On the New Calvinism

Introduction

Renowned Baptist preacher and author Charles Haddon Spurgeon once quipped, “it is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine.”[1]  A contemporary theological movement known as the New Calvinism, following in Spurgeon’s footsteps, seeks to retrieve that good solid doctrine, and it has made tremendous waves in the process.  Appealing to what has been called the “young, restless, and Reformed,”[2] the New Calvinism is a robust theological movement characterized by its emphasis on the supremacy of the sovereign God of the Bible, the centrality and authority of Scripture, and a deep love for and embrace of the doctrines of grace.  But the New Calvinism is not without its problems.  The purpose of this paper is to provide a descriptive analysis of the New Calvinism by considering some of the cultural and theological factors which facilitated its rise.  The paper will then examine some of the theological distinctives of the movement as well as some of its difficulties.  Finally, the paper will conclude by offering five concrete ways forward for the New Calvinism.

What Is the New Calvinism?

What, then, is the New Calvinism?  J.I. Packer offers this fine definition of Calvinism:

Calvinism is a whole worldview, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King.  Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will.  Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own Word.  Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible—the God-centered outlook that sees the Creator as the source and means and end of everything that is, both in nature and in grace.[3]

Calvinism is not merely a theological system which was promoted by John Calvin and is adhered to by his followers.  Rather, Calvinism is but a nickname for what Spurgeon called “the gospel, and nothing else.”[4]  In a word, Calvinism is the theological system which affirms the supremacy of the triune God in and over all things, both in nature and in grace, according to the Word of God, the Bible.  Calvinism is committed to the idea that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11) and that “salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9; cf. Psalm 68:20; Revelation 7:10).

But the preceding is merely an apt description of the old Calvinism, embodied especially in the Westminster Standards and in the Three Forms of Unity, which traces its roots back to the Reformation (and ultimately back through church history all the way to the apostles).[5]  So what is new about the New Calvinism?  There are at least two things which make the New Calvinism “new,” that is, distinct from “old” Calvinism.  First, the rise of the New Calvinism happened in a context which was largely devoid of any explicit Calvinistic influence.  Thus, the New Calvinists are a new people who have encountered the old truths of the Reformation in a new time.  But this is not entirely sufficient to set the New Calvinism apart from its older, confessional forms.  The second thing that is new about the New Calvinism is that there is an eclectic spirit within the movement itself, even though there are distinctives to which all New Calvinists adhere.  For example, all of the New Calvinists emphasize the exhaustive and meticulous sovereignty of God in and over all things, and most of them adhere to all five points of Calvinism, otherwise called the doctrines of grace.  Yet within the New Calvinism there are cessionationists and continuationists, Baptists and Presbyterians, and even Kuyperians and Warfieldians!  Even with this eclectic spirit, there is a genuine union and fellowship within the New Calvinism around several distinctives which will be explored shortly.

There is perhaps no one person who more closely embodies the spirit of the New Calvinism than pastor-theologian John Piper.  In many ways, he is the preeminent spokesperson and leader of the New Calvinism, whether he recognizes it or not.  For the sake of space, this paper will focus especially on him.  Predictably, dozens of major figures must be left out of the primary discussion.  It would be impossible to include all of the figures, past and present, which comprise the New Calvinism, and therefore this paper will be mostly restricted to the influence of Piper.  Another reason for such concentrated attention on him is because it is the contention of this essay that he should be seen as a theological bridge between evangelicalism and confessional Reformed theology.  From the standpoint of evangelicalism, Piper is seen as a gateway to Reformed theology, and from the standpoint of Reformed theology, Piper is seen as a key figure to understanding evangelicalism.  Piper has his hands both in confessional Reformed theology and in evangelicalism while not genuinely fitting into either category, and this is symptomatic of the New Calvinism as a whole: not quite fully Reformed, not quite evangelical.

