Lately, there seems to be growing interest in the resurgence of Calvinism and Reformed Theology among the younger generation of Evangelicals. Persons from within Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism, as well as outsiders, are taking note, and wondering what could be fueling the phenomenon. I was recently approached by someone asking for possible reasons or motivations underlying this resurgence among younger evangelicals, and after a little deliberation I came up with five motivations that I see at work, as listed below. I am sure there are others, but these seem highly instrumental to me. What do the rest of you think?
1. Dissatisfaction with the theology and religious environment of our parents. The milieu in which we grew up was characterized on the one hand by a high-stress, high-guilt, man-powered striving after sanctification, evangelism, etc., that left a great deal of burned-out and disillusioned Christians all around us. On the other hand, the services and worship were often characterized by a frivolity and superficiality that left us unsatisfied and longing for more substance. The combination was virtually unsustainable for the long term. We were constantly striving to obey a long list of rules and standards, by our own efforts, feeling the crushing weight of guilt for our many failures, for all the unevangelized people around us whom we passed on the streets without sharing the gospel, and whose blood was therefore on our hands, and so on. And then, on Sunday, to be recharged and equipped for another week of will-motivated strivings, we sang a handful of trite and trivial choruses. It just didn’t cut it. When Reformed doctrine came into the picture, it was the most liberating and captivating thing that could be imagined. All of a sudden, my salvation, sanctification, acceptance with God, and so on, wasn’t dependent on me. God was responsible for my salvation, from beginning to end. I didn’t produce faith from my own dead and hardened nature in the first place, even that was a gift of God; and what God had begun, God would finish. And then, in proportion as my view of myself diminished, my view of my Savior increased, to such an extent that gazing on his manifold perfections truly was an unending source of delight and nourishment for the Christian race. My rest became my strength, my despair in myself became my confidence in Another, my confidence apart from my works became the motivation by which my works abounded as a labor of love and not a torture of guilt.
2. Desire for a rootedness and connectedness with the historic faith. We also became quite dismayed over the fragmentation of the Evangelical Church, the consumer-minded, individualistic shopping for the denomination, worship style, and points of doctrine which are “right for you,” which is so characteristic of the American protestant culture. The Reformed tradition has a rich legacy of unbroken doctrinal tradition from the days of the Reformers, who themselves labored to show their connectedness and continuity with the Church fathers and apostles.
3. The resurgence of Puritan literature. There is no greater motivation to become Reformed than reading the light-and-heat writings of Edwards and others, who evinced a doctrinal depth, exegetical precision, and ardor of heart like no one else. Banner of Truth Trust, J. I. Packer’s intros and popularizing, etc., are having a tremendous impact.
4. John Piper. He is probably the major reason that there is such a high percentage of Reformed Baptists in the modern resurgence. But many paedo-baptists also love him and have learned much from his passionate and articulate recasting of Reformed Theology for the Church of today.
5. The internet (and Monergism in particular). Monergism was the website which introduced me and many of my friends to the Reformed worldview, and it continues to have an impact on our thinking, studying, etc. Just the growing availability of reliable resources on the internet has been phenomenally helpful, and sites like Monergism, where all the best contemporary and classic resources of historic Christianity are available at the click of a button, has greatly facilitated the desire to be “always reforming” (semper reformanda).