An Introduction to Paul

An Introduction to Paul March 20, 2012

By Paul

Vyckie Garrison has asked me to write an introductory post concerning my blog,, and the timing is perfect. After researching New Calvinism for five years now, I have recently discovered a relationship between New Calvinism and Patriarchy groups. This is a very significant development.

New Calvinism shapes most of the Christian landscape in our day. It came out of the Progressive Adventist movement in 1970. The base doctrine is the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. It teaches that all truth is outside of us and encapsulated in the gospel. By understanding Christ and his works in a deeper and deeper way, we manifest one of two realms, Spirit or flesh. New Calvinists attest to what some call the total depravity of the saints.

The project that launched the movement was known as the Australian Forum and their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine. The magazine is no longer published, but at one time was the most widely circulated theological journal in the world. The Forum participants, primarily Robert Brinsmead, Geoffrey Paxton, and Graeme Goldsworthy believed they had rediscovered the lost gospel of the Reformation.

The movement is characterized by exclusiveness (what they call their “scandalous gospel”), a Crusades like motivation (new Reformation), and heavy handed leadership style. These are basic characteristics that result in the tsunami of spiritual abuse that is indicative of New Calvinism. In fact, the list of potential warning signs for spiritual abuse as posted by the Take Heart Project hit close to home for those who know New Calvinism:

Does your church or group place careful emphasis on unquestioning obedience to authority?

Does your church or group believe that they have found the truth and that all others are deceived?

An affirmative answer to the latter question dominates the New Calvinist motif of the lost Reformation Gospel rediscovered by the Australian Forum. It is known in the movement as “semper reformanda.” The recovery of their “underestimated,” “unadjusted” gospel.

The marriage of New Calvinism and Patriarchy-like movements is bad news for the church. Only truth sets us free; truth only sanctifies, and nothing else (John 17:17). My preliminary studies indicate that this is a marriage of convenience, unlike the majority of movements today that find their roots in the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. But New Calvinism has tenets that bolster Patriarchy in many ways, as can be illustrated with this microcosm by blogger Mara Reid: From Bitter Waters To Sweet

Also, New Calvinists played a role in the development of The Danvers Statement which is sort of a statement of faith and purpose used by the Patriarchy movement and developed by The Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The counsel’s staff,
board of directors, and council members are heavily populated with New Calvinists. This tightknit relationship is intriguing to me.

I have a dog in this fight. I find the indifference regarding the spiritual abuse of these ministries as unfortunate collateral damage completely unacceptable. A small price for the sake of the semper reformanda seems to be the attitude. Such is not our Lord. He is a judge that stands at the door in defense of the one of ninety-nine, the one who knows of every sparrow that falls to the ground, and defines true religion in service of the oppressed. God’s law is written on the heart of every person, but the Christian has that law set on fire in his heart by the Spirit of God. We love what God loves, the God of Justice and mercy, the defender of the weak.

This battle can be won and many can be saved from unnecessary evil, but we must take a lesson from the abusers themselves. The Forum started the techniques of networks and conventions to promote the centrality of the objective gospel. Those joining in God’s service to earnestly contend for the faith will have to do the same. We will do this in the midst of what Christ predicted would be the conditions of the last days marked by his coming and imminent return:

“Because of anomia, the hearts of many will be cold.”

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

Be sure to visit Paul’s blog for more of his thoughts on subjects like the one raised today.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • I was in the Shepherding Movement of the 1980s. When that fell apart, I naively thought maybe the church as a whole had learned a lesson from it. I was wrong. It’s just taken a new form and grown again, worse than before. Thanks, Paul, for this information.

  • Kristen,
    Greetings. I have been asked to research the Shepherding movement and my initials findings are that it never really fell apart, but it hitched a ride with New Calvinism. At least one source states that an escape from the subjectivity of the Charismatic movement as a cure for that denomination was the initial motivation. What better cure than the “objective gospel outside of us”? The Forum published an issue of their theological journal that offered this exact cure for the Charismatic movement, and the Forum printed one-million copies of that particular issue. This occurred shortly before the Shepherding movement was born. This is all preliminary theory. But if true, Sonship theology would be another example. opponents of that movement thought it died, but it is very much alive and together with New Calvinism. Both of the two primary forefathers of Sonship Theology are also primary figures in the New Calvinist movement.

    New Calvinism is an incredibly abusive movement. And now these other movements are being assimilated into New Calvinism as a whole. SGM is one that speaks for itself. It is forming a perfect storm of terror. Get rid of New Calvinism, and you easily get rid of 50% of the spiritual abuse taking place in the church. Old Calvinism has added some positive tenets to its theology over the years and has been a positive force within Christianity. But every 100-200 years, a movement like the Australian Forum “rediscovers” the original dark theology of some of the Reformers that was an integration of Platonism and Christianity. That’s New Calvinism. In Issue three of our newsletter, we will be exposing the sevenfold control structure of Patriarchy churches that include monthly and annual in-home inspections by elders.

