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Jun 17, 2013


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Hey Peter. I am a 5 point Calvinist and I wanted you to know that I hope God blesses you in your ministry and thank you for being a faithful pastor :) looking forward for the day when we will be worshiping Jesus in glory someday together! God bless you brother :)

peter lumpkins



wow... there's a Calvinist who gets the problem, and who concedes our differences, and who isn't condescending... nice!


"It is not the name of the Lamb that is constantly on the lips of these men, but the names of Calvin and the personalities featured at Calvinist conferences, gatherings and websites ... coherence in the 'doctrines of grace,' rather than in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Dr. Owen, you have just summed up the primary concern regarding "New" Calvinism among grassroots non-Calvinist Southern Baptists. It's not "Old" Calvinism that we have placed our focus on, but this new breed of militant and aggressive reformers who follow cult personalities more than Christ.

The SBC Calvinism advisory committee offered little in recommendations to stem the proliferation of the YRR movement in our ranks. New Calvinists continue to find encouragement and fuel from SBC leaders at our seminaries and churches who are using the energy of youth to accomplish an end.

Thank you, sir, for providing your perspective ... I believe it to be an objective and accurate assessment. As you note, when conversions to Calvinism supersede conversions to Christ, coexistence of these two distinctly different paths in a single denomination is going to be difficult in the years ahead.

William Thornton

The paragraph on those who express Calvinism as a "second blessing" is very perceptive and aligns with my experiences over the years.

Paul Owen

Clay and Max,

Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad to see that some of my thoughts seemed to be on target. I think what the Calvinist wing of the SBC probably needs to see is that it is not so much their Calvinist convictions that are causing an uproar, but the way those convictions are being applied on the ground by the YRR movement and its scorched earth policy.


Hi Max! I'm a five point Calvinist. I've never read Calvin nor have I been to a reformed conference. I became a Calvinist by going through scripture with my pastor. He disciples me for years. He never even mentioned Calvin. Lets be careful. Lets assume Godly motives. And for the sake of the Gospel getting out to the whole world lets love each other and be careful not to trash each other. Lets discuss it in love and in humility. god bless you brother! Can't wait to worship Christ with you in heaven someday :)


Interesting piece. It is well written, and I agree with about half of it, but it would take me too long to sort through it.

The warnings and corrections are good ones for all believers of any stripe.

The application to an entire generation or group is suspect in my opinion. I know a bunch of people in the camp he describes, but they do not fit his decription at all. I have certainly met some who fit the mold.

I was gratified at the SBC to listen to the discussion of the people who participated in the committee that Dr. Page assembled. I believe that they all came to an agreed upon understanding which I will have no problem following.

It was clear to me that two the the participants from the respective camps, Al Mohler and Eric Hankins, both appreciate and respect one anohter and will work together in the SBC in the days ahead.

Thanks for posting this.


Max, your statement, "New Calvinists continue to find encouragement and fuel from SBC leaders at our seminaries and churches who are using the energy of youth to accomplish an end." is troubling from the standpoint that you are presuming you have an understanding of all the professors at the SBC seminaries, or worse, that certain seminaries are on order to only teach certain methods.

What seminary did you attend, by the way?

As a graduate of Southern (2003 & 2006), I can assure you that your statement is inaccurate. Professors did not attempt to indoctrinate the students to a certain ideology.

Having said that there are always students, at any school, who as Dr. Owen said, come a conclusion (an understanding of the Doctrines of Grace in his example) and then become so infatuated they become consumed. I think this is probable in any theological framework.

I'm not saying Dr. Owen isn't touching on some valid issues, but I don't think (and I don't think Dr. Owen was stating this either) that it is the entirety of Calvinists in the SBC.

I for one am a Calvinist, but do not consider myself a YRR. (probably because I'm middle-aged and bald)


Joe, you may have missed that I spoke of a distinction between "old" Calvinism of the sort you were introduced to vs. the methodology of "new" Calvinism. My motive is to contend for the faith in love, without being contentious ... sometimes a tough balance to hit.

I'll see you here, there or in the air!

Paul Owen


I appreciate the feedback here. I hope it is clear to everyone that I am not making a blanket statement about every Calvinist (since I am one), but about tendencies that I see, especially in the "trendy" Calvinism of today. I do think, though, that too many Calvinists have blind spots in their theology (disguised as "exegesis") that keep them from giving ground in places where our non-Calvinist brothers have valid points to make. Some people are more worried about keeping their boundaries intact than listening to Scripture through the wisdom of the wider body of Christ. Arminians are certainly capable of this error as well, as Nate properly points out.


I understand! Sometime its hard to tell in the blogs! :) I liked your sign off haha!

Joe Blackmon

Wow. Just....wow.

I have been trying to articulate what I've been going through for the past few years related to Calvinism and this guy hits it on the head. Freakin' nails it.

I have slowly been coming to the realization that I while I am a Calvinist I am NOT YRR. There was always something insidious feeling about that movement--the whole "MacChurch" movement (i.e. John MacArthur and the like). I tried going to those churches and didn't fit in. Never could figure out why. Well, duh, because I'm not "that" kind of Calvinist.

It all makes perfect sense to me now.

Peter, thank you for asking this gentleman to write this. It has been a huge help to me to see someone else say what it was that I was thinking. God bless you, bro.

Bob Hadley

Paul's comment in this stream is absolutely correct; "I think what the Calvinist wing of the SBC probably needs to see is that it is not so much their Calvinist convictions that are causing an uproar, but the way those convictions are being applied on the ground by the YRR movement and its scorched earth policy."

AMEN. This is basically much the same thing I have been saying all along; it is not calvinism itself that is the most pressing problem; it is the calvinization of the entities of the SBC that is the REAL problem and the absolute adherence to the doctrines of grace that is problematic for me.

Dr. Mohler can say what he wants to say; "We need to focus on the things we agree on and not keep our focus on the things we disagree on." Those who are strict adherents to the DOG are doing exactly that; focusing on what is MOST important to them that are in direct contrast to what is important the larger group of Southern Baptists and if that were not the case there would not be this determined effort and perceived need to "reform the SBC."

So in a real sense, I agree that this overwhelming focus on the DOG and their position of prominence in the SBC is indeed the principle problem that we are facing as a denomination and not as much the holding to the theology itself.

Jim G.

Hi Paul,

This is a really descriptive essay. I think the most correct thing you state in it (and there are a lot of correct things!) is that Calvinism itself is not the real problem. I am not a Calvinist by conviction, but, although I theologically disagree with Calvinism, I find that I have little trouble working with the non-YRR-type Calvinist. I have lots of Presbyterians in my school where I work and there are no problems among us.

It is the misplaced emphasis on TULIP that is the problem. It is the conviction that TULIP = gospel, and that those that emrace TULIP are, in the words of Orwell, "more equal" than those who do not. I also think you have hit on something where you ssid that the overemphasis on TULIP puts the individual components of the way we Baptists "do" church up for grabs. I think both of your insights are playing out or have recently played out in the following areas:

1. The disguising of one's theology before pastoral committees where full disclosure of one's theology and how that theology would be exercised in the life of the church did not occur. The ends have justified the means in this instance and that such behavior can never be completely reconciled with Christian ethics.

2. Te existence of formal (Founders, T4G) and informal associations that equate Reformed soteriology with the gospel or the recovery of the gospel, as if those who are not Reformed possess an inferior gospel or none at all. Mohler's "where else are they going to go" is but one example of such haughty smugness.

3. The shameless way that YRR leaders are rallying around CJ Mahaney because he is a fellow-traveler in the formal groups above.

4. The attack on the responsive and personally reflective portions of the typical Baptist church service - the altar call and sinner's prayer. While I realize these two components are not the end-all of worship and discipleship (don't we all?), they have a historical and distinctively Baptist importance to our church life.

5. Baptist churches are free churches, which means (as you stated so well in a post here some months ago) that we depend on the free association of like-minded believers as the organizing principle of Baptist churches. TULIP is not a free church concept in its origin, but it can coexist in the right mix of emphases. The overemphasis of TULIP, in my opinion, tilts the balance away from a free church structure and more toward a presbyterian (covenant-driven) structure of ruling elders. At the macro level, we move away from associations of autonomous churches to a more functional presbytery model where churches submit (that's the key word) to a model of rule and polity, a la Acts 29. It's a movement from association to voluntarily conformity, and that is not free church.

I hope this adds to the discussion. Thanks for your excellent essay.

Jim G.


