A Recruit for the Theological Dark Web

I’m not sure Jared Longshore has it right to talk about courageous Calvinism. That sounds a little too much like the cage-phase variety. But his observations about Old Calvinism in contrast with New Calvinism suggests Longshore may want more room to dissent from the niceness that dominates the Gospel Industrial Complex:

A cowardly Calvinist is an illogical thing. I don’t say that it is a thing that does not exist. Sadly, regrettably, shockingly, it does exist. But it shouldn’t. Before we get in too deep, no offense to the courageous non-Calvinist. My point is not to say that those who disagree with God’s sovereign decrees lack courage. Not at all. My point is rather to remedy what is all too common and downright inconsistent: the Calvinistic wimp. He is an enigma.

There may be some explanation for the man. I recall sitting down some years back with a leading Calvinist in the SBC. The spot was Louisville and the ocasion was T4G. I was a student at Southern Seminary quite certain that the third great awakening had struck. As I expressed my amazement over breakfast to this gentleman, amazement that so many young men we’re full of zeal for the glory of the sovereign God, his reply was a bit of a let down. “I’m just not sure how deep this whole thing is,” came the reply.

The words from a man who was a Calvinist when it wasn’t cool. A Calvinist when it wasn’t easy. A Calvinist when you actually had to examine the arguments of the other side and come to a settled and biblical position. So, perhaps the present quivering (and there is present quivering, we’re shaking like a freshly baked flan) is a symptom of the thin theology. If so, then let us go further up and further in.

We must get down deep in our bones that this courage is needed. Courage has always been required for those who would make God’s ways known among men. But there are certain times when that courage is especially necessary. Think Latimer and Ridley.

Why is courage needed today? Because if you open God’s Word and preach it plainly you’re going to be kicking over idols in every direction. You’re going to need courage because there has been a way to massage God’s Word, appealing to the secular mind, but that way seems to be just about all the way shut. You’re going to need courage because the exaltation of man has reached such a pitch, that, if you preach the truth about man’s fallen condition, you’re going to a be an outright bigot. And the colored lights and relevant worship set isn’t going to smooth things over any longer.

Again, I’m not fan of the everything-is-an-idol approach, but Longshore’s outlook is refreshing compared to just about anything about ministry at Gospel Coalition (like this):

Ortlinghaus: I think the primary opportunity is for gospel-centered churches to show that Jesus and his followers are not “haters.” When the national media portray Bible-following Christians as hateful and bigoted, we have an opportunity and mandate to love in the same way we see Jesus loving the woman at the well in the John 4—full of grace and truth. People want to see that our love is genuine (Rom. 12:9).

Buzzard: What God is using here is robustly orthodox, warmly loving Christians who enjoy close relationships with people wrestling through issues of sexuality—boldly, kindly pointing them to the authority of Jesus and his Scriptures over a long period of time.

Don’t accentuate the positive. Be straightforward.


Are the New Calvinists Green or On Fire?

Tim Challies engages in a bit of introspection after the most recent kerfuffle surrounding Mark Driscoll. Challies concedes that a problem for the young sovereigntists was their lack of maturity. They were not mature or settled:

Bear with me as I artificially divide Driscoll’s ministry into three parts: theology (what he said), practice (how he said it) and results (what happened). So many of us had genuine concerns over the second part, but were willing to excuse or downplay them on the basis of the first and third. Yes, he was crude and yes, he sometimes said or did outrageous things, but he never wavered in publicly proclaiming the gospel and both his church and his church-planting movement continued to grow. We were confused. We did not have a clear category for this. We had concerns, but the Lord seemed to be using him. So we recommended his podcasts, or bought his books, even if we had to provide a small caveat each time.

In retrospect, I see this as a mark of immaturity in the New Calvinism, in what in that day was called the Young, Restless, Reformed. It was the young and the restless that allowed us to be so easily impressed. To large degree, we propelled Driscoll to fame through our admiration—even if it was hesitant admiration.

