David Schrock fro Occoquan Bible Church here in the Washington, D.C. area wrote an article at 9 Marks about Calvinist pastors and when they are hated. It is job advice for this looking to become a pastor who are reformed in their theology. David writes about the anti-Calvinism that exists and how it comes about. My response is that he doesn’t go deeper and address the root reasons why Neo-Calvinism is resented.
“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.”
“Just as our nation in the Internet Age has experienced increased political separation and hostility, so have Calvinists and Non-Calvinists in the local church. Religious zealots can be found on both sides, those who prize their so-called “camp” more than their common salvation in Christ. Of course, the information age only increases this challenge.”
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
James 1:19 NIV
Mark Dever of 9 Marks
9 Marks had an interesting article from a pastor here in the Washington, D.C. area. He addresses the issue of a Calvinist pastor candidating at a non-Calvinist church and how he should respond when he runs into a church that doesn’t embrace the doctrines of grace and are anti-Calvinist. This article had a lot of that I would like to respond to. For the sake of the article you can read it in its entity in, “Calvinist Pastors and Non-Calvinist Churches: Candidating, Pastoring, and Moving On.”
Who is David Schrock?
David Schrock is the Pastor of Preaching and Theology at Occoquan Bible Church, which is just south of Washington, D.C. but north of Quantico, Virginia. He was born and raised in Midlothian, Virginia outside of Richmond. He graduated from Albion College which is in lower Michigan. He also earned a Masters of Divinity and Ph.D in Systematic Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also was the assistant editor of the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He blogs at Via Emmaus and is married with four children. Previously in life he was an active basketball player if my research in correct. David has written at least five articles for 9 Marks, one article for Desiring God and close to thirty for The Gospel Coalition.
Where Do Anti-Calvinists Come From?
David’s article at 9 Marks was published early in 2019. He addresses the issue of what happens when a Calvinist goes to a non-Calvinist church. The issues vary as the non-Calvinists might not be aware of the doctrines of grace. But then you also have those who can be opposed and this, anti-Calvinist. Ministry is no longer local especially with the rise of the internet. David describes it as the following.
If you find yourself in a situation where the tide has turned against Calvinism, then you’re in a much different place than if you’re in a church where the doctrines of grace are relatively unknown. Moreover, you must be aware of the influences—denominational or otherwise—that surround your church.
Simply put, pastoral ministry is no longer purely local. I’ve found that virtual voices and social media sources have an exaggerated and typically deleterious impact on the members of our churches. Therefore, Calvinist pastor, it’s wise to know what kind of non-Calvinist you are shepherding and what voices they’re listening to.
Even more, the most important thing you can do in serving the Lord faithfully is to build relationships with your people, so that when debates about doctrine come—and they will come—your care for them will disprove the caricatures they find online. Though your relational efforts may still not overcome this theological divide, for the integrity of your ministry and the good of the church, personal ministry is key.
So where do the anti-Calvinists come from? David Schrock identifies three sources. The first one is the internet. People trust themselves to strangers and lean upon Google. Google can lead to warped and skewed sources that present misinformation. The internet has complicated modern ministry and its compared to a nuclear arsenal. Another source is external leaders. When people have doubts about the doctrines of grace they don’t go to their pastor they consult those on the outside who can fan the flames of hysteria and fear. Or they can reach out to prior pastors which is not helpful at all. What would help is if “outside experts” pointed people back to their local pastor. But they often don’t as they have hidden agendas. The final point that is made by the 9 Marks pastor is there are often weak relationships. Anti-Calvinists exist because of no relationship between non-Calvinists and regular Calvinists. Relationships need to be built between different sides so that when controversy arises it can withstand the problems.
Shrock’s New Tulip
David then proposes a new form of TULIP that can help those who are Calvinists go into non-Calvinist churches. The advice David gives are for both the pastoral candidate and the current pastor. In this section I am only going to post what David recommends to the pastoral candidate. But the new TULIP is as follows:
- Trust in God’s sovereignty – Pastoral candidates should not hide your doctrine and beliefs.
- Unconstitutionally love the church – Calvinism is not the gospel, from David’s perspective its the best expression of the Gospel.
- Limit the language of Calvinism, not the language of scripture – Labels should be avoided as they create problems, and they are often misunderstood.
- Intercede without ceasing and wait upon the Lord – The pastoral candidate should pray for his church.
- Persevere and make plans – Wait for the the right position and preserve in a holding pattern. Persevere in a non-vocational role of service before jumping into the wrong position.
Issues That David Ignores that Could Explain Anti-Calvinism
In David’s article there is one glaring problem that he does not address. David never goes deeper and asks the question what could result in many people becoming anti-Calvinist? This is one of the reasons why his article fails. If he wants to help build bridges between Calvinist and non-Calvinist he, and others like him in 9 Marks and other ministerial organizations need to do the following. If David wants to build credibility he can start by tackling the following issues.
