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After a long career in corporate America, I observed two leadership factors which played out time and time again: (1) the organization takes on the personality of its leader(s), (2) when a charismatic leader leaves, the organization struggles. From Wall Street to the White House to the Church House, you can take this to the bank.

The numerical success at Mars Hill and affiliated churches were based on the strength of Mark Driscoll's personality. In an attempt to be culturally-relevant (to the point of potty-mouth preaching), a large following of 20s-40s were attracted to MD/MH. Now, many of those folks are disillusioned and disoriented ... it's going to be tough getting them back to church. When church planting is more about planting theology than churches, the Body of Christ pays the price (a lesson that SBC should consider).

I was not a fan of Driscoll, his message, nor his method ... but I am saddened to the point of tears over this.


As one who has personally watched a Calvinist takeover of a thriving megachurch going through temporary crisis and then the NAMB guarantee up to close to eight-figures of "support" as a "revitalization" or whatever they're calling their bankrolling of Calvinist violence and aggression these days, I can see right through this rhetoric to EXACTLY what it really is.

If these modern Calvinists are about *anything* (beside their precious, cultish, man-made and man-worshiping doctrine, of course), it's control of money, assets, and real estate.

The incredible urgency of this disbanding (must be completely accomplished in *two* months?!) is a dead giveaway that the conspirators behind Mars Hill are in SERIOUS fear of the fallout of what's to come out! Their actions reveal they believe their only hope of preserving their money, assets, and real estate is to legally separate it all into pieces they believe cannot be held legally liable for the claims and judgments they obviously believe (know) to be coming to the main entity!

And, in light of man-worshiping cults always seeing some followers come to their senses and leave when their charismatic leaders' disgraces are revealed, that's to say nothing about breaking the church into smaller groups that can be more easily monitored and controlled....er, "kept accountable for their own good and the good of the great body and glory of the great and glorious gospel of the good glory of greatness and mighty blah blah blah...."

Brooks White

Right on! I agree with Peter! Wait, did I just say..., well, dang, sheer statistics would dictate that the odds are overwheming I'm dead wrong!


no no no no no
As my mentor at 2 yrs old would say....
good grief Charlie Brown.
A church is NOT built on a pastor it is built on Christ.


Of course it was not a church. It was a cult of personality.

My take is he resigned so quickly because he would not receive his huge payout on severance if he stuck around. Best to let the others stand in line to get their payments. A charlatan right to the end. A charlatan now hanging out with Robert Morris and Joel Osteen.

Way to go SBC! Some of us tried to warn you about partnering with him years ago. but we were just being divisive, mean and hateful. Now we have tons of Driscoll clones we have bankrolled in some form or another. As if supporting and promoting Mahaney (the child molester protector) was not bad enough.


Trapper writes "If these modern Calvinists are about *anything* (beside their precious, cultish, man-made and man-worshiping doctrine, of course), it's control of money, assets, and real estate."

Calvinists are now in leadership positions at several SBC seminaries, SBC's international mission effort, its home mission and church planting endeavors, the ethics and religious liberty commission, and its publishing house ... while the silent majority slept.

I talked to a reformed "lead pastor" at a local SBC church plant. Referring to the New Calvinism movement, he said "We are coming in the back door." To which I responded "Young man, true shepherds don't come in the back door. If you come in another way, you are a thief and a robber." In arrogance, he smiled.

The church world looks in amazement at the fall of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. The lost world just chalks it up as another "I told you so." They may all soon be standing with open mouths as they gaze upon the unraveling of the SBC. God never blesses pride and rebellion.

Bill Mac

Only now do the various Mars Hill satellites have a shot at being real churches.

The SBC needs to wake up in more ways than one. Mega and multi-site churches aren't necessarily OK even if they are not run by Calvinists. Driscoll and Mahaney may have benefited from the cult of celebrity, but they didn't invent it. It's been going on in the SBC for a long time.


Check out this news report:


Why is it that most mega church pastors end up living in fenced compounds? To avoid living among and interacting daily with the pew sitters and living in the real world? Don't they believe God will protect them? That is what they usually tell the pew sitters.

