The gospel of New Calvinism
New calvinism is different from traditional calvinism, and, in particular, that includes its gospel. New calvinism is becoming, or is already, the dominant viewpoint of calvinism today. But few people realise that it was founded upon a fusion of Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) and calvinist beliefs.
Robert Brinsmead, while a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) with calvinist leanings, started the Present Truth magazine (a Seventh Day Adventist publication) as a Christian magazine. In it he presented the findings of the Australian Forum. His calvinist views can be seen on the Present Truth magazine website which claims:
Present Truth magazine.
Proclaiming the Good News of the
forgiveness of sin and eternal life by
God’s unmerited “grace alone” through “faith alone” in the sinless life and atoning death of the Lord Jesus “Christ alone”.
Sola Gratia Only by Grace
Solo Christo Only by Christ
Sola Fide Only by Faith
Sola Scriptura Only by Scripture
Under the heading of “The Australian Forum” at the top, it says to select from the following 80 or so audio documents, most of which are by Robert Brinsmead.
The first edition of Present Truth is dated 1972, although it is claimed that it commenced in 1968.
According to Gary Land, in 1968 the brothers started Present Truth Magazine. (Wikipedia)
Brinsmead appears to be characterised by an inability to persevere with any particular doctrine or belief, often changing his views on religion depending upon who he was communicating with at the time, or current circumstances and feelings.
In 1999 Raymond Cottrell observed: “Robert Brinsmead’s repeated and mutually contradictory positions over the years, together with his dogmatic public insistence on each of them successively, is clear evidence of immaturity. One cannot help but wonder if the present one is final, or if it is—like the others—ephemeral and will be followed by others.” (Wikipedia)
He was easily influenced by others around him, such as Desmond Ford (head of the Religion Department at Avondale College for 16 years) who refused to have anything to do with Brinsmead unless he moved away from his perfectionist views.
In the late 1970s Brinsmead began to be influenced by Desmond Ford, and systematically re-examine, and gave up many of his prior beliefs. (Wikipedia)
In the early 1980s Brinsmead’s theology shifted to liberal Christianity, and he now rejected the Adventist belief in the Sabbath. He abandoned his belief in many orthodox Christian teachings, including justification through faith in Christ and the divinity of Christ, seeing God’s interaction with mankind as not being limited to just the history of the Bible, but as an ongoing and continuous interaction with humanity towards a positive future.In the 1990s he turned from his theological focus, and shifted his attention to politics and his tropical fruit theme park, Tropical Fruit World. (Wikipedia)
Brinsmead spent much of the 1960s travelling USA propounding his perfectionist views. Brinsmead and his colleagues were convinced that they were recovering the original core message of the founders of 19th-century Seventh-day Adventism. (Wikipedia)
Though Brinsmead was born SDA, he was never satisfied with its then current directions. In 1970 he began to move toward Reform (calvinist) belief, something that would change his views on the SDA doctrines, especially the gospel.
Robert Brinsmead was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist. In the late 1950s he began to see glimpses of the gospel. By 1962, though still an Adventist, he was barred from fellowship under pressure from the Queensland Conference of Adventists. In 1970 he began to study the Reformation and to embrace its view of justification by faith. He also moved from an Adventist to a Reformation view of the law – views that are not really very far apart. His first edition of Present Truth (later Verdict) appeared in 1972 and brought his understanding of both justification and the law to bear on various theological issues.
The Australian Forum was a group of people (led by Brinsmead) which, in 1970 commenced to spread its reformed or calvinist SDA views.
And ironically, the discovery was made (in 1970) by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum.
…. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.
Also, in 1970 Jay Adams of Westminster Seminary published “Competent to Counsel”, a document that would eventually lead to what we know today as the Biblical Counselling movement. But, the views of the Australian Forum were to also merge with the traditional calvinist views of Westminster Seminary to lead, firstly to Sonship Theology, which was then adapted and relabelled as new calvinism. The traditional calvinist views were to be transformed into the new calvinism of the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR), a phrase apparently coined for new calvinists by Christianity Today in 2006.
New Calvinism, also known as the Young, Restless, and Reformed Movement, is a movement within conservative Evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th century Calvinism while seeking to engage these historical doctrines with present-day culture. …. Some of the major figures in this area are John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, C. J. Mahaney, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Joshua Harris. (Wikipedia)
So what are the distinctives of new calvinism? It is clear that Brinsmead (with his Australian Forum) and Jay Adams (with his new direction on counselling) both played a major part in this new calvinist belief system. New calvinism is a fusion, a merging together, of traditional calvinism and SDA beliefs.
