The Relationship Between New Evangelicalism and New Calvinism
“New Calvinism is a broad tent that encourages doctrinal freedom, and discourages doctrinal disagreements. Both charismatic practices and some emerging church ideas have found an eager welcome in the New Calvinist tent. Despite lip service to the doctrines of Calvin, few in the New Calvinist movement adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the 1689 Baptist Confession. We shall see that the doctrines of New Calvinism bear little relationship to the doctrines of grace associated with Calvinism.
Here we need to understand the relationship between New Evangelicalism and New Calvinism. The ideas of new evangelicalism, which developed in the 1940s and 50s, openly repudiated the beliefs of fundamentalism, and sought for a more liberal, accommodating faith that did not practice separation from unsound doctrine. Leaders of the new evangelicals were Dr Harold Ockenga, who coined the term, and theologian Dr Carl Henry. In 1956, with the urging and support of evangelist Billy Graham, Henry began publication of Christianity Today, which became the voice of the New Evangelicals, and has now become the mouth piece of the New Calvinists.
New evangelicalism is characterized by four distinctives.
- First, is a low view of Scripture that compromises on biblical inerrancy. New Calvinism, as we shall see, is a careless, and even irreverent, in the use of Scripture.
- Second, new evangelicalism compromises on the biblical command to separate from false doctrine, and is eager to form spiritual alliances with all who profess to be Christian, whatever their beliefs. Likewise, New Calvinism is profoundly ecumenical.
- Third, new evangelicalism seeks acceptance by the world and strives for intellectual respectability. New Calvinism is even more openly worldly in its appetites and conduct.
- Fourth, new evangelicalism adds social activism to the gospel of Truth. Likewise, New Calvinism promotes social activism.
Please see the excellent (tho’ somewhat dated) little book by John Ashbrook, New Neutralism II: Exposing the Grey of Compromise, which details the insidious (however well-meaning) New Evangelical movement of Stott, Packer, Graham, Ockenga, et. al.
It’s available free, online at http://www.americanpresbyterianchurch.org/?page_id=345
The new Evangelicals paved the way for the new Calvinists.