I’ve been asked by a handful of people to comment about the most recent article in Christianity Today called “Young, Restless, Reformed,” the cover story for September’s edition. Calvinism, the article records, is making a comeback among young evangelical (especially Baptist) Christians.
OK, I know, the title for today’s post comes from Joshua Harris, who wrote that famous book about kissing dating good-bye, but he is featured in this article as a good example of these new, young Calvinists.
What do I think of the article? It’s a good one, and I think everyone should read it. I have watched the rise of these young Calvinists and it is, as the editor says, a sizeable movement. What do I think of the trend? Long ago (in blog time) I posted a series called “Post Calvinism” and I’ll give you the basics here.
I love the “architecture” of Calvinism — that is, the focus on God’s glory and loving God, and I love the magnitude of grace in that theology, and I even love the radical transcendence that is often found in Calvinism. The CT piece frequently connects the attraction of young Christians to Calvinism because of its beauty.
When I was in college I sat for afternoons in our library and pored through Calvin’s Institutes, leading my dear wife to comment that I’d be better off underlining what I didn’t like because I had underlined most everything! Calvin’s Institutes are doxological; I still dip into him and read him. And, at the same time, I was a huge, huge fan of Spurgeon and read his Autobiography twice while in college. And, of course, other Calvinists banged around my desk — like the ever-wordy John Owen and I read devotionally John Brown’s commentary on Hebrews and Manton on James.
Then I went to seminary at Trinity, Grant Osborne asked me to be his TA, and one of his first assignments was to work through his extensive notes on the Calvinist-Arminian debate. Which I did. To be up to snuff on it, I read Howard Marshall’s Kept by the Power of God — and my mind changed. Not all at once, but this is what I remember: the consistency of the OT warnings for the covenant community formed a natural bridge for me to the NT warnings. And I couldn’t contest his many, many passages that all added up to one thing: genuine believers can lose their faith by throwing it away consciously. (You can read my posts on that if you want to see how I spell it out.)
Then I began teaching at TEDS, then I was asked to teach Hebrews, and then I made a special study of the warning passages in Hebrews, and from that time on I was simply convinced that no matter how much I liked the architecture of Calvinism, I couldn’t believe the system (TULIP, etc) because of the warning passages in Hebrews — and they then influenced how I read such things as Col 1:23 and the like. If the warning passages in Hebrews are what I think they are, then the systematics of Calvinism are unbiblical — lest, like one of my TEDS colleagues, you think both sorts are found in the Bible.
Now a few comments about the article:
First, one heart of this movement is the singular, clear, and heart-felt vision of John Piper.
Second, the other heart of this movement is Southern Seminary. The story of the changes at Southern is sketched in the article: the take-over led to a Calvinization of the seminary and the pastors coming out of there now are Calvinists. The article suggests that tensions are rising in the SBC about the place of Calvinism in the SBC.
Third, this movement isn’t going away. It carries with it a robust theological vision that can be intoxicatingly doxological — and I have no quarrel with that — but I sure hope they spend more time in Hebrews and, if the book hasn’t been hidden, I hope students are exposed to Howard Marshall’s Kept by the Power of God.