Paul's Passing Thoughts

Often Asked By Those Looking For a Church: How Do I Know If It Is New Calvinist Or Not?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 6, 2017

Originally published December 7, 2011


New Calvinism is not only dangerous to one’s soul, it is very subtle, and its proponents are deliberately covert. A post on what to look for is overdue, and my thanks to the reader who wrote and reminded me of this need. First, know this: in our day, New Calvinist churches will be the rule and not the exception. When you visit a church, assume that it is in the process of being taken over by New Calvinists, or has been in that camp completely for a period of time. Churches that have been solidly New Calvinist for a number of years will have cult-like characteristics.

Now, let me first begin my list by specifically answering the readers question and then I will expand from there: “….and would like to have a few questions to ask a Pastor to be able to know for sure if he is or is not in the NC camp by how the questions are answered.  At the top of your head what questions would you recommend be asked that would be very telling?”

1) The biggie: “What hermeneutic do you use when you are preaching? Do you use the grammatical historical hermeneutic, or the redemptive historical hermeneutic?” Whether the pastor is NC or not, a deer in the headlight look will follow because most parishioners of our day do not know any theology.  Think about it for a moment. These are two very different ways of approaching the Bible with the results being radically different; but yet, 99% of the parishioners out there have no idea which one their pastor uses.

GHH  seeks to be exegetic; all ideas about everything are drawn from the text. RHH has an eisegetic approach; the sole purpose of the Bible is to gain a deeper understanding of Christ. It is sometimes called the “Chrstocentric” hermeneutic.

If the pastor admits that he is RHH, he is a NC. If he becomes aloof, for example; “Well, why don’t you come and see what we are about at one of our services, and then if you still want to talk about theology, we can do that” (by the way, that’s an actual quote from a pastor in response to my question concerning his hermeneutics), he is suspect. If he claims to be both, he is also suspect. If he is NC, he will know the very second  you asked that question that he does not want you in his church.

2) Ask him who his favorite teachers are (you may want to word the question in a different way).  If aloofness follows, he is suspect. If his favorite teachers are the likes of John Piper et al, he is either undiscerning or NC. In other words, he’s suspect.

3) You can ask him about his view on obedience, but you have to ask it this way in order not to be roper-doped: “Does all legitimate obedience and duty come out of a deeper understanding of our salvation? And when it does, is it a ‘mere natural flow?’”

4) “Do you believe that we are sanctified (set apart) by contemplating the  gospel that saved us, or colaboring with the Holy Spirit in applying the word to our life.”

Bottom line: a skilled NC pastor can get around all of these questions except question number one. Even then, he can claim that he uses both hermeneutics.

Things to Look For

5) Is everything going on in the church about the gospel and Jesus? Is all of the music about redemption? Are all the messages about salvation, even though it’s a Christian setting? Is God the Father and the Holy Spirit rarely mentioned?

6) Another biggie: The missing transition communication technique in teaching and conversation. Like number one, this is huge. A message will begin with the subject of our Christian walk, but then will move into the subject of salvation without a transition in subject, as if the two are the same thing. Really, number one and number six are the most significant answers to the reader’s question.

7) The either/or communication technique, or the missing option C communication technique. The classic example is this prayer I heard spoken by a New Calvinist elder: “Lord, forgive us for obeying you in our own efforts.” The prayer insinuates that it’s either all of our effort, or all of something else that we don’t need forgiveness for. New Calvinists use this communication technique over a wide spectrum of teachings.

The Danger Zone

8.) Don’t forget, New Calvinist elders believe they have authority over you if you are a professing Christian and you are in their neck of the woods. Never, never, never, never meet with an elder or a group of elders ALONE. Never. And document everything. If you find yourself trying to ascertain where a church is doctrinally, and things are getting uncomfortable—that’s a New Calvinist church, or a cult, one or the other. Also, in this type of situation in a NC church, they consider these meetings to be steps of Matthew 18. They also consider any type of formal or informal counseling to be part of the discipline process. Regardless of whether you are a member or not, they will formally excommunicate you from the church universal in a Sunday morning service. And by the way, you have no legal grounds for a lawsuit in any state. Please, please, avoid these situations.

9) Watch for signs of exclusiveness; such as, “We preach the scandalous gospel,” ect. Or, “We teach this, as opposed to the ‘vast majority’ of other Christian churches.” “This is what makes us unique.” If you hear verbiage like this, gather your family and run for the nearest exit door. And don’t look back.

10) Watch out for love bombing. An overemphasis on love usually replaces things that are missing—like TRUTH! True loving relationships, even among Christians, are developed over time.

