Christianity,  Culture

Calvinism Changing the World

According to TIME magazine, Calvinism is one of the top “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” ranking at number 3. Here’s the list.

1.    Jobs Are the New Assets
2.    Recycling the Suburbs
3.    The New Calvinism
4.    Reinstating the Interstate
5.    Amortality
6.    Africa, Business Destination
7.    The Rent-a-Country
8.    Biobanks
9.    Survival Stores
10.    Ecological Intelligence

The article lists John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Albert Mohler as examples of the growing evangelical Calvinist movement. David Crowder and Colin Hansen are also mentioned. Read the whole story here.


  • John Holmberg

    Sounds kind of silly to me. In fact, it’s puzzling to me why people think there’s some type of “massive movement” of Calvinism going on in the country. Calvinism has been prevalent in America since colonial times and never really lost much steam, even throughout the rise of liberalism in the 19th century. It has always been here and people have always been passionate about it (the system naturally breeds the dogmatic zeal).

    If you want my opinion, while there may be “rising numbers of Calvinists” at institutions like Southern, among evangelicalism’s young people as a whole, it is dying and there is no such “resurgence.” You can’t track a trend based on one institution. With the rise of things such as missional theology, narrative theology, canonical theology, biblical theology,and literary criticism, Calvinism is becoming old news and people are no longer utilizing the proof-text method to systematic theology that was once popular from the Reformation onwards and can seemingly make Calvinism look as if it’s “biblical”.

    Calvinism is not changing the world, and there will have to be a radical shift in evangelicalism for one to be able to make such a claim. It has its followers, and they scream very loud, and they have their popular and controversial leaders, but the reality is that Colin Hanson and other optimistic Calvinists are seeing what they want and hope to see while not being realistic and taking all the evidence into account.

    It is no surprise that such a dogmatic and harsh theological system would get popular recognition by the press. But it’s blown way out of proportion, that’s for sure.

  • Darius T

    I don’t know, John. Here in Minnesota, Calvinism is quite strong among young Christians. I don’t really run into many non-Calvinists (though plenty aren’t completely sure about all 5 points of the TULIP).

  • John Holmberg

    Mohler says, “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.”

    Oh, of course Mohler, you and your camp are the only people who define God’s actions “biblically,” and therefore Calvinism must be right. Well, who knew. I guess nobody else respects the Bible and holds it as the authority like you.

    What a completely arrogant and myopic statement. He can talk loud, though, so I guess that’s why people believe him sometimes. Any “leader” who recommends John MacArthur’s study Bible as their main study Bible, and the NASB as the best and “most faithful” translation, has proven their worth in the academic and exegetical round. He’s stuck in the 1950s and can’t see past his modernism and fundamentalism. Stick to politics, because you seem to think you’re just being “biblical” in that realm too.

  • John Holmberg


    Maybe that’s because you’re not looking in the right places. We tend to hang around with people similar to us. I’m in Texas and most I encounter never label themselves “Calvinist,” even though they may sign on to one or two things. There are just also a couple of tenets of Calvinism that are tough to reconcile with the way God looks in the Bible oftentimes.

    People like coherent systems, and people like leaders who talk like they have it figured out. People also like controversy. Calvinism offers all of the above. Add 6 or 7 proof-texts to back it up, preach it pretty hard, and get in a couple of debates, and you’ll have a group of disciples in a couple of weeks. That’s the way the American mind works. Is it any surprise that you don’t hear of any minister or Christian in the two-thirds world jumping on board with this? It’s a system for comfortable white guys entrenched in Christendom.

  • blendahtom


    When u dismiss this “Massive Movement” I don’t think you are aware of the size of these pastors/churches .. Francis Chan / Mark Driscoll / Matt Chandler / Piper / Dever / Tim Keller / JD Greer /Eric Mason and the massive Church Planting that is being promoted in these groups..

  • Ryan Kearns

    Hey John,

    I think you are letting your animosity toward Calvinism blind you on this one.

    Simple fact is that much of what you say is just not true or unfairly reductionistic.

    Calvinism is experiencing a resurgence not only at some seminaries but in the publishing world, conference attendance, and in personal study by many lay Christians. Of course these are not an end all be all, but they certainly indicate influence.

    But most important, the most influential and aggressive church planting churches in America right now are reformed, being Mark Driscoll’s and Tim Keller. There is a strong push among Reformed church planting movements to reach into the cities and target young people. They are making great head way into cities when no one else is.

