Who Are the New Calvinists?

Part 2: Pastor John Piper, Pastor Mark Driscoll and Dr. Albert Mohler

by E.S. Williams


In my first talk, we saw that New Calvinism, while claiming an allegiance to the doctrines of Calvin, did not always abide by the doctrines of the Reformed faith. We saw that the Gospel Coalition, the flagship of New Calvinism was ecumenical in approach. Dr. Tim Keller, the intellectual giant of New Calvinism, and co-founder of the Gospel Coalition, defined Christianity as the body of believers who assent to the great ecumenical creeds, and that included Roman Catholics.

Another feature of New Calvinism is that it seeks to combine evangelism with social activism. The Gospel Coalition, the citadel of New Calvinism, believes that the Gospel should be contextualised to make it relevant to the culture of the day. We concluded that New Calvinists have a passion for contemporary worship.

In today’s talk I will focus on three men who are enormously influential in the New Calvinist movement, namely, Pastor John Piper of Desiring God Ministries; Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, who is also the founder of the Acts 29 church planting network, and Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological College in Louisville, USA.

Who is Piper?

John PiperJohn Piper is the eloquent preacher who stands at the very centre of the New Calvinism movement. His charismatic personality and powerful, eloquent preaching style has made him extremely influential among young evangelical Christians. Piper has a reputation of being a five point Calvinist. His Desiring God website affirms: ‘We begin as Bible-believing Christians who want to put the Bible above all systems of thought. But over the years we have deepened in our conviction that Calvinistic teachings on the five points are Biblical and therefore true.’1

Piper’s best selling book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (1986), claims to help readers embark on a different and joyful experience of their faith. The book has been called a 20th century classic that changes lives. Some reviews declare that, next to the Bible, Desiring God is the most life-changing book they have ever read. Such is the attraction of the term, ‘Desiring God’, that Piper has successfully created a thriving industry that promotes his vision of Christian hedonism. Such is the influence of this book, that to much acclaim, Piper has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Piper is highly regarded as a conference speaker. He is a keynote speaker at the annual Passion Conference, attended by many thousands of students and young people. He was invited to address a plenary session of the third Lausanne Congress inCape Town(2010), one of the largest gatherings of evangelical Christian leaders in church history.

His annual Desiring God Conference in the USA attracts speakers from across the theological spectrum. In 2007, Piper spoke at the inaugural meeting of the Gospel Coalition, of which he is a council member. Despite his massive popularity, there is much in Piper’s ministry that compromises the Reformed faith he claims to proclaim.

A flawed foundation

Three important influences have shaped Piper’s thinking and theology.

Daniel Fuller - partial inspiration of Scripture

Daniel FullerDaniel Fuller, Dean of Fuller’s School of Theology 1963-1972

First, John Piper studied at theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, and openly acknowledges the important influence of Fuller Seminary on his theological thinking, despite the Seminary’s flawed view of Scripture and liberal theology. In Desiring God, Piper explains: ‘As with almost everything I do, the influence of Daniel P Fuller pervades’ (p10). Piper openly acknowledges the influence of Fuller Seminary on his theological thinking, yet Fuller’s view of Scripture was seriously compromised and by the end of the 1960s, ‘limited inerrancy’ was the dominant view of Fuller Seminary. Daniel Fuller, Dean of the Seminary, promoted what may be called a doctrine of the partial inspiration of Scripture.2 He argued that there are two kinds of Scripture—revelational Scripture that is wholly without error and non-revelational Scripture that is not without error.3 Undoubtedly, Piper is the product of Fuller’s liberal, compromised view of the Christian faith.

Blaise Pascal - Human philosophy

The second influence came from the Catholic philosopher Blaise Pascal. At Seminary Piper was introduced to the philosophy of Pascal, who declared: ‘All men seek happiness. This is without exception.’ For Piper, this was good enough. He developed his theory of Christian hedonism, by scanning the Scriptures to find verses that appeared to support Pascal’s theory. In doing so he committed a cardinal error, for he started with the ideas of man, and then turned to Scripture to justify a philosophical system. But this is the wrong way round—sound Christian thinking always starts with God’s Word, not with man’s ideas. ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man’ (Jeremiah 17.5).

C.S. Lewis - Christian mysticism

The third influence on Piper was that of C.S. Lewis. Piper grew to love the work of C.S. Lewis, and one of Lewis’ sermons, ‘The Weight of Glory’, had a profound influence on him. ‘I had never in my whole life heard any Christian, let alone a Christian of Lewis’ stature, say that all of us not only seek (as Pascal said) but also ought to seek our own happiness.’ (p20).

But Oxford Professor C.S. Lewis was not a sound guide, for he had a confused understanding of the Christian faith. He rejected the inerrancy of Scripture and justification by faith alone, as well as the doctrines of total depravity and the sovereignty of God.’4 Lewis taught and believed in purgatory, said prayers for the dead, and much of his writing is deeply mystical.

Piper’s yearning for happiness

Based on the ideas of Pascal and C.S. Lewis, Piper developed a philosophy of life, which he calls ‘Christian Hedonism’. In Desiring God, Piper explains: ‘All those years I had been trying to suppress my tremendous longing for happiness, so I could honestly praise God out of some “higher” less selfish motive. But now it started to dawn on me that this persistent, and undeniable yearning for happiness, was not to be suppressed, but to be glutted — on God.’ [page 21]. Piper’s tremendous longing for happiness, was to be nurtured and cultivated, and God was to be the source that satisfied his yearning. No surprise then, that the index of Desiring God has twenty references to happiness and only one to holiness.

Here we should note that it is the unregenerate heart that sees happiness as the prime purpose of life. The Apostle Paul prayed that the Colossian saints would desire to be ‘filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing’ (Colossians 1.9-10). Piper’s flawed theology allowed him to integrate human philosophy with the Christian faith, and the result was Christian Hedonism, and the Desiring God industry, which is a main promoter of New Calvinism.

Piper’s handling of Scripture is disappointing. When attempting to show how the Bible not only supports, but commands Christians to be hedonists, Piper makes use of partial quotations, takes passages out-of-context in ways that can change their meaning. Proof texting is not a sound approach for creating a philosophy of life. Dr. Master’s, in a review of Desiring God, writes that the result of Piper’s system of thought has been to distort the biblical concept of Christian sanctification.

Piper hears God

Piper has placed on record, on his Desiring God website, his experience of hearing God speak to him, audibly, from Psalm 66:5-7. ‘Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o’clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.’ Piper claims God said to him: Come and see what I have done.” God’s voice also said: I keep watch over the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves.” Piper interprets his ecstatic experience: ‘He [God] may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand, and said, with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love, “Never, never, never exalt yourself. Never rebel against me.” ‘ In effect, Piper is putting words in God’s mouth that are not in Scripture.

It is surprising that an eminent Reformed theologian should place on public record his experience of ‘hearing God’s voice’ speaking personally to him. The historic Protestant position affirms ‘that the Word God, spoke through apostles and prophets, and intended for the direction of his church, is now found only in sacred Scripture’.

The folly of the contemporary music scene

At the centre of Piper’s ministry is a commitment to contemporary, worldly, irreverent worship. Piper’s annual Desiring God National Conference promotes contemporary worship. Piper is closely associated with the annual Passion Conference, a huge gathering of young people who are given over to the contemporary music scene. Each year Piper delivers a message to the thousands of young people who are gathered to be entertained by loud beating music, flashing strobe lights and energetic rap artists.

Piper is also committed to the holy hip-hop scene. He publicly demonstrated his support by inviting a popular rap artist Lecrae to perform during a morning church service. The rap artist received a standing ovation from the eager congregation. So close is the relationship between John Piper and rap artist Lecrae that their respective organisations, Desiring God and Reach Records, have worked together to produce a holy hip-hop DVDs.

