Jeremy Walker, co-pastor of the Maidenbower Baptist Church in the United Kingdom has penned a well-balanced critique of the young, restless, and reformed movement in the evangelical church. Entitled The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment, the volume is available in the United States in both paperback and digital versions.1 Walker himself theologically identifies with Calvinism as a confessional, Particular Baptist assuring his readers his intentions are not to "mindlessly ignore, attack, or defend any particular group, but to deal fairly with the new Calvinism."2 In fact, because Walker possesses full appreciation for many of the strengths of the New Calvinism, his critique will be both "pastoral" in focus and "irenic" in tone.3
The short book includes five chapters preceded by a preface and followed by an interesting list of the main players in New Calvinism and concluding with an end-notes section. I personally found Walker easy to follow and sober in his commentary on a theological movement which remains so close to his personal belief system. Nor does Walker descend into either name calling on one hand or muck raking on the other one finds in any number of Reformed internet blogs which exercise little reluctance before dubbing others "heretics."
In the first three chapters, Walker introduces the reader how one might comprehend the 'new Calvinism' (chapter 1) by analyzing several characteristics he finds (chapter 2) and offers his personal kudos to many of them (chapter 3). The reader should note that, for Walker, one key to understanding new Calvinism is, "not all the new Calvinists are, in fact, Calvinists."4 By this, Walker apparently means that while Calvinism surely is theologically a whole lot more than the T.U.L.I.P., it's difficult to argue it's less. For Walker, then, historic Calvinism non-negotiably embraces Limited Atonement.
After saying what he thinks is right, true, and, for the most part, good about the new Calvinism,5 Walker offers two chapters of what he believes might be dangerous6 about an unchecked version of 'new Calvinism" Walker thinks 'new Calvinism' seems hopelessly addicted to "pragmatism and commercialism"7in methodology and cites examples from Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and C.J. Mahaney among others concluding some of the methodology is nothing more than "ugly showmanship"8 on display, showmanship too often from those who accept the false notion that "if they are bigger, then by definition they have something to teach us."9
Another concern Walker expresses is a capitulation to cultural norms or what he calls "an unbalanced view of culture" where culture is neutralized and becomes a method to exploit and enjoy rather than critique and shun. Music, literature, and film are cited as examples.10 The dumbing down of worship is another example.11
A third concern Walker cites is "incipient antinomianism."12 According to Walker, "Many of the leading lights in the new Calvinist movement would formally embrace or at least align themselves toward what is sometimes called New Covenant Theology." Similarly related within the 'new Calvinism' is a contorted conflation of justification and sanctification which Walker seems to trace back to John Piper.13
A fourth concern Walker raises is a "potentially dangerous ecumenism"14 which leads to "doctrinally minimalism,"15 and ultimately doctrinal accommodation which Walker cites as taking place in The Gospel Coalition, The Elephant Room, and the acceptance of Charismatics within the Reformed camp among other examples in 'new Calvinism.' Walker goes on to cite a "degree of arrogance and triumphalism" oozing from many 'new Calvinists' a criticism often raised within Calvinism itself as well as outsiders.16
In summary, Walker concludes that the 'new Calvinism' viewed "at its worst" can seem "thoroughly man-centered" because for him it "panders too much to the world, to the fallen culture, to the academy."17
For my part, the British Baptist has delivered to those theologically outside the young, restless, and reformed movement a welcome vindication of many of the concerns they've raised for the last several years. And because of that alone, The New Calvinism Considered should be read widely by Southern Baptist pastors, staff members, and church leaders.
In fact, Walker's style and literary skills make it a book almost any adult can access. Hence, it might be a volume for group studies in Southern Baptist churches which are presently facing or have faced issues with aggressive young, restless, and reformed men and women in their church.
1 The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment (Kindle) was used for this brief review
2 loc. 159
3 loc. 126
4 loc. 188
5 One should not assume that Walker only speaks positively about 'new Calvinism' in the first three chapters, however. He frequently wove critical assessments in the fabric of his introduction of 'new Calvinism."
6 Note: his chapters do not have "danger" in the titles but "Cautions and Concerns." Yet a quick search on the term "danger" in Walker's book turns up 26 instances almost invariably used in connection with 'new Calvinism'
7 loc. 561
8 loc. 597
9 loc. 638
10 loc. 640
11 loc. 678
12 loc. 733
13 loc. 751
14 loc. 823
15 loc. 839
16 loc. 979
17 loc. 1013