Calvinism Old and "New"

In response to the recent TIME magazine piece on the YRR, Mark Driscoll published a piece on the Resurgence contrasting the “new” Calvinists with the “old” Calvinists. It was followed up by a piece with a kinder, gentler treatment of the tired, old urban-center fleeing, stuffy Calvinism. Darryl Hart responds to the vanished post by pointing out the fact that much of what Driscoll counseled has been tried. That program is called the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Rather than respond point by point to Pastor Driscoll’s original post I want to challenge the premise on which it rests, namely that his theology, piety, and practice are genuinely “Calvinist” and second, that “Calvinism” can be reduced to the doctrine of predestination that can be recontextualized in congregations which are at odds with the Reformed confession.

Let’s look at the last one first. There are two persistent myths about “Calvinism.” The first seems to be as widely accepted by evangelicals as it is by the critics of Calvinism, i.e., that the central dogma or organizing principle of Calvinism is the doctrine of predestination. Because evangelicals accept this premise (because they don’t seem to read Calvin or his successors much), they speak of any Protestant who holds any of the five points of the Synod of Dort as a “Calvinist.” This leads to the weird expression, “So-and-so is a 1-(or 2- or 3- or 4- or 5-) point Calvinist. The second myth is a corollary to the first, i.e. that Calvin was a tyrant. This is a fiction created by the critics of Calvin and his followers, on the assumption that anyone who held to the doctrine of absolute divine sovereignty must have been a tyrant (even if the evidence says otherwise).

The Reformed Churches confess much more than the doctrine of predestination. We confess a whole system of doctrine, i.e. a theology, a piety, and a churchly practice. You can read all about it in the riveting new book, Recovering the Reformed Confession. According to the Reformed Churches (as opposed to ahistorical evangelicals) the doctrine of predestination is a necessary doctrine but not a sufficient doctrine. Imagine trying to play ice hockey with only a hockey stick. Now that is inarguably an essential piece of equipment for the game of ice hockey, but it is only a start. Ice hockey is impossible with ice, skates, a puck, and a goal. Just as there is more to ice hockey than sticks so there is more to Calvinism than predestination. Genuine, old-school, 16th- and 17th-century Calvinism confessed doctrines of God, humanity, Christ, salvation, church (including the sacraments), and last things.

To strip out and isolate the doctrine of predestination and to recontextualize it changes its character. There were several medieval theologians who taught a high doctrine of predestination. They also taught that God sovereignly infuses grace into and creates righteousness within the sinner on the ground of which God may rightly justify the righteous. There were medieval theologians who taught, in effect, the five points of Dort, but none of these theologians would be admitted to the ministry of the Reformed Churches. They all taught a doctrine of justification incompatible with the Protestant (Reformed) doctrine. Many of them held to a Christology at odds with ours. They held a view of the church and sacraments incompatible with ours. In other words, the doctrine of predestination, even limited atonement, did not make them “Reformed.” If that is so then, it is so now.

Second, there is precious little evidence that the doctrine confessed and preached at Mars Hill Church is Reformed. There’s little evidence that Mars Hill is a recognizably Reformed congregation. Compare the Mars Hill doctrinal statement to the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, or the Westminster Standards. The doctrine of the continuing work of the Spirit confessed by Driscoll and Mars Hill Church is closer to that of the Anabaptists than it is to Calvin (who regarded the Anabaptists as “fanatics”), Beza, the Synod of Dort, or the Westminster Assembly. The doctrine of baptism confessed by Driscoll and Mars Hill Church is exactly opposite than confessed by all the Reformed Churches since the earliest 16th century.

If Mark Driscoll presented himself for membership in St. Peter’s in Calvin’s Geneva, he would have been rejected. Why? He doesn’t believe the faith confessed by the church. He would have been rejected by the consistories and synods in the Netherlands, France, and by the sessions in Scotland. They would not have recognized his confession as Reformed.

The ugly truth is that too many Reformed folk are too excited that a prominent leader in evangelicalism, someone with increasing visibility in the media, identifies himself as Reformed. Pastor Driscoll feels comfortable co-opting the adjective “Calvinist” because real Calvinists, those who actually believe and practice what Calvin believed and practiced, let him use it.

It was nice of Pastor Driscoll to add a second post, softening the blow of the original post, but the original reflects his contempt for historic, confessional Calvinism. Fine. He’s entitled to his opinion. I would rather have him speak his mind about how dead, suburban, and disinterested in evangelism or whatever else he thinks we are than to be patronized for the sake of public relations. Better, however that he and we be honest about the fact that Pastor Driscoll isn’t actually a Calvinist. He may not be pleased with the “old” Calvinists but at least they were actually Calvinists.

149 comments

  1. Dr. Clark, I find myself encountering exactly this kind of hijacking of our tradition in the circles I tend to frequent. People laud and honor Calvin as the man who “truly founded America” but then refuse to baptize their covenant children. They call themselves “Reformed” but do not hold to any of the accepted Reformed confessions. And these people aren’t the “Young, Restless, Reformed” types. They aren’t the young, upbeat guys like Mark Driscoll. These are people who want to take America back to a Puritan theocracy. Essentially, they’re Reconstructionists and their movement seems to be growing. And of course, those of us who are truly Reformed, who accept, believe, and LOVE the Reformed confessions and creeds, get lumped in with the crazies. The world at large thinks we’re like them, when really, we’re our own completely different brand of crazy (that’s meant to be sarcasm, in case it wasn’t clear).

    So where do you begin in talking to these folks? I’ve pointed some of them to your posts on defining the term “Reformed,” but it doesn’t seem to make a dent. I really do want to trouble myself with standing up for the true Reformed faith. What is the next step?

    • Hi Jennifer,

      That’s why I wrote, Recovering the Reformed Confession. Give ‘em copies of that. My publisher thanks you in advance.

      My response to theonomy is down to one word: “expired.” See WCF 19. The judicial laws of Moses expired. All that is left is the “general equity” thereof” which is the decalogue or the moral law.

      We do need to stand up to the attempts even within the Reformed Churches to hijack the term.

      See the first three chapters in RRC where I offer a diagnosis of the fundamental problems (QIRC and QIRE). We have to get that right before we can move on to the prescription – re-adopting the confessions in theology, piety, and practice.

      It’s being done some places. I get emails from pastors and elders saying, “We read your book. We’re studying it. We’re starting to move in that direction.” It’s very encouraging.

    • Jennifer,

      Those who are reformed do indeed baptize their children. The reformed are generally found in Presbyterian and Dutch denominations. I do agree with you in part, that the word ‘reformed’ has been taken to mean something else by some. For example, the particular baptists refer to themselves as ‘Reformed Baptists’. These are those who love to tout the piety espoused by the early Puritans. In general they are not Reconstructionists one bit. They do not hold to a postmillenial eschatology, they are credo-baptists and they are not theonomic but antinomian in their view of the law. They hold to the London Baptist Confession of 1689.

      There are many reformed (Presbyterians & Dutch Denominations) who do adhere the confessions, have either a theonomic view of the law or a very high view of the law (at least believing that the general equity of the law is still in force), who are either optimistically oriented as it regards the future (postmillenial or positive amillenial).

  2. I appreciate your book so much, Dr. Clark. I’m about halfway through it right now. Now if I could just keep my wits about me as I talk to folks about this…

    • Hi Jennifer,

      That’s great! There seem to be a more than few folks who show up/write here who either haven’t yet or refuse to read the book and demand that I type it all out for them here. Many thanks.

      I’ve been arguing with theonomists since about 1980 or so. That’s why I’ve boiled my response down to 1 word. It’s remarkable how many theonomists have never stopped to consider the teaching of the Westminster Confession.

      Rhetorically, perhaps the best strategy is to ask questions. “Why do you think that?” “What do you think about WCF 19 which says…” What about Calvin who says…” “Why do you think that so many confessional Reformed folk reject theonomy? Are they all antinomian?”

      What often happens is that fundamentalists discover the doctrine of predestination and they simply append it to their fundamentalism and call it “Reformed.” Well, it isn’t Reformed. We all were theocrats in the 16th and 17th centuries but we repented (changed our minds) of that error in the 18th century. We were wrong. Even so, there’s no historical evidence that we were theonomists.

      Sometimes you can’t argue with QIRC-y folk because the ground of their faith is not in the truth of Scripture as confessed by the Reformed Churches but in being “Right” or knowing what (they think) God knows, the way he knows it. When you challenge them on this, you disturb their equilibrium. Moving beyond fundamentalism is frightening because it introduces elements of uncertainty into one’s faith. That’s why Reformed theology locates the ground of certainty in divine revelation: God’s Word. We trust God’s self-disclosure in Scripture and in Christ. We don’t presume to know what Scripture MUST say. We try to pay attention to what it actually says. We also see Christ as the center of redemptive history and the focus of the plan of salvation. Theonomists often do not because they still assume that some national plan (if it isn’t Israel, then it must be some future golden age plan) must be the case. Another MUST (a priori). Until they want to move beyond it, they won’t. Just keep pointing them to Christ, to his finished work as the ground of righteousness, to our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3) and wait for the Spirit to do his work.

  3. The criticism’s I have heard of Calvinism from a Lutheran perspective are three-fold: 1) The role assigned to reason: ” According to Lutheran scholar F.E. Mayer a denomination’s “formal principle” is the authoritative source from whence its theology is derived. Its material principle is its central or most important teaching. Thus, the formal principle of the Lutheran church is the Holy Scripture (sola Scriptura), while its material principle is justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake. What are the formal and material principles of Calvinism?

    For Calvin and his followers, in theory, the formal principle of theology is the Bible alone. In practice, Calvinists add human reason as an authoritative source alongside Scripture. Why reason? Calvin, (like Philip Melanchthon) was a humanist scholar and highly valued human reason. Although Calvinists, like Luther, believe man is totally corrupted by the Fall and original sin, they nevertheless often attempt to force Scripture into the Procrustean bed of human reason. As we will see, for example, the Calvinist doctrine of the Lord’s Supper denies the Real Presence because of its alleged irrationality. Whereas Lutherans strictly allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, Calvinist theologians are more willing to allow reason to guide interpretation. The desire of Calvinists to make theology palatable to human reason led, for example, to their doctrine of Double Predestination. Lutherans confess that the Bible teaches that God wants all to be saved, people are saved solely through God’s action, and humans have the power to reject God’s offered salvation. These propositions seem incompatible. How can our acceptance of the gift of grace be solely God’s doing, but rejection be solely our own doing? Yet, because this is what the Bible tells us, Lutherans let God’s Word stand and do not attempt to create an artificial harmony among these truths. Calvinists, on the other hand, attempt to make sense of these teachings by arguing that both human rejection of grace and human acceptance are solely God’s doing.[2In other words, “by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” This quote is taken from a series of articles on Calvinism and Lutheranism on the steadfastlutheran web site.

