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.

Reforming the Church


One of the things you would expect a Reformed Church to be doing is reforming after the Biblical model, whether they be Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, etc. But is this the case or have the Reformed Churches lived up to their name – Reformed? Have they already reformed enough – hence the name Reformed? This is a question that we perhaps would do well to ponder – especially if we like to regard ourselves as reformed.

As a Particular Baptist I would be classed these days as being pretty much a Reformed Baptist ~ as much as I would like to protest that I do not believe I am like many modern-day Reformed Baptists, this is still a fairly accurate description. However, I am committed to the idea of constantly reforming after the Biblical model. Now this doesn’t mean that I have to adopt 1st century music, a Grecian Bible, etc. It simply means that I would like to put into practice those principles that are outlined in the Bible as being the Biblical method of doing church, of living, etc.

Now the point of this particular posting is to do with the organisation of the church and church practice – is the modern-day reformed movement being Biblical in its approach to the organisation of the church and church practice? From my observations of the Reformed Baptist movement and those who could be loosely described as such, I would have to say, probably not. A way has been found to do things and there is great reluctance to change that way, even though the Bible would suggest that it isn’t quite right, etc. This would certainly indicate a Reformed Church in so much that it has moved from an error to a certain point and stopped – reformed. This would be like the Church of England in the days of the Reformers and Puritans. There were many men who would have liked to have had the church reform even further than it had done, but this was prevented by the powers that were then in place, hence the withdrawal of these men from the established church and the formation of other assemblies that sought to further reform after the biblical model.

We need today a new committment to one of the principles of the reformation and the reformers, a committment to be constantly reforming after the model of the Scriptures. This is simply an implication of the great reformation catch cry of ‘Sola Scriptura.’ We see what Scripture says should be the way we do things and we then set about to do it. Perhaps this should be a ‘UGR (unwritten ground rule)’ for the church, except it is written, for it is what the Scriptures would have us to do. We read and study the Scriptures, see what it says, and then we set to do it in the true spirit of ‘Sola Scriptura.’

Are we reformed (as in stopped) or are we reforming, as the name was originally seeking to suggest? In what way can we still be reforming in the modern-day reformed setting as churches with a reformed heritage?

This was one of the things we were seeking to do when the ‘Northlake’s Reformed Baptist Church (NRBC)’ was seeking to become established (sadly it is no more) – to be reforming after the model of the Scriptural way of doing things.

One of the things we sought to do was return the Lord’s Supper to the context of the fellowship meal as was the practice of the New Testament church. We would observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our fellowship together, having a meal together after a worship service on a Sunday. It was something we all looked forward to. Now there is no command for that I admit, but it was something we saw great advantages in and so we changed the way we did things and adopted the practice – it was a case of reforming after the biblical model, even though it wasn’t expressly commanded.

We also sought to learn as much as we could from the Biblical text regarding the Lord’s Supper, spending several Lord’s Days preaching through the Corinthians text relating to the Lord’s Supper and seeking to put into practice, both individually and as a church, the truths taught there. Again, an example of reforming the church instead of remaining reformed (reaching a certain point and stopping).

I am not suggesting that NRBC was the perfect model at this sort of thing, no not at all – I am simply holding up the example of NRBC as a church committed to the principle of always reforming the church after the Biblical model. I’m not convinced that we were really brilliant at the task of reforming the church, but we did seek the Lord’s will through prayer and a careful consideration of the Word of God, as well as seeking the ability from the Lord to actually put into practice what we discovered in the Word of God.

There are so many areas that we need to carefully consider again in the light of Scripture – things that have now become merely the tradition of men, rather than the tradition of the apostles (meaning after the biblical model).

When I first got onto the Internet some years ago now, I came across a site that really encouraged me and our church in this area of reforming the church. It has changed URLs once or twice since that time, but I keep returning to it. It is a site called ‘A 21st Century Puritanism,’ operated by a guy called Mitch Cervinka. Obviously what is presented needs to be carefully considered in the light of Scripture and I certainly wouldn’t agree with everything that Mitch presents, yet there is a lot that I find myself having to agree with (gladly) because it is founded on the Scriptures.

The link is:
A 21st Century Puritanism

There are two articles that I really like on the site and these are:

There are some excellent points made in these articles and they should really be considered by reformed churches in this matter of perpetually reforming the church.