Semper Reformanda

Some thoughts on the Church, theology, books, and whatever else.

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Location: St. Peters, Missouri, United States

I am studying philosophy at Lindenwood Universtiy in St. Charles Missouri. I have a brother and a sister, two great parents and we are all members of New Covenant Church. After I graduate, I'm planning on attending Covenant Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Charismatic Neocalvinism

I know that people always say that they don't like labels, especially as Christians. I have to confess that I love labels. They help to define and clarify positions, even if they do oversimplify or generalize positions and viewpoints at times. Here's a great label from a recent article in Comment, an online journal, by one of my favorites, James K.A. Smith, the head of the philosophy department at Calvin College: "Charismatic Neo-Calvinism." Neo-Calvinism, a Dutch brand of Calvinism as set forth by Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, Herman Bavinck, and more recently, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Richard Mouw, is an attempt at articulating a Christian philosophy of life which takes into consideration the sovereingnty of God in every sphere of his creation, as well as the goodness of the creation structure. This approach is encapsulated by Kuyper's famous quote:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!

In his article, Smith explains why the Neocalvinistic tradition is his main frame of reference, while offering some suggestions as to the particular weakness that it is hampered by and some potential ways that this tradition could be supplemented and spoken to by other traditions. One of these traditions, Smith believes, is the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition:

Albert Wolters recently confessed: "It is my belief that a 'charismatic neocalvinist' is not a contradiction in terms." Thanks be to God, or I'd be a walking contradiction! My own introduction to and immersion in neocalvinism was concurrent with my own pilgrimage to Pentecost and identification with charismatic Christianity. I found in the wholistic worldview and anthropology of neocalvinism an articulation of just what I was experiencing in worship and spiritual disciplines in the charismatic renewal. I think Wolters is absolutely correct in discerning a deep affinity between neocalvinism and charismatic Christianity, and I think that the future of both would be well-served by their mutual interaction. And given the shape of global Christianity, I think this represents a critical opportunity for neocalvinism to serve the global church.

As a Reformed Charismatics, it is this sort of position that we hope to see spread through the Church at large. We long to see a Church that takes seriously the doctrines of grace, as well as the transforming effect that they can have on the culture as we begin to see that all creation is good and that our activity in different spheres of cultural can point others towards Christ. We also believe that this will only happen by a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit as we gain an ever increasing understanding of the biblical role of spiritual gifts and the subjective, experiential aspect of the Spirit's work in revival. In the article by Albert Wolters, referred to by Smith in his quote, Wolters lays out some suggestions as to how these two traditions might complement one another:

The power, vitality and emotional spontaneity of the charismatic movement, as well as its openness to the charismatic gifts, its emphasis on the effectiveness of prayer, and its acknowledgement of the reality of the demonic are all part of a vibrant biblical Christianity from which neocalvinism can benefit. On the other hand, I believe that charismatic Christians can derive great benefit from the strengths of neocalvinism, notably its broad cultural vision of the Christian life, its intellectual sophistication and maturity, and its tradition of responsible biblical exegesis.

Ok, so I know that we shouldn't be dependent on labels. They are often misleading, and as soon as we find one that we like, we usually find items that go under that label that we can't agree with. But come on, if you have to have a label, being called a Charismatic Neocalvinist isn't bad, is it?


Blogger Bill Nye said...


I really really like that: Neocalvinist Charasmatic. I've never heard it put that way before. Thank you so much. I have now found a label for my kind.

As far as labels go, I generally think they do more harm than good, but the nature of the many denominations in the U.S. brings about the necessity of clarifying doctrinal positions by labels. I have no hostility against labels. I realize that not everyone can sit down and discuss their theology based on the Bible for 10 hours every time someone asks them what they believe. At least from my personal experience, I find that labels are destructive, dare I say, even more so than ambiguity.

Great post. I loved the quotations you cited as well. While we may disagree on are acceptance of labels, we can both agree on the necessity of them in our culture.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post with important ideas!

Add "Theonomic" as the middle name
and the label would be complete;
with PM (postmil, not prime minister) as the prefix.

Just kidding, since many would assert that Calvin was a theonomist and postmil. Can one say that about Kuyper. Maybe.

And how many charismatics are advocates for theonomy?

Can't know the players without a
scorecard, or the lingo without a

But all are worth the effort, as you have illustrated so well, Andrew.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

In the preface of Freedom of the Will, Edwards states that he “will not deny, that there are some unhappy consequences of this distinction of names,” but that labels do allow for “ease” of communication “without being encumbered with an obscure and difficult circumlocution.” Thus, in the classroom or in debate, there is always room for such distinctions and clarifications as neo-Calvinist. But in real life—I will not belabor the point that labels—are often divisive.

Kuykendall mentions Kuyer’s preference of the term “Christian philosophy,” and I would say, that all I can ever state with certainty is that I’m a follower of Christ and that I work hard to keep my presuppositions in line with what the Bible teaches. I do not discount the men and women that God has blessed with the gift of exegesis, but I would suppose that these men and women would prefer us to not remember their names, but know Christ all the more.

But I am curious as to what makes you partial to “charismatic neo-Calvinist” rather that philo-Luther or any other label? Specifically, one aspect that Kuykendall endorces the reformational aspect of the Gospel in all spheres of life. Does that include the civil sphere and what would you suggest as a vehicle of restoration in the civil sphere? Smith wants to revive monasticism??

8:33 PM  
Blogger Andrew Stout said...

Charismatic Neocalivnist sounds the coolest.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I like "Pa-ThiNCC" -- sort of like Ka-ching!

Postmillennialtheonomicneocalvinistcharismatic ... Rx for campus life.

"Supercalifgragilisticexpial ..."


"Take one pill, before meals, with a glass of water, three times daily" -- fall on the ground and be healed/reformed!

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a good background on one of the forerunners of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement I recommend "The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley" by Daniel R. Jennings and published by Sean Multimedia. It offers journal entries from Wesley himself showing how that he experienced miraculous healings, exorcisms, slain in the Spirit, visions, dreams and more. Wesley, of course, is the founder of the Methodist Church.

6:12 PM  

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