Friday, June 29, 2007

Just for Fun, a Little Prognostication

Since Mark Dever's starting this series that's proposing some explanations for "where all these Calvinists came from," I thought it might be fun to take some guesses at what he's going to say. So in no particular order, here's my best shot, with no inside information, and if I can stop myself, with no editorial comments.
  1. The rediscovery of expositional preaching
  2. The close connection between John Piper's reintroduction of joy in God-centeredness, his repudiation of sanctification by works, and his unabashed Calvinistic soteriology
  3. J.I. Packer's reintroduction of the Puritans
  4. The Banner of Truth's Puritan reprints
  5. The increasingly apparent "gospellessness" and spiritual bankruptcy of revivalistic theology and methodology (In other words, more people are recognizing that more human effort and persuasive prowess does not and cannot in and of itself generate more genuine converts.)
  6. The rise of technology, resulting in the wider dissemination of older public domain Calvinistic documents, a reduction in the sense of isolation among geographically scattered Calvinists, and the rise of a Calvinistic, online, pedagogical communities
  7. A self-conscious reestablishment of biblical authority within the Southern Baptist Convention, with particular direct effects on SBC seminaries
  8. The increasing availability of Bible study tools (I know this one's really going to tick some people off, but I'm convinced that the more you study the Bible and really listen to it while you study, the more you're likely to recognize that Calvin got his soteriology right. That's obviously not always true for serious Bible students, and I don't mean to disparage those who would vehemently disagree with me. I've simply seen this happen time and time again, and I can't recall a single example to the contrary. I think [and I could be wrong] that it's likely to represent a general pattern.)
That's a pretty pathetic attempt, I know, and even if they're all right (and they're not), it only gets me to nine when you count Dever's discussion of Spurgeon as #1. Let's hear your additions and alternatives.


RC said...

1. To Piper I would add MacArthur's commentaries as well as R.C.Sproul's lifetime effort of getting reformed soteriology back in the pew. I knew a couple of guys that were also strongly influenced by James White. For me the writings of John Frame were particularly influential (as well as Piper).

2. A second factor is the renewed interest in seminary. I hear less and less testimonies of men leaving bible college and heading right into ministry. Part of that is probably due to the fact that as a recent seminary grad I have been surrounded by other seminarians. But it sure seems, especially in fundamentalist circles, that the designation "cemetary" is fading and therefore as more men enter advanced biblical training they are exposed to Calvinism, whether from the many solidly Calvinistic Systematic Theologies out there or from Church History and being confronted with the Puritans and Calvin himself. (This is closely related to your last point.)

3. Modern Bible versions which are more easily understood and therefore Calvin's soteriology is more readily seen right in the pages of Scripture. When I started reading the NIV I was constantly confronted with the bibilical foundation for reformed soteriology.

4. The diminishing influence of Anti-calvinists in fundamentalism and broader evangelicalism. A few decades ago some of the most prominent fundies were rabidly anti-doctrines of Grace. These men used their pulpits to denounce the calvinist straw men often. Many of these have passed from the scene.

5. The corresponding rise of calvinistic strong pulpit ministries. Piper and MacArthur and now Dever come to mind in broader evangelicalism. And Doran, Minnick, etc. come to mind in Fundamnetalism. (I recognize Minnick is not a Calvinist but has many calvinistic tendencies. I would also classify Doran as "strongly Calvinistic" or perhaps as he once put it "sovereigntistic")

6. The recent wave of commentaries that are strongly exegetical and strongly calvinistic - Schreiner, Carson, etc.

Just a few thoughts, though I am sure the Dever's will be much more profound.

Ben said...


I did wrestle with what to do with MacArthur. In one sense he's certainly a force all his own. In another sense he's a key player in the rediscovery of expositional preaching and the wider availability of Bible study tools. Perhaps I should have mentioned him in conjunction with one or both.

Chris Anderson said...

What a fascinating conversation. I'll think about it. In the meantime, I'll give two unsubstantiated opinions since you kind of invited a "talk radio" type of interaction from self-professed experts. :-)

This may be too large an answer to even get your head around, but I'm thinking "the 20th century" is pretty good. The shenanigans of the 60's & 70's, in particular, probably prepared the way for a necessary backlash.

In a much smaller, localized sense, I think the hire of a certain Presbyterian prof by a certain southern fundamentalist university opened the eyes of many fundamentalists (like me) for whom the word Calvinist was a four-letter-word prior to sitting under his ministry. Of course, that's a very small slice of the pie compared to the rest of evangelicalism (like the reasons you've listed), but I think it's made a difference among fundamentalists.

I think RC's #2 makes a lot of sense, too, as do the other reasons you both have listed. I'm not sure I see the version thing, though.

Don Johnson said...

I'd suggest that your forgot the hubris of the young, which many fail to outgrow...


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bob Hayton said...

Ben's and RC's lists are pretty comprehensive.

I agree, coming from a strict fundamentalist background, that #4 of RC's list is a biggie. Part of that comes from the increased attention to scholarship in certain fundamentalist schools.

Personally, my brother went to Northland and encountered scholarly and winsome, godly professors which encouraged Calvinism. Eventually, my counter-arguments couldn't hold up, and I gave in to the truth of Calvinism, too.

Interesting topic.


Bob Hayton
Fundamentally Reformed

Anonymous said...

I don't see how a version issue would contribute to the discussion. I have read KJVO-calvinists decry the modern versions for watering down calvinism. Anyway, I think it would be more accurate to say that a renewed emphasis on the original languages has led people to sovereign grace conclusions.

I am not sure how to classify this - I think our postmodern culture has led recent converts to discover the truth for themselves. Trusting that the previous generation figured it all out for us just isn't flying.

Neofundy said...

Hey Ben...I am looking forward to this series as well...There is one factor that I think may be too easily minimized: the rise of Calvanistic Christian musicians. Along these lines, Caedmon's Call, Derek Webb, and Andrew Peterson come to mind immediately.

Michael C. said...

I'm interested in RC's spelling of "fundamentalism" in his fifth point. Freudian?

Coach C said...

Fanscinating discussion - I think that the influence of godly and well-trained college professors cannot be discounted. Scholarship was diminished and attacked during the 60's and 70's.
neofundy - I disagree, I believe that the Calvinist tendencies of the groups you mention are not catalysts, they are reflections of the movement. In other words, they are the egg, not the chicken. More importantly they probably represent a more intense scrutiny of song lyrics (a Calvinist tendency) by the audience of Christian musicians. Furthermore, the groups you mention are way too late on the scene to claim any responsibility for the move toward the doctrines of grace.

Brother Hank said...

i think your on the right track with your predictions. Coach, you may be right in saying that the recent wave of 'reformed music' is too late to take any credit for the today's surge in the doctrines of grace - but i would be willing to bet that it has a profound effect on the next generation of baby reformers. especially with the culture of music that we are living in today with ipod's running 24/7 in little johnny's ear, and streaming radio like Sovereign Grace Radio

Birch Champeon said...

Hi Ben,

Interesting discussion here. This question has come up with others that I've talked to.

I believe that a majority of it is coming from the schools, both undergrad and seminary. I think a number of elements that you and RC have listed contributed to the shift, but the schools have been the major element here.

The only flaw I've observed with all this is that a number of these students now believe that they actually "understand" the atonement, which is a little scary (Rom 11:33-36)

Ben said...


Wow, what a blast from the past. If you see this, e-mail me. Great to hear from you.