Books

Young, Restless, and Reformed

Check out Collin Hansen's new book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. I've read through most of this short book in the last day or so. Hansen lets us accompany him on his tour of the Reformed hotspots in the young evangelical culture, reporting on his face-to-face interviews with both the grandfathers in the movement like John Piper and younger bloggers and campus ministry pastors. His journey spans East coast (Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland) to the West (Mars Hill Church in Seattle) with some significant stops in the Midwest (Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis) and South (Southern Seminary and Together for the Gospel in Louisville, Kentucky and the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia).


Hansen interviews both proponents of the New Calvinism and critics (such as Roger Olson and Jerry Vines). While his sympathies seem to lie with the young Reformed crowd, he doesn't hesitate to discuss some of the problems with the movement. His writing is lucid and often humorous. I think the most exciting thing about this book is reading the many conversion stories. So many of the new Calvinists are former druggies, atheists, or atheological Evangelicals who wouldn't have known theology if it bit them on the nose. Then they encountered Reformed theology in some form or another and got angry. Then they read their Bibles and met a God bigger than they ever could have imagined. Now they are engaging in serious study, passionate worship, and daring evangelism.

Wherever you might fall on the theological spectrum, this is a book worth reading for those who care about the Church and its future.

15 comments:

Amanda said...

Are ya'll going to put it on the book table? :)

Brian G. Hedges said...

Well, there's no immediate plans to. For one thing, the table is pretty full right now - lots of good new stuff there, though!

Amanda said...

I know, I'm reading one of them!

So many books, so little time. *sigh* :)

mwh said...

Does Hansen give any numbers as to what percentage of the evangelical pie is represented by the reformed camp? It definitely has been getting a lot of hype from everywhere from the CT article of that title to blogs to conferences, etc... I was just curious if anyone has run the numbers. Maybe that's Barna's job.

Brian G. Hedges said...

No, I don't recall any numbers, except perhaps the numbers of Sovereign Grace churches, Acts 29 churches, and students at Southern Seminary. You should take a look at this book. Despite reservations you may have about some aspects of Reformed theology, I think you'd find it encouraging. one of the most encouraging things is the seriousness with which young believers are taking theology and the church. Even some Arminian theologians are expressing gratitude for that.

mwh said...

Ahhh....so many thoughts; discernment to choose the right ones.

Yes, I can and should rejoice over the seriousness with which many of these young people are taking both the church and the study of Scripture. Piper is, if anything, awe inspiring; and is able to rally the troops in a way, hands down, no else I've ever seen can do. So even when I regularly (though not continuously) find Piper's exegesis un-model-able, I still find him invigorating and exhilarating.

I guess I should be like Paul: rejoicing that the Gospel is going out, even if it's accompanied by trappings which aren't altogether the best. And I am like this to a degree, though most likely not as much as I should be.

There are sociological dimensions common to many of these conversions (doctrinal conversions, not necessarily soteriological conversions) that cause the young, restless reformed to make me unsettled. It's not simply that they have different theological conclusions than me (otherwise why pick on the Reformed over against Dispensationalists, etc...). I'm just not convinced the confessional paradigm, contra Piper, is the best one in which to study theology (any confession, not just the Reformed). [I'll likely discuss this boundary orientation in a future blog, so we can pick it up there.]

I'm curious if Hansen or others, have explored the sociological dimensions of these conversions, namely: the Reformed tradition is extremely authoritarian, therefore it's surprising that it's appealing to such an anti-authoritarian generation. I suspect many of these young people are anomalous to their generation. I suspect that's why many of these converts come from one branch or another of (Neo-)Fundamentalism, where authority has higher prestige. But this is speculation; I don't have the hard data on this.

Wow! That got long. None of these things require a response as far as I'm concerned--but neither is that intended to be a gag order.

Brian G. Hedges said...

Well, that's a young, restless, and not reformed way of looking at it! :-)

Sure, sociological factors affect everything - perhaps also including your suspicion of this movement (?). An anti-authoritarian mindset is also a sociological construct.

