Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A review of the New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker

A review of the New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker

Publisher's description:

"Of all the various movements that have affected the evangelical Christian Church in the early years of the 21st century, the young, restless and reformed or 'New Calvinists' are among the most significant. Jeremy Walker acknowledges the difficulties of tackling this subject, which he approaches with some caution. He writes of his desire to provide ‘a balanced and appropriately irenic assessment’ as he considers the contribution of various personalities:
At the core you will hear names such as John Piper, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Tim Keller, Don Carson, and Wayne Grudem. On the websites and in the blogosphere names like Justin Taylor and Tim Challies are prominent. More on the fringes, and with a much more ambivalent relationship, are men like R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur on the one hand and James MacDonald and Francis Chan on the other.

If you are not sure what to think of the New Calvinism, you need to read this book. If you have friends struggling with it, you need to give them this book. If you are being reproached for not embracing it, use the arguments and cautions of this book to defend yourself. If you are danger of rejecting the whole of New Calvinism root and branch, you need the care of this book to restrain you."

This is a book that needed to be written, and I find it interesting that it was written by a Brit and not an American, as the new Calvinism is predominantly an American phenomenon.  Perhaps it's easier for Jeremy Walker to see the issues within new Calvinism because of his distance from it.

This short book is divided into four major parts:

Chapter 2:  Characteristics of the new Calvinism.  The author did a commendable job characterizing the movement.  One interesting observation he makes here is that new Calvinism owes more to Jonathan Edwards (though mediated through John Piper) than it does to John Calvin.  I felt Jeremy could have fleshed this out a bit more as he never fully explained how he reached that conclusion.  Overall though, he did a good job capturing the major traits of new Calvinism.

Chapter 3:  Commendations.  I think this chapter suffered a bit from some generalizations that weren't particularly helpful and had never come to my mind when thinking about this movement, but still helpful none the less to start out with what's right and good.

Chapter 4:  Cautions and concerns.  Here Jeremy did an excellent job laying out the problems with new Calvinism, though I think he should have spent some more time explaining why new Calvinism differs from confessional reformed theology and why that's an issue.  He does get into the regulative principle, but I think he should have dealt with church government and some other areas as well.

Chapter 5:   Conclusions and counsels.  Here he challenges those in the new Calvinist movement to just be Calvinists, building upon a robust, confessional ecclesiology.  I would have liked to see this chapter fleshed out more.  I think it would have been helpful to more fully explain what true Calvinism, or reformed theology looks like, but there is food for thought here.

Overall, this book was very helpful to me.  I am a confessional Presbyterian, but my first exposure to reformed theology was through new Calvinism.  Though there is much in new Calvinism to commend, and God used these men to open my eyes and heart, there are some real issues that need to be talked about.  This short book gets that conversation started graciously and should give us all a lot to think about.  I give this book four stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

You can hear Shaun Tabatt's interview with Jeremy Walker here:

1 comment:

  1. Wondering how it is being determined who is a "New Calvinist" vs. a confessional Protestant in the traditional sense. Some of the men mentioned above hold to confessions like the Westminster Confession (Duncan), the Three Forms of Unity (De Young), or the Baptist confession of 1689 (Dever.) Are they being labeled "New Calvinist" simply for gaining a wider hearing than most confessional Protestants, or for working with TGC/T4G? Is it being asserted that these men do not hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship and their respective church polities (presbyterian or congregational?)