Mark Dever, Justin Taylor, Tim Challies & the Net
On their respective blogs, Justin Taylor and Tim Challies’ have recently speculated about the rise of New Calvinism. Taylor’s post at The Gospel Coalition referenced Mark Dever’s series of 10 blog posts that according to Taylor, “combined his historical gifting with his insider look at the roots (under God) of what has been happening and why.”
Taylor framed his post with the following title;
“Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From? A (Serious) Top 10 List from Mark Dever’s”
Tim Challies in his blog post referenced and built upon Justin Taylor’s post beginning with his own title;
“Where Did the New Calvinism Come From?”
As the good blogger that he is Challies continued with the following;
Justin Taylor recently revived Mark Dever’s 2007 series of articles titled “Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From?” This was a ten-part series that looked to the rise of New Calvinism and sought to discover the sources of a theological resurgence. Dever said,
“Of course, theologically, the answer is “because of the sovereignty of God.” But I’ve never been convinced by hyper-Calvinism’s argument that because God has determined the ends, the means don’t matter. Means do matter. And as a Christian, as an historian who had lived through the very change I was considering, I wondered what factors had been used by God.”
Obviously both Justin and Tim agree with Mark Dever’s summary though I will give Tim Challies a much higher grade for expanding on Taylor’s post. (I love Justin and can’t believe he left out something as important as this.)
“There is one factor that neither Dever nor Taylor has listed and one I consider absolutely critical to the growth of the movement: the Internet.”
He then explains why…
The Internet has allowed people to find community based on common interest—a new kind of community that transcends any geographic boundary. It used to be that people of common interest could only find others who shared their interests within a limited geographic area. The Internet has forever changed this and this is true in any field, whether it pertains to vocation, hobby, sports, religion or anything else. As web sites began to spring up, and then individual blogs and then group blogs and then YouTube channels and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, people began to discover that there were others like them, people who believed roughly the same things or who had roughly the same interests. Where there may have been only a small number of enthusiasts in a single town or city, the Internet brought together enthusiasts from hundreds and thousands of cities and towns. These people could now congregate online with those who shared their interests.
The New Calvinism is no exception. While the theological seeds had been planted in previous years and decades, the movement was awaiting a catalyst that would allow the isolated individuals to coalesce into a movement. The catalyst in this case was the Internet and social media.
The New Calvinism is a distinctly twenty-first century, digital-era development. It is the Internet in general, and social media in particular, that first tied the movement together and that have since drawn people in. Where there may have been only five or six Calvinists in a church of several hundred, when they went online they found a whole community of people who believed just what they believed. This dispelled much of the sense of isolation and gave them a corporate identity. People have often remarked that the Christian blogosphere is dominated by Calvinists and I believe this is exactly why—because in those early days of blogging it was the outliers who were looking for community they did not have in their local church fellowships.
Over time there was an inevitable shift so that the Internet was no longer merely tying together those who had long held to Calvinistic doctrine, but it also became the medium through which others were introduced to this stream of theology. What at first simply tied people together now drew new people in.
Thus this movement has not been carried by magazines or radio or televangelists—not primarily. Rather, it has been carried by the new media, the videos and blogs and podcasts. It has been carried by books that have been reviewed on blogs and purchased online. Through it all, the Internet has played a critical role. It has provided the forums for introducing people to this theology, for discussing the parameters of the movement, for reacting to the challenges that have come at it from outside and from inside.
The Protestant Reformation depended upon a medium that was able to disseminate its ideas; this came in the form of the printing press. With the advent of movable type, books and treatises could be printed in mass quantities and distributed widely, quickly and efficiently. Without confusing the impact and importance of the two movements, I believe it is safe to say that the New Calvinism was awaiting the Internet, the medium through which isolated pockets would be drawn together into a whole.
Where did the New Calvinism come from? It came from all the sources that Dever and Taylor identified, and inevitably some they have overlooked. And it came through and in some ways because of the Internet.
I have no doubt in mind Challies has it right about God’s use of the Net and the role those who love the Doctrines of Grace have played and continue to play in furthering the Gospel. Perhaps Justin Taylor simply overlooked it. I deeply respect Justin but in my humble opinion he should have said it first. I say this because Justin played an instrumental role in making it happen “on the Net.” I know because I played a small but important part in making it happen with him.
Coming up at CMC
In the coming weeks I will seek to convince you as to why I believe, Christian writers and publishers must freely distribute their theological works absolutely and totally free, through the Internet, in the same manner we have freely made available sermons and other Christian literature and study helps. It’s not about us my friends. It’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ setting people free from the power of sin and death and the edification of His Church throughout the world.