The Calvinist blogger Justin Taylor has graciously allowed Thomas McCall to post on his blog from a Wesleyan Arminian perspective. The resulting post, Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism in Evangelicalism: A Wesleyan-Arminian Perspective, was brought to my attention by McCall’s fellow Wesleyan Arminian Ben Witherington.
McCall describes similar phenomena that I have done in various posts on Calvinism on this blog. And I must say he has shown more gentle wisdom than I have done in some of those posts. He does what I have failed to do, but perhaps should have done, in first affirming the good things about this resurgence of Calvinism. It is indeed good that young Christians are passionate about theology and about holiness.
But McCall also makes some important criticisms of these New Calvinists, which I think are right on the ball concerning the ones I have had contact with, mainly but not only through my blogging.
First, he accuses them of misunderstanding Calvinism by taking it as implying determinism. As I am sure my commenter and fellow blogger Jeremy Pierce would be quick to point out, Calvinism properly formulated is by no means incompatible with human free will. But the teaching of the New Calvinists often seems to rule out any human free will in its insistence on the absolute sovereignty of God, a doctrine which is usually considered more Islamic than Christian.
Then McCall criticises
the unhealthy reliance of some of these New Calvinists on what might be called the “Neo-Reformed Magisterium” (the small group of theologians and conference speakers who are sometimes quoted as the final word on any theological topic at issue …)
– a group among whom he names John Piper. This ties up precisely with what I have observed among so many Calvinist bloggers and commenters on blogs.
McCall’s third charge is arrogance:
No theological tradition has cornered the market on arrogance. I have been accused of it (sometimes, I fear, with very good reason). Yet there seems to be – though I’m sure that what I say here is highly fallible – an amazing quantity of it among the New Calvinists.
Indeed. Like McCall, I am certainly not completely innocent of arrogance. But the amount of it so often seen and even boasted of among these New Calvinists is highly disturbing. They, and I, need to remember these verses:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favour to the humble and oppressed.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:5-6 (TNIV)