The writer is not against Calvinism, but has a major problem with some of the attitudes, themes, behaviors and side effects of what has been termed the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement. It is certainly worth reading and considering, whether you are a Calvinist or not.
People are sometimes surprised to hear me speak of the TULIP cult. What do I mean when I speak this way? By a cult, I mean a sect within the broad landscape of Christianity which takes as its operating center some principle other than Christ crucified. This is certainly the case for the Young, Restless and Reformed. It is obvious that the operating center which holds this movement together is TULIP, not the gospel of the cross. One gets the impression that their sense of identity is inseparable from their sense of superiority, and thus it is tied to their adherence to and promotion of the doctrines of grace.
It is not the name of the Lamb that is constantly on the lips of these men, but the names of Calvin (though I have found most of the YRR have actually read very little of him) and the personalities featured at Calvinist conferences, gatherings and websites. What seems to be of paramount importance to these people is the demonstration of the superiority of the arguments for TULIP and its consequences for thinking out the logic of the Christian faith. The Christian faith, in other words, finds its coherence in the “doctrines of grace,” rather than in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than glory in Christ, and see in Christ’s face the focus of divine revelation, Calvinists these days glory in the doctrines of grace, and see the focus of God’s revelation in today’s preachers of TULIP religion. And just as reflecting on Christ makes us more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), reflecting on these Calvinist personalities seems to shape many Christians into a far less pleasing image.
Some of these Calvinist ministries have been plagued with scandals of a sexual nature in recent days. I can’t say this surprises me. I strongly suspect it is because they are expressions of the TULIP cult. When Christianity is reduced to talking, singing, arguing, and teaching about the “doctrines of grace” and their manifold ramifications, their spiritual well is bound to run dry pretty quickly. This is simply because the TULIP cult is not the time-tested, historic Christian religion. It is no different from the Prosperity Gospel movement, although it operates on different theological principles. In both cases, you have a movement which derives its theological center from something other than Christ crucified. The Christian religion starts at Calvary and works outward from there. The Prosperity Gospel works outward from the principle of material blessing in response to human faithfulness (at best a sub-theme developed in parts of the Bible). And the TULIP cult works outward from the principles of the doctrines of grace, though not as cautiously expressed in Scripture, but as dogmatically expressed in the highly fallible writings and sermons of men who have attempted to popularize Reformed theology for the masses.
The Spirit of God is not going to be present and operative in the promotion of TULIP as the essence of the Christian religion, any more than He would ever participate in promoting the empty “gospel” of the prosperity message. Where the Spirit of God is not present, you will only find the doctrines and myths of men, and where people are being fed on such a diet of spiritual junk food, it should not shock us to see all manner of spiritual diseases and dysfunctions. It is particularly dangerous when the pious-sounding doctrines of universal human depravity, and Christ’s perfect active and passive obedience on our behalf, are distorted by unstable and untaught men, so that the gravity of sin and the necessary obligations of Christian holiness are minimized. No wonder people begin to think that it is normal for Christians to use filthy speech, to adopt the world’s view of sexuality, and to engage in heinous sex crimes. (We’re all just wretched sinners after all!) But thank God for his unconditional grace, and that perfect, imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ! Let’s sing a few cool songs about that…. (What Is Wrong With the Young, Restless and Reformed Movement? An Interpretive Essay by Dr. Paul Owen)