Calvinism Popular?!

I began reading Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With The New Calvinists* for my bedtime reading last night. I was immediately caught up in the drama of this writer’s surprise to find the popularity of Calvinism on the rise. I share Collin Hansen’s enthusiasm. I was not raised in Reformed circles. I too am a theological immigrant. I too experienced a “second work of grace” when I discovered the Reformed faith.

I remember hearing about the Christianity Today cover story that this book was based upon. Since I had long ago given up on reading Christianity Today on a regular basis (I read it avidly from 1981 until about 1999) I was surprised to learn about it at the website for the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. If you look at the cover of the book you will see why it caught the attention of Ken Minkema and his staff over at the JEC. The shirt notes that Jonathan Edwards is the wearer’s “homeboy.” As you read the book you will see why Edwards figures on the cover.

Collin Hansen is really chronicling the powerful influence of, among others, John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota. I appreciate that. Piper has been a favorite writer of mine for many years. In fact, I have been reading Piper regularly since about 1991 or so. I think the first book I read of his was The Pleasures of God. I was impressed with his crystal clear prose and clear devotion to the supreme God of Scripture (and Calvinism, of course). Piper has been a stalwart student of Jonathan Edwards, and of late has been a beacon in a dark night on questions about postmodernism (Beyond the Bounds, Reclaiming the Center, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World) and justification (Counted Righteous in Christ, The Future of Justification). Not only is his writing infectious. So too is his preaching. And Piper’s infectiousness has won him a hearing with the younger generation, the generation one might expect to be drawn to the emerging church.

I look forward to getting caught up in the flowing narrative again tonight. I do have one gripe though. It is this. Collin Hansen sometimes writes as if Calvinism was dead until revived by John Piper. Now one does not have to belittle Piper and his “Desiring God Ministries” to object to that portrayal. And not all Reformed Christians live in Grand Rapids or Philadelphia. Admittedly I do. But that is because I relocated here several years ago to take up my studies at Westminster Theological Seminary. There are a few folk who have been committed to Christ in the Reformed community for many, many years. My own denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, comes to mind. So also does my sister denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. And so does the United Reformed Churches of North America too. And a host of other biblically committed Reformed bodies. Traditional, confessional congregations are not new on the evangelical scene.

I am excited that there are many young, restless, and Reformed Christians. And I am thrilled at their excitement (it is this I find most attractive), but let’s remember that there are older, more seasoned brothers and sisters on the block. I suspect we can learn from each other. Of course there are a whole host of other issues I have not even touched upon here (how I disagree with Piper on ecclesiology, infant baptism and the charismatic gifts). So let’s thank God for Christians who have recently found the Reformed faith (I will leave alone for now the matter whether these excited Calvinistic Christians should be denominated “Reformed”) . But let’s not forget the Reformed saints who have been praising and serving God all along. We need both.

*Published by Crossway Books of Wheaton, IL in 2008.

2 Responses

  1. nick coleman

    My only concern for the budding Calvinistic crowd is, as you have duly noted, their use of the term ‘Reformed’. In reading the CT article, it became clear to me that many of these new Calvinites are really merely Predestinarian. As the hosts of the White Horse Inn have said, even Thomas Aquinas was one of these. Not that this is problematic at all, though. I myself made the first slow steps to true Reformation theology (and the URCNA) through Predestinarianism. I just hope that the same would happen to these neo-Calvinists. Perhaps though, it would do me some good to get through the book and see if this hasn’t shifted since the publication of the CT article. Until then, however, I shall remain wary of labeling them ‘Reformed’ proper.

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