So there is no NeoReformed/New Calvinist movement

David Kinnaman, at Barna, has a new study on the so-called New Calvinists or NeoReformed movement, a term I may well have invented to describe what I perceive to be the rise of Calvinists. David says Nope, not happening. This is no movement. Not even among Southern Baptists? Nope. David told me the numbers are 30% now and they were 30% ten years ago.

What say you? Also this: Why have we seen major media cover New Calvinism if there is no such a thing? Many of us are thinking there is a movement: Is this just an increase in the presence of their voice? Are these folks getting more media attention with little change in numbers? I do know this: a high percentage of the top church web sites are connected to this New Calvinism (if there is such a thing).

Clergy Identity
For the past decade the Barna Group has been tracking the percentage of Protestant pastors who identify their church as “Calvinist or Reformed.” Currently, about three out of every 10 Protestant leaders say this phrase accurately describes their church (31%). This proportion is statistically unchanged from a decade ago (32%). In fact, an examination of a series of studies among active clergy during the past decade indicates that the proportion that embraces the Reformed label has remained flat over the last 10 years.

Pastors who embrace the term “Wesleyan or Arminian” currently account for 32% of the Protestant church landscape – the same as those who claim to be Reformed. The proportion of Wesleyan/Arminian pastors is down slightly from 37% in 2000. There has been less consistency related to this label during the past decade, with the tracking figures ranging from a low of 26% to a high of 37%.

The director of the study, David Kinnaman, clarified that respondents were not given definitions of these terms. As dictated by standard practice in survey research, identification with these terms was left up to each pastor’s interpretation.

Who is Reformed?
The Barna study explored some characteristics of the pastors aligned with the “Calvinist or Reformed” label as compared to the profile of pastors who identified themselves as “Wesleyan or Arminian.” In terms of the age of pastors, among the youngest generation of pastors (ages 27 to 45), 29% described themselves as Reformed, while 34% identified as Wesleyan. Pastors associated with the Boomer generation (ages 46 to 64) were evenly split between the two theological camps: 34% Reformed, 33% Arminian. Pastors who were 65 or older were the least likely to use either term: 26% and 27%, respectively.

Regionally, Reformed churches were most common in the Northeast, while least common in the Midwest. Wesleyan/Arminian congregations were equally likely to appear in each of the four regions.

Denominational background made a significant difference, but the dividing lines were not always straightforward: 47% of mainline churches were described by their pastor as Wesleyan/Arminian, while 29% of mainline congregations adopted the Reformed categorization. (Mainline churches include American Baptist Churches, Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and United Church of Christ.) In contrast, non-mainline churches were more likely to self-describe as Reformed (35%), although 30% of the non-mainline pastors identified as Wesleyan/Arminian.

The study found that 31% of pastors who lead churches within traditionally charismatic or Pentecostal denominations were described as Reformed, while 27% identified as Wesleyan/Arminian. This is somewhat surprising given that these denominations – including Assembly of God, Vineyard, Foursquare, and Church of God-Cleveland – are generally viewed as stemming from Wesleyan or Holiness traditions.

Despite the common public view of Reformed churches being doctrinally conservative, a greater proportion of these leaders described themselves as “theologically liberal” than was true among Wesleyan/Arminian leaders (17% versus 13%).

Completion of seminary was statistically equivalent whether Arminian/Wesleyan (65%) or Reformed/Calvinist (62%).

Research Observations
Kinnaman, who serves as Barna Group president, concluded, “there is no discernible evidence from this research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over the last decade. Whatever momentum surrounds Reformed churches and the related leaders, events and associations has not gone much outside traditional boundaries or affected the allegiances of most today’s church leaders. It is important to note that the influence of Reformed churches might also be measured through other metrics that are currently unavailable, such as the theological certainty of self-described adherents, their level of acceptance toward those who are not Calvinist, and the new methods Reformed leaders are using to market their views to their peers and to the public.

“Nevertheless, the research shows that many pastors do not necessarily conform to traditional doctrinal perspectives when it comes to how they think about or operate in their ministries. In other words, most of the nation’s 300,000 Protestant churches are in a state of theological flux, apparently open to identities and trends that do not necessarily fall within expected denominational or doctrinal boundaries. Given this profile, we expect that new theological, relational, as well as methodological networks that emerge will redefine the Protestant landscape over the next decade.”

How Pastors Describe Their Church's Theology

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • linda

    according to a barna report from march 2010 there are 3 times as many pentecostals/charismatics as there are evangelicals. i thought this was pretty astonishing since we generally hear so little about them. so…concerning the new calvinists i think it’s the same phenomenon: they just make a lot of noise!

  • Susan N.

    Au contraire, Scot, in my corner of the world at least, Calvin is king in non-mainline churches. The interesting thing to me is that many, if not most, people who proclaim the gospel according to Calvin’s theology don’t self-identify as Calvinists. Some pastors and churches affirm less extreme statements of faith; but a good number of the congregants hold to Calvinist theology. The reformed churches I know of take a more decisive stand on written policy. Yet, questioning their perceived unswerving devotion to Calvin is offensive, because I guess it was convicting on the matter of idolatry. I might have said it wrong…not a big fan of Calvin myself, taken in isolation at least…

    Scot, part of my “view” of things is demographics, I think. Very conservative (religious and political) Midwestern city. I would also add that we are a homeschooling family. Almost everyone we know in this circle of society is ultra-conservative on religion and politics. Much of the Christian curriculum is geared around a very conservative “worldview.” One has to really read between the lines to see what you’re being indoctrinated in…

    Here’s another observation I have made. Ultra-conservatives have mobilized their efforts and voices to wage war on the depraved culture at large. While they may be a small or steady minority, they are active. More liberal folks tend to lay low, try to make peace, and be civil, out of their faith convictions, mostly I think. Also, it can be social suicide to speak up against an active, vocal conservative (reformed/Calvinist) bunch. Dissent is seen as cause for shunning. Harsh. Very little room for disagreement, dialoguing, or even honest questioning.

    I would have probably lost my sanity if not for voices such as yours out on the Net, and authors who are writing in a more “balanced” perspective on matters of faith.

    My family and I have moved back in the direction of mainline church fellowship for obvious reasons (see above!) The written statement of faith is much more in line with our beliefs (including social justice, I might add, as part of the responsibility to serve). The people are a mix (not all extreme liberals), as would be expected even in a mainline church in our demographic.

    One last thought I have had in analyzing why Reformed/Calvinist theology is so prevalent/dominant in religion and society in recent years: The political shift (Obama) was a call to arms for most of these folks. They view his policies as extremely liberal/leftist, which generated an equally extreme reaction from them in the opposite direction.

    Of course, I may just be crazy (or blind due to “sin” / unregenerate heart), as others have suspected about me! I *think* you are right, though. My experiences sure back up your hypothesis on a “Neoreformed” movement.

  • Grupetti

    This measures pastors, not adherents. Followers of Driscoll, Piper, McDonald and a few others might skew the results.

  • cm1165

    I think also that there are many out there that are a part of the Neo-Reformed movement and don’t know it. I know several folks who have, knowingly or unknowingly, been a part of congregations that are part of the Acts 29 network, which I think would be the poster child for Neo-Reformed. However, I know that most of these people wouldn’t know to say that the church they were attending was Neo-Reformed.

    I think that there are a lot of people who attend churches with out a thought as to what “school” of theology it belongs to. They are a part of that particular community for a myriad of other reasons.

  • tscott

    “new theological, relational, as well as methodological networks..”

    That sounds correct to me, and I feel it should cause re-definition of the efforts to keep the big tent that has been Evangelical. And I prefer a different name. Go for something that implies more Gospel centered. Jesus Creeders would work. Dispatches from a post evangelical wilderness concurs. The late Michael Spencer correctly labeled it a Jesus-shaped spirituality. Evangelical implies salvation centered instead of gospel centered.

  • smcknight

    Susan N,

    My own read is that the NeoReformed are not as politically active as the Moral Majority group.


    I’m pretty sure Kinnamon studied this; I would suspect that a lower percentage in congregations would be as Calvinist/Reformed as the pastor except in historic Reformed churches. James Macdonald is not really a Calvinist.

  • Jason Lee

    Calvinists may have taken considerably greater institutional power in recent years, hence their perceived growth. Al Mohler’s voice may carry the equivalent of 1000+ Wesleyan church leaders. So Calvinists may have grown in institutional control, including Christian mass media outlets. The Barna poll doesn’t measure that. But that may be where the story is.

    By the way, I looked on the Barna page where they report on their poll. Does anyone know why they don’t report on income??? It’s fundamental to account for income. It’s possible that Calvinists make much more money, and this may help them have more time, voice, and power. If Barna doesn’t ask about income, then its hard for me to take their polls very seriously.

  • Susan N.

    Scot @ #6 — Can you differentiate between “Neoreformed” and “Moral Majority?” The lines of distinction are a blur to me. The Reformed/Calvinists I know are very politically vocal and active, and are all over the business of “culture war.” My early faith exposure was fundamentalist. This whole new trend in evangelicalism is deja vu for me, and like a recurring nightmare! It took me years to deprogram from the fundamentalist indoctrination I received; I’m no doubt still trying to shake off unwanted baggage.

  • Jason Lee

    Also, I notice that they only sample 600 in each of the 4 years they look at. If you put confidence intervals around the percentage estimates they report, they’d be pretty big. That means that the differences between Calvinists and Non-Calvinists would have to be really large for the small sample sizes of the Barna poll to pick any significant differences up. In other words, the Barna poll is a very blunt instrument, and all that it says is that there are no gigantic differences between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

    the link:

  • Jeedoo

    Keep it coming, Scot! We need what you are saying and the opportunity to hold varying views.

  • smcknight

    Jason, say more of what you are saying in #9. Are you saying their instrument isn’t “valid”?

  • Jason Lee

    It’s not that the Barna poll is not valid. It’s more in terms of degrees. What the Barna poll looks like to me is a very quick and dirty first glance at a topic. Their poll suggests that there are not gigantic differences in Calvinist/non-Calvinist growth over a four year period. But we shouldn’t treat it as anything more than a quick blunt glance at the question.

    Good data collection is extremely expensive. I’m sure Barna group has a limited funds. To their credit, they’ve focused on an interesting question here. So others should come along with the kind of data and longevity with which to show if there are dramatic and non-dramatic differences in growth trends.

    Someone correct me if I missed where they measure income, but the issue of not measuring income is a problem. But this also comes back to not having enough funding to collect high-quality data. It takes a more carefully designed and thorough survey to get people to report on a sensitive topic like income. So small-budget pollsters like Barna may be tempted to neglect measuring important things like income. Their popular audience (who I assume they get money from) will likely not call them out on this issue.

  • Justin

    Maybe part of the reason you hear so much about it is because the leaders of that “movement” like Piper and Driscoll have other qualities that their listeners enjoy, and so they end up adopting (or at least sympathizing) with Reformed theology.

    So if you’re a guy who relates to Driscoll’s tough-guy approach, then you might be inclined to accept more of what he teaches (such as Calvinism) because you liked what you heard at the beginning.

  • Robin

    Regarding the Barna poll. A sample size of 600 gives them a confidence interval of 4%, so in order for them to say that there had been a statistically significant growth of only 1% in the ten year period there would have had to have been more than a 4% change. So, they reported 31% and 32% respectively, there is some likelihood that the “real” early number, if you had sampled every pastor in the country, was actually 27% and there is some likelihood that the latter number was as high as 36%. So, you could have had a 9% growth in the intervening period, but the survey wouldn’t pick it up because the sample size is too low. Likewise, you could have had a decline from 35% to 28%, but you cannot be sure with this survey because the sample size is too low.

    What you can say, with 95% certainty (I’m assuming they used 95% confidence intervals) is that the change was somewhere between +9% and -7%, and may possibly be equal to 0%.

  • DaveH

    Working in a campus ministry, with students from many different Christian backgrounds, I agree with the poster who said there may be many who are part of this movement who do not know it. When I see the videos my students post on Facebook, they are often John Piper, John MacArthur and the like. Yet these same students go to charismatic, Pentecostal churches and if you met them and spoke with them, you would guess they were Pentecostal before guessing they were Reformed. Haha, they probably do not even know “Pentecostal” or “Reformed” – they just go to church and find videos on youtube.

    This makes me wonder, have the New Calvinists done a better job of promoting their ideas via new media? Or perhaps, Calvinism has more appeal for engineering students or others who desire grand systems which tie everything together?

  • Robin

    Regarding income: I really do not see why this is necessary in this survey. Sure, if you were trying to measure influence, or factors that determined calvinistic bent, but they aren’t trying to do that here. This is a binary question, are you a calvinist, yes or no. socioeconomic variables are fun in cross tabs when you are trying to tease out the “why” question, but they don’t affect the yes/no dimension.

  • Robin

    Regarding the spread of calvinism: I attended Southern (Mohler’s seminary), My exit on the interstate is 27 miles from Southern’s exit, but located one county over. I wanted a home church in our county, and I spent a year looking in Southern Baptist Churches (Mohler’s denomination). I never attended a calvinistic baptist church in all my visits during that year. I heard of one church out in the country (20 miles away) that had a calvinistic preacher, but none of the churches we visited had one, and this is only 20 minutes from Al’s doorstep. The best I could get out of any of the Southern Baptist preachers is (1) that they wouldn’t run a calvinist family off (2) they wouldn’t criticize calvinism explicitly from the pulpit and (3) they had a deacon or two that liked John Piper.

    If that is the best I can get 20 minutes from Southern, I think it is safe to say that calvinism hasn’t overrun the Southern Baptist Convention yet. I’m not sure about other locations or denominations.

  • Jason Lee

    Robin, their report on goes into differences on various sociodemographic things …but income is awkwardly absent. You’re right that the exact topic of this post doens’t hinge on income. Nevertheless, it’s a major omission for social science people who study religious trends.

  • Robin

    Why I was initially attracted to Calvinism – it was intellectually serious. I came to faith from a Catholic background (Aquinas was my confirmation name) into a bible belt protestant scene. On the college campus I didn’t see any christian writing (for a popular audience) that had any theological depth except calvinistic writing. The first book I read as a Christian was Knowing God by Packer, and the second was Desiring God by Piper. In all of the flaky, easy-believism, altar-calling baptist churches around me there was nothing that could compete with Packer and Piper, so that is what drew me in.

    Maybe if N.T. Wright had been popular in the bible belt back then things would have gone differently, but back then it was a choice between the Max Lucado-ites and the fighting Piperians. Lucado never stood a chance.

  • Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    Actually, I think their number are up. I have seen an incredible shift towards NeoReformed theology (and ecclesiology) among churches here who have, traditionally, distanced themselves from such a tradition. In some traditionally Anabaptist circles, you would hardly be able to differentiate.

    Are the numbers up? I think so. As much as has been suggested? Probably not. Why the assumption? Because of the power of their voice and influence. They deserve the attention insofar as they are making an impact.

  • Robin

    I think a factor that is equal to the rise in calvinism is the decline in the mainline/moderate/liberal church. And I don’t mean decline in numbers, just deline in recognizable, charismatic leaders.

    Conservatives are easy to identify – Dr. Dobson, Rick Warren, Paige Patterson, etc.

    Calvinists are easy to identify – Piper, Driscoll, Carson, Keller, etc.

    The only mainline Christians that I can identify (as someone not involved in any way with that movement) are Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Gene Robinson, Spong, and Wallis (and that is only because I read HUFFPO)

    Sure, the emergent movement has some rising stars, but the mainline/moderate/liberal church seems devoid of popular, recognizable leaders that have a large influence with the younger generation.

  • Chris Zoephel

    I wonder about age. Many…and I mean MANY of the University students I have contact with are really influenced by Piper, Driscol, Acts 29 etc… And these students are from all around the country.
    My suspicion is that folks in that 20 something age are seeing a rise in the reformed camp percentage wise.

  • Aaron

    Robin said – “a choice between the Max Lucado-ites and the fighting Piperians. Lucado never stood a chance.” – No doubt, that made me laugh :)

  • kevin s.

    Much of what I have observed of the neo-reformed movement has taken place online. I suspect that there are many younger folks who attend non-reformed churches, but who are Calvinists. One problem I have had with the Calvinist movement is that its adherents, in following Piper, Driscoll, Keller etc… often put their word above that of their own pastors. That would be consistent with this polling data.

  • Robin

    Kevin S.,

    Do you really think that previous generations didn’t put the words of men like Billy Graham, Warren Wiersbe, Scofield, Charles Finney, or John Wesley above their own pastors? My pastor is my pastor, he is not the dictator of my theological education. For that matter I assume that Scot takes the theological interpretations of many people more seriously than he does Pastor Hybels.

  • Ann

    As someone who associates herself as Reformed, I hate that this new movement of hyper-Calvinism is reducing Reformed theology in the minds of the masses to the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP). How sad for such a beautiful and robust theology. James K.A. Smith (professor at Calvin college) has said a lot regarding this lately and wrote a book addressing much of it in “Letters to a Young Calvinist”

  • JoeyS

    @ Chris Zoephel, I think you’re right. We are not seeing the shift take place from the pulpit just yet. What I am seeing is an army of 20-somethings who dream of church planting with Acts 29, but who are not old enough to take the reigns of a pulpit yet. I have the feeling that if Barna continues this study for another decade we might start to see the actual shift take place in the pastorate. This isn’t something I am joyous about, but I just know a lot of guys my age who are passionately following the likes of Driscoll and Piper.

  • kevin s.


    I’ve observed that it gets to the point where Calvinists are disruptive in church meetings and outright antagonistic to what their pastor is teaching. In my church, we collectively read A Purpose Driven Life. I was responsible for leading a small group, and constantly had to deal with the Calvinist meme about how the book is theologically shallow, unearned grace (the favorite Calvinist catch phrase back then) and spiritual “milk”.

  • megan

    I agree with many of the unaccounted-for factors mentioned here: congregation size, use of technology, etc. There’s a huge difference between a pastor with a few thousand congregants, a top-of-the-line website and a podcast–and a pastor with less than a hundred congregants, a creeky old building, and a listing in the Yellow Pages. The Barna survey counts them as equal, but obviously in influence and voice they are vastly different.

    There is still value in counting them as Barna does (in the end, we’re all equal regardless of how big a platform we’ve been given). But it’s not exactly the best way to track the growth of a movement.

