Paul's Passing Thoughts

Here We Go Again: The New Calvinist Takeover of Southwood Presbyterian Church; Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on November 18, 2011

“This issue couldn’t be clearer; there are two gospels among us, and New Calvinist David Powlison plainly said so accordingly. He even admitted that the notable Jay Adams doesn’t agree with his gospel. This should incite serious questions among God’s people….Southwood must choose their gospel and stand for it. What else is there?”

It plays out daily in the American church from coast to coast:

Therefore, the pattern is the same: new pastors assume leadership in a church that doesn’t know what New Calvinism is, and the church takes it for granted that their theology is orthodox. Then once in, they replace present leadership with those of like mind, and begin to make vast and rapid changes because they see that church as a bastion of falsehood that has sent many to hell. Then, dissenters are mercilessly mowed down and muzzled, usually via church discipline. In most cases, the dissenters don’t have a full understanding of what they are dealing with, they just know something isn’t right (The Truth About New Calvinism [TTANC] p. 134).

I don’t know any inside details concerning the present controversy at Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Some or all of the elements cited above from TTANC might be evident, but one thing is clear: a New Calvinist “pastor” recently assumed leadership, and the congregation has realized that he isn’t what he seemed to be. Less than a year after  assuming leadership, we read the following on their website:

November 17, 2011

To the members & friends of Southwood Presbyterian Church,

Last evening the Session of Southwood Presbyterian Church met again to consider the matters before the church. After much prayer from both the members of the Session and members of the congregation the Lord provided a decision with no dissension or abstention. The UNANIMOUS motion reads as follows:

“With repentance and conviction over our own personal and corporate sin, particularly for having stirred dissension with a premature motion delivered after Monday night’s meeting, the Session has met and deliberated further on the issues before our church. Having considered the breadth of the situation and our unified desire for the peace and purity of the church, the Session does hereby revise the purpose of the called congregational meeting to begin addressing the myriad of issues brought before us, including Jean F. Larroux, III, but we are not recommending the dissolution of the pastoral relationship with him at this meeting. Furthermore, we are in need of, thankful for and desirous to have further prayer from the congregation in all our deliberations.  Submitted by Bob Greenman, Clerk.”

The Session will meet again on Monday evening, November 21st and greatly desires your prayers and support for a continued spirit of unity and peace as we begin to make plans for addressing the myriad of issues before us. The called congregational meeting will be held on Sunday, December 4, 2011, in the sanctuary of Southwood Presbyterian Church commencing at 12:30pm.

God is at work. His Spirit is moving to bring forgiveness and healing. I personally urge you to work toward, pray for and labor after unity, charity and peace. Let your love be known among all men.

Yours and His,

Jean F. Larroux, III

Larroux is the pastor in question. A perusal of their website confirms that he is the epitome of New Calvinism. When the congregation brought him in to assume leadership, did they know what a New Calvinist is? No. Did Larroux know what a New Calvinist is? Yes. Did he know the congregation didn’t know what a New Calvinist is? Yes. Could I be wrong about these assumptions? I doubt it.

What Does Jean F. Larroux, III Represent?

So what’s a New Calvinist? As we shall see, they are legends in their own minds. The movement originated in 1970 when a Seventh-day Adventist named Robert Brinsmead met an Anglican theologian named Geoffrey Paxton in Australia. Brinsmead was attempting to reform Adventism through his studies in Reformed doctrine. Together, they formed a theological think tank named the Australian Forum project. They were later joined by Graeme Goldsworthy who wrote the Goldsworthy Trilogy which is presently the New Calvinist standard for Bible interpretation (TTANC chapters 3 and 4).

