I don’t think people adequately understand the significance of The Dallas Statement (as I call it) and its reception. Let me put some thoughts down here and explain exactly what has happened and what is happening. As someone who has been covering the mission drift of the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR) into social progressivism for years and who has tirelessly documented the Downgrade in this area, I’m in a unique position to grasp what’s happening and explain it.
There are several categories of people as they relate to The Dallas Statement. Understanding how these various pieces fit together is important to grasping the entire narrative.
UNDERSTAND THE PARTIES INVOLVED
1. The first category includes those who do not know about the Rauschenbuschism debate and do not care. This, for the time being, includes most of those in the media and most of those outside of Reformed or Calvinistic American evangelicalism. That there’s even a disturbance in the force of this small but influential circle of evangelicalism is mostly lost on this category of people. Altar-call revivalists, televangelists, Finney-esque traditionalists and most in the media have a radar which simply doesn’t not cover this segment of American evangelicalism at all. They do not know what’s happening in our circle because they don’t pay attention to our circle (which is a shame, because what is happening with us will affect them greatly).
2. The second category includes a subset of Calvinistic evangelicalism called the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR) or New Calvinism. These are who we might call “fad Calvinists.” They were not Calvinists 10 years ago, and most will not be Calvinists 10 years from now. They are the so-called millennials (and a few older leaders who are desperately trying to remain hip and relevant). As I defined them in the hyperlinked video above, they are typically not Confessional, often they are not Covenantal, they are typically Charismatic or Continuationist, and they do not uphold the Regulative Principle of Worship. For the time being, these are the cool kids. These include guys like Matt Chandler, David Platt, Russell Moore, JD Greear, and then a black guy or two for the sake of diversity in their movement, which is overwhelmingly white and privileged. They are functional post-millennialists, meaning that whether or not they’re technically post-millennial in their eschatology, they are still enthralled with changing the culture, taking dominion, making societal wrongs righted, and they are so optimistic regarding human nature they are utopian in their outlook for the future. These New Calvinists are obsessed with culture and deride godly separation and holiness as “fundamentalism.”
3. The third category includes another subset of Calvinistic evangelicalism I’ll call the Old Guard. These are the guys who were Calvinists long before it was cool. They are stodgy, typically older, and battle-scarred. These are the guys whose work made the Reformed Resurgence possible. They labored in their life to bring the Doctrines of Grace to the masses. They were the types who founded the Banner of Truth, Ligonier, and Grace to You. These were the types who provided the theological heft to the movement known as the YRR that, much to their chagrin, got wildly out of control. The chiefest name among these is John MacArthur, the dispensationalist and Calvinist pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Also included in this number is Tom Ascol, whose work with Founders Ministry helped Calvinism grow steadily in the Southern Baptist Convention. And while there are others in this category, they are greatly overwhelmed, outnumbered, and underfunded. I cannot reiterate this enough; if there is a full-blown civil war between New Calvinists and the Old Guard, the Old Guard will be absolutely (metaphorically) slaughtered in almost every conceivable way, short of God’s intervention. Except for very few names among those who’ve signed the Dallas Statement, there are no “heavy hitters” that can compete with the long list of celebrities, star-power and influence on the other side.
This is not, and will not be, a fair fight between two relatively otherwise equal parties.
4. The fourth category of those who care are the politicos. As we have documented thoroughly, the New Calvinists (category 2, above) are funded deeply by globalists and progressive-leftists. Russell Moore’s ERLC works in a tandem partnership with George Soros, who has bankrolled Moore’s efforts to dismantle national borders and promote illegal immigration. James Riady has funded Ligon Duncan’s Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), Westminster Philadelphia, The Gospel Coalition, and the ERLC. Make no mistake about it; the Gospel Coalition is designed as a change agent to get the largest Republican voting block – evangelicals – to change the way they vote, either convincing them not to vote or to actually get them to cross the aisle and vote Democratic with Thabiti Anyabwile, Tim Keller and Russell Moore. Sooner or later, it may be conceivable that political forces on the right might support, patronize or finance the Old Guard, but I legitimately don’t think that’s going to happen. No one wants to finance or help the side that is going to lose. Right now, the vast amount of political interference in the debate is coming from those on the left in New Calvinism, not the right with the Old Guard.
