Mark Driscoll’s “New Calvinism”

The blogs are starting to be lit up by Time Magazine’s listing of the ‘New Calvinism’ as the third biggest idea that is changing the world right now.

Mark Driscoll capitalized on this right away with a post on New Calvinism Versus Old Calvinism which really annoyed me. “Old” Calvinism is portrayed negatively and I think erroneously.

I have mixed feelings about Mr. Driscoll and don’t need to comment on them here (and why would anyone care). I’m only addressing his post/article here because his blog doesn’t have comments enabled.

The short version is: Did Driscoll’s Calvinist hero, Charles Spurgeon exhibit any of the negative qualities of an Old Calvinist? The answer is a definite no.

To address each point to the best of my ability realizing that I’m not the best historian or expert on Calvinism:

Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.

I don’t know about Calvin, but I know that Spurgeon smoked cigars, didn’t shy away from alcohol (although he was before the prohibition) and often preached in a theater to help people feel more comfortable in hearing his message. I suppose though this could be seen as syncretized. Is Mark Driscoll not syncretized with the culture? What’s the middle point between syncretized and separated?

The Puritans, who are almost always mis-characterized, contributed significantly to culture in a positive way.

I’m still not sure exactly what missional means other than being a hip and trendy term, but Calvin’s sermons were very evangelistic and he himself traveled to Brazil on a missionary journey against the advice of his friends. Spurgeon, George Whitefield and Jonathon Edwards heralded great revivals.

Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.

I don’t know what this means.

Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

From what I’ve read, Spurgeon had the gift of healing and there were charismatic elements to his ministry. I wouldn’t doubt that Calvinists in general are cessationists but this certainly isn’t across the board or anything dogmatic as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong). John Piper is charismatic but he’s probably considered an old New Calvinist being mentioned in the Time Magazine article.

The Holy Spirit played a vital role in Calvinist theology but I would gather that he’s talking about a charismatic type of power here. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never thought of Calvinists as being “fearful” of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in a negative way. See The Holy Spirit and Good Works in Reformed Theology (not fully relevant but I thought I’d provide the link)

Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

Again with Spurgeon and others like Whitefield, they had dear friends who weren’t Calvinists. See Spurgeon: A Defense of Calvinism (and Arminians)

I would say that there are many new or hyper-Calvinists who exhibit more of the tendencies of the “Old Calvinists” so that’s why I’m annoyed and confused by this.

I may be taking this out of context, but there is no context to go on in his short article. I’m not going to make any assumptions as to why he wrote this because I don’t know what his motives are and I can’t read his mind. I tried but I think my WiFi is interfering with the signal.

Again, I’m not addressing Driscoll himself in general here or meaning to slam him, I just felt like writing my thoughts on this.

Update: Mark Driscoll posted More Thoughts on Time Magazine and New Calvinism.

More Updates:

22 Responses to “Mark Driscoll’s “New Calvinism””


  1. 1 tc robinson

    Jeff, I don’t understand these distinctions.  They really don’t make much sense to me.Now Hyper vs. Classic Calvin makes more sense to me.Driscoll needs to smoke himself a pipe.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    I agree. Or have a glass of wine.
    Jeff

  3. 3 Douglas K. Adu-Boahen

    Driscoll’s Old-New distinction holds as much water as a large buckets with hundreds of half-inch holes. Nice guy when he gets it right, not so cool when he misses it…

  4. 4 Robert Jimenez

    Not sure what it means either, only left with speculation as to what I think they may mean.

  5. 5 Nik

    Considering how Isaiah acted in the presence of the Lord, how would Mark Driscoll act in a similar situation? In 6:5, So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips…” Would every man alive tremble before the throne of Christ, if a man were to be brought there at this very moment?

    In one lexicon, a sense of the Greek phobeō(translated fear in Rev 19:5) is defined: to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience. Fear of the Lord in His presence is good. Based on that sense, a fearful reverence.

  6. 6 Stan McCullars

    Mark Driscoll does have moments of being rather full of himself. I believe this is just such a case.

  7. 7 Scripture Zealot

    Nik, that’s a good presentation of Biblical fear, but I don’t think Driscoll means reverence and awe here regarding Old Calvinism.

    As an aside, I like the term fearful reverence. I don’t like it when translations change the traditional word fear into awe even though young people may see the word fear as just being scared.
    Jeff

  8. 8 Scripture Zealot

    Douglas, Robert and Stan, I’m left with speculation too and am inclined to think similarly as you all.
    Jeff

  9. 9 Nik

    Appreciated the Spurgeon quote for its non-divisiveness. Personally, one phrase stands out: But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls… Such an attitude is something both camps need to hold closely. Even Spurgeon admits to being just slightly non-Calvinist.

    Can isms have a disaffecting effect on Christians who draw their line too deeply in the sand? Can an obsessive Calvinist or Arminian be drawn away from God after losing sight of the One who exists outside of the all isms? When Christ rules over the nations from a throne established on earth, will Calvinism be remembered?

  10. 10 Scripture Zealot

    Can isms have a disaffecting effect on Christians who draw their line too deeply in the sand?

