In 2009 Time magazine placed New Calvinism third on their list of the 10 ideas changing the ‘World Right Now’. While the term New Calvinism is seldom heard in the UK, the ideas and teachings of New Calvinism has nevertheless penetrated deep into the UK evangelical camp. Three theologians from the USA, widely accepted as standing at the centre of New Calvinism, namely Dr Tim Keller, Pastor John Piper and Pastor Mark Driscoll, have become very influential among evangelical Christians in the UK. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html
The purpose of this article is to show that the Proclamation Trust, an organisation of evangelical Christians, mainly of Anglican persuasion, who claim to promote biblical truth and the Reformed faith, are in fact, committed to the compromised teachings of New Calvinism.
The Proclamation Trust
In the summer of 1981, Dick Lucas, then Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, and Jonathan Fletcher his curate (now minister of Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon) held a conference on expository preaching which was attended by around forty men. In 1984 it was decided to hold a larger conference, which became known as the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA). The Proclamation Trust (PT) was formed in May 1986 in gratitude to God for the 25 years which Dick Lucas had spent teaching the Bible from the St Helen’s pulpit. In 1991 David Jackman, former minister of Above Bar Church, Southampton, joined the staff of PT to pioneer the Cornhill training course, which now trains about 90 students each year for diverse roles in ministry.
Alongside EMA and the Cornhill course, Proclamation Trust runs an extensive programof residential conferences for ministers, theological students, women in Word ministry, lay preachers and ministers’ wives. PT resources provide training and instruction throughout both the UKand many other parts of the world, and Project Timothy seeks to bring resources to developing countries.
Today, the Proclamation Trust exerts its influence mainly through the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA), an annual conference, and through the Cornhill training course, with a primary aim of training preachers. The EMA has become an annual event, attracting almost 1000 delegates involved in ministry, with speakers from across the world, that have included Don Carson, John Chapman, Os Guiness, Jim Packer, John Stott, Phillip Jensen, Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper and Tim Keller.
Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA)
The Evangelical Ministry Assembly, held in central London, seeks to fulfil three aims:
1. The EMA aims ‘to encourage and build the faith of those in full time ministry. Serving Christ through joys and sorrows can be hard at times, often exhausting. The EMA seeks to warm the hearts of delegates with the glorious and life-changing gospel of our Lord Jesus. Come expecting to be stirred.’
2. The EMA aims ‘to stimulate thinking. Our programme is carefully planned to ensure that there is always something to get delegates thinking about preaching and ministry. Come expecting to be challenged.’
3. The EMA aims to be ‘a joyful gathering of like-minded servants. It is a great opportunity to meet, develop friendships and rejoice in the one faith we share.’
According to the Trust’s website: ‘The main aim of the trust, therefore, is to teach the Bible to preachers in order that they can in turn teach it to others. A further aim is to provide a fellowship of like-minded evangelicals across the denominations for encouragement in an exacting work.’ The Trust is ‘unashamed to follow the whole truth of biblical Christianity, and are committed to the paths of Christian orthodoxy/evangelical doctrine’.
In its doctrinal statement, the Proclamation Trust declares that it believes in ‘the divine inspiration and infallibility of Holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct’. Yet the statement has nothing to say about creation, despite the fact that the theory of evolution has gained great credibility in secular thought and also in the Church. Many books, articles and sermons have sought to persuade the evangelical community that evolution is utterly consistent with Christian theology. Indeed, the last three or four decades has seen a campaign to encourage Christians to embrace the theory of evolution. In order to counter this campaign, in 1982 the Association of Grace Baptist Churches issued a policy statement, which affirmed that the Scriptures, as originally given, ‘are without error or fault in all their teaching. This is true no less in what they state about creation, world history and their own literary origins…’ This timely affirmation was entirely consistent with the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), which affirm: ‘It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days… He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image.’
The Proclamation Trust, despite its belief in ‘the divine inspiration and infallibility of Holy Scripture’, has left itself wide open to the dogma of theistic evolution. And this is hardly surprising, for many of those attached to the Trust appear to hold a theistic evolutionary view of creation. The assertion is that the first chapters of Genesis are poetic in style and therefore cannot be taken literally.
