I have enjoyed reading the Puritans. I've read them and have had our church read them---John Owen, Francis Turretin, Richard Baxter, Thomas Watson, Thomas Goodwin, and William Gouge. Now, understand that if I lived at the time of the Puritans, they might have persecuted me. We don't believe the same. I am a Baptist. The Baptists agreed with the Puritans on many points. One way that I appreciate them is in the consistency they manifest in their theology. Even if you disagree with them, you have to admire them for their consistency.
Most of the reformed and the Calvinists that I encounter today do not reveal the consistency of the Puritans I read. They act or talk as though they have taken the mantle of the Puritans. They really dig them. They are reformed and they are Calvinist to a certain extent, what seems plainly to be a convenient extent. These are the so-called "new Calvinists" and the "young, restless, and reformed."
As we have been evangelizing in the Sacramento area, I have met many in the new Calvinist category. Many of the churches there have arrived at that position. However, I've read the Puritans, and these are no Puritans. Their belief and practice are not consistent, really a total patchwork. The word is eclectic. Their doctrine and practice is a buffet table and they pick and choose what it is that they want on their plate.
What is so much characteristic of the Puritans is God-centeredness. The new Calvinists, these young, restless, and reformed, they're not God-centered. They pick where they want to be God-centered. Ironic, huh? They pick how it is they're going to be God-centered. They choose, of course, to say they're God-centered, but they are not. They also choose how they'll be reformed. If they're doing the picking, then it isn't God doing the choosing. They're monergistic where they want to be monergistic. Eclecticism.
The new Calvinists claim a Calvinist soteriology, while using today's new measures of Finney. The results justify their methods, but they're also vindicated by a new Calvinist explanation. They label their pragmatism with new theological terminology: missional, contextual, and incarnational. It's the same old bait and switch, but with a new tackle box. But why does anyone need the new measures, when they have the sovereign authority and power of God? Isn't that sufficient?
What I see is that certain facets of Calvinism remove from the responsibility of evangelism. I understand that a true Calvinist would argue against this. However, it is still how it very often works. The highways and hedges are not crowded with Calvinistic preachers. I never run into them out preaching. I visit their doors, and they're "like so happy I'm doin' this, dude." "I'm like so totally with it." Not really. (It doesn't, um, work. It, well, turns people off.) They've got their Finneyesque new measures, with the title scratched out, and sharpeed over with their above new theological lingo. This is, like, what Jesus would have done.
They mostly center on what people want and offer a palatable portion of Calvinism with neon lights. They can make the "service" a rock concert and it be Calvinistic too! Forget William Gouge. Forget the Puritan methodology, solely regulated by Scripture. Pick off some Puritan meat and throw away the rest.
What I'm describing is also what the patron of the new Calvinists, John Piper, has done. He intimates a repackage of Jonathan Edwards for a contemporary audience with his Christian Hedonism, meanwhile totally contradicting Edwards' treatise on the religious affections. Piper offers a big bowlful of passion, leaving affection in the crisper or to spoil in the back.
No true Calvinist is a continuationist, but not in the new Calvinism. You can go cessationism or continuationism. The door opens for experience to replace the authority of Scripture, even though God isn't in charge without an autocratic Word. No sole fide without sole scriptura in Calvinism really. But not with new Calvinism. Reformed and Charismatic. A floor wax and a dessert topping.
There is no rule except there is no rule. You can pick what you want. This should be ironic for a group that features the sovereignty of God. However, when it comes to success the pyrotechnics do matter, a lot. Do you have on your best dress t-shirt? Did you trim your soul patch? Are your frames suitably retro? Do you have the right film chosen for your illustration? Is your verbiage suitably coarse?
The Puritans believed in one God and one Bible. One Word. That's part of the reformed carcass that makes the trash compactor. You get to pick and choose what's your Bible. There's even a theological explanation for that one---you don't want to do like the Roman Catholics with their Latin Vulgate. I mean, you're really reformed. You're protesting the Catholic idea that there is one Bible. What a minute. That wasn't a Protestant protest. They were actually protesting a Latin Bible. They were truly arguing for one original language Bible. Oh, who cares, it sounded like a serious argument. And you can use any version of scripture you want, any Bible you want, what ever one is the newest and even the hippest. And when that one's out of fashion---which it will be---then you'll choose the next latest Bible that comes out. But you get to choose. Again. And still be monergistic!
If you can choose your own Bible, then surely you can choose your own methods, and basically pick and choose whatever it is of your Calvinism and your Protestantism and your reformation that you want to use. Eclecticism is where it's at today. Calvinism is where it's at too. At least until I choose otherwise. Monergistically, of course.