Cluelessness Saves Southern Baptist Pastors From New Calvinist Heretic David Platt
New Calvinism is a resurgence of authentic Calvinism. Since its conception during the so called “Reformation,” authentic Calvinism dies a social death from time to time because of the spiritual tyranny that its basic philosophy produces. Most of the rediscovery/resurgence movements of the past since authentic Calvinism died out after the Reformation have made little impact on Christianity. However, Calvinism Light (sanctified Calvinism) is left behind to live on after these movements die. When resurgence happens, the sanctified Calvinists actually take offence, not realizing that they are not really authentic Calvinists. Authentic Reformation theology in the vein of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, is gross heresy. It is a works salvation with Gnosticism as its practical application. This also contributes to its eventual demise, but this takes a while because Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were masters of nuance and using familiar terms to articulate their doctrine.
The rediscovery movement that has become New Calvinism is different. Robert Brinsmead, the father of contemporary New Calvinism, argued that the recovery movements of the past failed due to a lack of systemization. Three other Reformed theologians agreed, and they started a theological think tank (the Australian Forum and its theological journal, Present Truth Magazine) to prepare the doctrine for a proper launching. That was in 1970, when the doctrine was originally known as the centrality of the objective gospel completely outside of us and New Covenant Theology. NCT took a brutal beating in Reformed Baptist circles and caused a split in at least one convention. Eventually, the doctrine was only represented by about twenty churches in those circles. However, the doctrine found new life in Presbyterian circles as Sonship Theology. Nevertheless, Sonship experienced a severe pushback by sanctified Calvinists in Presbyterian circles and was forced underground in circa 2000. It was renamed, “Gospel Transformation” and experienced massive growth between 2000 and 2004.
In 2004, the fallout from its tyranny became more evident, but no one could identify the doctrine. It was coined “Gospel Sanctification” by a small group of protestants including Dr. Jay E. Adams. But its influence and controversy continued to expand and the whole world started taking note when it was dubbed “New Calvinism” in 2008. Like the prior rediscovery movements, it has spawned a massive wave of spiritual abuse in the church under the auspices of several different sub movements such as Patriarchy and the Shepherding Movement. New Calvinists have also reached back into history and revived movements that were based on authentic Calvinism and brought them back into the fold. The whole thing is a perfect storm of mystical despotism dressed in orthodoxy. Robert Brinsmead was right; the movement needed the systematic touch.
In 1981, a Presbyterian started an organization for the sole purpose of taking over the Southern Baptist Convention with this doctrine, and today that organization is known as Founders Ministries. Until last week’s controversy concerning one of the speakers at the annual SBC Pastors Conference, authentic Calvinist heretic David Platt, I was convinced that the SBC was doomed to be taken over by this doctrine. But the response by 80% of the pastors who attended has given me great comfort. Per the normal, my beloved Southern Baptist brethren are too theologically illiterate to be led astray by a false doctrine. Their utter incompetence is demonstrated by the fact that heretics such as Platt could even be invited to speak at such a conference, and the additional fact that the flagship seminary of the SBC is run by New Calvinist “Big Al” Mohler.
Platt dissed the Sinner’s Prayer in his message, calling it “superstitious and unbiblical.” His particular beef with the prayer is the concept of “accepting Jesus into our hearts.” Platt’s message was full of nuanced and peculiar use of the English language, including the misidentification of subjects and objects, and turning verbs into adjectives, which should have begged the question: “What is this guy’s particular beef with the Sinner’s Prayer?” But my beloved Southern Baptists didn’t even blink, and did what I can always count on them doing lest they think below the surface of anything leading to possible deception; they focused on the ridicule of one of their sacred traditions. Thank goodness for that ole time religion. My dumbed down faithful brethren moved quickly to submit a resolution to the convention to confirm the validity of the Sinner’s Prayer. The resolution passed by more than 80%. Whew, that was a close one! Platt, apparently amazed at his inability to deceive them, responded to the clamor by saying that he wished he would have presented it differently. In other words, I think he meant that he wished he would have simplified it more. Platt need not worry; it wouldn’t have made any difference. I am now totally assured that my brothers are safe.