    2) The material principle of Calvin’s theology is the sovereignty of God.
    “Whereas Lutheran theology takes its start from receiving God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; Calvinist theology starts from speculation about God’s sovereign nature. This is why the doctrine of predestination assumed such importance for Calvin and his followers. Predestination is a matter of God’s sovereign will. Using His sovereign will, God predestined all men either to heaven or hell before the beginning of the world. The problem with this emphasis on God’s sovereignty is precisely that it does lead us to speculation about His hidden will, something that He has not revealed to us, rather than directing us to something He has revealed to us, His will according to the cross of Jesus Christ. By emphasizing that salvation lies in God’s sovereign decisions made before the incarnation, Calvinists inadvertently make the atonement appear only incidental to salvation. This also results in Calvinist theology being “theocentric (God-centered)” and not usually “Christocentric (Christ-centered)” like Lutheran theology. Whereas Lutherans strive to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified, Calvinists tend to preach God’s sovereign power to redeem all creation, without necessarily emphasizing Christ’s role. In fact, while a student at Calvin College I once asked my professor of Pauline Literature (a proponent of the New Perspective, by the way) whether it was fair to say in an assigned paper that Luther was more Christocentric in his thinking than Calvin. I did not want to say this if 1) it was not true or 2) if it would take a lot of extra writing to prove. My professor replied that I could merely assert that Luther was a more Christocentric theologian because this was common knowledge and did not need elaborate justification.

    In my time worshiping at Calvin’s chapel during week days and on Sunday evenings, I did notice a distinction between the Christ-centered Cross-focused (to echo Issues Etc.) sermons preached by my Lutheran pastor at the Divine Service and the messages focused on God’s will and power preached at Calvin. Although John Calvin’s theology was not “Christ-less” by any vast stretch of the imagination, his tendency to move the center of gravity in his theology away from Christ and His work and toward God’s hidden essence and sovereign will may have paved the way for the type of “Christ-less” Christianity we see among American Evangelicals today. John Calvin would be shocked today to see that sermons about power for living have replaced sermons about Jesus’ work, but his body of theology nevertheless helped move Christianity in this direction.”

    3) The finite is incapable of holding the infinite in Calvin’s thought: “John Calvin’s emphasis on the importance of human reason led to the adoption of the philosophical presupposition that the finite cannot contain the infinite (finitum non est capax infiniti). In good Lutheran fashion, we may ask, “What does this mean”? Remember that Calvin grew up in France and received a humanist education. Much of humanism at this time was tinged with the effects of the neo-Platonic revival. According to Plato, the material world isn’t really “real.” Instead, the highest and most real things are ideas or “forms.” The world of material reality and the world of ideas or forms do not intersect; the only possible connection is through the mind elevating itself to contemplate ideas. Coming from this background, Calvin and his followers argued that the divine cannot join itself to the material in a way that allows for interpenetration. This has dramatic implications for Christology and Calvin’s doctrine of the sacraments!

    While Calvin confessed the Incarnation and adhered to Chalcedonian Christology – Christ has two natures in one person – his philosophical presuppositions forced him to deny the full communications of attributes between the human and divine natures of Christ. In practice, this led Calvin and his followers to hold a near Nestorian Christology, which emphasized the separateness of Christ’s human and divine natures. Much of American Evangelicalism today is influenced by Calvin’s near Nestorianism, which splits Christ’s humanity from his divinity. In fact, Pastor Klemet Preus recently wrote a series of essays for the Brothers of John the Steadfast on this very topic! Again, Calvin’s desire to separate the natures of Christ derives from his philosophical presupposition that the finite (the human nature) is not capable of the infinite (the divine nature). Taken to its logical end, this belief would lead to a denial of the Incarnation itself! Indeed, errors in Christology always effect others doctrines.” This has implications for the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

    I am a Lutheran who attends a LCMS Church in the Chicago area. I draw heavily from many reformed theologians, am an avid reader of modern reformation magazine and listener of the White Horse Inn, have read Scott Clarks book Recovering the Reformed Confessions and argue frequently with Zrim on the Riddleblog. Although, more often then not I agree with him. Please help me understand how the Reformed would speak to these criticisms of Calvinism.

    • Hi John,

      Yes and these three criticisms are entirely drawn from an a priori or what Lutherans have long supposed we must believe!

      Calvin (and Calvinism) has long been little more than a bogeyman to confessional Lutherans. Your points are an excellent illustration of the fallacy of the “central dogma” method of analysis (not that you hold them). On this see Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree.

      What each of these criticisms mean is: You dared to disagree with us. The answer to each of these criticisms is to say that the substance of each is wrong and refuted by the particulars of what we actually teach and confess.

      1. We’re no more or less predestinarian than Luther in De Servo Arbitrio (The Bondage of the Will; 1525) or his Heidelberg Disputation (1518).

      2. The only reason Lutherans have accused us of having a different formal principle is because they (a priori) assume that if we disagree with them on the two natures of Christ, we must have a different principle. Indeed, if you look at the chapter in the Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant you’ll see that, in that case, the Reformed argued for their Christology from Scripture whilst the Lutheran orthodox of that same period argued philosophically.

      3. Yes, we do teach in substance a doctrine of finitum non capax infiniti and we do so unapologetically because it is what we call a good and necessary consequence. Another way of stating this doctrine (as you’ve seen in RRC) is to call it the “Creator/creature distinction” or “the categorical distinction. God’s Word says, “In the beginning God…” Done. God was when we were not. We are not God. We are capable of being glorified (and some contemporary theologians have redefined “deified” to mean “glorified”) but glorification is not deification. God’s Word in Hebrews says that Christ (God the Son incarnate) is like us in every respect, sin excepted. Confessional Lutherans effectively deny this truth. They assume that it must be the case, a priori their doctrine of the genus maiestaticus, that if Christ’s deity is ominipresent, his humanity must also be ubiquitous. Who’s the rationalist here? We Reformed, who say that God the Spirit operates mysteriously through the elements to feed believers on the proper, natural, true body and blood, or the Lutherans who resolve the mystery through some doctrine of the ubiquity of the humanity. Ditto for the doctrine of reprobation. They (a priori) seek to resolve the mystery of sovereignty and human responsibility by denying reprobation. Luther refused to do this. He knew it was scandalous but did it any way. At Montbeillard in 1580, in debate with the Lutherans, Beza stood to say, “We stand with Luther” on this question and the Lutheran response was: “Next question.”

      What this means is, though we may be wrong exegetically, our theology is subservient to God’s Word. That’s why I’m Reformed: Not because I have some a priori conviction about what must be, from which I supposed deduce a system of doctrine, but because God’s Word and the holy catholic faith (see the Definition of Chalcedon!) teaches that Jesus is true man (and God’s Word teaches that humans are finite, not infinite) and true God in one person. How? It’s a mystery. Rationalists who appeal to mystery? Don’t you think that’s odd? God is sovereign in election and reprobation and humans are morally responsible for their uncoerced choices (Rom 9). How can that be? I don’t know. Ask God. The holy Trinity is three persons and yet one God. How can that be? Ask God.

      I don’t imagine that a blog post is going to change anything, but FWIW, we certainly don’t see ourselves in the confessional Lutheran critique of our views. To see a 17th-century response to some of these, see Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. My research into the LCMS polemic against Calvin (and Calvinism) should appear this year in a volume published by Brill on Calvin and Memory Cultures. The account given by confessional Lutherans in the USA since the mid-19th century is a fascinating study in the need for one group for a bogey man by which to define itself. The “Calvin” who appears in their publications (and has for a very long time) bears little relation to the Calvin of history. He is indeed a “Calvin of Faith.”

    • Mr. Clark,

      I’ve recently been freed from 20-odd years (as an adult) of “contemporary Southern Baptist Churches” (by which I mean, semi-Arminian/dispensational). MY wife and I now attend a reformed baptist church and it is SO refreshing to both of us.

      Your explanation of how Calvinism IS, as opposed to how it is portrayed (in this case, by Lutherans) is nourishment to my soul – helps me understand what I believe to be true and encourages me all the more.

      I’ve just started Calvin’s “Institutes” and am a small group study of the 1689 London Confession at my new church.

      Press on! I may end up buying your book as well.

  4. HeidelPing: Reformed and reforming « The Wanderer

  5. I think defining the terms of who we are is very important, so folks don’t get the wrong impression of what the Reformed faith is. But I think we could take it too far sometimes. It reminds me of a person getting angry for someone mistaking the persons race. “I’m not from Uganda, I told you for the last time, but from Trinidad!” Or worse yet, “I’m glad I’m not like that tax collector.” If theologians are misrepresenting the Reformed in a wrong way, we should out of charity and love correct them and be consistent all around (i.e. Reformed Baptists?).

    Calvinists are misrepresented all the time and it does get annoying, but there are those that like to be associated with that term Calvinist (through Spurgeon) not because they want to misrepresent it but because they found that in their reading and listening that they came to a better understanding of the Christ-centered scriptures. I don’t know too much about Driscoll to give him sympathy, but I know he’s a fan of Spurgeon and Piper speaks well of his theology. The next question is, where do we put Piper and Spurgeon who are in some way associated with Driscoll? Are they Calvinist? Reformed?

    There seems to be a pride in us, the “truly” Reformed and we should take heed of that. Being Reformed should rather humble us (is it not a humble theology), bring us to our knees, and want Christians to be confessionally Reformed not for the sake of being Reformed but because it best summarizes the Scripture.

    • Q,

      I don’t disagree entirely with what you say but there is a cost to losing one’s identity: we fail to teach and practice our faith. If we do not insist on this definition, achieved at the cost of much blood!, then we suffer for it. I see it all the time. We integrate fundamentalism (see Jennifer’s posts) or we integrate revivalism (see RRC) and we hurt our people spiritually and theologically. Bad theology, piety, and practice has bad fruit. It’s not a mere theory.

  6. It’s ironic that Driscoll is selling his brand of Calvinism as kinder than the Old sort. Isn’t he the bloke regularly accused of being mean by those sensitive emergent people? He should know better than to use the same tactics on those with whom he claims to stand on matters of soteriology (although, from listening to his sermons, he seems to advance an Amyraldian view of soteriology).

    The New Calvinism is missional while the old is what exactly? Is he talking about the Old Calvinism that set Europe ablaze in the 16th and 17th centuries?

    • Yeah well he’s being unkind. But you know what, when he’s called to account by the old side (like has has been here), he’ll have more ammo to “prove” the old side is mean.

    • Nick,

      If Driscoll knew what he was talking about he’d realize how balming the Old School really is (there’s no crying in baseball and there’s no screaming in Old School, either coddling or brutalizing).

      As it is, he’s just working with a caricature many Americans know too well. The brutal irony is that his brand of neo-Old School is pretty much what informs that caricature, so he’s really talking about himself. Talk about left hands not knowing what the right ones are doing.

      RSC,

      You go, boy.

  7. Dr. Clark,

    I truly appreciate, as I have previously indicated, your audacity and no-hold-barred boldness to proclaim these hard-to-swallow truths, to wit, there is more to reformed theology, piety and practice than simply believing the doctrine of predestination as stipulated by the Synod of Dort, or even more than proclaiming that “a Reformed position mainly means, God is really big, really strong, really powerful, really knowledgeable, really wise, really great, really weighty” as John Piper so nefariously and cowardly put it here so as to not offend anyone.

    The problem, as I see it, is not mainly with those who hijack the term and claim to be reformed but are really not, but that Reformed pastors, professor, leaders and “superstars” have not done what you are doing, namely “calling spades as spades” for fear of the repercussions, be it getting kicked out of their denominations, seminaries, etc.

    Yes, I know this doesn’t “seem” charitable and pious, and it may implicate some of your friends and co-workers, but neither does toning down our theology, piety and practice to the lowest denominator for the sake “belonging” or false communion. If we want a new reformation in our churches, we must remember that reformation is accompanied by martyrdom and as you put it in your lecture, “guilt and discomfort is the first step to faith and reformation.”

