Quit Blaming John Piper for Calvinism: Why the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC is the result of Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, and the other leaders of the Conservative Resurgence
It would appear that there is a growing number of young Calvinists within various denominations but particularly the Southern Baptist Convention. This has encouraged some but alarmed others. Numerous voices have come out bemoaning this fact or rejoicing in this fact. I do not think that there is much that I could add to the discussion on Calvinism, so it is not my intent here to discuss for or against any point of Calvinism.
I have noticed that many people have questioned where all of these young Calvinists are coming from. The emergence of the Young Restless and Reformed (YRR) group has been the subject of many articles. Almost everyone I have read points to the popularity of the Calvinist preacher John Piper as a major source of this emergence of the YRR. Seeing as these are my peers, I would like to add my voice to the conversation. I have not met a single YRR that is so because of John Piper. I can go further than that and say that I have not met a single one that is a Calvinist because of John Calvin.
Where did they come from? They are the natural product of the Conservative Resurgence within the SBC led by the likes of Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, (both are godly men that my generation owes a tremendous debt to.) As young people we were raised in the heat of the “Battle for the Bible.” We had it drilled into our heads that the Bible was literally true and without error in everything that it spoke to. We were told that the Bible literally was the Word of God and trumped man’s opinions and philosophies. The older, godly men led the way and influenced my generation to accept the Bible’s full veracity. We were told that Genesis 1 was just as true as John 3:16; and we believed it! That is why my generation of pastors is largely Reformed.
If Genesis 1 is just as true as John 3:16 then it follows that Romans 9 is just as true as John 3:16. We believed not just Genesis 1 and John 3:16, but my generation accepted every word of God to be true as we had been taught. Everyone that I have talked to that self identifies as Reformed or Calvinist will tell you that they only believe that way because of the text of Scripture. Most of the “Calvinists” have never studied John Calvin’s life or teachings. They didn’t listen to John Piper and change their minds. They wrestled with Ephesians 1 and drew their own conclusions.
I remember the first time that I encountered the preaching of John Piper. In college I was required to listen to several sermons by one preacher and give a report on his preaching. I literally Googled “free online sermons” and listened to the first preacher that came up, John Piper. I had no idea who he was. I was not overly influenced by his preaching. I listened enough for the report and that was it. When I turned in my paper, the professor asked if I was a Calvinist. I had no idea why my paper would raise that question! I answered no, but what I really wanted to tell him was that I was just a cheapskate who didn’t want to pay for preaching CD’s from the library.
My generation of pastors stand where we do today because of the fidelity to the Word of God by those who came before us. I know of no one who wants to disparage the ones who came before us even when there is a disagreement on theology. The YRR have just followed in the steps of their fathers and wrestled through Scriptures and arrived at a different conclusion on a few points. Who taught them to shun the teachings of men and embrace Scripture alone? Their forefathers in the faith.
So the question becomes, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Did people become Calvinists because they listened to John Piper, or do they listen to John Piper because they already are Calvinists? Maybe the answer is neither; maybe people listen to him for the same reason they still listen to Adrian Rogers, because they both faithfully expound the Word of God.
I can only speak for those of my generation who have embraced Calvinism that I have personally spoken to. However, I can almost guarantee you that if you ask any young Calvinist why they are a Calvinist they will tell you the number one influence on their embrace of Reformed Theology outside of Scripture is the pastors and teachers who told them the Bible was entirely true in every matter to which it speaks. They just picked up their Bibles, read them, and believed them as they had been taught to do.