    Plus, it seems to assume that all attendees of a church whose pastor self-identifies as Weslyan would likewise identify that way. If you eavesdrop on young Calvinists, you’ll frequently here something along the lines of “I just discovered Calvinism, closely followed by the discovery that I’m attending an Arminian church. Oh noes! Do I stay? Do I go? And if I stay, do I try to educate my fellow church-goers on what I’ve learned?” I see no similar concern among Arminians who have just realized they attend a Calvinist church, though I admit my evidence here is totally anecdotal.

  • Dave Leigh

    They are certainly vocal and divisive. Could they be alienating as many as they’re attracting?

  • Jeremy

    I’d be super interested in seeing their methodology. How random was the sample? How did they gather the data? There’s a lot that can invalidate a seemingly random sample, particularly if it’s small.

    And as others pointed out, not all churches are created equal. How many of the 600 were mega-church pastors vs small, strip mall shop front pastors? My in-laws attend a hyper-Calvinistic mega-church that is steadily growing to ridiculous proportions. It would be a huge mistake to count a 15k+ member church as simply +1.

  • Derek

    Well we all know what you can do with stats…Point being that you can interpret or arrive at just about any conclusion you want to. Bottom line though is there has been a boom of Calvinism in the last decade evidenced by the following.

    1. Book publishing: Many of the best selling authors right now are Reformed theologians and pastors, i.e. Keller, Driscoll, Piper, Packer, DeYoung, Chan and many others. In fact as it is often mentioned on here the Reformed translation of church, ESV, has taken so much market share from the TNIV that Zondervan had to go back and give us the NIV 2011. Publishers like Crossway, which sell a large number of Reformed books are selling more and more every year. So either we have the same number of Reformed folks and they are just reading a lot more than they used to, or they are more in number. To couple with this the influence that Reformed voices are having is immense, just go look at the Christianity podcast section and see how much of the top 100 is made up of Reformed voices.

    2. Conferences: Now this is not given as a measurement of success but just to show enormity of the Reformed crowd. Conferences by Desiring God, T4G, GC,NEXT, and other conferences put on by Resurgence, MacArthur, Sproul, and enormous in attendee. There is a greater demand for Reformed conferences then there was 10 years ago. Therefore I think it is reasonable to conclude that there are more Reformed folk, or its just the same couple thousand going to every one of them. Also it is worth noting that at these events the crowd is disproportionately made up of younger people.

    3. Church Planting: Two of the largest church planting networks/organizations in the USA right now are through Redeemer at Keller’s church and ACTS29 led by Mark Driscoll. Act29 alone has planted hundreds of church’s in the USA in the last 10 years and many of them in cities to people with no church background. Then take into account the church planting work of Fellowship Church and you have Reformed movements making up a huge chunk of the church planting activity in the USA over the last decade.

    These fact overwhelmingly point to the Reformed movement growing exponentially in the last decade. And as a guy who is a pastor with the SBC I will say that my personal experience does not align with these numbers. Most of the young guys that are coming up in our denomination are in the mold of Reformed pastors such as Matt Chandler and David Platt. Is the SBC still made up of many Godly non-Calvinist pastors? Sure, but that is changing also.

  • AHH

    If they are looking at pastors, there is also an issue of time lag. For example, the Calvinist “takeover” of some Southern Baptist seminaries is relatively recent, so if that influences the mix of graduates it will take years and even decades for that to be fully reflected in a sample of pastors.

    I agree with other commenters that “outside” influences on churches is important but hard to measure. I attend a moderately conservative Reformed church (PCUSA) which is certainly not NeoReformed in its leadership. But a LOT of our members are influenced by voices further to the right both in terms of hardline Reformed (Piper, Sproul) and also by prominent voices that are not Reformed (Beth Moore, Left Behind novels).

  • Phil

    As a member of an Acts 29 church, I think the discrepancy has to do with the lack of Calvainist language in many of these newer “Neo-Reformed” groups. If you ask the average Acts29er if he or she is a Calvinist, they probably would say no. From my experience Acts29ers would reject being identified as an ________ist. There is also alot of diversity concerning the acceptance of the 5 points. In my opinion the movements is growing. I am encountering it more and more online and at seminary.

  • Mark Baker-Wright


    While the TNIV definitely suffered for many reasons, the idea that it wasn’t “Reformed” enough was never one I’ve ever heard cited. Indeed, I’ve heard criticisms about how strongly Reformed it seemed to be biased….

  • Daniel S

    I’d echo what Justin (#13), DaveH (#15) and Chris Z. (#22) said. And I’m in Canada, so this is something that reaches across the border. Piper, Driscoll, and Keller are very influential among 20-something evangelicals; it’s not necessarily *due* to their reformed theology, but they’ve definitely gained adherents to Calvinism. For young people who’ve grown up in churches with a more emotional atmosphere, it’s very satisfying to find preachers/authors who take theology and doctrine seriously (but still at a popular level). For members of my generation who want to include their minds in their discipleship, listening to the New Calvinists was the most prominent avenue.
    But the appeal of these preachers goes way beyond their reformed theology. I’m not a Calvinist, but I’ve still appreciated things that Piper, Driscoll, and others have brought. For Piper, his passionate challenge to “Don’t waste your life”, his unwavering support for missions, the way he has more to say about the church than about politics, and the way he can talk about Islam without compromising grace or truth are all things that I appreciate. I don’t listen to Driscoll as much, but I know many of my friends have found it helpful that he has more to say about sex than “don’t”. So basically, the influence of these preachers which encompasses far more than reformed theology has won a lot of interest in that theology among 20-somethings, at least in my circles.
    Finally, I think it is very significant that the New Calvinists have done an excellent job engaging young men. I don’t have data to prove this, but observationally, I don’t think the New Calvinist movement has the gender gap seen in other sectors of the church. As my generation establishes families, this could have long-range implications.

  • Derek

    No one said it was not Reformed enough Mark. My point was simply that the Reformed crowd has tended to favor the ESV and that is reflected in it’s sales numbers.

  • alberto medrano

    What I find funny about most of the comments is that it’s defensive. I mean, why not ask another question: what if the Armenians are reacting and holding up against the Calvinists? Just because someone likes a certain preacher doesn’t mean they identify with their theology. I love listening to Driscoll but in all honesty, I don’t fully agree with his theology. As far as I know, I’m not a Calvinist. I’m a charismatic who identifies as an armenian. However, I will say neither is fully correct. The reformed though will be the first to say they are. Them arrogant Christians. 😉

  • E.G.

    I suspect that the neo-Reformed are simply better at getting the message out, using much of the new media.

    This is probably partly due to the fact that, for the Reformed, precise and correct theology is a big, big deal. So, they spend a great amount of time discussing and talking about such things. That sort of activity (discussing, giving talks, writing books, etc.) is very amenable to internet distribution for mass consumption.

    Those of other persuasions (Arminian/Wesleyan/anabaptist/charismatic/whatever) still find theology important, but it is not nearly the same end-all-be-all that it is in Reformed circles. Perhaps those other groups tend to focus more on activities that are less YouTube-able. Things like family life, worship in the church, social activism, etc.

    So, there is a perception of a growing Calvinist movement when, in reality, they just tend to (currently) make more collective noise. Whether or not that noise is productive is yet to be seen.

  • toddh

    At the very least, you could say that the neo-reformed movement shows that they are more organized and publicly invested than they were 10 years ago, whether or not there has been any actual numerical growth in the movement.

  • JoeyS

    #32 Derek, the only thing you have shown is that reformed people are spending more money on books, conferences, etc. than they used to.

    Just because the conferences sprang up in the last decade doesn’t mean there wasn’t a market for them before. In fact, the fact that they sprang up is evidence that there was an untapped market not a new market created.

    Nothing you cited shows an actual boom, they are just things that may correlate to a boom, but they don’t necessarily and I would argue that they just don’t.

    I see an increasing number of young men drawn to the teachings of these reformed writers and pastors, but not in large enough numbers to constitute a boom. I would be willing to bet that their tenacity has turned nearly as many people away as it has drawn in.

  • Rick

    E.G. #39-

    “Those of other persuasions (Arminian/Wesleyan/anabaptist/charismatic/whatever) still find theology important, but it is not nearly the same end-all-be-all that it is in Reformed circles. Perhaps those other groups tend to focus more on activities that are less YouTube-able. Things like family life, worship in the church, social activism, etc.”

    From what I have seen of the Neo-Refs, they are focused on things such as “family life, worship in the church, social activism, etc.”.

  • Mick

    It sounds a bit more like we are confused and always confusing!

  • Mark Baker-Wright


    No one said it was not Reformed enough Mark. My point was simply that the Reformed crowd has tended to favor the ESV and that is reflected in it’s sales numbers.

    In that case, I would caution against making too much of the correlation. That such people favored one version versus the other doesn’t even begin to get into the factor of why they did so. I would even go so far as to question whether the ESV vs. TNIV favor has anything to do with being “Reformed” (vs. any of a number of other possibilities: “complementarian” “conservative” etc.)

  • rjs

    Daniel S,

    It is quite significant that many of these well known speakers and teachers have done an excellent job engaging young men. I just wish they could have done it in a positive fashion rather than a negative fashion that does so by building up a sense of ego and superiority. This has little to do with Calvinism or reformed theology per se – it has to do with human psychology. (Now I think a few have worked in a much more positive vein – for example I think that Keller has by and large done so – but the general tenor is destructive.)

