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.

THE ‘ELIJAH’ EXPERIENCE


I have now decided to start using the diary as I had before planned to do. This time I’m hoping to actually keep at it (time will tell I guess). I have now added a link to the diary from my page on the website (http://particularbaptist.com/kevins/kevin.html), which may provoke me to actually keep at it.

Here is my opportunity to share something of my spiritual journey with the world – not that I’m a great or outstanding saint in the overall scheme of things (more like one at the bottom of the pile, but that’s OK, for at least I’m in the pile). Perhaps the Lord will be pleased to use the diary as a help to someone in some way, even if it be an obscure way that I never hear about.

For the last few weeks I have been having something of an ‘Elijah’ experience. That is, the feeling of being alone in my spiritual walk and as though the church has abandoned the Lord’s way as outlined in the Scriptures. It’s a rather poor outlook I’ll admit, but essentially that’s what my problem in one sense is all about. The church in this country is in an appalling state (much like my spelling appears to be at times), having long ago abandoned the peculiar truths of our reformation heritage, not to mention our Scriptural heritage.

In my area of this country which I dearly love, I have been involved in just about all the Reformed Baptist churches so-called during the last 15 or so years. At the end of this time I find myself seemingly alone in my search for the true church. There has been all sorts of departures in my understanding of things, from a legalistic hard spirit, right through to a church beginning to embrace a more popular, user friendly approach to things. I have even pastored a church (which seems to have failed) in an attempt to raise a new standard here by way of a Biblically Reforming church – yet many have no interest in such things. Now I find myself at my wits end, waiting on the Lord to bring about some change in the spiritual landscape of this area and indeed this country – how we need a Spurgeon, a Calvin or the like here now!

I have allowed myself to despair and this has been a sin. I should have been trusting the Lord, looking unto Him rather than the chaos in the churches around about. Add to this the usual sins that afflict me and you find a Christian falling woefully short of what he should be, especially in view of the great grace and love which the Father has bestowed upon me in the Person of His Son and in the work that He has performed. May God be gracious to me – a sinner worthy of no grace or blessing from such a holy and majestic God. Yes my Redeemer lives – may he yet raise me up from my despair, for I fear and know I am incapable of delivering myself from the mire.

My only hope is my God, in whom is all grace, mercy and love