The Forum’s magazine became the most widely publicized theological journal among English speaking people (one edition had over one million copies printed), and caught the attention of a Westminster graduate by the name of Jon Zens in the early 70’s. He joined the Forum’s efforts to formulate their central doctrine into a consistent systematic theology. Their primary doctrine that was the hub of everything they taught was called the centrality of the objective gospel (COG).  The doctrine fused justification and sanctification together into a progressive justification that replaced sanctification. Zens helped to form a systematic theology that would attempt to make the issues of law and covenants fit with COG doctrine. Today, that doctrine is known as New Covenant Theology (TTANC chapter 5).

The Forum had vast influence at Westminster Seminary during the 70’s and early 80’s. A professor there by the name of Dr. John Miller adapted COG into a doctrine that emphasized more of a counseling model. He dubbed it “Sonship Theology.” His understudies were Tim Keller and David Powlison. Powlison used Sonship/COG to mold his Dynamics of Biblical Change which is the counseling model for Westminster’s CCEF. Two of Powlison’s understudies, Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane, articulated the doctrine in How People Change, published by Punch Press in 2006. The book fits the Forum’s COG doctrine to a “T.” Donn Arms (M.Div.) of INS recently wrote an unfavorable review of the book and pointed out its disturbing elements.

However, the doctrine experienced a heavy pushback among Presbyterians in 1996-1999, so the Sonship name was dropped and replaced with “Gospel Transformation.” Jay Adams, who wrote a book in contention against the doctrine when it was known as Sonship, thought the doctrine had faded away. Under its stealth era between 2000 and 2008, the movement’s growth exploded. In 2004, a small group of protestants which included Jay Adams dubbed the movement “Gospel Sanctification.” Jay Adams has a GS archives on his blog and has written against it extensively.  In 2008, the movement stumbled; it accepted the label “New Calvinism” which was coined by journalist Collin Hansen. New Calvinism is: COG, NCT, GS, and Sonship. It’s all the same doctrine

Visions of Grandeur    

As stated in TTANC:

And New Calvinists are no exception, starting with their primary deception that must necessarily lead to arrogance. They believe they are a new Reformation and have the true gospel, and evangelicalism at large has been propagating a false gospel for the past 100 years. This line of thought and the specific differences in the two gospels can be seen in the following statement by New Calvinist Tullian Tchividjian:

“As I’ve said before, I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ‘the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.’ As Tim Keller explains it, the gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.”

Notice that Tchividjian refers to the other camp as the “vast majority” of other Christians who don’t believe in New Calvinism’s sanctification by justification gospel. The Major themes of a New Calvinist biannual convention, Together for the Gospel (T4G) have been “the unadjusted gospel” and “the underestimated gospel.” A popular phrase among them in the blogsphere has been the “scandalous gospel.” Regarding the thesis of this book, their gospel makes much of God and little of Man by reducing our role in God’s work to the least common denominator, but they have done that so well, that much is being made of the men who have done such a good job of making much of God. The four men who founded T4G, a Presbyterian, two Southern Baptists, and a Charismatic, have been dubbed the “core four” and have a cult following that approaches creepiness.

This whole Reformation motif was started by the Forum which taught that all doctrines either fall into the objective gospel or subjective experience. Subjective spirituality was supposedly spawned by Rome and resulted in a reversal of justification and sanctification. Therefore, the Reformers rediscovered the objective gospel which ignited the Reformation, and also taught that the job wasn’t done (semper reformanda), and you can imagine who contemporary New Calvinists think that duty has fallen to. This is all covered in chapter four along with documentation concerning the fact that John Piper, one of the “elder statesmen” of the New Calvinist movement agrees with that scenario. This us against them mentality was passed down from the Forum and blossoms in the movement to this very day. They are the children of the Reformers—we are Rome.

And this arrogance translates into a predominant characteristic of New Calvinism: heavy-handed leadership style. As far as New Calvinists are concerned, evangelicals have been leading people into hell for the past 100 years (their estimation of when semper reformanda was lost) and any interference with the “unadjusted gospel” will be dealt with—no holds barred. The weapon of choice is church discipline (pages 130, 131).