Acknowledge Neo-Calvinist Scandals
When will people like David Shrock acknowledge the scandals and problems inside the Neo-Calvinist movement? For example when will he acknowledge the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal and how reformed theology was used to cover up child sex abuse and more? When will he acknowledge C.J. Mahaney’s blackmail? You can read more in, “Has God Foreordained an Alleged Child Sex Abuse Cover up in Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches? Is that why CJ Mahaney is so Sacred?” When will he be open and honest and talk about how Mahaney fled and hide behind Mark Dever’s “Gospel Centered rear end” at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. So much for meaningful membership in Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg. When will David acknowledge all 9 Marks that Mark Dever violated when Mahaney fled Sovereign Grace. What did Dever violate? He violated membership, “The Gospel”,leadership, discipline and discipleship. You can read more analysis as to why 9 Marks fails as a theological system in, “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.” What about the scandal and implosion of Mars Hill in Seattle. Surely David remember how John Piper held up Mark Driscoll and normalized him. And let’s be honest for many Neo-Calvinists John Piper is the 67th book of the Bible. Has David read open letters like Ron Wheelers wrote to his once close friend Mark Driscoll? Or how about when Mark Driscoll preached in Edinburgh, Scotland that a woman who finds Jesus gets on her knees and performs a blow job. If you recall Driscoll joked about how a man came to faith at Mars Hill through a blow job. You can listen to that sermon in, “Reflecting on a Controversial Mark Driscoll Sermon About how a Repentant Woman Gets on Her Knees and Performs Oral Sex.” What about when Jonna Petry wrote how she thought Mark Driscoll could murder her husband or how he proclaimed that women are penis homes. That made a splash in the media. When will David Schrock acknowledge all these and other scandals?
Understand that Reformed Theology Makes the Problem of Evil Worse
As someone into reformed theology David Schrock takes comfort in the answers in that he believes God’s sovereignty is at work. But on the flip side can’t he understand that people like myself view reformed theology as making the problem of evil worse? After all I use John Piper’s teaching after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut to make that point. You can read that in, “How Reformed Theology/Neo-Calvinism Make the Problem of Evil Worse: John Piper, Adam Lanza and a Massacre in Connecticut.” A woman who gives birth to a still birth needs love and a shoulder to weep on. She doesn’t need to be given an answer based in “sound doctrine.” In that article David sounded more moderate than other 9 Marks personalities but the fact remains that this stuff pops up because of Neo-Calvinist teaching.
Address the Issue of Authoritarianism
Let’s address the issues of authoritarianism inside 9 Marks and the Neo-Calvinist movement. I wrote about a Neo-Calvinist Acts 29 church in Richmond that got so involved in people’s lives it affected some people’s ability to accept a job offer. How is that any different than a cult? You can read more in, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.” Authoritarianism shines in the membership covenants that many Neo-Calvinist churches use. I looked at the issues with them in, “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: The New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War?” David’s article that took aim at those who have different opinions on such topics shows authoritarianism. Does he remember when during the Sovereign Grace scandal Jarrod Mellinger of a SGM church in Pennsylvania taught that it was healthier to look at pornography than to read blogs?
Realize that a Number of Neo-Calvinist Pastors Have Been Dishonest About their Theology
Then its time to acknowledge that many Neo-Calvinist pastors have aboard churches while being dishonest. They hid their theology not necessarily out of fear, but because thought that the Lord foreordained them to be the pastoral candidate. All too often I get emails from people who share stories of how their church was theologically flipped. Or how it was hijacked and people lost their church home. That honestly needs to be addressed also.
Recognize that Calvinism Can be Abusive
Finally the last point is that David needs to acknowledge that many parts of the Neo-Calvinist system is abusive. Now to be honest many parts of the Arminian church can also be abusive, I would point out the issues in Calvary Chapel to make my point. But so many stories dealing with abuse from Neo-Calvinism. This very blog, which will have this post tag Occoquan Bible Church was born out of an act of spiritual abuse. It came about because I endured a false accusation years ago by someone who was discipled by Jordan Kauflin at Redeemer Arlington in the D.C. area. When someone boasts of their faith and and how they podcast Matt Chandler, John Piper, etc… and consequently teaches you why rape and sexual assault are a problem in the military, is that the Gospel? What about when the abuse which drags on pops up in a terminal illness when your Mother is dealing with a painful illness. Is that the Gospel? You can read more about that in, “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.”
So when David Schrock is frank and honest about many of the above issues then I will listen. Until then his noise about anti-Calvinism must be kept in perspective, with knowledge, history, and being aware of these issues.