    I grew up on the mean streets, and the mean streets couldn’t hold a candle to these guys.

  • What is Sonship Theology?

  • abba12

    I’m sorry, this sounds like a whole bunch of fancy names, big impressive words, and phrases with assumed meanings that are never actually explained, just meant to look important.

    Give definitions for your terms and groupings, because anyone that isn’t familiar with the topic is going to be lost by the second paragraph. Define exactly what you’re refering to, some of these terms can be referring to multiple ideas and without clarification could mean a number of things.

    Or perhaps that is your intention, to sound authoritative enough that no one asks questions, just takes you at face value. Because I don’t see any other purpose an article like this can serve, given the high amount of prior knowlege that is assumed.

    The IFB, largely known for their ties to quiverful and patriarchy, and general abuse in the church, are also largely Arminian in my experience, quite the opposite of calvinists, or do these people still fit your undefined term of ‘new calvinists’?

  • Kristen,

    In short, all of these things associated with New Calvinism including Sonship Theology does exactly what Gothard does in the end — makes Protestantism a works-based faith by merging justification and sanctification.

    In this new form of Calvinism, they’re all terrified of having an inner experience as a Christian because even by just being a recipient of forgiveness and new life, if it feels too good, it means somehow that you are participating and it’s not something that God does all on his own. If you are changed on the inside of who you are, they seem to act as though it is some admission that you participated in the process of getting saved, so they think it suggests that this makes you more powerful than God.

    So they redefine salvation as something that happens from the outside in — that what we do on the outside eventually changes us.

    To support that logically and theologically, at some point, you have to rely on works to save yourself (though they repeat otherwise and talk out of two sides of their mouths in terms of doctrine, claiming faith alone but at the same time saying that we must follow obedience and do works to keep saved.

    When you do try to support that theologically, you end up with only a few viable ways to do that. Though these guys will deny it, they end up having to affirm that justification (God being satisfied in terms of the Law that we are 100% in right standing with God when we have faith when his righteousness is imputed to us), they say that it has to be earned through good works, little by little over time. Because nothing happens on the inside, you have to keep doing things on the outside to push it in and be changed from the outside in. They say that you have to work at being justified– that Jesus paid the price on Cross to allow us to merit it, but we don’t receive it until we start doing good works.

    Belief in Jesus just becomes a hell insurance policy, and they make payments on it by doing good works. If they quit paying, and they loose the “coverage” of justification.

    I don’t know if they actually will say that if you reject this or if you aren’t actively pursuing good works that you end up in hell, but they will certainly dub you a lesser Christian or an ignorant one.

  • In that letter that Bill Gothard sent out to alumni of ATI at Thanksgiving, he claimed that his view on grace came out of the Westminster Confession, a Calvinist Statement of Faith. This ties back directly to the exact same thing that Sonship Theology does. I wrote about it on my blog, with diagrams and everything!

    All of the groups that Paul Dohse discusses do the same thing, even though they also claim to be Calvinists. Covenant Theology creates a lot of problems that I don’t think need to be there in terms of how faith and works relate to one another. That discussion and other problems in the Presby system lead to other controversies and odd teachings that were anything but Reformed. This Australian Forum bunch were just one of the things that the Presby church used to try to address some of those problems that come out of that Presby theology. Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul grew out of these problems as they tried to figure out how to balance faith and works and what they actually do in theological terms.

    I used an article addressing the problems with Sonship Theology to write the review of the letter from Gothard in November:

    It’s all the same stuff, just with different window dressing.

  • Abba12,

    From a Christian perspective and stated in a simple way, both groups want to arrive at God’s end destination, but they get there through what the Apostle Paul called “the works of the flesh,” doing it their own way instead of “following the Spirit.” Christian love gets totally lost in the process. What they end up with is a monster of a system of totalitarianism — trying to accomplish good things, but they use whatever means they find necessary. It just so happens that both groups vilify women in different but similar ways that have nothing to do with Calvinism or Arminianism.

    From a social psychology perspective, there are only so many ways that you can manipulate people, and people figure out rather quickly what works. Both of these groups seek power, so they’ve fallen into the predictable patterns of what human beings do and what manipulation looks like on a group level. The similarities have to do with the dynamics of manipulation and exploitation of the naieve, and I think that’s why they end up looking similar.

    These New Calvinists just went about all that a little differently than the IFB did, but the magnet of dominance through power drew them to the same endpoint.

  • Abba 12,
    In addressing Kristen, I was speaking to a certain audience. Sorry to offend, but due to the fact she was in that movement at one time, I would like to assume that she understands the basics of what I was talking about based on her experience.