Also, in a NC church, if you are thought to be discerning, you may be approached by an elder with an unsolicited offer to “disciple” you on a weekly basis. This is more than likely for the purpose of neutralizing you as a threat. In many NC churches, this is considered counseling/discipline whether you are aware of it or not. It is known as “redemptive church discipline.” The goal is to bring you to a “redemptive” view of sanctification.


18 Responses

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  1. johnimmel said, on March 6, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    This is outstanding!

    For those of you curiously cautious about the church you are attending … you should read this every day before you go to work and then twice before you go to church on Sunday.

    But as a rule if you are attending an Evangelical church you are going to a New Calvinist church and as a rule if you are attending a Pentecostal/word of faith church it won’t be New Calvinist. (This last one is kinda tough because NC is making inroads into that church realm as well)

    Anyway . . .

    PPT readers ignore number 8 at your own pearl.
    Number 1 is dead on but a little esoteric. Most preachers in the pulpit won’t have a clue what grammatical historical hermeneutic this is. Most of them can’t spell Hermetic let alone understand what it means so expect 95% of them to hem and haw like they are learned but are actually clueless.

    Here is another way to identify the same information. Do they emphasize Orthodoxy and Reformed Theology? These are buzz words that you want to explore. Do they emphasize/venerate Martin Luther? Do they, in their private moments, when they want to sound learned say things like “I’m a 3.4 point Calvinist.” When they want to sound smarty pants do they talk about the Synod of Dort or the Westminster Confessions?

    Super sleuth that you are . . . the goal is identifying the direct theological pedigree. The challenge is . . . Calvinists love to redefine words so they get pretty slippery when you try to peg them down on the roots of their doctrine. They know that declaring fidelity to Calvin is a big problemo so they will hedge and twist to get away from the direct theological linage. But keep poking around and eventually the pedigree will show forth. If the theological progression goes “Orthodoxy” = Reformed Theology = Westminster Confession = Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion = Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation THERE IS NO WAY to escape the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic.

    And the more they try to evade the theological pedigree more the reveal themselves as a LIAR!

    PPT readers ignore number 8 at your own pearl.

    Number 2 the preacher might be smart enough to know that uttering John Piper’s name is too much information. So I would expand this list to include ANY reference to Matthew Henry’s commentary, A.W Tozer, or Charles Surgeon. Another method is to ask the preacher to recommend a good systematic theology book and if he says Wayne Grudem he is a JC acolyte. He MIGHT throw you a curve ball and say Millard Erickson. This is a tough one because Millard is considered very Calvinist lite but he is still presumes all of the root doctrines of Reformation theology.

    And if he pays homage to Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather or any 16th century Puritan thinker out loud RUN!

    PPT readers ignore number 8 at your own pearl.

    Number 9: Elitism. Amen and multiply by 50. For all of NC lip service to humility they are supremely arrogant when it comes to doctrinal purity. They are fully persuaded of their moral superiority. I understand intellectual confidence but the difference is the intellectually confident will engage objections. Their arrogance brooks ZERO challenge. So be forewarned … when you start poking around for the truth you WILL be called in for counseling.

    Which leads nicely to a point I’ve been making . . .

    PPT readers ignore number 8 at your own pearl.

    And if you have gotten all the way through Paul’s ten points and the Pastor is still being cagey ask him what he thinks of Charles Finney’s systematic theology. (if he hasn’t read it shame on him)

    Anyway . . . here is what will happen: Utter Charles name to a Calvinist is like draping your neck with garlic in front of Nosferatu. They will start frothing at the mouth and recoiling. Trust me … its true.

    PPT readers ignore number 8 at your own pearl.

    Number 11: I would add: If anyone on the pastoral staff did their M Div work at Dallas Theological or Fuller Seminary the Pastors in the church are already NC true believers or they are being converted with every passing week.

    And oh . . . lest anyone forget . . .

    PPT readers ignore number 8 at your own pearl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 6, 2017 at 11:29 AM


      Thank you as always for your outstanding commentary and insight.

      When I chose to repost this article I realized it was a bit dated (2011), because I think Paul will admit that at the time he wrote it he was still at the point where he thought that being in a “church” was the way to go, it just had to be the right kind of church.

      What a long way we have all come in such a short time!

      What we know now is that “church” IS the problem. Nevertheless, the article is still informative insofar as it is helpful in identifying the “marks” of a NC church, but I think that is as far as we should go with it. If you are a reader who has come to the point where you have identified these characteristics in your own church, my advice to you is to run for the door as fast as you can and never look back! Get out of the institutional church! Find other likeminded believers and start fellowshipping with them as God intended for His family!

