“Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed” – Initial Thoughts

Calvinism is in the air. I work in Grand Rapids which is for some a mecca to Calvinism. We are home to Calvin Seminary, Kuyper College and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. CRC and Reformed Churches dot the landscape. So when a book comes out from someone who has left Calvinism for Arminianism it doesn’t escape my notice. Fresh from Cascade Books is Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer. I wasn’t familiar with Fischer but with a foreword written by Scot McKnight and glowing endorsements from Roger Olson and Greg Boyd I had to take a look. Here’s a segment I especially enjoyed from chapter 6, “The Glory of God (Is) the Glory of Love”:

“Western Christianity has a love problem; namely, we have made too little of love by making too much of it. Love is tolerance, love is inclusion, love is self-esteem, love is comfort. And in becoming all these things, love has become nothing: ‘The term has become debased . . . it has lost its power of discrimination, having become a cover for all manners of vapid self-indulgence.’ For simplicity sake, let’s call this the ‘soft love’ problem: in becoming everything, love becomes nothing.”

“During my young, restless, and Reformed years, I thought the remedy to ‘soft love’ was to wholly subordinate the love of God to God’s self-glorification–self-esteem and comfort certainly tend to wilt in the face of unconditional election. But during my journey out of Calvinism, I came to believe that while Calvinism did solve the ‘soft love’ problem, it did so with a painfully ironic consequence.”

“Whereas ‘soft love’ robs love of meaning by making it everything, Calvinist love robs love of meaning by making it nothing–or at least unintelligible. The ‘love of God’ is a hollow phrase, void of meaning and empty on the inside. and while it might be better to let glory co-opt love than tolerance, why settle for either? Why not let love speak for itself, or better yet, why not let God speak for love? Barth agreed and insisted there were five things we needed to know about the love of God.” (55-56)

Here are the five things Fischer lists from Barth:

1) God (not I) defines love. The New Testament speaks more about crucifixion than love. “What the New Testament means by ‘love’ is embodied in the cross . . . The content of the word ‘love’ is given fully and exhaustively in the death of Jesus on the cross; apart from this specific narrative image, the term has no meaning.” (56)

2) God gives God. “God does not give us something, but Himself; and giving us Himself, giving us His only Son, He gives us everything.” (57)

3) God’s love doesn’t take. “. . . we love what is beautiful in the hopes it will make us beautiful in return. We love like black holes. We love in order to take. But this is not the love of God because the love of God does not take–it gives. God does not seek out beautiful objects to love; God makes things beautiful because of his love.” (57)

4) God’s love = God’s glory. “And here I found a radical departure from Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, and the self-glorifying black hole of Neo-Calvinism. Edwards claimed that the ultimate aim of God in creating the world was the full manifestation of his glory (i.e., self-glorification). Love is not just a cog in the bigger glory machine. . . God doesn’t love us in order to take something from us (glory, worship, praise)–that’s what needy, greedy, human love does. God loves because he loves–the only love in existence that doesn’t need a reason.” (58)

5) Necessary and free. “God’s love is both necessary and completely free. And here all the horizons of the love of God converge. From all eternity God is the being who has existed in perfect, glorious, self-giving love among the Father, Son, and Spirit. Before we existed, God loved. From all eternity God has loved because love is who God is. . . But God’s love is completely free in the sense that he is merely being who he is.” (59)

 

Austin Fischer is Teaching Pastor at Vista Community Church. He and his wife, Allison, live in Temple, Texas.  Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed is a paperback with 116 pages and sells for $16.00.

”’Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed’ fills a gap in contemporary literature about Calvinism. Here is a young, dynamic, evangelical pastor, well-educated theologically, who discovered the fatal flaws in Calvinism and reluctantly shook it off. This is his story, including his well-articulated reasons for that transformation. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially to people interested in the ‘new Calvinism’ and why a biblically committed young Christian might bid it adieu.”
Roger E. Olson, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

”This book tells Austin Fischer’s story, and I hope you read it, and I hope you get a bunch of friends to read it together. Talk about it and ask [the] question, . . . ”Is the Calvinist God the God we discover when we look into the face of Jesus, the incarnation of God?” Austin tells his answers to [this question] at the age many need to begin answering [that] question.”
Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary

 

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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