New Calvinism – Part II

(Volume 21, Issue 2 March/April 2015) In the first paper on the subject of New Calvinism we explored some definitions and examined the essential ingredient of the movement which is the co-mingling of Calvinistic theology with at least openness to charismatic practices. I believe this to be the unique and defining characteristic of New Calvinism. It is the one feature that all involved have in common. However, there are other traits that are shared by many of those immersed in the system. To these we will now turn. It should be remembered that those promoting neo-Calvinism are not monolithic in every aspect, and some of the features mentioned below would be true of any number of evangelicals who are neither Calvinistic nor charismatic. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to find these identifying marks embraced by adherents of the movement. Serious about theology and Christian living This is the most...

New Calvinism

(January/February – 2015, Volume 21, Issue 1) There is a great deal of interest and confusion about a movement within conservative evangelicalism sometimes called “New Calvinism” or Neo-Calvinism. As with many movements it is not monolithic and therefore describing its teachings is not always easy. Some have labeled virtually everyone who is a member of the Gospel Coalition or speaks at Together for the Gospel conferences as a New-Calvinist but that is surely painting with too broad a brush. Some hail Neo-Calvinism as a breath of fresh air that has united the passionate ministry of the Holy Spirit with the solid doctrines of the Reformation. Others see it as a dangerous departure from the faith which opens the door to aberrant teachings of extreme Pentecostalism. While some fear the movement, others cheer it. Therefore it is important to take a careful look at what New Calvinism is and what...

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today – Part 2

(December 2011/January 2012 – Volume 17, Issue 6) In the first part of this study, we examined together the history of the social gospel as it presented itself in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then documented a resurgence of the social gospel agenda as found at the present time.  The original social gospel movement began as an appendage to the emerging liberalism that started in Germany and ultimately swept through the Western church.  As the growing liberal movement matured, it left behind most doctrinal distinctives held by earlier Protestants and eventually came to be defined by social action.  Today a new wave of social involvement, as a major tenant of church ministry, is flowing through evangelical churches, changing the very nature of church dynamics and outreach.  The issue at hand is not whether Christians should be involved with their culture, but to what extent attempting to...

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today – Part 1

(October/November 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 5) One of the important issues which the church has always had to address is that of its role in society. In the Old Testament, the Lord chose Abraham to be the father of a called-out race of people. Years later, the Lord would establish the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. Detailed laws and regulations were given to Israel at the time including how that nation was to be governed, how poverty was to be dealt with, how widows and orphans were to be helped and how injustices were to be corrected. All of these matters were addressed almost exclusively within the context of the nation of Israel, with relatively minor concern for the surrounding nations. The Old Covenant would continue to be in force throughout Old Testament history until finally superseded at the dawning of the church age in Acts...

Inside the Insider Movement and More

(August/September 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 4) In the 1970s, as I was being trained at Moody Bible Institute for future ministry, there was a consensus among evangelicals that Roman Catholicism taught a false gospel and therefore those within the Church of Rome (at least those believing Catholic doctrine) were in need of evangelism.  Some mission organizations focused much, if not all, of their efforts on Roman Catholic countries throughout the world.  The idea that Catholics were not truly Christians began to erode as various evangelical leaders stepped up to challenge this view and as others actually defected from their Protestant roots to Roman or Eastern Orthodoxy. This was followed by a major shift, at least in the minds of many, in 1994 when Charles Colson and Father John Neuhaus united leaders from both traditions around their now famous “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document which, in essence, stated that...

Edinburgh 2010

(April/May 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 2) Those knowledgeable of current church history and missiology in particular are probably familiar with Edinburgh 1910.  It was considered to be the greatest missionary conference to that date and subsequently has proven to be the most influential.  In honor of its centennial, four major conferences are planned for 2010, having been in development since 2005 (along with many smaller venues), all connected with and under the umbrella of Edinburgh 2010.  The first will be in Tokyo, May 11-15.  Edinburgh is next up on June 2-6, followed by Cape Town, October 16-25 and finally Boston, November 4-7.  Each conference is somewhat independent, with different rosters of speakers, papers and agendas; however they are working in cooperation and will be sharing their research and attempting to set directives and initiatives for future world outreach. Edinburgh 1910 It is significant for our analysis of these...

The Challenge of Pragmatism – Part 2

(May 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 3) A Blast from the Past Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others from the Emergent camp write and speak winsomely about what they are offering, but history, not to mention Scripture, suggests great caution must be exercised at this point.  Church historian Iain Murray reminds us that 19th century “liberal theology very rarely presented itself as being in opposition to Scripture.  On the contrary, its exponents claimed the authority of the New Testament for the view that Christianity is life, not doctrine.”  Some using this line of reasoning, like the eventual Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, could say, “An atheist who lives by love is saved by his faith in the God whose existence (under that Name) he denies.”  It was living by love that mattered, not what one believed about God. Nineteenth century liberal theologian Schleiermacher went so far as to bar...

The Challenge of Pragmatism – Part 1

(April 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 3)  If there is a common religion to be found within the Western world it surely is pragmatism – the religion of “what works?”  Pragmatism has no cathedrals; it follows no liturgy, hires no pastors and cannot be found in any listing of denominations, yet it is woven into the very fabric of the Western church.  Whether we are talking about mainline, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Emergent or Orthodox, it does not take much observation to realize that pragmatism is interlaced throughout each tradition.  To attempt to remove pragmatism is to pull a thread which could very well unravel the whole structure of Christianity and church life as we know it today, yet to pull on that thread we must.  The problem is that far too many of us are willing to use any approach available to accomplish our goals, even if those approaches and/or...

Pastoring With Both Eyes Opened – Part 2

(January 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 1)  In our last Think on These Things paper the issue of the two major enemies facing pastors was being discussed. There the enemy of internal conflicts within the body of Christ was the subject. In this paper we will turn our attention to the external enemy of false teaching. False Teaching Perhaps the most ignored promise found in the New Testament is 2 Peter 2:1-3: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep....

Pastoring With Both Eyes Opened – Part 1

(December 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 13)  What attracts men to the pastorate? It is rarely prestige, power or money (especially the latter). In most cases it is love, love for Christ, love for people and love for the Word of God. The typical Bible college or seminary student can hardly wait to leave the academic world and enter the ministry where hungry and thirsty souls are awaiting his exegesis of the Word and his compassionate shepherding of their lives. With great enthusiasm and pure (as far as he can discern) motives he enters his first pastorate with visions of changing hearts, building a powerful and God-honoring church, and having an impact on the world for the cause of Christ. He steps into the arena of the church to be used by the Holy Spirit to help form the people of God into Christlikeness – and so he should. But...