January 28, 2020

Archival Series: Has John MacArthur Promoted the Creation of the Young, Restless & Reformed Who, “Embrace the World’s Fashions and Values?”

Last time we considered Pastor Steve Lawson’s rebranding of the centuries old Calvinism’s T-U-L-I-P. See- It’s Called “Calvinism,” & It’s Not That long of a Line.

From reading that article some have asked, “what is ‘New’ Calvinism?” Today, we are looking back to July 2011 when I republished an article by Dr. Peter Masters from 2009 where he warned of the “New” Calvinism and its alarming effects on modern day believers. The Gospel Coalition, T4G and their members like Steve Lawson, Kevin DeYoung, Andy Naselli and John Piper, exemplify what Dr. Masters coined as the New Calvinism. Let’s begin.

From his Grace to You blog Dr. John MacArthur laments what has become of the so-called “young, restless and reformed [Calvinists],” (YRR). Did John MacArthur contribute to the creation of what the YRR have become? John MacArthur now tells the YRR to “settle down.” In his introductory article, Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming. Advise for the Young, Restless, Reformed he says,

The YRR, “cannot be genuinely ‘Reformed’ and deliberately worldly at the same time. The two things are inconsistent and incompatible. To embrace the world’s fashions and values—even under the guise of being ‘missional’—is to make oneself God’s enemy (James 4:4).”
In 2009 Dr. Peter Masters wrote The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness that addressed what he saw then that MacArthur only now acknowledges, but accepts no responsibility for having contributed to.

With Dr. Master’s permission I published his article here (July 2009). In it Dr. Masters names John MacArthur, and by inference Grace Community Church Executive Pastor Rick Holland as contributors of the worldliness that would infect the young Calvinists. This article aggravated many of the so-called "conservative" evangelicals, the very like-minded Stateside Calvinists whom Masters was admonishing for their excursion into aberrant theology and worldliness. His article was prophetic. The only question remaining is whether or not men like John MacArthur will continue the same pattern of contribution(s) to the worldliness he fostered that he now laments. Read this article for that and further details on the problem with the YR&R.

The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness:

An alarmed assessment by Dr. Masters of the ‘new Calvinism’ promoted among young people in the USA

When I was a youngster and newly saved, it seemed as if the chief goal of all zealous Christians, whether Calvinistic or Arminian, was consecration. Sermons, books and conferences stressed this in the spirit of Romans 12.1-2, where the beseeching apostle calls believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world. The heart was challenged and stirred. Christ was to be Lord of one’s life, and self must be surrendered on the altar of service for him.

But now, it appears, there is a new Calvinism, with new Calvinists, which has swept the old objectives aside. A recent book, Young, Restless, Reformed, by Collin Hansen tells the story of how a so-called Calvinistic resurgence has captured the imaginations of thousands of young people in the USA, and this book has been reviewed with great enthusiasm in well-known magazines in the UK, such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Times, and Reformation Today.

This writer, however, was very deeply saddened to read it, because it describes a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before.

The author of the book is a young man (around 26 when he wrote it) who grew up in a Christian family and trained in secular journalism. We are indebted to him for the readable and wide-reaching survey he gives of this new phenomenon, but the scene is certainly not a happy one.

The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.

We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.

Collin Hansen contends that American Calvinism collapsed at the end of the nineteenth century and was maintained by only a handful of people until this great youth revival, but his historical scenario is, frankly, preposterous. As one who regularly visited American seminaries to speak from the early 1970s, I constantly met many preachers and students who loved the doctrines of grace, preaching also in churches of solid Calvinistic persuasion. But firmer evidence of the extensive presence of Calvinism is seen from the fact that very large firms of publishers sent out a stream of reformed literature post-war and through the 1980s. The mighty Eerdmans was solidly reformed in times past, not to mention Baker Book House, and Kregel and others. Where did all these books go – thousands upon thousands of them, including frequently reprinted sets of Calvin’s commentaries and a host of other classic works?

In the 1970s and 80s there were also smaller Calvinistic publishers in the USA, and at that time the phenomenon of Calvinistic discount Christian bookshops began, with bulging catalogue lists and a considerable following. The claim that Calvinism virtually disappeared is hopelessly mistaken.

Indeed, a far better quality Calvinism still flourishes in very many churches, where souls are won and lives sanctified, and where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture. Such churches have no sympathy at all with reporter Collin Hansen’s worldly-worship variety, who seek to build churches using exactly the same entertainment methods as most charismatics and the Arminian Calvary Chapel movement.