    I think very much so. Oswald Chambers always stressed exalting Christ over everything else including our own things that we want to convince others of. I am a Calvinist but I would prefer Reformed. And it’s not my job to convert anyone to Calvinism or someone else’s job to convert them to something else although there is a place for debate and explaining the importance of specific theological views. Those who are converted salvifically (if I can make up a word) are converted. They/we are all in God’s hands now.

    Rom 14:4
    Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.

  11. 11 Dani Miskell

    Hey!  For all you Driscoll fans, here’s a fun podcast that’s a parody of him: Introducing, Mark Friscoll!http://www.conversantlife.com/node/20211

  12. 12 CD-Host

    I think this is Driscol continuing to identify with the missional aspects of Emerging Christianity.  About a year ago I covered the old Calvinism fight with liberalism in a fair bit of detail http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2008/07/gresham-machen-invalid-excommunication.html

  13. 13 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks for the link CD.
    Jeff

  14. 14 Richard

    Driscoll’s contrasts between Old and New Calvinism are somewhat wide of the mark. I’d read R. Scott Clark’s <a href=”http://www.wtsbooks.com/product-exec/product_id/5906/nm/Recovering_the_Reformed_Confession_Our_Theology_Piety_and_Practice_Paperback_”>Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice</a>

  15. 15 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks Richard. That looks like a good book.
    Jeff

  16. 16 Cindy

    As a woman, I have a problem with Mark Driscoll and some of his teachings & Calvinism in general. Why is it necessary to describe our works as filthy menstrual rags before the Lord? Shock value? To me, that is speaking in a profane manor in the the church when people would have gotten the idea using far less shocking terms.
    His belief/or Calvinism’s belief about women and what they are allowed to do or not do, seem to make him extremely happy. It feels to me as though the church is a continuation of the “men-only” country clubs or the good ole’ boys get togethers where all the men stick together. I see it as men possibly thinking that the church is the last place where they still have control over women by using the Bible against them, and it is very possible to develop a “puffed-up” attitude inside without even realizing it. I am an egalitarian, and I hold to the belief that we return to our pre-fall condition of mutuality and submitting to one another once we have received Christ. I truly think He wants every believer to be totally free in Him. This is not only what I believe, but what has been my experience – not putting God in a box, but allowing Him to show me what is His desire of me. thank you, Cyndi

  17. 17 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Cindy,

    “Why is it necessary to describe our works as filthy menstrual rags before the Lord?”

    This is what the Bible says.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Sorry I’m too tired to say any more. I understand some of what you’re saying.
    Jeff

  18. 18 Brian

    I have been hearing alot of harsh statements from the reformed/Calvinistic community about the “new” Calvinism over the last year. Seems like its pretty much 3 issues the “traditional” reformed, is complaining about this “new”Calvinism.

    1)that they not “truly” reformed cause they don’t follow the “traditional” a Presbyterian/reformed church government. Well lets see the particular baptists did not have “reformed” church government. They were just as bit as Calvinistic as the Presbyterians and congregationalists. Either do the congregationalists, but one would be hard pressed to say that Johnathon Edwards was not Calvinist.

    2)The new Calvinism is not truly “Reformed” cause they may not in some churches follow the “traditional” reformed confessions like the Westminister Standards or Three Forms of Unity or neither of London Baptist confessions. This is totally not true. I have seen some “independent/bible” type churches confessions of faith over the years and their pretty calvinistic

    3)that these new Calvinists are too “spirit-filled”,”fruits of the spirit”. Well im sure the first Great Awakening was that way and it was very Calvinistic

    I guess my point is just cause a church or a movement is not your “type” of Calvinism. That doesn’t mean they are not true blue Calvinists. I mean if u follow the 5 points”Tulip” in your theology, you are considered Calvinist.

  19. 19 Scripture Zealot

    Yeah Brian I’ve seen articles about all the minutiae that needs to be met in order to be a Calvinist. Puritans were Reformed but might not be just like Calvin. There are flavors of the same thing.
    Jeff

  20. 20 robert

    in the end we gotta look at the fruits instead of aruging and dicussing whats right and wrong, are people being saved from hell, is he exalting christ? from what im seeing yes!, instead of being focoused on what “we think” how bout read Gods word be filled with his spirit love one another go out and seek and save the lost! i dont know about ya but i want to be like Jesus, not like any other thing Jesus is by goal what he did and said that i could do i will belive and obey. and trust me if its true he will back up his word Grace and peace yall “)

  21. 21 Rich Hagen

    Scripture Zealot – what’d you know about Oswald Chambers? What theological Stream didmhe flow down. (That mightnbe an unfair analogy) Anyway, he seems to speak clearer about redemption, regeneration, etc. In the book Conformed to His Image than I have heard. Was he sovereign grace, arminianist or another ism, that you know of?

  22. 22 Scripture Zealot

    Chambers is one guy I can’t figure out. I’ve read all three of his devotionals, the first one at least twice. He sure keeps Christ at the center. He has some strangeness now and then but it’s just his deep thinking. At the same time he always gets to what’s the most important and explains deep things in a simple way.
    Jeff

  1. 1 On Calvinism | Scripture Zealot
  2. 2 Followup on Mark Driscoll's New Versus Old Calvinism | Scripture Zealot
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