    Peace

  8. It seems to me that calling someone Reformed or Calvinist simply because they embrace predestinarian theology makes as much sense as calling someone Roman Catholic for that reason. Wasn’t Aquinas as predestinarian as they come?

    • Or better yet, Stephen, it’s analogous to calling oneself an auto mechanic simply because one employs the use of a screwdriver and ratchet set from time to time.

  9. Thanks Scott, that was very helpful. One of my comments on the Steadfast Lutheran site was I hope you consulted a good theologian from the Reformed perspective before you put your thoughts down and apparently she did not. I never got a response when I suggested that. There is so much misrepresentation of each others views that I have been frustrated with the differing responses I often get to my questions.

    Also, Rod Rosenbladt, Michael Horton and Kim Riddlebarger never confront each other with controversial differences of their positions on the White Horse Inn that much. I suppose that is probably agreed upon or am I wrong about that?

    This is an important issue to me and it is kind of like the issues that never get dealt with in families- they just hover around and no one really wants to confront them. They underlie all the dynamics of the family though and can cause some severe problems if not talked about.

    • Hi John,

      I’ve sent to Rod my research on 19th and 20th-century Lutheran reactions to Calvin. I’ve had some dialogue with other confessional Lutherans. I always learn from my Lutheran brothers. Their reaction to Calvin is so much a part of their identity that I doubt that they can overcome it. Remember that Lutherans confess that we are sneaky. We’re “crafty sacramentarians.” Of course too many Reformed folk live up to the worst fears of the Lutherans. I’m deeply grateful to Rod. He taught Mike and Kim and he, Bob Godfrey, and Meredith Kline were the only one’s who really held our feet to the fire on the law/gospel distinction.

      It’s also a problem among too many Reformed folk who have become “Lutherophobic.” I’ve spoken about this at conferences. You can see the audio at Monergism.com. I find that too many Reformed folk don’t know Luther. They don’t read him.

      Just for fun, you can read one Reformed guy’s exposition of Luther’s doctrine of justification.

  10. I forgot to ask but I am sure you would not mind if I posted your post to me on the steadfast lutheran site? I am curious as to how she will respond to this. She has a phd from Calvin and would like to teach there but they do not allow Lutherans on their faculty. She is a professor at Aquinas college in Grand Rapids.

    • Hi John,

      You’re welcome to post a link there. If she has a PhD from Calvin Sem, then she’s certainly heard Muller’s critique of the “central dogma” method.

  11. John Y –

    There’s an old joke that’s been circulating around for years that goes something like this:

    (Employing the metaphor in the NT for Heaven as a “house having many mansions”) A group of recently deceased Christians was being given a tour of Heaven by St. Peter. As they approached one of the “compartments” St. Peter turned to the group and said, “You’ll need to be quiet when you pass by this room. They’re Lutherans and they think they’re the only ones up here.

    I, too, have been monitoring the dialog on Calvinism over on the Steadfast blog site and I’m having trouble understanding exactly why they decided to pick on the Calvinists when the LCMS is plagued with so many of its own internal problems brought about largely by Pietists, thanks to men like August Francke. In fact, Philipp Melanchthon, well known for pietist-like behavior, more or less went his own way after Luther’s death and had to be propped up by men like Andreae and Chemnitz.

    Moreover, I have followed the expositions of the Canons of Dort that Kim Riddlebarger has so clearly edited on his own blog over recent months and, agreeing with some of the things Scott had to say, much of what was written in the 16th century has been amplified and pared down in such a way that I’m not entirely convinced that many of the apologies contained in the Formula of Concord are valid in the way that they were originally intended.

    Dr. Clark here has taken on more than his share of the battle against distortion of the Gospel with his blog and his publications. I say, let’s join him in that effort (in a non-ecumenical way, of course) – especially with our own closet so full of skeletons – rather than trying pick apart the doctrines of a group of believers that have so much in common with our own.

  12. HeidelPing: R. Scott Clark questions authenticity of Driscoll’s ‘New Calvinism’ : Church Leader Links

  13. George,

    I laughed out loud about that St. Peter story. I have learned a tremendous amount from the Reformed theologians- both contemporary ones and those of the past. Kim Riddlebargers doctrinal thesis on B. B. Warfield was very eye opening to me. It clarified many things in my thinking. Scott Clark’s recent book was also eye opening. I gleaned many useful insights from that book. Zrim has encouraged me to read all of D.G. Hart’s books and I plan to do so. I have read Seeking a Better Country with great benefit in response to Kim Riddlebargers suggestion that I do so. And I too really enjoy Dr. Riddlebargers commentaries on the Canons of Dort along with all the great things he has on the site.

    I think the Reformed are much better at defending the faith and engaging the culture with the transcendent truths of the Gospel. I spent much time trying to “get” David Wells books- time well worth spending. Anyways, yes, I agree with your last sentence and have no problem with joining that effort.

  14. HeidelPing: Water Is Thicker Than Blood

  15. Scott,

    I looked up the backround of the woman (her name is Bethany Tanis) who wrote the series of posts on Calvinism and Lutheranism at the Steadfast Lutheran site. She is a European History major and did a lot of work on the Reformation period and the age of Orthodoxy.

  16. Dr. Clark,

    This thread seems as good a place as any to comment that I’ve been working through RRC when time permits since it was given to me for Christmas. I’ve enjoyed it much and been challenged to think more carefully about affixing the adjective “Reformed” to a particular belief or practice. My prayer is that many of these “New” Calvinist young men and women from my generation (and I’ve met an increasing number of them in recent years) complete their journey to full-orbed Calvinism and that RRC and other books provoke the tough questions that lead them here. However, the grip of the QIRE is strong even among my peers who have grown weary of the superficial teaching and moralism many were raised with. In any event, RRC has me looking more closely at the confessions and the Scriptures. My short term goal is write a review of RRC for my church newsletter (a CRC church) and see how well that goes over. Thank you for your labors.

    Mike

    • From Driscoll’s first point about “New Calvinism”: “New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.”

      Anytime a preacher says he aims to redeem the culture, red warning flaggs ought to go up. That’s often the first step toward either dominionism or Robert Schuller’s turf. Ain’t found nowhere in Scripture that I know – our call is to proclaim Christ crucified to dead creatures everywhere, knowing He will redeem His elect. Cultures will be affected, but changing them isn’t our goal.

  17. HeidelPing: R. Scott Clark replies to Driscoll on “New Calvinism” « The Ransomed

  18. HeidelPing: A Mind Awake » Blog Archive » The New Calvinism and Mark Driscoll

  19. Victor,

    I’ve never heard Piper’s actions called nefarious and cowardly. That is very courageous of you to say on the internet.

    Dr. Clark,
    Do you think that it is possible for Calvinists to lean more towards cannibalism than feeding the masses?

    • Clint,

      I don’t approve of Victor’s language. It’s over the top.

      Yes, I’m quite aware of the tendency you note, but I don’t believe that my criticisms of Pr Driscoll fall into that category. If I called myself “Anglican” and derided the “old Anglicans” for being this or that (even if it isn’t true) and then said “I’m new Anglican” but I don’t believe in Episcopal polity, I don’t believe in the book of common prayer” would it be cannibalism for someone to point out how silly this is? That’s what I’m doing.

      For more on defining the adjective “Reformed” see these posts.

      See also, “Why Are (some) Reformed Folk Such Jerks?” target=”_blank”

    • Clint & Dr Clark,

      Your veiled admonition is duly noted and much appreciated. I confess I need that more often that I’d like to admit.

      – Chief of jerks

  20. If a man who believed the Bible to be the divinely-inspired Word of God, himself to be a sinner, Jesus to be the Son of God, and faith in Christ to be the only means of him being justified before God could not be admitted to church membership in Geneva, then the problem lies with Geneva, not Driscoll.

    • Jake,

      That may be but the question is whether Driscoll is qualified to define who is and isn’t “Reformed” and who has the “new and improved” version of the Reformed faith.

  21. I get it. It was published in TIME magazine.

    Thank the Lord for the Old Calvinists and Old School churches today who are Sola Scriptura than Sola Cultura (Got this from David Wells in Courage to be Protestant).

  22. “Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture.”

    This is a flat out misrepresentation of Calvinism.

  23. HeidelPing: Reformed? Calvinist? I guess not « Enthumesis

  24. I’m curious to know why you feel the portrayal of Calvin as a tyrant is a myth. From what I’ve read of Calvin’s Geneva, that’s very much how I would describe him. So, for this to be a myth, the things I’ve read about Calvin would need to be complete fabrications.

    • I admit, I haven’t researched Calvin very exhaustively. This online copy of a history of his time in Geneva has some examples of what I was talking about, though.

      http://vlib.iue.it/carrie/texts/carrie_books/gilbert/14.html

      Some excerpts:

      “All inhabitants had to renounce the Roman faith on penalty of expulsion from the city.”

      “Nobody could possess images, crucifixes or other articles associated with the Roman worship.”

      “Fasting was prohibited, together with vows, pilgrimages, prayers for the dead, and prayers in Latin.”

      “It was forbidden to give non-Biblical names to children.”

      “Attendance at sermons was compulsory.”

      “From 1545, there were domiciliary visits, which were put on a regular semiannual basis in 1550. The homes of the citizens were visited in order to ascertain the state of the family’s morals.”

      “One of the offenses considered particularly serious was criticism of the ministers and especially Calvin.”

      “From 1546, cards and dice were forbidden.”

      “[re: Servetus’s execution] Calvin felt compelled to issue a defense in both Latin and French versions in 1554; here he argued for the right to put to death those who dishonored God by teaching false doctrine.”

      “After he had gained ascendancy in Geneva, the citizens were punished or reprimanded for criticizing his preaching or even for greeting him without calling him ‘Master.'”

      JPH, The software won’t let me reply under the post so I’m adding my reply here.

      1. So what? It’s the 16th century. Compare the Genevan civil code with the civil code of any other city of the time. Many of those codes pre-existed Calvin. This question has to be handled HISTORICALLY! It’s Christendom. Lot’s of things were illegal then (e.g. usury) that are legal now. Heresy was illegal then. Roman cities had strict laws against heresy. Lutheran cities did too.

      2. What about the fact that Calvin wasn’t a citizen until very late in life. He didn’t even vote. What about the fact that he was exiled from Geneva by the city council and only returned when they begged (he didn’t want to be there). He was only there as a matter of duty/obligation to God. He couldn’t even get the city to approve weekly communion. What kind of tyrant can’t get weekly communion? Why kind of tyrant is not allowed to pronounce the absolution/declaration of pardon by the city council? He was harassed by citizens and insulted. Yes, he was able to get the city to punish one fellow who attacked his office publicly. This would have happened in any of the Protestant cities at the time.

      What you’re seeing, in effect, is not unique to Calvin’s Geneva. It’s the difference between 16th-century Europe and 21st-century America.

      Read T H L Parker’s bio of Calvin.

      rsc

  25. Do you realize that whether you are right or not makes no meaningful difference? You’ve chosen to frame the issue in a way that is ironically doomed to failure. Ironic in that you are approaching the issue the way the RC magisterium would approach it in order to preserve the identity of the church (in your case, the Reformed church). What do I (or Mark Driscoll, for that matter) care what some irrelevant keeper of the confessional guard has to say about what Calvinism is or isn’t? The only concern from a Protestant standpoint is what is preferrable based on exegetical and theological concerns. I am free to co-opt nomenclature and redefine it in light of exegetical advantages and based upon shared properties with the characteristics of previous movements. You are free to challenge such new proposals, but in order to meaningfully challenge, you must present a full-orbed challenge and not a partial, truncated challenge.

