Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why the New Calvinism is not Revival

In our community group last night that I was leading, one of the young men in our church asked me if I considered the resurgence of what has been called "The New Calvinism" or the "Young Restless and Reformed (YRR)" Movement as a revival. That's a good question depending on what one means by revival. If revival simply means a resurgence, then sure, it is a resurgence - its finding new life all over the place in the modern church. However, if what we mean by reivival is along the lines of what happened in Enfield and Northampton, CT in the 1740's or the Fulton St. revival that took place in New York in 1857,, it's absolutely not even close. The resurgence of Reformed Theology today is definitely a hopeful step in the right direction for the possibility of real, genuine, Holy Ghost outpouring of revival. Believe it or not, Revival is a Calvinistic doctrine; Arminianism is necessarily limited to “revivalism”.  Read your church history. Calvinism teaches that revival (as well as salvation) is a sovereign act of God. It cannot be worked up, but must be prayed down. Almost all revivals from the Protestant Reformation, the Puritan era, and the revivals of the early colonies were poured out among almost a purely Calvinistic church, for the exception of the Methodists.  It is only a totally God-dependent theology that can humble people to the point of begging God for it. Arminianism (and all its various forms) teaches that revival can be worked up by men's clever means and methods with the right conditions and atmosphere. Unfortunately, when there is any chatter of revival today, people automatically think of Charles Finney and D.L. Moody who were the most well known "revivalists" in the 1800's and nothing more because of their evangelistic efforts. From there, all kinds of strange and freak events such as the Toronto laughing revival and the Azusa St. Pentacostal revival have stolen the association and connotation of real revival in most people's minds. These are all Arminian and Palagean worldviews that dominate the idea of revival today in the church. So, a resurgence in Calvinism is hopeful, but it is not enough for us to experience real revival again today. Here's why the New Calvinism is not genuine revival:

1. So far as I can see, the "New Calvinism" is still very much in love with "Finneyism" or "Revivalism". They are content with using Arminian means of emotional manipulative methods in their worship and evangelism to grow their churches. God cannot and will not honor this because should He send revival, the man-centered methodology and the New Calvinist celebrity pastors will get all the glory for it. Look at the New Calvinists or the Young Restless and Reformed crowd...they are following after the Arminian methodology of theological Calvinists such as  Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and James MacDonald. 

2. The second concern is that the YRR crowd is not even talking about Revival. I did find one small exception here, surprisingly. They probably don't even believe in it or care to pray for it. They are content with a rock concert that they call church full of people with some emotionalism and that is good enough. The focus is on church planting and evangelism through coalitions, church planting networks and all the other man-made means of organizing and growing Gods Kingdom. I'm all for doing those things...they are necessary, but they are no substitute for what God can do in a revival. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that God can do in five minutes what it has taken men 50 years to accomplish with all their crusades and evangelistic efforts. But we are content to keep on chopping away with Finney's blunt axe head!

3. Then there is the problem of indifference concerning personal holiness. Although it's encouraging to see so much interest in the Holiness of God coming from Ligonier Ministries, they are the only ones really talking about it. Even still, they don't do much to apply the doctrine of the Holiness of God to personal and practical holiness. To bring up anything about practical holiness will get you labeled as a legalist.  Even if I start giving examples of what I'm talking about, it would only get me dismissed as being a cultural fundamentalist, legalistic Pharisee, so I won't go there. John MacArthur brought it up not long ago concerning the place of drinking alcohol in the lives of these pastors and they all but crucified him for daring to touch one of their idols.

4. Prayer is hardly a concern. There's not much being talked about concerning the most essential element of revival. Very little is being written on prayer and there are absolutely no conferences of any kind where prayer is the main focus. I wrote a little bit of a lament about this a few weeks ago. Without earnest prayer, revival won't come because it only shows a lack of dependence, desperation for or faith in God for revival. 