    You are right: when justification and sanctification are fused together, works can be the only outcome. If sanctification links justification to glorification, we have to do what is right to “be found righteous at the judgement.” That includes DOING NOTHING in order to be found righteous! VB, in his book, “Family Shepherds,” continually refers to (like all new Calvinists) being found righteous at some future judgement. But Christians will not stand in such a judgement for we have already been declared righteous. There are two resurrections, and Jesus calls the first one the “resurrection of the just.” That’s because we are already just before we are resurrected. This is why New Calvinists and others avoid eschatology–raises too many questions they can’t answer.

    And in regard to CONTROL, this is the perfect theology because when the sanctification and justification are fused, living in such a way to get to glorification becomes very, very, tricky, and we all know who we supposedly need to guide us there! Is this not the crux of the matter? The goal is control. Hey, that rhymes 🙂

  • Mara Reid

    Abba12: “Or perhaps that is your intention, to sound authoritative enough that no one asks questions, just takes you at face value. Because I don’t see any other purpose an article like this can serve, given the high amount of prior knowlege that is assumed.”

    Hi, Abba12, Sorry for all the big words and stuff. Paul, Cindy, and Kristen are all used to dealing with men who work very hard to “sound authoritative enough that no one asks questions, just takes you at face value.” And those men are using high sounding words to infect Christianity with complicated doctrines in order to, as they have said above, control. Paul, Cindy, and Kristen are able to answer them intellegently in their own terms.

    I asked Paul and Cindy to explain New Calvinism because all it comes across to me is, “blah, blah, blah,” and I have pretty good comprehension, mostly. But I’m motivated to learn about New Calvinism because men, who you may or may not have heard of, are mesmerizing a lot of young men with their high sounding B.S. and the young men don’t have the maturity to discern the problems. Intellectualism can become an idol. One of the young men being taken in is a fellow in my church. He is being taken in by a guy named John Piper and quotes Piper on his facebook rather than the Bible and he’s beginning to have a lot of influence on the older men there, including the leadership.

    So, sorry for the confusion. If you are dealing with a New Calvinism infestation, like I am, then what Paul and Cindy have to say is important. I want to be able to answer that young man… OR if I have to leave the church, I want to be able to say why, with clarity and intelligence.

    If you are not dealing with a NC infestation (and I hope you aren’t), then yeah, all this stuff is just, “Blah, blah, blah…”

  • Mara,

    One more project I am working on today and it’s back to the videos.I think 3 0r 4 more.

  • Calvinists are big on coming up with impressive sounding words. Calvin was a lawyer, after all.

    In QF/P, I think that the language is not only to establish a sense of intellectual prowess, it also does serve to dupe people.

    My favorite useless term in patriarchy lately is the Rushdoony-speak that Doug Phillips stole and uses to describe baby names: “epistemologically self-conscious.”

    Oh, please! If you’re talking about philosophical metaphysics or something, then fine. But naming babies?

  • I don’t know whether “justification” and “sanctification” are big words or not, but I can tell you that not knowing those words or their meanings have brought the church to where we are today. I am often mocked for using the word “antinomian” and accused of using it to show theological prowess. Well, ask the parishioners at Southwood Presbyterian church if they think it’s just a big word. For just being a big word, not knowing what it means and the gravity of it can certainly cause a lot of misery in the life of a church.

  • abba12

    I was refering to the primary article, not the comment, which I assume was not directed at a single person. Of course when you were addressing Kristen personally in the comments you knew that she already had a fair idea of the subject matter. but the original article is supposed to be open and read by everyone.

  • Bridget

    Mara and Paul –

    I am tracking this NC doctrine as well. I have read Paul’s blog and viewed the videos Mara has posted. I have also read all of what is over at John Immel’s blog.

    You both might be interested in tracking Roger E. Olsen’s blog. He just started a series to critique a new book out by the Members of the Gospel Coalition called “The Gospel as the Center.” I’m not looking forward to what it might unfold based on just the first chapter.

    Mara – it’s like I said on your blog the other day — they seem to want to redefine what “the Gospel” means. They come across like they have discovered some new (or lost and now found) revelation from God.

    The fruit that is being produced from their teaching is not the fruits of the spirit!

  • Bridget,

  • Bridget,

    Interesting. Olsen seems to draw the logical conclusion from the first chapter that they believe they rightfully own evangelicalism as a whole. He would be right about that.

  • David Adams


    There are Reformed and Non-Reformed preachers that deliver scriptures in an abusive manner to their Congregations. When both entities do this they are Liberally taking a narrow view of what it means to be a Christian saved by grace. They are also putting limits on a limitless God.

    If you have whole Congregations lacking joy after each Sunday service, how will they reach the lost? Why would the lost want in Christ what Christians have, if Christians lack noticeable joy?

    It all comes down to the way Christians Liberally judge each other and the world, when we fail. It all comes down to the way we talk and act in Public and in the Work Place.

    Even the lost know self-professed Christians sin. (Jesus described that no man is without sin) When Christians Liberally Practice “Judge Theology” all the lost will see is hypocrisy.