    To pursue this latter point, you know from your studies of realism/nominalism that God has given humans amazing abilities to categorize relata. God has invested humans with the ability to identify, name, and categorize (cf. Adam, Aristotle) things — the power being not constitutive, but recognitive.

    Therefore, your purely “historical” objection to new calvinism is incomplete. So what if you are right? All you’ve proven is that Driscoll is not like Calvin. But you haven’t shown that it is desirable to follow Calvin over Driscoll on these points of dispute. You are challenging Driscoll’s categorization (history) but you are forgetting your burden to challenge Driscoll’s proposal of a superior calvinism (theology and exegesis). This implicitly devalues exegesis and disparages sola Scriptura in the process. Perhaps you feel that by simply pointing to Calvin or “old Calvinists” you are presenting their positions as your theological defense. But that is lazy. Calvin never debated Driscoll. Why should I follow Calvin over Driscoll is a more important question that requires a modern editor and commentator to guide me to my answer. Why shouldn’t I follow Driscoll (or Piper) down the path they are taking in forging a new and improved Calvinstic way? Your appeal to historical identification is unable to address these questions.

    This isn’t Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy dude. Protestantism defined by strict parameters of confessional identity is contrary to the Protestant thrust. Whether it is good ecclesiology and theology is not what I’m arguing. What I am saying is that the Protestant sentiment and guiding principle is a commitment to exegesis. And in fact neo movements cannot be stopped by sympathizers of bygone eras propounding purely historical arguments unless something akin to a magisterium is adopted and employed. For a Protestant, this means is not available (nor should it be desirable), so your only course to take is that of exegetical and theological argumentation (which can include historical analysis).

    Historical analysis is insufficient to meaningfully challenge new theological movements. You don’t seem to realize that in a Protestant schema the only meaningful challenge an “old-guard” Calvinist can pose to a “new school” Calvinist is that of a theological and exegetical nature, not historical.

    • Berny,

      Before you make up your mind Please read Recovering the Reformed Confession.

      The entire book is devoted to raising the points you raise here.

      Your account of what constitutes Protestantism is not that found in the Lutheran and Reformed Confessions nor is it that of the magisterial Reformers who gave us the Reformation. See RRC on this.

    • Berny, Your remarks sound like Old-School PoMo. By your standards, the meaning of words depends on what you say they mean. How emergent can you get?

      One of the first rules of Debate I learned is that if you cannot prove the new way to be superior to the existing “Old-School” way, you lose.

      Unless you prove Driscoll/Piper to be superior, and by that measure, Calvin deficient, then who cares what Driscoll/Piper say?

      That said, I do appreciate Driscoll and Piper for much of their work…but there are elements of their work that I would differ with them on. Thanks to RSC for his brotherly manner in discussing these differences, much in the manner of White Horse Inn, where Mike, Rod, Kim and Ken can discuss our differences in a respectful manner.

  26. Dr. Clark,
    This is my first visit to your blog, I was linked over by Tim Challies. It appears that you have a very informative and educational blog. Thank you for the work that you do.
    I do have a question for you however. In your post you say,

    “If Mark Driscoll presented himself for membership in St Peter’s in Calvin’s Geneva, he would have been rejected. Why? He doesn’t believe the faith confessed by the church. He would have been rejected by the consistories and synods in the Netherlands, France, and by the sessions in Scotland. They would not have recognized his confession as Reformed.”

    Would you be willing to do a little more work and give me one or two examples showing where Driscoll fails to “believe the faith confessed by the church”?

    I myself am new to the reformed playground, and I’m not sure exactly where I land on a few of the reformed issues and it would be very helpful for me to see the “old school” doctrine contrasted with Driscoll.

    Again, thanks for the work you put in on this blog. I’ll be linking it to my Reader.

    • Louis,

      What I said was:

      Second, there is precious little evidence that the doctrine confessed and preached at Mars Hill Church is Reformed. There’s little evidence that Mars Hill is a recognizably Reformed congregation. Compare the Mars Hill doctrinal statement to the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, or the Westminster Standards. The doctrine of the continuing work of the Spirit confessed by Driscoll and Mars Hill Church is closer to that of the Anabaptists than it is to Calvin (who regarded the Anabaptists as “fanatics”), Beza, the Synod of Dort, or the Westminster Assembly. The doctrine of baptism confessed by Driscoll and Mars Hill Church is exactly opposite that confessed by all the Reformed Churches since the earliest 16th century.

      If Mark Driscoll presented himself for membership in St Peter’s in Calvin’s Geneva, he would have been rejected. Why? He doesn’t believe the faith confessed by the church. He would have been rejected by the consistories and synods in the Netherlands, France, and by the sessions in Scotland. They would not have recognized his confession as Reformed.”

      If you read Calvin’s Catechisms (he wrote two) or the French (Gallic) Confession (1559) or the Belgic Confession (1561) or the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) or the Scots Confession (1560) you can see documents written by Calvin or by his direct students and colleagues. You could see the Westminster Confession (1647)

      We were just thinking about chapter 1 of the WCF last night in class. We were struck by the phrase “those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.” As I understand the theology of Pr Driscoll’s congregation, this does not reflect their views. Calvin was a paedo (infant) baptizer.

      Please read RRC (see links above) where I address your questions at length. See also the Reformed confessions some of which are collected here:

      http://www.wscal.edu/clark/confessions.php

  27. “Why should I follow Calvin over Driscoll is a more important question that requires a modern editor and commentator to guide me to my answer. Why shouldn’t I follow Driscoll (or Piper) down the path they are taking in forging a new and improved Calvinstic way?”

    Am I missing something? I thought believers were supposed to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus Christ.

    • David,

      Of course we do not want to fall into the Corinthian trap, including the attitude, “Well, you can follow x or y, but I’m FOLLOWING JESUS!”

      The Reformed Churches don’t “follow Calvin.” Indeed, it’s only been in the 20th century that folk have used Calvin as the be-all and end-all of Reformed theology. The problem is that Pr Driscoll and the YRR folks are calling themselves “Reformed” and “Calvinist.” Who wrote a post contrasting the old Calvinists with the new? It wasn’t Clark.

      The question is HOW do we follow Jesus? We follow him in a time and in a place. For better or worse we are part of a tradition, even those who say, “I’m just following Jesus.” That’s a tradition that’s been around for a very long time. It’s part of being human.

      That’s where the old fashioned doctrine of sola Scriptura comes in handy. Scripture norms all traditions and ecclesiastical authorities. That’s why we uphold the uniqueness and sufficiency of Scripture over against neo-Pentecostalism.

  28. Please choose an argument to better the kingdom. This one is useless. We are not talking heresy here, people. We are talking about a man who loves the Lord and is actually reaching out to the generation that the older Calvinists didn’t even bother with.

    Please choose someone else to discuss that is actually leading people astray. There are plenty of them.

    • Tim,

      Does Pr Driscoll’s original post meet your test?

      Do names mean anything? (is there a relation between the sign (e.g. Calvinist) and the thing signified or can I call myself Belgian whether or not I have any connection to Belgium?

      In your mind, does the 9th commandment have anything to do with advancing the kingdom?

    • Tim said, “We are talking about a man who loves the Lord and is actually reaching out to the generation that the older Calvinists didn’t even bother with.”

      Friend, I wasn’t aware that anyone knew the intentions and actions of all former Calvinists?

      I attend a fellowship of so-called “older Calvinists”, theologically if not physically, and it was this group who has in many ways ‘reached out’ to me equally or more than any of the progressive/emergent movements I have encountered. They make time for several doctrinal classes each week, with opportunities to dialogue. I have been personally visited by the pastor often enough and given opportunity to voice my concerns and questions. They have received my prayer requests gladly.

      Notably, the pastor and associate pastors (one being Dr. Clark) have gone so far to extend their beliefs regarding the faith to this generation that they have published thousands of pages to the point. What more should they do, don trendy outfits and use flash presentations in every service to maintain the attention of addle-minded youth?

      It’s true, the Old Calvinists don’t always dress like street-wise hipsters, but the currency of one’s clothes does not constitute a more or less earnest intention to witness to the Gospel of Jesus. Commitment to accuracy does, as such careful handling of truth demonstrates a physician’s heart and not a pusher’s insistence on others to heedlessly swallow the pill of apparent relevance.

      Either way, I appreciate your desire to “keep the main thing the main thing.” The Christ of the Gospel is central.

  29. Tim,

    Your comment is a begging of the question. If we agreed that Driscoll wasn’t teaching/practicing anything wrong then obviously there would be no problem. But actually, some of us would insist that Driscoll and preachers like him teach a doctrine of the church and the sacraments that very much leads people astray.

    If you would consider for a moment that guys like Driscoll claim to be “Reformed” while having a “ministry” which is independent of the Reformed churches, that they claim to be “Reformed” and yet out of the other side of their mouth insist that the historic Reformed communions do not possess true Christian Baptism (what with babies, sprinkling and all), that they claim to be “Reformed” while rejecting the covenantal conception of the Church which undergirds our piety, then I hope you’ll see that pointing out the inconsistencies in this regard is actually quite appropriate.

    There are substantial differences here, and some of us are actually quite convinced that Driscoll and others like him are in fact leading people astray.

  30. Dr. Clark,

    I should’ve been clearer. I didn’t mean to imply we follow Christ apart from how He’s revealed in Scripture, i.e., what you believe doesn’t matter as long as you love Jesus, so let’s all love Jesus and get along.

    I just find myself–as a member of an OPC–in a challenging position at times. My parents are members of an independent Baptist church; my sister and her family, of a Fellowship of Grace Brethren Church. I have friends who are involved in the home church movement. My ex-girlfriend attended the Vineyard. She is now my ex-girlfriend because I told her that, if we were going to get married, I thought it was imperative we worship together. I am–or at least thought I was–a Calvinist. (Perhaps it’s more accurate at this point to say I hold to the Five Points of Calvinism.) I have a church home, I told her, and I’m not going to move. She said she’d give the OPC a try; she did and didn’t like it–the theology or the worship service.

    In short, the circle I move in is most often at odds with Calvinist theology. I’m tired of the bickering with professed believers of other denominations; thus, I want to find someone who unites us. And that someone is Jesus Christ; though we bicker over predestination and worship, etc., we all seem to agree on this: we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone.

    If I don’t constantly remember this, I find myself eager to jump into dispute. If someone says, “So-and-so made a decision to accept Jesus into his heart,” instead of rejoicing, I’m eager to correct the speaker on his Arminian phraseology.

    I know “justification-by-faith-alone-in-Christ-alone” is a sort of lcd–but what an lcd!

    At any rate, if I–I speak for myself–am going to move within such diverse Christian circles and not grow more prideful than I already am, I must focus on the “lcd”–the Lord Jesus Christ.

  31. HeidelPing: New Calvinism: A Beginner’s Guide | Fallen and Flawed

  32. I want to find someone who unites us. And that someone is Jesus Christ

    When it comes to the question of unity you’ve answered what (Jesus), but now the question is how.

    …though we bicker over predestination and worship, etc., we all seem to agree on this: we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone.

    First, your move to the question of how is precisely what the Reformed formulations intend on doing as well, so your charge against this side of the table comes off a little bit of 2x standard (I can but you can’t). Second, well, not all of us agree we are justified as you say, whether soem of say so implicitly or explicitly. Now what? And remember, if you answer you are essentially behaving like a confessionalist.

