysis whites aren’t individual actors either. When an irritable white woman leaving an Upper West Side cinema pushes the young, ‘dawdling’ Samori and impatiently screams, ‘Come on!’ Coates, who is a tall, imposingly built man, erupts:
There was the reaction of any parent when a stranger lays a hand on the body of his or her child. And there was my own insecurity in my ability to protect your black body … I was only aware that someone had invoked their right over the body of my son. I turned and spoke to this woman, and my words were hot with all of the moment and all of my history. She shrunk back, shocked. A white man standing nearby spoke up in her defence. I experienced this as his attempt to rescue the damsel from the beast. He had made no such attempt on behalf of my son. And he was now supported by other white people in the assembling crowd. The man came closer. He grew louder. I pushed him away. He said: ‘I could have you arrested!’ I did not care. I told him this, and the desire to do much more was hot in my throat.
Coates sees this woman not as a morally fallible person with her own neuroses, but as a force of nature, she is ‘the comet’ in his scheme. It doesn’t occur to him that she may not be an avatar of white supremacy but just a nasty person who would have been as likely to push a blonde child or a Chinese one. Coates doesn’t realise that his disproportionate reaction – ‘my words were hot with all of the moment and all of my history’ – is bound to be seen as objectionable to those ‘standing nearby’. And it doesn’t strike him that as long as black people have to be handled with infantilising care – for fear of dredging up barely submerged ancestral pain – we’ll never be equal or free.
Whom do you believe? The white pastor or the black author? The earnest New Calvinist or the recipient of the MacArthur genius award? (Odd how Coates sounds far more deterministic than the Calvinist pastor? But just because it’s depressing doesn’t mean it’s false.)
So what is up with the Trumpophobia? This post made me think about posting about Donald Trump. Lots of people are trying to figure out how serious Christians who self-identify as evangelical could support a politician as raucous, impolitic, and self-important as Trump. I too sometimes wonder about it.
But when you connect Trump to Calvinism you’ve gone a bridge too far:
In the mind of the populist Calvinist, then, Trump is one of God’s “elect,” a billionaire because he is one of God’s great men on earth.
You’ll find echoes of this idea in the theology of the group known as “The Family” or “The Fellowship,” which sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast, and supports some of the most corrupt dictators on the planet. (Jeff Sharlet’s outstanding reporting exposed the group’s influence on Capitol Hill.)
For the record, let me say that the Pentecostal tradition to which Palin belongs is antithetical in many ways to traditional Calvinism. Yet, through the influence of the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism (which theologized both capitalism and segregation along Calvinist thought lines) throughout the religious right, it’s fair to say that Calvin’s big-man theory of redemption holds sway in that religious universe.
Add to that the veneration of patriarchy and the strains of authoritarianism that characterize the religious right, and it begins to dawn on one just why Trump so appeals to the self-appointed guardians of the so-called “real America.”
Since when did American politics become so all darned polite, virtuous, and civil? Maybe it should be those things. But ever since we went down the road of partisanship (read two parties), politicians have splattered a lot of mud. Don’t forget that democracy itself is no picnic.
Democracy is that system of government under which people, having 60,000,000 native-born adults to choose from, including thousands who are handsome and many who are wise, pick out a Coolidge to be head of state. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies. (H. L. Mencken)
It’s as if everyone following politics has turned into classical music snobs and considers Trump the equivalent of Sinatra compared to Pavarotti or Enrico Caruso when in fact we are all used to casting our votes for Jay Z or Lil Wayne. Just yesterday I heard a quotation from Hillary Clinton where she described the options for the United States as among going backward, maintaining the status quo, and moving forward. Guess which one she is. Seriously?
I’m not opposed to making arguments against Trump. I have some myself. I simply wish that all the opposition didn’t begin with “yuck.” That so reminds me of the girls from junior high.
Protestants wouldn’t seem to have to worry too much about lacking moral fiber.
