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Young, Restless and Reformed

I usually don’t read Christianity Today magazine, because, as the prophet Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” But I was interested in reviewing this article when it was first mentioned on the web.

Young, Restless and Reformed“ is now online at:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/009/42.32.html

What Christianity Today notes as a growing phenomenon, actually began in the 1950s in England and Scotland when Banner of Truth began republishing the long out-of-print Puritan classics. The article mentions Jonathan Edwards as having a modern resurgence in popularity among young Christians who want to go deeper in doctrine – along with the writings of Puritan and Neo-Puritan churchmen who literally led revolutions in England, Scotland and America from the 1500s to 1776. Nothing short of a mighty Neo-Puritan Awakening can awake our nation from its slumber today and save us from enemies within and without.

Calvinism, of course, was the prevailing theology of Puritan America and the Great Awakening. It fueled the political philosophy of the American Revolution and was prevalent during the so-called Second Great Awakening of the 1800s. But around 1850, Reformed theology started to die off. Some blame classic Arminianism for its demise. However, Classic and Wesleyan Arminianism actually worked in tandem with Reformed theology for hundreds of years bolstering Christian culture. The real culprit in my view was dispensational theology which began to replace the full-orbed covenantal view of scripture in the 1800s.

See my article on covenantalism vs. dispensationalism: “Two Views of Government.”

Now there is a resurgence of Reformed and covenantal theology which has been going on since the mid-20th century. I have been a part of this, although I have never called myself a “Calvinist.” I have always enjoyed reading the sermons and works of the great preachers of history, most of whom happen to be Augustinian or Reformed.

I’ve been a member of St. Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, for the past few years. The noted Reformed scholar, R.C. Sproul, serves as the pastor of preaching and teaching. Many of my Charismatic and Pentecostal friends are surprised to know how happy I am with this church. The emphasis on Reformed theology is a drawing point, but it is the emphasis on just plain “sane theology” and God-centered worship that sets the church apart from almost every central Florida church I had visited in the few years prior. In fact, it is well worth the 55 minute drive each Sunday. I know of other members who actually drive longer distances and almost never miss a service. That speaks of a famine for sound doctrine in an area that is saturated with churches.

The positive side of this is that there is a real hunger among a minority of young Christian leaders who I believe God is grooming for a coming Great Awakening among young people. Like the prior Great Awakenings, this movement will be Reformed in doctrine. I’ve thought this was coming for the past 15 years. At one time, we planned to publish a magazine called Puritan Storm Rising. Now it is remarkable to see a major evangelical magazine comment on the burgeoning Neo-Puritan Awakening.

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A friend of mine, Jeff Ziegler, likes to say that America was founded on Knoxian-Cromwellian social theory. That's 100 percent correct. In the public high school where I teach English classes, William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson and Jonathan Edwards are required reading. My department head couldn't understand why "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God" was even in the curriculum. It is kind of a shocker for the students -- even the Christian kids who have been fed the standard semi-pelagian seeker-friendly fare. When we get to that unit, I put on a CD of Edwards and stand back and watch their reactions. I explained to my colleague that the Great Awakening was, according to even many secular historians, the most important event of the 18th century both in America and England. This supernatural move of God, steeped in 200 prior years of Reformed theology, shaped the political philosophy of western democracy. The irony is that today we know of Samuel Adams, Patick Henry and other architects of the Revolution. But most people don't know that they (and many other of the signers of the Declaration) were Calvinists and heirs to the Great Awakening preachers, and fewer have even heard the names of John Knox and Oliver Cromwell let alone the debt owed to them by our founders.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 04/21/2021 10:41 PM #

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