Archive Peter Escalante Philosophy Sacred Doctrine

Nothing to Prove

Simon of Hills Bible Church, Melbourne, offers a jocular taxonomy of the sons of Calvin here. He covers the New Calvinists with their somewhat hyperactive pietism, the Neo-Calvinists with their supposedly nefarious plans for world domination, and the tribalistically confessional “Grumpy Calvinists” (you have the Adamic charism of apt namecalling, Simon) who think that the Neo-Calvinist project sounds like too much work, and certainly involves too much lay sharing of what should be exclusively ministerial limelight; they also worry that “faith for all of life” means “divine positive law for all of life,” or at least the Fish-stickering of all worldly endeavor, and they recoil from either suggestion with good reason.[1] Last, he comes to what he calls the “Comfortable Calvinists,” the ones whose Calvinism is what it is, and who have nothing to prove. We are deeply honored to be numbered by Simon in that happy company.

Simon admits there’s a lot of overlap in various direction, and so would we.  The New Calvinists are in many respects similar to the Grumpies, differing from the latter primarily in the role accorded to religious affection (Newbies cry easily), and in the amount of coffee consumed (Newbies are notoriously jumpy). Neos and Newbies share a dream of universal Reformation tarrying for none, but Neos are extremely critical of the classical Reformed tradition Newbies love (in their partial way), deeming it tainted by “pagan” mentality. And Neos are very brainy, dreaming of a world where every Wikipedia entry comes with a preface showing how what follows only makes sense if you understand the Trinity, whereas Newbies are more concerned about morals and sentiments. The senior Newbie wing thinks that Planet Regeneration would be a world where we would work and play as if not working or playing, and no one would ever say “sh*t”; the other seems to envision a nearly opposite situation, but to the glory of “extreme” Jesus.

The Comfortable Calvinists, the confident Calvinists, are the broadest of Simon’s groups and thus harder to define, except by the signal common trait Simon sees of not having one’s underwear all in a bunch, and they overlap theologically in many respects with both Newbies and Grumpies, differing from those mostly by way of a much broader historical sensibility, both regarding the Reformed and Protestant tradition and the worldwide Christian tradition, and a more flexible understanding of the role of confessions. Some, like us, hew much more closely to the classical Reformed doctors and schools, but others less so; the thought of John Frame, for instance, is in many respects much more closely related to the particular principles of Neo-Calvinism than to classical Protestantism; what marks him as “comfortable” is his irenic character. We hew very closely indeed to the classical Reformed tradition, but like Neos, and unlike Newbies and Grumpies, we are concerned with the divine character of the architectonic order of the commonwealth.

Which of Simon’s Calvinisms are more Schmalvinism than Calvinism, and in what degree? We think that’s for you to figure out. But we’ll give a hint. John Calvin, whose name we all inherit, was nothing if not at ease with wisdom.

[1] As Hank says to the youth “pastor” in Episode 151 of “King of the Hill,” “you’re not making Christianity any better, you’re just making rock and roll worse.”

By Peter Escalante

Peter Escalante is a founder and editor of The Calvinist International. He holds a MA in Philosophy.