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On Voluntarity and the Young Reformed

June 21st, 2011 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

I have some idiosyncratic thoughts about what might have added fuel to the explosion of interest in Reformed thought over at Ben Simpson's blog this morning.

With EV on its way to doorsteps and reading rooms everywhere (win a free copy here!), I decided to take on some guest posts to expand the book's reach into new audiences.  If you're interested, feel free to let me know.

That said, Ben is one of the sharpest young writers out there.  He was kind enough to read an early draft of the book and provided some incisive comments.   The final version isn't his fault, but it would have been worse without his feedback.  You should add his blog to the list of things you read every day.

That said, my conclusion:

Consider the young Reformed movement, for instance, which I am currently a part of.  On the one hand, an outsider (or an insider!) might suggest that the associations are little more than a club or tribe, where a particular set of doctrines provides the touchstone for peoples’ voluntary membership.  But on the other hand, the emphasis on the doctrines that have made the movement unique, namely election and sovereignty, has minimized the voluntariness of the association.  Yes, people might come because they choose to.  But if the Reformed folks are right, that too is a chimera.

It’s not too much of a surprise, then, that the explosion in Reformed theology has happened hand-in-hand with the rise of what I might call the voluntary culture.  Because when it’s all been written, voluntary associations of an arbitrary sort simply do not provide the stability and depth that we need for human flourishing.  For that, we must look elsewhere, to God Himself, which is the first movement of the church and the fountainhead of virtue.

You can read the whole thing to see how I get there.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.