    Tim,

    Do you have a suggestion for whom should be the center of attention? Just like David, if you answer you will be behaving in the same manner as those whom you fault. And whoever you pick will likely have his defenders as well who will protest like you saying, “Leave him alone, isn’t there someone else you can pick on?” Where does it end? Better, what is your gold standard for whom to criticize?

  33. I guess that Driscoll’s post was too brief to be helpful, too vague to identify who he was criticizing, too pointed to build bridges, and so generalized that it makes it far too easy to find numerous counter examples.

  34. Perhaps not, But he is well within the Baptist Confession of 1689 which was based on Westminster and in substantial agreement with Spurgeon and others whose theology is generally recognized as Calvinist in theology.

    I always find this interesting when it comes up every little while, it seems to me the those who are “denominationally” reformed want to rise up every so often so as to exclude those who are not. You are right he is not CRC, or RCA nor is he Paedo-baptist but frankly as one who lives in Grand Rapids Michigan I can assure you he is far more connected to Calvinist theology than the first two groups presently are for the most part.

    I don’t think Mark when he speaks of Calvinism is making a statement of denomination he is making a statement of Sovereignty, ie along with Calvin and the other reformers he is committed to the idea that God is completely sovereign and that God’s glory is at the center of the universe.

    I sense that the fear here is that those who believe in adult Baptism are going to usurp or steal your word…so we can not be called reformed. You own it. Great. Take it. But what have you gained? Guys like John Piper, Mark Dever and John Grudem may not be what you would call reformed but they will continue to lead people to the faith and teach them the doctrines of grace…
    D

  35. So, what should be the Reformed response?

    According to this article.

    First, Reformed churches need to stress the nature of church.

    Second, the Reformed church needs to recommit to the regulative principle.

    Third, the Reformed church needs to counter the churchapreneur paradigm by aggressively and relentlessly pursuing its mission, the Great Commission.

    Yes, we can point fingers at evangelicals and the YRR crowd all day, God knows I do it more than I should, but if our churches don’t reflect what we believe and confess about our theology and practice, does the blame go to Discroll alone?

  36. Victor,

    Who invoked solas against Driscoll? He speaks and someone (like RSC) responds. If you read RRC you’ll see that it really is doing what you want, namely to take to task our own, not posers. But that doesn’t mean posers are off the hook.

    FWIW, I’d rather see non-posers like Warren left alone since they make no claim to anything resembling the Reformation (like posers or badly behaving Reformed). They’re just trying to be good evangelicals. See, I can be nice.

  37. Victor,

    Who invoked solas against Driscoll? He speaks and someone (like RSC) responds. If you read RRC you’ll see that it really is doing what you want, namely to take to task our own, not posers. But that doesn’t mean posers are off the hook.

    FWIW, I’d rather see non-posers like Warren left alone since they make no claim to anything resembling the Reformation (like posers or badly behaving Reformed). They’re just trying to be good evangelicals. See, I can be nice.

  38. Zrim,

    My charge was against Berny’s statement about following Driscoll and Piper. I wasn’t trying to indict Dr. Clark or imply confessions weren’t necessary. But the truth is I’m often with Christians to whom the confessions mean nothing–most have probably never heard of the WCF or Three Forms of Unity; the word “catechism” conjures “Roman Catholic.” If I were to bring them up in conversation, they would probably accuse me of valuing them more than I do Scripture. David: “In the Westminster Confession, Chapter 28, it says we’re supposed to baptize infants–” Friend: “What–baptize infants! Don’t quote your confession–show me where it says that in Scripture!”

    On what basis, then, can I talk with “Bible-believing” Christians–my own family among them–than on our shared faith in Christ?

  39. Dr. Clark,
    I appreciate your love for Christ and for your Reformed tradition. I can also understand your concern that your tradition is being co-opted and changed, while still retaining the nomenclature “Calvinism.”

    I am what Driscoll would call a “New Calvinist” and though I appreciate the history and roots of the reformed tradition, my conscience constrains me to depart from tradition where I am convinced that it has departed from scripture. I believe that I speak for many of those in the New Calvinist movement when I say that I find my heritage more from Calvinists like the great Cambridge pastor Charles Simeon than from the Calvinism that you have been very clear to build large fences around in your above post.

    Here is a quote from a conversation between Simeon and John Wesley that reflects what I believe to be biblical Christianity and what I would also fondly call “Calvinism.”

    “Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
    Yes, I do indeed.

    And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

    Yes, solely through Christ.

    But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

    No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

    Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

    No.

    What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

    Yes, altogether.

    And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

    Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

    Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree. (Moule, 79f)

    • This seems to be another attempt to define what the issues are what “Reformed” is.

      Pr Driscoll doesn’t get it. He doesn’t seem to understand that the basic definition of the Reformed theology, piety, and practice was achieved about 450 years ago.

      We’ve discussed this at length here.

      I hope some of Pr Driscoll’s followers will take the time to read a Reformed account of what “Reformed” means.

      After all, it’s not as if the “emergent” and “emerging” guys don’t care about definitions. They’ve spent a lot of time on definitions and deciding who’s “in” and who’s “out.”

      When I define these movements I’ve tried to be sensitive to the way they define themselves. I don’t see why they can’t accord us the same courtesy.

  40. On what basis, then, can I talk with “Bible-believing” Christians–my own family among them–than on our shared faith in Christ?

    David,

    As my whole extended family is just like yours, have you considered that they in fact do have a confession? Their pushing you to “forget your WCF and appeal only to scripture” is a tradition. What you may not realize is that this is no different from the Roman Catholic side of the family (I have both) saying “Forget your WCF and appeal only to what the Church says.” Solo scriptura is basically the same as solo ecclesia, which makes all the spitting cursing one side does of the other fascinating. Catholics are just as “Bible-believing” as those who think they have a monoploy on it. These sorts of problems aren’t solved by the bare appeal to Jesus, because there is no such thing.

    Human beings are situated creatures. I’d suggest some have more or less convinced you that this isn’t true.

  41. Prof. Clark,

    This post has been illuminating to read as well as other posts I have read from your blog. This whole conversation of what being ‘Reformed’ means has been helpful. I am not theologically trained. I am also not Reformed. Me and my friends talk about theological issues. I wanted to ask you for a clear answer to a question that comes to my mind since reading this post. The whole Together for the Gospel conference and crowd including names such as MacArthur, Dever, Mahaney, Piper, Duncan…………Would you say any of them are ‘ Reformed ‘ in the way you are define that word? If they aren’t ‘ Reformed ‘ what would you call them? The second question is who then in our modern times is Reformed? Tim Keller? R.C. Sproul?
    Your book sounds interesting. Thanks.

    • Dear Truth,

      this question comes up a lot. Here’s a collection of posts that addresses your question:

      http://en.wordpress.com/tag/defining-reformed/

      See also the new post on the top of the page. It has resources that deal with this.

      Rather than deal with personalities it’s best to answer the question by asking a couple of others:

      1. How did the Reformed Churches define “Reformed”?

      2. How do the Reformed confessions define “Reformed”?

      3. Does a given contemporary writer/teacher belong to a recognizably “Reformed” Church? Does he confess the same theology, piety, and practice as the Reformed Churches?

      There are a lot of folk today who identify with aspects of the Reformed faith. Going back to the hockey analogy: identifying with hockey doesn’t make one a hockey player. Owning a stick doesn’t make one a hockey player. I’m glad that there are evangelicals who like aspects of Reformed theology. As I keep saying, “don’t stand there on the porch, come on in.”

      Thanks for stopping by.

  42. Zrim,

    Regarding your comment “Their pushing you to ‘forget your WCF and appeal only to scripture’ is a tradition” is something I haven’t considered. Thanks for your comments.

  43. HeidelPing: Old School Calvinist « Gairney Bridge

  44. HeidelPing: Clark/Driscoll Old/New Calvinism Dust Up in the Blogosphere

  45. :) This post made me laugh. Posts like these are what give Calvinists a bad name. The ‘Truly Reformed’ are the ones that give Calvinism a bad name. Be careful riding on your high horse…it can be painful when you fall off of it.

  46. Dr. Clark,

    My question is a little bit off topic, but is related with the way Old Calvinism is described by the contemporaneous authors. One of the criticism comes from Philip Yancey in his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”

    “William Manchester records some of the diversions forbidden by Calvin:

    ‘feasting, dancing, singing, pictures, statues, relics, church bells, organs, altar candles; “indecent or irreligious” songs, staging or attending theatrical plays; wearing rogue, jewelry, lace, or “immodest” dress; speaking disrespectfully to your betters; extravagant entertainment, swearing, gambling, playing cards, hunting, drunkenness, naming children after anyone but figures in the Old Testament; reading “immoral or irreligious” books.’

    A father who christened his son Claude, a name not found in the Old Testament, spent four days in jail, as did a woman whose hairdo reached an “immoral” height. The Consistory beheaded a child who struck his parents. They drowned any single woman found pregnant. In separate incidents, Calvin’s stepson and daughter-in-law were executed when found in bed with their lovers.”

    What is true and what is myth in the above quotation? I wonder how credible the source is and on what historical documents it is based.

    Gabriel

    • Hi Gabriel,

      Here is my reply to an earlier version of this question:

      1. So what? It’s the 16th century. Compare the Genevan civil code with the civil code of any other city of the time. Many of those codes pre-existed Calvin. This question has to be handled HISTORICALLY! It’s Christendom. Lot’s of things were illegal then (e.g. usury) that are legal now. Heresy was illegal then. Roman cities had strict laws against heresy. Lutheran cities did too.

      2. What about the fact that Calvin wasn’t a citizen until very late in life. He didn’t even vote. What about the fact that he was exiled from Geneva by the city council and only returned when they begged (he didn’t want to be there). He was only there as a matter of duty/obligation to God. He couldn’t even get the city to approve weekly communion. What kind of tyrant can’t get weekly communion? Why kind of tyrant is not allowed to pronounce the absolution/declaration of pardon by the city council? He was harassed by citizens and insulted. Yes, he was able to get the city to punish one fellow who attacked his office publicly. This would have happened in any of the Protestant cities at the time.

      What you’re seeing, in effect, is not unique to Calvin’s Geneva. It’s the difference between 16th-century Europe and 21st-century America.

      Could some of this be true? Yes. Is some of it exaggerated? Yes.

      I deal with this general topic here.

      Let’s just say that I wouldn’t turn to Philip Yancey to learn about Calvin.

      Read T H L Parker’s John Calvin: A Biography.

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  48. Dr. Clark,

    My apologies for not reading your previous answer. I brought Yancey because I’m talking with people who think that he is a credible source.

    I don’t have Parker’s biography of Calvin, but I have William Wileman’s book about John Calvin, Thomas Smyth’s “Calvin and His Enemies” also Beza’s “The Life of John Calvin”. How reliable are these biographies?

    Gabriel

    • Hi Gabriel,

      Beza’s life of Calvin is a basic source but it should be augmented by a modern, critical (not necessarily hostile or negative) bio. These are (I think) older titles that you mention. You can get Parker via inter-library loan. See the “Calvin’s Legacy” blog posts for more bibliographic leads.

  49. Dr. Clark,

    Mark Driscoll antics aside, do those who are considered wholly Reformed (in ecclessiology, eschatology etc. not “just” soteriology) appreciate that at least many seem to be returning to Reformed salvation theology in droves? Or is it just an unfortunate muddying of the water?

