Can only the confessional be Calvinists?

This is a thought provoking and interesting extract from the blog of Roger E. Olson. It raises a lot of questions in my mind, I don’t know If i am in full agreement but would be interested to know of others thoughts. I have worked in a church setting where being openly ‘Calvinist’ would have been frowned upon, and now I work within a church which has proud roots in the reformed faith.

“Due to the rise of what my friend Scot McKnight calls “neo-Puritanism” (what others have labeled “the new Calvinism” or just “resurgent Calvinism”) TULIP Calvinism is popping up in places it does not belong. Especially young men are reading John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, even Michael Horton, and taking this new found theology “home” with them into the denominations they grew up in or have joined. Often those denominations are historically averse to Calvinism–such as Wesleyan-Holiness, Pentecostal and Anabaptist ones.

Often these denominations did not have the foresight to expect this influx of “young, restless, Reformed” people and so never wrote statements of faith that explicitly excluded TULIP. Their whole, entire ethoses were contrary to TULIP, however, and “five point Calvinism” is completely foreign to their histories and theologies.

I receive e-mail all the time (too many to respond to) from pastors, lay people, and even theologians (college, university and seminary professors) informing me about this infection of Calvinism in their denominations and related institutions. Usually they want some advice about how to handle this.

Now, let’s be clear about what I’m talking about and am NOT talking about. Many denominations are historically-theologically, confessionally Calvinist. Of course I’m not talking about them. They are where Calvinists belong!

Then there are many other denominations that are historically-theologically open to Calvinism; Calvinism has long been accepted as a live option within them. An example would be certain Baptist denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. I see no problem with Calvinists belonging to these denominations and even promoting Calvinism within them–so long as they do it fairly (not misrepresenting other views or implying that Calvinism is the only legitimate Christian theology).

Finally, though, there are denominations that are historically-theologically rooted in theological-spiritual movements antithetical to Calvinism. What I mean is that these denominations’ prototypes (founders, leading spokespersons, etc.) were set against Calvinism and everyone knows that. Some of them have authoritative confessional documents that rule out Calvinism. Some do not. Either they never suspected that Calvinism would come into them or they are non-creedal and non-confessional “Bible only” denominations that eschew written statements of faith.”

Read the full article.

I don’t think I fully agree with the writer, but I understand the struggle one invites upon their head in bringing historical, reformed faith to denominations that were set against it.


One thought on “Can only the confessional be Calvinists?

  1. Thanks for the article. As someone who was converted into a Pentecostal Church, holds reformed doctrine and is a Wesleyan minister I would say that unless the confession of faith does not bar someone outright and the individual is honest to his superiors and congregation then he should feel free to minister anywhere he wants.

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