Let’s look at two scenarios.
(a) Scenario 1: You are a traditional calvinist. Your gospel is based upon the unconditional election by God of a special group of people who will go to heaven. (Those not unconditionally elected will not go to heaven; instead they will go to hell.) If you are one of the elect, you are going to heaven. You will demonstrate that you are one of God’s elect by living a puritan lifestyle, one that demonstrates by its works that you are one of God’s people. God will ensure that all his elect will not be able to fall away; they will persevere until the end. The calvinist God elects (chooses) all his people. You do not choose God; he chooses you! You will never have any say in whether you go to heaven, or to hell! If you are God’s elect, he will cause you to do his works of righteousness until the end. If you are not one of God’s elect, then you will be incapable of any sustained works of righteousness.
All God’s elect will persevere in puritan living until the end; those who do not persevere until the end therefore do not belong to God’s elect. If you are one of God’s elect, God will cause you to persevere in works of righteousness until the end.
Thus the traditional calvinist gospel is that you are going to heaven as long as you continue in the works of righteousness until the end, for this demonstrates that God was keeping you in his righteousness. If you fall away from those works of righteousness, then God was not keeping you in his righteousness, and therefore you were never one of God’s elect in the first place!
The advantage of this belief system is clearly only on the side of those who are chosen by God; the non-elect have no real advantages at all, other than being allowed to live for a few years before being tormented in hell for eternity! However, if you are one of God’s chosen ones, then you cannot miss out on heaven ever. God has said you will go to heaven, and to heaven you will go! The gospel of the traditional calvinist is out of your hands. You will either believe or not believe depending upon what God has chosen for you to believe. Nothing anyone can do can possibly alter this.
(b) Scenario 2: You are a traditional SDA. Your gospel is based upon the continued upholding of the works of the Law of God. Despite the SDA claims that they are saved by Christ at the cross, they also teach that you can demonstrate a lack of salvation if you break the Laws of God. In particular, if you break the sabbath law (that is, you must worship on Saturday) then you may lose your soul for doing so. Obedience to the Law of God may overrule all other beliefs. So, while their gospel on the surface appears to be Christian (and some may actually believe so), ultimately it is their obedience to the Laws of God which will define them as either saved or not saved. The SDA must obey the works of the Law of God until the end. If he breaks a law, then he must repent, confess and get himself back on track for salvation. If he refuses to repent, confess and get right with God, then he may be considered to have lost his salvation (or to have never been saved in the first place). The reasoning is that if he were truly saved, then he would do those works of the Law of God, and get right when he breaks them. In many ways their gospel is very much like the calvinist gospel: if you persevere to the end, you will be saved. The major difference, however, lies in whoever has the responsibility for persevering with those works of righteousness.
So what’s the main difference? The major difference is that the responsibility for the calvinist gospel being applied to your life lies in God’s hands, while the SDA himself remains responsible for the carrying out of the works of righteousness. The SDA gospel is applied from within you (it is your responsibility to want to get back on track for God) while the calvinist gospel is applied from outside you (it is God’s responsibility to pick you up and set you right again if you fall).
If you fall over and skin your knee, then you either clean it up and put on a dressing, or else you get first aid from another person who knows what he is doing. The SDA gospel relates to having to clean yourself up, apply a band-aid and get on with life (no-one else will do it for you!), while the calvinist gospel relates to an expert first aid person deciding to clean you up and apply a band-aid without you having to ask for it (you can’t do it yourself).
The downside of the SDA gospel is that if you decide that cleaning your knee up and applying a band-aid is just too much hard work and therefore you don’t do it, then you might easily get an infection and get even sicker. The responsibility is yours to decide. If you don’t take responsibility for breaking the Law of God, then your lack of applying the SDA gospel could cause you big trouble, even getting yourself lost. The SDA gospel requires that you be found right (justified) before God at the end in order to be saved. You have to be careful to repent, confess and renounce all sin at all times in order to be assured of righteousness when you die. SDAs preach that an ongoing sanctification process is necessary for an ongoing justification. That is, the SDA gospel requires ongoing justification based upon ongoing sanctification in order to be saved at the end.
The advantage of the SDA gospel, however, is that you are permitted to decide that you want to clean up your act; this is not dependent upon God deciding whether you are one of his elect or not. If you repent and confess your sin, then you may begin the process of healing and ultimate acceptance by God (that is, justified).