Another big glaring problem with the YRR is their complete lack of self awareness. You can just hear the howls of protest coming from them reading this article "None of this is true! I've never met anyone like Owen describes! Caricuture! Calvinists don't destroy churches! etc etc." This is demonstrated in Timmy Brister's recent piece on Calvinism in the SBC. Timmy list names of big "antiCalvinist" such as Vines, Page et al and completely rewrites history so it's as if completely out of the blue these men decided one day to attack Calvinists in the SBC because they just wanted to pick a fight. The Calvinists in his history did absolutely nothing wrong. He truly believes that men just sat around one day and were bored and decided to pick a fight with Calvinists who weren't bothering anybody. Of course Brister completely ignores Founder's and The Quiet Revolution. The YRR simply do not live in the same world as the rest of us and they have zero respect for anyone outside their world.

dr. james willingham

I read with interest and appreciation what Dr. Owen had to say. There is a lot of truth in what he has said as well as some missing of the point. First, he is right in calling attention to the use of the TULIP doctrines as what I would call, "billy clubs" with which to beat people into submission. There are some instances, or, perhaps I should say, some folks to be evangelized, where the individuals must be saved with fear as Scripture indicates, but clearly not all are to be won that way as the Bible provides us with many examples of conversions taking place under other circumstances and with different applications of doctrines. It is also true that there are personalities, suffering from some forms of pathology, which can take the truths of Sovereign grace and use them to justify practically any sort of conduct, be it belligerent or licentious. These require some kind of correctives to be put in place to stop them from doing the harm that they do.

On the other hand, there is room for the Calvinist or Sovereign Grace believer who holds that regeneration which is apparently by the Holy Spirit alone without any means precedes conversion which is certainly by the word with the Spirit effected in a way that brings the person into an active response. Like the lady said to a friend of mine, a Spurgeon by name, "O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." Let it be noted that my friend was not a Calvinst, when he won the lady. In fact he would not become one until almost 40 later, about the time he found out that he was a distant kin of C.H. Spurgeon (God does have a sense of humor, too).

In any case, the theology of the past is coming back, but, sadly, lacking in folks who know how to preach or practice it, one of the major reasons for such anomalies as control freaks, licentious fanatics, and do nothing fanciers. Even so we must have the theology that produced the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions. In the latter instance, the Baptists, as they were the cannon fodder in the American Revolution, have been the folks their on the ground to spread the Gospel, one of the reasons for their being the largest mission forces allowing for both Calvinists and Traditionalists to work together in order to advance the cause of Christ.

I speak as one from the Spiritual Church succession, a Baptist like condition that has continued through the ages, without being a Landmarker. Consider how the Waldensians had churches, according to the Inquisitor, Reinarius Saccho in the 1200s, in Constantinople and Philadelphia (like in Rev.3). They also sent a committee to check on the church in South India in the 1400s. There is also that church from the Olchon Mountains of Wales that appears to have been running around the mountain for about 8 centuries before the Reformation along with the Celtics and the Lollards, who were not much impressed with the episcopal succession that was always hauling them up before an inquisitorial tribunal and, now and then (not as bad as the big Inquisition begun in the 12th century and really turning nasty in the Spanish Inquisition), burning a few of them at the stake. We, too, need to remember that Christianity apparently reached Wales in the First Century, and we should note that the last commander of the last Roman Garrison Legion in Britain was the son of the Novation Bishop of Constantinople and who became the successor to his father as Bishop, if we are to believe the church historians Socrates and Sozomen. Besides there were contacts between the Celtic Church with the Church in the Middle East in the Middle Ages. I also saw a picture of a Celtic Church building which looked remarkably like one of our old frontier churches with entrances from the ends and a pulpit on the side about the middle of the building.

Back to the theology. We must have the theology that goes with the Awakenings and the beginning of Missions as we are looking forward to winning the whole earth in one generation (and I mean every soul upon it) and continuing for a 1000 generations and millions of planets, all so God can speak of a number that no one can number though he knows the name of every one of them. A rather neat turn on the five points as wells as the other two.

Paul Owen

Great comments all! I'm gratified to see that my essay gave words to sentiments that a lot of good people already have!


Dr. Owen:
You have articulated much of what many Traditional Southern Baptists have been saying in the blogosphere for months and years.
We all ought to be humbled -- and many of us are grateful -- that God has used a Calvinistic Episcopalian to lovingly and thoughtfully 'needle' us.
I appreciate the content and your tone. As I sometimes say, we have a right to be like a knife in such matters: pointed, but not cutting. -- Norm Miller, editor/moderator, SBCToday.com


Dr. Owen,

Thank you for this article. It is truly what many of us have been saying for years, but you said it in a more clear, ocncise, intelligent way than some of us are capable of! :) Sincerely, thank you. Thank you for spelling this out so clearly.



Hey Peter,

As always, it was great to see you, again. One of the joys of going to the SBC is seeing old friends. God bless you, Brother.


Tim G

Dr. Owen.
This article may in fact be the most accurate and God directed in all that has been written to date over this issue in SBC life. Well done! And thank you!

Paul Owen

Thank you for the kind words Norm and David!

Dr. Willingham,

Needless to say, my apologies for the persecutions of your Spiritual Church succession fathers. Just as Calvinists need to listen to Arminians, so also Catholics have often failed to listen to the time-honored Anabaptist "voice in the wilderness" which has, through the centuries, functioned as a prophetic witness to the established Church. Your sympathies remind me a lot of the work of Kenneth Good, and his Anabaptist critique of the Reformed and Catholic tradition. May the Lord bless you.


"there should be (and have been) distinctively Baptist patterns for "doing" church, grounded in a distinctive theology of what the Church is, and what exactly is its purpose"

I understand you are not a baptist, but I think this is a bit of misleading statement. By the very idea of autonomous churches there is not a consensus of "doing" church. Style varies wildly from church to church, just for the fact there is no formal or common liturgy. It is true that many churches were alike, especially pre 1970's or so, but I think in churches in either camp you will find many varied ways of doing things, that aren't necessarily tied to being calvinist or non.

I'm interested to hear what is a distinctly baptist way of doing church from your Episcopalian perspective. I don't mean that condescending, but real interest to hear.

Scott Shaver

James Willingham:

"We must have the theology that goes with Awakenings and the beginning of Missions". What was the theological mix responsible for the Awakenings and Missions movement, if theology itself was the primary mover in these historical events?

Theological systems always seem to resurface as retreads in human history.

Calvinistic excess via pathologically flawed individuals "require some kind of corrective to be put in place to stop them from doing the harm that they do."

What kind of corrective?

Scott Shaver

The need for "correctives" IMO are addressed by Bob Hadley in paragraph 3 of his last post on this subject.

Ron F. Hale

Dr. Owen,

Thank you for your outside intervention – it was helpful, needed, and timely.


Paul Owen

Thanks Ron and Tim! I'm glad this discussion is helpful.

Luke, I have to teach a class tonight, and need to leave the office in a minute, but I will jot down some thoughts later tonight or tomorrow. While Baptists do not have a set liturgy, they do have a set of principles that cannot (if kept in mind) but inform the way they "do" church. Why has there been more diversity since the 70's, do you think?


Thanks for the willingness to discuss. I assume by principles you mean baptist beliefs about Lords Supper, Baptism, membership and more.

70's is an arbitrary number really, as you can't pin it down to a year. But I think there has been more diversity since that time because of the counter cultural revolutions that went on in that time. War, desegregation, protests, riots, free-love, etc were all just before or around that time. In fact, if you trace baptist history, much conflict came out of that time like the Geneis Controversy over Ralph Elliot's book, the beginnings of the inneracy debates, and more. Also, the 50's and 60's were a booming time for Southern Baptists, and often time success leads to the desire for more success, sometimes at the expense of the values that got you there. The movements of seeker friendly and church growth movements and the like in the 80's and even before also opened up new ways of "doing" church. Now technology undoubtedly plays a part in shaping a young pastors idea of how to "do" church more than sound ecclesiology and doctrine.

Brad Whitt

I'm amazed and blessed by this article. Thank you Dr. Owen. You have handled with grace, clarity and insight something that seems to be dividing and conquering the SBC. Thanks for fresh eyes, graciousness and Biblical depth. I look forward to more from you if the Lord were to lead you in that direction. Blessings my brother!

Byron Borger

I think there is much good to consider here. The question of personality types drawn to this stuff is overstated, but fascinating, and gives us something to ponder. Thanks.

