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.
As a former Reformed pastor, viz, a Protestant, viz, a Calvinist, viz, a Lutheran, viz, an Augustinian, and all other roots of the poisonous tree that make up the Institutional church, I had no comfort for those who suffered the loss of their unborn and infants. I usually let the more expert pastors speak in those situations; you know, the ones with the seminary degrees.
“Is my baby in heaven? ‘We don’t know, but we trust that God is righteous in all that He does.’”
“Why did God allow this to happen? ‘We don’t know, but perhaps to save the child from some worse death.’” That is, something worse than the toddler getting run over in the driveway by their best friend.
Have you ever noticed? Despite trillions of dollars invested in Protestant education, and over 500 years to get it right, Protestants don’t know a lot of stuff. Remember, Jay Adams’ biblical counseling construct introduced in 1970 was considered to be revolutionary. One well-known evangelical even asked, “Could the Bible really be this practical?” Think about it: 1970. That’s how many years after the supposed brilliance of the Reformation?
Not long after 1970, an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead was invited to the hallowed halls of Westminster seminary to inform the who’s who of Protestantism in regard to what a Protestant really is. Now go to Westminster and pay $80,000 for a degree; ya, do that, brilliant. They didn’t even know what the true Protestant gospel was until Brinsmead came along, and they are the experts? Really? So, don’t give me any of that crap about “historical precedent.”
Shortly thereafter, Brinsmead’s revelation was repackaged into things like the Sonship Discipleship Bible Study program and “second generation biblical counseling.” The latter was hatched by Dr. David Powlison who was mentored by another Westminster hack, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. This was the beginning of the New Calvinist movement and launched a Calvinist theological civil war that ended up being won by the New Calvinists who now control Protestantism for the most part. The only holdouts are small Baptist churches that pride themselves on theological ignorance which by the way is a Lutheran Gnostic concept.
But of course, Baptists put a hillbilly twist on that: “We don’t know nuttin about none of that-thar thee-ology stuff. All you do is talk in them 50-cent thee-o-logical words.” Well, at least they know they are ignorant and profess it openly.
Anyway, don’t miss the point: over 500 years after the Reformation Calvinist scholars were arguing about what the true Protestant gospel is. New Calvinism has taken over the evangelical church because no one could ultimately deny that Brinsmead was right. In a presentation at Dr. John Piper’s church, David Powlison stated openly that the difference between first generation biblical counseling and second generation biblical counseling is two different gospels. You do the math. The church is supporting confused men who can’t even agree on what the gospel is.
By the way; babies, born or unborn, go to heaven because they are not under the law. They are born under the law, but they are not susceptible to its condemnation until their consciences are developed. It’s not rocket science, unless your mind is warped with “the gospel of sovereignty.” Don’t bother looking for that in your concordance; it’s not there.
Other than learning real truth from being faithful Bereans, live events teach us well. This week, between our annual TANC conference and the death of my 3rd grandson, I learned a lot more about death. Already in heaven his body was released from what was the comfort of his mother’s womb. His name is now Isaiah, and his short life has taught me much.
The procedure was performed at Kettering hospital in Dayton, Ohio named after Charles F. Kettering the inventor. John Immel spoke of him during this year’s conference. One would do well to read about this man’s astounding life. It is evident at Kettering that they strive to live up to the name for which their facility is named. That’s a very high calling.
But why do we do what we do? Although Isaiah only lived 13 weeks and made no appearance outside of his mother’s womb, Kettering supplies numerous services to honor the life of the unborn. They have a team that focuses on the stillborn exclusively. When Isaiah’s body was delivered, he was placed in a little knit baby crib made by volunteers. Kettering also has a memorial garden for the unborn where ceremonies are held.
Why am I a part of the medical profession where billions of dollars are spent to serve the severely disabled? After all, what can they contribute to others? Why are there so many cemeteries? Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to cremate everybody? For some reason, cemeteries often have “memory” in their names, but I have learned this week from Isaiah that it is not about memory at all. It is rather about defending life and honoring it.
Those who we know and love cannot be forgotten. They become a part of our lives and being. When we lose family and friends, truly the part of our lives they contributed to is lost for the time being. We never completely get over any loss in this lifetime. With each new day we regain more of our happiness and begin functioning according to a new normal of wellbeing. Our mind will find balance, but not because we forget anything. Loss is part of overall homeostasis. There will never be complete closure until the final enemy of God is defeated: death. Christ defeated sin on the cross by ending the law, sickness will be defeated in the Millennial Kingdom, and death will be completely defeated at the new heaven and new earth.
We do what we do because we stand for life. That’s why I no longer think cremation is ok, because of what Isaiah taught me this week. Something is defective in our thinking when dad is sitting on a bookshelf with the family pets. Pets are important, but our lives are worth more than sparrows according to Christ. This is why some cultures have cemeteries, and others just have mass graves. But it’s not about memory, it’s about honoring life—nobody forgets the part of them that is gone.
May I be frank? This is why my knowledge of the Protestant Reformation has caused me to set my face completely against it. If you have followed my teachings on the founding documents of the Protestant Reformation, you know that it is an ideology of zero-sum-life and a doctrine of death. Martin Luther and Charles F. Kettering represent the antithesis of two ideologies in regard to state of being. One loved life so much that he only wanted to know about problems so he could solve them to make life better; the other cursed life and despised anything that improved the quality of it, calling such improvements “the glory of man story” as opposed to the “cross story.” When Christians come to me and Susan for counseling via the electric starter invented by Charles Kettering and end up lecturing us about how spiritual wellbeing only comes from suffering, where does this come from? It comes from the root of the tree. No matter how old a tree is, the fruit is determined by the roots.
We make much ado about the dead because they once lived. We don’t honor their memory—we honor their life. Their memory charges us that when times are good they would have us rejoice, but when times are bad, we are to consider because the creator of life is watching. In this way they speak from the grave.
Sin hates life and brought death. And its advocates despise the idea that man can choose life because they believe he has no right to it. As I walked through the hallways of Kettering Medical Center yesterday I thought about Martin Luther. I thought about how much he would hate that place if he were here today. I thought about how he would rail against it as the “glory of Charles Kettering story” and not the “cross of suffering story.” How he would despise the comfort my daughter received there and its subsequent circumvention of real knowledge in his Book of Concord. This is a vile misrepresentation of the true gospel of life.
But Isaiah and his horde speak of a better testimony…one of life and the upholding of it.