"Only now do the various Mars Hill satellites have a shot at being real churches."

Not really, Bill Mac. And this is the biggest problem. Driscoll thinking (DNA) is all over the place from his 20+ years of influence over young minds full of mush.

If you go read stories on "welovemarshill" they are sad for many reasons but mainly because they are still drinking the shepherding cult kool aid. I saw the same sort of responses on sgmsurvivors concerning the Mahaney trained crew. They are still hoping these charlatans will repent and be preachers! The stuff they still believe is down right wacky. These are shepherding cults and for some reason there are too many leaders in the SBC who don't want to acknowledge what that entails. Perhaps because they like the power it endows the leaders? Mohler is on record saying the bloggers just did not like Mahaney because he is a "strong leader". Do strong leaders flee to Dever and then to Mohler in Louisville 'to plant a church near the seminary'?

Leaders (staff pastors, etc) from Mars Hill/Acts 29 have been leaving for years (turnstyle turnover operation) and going to be on staff at other churches like Sojourn here which also has "redemption groups". These groups are indicative of shepherding cults. These Driscoll trained young men take with them what they know. And all they know is making money in ministry and persuading people to conform to them.

We also know that hundreds of young men were trained by Driscoll (and those who think like him) as Acts 29 church planters. If you are not fully aware of what Driscoll has taught and modeled for YEARS, then not sure you understand the implications of this for so many churches out there. I do think we are blowing that off a bit to easily. The fallout is just beginning. And most of the young men who have been trained in that thinking need to be completely debriefed as cult trained leaders. Out of ministry. They were trained and followed a charlatan. Same for SGM.


"We also know that hundreds of young men were trained by Driscoll (and those who think like him) as Acts 29 church planters."

Lydia - The really sad thing about what you say is that Acts 29 is essentially now under the oversight of SBC ... an SBC pastor (Matt Chandler) is leading it. Granted, they had enough sense to boot MD/MH out of Acts 29 recently, but multitudes of Driscollites are pastoring SBC churches - NAMB has recruited many of them in its church planting program. Driscoll's legacy will live on ... in SBC.

Brooks White

Yes Mars Hill probably had cult like tendencies but in that regard it was no different than most any other contemporary megachurch with a celebrity pastor who sells books and wears makeup on the stage. If you want a great example, I'll give you the church of the current SBC prez Ronnie Floyd. Was a member there 4 yrs and saw things that quite near made a shipwreck of my faith.


Brooks, I have no doubt about that. I was in the mega world for years. what it takes to maintain all of that becomes the big problem. I will never set foot in another one because I know what it takes to grow and maintain all of that. and I don't think there's anything of Jesus Christ in that process at all. that is my opinion based on what I saw backstage for years.

Mars Hill was a shepherding cult. CJ Mahaney mentored Driscoll around the time he formed his coup and fired all those elders. When Mahaney fell, Mark dug in deeper. he would still be going strong if he had not plagiarized a lot of his books and bought his way on the New York Times bestselling list. That is what should give us pause. It wasnt the great Christian leaders who outed him. He became an embarrassment and only then did they back away publicly.

and I agree that all mega churches have cultic tendencies. if they didn't they wouldn't grow into mega churches. they have tried every trick in the book to keep the money flowing in.

Bill Mac

Brooks: That's what I've been saying. Cult of celebrity isn't limited to Calvinists. It was in play long before the Calvinist resurgence. But wait and see, the next mega-church pastor is already waiting in the wings to take the SBC presidency. He will be anointed by other celebrity mega-pastors, and the masses will vote for him.

Bill Mac

Lydia: You might be right in some cases, but I hope not all. I'm not ready to write off through GBA anyone who has had contact with Driscoll, like he's got spiritual-ebola. He was moved out by forces within and without and although it doesn't happen as much as we like, people do learn from their mistakes.