I myself am attracted more to the Dutch neo-Calvinism of Abraham Kuyper, the worldviewish and culturally engaged folk who work for cultural reformation, not fixated on TULIP, who know that the Biblical language of the Kingdom must be used whenever we talk about "the gospel." I think some of the YRR miss this, but we didn't robustly hear it in Dr. Owen's piece either. Certainly for Paul, "the cross" is shorthand for more than the atonement, but for the great news of God's redemptive work unleashed in restoring the cosmos. Not good for a NT scholar to write about a cult which misunderstands the gospel, and then to not be clear about it himself. Or so it seems to me.

But what saddened me most is the blistering nature of this harsh piece. It is terribly ironic, I think, to lambast a movement known for its bullying and lambasting. Couldn't he have been a bit more kind and a lot more nuanced? Surely those who talk a lot of TULIP speak about Jesus and the cross. "To make much of Him" is how they word it, drawing from John Piper. I've heard 'em. I've read their books. He is wrong about this: they talk about Jesus and the cross and grace all the time. Owen has an important critique on how this is all understood and what it all means, but I fear that his overstatement of it erodes his credibility.

And to call other Christian leaders "no-nothing celebrities" without evidence is nearly inappropriate. To accuse some evangelicals of tolerating worldly sexuality is just weird. He insinuates some think that "filthy" speech is all right, or that some approve of "heinous sex crimes." What in the world is he talking about -- who in the world approves of that? Geesh, dude, you are as bad as John MacArthur when he says stuff like "Christian bookstores are awash in pornography." Really? Really? Name one Christian leader or author who approves of sex crimes.

I found myself agreeing with most of the substance of this important piece. The harsh tone and injudicious accusations, though, was unbecoming.

Jeff Brown

Dr. Owen:

You wrote: "Non-Calvinists are correct to insist that God gives sufficient grace to everyone so as to constitute a real opportunity to respond to the summons of the gospel."

Is this not an Arminian belief? Calvin writes: "Even though the preaching of the gospel streams forth from the wellspring of election, because such preaching is shared also with the wicked, it cannot of itself be a full proof of election. But God effectively teaches his elect that he may lead them to faith." (Institutes, 3.24.1)

Also, you say that Calvinists are wrong when they say that regeneration precedes faith. But Calvin clearly believed that this was what Scripture taught.

I haven't read anything else you have written, but, going by this article alone, it seems to me that you are an Arminian, not a Calvinist.

(FWIW, I am way too old to be one of the YRR, and I agree with most of what you say about them.)

dr. james willingham

As to the correctives for pathologically bound individuals, Hey, I don't know everything. In fact, the more I have learned, the more I found I do not know. I am excited about this blog, however, and, in addition, I appreciate not only Dr. Owen for a needle expertly wielded but also Norm for his blog management. I find my admiration for him grows as I see and begin to understand what he is about. Dr. Owen, you might be interested to know that I derive my idea for the inhabitants of other planets from Dr. John Owen...and His Death of Death in The Death of Christ, like another Baptist, Andrew Fuller, who also drew inspiration from Owen's same work for the latter's Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. Also I am a fervent admirer of J.I. Packer, John R.W. Stott, and Bishop Ryle. Norm: I have a new email address, jimwillingham@centurylink.net Drop me a line so I can get your email address as I have been unable to tap my old email addresses. Three weeks ago today, I had a stent put after passing out following a wedding done the same day as the move and winding up in the hospital for five days. My heart had stopped beating, and a defibilator in my chest shocked it back into rhythm though I did not feel it. Anyway, thankful to be here, taking part, although I trust I would have been more thankful, if I had not made it.


Dr. Owen,

I appreciate the article. I agree with much of it. I do have a question. Your statements that:

"the evangelical church has no robust ecclesiology" and
"the foreign soil of modern evangelical gnostic spirituality"

seem to be directed at the evangelical church as a whole, including both calvinist and non-calvinist Southern Baptists alike. Is that a fair reading? Thanks

Paul Owen

Luke, I am happy to describe what it seems to me "doing church" would look like from an outsider's perspective. By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I attended Pillsbury Baptist Bible College for a year, straight out of high school (1988-89), so I have seen this from the inside as well. A few principles:
1. Baptists are biblicists, and thus more concerned with carefully following the worship patterns of the New Testament church than cultural norms and trends. Why would a Baptist reject what they perceive as the unbiblical worship of the established church (Papist, Anglican and Reformed), only to allow secular fads to dictate their practice of biblical Christianity? For the English Separatists (and their Anabaptist European counterparts), even the Puritans did not go far enough in their rejection of unbiblical traditions in worship. What on earth would they think of our trendy churches today?
2. Baptists are separatists, who stem from the free church tradition. This means the church is a voluntary association of holy people who have experienced personal conversion with life-changing power. This tradition has always been characterized by separation from the world as a gathered assembly, and an explicit rejection of conformity to culture and its worldly pressures. Did the Anabaptist martyrs endure such bloody persecution at the hands of the established church, only to turn around now and allow the shallow trends of culture to dictate how they should practice their faith?
3. Baptists are believers performing their priesthood as a gathered assembly, called out of the world of unbelievers. The operating principle of "doing" church is the local assembly as a gathered confessing body, as such, preaching God's Word and administering the ordinances. They have rejected Reformed and Catholic models of the church which (through infant baptism and the state church) seem to turn the laity into a mixed assembly of nominal believers and people of the world worshipping together under the ministry of professional priesthood; yet you now find Baptists adopting church models which depict the calling of the church, as such, as one in which believers live alongside unbelievers in missional communities that they somehow think constitutes the church! Even the Magisterial Reformers who persecuted the Anabaptists would have turned over in their graves at the cultural assimilation which many Baptists now take for granted as the way to do church. The very fact that so many Baptists (including many YRR Calvinists) can adopt the missional church paradigm shows how far they have drifted from their historical roots!

Those would be a few examples.

Leslie Puryear


Brilliant! There's no other word for your essay.


Thank you again Dr. Owen for your insight into YRR belief and practice. Southern Baptists at large simply do not see (yet) what you have so clearly articulated. Your outsider-looking-in perspective has enabled more of us to see the trees in the forest about us.

This movement is huge and is putting down roots throughout the American church, not only the SBC. While certain SBC leaders are encouraging this brand of reformed theology, the movement is fed largely by non-SBC entities (Acts 29, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition) along with prominent individual influencers (John Piper, Tim Keller, Al Mohler, others). Within SBC, YRR adherents find nourishment within Baptist 21 and some NAMB church plants.

Long before pastoral candidates head to SBC seminaries, they have been indoctrinated in YRR message and methodology at SBC colleges - in dorm room chatter, coffee shop discussions and after-class visits with reformed professors. They are encouraged by popular YRR books/sermons, mobilized at YRR conferences, and equipped at nearby YRR churches. They are masters of social media, circulating the latest Piper Point, Mohler Moment, Driscol Drivel, etc. They view themselves as modern-day reformers to restore the true gospel to the SBC. These folks are serious!

The SBC Calvinism advisory committee offered little hope to SBC’s majority membership that attention will be given to stem this movement within our ranks. The call to unity in theological diversity is simply buying an unchecked YRR movement more time to become further entrenched. “Old” Calvinism is not the problem in our ranks ... “New” Calvinism is!

Paul Owen

Thanks Max and Leslie. Your encouragement is appreciated!

Bill, I answered you earlier but my post seems to have been lost in cyberspace (I noticed that it never asked for my passwords). But yes, you are correct. Two books which I have found helpful are Simon Chan, Liturgical Theology, and D. G. Hart, Recovering Mother Kirk.

Tony Hicks

The article is not entirely free of straw man arguments but he offers a good criticism of many of the modern expressions of Reformed Theology, especially among the young. The Calvinism that he speaks about (that which he holds) is the normative Calvinism that most Calvinists in the SBC hold to. However, he accurately points out the problems with many who major on TULIP and minor on Christ. It is an instructive article for us all, especially we Calvinists.


Timmy Brister is doing a wonderful job of demonstrating the arrogance of YRR. Now he has a pyramid scheme where the idiots who are not Calvinists can all agree to the lower levels of thought but the ultimate self actualization leads one to the pinnacle of the pyramid - the DOG! He's done this in an effort to promote "unity" "Let's all agree on the "simple" and agree that you idiots aren't able to make it to the peak of the pyramid yet!"


Tony writes "However, he accurately points out the problems with many who major on TULIP and minor on Christ."

