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Sep 01

Christianity Today cover story on Calvinism resurgence

Ctsept06coverI was hoping that Collin Hansen’s recent (September, 2006) CT cover story would be made available on-line by now, but apparently it hasn’t, so I’m going to blog on it now anyway, even though I can’t provide a link to it. The article is truly outstanding. I don’t know what Hansen’s theological convictions are, but he certainly wrote a fair piece. Interesting tid-bits and some reflection:

Hansen says that John Piper, more than anyone else, has contributed to the Calvinistic resurgence. That makes sense, given that Desiring God emphasizes the glory and the beauty of God and grips the heart as much as the mind. The book drives people back to the Scriptures to see that God’s desire to glorify Himself and our pursuit of happiness are totally harmonious.

There’s a terrific quote of Joshua Harris noting that when young people begin to realize that it’s about God’s glory, not us, they take "the first step down a path of Reformed theology. Because if you say that it’s not about you, well then you’re on the road of saying it’s not about your actions, your choosings, your determination."

The Passion conferences organized by Louie Giglio are also recognized as being a catalyst in the Calvinist resurgence, particularly given that thousands of college students and other young adults are attracted to their various events, which generally include speakers such as John Piper and concerts by musicians such as Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, David Crowder, and Christy and Nathan Nockels.

Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, is cited commenting negatively about Calvinists, claiming that "…..baptism and membership figures show that the Calvinist churches of the SBC’s Founders Ministries lack commitment to evangelism." Tom Ascol of the Founders Ministries blog links to several refutations of Lemke’s research in a recent post.

Dr. Albert Mohler makes an insightful remark as to why this generation of young Christians is particularly "more committed, more theologically curious, more self-aware and self-conscious as believers." Mohler attributes these characteristics to the fact that today’s young Christians were not raised in an environment of cultural Christianity. "Or if they were, they found themselves in a hostile environment upon arrival on a university campus….Calvinism offers young people a counter-cultural alternative with deep roots."

I think Mohler makes a great point. The doctrine of a sovereign God who is never taken by surprise and whose love plans and accomplishes redemption for His people is deeply satisfying (and stabilizing) to young Christians in a postmodern milieu in which, supposedly, absolute, foundational truths are beyond reach. Likewise Christians who may have grown up hearing that it was all about them find human-centered, shallow teaching (or self-help platitudes) to ring hollow given our God-given desire for transcendence. We were made to worship infinite majesty, and only a view of such grandeur can ultimately satisfy the soul. Likewise an accurate understanding of God’s holiness and justice puts "amazing" back into grace, leaving us in awe and wonder that God would condescend to make us His own.

(c) 2006 Alex Chediak

Alex Chediak

Alex Chediak is an author, speaker, and an associate professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University. Alex has been involved in campus ministries and mentoring students for many years. He has published numerous articles in Boundless, an online magazine for young adult Christians, and he is the author of 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life and With One Voice. Alex has an MS and PhD in engineering from University of California–Berkeley. Originally from the Chicago area, Alex and his wife, Marni, and their three children now reside in Riverside, California. He maintains a blog at www.alexchediak.com.

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