Paul's Passing Thoughts

New Calvinism’s Replacement of the New Birth with Pagan Philosophy

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on October 13, 2014

PPT HandleOriginally posted March 8, 2012

We can rest assured that our Father doesn’t want us to be confused. He gave us a brain and is honored when we use it, but know this: He doesn’t want us to use it to vet every theory running amuck in the world regarding the meaning of life. His word to us is clear: we have His Spirit; we are not to be deceived; test every spirit; and we have all that is needed to be fully equipped for every good work. But according to New Calvinist David Powlison, the church forgets stuff. Therefore, it needs a research and development purpose to rediscover lost truth and apply it. Buyers beware; you only need to follow the money.

As stated in The Truth About new Calvinism, it all boils down to the enemy’s agenda: 1) keep people out of the kingdom 2) deceive kingdom citizens into living spiritually anemic lives 3) which leads to a lack of testimony and thereby facilitates purpose number one. If the kingdom of darkness couldn’t keep you out, it can at least use you to keep others out. And we only need to examine that in context of what worked so well: “Did God really say….”  The apostle Paul warned us many times in regard to being led away from the truth by vain philosophies.

New Calvinism is a reductionist theology. Reductionism is two-fold. First, in an attempt to make much of God’s grace and little of man’s efforts, the role of man is reduced as much as possible in theological systems. Secondly, this entails diminishing the primary instrument for man’s participation in God’s work—the law. Therefore, something needs to be done about the new birth because it implies the ability to participate in upholding God’s law in sanctification. New Calvinists have several different ways of denying the new birth; this post is about what they replace it with.

The primary tenet of New Calvinism is the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us as developed by the Australian Forum, a think tank for the Progressive Adventist Movement. One reader commented in regard to part 5 of the New Calvinism for Dummies video series:

One of the things that popped into my mind when you were talking about “objective” and it occurring outside ourselves. It also seems like the NC is inviting the person to stepoutside themselves to be an observer of themselves. Like they are being invited to emotionally remove themselves from who they are, becoming the unemotional observer, which would also lead to some coldheartedness. With the emotions corralled, as such, it just sort of reminds me of Spock on Star Trek.

That’s a good assessment, and speaks to the fact that New Calvinists are very coldhearted and indifferent, also lacking in having a sense of justice about them. That’s one of the bad results of partaking in anti-word philosophies:

….and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of anomia, the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:11,12).

Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law (Psalm 119:70).

The centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (COGOUS) is the mainframe that holds all of the various movements within New Calvinism together and gives it a hyper-ecumenical flare. The various groups within New Calvinism all have their own way of making this doctrine work with real life, but the overall goal of the doctrine is the same: gospel contemplationism leading to a passive manifestation of a realm. This is merely a device of the only primary goal of the kingdom of darkness from the beginning of redemptive history; specifically, “Has God really said.” It is meant to divert God’s people from Christ’s simple counsel:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).

If every verse in the Bible is about what Christ has done and not what he SAYS; ie, “these words of mine,” biblical wisdom for kingdom living is circumvented. Secondly, if our only “do[ing]es” is a passive yielding to a realm, the kind of intentional application of God’s word  necessary for a life built on a rock is also circumvented. This will lead to the circumvention of Christ’s goal stated in Matthew chapter five:

14  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Therefore, the simple biblical approach of learn/hear>>>obey>>>God glorified, must be replaced with a more passive formula. Opponents of the biblical model would say they only want to exclude man’s efforts so God will get all of the glory, resulting in contemplation/meditation>>>_________>>>God’s works manifested, not ours. The blank is filled in by various and sundry techniques which New Calvinists point to. This often confuses the real issue. But getting back to the main point, the new birth must be refuted because it makes the contra formula possible. And because the latter formula is reductionist and narrow, it must be embellished. Hence, Christian Hedonism, Heart Theology, unbiblical forms of prayer, Neuro-Linguistic-Programming, reorientation of desires, etc, etc. This is vital in selling the product because we were created for work (you know, feet, hands, stuff like that), and passive theologies therefore contradict the conscience. So the blank between meditation and work must be filled in with some plausible stuff that sounds good. Please note: I am stating all of this in context of sanctification. COGOUS>>>life application>>>manifestation of works verses new birth>>>learn and apply>>>obedience.