The downside of the calvinist gospel is that it covers all your spiritual health needs but only if you are one of God’s elect. If you are not one of God’s elect, then you can get no help at all. The decision about getting better or not is not in your hands; it’s not your responsibility. However, if you are one of God’s elect, then your healing process will be total and complete. That healing and ultimate acceptance by God is only for his elect. If you are one of God’s elect, you will be healed; you don’t need to do anything yourself; indeed you can do nothing for yourself!
So why not merge the best of these two gospels! If the calvinist God has chosen you, then you will be looked after totally until the end. Of course, you must be chosen in order to get this, and live a puritan lifestyle as a consequence.
Calvinists do not accept that you can choose to accept salvation through Christ; instead they maintain that if God has chosen you, then you will show this through attending church and generally living a puritan lifestyle. However, if you fall away seriously, then you may no longer be considered as one of the elect, even if you should repent and confess your sin. You will be deemed to have received a temporary faith as defined by Calvin, but never receiving real saving faith in the first place.
But the SDA, while not having such an ironclad assurance of salvation at the end, are allowed to choose to repent and confess their sin, after which, if they renounced that sin completely, they may then permitted to resume their relationship with their God. There is no guaranteed salvation at the end, but they are allowed to get back on the horse after they have fallen off! Falling from grace doesn’t end their hope of salvation.
So imagine having a syncretistic belief that allows both the calvinist guarantee of salvation at the end, and the SDA guarantee that if they fall they could get back into the running again. Enter the New Calvinist belief! Such a belief still guarantees assurance of salvation at the end, plus the option of being able to get back into the running if the wheels fall off the cart during the race. All the calvinist has to do is to add on the option of being able to repent, confess and renounce their sins (no matter how large or serious), and they have a winner indeed! Thus the new calvinists also take on board the SDA teaching that an ongoing justification is dependent upon an ongoing sanctification. No longer are you justified once at the new birth; now you have to be continually justified. This is a major tenet taught by new calvinists today, that we need an ongoing or daily justification.
As we sin daily, so he justifies daily, and we must daily go to him for it.
(Justification Vs Self-justification, The Gospel Coalition National Conference 13/04/11)
Of course, traditional calvinism would still declare serious sin as an impediment to assurance of salvation, but this new breed of calvinism was just that: New Calvinism. They were the Young, Restless and Reformed and they had a more appealing gospel than those traditional calvinists did. The new calvinist could sin and their God would still accept them. This was so much more appealing to the world today which wanted to have both their sin and God’s salvation!
This new gospel of the new calvinists (the YRR) was a seller. That it wasn’t scripturally correct didn’t matter; when did being scripturally correct matter today in an age of such consumerism? (That is, you deliver the goods that the population wants, and they’ll beat a pathway to your door!) No longer did they have to, as calvinists, kick out those who sinned badly, declaring them to be not of God’s elect. No, that was a thing of the past. Now, if a person could be convinced to repent, confess and renounce his sin, then he could remain in the church, for God would only have granted repentance to his elect. Losing members due to sinful behaviour had been a problem in the past. Not only did it lower the numbers in church (and, very importantly, the offering!) but it prevented the scandal of having sinful church members being the cause of others not coming to their church. But now even the sinners could stay (and play and pay!).
This was to form the basis of Sonship Theology, which taught that, as God’s children, Christians could sin, knowing that if they were of God’s elect, their God would always provide sufficient grace to reinstall them into fellowship. That is, if they were God’s elect, then they couldn’t do anything that would lose them their assurance of salvation.
If you can never be lost, then no sin you commit can ever change that fact, as long as you are one of God’s elect!
Sonship Theology is an attempt to elevate grace, the assurance of salvation we have in Jesus Christ, and the intention of God to preserve Christ’s sheep so that not one is ever lost.
The traditional calvinist gospel had been based upon the unconditional election of those who would be saved. If you were chosen by God, then you’d attend church and act like good puritans should act. And, as long as you continued to act like good puritans, you would continue to be accepted as God’s elect. If you fell badly, you were no longer accepted as one of the elect.
But now things had changed. The SDA gospel permitted people to choose to be saved, but then required that those same people had to persevere by their own will until the end. The new calvinist gospel was no longer strictly based upon the unconditional election, even though they claimed that this calvinist doctrine was still true. Effectively though, it permitted people to choose to be saved, by assuming that those who chose to be saved could only have done so if God had firstly required that they choose to be saved. In practice, it meant that people could indeed choose to be saved, yet, by their desire and consequent attendance at church, the new calvinist doctrine might claim that God had actually chosen them. Their choice to serve God could be interpreted as the consequence of God choosing them, and their behaviour as a Christian could show whether they were actually chosen by God, according to new calvinism.
