“I’ve been pondering a post on this thing that’s been called Young, Restless, and Reformed. What’s good? What’s bad? What needs to be celebrated? What needs to addressed? For starters, it may be time to retire the name.”
Jonathan Edwards (Wikipedia)
I will never forget that day back in 2006 when the September issue of Christianity Today arrived in the mail. Dee called and said: “You really need to read the article on the front cover called: "Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback – and shaking up the church”. (link)
As I write this post, I'm looking at that CT issue featuring a guy in a yellow t-shirt with a picture of Edwards on the front along with the words: JONATHAN EDWARDS IS MY HOMEBOY. Much has transpired in the YRR crowd since Colin Hansen wrote that article. Before we get into that, here is a little background information.
In early September 2003, a friend and I went Binkley Chapel on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to hear John MacArthur address the students. He had come to our area for two reasons – to speak at Southeastern as well as at a community wide event promoting a church plant that my family and I were involved in. It was the first of many visits to listen to chapel messages. My friend was more familiar with MacArthur than I because she had previously been a member of a congregation that was affiliated with his church when she lived in Phoenix. During MacArthur’s address to the seminary students, she leaned over and whispered: “What do you think about the Arminian/Calvinist debate?” “What debate?” I asked. She rebuked me by saying: "You mean you don't know what's going on between the Calvinists and Arminians?" I said, "No I don't." Then she barked: "Well, you'd better find out!" I have never forgotten her words, and sadly she died prematurely a year ago yesterday.
I had no interest in finding out about the conflict because it sounded way too cumbersome, and I had enough going on in my life! I was extremely involved in my daughters' Christian school — from leading Moms in Touch once a week to volunteering with choir to serving as room mom coordinator, among other responsibilities. And of course I had a wonderful husband to love and cherish. Little did I know just how much I would learn about the debate in the years to come . . .
Here are the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" leaders Colin Hansen spotlighted in 2006:
As I look back at that YRR article five years later, it's hard for me to imagine that I didn't know who some of these leaders were at the time. I had heard of John Piper and Al Mohler, and I recognized the name Joshua Harris because his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was published in 1997 when I was homeschooling my daughters. It's so hard for me to believe that I did not know who C.J. Mahaney and Mark Dever were in 2006. In fact, I did not find out about Mahaney and Dever until two years later! When I re-read the YRR article in the fall of 2008, the light bulb came on because by then I knew who the players were in the New Calvinist Movement.
In my research I discovered that Mark Dever graduated from Duke University, which is also my alma mater. In fact our dorms were fairly close together on East Campus – I lived in an all girls' dorm (Giles) and he lived in an all-guys dorm (Pegram), we probably frequented the same dining hall, and we checked our mail at the same on-campus Post Office. I am a year older than Mark, so we were in college together for three years, although I never knew him. I did attend the Presbyterian church he frequented just once during my sophomore year — Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church. I preferred to attend Duke Chapel to hear Dr. William Willimon, the Dean of the Chapel. Duke Chapel is still a special place because it's where my husband and I exchanged our wedding vows. Well, enough about that. . . Suffice it to say that even though I earned the same undergraduate degree as Dever, he and his colleagues likely view me as "gullible and easily deceived" because of my gender. . . Is any of this sounding ridiculous yet?
Getting back to the YRR article, I want to share my impressions five years after first reading it.
(1) The 7-page article begins with a huge photo that spans the first two pages. It shows a multitude of Together for the Gospel conference attendees who are clamoring to meet John Piper during a break. They are referred to as "Christian hedonists" in the caption. What is wrong with this picture? I cannot find one female face in the large crowd of attendees. Not surprisingly, most of those pictured are young men. (pages 32-33) There are five additional pictures in the CT article, and women are glaringly absent.
(2) Hansen begins the YRR article with this sentence: "Nothing in her evangelical upbringing prepared Laura Watkins for John Piper." Why does he name a woman at the outset of his piece, given that no females appear in the photos? (page 32)
(3) The article then focuses on Joshua Harris. Hansen writes: "Later, C.J. Mahaney, a charismatic Calvinist and founding pastor of Covenant Life, took Harris under his wing and groomed him to take over the church. Wait a cotton-pickin' minute! Larry Tomczak co-founded the Gaithersburg church with Mahaney.
(4) It is shocking to read what happened at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary upon Al Mohler's arrival. The YRR article states:
"Starting in 1993, the largest Protestant denomination's flagship seminary quickly lost at least 96 percent of its faculty. SBC inerrantists had tapped 33-year-old Al Mohler to head the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which until then had remained open to moderate and liberal professors. Mohler addressed the faculty and re-enforced the school's confession of faith, derived from the landmark document, the Westminster Confession.
"I said, in sum, if this is what you believe, then we want you to stay. If not then you have come under false pretenses, and you must go," Mohler, now 45, said. "As they would say, the battle was joined."
Indeed, television cameras and news helicopters made it difficult for Mohler to work for a while. He still isn't welcome in some Louisville churches. That's not surprising since no more than 4 faculty members — from more than 100 — stayed at Southern after Mohler arrived." (pages 35-36)
(5) Hansen indicates that Mark Dever "conceived Together for the Gospel". (page 38) My theory is that given C.J. Mahaney's involvement with conferences and large gatherings over the years, he and Dever came up with Together for the Gospel. I wrote a post quite a while ago explaining that Mahaney spoke at a "Together on a Mission" conference in England in 2005 and low and behold, "Together for the Gospel" launched in 2006. Coincidence? I think not. I believe Mahaney's involvement from the beginning is why Mohler, Dever, and Duncan have shown such fierce loyalty to Mahaney since he stepped down from leadership in SGM back in July.
(6) It's certainly worth noting that Colin Hansen's current bio indicates that he is "editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. Formerly an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, Hansen is the author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey With the New Calvinists". . . (link)
In tomorrow's post, I will share John MacArthur's reaction to the YRR movement, explore Barna Group statistics about Reformed churches in America, and examine Kevin DeYoung's recent commentary about the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. Stay tuned. . .
Lydia's Corner: Job 23:1-27:23 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11 Psalm 41:1-13 Proverbs 22:5-6