My eye was caught by a review in Christianity Today of a recent book by Kenneth J. Stewart entitled Ten Myths About Calvinism. Stewart writes as a Calvinist himself, but is somewhat critical of some trends and tendencies within the latest resurgence of the movement, especially as represented by the ‘young, restless and reformed’ brigade.
Here are some of the ‘myths’ about Calvinism, as identified by Stewart. These ones, he says, are all held by Calvinists themselves.
1. One Man (Calvin) and One City (Geneva) Is Determinative. Those who followed Calvin did not always agree with him in every particular, nor with one another. Well, yes – among the Puritans, we think of Richard Baxter, and among the 19th-century Evangelicals, J.C. Ryle, as examples of those who draw up slightly short of Calvin in certain particulars. We are also aware of the hyperCalvinists who went further than the great Reformer in some respects.
2. Calvin’s View of Predestination Must Be Ours. A number of Reformed theologians argued for single predestination (God has marked some out for salvation) rather than for double predistination (God has marked out some for salvation and some for damnation).
3. TULIP (standing for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) is the Yard Stick of the Truly Reformed. Stewart says that this acronym was coined as recently as 1913. That may be the case, but I seem to recall that the ‘five points’ of Calvinism goes back to the Canons of Dort (1619). But even so, they were never meant to be a comprehensive summary of Reformed theology, but rather a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance.
4. Calvinists Take a Dim View of Revival and Awakening. Stewart traces this to a distrust of the theology and practices of Charles Finney. However, I suggest that the work of Iain Murray and the Banner of Truth Trust provide extensive evidence of interest in, and commitment to, revival (but not ‘revivalism’, which is a very different thing).
While re-asserting the main tenets of Calvinism, Stewart chides some contemporary adherents (he names John Piper and Mark Driscoll) for their lack of historical awareness. Hmm, maybe. I have always found Piper’s historical (and biographical) awareness one of the most helpful and attractive aspects of his teaching.