Jonathan Fletcher, Rector of Emmanuel Church and previously a curate at St Helen’s, preached a sermon in 1994, entitled ‘In the beginning God…’, that promoted the dogma of theistic evolution. Fletcher said that Genesis chapter 1,
‘has been a battleground for some hardliners, because a number of people reckon that Genesis 1 is a touchstone for theological orthodoxy, so that I get invitations to conferences inviting me to come and hear why I should believe in the literal truth of every word of Genesis 1, with the implication that unless I’m a 6-day creationist I have sold the pass.’
Fletcher discussed the alleged collision between Christianity and science.
‘One of the most striking things about scientists today is a terrific humility. The more they discover the more they realise they haven’t got the answers to every question… What I’ve discovered so far is that there is a difference between a theory of evolution, which was around before, and Darwinism, which went in for the theory of natural selection and the survival of the fittest… The position that a number of Bible believing Christians have reached, but not all, is what is called theistic evolution—that there was indeed a process, and a progressive creation, with God providing the creative energy that drove the evolutionary process, and if you read Genesis you will see that it is a progress by stages… and when it comes to the question of days, we have to be careful, how could there have been a day of 24 hours before the sun was created?
‘The second thing to say is that the Bible isn’t easy either, at this point. If there are those present who are 6-day creationists, you’ve got a number of questions that you have to answer, such as: What was the age of Adam when he was created? Did he have a navel? When it comes to the tree of life, were there rings in the tree?’
These are rather trite questions, for we know that Adam was created a mature man, and we know that he lived 930 years (Genesis 5.5). We also know that he was created by God from the dust of the earth—he was not born of a woman, and so it is most unlikely that Adam had a navel. But the question Fletcher has to answer is this: Did Adam evolve from a pre-Adamic “hominid”, as theologian John Stott suggests? Is death part of Fletcher’s progressive view of creation?
‘What style of literature is Genesis 1? It can’t quite be history, Genesis 1, in the sense that there was no human eye witness to record the things that happened. It certainly has elements of poetry because there are parallelisms in those 6 days, with the first three days corresponding and being parallel with the second three days.’
He says that there is also symbolism in Genesis 1.
‘The tree of life, when it appears elsewhere in the Bible is certainly symbolic and perhaps the speaking serpent was as well…’
The Dundonald Co-mission group of churches,South London, that play a prominent role in PT, also believe that the first chapters of Genesis are poetic and symbolic, and therefore cannot be taken literally. In 2012 Pastor Ben Shaw, in a talk given as part of Dundonald’s ‘Faith in the iWorld’ evenings, sets out to answer the question: Did God create the world in 6 days?
Here is the hyperlink Did God create the world in 6 days? – Ben Shaw (10/01’2012)
Ben Shaw says:
‘When you look at the opening chapter of Genesis, this wasn’t meant to be taken literally… there are certain parts of the Bible that aren’t meant to be taken literally, word for word, and I think Genesis chapter 1 falls into that category.’
Ben Shaw gives three reasons for his assertion. First, he says that Genesis 1 ‘reads in a very poetical way—the style, the rhythm.’ He argues that the number 7 really dominates the opening chapter; there are 7 words in the first verse (in the original Hebrew), and 14 words in the second verse, the name for God is used 35 times, earth 21 times, ‘it was so’ 7 times, ‘God saw it was good’ 7 times. He says that even the name Adam and Eve are symbolic, and the serpent seems to be symbolic of the pagan religions of Mesopotamia that worshipped the serpent that seduces man from the great creator. Shaw sums up:
‘A lot of it, to me, is symbolic and poetic, just from the genre of literature.’
Ben Shaw’s second reason is that ‘we know from archaeological records that there were a number of different accounts of how the world began that pre-date Genesis’. He asserts that the author of Genesis had probably seen these ancient accounts of creation and wrote a theological response. Shaw says:
‘I’m not sure whether I believe in a literal Adam – one person, and a literal Eve – one person… I certainly don’t believe that the world was created in six 24-hour days, you know, literally as it says.’
Shaw’s third point is if you take Genesis 1 literally you have a lot of headaches. He mentions the order of the days of creation; light was present from the start, before the sun and the moon, which Shaw says were ‘created on the third or fourth day, from memory’. Who did the sons of Adam and Eve marry? And there is no evidence that Eden was destroyed, so where is the evidence of Eden now? Where are the flaming cherubim now?
