Book Review: Young, Restless, Reformed

In August of 2006 Christianity Today ran a cover story on the rising influence of Calvinism among young evangelicals. Collin Hansen, the author of the article, has now expanded his treatment of this trend into a 150-page book: Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. Think Blue Like Jazz, but about Calvinism. Hansen travels around the country interviewing people who are influencing the “New Calvinists,” from John Piper to Mark Driscoll to leaders and students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

This book is interesting if you take it for what it is: not a high-level sociological study, but more a collection of anecdotal evidence for and explanation of the recent surge in Reformed theology. Hansen is right in the middle of the movement, with a story similar to many of us who identify with the New Calvinists: he grew up in a broadly evangelical context, was confronted by a more robust version of Christianity in college, and that led him eventually to embrace Calvinism (after initially rejecting it). So this is a sympathetic presentation of the movement with some good analysis from several of its leaders.

Hansen doesn’t shy away from discussing some of the weaknesses of the New Calvinists, including the tendency toward hero-worship (anybody ever hear of a guy named Piper?) and the arrogance that frequently appears especially in young Calvinists. He quotes Michael Horton distinguishing between five-point Calvinism and the broader contours of Reformed theology, and gives attention to some prominent critics of Calvinism. In other words, this book is sympathetic but not a blind endorsement of everything that goes on under the name of Calvinism.

If there’s a flaw to Young, Restless, Reformed, I would call it a lack of depth. But as I said before, the book doesn’t claim to be a historical or sociological masterpiece. It’s a series of stories chronicling a movement that’s still growing in maturity and influence, and as such it’s excellent. If you’re sympathetic to Calvinism it will encourage you. If you’re not a fan, or have no idea what a “New Calvinist” is, this is a quick and interesting read.

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