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"Young, Restless, Reformed": A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists [Paperback]

Collin "Hansen "
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Book Description

March 17 2008
"

From places like John Piper's den, Al Mohler's office, and Jonathan Edwards's college, Christianity Today journalist Collin Hansen investigates what makes today's young Calvinists tick.

Church-growth strategies and charismatic worship have fueled the bulk of evangelical growth in America for decades. While baby boomers have flocked to churches that did not look or sound like church, it seems these churches do not so broadly capture the passions of today's twenty-something evangelicals. In fact, a desire for transcendence and tradition among young evangelicals has contributed to a Reformed resurgence.

For nearly two years, Christianity Today journalist Collin Hansen visited the chief schools, churches, and conferences of this growing movement. He sought to describe its members and ask its leading pastors and theologians about the causes and implications of the Calvinist resurgence. The result, Young, Restless, Reformed, shows common threads in their diverse testimonies and suggests what tomorrow's church might look like when these young evangelicals become pastors or professors.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Read Nov. 13 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved this book. Felt like it described my experiences with reformed theology. Inspired me to keep digging into God's Word and to keep teaching it with passion and compassion as one who has been saved by grace and is carried along by grace for the glory of God, the good of others, and my joy. Highly recommend it.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the New Calvinists March 31 2008
By Tim Challies - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Though it is the emerging church that seems to have received so much attention in the past few years, just under the radar there has also been a quiet and steady growth of interest in far more traditional Reformed theology. All across North America (and perhaps beyond) Christians, and young Christians in particular, have been rediscovering the church's historic theology. These disparate movements seem to have grown from a common source--a reaction against the kind of "big box Christianity" of the church growth movement. Tired of seeing people as products and weary of experiencing church as a form of entertainment, church-goers have searched to find churches that offer a more satisfying approach to the Christian life. Many have gravitated towards emerging churches. Many others, though, have taken the opposite approach and have discovered the theology of the Reformation.

Collin Hansen, a young editor of Christianity Today, observed this trend and decided to investigate it. CT had recently published a cover story featuring the emerging church. But he found he just could not identify with this group of people. In the Prologue of his new book, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists, he discusses the genesis of this book:

******

The talk about emerging Christians put me in a difficult spot. As the youngest CT editor, I should have known more about this up-and-coming group. On the contrary, I didn't know anyone who was emerging, even though my friends and I had recently experienced the fruits of postmodern relativism in college. We had witnessed the complete breakdown of moral authority and heard apathetic responses to Christian truth claims when we shared from the Four Spiritual Laws booklet. Yet we viewed these reactions not as problems with Christianity but as problems with sinners who reject God's grace shown through Jesus Christ.

After one staff discussion about the emerging church, I talked about these experiences with my boss at CT. I expressed concern that when Christianity Today reports about the emerging church, we might give the impression that this group will become the next wave in evangelicalism. If anything, in my limited sphere I saw 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 his yearly appearances at 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.

So I embarked on a nearly two-year journey to discover whether my experiences had been unique or a sign of something bigger. In locales as diverse as Birmingham, Alabama, and New Haven, Connecticut, I sought to find out what makes today's young evangelicals tick. The result should help us learn what tomorrow's church might look like when they become pastors or professors. Even today, common threads in their diverse testimonies will tell the story of God's work in this world.

******

In the article Collin Hansen wrote in 2006 he gave Christians a framework to understand the contemporary revival of Reformed theology. It quickly went on to become one of that year's most-read articles at the magazine's web site and it ignited no small amount of debate and discussion. Now, in Young, Restless, Reformed Hansen takes a more in-depth approach, expanding that one short article into a full-length book.

