Passion Conference and Jubilee Conference

Deciphering the Nuanced Differences Between Neopuritanism and Neocalvinism


In his book, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists Collin Hansen’s first chapter (“Born Again Again”) talks about his encounter with the Passion, a conference for college and university students. What amazes Hansen is that this conference is so Calvinistic in nature. What is “Calvinism” according to Hansen? “Many recognize Calvinism, described by some as Reformed theology, by the acronym TULIP.”

"TULIP," remember, are those five theological points that focus on God’s sovereignty in salvation. These five points have been the central focus of neopuritanism for a long time, and the major debate that they have had with the rest of evangelicalism. As neopuritans interpret the Bible, they see that God is so completely sovereign that he predestines people to salvation. This Calvinism is what Hansen sees in preachers at Passion like John Piper.

“Piper lends academic weight, moral authority, and theological precision to the conference. More than that, Piper shares Passion’s overarching vision. Worship songs from Charlie Hall and Chris Tomlin, preceding talks by Lou Giglio, pound home two themes beloved by Calvinists—God’s sovereignty and glory. From there, Giglio encourages students to devote themselves to evangelism and global missions by pointing to the transcendent God in heaven.”

Notice that this conference is what I’ve been calling “neopuritan.” It focuses on God’s sovereignty and glory as it relates to evangelism and global missions. Musical artists and Lou Giglio (the intense spark behind the conference) do a wonderful job of pointing students to the sovereign and glorious God, but for what purpose? The neopuritan emphasis is that the main thing that God wants us to do is evangelism.


The neocalvinist college student conference is Jubilee, held each February in Pittsburgh. At this conference, main speakers talk about how God wants students to live faithfully in the vocations for which they are studying, so that the world can be transformed by redeeming the institutions of our society.

During each plenary session, Michael Goheen walks the students through the biblical story of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration, explaining the gospel of Christ’s redemption of God’s good world and challenging students to embrace this gospel and to see themselves as part of God’s redemptive plan for the world. Andy Crouch pleaded with the students to move away from just being consumers of culture but rather creators of culture themselves.

Students go to breakout sessions based on vocationbusiness majors hear from business leaders how to work for justice and shalom in the marketplace, medical students talk with practitioners about how to change the medical field so it reflects God’s good intentions, art students discuss with artists what it looks like to create good culture, education majors learn from Christian educators how to renovate the educational system, political science majors learn about models for Christian engagement in politics, and students explore what it looks like to advocate for justice for the oppressed of the world.

What highlights Jubilee are the many, many voices that students hear from Christians who are making a difference right now in the world. Jessica Flannery was a perfect example – her Christian faith led her to begin Kiva, the world's first micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to third-world entrepreneurs in order to alleviate poverty. The students that attend Jubilee understand that a Christian faith makes a difference outside the walls of the church. It does more than evangelism, it seeks to participate with God in his making the world right.

This is a neocalvinist student conference: the focus is not just on God’s sovereignty in salvation, but on God’s sovereignty over creation. Neocalvinism takes seriously the Cultural Mandate given to humanity in Genesis 1:26 (also 2:15). The gospel message is about God’s ongoing work to redeem his good creation, and the gospel call to move from being a part of the problem to becoming a part of the solution.

Other posts in this series:


Great Googly Moogly! said...

I'm almost finished with Andy Crouch's book, "Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling" and I would put this book right up there with Wittmer's, "Heaven is a Place on Earth" and Wolters', "Creation Regained". I also enjoyed Hegeman's, "Plowing in Hope: Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture". I recommend Crouch's book wholeheartedly.

Andy's writing is clear and he has a profound grasp on the various aspects of "cultural interaction". His chapter entitled "Gestures and Postures" is very enlightening and his entire section (2) on "Gospel" is worth the price of the book.

I think if Christians read Crouch's book (as well as the other three), the People of God would have a proper and Biblical understanding of our place in this world and our Gospel witness would be strikingly relevant and powerful.

I'm enjoying this series of posts very much.


Dan Walsh said...


I appreciate your series on the distinctions between neocalvinism and neopuritanism. I'm not sure I understand yet why you are drawing the distinction. Hopefully, you'll flesh that out in the remainder of the series.

I wrote a full response to your series at http://theologypilgrim.wordpress.com and I'd be interested to hear your response. I look forward to reading more on your blog in the future.


Bob Robinson said...

The distinction is "nuanced" (as the title of this series states), but significant. Neocalvinists see the gospel as the salvation of all of creation; neopuritans see the gospel as the salvation of individual souls. These different starting points lead to different ways of having a public theology, that is, the way we interact with the culture around us. Stay here in the vanguard and let me know what you think as I continue to flesh this out!

Bob Robinson said...

Yes, I think that Andy Crouch's book is an essential read. It gets to the heart of this matter.