One of the books that I asked for this Christmas was “Young, Restless, Reformed” by Collin Hansen. I first saw the book at the Together For the Gospel conference last April, but had told myself I wasn’t going to buy any books there. So I was patient and asked for it for Christmas, and my family obliged.
Hansen is the youngest editor for Christianity Today and approaches the Reformed/Calvinistic culture from a journalistic perspective. He investigates the various schools/churches/conferences that have aided a substantial growth in Calvinism. He sees how much of the growth has been among the younger evangelical circles, a group of individuals that have grown tired of the subjective truth that the postmodern culture has been forcing down their throats.
Some of this growth has come from predictable places, like John Piper. Piper has inspired an entire evangelical generation through passionate, biblical preaching, unabashedly promoting Calvinism. But there have been less likely sources, such as C.J. Mahaney (the rare Charasmatic/Calvinist combo) and Mark Driscoll (who finds his roots in emergent circles). The point is that this explosion cannot be contained by one specific circle or institution, but has really spanned previously unbridged waters.
Another enlightening point that Hansen raises is the heated opposition there is out there to Calvinism. Some of the criticism is primarily intended towards hyper-Calvinists, but some lump the whole reformed movement into the same group. The traditional criticisms, such as a distaste for evangelism, have been disproved by each of these individuals or movements. They have shown themselves to be completely different beasts than the hyper-Calvinist community. And leaders such as Mahaney and Josh Harris have preached a humble approach to theological discussions, tending to avoid a militaristic mentality that has accompanied many Calvinists.
But the opposition is real and many see Calvinists as real opponents to the Gospel itself. They are seen as what is wrong with evangelical Christianity, and that feeling is pretty wide. I’ve realized that I have been fairly insulated from these attacks, as I have mostly stayed in my Master’s circle, attending the College and Seminary, working at a church that would be Calvinistic, and attending conferences referenced in this book as wellsprings of Calvinism.
I did see it in a young woman who had been coming to our high school group for about two years. She had been told by her former pastor that Master’s wasn’t a good school because they were Calvinistic. When she raised this objection to me, I had to explain to her that I was guilty of that charge, as well as the youth staff and pastors at our church. She had just been told that Calvinism was bad, but never really knew what it was.
I ran into it again this summer at our High School Summer Camp at Hume Lake, when the main speaker casually blasted Calvinism and mischaracterized it during a boys only session. He accused all Calvinists of believing in double predestination, meaning that believers are predestined to Heaven and unbelievers are predestined to Hell. The boys from my church saw that I was literally squirming in my seat, wanting to reply. But I knew if I did, I would just been seen as the crazy leader who dared question the speaker. It wasn’t a debate the students would have understood. The sad part was that 90% of the boys there didn’t know anything about Calvinism. But now all they knew was a misrepresentation of something that they didn’t even know. If they hear of Calvinism again, they will just think its ridiculous.
One of the most interesting parts of the book was the background stories of many of the men and movements that I have grown to admire. I enjoyed the backgrounds of Piper, Mahaney, Al Mohler and Southern Seminary, Harris, Mark Driscoll, Steve Lawson, and conferences such as Passion, New Attitude, Together for the Gospel, Resolved, Shepherd’s Conference, and the Gospel Coalition. I have had the privilege of attending quite a few of those, and remembered many of the messages and moments Hansen wrote of while he was attending them.
If you have an interest in this movement and the personalities behind it, I would fully reccommend Hansen’s piece of journalism. While he appears to be supportive of the movement, he doesn’t hold back from criticism of personalities. And he also interviewed critics and presented their complaints and concerns. While he is clearly sympathetic, he doesn’t necessarily wear kid gloves. Its an interesting read, and one that I would recommend!