The New Calvinists

Not only are there still a few Calvinists around, but another closely related species has suddenly appeared: New Calvinists, the same but different

With the New Calvinism, the dynamics change and Calvin becomes but a dim shadow.  Instead, there is a curious mixture of the Five Points, 16th century Anabaptism, 18th century revivalism, 20th century Pentecostalism, sophisticated marketing, the latest technology, and high-decibel music. The details will vary, of course, depending on the whims of the Leader.  At its worst, he will be a brilliant stand-up comedian, dressed down to a T-shirt, his tattooed arms and biceps proclaiming his masculinity, the music hip-hop (rap). 


Most of our readers now sleep soundly, secure in the knowledge that Calvinists are extinct.  After all, you never see one on telly, and it’s a good seven years since the last stamping on fiddles or smashing of bagpipes.

But being, as it were, possessed of inside knowledge, I knew there were still some Calvinists around.  I had even seen one or two, though much harder to spot than of yore, since they no longer wore black hats.

Now the really bad news.  Not only are there still a few Calvinists around, but another closely related species has suddenly appeared: New Calvinists, the same but different.

I had long suspected it, more or less for the same reason as led scientists to suspect the existence of the planet Pluto.  Even though no telescope could see it, there were odd deviations in the skies, and these deviations strongly suggested the existence of a hitherto unknown planet.  Precisely the same thing was happening in the theological skies: strange deviations from Calvinism pointing to some hitherto unknown phenomenon.

Then, a couple of months ago a book arrived by post, written by a Dr. E. S. Williams  asking to be reviewed, and offering the lowdown on a group labelled ‘The New Calvinists’: a species allegedly represented in America by such organisations as Acts 29, the Gospel Coalition, and Desiring God Ministries; and in this country by the Porterbrook Network.

I found the book’s broad-brush denunciations of fellow Christians hard to take.  Too many good men and first-rate scholars were being held up to disdain.  Yet the book instantly solved my version of the Pluto-problem: the curious movements in the theological skies now had a label; and the label immediately put me on the alert, sensing danger.

The New Calvinists are all Calvinists, but only in the limited sense that they believe in the so-called Five Points, summarised in the mnemonic TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Invincible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints).  I love all tulips, except this one, to which I am profoundly allergic.  John Calvin’s unique contribution to human thought cannot be reduced to this simplistic teaching-aid, thought up only in the 20th century.  Nor can Calvinism be reduced to ‘points’.  It is a whole world-view, embracing not only religion, but art, science, education, economics, politics and much more.

But if they hold to the Five Points, why should I worry?  I should worry because just as the grey squirrel threatens our native reds with extinction, so this brash New Calvinism threatens our historic Scottish Calvinism.  It will eat us up, just as American signal-crayfish eat up our native species.

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