I came to a greater understanding of the Christian faith largely through the ministry of Matt Chandler and his preaching. Kevin DeYoung showed me the beauty of the Heidelberg Catechism and Tim Keller renewed my love for the city. John Piper showed me that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him and Mark Dever revealed the beauty that can be found in Ecclesiology. I first learned of Systematic Theology from Wayne Grudem, Covenant Theology from Ligon Duncan and Don Carson got me excited about Melchizedek. These names and more can be found among a movement commonly called New Calvinism.
In his new book,New Calvinism Considered: A Personal And Pastoral Assessment Jeremy Walker has written an unbiased critique of the fastest growing movement among young Christians. This book, which mainly grew from a wildly popular blog post, seeks to bring an overall meaning to what this movement is and what it is becoming. Walker does an excellent job to place boundaries and definitions on a movement which is constantly fluid in its manifestations. The leaders of this movement, like those mentioned above, remain steadfast in their confessions yet the tribe which has been collected around them spans the spectrum of Christian Orthodox, and in some cases, Unorthodox practices. The range of this tribe can be explained by the fact that many, not all, have placed these men on pedestals and have etched their theology from sermons, books, and the many conferences which this movement has spawned.
In seeking to comprehend the movement Walker notes that, “It would be entirely unfair to tar all with the same brush. We need an intelligent and thoughtful and Scriptural perspective, and to judge each case on its own merits or lack of them”. With that sentiment in mind Walker dives right into grasping an understanding of what exactly this new movement is. He begins with the characteristics of the movement as a whole instead of singling out some of the leaders and adding their values to the entirety of the group. He uses a definition, from one of my personal heroes of the faith, B.B. Warfield, and uses it as a measurement on which to describe what is so “new” and different about this strain of Calvinism.
After reigning in the characteristics Walker moves on to commend the movement, much of which I wholeheartedly agree with. He commends them for being readers of theology, placing the ESV and Crossway Publishing towards the center of this resurgence of reading and theological literature. He appreciates the fact that they “Set out to be Christ-oriented and God-honouring”. He applauds them for pushing issues to the forefront of Christianity such as Complementarianism, Missions, and Expository Preaching. While Walker does not throw his lot in entirely he does have some reservations as to the extent these commendations are handed out. For example, Complementarians can sometimes overdo it when preaching to an overly sexualized culture.
He moves from there to voice some cautions he has with the movement, the largest section of the book by far, and comes to a conclusion that we should be slow to throw out the baby with the bath water. He notices a neo-Kuyperian perspective which dominates the culture of the movement. He goes on to describe that the culture of this new movement has taken captive the things of this world and Christianized them in order to fit. In explaining this further he says that this movement may have an over-realized Eschatology, in some places confusing the already and not yet of the Christian faith. I agree with him somewhat on this point especially when saying that we have blurred the lines between the sacred and the secular.
One large area where this works itself out is in the culture created by the hip-hop and rap movement among these young, restless, and reformed folk. I particularly enjoy the rap music which has blasted onto the scene mainly through the work of Lecrae and the 116 Clique. With their single Man Up, this group made its way into fans hearts everywhere and etched a place in this movement as culture changers. Websites and conferences sprung up almost overnight, albums couldn’t stay on the shelf fast enough, and urban leaders were being built up with a plethora of resources aimed at their situations. I appreciate this growth of the music scene and can be found constantly bumping Andy Mineo down the freeways near Denver.
Walker finishes the section with a caution against the enticement of joining such a fast growing movement. “The apparent speed and success of New Calvinism can be enticing. The fact that it can, in its various forms, and at different points along the spectrum, contain more or less that is wholesome alongside some of these departures and aberrations means that much discernment is required. On the one hand, we must not throw the baby out with the bath water; on the other hand, if the baby has swallowed all the bath water, we may not have a great deal of choice.”
As Walker concludes he calls us as a people to “Be Calvinists” and urges us to live life before God and not before men. He points to Christ as head and says to the rest of us, “Follow Him!”. I enjoyed this critique of the movement known as the New Calvinism or Young, Restless, and Reformed, or whatever you want to call it. I became a reformed young man through this movement and have moved on to a more confessionaly reformed position but if it were not for the men who make up this movement I would still be largely ignorant of God’s Word. I appreciate the commendations for the movement which Walker throws out there and I apply the cautions to myself at the same time. This text was a fair and unbiased look at this movement from an outsiders perspective and I thought it was put together very well. I would give this book 5 stars and would recommend it to all my friends no matter what strain you may come from.
About the Author:
Jeremy Walker was born to godly parents and was converted to Christ during his teenage years. He serves as a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, and is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children. He has authored several books and blogs at Reformation21 and The Wanderer.
Author Interview with Shaun Tabatt at Bible Geek Gone Wild
The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment Jeremy Walker / Evangelical Press, 2013 Review Copy From Evangelical Press