Piper really likes Rick Warren

In 2010 Piper invited Pastor Rick Warren to address the Desiring God National Conference. Explaining his reason, Piper said: ‘I do think he [Warren] is deeply theological, he’s a brilliant man... So I don’t think he’s emergent; at root I think he is theological and doctrinal and sound.’

John Piper and Rick WarrenIn 2011, Piper sat down with Rick Warren in the studios of Saddleback Church to discuss the doctrine surrounding Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Life (2002). Piper made it clear that he has no problem with Purpose Driven Life, which he says has been much maligned by most Reformed theologians. Piper says: ‘Frankly, I’m appalled at the kinds of slander that have been brought against this book...’5

Piper has used his position as a leader within the church, to persuade Christians that Rick Warren has been misinterpreted and misunderstood. So close is the fellowship between Piper and Warren that a regional Desiring God Conference in April 2011 was held in Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.

John Piper is undoubtedly at the centre of New Calvinism. He has used his Desiring God ministry to proclaim his flawed philosophy of Christian Hedonism. He has also promoted contemporary, irreverent worldly worship in the Church, even supporting holy hip-hop. He is deeply ecumenical in outlook and makes no attempt to separate the true from the false.

Who is Mark Driscoll?

Mark Driscoll, pastor of the mega Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and co-founder of the Acts 29 church planting network, is one of the most influential men in the New Calvinist movement. He has the reputation of being the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastor. Preaching magazine named Driscoll among the ‘25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years’.

Mark DriscollThe Acts 29 Network, which has planted over 400 churches, is active in the UK and thirteen other nations. Driscoll has also founded what he calls The Resurgence, a theological cooperative that works with the Acts 29 Network of church planters to produce resources for the Church. Driscoll is invited to talk at Christian Conferences in the USA and across the world. In May 2011, he was invited by evangelical Christians in the UK to preach before 4,000 men at the London Men’s Convention in the Royal Albert Hall. He was a council member of The Gospel Coalition, until he resigned recently.

Driscoll claims to be firmly in the Calvinist camp. He says that John Calvin is one of the greatest teachers in the history of the Church. Quote: ‘I really appreciate his work, and I named my middle son Calvin Martin, after John Calvin and Martin Luther. This tells you what team I’m on.’

Driscoll is also a great admirer of Charles Spurgeon. In many ways he has attempted to model himself on Spurgeon, whom he refers to as ‘arguably the greatest Bible preacher outside of Scripture... the writing of Spurgeon is incredibly inspiring to me... I find a mentor with whom I can relate...’

Driscoll has suggested four ways in which New Calvinism has improved on the older version. First, Old Calvinism was fundamental and separated from culture, whereas New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture. Second, Old Calvinism fled from the cities, while New Calvinism is flooding into cities. Third, Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Fourth, Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

But despite his popularity in the evangelical world, Driscoll’s ministry has proved to be controversial because of his unconventional methods, which he describes as ‘theological conservative and culturally liberal’. Here are some of the main characteristics of Driscoll’s ministry.

1. Perverse language and corrupt communication

Driscoll has frequently used perverse and crude language. His language—even in his sermons—is crude, and at times lewd and vulgar. He was so well known for using profane language that in Blue Like Jazz (p. 133), Donald Miller, popular author and icon of the ‘Emerging Church’ movement, nicknamed him ‘Mark the Cussing Pastor’. In recent years, however, Driscoll has somewhat modified his language.

A feature of Driscoll’s ministry is his casual dress. When preaching in Mars Hill Church he often wears jeans and a large range of provocative T-shirts. Examples include a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Body piercing saved my life’; an image of Drag Queen Jesus, with the caption, ‘Jesus watches you download porn’. Other T-shirts include images of Mickey Mouse, Jesus is my homeboy, Mary is my homegirl, Skull and Cross bones, and Jesus as a DJ.