    Acts 29, Fellowship, Redeemer are planting more churches than any other organizations and are having great success. And many of these Reformed missional, urban churches are reaching very influential culture makers that had previously been neglected by suburban mega-churches.

    Therefore, its kind of silly to just simply state Calvinism is not having a big effect on culture just because you do not think it is. The facts seem to indicate otherwise. Of course this does not mean a spirit of arrogance should set in for Reformed folk. No, if anything it should be a point at which all Christians can celebrate that God is being glorified.

  • mike

    i’ll just say be careful not to let time magazine’s flattery suck us in. the church’s instrument for impact is the gospel of Jesus Christ, not theological labels and leanings like calvinism.

  • Wade

    Wow John, really? I’m in Texas too, but I am a long way from the part your in.

    Some call it a movement, others say a move of God(like a revival).

    I think the SBC’s conservative resurgence of the early 80’s, reclaiming the authority and inerrancy of Scripture has been a key factor for the calvinistic resurgence we are seeing today. We have been taught to love and value the Bible, and in turn we have become Calvinists.

    Glad to see the secular realm noticing a positive shift in the Christian realm.

    Enjoying my biblical theology!

  • John Holmberg


    Like I said, we tend to hang out with people that are similar to us. I encounter many who may be more Calvinistic, but hardly any I know adopt the label (probably a smart thing, as if the label is what’s important…kind of reminds me of Paul’s dealing with the Corinthians). I don’t know, Wade, if you should applaud this movement simply because it’s Calvinistic. That is the funny thing I’m seeing here. People are more happy with a Calvinistic resurgence than anything. Something to get really excited about is not Calvinism spreading, but people following Jesus Christ and submitting their lives to his authority.

    In regards to “the Bible,” all Christians love and value the Bible, Wade. It is the epitome of pride to claim that a love a value for the Bible will naturally lead one to Calvinism. The way I view it, isolating a few texts of Scripture not being read canonically results in Calvinism. We’re all trying to be “biblical,” so I’m really tired of seeing the reason for this as being a submission to “the Bible.” I have heard many say just the opposite…that their ever-growing respect for the authority of the Bible led them away from Calvinism. So being “biblical” is in the eye of the beholder.

    This whole issue just seems like nothing positive can come out of it in regards to an ecumenical Christian movement. It wreaks of the “neo-reformed” pride that McKnight speaks about, if you ask me

  • D.J. Williams


    Have you ever had anything positive to say here about Calvinism or Calvinists? Ever? Look, I’m a Calvinist, but I grew up in a Wesleyan church, and many of the people there are among the most Godly I’ve ever met, and I owe much of my spiritual development to them. Yet, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say a single positive thing about your Calvinist brothers. You lambast Denny for the disconnect between his posts on Obama and the Republicans, but yet you don’t offer the same grace to your fellow brothers in Christ. Every time it comes up, we get posts like your above one filled with words like, “silly,” “dogmatic,” “harsh,” “arrogant,” and “myopic.” That tends to indicate to me that pride might not be the exclusive territory of the “neo-reformed.” Check yourself, brother. If you can show me a post where you’ve said something positive, then I’ll retract my sentiment.

  • Nathan

    While I think it is interesting that TIME names Calvinism as an item that is changing the world, I also find it interesting that the article only speaks about the some of its finer points and not about the gospel.

    I also wonder what the flavor of the disucssion would be if TIME had reported that The New Wesleyans were number three on that list? Would all those who ascribe to Calvinism be rejoicing or somewhat apprehensive?

    Furthermore, my personal preference would have been that TIME reported that a New Jesus Movement was sweeping the country and that there was an article describing how people were giving their lives to Jesus, being baptized, and then proselytizing their friends, family, and neighbors. And that, like Thessalonica in the first century, TIME would report that these followers of Jesus (the way) were turning their world upside down.

    Go back and read the TIME article. Those of us who understand the jargon can read between the lines and see the good that is being written. However for unbelievers there is absolutely no mention of salvation in Jesus. In fact, the writer makes sure to menttion that Calvinism is “the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision”

    While at the end of day Calvinists may understand that statement to be the logical outcome of their systematic belief set, that is not the portrayal of the gospel message of Jesus and the apostles that “whosoever will may come” and “come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” or “whosoever will believe in Me (Jesus) will not perish, but have everlasting life”

    Regardless of your theological belief set, I for one would rather see Jesus’ name proclaimed as a movement than Calvin’s.

