January 16, 2013

Dr. Rob Congdon: New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel

My friend Dr. Rob Congdon has just published a new book, New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel. From the preface,
This booklet is the first in a series on New Calvinism that is intended to assist you in understanding the movement rapidly spreading throughout Christianity and dividing many churches and even families….
In light of New Calvinism’s impact and influence, especially on Christians between the ages of twenty and forty, it is hoped that a careful clarification and examination of the teachings and beliefs of New Calvinists will reveal why they are in error. After several years of studying this movement, the author desires to explain why New Calvinism appeals to the next generation of Christian leaders and how older men, such as John Piper and Al Mohler, are providing what appears to be deep biblical teaching, but what, in reality, is traditional Reformed/Covenant theology that has been repackaged in post-modern “wrappings.” Unfortunately, these new “wrappings” are cloaking the errors of traditional Calvinism as well as introducing some new doctrinal deviations.
You can read the preface in its entirety at the ordering page, link below.  Here are select excerpts from New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel.
Instead of a gospel that leads individuals to salvation and spiritual growth, the gospel of New Calvinism is a distorted gospel that is setting a path to a mechanical, robotic, fatalistic, and corporate Christianity that offers only a false hope of salvation. Already, New Calvinism is creating a generation of twenty to forty year-olds that lacks a sense of direction, a sense of responsibility, a sense of holiness, a sense of God’s will, and a sense of God’s plan and purpose for creation. According to Time Magazine, New Calvinists are proclaiming a God who is a “micromanaging deity,” totally controlling a “sinful and puny humanity.” 
Because Calvinists do not fully comprehend or understand God’s plan to reveal characteristics of His nature through the redemption of human individuals who have the freedom to accept or reject His offer of salvation, they cling to and promote the doctrine of “Irresistible Grace” for the chosen or “elect” only. How can God be glorified for redeeming a pre-programmed “robot?” 
“Revelation History” as opposed to “Redemptive History” provides both the time and the “stage” necessary to reveal all of God’s attributes, not just His attributes relating to man’s redemption. To limit God’s purpose of history as New Calvinists do is to limit the revelation of God’s Person unnecessarily. 
The New Calvinist’s view of history is an outgrowth of a modified Reformed/Covenant theology called “Biblical Theology” or “redemptive historical hermeneutics,” first proposed in the 18th century.Men like Anglican clergyman Geoffrey Paxton, Geerhardus Vos, and former Seventh-day Adventist, Robert Brinsmead, have clarified and refined it. New Calvinists have repackaged this view of history to make it culturally relevant and have given it various labels such as: “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel” (COG); “The Gospel-Centered Theology;” (GCT) or simply, “Gospel-Driven.”* 
New Calvinism’s “gospel-driven life” may sound biblical, but upon closer examination, one finds that it is not one that is based upon the… “faith [that] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We are not talking merely about semantics, definitions, or a fad movement; we are talking about the eternal destinies of many for whom Christ died—Heaven or Hell! 
For those who are genuinely saved but have fallen under the teaching of New Calvinism, there is also concern. They, along with unsaved New Calvinists, are being led down a path that quite possibly is leading to a re-unification of Protestant churches with Roman Catholicism. Eventually, this union will spawn the worldwide religion described in Revelation. 
It is reasonable to wonder how earnest individuals can be deceived if leaders urge them to read their Bibles. This question leads to the second great danger of New Calvinism: it denies the power of the Word of God to change lives by relegating it to a minor mystic role…. What was going on is called Lecto Divina, which is a mystic Roman Catholic monastic practice of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation that supposedly promotes communion with God. The focus is “not a theological analysis of biblical passages but to view them [the Scriptures] with Christ as the key to their meaning.” In other words, this is Christo-centric meditation, now being practiced by both Emergent Church movement and New Calvinist leaders. 
To counter the “shifting sands” of today’s world and to provide authoritative leadership that young adults are seeking, New Calvinism offers a micromanaging God who controls every event, experience, or circumstance in a person’s life, down to the minutest detail, apart from any individual accountability for choices and acts. To a generation seeking stability, direction, security, and authority, a God who controls every aspect of life is welcome. 
John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, and other New Calvinist leaders influence these young adults through their speaking, writing, and Internet blogs. They also encourage their followers to read the writings of past authority figures such as Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owens, as well as other influential Reformers or Puritans. While some of these writings provide useful spiritual insight, they also contain false biblical teaching. It is these and other writings that encourage mysticism, signs and wonders, and a continual looking back to the cross. Instead of complacent Christianity, New Calvinism seems to offer a sense of passion that is experienced through meditation on the majesty of God and the cross.
Dr. Congdon closes his book with a section of Suggestions for Countering New CalvinismI encourage each of you to purchase this powerful and compelling exposure of, and biblical response to the dangers of the New Calvinism. Click on New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel to order your copy.