2. Mocking Scripture

Driscoll often mocks Scripture and makes fun of biblical characters. He calls Gideon, the Lord’s warrior, a complete coward; he calls John the Baptist a freak. In a sermon on humour in the Bible, he says the book of Genesis is where all things begin including good comedy... Quote: ‘I mean the whole book is a redneck, hillbilly saga, par excellence. It’s like all of Genesis takes place in a trailer park... the whole book is filled with redneck comedy... That’s how I see it. It’s kind of funny that after God kills everyone, the one ‘righteous’ guy passes out naked in his tent.’

Driscoll’s book Vintage Jesus (2008), while containing some doctrinal truth, contains much which is crude and offensive. It is widely available in Christian book shops in the USA and UK and other countries around the world. Many church book stalls are promoting this book and thousands of young people will have read it. To gain insight into the tragedy and compromise of New Calvinism, we need to understand what is being written by some of its leading proponents.

Now a few quotes from pages 43-44,

‘In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus starts off by yelling at complete strangers to repent of their sin... In the second chapter, Jesus picks a fight with some well-mannered religious types...’

‘In the third chapter, Jesus gets angry and also grieves, and apparently needs Praxil... Then he ignores his own mom... In chapter 5, Jesus kills two thousand pigs, sending the animal rights activist blogosphere into a panic, and creating a bacon famine... In chapter 6, Jesus offends some people and apparently needs sensitivity training. In chapter 7, a few religious types have some questions for Jesus, and he cruelly calls them ‘hypocrites’ and goes on a lengthy tirade about them...’ And so it goes on, with vacuous comments about each chapter in Mark’s Gospel.

Driscoll draws his conclusion. ‘In summary, the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel is not fitting for old ladies in hats and men in suits like those we see at church.’ Throughout his ministry Driscoll reveals an intense dislike for what he calls religious people, which means traditional church goers, and takes every opportunity to condemn those, who in his eyes, are fundamentalists, for they are ‘prone to legalism, moralism, and a general lack of love, grace or patience’.

In Vintage Jesus he describes our Lord as an intolerant, aggressive, depressive who needs sensitivity training. He also says, ‘Jesus was actually a pretty fun guy because he got invited to a lot of parties...’ [p. 39] The picture he paints of our Lord Jesus Christ is irreverent, and blasphemous. Driscoll’s approach to Scripture is flippant and mocking.

Yet Vintage Jesus has been widely praised by many prominent evangelical Christian leaders. Professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bruce Ware, endorses the book. “Vintage Jesus offers a fresh, engaging, and insightful discussion of some of the oldest and most crucial truths about Jesus Christ that constitute the very core of the gospel itself. As I read, my heart leapt for joy, for the wonder and brilliance of the truths being developed...”

Professor Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix, is equally fulsome in his praise: “Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears combine profound understanding of modern culture with weighty Christian doctrine that is faithful to the Bible. It’s written in such an interesting style that it’s hard to put down. I strongly recommend it!” This book has also been endorsed by John Piper and the Desiring God organisation has promoted Vintage Jesus.

3. Sexual licentiousness

From the beginning of his ministry, Mark Driscoll has sought to promote lasciviousness in the Church. His writing is full of sexual innuendoes and sexually provocative language. Driscoll built his ministry, in large part, by preaching and teaching about sex, and by using crude and provocative language. In his book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev (2006), he explains his technique for achieving church growth—he assumed young people were all interested in sex and so he preached through the Song of Songs, which he interpreted as a sex manual.

Although he is careful to say that sex is for marriage, his handling of sexual matters is sensuous and impure. In his book Radical Reformission, (page 131), as part of a cultural immersion project, he suggests that men should read ‘Cosmo Girl’ magazine and to listen to salacious sex talk radio programs.

The Mars Hill Church website has provided hyperlinks to two pornographic websites. Dr. Judith Reisman (an expert on the discredited research of Alfred Kinsey), having viewed Driscoll’s recommended websites, commented: ‘Well, this is, at best, tragic. I don’t know if it is worse to think that these are phony church sites put out by pornographers, or that they are real church sites put out by pornified churches. Words cannot describe the ignorance, arrogance and flagrant homoeroticism of these sites.’

