Constructive Criticism

When David Dykstra and I set out to write Holding Communion Together, we knew that portions of it would be controversial.  Particularly, we knew that a certain sub-set of the non-associational churches would take issue with much of what we said.  Since publication, we have been waiting and hoping that someone of mature and respectable stature within that sub-set of churches would provide us with a thoughtful and articulate review of our work.

We were therefore very grateful last weekend to receive the following review, courtesy of Pastor Paul K. Christianson of Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Clarkston, Washington: Continue reading

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Defining the Incomprehensible

defined

That Which Cannot Be Defined

One of the most fascinating descriptions of sanctuary design which I have heard came from an unbelieving architect hired to design a new facility for a Reformed Baptist church. After meeting with various members and officers, interviewing them about their beliefs, their concerns and their architectural theories, he concluded, “So we’re trying to point to something which ultimately cannot be defined, right?”

Far from making a post-modern statement about the know-ability of truth, he was approaching a matter of great importance in Christian theology. The Christian can never define God, because definition requires absolute comprehension. To define God, we would need to know the limits of His essence, and He has no limits. That which is infinite may only be described; it can never be dissected. Continue reading

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New Calvinism: Conclusions

A few weeks ago I began blogging about the phenomenon which is called “New Calvinism.” The immediate impetus for this series was an article from Iain Murray of Banner of Truth on the Together for the Gospel Conference. I, too, have been encouraged by the gatherings of so many Christians in which old literature is read, old hymns are sung, and old doctrine is preached. However, I am deeply concerned by statements such as this:

‘New Calvinist’ too easily suggests some kind of departure from ‘the Old’. But what is now occurring in many parts of the United States can patently be seen to have sprung out of what is far from new. It is no more ‘new’ than the doctrine that was heard under Whitefield and Edwards in the 1740s, or later, under Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones. What was supposed to be ‘as dead as Queen Anne’ is very much alive in what is happening today. Old authors are being read more eagerly than for a long time, yet it is not the literature, significant as it is, which can account for what is happening.

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New Calvinism and Orthodoxy

As I have written about the New Calvinism, some have commented to the effect that it is wrong of me to write about the problems inherent in the new movement without first saying what is good about it. I suppose I could reply in simple and curmudgeonly fashion that the “Calvinism” part is good, while everything “New” about it is bad – which wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

Underlying this charge is the assumption that the New Calvinism is essentially a good thing. I increasingly find myself reading the critiques of Calvinism from outside the Reformed camp – written by bloggers and others who really don’t know anything but the New Calvinism – and agreeing with them! Calvinism as it is known to many today is fraught with theological danger, although I would insist that the problem isn’t the Calvinism so much as the New! At some point we need to ask the question: Is New Calvinism even a reliably orthodox movement? Continue reading

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Of Mark Jones, Baptism, and Poor Hymnody…

I hate to interrupt the conversation on New Calvinism, but the guys over at The Confessing Baptist asked me if I had any thoughts on Mark Jones’ post this week on Baptism.  Of course I did, and you can read them hereContinue reading

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New Calvinism and Celebrity

Earlier this week I wrote about the legalism inherent in much of the New Calvinism, a legalism which grows easily in the rich soil of antinomianism fertilized with charismaticism. Legalism, as I noted, takes many forms. In some cases it will manifest itself in a complex ethical construct built apart from the law of God. In others the ethical construct will be a simple follow-the-leader mentality responding to a charismatic personality with the supposed input of the Holy Spirit.

Such a system is depends upon and promotes the celebrity of the chosen leader. Carl Trueman has put some effort into defining what exactly makes for celebrity in ecclesiastical leadership, but if I could add my two cents – celebrity occurs wherever the leader is greater than the creed, or more properly, wherever the leader becomes the creed. Continue reading

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New Calvinism and Legalism

Last week I began to introduce some concerns that Old Calvinists have with the New Calvinism. The first of these, perhaps unexpectedly to most, is that the New Calvinism is antinomian at its core. This seems out of step with recent criticism of the bastion of the New Calvinism – the Gospel Coalition. However, I questioned whether or not antinomianism is actually the opposite of legalism. Later in the week I posited that antinomianism actually produces legalism:

The reason is that all men realize that there is no such thing as religion without ethics. The grace of Christ transforms ethics into something other than a system of meritorious works, but of course it does not do away with the concept of ethics. So if an ethical standard is a natural necessity, and if the law of God is rejected, the creation of a manmade system of ethical regulations is as certain as the sunset.

In that post I argued, though, that an accelerator doctrine is likely to stoke the fires of legalism: namely charismaticism:

I can think of no better accelerator than the idea that a man’s personal thoughts and ideas were nothing less than the whispering of the Holy Spirit in his ears – exactly the form of soft charismaticism which abounds within the New Calvinism. Continue reading

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