Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I am a Neo-Calvinist

Don't let the word Calvinist frighten you. I actually am not a promoter of TULIP. The reformed/reformational stream is much larger than that -- so is Calvinism. I know John Piper wouldn't agree, but John Piper is wrong. Besides, I am an Anglican -- a reformed Catholic. Read the 39 articles. That's where one will find my reformed theology.

Enough said. Now, onto neo-Calvinism. Gideon Strauss has a post in his blog entitled
What is a neocalvinist?. Neo-Calvinism is a kind of Christian Humanism that emphasizes that all of life belongs to God. Abraham Kuyper, one of the key thinkers in this movement once wrote,

No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

A key idea in Neo-Calvinism is sphere sovereignty. Each sphere of life is created by God and has its own telos and integrity under God. No sphere should be forced to violate its own sovereignty. For example, the Church is not the government so it should not try to act as the government. At the same time, the government is not the church and so should not try to carry out the purposes of the church. This does not mean that God has no word for governments. God does because God has a purpose for government -- he created it. Christians who participate in government should carry out their vocation under the kingship of Jesus seeking to bring the sphere of government into greater conformity to God's purpose for government (which I would argue is justice).

A real life example is my wife. She works as the Chief Health Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Health in the state of Kentucky (that and $2 will get you a cup of breakfast blend at Starbucks). Her job is to shape the health policy of this state. She sees this as part of her vocation under the Lordship of Jesus. She is helping re-claim the corner of creation God has put her in for the Lordship of Jesus. This does not mean she thinks government is all good or that she is naive about the corruption and evil that can accompany politics. But hey, I am a priest -- there is corruption and evil in my live of work too!

Here are Strauss' defining points:

A neocalvinist is someone who ...

1. confesses Jesus the Christ as God and Lord over all of life (no pietistic dualism -- Pete)

2. recognises the enduring design of the world and seeks to shape their life in attentive response to that design

3. grieves the agony of evil, pain and failure in the world

4. brings hope and healing in their spheres of responsibility, conscious that hope only finds its fulfillment in the return of the Christ

5. cherishes the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God

6. accepts human responsibility for the cultivation of the world and therefore for the shaping of culture

7. relishes the rich natural and cultural diversity of the world, and seeks to conserve and elaborate that diversity

8. works against the social effects of both individualism and collectivism, by taking part in the building of a diverse range of social relationships and helping to make room for social diversity in society.

Strauss writes,

Any one of these characteristics (or any subset of them, I guess), may also be true for adherents of other cultural movements. It is exhibiting them in this peculiar combination, and doing so in a conscious effort to contribute to their historical elaboration in the tradition of Augustine, Calvin, Groen Van Prinsterer, and Kuyper, that makes someone a neocalvinist.

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