Bill Mac, we are talking mainly about young men who have beeb brainwashed in specific ways before they gained any wisdom in the trenches and before their brain fully developed. it is not just the Calvinism. it is the total acceptence of misogyny, twisting scripture and vulgarity. ironically the other bad boy heroes are Luther and Calvin. Now, one had a problem with those things, one would never have agreed to be trained by Mark Driscoll or his sycophants. one would not even be able to listen to him very long or read his books. if they had had one ounce of discernment they would have run as far away from him as possible even as far back as 10 years ago. but they loved the boldness and the vulgarity.

but that is not how it worked. the reform celebrities really promoted him. they were basically affirming him as the normal. Piper, much loved by the SBC young men, even said that he loves Mark Driscoll theology. and here is your problem his theology was made up of vulgarity misogyny and twisting Scripture to affirm thise things.

it would make a great research project to follow around all the Driscoll trained DNA carrying young men in ministry. it would even be interesting if we could put a dollar figure on how much havoc his views has caused the SBC through Acts 29 and other Sojourn type groups.


bill, you are right the cult of personality is not limited to Calvinism. it just works very well there because they have things like a caste system of hierarchy with their philosopher king elders, they hold keys to the kingdom and they have the nerve to redefine words and concepts. and they have affirmed a lot of shepherding cult tactics which makes it very hard for people to leave.

the younger they are the worse it is because it is very hard to change your thinking from determinism to the possibility that we are responsible and accountable to God for our behavior. in my neck of the woods it is producing more and more rabid atheiststhat are in their twenties or thirties. at some point when these young pew fans think it thru to its logical conclusions they feel they are better off with no God at all.


For all you thousands of folks tuning into this blog, but not commenting ... listen to Lydia. She has hit the nail on the head. Driscoll, Piper and others like them have taken SBC youth on a ride. We have darn near lost a generation of 20s-40s to "this is the way it is" indoctrination. It's a dirty shame, too, because they were venturing back to church.


Here's an oldie!


Part of the problem is that we've raised a generation of entitled spoiled brats. Idiots in the SBC have given into this idea that we have to change the so as to reach the "young" and the only way to reach the "young" is by allowing the "young" to take charge. The word "elder" used to have meaning. But now the leaders in the SBC think it wise to have kids who know nothing about anything dictate the way things should be done.

See foolish Trevin Wax and his ridiculous "well ok maybe we should have done something about Mark Driscoll" DUH! YA THINK TREVIN? I'm sure that's comforting to all the lives Driscoll's destroyed through the years so why should anybody listen to you today. Or Tim Keller who admits they knew for years Driscoll was a problem Why are these people still qualified for ministry after all the damage they stood back and allowed Driscoll to cause? Pretty much proof that The "Gospel Coalition" was never really about the Gospel but should have been named the Calvinist Coalition. Calvinism above people always. And ultimately it's truly just power and elitism. The SBC will be destroyed by the time the Calvinists are done planting all these Acts 29 knockoffs.

Brooks White

I would argue that Arminian thought is MUCH more in line with the hypermarketing "seeker friendly" philosophy and practices of most megamegachurches. The reason should be obvious. Calvinists believe that the elect will be saved no matter what and the non elect won't, and no amount of slick marketing and salesmanship is going to change that. On the other hand, if you believe that in order to "get people saved" you have to package up the gospel so that it's "fun", well, that's what megachurches are all about. Now,that's not to say that I believe megachurch leaders of ANY persuasion act solely, or even primarily, out of a desire to see people saved. Call me a cynic but based on what I've seen it's mostly about money and power. To the extent I'm right then it doesn't matter what persuasion they are; they're essentially hucksters.

Brooks White

To clarify my previous, I know not all arminians believe the way to "win souls" is to lure people in with "fun." In fact I truly hope most don't believe this. However, I do believe that some well meaning arminians believe this.

But, as I said, I think most megachurches are about increasing the membership So that giving increases and more money is made.


Mary - Thanks for the link to the old Driscoll piece over at SBC Voices. I wonder if the various commenters would still be tooting the same horn today given MD's antics over the past few years. Driscoll was provided way too much room in New Calvinism ranks to work his magic with zero accountability. Unfortunately, multitudes of Driscollite church planters have tweeked belief and practice within SBC following his model.

