There’s a book out chronicling the resurgence of Calvinism among the, pardon the expression (keep in mind, I’m using it correctly), emerging generation of teens, twenty-, and thirty-somethings (including myself) who are disillusioned with the shallow theology and over-emphasis on you name it, revivalism, pietism, experientialism, commercialism of the twentieth century. As you know, the list of misguided varieties could go on.
So many of us who’ve grown up as a either a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian have come to the conclusion that what is needed is for the church to get back to the basics of what it means to be a Christian. The basics of Christianity as understood in a broader way than just re-examining my Bible and reconstructing my own version of what I think is the clear teaching of Scripture regarding faith and practice (which is what most of the previous generation think it means to get back to the basics).
Such a tactic is part of the problem–it’s too self-centered and individualistic and often far too reductionistic. It’s not a matter of just throwing out current traditions and starting over with a clean slate. It’s not about reinventing the wheel–those are the kinds that never turn out round. What I’m talking about is getting on the right track–yes, the most biblical track, the most Christian track, the most Protestant track, the most truly evangelical track–a track I didn’t lay myself, but was laid by the faithful followers of Christ who genuinely changed the world in their generation as did the first century apostolic generation.
What generation am I talking about? I’m talking about the generation that laid the tracks of conservative evangelical, confessionally Reformed, Christ-centered Protestant theology. The generation identified in the history books as the Reformers.
I read once that Socrates is known for saying, “Sometimes regress is progress.” The bill of goods that we were sold in the 20th century told us that what’s happening now is better than what happened back then. The present is always preferable to the past. The new is more relevant than the old. Well, some of us have learned that sticking “new and improved” on something doesn’t mean a thing. Some of us have learned that if conservative evangelical, or fundamentalist Christianity is going to make any progress, we’re going to have to regress back to a time when things were genuinely being done right and learn from both their successes and mistakes, receiving the faith in tact as handed down by them and not as re-imagined by modern philosophical influences, be they pragmatism, modernism or post-modernism. Progress will only come through this kind of regress.
Second Timothy 2:2 puts it best: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” But lots of people are entrusting lots of things to lots of “faithful men.” Which version of Christianity is best? There’s a number of us in this new generation who are firmly convinced that what the apostolic churches passed on to faithful men who led the post-apostolic generation, got deformed in the medieval era and was reformed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is the “basics” to which the 21st Century generation of Christians needs to get back to. So much that has transpired since the Reformation era leaves so much to be desired that we don’t trust much of it at all. That’s why we’re turning to Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology.
Journalist Collin Hansen has written Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. It tells our story. Martin Downes has reviewed the book over at Reformation21.org. Read all about it, then find your place in the 21st Century Reformation.