THE ‘NEW CALVINISM’: A Review of the Peter Masters assault on the new breed of Calvinists


I have recently come across an article penned by Peter Masters of the ‘Metropolitan Tabernacle, in London, England. Writing in the ‘Sword & Trowel’ 2009, No 1, Peter Masters attacks what he calls the ‘New Calvinism,’ in a scathing assault on what he sees as the merger of Calvinism with Worldliness.

See: http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/?page=article&id=13

I have also come across an article written by Collin Hansen (to which Masters refers) in the September 2006 edition of ‘Christianity Today,’ in which he investigates what he calls a resurgent Calvinism, a Calvinism that is making a comeback and shaking up the church. This resurgent Calvinism is that which Peter Masters criticizes.

See: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/september/42.32.html

Peter Masters calls the Hansen article a book, so I am not sure that the entire ‘book’ appears in Christianity Today or whether it is an excerpt from it.

The Hansen article doesn’t come to any conclusions about Calvinism, though it does include a number of people and their comments that are opposed to Calvinism. It also includes people and their comments that wholeheartedly support Calvinism. There seems to be a sigh of relief that the Calvinist resurgence finds its root in the Scriptures and has a major commitment to them and what they teach, so all is not as bad as may first appear.

It is difficult, not being familiar with Collin Hansen, to pinpoint just where he himself stands on ‘Calvinism’ from the article itself.

However, in the Peter Masters article it is clear that he stands opposed to the ‘New Calvinism’ that he detects in the resurgent Calvinism of our day in England and the United States. Far from being pleased with the rise in numbers of those holding to Calvinistic teachings, he is concerned over what he perceives as a merging of Calvinism with Worldliness, and on some points I would have to agree.

I am not yet convinced that he is right in every area of his criticism of resurgent Calvinism as I do not believe you need to embrace the Puritans ‘legalism’ in respect to matters indifferent in order to appreciate the Puritans overall. Nor do I think you need to embrace that legalist spirit in order to stand alongside the Puritans in those matters vital to Christianity, especially from a Reformed perspective.

However, I do agree with some of what Peter Masters has to say concerning the ministry of some of the men he recognizes as leaders in the ‘New Calvinism.’ For example, I would agree with a large amount of what Mark Driscoll has to say and teach – but the manner in which he teaches it, using language that can be described as offensive, is not the way to do it. I have not heard Driscoll preach myself, but I understand he often uses questionable language in order to be relevant to the lost of this current age. What Masters has to say in this respect is quite right in my opinion.

I also question the need to embrace so readily the entertainment of the world as part of the worship service. So as to be clear, I have listened to a lot of secular music, though I draw the line at what I find to be unwholesome and much of today’s current music in exactly that and I largely do not listen to it. I do not believe it necessary however, to imitate the secular style of music and to import it into the worship service. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this means the entire banning of contemporary music, just that greater care needs to be taken in reaching a position on whether to include it in the worship service at any particular time – not including it simply to be ‘relevant.’

I, like Peter Masters, have grave concerns about the Calvinism that I hold to (Particular Baptist) being united with a Charismatic style of it. For me, this has no place and I find it difficult to believe that leaders of such calibre as John Macarthur and John Piper are happy to be united in conferences where Charismatic worship practices occur, etc.

I think overall Peter Masters is saying what I have been saying about the growing trend in reformed circles towards pragmatism. He says it a lot better than me of course. There is a growing embrace of church growth like behaviour and seeker sensitive styled practices that embrace worldliness as a means of attracting people to church.

I found myself being concerned with whole far Peter Masters went in his denunciation of the ‘New Calvinism.’ However, the more I think about it the more right he seems to be.

Masters calls many of the ‘New Calvinist’ leaders brilliant men and I would agree with him. I greatly admire John Macarthur and his associates, and I am sure I would also find much of what John Piper and the others have to say equally as helpful. But I am concerned with what Peter Masters has outlined in his article. I am also a little confused because I thought this was the sort of thing that John Macarthur has also decried in many of his books. I find myself finding it difficult to believe that he could be caught up in this blend that the ‘New Calvinism’ appears to be.

I certainly don’t write off everything that this resurgent Calvinism is doing. I know these men are wholeheartedly committed to the same truths as the Reformers and Puritans held dear. i do not doubt that at all. I also think they are doing much good. But if what Peter Masters is highlighting is true of this movement, than there is great need for concern I think. The real and full consequences of this approach will not be seen until the next generation and I fear those consequences will bring much harm to the church.

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5 thoughts on “THE ‘NEW CALVINISM’: A Review of the Peter Masters assault on the new breed of Calvinists

  1. it is indeed worth reflecting upon…are these compromises, how will they affect the quality of believers tomorrow,…what happens when the ‘baits(as used in the article) are not used, wont seekers still seek?

  2. I thank you for your post concerning “the New Calvinism: A review of Peter Masters assuault on the new breed of Calvinists”. I have also read Masters article or critique and must say that much of those he ties with the “New Calvinism” as he calls it and as it is being called is quite unclear; and also, to many who know some of these men, totally untrue.

    Masters’ greatest difficulty is in the area of seperation from the music that some of these men either have allowed in their conferences or churches because of the music’s tie and possible stem from worldliness’ is understandable in many respects. But, to place all of these men in such a circle is inaccurate and unnecessarily unfair. Many of these men such as John MacArthur do not have or necessarily hold to this style of music in their churches or conferences.

    Also it should be clear that some of them do not hold to charismatic views with relationship to worship and doctrine at all. The same should be mentioned about calling them “seeker-sensitive” or falling into that movement either.

    It needs to be noted that “Peace Formula” attributed to St. Augustine, but was given by Lutheran German, Peter Meiderlin (Rupertus Meldenius) was correct, that in the essential doctrines we are to maintain unity, in the nonessentials liberality, but in all things charity. We may not agree with each other on the nonessentials but if we agree on the essentials, then there is no way we are to actually seperate ourselves from such brothers who are holding, maintaining, and defending the standard or what makes us brothers in the faith. We must all take care in how we handle correctly what is error (biblical error at that) or possibly just our preferences, which may not be in disagreement with Scripture at all.

  3. Having recently read Peter Masters’ article, your blog post does well to elevate our vantage point to see “resurgent Calvinism” in a broader context.

  4. Just a quick comment on Jonathan’s comment (if that makes sense). I was hopeful of being fair and balanced, so thank you for your thoughts. I was a little concerned I may have misrepresented someone – allbeit unintentionally.

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