Since Dee and I began our investigation of the “New Calvinists”, we have become increasingly concerned that this hot new theological movement may have a very serious downside, namely, hero worship. We are becoming extremely familiar with the leaders of this movement because their names and faces seem to be everywhere on the internet, among other places. You likely know them, too. Let’s begin with the Fab Four of “Together for the Gospel” aka T4G – Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and C.J. Mahaney, not to be confused with those whom we call the Fab Five (the Fort Lauderdale Five of the 1970s Shepherding Movement who were Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Don Basham, and Ern Baxter).
Al Mohler serves as President of the SBC’s flagship seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a board member of Focus on the Family. He also is a member of the governing body of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is housed at SBTS. The CBMW web site is being re-constructed at this time. Ligon Duncan, who hails from the Presbyterian Church of America, serves as President, and Chairman of the Council, of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and as Chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is also a Council Member of the Gospel Coalition.
Mark Dever serves as senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and is the founder of 9 Marks. He is a Council Member of the Gospel Coalition and serves on the Council for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Rounding out the Fab Four is C.J. Mahaney, who heads up Sovereign Grace Ministries, is Vice-Chairman of CBMW, is a Council Member for the Gospel Coalition and serves on the Council for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Now you know how these guys have gotten to know each other so well.
Here are some of the other leaders of the “New Calvinists”, not in any particular order. There’s Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Joshua Harris, and Matt Chandler. I know I’m leaving some out. Sorry!
Recently, we discovered that Carl Trueman, a Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, is also concerned about what’s happening in the “New Calvinist” movement. He wrote an excellent article in September 2009 entitled “The Nameless One”, which can be found at this link:
If you are enamored with the New Calvinists, please take the time to read Trueman’s article. He begins by explaining that in recent months he has been asked what he thinks about the young, restless, and reformed (YRR) movement. While he is overjoyed by the positive aspects of this movement — that more Christians are reading their Bibles, going to church to hear the gospel preached, and studying the writings of the reformers (Calvin, Owen, etc.) — he is beginning to realize there may be some “shortcomings and potential pitfalls”.
Trueman writes: “One striking and worrying aspect of the movement is how personality oriented it is. It is identified with certain big names, rather than creeds, confessions, denominations, or even local congregations.”
“Yet the hype surrounding today’s leaders of the YRR movement far outstrips anything these earlier heroes enjoyed in their lifetime; indeed, Luther never became rich, despite his great stature, and never headed up a ministry named after himself, or posted a fee-schedule for speaking engagements on his website.”
Trueman explains that Martin Luther had to work as a gardener and carpenter to make ends meet during the Reformation. He also explains that neither Owen, Edwards, or Spurgeon ever enjoyed the “good life”.
Here’s how Carl Trueman explains the potential pitfalls of the YRR movement:
“The significance of the leaders of the YRR movement, however, seems less like that of ages past and at times more akin to the broader cultural phenomenon of the modern cult of celebrity, a kind of sanctified Christian equivalent of the secular values that surround us.”
Trueman goes on to name the world’s celebrities: Brad, Angelina, Tom, Barak, etc., and explains that the Christian world has its celebrities, too. Then he then hints of the idolatry described in 1 Corinthians 1.
Here are quotes from Trueman’s article that I found thought-provoking:
“The supply side economics of the YRR movement is also worrying here, as it can easily foster such idolatry by building up a leader’s importance out of all proportion to his talent.”
“Carrying on from the danger of personality cults, part of me also wonders if the excitement surrounding the movement is generated because people see that Reformed theology has intrinsic truth or because they see that it works, at least along the typical American lines of numbers of bodies on seats (in Britain, we’d say ‘bums on seats’…)”
“Finally, I worry that a movement built on megachurches, megaconferences, and megaleaders does the church a disservice in one very important way that is often missed amid the pizzazz and excitement: it creates the idea that church life is always going to be big, loud, and exhilarating, and thus gives church members and ministerial candidates unrealistic expectations of the normal Christian life.”
Trueman then explains that in the real world many of us worship in churches of 100 people or less, and church for most of us is rather routine and ordinary. All the hype will inevitably lead to disappointment.
The concluding paragraph of Trueman’s article begins as follows:
“Ultimately, only the long term will show if the YRR movement has genuinely orthodox backbone and stamina, whether it is inextricably and inseparably linked to uniquely talented leaders, and whether ‘Calvinism is cool’ is just one more sales pitch in the religious section of the cultural department store. If the movement is more marketing than reality, then ten to fifteen years should allow us to tell. If it is still orthodox by that point, we can be reasonably sure it is genuine.”
Our question about the YRR movement is this: just who is being glorified – God or man? We can be so idolatrous. That’s why God’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” For those of you who are caught up in the YRR movement, it’s just something to think about…