I have observed in the YRR churches in my area (I follow their podcasts) an overemphasis on the writings of Paul ... particularly Romans and Ephesians as viewed through a reformed lens and eisegesis by YRR influencers. Their messages focus predominantly on "God" and "making Him big", with little mention of Jesus ... a lot about Gospel-centered this and that, but little exhortation to Christ-likeness and calls to the Cross.

I truly believe if you read Paul first, you can read Jesus wrong. But, if you read the Gospels first, Paul comes into proper perspective. You’ve got to get the right stuff down deep in your “knower” before you wade out further. An overemphasis of a long-neglected truth can lead to errors in message and method. God is indeed sovereign! But if you rest in that alone, there will be an imbalanced belief about human responsibility as set forth in the whole of Scripture. As Tony points out, we could end up majoring on the wrong thing, while minoring on the Main thing. Southern Baptists are not going to resolve the TULIP debate – better folks than us haven’t settled that in the last 500 years! We need to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face.


Max, a lot of people in the reformed camp seem to ignore the work of the cross. The work of salvation is not Christ work at the cross plus another miracle to change the heart of sinners. It's the cross plus nothing. God doesn't need to do more work because the work of salvation was finished at the cross.

Tony Hicks

I agree with Max that a correct understanding of Christ comes firstly from hearing His words. That is what Paul had done. However, I believe we must be cautious that we do not elevate one part of the canon over another. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Evangelists to select and organize Christ's words into the works attributed to them is the same Holy Spirit that inspired Paul to write his epistles. Romans and Ephesians stand on their own accord as inspired Scripture. We must be careful that we do not bifurcate Christ. Liberals separate Christ from Paul. We do not need to do that. I know Max was not saying that but it has been said by others. Blessings in Christ.

Preach Blackman Preach


This post describes those of us who were the unsuspecting, the unaware, and the uninformed, of the indoctrination that was underway into this dogma, as you say, this cult-like following of TULIP. Brother, you have approached this doctrine from the eyes, ears and hearts of those of us who at the time were "unlearned", who were initially fascinated at the beginning with "ever" learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth within this belief system . TULIP just happens to be the place where I "jumped" of the "ride" as I sought the Holy Scriptures for myself concerning "What Thus saith The Scriptures"on the matter. Excellent work!

Paul Owen

Thanks for the kind words Tony and "Preacher"! :) My intention was certainly not to tear down any straw-man, but to offer a critique of the tendencies of the YRR and combative Calvinism as I have encountered it over the years.


Tony writes "I believe we must be cautious that we do not elevate one part of the canon over another ... Liberals separate Christ from Paul ... I know Max was not saying that ..."

And you would be right Tony! There ain't a liberal bone in Max's old body! Yep, I was young and now I'm old. Here's what I've come to realize on my long Christian journey ... There is much in Scripture about the sovereignty of God. There is much in Scripture about human responsibility and free will. Scripture does not contradict itself. It all works together in a way that is beyond human comprehension. The Holy Spirit must lead us into Truth.

We need to be wary of complex theological systems that put God in a box ... their validity can be debated at every point. Jesus told us not to forsake the commandments of God for the teachings and traditions of men. As noted in this blog piece and the comment stream, we need to exercise particular caution allowing this new YRR breed into SBC pulpits who think they have it all figured out - who are on an aggressive mission to restore the Gospel that their forefathers have lost. What arrogance!

Those of you who have ears to hear, listen carefully to the testimony provided by P.B. Preach in his above comment. Wisdom.


Dr. Owen,

Thanks very much. I think my response to you also got lost. I was just curious to see if my non-Calvinist brethren here agree with those statements. Thanks again.

Tony Hicks

As a Calvinist, I don't like "combative" Calvinism any more than a non-Calvinist does. Obviously, there are some people still in what John Piper called the "cage stage." However, I was driven to a reformed understanding of soteriology by the Scriptures themselves, not a system. I think there has been some exaggeration in the discussions about the YRR that they are all focused on a system. They are not a monolithic group. Certainly some are overwrought and too focused on Calvinism in a systematic sense to the exclusion of much other things. Others are very Christ-centered. A robust Christianity of any stripe demands that we be Scripture-saturated and Christ-focused. In my opinion, the positives of the YRR movement far outstrip the negatives. I don't think that has come through in many comments nor in the article. I guess it is not surprising because the followers of this blog are mainly non-Calvinistic.

As for total disclosure, I am too old to be called Young, too settled to be called Restless. I am Reformed.

peter lumpkins

“I think there has been some exaggeration in the discussions about the YRR that they are all focused on a system. They are not a monolithic group… In my opinion, the positives of the YRR movement far outstrip the negatives. I don't think that has come through in many comments nor in the article. I guess it is not surprising because the followers of this blog are mainly non-Calvinistic.”

Thanks Tony for your comments. To be fair to Dr. Owen, I feel some response in order. First, I’m quite sure Dr. Owen is aware that there exists some variance or degrees of emphasis on the TULIP exists within the so-called YRR. Nor does his essay imply the YRR is fully monolithic. Indeed to demand full uniformity of theology before drawing reasonable conclusions about a socio-theological community forfeits drawing any formative observations at all. What can be reasonably accomplished concerning the study of any socio-group is offer general tendencies of the particular group. That is what Dr. Owen has offered in this essay without insisting on the crass notion that everyone associated with YRR are “monolithic” to use your term.

Even so, the focus on system—system particularly expressed in the TULIP—within in the YRR seems so easily demonstrated I’m taken back why you’d attempt to challenge it. One need only read Colin Hansen’s book titled as a look into the young, restless, and reformed to see this plainly.  And, perhaps given your age you’ve expressed, you’ve not given adequate attention to the younger generation with whom Dr. Owen has regularly taught and conversed over the last decade.

Additionally, it seems strange for you to challenge Dr. Owen’s descriptive observations pertaining specifically to the YRR in your last comment  when you logged on earlier to express your agreement with his observations. Note (embolden mine):

“…he offers a good criticism of many of the modern expressions of Reformed Theology, especially among the young… he accurately points out the problems with many who major on TULIP and minor on Christ. It is an instructive article for us all, especially we Calvinists”

Perhaps you thought further about Dr. Owen’s article and changed your mind. Granted. We all do that sometimes. For my money, however, you had it right the first go round: while expressing the article wasn’t perfect from your perspective ( i.e. “not entirely free of straw man arguments”), it nonetheless captured “good criticism” toward “especially the young” by “accurately” pointing out problems with many who “focus on TULIP.”

I might add you would be hard-pressed to name any of the movers-shakers of the YRR who do not focus on the TULIP—Mohler (including SBTS, “ground zero” for the YRR), Dever, Duncan, Carson, DeYoung, Taylor, Mahaney, Piper, et al. In fact it could reasonably be argued that L in TULIP is the common theological thread which stitches the entire theological fabric of YRR firmly together. If I am correct, what makes the YRR work is nothing short of five-point Calvinism. And, for the record, I’m not sure one could make a stronger case for monolithic belief amongst a socio-theological community than what one may observe in the YRR leadership.

Finally, yes, I personally am decidedly and convictionally a Baptist Christian not identified with Calvinism of any stripe. And, contrary to your experience, biblical exegesis drained the pond of Calvinistic theology which inevitably dried up in my inner life (though all of us spiritually benefit from many with whom we do not theologically identify).  While we do our best to be fair in the criticisms we offer, we openly concede our presumptions largely challenge Calvinistic presumptions. All that said, I’m pleased to allow studied views of various orthodoxy on this site which is why I’m happy to offer Dr. Owen’s useful essay.

Lord bless…    

Tony Hicks

I don't want to get into an argument. I found Dr. Owen's article very incisive and that it certainly pointed to a problem with some over-enthusiastic Calvinists. However, I feel it is an inaccurate statement to say that men such as Mohler, Duncan, Carson, and Piper focus on TULIP as if to the near exclusion of all else. Certainly, their theological perspective sets the standard for their ministries...as our respective perspectives do for us all...but to make such a statement ignores the full ministry these men have had and continue to have. I have found all of these men to be very Christ-centered and Christ-focused.

I don't really see any inconsistency in my two comments (although I am as capable of inconsistency as the next man). I found Dr. Owen's article very profitable but felt that it painted with too broad a brush at times.

Of course, a lot of these things come down to whose ox is getting gored. To someone who believes that the reformed understanding of the Gospel is what the Scriptures teach, it is natural that they would proclaim it with fervor, perhaps erring in intensity and focus at times. It is also understandable that those who are non-Calvinists would find such fervor unsettling.

