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John Piper’s Twelve Features of the New Calvinism

“I am part of the New Calvinism, and feel a fatherly responsibility to continually speak into it dimensions of truth that I think it needs to hear. As a part of the New Calvinism, I have a debt to pay to Westminster Seminary and the lineage of Reformed theology that you represent. There would be no New Calvinism without you.” — John Piper

On March 12, 2014 at Westminster Theological Seminary, John Piper delivered the seventh annual Richard Gaffin lecture on theology, culture, and missions entitled, “The New Calvinism and the New Community: The Doctrines of Grace and the Meaning of Race.” The whole message is well worth your time, but I wanted to highlight what I thought was a remarkably accurate, thorough, and perceptive description of the New Calvinism. As you read the list, keep in mind it is descriptive, not prescriptive or evaluative. Dr. Piper was also careful to emphasize that this list is a list of features, not distinctives that separate the New Calvinism from the Old Calvinism. Like any historical comparison, there are points of continuity and discontinuity between the New and Old, pros and cons to both Old and New, but those evaluations form a different topic. This list, I think, provides precision and scope to descriptions of the current Reformed and evangelical worlds.

Twelve features of the New Calvinism:

  1. The New Calvinism, in its allegiance to the inerrancy of the Bible, embraces the biblical truths behind the five points (TULIP), while having an aversion to using the acronym or any other systematic packaging, along with a sometimes qualified embrace of limited atonement. The focus is on Calvinistic soteriology but not to the exclusion or the appreciation of the broader scope of Calvin’s vision.
  2. The New Calvinism embraces the sovereignty of God in salvation, and in all the affairs of life in history, including evil and suffering.
  3. The New Calvinism has a strong complementarian flavor as opposed to egalitarian, with an emphasis on the flourishing of men and women in relationships where men embrace a call to robust, humble, Christ-like servant leadership.
  4. The New Calvinism leans toward being culture-affirming rather than culture-denying, while holding fast to some very culturally alien positions, like positions on same-sex practice and abortion.
  5. The New Calvinism embraces the essential place of the local church. It is led mainly by pastors, has a vibrant church-planting bent, produces widely-sung worship music, and exalts the preached word as central to the work of God locally and globally.
  6. The New Calvinism is aggressively mission-driven, including missional impact on social evils, evangelistic impact on personal networks, and missionary impact on unreached peoples of the world.
  7. The New Calvinism is inter-denominational with a strong (some would say oxymoronic) Baptistic element.
  8. The New Calvinism includes charismatics and non-charismatics.
  9. The New Calvinism puts a priority on pietism or piety in the Puritan vein, with an emphasis on the essential role of affections in Christian living, while esteeming the life of the mind and being very productive in it, and embracing the value of serious scholarship. Jonathan Edwards would be invoked as a model of this combination of the affections and the life of the mind more often than John Calvin, whether that’s fair to Calvin or not.
  10. The New Calvinism is vibrantly engaged in publishing books and even more remarkably in the world of the internet, with hundreds of energetic bloggers and social media activists, with Twitter as the increasingly default way of signaling things new and old that should be noticed and read.
  11. The New Calvinism is international in scope, multi-ethnic in expression, culturally diverse. There is no single geographic, racial, cultural governing center. There are no officers, no organization, nor any loose affiliation that would encompass the whole. I would dare say that there are outcroppings of this movement that nobody (including me) in this room has ever heard of.
  12. The New Calvinism is robustly gospel-centered, cross-centered, with dozens of books rolling off the presses, coming at the gospel from every conceivable angle, and applying it to all areas of life with a commitment to seeing the historic doctrine of justification, finding its fruit in sanctification personally and communally.

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