Here is how H. L. Mencken perceived moralism in the United States circa 1920:
The man of morals has a certain character, and the man of honour has a quite different character. No one not an idiot fails to differentiate between the two, or to order his intercourse with them upon an assumption of their disparity. What we know in the United States as a Presbyterian is pre-eminently the moral type. Perhaps more than any other man among us he regulates his life, and the lives of all who fall under his influence, upon a purely moral plan. In the main, he gets the principles underlying that plan from the Old Testament; if he is to be described succinctly, it is as one who carries over into modern life, with its superior complexity of sin, the simple and rigid ethical concepts of the ancient Jews. And in particular, he subscribes to their theory that it is virtuous to make things hot for the sinner, by which word he designates any person whose conduct violates the ordinances of God as he himself is aware of them and interprets them. Sin is to the Presbyterian the salient phenomenon of this wobbling and nefarious world, and the pursuit and chastisement of sinners the one avocation that is permanently worth while. . . . Every single human act, he holds, must be either right or wrong – and the overwhelming majority of them are wrong. He knows exactly what these wrong ones are; he recognizes them instantly and infallibly, by a sort of inspired intuitions; and he believes that they should all be punished automatically and with the utmost severity. No one ever heard of a Presbyterian overlooking a fault, or pleading for mercy for the erring. (The American Credo, 51, 52, 53)
Forty years later when a Protestant (Robert McAfee Brown) looked at Roman Catholicism and a Roman Catholic (Gustave Weigel) looked at Protestantism, Weigel’s impression was similar to Mencken’s:
The Reformer’s strong rhetoric against the value of works could be interpreted as a form of antinomianism. “Sin valiantly and believe more valiantly.” Yet all the Reformers were against sin in all its forms and shapes. Calvin’s Geneva was no place for sin or worldliness. Virtue was the strongly enforced law of the city. In the history of Protestantism we do not find antinomianism as a practice except perhaps in some exotic little groups not recognized as genuine by the mass of Protestants. In all Protestant communities it does make a difference whether you behave yourself or don’t. Works are important, very important indeed. Catholic cultures are rarely as strict as communities where a strong calvinism prevails. Strangely enough, Catholicism always is more concerned with the faith of its members than with their works. For the Catholic the loss of faith is the greatest loss. With faith alive, pardon is possible. Where faith is absent, there is no pardon. (An American Dialogue, 177)
Postscript: the observations of Roman Catholics and Protestants in the Brown-Weigel exchange are striking for showing how different the Christian landscape is today in the U.S. On the theme of moralism, Weigel also had this to say:
When the Catholic hears a Protestant sermon he notes a number of things. In most cases the sermon is on a moral theme, and could be heard without much, if any, change in a Catholic church. (135)
There is of course a Protestant prudery just as there is a Catholic prudery, but I am not referring to either. It seems to the Catholic that the Protestant is not too worried about birth-control, obscenity in the theatre or in print, and exhibitionism in public. Here the Protestant stands for liberty while the Catholic considers it license. These different attitudes produce friction in the national community. The Protestant thinks the Catholic immoral because he drinks and plays Bingo — and it gives the Protestant satisfaction. The Catholic thinks the Protestant immoral because he will not fight birth-control and it makes the Catholic feel morally superior.
These attitudes to drinking, gambling, and sex are very conspicuous but somehow they are not too significant. The real difference between the two communities is their distinctive conceptions of virtue. The Protestant esteems the natural virtues while the Catholic makes more of the supernatural virtues. The Protestant thinks highly of truthfulness, sobriety, simplicity, reliability, and industriousness. The Catholic most esteems humility, mortification, penance, chastity, poverty, and abnegation. Both admire charity, but Catholic charity is warmer and more personal, while Protestant charity is more efficient and better organized. . . . The result of the different tempers of moral conception will be Protestant reserve, stiffness and gravity in contrast to the Catholic’s tendency toward spontaneity, Baroque display and even Rabelaisian earthiness. (143-144)
Some Roman Catholics are scratching their heads about David Brat, the economics professor who defeated Eric Cantor in Virginia Congressional primaries. Brat describes himself as a Calvinist Catholic Libertarian. For some, Roman Catholicism is as incompatible with Calvinism as it is with libertarianism, though you don’t hear as much about Calvinist theology as you do about economics (except among Jason and the Callers but they are so far off the Roman Catholic reservation that they don’t count). Whether Calvinism and libertarianism are compatible is something more often assumed than proved.
Be all that as it may, one Roman Catholic writer has no trouble with Brat at Calvinist, Catholic, and Libertarian:
It’s doubtful that Brat is Catholic in the way readers of this column are likely to be Catholic. He states that he “attends” a Catholic church, St. Michael’s, but also lists other churches as “affiliations” — Christ Church Episcopal, Third Presbyterian, and Shady Grove Methodist. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Hope College, a Christian liberal arts college in Holland, Mich., which is historically affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, a Protestant denomination that sprouted during the 17th century. He earned a master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian school. Perhaps Brat will clear up what these “affiliations” signify in the coming weeks.
