RPM, Volume 15, Number 22, May 26 to June 1, 2013

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?

Part 8 of 10
(there is no part 7 — it is being edited my 9Marks Ministries)

By Mark Dever

Among the popular Christian teachers and preachers of the early and mid-20th century who utilized the radio, and later, television, few if any were known to be champions of the doctrines of grace. Truett & Criswell among the Baptists, Walter A. Maier among the Lutherans, Charles Allen of the Methodists, Fosdick, MacCartney and Barnhouse among the Presbyterians, and of course Rome's Fulton Sheen filled the airwaves of America in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Radio gave way to television. Liberals and Catholics, evangelicals and fundamentalists all had their programs; but few if any were distinguished by the kind of clear Spurgeonic championing of a Calvinistic gospel (as Lloyd-Jones was doing in London).

But in the 1960s and 1970s two men were raised up whose ministries were to last for decades, touching thousands of ministers and shaping them. One was a paedobaptist covenantalist, the other a dispensationalist. In 1965 or 1970, their commonalities might not have been so evident. But over the passing years and decades, as these ministries grew and prospered, as more and more of their teaching was stored and circulated on new technologies (cassette tapes, cd's, internet MP3 files), as new depths of questioning orthodox belief were reached, that which these men have had in common became more apparent.

New technologies allowed their teaching to be stored and re-listened to or passed around in a way mere broadcasts could not be. Furthermore, as these technologies have continued to develop, they have become more convenient to access. And these teachers have used these technologies to defend historic protestant understandings of the Bible, and especially of the Gospel. The result is that the teaching ministries of RC Sproul and John MacArthur seem to only be increasing in their influence. From the east coast and the west, among Presbyterians and nondenominational types, and everything literally in between Florida and California, the teaching ministries of these two men have had a quiet, but consistently compounding effect for almost 40 years now. Their conferences are attended by thousands. Their books are legion. Their characters are, by God's grace, unquestioned.

Certainly each of these two men is one of the most significant teachers of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of evangelical ministers, and have been so for some decades now. Their work has been more steady than spectacular, more quiet and consistent than sudden and electrifying. More Wesley than Whitefield (in manner). But when one looks at thousands of young evangelicals who identify with the doctrines of grace, there is no doubt that behind many of them stand the ministries of these two teachers of the Word--John MacArthur and RC Sproul.

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