There are many things for which evangelicalism should be commended.  These include a high view of the inerrancy and authority of Scripture as well as a generally conservative posture toward social issues such as abortion.  However, one of evangelicalism’s main problems became the fertile soil in which the New Calvinism initially bloomed and ultimately fully flowered.  On the whole, evangelicalism is characterized by an ever-increasing minimalism in both doctrine and practice.  What were once crucial aspects of the Christian faith have become negotiable in favor of a more expansive and individualistic approach to theology.  Biblical and theological illiteracy have become the norm in the majority of evangelical circles, and this reality has been decried by Michael Horton: “Judging by its commercial, political, and media success, the evangelical movement seems to be booming.  But is it still Christian?…we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for ‘relevant’ quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms.”[6]  Horton’s critique is not restricted solely to evangelicalism; indeed, he criticizes the general state of the Christian church in the United States!  Nevertheless, his warning against the minimalistic nature of evangelicalism illuminates an important point: namely, the New Calvinism came about as a direct result of the inability and insufficiency of evangelicalism to address the critical issues people had regarding Scripture, Christian theology, and even their own experience.  One might wonder: “How exactly did I come to faith in Christ in a completely secular context when the rest of my friends have no interest in or love for him at all?  Why me?”  The New Calvinism provided answers where evangelicalism could not.

Distinctives of the New Calvinism

It is time now to explore ten distinctives of the New Calvinism.  First, the supremacy of God features as the center piece of Calvinistic thought generally, but it especially characterizes the works of the preeminent pastor-theologian of the movement, John Piper.  Piper has written at least four books whose titles or subtitles include the phrase “supremacy of God.”[7]  In his book on preaching, Piper argues in this way: “God is still the most important, most valuable, most satisfying, most all-encompassing, and, therefore, most relevant reality in the world.  So a little book that focuses on the relationship between his supremacy and preaching is still relevant.”[8]  Furthermore, this is an obvious theme in Scripture, which contains such declarations as “‘Behold your God!’  Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him…what man shows him his counsel?  Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?….Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales….To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” (Isaiah 40:9-10, 13, 14, 15).  The New Calvinism’s emphasis on the supremacy of God flourished in an environment in which “people are starving for the greatness of God.”[9]

The idea of the supremacy of God is incomplete without its twin: the sovereignty of God.  Like two sides of the same coin, supremacy and sovereignty are necessary corollaries of one another.  One cannot be supreme without simultaneously being sovereign, and vice versa.  As Isaiah says, “It is [God] who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Isaiah 40:21-23).  As Piper argues in his famous work Desiring God, the exhaustive sovereignty of God is the foundation of God’s own happiness.[10]  Indeed, since “God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated.”[11]  The biblical text Piper uses as the basis for his argument is Psalm 115:3: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Another closely related idea to supremacy and sovereignty, and the third distinctive of the New Calvinism, is the glory of God.  The supreme God of creation declares through his prophet Isaiah, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).  This theological concept is certainly the logical consequence of the previous two distinctives of the New Calvinism, but it is nothing other than the central theme of Scripture.  Piper, mending the first question and answer of the popular Westminster Shorter Catechism, argues provocatively: “The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.”[12]  In another book, Piper argues that God’s ultimate delight is in God’s own glory, and Piper demonstrates this by examining the pleasure of God in his Son, the pleasure of God in all he does, the pleasure of God in his creation, the pleasure of God in his fame, the pleasure of God in election, and the pleasure of God in bruising his Son, to name but a few.[13]  These arguments may be new in that they are presented to a new people in a new time and in a new culture, but Piper is merely following in the footsteps of Jonathan Edwards who previously argued all of these things in his work entitled A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World.[14]