Until then, I suggest we not get overwrought about what he means when he calls himself a “Catholic Calvinist libertarian,” even though many have been reacting with alarm.. . . I don’t know Brat. I hold no brief for him, but I am convinced that his description of himself as a Catholic Calvinist libertarian is one that most Catholics who identify themselves as “conservatives” or “on the right politically” would feel comfortable with. I include myself in that category.
I submit that Brat’s point is that he is not a doctrinaire Calvinist or economic libertarian. That is why the word “Catholic” is part of his self-designation. He is saying that he is attracted to certain positions that are taken by Calvinists and libertarians that do not clash with Catholic teaching. There are such things.
Brat is not the only so-called Calvinist on the political “right” to be worshiping on both sides of the Tiber as it were. Hugh Hewitt has also recently admitted to double-dipping liturgically. In a piece that suggests Hewitt will be leaving the PCUSA for its vote to divest of companies that do business with Israel, he also admits to going to mass on Saturdays before worshiping with Presbyterians on Sunday:
Now the PCUSA, as its members call it, has taken an official position against Israel and so I, as an elder in the PCUSA — no longer a “ruling” elder in my congregation, having wrapped up my second such stint last year — have to take a position for or against the PCUSA based on it.
Many PCUSA congregations across the country are already engaged in the process of “discerning” whether to remain within the splintering denomination, and this new assault on Israel and the virulent language employed — “occupation” — will no doubt make that process much easier for hundreds of thousands of us. If their congregations don’t leave, they will. They will not be part of the American intifada against Israel.
The PCUSA has raised its hand against Israel. So now either my congregation must depart the PCUSA or I must depart my congregation. I will not be a part, however small, in any campaign against Israel. No Christian who knows how the Church largely stood silent during the Holocaust should be. No thinking person who reads beyond the fringes of the Left would reason as this letter does. If a denomination insists on being ruled by a majority of ill-educated posers, it deserves the withering that has already set in and will now accelerate.
Strong language that, and I have never used it in any of the theological debates to date. Jesus was angry only with the Pharisees and the money-changers. . . .
It seems likely that most of the PCUSA’s General Assembly voters are wholly ignorant of most of this, being anti-intellectual as well as anti-Israel.
This is not a theological dispute. As a guy who goes to Mass on Saturday afternoon and to the PCUSA on Sunday morning, I am not easily riled over theological disputes.
One could well quibble with Hewitt about the theological dimensions of the PCUSA’s decision, especially if he had ever encountered the doctrine of the spirituality of the church during his stint as a PCUSA elder. Some, like me, would argue that for the church to take a political position — which, ahem, the PCUSA has been doing for a long time now — the church is pretending to speak for God (read minister the word) on matters about which God has remained silent. The irony, in addition, is that Israel is both a theological (think Old Testament) and (since 1948 a) political topic. So Hewitt’s attempt to separate theology (where he’s easy going) from politics (where he’s adamant) is not as easy as he might think. But why would he consider leaving a church for the wrong politics? Is the Church of the Latter Day Saints now attractive for its conservative politics or does the deity of Christ matter for church membership?
So where’s the trend? In the long run, it is the social gospel momentum of churches speaking about matters over which they have no authority. (And please note the historical coincidence of Protestants getting in the Progressive politics business at roughly the same time that Leo XIII was cultivating Roman Catholicism’s taste for social teaching.) We continue to see this trend played out 125 years later.
The short-term trend is for this social gospel mindset to blur lines that used to keep Calvinists and Roman Catholics apart. Granted, Evangelicals and Catholics together is almost two decades old now, but Calvinists were a pretty small piece of that effort unless you want to count Chuck Colson’s Kuyperianism. But now with Calvinism’s popularity, it’s possible for political candidates and pundits to have it all.
Is this a pretty good country or what!
