Sunday, January 02, 2005

Neo-Calvinism: A Loyal Opposition

Clicking on the title of this post will take you to my good friend Derek Melleby's blog, where you will find a good overview of the worldview called "Neo-Calvinism", as well as many links to other sites discussing, and mostly promoting, these ideas. Though I have by no means read all the books that constitute the "canon" of NeoCalvinism, I have read much Calvin and some Kuyper (the Stone Lectures) and a few of the many books Derek has recommended by Walsh, Middleton, Garber, Wolters, Sire and Cornelius Plantinga. I am convinced of the truth of the theological framework of Creation/Fall/Redemption applying to the entire creation, and am very sympathetic to the goal of engaging all of the culture and seeking its redemption in Christ. I teach a no-holds-barred, we're-not-interested-in-the-right-answers-but-in-what-you-think Bible study for high school students in my home Fridays, and Derek and I lead a similar fellowship of college students and young adults on Sundays, both with the ultimate goal of discipling Christians who will embrace all of life and culture as coming under the Kingdom of God.

Yet while thus "loyal" to the ultimate cause of the redemption of all of creation, yet I find myself unable to embrace the culture of Neo-Calvinism itself, such as it seems to me. It seems at times a little glib, a little naive. While agreeing with the overall emphasis and the articulation of the goal, I still have difficulty seeing what, precisely, we Neo-Calvinists are supposed to do about it. I am a little uncomfortable with the simplicity with which the problems of the modern church are diagnosed. I am very troubled by the observation that neither Calvin's Geneva nor Kuyper's Netherlands have anything like a Kingdom flavor about them any more. What happened? Calvin may have been centuries ago, but Kuyper was barely 100 years ago. Can anyone really suggest that the church is stronger in Amsterdam or Geneva, or the whole of the Netherlands, Switzerland, or even the EU, than it is in the US? (and it is admittedly weak and sick in the US.) It is all well and good to criticise the US church as superficial and self-absorbed, but at least it exists. Both times I have been to Europe I have been impressed by the nearly complete a-theism of the public square there.

I therefore propose to spend some time here asking some hard questions of Neo-Calvinism. I am convinced that the truth can always withstand close scrutiny, and that man's mind is always sharpened by being challenged. (as iron sharpens iron, etc). Worldviews lead to practice. Besides talking about "-isms", how should we then live? Let us explore...

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