In all things, we must have charity on all sides of this issue.

peter lumpkins

It's not about "getting into an argument," Tony. It's about offering response to a particular position. It doesn't have to be "an argument". And, yes I agree: Dr. Owen's article was incisive. But according to your assessment in the first comment you logged it was an "accurate" incisiveness, something you appeared to ignore in the latter. That's all I'm suggesting, Tony. It doesn't even have to be an "inconsistency"; just clearly--at least for me--a change in focus on your initial assessment.

Now, you completely missed the point of my naming the leaders I did and the L to which they all adhere. To suggest I reduced the ministry of all these men to near nothing but TULIP by naming what theological notion remains common among them all makes sense in what way exactly, Tony?

On the other hand, when there exists within the history of Calvinism empirical demonstration that not all Calvinists hold to the so-called Five-points of Calvinism--TULIP--yet to a man among the YRR shakers and movers, they all hold to Limited Atonement, in what way may we claim they are not focusing and embracing and promoting and encouraging TULIP as a theological paradigm? Indeed in what way may we conclude they are not theologically monolithic at least as far as soteriology is concerned?


Peter writes “I’m not sure one could make a stronger case for monolithic belief amongst a socio-theological community than what one may observe in the YRR leadership.”

You don’t get any more monolithic, rigid and unwavering in your message and tone than when you say things like:

“Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going to end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism—where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they are going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles, they want to stand with old dead people, and they know that they are going to have to, if they are going to preach and teach the truth.” (Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Where else are they going to go … if they are going to preach and teach the truth?! Words like this only serve to fan the fires of the young (but not wise), restless (and rebellious), and reformed wannabe champions of a cause. Such arrogance fuels rebellion without revival and reformation without transformation.

I’ve been a Southern Baptist for 50+ years and have known its majority to be believers who truly “want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ” … multitudes of Christians who have taken the precious message of Christ to a lost world without “basically being Reformed.” Good Lord!

peter lumpkins


Exactly. If that is not indicative of promoting a monolithic message, it's hard to know what "monolithic" even means when we speak of it...

Paul Owen

Tony, the purpose of my essay was to describe what is troubling to me about the YRR movement. It was not within my scope to discuss its positive features. But rather than make excuses, people need to start asking hard questions about why exactly there is such a heated dispute about Calvinism within the SBC in the first place? Is it because the Calvinists "make much" of Christ? Is it because they are so God-centered and gospel-focused? Obviously that's not what their Traditional Baptist brethren are complaining about. They are complaining because they sense a shift of focus among the YRR (and within their churches) away from what has been at the center of Baptist life: the cross of Jesus and the earnest gospel invitation to come and be washed in the blood of the lamb. I don't think most Traditionalists give a hoot how many points of TULIP you affirm, as long as you don't monkey with the cross and good old Baptist soul-winning. Furthermore, the YRR have an edgy kind of friendliness with the world about them, that I think makes Traditionalists understandably uncomfortable about the direction all this is heading in terms of how one lives out the Christian life.

Scott Shaver

For those of us who have experienced and seen the destructive militancy of hyper-calvinism, The note Tony sounds in favor of the "fullness of ministry" offered by those he names rings hollow when one also considers the adverse effects of such "fullness" on the lives and ministries of thousands.

Over the last 30 years, I've seen the presence of Founders within SBC circles as a primary catalyst in this never-ending divide and conquer spirit dominating what remains of a previous version of the SBC.

When the Founders Movement and SBC Fundamentalists teamed up to purge and correct the SBC, the goal of Founders at that time was to infiltrate and plant their preferred theological system and adherents in every local church to which they could get a foot in the door. That is still their stated intent.

We are to actually buy into the idea that their primary concern now is peaceful coexistence via theological triage?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice .... shame on me.

"Incisiveness" is exactly what the doctor has ordered IMO.

Thank you Paul Owen.


Scott writes "... the goal of Founders at that time was to infiltrate and plant their preferred theological system and adherents in every local church to which they could get a foot in the door. That is still their stated intent."

If anyone doubts what Scott just said, take a gander at "A Quiet Revolution" http://www.founders.org/library/quiet/

I have observed an interesting development in this regard. While most “old” Calvinists (of the Founders' sort) may be opposed to the methodology of their neo-brethren, others in the old guard appear to be putting up with the YRR brand as long as the essential reformed message moves forward in SBC ranks. What the Founders could not do over the past few decades, they have now found new energy for their mission in a generation of 20s-30s disillusioned with their parent’s way of doing church. They need the rebellious spirit to loudly do what they could not quietly accomplish. While there may be a few Founders' fingerprints and current SBC leaders involved, I truly believe that what we are observing is primarily the result of outside non-SBC reformed influencers and entities that are spearheading a larger Calvinist reform throughout the American church, just not in SBC ranks. As I noted earlier, I don't believe that "Old" Calvinism is the problem ... "New" Calvinism is. In my humble (but accurate) opinion, Dr. Owen has nailed it on the head.


Male, check; intellectually arrogant, check; argumentative, check; insecure (and therefore intolerant), check; prone to constructing straw-man arguments, check; he seems to feel the need to imagine all others outside his theological box as evil, uninformed, or just plain stupid, check. Peter, he's just described you perfectly!

peter lumpkins

Hi Doug. Back for your yearly injection of insult into the comment thread? How nice. Now, either offer some type of viable contribution to this thread (including allowing us to know who you are so commenters can all identify the yahoo for future reference) or run along to the next blog in which you glory kicking sand into people's faces. We have no time for your pestilent school boy pranks...

Scott Shaver

You get to a place in the Christian life (maybe an age) where you realize how inadequate all human thelogical systems are for capturing the fullness of God and His ways.

You also realize that you would like to spend the remaining years of your life involved with more constructive activities "to the glory of God" than beating others over the head whose grasp of Christian truth differs from yours.

I have not the time, conviction, or patience for finding middle ground with hyper-calvinism that SBC leaders seem to think is needed.

Bright side is the Founders movement will not be successful in mass at the local Baptist church level.

Dark side is you may wake up one day in the not-to-distant future wondering how Founders etc. managed to gain control of all six seminaries where SBC ministers are trained.

Too sot in me ways :)

Scott Shaver


Thanks for posting the link. Had not seen or did not remember that pertinent exhibit.

You and I suffer from the same paranoia :)


Hey Scott, are you still in moderation over at Pravda? Have you been watching the comment thread where the lone nonCalvinist has the audacity to suggest that going door to door was something ministers should be doing? Anyone wanting evidence of how the YRR will swarm in and attack those of differing views can see that in action. Also notice that Dave Miller who will moderate nonCals in a heartbeat is nowhere to be seen while a nonCal is attacked by the swarm. He somehow always misses that while finding nonCals offensive and worthy of moderation and banning all the time.

Paul Owen

In the thread above I put down some thoughts for Luke as to how the YRR brand of Calvinism can work at cross-purposes with Baptist patterns of doing church. This afternoon I came across a fine essay by Malcolm Yarnell, "The Potential Impact of Calvinist Tendencies Upon Local Baptist Churches," in Whosoever Will (B&H Academic, 2010). His well-researched piece deserves a very wide and considerate hearing in the public discussion regarding the place of Calvinism in the SBC. Calvinists in the convention would do well to consider his warnings and make sure they are first and foremost BAPTISTS, even if secondarily in sympathy with Reformed soteriology.

Scott Shaver


Honestly don't know about my current moderation status at Pravda. Don't care. Had a rather strong difference of opinion with Miller. He did not like my questions about how one of his posts might come across to non-calvinist readers.

I'm a little tired of being called a "hostile ranting moderate extremist" for simply disagreeing with the guy on various points.

Putting it mildly, I asked him privately to blow the self-righteous rhetoric out of his posterior. Haven't attempted to post or comment there since.

In the future I may check the Pravda threads to see if it's the same unrestricted hand full of preachers kicking up dust. Wasting any more juice attempting to participate in discussion,however,is not in the cards for me.

Why waste time interacting when one's thoughts are all filtered through the judgement of a megolamaniac?


Peter - your patience with the "Doug's" of the world is remarkable! If it was just the occasional folk of this sort that cropped up in YRR ranks, I wouldn't be so concerned about this movement. But, I could take you to a SBC-YRR church plant near me where there are numerous young folks with an attitude just like his. Thus, I continue to be concerned about the eventual outcome of this explosion of arrogance determined to recover the lost Gospel. What love is this?! (note: if Doug comes back and mentions that he is not YRR and older than 20-30 something, then I'm really worried about him).

