Book Review: Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer

Book Review: Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer

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Austin Fischer, Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed (Cascade Books, 2014).

Many young Christians throughout the last decade have been on a similar journey. They have faith in Jesus Christ, a passion to share God’s love with the world, and a desire to grow deeper spiritually. As they seek to grow, they encounter writers like John Piper, David Platt, R.C. Sproul, and J.I. Packer who challenge them to exchange a comfortable middle-class American gospel for a gospel that magnifies God’s glory. These Christians go to Passion conferences, listen to Lecrae, and fill rooms on college campuses at RUF and Campus Outreach gatherings. These young Christians are on a journey towards Calvinism.[1]

The journey towards Calvinism, New Calvinism, Neo-Calvinism, Neo-Puritanism, Reformed theology—whatever you prefer to call it—is one that I was on throughout college. As I journeyed, I discovered the centrality of scripture, the depravity of humanity, and the beauty of the undeserved grace of God. Yet, I never arrived at the destination of being convinced that the Reformed understanding of God and his work in this world was true.

Austin Fischer, author of Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed, did arrive at this destination. When he arrived, he soon discovered a God who was primarily concerned with glory—a God who valued self-glorification even above the salvation of others. Austin discovered a God whose nature and work in the world did not connect to the ways humans conceived of love, justice, and goodness. Ultimately, he found himself in a relationship with a God who didn’t look like the Jesus found in the gospels. And so he began the challenging task of leaving one destination to journey towards another unknown one.

Fischer narrates this journey—into and out of Calvinism—in his newly published book Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed. Fischer’s journey will engage readers of all theological persuasions, but it is his theological arguments for leaving Calvinism woven throughout his narration that will force readers to set the book down after each chapter and ponder the questions, “Who is God?” and “How do I know?”

All of Fischer’s arguments push toward one question: “Does the God of Calvinism accurately depict the God revealed in Jesus?”

Fischer concludes, “No.”

Relying on scripture and theologians such as Jürgen Moltmann, Richard Hays, N.T. Wright, and Karl Barth, Fischer addresses the nature of God, election, sovereignty, and love. He argues that the God whose character and heart are revealed in Jesus does not exist for himself and his own glory. God does not meticulously ordain every action in the world—including evil and sin. God does not knowingly create people who will be damned for sins they have no choice but to commit so that the fullness of his character can be displayed.

Instead, Fischer contends that the God revealed in Jesus creates, is mangled on a cross, and offers redemption to all out of endlessly self-less love. God does not contribute to evil, sin, and suffering in the world, but rather emptied himself in Jesus and entered into the world’s brokenness in order to heal it. And this self-emptying continues as God grants a level of freedom and control to his creation so that humanity’s love back towards him is freely chosen.

“The glory of God is the glory of love,” Fischer summarizes.

Throughout his insightful and clear engagement with these thorny issues that have pierced Christian communities for centuries, Fischer writes with humility and confidence rather than swagger and certainty. He recognizes that we are not to master divinity but to let divinity master us. Perhaps he, like myself, recognizes that if it weren’t for his Reformed friends, he wouldn’t be where he is today on the path of discipleship.

Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed is a book that I wish had been written years ago. But I’m thankful that I can give copies to others now, particularly those on the familiar journey.  Fischer’s book is one to be read by all Christians who are looking to deepen their understanding of God—young, old, Reformed, Arminian, or somewhere in between. As A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

[1] See Colin Hansen’s Young, Restless, and Reformed (Crossway, 2008) or Time’s article on “The New Calvinism” for more details about this modern incarnation of Reformed theology.


19 Responses

  1. I’m not a Calvinist either, although I do agree with 4 of the 5 points (TULIP). How do you think Calvanism misses the mark?

    1. I think the largest mark it misses is God’s desires for all people to be saved.

      Does God (who is love, who created out of love, and redeemed the world in love) desire the salvation of all people? And does God make this possible?

      Most Calvinists must answer, “no.” As an Arminian, I can firmly answer, “yes.”

      1 Timothy 2:3-6 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”

      1. While I don’t describe to the label “Armenian” either, I totally agree with your statement. The Calvinist tenant that I cannot accept is limited atonement.

        There are some things about God’s nature that we can’t reconcile. We can’t understand how he can exist outside of time. We can’t understand how he can predestinate us, and yet we still have free will. That’s OK, it would be a small God that could fit inside our puny heads.

  2. Going to get a hold of that book. I have been wondering for a while if there were others who were initially attracted to Calvinism because of how big God was being talked about among them, yet could not fully reconcile their particular view on soteriology. It has been wonderful to discover others like myself on seedbed.

  3. Stop using the touchy-feely word “journey” so much (my wife and I are both convinced there should be a society-wide moratorium on this word; we won’t even buy a Dodge Journey). Otherwise, great review!

    1. Thanks Alex! I’d definitely recommend it, especially for someone from a more Reformed background.

  4. I’m not a Calvinist, but I love Tim Keller as well as Timothy George at Beeson. Dr. George offers a softer version… really the most commonly held view held among SBC folks: Radical Depravity, Overcoming Grace, Sovereign Election, Eternal life, and Singular Redemption. I am a Methodist/Wesleyan/Arminian. I think most Methodists don’t have a firm grip on how sinful we really are. Article 8 of the the 25 AOR is pretty clear: “The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.” We must preach about radical depravity, God’s persistent grace, God’s foreknowledge as determinative for predestination, assurance of salvation, and redemption in Christ alone. I fear that many Methodists rely far too heavily on our ability to “work with God.”

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