And, yes, if Calvinism = Gospel according to the reformed mind, then The Gospel Coalition is indeed one of the slickest coalitions of Calvinists to ever hit planet earth. The theo-politics of this mess is just too much for this old guy. And very painful to watch the SBC "destroyed by the time the Calvinists are done planting all these Acts 29 knockoffs." It just takes a generation to change message and method ... that mission is well on its way and will be fully accomplished when us old folks who "lost the Gospel" pass from the scene.


Mary, thanks for the link I remember that thread. See, if he has "correct doctrine" nothing else he says or does really matters. many excuses are made for him. of course we are always accused of wanting sinless perfection as if that is the only other alternative to guys like Driscoll. moral equivalency arguments are getting old.

a lot of people do not realize that "doctrine over people" is a cultic tactic. this is what getting caught up in a movement can do to people. even people who should know better and are paid to know better.

why is it that character, morality, justice, ethics, integrity and honesty are no longer considered basic to the Christian life? because we are told that such things are a work of salvation. believing their correct doctrine is now salvation. Driscoll has never been a brother in Christ for me. I am ashamed that he has been the face of Christianity for so many millions of young minds full of mush.


Brooks, who are you calling Arminian?


I apologize for my shoddy comments. I was using my upgrade phone voice recognition and it does not leave a comma when I say to, nor does it use a period when I politely ask. Capitalizations at the beginning of a sentence seem to be totally out of the android question.

And I remain in too much of a hurry to bother with editing but not sure if it would matter much. The pesky device changes things right back before you hit send.


Lydia - Your comments are not shoddy ... the spirit came through. Somebody needs to teach these android phones how to punctuate! I wish more SBC folks would get as concerned as you are about these developments, instead of millions sitting on their hands and ending up in reform school. Android is actually a good description for the New Calvinist robots in my area ... they automatically parrot Piper Points and Driscoll Drivel when you wind them up.



Even my young teen can now spot Calvinist teaching a mile away. Her "Christian School" worldview text book quotes almost nothing but Calvinists and even some Theonomists like Rushdooney. That blew my mind! What on earth is going on?

The school is NOT Calvinist like Ezell's Whitefield which is obvious. (However, many Whitfield parents do not even know Whitefield was pro slavery and a Calvinist)

The problem is people believe only what they are told and do no digging on their own. It is the old 'white coat' syndrome. They trust because they think they can believe anyone with a ministry title. It never occurs to them that these people might leave out important information...on purpose.

Even Non Calvinist Christian school is not safe from the Calvinist influence. So these teens are being taught a worldview that is "Calvinism". Of course pointing this out means one is "divisive". So be it.


"The problem is people believe only what they are told and do no digging on their own."

Lydia - As I watch SBC Calvinization take place, I continue to be amazed at the silence of SBC's non-Calvinist majority. The multitudes are either uninformed, misinformed or willingly ignorant. A leader in our State convention said to me "The pew is easy-pickin' - they don't have a clue about this." Traditional pastors at SBC's 45,000+ churches have not held the family talks they should have - this matter falls under "lead, feed and protect" in my assessment. These pastors know what is headed their way, but won't touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, lest they be viewed as divisive. After all, SBC's Calvinism Committee sent them a clear message not to stir the water and to hold hands under one SBC tent. And the BFM2000 revision has enough theological wiggle room to provide John Calvin a seat at the table. Thus, majority SBC belief and practice is being surrendered without much of a tussle at the local church level. With most SBC entities now solidly under the control of Calvinist leadership, efforts to hold Calvinization at bay at this point may be too little too late.

Peter, thank you for your stand on this ... I wish there were more voices like yours in SBC ranks.

Since this is supposed to be a piece about Mark Driscoll (although the comment stream paints a good picture of his influence in SBC life), I'll add a line for those collecting MD trivia. The following Driscoll quote in Religion News speaks volumes about ministries in the hands of the young and immature: “That’s my own little idol and it works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. So I found the perfect place to hide.”

peter lumpkins

Thanks Max. I've been blowing the horn about the Calvinization of the SBC since 2006. I recall once on Wade Burleson's blog some young dude saying in response to me, "I pray for the demise of the SBC." Well he got his request. But I fear we, with rebellious Israel, also got something else: "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (Ps 106:15).