    We need…

    some real humility
    some emphasis on servanthood without qualification
    some realization that most issues require multiple perspectives

    A reason for pride and arrogance (even arrogance hidden behind a veneer of apologetic humility) appeals to young men, but it can only be achieved at the expense of someone else.

  • JC Bell

    I agree with the correlation between Calvinism and new media. Blogs, for example, are ideal for the “my theology is right and yours is wrong” type of discussion. The calvinist blogs I visit remind me a lot of the political blogs I visit. They are populated with a set of people who have the truth, and if you disagree with that truth, you get a fight.

    I visited a friend who doesn’t go to church last week, and he told me that he stumbled on a Christian blog. He had a view on the topic (I think it was taxation) so he posted, and his exact words to me were “Man, they totally beat me up.” He’s not a fighter, so I could tell it upset him.

    I’m not sure what the blog was, but I can’t don’t see it happening on one like this. Meanwhile, here’s an unchurched person who stumbled upon a Christian forum only to be flamed by Christians.

  • Rick


    What specifically has been “negative”? I am not saying you are wrong, I just would like to see what you are referring to.

    Also, in regards to humility/pride- it is hardly a problem for just portions of the Neo-Ref segment. It is something that all segments have issues with.

  • Robin


    I’m calling BS. Piper has strong disagreements with N.T. Wright and various open theists and Mohler has strong disagreements with BioLogos, and neither is afraid to engage on those issues, but to claim that they have engaged young men in a fashion that is primarily negative is ludicrous.

    Let’s look at what has defined Piper’s ministry: Desiring God, a call to Christian Hedonism, the Pleasures of God, meditations on the things God delights in, Future Grace, Let the Nations be Glad, Don’t Waste Your Life, Brothers we are not professionals, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, God’s Passion for His Glory, etc.

    If you want to consider his speaking engagements, he does a 20 year expositional series on Romans, his conference speaking frequently focuses on dedicating your life to evangelism and missions, the only hobby-horses that I can think recur frequently from the pulpit are abortion and racial reconciliation.

    To look at his entire record, and say that because he has spats with Greg Boyd and N.T. Wright means that he has primarily engaged young men by hyping up negatives is close to slanderous.

    It would be like me saying that the trademark of Rick Warren’s ministry is providing an open hand of fellowship to people who voted in favor of partial birth abortion…Warren is much more than his affiliation with this President and Piper’s ministry encompasses a whole lot more than his disagreements with Boyd and Wright.

  • nathan

    I think too that just because people resonate with passion and power in preaching doesn’t mean they buy the whole package.

    It’s not like you’re getting didactic lectures on TULIP from piper, et. al.

    I can appreciate the power of “Desiring God”, appropriate it, and let it inform my own theology without having to also take the “God makes bridges fall and knocks over steeple crosses and gets me a good parking spot when it rains” interventionist stuff. (Sorry…that was snarky…)

  • Robin


    just to further illustrate your bias on this issue…your claim that Piper primarily engages young men by emphasizing the negative…

    Piper just hosted his annual conference, one of his prime opportunities to engage young men and women and advance whatever agenda he has. And what are the super negative messages that he wanted to enforce at his conference? What terribly nasty messages received the full support of Piper and his staff?

    1. Thinking About Poverty & Dependency: How Can We Truly Walk with the Poor?
    2. Rethinking “Missional”: Reconciling the Mission of God & the Mission of the Church
    3. Think “Story”: Understanding Your Place in the Drama of Redemption
    4. Zealous for Good Works: Rethinking Productivity in Light of Justification by Faith Alone
    5. Giving Thought to Gospel “Math”: Why Jesus + Nothing = Everything
    6. Difficult Truths & Deep Love: Pondering Sovereignty, Suffering, and the Promise of Heaven
    7. “Thinking Purposefully for the Glory of Christ: Developing the Mind of Christ”
    8. “Was Luther Wrong? The Biblical Languages and the Preservation of the Gospel—A BCS Special Lecture”

  • JoeyS

    Robin, RJS can speak for herself, but the reason that Piper’s influence is sometimes thought to be negative has more to do with his stance on women and his unsubstantiated use of the words “heresy” and heretic” for those with whom he disagrees.

  • kevin s.


    I don’t think Calvinism appeals to pride and arrogance, but rather to the intellect. For years, the seeker-based movement, eschewed strong theological grounding in favor of a more people-friendly demeanor, assuming that we could all rally around some basic principles.

    As those basic principles have been questioned within the church, people have gravitated to those who have the most intellectually consistent answers. This sort of logical, philosophical approach appeals to men generally, and to young men in particular, who have grown up with a church that didn’t have very satisfying answers to tough questions.

    It also appeals, obviously, to those who communicate online, who again tend to be young and male.

    To attribute this to an appeal to male pride is sexist and unfounded.

  • nathan

    wow Robin,

    a call to deeper humility and the call to not elevate second order issues to first order litmus tests is BS?


    No one is canning the good work of Piper, but it seems that the breathless adoration of some of these men reflexively brings out Protestant principle impulse–namely, a rightly high sensitivity when it seems any of us are getting even close to absolutizing what is not ultimate and is temporal.

    It doesn’t mean an attack on Piper, but it does mean that if people within a community can’t push pause and get some realistic perspective about who they are and their heroes, they’ll be in trouble.

    Also, just because EVERYBODY has a problem with pride doesn’t mean we can’t focus in on the Neo-Reformed. They are wanting to control the narrative and re-define evangelical identity in some way. That means they must bear the scrutiny if they want to be the leaders or spread stories about how all evangelicals have always been their brand of “reformed” until only recently.

    It’s fair game…simply because the measure by which you measure must always be applied to you.

    I will never get why consistently, and like no other group in my experience, does any questioning or critique always bring out the long knives the way some of the Neo-Reformed/Calvinists do…

  • Derek

    JoeyS said: “#32 Derek, the only thing you have shown is that reformed people are spending more money on books, conferences, etc. than they used to.”

    The only problem with this is that you completely ignored my point about the Reformed movement being on the forefront of church planting. Acts29 and Redeemer are two of the biggest church planting networks in America, and can’t be dismissed with your comment above.

    Either way though you comment still is a bit reductionistic, because either the Reformed crowd stayed the same size but suddenly decided to start spending absurd amounts of money on books and conferences, or the audience of conference attenders and book buyers has significantly increased. I would tend toward the latter considering that Desiring God’s national conference, T4G, and GC, have more people showing up every year and routinely sell out at 5K plus in people. Hard to say there is not a bigger audience and growing movement with such large conferences, hundreds of churches being planted, and swelling book sales.

    Now some may not like that there is a growing Reformed movement, but that was not the topic of this post. I am simply highlighting that it is somewhat silly to pretend at this point that the Reformed crowd is not growing and a movement is not afoot.

  • JoeyS

    Kevin s. I don’t think that you are trying to make this point but please be wary of speaking as if Calvinists have a monopoly on intellect. I am not a Calvinist, in part because I find it intellectually wanting. I will give you that it is thoughtful and consistent but it is by no means the only theological position that appeals to the intellect.

  • kevin s.


    rjs clearly and unequivocally panned the good work of John Piper. Accusing someone of thinly veiled arrogance is panning them.

    “I will never get why consistently, and like no other group in my experience, does any questioning or critique always bring out the long knives the way some of the Neo-Reformed/Calvinists do…”

    I have had exactly the same experience Emergents and Theo-evolutionists (and far worse experiences with Jim Wallis’s fanzone). Yes, Calvinists can be vicious, but it’s a tad ironic to bring that up in this context.

  • kevin s.


    If I thought Calvinists had a monopoly on intellect, I’d be a Calvinist. But there is no question they engage theology with a far greater degree of seriousness than many recent church movements.

  • JoeyS

    #54 Derek,

    I didn’t intend on addressing church planting as I don’t know the numbers so as far as my comment goes, it would have been foolish of me to comment on that topic.

    You can’t necessarily equate an increase purchasing and participation with growth in numbers. That isn’t how markets work. What is more likely is that the technology or availability of product was not available, and therefore was not sold in large quantities. The market was there, the product was not. When the product showed up the previously untapped market was tapped. You can not, by necessity, make the comparison you are trying to make.

    Now if you want to point to data that actually shows an increase in Calvinists, then please go right on ahead. I would be happy to acknowledge an increase if it is measurable. What you have provided doesn’t necessarily correlate – save the church planting networks which I can not speak to.

  • rjs


    Nobody is all wrong, and I never said nor intended to imply that Dr. Piper is an exception to that rule. In fact he has been a positive force in many ways. I find it troubling that he sees sharp contrasts and is unwilling to acknowledge ambiguity or uncertainty because I think he misses important pieces of the gospel.

    The implicit message of ego and arrogance is seen primarily in two arenas.

    (1) The inability of so many to appreciate the breadth of the church (and this was seen no where more clearly than in the grief Piper received when he invited Rick Warren to speak at his conference). Give me a break – here he reaped what he sowed.

    (2) The arrogance of interaction between men and women. Here you see some very deep antipathy on my part.

    I don’t think these are two separable issues though – the arrogance of “rightness” that led to the first is part and parcel of the arrogance in the gender issue.