A further note: I am pleased to see a youthful generation returning to church. It's just a dirty shame, that Southern Baptists couldn't have served up something else to attract them. I praise God that not all young folks have fallen for Mohler Moments, Piper Points, and Driscol Drivel. I heard a young SBC pastor preach the Cross with a passion just the other day and lead six new converts in the sinner's prayer ... with that, I still have hope.

Scott Shaver

Like Max,

Casting my lot with a younger generation of Baptists as described in paragraph 4 of his post.

Not a younger generation that,for the sake of truth, the glory of God, apple pie and Calvin, will post secretly obtained and fraudulently accessed "gotcha" recordings of such soul-winning preachers on YouTube as character assassination.

But then again as Tony has pointed out previously (and as Doug has dropped by to remind us)....We should refrain from being overly "incisive" of the latter considering their "fullness" of potential for fruit in the gospel and mutual ministry endeavor.


Dr. Owen,

Great essay. Thanks so much for articulating your views as a believer with Reformed views.

You wrote:
"When you have men in the SBC who are more zealous evangelists for conversions to Calvinism than conversions to Christ, more earnest in their apologetics for TULIP than for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, more excited about the doctrines of grace than the gospel itself—coexistence is going to be difficult."

One of the biggest problems I see is they (in general) do not recognize this about themselves. It is a movement that redefines concepts, actions and words to the point that any semblence of reality is lost.

And yes, it is a sort of cult so I am glad you acknowledge that. it is mostly about following and emulating the gurus of their movement.

But the biggest problem they have is that many will have to pretend a lot has not actually taken place over the last 7 years or so in order to coexist. not so sure the trust is in place for that to happen since there has been no acknowledgement from certain quarters that us free will types also want to see the nations rejoice for Christ and that it is NOT ok for pastors to use the 1st Amendment to protect child molesters.

So, I suppose there are quite a few out there that are willing to play pretend unity?


Mr. Owen writes:

"...... I don't think most Traditionalists give a hoot how many points of TULIP you affirm,as long as you don't monkey with the cross and good old Baptist soul-winning."

My experience is the exact opposite. I've been repeating this over and over again. As one who is in and runs with reformed Baptist, I don't know anyone that would monkey with the cross and soul winning. The fact is, they/we/I am passionate with proclaiming the cross and soul-winning.

All you have to do is read the comments on this site over the years and see that there is an extreme bias against "TULIP" otherwise referenced as "Calvinism" or Reformed Baptist. Of course they give more than a few hoots about how many points of Tulip I affirm because they think it is a false Gospel.

And I'm not saying that as a negative. If you think "Calvinism" is flat out wrong, I would expect you to "rail" against the "TULIP".

Please name some YRR leaders who monkey with the cross and are against good old Baptist soul winning?

peter lumpkins


You write:

"All you have to do is read the comments on this site over the years and see that there is an extreme bias against "TULIP" otherwise referenced as "Calvinism" or Reformed Baptist. Of course they give more than a few hoots about how many points of Tulip I affirm because they think it is a false Gospel."

First, I'm glad to know you've read this blog over the years. Second, and just what do you expect a blog that was launched to counter aggressive Calvinism in the SBC to do? Be an advocate of the doctrines of grace as interpreted by Calvinists? Third, while I've certainly expressed my reservations with the Calvinistic doctrines of grace, I've not written my critiques with a decided "bias" against or, in your term, "extreme bias" against Calvinism. I've been as fair as I know how to be with the sources I've criticized.

Finally, you assert "they think it [Calvinism] is a false Gospel." Now, since you've read on this site over the years, you've obviously got a lot of evidence that I've emphasized here Calvinism to be a "false gospel". Fine. Produce it. Just one statement I've made out of 21000 comments and 1300 posts over a 7 year period where I've either indicated Calvinism to be a "false gospel" or perhaps an heretical belief. When you can, I'll be glad to post an official apology for doing so.

Nor am I interested in you suggesting it wasn't me to which you were referring. The fact is, this is my site. And, what's promoted on this site is what I personally write. And, while there's a measure of responsibility a host possesses for the comment stream, it cannot be held that what others may write represents what the blog host believes himself or herself.

Hence, either produce the evidence--a single time will do--that I maintain Calvinism to be a "false gospel" or retract the statement. You can say anything you wish about this site on another blog if they'll let you (and many of you do write these false charges). But you and others will not come here popping off about what I maintain about Calvinism or any other subject for that matter without being held accountable for it.

With that, I am...

Paul Owen

Eric, just to be clear. I am not accusing anyone of anything. I am glad to hear that you are an advocate of evangelistic preaching, altar calls, leading sinners to Christ, passing out gospel tracts, and soul-winning. The Calvinist Baptists I know don't do those things. Those are not prominent topics at conferences organized by T4G or TGC. I don't see the Acts 29 Network talking a lot about soul-winning, how to preach evangelistic sermons, praying for and expecting Holy Ghost revivals, the sinner's prayer, how to do altar calls, etc. I haven't noticed such topics in John Piper's books or the website for Desiring God Ministries.

As for monkeying with the cross, anyone who denies that the death Jesus died was offered up to God as a sacrifice sufficient for the sins of all men throughout the whole world, and for that reason, to be preached to all men throughout the whole world as the basis for their real opportunity to be saved, would be monkeying with the cross I suspect. No need to name names, since the answer is obvious.

Scott Shaver

Don't know about Paul or Peter, but I'll throw my two cents in on this Eric by admitting my bias straight up.

And TULIP is not the primary issue.

My bias, historically, is against those who have allowed Calvinism to inform Scripture rather than vice versa and with their egocentric views of reform rip the passion right out of preaching the cross to all.

When YRR and similar organizations become old enough to have even developed a sense of history they might understand why this is deja vu for some of us.



Did you read my complete comment including the following?

"And I'm not saying that as a negative. If you think "Calvinism" is flat out wrong, I would expect you to "rail" against the "TULIP"."

before you wrote:
.."Second, and just what do you expect a blog that was launched to counter aggressive Calvinism in the SBC to do?"

As I implied in my previous post, I expect you to do exactly what you are doing.

You don't have a fight with me brother.

I will retract the words "false Gospel" because I cant think of one comment that specifically use those words.
My apologies' for any offense.

So let me replace "false gospel" with "Not true"

I was not referring to you or any individual.

If This site doesn't have many comments to be in the "anti-Calvinist" camp. Or if those comments cant be characterized as having a bias (extreme or not) against "Calvinism", I will admit, I am a complete knucklehead.

My comment still stands that many folks do give a hoot about how many points of the Tulip I promote in the Baptist Church because they don't think it is true.

Mr. Owen:
I will have to accept what you are saying about Reformed Baptist not doing those things. The extremely difficult disconnect I am having with that thinking is I know many hundreds of Reformed Baptist who are passionate about evangelizing.....Out of those hundreds, I don't know One that is against it.


So do YRR genuinely "evangelize?" I suppose that depends on how the Gospel is delivered to the lost through a reformed grid.

I offer the following real-life example that I struggle with coming from my non-Calvinist Southern Baptist background. I follow podcast sermons of various SBC-YRR church plants. One in my area is growing in leaps and bounds and now planting churches in South Africa. In a message after returning from a SA mission trip, the young pastor related a story of a fellow who had paid a visit to the village they were working in. Toting a Bible given to him by a previous missionary to that area, the man asked to meet with the pastor to discuss the Jesus and Nicodemus encounter in John 3. He had read that passage and now essentially asked "What must I do to be saved?" The pastor responded "You don't have to 'do' anything - God's grace has been extended to you." No discussion of the text, no examination to see if the fellow really understood what he had read, no discourse on sin and redemption, no message of the Cross, no sinner's prayer, no invitation to accept Christ. Apparently, the young pastor believed that this fellow was of the predestined "elect" because he had read the Scripture and showed up in the camp to seek the pastor out - drawn there by God; thus, he must be saved.

Perhaps it's my SBC soul-winning upbringing, but I had trouble with this Gospel delivery, this form of evangelizing. I'm hoping this is an atypical YRR approach to reaching lost folks (you don't have to "do" anything), but I wonder if some YRR view belief and repentance as "works" and not faith. And of course, regeneration before faith clouds this form of evangelism to me for "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" You don't have to "do" anything - God's grace has been extended to you?!

peter lumpkins


Yes, I read the entire comment before I responded. You say, "As I implied in my previous post, I expect you to do exactly what you are doing." Well, I'm definitively not doing what you implied I am doing. Namely, projecting 'an extreme bias against "TULIP" because we somehow think "it [Calvinism] is a false Gospel." Is this not what you implied we were doing, Eric? I see you've retracted it now which is fine. No problem.