The Two Gospels of Our Day

 There are two gospels afoot in our day, and those doctrines can be defined by the contention between two notable men:

The crux of the matter can be further ascertained from Powlison’s message at Piper’s church as mentioned before:

“ This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in.  Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that.”

At the core of a longstanding contention between Jay Adams and the CCEF clan, and later NANC also because of CCEF influence, was disagreement on the gospel. The distinction cannot be clearer—Adams believes that the gospel is for salvation, and then we move on in making disciples by teaching them to observe the whole counsel of God. Powlison, according to Westminster’s version of the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which is Sonship Theology, believes the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us. Powlison also mentioned the phrase that Miller coined that is the motto of contemporary New Calvinism: We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day (TTANC pages 81, 82).

What’s at Stake?

The truth and many other issues are at stake here, but one of the major concerns is the fact that New Calvinism has a tendency to create cult-like churches:

All this leads to many New Calvinist churches taking on cult-like tendencies. Exclusiveness (new Reformation), an attitude that some higher knowledge is a part of the movement that many are not “ready” for (the scandalous gospel), and a subjective view of Scripture (a gospel narrative, not instruction) is a mixture that will have bad results, and is the perfect formula for a cult-like church (TTANC p. 134).

And endnote 104:

Many New Calvinist churches fit all eight descriptive  points published by cultwatch.com: 1. Deception 2. Exclusiveness 3. Intimidation  4. Love Bombing  5. Relationship Control 6. Information Control 7. Reporting Structure 8. Time Control (p. 145).

And Larroux is no exception. The Southwood  website and blog is saturated with examples of how New Calvinists control parishioners with their doctrines of deep repentance and  the total depravity of the saints. Donn Arms addresses these doctrines in some detail in his book review of How People Change. Frankly, Larroux’s writings on this site are so saturated with this doctrine—I don’t even know where to start. That’s why this post will be a series until their December meeting.

Unlike Coral Ridge, perhaps Southwood parishioners can at least know the details of why they are being ravaged rather than being led to the slaughter like oxen. I can at least do that for them. One can toss a dart onto the Southwood website and nail verbiage by Larroux that is designed to control and manipulate—it’s everywhere, whether putting God’s stamp of approval on everything he does or this: “Would you trust him to determine whether or not you were in sin EVEN IF you didn’t think you were?” Notice that the authority here is what an elder or someone else sees in your life and not Scripture. Sonshippers call this “speaking life into you,” a phrase that I saw being used on the site at least once by Larroux. I also noticed that those who questioned Larroux’s fitness to lead Southwood are the ones who are now repenting. This is typical. I warn the Southwood  parishioners, I know of  New Calvinist congregations that will barley even buy new cloths without consulting with the elders first.

Southwood Must Choose a Gospel and Contend for It

It is evident, based on what I have read on their blog, that Larroux is controlling the agenda in this situation:

God is at work. His Spirit is moving to bring forgiveness and healing. I personally urge you to work toward, pray for and labor after unity, charity and peace. Let your love be known among all men.

Oh really? Per the usual, New Calvinist “pastors” have a direct line to God’s throne. Southwood better wise-up, this isn’t a time for peace and unity at Southwood, this is a time to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. This is like one of the seven letters; if anything, Christ has something against Southwood because they are tolerating false doctrine.

This issue couldn’t be clearer; there are two gospels among us, and New Calvinist David Powlison plainly said so accordingly. He even admitted that the notable Jay Adams doesn’t agree with his gospel. This should incite serious questions among God’s people. Between Jean F. Larroux, III and Jay Adams, I can tell you where I would put my money; that’s a no-brainer. Southwood must choose their gospel and stand for it. What else is there?

paul

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13 Responses

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  1. gracewriterrandy said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Paul,

    You wrote: “The doctrine fused justification and sanctification together into a progressive justification that replaced sanctification. Zens helped to form a systematic theology that would attempt to make the issues of law and covenants fit with COG doctrine. Today, that doctrine is known as New Covenant Theology (TTANC chapter 5).”