The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings).
But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)

In times of disobedience the Jews of old syncretised by going to the Temple or the synagogue on the sabbath, and to idol temples on weekdays, but the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time, in the same meeting.

C J Mahaney is a preacher highly applauded in this book. Charismatic in belief and practice, he appears to be wholly accepted by the other big names who feature at the ‘new Calvinist’ conferences, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler. Evidently an extremely personable, friendly man, C J Mahaney is the founder of a group of churches blending Calvinism with charismatic ideas, and is reputed to have influenced many Calvinists to throw aside cessationist views.

It was a protégé of this preacher named Joshua Harris who started the New Attitude conference for young people. We learn that when a secular rapper named Curtis Allen was converted, his new-born Christian instinct led him to give up his past life and his singing style. But Pastor Joshua Harris evidently persuaded him not to, so that he could sing for the Lord.
New Calvinists do not hesitate to override the instinctual Christian conscience, counselling people to become friends of the world.
One of the mega-churches admired in the book is the six-thousand strong Mars Hill Church at Seattle, founded and pastored by Mark Driscoll, who blends emerging church ideas (that Christians should utilise worldly culture) with Calvinistic theology [see endnote 1].

This preacher is also much admired by some reformed men in the UK, but his church has been described (by a sympathiser) as having the most ear-splitting music of any, and he has been rebuked by other preachers for the use of very ‘edgy’ language and gravely improper humour (even on television). He is to be seen in videos preaching in a Jesus teeshirt, symbolising the new compromise with culture, while at the same time propounding Calvinistic teaching. So much for the embracing of Puritan doctrine divested of Puritan lifestyle and worship.

Most of the well-known preachers who promote and encourage this ‘revival’ of Calvinism have in common the following positions that contradict a genuine Calvinistic (or Puritan) outlook:
1. They have no problem with contemporary charismatic-ethos worship, including extreme, heavy-metal forms.
2. They are soft on separation from worldliness [see endnote 2].
3. They reject the concern for the personal guidance of God in the major decisions of Christians (true sovereignty), thereby striking a death-blow to wholehearted consecration.
4. They hold anti-fourth-commandment views, taking a low view of the Lord’s Day, and so inflicting another blow at a consecrated lifestyle.
Whatever their strengths and achievements (and some of them are brilliant men by any human standard), or whatever their theoretical Calvinism, the poor stand of these preachers on these crucial issues will only encourage a fatally flawed version of Calvinism that will lead people to be increasingly wedded to the world, and to a self-seeking lifestyle.
Truly proclaimed, the sovereignty of God must include consecration, reverence, sincere obedience to his will, and separation from the world.
You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification. You should not entice people to Calvinistic (or any) preaching by using worldly bait. We hope that young people in this movement will grasp the implications of the doctrines better than their teachers, and come away from the compromises. But there is a looming disaster in promoting this new form of Calvinism.

Why do some British Christians who hold the doctrines of grace give enthusiastic reviews to a book like this? There have been times in the past when large numbers of young people have suddenly become intellectually enthusiastic about solid Christian doctrine, only to abandon it almost as quickly. One thinks of the tremendous response the unique oratory of Francis Schaeffer secured on university campuses in the 1960s, and no doubt some young people were truly saved and established, but very many more turned aside. Gripped by the superiority of a biblical worldview, they momentarily despised the illogical, flaccid ideas of this world, but the impression in numerous cases was natural rather than spiritual. The present new, heady Calvinism, shorn of practical obedience will certainly prove to be ephemeral, leaving the cause compromised and scarred.

Has this form of Calvinism come to Britain yet? Alas, yes; one only has to look at the ‘blogs’ of some younger reformed pastors who put themselves forward as mentors and advisers of others. When you look at their ‘favourite films’, and ‘favourite music’ you find them unashamedly naming the leading groups, tracks and entertainment of debased culture, and it is clear that the world is still in their hearts. Years ago, such brethren would not have been baptised until they were clear of the world, but now you can go to seminary, no questions asked, and take up a pastorate, with unfought and unsurrendered idols in the throne room of your life. What hope is there for churches that have under-shepherds whose loyalties are so divided and distorted?

Aside from pastors, we know some ‘new’ young Calvinists who will never settle in a dedicated, working church, because their views live only in their heads and not their hearts. We know of some whose lives are not clean. We know of others who go clubbing. The greater their doctrinal prowess, the greater their hypocrisy.
These are harsh words, but they lead me to say that where biblical, evangelical Calvinism shapes conduct, and especially worship, it is a very humbling, beautiful system of Truth, but where it is confined to the head, it inflates pride and self-determination.
The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.
Why have the leading preachers servicing this movement compromised so readily? They have not been threatened by a Soviet regime. No one has held a gun to their heads. This is a shameful capitulation, and we must earnestly pray that what they have encouraged will not take over Calvinism and ruin a generation of reachable Christian young people.