But Challies contradicts this very conclusion when he throws — unintentionally — the old young sovereigntists under the bus with the immature. First John Piper shows some lack of years:

In 2006 Driscoll was more formally introduced to the New Calvinism with his inclusion in the Desiring God National Conference and even then he was a controversial figure. When Piper invited him again in 2008 he recorded a short video to explain why he had extended the invitation. These words stand out: “I love Mark Driscoll’s theology.” While Piper did not deny the concerns, he loved Driscoll’s theology and loved what the Lord was doing through him.

Then D. A. Carson also shows the weakness of youth (from an earlier post):

Last weekend I had the privilege of spending a fair bit of time with D.A. Carson and he said something about Driscoll that I found interesting and meaningful. Because he has said this to others, I don’t think I’m violating any kind of trust in mentioning it. There is no doubt that people have had difficulty knowing what to do with Driscoll and knowing how to think about him. But Carson said he finds it helpful to look not just at where Driscoll is, but at the trajectory he is on. I took that to mean that if we look at where he has come from and then plot a course by where he is now, we’ll see that he is growing and maturing as a Christian and that he is continually emphasizing better and more biblical theology. We are all works in progress. This is not to say that we should hope that Mark Driscoll grows up to become John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul. Rather, it simply means that it is sometimes wise to look at the wider picture.

When we look to that wider picture we see that Driscoll clearly believes in and teaches the gospel.

So perhaps the problem is not age or maturity. Could it be that Challies continues to share with Driscoll an understanding of the church and the Christian ministry that provides room for the sorts of celebrity, technology, mass crowds, and enthusiasm upon which the young sovereigntists thrive?

After all, the young sovereigntists have not found the Old Calvinists very attractive. The charge of mean or argumentative has been a fairly read one to discount the kind of Reformed Christianity from which folks like Challies and the Gospel Allies want to create some distance. This is why it is curious now to learn that the young and old sovereigntists were willing to overlook Driscoll’s failings for the sake of his theology.

Well, if you could do that for Acts 29, why not for the OPC or the URC or the PCA in its non-TKNY iterations? What’s so bad about the theology of the Reformed churches? What’s wrong with baptizing infants and ministering within the bounds of an ecclesiastical assembly? What’s wrong with singing Psalms? What’s wrong with seeing hedonism and spirituality as antithetical? Nothing that would have raised real questions about Driscoll or C. J. Mahoney or James Macdonald a long time ago.

To Which Church Do You Belong?

The fault line that still doesn’t show up on the Allies’ radar:

The recent controversy surrounding World Vision USA’s decision to open employment to same-sex couples and the organization’s subsequent reversal reveals the fault lines in evangelicalism today.

For the evangelicals distraught by World Vision’s initial decision, the controversy was never about the legitimacy or worthiness of people with differing views of marriage doing good work around the world. We should applaud good deeds of relief and compassion wherever we see them and wherever they come from. No, this particular controversy was about the meaning of evangelical.

Can an institution with an historic evangelical identity be divided on an issue as central as marriage and family and still be evangelical? Related to this discussion are questions about the authority and interpretation of Scripture, cultural engagement, and institutional power. All sides of the debate recognize that the definition of evangelical is at stake, which is why some are now publicly casting off the term altogether.

The World Vision decision was a tremor that warns us of a coming earthquake in which churches and leaders historically identified with evangelicalism will divide along all-too-familiar fault lines.

At the risk of sounding proud, Protestants who actually believe that church membership and ordination matter, the World Vision kerfuffle was just more background noise.

Taking Every Square (Liquid) Ounce Captive

In honor of the series running over at TGC on pastries, Old Calvinists may be in the mood for a post that has less to do with flour and more with peat. The following is also a confirmation of a point made one student this morning during discussion of Progressivism and Prohibition. I had not heard this before, but legend has it that Laphroiag was on sale throughout the 1920s because no one believed anyone who was not sick would drink it:

This Scotch whisky carries an interesting story with it. During Prohibition in the United States, Laphroaig was still allowed to import their whisky at its cask strength as cough medicine because the United States government deemed the whisky too strong and medicinal to be consumed recreationally.

