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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, [email protected] 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.

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