"... may be too little too late ..."

Well maybe not! Who would have thought a couple of years ago that the Republicans would regain Congressional control and POTUS lose popularity?! Perhaps the SBC masses will wake up and get as stirred up as main street America did yesterday. My words in the previous comment were but an echo of my frustration ... God is never too little too late, but always with enough and on time, if He still finds the SBC worthy enough to hold onto.

Peter, we are in this dilemma because of a "leanness of our soul" in the hearts of Southern Baptists long before Calvin reappeared. The "people of the Book" aren't what they used to be. May genuine revival break out in SBC churches across this land on the other side of humility, prayer, repentance and seeking God's face. Teachings and traditions of men will then be dwarfed by His presence and we won't have anything to blog about but the glorious proclamation of who He is.


Lydia, interestingly enough, many Christians complain of revisionist history in the public school
System, but fail to recognize the revision in the Christian school. Authors such as David Barton, whom I believe to be a very nice person, take great liberty in their writing to prove/create a spiritual wonderland for us. Fact checking disproves much of it and, in some cases, publishers have pulled books. I'm glad your son is discerning! At our house, we test EVERYTHING. Just because our christian school or church teaches it, requires us to read it, etc...we fact check it.
On another note, was at a dinner with life long Baptists last night. I mentioned Peter's blog and his writing on Calvinism. They had never heard of Calvinism. They are college educated, wives of local physicians. They were surprised, aghast, yet very interested in learning more.


Lisa, I totally agree. We test and question everything in our home as well. The last thing I want to do is raise good little potential "party" members.

I agree with you about Barton. Why can't Christians accept that the more academic Founders were most likely reading Locke?

One of the reasons I like this blog is because it focuses on history. Some of the historical gems Peter finds are simply precious.

BTW: Did anyone here read this bizarre piece over at Pravda?


You see, Driscoll is an embarassment for the YRR movement so it is a sin to talk about him. We are "giving him the finger" so to speak. I guess it is embarassing to read a quote from the YRR poster boy in Time Mag that is so vulgar I cannot repeat it here. So, it is a sin to speak of the plagurism, Global fund monies, ask about his large severance before the creditors lined up or his long time pattern of vulgarity and objectifying women.

Most of these YRR guys adored him so this is their only defense--sinning by questioning. A Driscoll position. Forgiveness does not mean no consequences or that no one has a right to ask hard questions. Or that those spiriutally abused under the bus have no right to tell their stories. Mark worked hard to make himself a public figure and his using Jesus for personal gain was in the public eye. The unbelieving world already figured it out.

We will be dealing with the fall out from this shepherding cult for years to come.


"On another note, was at a dinner with life long Baptists last night. I mentioned Peter's blog and his writing on Calvinism. They had never heard of Calvinism. They are college educated, wives of local physicians. They were surprised, aghast, yet very interested in learning more."

Lisa - Therein, is the heart of the predicament the SBC non-Calvinist majority now find themselves facing. Whether they be uninformed, misinformed, or willingly ignorant, the bottom-line is the same. The agenda toward shifting Southern Baptist identity from its Anabaptist, free church tradition to a reformed evangelical identity is well under way. Congregations at 45,000+ Southern Baptist churches have been kept largely in the dark. "Learning more" about Calvinism (especially, the New Calvinism movement) would be a good exercise, but probably won't do much at this point to halt Calvinization of the Southern Baptist Convention. At best, your friends might be able to stop reformed theology from entering through the backdoor at their respective churches.