While the supremacy, sovereignty, and glory of God constitute perhaps the three major emphases of the New Calvinism’s theological enterprise, the formal principle of the New Calvinism is the centrality, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.  There are at least three reasons Scripture plays such a crucial role for the New Calvinists.  First, in Scripture alone does one hear of the supremacy, sovereignty, and glory of God.  Piper perhaps says it best:  “In and through the Scriptures we see the glory of God”[15] and “the glory of God in and through the Scriptures is a real, objective, self-authenticating reality.”[16]  Indeed, the New Calvinists seek to live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  Second, the New Calvinism can trace its theological heritage back to the Protestant Reformers, whose formal principle of the Reformation was also the sufficiency and authority of Scripture.  Martin Luther and John Calvin went to war with the Roman Catholic Church over the sufficiency of Scripture, claiming with the biblical text that “all Scripture is breathed out by God…for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Because Scripture is the Word of God, it is inherently sufficient to accomplish the work of God in the lives of God’s people.  For the New Calvinists, one need not seek anything authoritative beyond the written Word since it alone is sufficient for life and godliness.  Third, evangelicalism may have a high view of Scripture in principle, but in function and practice the Bible is generally of little relevance, as Michael Horton noted earlier.  In this area, the New Calvinism flourished where evangelicalism floundered.  The New Calvinism’s seemingly extreme focus and emphasis on the centrality, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture can be seen as a kind of reaction against evangelicalism’s functionally low view of the Bible.  Truly, the centrality of Scripture is the very lifeblood of the New Calvinism.

The fifth distinctive of the New Calvinism has less to do with particular doctrines and more to do with a general acknowledgement of the importance of theology.  Again, where evangelicalism sought to minimize doctrine and theology, the New Calvinism provided a robust framework for understanding the Bible and human experience.  Mark Noll demonstrates the point this way: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”[17]  He goes on to argue, “American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.”[18]  This point should demonstrate the stark contrast between evangelicalism and the New Calvinism.  The latter, led largely by the influence of Piper, places great emphasis and weight on the importance of sound biblical teaching and theology.  At its best, the New Calvinism is a movement which seeks to love God with all the mind (cf. Matthew 22:37).  But, ideally, the New Calvinism is not concerned with doctrine merely for the sake of doctrine.  Rather, doctrine and theology are tools which help people “to know God, to serve Him, and to see Him glorified.”[19]  Indeed, for the New Calvinists, all theology is immanently practical since it serves to help people live their entire lives coram Deo, before the face of God.

While a general focus on the importance of theology is one unifying feature of the New Calvinism, an emphasis on the doctrines of grace, or the five points of Calvinism, seems to be the specific material content of that general focus.  The doctrines of grace are so-called because they are, arguably, the most consistent presentation of the biblical theme of grace.  To know God not only as Creator but also as Redeemer, as Calvin demonstrated, is indispensable to the Christian life.  Piper says it this way: “clear knowledge of God from the Bible is the kindling that sustains the fires of affection for God.  And probably the most crucial kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation.  That is what the five points of Calvinism are about.”[20]  In short, the five points are summarized in the popular acronym TULIP: Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  An exposition and defense of these points is beyond the scope of this paper, but the unifying theme running through all the points is the complete supremacy of God in the work of redemption.  From beginning to end, God saves his beloved chosen people and never suffers the loss of any one of them.  Paul argued, “for those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).  Thus, following the combined notions of the supreme God sovereignly redeeming a people for his glory, the New Calvinists are united around the doctrines of grace.

A functionally high view of the centrality, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture coupled with an emphasis on the importance of sound teaching leads necessarily to the seventh distinctive of the New Calvinism: expository preaching.  Nearly all of the New Calvinists preach through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse, week after week, bringing the intended meaning of the original author to bear on the lives of the people in their congregations.  This is one of the ways in which a high view of Scripture is manifested amongst New Calvinists.  Topical messages and sermons are quite rare in these circles, and there are at least three reasons for this: First, as previously mentioned, New Calvinists tend to have a high view of Scripture and seek to bring the meaning out of the text rather than read meaning back into the text.  Second, New Calvinists typically have a well-developed systematic understanding of Scripture and are able to expound the meaning of particular passages while still giving credence to the whole message of Scripture.  And third, New Calvinists, when they are at their best, seek to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) to their people.  This means that they cannot simply pick whatever sections of Scripture or whatever topics might suit them or their congregation.  On the contrary, expositional preaching means that one is bound to the Word of God ultimately and cannot, therefore, impose their own ideas onto their people since the Scriptures are both supreme and sufficient for them.