Furthermore, the application must not only supply a feasible life application, but must also appeal to human desire. This brings us back to the astute comment by the aforementioned reader. This whole idea of COGOUS giving one the ability to step outside of themselves and be an observer of their own life. Some would call this Nature/Freedom philosophy; this is the freedom from the laws of nature, and in the case of New Calvinism, God’s written law as well. There is no better way to demonstrate this than by a quote from one of the most popular New Calvinist articles ever written:

What, then, is the subjective power of this message? Firstly, we find that there is real, objective freedom, the kind that, yes, can be experienced subjectively. We are freed from having to worry about the legitimacy of experiences; our claims of self-improvement are no longer seen as a basis of our witness or faith. In other words, we are freed from ourselves, from the tumultuous ebb and flow of our inner lives and the outward circumstances; anyone in Christ will be saved despite those things. We can observe our own turmoil without identifying with it. We might even find that we have compassion for others who function similarly. These fluctuations, violent as they might be, do not ultimately define us. If anything, they tell us about our need for a savior.

Secondly, this freedom gives us permission to confront and confess our pain. We can look our self-defeating and regressive tendencies in the eye for once. We no longer have to pretend to be anything other than what the Gospel tells us we are: hopeless sinners in need of mercy. Honesty and repentance go hand in hand – freedom puts us on our knees, where we belong. A subjective Gospel turns repentance into a frightening affair, evidence that God is far away from us. An objective Gospel provides the assurance that actually produces repentance, forging the pathway to the place where we find forgiveness and redemption. We can finally grasp hold of the truth that it is always better to be sorry than to be safe. The pastoral implications for marriage alone are staggering.

(David Zahl and Jacob Smith: Mockingbird blog, “The Subjective Power Of  An Objective Gospel”).

I think this quotation says it all. It is a freedom from obedience to the law (because we are totally depraved sinners that can’t keep it anyway), freedom from consequences, and supplies a mentality that we can use to detach ourselves from the burdens of life. It is Nature Freedom philosophy to the max and could be accompanied by the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin:

Here is a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don’t worry be happy

In every life we have some trouble

When you worry you make it double

Don’t worry, be happy……

Ain’t got no place to lay your head

Somebody came and took your bed

Don’t worry, be happy

The land lord say your rent is late

He may have to litigate

Don’t worry, be happy

Look at me I am happy

Don’t worry, be happy

Here I give you my phone number

When you worry call me

I make you happy

Don’t worry, be happy

Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style

Ain’t got not girl to make you smile

But don’t worry be happy

Cause when you worry

Your face will frown

And that will bring everybody down

So don’t worry, be happy (now)…..

There is this little song I wrote

I hope you learn it note for note

Like good little children

Don’t worry, be happy

Listen to what I say

In your life expect some trouble

But when you worry

You make it double

Don’t worry, be happy……

Don’t worry don’t do it, be happy

Put a smile on your face

Don’t bring everybody down like this

Don’t worry, it will soon past

Whatever it is

Don’t worry, be happy

….because everything that matters is outside of you—the cross. Just sit back and let life make the cross bigger; stop trying to be the gospel instead of living the gospel by faith alone. That’s one of the many allurements of New Calvinism, but primarily, it’s a theological framework that allows us to fill in the practical application line in any way we would like to. And we like that.


12 Responses

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  1. Carmen S. said, on October 13, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    Please, repost ‘New Calvinism For Dummies’ video series! I googled it after seeing it referenced in this post. Very helpful in understanding how Calvinists apply this philosophy, which is still something I can’t wrap my mind around. It’s a fatalism? Escapism? I don’t want to be freed from myself. I don’t want to contemplate. I want to be equipped to fight the good fight.


  2. Carmen S. said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    Let’s see if I’m finally catching on. I’m supposed to ask, “What does this look like?” instead of “How’s that workin’ for ya?”


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:19 PM

      Or “How do we do that?”


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM

      At Clearcreek Chapel, the “pastors” used to call each other out for using the word, “do.”


  3. Carmen S. said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    But that is my number one question! How do you DO gospel contemplation? John Piper gave an example in his book ‘Don’t Waste Your Cancer’. When the doctor said, “I think we need to do a biopsy.”, Piper quoted to himself 1 Thess. 5:9-10. Instant peace like a river. So the formula is to quote Scripture to yourself?


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Not exactly, it is “seeing the saving works of Jesus in all of the Bible.”


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      …the Bible helps you put yourself in the cross narrative–your cancer now becomes your bearing of the cross.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      …viz, “living a gospel-centered life.” Viz, “walking in the shadow of the cross.”


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      Viz, whatever happens is your preordained sanctification. To work at change instead of seeing Christ in any event, you are creating your own reality instead of professing the life Christ has preordained for you. Horton et al call it “the divine drama.”


  4. Carmen S. said, on October 13, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    How will I know if the essential elite have entered into this divine drama or only expect this of me, the lowly pewsitter? They talk the talk, but do they have to walk the walk?


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