Monday, December 01, 2008

Reformed - what is up with the 5-pointy things

Them 5-Pointy things.

Sometimes I wonder off in Internet land and I listen to a web cast hosted by a Reformed Baptist. I have been intrigued with this host because each time he introduces his guests, he introduces them with the words... 'a theologically Reformed pastor', 'an evangelically Reformed person' or something like that etc.

Why is it so important for him to let people know that the guest happens to be a 'Reformed' person?

The label "Reformed" is a covetted word nowadays in Evangelicadia.

With the chaos, confusion, disillusionments happening in the Evangelical movement, it is no surprize that people are leaving this movement. The move away is happening specially to university/college kids brought up in Evangelical environment.

It is understandable that they are moving towards Reformed confessions or theology. For after all Evangelicalism is a melting pot which has been fed by several streams. The Reformed movement has some Revivalistic/Puritan streak anyway. Some heroes would be Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield etc. However there are other sources too like John Wesley, Charles Finney etc. So young people looking for their roots will naturally gravitate to what is closest and semi-familiar. But why?

Well because Evangelicalism has become a faith without a confession. They have these 16 lines in their Statement of Faiths but that is precisely why they are in a mess right now. Anyone who does not attack those 16 points can get away with murder.

Probably the most influential Reformed (Calvinist) preacher today would be Dr. John Piper who actively promotes his 5-pointedness. He is popular amongst young people and they are soaking up his books and sermons.

Well, I have been there, done that, spat the dummy and I gave away the T-shirt.

Young people should stop reading Desiring God and instead pick up the movement's confession and compare it with Scripture. Hopefully they are not in for another bum-steer.

But then again, young people are into fads. What if being Reformed is just another Evangelical fad?


steve martin said...

Excellent post!

I have wondered what is up with all that "Reformed Baptist/Calvinist" stuff, as well.

"Desiring God" and the superlatively adjective laden Piper, is a wrong-headed notion from the git-go.

We don't desire God. No amount of the "supreme holiness of a supremely rich and righteously supreme and powerful God" type talk will get us to the point of "desiring God". The devil knows all of that flowery language also.

Christ (the gospel) needs to be handed over...not explained. (it can and should be explained also...but not in the sermon)

Hand him over without ANY strings attached. Zero, nada, zilch.

It seems to me that those Baptist/Calvinist guys always have something left (in the end) for you 'to do'. They just can't proclaim Christ and leave well enough alone. There is always a 'yeah but'.

May God bless him...but I can't take more than about 30 seconds of John Piper.

Anonymous said...


Great post! You're right, it is trendy to be Reformed today in American Evangelicalism, at least among the younger crowd...There are two principal reasons I think this is the case:

1. Many younger folks have seen the vapid stuff that is being marketed as Christianity and are rejecting it for something richer. Reformed theology offers just the depth, the tradition (in some parts), and the academic rigor that appeals to many looking for something else. Been there, done that.

2. Reformed theologians have done such a good job of "marketing" Calvinism as a theological system that must be accepted or rejected in toto, they create a false dilemma by not allowing any other alternatives to Calvinism or Arminianism. "You're with us or against us," they explicitly state. There is no place for Lutheranism, for example, which is dismissed as "logically inconsistent." Been there, done that too.

As I've pointed out elsewhere, it wasn't until God provided some theologically honest profs at a staunchly Calvinistic seminary that I began looking "outside the box" of Reformed theology to Lutheranism, which may be "logically inconsistent" according to human reason (the devil's best whore), but which is surely more faithful to the Biblical text, IMO.



J. K. Jones said...

Please define "spat the dummy." It sounds like an interesting turn of phrase.

I don't like to use the term "reformed" as a label for my own theology. Seems to carry infant baptism, Presbyterian church government, and a tendency to mix church and state. We Baptists have a strong allergy to the last one, as we were often the victims of the persecution of state churches.

That having been said, I do embrace those "five pointy things," but with a very specific definition of each. I have been attracted to the “Calvinist” stream of theology while in college, mainly because the Calvinists are more intellectual than the ‘bubble-headed evangellyfish’ types I grew up reading and listening to. I do not agree with all of the Calvinists’ answers, but I always applaud them for asking the right questions in an orderly, systematic fashion.


L P Cruz said...


T.C. discussed this in his post I mark below.

You might find that interesting too bro.


L P Cruz said...


Good point on point #2. This is a bit of a short changing of the Evangelical kids.

There are no two systems, and we now in Wittenberg agree. But this saddens me because to think that there are only two choices is a mis-representation of the landscape.

There is Arminianism - Calvinism and there is Lutheranism.

The first two have philosophical consistencies under pinning them and that is why it is obvious and easily undestood.

The latter - Lutheranism is not philosophical but Biblical. The latter is also not obvious.

But hey, the Gospel is not obvious either.

The latter knocks down all the speculation because it makes you look at the means of grace.


L P Cruz said...


You know I think I was predestined not to be a Calvinist (LOL).

But Calvinism is becoming a define it as you like it word.
Technically, a Calvinist should be someone who can say affirm the 3 Forms of Unity or Westminister of London Bap confession.

I for one though I identify as a Lutheran, does not have any firm loyalties to the term. The confession counts to me rather than my label. So one day the blurrings can be so muddy, somepeople might even reject the label Lutheran to me.

The thing though is that the label can become a 'password' to a community.

I am abit unhappy with the propaganda though - Calvinism yey type of cathc calls.


steve martin said...


Thanks! I'll give it a look-see.

David said...

Don't forget too, that there are different forms of Calvinism historically. Dont make the mistake of lumping everything with the tag 'calvinist' into the one undifferentiated basket.


