Paul's Passing Thoughts

New Calvinism and Hotel California

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 9, 2012

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax,” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave.”

Eagles: “Hotel California”

The stories of Christians having trouble leaving New Calvinist churches are commonplace now.  I continue to implore people to educate themselves and stay clear of New Calvinist churches. “Yes, but we are just visiting while we check things out.” That’s even a problem—New Calvinists believe they have authority over anybody that enters their neck of the woods. In one case, the husband of a member, who made it a point not to join, was threatened with church discipline. When I met with him, he shared how his family couldn’t believe the elders of that church would attempt such a thing, and then said he doubted that I would believe him as well. I assured him that I was fully confident that it happened.

In most New Calvinist churches, vacating church membership is not at will. In other words, you are required to have a “biblical reason” for moving your membership. Because New Calvinists think they have the only true gospel, they are compelled to have a say in what church you join; ie, is it “gospel-centered,” “gospel-driven”? At times, I find myself counseling people on how to leave a New Calvinist church without turmoil. Leaving a New Calvinist church because of doctrinal reasons will almost always be extremely stressful on your family.

One family I counseled had a very legitimate reason for leaving a New Calvinist church; to help start another church, but the timing was a coincidence, they were on their way out of there for doctrinal reasons anyway. I implored them to only use the positive reason for their departure and they listened to me. But even with that, things got really creepy. The church elders made much ado with a going away party and so forth while claiming that the work the family was leaving for was one of their church plants! I then implored this family to let it go and not make an issue over it. On that, they didn’t listen, and demanded that the elders remove information on the churches website that stated the work as being one of their church plants.

Thankfully, the elders complied and it turned out well. However, some months later, the departing family posted a comment on their Facebook account that offended one of the elders of the former church. The elder then contacted the family and wanted to meet with them. I straightaway warned the family to not host such a meeting as in these situations, New Calvinist elders think they still have authority to bring former members up on church discipline. They listened, and refused to meet with “him”—it is my contention that more than one elder would have shown up. This family saved themselves much grief and turmoil in how they dealt with their departure, but some kind of drama always arises when leaving a New Calvinist church. It is also telling in regard to what one of the elders said to this family when they initially told them they were leaving to start another work: “We would never prevent you from leaving for that reason.” Oh really? How graceful of them!

In yet another situation, a parishioner who was meeting an elder for breakfast every Monday morning informed the elders that he was leaving. Their response was, “You can’t leave right now, you are meeting with an elder about sin issues.” Actually, they were meeting primarily in regard to doctrinal differences. But you must understand—to New Calvinist elders—to disagree with them is a sin issue. The parishioner told them to go fly a kite and the elders then proceeded with church discipline. When the parishioner told them he would be at the worship service with bells on to confront them in front of the congregation—they backed down.

Many more outrageous stories could be told here, but what drives this cultish behavior? It is the whole Reformation/Gospel recovery motif that New Calvinists are rabid about. Worse yet, the movement draws a lot of impressionable young men who are given to arrogance and visions of grandeur to begin with.  New Calvinism is endowed with fundamental elements that tend to breed cultism. The following excerpts can be found  between pages 131 and 134 in The Truth About New Calvinism:

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…..

Due to the fact that their gospel is “unadjusted,” “underestimated,” and “scandalous,” the attitude is that parishioners need to be spoon-fed the elements of this doctrine until they are “ready” for the full truth. This makes detection very difficult because most of the theological terms are the same by name, but mean different things to the New Calvinists. Couple that with the fact that most of Christianity is unaware of New Calvinism’s doctrine because the movement has had no single focal point in which all of its elements could be identified as one until 2008. That’s when the “New Calvinism” nomenclature began to emerge. 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.

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.

Mirrors on the ceiling,

The pink champagne on ice

And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

And in the master’s chambers,

They gathered for the feast

They stab it with their steely knives,

But they just can’t kill the beast

2 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 14, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch and commented:

    Add your thoughts here… (optional)


  2. Anthony B. Badger said, on July 15, 2020 at 6:16 PM

    I have never seen a better description of a cult than New Calvinism. In my book, Confronting Calvinism, I describe Calvinists as a remnant of Gnosticism. They have “higher knowledge” that makes one acceptable to the club. Compare that to another cult:Mormonism. Anthony Badger


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