Complementarianism is the eighth distinctive of the New Calvinism, and there are several important factors to consider as to why this is the case.  First, a high view of Scripture tends to lead to a complementarian view of men’s and women’s roles in both the church and in the home.  This is not to say that egalitarians or other non-complementarians do not have a high view of Scripture or that they do not believe in the authority of Scripture.  Rather, it is only to say that the New Calvinists see an intrinsic and intentional design in creation for both men and women to complement one another.  Second, most of the New Calvinists are men.  Of course, there is a healthy and ever-increasing female population, but on the whole the New Calvinism is comprised of men.  It is no surprise, then, that complementarianism is a distinctive of the movement.  Third, Piper is a complementarian.  He has authored or edited several books on complementarianism and is perhaps its most popular proponent.  With these factors in mind, it is no wonder that the New Calvinism is by-and-large complementarian in its posture.

One of the more interesting distinctives of the New Calvinism is a kind of sense of camaraderie found between various New Calvinists of seemingly opposing stripes.  Conferences like Together for the Gospel (T4G) and groups such as The Gospel Coalition bring together Calvinists from a wide variety of backgrounds and denominations.  Piper, a Baptist, is a regular feature at T4G, but so are Presbyterians Kevin DeYoung and Ligon Duncan III.  Staunch cessationist John MacArthur stands should-to-shoulder with continuationists like Matt Chandler and C.J. Mahaney.  Historically, these groups have been at odds and rarely conversed with one another let alone gathered together for the mutual proclamation of the gospel.  This distinctive of the New Calvinism may be one of the movement’s biggest strengths in that it brings together seemingly opposing groups who are at least in opposition over certain secondary issues, and unites them around the central truths of the Christian faith.

Finally, but closely related to the previous point, an eclectic spirit pervades the New Calvinism.  In many ways, the New Calvinism is a trans-denominational movement.  That is to say, such diverse groups as Baptists and Presbyterians, non-denominational and Reformed persons all house a healthy number of New Calvinists.  The movement is characterized more by what the New Calvinists have in common rather than by their disagreements.  This eclectic spirit has meant the end, at least partially, of the sometimes vicious nature of factionalism.  To be sure, the New Calvinism has a long way to go when it comes to its ability to converse with other groups and movements, but its eclectic nature provides it with a genuine opportunity to be successful and draw even more people into its ranks.

Difficulties of the New Calvinism

Those ten distinctives constitute some of the more positive aspects of the New Calvinism, but the movement as a whole is not without serious flaws.  The first of these serious issues is the fact that two prominent New Calvinists have been disqualified from their pastoral roles due to moral failures.  Mark Driscoll and Tullian Tchividjian were both released from their respective pastoral responsibilities, and this caused something of a stir for the New Calvinism.  The movement had to deal with the fallout of their moral failures, and this is the case any time a controversy or scandal rocks a group or movement.  The reason this presented a great difficulty for the New Calvinism is that both Driscoll and Tchividjian tarnished the public image of the movement by their behavior.  In some ways, the consequence of this meant that it was more difficult for the New Calvinism to be a credible movement in the eyes of the public.  If it is true that the New Calvinism produces immoral behavior in its adherents, so the argument goes, then clearly there are problems that render the movement as a whole somewhat irrelevant.

Second, there is a real tendency amongst New Calvinists to revere particular pastors, elevating them to a kind of celebrity status.  Pastors such as Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, C.J. Mahaney, and even John Piper are perhaps raised to platforms which are too high, even for them.  One could question the legitimacy of a movement who seemingly blindly follows such leaders: If the leaders were to disappear tomorrow, would the movement still exist?  Moreover, even if the pastors do not disappear from the scene any time soon, an argument could be made that a more critical eye could be turned to the pastors.  Surely they do not do everything perfectly, regardless of what some New Calvinists may claim.  The reason this is a difficulty for the New Calvinism is because movements tend to fade away into obscurity if strong new leaders are not raised up to continue the growth.  If the New Calvinism is to survive in the long term, it must begin to train leaders in local churches to communicate the truths of the gospel clearly to the people of God.