What Fletcher proclaimed in 1994, and Shaw in 2012, many others in the Proclamation Trust believe. For example, St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, run by the president of Proclamation Trust, helps students to understand the first chapters of Genesis by referring them to Tim Keller’s essay on progressive theistic evolution. ‘Our studies of these chapters [of Genesis] will surely raise to the surface questions regarding the relationship between the creation account and science. To get you thinking, we would like to encourage you to consider an essay by Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. While we do not necessarily agree with every point, this is an excellent article highlighting the non-negotiable biblical principles in Genesis 1 while also providing possible nuanced interpretations within evangelicalism.’ St Ebbe’s provides a hyperlink to Tim Keller’s article entitled, ‘Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople’. Proclamation Trust’s sympathy with theistic evolution is entirely in agreement with the position of Tim Keller and John Stott.
Here we should make the obvious point that theistic evolution has serious theological consequences for the gospel. In many ways it can be seen as the original heresy, for it undermines the authority of Scripture and the perverts the character of God.
To see a critique of Keller’s views on evolution:
Leadership of the Proclamation Trust
Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, is president of Proclamation Trust, having taken over from David Jackman in the summer of 2009. Vaughan Roberts has recently caused a stir in evangelical circles with an article in Evangelicals Now (October 2012), entitled ‘The battle I face’, in which he draws attention to his struggle with same-sex attraction. Roberts gives advice to those with same-sex attraction in the church:
‘I would strongly urge them to take a first step and think of at least one mature believer they could trust and be open with. We haven’t been called to live as isolated Christians… Para-church organisations can also be a useful resource. The True Freedom Trust, for example, has been a great help to many.’
The True Freedom Trust recommended by Roberts provides advice for young people with the comment: ‘Another website that you may find helpful is a Canadian organisation Free to be me.’ This website is about choice. ‘Whatever your attractions are, we can all make choices about what to do with our sexual desires.’ A teenager with same-sex attraction is given this advice:
‘Whether you eventually decide to identify as gay or not, being able to be comfortable with yourself, and comfortable around others is really important… Whether you decide to act on your feelings of same sex attraction or not, you should never view yourself as being bad because you have them, or that you have anything to be ashamed of.’
Others in leadership positions in the PT are Rev. Christopher Ash, who is Director of the Cornhill training course, a course designed to provide Bible-handling and practical ministry skills to those exploring their future role in Christian work. Richard Green is Finance Director of the Trust and secretary to the board. He is a member of St Nicholas’ Church, Sevenoaks. Adrian Reynolds is Director of Ministry, as of September 2009; he was previously minister of Yateley Baptist Church.
Leadership of New Calvinism in the USA
As mentioned above, the three theologians widely accepted as at the centre of New Calvinism are Dr Tim Keller, senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, Pastor John Piper of Desiring God Ministries, and Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Seattle.
Tim Keller is seen by many as the intellectual leader of New Calvinism. Together with Don Carson, he founded The Gospel Coalition in 2007. The purpose of the Coalition is to create a movement that can renew and reform evangelical thought and practice. A key aim is to motivate church leaders to subscribe to a policy of social activism. ‘The resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both the spiritual and the material. Therefore God is concerned not only for the salvation of souls but also for the relief of poverty, hunger, and injustice.’ In reality, this is little more than the old social gospel, dressed up in the language of New Calvinism.
An important question for the Coalition is how the Church should relate to culture, which is referred to as the contextualization issue. ‘We believe that every expression of Christianity is necessarily and rightly contextualized, to some degree, to particular human culture…’ Significantly, at Lausanne 2010 in Cape Town, Keller, in his talk ‘God’s Global Urban Mission – Contextualization’, asserted that churches which are ‘contextualised’ for the city have to be extremely culturally sensitive, and this means that they must pay particular attention to the arts.
Keller’s books, which include The Reason for God (2008), The Prodigal God (2009), Counterfeit gods (2010) and Generous Justice (2010), help us to understand his commitment to social activism.
John Piper, author of Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (1986), is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. As a gifted and eloquent preacher, Piper stands at the centre of New Calvinism; he is heavily involved with the annual Passion Conference in the USA, the citadel of contemporary worship and Christian rap.
The ministry of Mark Driscoll has been controversial because of his crude language and focus on sex. His Acts 29 church planting network has planted hundreds of churches around the USA and in many other countries worldwide.