There is an interesting post by Thom Rainer on The Gospel Coalition website about "toxic" leadership traits. The interesting thing to me is that these characteristics, posted on a Calvinist site, are displayed by many New Calvinist leaders I know! Driscoll and Mahaney are only the most glaring examples of a greater problem in the New Calvinism movement. Included in his "14 toxic traits", Rainer lists leadership problems which continue to be flagged as concerns on this blog site and others as New Calvinism sweeps through SBC: arrogance, minimal accountability, shunning those who disagree, etc. In fact, this describes to the point an SBC reformed church planter near me!


Bob Cleveland

In 5 years of asking, I have yet to have anyone give the correct answer to "Why do you have to be baptized to join a Baptist Church?" Not members, not Sunday School teachers, not Deacons assembled in a meeting, and not even a seminary professor.

I doubt we'd have a problem with a pastor coming in under the radar and leading a church to become Calvinistic, if we'd educated our members on what we DO believe.

It goes along with the "Alternate Descriptor" the Convention adopted a few years ago, "Great Commission Baptists". In light of awful attendance percentages and ignorance of the doctrines we allegedly hold dear, it's no wonder folks have such a negative view, or can be led to abhor, doctrines of which they know very little.

Oh. In 39 years in Birmingham, I have been asked the "Key Question" about eternity many, many times. NEVER ONCE BY A BAPTIST, however. ALWAYS by a Presbyterian. You know ... of Calvinistic persuasion.


Bob, I don't really understand your comment. Isn't there a lot of disagreement on what doctrines we DO hold dear?


on another note Bob,why did the new Calvinists hide the fact that they were Calvinist when they were hired by churches? because they wanted to be the ones who instilled Calvinism without people realizing it. and that is because they viewed the average pewsitter as doctrinally ignorant. Perhaps they just loved Jesus and trusted the entities they help pay for to be honest and above board.

Not a very loving place to start.


A few thoughts come to mind reading these comments:

1. It is truly a sad day for the many true Christians who came to faith at Mars Hill despite Mark Driscoll's antics. Their church has fallen apart around them, leaving many without a stable place to be discipled. Despite this, I do believe that for many of them, it was/is a real church (or each campus is now a church...), albeit a deeply troubled one. No doubt many of them truly love Jesus and want to serve him. I pray their testimony in 20 years will be: "The church where I was saved had a really screwed up pastor, but despite it all, God is good and is still working in my life.

2. I find the urge to insert a cautious defense of John Piper into this discussion, for a few reasons (a) He has pastored for 30 years without scandalizing himself in they way that driscoll, mananey, McDonald, and others have had. (b) He has attempted, by reaching out to people like driscoll & Rick Warren, to influence those he disagrees with on some things, instead of not writing them off completely. (c) He, unlike many of these men, is obviously not in it for the wealth. Over his 30 years of growing and pastoring a mega-church, his salary only reached 100k near his retirement, and he did not take the money from his book sales. He also decided to live in modest downtown home in Mineapolis, rather than retreat to a gated mansion...So while he has obviously done and taught things many baptists of all stripes would disagree with, Lumping him in with Driscoll seems a bit unfair.

3. It should be recognized by Cal & non-cal alike that deception for the purposes of church reformation is inexcusable.

4. It should also be recognized, however, that IF a particular candidate, after careful study and consideration, does NOT consider himself a calvinist, even if he would agree with some of the 5 points...He should be allowed to explain himself and his beliefs, while rejecting the label calvinist...WITHOUT BEING LABELED AS BEING DECEPTIVE. This is only fair if SBC "traditionalists" can reject the label of Arminian, while agreeing with many of its teachings.

5. (an extension of #4...as it relates to those who may not find themselves solidly in either camp) I remember having many discussions in my college years in dorm rooms and on ministry vans about the issues of sovereignty and free-will, and while we all had our differing opinions, those opinions did not cause ANY trouble in our ability to get along, and even minister side-by-side. This was around the year 2000, and even then, I doubt any of us could have imagined being ostracized from their church based on their opinion of that most difficult issue. Yet here we are. This is the saddest part of it to me.