The book is structured around chapters that focus on a particular place or event. The first chapter, for example, focuses on Louis Giglio and a Passion conference in Atlanta while the next chapter changes the focus to John Piper's Bethlehem Baptist Church. Other chapters come from Yale University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Covenant Life Church, a recent New Attitude Conference and Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Along the way Hansen features interviews with many of your favorite authors, pastors, theologians, and yes, even bloggers. If you are Reformed you'll find a certain level of familiarity with the names and places in this book. In that way I found reading Young, Restless, Reformed almost like reading an autobiography--not of a person, but of a movement or organization and one that has swept me up along with it. You may well find the same as you read this book. You may not find a lot of new information, but you'll enjoy reading about the ways God has brought leaders to this movement and the way He is using this movement to allow so many people to rediscover His sovereignty.

If there is a flaw or a weak point to this book, it may be that its focus is more on today than on yesterday and tomorrow. This is to say that Hansen takes the reader through many of the current hot spots in this movement and shows how it has propagated itself, but he invests far less time showing how this movement grew up and predicting where it may be going. There are hints in these directions, but perhaps not as much detail as I would have liked. Of course such analysis may well fall outside the scope of this title and it may best be handled by church historians.

To conclude, I'll share the endorsement I wrote that you will find inside the book: "In an article written in 2006 for Christianity Today, Collin Hansen gave us a framework to understand the contemporary revival of Reformed theology--something so many felt was happening but so few could describe. Now he invites us to journey with him on a voyage of discovery as he travels the nation, learning how our restless youth are discovering anew the great doctrines of the Christian faith. Weary of churches that seek to entertain rather than teach, longing after the true meat of the Word, these young people are pursuing doctrine and are fast becoming new Calvinists. With a keen eye for detail, descriptive analysis, and a strong grasp of theology, Hansen shows where this movement originated, tells who has become involved, and suggests where it may be leading. Any Christian will benefit from reading this book and discovering how God is moving among the young, the restless, and the Reformed."
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful survey of 20-something Calvinists July 31 2008
By jarbitro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Colin Hansen, an editor for Christianity Today, makes this observation (with a little hyperbole): your average Evangelical American high school student is in a youth group that emphasizes games, down plays preaching, and as a result the student does not even know the basics of the Gospel--much less the difference between justification and sanctification. But, your average American-Evangelical 22-year-old is probably a foaming-at-the-mouth Calvinist, a John Piper "fiend," and would love to stay up all night arguing about the difference between justification and sanctification. What in the world happens to these kids between ages 18 and 22?

Young, Restless, Reformed is Hansen's attempt to answer that question. He journeys around the country trying to figure out where all of these Calvinists are coming from, and why. He has conversations with Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Steve Lawson, C. J. Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, Rick Holland and many others. He asks them all this question: "Where does this new generation of Calvinists come from?" and their are surprising. He talks with dozens of students who fit this new generation of Reformed Christian, and this book tells their stories.

Despite the anecdotal nature of the book (no hard statistics here), some conclusions do emerge. High school grads who are actually Christians and who do manage to escape their cheesy youth group realize very quickly that they do not have adequate answers to explain the basics of their faith, much less to stand up to their secular professors. When they reach the point of realizing they don't have the answers, they generally find someone who does, and this person (or book, or CD) is usually unashamedly Reformed.

If this observation is true, and it seems to be, then this corollary is also true: the more silly youth groups are, the more people will be driven to reformed circles upon graduation. Hansen does not make this point explicitly, but it is there. Hansen shows his insight into how the God of Calvinism captures the hearts of these college students when he writes, "Calvinism has not spread primarily be selling young evangelicals a system but by inviting them to join a new way of life driven by theological convictions. Theology gives them this passion for transformation" (124).

The exact channel that brings about this transformation varies from person to person. For some it is a Passion CD, others a Piper book. Some find a Puritan Paperback, and others stumble upon an RUF campus Bible study. But all of these sources have this in common: they introduce the students to a God that is more glorious than anyone had ever told them about. Suddenly depravity makes sense, and the rest of Calvinism falls into place.

But not all transformations are rosy. Hansen tells the story about Lawson's resignation for Dauphin Way, and he looks at other young pastors that have been forced out of ministry for theological reasons as well. The most intriguing chapter is his trip to Southern Seminary--"Ground Zero," Hansen calls it--where the reader sees the problems of infusing a new generation of Calvinists into a Christian culture that is not ready for them.

