Review: Jeremey Walker’s The New Calvinism Considered

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Author: Jeremy Walker
Publisher: Evangelical Press
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Reading Level: Liesure

In New Calvinism Considered, Jeremy Walker examines a movement that’s hard to pin down and at times seems like the soul unifying feature is its Calvinism. What I appreciate about Jeremy’s analysis was his focus first on areas of agreement and appreciation (“As I engaged with the new Calvinism I was stimulated by and often appreciated much of what I read and heard and saw” 12). Some books that set out to critique a movement either skip that step completely or don’t do so explicitly, Jeremy does both spending a whole chapter (Chapter 3 “Commendation”) focusing on what he sees as the positives of new Calvinism.

What we cannot deny is that this movement is substantially and explicitly galvanized by concern for the supremacy of God in Christ and that the Lord of Glory be magnified in all things. 41

He does move on from there, as expected, and discuss areas of concern and for the most part I felt like it was a fair critique of new Calvinism. Some of things he mention I’m also concerned with even if I disagree with the extent of the critique or importance of some of the items he critiqued. A few examples should suffice of where more precision and nuance could’ve been helpful.

First, he says,

One of the classic examples [of an unbalanced view of culture] would be something like musical forms. We are encouraged to embrace all musical forms (though, for some reason, it is rap and hip-hop which seems to be the hills on which everyone has chosen to die) and the uniforms and behaviours [sic] that go with them. . . . We can [embrace] this because the forms and the uniforms and the structures and the behaviours [sic] go with them (68).

I’m not sure this is the actual view of any one who I’ve read in new Calvinism on culture especially on hip-hop. First, no one that I’m aware is arguing for the including all the behaviors of hip-hop artists (using his example). See Curtis “Voice” Allen’s Does God Listen to Rap? He doesn’t argue for mirrored behavior. Or the dialogue between Shai Linne and Scott Aniol. My other thought was: I’m not 100% sure what he means by behavior. Depending on how he might define it he could be way off or closer to home. I’m understanding behavior as the sort of lifestyle typically promoted by your typical rapper on MTV.

Second and related to his point about culture, Jeremy states the new Calvinism is heavily influenced by Abraham Kuyper’s neo-Calvinism--true enough--(67), but goes on to describe that view as “[T]he underlying assumption is that culture is neutral and therefore up for grabs” (69). I’m not sure again that’s a proper description of the view for two reasons. First, new Calvinists will want to start the discussion in Genesis 1 with God’s “It is good.” So we see everything God created as good. Therefore, everything we see, including culture, is either good or a perversion of good. This grounding in the beginning allows us to accept, reject, or redeem (a common analogy used when talking about culture). That model (accept, reject, redeem) explicitly acknowledges that parts of culture aren’t neutral, but rather should be rejected. For example, pornography should be rejected. There’s no redeeming that. Rap can be redeemed. There’s nothing intrinsically sinful about rhyming words over a beat. Others things like certain food preparations found in almost every culture can just be accepted (for instance, I don’t need to redeem my culture’s long held tradition of making tamales during the Christmas season).

If you’re interested in understanding new Calvinism I think New Calvinism Considered is a good contribution to the conversation especially on the cautiously appreciative side. Some parts as mentioned above could use some more nuance and clarity, but it’s not a malicious misrepresentation. Part of the problem is the broad nature of the movement and the length of the book (just over a hundred pages). What Jeremy provides as a Confessional, Reformed Baptist is both an insider and outsider perspective. Jeremy is both a Calvinists (some might even consider him part of the new Calvinist movement, not sure if he would label himself within) and not part of the new Calvinism. That allows him to critique the movement honestly and to encourage change where he sees issues.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”