Here is how one Scotch-drinker describes Laphroiag:

This to me is the most immediately identifiable nose in the realm of Scotch whisky—beast-like, phenolic, wheelbarrels of iodine, sea salt, nonstop peat and kippers—and as if the medicinal tidal waves aren’t enough, beneath them lies a thin layer of fino sherry—is this loutish nose too much? why am I reaching for a rifle?—on palate, the peat reek is so thick I have to scrape it off my tongue with a spatula; the three-alarm smokiness leaves scant room for anything else—I wonder if there is anything else in terms of flavor—maybe it’s just peat, smoke, peat, smoke; I appreciate the damn-the-torpedoes character of this burly brat, but if I were stranded on that proverbial island with only one single malt, Laphroaig 10 most definitely would not be my choice; make sure you have a whip and a chair handy after you open this beastie; my biggest objection to this malt is, what does a newcomer to malts think if they happen to try this five-alarm malt before tasting other, tamer, more elegant malts? Do you lose that person forever?

For (all about) me, the older I get, the more peat, hops, pepper, garlic, Honduran leaf, the more I enjoy. Is this a sign that tastebuds are wearing out?

An Easy Way to tell a New Calvinist from an Old Calvinist — Say Lutheranism!

This is inspired by R. Phillips’ post on why Old Calvinists should be encouraged by, even rejoice over, New Calvinism. The word inspired is key because inspiration does not come easily to Old Calvinists unless we are talking the doctrine of Scripture. Temperamentally, we tend to be phlegmatic souls who see almost nothing new under the sun (see below). But New Calvinists see inspiration and enthusiasm as part and parcel of genuine faith. Such inspiration also cuts down on cognitive powers — think Gilbert Tennent.

The lone exception to the New Calvinist w-w is Lutheranism. That is where New Calvinists find their critical skills and discern differences. Does cessationism matter? Not so much. But talk too much about the Lord’s Supper or baptism and you feel the wind going out of New Calvinist hedonism.

I wonder if one reason for such skepticism about Lutheranism is that confessional Lutherans put the stiff upper lip in the theology of suffering. Lutherans know the hype and pizzazz of the theology of glory and stay away from it. New Calvinists, in contrast, seem to be suckers for energy, the triumphalism, the earnestness of the religious conference and the celebrity speaker.

For that reason, I propose a thought experiment. What if we took Phillips’ words regarding New Calvinists and applied them to Lutherans? Would the world-wide interweb go kablooie?

1. Old Calvinism should avoid being overly critical but should rejoice in the New Lutheranism.

2. Old Calvinism should not be threatened by or feel pressure to conform to the New Lutheranism.

3. Old Calvinism should humbly listen to the New Lutheranism, benefiting from its insights and critiques.

4. Old Calvinism should zealously seek to serve rather than to undermine the New Lutheranism.

If Phillips could write about Lutheranism the way he does about New Calvinism, I might be persuaded. Otherwise, I suspect that Phillips was a New Calvinist before New Calvinists starting selling t-shirts.

Postscript: I have taken this personality test that has been going around on the Internet and I further wonder if New Calvinists would score differently from an Old Calvinist, if maybe the differences are primarily temperamental. Here are (all about) my results:


Your habits and perspectives most resemble those of middle-class Americans. Members of this group tend to be gentle and engaging parents, and if they’re native English speakers they probably use some regional idioms and inflections. Your people are mostly college-educated, and you’re about equally likely to beg children not to shout “so loudly” as you are to ask them to “read slow” during story time. You’re probably a decent judge of others’ emotions, and either a non-evangelical Christian, an atheist, or an agnostic. A typical member of this group breastfeeds for three months or less, drinks diet soda, and visits the dentist regularly. If you’re a member of this group, there’s a good chance that you roll with the flow of technological progress and hate heavy metal music.