      Liked by 1 person

    • John said, on March 6, 2017 at 5:25 PM

      Johnimmel, I am not sure if I’m sure, but do you think I should ignore number 8 at my own peril?


  2. John said, on March 6, 2017 at 11:46 AM

    Great list. People, please take note of the points!

    Look out for these things too, and, no, they’re not funny at all. I guarantee that.

    1) Their libraries; there are usually two in a Calvinist “church”: One with run-of-the-mill-poisonous Calvinist stuff, and then there’s the “John MacArthur Living Memorial Library” with all his nonsense and thumb-sucking, gnostic, mystical, pseudo-intelligent rubbish. This section includes DVDs, CDs, books, invites to conferences, etc., and a huge portrait or photograph of this wolf. (Think Hitler propaganda).

    2) The CCC (Calvin’s Coffee Corner). In the USA, they’ll serve you Starbucks, and in Canada, it’ll be Tim Hortons. The CCC also serves as a “Christian” pick-up place, and because these “churches” are extremely worldly despite their fake humility, you might just pick the wrong sort of woman there (like a stripper), at the counter, flipping through her iPad, reading her daily Grudem nonsense. The same warning to women: That self-observed hipster, sitting at the counter, admiring his soul patch and ripped jeans, might just be someone on some sort of sick list, like a Sex Offender Registry. Sprint to your vehicle.

    3) If ACBC “services” are advertised even before the first horrible Calvinist/Reformed song (The Gettys, LeCrae, Derek Webb, Caedmon’s Call, Blackball, Steve Camp, Precious Death, etc.) blasts from the speakers. In fact, if there is an ACBC connection anywhere, this should serve as a HUGE red flag. ACBC will cost you many things: it’s not Biblical; it’s evil. Remember, ACBC is built on the false gospel of Calvinism and so it can’t help you; it can only condemn you more, make you feel guilty (even though you may be the innocent one), and destroy you as there;’s no life in Calvinism or Reformed nonsense.

    4) If you ask the pastor whom he would like to be stranded with on a deserted island and he answers “Calvin” without hesitation.

    5) If the church adds “Reformation500” to its usual name (for this year). So Harvest Grace will now be Harvest Grace Reformation500. And then the tagline: Keeping on reforming.

    6) If there are images of Luther and Calvin in the foyer.

    7) If men talk to their wives and to other ladies (other people’s wives too) as though women are dirt.

    8) If grown men gather secretly in the parking lot and swap Paul Washer DVDs as though it’s contraband. The fact is, it’s worse.

    9) If the church depends on Tim Challies for anything (movie reviews, book reviews, how to read the Bible in public, no joke), etc.)

    10) If the “Holy Spirit” is on the menu at the CCC (see point 2) and never spoken of as a Person with a specific role.

    11) If the closing song (if you somehow stay that long) is “Hotel California.” Then, I’m afraid, it’s too late. Calvin’s cult has got you and you can never leave…

    In general, ANY reference to Calvin or anything Reformed should send you running for cover. These churches are no joke; they have nothing to do with the God of the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. johnimmel said, on March 6, 2017 at 11:50 AM

    Yea… i didn’t realize it was dated when i wrote my comments and i would agree that the goal is to run as far and as fast from the “Institutional Church” as one can get.

    However i will point out that for most people it is near impossible to unlearn the church habit immediately. It requires that they go through an intellectual evolution from the first barest suspicions that there is something wrong at “church” to figuring out that it is the DOCTRINE that is so destructive. I think this article will point those people starting to question that need to know WHAT to look for before they can then conclude what their actions should be.


    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 6, 2017 at 11:52 AM

      I agree 100%!


  4. john smith said, on March 6, 2017 at 2:00 PM

    This is great! But I have a question. Would it be too direct to just somehow work into the conversation with the pastor “Calvinism is heresy”? If that bothers him, leave. Because to me even if he’s not a Calvinist (in his own estimation, or rather in his public facing persona) if he defends Calvinism against the charge of heresy he actually is a Calvinist in his heart as far as I’m concerned. To me “Calvinism is the gospel but I’m not personally a Calvinist” is not a non-Calvinist position.


