I have to ask, where are all of the New Calvinists everyone’s talking about? The neo-Calvinists are – it seems to me – similar to the so-called neo-Atheist in one crucial respect: no new substance, only new aggression. But if we’re talking about “neo-Reformed” maybe we should look less toward the Calvinists, and more toward the Arminians. The pushing and the shoving, the aggression, name calling and the myriad of literature produced in recent years by the neo-Calvinists has had a tremendously positive effect for Arminianism and other moderate evangelical positions.
Neo-Calvinism – in its overconfidence – has drawn a sharp line in the sand, and in so doing – perhaps to the downcast surprise of the Calvinists – has and is resulting in an influx of bible-believing evangelicals answering a BIG “nay” to the Calvinist call to dogma.
So they hammer and shout in blog post after blog post, relentlessly, aggressively, mercilessly, on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere their voice can be heard. But by and large people have been content not taking sides: “I don’t understand everything” they say, “but what you teach makes God evil. I can’t accept that when I read my bible”. They continue, “I can’t explain all the passages you throw at me, but if what you say about God is true, then those passages don’t matter anyways because God – in some unknown mystery you say – cannot be trusted because, truthfully, he is the father of lies. The very bible you use to defend these beliefs of yours renders the bible inoperative.”
But the line is pressed none-the-less: “if you truly are going to be ‘biblical’” the Calvinist says, “then you must accept what I am saying. Either you’re a bible Christian or you’re not. And if you are, you must accept Calvinism”. This option is simply unacceptable because, as said, this theology renders the bible inoperative. “So where do I go from here?” says the average Christian when pressed to think about these theological matters from a biblical perspective. “Give me a bible-based alternative.” In enter Arminian/Anglican/Wesleyan theology with its biblical foundation and via-media guiding principle, supported not just from scripture but also by all the church Fathers.
There is – in my Christian Bookstore – an “academic/theology” section, and I always know when a Calvin-Reformed (“neo-Calvinist”) has blow through this section, because books by N.T. Wright are always “covered up” or “hidden behind” by the works of R.C. Sproul, John Piper and others. It’s frustrating. It’s dogmatic. It’s narrow-minded. It’s cultish. Yes, that’s it. It’s like a cult. “Don’t both searching things out. Don’t think. Read this specific material then shut off your brain. Become a robot. Regurgitate John Piper or R.C. Sproul and you’ll be good. Keep to our favourite slogans (we particularly like the slogan: “imputation”), and you can’t go wrong. And most important of all: Don’t even consider the possibility that you read the bible through the spectacles of Reformed Tradition. There is no such thing; you are simply ‘sola scriptura’.”
Is it any wonder why the work of N.T. Wright strikes such fear into the hearts of neo-Calvinists.
Here’s a thought: for every twenty books we sell by N.T. Wright, one by Sproul might slide through the door. That’s a fact. Maybe people don’t want to be forced to choose between a theological system called “Calvinism” and one called “Arminianism”. Maybe they just want to know “What Saint Paul (and other biblical authors) Really Said?”
If someone made the call: Would the Real Neo-Reformed Please Stand Up, I am convinced that the elite class, the Calvinists, would be far outnumbered by the villagers, the town-folk, the peasantry, and some very prominent intellectuals.