    I ask this as someone who has found an oasis among the writings of the Calvin’s and Luther’s in the dry and thirsty land of evangelical churchianity. But I don’t go to a Presbyterian church (I don’t know if a bible believing one is within driving distance of my smaller town). And there are many more 18-30 year olds in my same boat. What exactly do you call someone who exalts in TULIP but doesn’t yet have a developed view of infant covenantal baptism? A Tulupist? Do the “truly Reformed” really resent men like Spurgeon and other contemporaries who may call themselves “Reformed Baptist” (ie Piper, Mohler, Dever etc.)?

    Thanks for your thoughts, much of what has been discussed on this forum is new to me.

    • Captain (if I may),

      I think that finding an entry point to Reformed theology via the doctrines of grace is healthy, encouraging and, to be honest, it would surprise me if people found a different route in. After all the Reformed view of salvation stands in such stark contrast to other views, and gives all the glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is so liberating and refreshing to see that salvation is of the Lord.

      But if you get to grips with the Reformed view of salvation you also need to get hold of its covenantal structure. As Packer says it is like looking at a map of the Pacific Ocean; you spot the islands but need to stand back to see the letters P A C I F I C. The islands are in the Pacific, and the various aspects of the work of salvation are embedded in covenant theology. And that way you are then going to be dealing with the covenant community, signs and seals.

    • Hi Cap’n,

      As always, Amen to Martin! If you haven’t discovered his blog (Against Heresies) you should.

      As to what to do, see this post: “Don’t just stand there, come on in!”

      You should ask yourself, as Martin suggests, in what view of the church, in what view of the history of salvation, in what view of the sacraments, does the Reformed soteriology which we all love flourish? Who gave it to us? It was baby-baptizing Reformed churches. Can the Reformed soteriology be transplanted to another patient? Yes, it’s being done but then there is the danger of organ rejection (just ask the predestinarian guys in the SBC; yes I know the SBC was originally predestinarian but the Particular Baptist view is a distinct minority in the SBC now).

      On covenant theology, read Mike Horton’s, The God of Promise.

      See more covenantal resources here. Start with the “Brief History of Covenant Theology.”

      Then go to “The Church as Covenant Community” and then “The Israel of God.”

      Here’s an essay on Baptism.

      Here’s an essay on the Lord’s Supper.

      On how to read the Bible.

      Hope these help.

  50. I think that finding an entry point to Reformed theology via the doctrines of grace is healthy, encouraging and, to be honest, it would surprise me if people found a different route in.

    Does that mean those of us who came in via kingdom theology are weird and unhealthy? Kidding. Don’t answer that.

  51. As someone who lives in Seattle and had left Mars Hill to start attending Stellmans Exile PCA I must say Driscoll is a cafeteria calvinist when soteriology is on sale, but ecclesiology and eschatology as well as pneumatology and Christology, are not reformed. Need I say more. THank God for his stand against liberal christianity and his hold to innerrancy and exclusivity of Christ as the only way to heaven-but the man is not Reformed. No criticism, just the facts-if facts mean anything in this “new” emerging time.

  52. It was through the writings of John Piper that I was introduced to Reformed theology. I am still highly appreciative and grateful for his ministry even recognizing our significant differences. But it makes no sense to pretend that our differences don’t matter.

    All of us are trying to seek faithfulness to Scripture. Perhaps one thing feeding the curmudgeonliness of old-schoolers is that the new brand is often perceived to proclaim its own superiority, not merely unaware of the resources and categories of how Protestants have understood faithfulness for hundreds of years, but boasting of that ignorance, as if it somehow makes one more attuned to Scripture.

    Of course, it might help for us old-schoolers to be more sensitive in the discussion that our lingo sounds dead and legalistic to the average evangelical because they lack the categories to distinguish the covenant from Roman Catholicism. Who’d have thought that a churchly piety doesn’t replace the gospel of grace, but rather is because of the gospel of grace?

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  54. Thanks to all the responses.

    I’ve been apprehensive of the dispie’s for some time so it was not terribly hard for me to embrace Reformed eschatology. I guess you could say I’m “always reforming” in my view towards a fuller understanding of Reformed theology.

    Dr. Clark, thanks for the links, the “Christ-centered” hermeneutic is something I wish my church leadership would adopt in it’s teaching. I discovered it by reading Spurgeon sermons, and was in shock from Gen-Rev the Bible wasn’t simply about God fixing my marriage, finances, self esteem etc, but “Christ and Him crucified”!

    You mentioned the SBC (my denomination since childhood), I’d keep an eye on them. Their “flagship” seminary is now fully Calvinistic in it’s soteriology from the president to the janitors. There is a Holy Spirit induced unrest amidst many young people in the SBC who are tired of the topical, seeker sensitive approach to their churches. Peace out to all.

  55. Question: is there anything that we can learn from Mars Hill or Driscoll? Surely not all of his 4 disqualifications of ‘old calvinists’ are incorrect?

    I get that the basis of his four assumptions is wrong, and agree, and am working to change that in my friends and church back home, but is there anything positive from them?

    • Nic,

      What is true about his account of “old Calvinism”? Are there criticisms to be made of “old Calvinism”? Sure! I just wrote a book about it, but these points, as stated, are, to put it mildly, unhelpful. Scroll up and look for Martin Downes’ comments. I agree with Martin.

  56. So first R. Scott Clark said we could not call ourselves “Reformed” because we don’t sprinkle our infants (even though we agree in every other respect).

    Now we are told we can’t call ourselves “Calvinists” unless we sprinkle our babies.

    Next, he’ll be telling us we can’t call ourselves “Christian” unless we sprinkle our children.

    Mark Driscoll may worship the culture, R. Scott Clark worships the confessions. Both are idolatry.

    • Michael,

      Wait a minute! If I say that a Lutheran is a Lutheran and a Baptist is a Baptist (Mark Dever recently made that clear, for which I do not fault him), why is it wrong and why idolatry (!) to insist that the Reformed have an identity.

      Calvin was a historical person. He said certain things. He practiced certain things. If we fundamentally disagree with his theology and practice (as Baptists do) then how are they Calvinists?

      Why on earth is this idolatry? (Worship of a false god?)

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  58. John Yeazel

    Dr. Clark,

    I have been calling you Scott is that OK? Thank you for suggesting that I read that essay from a Reformed guy. It was well worth my time. It was written in the same vein (I am using that expression a lot lately) as Korey Maas’s “The Place of Repentance in Luther’s Theological Development.” I am sure Rod has given you that essay to read. All I need to read now is a scholarly essay on how Luther came to see the distinction between Law and Gospel and I will have covered his three main theological breakthrough’s from the medieval Church. Luther is definitely the giant on whose shoulders we now stand on. Even more so than Augustine who still held some theotic union beliefs- or am I wrong about that?

    My take on the paper is that it was a rather long argument that came to the conclusion, like a crescendo in a piece of music, that we are justified before God only by the gracious imputation of Christ’s righteousness for us. It took Luther awhile to arrive at that conclusion. For us being the key words- not in us. It is extra nos not something done inside of us. Our intrinsic righteousness flows from this imputed righteousness like rays emanate from the sun- it is something that results naturally from the gift of imputation. A question I would have here is the following: Does our will play any role in this intrinsic righteousness? What I gathered from the paper is that justification and sanctification are so intimately entwined that to try to separate them causes more confusion than clarity.

    It was interesting to read about how the current scholarship about Luther came about and all the confusion that has resulted. I will now be more critically aware of the various positions taken. And I can be more confident that the book of Concord still is accurate on Luther’s theological positions regarding justification by faith alone. No matter how someone I am reading may try to persuade me in another direction.

    Another question I had while reading the paper is what do you think are the problems and implications that occur when you do not ground justification upon Christ’s imputed righteousness for us? My own answer would be that we retain some of the glory for our justification. Do you think that is accurate?

    There was a lot of Latin phrases in the paper that you did not translate because it was written to other theologians and I was going to ask you to translate them for me but I think I will bypass that. I am pretty sure I was able to “get” the main point for why you wrote the paper. Namely, that Luther based his doctrine of justification by faith alone on the imputed righteousness of Christ. No matter what some other scholars may try to lead you to believe.

    I was also struck by the disputation method used back then. If we need anything today it is to resurrect this method when dialogging with each other. I get very frustrated when debates meander into each person trying to justify their positions rather than really seeking the truth about the issue involved. This causes more confusion than clarity and wastes a lot of time.

    I do not see any difference in how a Reformed guy looks at justification by faith alone than a full orbed confessional Lutheran. Why all the fuss?- it seems like a lot of sound and fury amounting to nothing.
    Reply

    • Hi John,

      You raise a number of points.

      1. I haven’t read Korey’s essay.

      2. The Luther paper was historical not dogmatic. Are you asking historical or theological questions? Theologically I would not say that God’s Spirit renovates (renews) the will by his Spirit, through the gospel, enabling it and moving it to choose the good. The will is no cause of justification. Heidelberg Catechism Q. 21 identifies (in the Latin transl.) three aspects in the act of faith: knowledge, assent, and trust. Either assent or trust (or both) involves the will. Faith is the sole instrument of justification, resting and receiving, knowing, trusting, leaning on Christ and his finished work.

      3. There are a lot of problems in finding another ground of justification. Loss of assurance and idolatry come to mind. Search the HB (top left) for “ground of justification.”

      4. The difficulty between some Lutheran and some Reformed folk is that they both know priori that we have different organizing principles (central dogmas) that we MUST have different doctrines of justification. Then they set out to find them. The truth is that the “central dogma” approach is failed method because it rests on an assumption not on facts or history. Calvin believed that he was following Luther’s doctrine of justification without deviation. The Reformed writers of the 16th and 17th century I’ve read believed that they held Luther’s doctrine of justification.

      Those who find different doctrines of justification are more about “identity” (i.e., “whatever we are, it’s not what THEY are”) than they are about history.

  59. Dr. Clark,

    You are right- I failed to make the distinction between the historical and theological. I was asking some theological questions and you were writing an historical essay. Thanks for making me aware of that.

    Korey Maas’s essay was a gem. It also was a historical survey looking at Luther’s writings, sermons and lectures in order to determine how he came to his mature understanding of repentance. It was not until 1525 or 1526 that he differed significantly from previous and contemporary Catholic theologians of that medieval period. I would be interested in hearing a reformed critique of the essay and also try to determine if the reformed and Lutheran understanding of repentance are the same (theologically). Not that I am being “sneaky” in trying to get you to read the essay. Please do not take that wrongly. I am trying to be funny. Considering that Korey thought that it was one of the three main theological breakthroughs Luther made I think it deserves everyones close attention.

    Again, thanks for encouraging me to read your essay- it was fun. That makes me wonder about myself- thinking that reading theological essays are fun. However, I really do get deep satisfaction and enjoyment in reading about theological controversies.

  60. “namely that his theology, piety, and practice is genuinely “Calvinist” and second, that “Calvinism” can be reduced to the doctrine of predestination that can be re-contextualized in congregations which are at odds with the Reformed confession.”

    Exactly. As an entrenched Arminian, while I read Driscoll’s version of Calvinism I was drowning in a sea of illogical inconsistencies. He Driscoll’s description can be considered Calvinism, then we Arminians have our own modern metamorphosis:

    1) Old Arminianism was fundamental or liberal and intertwined with culture. New Arminianism is non-missional and seeks to remain aloof fromthe culture.