PO Box 1785, Greer, South Carolina 29652

*Note:Gospel Driven” is a preferred term of Dr. Dave Doran. In 2009 Dave wrote, “My goal through these posts on gospel-driven separation has been to lay out what I believe are the biblical obligations regarding separation that are explicitly stated in or implied by clear biblical texts.” (Starting at the Right Spot, Nov. 2009) Just days later it was learned that Dr. Al Mohler compromised the gospel by signing the Manhattan Declaration (Nov. 2009) with Roman Catholic priests. Mohler had given Christian recognition to the deadly “enemies of the cross of Christ,” which he (Mohler) has never apologized for or biblically repented of. Instead of making an application of his “gospel-driven biblical obligations” Dave elected to excuse Mohler’s ecumenism. Dave Doran dismissed the incident as merely, “a wrong decision based on bad judgment.”  Kevin Bauder suggested it was nothing more than a, “single episode...an occasional inconsistency.”


Al Mohler Joins Hands With the Mormon Church

Al Mohler: So Much for Sola Scriptura

17 comments:

  1. Hello friend,
    I have been following your site for quite some time and I believe that I am at a church right now that fits this description. It is part of the Harvest Bible Chapel Fellowship via James MacDonald. While each church of the fellowship is influenced from the mother ship in Chicago, each individual plant does carry its own distinctions. The distinction that we carry locally is exactly the type of New Calvinism that is described above and I have been perplexed about it for about a year.

    Before I became a member, I asked the pastor in the membership class if this was a Calvinistic church? He basically cut the conversation off by saying he didn't feel that anyone's belief on that subject ought to be a source of division within the local church. At the time I thought, "ok," I guess this is probably a good place to be. However, after about 3 years, it is clear that the gospel that is preached and taught falls lock and step with New Calvinistic teaching. I honestly worry about members in my congregation actually being saved or not. The teachings are so very close that it doesn't seem that this is a different gospel being preached. Anytime, I open that conversation with a friend in the church, they won't hear it.

    Here is my question for your article. I honestly do not understand the criticism at the end of the article that says:

    "It is these and other writings that encourage mysticism, signs and wonders, and a continual looking back to the cross. Instead of complacent Christianity, New Calvinism seems to offer a sense of passion that is experienced through meditation on the majesty of God and the cross."

    Are we not supposed to be reflecting on the cross of Jesus Christ and praising His Holy name forever for His work? I'm lost on this criticism will you help me understand the criticism here?

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    1. The major error of New Calvinism is the fusing of Justification and Sanctification. By confusing passages of scripture about Sanctification and Justification, Justification now becomes a progressive process instead of a one-time deal that was done once and for all the moment we believed. (Chapter 14 of Calvin's Institutes was also titled "Justification- It What Sense Progressive")

      Likewise, Sanctification is no longer something where we are co-laborers with the Holy Spirit because that would be works and would rob glory from Christ and the cross. So Sanctification becomes something that must also happen by faith alone. This is why you hear catch phrases like "Preach the Gospel to yourself every day," and "The same Gospel that saves you sanctifies you." They teach that believers must constantly meditate on the Gospel and the cross every moment of every day because in a sense we need to be saved over and over if Justification is progressive. Plus, the more we meditate on the Cross, the more knowledge we have of our sinfulness and as we look at our sinfulness in the light of the Cross the more knowledge we have of Christ's righteousness, and this is what "sanctifies" us.

      So, if justification is progressive, then if we attempt to live in obedience to God's word by keeping His commandments and co-labor with the Holy Spirit, then we must not really be saved because we are trying to live by works and not faith alone. This is very twisted and evil!

      Paul Dohse has done much research on the false teaching of New Calvinism for the past 6 years. He has a wealth of information on the subject at his blog at http://paulspassingthoughts.com . I have found the information there to be eye-opening.

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    2. Brother:

      While I am not yet familiar with the blog you link us to I appreciate your input here.

      In November 2009 I was addressing Dave Doran’s The Gospel and Separation series from his personal blog. In the “Final Salvation” article/thread he posted an extended comment with a Q&A exercise that I believe was a helpful contribution to our previous discussion of the close proximity of Lordship Salvation and Roman Catholicism. The most disconcerting statement and arguably closest to Romanism among many coming from advocates of Lordship Salvation is the following by John Piper.

      “There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).

      I encourage all guests to consider the two following articles.

      Does “Final Salvation” Serve as a Cover for Works Salvation?

      “Final Salvation” is Dependent on Christ’s Life


      LM

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    3. One other thought on this. One of my favorite passages is found in Hebrews 5:12 - 6:2. The write of Hebrews is addressing believers who are not growing in their sanctification.