Both Keller and Piper, through their books and multiple appearances at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA), have had a large influence on the Proclamation Trust. Driscoll is so highly regarded among evangelical churches associated with the Proclamation Trust, such as the Dundonald Co-Mission group of churches,South London, and All Souls,Langham Place, that he was invited to address the London Men’s Convention in 2011. Driscoll has also been involved in church planting seminars in churches associated with the Proclamation Trust.
Dr Tim Keller at EMA
A feature of the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA) is its profound commitment to Tim Keller’s view of the gospel. Since 2000 he has been a keynote speaker on four occasions, more often than any other overseas speaker. Here is a list of Keller’s talks to the EMA.
At EMA 2000, Keller addressed two main sessions on ‘Planting Churches: A Gospel Answer’ and the seminar ‘The Biblical Pastor (and his idols!)’
At EMA 2004, Keller addressed three sessions on ‘Preaching that lives and endures today: Its aims; Its matter; Its strategy’ and a seminar ‘In Word and Deed’
At EMA 2007, again Keller addressed three main sessions: What is an evangelical? What are the risks for evangelicals? What is an evangelical ministry? and a seminar, Ministry in the City. The PT explains: ‘The plenary sessions by Tim Keller focus on what it really means to be an Evangelical. Against a background of criticism from the wider world outside our movement, and fragmentation within it, it matters more than ever that we know exactly why we are evangelicals. And if we really believe these things, then they must shape our ministries and overcome our own cultural prejudices and failings.’
At EMA 2011, Keller addressed three main sessions on ‘Preaching that Connects’. PT explains: ‘Tim Keller will be identifying that which needs to be conserved and how preaching can be both contemporary in its application and rooted in orthodox Christianity.’
The president of the Proclamation Trust, Vaughan Roberts, is so completely given over to the Keller version of the gospel that his church, St Ebbe’s in Oxford has a hyperlink to The Gospel Coalition website. And Richard Coekin, Director of Dundonald Co-Mission, commends Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice (especially chapter 6), in the church magazine Pulse.
To understand more about Keller’s view of the gospel please see: http://www.newcalvinist.com/tim-kellers-false-gospel/
Keller’s affinity with the Church of Rome: http://www.newcalvinist.com/kellers-affinity-with-rome/
Keller’s mysticism: http://www.newcalvinist.com/kellers-affinity-with-rome/kellers-mysticism/
Keller’s social gospel: http://www.newcalvinist.com/tim-kellers-false-gospel/review-of-generous-justice/
John Piper at EMA
John Piper of Desiring God Ministry has been keynote speaker at EMA on three occasions:
At EMA 2003, Piper gave three addresses on the Supremacy of God.
At EMA 2006, Piper again gave three addresses, Will we risk? Venturing in Ministry; Will we risk? Enduring in Ministry; and Desiring God – An interview with John Piper
At EMA 2010, Piper gave three addresses on living, preaching and praying in the power of the Spirit.
For more information on Piper’s compromise see: http://www.newcalvinist.com/john-piper-2/
Piper’s commitment to the Christian rap scene and holy hip-hop see: http://www.newcalvinist.com/john-piper-2/piper-and-hip-hop/
Piper’s promotion of Mark Driscoll see: http://www.newcalvinist.com/john-piper-2/piper-and-driscoll/
Driscoll at the London Men’s Convention
The annual Men’s Convention, which has become one of the set pieces of the Christian scene in London, packs the Royal Albert Hall with over four thousand Christian men who gather together to hear God’s Word and to engage in contemporary worship with a band on the Royal Albert Hall stage. The 2011 Convention was organised by an interdenominational group of evangelical ministers and leaders made up of Richard Coekin (Chair) of Dundonald Co-Mission group of churches, South London; Trevor Archer of Chessington Evangelical Church; Tim Thornborough of The Good Book Company; Wes McNabb of Slade Evangelical Church; Richard Perkins of Christ Church Balham (part of Dundonald Co-mission), and Wanyeki Mahiaini of All Souls Church, Langham Place.
Driscoll’s task was to exhort men to be faithful to God at work, home, church and in mission. The blurb advertising the Convention declared: ‘We are thrilled to welcome Mark Driscoll, the widely appreciated and passionate Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle who has a particular heart for teaching the Bible to men.’ Men were promised that the programme would be deeply encouraging, especially practical and, as always, utterly biblical. They were told that Mark Driscoll ‘has a refreshingly plain-speaking approach that should really help us be faithful at home and faithful in mission’.