    2) Old Arminianism loved the cities. New Arminianism is fleeing the cities.

    3) Old Arminianism was expressive in the continuing gifts of the Holy Spirit. New Arminianism is cessationist and abhors contrived manifestations.

    4) Old Arminianism loved unity and agreement in the evangelical community. New Arminianism burns the bridges that lead to any and all whodo not see it exactly our way.

    See. If a horse walks like a horse, sounds like a horse, and runs like a horse, you cannot suggest your’re a new duck. It is unfair to us Arminians to change the target, especially when we have honed all our arguments in light of the “Old Calvinism”. :)

  61. I am posting Bethany Tanis’s remarks to your post. They are as follows: As I was riding to church on the train this morning, I couldn’t help but think that it’s rather flattering to have Dr. Clark (I’ve even heard of him!) arguing with me (even though I’m sure he doesn’t know me from Aunt Millie and I doubt John passed along my name). In any case here’s my response to Dr.

    Clark’s concerns:
    “Your points are an excellent illustration of the fallacy of the “central dogma” method of analysis (not that you hold them). On this see Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree.” Sure, I agree that the “central dogma” method, as he puts it is not the best. In fact, I debated whether or not to use the material and formal principle technique. But I did because I think it is helpful in getting a grip on things at a general level and because I thought it might be more familiar to several readers than the loci method (see Muller). While I don’t think it is the best method for scholarly analysis and is anachronistic, I do not think it is misleading or involves a fallacy when used to paint with a broad brush as a popular level. I’ve not read that particular Muller book (although I know of it), but as I like him, I will have to do so. Last I knew he taught at Calvin Seminary at my alma mater!

    I think Dr. Clark’s concerns can be cleared up by stating what this series for the BJS is meant to do and what it is not meant to do. This is not a detailed scholarly analysis of Calvinism. Nor is this meant to be an apologetic for the Lutheran position (notice no Scripture citations) against the Calvinist position. Rather, it is meant to give a general idea of the very real (and I think Dr. Clark brings this out better than I could have!) differences between our two confessions and ways in which Calvinism doctrines have influenced popular American Evangelicalism, which is generally not Calvinist per se. Additionally, it is meant to be read by confessional Lutherans trying to understand a different church body from their own theological perspective and is written from an unapologetically Lutheran perspective. Finally, it is meant to give an impression of the type of Calvinism and Calvinist-influenced Evangelicalism the typical BJS layman might meet out on the street. To achieve this I based what I wanted to discuss on many, many long theological conversations with my Calvinist and Evangelical friends at Calvin College. Dr. Clark and other bright lights of contemporary Calvinism hold to a nuanced and complex theology that is not generally present “on the street” (although I wish it were!). The Calvinism the average BJS layman is most likely to encounter is the kind espoused by cradle Dutch Reformed member Pieter van Dordtsma in Holland, Michigan, rather than the more sophisticated version coming out of Calvinist seminaries. Of course, this is also true of Lutheranism! The type of sophisticated theological understanding present among many BJS supporters is not what you would usually find among the Hans Muellers at your average Lutheran congregation (sadly!). So, should we say that only the most sophisticated brand of Calvinism and Lutheranism are “real” Calvinism and Lutheranism? I leave that sticky wicket up to the reader! But what I have tried to do is show where in the Calvinist theological tradition contemporary Calvinists and Calvinist-influenced American Evangelicals have come by their theology. I do think this is a worth while enterprise. This does not mean it’s OK to be theologically imprecise for wrong in one’s assessment! And I certainly apologize to Dr. Clark if I have mischaracterized anything through ignorance.

    OK – on to the specific concerns. First, I’m not a pastor (obviously!!) or lay theologian and I don’t think the point of this series is to engage in a theological defense of Lutheranism or a theological attack on Calvinism, but I’ll just make a few points:

    1. We’re no more or less predestinarian than Luther in De Servo Arbitrio (The Bondage of the Will; 1525) or his Heidelberg Disputation (1518).

    Well, I would have to disagree with this statement. I would welcome everyone to read them both and see for themselves. Is Luther predestinarian? Yes! But I do not believe he goes as far as Calvin and later Reformed theologians did. I was just chatting with my fiancé (a Luther scholar and theologian) who notes that in several letters from the 1520s Luther explicitly states that God wishes to save everyone and denies predestination to reprobation.

    2. The only reason Lutherans have accused us of having a different formal principle is because they (a priori) assume that if we disagree with them on the two natures of Christ, we must have a different principle. Indeed, if you look at the chapter in the Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant you’ll see that, in that case, the Reformed argued for their from Scripture whilst the Lutheran orthodox of that same period argued philosophically.

    Perhaps some Lutherans have done this, but the disagreement on Christology is not why I think a different formal principle is at play. And of course the Reformed argued from the Bible. Their formal principle is the Holy Scripture. Far be it from me to suggest that reason comes first! However, I do think that historically, and in many conversations with Calvinist friends, reason plays a greater role in determining doctrine for Calvinists than it does for Lutherans. Of course, Dr. Clark may disagree. Also, of course Lutherans argued philosophically! But so did Calvinists and virtually everyone else during the age of Orthodoxy. The idea that Lutherans never used philosophy to guide their theology or that they only used it in determining their theology are both strawmen (to use the term again!). I would strongly recommend reading The Two Natures of Christ by Olevian’s contemporary Martin Chemnitz and then determining whether or not this criticism stands.

    3. Yes, we do teach in substance a doctrine of finitum non capax infiniti and we do so unapologetically because it is what we call a good and necessary consequence. Another way of stating this doctrine (as you’ve seen in RRC) is to call it the “Creator/creature distinction” or “the categorical distinction. God’s Word says, “In the beginning God…” Done. God was when we were not. We are not God. We are capable of being glorified (and some contemporary theologians have redefined “deified” to mean “glorified”) but glorification is not deification. God’s Word in Hebrews says that Christ (God the Son incarnate) is like us in every respect, sin excepted. Confessional Lutherans effectively deny this truth. They assume that it must be the case, a priori their doctrine of the genus maiestaticus, that if Christ’s deity is ominipresent, his humanity must also be ubiquitous. Who’s the rationalist here? We Reformed, who say that God the Spirit operates mysteriously through the elements to feed believers on the proper, natural, true body and blood, or the Lutherans who resolve the mystery through some doctrine of the ubiquity of the humanity. Ditto for the doctrine of reprobation. They (a priori) seek to resolve the mystery of sovereignty and human responsibility by denying reprobation. Luther refused to do this. He knew it was scandalous but did it any way. At Montbeillard in 1580, in debate with the Lutherans, Beza stood to say, “We stand with Luther” on this question and the Lutheran response was: “Next question.”

    Well, I’m glad that Dr. Clark and I agree that we disagree! It must be frustrating for him to feel that I’ve misrepresented the Calvinist position through over generalization or in any other way, because I feel frustrated that he unintentionally misrepresents the Lutheran position here! Of course, this is a natural consequence of this kind of discussion and a problem of our fallen nature that we cannot understand each other perfectly. I don’t really feel the need to respond to any of his specific concerns here, except to say that I would recommend readers take a look at Martin Chemnitz’s book or even pull out their McCain Concordia and look at the Catalog of Testimonies and to say that I strongly disagree with his assumptions of “a priori” theology. Also, note that Dr. Clark illustrates my point wonderfully about the use of highly realistic sacramental language. Finally, it seems to be a common Reformed belief that Luther supported what we often call “double predestination.” While Luther (not a systematic theologian) did not (to my knowledge) lay out a systematic doctrine of predestination, neither did he endorse the view that God is responsible for sin or damnation. The Lutheran position explicitly opposes Calvinism on this topic naturally evolved after Luther’s death when it had to contend with Calvinism. Obviously, Luther did not have the mature writings of Calvin and his followers to respond to in his own lifetime. Check out the Visitation Articles in your McCain BOC (1592) for the way Lutherans developed their theology in response to the in-roads of Calvinism.
    What this means is, though we may be wrong exegetically, our theology is subservient to God’s Word. That’s why I’m Reformed: Not because I have some a priori conviction about what must be, from which I supposed deduce a system of doctrine, but because God’s Word and the holy catholic faith (see the Definition of Chalcedon!) teaches that Jesus is true man (and God’s Word teaches that humans are finite, not infinite) and true God in one person. How? It’s a mystery. Rationalists who appeal to mystery? Don’t you think that’s odd? God is sovereign in election and reprobation and humans are morally responsible for their uncoerced choices (Rom 9). How can that be? I don’t know. Ask God. The holy Trinity is three persons and yet one God. How can that be? Ask God.

    I fully believe that Dr. Clark is Reformed because he believes his theology is subservient to God’s Word, not because it is based on a priori considerations. And I’m Lutheran because I believe Lutheran theology is subservient to God’s Word and not based on a priori considerations. Again, I don’t really see a need to either attack Calvinism or defend Lutheranism in response here. I’ll just point out again the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and note that, no, I don’t think it’s odd for rationalists to appeal to mystery. Calvinists are Christians and part of Christianity is mystery. I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game. I believe I already mentioned the difference in interpretation of Rom. 9 in an earlier comment.

    I don’t imagine that a blog post is going to change anything, but FWIW, we certainly don’t see ourselves in the confessional Lutheran critique of our views. To see a 17th-century response to some of these, see Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. My research into the LCMS polemic against Calvin (and Calvinism) should appear this year in a volume published by Brill on Calvin and Memory Cultures. The account given by confessional Lutherans in the USA since the mid-19th century is a fascinating study in the need for one group for a bogey man by which to define itself. The “Calvin” who appears in their publications (and has for a very long time) bears little relation to the Calvin of history. He is indeed a “Calvin of Faith.”

    Uh-oh, I’m showing my technologically ineptitude – I don’t know what FWIW means! But in any case, I’m sorry if I misrepresented anything Calvinists teach, but, for the record, I also have a hard time seeing ourselves in Dr. Clark’s a priori portrayal. This is, of course, a problem and why, I think, exchanges such as these are helpful and important for all involved. We should all try to work towards understanding each other as far as possible. I’ve not read Turretin, although, of course, I’m familiar with him. So many good books and so little time! I look forward to Dr. Clark’s published take on the Lutheran search for the historical Calvin. Blessings on his work!

    Best,
    Bethany

    Comment by Bethany — March 22, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

    I am leaving these posts in the spirit that they may breed some clarity among some of the controversies between confessional Lutherans and confessional Calvinists. Like I have said in previous posts I have learned a great deal from both Lutheran and Calvinists theologians and many times I get the sense that both are misrepresenting each others views. Whether the theological differences can get reconciled is another question and how necessary it is to reconcile them could be another valid question.

    • John,

      I read these.

      I’m not sure how to respond except to suggest that at least some of us read Luther fairly carefully. There is a short list of Lutheran scholars who read and write on Calvin or Reformed orthodoxy.

      I noted her comments on our view of the Supper. Again, she doesn’t understand us because of her obvious and powerful a priori. I thought about replying but decided against it. What could I say to change her mind? She knows before I write what I MUST believe regardless of what I say. She knows what I REALLY mean regardless of what I actually say. Thus it doesn’t matter that the Belgic Confession says explicitly that believers eat the “proper and natural” body and blood. How? By the operation of the Spirit.