A bad fall from grace wasn’t the end of your salvation now. You could also choose to repent and regain that “grace” from which you had fallen. Effectively the gospel had changed from simply being one of God’s unconditional elect, to the choosing by God’s people to repent again. Now you could regain your position of “grace”. Now God didn’t call you just to be saved; he enabled you to continue to repent and renounce your sin, and this is what was saving people. This is what demonstrated that you were God’s elect, not your good works, but the repentance that God allegedly gave you whenever you fell into sin. It was now a gospel of repentance and restoration! In reality, if you wanted to stay out of trouble, you repented. The church could claim as much as it liked that God was giving you repentance, but whether it was your choice or God’s choice didn’t really matter as long as the church continued to look “successful”! (It is difficult to see how many examples of such “repentance” can be of holy God when such sin is being white-washed and swept under the carpet!)
But how do you administer such a belief system? If people may be permitted to sin and then to merely repent, confess and renounce such sin in order to remain acceptable to their God (often for the sake of the church and its leaders!), then what’s to stop them from abusing this system? What’s to stop them from committing sin as and when they like, knowing that they’ll be still able to get up and continue running the race? What checks and balances are there in such a system? You don’t want to kick people out because a good business never kicks out its better customers. But you do need some form of control to prevent it turning into a sin free-for-all. You need “control”!
Enter Biblical Counselling, the other aspect of this Australian Forum & Jay Adams’ “Competent to Counsel” & Westminster Seminary. How does the catholic church control its members? Over the centuries it has used the confessional to garner information about its members that it can use (and has used) against those of its members who seek to use their liberties to attempt to take control of their own spiritual destiny. Originally known as nouthetic counselling, Biblical Counselling has now taken the place in many new calvinist churches (and lots of others too) that the confessional had – still has! – in the catholic church.
In fact, Biblical Counselling is a lot more than just a tool for new calvinist churches. Biblical Counselling is new calvinism! Both were developed alongside each other at Westminster Seminary, and both are simply two aspects of the same theology. New calvinism is the theory behind the theology, while Biblical Counselling is that theory put into practice. Biblical Counselling is the practical application of the new calvinist theology! Those church members who apply Biblical Counselling requirements to their lives will be considered the elect of God, while those who refuse to apply Biblical Counselling to their lives may be considered not of the elect of God. Biblical Counselling therefore becomes the new calvinist church’s assessment of the spiritual status of its members. If you repent regularly of your sin, then God, by his sovereign grace, has given you repentance because you are one of his. Lack of regular repentance could indicate that God has not given you repentance because you are not one of his! (Sovereign grace is that grace bestowed by the sovereign calvinist God, but only to those he has called as his elect. It is why many new calvinist churches are named “Sovereign Grace” or just “Grace” churches.)
Biblical Counsellors often encourage people (who have come for counselling) to confess sins, telling them that sin is the basis for their problems, and that the removal of such sin is the first step toward solving their problems. Of course, sin may indeed be the root cause of all problems in the world today, but requiring people to confess their sins in order to assist with a solution to their problems is an overly invasive method of counselling. However, a Biblical Counsellor, after establishing the problem that might exist, is likely to then ask questions that might seek to establish the culpability of the person being counselled. That is, if you have a problem with another person, for instance, what is your particular responsibility for what has happened. If your husband has been unfaithful to you, then what might you have done to lead to this happening? Perhaps if you’d been a better wife, then maybe this mightn’t have happened. Etc etc. Please note that many anecdotes establish that such methods are indeed often used by Biblical Counsellors. They are seemingly more interested in keeping the peace in the church than they are with seeking actual truth. In fact, truth becomes a problem if it might get in the way of reconciliation!
Church leaders want their churches to be big, rich and successful. This means lots of people putting lots of money into the offering plates! Sinful behaviour and scandals aren’t helpful, so why not encourage those miserable sinners to repent, confess and renounce their sin? If they could do so, then they could be received back into the fold as if they’d never left it! (Together with their money offerings, that is.) And, as long as they could keep the trouble out of the hands of the secular authorities (police etc), then they were sitting pretty. The new calvinist God had clearly forgiven and restored these sinners as part of his overall plan to keep his church big, prosperous and happy. Reconciliation for all is the name of the game, even if some truth has to be sacrificed for the sake of the unity of the brethren! New calvinism through Biblical Counselling is good for the physical well-being of modern churches!