1. This thinking confuses me. Perhaps the debate needs to focus on what is a "real church". MH was/is a shepherding cult. Many decent people involved (pew sitters who financially supported it) will need to spends years debriefing from what they believed and why. If you read some of the posts by people very involved it becomes obvious there are serious problems because of the cultic thinking. I saw the same thing with SGM folks finding their way

2. I know a mega church pastor who presented a "one of the people" lifestyle who was actually amassing a fortune for retirement. Piper has promoted some serious rogues like Doug Wilson and because of Piper's influence I was stunned that so many YRR on blogs and where I live had NO idea who he was or what he stood for. A bit of research would have benefitted them and perhaps helped them see Piper has issues and is more of a shock jock than they might have thought. Instead they put their faith and trust in Piper. That is probably what scares me most about the movement. The blind faith in mere men who are their hero's from Calvin to Piper.

4. I think most people would have been thrilled to have an honest discussion. But like most Calvinists I know, you are playing games with labels. I saw this game all the time. Depending on the audience, guys like Russ Moore are NOT Calvinists or they are. I find that deceptive and low class.

The whole issue has become a sociopathic game of semantics. Who can be the most clever in deception and playing games with people.

The most clever part of that game was the labeling (by Calvinists) of anyone who is not Calvinist as Arminian. Very clever and I was very sad too many fell for it. Arminian, to me, is nothing but Calvin-lite.

5. Andy, lots of people would love to have that debate. If you have not noticed, many have been trying to for quite a few years and are shut down, insulted, proof texted to death, accused of being a heretic such as a Pelagian, etc.

But the truth is, Calvinists cannot afford a real irenic debate. Because most pew sitters would think it through to its logical conclusions and be appalled.

That doctrinal stance, has for the most part throughout history, been about following man (Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Puritan leaders,Piper, Mohler, Driscoll, Mahaney, Dever, etc, etc) and not a personal relationship with a Living Savior.


"That doctrinal stance, has for the most part throughout history, been about following man ... and not a personal relationship with a Living Savior."

Lydia - In my interactions with New Calvinists in my area, I have found them to have a mistrust in personal experience. I find that Christian attitude a bit strange … to doubt one's personal relationship/experience with Christ! It's all about having a spiritual encounter with the Living Savior - I've had one and I'll continue to share it!

I hear very little in the way of testimonies from New Calvinists of a direct experience of grace … an initial point in time when penitent sinner met a forgiving Savior and an ongoing experience of walking with Jesus (even though they refer to themselves as "Christ-Followers" rather than Believers). On the other hand, I hear much about an intellectual conversion to the doctrines of grace following a period of time in which the mind yielded to and embraced such teachings. When I have shared my salvation encounter with the living Christ through repentance, belief and faith, I have had some reformed folks stare at me like raccoons caught in the headlights of a car (the mistrust in personal experience I referred to).

If you listen closely to sermons by some of the leading New Calvinists mentioned in this blog, you will hear a LOT about God, little about Jesus, and hardly a mention of the Holy Spirit. In SBC reformed church plants, you will also not hear any reference to priesthood of "the" believer and/or soul competency, long-held Baptist distinctives. These young folks are being indoctrinated to the teachings of men which cherry-pick Bible passages to support their new reformation/revolution. These are exciting times for reformed Southern Baptists in their 20s-30s - they can be rebellious to the faith of their fathers and get away with it! Unfortunately, The BFM2000 allows them sufficient theological wiggle room to do so. Sad days to watch a generation slip away. When the New Calvinism dust settles (and it will), thousands will be disillusioned and disoriented.

Andy Williams

Lydia, Thanks for the response. I'll try to briefly address your points.

1. I suppose I am thinking of the classic definition of a cult as a Christian-like group that believes something unorthodox about the person and/or work of Jesus. Calvinism, in and of itself, does not qualify for that. And while Mars Hill and SGM do have similarities with cult practices, most notably unquestioning devotion to one leader...I also believe there were many who heard a message of Jesus death and resurrection and forgiveness, and who, upon conversion, found some fellow believers to fellowship with. All deeply flawed, yes. All under a leadership structure that promoted dangerous ideas, yes. But still an assembly (church) of people, many of whom sincerely desired to follow Jesus. I don't think we can look at every church that closes and say "it wasn't a real church." Only God can know that.