But you further assert,

"If This site doesn't have many comments to be in the 'anti-Calvinist' camp. Or if those comments cant be characterized as having a bias (extreme or not) against 'Calvinism', I will admit, I am a complete knucklehead."

Yes, I'm sure you'll find many comments out of the 21K which could be viewed "anti-Calvinist." Nonetheless, there is a profound difference between being "anti-Calvinist" and flat out asserting Calvinism as a theological notion is a "false gospel." I've never uttered such so far as I know and have corrected many who have characterized it as so.

Finally, as for bias per se, there is nothing inherently uncommon about bias since we all have it to some extent, and thus we can speak of a healthy, necessary bias. For example, one without a fixed bias against eating certain mushrooms would find themselves sick at times and maybe even end up dead.

But you did not reference bias in such positive terms I'm afraid when you cited to Dr. Owen to read over the years the extreme bias against Calvinism on this site offering the singular reason for the bias being "because they think it is a false Gospel."

Hence, contrary to your assurance that I "don't have a fight" with you when seem to possess no reluctance to skew both my site's content and purpose I'm afraid I must disagree. And, as for you being a "complete knucklehead" I'll allow you and others to discern (I will say I'm puzzled as to why you'd bring up something like that; perhaps you're just being facetious).

peter lumpkins


I'd like to get the comment thread back on Dr. Owen's focus (I'm obviously to blame for some of this!); namely, whether or not his essay rings true that the YRR as a socio-theological community can be said to possess general tendencies including unhealthy focuses on personalities and TULIPs, leaving an emphasis on the person of Christ and work of Christ for the world behind, and consequently embracing a weakened ecclesiology, and at times, a non-existent ecclesiology, especially an ecclesiology counter-productive to traditional Baptist ways of "doing church."

Paul Owen

Max, that's a great illustration. "You don't have to do anything," as a definition of the gospel, is almost as heretical as telling them they need to earn their salvation to be saved. The quite obvious answer is, "You must repent and believe the gospel to be saved." On the one hand, I see my Calvinist brothers claim that they are being caricatured when others say that they empty faith and the operation of the will of all meaning, but then you find them so reluctant to rob God of his monergistic regeneration that they can't even speak in plain biblical language as to what one must do to enter God's kingdom and find eternal life! And I strongly suspect many YRR would have given the same answer to that sincere man, "You don't have to do anything." That is a theologically inept thing to say at best, a lie from the pit of hell at worst. And when that logic gets applied to sanctification as well, as many YRR people do, you basically have a very deadly antinomianism poison running amuck.


I'd still like to know if people agree with everything Dr. Owen wrote in this essay.

peter lumpkins

Bill, I'd expect few if any takers on the question, at least the way you've framed it. Truth is, virtually every document would cough up something with which one could quibble including Dr. Owen's essay. Heck, I could go through something I've written and quibble with my own writing!

Why don't you just pull the nail you think Dr. Owen drove in crooked and hammer it back down again? Then, you just might hear some sawing going on...

Scott Shaver


Your question prompted me back for another reading of Paul's post.

I for one, agree with him at every point he develops in the article.

Truth doesn't make me Episcopalian. In this case, it makes me a frustrated Southern Baptist :)

Scott Shaver

Yep, read it again a second time this morning.

My agreement in point with Owens on the addressed subject goes right down to autobiographical where "The Call of The Wild" is listed as favorite fictional story. One of mine as well.

However, Paul, my youngest daughter, 13, just had to read it for school and complained that it dragged.

Kirk Jordan

This essay let me breath. I count myself a non-Calvinist, who can never quite distance myself from the major themes of Reformed theology. (When I am around people who are not given to Reformed distinctives, I become a spokesman for the same.) This article helped me see why I am apprehensive taking on the term "Calvinist." You hit many of my misgivings on the head.

Paul Owen

Lydia, by the way thanks for your kind words!
Scott, LOL! I'm glad to meet another London fan. :)
Bill, it might help if you identified something specific in the article that you have in mind. Since there aren't a lot of Episcopalians running around SBC Tomorrow, I can imagine there might be some things that others here would see differently. But I am sensing a wide consensus of agreement as to my critique of YRR.


Bill, to answer your question from my perspective ... Dr. Owen's characterization of the YRR movement compares so closely with my own observations, that I'm considering becoming an Episcopalian! I even agree with his last comment that there is an "antinomianism poison running amuck" in some YRR fringes. The abuse of Christian liberty will eventually lead to antinomianism, if left unchecked. In my opinion, we need some SBC leadership giving more attention to this particular theological/ecclesiolgical drift than the Calvinism advisory committee did. I repeat yet again: "Old" Calvinism is not the problem in SBC ranks ... unfettered "New" Calvinism is!

Paul Owen

Max, lol! I would not advise you to jump ship too quickly! The water is awfully cold over here at the moment! :)


In his essay Dr. Owen did not state that the YRR lacked a robust ecclesiology, but that evangelicalism did, including non-Calvinist Southern Baptists (something that I clarified with him up higher in the comment stream). He also mentioned "foreign soil of modern evangelical gnostic spirituality" which he again said was not only true of Calvinists but non-Calvinists alike. I'm not saying I disagree with him. I think he's closer to the mark than many of us would like to admit. I was just curious to know if my non-Calvinist brethren here agree with him on those points.

Paul Owen

Bill, to clarify, I do believe that the Baptist tradition has the resources to have their own robust ecclesiology. I don't think the problem, as such, is with the free church tradition. But many Baptist churches have drunk the cool aid of the church growth/George Barna trend. Rather than stick to their Anabaptist roots, many churches have chosen to take their cues from the culture when it comes to worship. This seeker-sensitive, let's market the church to make it appealing to the culture mentality is perhaps the most serious spiritual disease infecting evangelical Christianity today. It has now reached it's most heretical expression in the "missional community" model, which is popular not only among the YRR and emergent churches, but among evangelical church planters at large.


Dr. Owen,

I don't disagree. Do you think the megachurch phenomenon is also a product of this kind of thinking?

Paul Owen

There is some overlap, but not a complete identity. John MacArthur is certainly not guilty of pandering to cultural trends. Nor was Jack Hyles. (I am not giving a blanket endorsement of either of them of course.) But personally, I would say Bill Hybels and Rick Warren are illustrative of our theologically bankrupt evangelical ecclesiology today. No offense intended to those who may have profited in some way from their ideas and ministry. To the extent that mega churches have implemented the seminal and paradigm changing ideas of Donald McGavran, yes, they are a product of this kind of thinking.


"... pandering to cultural trends."

We must be careful in our efforts to adjust ministry to be "culturally relevant" that we don't leave the Cross behind. In all the hype of the day, I think we forget that Jesus is the eternal contemporary.

There were a few one-liners in Greg Laurie's message at the SBC-2013 Pastor's Conference that I believe were aimed at the YRR movement (or at least appropriate):

"Don't trade reverence for relevance."

"If you try to be relevant, you may lose your authority."

"Sometimes when we try to crossover, we don't bring the Cross over."

Sure, Jesus talked about fish to fishermen, sheep to shepherds, and crops to farmers ... but His disciples took the message of the Cross to all men. This business of asking folks which way they want to go and then getting out in front to lead, will get you a crowd but not a congregation. What we have in too many places is a river 3 miles wide, but only 1 inch deep ... Christianity Lite.


BB Warfield's definition of Calvinism:

"That sight of the majesty of God that pervades all of life and all of experience... The Calvinist is the man who has seen God (in the Scriptures, parenthesis added)."

If we were all broken at the foot of the cross, as Mt. 5:3 and Isaiah 57:15 teach,

1. We would have no problems with TULIP.
2. We would have nausea over personality cults and hipster religion.
3. We would have no problem with regeneration preceding faith.
4. There would be a sweetness and humility to our convictions.
5. We would probably write fewer words. (Ecc. 5:1-5, Proverbs 10:19).

Paul Owen

Chuck, unfortunately you have failed to interact with the substance of my essay. Are you aware that TULIP did not even exist prior to the 20th century? You will not find the atonement described as "limited" in any Reformed confession. Nor will you find God's grace being described as operating in an "irresistible" manner on the elect. Nor will you find regeneration being performed unilaterally by God prior to the subsequent human response of faith.