  • Robin


    Here is what is BS

    “It is quite significant that many of these well known speakers and teachers have done an excellent job engaging young men. I just wish they could have done it in a positive fashion rather than a negative fashion”

    Piper has had 30 years of public ministry, preached countless sermons and 30 or 40+ books. He has a theological disagreement with Boyd and Wright, and issues a pamphlet and a book chapter on complementarianism, and all of a sudden his ministry and engagement with young men is characterized as negative?

    Here a fair test, lets look at the books, newsletters, and sermons over Piper’s 30 year career and then compare that negativity to the anti-calvinist posts of this blogs over the past year. Or, we could come up with the nastiest critiques levied by Piper’s “disciples” against Boyd and Wright and compare them to the comments issued here, on a daily basis, uncorrected by Scot and RJS that are pejorative towards calvinists, conservatives, creationists, etc.

    The comments by RJS could have only been uttered by (1) someone completely ignorant of the scope of his ministry (which I know she isn’t) or (2) someone so blinded by personal baggage regarding him that she is unable to consider his record holistically.

    I’m sick and tired of the smugness and hypocrisy that occurs here on a daily basis when the topic is calvinists, conservatives, creationists, or any other non-liberal group.

  • Rick


    “…but it is by no means the only theological position that appeals to the intellect.”

    True, but I think the point that many are making is that, in recent decades, theology was not often discussed on a wide scale- and when it was, it was somewhat shallow.

    The Reformed crowd have been some of the most visible at pushing back against that trend.

  • JoeyS

    Kevin s., fair enough. I should have realized from your earlier comments that you were not making that blanket statement.

  • Robin


    (1) Rick Warren – he invited him, and when people objected he didn’t waiver in the least bit. I don’t know how you can say that in any way is evidence that he fails to appreciate the breadth of the church.

    (2) Men and women – I have never heard any complementarian either advocate non-positive relationships between men and women, nor have I heard any complementarian malign egalitarians with broad, all encompassing aspersions. If I had a dime for every time I read a comment on this website calling me a chauvinist of misogynist because I embrace complementarianism I’d have enough money to hit the slots.

    To me, it looks like all of the arrogance is on your side of the debate.

    Regarding Wright – I don’t read him, and I cannot judge his writing, but I do know that the effect it has had on people I do read has been disheartening. When a conversation about the nature of salvation ends with “Don’t worry about salvation, you were baptized so you are saved” it is not exactly encouraging, and that is the message my (conservative) peers have taken from him. So yes, I am a little leary of Wright.

    I don’t understand if you and Scot are just blind to how prejudiced you are to your conservative brethren, or if you just think it is OK because you are right and we are wrong, but at least don’t pretend that you are giving us a fair hearing.

  • kevin s.


    Wait. Piper invites Rick Warren to speak at his conference, even though he receives grief about doing so, and this is an example of Piper’s inability to respect the breadth of the church?

    FWIW, Warren and Piper are sympatico on gender issues.

    I don’t always know what John Piper is thinking (Tornadoes, Boyd, opining in favor of a theater-goer who interrupted a play because there was nudity), but it’s quite a reach to accuse the man of preaching arrogance. He took time off from ministry specifically to deal with his own pride issues.

  • nathan

    kevin s.

    I think you have a point about the intellect…

    That being said, it’s hard to see a community of people consistently elevate hierarchalist gender construction as a first-order “gospel-centric” issue.

    It makes sense to me, whether correct or incorrect, that people are going to want to understand what the motivation is for such an elevation…

    and like I said, this stuff goes around to everybody, but we’re not talking about everybody.

    we’re talking about people who imply or outright claim that they have the high ground on who really loves/values Scripture, Truth, etc., and on that basis they should be listened to and followed.

    They’ve made that standard of credibility an issue….unlike any other recent church movement…

    people shouldn’t complain when it gets interrogated…and rightly so.

    That being said,

    For example, Grudem’s claims that egalitarianism is tantamount to blasphemy against the Trinity is offensive and is, in my opinion, a sinful attempt to marginalize those with whom he disagrees.

    It’s not just a simple disagreement anymore when people are being positioned as “near heretics”, at best…

    Those big bombs of rhetoric that mark that community tend to obscure all the good things that Robin has listed…fair or not…that’s what it does.

    I agree…Perspective is needed all the way around, but this context is hardly vicious…to disagree vigorously is one thing, but I’ve yet to meet a crowd that throws around the word “heretic” as irresponsibly. People should just own that their gravitation toward contentiousness inherent in their theology has an effect on people who are listening.

    That shouldn’t be a ‘threat’ to their convictions or beliefs.

  • rjs

    kevin and Robin,

    The problem was not that he invited Warren and that he didn’t waver (unfortunately Warren ultimately didn’t attend because of a family problem).

    The problem wasn’t with Dr. Piper here at all – it was with the attitude among this group of people who protested the invitation so vigorously and harshly. This is a symptom of the attitude and ego that is causing the problem. And I do think it is a situation where Dr. Piper suffered the consequence of a culture for which he is not solely responsible – but to which he has contributed.

    Look – the problem isn’t Calvinism on any level. The problem is human sin and brokenness.

  • Susan N.

    “I will never get why consistently, and like no other group in my experience, does any questioning or critique always bring out the long knives the way some of the Neo-Reformed/Calvinists do…” (Nathan @ #53)

    I think I might have an explanation for that, one that I concluded from my own exploration of Calvinism/TULIP and competing systematic theologies: Calvinism hinges on absolutes / total certainty. When those absolutes are questioned, it is therefore very threatening to those who subscribe to its doctrines.

    Also, perhaps the resurgence of Calvinism / Neoreformed theology in recent years is a response to the “un”-certainty of our times (rapid culture shift is frightening, along with political shift, economic collapse, etc.)? I found myself at one point wanting desperately to believe in the “absolutes” of Calvinism. In reality, where faith and life intersect, some things can’t be “systematized” about Scripture and God, imho. This is where RJS’s humility comes in, I think. Young people, most of all, are looking toward a very uncertain future. Perhaps Calvinism and the Neoreformed provide a sense of solid, absolute beliefs?

    Finally, all the high level theological analysis of Calvinism and how and why it is so in the forefront of Christianity in the media and to what extent at the local church level is fine. What it really comes down to for me is that this theological system of beliefs translates into a manner of interacting with others that comes across as hard and uncompromising. Extremely narrow and exclusive. It’s a real love/hate relationship with the world from a Calvinist perspective. To me, hate is just hate.

    This passionate debate among scholars and leaders of theology at least validates the struggle I have had sorting all this out in my own head!

  • Robin


    Regarding comment (66). Jesus Creed and it’s regular contributors seriously needs to remove the log from its own eye if this is the charge you are going to lay at Piper’s feet and the basis for saying that his interaction with young men is primarily negative.

  • JoeyS

    “Look – the problem isn’t Calvinism on any level. The problem is human sin and brokenness.”

    Amen. And something that we all must come to terms with as we learn how to receive and give criticism well.

  • Derek

    The data JoeyS is the conferences of thousands that are sold out and the hundreds of new churches being planted by the Reformed movement. Once again Redeemer and Acts 29 are planting more churches than any other network in the USA right now.

    Also your logic about there now being a product for the audience does not mesh. There has been great Reformed books coming out for generations now, with plenty of pipelines and content. John Piper has been writing for decades so has Sproul, McArthur, and the likes of Dr. Ryken and Kent Hughes.

    And your just wrong JoeyS about not being able to equate an increase in purchasing with a larger audience. Publishers and common sense tells us that you that the average consumer buys on average one copy of a book. It is silly to think that there is a small pool of reformed folk just buying multiple copies of the same book to ramp up the purchasing numbers.

    Publishers know that when they are selling more books it is because MORE people are reading them. By your logic I could just conclude that Purpose Driven Life was a Saddleback phenomon in which all the members each bought thousands of copies to pump up the numbers.

    Truth be told authors like DA Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper are selling more copies of their books because there are more people reading them.

    I would also really encourage you to do so more study on the church planting aspect as it is hard to be so definitive in your position if as you said you are not familiar with the impact of the Reformed movement in that area.

  • Robin

    I think that is what is stuck in my cr’all today. There is this attitude “ooh, look at those nasty mean calvinists” and then I read through the actual content of the comments and I cannot believe the commenters don’t hear themselves, don’t understand how they are engaging in the exact type of behavior they are accusing calvinists of. At least in the case of calvinists all of the proof is out there on the interwebs, for Jesus Creeders the disdain and “lack of appreciation for the breadth of the church” is dripping from the comments right here on this page.

  • rjs

    Robin — “nor have I heard any complementarian malign egalitarians with broad, all encompassing aspersions.

    Do you really mean this? Have you never heard someone complain that egalitarianism is a slippery slope into apostasy? Have you never heard someone complain about the feminization of the church?

    And you know Robin – Dr. Piper was not the first one to pop to mind as I wrote my original comment. The teachings of Mark Driscoll were more directly the focus.

  • Robin


    I’ve never heard a complementarian call an egalitarian a female chauvinist or feminogynist, things which I see egalitarians call complementarians every day.

    RJS as much as I appreciate your balance on other issues I just think you have a huge blind spot on this issue.

  • nathan


    sister, friend, you know disagreement doesn’t equal disdain.

    It’s not lack of appreciation for the breadth of the Church when people feel like that very breadth is threatened.