2. If I were to name Piper's most serious flaw, I would say it is in those people he has collaborated with, endorsed, and given a platform to the wide audience that he must have known he has. However, I see a real difference in the way he has led and conducted his life and ministry that stands in contrast to People like Driscoll. Did you know that He proposed 2 major changes to his church elder team that they rejected? And he basically said, "Ok, I've had chance to argue my case, but I'll bow to what the church wishes." (one was allowing his church to accept those who had been infant baptized...the other was a belief statement that ALL divorce is disallowed by scripture, even in cases of adultery.)

4. My point here is that IF sbc non-cals wish to reject the label of Arminian (which I believe they should be free to do), then those same SBC non-cals should not demand that a person who agrees with some of calvinisic teaching to accept the label of calvinist...lest they accuse him of deception. Cannot both sides honestly say..."I agree with Arminians on this point, but not that one; I agree with Calvinists on this point, but not that one; and on this point here, I am still not sure."

5. You are correct that Calvinists hurt their cause when they resort to such tactics, and there is definitly an attitude of superiority among the YRR that needs to be broken. BUT...Not every calvinist arrived at the position by parroting the teachings of famous pastors...many have honestly wrestled with difficult biblical texts, and have come to a different opinion than you. I think it is unfair to assign the motives of the former group to the latter.


Andy, I am uncomfortable with the word "orthodox" but I understand the sense in which you use it. and I am in the minority here when I say that I do not believe Calvinism is orthodox. I believe it actualy blasphemes the character of God and makes him into more of a Greek pagan god who is arbitrary and random.

The definition of the word cult has changed over the years. it now maps more to behaviors than hand. And because Calvinism has a history of despotic behaviorand use of force it fits the definition quite well.


Andy, I responded before but not sure my phone sent it.

1. You might want to revisit the definition of a cult. It has changed over the last 30 years or so and it more about sociological behaviors (authoritarianism, loading language, doctrine over people, etc) than doctrinal abnormalities. Which is best because how many doctrinal beliefs over history became the "normal" for a period of time. Look at the German Lutheran Church in the 1930's as one example which used Luther's writings on Jews to bring the church inline. Look at the Puritans who believed they were to build a New Jerusalem...and so on. For them, that was living out "correct doctrine". However, their governance was full of what we now know are cult tactics. As was Calvin's second time around in Geneva.

There is a lot of information on the analyzed behaviors one typically finds in a cult such as Lifton's "Social Dynamics of Manipulation" or Cialdini's "Weapons of Influence". Some are listed in Vanvonderans, "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse". You see most of these things in shepherding cults and even softer variations of them in top down hierarchical churches and para church organizations. Using the word "cult" is a conversation stopper, I know.

And since I was not seminary or bible college trained, I never learned the older definition and only ran into it on the internet.

An example would be that while Jim Jones had unorthodox (hate that word!) teachings it only worked because he also used all the elements of sociological cult tactics.

"But still an assembly (church) of people, many of whom sincerely desired to follow Jesus. I don't think we can look at every church that closes and say "it wasn't a real church." Only God can know that. "

One can hope-- but the entire MH organization was built on the cult of personality of one man. There is something very wrong with one man being beamed to so many different sites on a giant screen. he was their truth. What he said to them for years was their truth. And as one who has been following Driscoll since he was mentioned in Blue Like Jazz, I think he is a false teacher and makes secondary issues salvic. That gives us a clue that there will be serious issues for people who are trying to make sense of what they believed, what happened and why. Now that he is hanging out with Robert Morris of casting out demon, fame, it might be even more confusing for them.

I do think God provides us with wisdom if we constantly pray it. We can know what is "of Him" or not. But it takes serious abiding, praying, etc.

I don't think like a Platonist so I believe people are responsible for what they believe and do and are accountabile to God. And I think He is full of my favorite OT word: Hesed. He is long suffering, merciful but He is also perfect Justice. And for those who use Him to make a name for themselves and amass wealth and great followings, I do not envy for one minute.

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