If you are wondering what the so-called “New Calvinism” is, Jeremy Walker has just written a short book trying to explain it. In The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment, Walker explains what the theological hubbub is all about. Walker identifies four characteristics of this movement. First, and most obviously, it is Calvinistic. But its Calvinism tends to be limited to soteriology as there is a good bit of diversity on other aspects of Reformed faith.
Second, the movement is marked by big personalities. “New Calvinism” seems to cluster around celebrity pastors and theologians who serve as theological figureheads for the movement. As a result, Walker alleges a kind of cult of celebrity among the new Calvinists. Indeed, a short appendix to the book includes a seven page list of pastors, preachers, bloggers, and others who are “Individuals of Note” to new Calvinism.
Third, it is a movement of conferences, coalitions, and networks of like-minded Christians who hold broadly to the doctrines of grace (think T4G, TGC, Acts 29, Sovereign Grace Ministries, just to name a handful).
Fourth, and perhaps most interestingly, it is a movement that is slowing down. Walker writes:
“The whole machine is slowing down. There is not the same buzz, the same energy, the same drive as once there was… this is not the rushing mountain stream it once was… I cannot be absolute, but there seems to be an easing of the pace and an awareness that we are entering a period of transition with regard to new Calvinism” (pp. 38-39).
The majority of the book comprises an assessment of the movement. Under commendations, Walker includes the following characteristics: Christ-oriented and God-honouring, Grace-soaked, missional, Complementarian, immersed in technology and new media, and preaching.
But Walker gives most of his attention to “Cautions and Concerns” about the movement. Under this rubric he includes pragmaticsm, commercialism, an unbalanced view of culture, a troubling approach to holiness, ecumenism, unresolved issues surrounding charismatic gifts, and triumphalism. Walker is careful to point out that no single personality in the movement is guilty of all of these concerns. Some are guilty of none, but they are concerns nonetheless. And he gives specific examples in which these issues have come to the fore (e.g., The Elephant Room 2).
Walker writes not as one who is ambivalent about the defining theological issues. He is a particular Baptist minister in England, so his theological framework is very much sympathetic to the aims of the new Calvinists. Nevertheless, Walker pulls no punches in critiquing the movement, and it is precisely here that Walker offers an assessment worth our time to consider. Is he correct in all that he alleges? No, probably not. Is this the final word in assessing the movement? Certainly not. Nevertheless, I found myself chastened in reading the pages of this book. Perhaps you will too.