I continue to be fascinated by the idea of Scottish independence. In Prospect Magazine this morning I read this account of Scottish Calvinism in David Marquand’s case for a federalist solution to the United Kingdom’s discomfort:
. . . the Scottish government is — implicitly at least — social-democratic. It seeks independence to protect Scottish social democracy against the market fundamentalism of the London government, both within the UK and in its dealings with the EU. The roots of Scottish social democracy go deep. The political cultures of all the non-English nations of Great Britain are very different from their English counterparts. As a civil servant in the Welsh education department put it in my hearing not long ago, the overarching theme of UK governance can be summed up as “choice, competition, customer.” The Welsh equivalent is: “voice, cooperation, citizen.” . . . But ever since Mrs Thatcher crossed the threshold of No 10 all UK governments, irrespective of party, have been in thrall to the imperatives of what Philip Bobbitt, the legal historian and philosopher, has called the “market state.” These imperatives have not only violated the underlying assumptions of Scotland’s political culture; they have also trampled on the religious traditions with which that culture is intertwined. Scotland’s religious traditions are Roman Catholic and Calvinist. Both reject the Hayekian market individualism of Thatcher and the watered down version of it that prevailed under Blair and Brow. Two particularly egregious Thatcherisms stank in Scottish nostrils: her dictum that no one would remember the Good Samaritan if he hadn’t had the money to give effect to his good intentions; and her notorious “sermon on the mound,” in which she insisted that since Christ chose to lay down his life, freedom of choice was the essence of Christianity.
I have no quarrel with Scottish social democrats, nor with the parish ideals that inspired the Free Church of Scotland in the days of Thomas Chalmers. Let Scottish Presbyterians be Scottish Presbyterians. But why Calvinism is responsible for this social outlook when we on the other side of the Atlantic regularly hear about Calvinism’s market friendly and individualistic ways, I don’t understand. Could it be that Calvinism is just as plastic as evangelicalism? The seer sees what she wants to see.
The comparisons between Calvinism and Lutheranism continue. One of the most recent comes from James Rogers, who teaches political science at Texas A&M. Rogers concedes that the average evangelical Protestant has a harder time with Lutheranism than Calvinism for a number of reasons.
First, Lutherans are ethnic (psst, so are Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Scottish Presbyterians, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Huguenots, and English Puritans):
Many Lutheran churches began as “ethnic” churches, not even using English in worship. And memories of forced union with Reformed churches in Germany in the early nineteenth century (which prompted much Lutheran immigration to the U.S) also induced isolation from broader American Evangelical culture.
Then we have the problem that Lutherans don’t teach as well as Calvinists do. For starters, Luther didn’t write a systematic theology and Calvin did. But the Lutheran creeds are not as accessible as Reformed:
I think that most modern American Evangelical readers, attempting to read Lutheran confessional documents by himself or herself, will usually get lost more quickly, and give up sooner, than when reading the analogous Calvinist confessional texts.
But what about Luther’s Small Catechism? Luther’s Small Catechism present the opposite problem to our Evangelical seeker, it doesn’t provide enough perspective to engage him. Luther wrote the Small Catechism as the most basic introduction to the faith in an age of widespread ignorance among layfolk. It starts simply enough with the ten commands, “The First Commandment. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods.’ ‘What does this mean?’ ‘Answer. We should fear, love, and trust God above all thing.’”
While the Small Catechism is well suited for the purpose for which it was written, it is not well suited to our modal Evangelical seeker, who already has a passing knowledge of the Scriptures and is looking for deeper answers. While the Augsburg starts too far down the stream for our Evangelical autodidact, the Small Catechism, as it were, starts too early to engage the same person.
In contrast, the Shorter Catechism is highly memorable and even inspiring.
And then Lutheranism suffers from a sacramental bridge too far:
Lutherans believe that God works through the sacrament with the Word, and so God actually confers grace in and through baptism and the Supper. For Lutherans, it is God who works through these means, and not man. Therefore Christians really receive God’s forgiveness through Christ when we are united with Christ in baptism, and receive Jesus’ true body and the blood poured out for our forgiveness in the bread and wine that we receive.
While this may seem to be theological nit-picking, the differences create important differences in the spiritual and ecclesiastical experience of the average layfolk in the two traditions.
Philip Cary wrote several papers a few years back that helpfully contrast the general Evangelical/Protestant understanding of “sola fide” with the role of the sacraments in Luther’s understanding of “sola fide.” Cary characterizes the standard Protestant view of “sola fide” with this syllogism:
Major Premise: Whoever believes in Christ is saved.
Minor Premise: I believe in Christ.
Conclusion: I am saved.
This syllogism implies what Cary calls this the requirement of “reflective faith.”
The hour I first believed, the moment when I can first say “I truly believe in Christ” is the moment of my salvation, of my conversion and turning from death to life. What matters is that moment of conversion, not the sacrament of baptism, because everything depends on my being able to say “I believe.” For only if I know that I truly believe can I confidently conclude: I am saved. . . .