A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked.
These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace. We find it in the challenging, convicting call of Joshua:
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

1. His resolution of the question of divine sovereignty versus human free will, however, is much nearer to the Arminian view.

2. A recent book entitled Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World by C J Mahaney and others, hopelessly under-equips young believers for separation from the world, especially in the area of music, where, apparently, the Lord loves every genre, and acceptability is reduced to two misleading and subjective questions.

(Italics his, bold and underline mine. Images have been added to illustrate some of that which Masters warns of.)
The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness is a clarion call to “young people in the USA” and especially timely for young American Fundamentalists. This is a sermon in print, a “ministry of warning” that has been nearly non-existent in American IFB circles. This is a much needed “ministry of warning” to men in Fundamentalism who are rapidly moving toward increased dialogue, fellowship with and tolerance for the “new” Calvinism of “conservative” evangelicalism.

Originally appeared July 25, 2011.  See the comment thread there for an extended discussion.

Please continue to the next in this series, Dr. MacArthur, “Reforming” Is Not The Answer. Repentance Is!

January 14, 2020

This is Not Your Father’s Bob Jones University, A Continuation (ReDUX)

As we begin this new article I encourage all readers to visit or re-visit the previous article.

In it we detailed several examples of BJU abandoning its foundational separatist principles.  Among them was this reference, “Dr. Sam Horn participating in a local Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) conference.” That reference required editing, it has been, and is the opening subject of this article.

What we have learned is that BJU president Steve Pettit participated in this (PCA) conference that being, Here We Stand: Greenville Conference on Reformed Theology held October 11-13, 2019 at the Second Presbyterian Church. Who are the two men whom Steve Pettit shared the platform with?

Dr. Joel R. Beeke, “President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, editor of Puritan Reformed Journal and Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth. His PhD is in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). He is frequently called upon to lecture at seminaries and to speak at Reformed conferences around the world.”

Dr. Richard D. Phillips, “Among his many activities, he serves on the board and council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the council of The Gospel Coalition, and the board of trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary.”

What has BJU president Steve Pettit shown us by taking an active role in this conference, with these speakers? First, he has removed any lingering doubt of having led the University to embrace Reformed Theology. Second, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) includes men in its leadership who are some of the most egregious of ecumenical compromisers among the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. (More to follow on The Gospel Coalition) Steve Pettit has, by his example, diminished biblical admonitions (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) that once protected BJU students from cooperative ministry with evangelicals who actively reject the principles of biblical separation. 

To date, I have kept these next comments private until such time as seemed appropriate.  Steve Pettit’s speaking at the Greenville Conference on Reformed Theology (GCRT) is the appropriate time. Following the Spring 2019 semester, through mutual acquaintances, I crossed paths with two BJU students, one in the seminary and the other in the university as an undergraduate preacher boy.  Both said Covenant Theology (CT) is tolerated and being taught at the university.  Through an intermediary I posed another question to the undergrad because he may have misunderstood the lectures with dispensationalism and CT possibly being contrasted and compared, and he was confused.  He said, “No, CT was being taught as the correct lens through which to interpret Scripture.”  I know of no reason to doubt either of their accounts.

At 37:45 Steve shared some of his early background.  He grew up in a Presbyterian Church where the gospel wasn’t clear. Yet, he is now building bridges with the PCA crowd by referencing the apostate church in which he grew up. Without explanation – what Steve was saying could have possibly been interpreted by the reformed theologians in front of him as something of a covenant relationship since his childhood. Steve trusted the Lord during his freshman year at the Citadel after a college student witnessed to him. Has he subtly or unwittingly denigrated his born-again experience?

It would do well for Steve Pettit to be reminded of Dr. Bob Sr.’s disagreement with the Billy Graham crusades. His complaint with Billy Graham was not his preaching.  It was with his associations. Dr. Pettit’s conference message might be something we would agree with, but his appearance with the GCRT crowd, is proof positive that he has an affinity with this crowd. Drs. Pettit and Horn continue to engineer associations with the Southern Baptist Convention and the PCA.

As if we haven’t seen enough of BJU’S direction, Dr. Andy Naselli was the guest speaker at the Seminary for the Dr. Stewart Custer Lecture Series held Nov. 11-12.

