The evangelical/Calvinist resurgence in American life is properly termed “New Calvinism.” The Dutch intellectual tradition from 1880 to sort of today is Neo-Calvinism. Admittedly, new and “neo” are the same thing, but they are applied differently at different times in history.
So, some in the Reformed world are saying that Dutch Neo-Calvinism (or any of its American variants) is the bad kind and Westerminster Calvinism is the good kind. There is a WTJ article floating around somewhere to the same effect.
I think that’s a bit simplistic. So here are some pros and cons to Dutch Neo-Calvinism. I include the following in the survey: Bavinck, Kuyper, Vollenhoven, Dooyeweerd, Stoker, Knudsen, sort of Van Til, and the legacy of Calvin College.
Plantinga and Wolterstorff are wild cards.
These guys are strong on creation. Bavinck is simply sublime, Van Til more forcefully so. Al Wolters’ little monograph begs to be reread. Jamie Smith noted that God creates in “plurals.” This is about as close and forceful a break with the Platonic ontology as one can get. When you read the Prophets on New Creation and eschatology, you can hear a Dutch accent in the background.
As is probably typical of Dutch American existence, these guys can get insular and clannish. Orthodoxy isn’t the only church with a claim on phyletism (whatever that is). But maybe Scottish Americans like myself are also clannish. I’m not aware that I am, but it is possible.
Do some Neo_Calvinists denigrate philosophy? Maybe. But if you read Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and Bavinck, that’s just not so. Bavinck’s theological and philosophical reasoning is as astute as any. See below.
God himself is the principle of existence for theology (principium essendi). Objective revelation of God in Christ is recorded in the Scriptures and this is the external source of knowledge (externum principium cognoscendi). The Holy Spirit is the iternal source of knowledge. This leads Bavinck to a line he repeats throughout the book: there must be a corresponding internal organ to receive the external revelation. This anticipates the later Reformed Epistemology school.
Do some denigrate piety? Probably, and this seems to be a recurring theme among culture-reclaimers (see modern day Reconstructionism). But it doesn’t logically hold that because some denigrate piety, Neo-Calvinism as a whole must. What the pietist Calvinist needs to show is that the Neo-Calvinist’s commitment to Christ’s Lordship in all spheres logically entails skipping my prayers tonight. I don’t think it can be done.