Wellum Says It Well

Kirk Wellum, a professor at Toronto Baptist Seminary, has written an excellent review/response to Collin Hansen’s book, Young, Restless, Reformed. Over the past month or so, I have read dozens of reviews and responses from Hansen’s book, but I have to say that I believe this is the best one yet. In this response, Wellum gives five areas where we need caution and provides us with wise words for our consideration. While I wanted to simply give you the five points in bullet form, I found his subsequent commentary quite good as well, so I decided to include it here. Wellum writes,

First, those who are young, restless and reformed must not become too self-conscious.

This is always a danger when the media picks up the story. More important than the headlines is our loyalty and commitment to Jesus Christ. If we start to read and believe our own press-clippings we are finished before we start. The world does not need another lobby group or evangelical Christian faction. What it needs are authentic followers of Jesus who keep their eyes on the master and are deaf and blind to the recognition of others. Self-consciousness leads to pride of reputation which short circuits God’s blessing.

Second, we (and I include myself in all of these things) must avoid a triumphalistic attitude.

It is good to gather in the name of the Lord Jesus and to give him praise, but as fallen creatures who are imperfectly sanctified it is so easy for our praise of Jesus to morph into praise for our group and then for us to feel superior to others who do not see what we see. The gospel of God’s grace is deeply humbling. It reminds us that we are debtors to mercy alone. But even here we can be proud of our humility, and we can glory in the repetition of our unworthiness in such a way that it comes across as arrogant and self-righteous. One mark of true humility is an appropriate silence in the presence of God and a reticence to speak about ourselves to others. Ironically too much talk of humility smacks of deeply seated “Aren’t I something! Look at me!”

Third, we must put our hope in God and not in our theological systems.

It is easy to criticize others for trusting in their programs and techniques to build their churches and evangelize the lost and then turn around and do the same thing in a different way. I have seen people adopt reformed theology, just like people adopt the tenents of the church growth movement or the emergent church, because they believe that if they get their theology right that will guarantee revival and blessing. However, it is not that simple as a survey of church history will reveal. God is sovereign and he reserves the right to use whom he will to accomplish his purposes. Theological precision is important but there are many times when God has used those whose with imprecise theology in powerful ways. Our relationship with God is first and foremost. Dotting all our theological ‘i’s’ and crossing all our theological ‘t’s’ will not guarantee revival, nor will setting up our churches according to the regulative principle, etc. as important as these might be in the grand scheme of things.

Fourth, with regard to the way we structure our churches we need to give people some breathing room.

The Bible has much to say about the worship of God and it clearly outlines various things (like, prayer, the reading of scripture, the preaching of the word) which should be part of Christian worship. But at the same time it does not give us an ‘order of service’ nor is it so explicit that there is only one right way of worshiping the Lord. In the 70’s and 80’s there were too many fruitless discussions and more and more extreme positions taken with regard to ‘reformed’ worship. Generally, I think people had the best of intentions, but they got carried away by their own logic and needlessly restricted the freedom we have in Christ to creatively use our gifts and abilities within the overall boundaries of God’s word.

Fifth, we need to work and pray when it comes to evangelism.

Although there are many who have been reached for the Lord Jesus by those committed to reformed theology, there is more to be done. Too many in our “church plants” come from other churches rather than from the world. Even though there is definitely a place for ministering to and instructing those who are not being fed elsewhere, our primary concern should be to take the gospel to those who have never heard it before. One reason, from a human standpoint, that we have not been as effective as we should be is that we forget how to talk to those outside our circles and we are not meaningfully involved in their lives. If we are ‘restless’ is should be to see more people won to the Lord and not just to our theological position, or our particular style of worship, or pastoral ministry.

In conclusion, Wellum offers a sobering reminder:

If we combine our zeal for the word with a passionate love for God and a lost world then great opportunities lie ahead. But if our zeal turns inward and we start judging and dividing along party lines as if we alone have the truth, God will raise up help from somewhere else, as he has done many times before.

Well said, Dr. Wellum, well said!

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4 Comments on “Wellum Says It Well”


  1. […] Kirk Wellum critiques Collin Hansen's new book on the "New Calvinists". (HT: Brister) […]

  2. phil simpson Says:

    Timmy,

    What a great reminder. I love the third point. Zeal for truth sometimes leads to self-righteousness, or to a spirit which dismisses those who are not in our camp as simply having “gotten it all wrong”. While obviously we believe we are right (or else we wouldn’t believe it), we must extend grace to those who lean toward the Arminian point of view.

    A failure to be gracious, a tendency to argue our points in harsh tones, and a failure to be thankful for much of the good work God is doing in and through those with doctinal imperfections contradicts our own doctrine, which says that God uses flawed people to accomplish His purposes. “God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines”, as Ignatius said.

    “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”– 1 Peter 5:5

    Thanks for posting this. In Christ, -Phil


  3. Phil,

    Great to hear from you brother. You said,

    A failure to be gracious, a tendency to argue our points in harsh tones, and a failure to be thankful for much of the good work God is doing in and through those with doctrinal imperfections contradicts our own doctrine, which says that God uses flawed people to accomplish His purposes.

    I agree totally. I am grateful for the many who have been gracious to me, encouraging me with love to help me appraise biblical truth. Before we give in to the temptation of self-righteousness or acting pompous with our theological exactitude, we would do well to remind ourselves of the great, humbling truth that Paul told the church in Corinth,

    “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

    Whatever understanding we have in regards to truth, whatever love and affection we have with regards to the brethren, this comes from entirely from God. Thanks for sharing your thoughts my friend!


  4. …very very very very timely!

    Great Book!
    Great Review!


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