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.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for contributing to my blog!


  2. Matt, I read your piece over at Simpson’s blog and after multiple readings, I’m still confused as to the point you’re trying to make about what, according to “insiders,” is the REAL draw to the “young Reformed movement.”

    Pending your response on that, I confess a couple of complaints. First, a credential to lend me a bit of credibility on the subject: I am a decidedly non-Reformed individual who spent 18 months attending (and even contributing in worship leadership) at a PCA church (Redeemer Church, Knoxville, TN). The only thing that took me away from it was a relocation to Seattle. My wife (also unReformed) and I chose (pardon that word) to put ourselves there because we were so impressed by the pastoral staff’s love of Jesus, the Word and of people, as well as the markedly congenial nature of the parishioners which, I’m sorry to say, is consistently a fleeting trait of Reformed types whom I’ve met over the years. I humbly believe that such an approach to “being” within the church (by not obsessing about one or two preferential doctrines and cloistering oneself among a handful of others who similarly obsess) should be the modus operandi for all Christians. So I was dismayed to read that you so readily identify yourself as a “member” of the Young Reformed Movement. I mean, is there such a thing as a “Young non-Reformed Movement,” for example? I would say definitely not, because unless we’re talking about explicit Wesleyans, few who are not Reformed give a flying you know what about locking arms with people over that aspect of their theology and forming a “movement.” And that doesn’t even address the stigma that exists with someone of my theological disposition addressing a schooled Reformed type such as yourself, namely, that I can’t type this without believing that you will read my words with the sort of passive indulgence that I might reserve for a puppy being given away for free outside of Walmart.

    Here’s a straightforward question: can fair parallels be drawn between the “young reformed movement” and racially exclusive movements within the Church?


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