      By using the lower case she substantially changes our argument. She does what the Book of Concord does: makes us into lying sacramentarians (Zwinglians) who seek to deceive the faithful by making it appear that we really believe what, because we won’t say the magic words, we (a priori) cannot believe.

      There’s a reason why this discussion has made little progress since 1529. it’s very frustrating, I know. All I can do is to keep writing. I can point Bethany to my academic work on Luther and the relations between Reformed and Lutheran orthodoxy.

      Given her account of the “capax” I wonder if she’s actually read and accounted for Muller?

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  63. See, that is what we Arminians have grown to expect and know, the refreshing aroma of an old Calvinism doctrinal squabble that leaves us Arminians scratching our heads and reaching for popcorn. :).

  64. What I have taken (in this age of narcissism we often take what we think more seriously then we should) from all of this (the Lutheran and Calvinist debate) is that are these differences that critical? The double predestination issue is irrelevant to me. It does not make a hoot of a difference in how we come into a right relationship with God. It seems it would just make one prey to a fatalism but when this is presented properly by a good theologian they make sure that this is not what they mean by it.

    The most critical difference may be the two natures of Christ issue for it has far reaching implications in how we view the atonement. The Lutheran gripe is that this view leads to some of the views evangelicals hold today. I will have to do a bit more indepth study of this issue to get a better grasp of the implications. Plus the various hersesies in this area get to be very subtle and you almost have to be a well trained seminarian to really get the implications.

    I really do not get the implications of the finite not grasping the infinite either and Bethany and Dr. Clark seem to approach this issue from completely different angles- the a priori assumptions seem to dominate each of the responses.

    It was not a useless exercise to me though and it will help me focus in on what to look for when I read further on these matters.

    Sorry Rick, eating popcorn and watching us go at it does not justify your theological positions. You better think about that one a bit more deeply. I say that with a smile on my face.

  65. I failed to copy and paste the footnotes in Bethany’s last post and the #5 note is significant. Is it true that Calvinists do not allow for secondary causes in its soteriology? And is this significant? Footnotes:

    See Heidelberg Catechism (1563), question 78; Internet, Westminster Theological Seminary Resources, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
    See John Calvin, Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper (1541), para. 41; Internet, available here, accessed 4 February 2009; and Heidelberg Catechism (1563), question 76; Internet, Westminster Theological Seminary Resources, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
    Hermann Sasse, This Is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar, Revised Ed. (Adelaide, South Australia: Openbook Publishers, 1977), 262.
    See Jack D. Kilcrease, “Review of Principles of Lutheran Theology by Carl E. Braaten,” Logia 18, issue 1 (Epiphany, 2009): 49.
    Unlike Luther, both Zwingli and Calvin rejected the possibility of God operating through secondary causes. Lutheran historian Martin Noland notes that “the consequence of the denial of secondary causes for Reformed [Dutch Calvinist] theology is that the word of God, the sacraments, and the ministry of the church are not true causes of salvation, but merely empty instruments which require God’s intentional activation by the Spirit” See Martin Noland, “The Lutheran Mind and Its University,” Logia 17, issue 4 (Reformation, 2008): 48. See also John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter XVI, 2-3, 8; Internet, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
    David P. Scaer, Christology, Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics Series Vol. 6 (Fort Wayne, Indiana: Luther Academy, 1989), 28fn.16; see also Sasse, This Is My Body, 262-263; and See Heidelberg Catechism (1563), question 79; Internet, Westminster Theological Seminary Resources, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
    Sasse, This Is My Body, 263ff. See Calvin’s description from his Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper (1541), para. 60; Internet, available here, accessed 4 February 2009.
    Sasse, This Is My Body, 264.
    Sasse, This Is My Body, 262, 265-267

    • John,

      I’m not surprised that you’re confused. Clark, who is Reformed and studies Reformed theology, says they believe one thing and Bethany, who isn’t Reformed and evidently doesn’t actually read much Reformed theology, says we believe another.

      Sure we confess that God uses secondary causes or agents to regenerate and to create faith. Heidelberg Catechism 65:

      65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, from where comes this faith?

      The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts1 by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the Holy Sacraments.

      1 John 3:5. * Rom 10:17. 2 Rom 4:11. * Acts 8:37.

  66. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for approaching all this with a sense of humor. I value your input and thanks for your quick replies. I like trying to sort out differences in theological positions. Confusion can be a good thing if it leads you to seeking for the truth more diligently. I love the process of trying to find a more accurate position then perhaps I may hold at a particular time. We always have to be on our toes when it comes to truth. I always consider the possibility that I may be wrong.

    • John,

      You’re experiencing what every student experiences when he tries to sort out this kind of problem via secondary literature. Who’s telling the truth? My advice is to read Reformed theology for yourself. I’m confident that you will see that, while there are significant differences between Reformed and Lutheran orthodoxy, our theology is not of the sort that Bethany says.

      Start with the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. Then read Calvin for yourself. Then read Beza. Read Olevianus, Firm Foundation and then Wollebius’ Compendium. That would be a good start.

      Start here: http://www.wscal.edu/clark/confessions.php

  67. Rick,

    Trust me, Luther and Calvin understood Paul much better than Arminian theologians do. Try reading some of B.B. Warfields polemics against Arminianism. You can start by reading Kim Riddlebargers doctrinal thesis on B.B. Warfield on his blogsite. There is an excellent critique of a Arminian theologican in the paper.

    Dr. Clark- thanks for the suggestion although I have read some of those already. Primary sources are always the best. As always, your comments are appreciated.

  68. Oh, I forgot to mention- I do read the scriptures on a regular basis too. That is an objection that I hear from Arminians (and I used to be one so I know what I am talking about) all the time. It is a mute and nonsense argument. We should be in dialog with the great theologians of each of our particular traditions because more often than not they understood what the scriptures were saying more clearly than we do. Although I still believe we need to also read the scriptures on our own. Our subjective interpretations tend to lead us astray however, so we should be in constant dialog with the historical confessions and catechisms of the historical church. It is not an easy process but one in which God is patient with and gives us plenty of time to search out the matter in the time we have on this earth.

  69. Dr. Clark,

    I am new to your blog, but I find it very interesting. I am planning to start seminary in the fall 09, and WSC is one of the seminaries I am looking at.
    I read Anthony Bradley’s blog alot, and I came across this one blog he did in December on “Calvinistic but not Reformed” http://bradley.chattablogs.com/archives/2008/12/calvinistic-but.html#comments

    I was wondering do you agree with his understanding of what it means to be “Reformed” it seems to me, he adds a different aspect to the meaning.

    • Hi Rafael,

      Yes, I read this when Bradley published it.

      The problem is that the word “Calvinistic” is inherently vague. It’s the adjectival ending “-ist” that makes matters difficult. If a person holds to an aspect or two of Calvin’s theology, he is arguably “Calvinist” but that’s somewhat misleading if, in other respects he rejects important, even essential, aspects of Calvin’s theology.

      Historically, looking at the 16th century, the adjective “Reformed” was a bit broader than the adjective “Calvinist” (which was a Lutheran epithet). All Calvinists (who, then, were all paedobaptist) were Reformed, but not all “Reformed” were “Calvinist.” Bullinger, Vermigli, and Zanchi were all Reformed but they came to their convictions more or less separately from Calvin. They were really his students or followers.

      The Frame of reference that Bradley uses is neo-Kuyperian. This is a fairly novel definition of what constitutes “Reformed.” Neo-Kuyperian would be a better adjective. Thus all neo-Kuyperians would be (at least formally) Reformed but not all Reformed are neo-Kuyperian.

      This problem of definition is why I wrote the book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, to help us move away from idiosyncratic definitions of “Reformed.”

      See these posts.

      Have you visited the campus? The best time to visit is when students are here. Call Mark MacVey or Christa Haeck (pron. “heck”) at 888 480 8474.

      More info here: http://www.wscal.edu/admissions/contactadmissions.php

  70. Forgive me if I misunderstood your post but would you consider Spurgeon, MacArthur, Piper, and other self-proclaimed “Calvinists” to be in the same category as Driscoll?

  71. In my mind Driscoll’s re-packaged redefined “New Calvinism” verbiage is basically a red herring. His actual teaching is so shot through with rank error that it would take several blog posts to catalog them, and in fact a quick search on the “Cussing Pastor” will reveal that many discerning brothers and sisters in the Lord have done just that.

    Frankly when examining Driscoll in the light of infallible scripture blood-bought believers ought to be upset that he calls himself “Christian” in the first place before we even begin the discussion of whether he really holds to Calvinistic or Reformed theology or not.

    Here is a man who spews absolute gutter filth from the pulpit week in and week out, and is applauded by “big name” evangelicals and is even granted plum speaking engagements at “big time” evangelical conferences wherein he gleefully spreads the doctrinal equivalent of equine ejectus.

    The OP (rightly) suggests that “if Mark Driscoll presented himself for membership in St Peter’s in Calvin’s Geneva, he would have been rejected.” Yet the sad reality is that if Mark Dricoll had presented himself for CHURCH MEMBERSHIP – much less THE PASTORATE – in most orthodox, Bible believing churches fifty years ago he would also have been rejected!

    Driscoll speaks like the world and the world loves and praises him for it.

    Simply take a quick look around at the number of solid, historical, orthodox believers in God’s Holy Word who are diligently preserving, teaching, preaching and reaching to a lost and dying world with the Truth of Jesus Christ crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected on the third day and then take a look at the self-proclaimed “Reformissional Rev” Mark Driscoll, who has become modern evangelicalism’s poster boy, and weep.

    Welcome to Laodicea!

    In Christ,
    CD

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  77. I read recently that John Piper embraces nearly the whole of New Covenant Theology with the possible exception of Christ’s active obedience fulfilling the Covenant of Works completely (i.e. he allegedly doesn’t embrace the abrogation of the moral law in Christ).

    Anyone else heard about this either in his writings or sermons?

    In Christ,
    CD

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  81. judging by the link to Mars Hill Audio on your blogroll, is it safe to assume you recommendation of their sermons for a saint’s edification?

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  84. I have been hearing alot of harsh statements from the reformed/Calvinistic community about the “new” Calvinism over the last year. Seems like its pretty much 3 issues the “traditional” reformed, is complaining about this “new”Calvinism.

    1)that they not “truly” reformed cause they don’t follow the “traditional” a Presbyterian/reformed church government. Well lets see the particular baptists did not have “reformed” church government. They were just as bit as Calvinistic as the Presbyterians and congregationalists. Either do the congregationalists, but one would be hard pressed to say that Johnathon Edwards was not Calvinist.

    2)The new Calvinism is not truly “Reformed” cause they may not in some churches follow the “traditional” reformed confessions like the Westminister Standards or Three Forms of Unity or neither of London Baptist confessions. This is totally not true. I have seen some “independent/bible” type churches confessions of faith over the years and their pretty calvinistic

    3)that these new Calvinists are too “spirit-filled”,”fruits of the spirit”. Well im sure the first Great Awakening was that way and it was very Calvinistic

    I guess my point is just cause a church or a movement is not your “type” of Calvinism. That doesn’t mean they are not true blue Calvinists. I mean if u follow the 5 points”Tulip” in your theology, you are considered Calvinist.

    • yes both SD and WA has as far as theologywise to say alot about being refomed. i mean if being reformed means you have to have a presbyterian church government. then guess the particular baptists and congregationalists werent reformed. historically and to me you can be calvinistic in theology. mean i could go to a baptist congregational or independent church as long they embraced tulip theology.

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