Calvinist is a well-made, informative film about the resurgence of Reformed theology among young people. The crowd-funded documentary is directed by Les Lanphere, who is a host of the podcast The Reformed Pubcast.
Lanphere looks at what is called the “New Calvinism”, a resurgence in Reformed theology. This phenomenon was popularized in Collin Hansen’s 2006 article in Christianity Today entitled Young, Restless, Reformed, which later would become a full-length book in 2008 Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. Later, in 2009, Time Magazine listed New Calvinism in their article 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.
In this well-made 89-minute film, Lanphere uses interesting interviews with some of the key figures in this resurgence of Reformed theology, some video footage (John Piper, Matt Chandler, Paul Washer, etc.), and some very creative graphics and animation, some of it depicting a video game, to tell the story of the resurgence of Reformed theology. The great Baptist preacher from London, Charles Spurgeon, once said that Reformed theology is only a nickname for biblical Christianity.
Lanphere begins by going back 500 years to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, then moves on to John Calvin and the principle doctrines of Calvinism, which are summarized in the acronym TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints).
The film looks at the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. When I attended my first onsite class at Covenant Seminary, Driscoll was without a doubt the pastor that the students were being influenced by at the time, via his podcast, YouTube videos and books. The film shows that Reformed theology, and salvation by faith alone, is far larger than any “celebrity pastors”.
The film looks at the African-American community and Reformed theology, through interviews with Shai Linne, Thi’sl and others. John Piper and Tim Challies introduced me to Christian hip-hop/rap music and some of its artists, primarily Lecrae, because of their connection to Reformed theology.
The film humorously looks at what is referred to as the “Cage Stage”. This term is used to describe one who has recently become aware of the Reformed theology, also known as Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. “Cage Stage” suggests that this person would best be placed in a cage rather than offend friends and family with their new passion for all things Reformed. I’ve “been there and done that”. Adam Ford humorously depicts the “Cage Stage” here.
The film shows that John Piper was the leader of what would become known as the New Calvinism. His book Don’t Waste Your Life was, and continues to be, very influential among young people. The film also shows the importance of Reformed Confessions and being a part of, and accountable to, a local church.
Calvinist is a well-made film and will serve as an excellent introduction to the New Calvinism. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with leading theologians such as the late R.C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung, Paul Washer, Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Carl Trueman, Joel Beeke, Steven Lawson and many more.
You can rent or purchase the film on Amazon or through Vimeo and watch the preview here: