Thought Provoking Article on the “Young, Restless and Reformed”

The writer is not against Calvinism, but has a major problem with some of the attitudes, themes, behaviors and side effects of what has been termed the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement.  It is certainly worth reading and considering, whether you are a Calvinist or not.


People are sometimes surprised to hear me speak of the TULIP cult. What do I mean when I speak this way? By a cult, I mean a sect within the broad landscape of Christianity which takes as its operating center some principle other than Christ crucified. This is certainly the case for the Young, Restless and Reformed. It is obvious that the operating center which holds this movement together is TULIP, not the gospel of the cross. One gets the impression that their sense of identity is inseparable from their sense of superiority, and thus it is tied to their adherence to and promotion of the doctrines of grace.

It is not the name of the Lamb that is constantly on the lips of these men, but the names of Calvin (though I have found most of the YRR have actually read very little of him) and the personalities featured at Calvinist conferences, gatherings and websites. What seems to be of paramount importance to these people is the demonstration of the superiority of the arguments for TULIP and its consequences for thinking out the logic of the Christian faith. The Christian faith, in other words, finds its coherence in the “doctrines of grace,” rather than in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than glory in Christ, and see in Christ’s face the focus of divine revelation, Calvinists these days glory in the doctrines of grace, and see the focus of God’s revelation in today’s preachers of TULIP religion. And just as reflecting on Christ makes us more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), reflecting on these Calvinist personalities seems to shape many Christians into a far less pleasing image.

Some of these Calvinist ministries have been plagued with scandals of a sexual nature in recent days. I can’t say this surprises me. I strongly suspect it is because they are expressions of the TULIP cult. When Christianity is reduced to talking, singing, arguing, and teaching about the “doctrines of grace” and their manifold ramifications, their spiritual well is bound to run dry pretty quickly. This is simply because the TULIP cult is not the time-tested, historic Christian religion. It is no different from the Prosperity Gospel movement, although it operates on different theological principles. In both cases, you have a movement which derives its theological center from something other than Christ crucified. The Christian religion starts at Calvary and works outward from there. The Prosperity Gospel works outward from the principle of material blessing in response to human faithfulness (at best a sub-theme developed in parts of the Bible). And the TULIP cult works outward from the principles of the doctrines of grace, though not as cautiously expressed in Scripture, but as dogmatically expressed in the highly fallible writings and sermons of men who have attempted to popularize Reformed theology for the masses.

The Spirit of God is not going to be present and operative in the promotion of TULIP as the essence of the Christian religion, any more than He would ever participate in promoting the empty “gospel” of the prosperity message. Where the Spirit of God is not present, you will only find the doctrines and myths of men, and where people are being fed on such a diet of spiritual junk food, it should not shock us to see all manner of spiritual diseases and dysfunctions. It is particularly dangerous when the pious-sounding doctrines of universal human depravity, and Christ’s perfect active and passive obedience on our behalf, are distorted by unstable and untaught men, so that the gravity of sin and the necessary obligations of Christian holiness are minimized. No wonder people begin to think that it is normal for Christians to use filthy speech, to adopt the world’s view of sexuality, and to engage in heinous sex crimes. (We’re all just wretched sinners after all!) But thank God for his unconditional grace, and that perfect, imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ! Let’s sing a few cool songs about that…. (What Is Wrong With the Young, Restless and Reformed Movement? An Interpretive Essay by Dr. Paul Owen)

12 thoughts on “Thought Provoking Article on the “Young, Restless and Reformed”

  1. John, these are great videos! Thanks for the link.

    Ben, you should put a permanent link for these on the website.

  2. yes i know a few calvinists and i’ve seen the pride in their eyes. i told them they are worshipping a different Father God and that Jesus is the exact image of the Father. i can’t believe i was argueing with this one guy for a year and it brought the worst out in me and i was so angry at him. eventually i had to sever the thing. it was like he was brainwashed . i am now writing musings on the bible and refuting calvin;’s tulip. if it was the 1500’s i’d be burned at the stake with the anabaptists. i am an anabaptist now after much study. i am afraid of ”the tulip growers” to infiltrate all churches. they are so militant and have rote comebacks. they have their books in my church library and some think i’m predjediced against calvinists but i don’t think they really know what they the calvys believe and how bad it is. i am alone in this -thx for your essay -i can see it clearly. how do we find peace with them?