In 2007, Driscoll preached a sermon, entitled ‘Sex, a Study of the Good Bits from Song of Solomon’, in two Scottish churches. He offered the congregation a choice of three sermons, and asked them to choose. Amid cheers and laughter, the congregation chose sex in the Song of Solomon. The sermon was so crude and vulgar, even by Driscoll’s standards, that it caused outrage.

Driscoll’s latest book, Real Marriage (2012), again deals with sex in the most provocative, lewd and indecent way.

4. God loves punk-rock music

Driscoll’s underlying philosophy assumes that Christians should engage with the culture of the day. Worldly punk-rock music forms a major part of Driscoll’s life and ministry. He has called hip-hop artist Jay-Z as a genius, and referred to Christian rap artist Lecrae as a missionary of the 21st Century. Driscoll’s love of hard rock music has had a large impact on Mars Hill Church. ‘I envisioned a large church that hosted concerts for non-Christian bands...’

He writes in Radical Reformission. ‘I was torn between buying the ‘secular’ music that I enjoyed and the Christian music that I did not. After much prayer, I decided that God loved me and allowed my [Christian] music to be stolen so that I could buy back the old albums that I enjoyed. And so I did, and as pastor of a church filled with ‘secular’ bands that hosts ‘secular’ concerts, I have not had a regret since.’ (Radical Reformission, p. 126). Piper described the music in Driscoll’s church the loudest he had ever heard.

5. Jesus loves tattoos

Driscoll’s church supports tattoo artists in their work. The issue of tattoos is discussed on the Mars Hill Downtown Campus under the headline: Jesus Loves Tattoos. Driscoll has no objection to Christian people being tattooed. In a sermon Driscoll boldly asserted: “You are free in Christ to be weird... Let me just say our position is this—tattoos are not a sin, right. Jesus Christ is going to have a tattoo—Revelation says on his second coming. It says that down his right leg will be written King of Kings and Lord of Lords, which will be really freakish for all for the fundamentalists to see Jesus all tattooed up. I can’t wait for that day...” 6

6. Supernatural visions

Driscoll claims that he has the gift of discernment that allows him to see the sins of people in his congregation. In a seminar on counselling, Mark Driscoll makes the statement: ‘Some people actually see things. This may be gift of discernment. On occasion, I see things. I see things.’ Driscoll claims that he saw a person being sexually abused as a child. Driscoll: ‘It’s like I got a TV right here. I’m seeing it... But some of you have this visual ability to see things.

Driscoll explains: It’s the supernatural. It’s the whole other realm. It’s like the Matrix. You can take the blue pill, you take the red pill. You go into this whole other world. And that’s the way it works... I see things too. I’ve seen women raped. I’ve seen children molested. I’ve seen people abused. I’ve seen people beaten. I’ve seen horrible things done.

Is Mark Driscoll a false teacher?

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew 7.20). For the tree is known by his fruit (Matthew 12.33)

Mark Driscoll presents himself as theologically conservative and culturally liberal. He says that, “The emerging church proclaims a gospel of freedom.” (Confessions, p. 25). Driscoll’s gospel of freedom appears to be a gospel that is free from the rules and conduct of biblical Christianity. So is Driscoll a false teacher? This is a question that confuses many people.

In practice we see a vast gulf between the doctrine that Driscoll claims to proclaim and the conduct that he promotes through his culturally liberal ministry. Those who support Driscoll’s ministry refer to sermons that are doctrinally acceptable. But what about the conduct that Driscoll not only approves of, but also promotes? What is the value of doctrinal soundness when it is combined with licentious behaviour? Is this not the dangerous heresy referred to in the book of Jude, where false teachers secretly slip into the church and turn the grace of God into sensuality (Jude 4).

The test for false teachers

So is Driscoll a false teacher? Our Lord gave us the test for false teachers to help his disciples identify them and avoid their teaching. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7.15-20).

