Humble Calvinism – Part 1

Posted: November 8, 2010 in calvinism, humility, theology

On March 12, 2009, Time Magazine posted an article online entitled “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”[1] Number three on that list is what Time called “The New Calvinism”, which the author labels, “Evangelicalism’s latest success story.”  Colin Hanson also noted this resurgence of Reformed theology among evangelicals back in 2006 in his Christianity Today article entitled “Young, Restless, and Reformed” (he has since written a book on the topic).[2] In the article, Hanson looks at the incredible popularity of dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists such as John Piper, the Calvinist-leaning Passion youth conference headed by Louie Giglio, the startling transformation of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary into a Calvinist bastion[3], and the newfound interest in the writings of the Puritans among evangelicals.[4] All of these facts, Hanson argues, have contributed to the new popularity of Calvinistic thinking and doctrines.

This new resurgence, however, has many people worried.  The criticism that these young Calvinists are becoming a generation of arrogant, divisive, and doctrinally militant church leaders can be heard from almost every quarter (including some Calvinist ones).  On his widely read blog, Scot McKnight, professor of Religious Studies at North Park University, posted a letter from one such dissenter, a young church planter from Minnesota struggling with a group of “very vocal, self-righteous hyper-calvinists”[5].  The man described his interactions with those Calvinists:

“The problem is that they just are relentless.  Absolutely no discussion or compromise.  I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people.  For them, it just isn’t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him.  It has to be all about reformed theology.”[6]

More recently, McKnight wrote two posts entitled “Who are the NeoReformed?” He sums us his opinion with these striking words:

“[T]he NeoReformed are those who are obsessed with God’s holiness and grace and have not learned that grace makes people gracious.  These folks are America’s newest religious zealots and they are wounding, perhaps for a generation or two, evangelicalism.”[7]

These are strong words but they are words that represent the sentiments of many Christians within evangelicalism.

My goal in this series of posts is to demonstrate that this type of “Calvinism” is neither truly “Calvinistic” (that is, in accord with what Calvin actually taught and how he lived) nor (and much more importantly) is it truly biblical.  My thesis is simply that grace does indeed make people gracious.  More specifically, the more we understand that everything is of grace, the more gracious we should become.

In stating this as my purpose, I would also make clear my audience.  I do not write primarily to or for those who would be on the “other side of the aisle,” so to speak.  This plea (and it is a plea) is first and foremost directed toward Calvinists.  It is a plea that we would more clearly see that the doctrines of grace that we espouse should lead to a humble life.  True adherence to these doctrines demands deep, heartfelt, and genuine humility.  They are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are inseparably linked.

Truly, grace makes people gracious.

Part 2

[1] March 12, 2009, <,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html>, Accessed 13 March 2009.
[2] Accessed March 7, 2009. <>.  Hanson later went on to write a book by the same title, exploring more fully the rise of Reformed theology among young people.  See Colin Hanson, Young, Restless, and Reformed, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008.
[3] Al Mohler recounts his succession to the presidency of SBTS in a series of messages he gave at the 2000 Desiring God Pastor’s Conference entitled entitled “Courage in Christian Ministry”. <>.  Additionally, see Ken Walker’s articled entitled “TULIP Blooming,” Christianity Today 52 no 2 F 2008, p 19.
[4] Banner of Truth Trust began publishing Puritan works in the 1950s and since then has been an important, popular-level avenue for reading the Puritans.
[5] Accessed March 7, 2009. <;.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Accessed March 7, 2009. <;.


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