    Reformed/Calvinists are, in truth, our brothers and sisters, but you can’t deny that for all the good things you’ve rightly listed there is also rhetoric that is trying to narrow that very breadth or position that crowd as the the keepers of the high-ground.

    that’s what the whole Big Tent convo here is about in other threads.

    Instead of people being angry, it would be better for people to push pause and say: “Wow. As a lover of Truth, it’s clear that my brothers and sisters hear me communicating messages to them that are not in my heart. I would never want to communicate that to them, even in the midst of our disagreements”.

    But that’s not the response. and that rightly makes some of us wonder if people are happy to communicate the messages we are hearing.

    An example, Disagreeing with six-day literal creation doesn’t mean YEC is not welcome in the Christian faith. I’ve yet to hear a “theo-evolutionist” question the Christian identity of creationists or complementarians….

    But this crowd does…THAT’S the problem.
    Respectfully, people just need to own it.

    Again, are people mean and harsh all around at times? YES. yes. yes. yes. yes.

    But the answer isn’t to try to “define people out” of the community.

  • Ryan

    I have to agree with Robin here RJS.

    You may disagree with the argument that egalitarianism leads to the feminization of the church or toward an embracing of homosexuality, but there is an actual argument that is put forward. Wayne Grudem wrote an entire book on the topic. And while I disagree with his conclusions, at least he is building a case based on facts from Biblical interpretation, history of denominations, and church stats. Arguments are helpful and we should not malign people as being “mean and arrogant” just because we disagree with their arguments. We can do better than name calling. I have always thought that name calling is what we do when we don’t really want to engage with the ideas the people are putting forth.

    And I say all of this as an egalitarian who wants the dialogue to be more constructive. So RJS, lets be honest and admit that Robin is right about the hypocrisy here, I have to frequently heard people on this blog call complementarians, “chauvinists, evil, sinful” and equal to slave owners from eras past.

  • Karl

    Robin, what do you make of reformed theologian and RTS professor John Frame’s essay titled “Machen’s Warrior Children” in which Frame decries the divisively combative attitude of reformed folks *amongst each other* let alone with those Christians who aren’t even reformed? Is Frame totally off the mark? If you haven’t read the essay, you can skip down to the end and quickly read his 11 observations and his 9-point “unrealistic dream” (how sad that this dream is unrealistic).

    A couple of Frame’s observations:

    “One slogan of the Machen movement was “truth before friendship.” We should laud their intention to act according to principle without compromise. But the biblical balance is “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We must not speak the truth without thinking of the effect of our formulations on our fellow Christians, even our opponents. That balance was not characteristic of the Machen movement.”

    “Scripture often condemns a “contentious” spirit (Prov. 13:10, 18:6, 26:21, Hab. 1:3, 1 Cor. 1:11, 11:16, Tit. 3:9) and commends “gentleness” (2 Cor. 10:1, Gal. 5:22, 1 Thess. 2:7, 2 Tim. 2:24, Tit. 3:2, Jas. 3:17). The Reformed community should give much more attention to these biblical themes.”

  • nathan


    calling names is one thing, questioning people’s love of the Word, and their Christian identity is another thing.

    Grudem isn’t just making an argument for his view, he’s trying to marginalize people as “sub-Christian” at best.

    THAT is poison.

    I can forgive people for rash words…but rhetoric that is designed to destroy the basis on which relationship/forgiveness can happen deserves greater scrutiny.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    On so-called “Feminization of the Church”: I do not believe it is real, when laid against background numbers. As an American historian who wrote on issues tangentially related to religious history, I found that the American Church, all across denominations, has attracted more women than men since at least the Great Awakening of the 1740s and the Second Great Awakening of the 1800s. I don’t understand what people find so surprising in the basically stable numbers over 150 years.

    Randy Gabrielse

  • Ryan

    Have read everything Grudem has written on the subject and don’t recall him calling people “sub-Christian” I would think accusing some of this falsely would be “poison.”

    Also, two wrong don’t make a right and there are NO excuses for equating people you disagree with to slave owners as has been done on this blog by egals of comps. Sorry but Robin is right on this one and RJS is wrong.

  • John I.

    I agree more or less with rjs’ position on aspects of the neo-reformed movement. Fitch has a great post on how Mohler, etc., do give evidence of fitting within the so-called caricature and of being more neofundamentalist than neoreformed:

    On a related note, given that neo-reformed was used previously in Europe in relation to Kuyper, etc., and given that the American neo-reformed are not paedobaptist and that such “neoreformed” as Mohler trace their roots back to Calvinist teachers in the Baptist tradition rather than to reformed ecclesiastical groups, and that they tend reflect Calvin’s exclusivist, hardline and aggressive aspects rather than the aspects of the broader reformed theologians, “neocalvinist” seems to be a better termed.

  • nathan

    Grudem claims that the egalitarian view is contrary to the very being of God, that it impugns the Trinity itself. We can nitpick and say he didn’t say “sub-Christian”, but that’s the charge. He’s a smart guy, he’s not ham-handed, but beyond “legal precision” about the exact words we all know what’s being attempted rhetorically.

    Pointing out poisonous rhetorical excess is not poison. That’s just another version of “you do it too” when people actually…well…aren’t.

    And I don’t ever recall RJS equating complementarians with slave owners per se. Rather, I’ve seen people here cite how the church changed it’s views on slavery is analogous in relation to “the change” when it comes to women.

    That’s not the same thing as saying they’re evil as slave owners. That’s saying the change itself is the issue.

  • John I.

    Driscoll and ilk believe that egalitarianism is cause for church discipline, which makes it a watershed issue and difficult (if not impossible) to work under a “big tent”. For example, in one of his recent interviews, Driscoll stated that if a wife is out working and the husband isn’t–save only in extreme cases of injury, sickness, or other physical debility (unemployment is not mentioned as an excuse)–he is “worse than an unbeliever.” The other aspect of the neocalvinists that makes them small tent is their belief in the finality of the correctness of their beliefs. Mohler can’t see how one could ever believe in evolution and Driscoll states that his mind cannot be changed on “complementarianism”. That’s very different from how Billy Graham and other big tent evangelicals have and do operate.

    The other aspect of the vocal neocalvinist movement in respect of women is that its understanding if misogyny is behind the times. It’s as if we were still discussing racism in the language of the 50s and 60s, and as if it was merely an individual thing. The movement fails to see institutional, structural and social misogyny as real, just as there is institutional, structural and social racism. To many of those outside the so-called complementarian movement, the views of that movement are inherently misogynist. Complementarianism to us seems to be a misnomer, because there is nothing much complementary about it: men can do anything women can except (1) give birth, and (2) stay at home while the wife works (only one nonbiological restriction, and even that one has exceptions) Women, on the other hand, face a whole bunch of nonbiological restrictions.

    Lastly, though historic numbers of self-identified Calvinists have not changed according to Barna, that may be in the process of change during this next decade if they continue to be vocal, listened to, and operate denominational, educational, and eclesiastical levers of power.

    John I.

  • Karl

    Thanks for a bit of sanity here, Nathan: “Pointing out poisonous rhetorical excess is not poison. That’s just another version of “you do it too” when people actually…well…aren’t.”

    It’s like someone walked into (or makes a habit of walking into) the middle of a gathering and acting arrogantly divisive, judgmental and harsh. And then when those who have observed that behavior comment “wow, that guy sure was arrogant, divisive, judgmental and harsh” they get called on the carpet for being arrogant, divisive, jugdmental and harsh themselves simply for making the observation and decrying the behavior.

    Note that it is the behavior and attitude that is being decried or lamented, NOT in most cases the sincerely-held beliefs themselves. A dogmatic certainty about secondary, disputable matters that doesn’t allow that the “other side” just might actually have a point, almost always fosters arrogance and divisiveness. That lack of epistemelogical humility and dismissive or condescending arrogance when interacting with those who disagree is what some of us are concerned Piper, Grudem, Driscoll et al. are fostering among their followers – to an even greater extent than they may exhibit those things themselves, personally.

  • Bradm

    “On a related note, given that neo-reformed was used previously in Europe in relation to Kuyper, etc., and given that the American neo-reformed are not paedobaptist and that such “neoreformed” as Mohler trace their roots back to Calvinist teachers in the Baptist tradition rather than to reformed ecclesiastical groups, and that they tend reflect Calvin’s exclusivist, hardline and aggressive aspects rather than the aspects of the broader reformed theologians, “neocalvinist” seems to be a better termed.”

    Kuyperians already use that term to describe themselves. It would be a shame if Piper/Driscoll/etc. would take that word.

    And I would second the recommendation of Jamie Smith’s “Letters to a Young Calvinist.”

  • Colleen

    Complementarians always seem reasonable on the surface, it’s true.

    But I have never been in a complementarian church (and yes, I’ve been in several) that didn’t have an underbelly of plain old sexism.

  • kevin s.


    People here have argued that the idea of hell is against the very being of God. The only reason any dismisses any theological perspective is that they cannot reconcile it with what they know of God. By your standard, everyone who disagrees with anyone about any theological issue is, essentially, dismissing their opponents as sub-Christian.

  • John I.

    re #84: It seems my recollection of word usage was errant, and it’s neo-Calvinist and not neo-Reformed that is taken. OK, good, then we can use the term neo-reformed, though I still don’t think that captures what is happening in that movement, which seems to me to be more neo-fundamentalist.