  • Darius T

    I love the fact that the Time’s wrote a similar article in 1947 on the resurgence of Calvinism… methinks it never went away, but they’re just the typical media outlet, always out-of-touch with reality.

    John, Calvinism is alive and strong in the “two-thirds world.” In fact, I would confidently say that it’s stronger there, since they aren’t spoiled like the Western world. They may not call it Calvinism, but that’s what they believe. Calvinism (not to be confused with hyper-Calvinism) is the root of the Gospel.

    If we are not totally depraved (which the Scriptures SCREAM throughout), then God loses glory (since we are capable of sanctifying ourselves). It then follows that since we are totally depraved, unconditional election is required, since we are incapable of choosing good. Unless we’re universalists, we have to affirm that Jesus’ atonement is limited in its full scope, otherwise all people are forgiven and saved (something clearly refuted in the Bible). The irresistibility of His grace is also consistently affirmed in Scripture (most clearly in Romans 9:14-23). Lastly, since His grace is irresistible and we are unconditionally elected, it also follows that He will make sure we persevere to the end if He elected us in the first place. God is faithful even though we are not. John Piper gives a little more than “proof texts” to explain Calvinism better here:

    And he also gives the “Ten Effects of Believing in Calvinism” here:

  • D.J. Williams

    From Time’s perspective, probably nothing, really. My excitement basically stems from seeing a rare honest and non-demonizing writeup of Calvinism from the secular press, as well as the ackowledgement that such a view of God does indeed provide solace in difficult times.

  • Brian Krieger

    I read the following in the paper recently:
    Texas Faith this week is pegged to the financial bailouts and asks: What does our faith teach us about this moment? Does our inner Calvinist say we have no obligation to bail out those who failed to act responsibility?

    For those who castigate Calvinism or have faced this before, from what does this stem? Without having read Institutes, is this a part of Calvinism (there’s a joke about which part of the hand it would be 😉 or is it just someone painting an uninformed caricature?

  • Laz

    I like what Spurgeon said,
    “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism…”

  • Tom Fuerst

    So are those who are not Calvinists not preaching the gospel, Laz? If so, that makes everyone else heretics right?

    If so that’s the most arrogant thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t care if it came from Calvin, Spurgeon, Piper or anyone else. It’s arrogance.

  • Nathan

    Laz said, “Actually in the piece in which Spurgeon said this, he sings Wesley’s praises. Nowhere does he accuse Arminians of heresy.”

    Spurgeon said in the link provided by Laz: “And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?”

    So you think that Spurgeon did not call Arminian’s heretics?

    Spurgeon also went on to say “Had a man been an Arminian in those days (Augustine or Calvin), he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing, but now we are looked upon as the heretics, and they as the orthodox.”

    Laz, personally I am not an Arminian, but if you are going to state something, make sure you are accurate in your statement. Spurgeon was a great preacher, but he was certainly opinionated and left no doubt what he thought about Arminian’s, even though he did commend Wesley personally.

  • Laz

    I hate being wrong.

    You’re right Nathan about what he called Arminianism. Admittedly, I didn’t read this article today, it’s been a few months.

    So you think he was calling Wesley a heretic? Or was the “Modern Prince of Arminians” the only exception among them?

  • Nathan

    That’s an interesting question. The article does say that Spurgeon thinks Whitefield and Wesley would have made two great apostles, but then Spurgeon says he detests the doctrines that Wesley preached. It does seem somewhat oxymoronic to call Arminianism a heresy, but not to call Wesley himself one.

  • Tom Fuerst

    I don’t care what Spurgeon thought of Arminians. I’m asking you, Laz, do you think they are heretics…as you are the one who cited Spurgeon as saying the gospel = Calvinism.

  • Darius T

    For me, it would depend on their level of Arminianism. A hyper Arminian is pretty clearly rejecting the gospel and a heretic. On the other hand, someone who isn’t completely sure about TULIP and feels like it doesn’t quite capture Biblical doctrine on all points is a different situation.

  • Tom Fuerst

    I don’t care what Spurgeon thought b/c I’m not conversing with him. I’m conversing with you. But really, I don’t care what you think…I just wanted to point out that your statement confirmed my suspicions about how many of the ‘new Calvinists’ view Arminians.