However, Pastor Tommy Mann of Philippi Baptist Church, South Carolina, is not prepared to learn from Driscoll, as he explains in the article, ‘Mark Driscoll: A leader we should not follow’. He writes: ‘I have called Mark Driscoll a pervert from the pulpit, and will do nothing less here. If you are a pastor or leader who looks up to this man, or if you are a believer who reads or listens to him, please consider who he really is. I know the hip thing in churches is to be edgy and be the opposite of your grandparents’ preacher who wore a suit, parted his hair on the left, and used the KJV exclusively. And that is fine. But if you are looking for a good preacher, look for one who loves and respects the Lord and His Word, and do not turn your ears to these shock and awe men who are ear pleasing.’
Like the New Calvinists in the USA, most of the churches within the Proclamation Trust’s sphere of influence are given over to the contemporary worship scene. Some have a music director, many have a worship band, and most sing contemporary songs, many of which that have emerged from the charismatic movement. The PT’s director of ministry, Adrian Reynolds, in his article ‘Pastor, lead the singing!’ (Proclamation Resource Guide 2011/2012, page 38), gives this advice to worship leaders.
‘When choosing modern songs, draw on recent songwriters who write content-rich songs: the Gettys, Stuart Townend [charismatic Church of Christ the King – Brighton, England], Steve and Vicki Cook [both are part of CJ Mahaney’s charismatic Sovereign Grace Church, Louisville, USA], Bob Kauflin [director of Sovereign Grace Music]… Whenever possible, use language that people will understand. I’m a great fan of the Praise! modernisation. “Hymns are not intended to be monuments to the literary genius of past poets. They must be judged by their ability to express great Christian truth and experience in a clear and contemporary way”.’
David Jackman, former director of Cornhill training course, endorses the Praise hymnal: ‘The best of the old and the new – always biblical, always singable – a great aid for contemporary congregational worship.’
For John Thackway’s critique of Praise see: http://www.bibleleaguetrust.org/articles/sad_saga_of_praise.pdf
For Dr Peter Master’s critique of Praise see: http://www.freedomministries.org.uk/masters/praise_review.shtml
‘Music Ministry’ is an organisation run by a collection of church music workers and pastors from a variety of churches around the UK (including St. Helens Bishopsgate, Dundonald Church, Wimbledon, Christ Church Fulwood, Sheffield). It exists to serve the local church in helping musicians and leadership teams to serve God with the gifts he has given them in music. Music Ministry is closely associated with the PT and seeks to train, equip and serve the local church, encouraging them in their ministry of the Word of Christ through singing. It is led by a group of worship leaders that include:
The Rev Andy Fenton, who is minister of Christ Church, Earlsfield and music leader at the Dundonald Co-Mission group of churches,South London, leads the ‘Music Ministry’ team. He has also led the music at a number of conferences such as London Men’s & Women’s Conventions, Keswick Convention and numerous youth conferences. On his own website he mentions the music he loves, which includes John Mayer, an American pop and blues rock musician. Fenton says ‘he maybe slightly crazy but John Mayer is awesome live with phenomenal energy and pace in this particular song’.
Philip Percival, the Music Director at St Ebbe’s Church,Oxford, helps run Emu Music in the UK (http://emumusic.com) and Australia. He is passionate about seeing Church musicians trained well and teaches the Bible and practical skills at conferences and seminars in the UK and abroad.
Richard Simpkin has been themusic co-ordinator of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, City of London, since 1995. He writes a monthly column ‘The Music Exchange’ in Evangelicals Now, which promotes contemporary worship.
London Music Ministry Conference (2011)
The 2011 London Music Ministry Conference was held in St Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate, (the church that founded Proclamation Trust) with Christopher Ash of Cornhill training course as the main speaker.
The conference started with Christopher Ash giving two talks entitled, ‘Worship in Spirit and Truth’, and then Andrew Towner, of Christ Church, Beckenham, spoke on biblically driven worship, before Andy Fenton spoke on the importance of combining biblically driven worship with culturally sensitive music.
