CALVINIST: A Review

Les Lanphere offered a free rental of his new documentary CALVINIST to anyone who would write a review of it on their blog. I wanted to watch the movie, so I took the bait. (“What are you going to say if you end up hating it?” Kara asked me. “Have you ever read my blog?” I answered her.)

In all honesty, it was well done– it had better production value than I thought it would, with the exception of the poorly animated skulls in the middle. It was hip and funny and informative, even if no one could understand R. Scott Clark through all the background noise. I personally enjoyed it quite a bit.

But who was this for? Are Calvinists going to buy this for their Arminian friends? “Here, you watch this and then we’ll talk.” No, it’s too cursory for that. Is it for use in churches or Bible studies? I can’t imagine what it would add. Is it a history of the movement? Too many inside jokes. It seems that Les made this little documentary so that elements of the New Calvinism, the YRR crowd could watch it and say “Yep! That’s me! I googled Paul Washer! I buy stuff from Missional Wear! Hey, I listen to Shai Linne!”

There were some positive elements to the film. I really did identify with it. It called me back to the joy and freedom I experienced when I first came to believe the doctrines of grace, and it made me want to get into the Scripture more, since that’s where I learned the truths of Calvinism. And there were, as I saw it, two solid calls to the YRR– get involved in local churches and be more missional. Timely advice.

Overall, however, the documentary seemed a little self-glorifying for its own good. I love being a Calvinist– I think its doctrines are biblical and that it has borne good fruit. But to trumpet the movement, its heroes, and its culture seems unhelpful at best.

Compare this film with the recently released Luthera documentary which celebrates in the strongest terms the triumph of the gospel in the life of Martin Luther, with implications for the church today. Many of the same scholars and historians were featured– Steven Nichols, Carl Trueman, R.C. Sproul, W. Robert Godfrey– but the content was much more mature and much more pointed.

Perhaps all this reveals the greatest need in the New Calvinism today: perhaps we need, as Clyde Kilby resolved, to forget about ourselves and get on with our work.

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