    I have a deal for you that I don’t think you can refuse. I will promise never to post on your blog again, if you can produce a single quotation from a person who calls himself a New Covenant Theologian who states that justification and sanctification are fused and who believes in a “progressive justification” that replaces sanctification.

    I can hardly wait for you to post such a quotation. I don’t want to hear, “They don’t actually come out and say that.” If they believe it, they have said it somewhere. Now, produce the quote.

  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Randy,
    They don’t actually come out and say that. Neither do they plainly state that they believe Jesus obeys for us. And I am happy I can’t produce the quote: I would miss you too much.
    paul

  3. gracewriterrandy said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

    You are kidding, right?

    Randy

  4. gracewriterrandy said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

    BTW, wish me a Happy Birthday. I am a bit closer to heaven.

  5. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Randy,
    Happy Birthday, and Reisinger, Vos, and Jack Miller can’t wait to see you.

  6. gracewriterrandy said, on November 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the greeting. Ernie might not remember me and I don’t know the other two except for having read Vos.

  7. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    rgh,

    Your bravery in commenting publicly is to be commended. I know first hand what New Calvinist “elders” are willing to do to silence their critics. This ministry stands with you. In regard to: “The textbooks I am referring to are written by ‘Christians’ who prescribe tactics to ‘transition’ your church without the congregation being aware until it is too late to defend and save their church,” this ministry would be very interested in obtaining that information. Please forward it to pmd@inbox.com if you are willing.

    New Calvinists believe they are the new Reformers in the midst of a born again, synergistic sanctification dark age. They have been in takeover mode since 1980. In one case, a Presbyterian by the name of Ernest Reisinger became a Southern Baptist in order to start Founders Ministries which was founded for the sole purpose of taking over the SBC with this doctrine. The whole movement suffers from the effect of delusional visions of grandeur. Other than the fact that their doctrine is false and was propagated by a “Reformed” Seventh-day Adventist who is now an atheist, the movement is fraught with spiritual terrorists dressed in the demeanor of Mr. Rogers. They must be stopped.

    paul

  8. gracewriterrandy said, on November 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Rgh,

    I would be interested in knowing what you mean by “new age religion teaching.” I am deeply disturbed by the lack of doctrinal understanding i find among those who claim to be evangelical Christians, especially relative to some of the distinctions that came to greater light during the Protestant Reformation.

    Randy

  9. gracewriterrandy said, on November 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Paul,

    As you know, there are areas in which I disagree with Ernie Reisinger’s teaching, but I think you have misjudged his efforts in restoring the doctrines of grace among Southern Baptists. I don’t think there is any evidence that he wanted to hijack churches by surreptitious methods.

    If there is one church in the SBC that now holds to the doctrines of sovereign grace that wouldn’t apart from his efforts, I think he should have our gratitude. If some have chosen to employ unscrupulous methods in their attempts to commandeer the control of churches, I don’t think we should blame that on him.

    I will email you soon.

    Randy

  10. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 20, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Randy,
    Got your emails: give some time to carefully consider them.
    paul

  11. gracewriterrandy said, on November 20, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Great Paul. I look forward to your answer. I just want you to know I am totally serious. My sole concern is the progress of the gospel.

  12. Anonymous said, on November 11, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    “I don’t know any inside details concerning the present controversy at Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama.” And that is where this article should have ended.

  13. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 11, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    You assume much Anon. Know it all much? In fact, there was a group of members who kept me very well informed on the inner details. Also, there was a person who ministered with this particular pastor before he came to Southwood that contacted us by email. His testimony was so shocking that I wouldn’t publish it based on one witness. However, I have strong circumstantial reasons to believe it to be true. The Presbyter has covered for this guy for years. Bottom line: Christians need to wake up and stop paying for this foolishness–we are not saved by allegiance to institutional tradition. Like all institutions that supposedly represent God, they are really nothing more than antinomian cartels dressed in Bible verses.


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