In barely over 100 pages of reading text, Jeremy Walker, a particular (Calvinistic) Baptist pastor from England, has provided an excellent, irenic, but critical, overview of New Calvinism. The author defines New Calvinism as “the resurgence of certain central aspects of Calvinistic doctrine within conservative evangelicalism, though it is usually associated with other convictions and actions that do not immediately derive from the teaching and example of John Calvin and others of similar faith and life” (pp. 8-9). Others have described the New Calvinists as Reformed Charismatics or “Young Restless and Reformed.” It is a highly influential movement, especially among young adults. Walker is trying to demonstrate both the positive and the concerning aspects of this movement, and he does an excellent job at both.
While admitting that new Calvinism is not monolithic (p. 17), Walker nevertheless offers five characteristics that are typical: a belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation; Jonathan Edwards is the father of the movement, as mediated through John Piper; it is wrapped around key characters; it is a movement of networks and conferences; it is consolidating—becoming broader and slower (pp. 20-38).
Walker deeply appreciates the New Calvinists’ emphasis on Christ and the glory of God, although he is concerned about Piper’s overemphasis on “Christian hedonism” (pp.40-41). He also commends their love of grace, although he is weary of constantly hearing gospel-this and gospel-that (p. 43). Complementarianism is also central throughout the movement, although an overemphasis on sex and graphic language is common among some such as Mark Driscoll (pp. 48-49). The New Calvinists are on the cutting edge of technology which helps them spread their message (pp. 49-53). They also tend to be expository preachers (pp. 53-54).
Nevertheless, almost half the book is taken up with cautions and concerns which include: pragmatism and commercialism (pp. 59-67), an unbalanced view of culture (pp. 67-76), an overemphasis on grace to the point that a false dichotomy between faith and effort is implied (pp. 74-83), an ecumenism that opens the door to false teachings (pp. 83-92), promotion of sign-gifts (pp. 92-98), and an overconfident, brash triumphalism (pp. 98-102). The book concludes with a short index of individuals related to the movement including Don Carson, Tim Challies, Mark Driscoll, Ligon Duncan, Wayne Grudem, Steven Furtick, Tim Keller, C.J. Mahaney, Ray Ortland, John Piper and Douglas Wilson.
The New Calvinism Considered is an excellent primer on New Calvinism, a movement that while quite popular and backed by many high-profile pastors and theologians, nevertheless offers serious concerns to the evangelical church.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel