Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Reformed Resurgence

Last year, Christianity Today writer Collin Hansen, came out with a book called: "Young, Restless, and Reformed." It was a survey of the renewed interest among college and recent-college age people in reformed ttheology and its primary advocates. Hansen did an effective job of reporting what he observed in this age group and analysing why they are (in general) so attracted to Reformed Theological thought (or maybe more accurately, attracted to the modern day advocates of Reform Theology: Piper, Keller, Mohler, Sproul, Mahaney, Harris, Driscoll, etc., and through them, the renewed interest in the historical theology of Calvin, Edwards, Puritans, etc.).

My personal experience in working with college age people at a committed Dispensational and quasi-Calvinist leaning Bible College, only affirms Hansen's observations and analysis of this leaning towards Reform teaching amongst this age-group. There are many factors, not the least of which being that these same theologians and Pastors mentioned above are giving them something they do not perceive they received from their "baby-boomer" parents and Pastors: serious theological study and thought, but in a culturally relevant and methodologically fresh way of doing church.

For those less enamored with Reform Theology, it has been a frustrating pursuit to figure out why all this is going on. My suggestion to those who are frustrated (in my environment at least), is to read Hansen's book, and then follow that up with some "safe" discussions with these young people. If you do, you'll begin to understand the reasons for the interest.

Well, Hansen is writing a series on the Resurgence blog (Driscoll, Mars Hill, etc.) which summarizes the content of his book, and also adds more editorial application of his observations. For the next few days I will post his work here, and as he continues, I will add his work.

If you work with young people, I suggest you read and consider his work carefully.
Here you go . . .

The Reformed Resurgence Series, Part 1:
The Reformed Resurgence: Beginnings
Collin Hansen

Not long after I began working as an editor for Christianity Today in 2004, the emerging church began to sweep through evangelicalism. Our editorial staff tended to view this youthful stirring with appropriate skepticism, wondering about the implications of altering theology to reach postmodern cultures. Still, writers such as Brian McLaren sold thousands of books packed with provocative critiques of modern evangelicalism. It was clear that McLaren and others had struck a nerve.

Relativistic Breakdown

But as a recent college graduate, I didn’t know anyone who was reading McLaren, even though my friends and I had recently experienced the fruits of postmodern relativism. We witnessed the complete breakdown of moral authority and heard apathetic responses to Christian truth claims when we shared the gospel. Yet we attributed these reactions not to problems with Christianity but to sinners who reject God’s grace shown through Jesus Christ.

Reformation Fever

If anything, in my limited sphere, I had seen a return to traditional Reformed theology. My friends read John Piper’s book Desiring God and learned from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. They wanted to study at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and sent each other e-mails when they saw good sales for the five-volume set of Charles Spurgeon sermons. Maybe that was just our little clique in Campus Crusade for Christ at Northwestern University.

Or was it? I started thinking about leading seminaries in the United States and noticed a number of Calvinists in leadership positions. I considered millions of books sold by Piper and yearly appearances he made for the popular Passion conference. Yale University Press had just released a major biography of Jonathan Edwards. Reformed theology had recently become a major point of contention in the nation’s largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention. Maybe it wasn’t just our group.

Reformed Resurgence

So I embarked on a nearly two-year journey to discover whether my experiences had been unusual or a sign of something bigger. In locales as diverse as Birmingham, Alabama, and Seattle, Washington, I visited trend-setting churches and asked young evangelicals what makes them tick. These travels provided fodder for my book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. I saw how these churches faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, week after week, through tragedy and triumph. Culture has conspired to give their message a wider audience. Desire for transcendence, tradition, and transformation among young evangelicals has contributed to a Reformed resurgence

To be continued.

3 John 8
Bill H.

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