  • Ryan

    Big leaps there Nathan. He is doing theology, and you are reading words that are not there and putting words in his mouth, very unkind. Once again I am an egal and disagree with him, but I also believe that comps can make their arguments from the Bible and stats just like egals can. It is divisive and wrong to say that Grudem says egals are “sub-Christian” just because you disagree with his arguments. Engage the ideas and avoid the broad brushing.

  • JoeyS

    # 86 kevin s.

    I don’t think his point addresses disagreements as much as rhetoric surrounding them. It is one thing to have a debate or disagreement on the doctrine of hell, it is wholly another to call your opponents view blasphemy or heresy or to call your detractors blasphemers or heretics.

  • Derek

    Your doing it again though JoeyS. As Ryan mentioned above which comps are calling egals “heretics?” This is just a straw man, invented boogie man that just does not exist.

    I can’t think of any major theologian who is calling egals “heretics,” but I have seen egals on this blog equate comps to “slave owners, and chauvinist.”

  • nathan


    you don’t think that characterizing an egalitarian position as a kind of affront to the very being of God in the Trinity is not “fighting words”.

    Again, let’s not get bogged down in legal precision about…”well he didn’t say the exact words “sub-christian”…

    you know it’s there. he equates egalitarianism with a kind of soft apostasy. apostasy historically means NOT Christian. hence my use of the term.

    It’s not unkind to relate back how what people are claiming in their arguments, explicitly or not, sound to people.

    I think it’s incredibly naive to say that we can’t assess the political/rhetorical effects of language simply because somebody’s doing “theology”. Theology is a form of public discourse. It’s not just some form of contemplative acts of faith. It is a rhetorical act of power too.

    Being wide eyed about these realities isn’t being unkind.

  • nathan

    @kevin s.

    that’s certainly not my standard.

    and the doctrine of hell is not a second order doctrine.

    a critical difference that I’ve consistently signaled.



  • Ted M. Gossard

    I have no doubt at all that RJS is making a valid point. I’ve known of it at play both in the real world and online. There is most definitely a sense that those who are not in line with them are watering down, or distorting the gospel.And what we see needs to be compared to what should be. That we put the best construction on others, and appreciate the oneness we have in Christ. That we would really enter into iron sharpening iron. But not possible as is.

  • Ryan

    No Nathan I do not think theological debates about the ontological nature of the Trinity are “fighting words.” I would hope that we would not have to be that aggressive with each other and could be more civil than just assuming that if someone has a different theological position then us, that they have used “fighting words.” We need to learn to disagree agreeably.

    Call me naive but I prefer to let people speak for themselves rather than reading into their theological arguments something that is clearly not there. I try to do this with my friends, family members, and even strangers when I disagree with them.

    And I can’t help but getting hung up on the term “sub-Christian” as you ascribed it to someone who never used it. That is misleading and just plain wrong.

    As has been said here, name calling and labels are a poor substitute for an argument. I found it wild that you are okay with egals on this blog equating comps with slave owners, but not with Grudem having a different view of the Trinity then you. Wow.

  • Ted M. Gossard

    Let me add that putting the best construction means hearing each other out. Of course this is a two way street.

    Roger Olson has spoken out on this as well. He has suffered being misconstrued at best and misrepresented at worst- or maybe more likely not deemed worthy of consideration(?), one who is definitely not without appreciation of Calvinism, though not one himself. And who thinks his position has not been heard out or understood.

  • DRT

    Did you all see Glen Beck with the whole show today comparing us to the tower of babel? Wonderful. Obama is making us all into bricks instead of stones, materialism is the mortar holding us together, and god is not happy with us building this centralized socialist tower. Instead, we need to be stones instead of bricks and not participate in this tower of babel creation……ugh

  • nathan


    Actually, i didn’t say that was ok.

    What I said was that I’ve never seen RJS say that comps are like slave holders. And in that same post I said to do so is wrong.

    I’ve only seen people signal that the change on women has analogs to our change of understanding on slavery.

    It’s about the change. Not saying that comps are morally equivalent to slave holders. My understanding is that we can’t claim that we’ve “left biblical fidelity or christian identity” simply because we’ve changed a long held view.

    That’s not the same thing. Sorry if I’m not communicating well on that point.

    Godly people disagree, but as Mr. Gossard sounded the Neo-Reformed make this point a hallmark of biblical fidelity, thereby impugning the fidelity of those who disagree.

    We’re not talking about some abstract discussion about the ontology of the Trinity. We’re talking inflammatory deployment of an ontological argument to say essentially “that those egalitarians are leading us toward apostasy that is counter to the very being of God”.

    We can say we disagree with that conclusion, but I think we also have to take issue with rhetorical strategy itself. These things matter too.

    When you go there, you’ve rhetorically shut down the very discussion you would desire to have.

  • smcknight

    Whoa, I’ve been in classes and then a long interview, some conversations with students, a commute home … a dinner salad … and wow, I see 96 comments and some of it out of hand.

    All come together now: this is a post about whether or not there is a New Calvinist movement. Barna/David Kinnaman says no, and I tend to trust statistics of this sort though I’m with Jason Lee that a more refined approach would help us even more.

    From this point on, the only comments that will be approved will be on the general topic and not on what folks think of NeoReformed folks or what folks think of how comments work on this blog.

    Fair enough?

  • nathan

    fair enough.

    @Ryan and Kevin s.

    I’d be happy to continue our discussion via email.

    I appreciate your interactions with me here.

    Thank you.

    Let me know…

  • nathan

    yay! 100!!!

    couldn’t resist…sorry…

  • JoeyS

    Derek, you seem to have some sort of bone to pick. I hope you can move past that.

    Nothing in my comment mentioned egalitarian vs. complimentarian, but it was about a pattern that has emerged on theological topics where certain Calvinist teachers have unjustifiably called people with whom they disagree “heretic” or some other disparaging term.

    If you want to seen example listen to Mark Driscoll’s comments at the2007 Convergence Conference.

    Of course, he isn’t a “theologian” but he commands an audience, and finally has some theological training under his belt.

  • JoeyS

    Oops, sorry, Scot, didn’t see your post before I commented. I’ll back down.

  • Karl


    I grew up in the Presbyterian church (USA – an evangelical pastor and congregation) and later spent a number of years in the PCA and then in an independent church with rigid 5-point TULIP theology. From older friends in those varied churches and from reading the Frame essay I linked above, I understand that this combativeness about what I would consider secondary or tertiary theological issues isn’t something new in conservative reformed circles. How do you distinguish the phenomenon that Frame writes about, from the current Neoreformed (if there is such a group)?

    Or, maybe as Barna suggests there is no such new, growing “Neoreformed” group. If so, then are the people who have been mis-named the Neoreformed really just the latest generation of those reformed “warrior children” that Frame is writing about, now with internet access?

  • smcknight

    Karl, I’m not sure I know nor do I really care to get into the whys and hows of this issue.

    Here’s what I want to say, and it pertains to all of us:

    1. I got a letter from a friend/scholar the other day who was shocked at how brutal the anti-Wallis folks were on this blog.
    2. I suspect those who were anti-Wallis, or critical of Wallis, thought they were expressing their mind and didn’t see any ill-will or rancor or mean-spiritedness.
    3. Leading me to this: When we think we are right, or when we generally agree with the person who is writing (RJS, Robin, Michael Kruse, pds), we don’t see any rancor in their comments.
    4. But those who disagree see all kinds of rancor and even mean-spiritedness.
    5. Leading to this one: I routinely get letters from both sides of issues who think the blog is biased toward one or against the other. No kidding. If you are one who thinks this blog is one-sidedly imbalanced, take a deep breath and listen to me: yes, it’s not empirically measured balanced, but if you were sitting in my seat you’d know that criticism comes from both sides. I suspect one group doesn’t see the other side’s perception.
    6. Whether you see this or not doesn’t matter, I like the way this blog works. There’s enough give and take to make me think both sides get to express their views.

  • James K.A. Smith
  • jordan

    Scot (#104)

    I think you’re absolutely right. I’ve seen the comments critical of the New Calvinists here and then when I go and read/watch these guys I just don’t see all the fuss. However, I know that that the reason I don’t see what other do is because my own beliefs lean a bit in that direction. I’m aware of that so I try to temper my thoughts and words when I speak to the critics and I especially try to take a moment and try to “enter” their perspective for a minute. It’s always harder to hear criticism from the “other side of the aisle” I think.

    Regarding the original post, I’m super surprised by Barna’s results. I’m a 20something, decently conservative Christian and I thought these New Calvinists were taking off like wildfire. I would have suspected that Calvinism accounted for say 80% of Evangelicals and maybe 60+% of SBC.

  • smcknight

    JKA Smith must have a dog in this fight to use such egregious overstatements that don’t help:

    a host of problems (how many is a “host”? more than he shows)
    It is not bad methodology to ask pastors what kind of theology they have or what kind of church serve.
    Handwaving is uncharitable, as if David Kinnaman’s a hack.
    Laughable, c’mon Jamie you can do better than impugn the integrity of others.
    “utterly naive”: how big is “utterly”? Sounds like an overstatement to me.

    Leery indeed. If you were leery you’d not have posted on this.

    By the way, self reporting is a form of social science study.

