Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is New Calvinism Really New Fundamentalism? Partial Response.

That is the question that David Fitch asks over at Out of Ur.  He is interacting with this video:

DeYoung, Duncan, Mohler: What's New About the New Calvinism from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

From this he argues that this “new Calvinism” is really nothing more than a resurrection of the “insularity”, “us v. them mentality”, and “distrust towards culture” that marked fundamentalism. 
Now, I really do not care to answer his titled question—but only that which he is actually asking.  In other words I do not want this to be a discussion on what is and is not “fundamentalism” and whether that is a good or bad thing.  It seems to me that what Fitch is most concerned with is that this New Calvinism is insular, narrow, arrogant, and culture-rejecting. 

Argument #1: New Calvinists Oppose the compelling Story
“These words reveal that Mohler sees ‘the structure of thought’ as the means of being able to defend the coherence of one’s own beliefs. As opposed to engaging the world with a compelling Story, and inviting the world in, this ‘structure of thought’ helps me defend why I am a Christian.”  --David Fitch
A little research—and not just a 12 minute video—would show that Mohler is not opposed to engaging the world with a compelling Story.  Consider chapter 6 of his book on preaching—He is Not Silent.  Does this sound like he is opposed to engaging the world with a compelling Story?
Many of our people are dying of spiritual starvation because they do not know the Bible’s whole story, and thus they do not find themselves in the story.  True, they know many little stories.  They have a bag of facts.  But a little bit of knowledge is not a big picture.  As we preach, we need to bring every text into accountability with the big story of Scripture.  Mohler, He is Not Silent, p102
Argument #2: They have an Us vs. Them Mentality
This one is tricky.  Do the New Calvinists believe “we are the true evangelicals”.  Or really, more importantly, do they believe “we are the ones that have Scripture right”? 

In one sense I would say you had better hope that they (or you) believe that you have Scripture right.  No serious Arminian believes that he is wrong and is just being stubborn.  No, he/she believes that he is interpreting Scripture correctly.  So, does the Calvinist.  Same way with the paedo-baptist and those that hold to believer’s baptism. 

The real question is whether they hold their position arrogantly.  And honestly, I would not be surprised if people from every theological background struggle with this.  But is Mohler’s comment (at about the 6 minute mark)  “where are they going to go” a display of his “arrogant” position that New Calvinists are the only way? 

I’ll grant Fitch that this does almost sound like Mohler is saying if you take your Bible serious then you have no option but to be a Calvinists.  And he may be saying that. 
But it’s also possible that he is responding within the grid of what DeYoung said prior—these are those “rediscovering biblical truths”.  So, I think Mohler is talking about those people that are beginning to see and wrestle with the doctrines of grace—where else are they going to go?

But is it really bad if Mohler believes this?  I would hope that any Anabaptist, Arminian, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. would hold this same position.  Otherwise you should change your position.  It’s not arrogant, it’s just being convicted about what you believe in. 

This is getting lengthy.  I’ll just end it here, and maybe spend some more time on this later…

1 comment:

  1. I think the distinction that some are looking for, concerning some of these complex theological constructs that are systematically assembled, is the distinction, with certain texts and groupings of texts, between what we see as the "best" understanding, based on careful study, as opposed to what some see as the "only" understanding. Sometimes the Bible is very simple to understand, and sometimes it simply is not so easy. In humility, we have to try to see why others reach the conclusions, particularly systematic conclusions, they do without treating them as if they are idiots. Certainly, Calvinists have no corner on the market when it comes to arrogance. There's plenty to go around. But when any group of people involved in a certain school of theology begin to deride and flippantly dismiss other possibilities of understanding that might arise through a careful exegesis and interpretation, then you end up with arrogance. Arrogance tells you that anyone who has a different set of conclusions must be stupid or sinful or not spiritual enough in order to end up with a different set of conclusions. ex: I recently read a book by a Calvinist who wrote concerning Ephesians, "...he who has ears to hear what the Spirit writes to the churches must become a heart-afire Calvinist." I'm not even saying here that I disagree with his views on Ephesians, but his belief is that those who disagree with him simply don't have ears to hear? He takes it too far. Way too far.



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