I was afforded the opportunity of doing a review of a new book as part of a large-scale, multi-author event, so here it is:
Jeremy Walker's book, The New Calvinism Considered, attempts the impossible: to assess the pros and cons of the U.S. movement known as New Calvinism (aka the Young, Restless, & Reformed movement), but in only 113 pages. Walker pastors a Reformed Baptist church in Crawley, England.
Positive aspects of the book are Walker's brotherly, non-inflammatory tone; his succinct summary of the New Calvinism movement's commendable qualities (pp. 40-57); his use of real examples of inappropriate inclusiveness by some leaders of the movement (pp. 85-90); and his raising of the issue of the issue of Charismatic doctrine and practice in the movement (92-98).
If I was a seminary teaching-assistant again, and doing a rough-draft response to bro. Walker's essay, here are some changes I would recommend, that I think would make it a stronger book:
Walker states so many caveats -- about the sheer size of the movement, the distinctives and diversity of its leaders, the rapid rate of change within the movement -- that it raises questions about the accuracy of any commentary at all. Perhaps what Walker calls the non-monolithic nature of the YRR movement (p. 17) might make exactness impossible. But then, if that is true, how can one state the generalizations Walker states? There is a lot of generalizing in the book.
Walker's use of the word "ecumenism" is ambiguous. Among U.S. conservative evangelicals, "ecumenical" connotes the World Council of Churches, and mainline religious liberalism. Walker seems to use the word to mean, "A Christian, church, or denomination that differs from the London Baptist Confession of 1689." This is not the normal U.S. use of the term.
Criticizing Mark Driscoll is shooting fish in a barrel, if one's goal is to do a meaningful critique of aberrant behavior among YRR leaders. Driscoll deserves the critiques. But holding Driscoll up as an example of YRR preachers is like claiming Donald Trump exemplifies most New York real estate moguls. Driscoll is the living definition of "low-hanging fruit."
A fair bit of Walker's criticisms about the dangers of pragmatism, celebrity preachers, and preoccupation with numbers can just as easily be applied to Arminian seeker churches. In other words, there is nothing New Calvinist about these problems. Underlying some of Walker's criticism is a specific Reformed Baptist view of the regulative principle -- which he doesn't support but does assume -- a view of the principle about which not even all the Reformed churches agree.
Criticizing U.S. Calvinistic preachers for being vulnerable to U.S. cultural influences that affect all Americans is like criticizing specifically U.S. Calvinistic preachers for speaking with American accents.