UNDERSTAND THE BIG PICTURE
Listen, Pulpit & Pen was right when we warned you about this for years before anyone else. We were right when we warned you about Russell Moore. We were right when we warned you about Tim Keller. We’re right about this, too. Much of our work – whether they want to admit it or not – provides the underpinning of The Dallas Statement. Our appraisals of the facts and information have been steadfast and unassailable. So then, understand what has happened, and how the schemes of the devil are subtly involved.
Theological fads come and go. We know this because of what I call “The Ed Stetzer Paradigm.” Ed Stetzer is a weather-cock, and nothing else. He’s the rooster on the top of the barn that will tell you which way the wind is blowing. He is a surfer riding the waves of public consensus and makes decisions by wetting his pinky and sticking it into the wind. There hasn’t been an aberrant, dumb fad he hasn’t promoted in the name of relevance, contextualization or being missional, including the Emergent Church, the Seeker-Sensitive Church, Charismatic chicanery, the Mystichicks lady-preacher schtick and so on. If you name a bad, sub-biblical movement, Ed Stetzer has promoted it. These movements, throughout the course of the centuries, come and go.
However, the true works of the Holy Spirit also come and go, just like the Spirit Himself, who like a wind comes from one place and goes to another without any hint or indication. In fact, the true work of the Holy Spirit will last in one form or another, forever.
In the midst of the Seeker-Sensitive movement, while midgets were being shot out of canons, pastors entering the pulpit via zip-line, and Ronnie Floyd shooting confetti out of his fire-engine baptistry, something amazing happened. As most of the evangelical world was distracted with the loud noises and shiny objects during the rising phenomenon of budding mega-churches, Reformed Theology (or, at least, Calvinism) was making a comeback. Not even fifteen years ago, being a Calvinist was a great way to get fired from almost any ministry position. It was not talked about at seminaries or Bible colleges outside a few small pockets of academia. It certainly wasn’t in vogue. Primitive Baptists and a very small number of Reformed Baptists kept that fire lit in non-Presbyterian circles. Organizations like Ascol’s Founders Ministries helped to keep the coals stoked.
Suddenly, out of nowhere (it seemed), Calvinism exploded. This was written about most famously in Colin Hanson’s Young Restless and Reformed article and then book. In reality, Calvinism had not really exploded. It just came into vogue. There had always been a sizable contingent of America’s preachers who held to the doctrines of Jesus, Paul and John Calvin. But suddenly, it was popular. It should be noted that the Holy Spirit had begun to do many works to make what would be known as the “Reformed Resurgence” possible. As stated previously, Banner of Truth – started by Iain Murray (and Jack Cullum and Sidney Norton) – was a big part of it. Reformed publishing houses had started to publish the work of the Reformers and Puritans in the 1950s. The Reformed Resurgence, which seems to have appeared out of nowhere, was more than half a century in the making. Certain “giants” like John MacArthur and Dr. R.C. Sproul helped incubate the movement, even before it began.
Almost from the beginning, however, problem-signs in the fledgling resurgence began to show. This Calvinism was different from that of the Reformers. It was different from that of the Puritans. And, it was different from the Old Guard that helped steward the doctrines through the latter half of the 20th Century. With Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill being the prime example, this kind of Calvinism had a weird side. With Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms as its intellectual power-houses, “Charismatic Calvinism” (a bastardized beast more oddly patchworked together than Frankenstein’s monster…and every bit as unsettling) somehow became a thing. With a dash of Abraham Kuyper, this branch of New Calvinism became particularly interested in conquering the culture, which eventually led them to slum the gutters of entertainment and riotous living. A Puritanical pursuit of holiness has been altogether absent from the movement, which has been more closely associated with drinking, smoking, and tattoos than with anything seriously theologically minded.
However, Calvinism divorced from godliness and sober-mindedness seemed popular among the masses. Soon, a gaggle of new leaders formed who, in their tight t-shirts, quaffed hair and ripped jeans would lead their churches to megachurch status; Mark Driscoll, JD Greear, Matt Chandler and so on. Acts29, still a powerful force in the progressive-left brain trust of “woke” evangelicalism even now absent their founder, Driscoll, formed to take a lead in church planting and – by extension – evangelical thought.