      "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

      Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."


      In other words he's telling them "Enough with Gospel already! Move on to maturity!"

      But New Calvinism doesn't want mature discerning believers. It purposefully keeps people dependent upon the autority of pastors and elders and robs people of assurance. The result is spiritual tyranny!

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    4. Brother Simpson:

      Dr. Congdon sent the following to me via email to post here for your consideration. I trust this is helpful.


      The question raised is a good one. Biblicists certainly believe it is important to understand and appreciate all that the Lord did at the Cross. We also praise Him for it and it never leaves our thoughts as we read His Word. However, to solely focus upon it and to continually be looking back to it creates a limited Christianity.

      New Calvinists and many Reformed/Covenant theologians teach that God’s purpose of history is to manifest “God’s plan of salvation through His acts of redemption” (www.redemptivehistory.org). This view of history is called Redemptive History. This view teaches that “man is always to turn back and dwell upon the cross by centering his spiritual thoughts exclusively upon that one objective event for all eternity. In many ways, it means that believers are never to leave the cross and progress toward spiritual maturity” (page 12 of the booklet, Calvinism’s Upside Down Gospel).

      I have contrasted this view with the Biblicist view of history, Revelation History, in the booklet. Without understanding the two, it is easy to confuse a proper view of the Cross and our life as a result of redemption with a Cross-centric view that limits the spiritual growth of a Christian.

      A final note, Redemptive History reduces the Bible to a mere historical record of redemption with no unique ability to be used by the Spirit to save souls, transform lives, and reveal God’s Person and plan. Revelation History offers an ongoing eternal purpose of our existence in which we grow and learn more of our infinite God throughout eternity and not only eternally praise Him for His redemption, but as we learn more of His attributes beyond “just” redemption (we do not minimize redemption but see it as one aspect of an infinite God’s attributes), we have more to praise Him. Since He is infinite, His attributes may well be infinite, hence their is potential for an eternity of praise.

      All of the above is explained in greater detail in my booklet New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel and without an understanding of the contrasts of the two views of history, one is very open to be drawn into New Calvinism.


      Rob Congdon

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    5. To Andy,

      My third book, Understanding New Calvinism goes into a major discussion of New Calvinism's view of justification (they divide it into initial and final justification-totally unbiblical). That booklet should be available in a month or so.

      Also, Paul Dohse's material is helpful and follows my second book, on An Alternative View of Election. However, I would note that Dohse appears to follow a strict Arminian view with respect to salvation, while I teach a solid preservation view. New Calvinism's perseverance view includes their view of justification, requiring the elect to persevere to demonstrate their election. I believe my booklet offers a view of election that maintains man's free will and God's definition of election while not sacrificing God's preservation of those who receive His gift of salvation.

      Rob Congdon

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  2. "...the author desires to explain why New Calvinism appeals to the next generation of Christian leaders and how older men, such as John Piper and Al Mohler, are providing what appears to be deep biblical teaching, but what, in reality, is traditional Reformed/Covenant theology that has been repackaged in post-modern “wrappings.” Unfortunately, these new “wrappings” are cloaking the errors of traditional Calvinism as well as introducing some new doctrinal deviations."

    It is sad how so many are falling for this re-branded error. The true gospel doesn't need marketing gimmicks or for it to be made culturally relevant. It just needs to be proclaimed clearly and often.

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    1. Hi Jim:

      Good to hear from you again. Cultural relativism is in "fashion" among the so-called "conservative" evangelicals and the new wave New Evangelicals that still circulate in and around Fundamental circles. With Matt Olson's leadership NIU is a stark and tragic example of what the doctrine and practice of New Calvinism can do to a once fine, biblically separatist (for the glory of God) school.

      Btw, Dave Doran, (Conrad Mbewe- whom Doran has hosted in his own pulpit) and Tim Jordan will be among the keynote speakers at NIU's 2013 Heart Conference. A New Calvinism rallying conference for formerly separatist, new wave New Evangelical preachers? Could be subject of an entirely new article.


      Lou

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  3. Note:
    I am not an Arminian--not even close. However, one may wonder about that because I don't get into the election/freewill issue at all. The primary issue is the false gospel of progressive justification. I consider the election/freewill debate a red herring relative to the egregious false gospel at hand. My views on Romans 8:29,30 do come into play: How can there be a final justification when we were justified, set apart, washed, and elected before creation? Nevertheless, in all of the discussion I see in regard to TULIP, many miss the point that Calvin believed that total depravity extends to believers as well. The "total depravity of the saints" if you will. The whole TULIP construct falls on that point alone. The 5 solas is the same. Faith alone for justification is also faith alone in sanctification--the Reformers rejected the book of James for a reason.

