Thursday, October 16, 2008

Young, Restless and Reformed: A Review

It has been a while since I have done a book review. So I thought I would review Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen. This book was very interesting. The premise of the book is that a young Christianity Today writer was intrigued by the fact that his friends were Calvinistic in their theology when demographically they should be part of the Emergent Church movement. So, he decided to travel around and see if this was an exception or part of a growing trend. The book is a fascinating look at the great success that the Reformed movement is having in America today.

That being said, I do have some quibbles with the book. The first is the loose use of the term "Reformed". He generally applies it to anyone who wants it. He briefly mentions the criticism of men like Michael Horton who draw a difference between Reformed and Calvinisitic, especially when it comes to the infant baptism issues. The criticism gets little play and is not really interacted with much. It is a valid point especially considering my next quibble.

The book focuses almost exclusively on those who are non-traditional Reformed. Most of those featured were Baptists (like John Piper and Al Mohler). Charasmatic Calvinists were featured, Emergent Calvinists are in this book. However, very few of the people shown in the book were Presbyterians or Reformed in the Dutch or German traditions. This is part of the great interest the book provides. Look at all the traditions that are featuring prominent Calvinists now. But, one or two should have been traditional Reformed in the mold of the PCA, OPC, or something. Ligon Duncan is in the book several times, but is never really featured. He is more in the book because of his cooperation with these more non-traditional reformed types.

The third quibble is that he does not tie it all together in the end. I hate the way movies today end without real closure. They give you the resolution of the plot, but fail to deliver any follow up or falling action to get technical. I felt the same way about this book. He interviewed all of these people, Calvinist leaders of today, but I could have used one chapter at the end to hear the author’s final thoughts. Even the very brief epilogue just served as a brief interview with yet another Calvinist. I prefer the wrap up. Admittedly that may be a minor point, but it bugged me.

I would also like to point out one thing that is also a negative or a positive depending on how you look at it. This book could not be read in one sitting despite being only 156 pages. It could not be read in a sitting because of how often something was said in the book that made you stop and think. Often it would be something said from the interview, and there would be no follow up on the comment. However, it would just smack me in the face and I would have to put the book down and ponder it for the rest of the day. That is great, but it is also bad. The book should follow up on great thoughts. It really fell outside of what Hansen was doing, so I just had to stop.

Because of this I will be blogging on the many things that made me stop and go "hmmmmm" over the next several days. I do recommend this book to people who are church planting as an encouraging book that Calvinism and Reformed Theology can win people in today’s culture. I would recommend this book to people who want a broader view of the Reformed landscape in today’s culture. I would recommend this book to people who just want a read that engages the mind. A good book worth a look

3 Comments:

Andrew said...

Lee,

The use of the term "Reformed" can be difficult in practice. When used in reference to denominational distinctions, it properly belongs to the continental Reformed churches (i.e. Dutch, German, Hungarian, French, Swiss, etc.). As such, it does not really even belong to the Presbyterians, as there is a distinction between the Reformed Churches and the Presbyterian Churches. However, as a doctrinal system, the term "Reformed" is more widely implemented, and I think rightly so. For instance, I am an Anglican, yet I am Reformed. One could say that I am a Calvinistic Anglican, but that is not very accurate. I do not agree with Calvin when it comes to church government, for instance, at least not fully. I also do not agree with him regarding many church traditions. One could say that I am a predestinarian, but that is not adequate, as this term does not describe a system of thought. One could say that Anglicanism has no historic claim to a "Reformed" title. I think the English Reformers who gave their lives for Reformed theology would beg to differ, not to mention others such as JC Ryle and James Ussher. So, I think when the term it used, it just needs to be defined from the outset.

Now, the same would not hold for a dispensationalist, for instance, as dispensationalism is not part of Reformed theology (i.e. the overall non-Lutheran, non-anabaptist theology of the continental, English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish Reformation). How's that for a mouth full?

Peace to you,

Andy

Lee said...

Andy,
I understand your point, and I do think the biggest problem is the lack of a definition. A book of this size ought to at least let us know what he means by the term.

However, I do think he brushed pass an important piece of criticism when it was brought up in the book that these people are Calvinist, but not Reformed. Everyone profiled in the book did not believe in Infant Baptism. This is a disagreement on sacraments which many confessions such as the Belgic list as fundamental to a true church. I see your point about such things as church government, but I think the main question is whether infant baptism fits better in your category of church government or in the category of dispensationalism? I think it is a significant enough debate that the book should have had it.

Andrew said...

Lee,

I agree. I think the denial of paedo-baptism disqualifies one from the title of "Reformed." Paedo-baptism is part and parcel of the theology of the Reformation. Of course, technically, the Baptist movement is not a child of the Reformation, nor is it truly Protestant. It came later in history and was more of a protest against the Protestants. I would place Arminianism and Pentecostalism in this category as well.

Peace to you,

Andy