Calvinism must be one of the most overused and abused terms going around in church circles. Much of what I say below I really mean, but it is rather tongue-in-cheek. Also, the way I box people into categories is very fluid, as I will explain later. Finally, I should also apologise to anyone who goes by the name Schmalvin; any confusion is completely unintended.
There are quite a number of streams of Calvinism. Each of the groups I describe below all locate themselves in the theological heritage of the French Protestant reformer, John Calvin. It is very confusing. I hope this helps.
You have the New Calvinists: John Piper is like the grandfather, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and co. are the hipsters who tow the line behind him and a few other grandfather figures. They are the world’s biggest fans of the TULIP acronym. You may have heard the phrase “5 Point Calvinism” thrown around. Most of these people say they are Calvinists, and then you usually discover that they are “4 points Calvinists,” or “4-and-a-half-point Calvinists.” John Piper is a 17 point Calvinist, I think. I suppose that the MacArthur-peddling boys at Team Pyro would fit into this category as well. They tend to be Baptists. Their books get endorsed by D. A. Carson, J. I. Packer and Albert Mohler.
Then you have the Neo-Calvinists. The confusing thing about that title is that “neo” means “new” and so you have two types or Neo-Calvinists floating around. It’s like R. C. Sproul, and R. C. Sproul Jr. More on them later. These Neo-Calvinists descend from the Dutch Calvinist stream, whose figurehead is Abraham Kuyper. Modern exponents include Douglas Wilson, philosopher Nick Wolterstorff, R. C. Spoul Jr, and less explicitly, Tim Keller. They like to use snappy catch-phrases like “All of life under Christ” and use crazy terminology like “sphere sovereignty.” They also emphasise having a Christian worldview, Christian education, and the story arc of the Bible being “Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consumation.”
There are also those whom I enjoy labeling Grumpy Calvinists. I include folk like D. G. Hart, Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn guys, and Carl Truman in this lot. These folk enjoy pointing out everyone else’s shortcomings as Calvinists/Reformed Christians. They tend to freak out about the Neo-Calvinists being too interested in politics and cultural engagement, and they get annoyed by the New Calvinists being not really that Calvinist. They quote the Westminster Confession a lot, and talk about Two-Kingdom theology like it is their theological grid for everything. They also like quoting J. Gresham Machen.
Finally, there’s all of those people who follow the thought of Calvin who either don’t realise it, don’t make a big fuss about it, or don’t care. I would call them the Comfortable Calvinists. They don’t tend to feel the need to prove their ‘Reformed-ness” by arguing with everyone else about how un-reformed they might be. I would say that people like Kevin de Young, the lads over at the Calvinist International, R. C. Sproul, John Frame, and J. I. Packer could be included here.
All of that being said, some of these parties overlap, and individuals who sit under one banner might also happily sit under more than one banner. It is also worth noting that even though these camps might have a dig at each other, they often share the podium at conferences and dialogue about various issues very helpfully. They have more in common than it appears. I have learnt a stack from all of the above-named people, and others within each of the Calvinist camps.
That’s it. Enjoy continuing to be confused.