It is my contention that Time, Newsweek, and even many in evangelical Christianity are not well informed on two parallel resurgences of Calvinism going on in North America. Collin Hansen’s new book, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists, is symptomatic of this ignorance. In it, he writes chapters on people, places, and events that show that a new movement of Calvinism is sweeping the nation. However, he seems oblivious to the fact that the real "neocalvinism" is also gaining momentum. Instead, he offers simply the evidence for "neopuritanism."
In the next few posts I will look at the topics in Hansen's chapters about the neopuritan resurgence, and then offer my analogue to the neocalvinist resurgence that is also occurring.
NEOPURITAN RESURGENCE: Bethlehem Baptist Church and John Piper
Piper is the epitome of the resurgence in neopuritanism, offering a huge and wonderful vision of the sovereignty of God. His writings and sermons are laced with references to Jonathan Edwards, who is the subject of my next post. Piper wants to create a generation of “Christian Hedonists,” which means that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” The Gospel, according to Piper, “is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.” Piper is a staunch and unapologetic advocate for the five points of Calvinism. He states that the five points are essential, for they assure that God alone gets the glory – “We want for others the experience of knowing and trusting the sovereign grace of God in such a way that He and He alone gets the glory.”
So, for a neopuritan like John Piper, the slant is toward highlighting the sovereignty of God in salvation – echoed in the five Calvinist “solas” - salvation is by God’s grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone, by Scripture alone and for God’s glory alone.
NEOCALVINIST RESURGENCE: Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Tim Keller
Tim Keller is the leading advocate for a neocalvinist understanding of the gospel. When he speaks of “the Gospel,” he refuses to speak of it in only individualistic terms but rather with the emphasis on the restoration of Creation.
In a May 2008 article for Christianity Today entitled “The Gospel in All its Forms,” Keller talked about how there are very many ways to preach the gospel. To put the gospel in a nutshell, he wrote, “Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever. One of these elements was at the heart of the older gospel messages, namely, salvation is by grace not works. It was the last element that was usually missing, namely that grace restores nature, as the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it. When the third, "eschatological" element is left out, Christians get the impression that nothing much about this world matters.”
This is the heart of the neocalvinist slant – that what’s really important in the gospel is God’s intention to restore the Creation, both in the here and now, and ultimately in the final day. While neopuritans speak of the gospel in terms of sin and salvation, neocalvinists speak of the gospel in terms of the overarching story of the Bible. Keller writes, “Instead of going into, say, one of the epistles and speaking of the gospel in terms of God, sin, Christ, and faith, I point out the story-arc of the Bible and speak of the gospel in terms of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.”
So, for a neocalvinist like Tim Keller, the slant is toward highlighting the sovereignty of God over Creation – echoed in the Reformational Worldview found in the story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration which emphasizes that the main intention of the gospel is for God to actively restore his good creation, with humanity being the center of the restoration. The ultimate goal is not so much salvation for humans to go to heaven, but redemption for humans and for all of creation for the new earth.
Other posts in this series:
- Which is the new Calvinism? “Neo-Puritanism” or “Neo-Calvinism?”
- Deciphering the Nuanced Differences Between Neopuritanism and Neocalvinism
- Jonathan Edwards and Abraham Kuyper
- Passion Conference and Jubilee Conference
- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Calvin College
- Mark Driscoll and Gabe Lyons
- Which is it? “The End of Christian America” or the rise of “The New Calvinism?”
- Neocalvinism: What is it? Is it different from the Calvinism of Albert Mohler?
- Jon Meacham and Tim Keller discuss "The End of Christian America"