  • jordan

    And as a follow up to my last paragraph. Given a relatively equal distribution between Calvinist, Arminian, and “other”, where are these non-Calvinists hiding their resources/books/blogs/etc. ? It took me forever to find Roger Olson and he and Scot are about the only non-Calvinists I know of doing stuff remotely like Keller, Piper, DeYoung, and Challies. I’m attracted to the New Calvinism because it gives me “meat” to chew on and ponder and hang on to. Most of what I read is either from New Calvanists or people talking about the evils of New Calvinism :-) Jesus Creed is pretty much about the only general exception I read regularly.

  • Karl


    You asked for comments on the general topic. The general topic is a Barna survey that indicates the number of reformeds hasn’t grown appreciably. Yet you and others have noted, or “felt” what seems like a trend. So you posted the news about the Barna survey, and asked us “what say you?” about this data. In your #98 you pointed out that this thread is about “whether or not there is a new calvinist movement.”

    My #103 is directly related to the Barna survey and the question in your post #98. Do you think the folks that *you* call the neoreformed differ appreciably from the folks RTS’s Frame is writing about in his essay, many of whom predate the “new calvinist” movement? If so, how? If not, might the “neoreformed” or “new calvinists” actually just be a new generation of a subset of the reformed community that has been there for a long time, the tendencies of which Frame is writing about? Frame himself posits this thesis:

    “Machen died of pneumonia in 1937, disappointed that his new denomination was already showing signs of division. Machen’s children were theological battlers, and, when the battle against liberalism in the PCUSA appeared to be over, they found other theological battles to fight. Up to the present time, these and other battles have continued within the movement, and, in my judgment, that is the story of conservative evangelical Reformed theology in twentieth-century America. In the rest of this essay I will discuss that theological warfare . . .”

    Frame (I think) would draw a direct line from Machen to today’s most visible reformed voices and say there isn’t a “new” thing going on in reformed circles, just new people carrying on more of the same. So, I think he would answer your question of “is there a new calvinist movement” in the negative. I wonder whether you agree. I’m sorry if you don’t see that as relevant to your original post and your statement in #98 that this whole thread is about whether there is a new calvinist movement, but I can’t see how it’s not. Help me out.

  • smcknight

    Karl, yes, your comment is within what the post was about … thanks.
    The media’s attention, which created the Barna study, is about the growth among folks like Piper and Driscoll — more or less nonPresbyterian Baptists who are Reformed in theology. I see that as the focus of the New Calvinists and what I call the NeoReformed, and Southern Seminary is Calvinist and that’s a change in the last two/three decades.

    The newness then is not about style or substantive beliefs but “new” in new groups who were not previously Reformed.

  • BR

    I am involved in one of these NeoReformed churches and my observations is that the report is probably accurate in some respects. I think this group is one that is quite visible and organized and knows how to get their teachings across. This results in a louder voice. The intellect is very important with this group and so you have a lot of these pastors and leaders doing a lot of writing, teaching and speaking and thus are able to increase the volume. Also they hit some selective hot buttons and generate a lot of friction.

    I sense the the growth is coming from younger folks; hence the term The Young, Restless and Reformed from the article a couple of years ago in CT. I wonder how much growth is coming from non-Christians though. I think the numbers are coming from those who migrate from other faith backgrounds.

    I wonder in the big picture of the scope and history of the church how large this group really is.

  • Karl

    That helps, Scot. I had missed the distinction that “new” was supposed to refer to reformed theology in new *places* rather than reformed theology with renewed emphasis, vigor, attitude, prominence or what have you. Sorry for being off track.

    Anecdotally, I have watched several of my more devout and spiritually serious friends from the fundamentalist baptist Christian high school I attended (which was Bob Jones, free-will all the way), become strongly reformed in their theology as they became more intellectually serious about their faith. Also anecdotally, the “independent reformed” church we attended for several years in the 90’s, was a mix of baptists and presbyterians, did not practice infant baptism, was about as staunchly 5-point reformed as a church can get, and had been in existence (with similar theology) since the 1950’s.

    It has sure “felt” to me like there has been a swing toward more baptists being reformed here in Virginia than I can recall in the 70’s when I thought “baptist” was synonymous with “free will.” But maybe that isn’t really the case.

  • Bradm


    I know you thought Smith was dismissive of the study, but you in turn were dismissive of his critique. In fact, you didn’t even talk about his main problems with the study.

    Instead you focused on the language he used. And even when you did mention something about his critique, you don’t discuss the actual reasons he gives for questioning their methodology, you just contradict him and don’t give any reasons.

    BTW, in the past Barna has conducting studies on “evangelicals” and made it a point to not ask people “Are you an evangelical?” Instead they asked questions like “Is your faith important to your life today?” and “Do you believe eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works?” I am curious as to why they did this for “evangelicals” but not “reformed.”

  • smcknight

    I don’t think his critique said anything substantive but picked it apart with exaggerated rhetoric, Bradm. But his tone is what concerned me the most … so derisive of a brother’s study.

  • Bradm


    I thought he had a few good points:

    1) A rise in “new calvinism” doesn’t necessarily mean reformed churches are growing.

    2) As I pointed out at the end of my last comment, by Barna’s own past standards they realize that people aren’t necessarily the best at categorizing themselves. Defining “Reformed” at least ensures that everybody is talking about the same thing. See Smith’s discussion about traditional charismatic and Pentecostal denominations for how this may have affected the study.

    3) Numbers. I am in total agreement with Smith that a “reformed resurgence” doesn’t necessarily equate to a rise in the number of new calvinists or the number of churches that consider themselves to be reformed. A movement can be influential without an increase in numbers.

  • Bradm

    Just to be clear, what I meant by point 1 is that the growth, if there is any, could be outside reformed churches.

  • Susan N.

    I’m sorry if any of my comments or questions contributed to the adversarial turn in the discussion. I think others (comments after the 100 mark!) expressed my answer to the question, “So there’s no neoreformed?” Is what we see in prominent media (Internet, books, speakers, church networks) just a more intellectualized next gen.-version of the old fundamentalist movement? Maybe it’s a labeling problem? And, if the average person (not involved in theological study or serving as a pastor) doesn’t research the various systematic theologies, then it isn’t difficult to find oneself subscribing to a set of beliefs or attending a church in which the doctrines are implicitly Calvinist / Reformed. So, I can see how this study has the potential to fail to capture the true growth stats. On the other hand, one person’s (mine!) anecdotal evidence could be shortsighted! I am genuinely interested to learn a broader way of thinking on this, because it has impacted my faith experience in more than hypothetical/ideological terms. I would like to get this right, not only for my own sake, but because I represent Christ. Others may feel invited or not to Him, depending on my choices and actions.

  • James K.A. Smith

    I stand by it, Scot. This is a classic case of what Christian Smith called “Evangelicals Behaving Badly with Statistics”:

  • smcknight

    JKA, and I stand by what I wrote: a classic case of Christians behaving in an uncivil manner.

  • Bradm

    A recent study shows that 95%** of the time that somebody is worried about “tone” that it is really just a passive aggressive way of saying that they disagree with the content but don’t really have any good reasons for that disagreement. By focusing on “tone,” these people, instead of judging ideas based on their correctness, judge ideas by their civility or politeness.

    **Based on a sampling of blogs I’ve read from the years 2007 to 2010.

  • L.

    I’m no theologian, just a layperson, but what I’ve observed about Calvinists comes from being in both Calvinists and Arminian churches. What I’ve observed is that Calvinism is an extreme philosophy that is popular because we’re living in extreme times. It’s also a trend that will moderate over time. Now, what I do find very objectionable is the arrogance on the part of some, not all of course, but some Calvinists and how many have made Calvinism an idol. Plus, why do they go out of their way to point out that they’re Reformed? Why can’t they just be plain Christians? You remember him, right? Jesus Christ? Anyone? I have to say that Arminians don’t go out of their way to distinguish themselves by their philosophy.

    As for Driscoll, how can anyone say the things he does and really have Christ in his heart? Christ would never discipline a man for choosing to stay home while his wife chooses to work out of the home. Not a salvation issue! Okay, you can proceed to flame me.

  • James

    “”What I’ve observed is that Calvinism is an extreme philosophy that is popular because we’re living in extreme times””
    So true….its like I follow Apollos..I follow Paul and Christians follow Christ. There is a need to be the one with the absolute truth. People need to separate themselves. If they understood how against Christ this was they would so ashamed of themselves–and I mean both camps–but obviously Calvinism is the niche product.

    Its like… I use a Mac. Its like.. Linux rules. This type of personality may even latch on to Armin if it was the absolute niche.
    The subject was not meant to be comprehended by temporal beings. If Paul wanted it clear–or was even clear on it himself it would be crystal clear–yet its not even close to being clear. If it was there wouldnt be a thousand books published to just explain 1 chapter of the Bible.

    How about having a little faith that God will do what is right and stop trying to reduce Him to some machine in which equations proceed from. But no..there is always a Mr Wizard who has special knowledge and he will have his followers so they claim they somehow are more Christian than someone else. Every single one the greatest thinkers in Christian thought were pitifully flawed on many subjects.
    Why? Because they overreach. They think they are special–somehow not realizing we all have the Holy Spirit
    Early Christians were converted by one sentence from Paul sometimes. Reducing salvation to a textbook is just about as myopic as it gets.