January 23, 2009 Posted by David N
|Unfortunately this will not be a book review. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to read the book, though I plan to in the near future. I did however read the Christianity Today article bearing the same title two years ago, and I’ve seen, heard or read several interviews with the author (here’s a good one). Here I simply wish to make a few comments in light of a recent study done by ChurchRelevence.com (more on that in a moment).|
Basically, a good chunk o’ Christian youth (roughly 18 – 25) are moving away from the Arminian, mainstream evangelicalism of their childhood toward (to differing degrees) classical Reformed theology (the primary motive being, at least according to the CT article, a desire for deeper theology grounded in historic creeds and confessions). The majority of the credit for this Renaissance of Reformed thought is given to John Piper. Because of his passionate preaching and evident concern for world missions, Piper has managed to break into circles (such as the annual Passion Conference) that were previously closed, sometimes even hostile, to Reformed theology. Thus, Let The Nations Be Glad became a “gateway drug” to Piper’s deeply Reformed emphasis on the radical sinfulness of man, the radical holiness of God, and His absolute sovereignty in all things.
All this makes sense to me (and I have no doubt that it’s true), but as a blogger, I can’t help but wonder if the recent advent of New Media has contributed to this exodus into the Reformed promised land. R. C. Sproul was on the cutting edge in the late 80’s and 90’s. Ligonier made use of every available medium of communication, from radio to cassette tapes, to videos. Now Dr. Sproul’s teaching series are available daily on the internet and satellite TV. So, you might ask, why wasn’t there a Reformed Renaissance in the 90’s? I think it has been slowly building. Many today who are in the 18 – 25 bracket could have grown up with Dr. Piper’s or Dr. Sproul’s ministries, or their parents could have been first introduced to it. The use of so many different forms of media mean that some folk who would not have otherwise been exposed to Reformed teaching had the opportunity to see loving, Christ-like pastors and teachers arguing passionately for the clear teaching of Scripture as expressed by historic Reformation theology. Both Piper and Sproul (and others), it must be admitted, break the mold of what most non-Reformed people tend to think of Reformed people (or worse…Calvinists!). The point being, there have probably been 1,000 John Pipers preaching faithfully to their small Reformed congregations over the last 100 years, but no one outside their limited communities knew them. And no one would actually pick up the writings of Calvin or Edwards because of the stigma surrounding “Calvinism.” Godly men like John Piper, in most cases, remove that stigma.
Now fast forward to 2009. ChurchRelevance.com has posted a list of the “Top 60 Church Blogs.” As I looked at the list I was suddenly struck by how many of these blogs are Reformed (some of them are even “confessional”!). Not only are the top 2 blogs Reformed, which really says something all by itself, but of the 60, a total of 10 are definitely Reformed, at least 1 (the Evangelical Outpost, formerly of Joe Carter) was Calvinist, though Joe didn’t wear it on his sleeve, and perhaps 2 or 3 others as well, but I’m not confident enough to say for sure. Now 10 – 12 isn’t a LOT out of 60, but consider that no other single theological strain or movement has nearly so many (the Emergent movement had 3 or 4 by my count).
Now, the correlation-causation relationship is always tricky. Are there so many popular Reformed blogs because of the movement, or has the movement grown, at least in part, because of so many average Reformed Joes and more-than-average Reformed mega-stars getting into New Media and using it more effectively than the other guys? I can’t really say for sure, but given what I’ve seen happen with New Media in other arenas over the past decade, I’m inclined to think the latter.
Has anyone read Hansen’s book? Does he address this issue at all, and if so, what does he have to say?