The glimmers of hope for revival that I see in the New Calvinism does not come from the celebrity pastors fraternity.. IE John Piper,  Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll or even John MacArthur. The most faithful young Calvinist preacher that pulls no punches, fears nobody and says what needs to be said in true Jonathan Edwards fashion is Paul Washer. He IS talking about revival, he IS putting a huge emphasis on prayer and personal holiness unlike the pop-Calvinists that get all the attention at venues like the Elephant Room. And if anyone still thinks that Calvinists don't care about evangelism, Paul Washer proves them wrong there too. He heads up Heart Cry Missionary Society and is a real "soul winner" in the right sense of the term.

I really hope God does use the resurgence of Reformed Theology to usher in one more real awakening in our generation, but I have a hunch that it will be enjoyed by the no-names who take revival seriously.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Calvinistic Baptists actually have more in common with Lutherans than they do with their Arminian Baptist brothers.

When it comes to the adult non-believer who converts to the Christian faith, Arminians, Calvinists and Lutherans are in full agreement: salvation occurs when the sinner believes. Baptism is not a necessary requirement to be saved. We have theological differences in how believing occurs, but we all believe that the second a sinner believes he is saved.

Our significant denominational differences arise when we talk about the salvation of the infants and toddlers of Christian parents: how are these young children saved? What happens if, God forbid, one of them should die before reaching the age where they are capable of expressing a saving faith in Christ?

The Arminian answer is this: God saves all infants and toddlers who die, even the infants and toddlers of non-believers. They have no hard proof from Scripture to support this belief, but they believe that King David's comments about his dead infant gives them support for their position. Infants who die are "safe" in the arms of a loving God.

Calvinists look at their children in this manner: Their children are either the Elect or they are not. Presbyterian Calvinists will baptize their infants to bring them into the "covenant" (whatever that is!)of the Church but do not believe that baptism has any salvific value. "If my child is of the Elect he will declare himself to be a believer when he is older." A Calvinistic Baptist does not baptize his infant, but looks at Election in the same way: My child is either of the Elect or not. There is nothing I can do but bring him up in the Faith and leave the rest to God.

Lutherans believe that when God told us to baptize all nations, he meant to baptize ALL those who are the Elect. Many Arminians and Calvinists assume that Lutherans believe that anyone that they run through the baptismal font will get into heaven. Not true! Only the Elect will get into heaven. We baptize our infants in the HOPE that they are the Elect. Is it possible that some of the infants of Christian parents whom we baptize are not of the Elect and therefore will not be in heaven? Yes! But that is a mystery of God that we do not attempt to explain or understand.

But we believe we do our job of "baptizing all nations" (who are of the Elect)by baptizing our infants and we then leave their Election up to God. We do our job of instructing them in the Faith as they grow up, but when they are older it will be their responsibility to nurture their faith with prayer, Bible study, and worship. If they abandon their faith and turn their back on God, they may wake up one day in hell! Baptism is NOT a "Get-into-heaven-free" card! Salvation is by God's grace alone, received in faith alone.

No faith--->no salvation--->no eternal life!

The Calvinist position on the salvation of infants is very confusing to me. It seems to be a process. A specific event of salvation is not necessary. Is there any example in the NT of anyone being saved by a process?

As much as I deplore Arminian theology, I do like the fact that they insist on a specific "when" of salvation. However, they are wrong to believe that the "when" of salvation is based on THEIR decision when in reality it is based on GOD'S decision.

If Calvinists agree with Lutherans that it is God who chooses who will be saved, and it is God who chooses when to save...which approach seems more Scriptural for the salvation of our children: God saves THOSE OF OUR CHILDREN WHO ARE OF THE ELECT in a one-time event in Holy Baptism or he saves them in a nebulous, drawn-out process over a period of years? Unless, of course, Calvinistic Baptists believe that their children who are the Elect are born saved...I certainly hope they do not believe that the Elect are born saved as do some hard-core Calvinists.

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