I obviously don't share your skepticism. From what I can see of this movement, inasmuch as it is producing true faith in Christ, genuine zeal for holiness, and the fruit of the Spirit, it is a genuine work of God. As Hansen says on the last page of his book, this is not a revival of Calvinism - it is revival.

Bethany said...

"I'm curious if Hansen or others, have explored the sociological dimensions of these conversions, namely: the Reformed tradition is extremely authoritarian, therefore it's surprising that it's appealing to such an anti-authoritarian generation. I suspect many of these young people are anomalous to their generation. I suspect that's why many of these converts come from one branch or another of (Neo-)Fundamentalism, where authority has higher prestige. But this is speculation; I don't have the hard data on this."

MWH - I have also seen the opposite to be true in my experience in "young Reformed" circles (mainly being involved in RUF throughout college). It seems to me that a lot of people are tired of our generation's anti-authoritarianism, and find the experience of reformed theology, church history/tradition, a breath of fresh air and a bit of solid ground to stand on. That's anecdotal, but it's been my personal observation over the past 6 or so years.

Bethany said...

"the Reformed tradition is extremely authoritarian, therefore it's surprising that it's appealing to such an anti-authoritarian generation. I suspect many of these young people are anomalous to their generation. I suspect that's why many of these converts come from one branch or another of (Neo-)Fundamentalism, where authority has higher prestige. But this is speculation; I don't have the hard data on this."

mwh - I don't know that they're so anomalous. It seems to me that a lot of people our age are tired of the anti-authoritarian, wishy-washy attitude of our generation, and that they find reformed theology/doctrine/church tradition/history a breath of fresh air and a bit of solid ground to stand upon. That's anecdotal, but it's been my observation.

mwh said...

I definitely agree: sociological factors affect everything. And again, conditioning has certainly affected my wariness.

As you have indicated, the existence of these sociological dimensions do not necessarily invalidate Reformed theology. I don't question that God is working in and through the Reformed movement. When I said the Gospel was going out, I didn't doubt it was doing so both regenerationally (salvation) and transformationally (sanctification). So my comments, though not hiding my hesitancy, were not meant to imply God wasn't genuinely working.

mwh said...

Bethany: That's my point exactly. I'm proposing that these converts are anomalous to their generation in that they have a high view of authority (whereas their secular counterparts are anti-authoritarian). And so, although not addressing the Fundamentalism aspect of my hypothesis, it sounds like your experience confirms the authority dimension of the Reformed tradition and these conversions.

I probably wasn't clear in what I was saying before. I love it when people agree with me, though. :-)

andrew said...

Michael,

Your comments makes me want to hear more of thoughts on the matter. I'll look forward to your post.

I wonder though if its not more the theological substance and tradition of Reformed theology that appeals to young converts (sociologically speaking), than authority. Speaking as one of these "young, restless, Reformed" people myself, it seems that there a lot these theological converts are from broadly evangelical or fundamentalist backgrounds (myself included) who are discontented with the lack of theological substance and tradition in much of contemporary evangelicalism. If this is the case, it would be people reacting against a lack of tradition, rather than going from one authoritarian tradition to another. (I'm curious to find out more - perhaps in your blogpost - what you mean by authoritarian.) This would also explain to some extant the recent interest in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy among the same groups, as well some of the "ancient-future" trends within the emerging church. And I think that in this respect such converts are representative, rather than anomalous, of our generation. A sense of rootlessness and lack of tradition is pretty widespread among postmoderns.

Bethany said...

Michael - I see. I thought you were saying that it was primarily people going from one highly tradtional/authoritarian upbringing/background to another, which was what I was disagreeing with. But I guess we agree, so that's always nice. :)

I am curious what your issues are with reformed theology, though. Perhaps that's a topic for an actual conversation, or a separate blog post, though.

mwh said...

Andrew: Your proposal is intriguing. It certainly is a lot more wholistic, accounting for other contemporary shifts. I enjoy exploring these sociological dimensions of faith, and in asking my questions above I was curious if Hansen had as well. If you prefer the "tradition" vocabulary to the "authority" vocabulary, then that's fine with me.

mwh said...

This might be of interest to some of you.

See, I even read other Reformed bloggers. I'm so open-minded. :-)