Of course, if these sinners had sinned against another member of that church community, then it required that those alleged victims of the sin (or crime as it was to often turn out) should also forgive and forget such sin. If God had forgiven such sin, then those offended church members should be able to do no less than to also forgive and forget. The sinner was now reconciled to the new calvinist God and therefore the victims should likewise be reconciled to the sinner who had offended them – even if that sin was a crime such as child abuse or rape, wife-beating or being unfaithful to one’s spouse.
All this was usually dealt with under the heading of Biblical Counselling, in an effort to get the sinner to repent, confess and renounce his sin. And, of course, the victims were also counselled (biblically, of course!) to give up their feelings (of anger etc) that were not helping in the process of reconciliation. Biblical Counselling became a means by which the church and its leadership might try to retain control over a church which was breaking up due to the aggravated sin of some members.
But many victims of such crime became upset, when they saw the church accept the repentance and renouncing of the sin of the perpetrator, and refusing to hand it over to the police, preferring to deal with it within the church body. The victims felt that the church had sided with the perpetrator at the expense of the victims, all for the sake of keeping the church “clean” from scandal. The sinner might have been “rescued” for God, but the victims were expected to deny justice to their family because it might harm the eternal security of the sinner. The abused or raped child was to suffer the pain in silence in order that the sinner (and the church, too) might not be hurt. The beaten or abused wife was to forgive her husband (even if he were also unfaithful) and not talk seriously about leaving him, or getting a divorce. And the secular authorities were seen as also being opposed to the well-being of the sinner (and the church) so it was best to deal with it all within the church leadership ranks. The victim all too often then became the criminal, being treated as such by many churches.
So those within the church who had done their training as Biblical Counsellors (probably with CCEF and/or Westminster Seminary) became the front-line soldiers for the cause of church peace (based upon control) within their ranks. And because ongoing justification was dependent upon ongoing sanctification, and because it is to be expected that all will commit regular sin (even church members in good standing), then all should be ready and willing to regularly confess sin, repenting and renouncing it. In this way all sin would hopefully be brought out into the open and theoretically counsellors could deal with it before it might become more serious. (If you didn’t confess sin regularly, then you could be seen as hiding the sin which you had to be committing.) If a counsellor perceived (rightly or wrongly!) a problem with someone, he or she could report such confession to the church for possible disciplinary action. Such disciplinary action could lead to the one confessing a sin to be approached by the church, often in the public forum of a church members’ meeting or church service, in order to challenge that alleged “sinner’ with his or her sin, and a requirement that they deal with it. (Even if they had actually been the victim!)
New calvinism aggressively pushes its beliefs, usually to those who are already in a church situation. (They rarely evangelise the truly lost!) They believe that they have a mandate to bring their brand of the truth to all the church, in particularly to the fundamentalists. Al Mohler would like to remind us that new calvinism is the only good religion on the block!
Al Mohler: ‘Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism—where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they going to need and where else are they going to connect.
New calvinists will claim that their “truth” is best, their God is more sovereign, they are more Scriptural, and that calvinism is the gospel, yet they will not come out into the open with such beliefs unless they believe they have sufficient support among their church group to do so. If indeed their beliefs are as good as they claim, then why are they rarely up front and open with their beliefs except to those who have some sympathies already. They will often work with small groups in a church, or disciple individuals, getting such on side, and only announcing to the general church membership where they stand when they consider they have sufficient support to do so.
When a church gets a new pastor, they should find out about the real beliefs of that man before they appoint him to be their pastor. Far too many calvinist (especially new calvinist) pastors do not reveal their calvinist or new calvinist beliefs until after they have established themselves in their position. But, once they get sufficient support from the members, they will then aggressively seek to win over the rest, or accept the resignations of those who will not bow down to new calvinist beliefs. As long as they get their church (and their salary!), they are usually happy to see the troublemakers (those who disagree with them) leave.
New calvinism is a false religion designed to keep the church masses happy (if deluded). It has determined what the world likes today, and has offered it to the fundamentalist religious world. Many genuine Christians have been taken in by its rhetoric and false promises (which are delivered so confidently and so forcefully that it is hard to refute without proper facts at their disposal). It is what the people have asked for, and so they are satisfied with its performance. But new calvinism is a cult of satan and only by testing all things (as we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:21) may Christians truly determine the dangers that lie within. Be vigilant! Be aware! Or else be enslaved!
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