LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) – For all its successes, Neo-Calvinism needs to do a better job of spurring zeal for global missions and personal holiness, a speaker said April 11 at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Ky.
Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., told thousands of pastors and church leaders that the movement known as the New Calvinism or Reformed Resurgence is “a work of God in our generation” that did not begin with the first Together for the Gospel gathering in 2006.
“It started with Paul, with Jesus, but this new resurgence, at least the term, 'Young, Restless, Reformed' is fairly recent,” DeYoung said. He cited several successes of the movement that he said ought to be celebrated.
“We are known, I hope, for a commitment to the Scriptures, a commitment to expositional preaching, a commitment to the doctrines of grace, a commitment to biblical manhood and womanhood,” he said. “We are known for our commitment, I hope, to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, for our commitment to penal substitutionary atonement, our commitment to justification by faith alone, and above all, and in all, and summarizing it all, our commitment to the centrality of the gospel, and all of that should be celebrated and commended.”
Despite that, DeYoung identified “at least two very critical areas in which we have yet to show the sort of passion and enthusiasm and growth that we need.”
“One, I believe, is an earnest commitment to global missions, stirring up ourselves, calling young people, some of you here, calling those in our churches to consider and to go for the cause of the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world,” he said. “I believe the other area is in our commitment and passion for personal holiness.”
Calvinism, named after 16th century reformer John Calvin, emphasizes God’s sovereignty and downplays human agency in salvation. If God is involved in both choosing the elect and prompting the human heart to respond in faith, DeYoung said, some assume that striving to live godly lives isn’t that important.
“The call to Christian preaching should never be to make people better or virtuous or moral apart from the power of the spirit and the truth of the gospel and the centrality of faith,” he said. On the other hand: “The realities of the Spirit and the faith do not eliminate the need for human effort. Do not let effort be a four-letter word in your Christian vocabulary.”
“People say sanctification, is it monergistic or synergistic? I just want to say that's not the right discussion for those terms,” he said. “As with regeneration, we believe in monergism, the Bible teaches that it is one working, it is God at work to regenerate. And in the Christian life, to believe and to repent and to grow in grace, you hear even from these luminaries like Calvin and Hodge [who were] not ashamed to say 'we put forth effort, we cooperate.'”
DeYoung said it is not an issue of divine sovereignty versus free will. “Who sanctifies you?” he asked. “God, as he works in me and I work out.”
David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., picked up on the theme of the importance of mission.
“Local ministry and local mission are totally necessary. I’m not saying tonight, nor would I advocate at any point, that we should neglect local ministry,” Platt said. “There are people in your church, my church, who are hurting. Their marriages are struggling. Their children are rebelling. They are walking through cancer and tumors and all sorts of other trials, and we as pastors must not neglect local ministry to the body, nor should we neglect local mission in the community. We have been commanded to make disciples, and that command will play out most naturally and most consistently right where we live, in our communities, in our cities.”
“Yet global missions is tragically neglected,” Platt said. “Local mission and ministry, totally necessary. Global missions, tragically neglected.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.