Friday, November 26, 2010

Is the "New Calvinism" Growing?

I would say it is growing in influence, but the issue of whether it is growing in numbers is more difficult to analyze. Here is a story in which the Barna Research Group says that there is no evidence that Calvinism as a whole is growing in American Protestantism.
Some observers and journalists have described a movement among Reformed churches, pointing to prominent Reformed pastors and new Reformed church associations as a significant trend. A new study from Barna Group explores whether the so-called “New Calvinism” has, as yet, affected the allegiances of pastors and whether Reformed churches are growing.
Their conclusion?
Kinnaman, who serves as Barna Group president, concluded, "there is no discernable evidence from this research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over the last decade. Whatever momentum surrounds Reformed churches and the related leaders, events and associations has not gone much outside traditional boundaries or affected the allegiances of most of today's church leaders. It is important to note that the influence of Reformed churches might also be measured through other metrics that are currently unavailable, such as the theological certainty of self-described adherents, their level of acceptance toward those who are not Calvinist, and the new methods Reformed leaders are using to market their views to their peers and to the public.
I think that, since conservative, biblical, Evangelical Calvinism is a subset of all Calvinism (which includes many liberals who claim the Reformed or Calvinist label), broad brushed research of this type does not really help in answering the question of whether the movement described in Hanson's Young, Restless and Reformed is actually growing.

We should bear in mind that the qualifications in the above paragraph may be far more significant that the main conclusion. In particular, I think that the new-found confidence in the Gospel displayed by many in the so-called "New Calvinism," (which is really just another wave of the original Calvinism), and the new methods used to market Calvinist views to Evangelicals in general are signs of an important resurgence of Calvinism today.

The Reformed wing of Evangelicalism is engaged in a debate with other theological perspectives about what constitutes an adequate basis for a healthy Evangelicalism. This debate can occur in Evangelicalism because Evangelicalism has not drifted as far from biblical and orthodox Christianity as Liberal Protestantism has done. The issue at stake is the alarming degree of leftward drift within Evangelicalism and what must be done to stop it.

Just as the election of the leftist Obama to the presidency has shocked conservative and moderate America into active repudiation of his policies and into political activism, the rise and flame-out of the Emergent Church movement has shocked and alarmed ordinary Evangelicals into the realization that a second major slide into liberalism is not only possible, but likely unless theological renewal occurs.

This development has caused many to take a second look at a robust, biblical, orthodox, Reformed theology and consider whether or not it alone has the power to prevent the slide into a new social gospel which is no real gospel at all. The fact that a number of people are coming to the conclusion that whether or not Reformed theology is the only kind of theology capable of sustaining a vigorous Evangelicalism, it is likely the best alternative for doing so is what is causing the "New Calvinism" to grow in influence within Evangelicalism.

No comments: