Monday, May 25, 2009

"The New Calvinism is Changing the World"

Thanks to William for sending me this a few weeks ago:



The 23 March 2009 edition of Time magazine main cover article is entitled: 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.

The number 3 idea, written about on page 25, is entitled: "The New Calvinism".

It is a critical, in some ways hostile article, and yet it is very positive, in that opponents of Reformed Christianity are having to acknowledge its energetic growth and world changing impact.

Calvinism is Back
"If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard 'The Old Rugged Cross', a celebration of the Atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-Is-My-Buddy intimacy of 'Shine Jesus Shine'. And today, more and more top songs feature a God Who is very big, while we are...well...'I am full of earth / you are heaven's worth / I am stained with dirt / prone to depravity'"

"Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th Century reply to Medieval Catholicism's "buy your way out of purgatory excesses" is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging Deity, sinful and puny humanity and predestination...

"Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim; it offers a rock steady Deity who orchestrates absolutely everything...our purpose is fulfilled...'by glorifying Him.' In the 1700s Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon overtaken in the US by movements like Methodism that were more impressed with human will...Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine - and the triumph of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus - seemed to relegate hardcore Reformed a few crotchety Southern churches.

"No more. Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don't operate on a Rick Warren scale. But...everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world...

"The Calvinist flavoured ESV Study Bible sold out it's first printing, and Reformed blogs...are cyber Christendom's hottest links...

"More moderate Evangelicals are exploring clues for the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket assurance.

"'A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation', says Collin Hansen, author of 'Young, Restless and Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists'. 'They have plenty of friends: What they need is God.

"The moment someone begins to define God's being or actions Biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinists."

"Calvin's 500th Birthday will be this July...more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy."

Energy and Passion
The above quotes from the Time magazine article by David van Biema, may not understand all that the Reformed Faith stands for, but he is clearly impressed by its dynamic energy and growing global influence. It is also interesting to notice the journalist's contempt for Methodism that seems "more impressed with human will", and the "Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of 'Shine Jesus Shine'", and the "friendly fuzzy Jesus" of most Evangelicals today.

The terms used to describe today's Calvinists are hardly meant to be positive, and yet this journalist has to recognised that Calvinism has "a rock solid Deity who orchestrates absolutely everything" and "everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world".

This journalist seems to appreciate that while modern Evangelicals are satisfied with converts, Reformed Christians are dedicated to making disciples. And not only disciples of individuals, but of nations, all nations. As van Biema notes, Calvinism affects "absolutely everything."

Also interesting is his observation that "the moment someone begins to define God's being or actions Biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist." By implication he notes that most modern Evangelicals are less than Biblical and "more impressed with human will."

Turning the Tide
So often Christians see our position like that of the Dutch - building dykes to keep our the ocean tides from their land, much of which lies below sea level. Many Christians see their position as similar to the young Dutch boy putting his finger in the hole in the dyke to stop a leak while his sister went to raise the alarm. We are trying to hold back the tide of this ocean of paganism.

However, Reformed Christians should understand that the situation is actually the reverse. It is not our calling to hold back the tide of paganism, but rather to turn the tide of Christianity. Time, history and the power of Almighty God are on our side. It is the Humanists who are frantically building dykes to keep out the rising tide of Christianity. We are called to be the light of the world. All the darkness cannot put out the smallest light. Even a small flickering candle can defeat the darkness around it. Not all the darkness can put out even the smallest candle.

"The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:14

"The Lord will be awesome to them when He destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship Him, everyone in his own land." Zephaniah 2:11

"The Lord will be King over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His Name the only Name." Zechariah 14:9

This is what the Great Commission calls us to: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto Me. Therefore go and makes disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you..." Matthew 28:18-20

This is what it means to pray the Lord's Prayer: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10

The Lord has granted believers the keys of heaven, what we bind on earth will be bound, what we loose will be loosed. The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus Who loves us (Romans 8:37). Greater is Him Who is in us than him who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

When we understand this, it becomes clear that it is, in fact, the paranoid Atheists and Secular Humanists who are desperately trying to plug up the cracks in their dykes as the rising tide of Christianity threatens to sweep away their filth and rebellion against Almighty God.

Cracks in the Dykes of Humanism
There are many encouraging cracks in the dykes: successful Christian films are putting cracks into the dykes of Humanism in Hollywood. Christian community radio stations are breaking the Secular Humanist monopoly on the airwaves. Christian magazines are breaking into what has been a secular dominant market in the magazine racks in shops and supermarkets. There is a great spiritual hunger with tens of thousands of men turning out to old-fashioned Gospel preaching. The rise in Christian schooling and home schooling, the growth of Focus of the Family and the establishment of the Creation Museum, all of these represent seismic events which are putting cracks in the dykes of Humanism. These are only a small foretaste of the coming spiritual tsunami when God will send a spiritual revival that will fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord as the seas are full of water. The dykes of Humanism cannot stand. It is for us to remain steadfast, immovable, faithful, diligent, resolute and energetic for the Kingdom of God.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:57-58