Here we should note that a false teacher is to be judged by his fruits, not by his words. This is the crucial point. Our Lord explains: “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name?” (Matthew 7.21-22). So we see that the false prophet is one who speaks about the things of God in Christ’s name. But his fruit is corrupt.

Therefore, as a corrupt tree produces corrupt fruit, so a false teacher (one who speaks and teaches in the name of the Lord) produces corrupt conduct. So we should expect a false teacher, who is a messenger of Satan, (2 Corinthians 11.14) to disguise himself as a servant of righteousness by using sound words, for that is part of the deception. Therefore we must examine the conduct that results from the ministry of a teacher. The toxic message of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a mixture of truth and error that produces corrupt conduct. So what are the fruits of Driscoll’s ministry? As we have heard in this talk, the fruit of Driscoll’s ministry includes the following corrupt fruit: 1) Perverse language and corrupt communication. 2) Mocking Scripture. 3) Sexual licentiousness. 4) Punk-rock music. 5) Tattoos 6) Surpernatural visions.

There is no doubt that Driscoll’s ministry promotes sinful behaviour in the church. He has turned the grace of God into licentiousness. His teaching perverts holy living by encouraging worldliness in the church. He is promoting a carnal, fleshly version of Christianity that revels in the lusts of the flesh. He encourages Christians to walk according to the ways of the flesh, to set their minds on the things of the flesh, which are licentiousness, immorality, impurity and sensuality (Galatians 5.19). So is Mark Driscoll a false teacher? Our Lord said, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” As a corrupt tree brings forth corrupt fruit, so a false teacher produces sinful conduct in the church. Therefore Mark Driscoll must be judged by his fruits.

How has Driscoll become so popular among New Calvinists?

Driscoll has gained a position of pre-eminence in New Calvinism because he has received enormous support and encouragement from a number of evangelical leaders in the USA and in the UK. In the USA, Driscoll is a regular speaker at large evangelical conferences, such as the Gospel Coalition and the Desiring God Conference. In the UK, he was invited by evangelical Christians to speak at the London Men’s Convention in the prestigious Royal Albert Hall to 4,000 men.

Perhaps the greatest supporter of Mark Driscoll’s ministry is John Piper. He has twice invited Driscoll to speak at the Desiring God Conference. Piper said the reason he invited Driscoll was because he loves Mark Driscoll’s theology, and because Mark is his friend. He helps Driscoll like a father helps his son.

Significantly, Driscoll has often preached at the annual Gospel Coalition Conference. In 2009, the titled of Driscoll’s sermon was ‘Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth’. Driscoll started his sermon: “I what to thank Dr. Carson, whom I love and appreciate very much, and Dr. Tim Keller for bringing us all together... what holds us together is theological conviction and that’s really what matters most...” In 2011 Driscoll preached on “The Spirit-Filled Missional Ministry of Jesus”, promoting his Act 29 version of ministry. The Gospel Coalition has fully endorsed Driscoll’s ministry, and he has been a council member for years, until he resigned a few months ago.

The Gospel CoalitionMark Driscoll was so influential in the Gospel Coalition that at the 2011 National Conference, he was part of a panel discussion dealing with the issue of “Training the Next Generation of Pastors and Other Christian Leaders”. The Panel was chaired by Don Carson, with Mark Driscoll comfortably seated in the middle of some of the biggest names in the evangelical world, namely, Dr. Albert Mohler, David Helm, and Ligon Duncan.



Dr. Albert Mohler

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is widely recognised as a leader among American evangelicals, and prominent among New Calvinists. Time magazine referred to him as the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

Dr. Albert MohlerMohler made a name for himself when appointed to head Southern Baptist Seminary in 1993, by requiring faculty members to affirm without reservation the school’s confession of faith, derived from the reformed doctrines of the Westminster Confession. Mohler explains: ‘I said, in sum, if this is what you believe, then we want you to stay. If not, then you have come here under false pretences, and you must go.’ Only 4 faculty members—from more than 100—stayed with Southern after Mohler arrived.