    • johnimmel said, on March 6, 2017 at 3:52 PM

      LOL . . . that would be a fun conversation to watch and pretty effective but i suspect that

      A. the timid souls trying figure this New Calvinist thing out will be . . . well, too timid to ask the blunt question.

      B. Most preachers in the 21st century educated in pretty much every theological school in America will be hard pressed to conclude that Calvin is a heretic even if they are suspicious of his doctrine. The whole of their education and the list of their educators predisposed them to think that Calvin is a good guy. I speak from experience. Reformed Theology was making huge inroads to the Oral Roberts University Theology department from 85 to 90 ish. And i remember when i made a similar comment in one of my classes. You would think that a theology department at ORU would be suspicious of Calvin at least, and at marginally sympathetic to my criticism. Not so much . . .

      and D Calvinist preachers are masterful at subterfuge: able to distance themselves from theological fidelity to all the while determined to defend the roots of the doctrine. They do this by making a distinction without a difference. They defend their doctrine because it is “biblical” giving themselves plenty of hedge and wiggle room when it comes to the specifics of Calvin’s synthesis all the while preaching the central elements of Calvin’s philosophy. To the uninitiated it is very possible that when a preacher answers the direct charge: “Calvinism is heresy” they will reply, making it sound like they are critical of Calvin all the while not really being critical.

      A great example of this was during Paul’s confrontation of John Piper about the content of Calvinist doctrine.

      John Piper opens his comments claiming to embrace the whole of Calvin’s ideas but when pressed on a doctrinal point that John Piper rejects he quickly changed the conversation to a discussion of “authority.” e.g. the “bible” supersedes whatever trivial errors Calvin might have made. So by extension John Pipers personal doctrinal position supersedes Calvin because JP’s true fidelity is with “scripture.” And who can argue with what “scripture” says?

      Like i said, to the uninitiated this kind of argumentation is very hard to unravel particularly if you go meet with a pastor by yourself and . . .

      IGNORE POINT 8! Do so at your own peril!

      Liked by 1 person

      • john smith said, on March 6, 2017 at 6:23 PM

        What precisely is the peril of meeting with a pastor by myself? Is he going to murder me, rape me, or sue me? (Or somehow find a way to do all 3?) Or is it just he’s going to lie about the conversation and tell the congregation I said stuff I didn’t? In a case where you’re just visiting, where is the danger in that?


      • john smith said, on March 6, 2017 at 6:31 PM

        For example, if I’m just visiting, and I meet the pastor in private, he thinks he owns me and tries to do his supposed Matt 18 church discipline voodoo on me, what does it matter to me if the church I’m going to next doesn’t require transfer documents from a previous church? They have power if you’re moving within their network, but outside not so much. May even be a good way to weed out New Calvinist churches: get excommunicated in one, have the elders call and tell your new prospective church about it, and if they care, then you know they’re New Calvinist too.


      • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 6, 2017 at 9:12 PM


        These are excellent questions, and I have asked those very questions myself. Of course I am coming from a completely different perspective than perhaps 99% of people in church these days. I see the folly for what it is. If a pastor had said to me “you can’t leave because you are under discipline,” I would have laughed in his face! But understand that the other 99% are living in abject fear, and they honestly believe that this man somehow holds power over them and can affect their lives in a negative way, and so they acquiesce and subjugate themselves. And even the ones who are brave enough to pull the trigger and leave, they still fear that there may be repercussions. That is why the discernment blogs are full of anonymous commenters. Believe me, the fear is real!


    • John said, on March 6, 2017 at 5:22 PM

      Yes, I did that. After the very first service; walked up to the pastor god man and asked, “Are you a Calvinist?” He denied like Bill Clinton in his heyday…and for a month or so there was not a reformed word anywhere. And then he started criticizing me and my son from the pulpit (a safe place during a service, in their view), calling us passengers, “in the way of the gospel” and guano like that, and then the word “elect” started to appear, and phrases like “we’re the only church in town that’s a preachin’ the truth, my brotherssss and sistersss.” And then MacArthur became his point of reference and Washer became their “secret” Bible study god and the god man to emulate (hit chest with both fists and scream something silly). And because we had failed to toe any line, they became aggressive and I told them to sod off. And then lots of drama followed in which they soiled themselves three times a week, every week. But my son and I moved on, prompted clearly by the Holy Spirit. It’s been more than two years, and we’ve uncovered something in that cult that’s making them soil themselves four times a week now.

      Okay, john smith, to answer your question; yes, ask ’em straight-up. And look around. If there are more ESV MacArthur “Indoctrinatory” bibles around than seats and Mercs in the carpark, then you are in hell’s waiting room. You’ll have your answer within a week.Just ask. I did and I was glad I did. I felt I had to.

      But please take heed of Andy Young’s advice: “If you are a reader who has come to the point where you have identified these characteristics in your own church, my advice to you is to run for the door as fast as you can and never look back! Get out of the institutional church! Find other like-minded believers and start fellowshipping with them as God intended for His family!”