  • Derek

    Darius, when you refer to hyper Armenian, do you mean “Pelagianism” – the view that original sin does not impair our ability to choose God? Armenians reject this view, by the way, though it is sometimes attributed to them.

  • Darius T

    Something along those lines, Derek. Most Arminians reject that just like most Calvinists (and all serious ones) reject the idea that nothing we do in this life can affect our eternal security once we’ve accepted Christ.

    Not that anyone cares (nor should they), but I believe that someone who is strongly against Calvinism is dangerously close to heresy, since Calvinism is, as Spurgeon put it, just a nickname for the Gospel of Christ crucified.

  • John Holmberg


    That’s the exact spirit McKnight was getting at with his “neo-reformed” posts. That’s really a ridiculous thing to say brother, and it really breaks my heart to see you say it. The doctrines are only important to you because you’ve been taught how important they are, not because the emphasis lies there in the Bible. You’re essentially claiming that a guy who holds that the atonement is for everybody and who thinks he can resist God’s grace is the same as an apostate. Both Calvinists and Arminians claim God crucified, so maybe you’re problem is a misunderstanding.

    It doesn’t matter what Spurgeon says, what matters is what the Bible teaches. It’s tough to reconcile many things in the Bible with some of the Calvinistic doctrines. If you take Calvinism to its logical conclusions, you end up not praying nor evangelizing. Therefore, I say someone who is strongly for Calvinism is dangerously close to heresy (we’re all dangerously close to heresy, aren’t we?). I mean, come on Darius, the doctrines weren’t even formulated until the 17th century AD. The ideas have their roots from Augustine (western church), who didn’t live until the 5th century AD. The eastern church fathers were all free-will guys

    I guess all those people who lived before them and who lives in the east were heretics.

    Tragic, tragic indeed.

  • David Rogers

    My two-cents:

    Calvinism and Arminianism are theological systems that attempt to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are synthetic by nature and include alleged (by their adherents) logical extrapolations from the essential aspects of the Gospel. The adherents of each system are sincerely convinced that their explanation is the more important devotionally and theologically and that neglect of their particular explanation can lead to difficulties and controversy in the best quality of worship and theological understanding. While each of their explanations are important enough for serious consideration and absolute avoidance of the discussion/debate many times stems from laziness and fear, one should humbly hesitate before declaring that one’s own system, whether Calvinism or Arminianism, is a nickname for the Gospel itself.

    David H. Rogers

    FBC Biscoe, AR

  • Darius T

    “If you take Calvinism to its logical conclusions, you end up not praying nor evangelizing…”

    John, I would humbly suggest that you have not understood true Calvinism to believe this.

    “thinks he can resist God’s grace”

    Such a person isn’t necessariliy an apostate (though one who actually TEACHES this to others is getting close), but he is rejecting significant portions of God’s Word (Romans 9 and John 10:28-30), which is never a good place to be.

    That said, I also agree with David Rogers that one has to be very hesitant to declare anything. Thus, I have said repeatedly that each individual belief stands for itself. Calvinism nor Arminianism mean a whole lot, since there are so many variations to them. So someone who is moderately Arminian might be more Biblical than someone who is extreme Calvinist. But, by and large, Calvinism gets it more right than Arminianism.

  • David Rogers

    Darius T:
    “But, by and large, Calvinism gets it more right than Arminianism.”

    It may be right that some explicitly committed Calvinists have a stronger desire for being biblical than what passes for explicitly acknowledged modern Arminians, but I must humbly disagree that Calvinism as a system gets it more right than classical Arminianism as a system. As I analyze Calvinism, and yes I have studied it, I find it less than biblical and to me it still remains unconvincing. I still find its alleged logical extrapolations from the biblical statements of Scripture to be unwarranted and stretched in their claims to be the only possible interpretive conclusions of the significant passages.

    I do admire the vast amount of theological analysis that Calvinists bring to the Church. They have done more extensive research into more areas of theological and cultural research than other conservative evangelicals in my opinion, but I do not find their expertise in many of those areas to be an affirmation of the biblical correctness of the entire system.

  • Lucas Knisely

    Regardless of your stance on theology, it is exciting to see a sect of Christianity among that list in the TIME article.

    And what tends to make me smirk is how feeble and meek a man John Calvin was, and to this day his name can still bring such a stirring amongst the Christian masses.

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