Of significance is the fact that Billy Graham spoke at Mohler’s inauguration in October 1993. Southern Seminary, having cleaned out the liberals, invited in the New Evangelicals. No surprise that Mohler’s first major initiative was the establishment of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth, heartily endorsed by Graham. Today the Southern Baptist Seminary, which has more than 4,300 students, turns out a steady flow of young pastors. But all is not quite what it appears to be. There are three concerns.

Mohler’s ecumenical spirit

First, Al Mohler has shown himself to be deeply ecumenical, and sympathetic to New Evangelical thinking. In 2001, Al Mohler chaired the executive committee of the Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade, despite the fact that the ecumenical compromise of Billy Graham had been well documented. It was widely known among reformed Christians that Graham was a leader of the new evangelical compromise, and profoundly sympathetic to the Church of Rome.

According to theologian Dr. Kevin Bauder, writing in Baptist Bulletin: ‘Al Mohler has been willing to cooperate with Billy Graham and honour him on his campus. We are not willing to honour Billy Graham. We think this is a man who deserves reproof and censure for what he has done to the gospel.7 Mohler responded that Dr. Graham spoke at his inauguration, and played a very important role in the conservative resurgence at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for which Mohler was deeply grateful.’8

Dr. Mohler was one of the first to sign the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration, together with leaders from the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches. Mohler said he signed the Declaration because it dealt with the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defence of religious liberty, on which the Christian conscience cannot be silent. Quote: ‘Finally, I signed The Manhattan Declaration because I want to put my name on its final pledge — that we will not bend the knee to Caesar.’ Mohler declared that, together with Roman Catholic leaders, he will refuse to bow the knee to Caesar.

Mohler again revealed his ecumenical spirit by serving as a council member of the compromised Gospel Coalition. In June 2011, he appeared on a Coalition panel discussion on training pastors, seated next to Pastor Mark Driscoll.

In December 2011, when asked to comment on Mark Driscoll’s controversial ministry, Al Mohler responded: Quote: ‘I’m thankful that Mark Driscoll believes in, teaches and preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. I appreciate and admire his boldness and his tenacity... The Gospel has implications. Pastor Driscoll and I would not agree on all those implications. I have great concerns about what I would consider to be excessive contextualization... I want to say there are certain things that pastor Driscoll speaks about that I would never speak to anyone about.’

Here Mohler was given the opportunity to warn of the danger of Driscoll’s worldly ministry, (as John MacArthur had done) but he chose not to do so. Significantly, as mentioned above, only a few months previously Mohler and Driscoll had been comfortable seated together on a Coalition panel, discussing how to train the next generation of pastors and Christian leaders.

Promoting worldly hip-hop culture

The second concern is that Dr. Mohler’s radio program has given prominent air time to two well known rap artists, namely Marcus Gray, also known as Flame, and Lecrae. These programs, hosted by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, openly promoted hip hop culture and Christian rap music. Dr. Russell Moore spoke about how the church can dialogue with the hip-hop culture. He said: ‘There is something in hip-hop that we can learn from in all kinds of ways, in our evangelism, in our discipleship, in our preaching, especially in our preaching.’ He asserted that the lyrics of rap music are really very deeply doctrinal and theological. He also claimed that the church has much to learn from hip-hop culture about proper biblical contextualisation. He even invited Lecrae to recommend a list of Christian rap artists.

The effect of these programs, coming from the Albert Mohler Program, with the blessing of Southern Baptist Seminary, is to endorse Christian rap and hip-hop culture among theological students and young Christians. Dr. Mohler’s radio program has welcomed the world into the church—it has put no difference between the holy and the profane.

Psychology in the church

A third concern is that Dr. Mohler has been on the Board of Directors of Focus on the Family. This organisation, founded by Dr. James Dobson, has done more that any other to promote self-esteem dogma in the church.


