Collin Hansen is himself a young and restless reformed who traces the “new Reformed” or “new Calvinism” movement in a journalistic fashion. This book is heavily biographical in that he tells the stories – through interviews – of Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, John Piper and others; of their conversions to Calvinism (where applicable), their influence in the neo-reformed movement, their struggles and their experiences. Collin also travels from the Passion Conferences of Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin (which seems to be a breeding ground for the movement) to “ground zero”, the Southern Baptist theological seminary, from John Piper’s den to the New Attitude Conference (think, Calvinism rap).
Along the way Collins interviews numerous college age converts to Calvinism with emphasis on how they came to peace with the hard doctrine of Predestination.
Some unlikely appearances make it into the book too. In a chapter where Collin interviews John Piper he also interviews the arch enemy, Roger Olson. And in one spot even N.T. Wright gets a mention, but only a mention, and of no particular relevance. For a book about the reformed movement, that’s a good thing.
What I Liked
For starters, Collin does a fantastic job at making Calvinism look attractive to bible believing Christians across the board. One is felt with a sense that the only tree with roots deep enough to stand against the tsunami of liberal theology and the secularization of Christianity is Calvinism. A Conservative force to be reckoned with, Christian’s who want to resist the secularization of Christianity find a safe haven in Calvinism.
Secondly, I was touched by how Calvinism raises up the Glory and transcendence of God. No matter what bloggers might say about the dangers of emphasizing God’s transcendence at the expense of his nearness (and I agree wholly!), it is a breath of fresh air to be reminded of God’s Great and Awesome Glory and transcendence for a change. Many Christians might agree with Joan Osbourne’s lyrics, “What if God were one of us / Just a slob like one of us”, but I do not. I am not conformable at emphasizing his nearness at the expense of his Greatness. Both are true, and a complete picture of God needs to recognize that.
What I Did Not Like
First, one is left with the impression that the only alternative to the secularization of Christianity is Calvinism. If one wants’ to be a bible believing Christian, Calvinism is the only option. This conviction held by the new Calvinist leads them on the mission of converting the Church.
This leads to my second problem. “Conversion” and “Born Again” are surprisingly(!) terms used not in reference to evangelizing the lost, but converting other Christians to Calvinism. It is a distortion of the Great Commission, and that worries me.
Next I am concerned by the terms employed by Calvinists, as made clear in this book, such as “the doctrine of grace” which is used synonymously with the T.U.L.I.P. acronym. The word “grace” should not be allowed to be hijacked by any one particular theological system. Arminians and Free-Will Baptists believe in the doctrine of grace as the scriptures teach, they just don’t accept Calvinism’ T.U.L.I.P as a faithful representation of what the scriptures teach about grace.
The Young, Restless and Reformed movement is unequivocally led by John Piper, bred at the Passion Conferences, educated by Al Mohler at Southern, given on voice through blogs online and are on a mission to convert the Church.
The movement centers around the T.U.L.I.P. acronym, the crazy-glue that binds together cessationists like John MacArthur with charismatic’s like C.J. Mahaney; paedo-Baptists like Horton with believer-Baptists like Piper, talented musicians like Chris Tomlin with R.C. Sproul who believes no instruments should be used for worship services. They all have one thing in common: T.U.L.I.P. And for the neo-Calvinists, that is the gospel.
I love the positives of the movement: it’s emphasis on the scriptures, its exultation of God, it’s passion to stand on absolute truths. But is it really necessary to believe in Calvinism’s particular understanding of predestination and election in order to exult God, stand on absolute truth and emphasize scripture? You would certainly think so by reading Hansen’s book.
I don’t like how they have hijacked biblical terms and are on a mission to narrow Evangelicalism down to their five-letter distinctive as the watershed of who is in and who is out. I don’t like how they are spending more energy arguing with Arminians (and everyone else who disagrees with them) and vigorously promoting Calvinism rather than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and evangelizing their unsaved neighbor.