I think it was Mark Driscoll who once said that the New Calvinists are just like the Old Calvinists, just nicer. I’ll leave that without comment other than to say that if that is true, then I want to be a New Calvinist.
The Orlando Sentinel took notice of the New Calvinism in a lead story Sunday profiling one of the movement’s well-known old proponents. R. C. Sproul is the teaching pastor and clearly the face of Sanford, Florida’s St. Andrew’s Chapel.
The article articulates in positive tones St. Andrew’s place and vision, and in so doing speaks appreciatively of Rev. Sproul’s clear influence upon modern American theological thinking. R. C. Sproul has been a steady voice articulating a reformational orthodoxy during a period of theological experimentation. He has been used by God not only to defend but also to lend credibility to Reformed thinking. And he has done so while at the same time avoiding the moral traps that have ensnared so many who rise to prominence.
His has been a remarkable career which has blessed many, myself included. It is good to see the front page of a large secular newspaper acknowledge that not all of those shaping the cultural landscape sit in congress or swing a putter.
Nevertheless, while the article rightly connects Sproul with the current renaissance of Reformed thinking, it would be wrong to suggest, as the article could be read to suggest, that Sproul defines the borders of that renaissance. Calvinism does not exclusively reside in a St. Andrew’s can.
The beauty of Calvinism which has drawn many to it is its hearty embracing of the centrality of God in all things, including salvation. God’s holiness, his sovereignty, his grace, his good and remarkable providence, these things all find careful and comforting prominence among those who extol what I call a Big God theology. But what one might not know from the article is that these things are finding prominence not only in the neo-gothic traditionalism of St. Andrews, but as well from pulpits set on stages in the midst of the trappings of worship bands.
In fact, surprising to some would be the fact that those very worship bands, seemingly so far removed from the reserve of a St. Andrew’s type experience, are leading people to give glory to God for his holiness and his sovereignty, a holiness and a sovereignty many first learned from R. C. Sproul.
Though Rev. Sproul would not be interviewed for the article, a spokesman of his Ligonier Ministries is reported to be ‘dismissive’ of churches which have both ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ services. I know what it is like to be taken out of context, so I certainly hope that the brothers at Ligonier and St. Andrews are not dismissive or scornful of any other ‘container’ in which God-centered worship might appear.
What is wonderfully ironic is that this same solid Calvinism is emerging from worship services like that at St. Andrews as well as those which the spokesmen of St. Andrews might characterize as ‘pep rallies’. And if one probes, one might find that there is a God-saturated passion and vigorous biblical methodology motivating those churches every bit as much as that motivating the traditionalism at St. Andrews. All of it flowing from the theology so well championed by good men like Rev. Sproul.