      Calvinist churched/Reformed jobs, whatever, do not bring life. Yes, sure, they may be friendly on that well-oiled surface (love-bombing and worse) but their theology is DEAD. In a word: those churches are EVIL, and I’m not afraid to say it. If Jesus walked into one of ’em on a Sunday, the elders would stop Him and ask him to tithe and to sign the illegal church covenant, and then they would tell him to dress properly for the MacArthur CONference the following week. Why? Because they don’t know Him.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Argo said, on March 6, 2017 at 6:19 PM

    To your last point, Paul–yep. They never call it “discipline” but that’s what it is. In SGM I was disciplined at least twice, and that’s not counting the surreptitiously-mandatory “accountability” (where you find a buddy and confess your weekly “sins” to him…sins, conveniently, defined entirely by the SGM leadership). And I didn’t know until years and years later that that’s what it was.

    From a certain point of view you could say that a layperson’s entire tenure in a Calvinist (Protestant) institution is one of perpetual discipline. I cannot think of one aspect of church life that did not have some measure punitive purpose behind it. Not one. Even simply going to church on Sunday was understood to bea sort of self-flagellation…everything was supposed to be in some way an unpleasant but perpetually necessary (because man is perpetually evil) rejection of your “sin nature”,


    • John said, on March 7, 2017 at 5:36 AM

      Argo, I remember those childish sin-buddy accountability set-ups, which I always avoided like the plague. Some men actually made up “sins,” simply to prove that they were still with the program; still goin’ a heaven; still submitting to the authority of the sovereign gawd’s holy “men gods.” Pathetic bunch, and then after the manly confession time rubbish, some “men” went home and hit their wives and abused their children/stepchildren/other people’s children. Protestantism…what a bunch of bile.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. johnimmel said, on March 6, 2017 at 9:52 PM

    John Smith (to your questions above) . . . as long as Calvinists are kept far away from civil power, then no they won’t rape kill or otherwise harm . . . however you are drawing the definition of harm pretty narrow . . . it does’t really account for the physiological and social torment they put people through.

    But i think your question is rooted in the fact that you don’t take the doctrine of pastoral/elder authority seriously (This is a good thing) which is why you have a hard time thinking a conversation is somehow dangerous. You presume that you if you talk to a pastor you are talking to an equal and that if you disagree it is a difference of no real consequence. But i guarantee that the New Calvinist preacher doesn’t think that. At best he holds you in contempt for daring to disagree with his considered opinion at worst he hold you in disdain for daring to challenge God’s authority. He will move against you . . . maybe in America he can’t strap you to a stake and light a fire but he and the elders will harass you . . . likely defame you . . .

    But if someone does take the church construct seriously (Which is most of the lurkers coming to this blog) then that New Calvinist pastor doesn’t need to rape to do harm. He will run through their life with impunity.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on March 7, 2017 at 9:32 AM

      You can slip a playing card between a Representative Republic and a theocracy. All it takes is a “moral majority” in the Senate and House. Right? Hence, the church political party because church has always been a political party representing Reformed dominion theology. While some like MacArthur decry dominion theology, from the other side of their mouth they proclaim God’s kingdom as presently on earth. LOL! On the one hand, God is sovereign and all-powerful, but His kingdom is presently on earth but making little impact. Name ONE thing in Protestantism that is not a contradiction. Name one. You can’t.


  7. lydia00 said, on March 8, 2017 at 8:22 AM

    “Is God the Father and the Holy Spirit rarely mentioned?”

    My experience with the YRR movement is they mostly talk God and stay away from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Go listen to the last 10 years of Piper sermons, for example. It is one of the first big things I noticed from that movement. I kept wondering where Jesus and the Holy Spirit went.


  8. lydia00 said, on March 8, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    “What precisely is the peril of meeting with a pastor by myself? Is he going to murder me, rape me, or sue me? (Or somehow find a way to do all 3?) Or is it just he’s going to lie about the conversation and tell the congregation I said stuff I didn’t? In a case where you’re just visiting, where is the danger in that?”

    If you have confidence and no buy in to the institution, it doesn’t matter but John gives this warning for good reason. Very good reason.

    These guys are brain gamers. They have been taught to redefine common words. They don’t even realize it. Chances are the pastor won’t be alone, anyway. If he has even a whiff it might be questions about doctrine or church issues, he will have some like minded sychophants there. They are masters of the gang up and blindside.

    If it is just the two of you, it’s a he said/he said.

    These guys have been indoctrinated. They only know their own authority. When questioned, they become totally different than the persona they created for the stage. They are hollow people. And VERY revengeful. Very. And often it’s a deceptive revenge you did not see coming.


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