In contrast, Luther’s “sola fide” for Cary is grounded not in the believer’s internal act of will, but in the work of Christ applied to “me” in baptism. Cary characterizes Luther’s syllogism this way:
Major premise: Christ told me, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Minor premise: Christ never lies but only tells the truth.
Conclusion: I am baptized (i.e., I have new life in Christ).
Cary observes that the “difference is subtle but makes a huge logical difference in the outcome.” First, Christ’s promise is spoken to me in baptism. It is “Christ who speaks the baptismal formula” through the mouth of the pastor (or the lay baptizer in the case of emergency). These words are spoken to “me in particular.”
I see Rogers/Cary’s point, sort of. But what exactly does Christ’s promise in baptism have to do with sola fide? Luther did believe, did he not, that faith was the instrument by which we receive Christ’s righteousness or the way we trust the promises of God. It is one thing for Christ to speak. It is another for that speaking to be true of me. One is the doctrine of Christ. The other is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (who regenerates for saving faith). So how Cary is addressing the significance of sola fide except in a couple of removed steps of theological reasoning, I don’t know.
But the payoff for Rogers, the way that evangelicals might find Lutheranism more appealing, is the way that experimental Calvinists have been attracting Protestants for over four centuries — that is, by really, really, really meaning it. Rogers is on to this when he concludes:
If Lutherans really believe what their theology says about Word and Sacrament, then I think they would be equally passionate about engaging other Christians: When Christians understand what Christ offers in the sacraments, that understanding, and what is actually received, changes their lives because they come into direct contact with the death and new life of Jesus.
That’s all you need to appeal to the young restless. Tell then that ideas (read doctrines) have consequences and that believing those ideas will change your life. Voila! You’re inflamed.
Derek Rishmawy asks for the umpteenth time why Calvinists are so proud and dismissive:
Let’s be honest and say a lot of Calvinists won’t admit this difficulty [i.e. election, divine sovereignty, origin of sin], and it comes out in the condescending, aggressive, abrasive, and unhelpful way they approach theological engagement with people who disagree. You know the kind. You can find them in Bible studies, blog comment sections, insular Reformed churches that nobody visits; the archetypical newbie who presents masterfully botched iterations of Reformed doctrines, as if they were the most obvious truths of God that only a perversely obstinate fool could miss; the crusty expert who adds in just enough condescension and sneering to belie all his talk of grace. (“Just watch this sermon on Romans 9 and you’ll thank me for showing you how dumb you are.”)
This was my final reason for being put off from Calvinism: really arrogant, thickheaded, (often young) know-it-all, sneering Calvinists. Who wants to be planted in soil that yields such fruit?
So he asks for Calvinists to be patient and humble with “Reformedish” people like him:
I’ve only slowly come around to the Reformed tradition. It’s taken years of reading different texts, working through heavy issues in metaphysics, thinking deeply through implications of the Creator/creature distinction, and coming to appreciate the Reformed tradition beyond its soteriology. I was brought into its richer tradition of spirituality through an appreciation of its emphasis on a constellation of biblical doctrines like revelation, union with Christ, providence, the atonement, and the Lord’s Supper, which form the proper background for its teaching on election.
That process didn’t happen in a vacuum, though. A couple patient buddies embodied helpful humility toward me as I worked through the issues. They were quick to celebrate the truths we shared together. They argued graciously with me at the right times but never questioned my faith or intelligence. They pointed me to good resources and were willing to read some of the ones to which I pointed them. Essentially they took the time to hear and understand my problems as we discussed. More than that, they honestly tried to extend the free grace that they believed they’d received from God through no merit of their own.
Please don’t hear this article as a call to abandon theological engagement or clear preaching of the truth—even of the distinctives—or some kind of squishy, lowest-common denominator Christianity. It’s simply a reminder that, yes, a lot of this stuff is weird and counterintuitive at first, so we should be understanding, especially if we want to be heard.
Seems like a reasonable point if you weren’t already “he director of college and young adult ministries at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Orange County, California.” In which case, some of the frustration with Director of Ministry Rishmawy could be that he’s supposed to be giving the answers, not raising the questions.
This is where the word “Calvinist” has no objective meaning. It is interesting from a sociological perspective, though. 25 years ago everyone thought the PCA was going to [be] the “Calvinist” option for thinking baptists. However, a number of articulate, deep Baptist thinkers who loosely adopted “Calvinist” loci were able to offer Calvinist Baptists something besides a Presbyterian alternative.
Implication: the PCA (and OPC) will grow at slower rates because Baptists will have fewer reasons to abandon some of their key identities.