Hear Andy Fenton’s talk: http://www.music-ministry.org/2012/09/lmmc-talks-2011/
Here are extracts from Fenton’s talk, with comments:
Fenton sets out to show that biblically driven worship and culturally sensitive music are a necessity of each other. He said:
‘Now over the last 60 years, as music in the world has changed in the culture around us, along side the developments of the electric guitar, you know, Leo Fender and Les-Paul [guitar manufacturers], and all those guys, this has encouraged a generation of people to discover new sounds, new genres, new rhythms. The organ in the church that had come to such prominence with hymnody in the 17th and 18th hundreds has been challenged. When Motown [specialized in a type of soul music] and the Beatles were popular the church rightly began writing songs with a style of music that was more culturally acceptable to the more musically discerning masses. But my question is: Has the church been able to keep up? I don’t think so! I think there is a present gulf between church and culture… Music is huge in our culture; it is diminished in our churches in this present day… at present there is a huge gulf between the music of the church and the music and the culture around us.’
Fenton asserts, quite boldly that Motown and the Beatles led the church to ‘rightly start writing more culturally acceptable songs’. This statement was completely unsupported and exhibits Fenton’s own bias. He asks us to accept that the church was right to follow the Beatles who claimed they were ‘bigger than Jesus’. Yet the Beatles rebellious lifestyle and interest in the drug scene was widely known. Should the church follow the wisdom of John Lennon, who famously wrote in a song now known by millions of people: ‘Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky’?
Fenton argues that biblically driven worship is a feature of traditional, orderly, dull, conservative churches, while culturally sensitive worship is rhythm driven by the percussion section of the band. He admits that music has divided evangelical churches. Some people don’t understand the need for both biblically driven worship and culturally sensitive worship. This leaves young people with a terrible decision. Fenton again:
‘Do they go to the church with the music which resonates with their hearts, and their minds, and their iPods, where it is culturally sensitive, or do they go to the really good Bible teaching church where the music is pretty rubbish… Part of the young person says, “I just love really good music that resonates with me”. Never, ever, have Bible believing churches been so out of touch musically with our culture.’
Fenton says that the charismatic churches grow because they have fantastic music – they are culturally sensitive, they play the type of music that is in the people’s iPods.
Here we should note that the front page of iTunes is an ugly smorgasbord of the latest chart hits and pop music junk, with its depraved album artwork and photo-shopped images of superstars. By taking iTunes as his frame of reference, to see the sort of music people like, Fenton presents pop music as the acceptable, indeed the preferred mode of music for Christians.
Fenton concludes that we must be both biblically driven and culturally sensitive.
‘I choose to have a band because I love people who are bound for hell. And I love young Christians and I choose the music for them’.
He says that churches should play music that rocks, and even use ear plugs, because that’s the music that brings people into church. He recommends that churches invest money in purchasing modern music systems and employ a music director for that’s what brings people into the church.
‘It seems that Victorian conservatism, has made us more conservative than the Bible allows… if Jonathan Edwards, if CT Studd, if Martin Luther, if Robert Murray M’Cheyne, if so many heroes of the church, if they were to come to Scotland today, and try to decide which church to attend, which church would they choose? …Would these heroes of the faith really sit through dull, emotionless services, culturally thirty years behind, week in week out, would they be embarrassed to bring their friends along, or would they bring them in droves? …Biblically driven worship is an utter necessity, but in that necessity it is for us all to be culturally sensitive, so that we love the people out there, and all the people of our church.’
Fenton leaves us in little doubt that he passionately loves the contemporary music scene, and he wants to use his position as a minister to promote this music in the church. He tries to persuade us that the church needs to become culturally sensitive by promoting the music that young people have in their iPods. It is alarming that a minister of the Christian faith actually wants the church to be like the world, to listen to the depraved music of the world, because that’s the music he enjoys. Fenton’s use of the term ‘culturally sensitive’ is an attempt to make the music of the world appear acceptable to the Church. He entirely avoids the biblical concept of worldliness (1 John 2.15-16). Indeed he positively wants Christians to conform to the pattern and culture of the world (Romans 12.2). He is actually saying that the church needs to adapt to the world’s musical tastes in order to win over the world. His teaching flies in the face of the plain message of Scripture as taught by 1 John 2.15-16, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, 2 Corinthians 5:17, James 4:4, that God’s people are to be separate from the world. The idea that departed heroes of the faith would search for a church that had a band and contemporary worship is so ridiculous as to be laughable.