  3. Just a quiet comment to balance out the perspective in the quoted article above.

    It states, “Rather than glory in Christ, and see in Christ’s face the focus of divine revelation, Calvinists these days glory in the doctrines of grace, and see the focus of God’s revelation in today’s preachers of TULIP religion.”

    With all due respect, this simply isn’t true. The biggest “thing” to come out of the whole YRR study/article by Colin Hansen, is the Gospel Coalition where Colin now works.

    Going through their resources, you will be lucky to find 1 in 50 resources that focuses on TULIP specifically. Rather what they seem to be most focused on is being missional, biblical and most of all Christ-enamoured.

    I am all for debating soteriology, but just wanted to point out that this article simply isn’t true. Check out ( for yourself to see that at least some of us YRR types are very much in love with Jesus, and his gospel proclaimed! 😀

    Thanks for letting me comment!

  4. On the contrary, Calvinism (much broader than TULIP, by the way, which was merely a response to the five points of heresy the Arminians developed in their assualt against reformed heritage) has at its very root the gospel of Christ crucified. Total depravity is what informs us about the need for Christ’s sacrifice. Unconditional election is the only way that dead sinners could be brought to that saving gospel. Limited atonement is a defense of the very efficacy of the blood of our Savior-which the Arminian would so blasphemously apply to millions who burn in the fires of God’s wrath for all eternity. Irresistable grace is the means by which dead sinners are brought to that precious gospel that they naturally would despise. And finally, perseverance of the saints is the means by which we are kept forever by the saving power of the gospel. Explain to me how the proper understanding of our “operating center” is somehow removed from the “gospel of the cross”.
    The historic reformed church and heritage has defended and preached that Christ-centered gospel long before the Arminian heretics came in an attempt to defile it. The writer now tries to hijack a heritage that is not his. Only this reformed heritage consistently holds to that theology which uplifts a Sovereign Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. And He will judge those who falsely accuse His faithful children.

  5. Arend,

    Your comments well illustrate and confirm the problem in the movement that the author was highlighting. You just made his case.

    You wrote,

    The historic reformed church and heritage has defended and preached that Christ-centered gospel long before the Arminian heretics came in an attempt to defile it.

    You really need to brush up on your history:

    God Bless,

  6. LOL I am reminded of a pun discussion with one of my Calvinist friends, If I remember correctly he refered me to Grant Osbourne who he said is the greatest Classical Arminian then the exchange went to something like this:

    Me: Well offcourse and the greatest Arminian was Arminius.
    C-Friend: Well offcourse, it couldn’t have been the Apostle Paul because he was a Calvinist.
    Me: Well Jesus was an Arminian (sorry I beat you to it :P).
    C-Friend *seems agitated*: Well the Father was a Calvinist.
    Me: Ahhh, That’s why He made Adam Totally Depraved, that’s why he ate that “apple”. Ok you win. 😀

    I am greatful/happy that I have Calvinist friends who doesn’t think I am a Heretic. Well maybe they don’t say it on my face. Hehehe.

  7. that is funny1 thx – you are a bigger person than me to keep them in your life . i just can’t stand the manipulation and they not excepting my view. they only WANT ME TO BELIEVE LIKE THEY DO. they bring the worst out in me.

  8. like i’m just sharing the living Lord Jesus in my life and they share the law. the order is -i receive my LORD JESUS AS MY SAVIOR AND LORD and ”then” out of love for him i try and obey his commandments. he has to further my walk by his Spirit. not the law 1st and then try to believe in Jesus.
    when i share they use every instance to make me see i ‘m wrong.
    its ”crazymaking”. thx for listening

  9. @barb, i dunno, i think when I sense hostility in me and my C-friends discussions/debates I am the one who first backs off or I kinda break the fourth wall and change the topic to Wesley/Whitefield.

  10. the guy i am talking about is a puritan/ covenanter/ presbyterean/ hyper calvinist. i asked him if he could just accept i don’t ever want to believe tulip and maybe discussion about calvinism has to be ”off the table” ??? i don’t know
    thx for listening -i can’t find any christians here in winnipeg who even know what i’m talking about, ugh

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