MacArthur and his right-hand, Phil Johnson, were the first to take issue with the potty-mouthed, porno-visioned leader of New Calvinism, Mark Driscoll. They were mercilessly attacked for it by Driscoll’s many followers, most of whom had been Calvinists for less time than it takes MacArthur to preach through a chapter of the New Testament. From that time forward, friction existed between the Old Guard – who in my view represent authentic Calvinism – and New Calvinists, who represent Calvinism in the same way that the Olive Garden represents Italian food.
UNDERSTAND THE POLITICS
What has frustrated me about this debate perhaps more than any other thing is the New Calvinist narrative that the Old Guard have been co-opted and corrupted by politics. John MacArthur wrote the book, “Why Politics Can’t Save You.” This side, the Old Guard, have famously avoided politics. Russell Moore, on the other hand, got his start as a Democratic congressional staffer. The Gospel Coalition ran what amounts to campaign ads for Hillary Clinton. Thabiti Anyabwile endorsed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. Moore came to the ERLC claiming to intend to move beyond politics, but since his tenure began, the ERLC has been more political than ever before. He turned all the ERLC research fellows into Rubio’s faith advisory committee and turned the ERLC itself into what was effectively a Rubio PAC. Moore routinely, daily trolled candidate Trump, up and until Trump called him a “very nasty man with no heart.” Moore, the ERLC and The Gospel Coalition have routinely encouraged “political diversity” in our churches, told people to vote Democrat rather than Republican, and even turned immigration into a “pro-life issue.”
In the space of five years, TGC and the ERLC have got a sizeable contingent of American evangelical pastors to believe that the Republican Party has “disqualified itself” over the immigration issue. They have pushed for animal rights in joint documents with the humane society. They have insisted that Judge Roy Moore and clerk Kim Davis resign rather than break the “law” and have insisted that Donald Trump break the law rather than enforce it. A huge portion of the conservative voting block now has pastors who are thoroughly inundated with leftism, thanks to the influence of the ERLC, TGC, RTS, and others who have thoroughly replaced a Biblical worldview with political ideologies founded in the twentieth century.
If anyone were vaguely familiar with Cultural Marxism or Critical Race Theory, they would instantly recognize that most of the Social Justice talking points of New Calvinism are not theological, but political. Their references to these ideologies are not veiled. Those most heavily promoting evangelicalism’s hard-left turn are not even trying to disguise their political motivations. The idea that MacArthur or Ascol are politically driven but not former Democratic staffer, Russell Moore and unashamed Marxist, Tim Keller, is intellectually untenable.
When Colin Hanson’s piece, Young, Restless, and Reformed came out, it introduced the Reformed Resurgence to the greater world. There are people who seek to influence the American political system, on both sides. However, Marxism, in particular, has found great success and support by commandeering pulpits. They had already done this once before – and they did it successfully – in the African American church in the 1950s and 1960s. Marxists introduced into African American churches, “Liberation Theology,” a theology invented by Marxists and propagated by Latin American Jesuits in the 1940s and 1950s. That theology stripped the robust and healthy Gospel preaching of black churches and replaced it with a social religion, a culture-damning error that is to this day one of the sources for the systemic sub-cultural problems of the African American community. Ironically, when David Platt looked out at Together for the Gospel in 2018 and asked why there weren’t more black people in the audience, the answer is, “Because what you’re trying to do to us now, they already successfully did to black churches 40 years ago.”
Unlike in Europe, where churches are mostly dead, the American pulpit is a powerful political force. If only a fraction of evangelical churches – which are overwhelmingly conservative – would change their vote pattern, it would easily tip the political balance of America. And so, to influence American religion is exactly what these influential and wealthy leftist elite set about to do in the last decade.
As we have covered ad nauseam (use our search function for more information), James Riady – the corrupt Clinton financier who pled guilty to a felony and was removed from the country for illegally trying to affect the U.S. political system with foreign cash – is a huge donor to the Gospel Coalition, Ligon Duncan’s RTS, Westminster and other New Calvinist institutions. George Soros, similarly, has funded organizations – like and including the ERLC – through his Open Society Foundations.
UNDERSTAND THE TRAGEDY
What was so very, very good and beautiful – a resurgence of Calvinism in American religion – has been used to corrupt the very Gospel itself. And because of the sheer scope and size of the influence of New Calvinism in American evangelicalism, not to mention the bottomless pockets of Soros and Riady, the Reformed Resurgence has been turned into a weapon against true religion. Whatever fight MacArthur, Ascol, Baucham, and others are planning to have will prove to be their Alamo.
In the end, history will vindicate them.