Third, a subtle yet sinister temptation for some New Calvinists is to do theology simply for the sake of doing theology.  It is a good thing in itself to love doctrine and to think deeply of the things of God, but it is possible to love thinking about God more than actually loving God.  Think of the biblical examples of those who thought they genuinely loved God but in reality did not know him.  Paul provides this stunning warning in Romans 10:2: “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”  This is a reference to physical Jews, so apparently it is possible to have been given “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4) without actually having a genuine knowledge of the one true God.  Perhaps one of the dangers of the New Calvinism is similar in this regard.  A people who have a great love for knowledge and Scripture can seemingly miss the point of it all.  If the New Calvinism is to be truly helpful to its adherents, this warning must be heeded.

A widely noted problem amongst New Calvinists is what has been called the “cage stage.”  Simply put, the “cage stage” occurs when someone’s eyes have been opened to the sovereignty of God in salvation, and they subsequently seek to argue with anyone and everyone about the doctrines of grace.  This phase, when one forgets about the reality of grace altogether while talking about theology, has been nicknamed the “cage stage” because it would better serve the church if the New Calvinist was locked away in a cage to avoid doing serious damage to others inside the church.  After a period of anywhere from six months to two years, the New Calvinist can be let out of their cage, having been sanctified during the process and having learned how to better communicate in a gracious manner.  While the “cage stage” might seem like a joke, it is nevertheless a real danger for the New Calvinism.  It is quite easy to act self-righteously once one has come to a deeper knowledge of the truths of God revealed in Scripture.  Moreover, the “cage stage” occurs on both individual and corporate levels.  Individual New Calvinists who perhaps were not raised in the Reformed faith or had little access to Calvinistic teaching have a tendency to react sharply against their own background and original context.  But on the corporate level, groups of New Calvinists can take an aggressive factional stance regarding non-Calvinists.  Often one finds that certain New Calvinists are too eager to declare anathema over non-Calvinists.  This is a real difficulty and danger for the New Calvinism, particularly at a time in which the United States grows increasingly secular and hostile towards the Christian faith.  Surely the movement will want to have as many allies as possible going forward, but it does not help itself when it draws boundary lines in such a narrow fashion.

Finally, there is a sort of anti-institutional and anti-confessional spirit amongst New Calvinists.  Perhaps this is a product of the surrounding culture more than it is of the New Calvinism itself, since the secular West, and millennials in particular, tend to distrust and dislike institutions.  Yet even in the New Calvinism there is a spirit of anti-institutionalism that presents a great danger to its adherents.  There is truth to the claim that in order for a movement to succeed long term, it needs to have some kind of institutional structure.  The New Calvinism cannot possibly survive more than one or two generations if it resists institutionalization.  There are at least two reasons for this.  First, the Reformed tradition itself has creeds and confessions, symbolic of its institutional character, which should be explored as the next logical step for the New Calvinism.  Secondly, the New Calvinism is somewhat institutional already in that it exists within the broad superstructure of the Christian church in the United States.  If the New Calvinism’s anti-institutional ethos continues, it will eventually dismantle itself from the inside.  Of course, this is not to say that institutionalism is without its own problems; rather, it is only to point out that the New Calvinism will not survive long term if its anti-institutional character remains unchallenged.

The New Calvinism Going Forward

Now it is necessary to explore a few ways in which the New Calvinism can mature moving forward.  Perhaps the weakest overall aspect of the New Calvinism is a deficient understanding of ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church.  There is a healthy emphasis on expository preaching in the movement overall, but there is an underdeveloped theology of the importance of and participation in the local church.  The Internet has provided a plethora of resources which have served to make the New Calvinism even more popular in the current cultural climate, but one of the unintended consequences of this is that there is a particularly low view of local church participation.  Since abundant resources can be found on the Internet, many people think of local church attendance and involvement as optional rather than as critical to Christian discipleship and formation.  If the New Calvinism is to continue to develop and mature, an increased understanding of ecclesiology is vital to its growth.

One of the positive features of the New Calvinism is an emphasis on missions: local and overseas, short term and long term.  Piper probably had a significant role to play in this since his book Let the Nations Be Glad! is a bestseller.  Missions is a popular preaching theme of Piper and of such New Calvinists as David Platt and Matt Chandler.  The reason for this certainly is because of the New Calvinism’s emphasis on the centrality and authority of Scripture, but also it should be mentioned that the sovereignty of God compels missionaries forward.  Historically, Calvinists and the Reformed have been at the very forefront of missions, believing that God has ordained means to accomplish his ordained ends.  The New Calvinism, following in these theological footsteps, would do well to continue the good work which has already begun.   