Andy Naselli was trained in fundamentalist schools with a BA from Baptist College of Ministry, an MA & Ph.D. from Bob Jones University, and followed with a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Today, however, Andy walks a different path.

Andy Naselli is associate professor of New Testament and theology at John Piper’s Bethlehem College & Seminary (BCS), and an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Upon joining BCS in 2013 Andy posted on line five reasons for doing so.  Among them include, in his words,
The doctrine BCS affirms and celebrates is what we affirm and celebrate.” Among the things Andy Naselli affirms and celebrates we find at the BCS site, which Andy linked to, including, “Reformed in our soteriology, baptistic in our practice, and charismatic in our affections.”

Andy is, furthermore, on staff of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). BJU honored him and gave him a platform presence, a man who has rejected the biblical separatism he was taught at BJU in favor of John Piper’s doctrinal aberrations and The Gospel Coalition’s ecumenical compromisers.
To any objective observer surely enough has been seen to erase any lingering doubt that BJU has abandoned its foundational, separatist principles.

Pastor Travis Smith recently posted, Lunging Toward the Cliff of “No Return.” 
Make no mistake…Andy Naselli was privileged to serve as the highlighted guest speaker at BJU’s Seminary. The University and its administrative leadership has accepted the baggage that goes with [John] Piper and his cronies- The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel to name two. 
Under Dr. Steve Pettit’s leadership, Bob Jones University continues to follow a path of ecclesiastical compromise, embracing the spirit of Neo-evangelicalism, and rejecting its historical legacy as a Bible fundamental, separatist institution.
At least we who were in classes and privileged to be challenged by separatists like Drs. Bob Jones., Bob Jones III, Gilbert Stenholm and Richard Rupp can take consolation in this: Whilst the current administration has sadly tarnished the reputation of Dr. Stewart Custer, they have so far spared the Jones’ of that humiliation.
The Jones era always took and stressed a strong separatist position. A number of pastors recall Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. strongly challenging preacher boys to come back and shut the school down if it departed from the fundamentals.  Of course, the current administration would argue, what are the fundamentals on this point?

Some alumni hold the opinion that Steve Pettit has already done enough to alienate the alumni to the point of ensuring the university’s demise whether or not the preacher boys come back to do it.
Ian Paisley

The University has always been theologically broad. So – that’s not new. What is new is the association with compromised denominations that have never espoused fundamentalism. Dr. Bob, Jr. loved Ian Paisley (Free Presbyterian). No one waved the fundamentalist-separatist flag more boldly than Paisley. What Steve Pettit is doing is different in that he embraces those who never have identified as fundamentalists (PCA/SBC/The Gospel Coalition). Thus, the university is being lead away from the Fundamentalist camp into the evangelical camp, which is the avenue to new evangelicalism.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth,” (Proverbs 10:17).
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getting understanding,” (Proverbs 15:32).
Alumni and friends of BJU have reached out to Steve Pettit personally about the direction he and Sam Horn are taking the university. On hearing the reproof of friends they have chosen not to change, and instead stepped on the gas-pedal. The trajectory the university is set upon can have only one of two outcomes, neither good.
  1. The university will continue to lose students, and fold like Northland, Pillsbury and Clearwater.
  2. Or the university will become ecumenically compromised like Fuller, Liberty and Wheaton.
May God help the administration and board of BJU heed the reproofs of those who love the school, its heritage and what it can still be for the cause of Christ.

(Originally published Nov. 2019)

Related Reading:

Analysis of BJU's Position Paper on Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology

“After reading BJU’s position paper, I feel that it reflects a style commonly employed by many New Calvinists. Their writing typically skirts issues to avoid offense or exclusion, while maximizing inclusivity. They achieve this by allowing the reader to supply his or her own theological definitions rather than offering clear-cut ones that would reveal Calvinist views. The fact that BJU’s paper appears to use a similar strategy concerns me.”

Fundamentalism vs. Apostasy: Ian Paisley March 2, 1969
“I am quite happy to be identified as a Fundamentalist. I like to be identified with those who are fighting the Lord’s battles. You know there are some fellows who would like to be called fundamentalists, but they have no right to the name. They are pseudo-fundamentalists. They come into the fundamentalist nest, they would use the fundamentalist’s money and they would destroy the fundamentalist’s stand.” (8:40 of the message)
The Joseph Zichterman Issue
On May 7, 2007 It was suddenly announced Joe Zichterman was leaving the IFB movement and would transfer his church membership to the Willow Creek Community Church. The announcement was made by Joe himself through a website he opened, which has since been taken offline.