J. K. Jones said...


You still didn’t define "spat the dummy."

How do you know you were predestined to be a non-Calvinist? You might have a change of mind in the future. So could I for that matter.

I wouldn’t put forth Piper as the primary intellectual voice of Calvinism. R. C. Sproul gets that honor. He is much more precise, and he is a Westminster Confession of Faith guy.


steve martin said...

If Piper's vision of Calvinism is even close (to the ideal), then I'll have none of it, thank you.

The stuff he preaches is just another version of "spiritual navel gazing". In the end, again, it all revolves around you. What you ought be doing, or how you ought be feeling.(my feelings are the last place I need to be going)

He does not hand Christ over without strings. His Christ looks like the Mummy after he gets through with him.

I'm not just picking on him(Piper). This stuff is EVERYWHERE!

Why people just have to add something to Christ, I'll never know. No...that's not true...I do know. The law is written upon our hearts and we are naturally bent that way. And if the law is used as a mechanism to 'make us better', instead of a mechanism to 'kill us off'...then this is what happens.
Hand them the gospel with one hand and rip it back out of their hands with the other. This is standard operating procedure in probably 95%of the churches on this planet.

Are they Christians? Sure they are (hopefully)! But that tiny flicker of faith in what Christ has done for them could be a bonfire were it not for the buckets of cold water (the self) thrown on them.

L P Cruz said...


Sorry I missed the definition.

"Spat the dummy" is the same as "throwing the towel", i.e. giving up.

You are right JK, Piper should not be held as the champion of Calvinism to Evangelicals but right now his marketing machinery is winning that position.

Indeed, as David said, there are many varieties of Calvinists.

I use to hold to the Heidelberg Catechism, I was more leaning towards continental Reformed a few years ago and I also considered the Philadephia Baptist Confession when I was still a Pentecostal.

That is why there is a joke - will the real Calvinist please stand up.


L P Cruz said...

How do you know you were predestined to be a non-Calvinist?

That was joke JK.

I have learned that tightly logically consistent systems are not necessarily true in the world. I can invent logically consistent systems and it does not match the outside world. Remember Godel?

Lutheranism has philosophical inconsistencies but I find it more closed to the Biblical witness, I am happy I am not able to explain things.


David said...

Spit the dummy means to throw a temper tantrum.


Sorry LP, but thats not quite correct there. :-)

The Dude said...

Do you think it might be due to the relatively high number of prominent Calvinist authors/bloggers/pastors compared to Lutheranism? There's Sproul, White, Piper, Packer, MacArthur, Mohler, Keller, Carson, Driscoll, many others who have strong presences in print and the web.

Not to mention the historical pedigree with all the writings of the Puritans and other Calvinist heavyweights (Calvin, Turretin, Beza, Hodge, Warfield, Owen, Edwards, Gil, etc.)

I'm definitely not as familiar with Lutheranism's figures, but I can't really name any contemporary Lutherans with the kind of prominence the Calvinists have (I welcome correction). And historically I would guess Forde, Walther, Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, but who else would you list as being bright lights of Lutheranism with the same impact as their Calvinist counterparts?

L P Cruz said...


Corrected by a true Aus.

It is for a hissy fit but does it not mean 'got dropped' (off the back).

I will correct then, been there, done that, chucked it off...



J. K. Jones said...


“That was joke JK.”

So was my comment. My ‘engineering humor’ is showing again. Oh well, back to the drawing board.


L P Cruz said...


Quite right. Historically we have no Lutheran authors quite well known in Evangelicalism - primarily it is because how it evolved.

Most influences of Evangelicalism comes from the Reformed stream rather than the Lutheran stream.

We have no popular Lutheran in the Evangelical world today because of philosophical differences.

First, it is because Lutherans are not into finer points of the Law. Hence, you won't find them writing from a Biblical perspective how to books...

Today the only ones I can think of would be John Warwick Montgomery, Gene Veith, Craig Parton, Rod Rosenblat. These are minorities compared to the popularity of Sproul and etc.

However, Reformed folk do practice dip-theology, they dip into our confessions, just listen to Michael Horton, he is the most Lutheran leaning Reformed guy I could think of, but at finer analysis he has learned from Lutheran take on theological issues.

Lastly Lutherans won't be found in the popular field, but you will find them in scholarly and academic fields - There is just too many to the field of Sacred Music - Bach, Mendelson, Handel, Pacabel, Brahms etc. In the field of Theology be it agreeable or not - Bultmann, Reumann, Pelikan (before becoming EO), Marty, Moltmann, Thilecke,Stuhlmacher, . What about Philosophy -be agreeable or not - Kierkegaard, Kant, Hegel,

Lutherans have contributed a lot to the world of ideas...I should not fail to mention the picture in my profile - Godel. He did for maths/logic what Einstein did for physics.

Evangelicals won't buy our books because they want to do things contrast to Lutherans who are into listening rather than doing.


The Scylding said...

The reason there are many more Calvinist bloggers etc than Lutheran ones, is that Calvinism tries to be a hyper-intellectual faith, and as such loves a soapbox from which to attack and defend and discuss. It therefore attracks a certain personality type, especially amongst 20-something men - you know - the one who know and understand EVERYTHING.

Of course, some 20-somethings remain so for ever....

L P Cruz said...


It therefore attracks a certain personality type, especially amongst 20-something men - you know - the one who know and understand EVERYTHING.

Yes, it seems to attract those with OCDs (LOL).

I should not be laughing because I have a bit of OCD but I noticed it dramatically decreased when I went to Wittenberg, the BoC stopped me from navel gazing.