Having described the doctrines and practice of New Calvinism, we must draw together our conclusions. New Calvinism is a movement has emerged out of the compromises of the New Evangelicals, the practices of the Emerging Church, and the false thinking of a New Ecumenism that regards the Roman Church as simply another branch of the Christian faith. It is a movement that, while paying lip service to the doctrines of Calvin, in practice has repudiated the Protestant Reformation.

Here are the five features of New Calvinism.

1) Doctrinal shallowness.

New Calvinism, despite its claims of being a resurgence of the Reformed doctrines of Calvin, is doctrinally shallow. Its message of salvation, while may at times be technically correct, is delivered in a way that lacks conviction; that seldom mentions the awful offence of sin and the need for genuine repentance unto salvation that leads to new life in Christ. New Calvinism’s teaching on sanctification is deficient. It downplays the need for holy living, while emphasising the freedom, pleasures and benefits of the Christian life.

2) Loves the things of the world

New Calvinism has brought the ways and thinking of the world into the church. It does not usually separate from the attitude, desires and things of the world. New Calvinism is given over to the desires and thinking of the flesh. It is deeply committed to contemporary worship and the holy hip-hop scene. In matters of dress, language and entertainment, New Calvinism accepts and follows the way of the world.

3) Profoundly ecumenical

New Calvinism is a broad tent that embraces all shades of doctrine. Assent to the apostle’s creed is all that is required for one to be accepted as a Christian. This means New Calvinism is sympathetic to Roman Catholicism. Its inclusive attitude readily accepts charismatic and emerging church errors. The pursuit of false ecclesiastical unity is the cardinal error of New Calvinism that leads to all manner of compromise. New Calvinists refuse to separate from unsound doctrine, and even the most extremely forms of false teaching. Many form spiritual alliances that are about pragmatic advantage, rather than about the proclaiming the true gospel. Like the New Evangelical, so the New Calvinist, do not practice separation from those manifestly in error, and thus violate Scriptural principles as stated in 2 Cor. 6:14-18.

4) Social activism

New Calvinism adds the social gospel to the gospel of salvation. It believes that a central aspect of the gospel is an attitude of social activism that aims to redeem culture and save the world. It promotes social programs to care for the poor, and the human rights agenda to improve social justice.

5) Low view of Scripture

New Calvinism has moved beyond the inerrancy of Scripture debate, for its approach to Scripture is characterised by irreverence and flippancy. Some in the New Calvinist camp even use the Bible as a source of good comedy. The lyrics of rap artists are regarded as being profoundly doctrinal, able to teach the church how the Word of God should be preached. Scripture is contextualised to make the gospel world view sensitive and acceptable to the latest cultural trends in society. Jesus must be presented as the answer to the questions the culture is asking.

New Calvinism is a movement that is characterised by flippancy to holy things. It has no fear of God; it puts no difference between the holy and the profane. Puritan Thomas Watson gave this advice: “Take heed whom you listen to! It is our dear Saviour’s counsel, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves’ (Matthew 7:15). Let me tell you, the Devil has his ministers — as well as Christ. There are some, who by the subtlety of their wit have learned the art of mixing error with truth, and to give poison in a golden cup.”

Our response to this onslaught against the truth of the gospel is first to examine every new teaching, and to expose that which is false. We must contend for the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. We must preach and teach sound doctrine.


  1. Desiring God website, ‘What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism’: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism
  2. Website: http://evangelicalreformedfellowship.org/InspirationandInerr.aspx. Evangelical Reformed Fellowship, The Necessary Consonance of the Doctrines of Scripture: Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority by Steve Curtis
  3. Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, Zondervan, 1981, p113
  4. http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=103
  5. Christianity Today, Rick Warren answers his critics by Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2011, 13:14 (BST)
  6. Mark Driscoll sermon, part 19: The Weaker Christian from 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. 28 May 2006. Abstract from sermon.
  7. http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=19039
  8. Marking the Boundaries, Baptist Bulletin interviews Kevin Bauder and Al Mohler. Kevin Mungons November 1, 2011.

 SOURCE: http://www.newcalvinist.com/

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