Deception works best when it is closest to the truth. Therefore, the most dangerous movements in
Christendom are those that appear biblical in doctrine, but in reality, deviates from the Bible in
teaching and practice at critical points. One such movement in Christianity is, “New Calvinism”.

The writing of this article was sparked off when the editor came across a worship service that was
held at a church that claimed to be Reformed. As he heard the recording of the service, he
observed that some of the songs were sung acapella (i.e. without music accompaniment) during
the worship service. Nevertheless, the musical construction of the song was similar to that which
is commonly adopted in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). The pervasive use of various
musical forms of CCM in worship is one of the defining traits of New Calvinism. It thus came of
little surprise to the editor that a check on the composer of the song revealed New Calvinistic
origins. This is worrying, to say the least.

As Bible-believing Christians, we must be careful not to let such nefarious movements enter and
have a foothold among the congregation of God. As the Scriptures declare, a little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump (Gal. 5:9; 1 Cor. 5:6). The concern for this editor is that New
Calvinism is due to enter, or if not, have already infiltrated into our Bible-Presbyterian churches.
Thus, there is a need to examine this movement closely, so that we will not be sifted around like
wheat. The fact that this movement has a massive presence on the Internet and social media only
makes it more urgent to address this issue.

The title “New Calvinism” describes the recent resurgence of interest in Calvinism in
Christianity. The doctrines of Calvinism (such as God’s sovereignty and providence, the total
depravity of man, and predestination) appeals to this group. However, while there is a proclaimed
devotion to “true piety in the Puritan vein” (Piper), there is no real concern for holiness in
practice. The prominent leaders of the New Calvinist movement include Dr John Piper (Desiring
God Ministries and promoter of Christian Hedonism), Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church and Acts
29 Church Movement), Dr Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church and a foremost promoter
of the contextualization of the gospel) and Dr Albert Mohler (Southern Seminary of the Southern
Baptist Convention). All are council leaders of the Gospel Coalition.

A good insight into New Calvinism is given by Josh Buice in his book, The New Calvinism,

The people of the New Calvinistic movement can be defined as an eclectic and at times edgy group of multi-ethnic and age-diverse Reformed people from all parts of the world who are not satisfied with superficial Bible teaching. These people are Christ-exalting, Spirit-driven, missions-motivated, multi-denominational (and non-denominational), charismatic and non-Charismatic, and Bible-believing Christians who are seeking to know God, worship God, serve God and bring glory to God.

Another definitive insight of the New Calvinistic movement (as confessed by John Piper) is given
by Collin Hansen in his book entitled, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with
the New Calvinists. In this book, Hansen talks about his ground-breaking experience as a young
man in his twenties attending the Passion Conference in Atlanta. Around 21000 young people
attended the conference learning from men such as John Piper. According to Peter Masters, these
conferences involve “the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music,
is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine… We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands,
‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction)
uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.”

Interestingly, the New Calvinism did not arise from traditional Reformed churches, but rather
through the influence of independent ministers and churches who sought to be more
conservative or Reformed in their doctrines. Many of them were influenced by teachers such as
J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur and James Montgomery Boice. The latest influential
leader is John Piper who through his Desiring God Ministries have sparked a revival in
Reformed Theology. There is also the influence of parachurch groups such as the Gospel
Coalition, Redeemer City to City, Acts 29 and 9Marks which presented material of a
Calvinistic slant to the masses.

However, another major influence of the New Calvinists is the “seeker-friendly” movement as
popularised by leaders such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. These leaders promoted a spirit of
“pragmatism” in church growth, convincing that churches can duplicate the massive numbers
seen in mega churches. The representative book for this seeker movement is, The Purpose
Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The idea is that Christianity can
be sold and advertised to the crowds. Challies and Buice rightly noted that, “sermons became
short and topical instead of long and expositional, pastoral prayer was removed from
worship services in favour of prayers for response and commitment, the old hymns were
neglected for new choruses, doctrine was displaced by felt needs.” It is little wonder that
Mark Driscoll, a New Calvinist leader, believes that flexibility should be permitted for
“spiritual gifts, baptism, communion, worship styles, Bible translations and humor”, for there
is a need to be “missional” and to “create and redeem culture”.

The features of New Calvinism that concerns this editor are:

The promotion of Charismatic-ethos worship.
The softness in biblical separation. (As seen in its interdenominational stance and
acceptance of Charismatism)
The deficient view on spiritual gifts.
The pretense to hold a high-view of God’s Word.

The editor will spend the next few weeks addressing these issues, comparing the New
Calvinism with the teachings of Scripture.

In the meantime, let us close with Dr Peter Master’s account of the advice given by Joshua
Harris, who was a disciple of the renowned new Calvinistic leader C J Mahaney. Joshua Harris
is the author of the popular book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The account is revealing of the
dangers of New Calvinism:

It was a protégé of this preacher named Joshua Harris who started the New
Attitude conference for young people. We learnt that when a secular rapper
named Curtis Allen was converted, his new-born Christian instinct led him to
give up his past life and his singing style. But Pastor Joshua Harris evidently
persuaded him not to, so that he could sing for the Lord. The New Calvinism
movement or The New Calvinists do not hesitate to override the instinctual
Christian conscience, counselling people to become friends of the world.

In 2019, Joshua Harris announced that he would separate from his wife of twenty years, though
they will remain “friends” and share collective responsibility to bring up their three children. A
week later, he announced that he is no more a Christian.
Beware of the leaven of New Calvinism.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew