Friday 27 February 2009

Young, Restless, Reformed

No it's not my CV, just the pacy title of a book new in from the US which I've just finished reading. Written by Collin Hansen, an editor of Christianity Today, it is absolutely fascinating. One feels to be looking in on something a world away from where we are, not just across the Atlantic. The thesis is that a movement, if not a revival, is taking place in America, and the doctrines of grace or Reformed theology or Calvinism (terms used synonymously by Hansen) have come to prominence again. This is particularly noticeable amongst the younger generation, fed up with 'seeker sensitive' evangelicalism. It becomes evident that Hansen can identify with this personally, and this fires his sympathetic treatment of the issue. In true journalistic style he embarks on a geographical and religious tour of research. It turns out to be a very thought provoking journey, well described, well written and never dry. He goes to the epicentres of the new Calvinism and interviews most of the main figureheads. You get a real feel for the characters who are just names over here. I certainly feel that this is essential reading for anyone involved in book buying decisions in the christian book trade (not that that counts many folk in!) In any case it enables you to orient yourself with regard to the contemporary American scene. He goes to Minneapolis to see John Piper's set up, Louisville KY to Al Mohler jnr's Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Seattle to Mark Driscoll's colourful Mars Hill church, Washington DC to Mark Dever's more sober one. R C Sproul, John MacArthur, C J Mahaney, J I Packer, Tom Ascol, Steve Lawson, Sam Storms...the list goes on! Some are interviewed more fully, but MacArthur refused. But Hansen digs deeper and chats to 'ordinary' people, and this is where some very remarkable stories are unlocked. Of real hunger for the scriptures, re-discovery of the puritans and Jonathan Edwards, bold ministry and great numerical success. I sincerely hope there is a real work of God in the new Calvinist network. I'm by no means persuaded by everything Hansen uncovers, but he finds enough to hold up such a hope. Take the refreshing attitude and maturity about the following excerpt from a conversation with Joel Brooks, who is ministering to students on campus in Birmingham AL, reflecting on the folly of some doctrinal controversialists:
"...they go full steam into arguments with others over the sovereignty of God because they think God's glory is at stake," Joel said. "But arguing over this actually defeats the very belief that God is the one who sovereignly changes hearts and the will. By arguing, you prove that you don't really believe the things you clam to believe.
"Humility," Joel said, "acknowledges that we all need sovereign grace in our lives, and this glorifies our God."
Young, Restless, Reformed' is published by Crossway for £9.99.

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