    TANC has been at this for 6 years now, and the conversation going on here is the most significant yet. In fact, there isn't even a close second. The church is clueless about this for the most part.

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    1. I am glad to hear this. Obviously I misunderstood your writing. Greatly appreciate your material and that on group election. After much research I have found many others holding it and the result of my research is my booklet on "An Alternative View of Election." I will be sure to correct anyone else that may have had a wrong impression as your your view of losing salvation.
      Rob Congdon

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  4. Lou,

    Northland has drifted far in my mind but some there may also just be showing more of their true beliefs. Conrad Mbewe being there illustrates this. I looked up his church's website and they hold to the 1689 London Baptist confession. Any church holding to this holds to much error. For example: "Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary." This illustrates why men like Piper continuously preach repentance but their teaching on repentance is error Lordship Salvation style and is pretty much anti free grace. "Sovereign grace" would be their unbiblical take on it.

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    1. Jim:

      I have long said and it ha s been no mystery that the rallying point for men like Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Matt Olson and Tim Jordan with their new friends in the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism is Calvinistic soteriology in the form the works based Lordship Salvation. It is in Lordship Salvation (LS) where they find their gospel-centric fellowship.

      It is because of their agreement on LS that Doran, Bauder, et.al., will tolerate, allow for, ignore and excuse ecumenical compromises like Al Mohler signing the Manhattan Declaration, a growing list of aberrant theology like the modern charismatic movement, cultural relativism and the CCM/RAP styling of men like Dever and Piper. Lordship Salvation is the rallying point. Many other considerations in theology and/or application are ignored, muted or nullified.


      Lou

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    2. Jim:

      Along side Matt Olson’s embracing and endorsing the modern charismatic movement there is no more stark example than his NIU students, under faculty supervision doing rap renditions of the hymns. Go to

      Northland Students Perform New “Jesus Loves Me”

      “In his November 2010 Open Letter Northland International University (NIU) president Dr. Matt Olson declared that in the area of music philosophy, ‘NIU is unchanged!’ We have in past articles seen video evidence that NIU has changed drastically in the area of music performance. Matt Olson wrote that the goal of NIU will be to, ‘make sure Northland’s practice of music ... is built principally on clear teachings from the Bible...’ Today, I am presenting a new video recording that challenges the claim that NIU’s music philosophy is ‘unchanged’ and that clear teachings from the Bible are behind the practice of music at NIU.

      The video was recorded this semester at the home of current NIU Academic Chair for Communications, Mr. Brock Miller. Communication professors Lydia Stewart and Rachel Trach were also at this gathering. The occasion of the video was a fellowship for Communications department students. The participants in the video were described by students on their FaceBook pages as students who are proud to display their, ‘rapping skills, beatboxing skills, attempting to harmonize ... Yeah, Communications majors have it all!’ Had this been a one-time matter, there would be real disappointment. The video is, however, much like the behavior in NIU’s chapel with the song/dance routine to ‘What is This Feeling’ from the Broadway play WICKED. Do the sensual chants of RAP measure up to our mandate to sing and make melody to the Lord? Students, at the home and under the supervision of NIU faculty are disparaging the name of Jesus.

      Can anyone honestly say that the conduct of the students in this video is ‘God-focused?’”

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  5. Lou,
    Yes, this is great. There is discussion going on here by people who get it. Election gets you in, but then you can lose your salvation. Piper clearly teaches that you can lose your salvation. They call the
    "repentance" that you speak of "deep repentance." It is a daily repentance that maintains you elected state by "faith alone." Because the Reformers saw salvation as linear and rejected the new birth--we must be, for all practical purposes, resaved every day. Hence: "We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day."

    We will be in much prayer for Rob's book project and TANC stands ready to help out in any way we can. It is an immense encouragement that others are sounding the alarm. My copy of the first book is in the mail.

    paul

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  6. oops, I meant Jim--not Lou.

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  7. Paul,

    Yes, I think you are right. The idea of "deep repentance" is an error. Some may teach that it actually maintains your elect status but others say it maintains the "proof" that you indeed are one of the elect. Either way it is erroneous. Being re-saved every day is ridiculous. Assurance of salvation is also not to be totally subjective based on our performance.

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  8. The following is an excerpt from Dr. Congdon's monthly (2/1/13) Congdon News & Bible Commentary. I appreciate his kind words and gratified to know we have been some help in getting the word of out his new book.

    “Our booklet, New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel has been well received. A blog, In Defense of the Gospel [ http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2013/01/dr-rob-congdon-new-calvinisms-upside.html ], by Lou Martuneac, perhaps the best authority on countering Lordship Salvation, has been very helpful in making people aware of our work and available helps. As a result other websites have picked up the information and we have received quite a number of orders for the booklet.”

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