I loved this book because it was like reading my own spiritual biography. I remember the moment I found God's Passion for his Glory, and even today I remember my thoughts as I began to realize that God was more glorious than I am, and that he chose me--not the other way around. I stayed in my previous church, hoping to disciple others and show them the doctrines of Grace as well, until I eventually went to seminary.

Until Hansen's book, I had assumed that my story was, while perhaps not unique, at least not the norm. But this book is a catalog of people who had the same experiences. In fact, the very first college student we meet is a self-described "Piper fiend" and part of a Seventh Day Adventist Church!

Young, Restless, Reformed is not a utilitarian book. It is not a polemical book, it does not argue for Calvinism. It does not seek to be objective, despite Hansen's awkward insistence on reminding us every few chapters that he is a journalist. But what it does, it does well. It presents a series of snap-shots of the Reformed landscape in the United States, and these pictures are zoomed in on the 20-something crowd that is likely to be wearing the "Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy" shirt featured on the cover. If you have ever asked yourself, "where are all these Calvinists coming from?" then this book is for you.

A final note: this book is the initial source for the Christianity Today article where Mark Driscoll voiced his displeasure over a Pulpit article MacArthur wrote. That exchange seems much less controversial in the context of the book than it did in the much shorter CT article.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to the New Calvinists April 18 2008
By Darryl Dash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A couple of years ago, the emerging church was getting all the attention. That changed when Collin Hansen wrote an article for Christianity Today called "Young, Restless, Reformed." Hansen wrote:

"While the Emergent 'conversation' gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon. It certainly has a much stronger institutional base. I traveled to some of the movement's leading churches and institutions and talked to theologians, pastors, and parishioners, trying to understand Calvinism's new appeal and how it is changing American churches."

The article, and this book, are the result of a two-year journey to learn about what appeared to be a resurgence of Calvinism in America. Hansen traveled to Passion Conference in Atlanta, John Piper's home and church in Minneapolis, The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and more.

Hansen discovered thriving Calvinistic ministries that focused on theology and doctrine, as well as young people who couldn't get enough of writers like John Piper, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards. It's a diverse movement, somewhat disconnected, and often controversial. It's also not flashy. "I tell people we're a really boring ministry," one leader said. "If God is not your attraction, you'll be bored."

Young, Restless, Reformed serves as an introduction to the new Calvinists in America. If you belong to this group, there won't be a lot in this book that's new. If you aren't part of this group, or aren't part of the American scene (like me), then this book will introduce you to what's been happening.

I sometimes talk to people who think that effective ministry today means downplaying doctrine, or emphasizing entertainment. Young, Restless, Reformed shows that many are ready for more of a challenge. It also helps explain the attraction of the Reformed movement for those who just can't figure it out.

Readers may face a couple of dangers with this book. One is overestimating the size of the Reformed resurgence. Despite its growth, it is still quite small. The other danger would be jumping on the Reformed bandwagon just to be trendy. Although these are dangers, a wise reader can learn lots from this book.

"Hunger for God's Word. Passion for evangelism. Zeal for holiness. That's not a revival of Calvinism. That's a revival. And it's breaking out in places like Emery, South Dakota." Whether or not you're Reformed, I hope we'll see more of these traits all over America, and the world. Something seems to be happening.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done May 7 2008
By Brian G Hedges - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Check out Collin Hansen's new book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. I've read through most of this short book in the last day or so. Hansen lets us accompany him on his tour of the Reformed hotspots in the young evangelical culture, reporting on his face-to-face interviews with both the grandfathers in the movement like John Piper and younger bloggers and campus ministry pastors. His journey spans East coast (Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland) to the West (Mars Hill Church in Seattle) with some significant stops in the Midwest (Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis) and South (Southern Seminary and Together for the Gospel in Louisville, Kentucky and the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia).

