"Wow!" the professor exclaimed. "I didn't know any of them were still alive." He proceeded to argue away my Calvinism. He asked how I could reconcile God's sovereignty with free will. He prodded me to see if I thought God orchestrated the Fall in the Garden of Eden. It wasn't a fair fight. I couldn't match this professor who teaches about intellectual history.

"I'm sorry, but I don't have answers for any of your questions," I responded sheepishly. "I merely believe Calvinism comes closest to honoring the teachings of Jesus and the apostle Paul."

"Oh, if that's your criteria," the professor said, "then you're right."

Believe it or not, that's not the only time Calvinism came up with a professor. During my senior year Northwestern hired a visiting professor to teach about American evangelicalism. More than a hundred and fifty students filled the classroom. About half considered themselves evangelicals and participated in the activities of Crusade or InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, among other groups. During the course's first lecture, the professor, an evangelical himself, surveyed American religious history. Calvinists dominated the First Great Awakening, concentrated in New England, he explained. But their rather frightening view of God dissipated a few decades later during the Second Great Awakening.

"Now only a few Calvinists remain—mostly a few crazies in Grand Rapids," the professor said to classroom laughter.

Taken aback, I approached the professor during the class break. I told him I could point out a number of Calvinists in the room that very day. And I explained that a growing number of Calvinists studied at Trinity, a seminary he had attended decades earlier. What did he make of my pleas? Nothing, really. I was just a student whose name he would never remember. The nation's best universities pay him to teach about evangelical history, culture, and politics.

What I found while investigating youth trends and Calvinism may shock my college professors. It may even surprise a number of evangelicals who don't see the appeal of this difficult theology with a bad reputation. Based on conversations about my previous writing, I know this book will surprise many young Calvinists themselves. As I experienced with our small movement at Northwestern, few have ever viewed these trends from a wider scope. Many who heard Piper speak at Passion and bought Desiring God probably never realized they are traveling down a path trod by many of their peers. But they may recognize themselves in these stories of conversion—born again by the power of God, then transformed by the mystery of grace.


1John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996), 238.
2For a fuller explanation, see Chapter Two of this book, "Out of Bethlehem."
3Piper, Desiring God, 64.
4Ibid., 296.
5Ibid., 302.
6Richard J. Mouw, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004),
114-115.
7Ibid., 14.
8Collin Hansen, "Young, Restless, Reformed," Christianity Today, September 2006, 32; http://
www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/september/42.32.html.
9Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual
Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2005), 165.
10Ibid., 171.
11Ibid., 44.
12Ibid., 74.
13Ibid., 154.
14Ibid., 268.
15Ibid., 266.


Young, Restless, Reformed 
Copyright © 2008 by Collin Hansen
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