Furthermore, your comments merely confirm the very problem I highlighted in my post. Are we really to believe that Christians who do not affirm TULIP in all its details, which would mean most Christians who have ever lived, and most believers on earth today, are not yet broken at the foot of the cross? Talk about hubris! Yeah right, John Wesley wasn't broken at the foot of the cross. And sweetness and humility are the exclusive possession of today's TULIP Calvinists? Yeah, that rings true to experience!

Ian Elsasser


Are Calvinists the only ones who sees in the Scriptures the things Warfield cites? Really? I have know many whom this describes but are not Calvinists.

Furthermore, your comment about regeneration preceding faith is questionable, nor do all Calvinists believe it (some believe faith precedes and some believe the two are simultaneous). Regeneration is never apart from faith or the word. Rather, the new birth is of the Spirit through faith by means of the word; that is, the Spirit works through the proclaimed word to give life in conjunction with faith.


Another non-Baptist theologian has weighed in on the woes of New Calvinism. Dr. Jerry Faught, Wiley College, provides his perspective in an article at Associated Baptist Press: http://www.abpnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/8622-the-new-calvinism-in-the-sbc#.UcnxNZwltdU

Dr. Faught summed things up well I think in his closing paragraph regarding the Conservative Resurgence "Southern Baptists, obsessed with blocking a liberal left hook, got hammered with a hard right." Yep, a hard right indeed ... I would say we let the pendulum swing all the way back to the 16th century.

Leslie Puryear

Dr. Owen commented, "Are you aware that TULIP did not even exist prior to the 20th century? You will not find the atonement described as "limited" in any Reformed confession. Nor will you find God's grace being described as operating in an "irresistible" manner on the elect. Nor will you find regeneration being performed unilaterally by God prior to the subsequent human response of faith."

If this is true, this is a game changer. It means that 19th century Calvinists did not believe the same as 21st century Calvinists. It means that the Founders ministry is way off base on the beliefs of SBC founders. The implications of this statement are huge.

peter lumpkins

Max, A friend had already sent me a link. Thanks for posting it here. It's an article that seems to have used this site as a springboard leading to many sources. I literally could have written almost the entire essay; and frankly it possesses no real point we've not made here at one time or another!

More seriously, it's refreshing to find some of the same conclusions we've expressed about Neo-Calvinism coming so closely together from two independent non-Baptist theologians--Dr Owen an Episcopalian and now Dr. Faught presumably a Methodist.

Scott Shaver

Between Paul Owens and Jerry Faught, the image of a punch drunk former heavyweight having his pockets picked by new neighborhood bullies keeps running through my mind.


Although I am a few days late, I would love to weigh in on this discussion. I will first give a little background. I guess, I will call myself one of the dreaded new restless, reformed folk, and I'm proud of my title. It's not one I picked up easily, and I disagree with much of Dr. Owen's article.

I and my husband joined a reformed fellowship after much prayer and soul searching. Neither one of us was really looking of switching to "Calvinism" for a multitude of reasons. Your commenters and many on your blog knock the evilness/under-handedness of the new reformers. I would like to point a finger back at my southern Baptist heritage.

I was proud to be a cradle-roll child. I served as a NAMB summer missionary for 4 summers. I've done my share of door-knocking and back yard bible clubs for churches whose members wouldn't/couldn't. I went on to attend and graduate with a church history masters from SWBTS during the Dilday/ conservative takeover era. I then went on to attend for over 10 years a mega-church that boasted a SBC president. It wasn't until I moved to a small town Baptist church, that I was done.

My church/denomination was no longer, my church. I saw teenage pregnancy every Sunday. The church wasn't allowed to practice any type of church discipline and divorce was rampant. I was used to the 10% doing most of the work but even the S.S. leadership was getting upset because they couldn't get enough help. Bible school- the one touted salvation tool of the SBC was brought down to 4 days. We had just moved to this town and I offered to help where needed the Sunday before it started. I was thrown into a 5th/6th grade class where all the teachers had backed out and was expected to teach and lead from material I had just been handed. I could site more examples, but the kicker came in my SS class a few years later.

This was not reformed theology. This was from our highly praised lifeway material. I personally liked the old Bible Book Series but this was the topical one. I am a home-school mama and one of the few times I got group bible study was on Sunday morning. The particular Sunday I had enough was the Sunday when the lesson revolved around having a good Christian marriage while attempting to lead a blended family. Yes, the whole SS lesson dealt about how to handle a new family and do it the right way the 2nd or 3rd go around.

BTW, the pastor resigned from the ministry and the church. The youth director and several "young, restless, arrogant, TULIP" men started a reformed fellowship and we started attending.

Since joining a reformed, "sign on the dotted line," covenant fellowship, I've seen a man disciplined for cheating on his wife and he actually followed the elders and asked the fellowship for forgiveness. It's still a long road but at the least the church did something.

Our kids are experiencing family worship with their dad which was never taught in my SBC church growing up. I can quote the Roman Road backwards and forward- my youth group and church helped plant a church in North Michigan(which is still meeting 25 yrs later back in the day when the Arkansas Baptist Convention partnered with Michigan), but my preacher never taught the dads to lead the family like that. I was blessed that my dad didn't need such and he was a deacon and Sunday School teacher for over 60 years.

I've taken communion every Sunday and heard the cross explained to my children over and over again by their dad. They believe that God changes people. They've seen people open their homes to orphans. Dr. Owen didn't talk about the good side of being missionally minded. Just because I know longer support the foreign mission board, we've helped start a Christian school and monthly support an African pastor because we don't have building expenses.

This new reformed movement may be growing because it may make sense. The reformed church I attend is not "seeker" friendly and I don't agree theologically with seeker friendly churches nor do most of the reformed folk I know. Rick Warren is not welcome in my home. Please don't lump all of us new reformers in one huge bunch. My church lets my children sit with me(yes there was a sign at my mega-church asking small children not to be seated in the sanctuary.)

The church I attend may focus a bit more on Romans, but we've also done what Baptists used to do in Training Union- we've studied doctrine. I've read stuff that goes over my head such as Bonhoeffer. I've been forced to re-discover what church membership really is and should be.

Remember when all SBC churches used to have their covenant hanging in the church lobby. This new reformed church is up front about what it believes. Check out the websites and read the distinctives. So what if the young bucks are trying to grapple with hundreds year old theological ideas- they did in my seminary days and it wasn't reformed. They'll be doing it until Jesus comes back- heck they do at my fellowship.

We sing the old hymns along with new choruses. We recite scripture together. The messages aren't topical. They're exegetical. We just visited one of these new churches (we're moving and looking for a new church)and it was all about the cross. How could it not be when the elders are working through John and it was about Pilate turning his back on Jesus and giving the Jews Barabbas.

The SBC doesn't need to be concerned about this new radical uprising, it needs to get a handle on its own systemic problem. It let the culture in too far and forgot about the next generation. I don't want my kid to be one of George Barna's stats. I want the gospel to still be "relevant" and alive in my grandchildren.

Thank you for letting me rant. I've been following your blog for months and don't always appreciate your tack/take on this current uprising within the SBC.

Paul Owen

Jennifer, thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm glad to hear that your encounter with the YRR movement has been spiritually healthy and uplifting. I could provide many anecdotes to the contrary, but for what purpose? I'm glad that you are experiencing good Christian fellowship and teaching. But if you think teenage pregnancies and other unpleasant realities of human existence are solely a SBC problem, or that Reformed churches always do a great job in meting out church discipline, you may end up getting disappointed in the long run.

By the way are you aware of the systematic abuse of children which was allowed to take place under the watchful eye of C. J. Mahaney and SGM? And would you characterize Mark Driscoll as a model of what a godly pastor looks like? Just curious.


Jennifer you could have been a little more concise in your rant by just typing "Only Calvinists know how to do church and only Calvinists care about doctrine and the Bible." You're attitude pretty much just proved every point of Dr. Owen's article and the fact that you completely missed that shows the attitudes we're dealing with.

Scott Shaver

Jennifer, if it's working for you more power to you and your local fellowship.

One person's subjective experience however, does not a movement make.

You sound a little more excited about the exercise of church discipline through a board of elders and "signing on the dotted line" than most Baptists I know are comfortable with.

Hence, I don't want to be part of a Baptist denomination that requires me signing off at the local church level "on the dotted line".

And I differ with your conclusion that the SBC has "nothing to worry about."

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