Hansen interviews both proponents of the New Calvinism and critics (such as Roger Olson and Jerry Vines). While his sympathies seem to lie with the young Reformed crowd, he doesn't hesitate to discuss some of the problems with the movement. His writing is lucid and often humorous. I think the most exciting thing about this book is reading the many conversion stories. So many of the new Calvinists are former druggies, atheists, or atheological Evangelicals who wouldn't have known theology if it bit them on the nose. Then they encountered Reformed theology in some form or another and got angry. Then they read their Bibles and met a God bigger than they ever could have imagined. Now they are engaging in serious study, passionate worship, and daring evangelism.

Wherever you might fall on the theological spectrum, this is a book worth reading for those who care about the Church and its future.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and accessible account May 29 2008
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This well-researched and entertaining account of Reformed theology's increasing popularity among young Christians began as a Christianity Today cover story a couple years ago. With a degree in journalism, Hansen is now editor-at-large for Christianity Today and is pursuing an M.Div. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

Hansen documents the impact of several vibrant ministries that, while having significant theological differences with one another, answer with one voice on the question, "Who does what in salvation?" These ministries all contend that humans contribute no more to their second birth than they do to their first. Just as the cry of a newborn infant is evidence of new life (rather than the cause of that life), so faith in Christ is a response to the new (spiritual) life (re-)created by God the Holy Spirit (e.g., Eph. 2:1-10). Regeneration precedes faith. We love God because He first loved us. We choose Christ because God first chose us. While Hansen spends some time unpacking the "five points of Calvinism," his book is by no means polemical. Rather, through interviewing a host of rising leaders (and a fair share of regulars), he lets them explain the emotional appeal and biblical/intellectual consistency of the doctrines of grace.

Chapter one is entitled, "Born Again Again". It introduces us to the theme of the book; namely, that there seems to be a confluence of factors drawing significant numbers of young Christians to embracing at the least the basics of Reformed theology. For example, Joshua Harris is quoted as saying: "I do wonder if some of the appeal [of Calvinism] and the trend isn't a reaction to the watered down vision of God that's been portrayed in the evangelical seeker-oriented churches." The chapter includes Hansen's coverage of the 2007 Passion Conference, and particularly John Piper's presence at that 18,000+ student event. Hansen also describes his own journey toward Reformed theology.

Chapter 2 focuses more fully on the impact of John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church. I appreciated this chapter because Piper was instrumental in my own embrace of Calvinism in my early twenties. Also, I spent three years at Bethlehem, and it was during that time that Hansen visited, so I know a lot of the people he was talking to.

Chapter 3 shifts east to Yale University and an investigation of Jonathan Edwards, a man whose popularity is also increasing, as exemplified by the establishment of the Jonathan Edwards Center. Their ambition is to make all of Edwards' writing available in digital form (about 100,000 pages).

Chapter 4 shifts south to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), where the conservative resurgence has been quite friendly to Calvinism. Hansen gives a good historical sketch of the SBC with respect to Calvinism and includes a few student and faculty interviews (For a more extensive treatment, see By His Grace and For His Glory by Tom Nettles). Nearly one of every three SBTS graduates from 1998-2004 professes Calvinism. Hansen also discusses the Founders Movement and graciously interviews leading pastors who are quite uncomfortable with Calvinism's popularity. I was intrigued to learn that some have feared that disagreement on Calvinism has the potential to split the SBC.

Chapter 5 and 6 focus on Sovereign Grace Ministries and their ministry to (primarily younger) singles, New Attitude. With 70 or so churches in the United States and almost 10 around the world, the movement led by C.J. Mahaney has been tremendously significant. Chapter 7 then shifts to the west coast and Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, and the Acts 29 church-planting network. What was so interesting is that until a few years ago, Driscoll and Mahaney didn't even know each other.

The book also includes some interesting tid-bits on the Reformed blogosphere --- Hansen even gives away the visitor statistics on Tim Challies' blog. You'll have to read the book to find out. All in all, a great read. One that won't tax you too much mentally, and yet will inform you of recent developments all over the country. If (like me) you've been impacted by this movement, prepare to be encouraged.
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