I was first exposed to Calvinism in 2007 when I started going to Riverwalk Fellowship and hearing Pastor Steve Solomon teach on the sovereignty of God and spend nine months teaching through Romans eight in 2008. I was nineteen at the time and theology was new to me. I heard about Jonathan Edwards and John Flavel, got an ESV, and found the teachings of Piper and Driscoll.
What follows is by no means an exhaustive look at the pitfalls of a trendy movement gone awry, it is not an “I told you so” because I was new to theology as a whole when I found the “New Calvinism”. These are simply my thoughts and observations on why the new fizzled out and why the old was right all along, in fact, many of the theologians of the past warned about the very things I believe as to why the “New Calvinism” failed. To put it simply, even though no one would classify the cool Calvinists as “seeker-sensitive” in their message, the methods were, and the methods won out.
What happened to the “New Calvinism”? It was new, but it wasn’t Calvinism. It took the “edgy” parts of solid theology, made it cool, ignored the counsel of the “old guys” and embraced the Charismatic Movement. I am thankful for the theology of Calvinism, but more than the soteriology, I am thankful for the full depth of reformed theology. The “New Calvinism” focused on TULIP and the Five Solas and didn’t go any deeper, that’s why the cool guys fell, rejected the theology, or still claim it but yet are now more charismatic than Calvinist.
I was a teenager when I was introduced to Calvinism, it was mind-blowing but I, having grown up charismatic tried mixing the two. The Word of Faith won out for a while, but the truth of sovereignty and sound theology had been planted. God just allowed the seed to be watered and grow. Now, almost thirty-three years old, and eagerly anticipating a trip to the Spurgeon Library for my birthday, I understand why the “New Calvinism” failed. To borrow a line from Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. We don’t need “New Calvinism”, we need the old kind; the one rooted in Scripture and dead theologians. New movements die because in changing methods, the message always inevitably has to change as well. Sure you may have a megachurch but are people being discipled, is the leadership Christ-like, and as Spurgeon said, have you given up feeding the sheep for entertaining the goats?
The “New Calvinism” brought me in as a teenager, but in my early thirties I understand that I need the tried and true voices of men Like R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, James White, and I need to spend my time learning from Spurgeon and consulting the Puritans as he did. As a young thirty-year-old, I want it to be said when I’m old that I was faithful to the message of the gospel, I will only do that by God’s grace and by caring more about truth than trends.
I will pattern myself after faithful men, I will learn from the mistakes of others, and I will live and I will preach for an audience of One and pray that the congregation He gives me will be helped, blessed, and encouraged.