The critique of the contemporary worship scene is well handled by Dan Lucarini, a former worship leader, in Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement (2002). Lucarini says the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is stuck with the ‘stigma of immorality, because the music styles carry with them the baggage of the world’s immorality. It does not matter if you change the lyrics. It does not matter if you change the musicians. It does not matter if you change the record labels. It does not matter if you ask God to sanctify it. Rock music and all its children, and by association CCM, can and will corrupt the morals of everyone who practices it.’
‘CCM proponents should stop trying to defend their actions and accept what the rest of the world already knows: rock music produces an atmosphere that has no place in the church! Let’s not continue to give Satan a foothold in our worship services to seduce the saints. It is time for all of us to accept this reality, to repent of our actions, and to stop allowing any hint of immorality or opportunity for sexual temptation into the worship service.’
Dr Peter Masters,in Worship in the Melting (2002), argues that today’s contemporary worship with its bands and orchestras, strobe lighting and dance, arouses ecstatic feelings at the expense of rationality, and denies the biblical principle of worshipping in truth. The words of modern songs are often trivial and sometimes silly, with a focus on feelings. Contemporary worship adopts the styles of the world that are associated with anti-Christian themes and rebellion. True worship has always maintained a separation from that which was evil. Reverence and godliness is the main characteristic of worshipping God in spirit and truth. Masters shows how a reverence in worship affects not only the believer’s demeanor at church, but also his dress, his behavior, his values, and even his personality.
The Proclamation Trust has become the mouthpiece of New Calvinism in the UK. While claiming to be reformed and biblically driven, the Proclamation Trust, in contradiction of the great reformed Confessions of Faith mentioned above, promotes the dogma of theistic evolution. The result is that most churches influenced by PT hold to a theistic evolution view of creation. Few students who have completed the Cornhill training course are prepared to defend the biblical view of 6-day creation, for they have been taught that the early chapters of Genesis are poetic, and therefore cannot be taken literally. Some no longer even believe that Adam and Eve were actual people. How they make sense of Romans 5.14-21, and 1 Corinthians 15.45 is a mystery.
A disturbing feature of the PT brand of Christianity is that it is given over to the contemporary worship scene, with bands and guitars and drums and worship leaders, singing the latest new song produced by the charismatic movement. Casual dress, informal worship and relaxed church services, with a generous sprinkling of jokes and applause, is commonplace.
Another feature of PT churches is that they are wide open to the social gospel, promoted so energetically by Tim Keller and John Stott. Richard Coekin even recommends Keller’s book Generous Justice to his congregation. Yet Keller is a Christian utopian presenting the same old social gospel outlined over three decades ago by Ronald Sider in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (1978). See http://www.newcalvinist.com/tim-kellers-false-gospel/review-of-generous-justice/
We will not find a PT theologian who will speak out against false teaching, for they only deal with the ‘positive’ and are reluctant to say anything ‘negative’, except about Reformed believers who they label as ‘hard-line fundamentalists’. Therefore when Mark Driscoll was invited to the London Men’s Convention by a group of church leaders associated with the PT, no one was prepared to speak out against Driscoll’s outrageous ministry. Theologians in the PT simply remained silent, for they are not prepared to contend for the gospel once for all delivered to the saints; they are not prepared to separate from false teachers. There is no doubt that the Proclamation Trust is a compromised organisation that along with Tim Keller, John Piper and Mark Driscoll is committed to the flawed teachings and practices of New Calvinism.
You can learn more about Dr Tim Keller, Pastor Mark Driscoll’s and Pastor John Piper in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from belmonthousebooks.com/
 Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East), 2009 handbook, p35
 Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, chapter 4, Creation
 Sermon on Emmanuel Church Sermon archives, dated 11/09/1994, entitled ‘In the beginning God…
 John Stott, Understanding the Bible: Expanded Edition, Zondervan, 1999, pp54-56
 Website of Free to be Me, http://www.freetobeme.com/add-your-voice/
 The Gospel Coalition, Foundation Documents, adopted May 22, 2007; revised April 12, 2011, p13
 Ibid. p10
 Cape Town 2010 website, cited from Tim Keller’s talk, ‘God’s Global Urban Mission – Contextualization’, http://www.lausanne.org/cape-town-2010/schedule.html
 Richard Coekin, Pulse16 magazine, Winter/Spring 2011, p11
 Brian Edwards, Praise! Words edition, Praise trust, pv
 Dan Lucarini, Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, Evangelical Press, 2002, p73
 Ibid. p74