Actually, Platt’s problem with “asking/accepting Jesus in our hearts” is directly related to authentic Calvinism’s rejection of the new birth. Classic: one of the rising stars in the SBC, like Big Al, rejects the new birth, but how dare them diss the Sinner’s Prayer! You see, authentic Calvinism borrows the Platonist concept of emphasis. Though shadows are true, they are only a result of the sun’s true reality. Therefore, to emphasize shadows is to reject the only thing that can truly give life—the sun. Shadows can’t give life, only the sun’s light can. Since authentic Calvinism believes that life only comes from meditating on the works of Christ outside of us, an emphasis on the new birth, which is inside us, is to emphasize the result of Christ’s works and not Christ himself. So, to the degree that we focus on regeneration, we take away from the only thing that gives life: the personhood of Christ and His works. That is exactly what Platt’s beef is in regard to “accepting Jesus in our hearts.”
The crux of what Platt is really after was articulated by the Australian Forum. They dedicated a whole issue of their theological journal to The False Gospel of the New Birth. One article was titled as such. I will quote two members of the Australian Forum on this wise and throw in other quotes by contemporary New Calvinists as well:
“The false gospel of the new birth” imagines that the new birth refers primarily to what happens in the believer and that this is the greatest news in the world. This is classical Roman Catholicism. It teaches that a good thing is the best thing, that the work of the Spirit is greater than that of the Son. It takes the fruit of the gospel and elevates it over the root, which is the gospel. It confuses the effect of the gospel with the gospel itself.
~Geoffrey Paxton: Present Truth; The false Gospel of the New Birth Volume Thirty-Seven — Article 4
How can my life, my doing, be fruit and not root? The fruit of the tree of justification and not the root of justification? The fruit of God being on my side rather than the root of making God be on my side? How can it be the fruit of the Holy Spirit so that I’m acting in the power of another and not in my own power?
Bultmann’s existential gospel led him inevitably to a negative view of the Old Testament. And the new-birth oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism.1 [Goldsworthy’s footnote #1] (1 See Geoffrey J. Paxton, “The False Gospel of the New Birth,” Present Truth Magazine 7, no.3 (June 1978): 17-22).
~Graeme Goldsworth: Present Truth; Obituary for the Old Testament Volume Forty-One — Article 2
It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.
~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)
But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?
~ Michael Horton
As my lovely wife said in her first session at last week’s conference on spiritual tyranny:
By glazing over the finer details of Christianity and focusing on more moderate doctrines he [Billy Graham] made evangelism enticing, non-threatening, and easy to swallow, and in a lot of ways gave definition to easy believeism.
His mission to present the “gospel” and get people saved and on their way to heaven permeated the focus of many fundamental churches thereafter, particularly the Southern Baptist denomination with which Billy Graham was associated.
As a result of the success of Billy Graham, many other evangelists and pastors adopted and adapted his mode of operation in order to” bring in the sheaves.” This is often referred to as the first gospel wave that swept over America in the 50’s and continued on into the early 70’s.
Please do not misunderstand my opening remarks. The biographical remarks were taken from an article written of Billy Graham. We all believe that people were genuinely saved as a result of the ministry of Billy Graham; but I want to also say that many thought they were saved as a result of his ministry as well. Here’s the dilemma his type of evangelism created: a) genuine salvation experiences occurred and b) professions of salvation made but no outward change in living or life-style and c) lack of assurance of salvation as a result of poor follow-up and discipleship.
In my neck of the woods the “At least he is saved mentality” which the Billy Graham Association innocently created, helped people rationalize sinful lifestyles, make valid emotional experiences and equate them with regeneration, and issued “fire insurance” policy mentality amongst church going people. Just say the sinner’s prayer and you are guaranteed a home in heaven.
So, at least some people get saved, and they’re too doctrinally illiterate to be taken over by a movement that is completely of the devil.
Maybe it’s not all bad!