As it stands now, it is somewhat “cool” to be a New Calvinist.  There is a relatively accurate stereotype regarding the New Calvinism that it consists only of intellectuals who desire to be different and cool and therefore left evangelicalism to be a part of the young, restless, and Reformed.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with that desire, the New Calvinists would do well to remember that historically the Christian church has typically grown in the midst of persecution and adversity, not popularity and approval.  One imagines that the New Calvinism will not always be the newest, and therefore most attractive, theological movement in the coming generations, and in some ways it might be necessary for the New Calvinists to prepare themselves for life on the far side of popularity.

Perhaps the most important move that the New Calvinists could make would be to embrace the historic Reformed confessions, either in the form of the Westminster Standards or in the Three Forms of Unity.  A great many theological battles have already been fought and won in the history of the Christian church, and the New Calvinists would do well to recognize that the Reformed confessions are waiting to be adopted by them.  Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel at every turn, the Reformed confessions present an entire body of theological excellence which has stood the test of time.  If the New Calvinism has any desire to make a long term impact, surely they must consider adopting the Reformed confessions which have demonstrated both their effectiveness and their usefulness for centuries.

Conclusion

The New Calvinism is a theological movement which grew out of the inability of evangelicalism to answer the most significant questions people had regarding Scripture and Christian theology.  The New Calvinists are set apart by certain distinctives such as an emphasis on the supremacy, sovereignty, and glory of God in salvation, consistently expressed in the doctrines of grace.  But the New Calvinism is not without its problems.  If the movement is to continue to be successful for generations to come, it must seek to address these fundamental problems and find a way to remedy them.

Finally, it is only fitting to conclude with a brief word regarding the glory of God.  If the New Calvinists are to maintain their popularity and growth, they must always and in every place remain committed to the glory of God in, through, and over all things.  God does everything for his own glory, and all things ultimately redound to God’s glory.  Everything that exists does so because the infinitely supreme triune God decided that he would glorify himself by its existence.  The New Calvinists repeatedly emphasize this theme, and they would do well to continue to do this.  Even theology must be done in a way that brings glory to God and does not bring any glory to the theologian, for God will not give his glory to another (cf. Isaiah 42:8).  What this means for the New Calvinists is that ultimately their focus should not be on growth or popularity at all; rather, their focus should be exclusively on the glory of God.  This might mean that the movement shrinks significantly, losing members who do not necessarily like the message that God is uppermost in his own affections.  Yet the New Calvinists should be humble and bold to declare these truths from the pulpit, in the Bible studies, with their friends and families, in evangelism, over the dinner table, and anywhere else they might find themselves.  In the end, the New Calvinism must realize that it is not about any one theological movement at all.  Ultimately, all things are about the supremacy of the majesty of the infinitely beautiful God who made the heavens and the earth for his own glory.  This God, who is sovereign in both nature and grace, is the primary reality of all existence.  As Piper says, “nothing is more basic and nothing is more ultimate than the fact that God is.”[21]  May the New Calvinism be always and forever utterly committed to the God is absolutely is.


[1] C.H. Spurgeon, A Defence of Calvinism (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 5.

[2] Collin Hansen, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

[3] J.I. Packer and Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 116.

[4] Spurgeon, A Defence of Calvinism, 15.

[5] The parenthetical note is a common claim in Reformed circles, the precise truthfulness of which need not be explored in the current study due to constraints of both space and relevance.

[6] Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 19.

[7] John Piper, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997); Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010); The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015); Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2005).

[8] Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 9.

[9] Ibid., 15.

[10] John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2011), 32.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 41.

[13] John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000).

[14] See John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998) which contains a full reprint of Jonathan Edwards’ A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, complete with commentary and footnotes from Piper.

[15] John Piper, A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 13.

[16] Ibid., 15.

[17] Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 3.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008), 42.

[20] John Piper, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2013), 8.

[21] John Piper, Doctrine Matters (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2013), 4.


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