Calvinism is all the buzz these days. Last year, Time Magazine listed the rise of “The New Calvinism” as number 3 on a list of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now” (see excerpt here). The five points of Calvinism are gaining adherents at a rapid rate. At the same time, a deep-seated rejection of Calvinism remains popular in large swaths of evangelicalism.
When it comes to the internet, fierce debates over Calvinism are the norm. Calvinists routinely suspect the worst of their “Arminian” opponents who are often pictured as near-Pelagians. Arminians think that Calvinists tout a dour, sour-faced God who gleefully condemns people to Hell with no chance for salvation. No wonder then, that Calvinists don’t evangelize.
From my vantage point, as a convert to Calvinism from a Baptist non-Calvinist viewpoint, both the Calvinist superiority complex and the Calvinism-is-of-the-devil overreaction share a common shortfall. Neither extreme really appreciates the full ramifications of Calvinism for all of life. Both have a certain amount of ignorance with respect to the history and teaching of Calvinism from the Reformation onward. A historical perspective and an appreciation for Calvinism’s impact on worldview and theology beyond the rather specific and limited focus of the five points would do much good all around.
It is these reasons and more which make Joel Beeke’s book Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism such an important resource. This book is packed with material illustrating how Calvinism impacts all of life.
The book starts off with an historical treatment of the origins of what we call Calvinism and a look at several of the Reformed confessions. Then it moves on to a Scriptural defense of the teachings of Calvinism. Here we find a treatment of the 5 points of Calvinism as well as the 5 solas. We also find that the sovereignty of God, or theocentrism is the doctrinal heart and soul of Calvinism.
The book goes further and surveys the piety of Calvinism and its impact in the church. In these sections we learn a lot from the Puritans on sanctification and church life. Particular emphasis is placed on the emphasis of the role of preaching in worship, which is truly Calvinism’s gift to the wider church.
The book then goes on to how Calvinism provides a “theology for all of life”. I was particularly struck by this section. The discussion of a Puritan home and marriage was eye-opening. Indeed the medieval era had downplayed the physical aspects of the marital union. The clergy were above sex, or were supposed to be, and that was left for mistresses and secret elopements. The marriage wasn’t about that, it was a societal convention. The Puritans took the Bible’s teaching on the importance of the marital union and brought back a Biblical morality and a healthy enjoyment of physical pleasures within the confines of marriage.
I also enjoyed the chapter on vocation, and how Calvinism invests the idea of a life’s calling with great significance. Political and ethical questions are also addressed from the perspective of Calvinism.
The book concludes with a chapter by Sinclair Ferguson on doxology as the end goal of Calvinism. As it was John Piper’s ministry in particular that drew me toward Calvinism, I can testify that Calvinistic theology if it is actively embraced and understood should tend toward a doxological thrust in life. Everything should be seen as flowing from God’s good hand, and our very salvation is a free gift of God’s grace. Calvinism should make us worshipful and humble, not proud.
Joel Beeke and the other contributors to this book are to be commended for showing us how doctrine should impact all of life. They open up the horizons of contemporary Christians to see the beauty of faithful orthodox piety of previous generations. The book does get long and can be quite varied at times. But the work can be seen as an anthology from which to glean what you find interesting and helpful. I recommend this book heartily.
See an expanded version of this review, with additional content and resources, at CrossFocusedReviews.com. This book is available for purchase at the following sites: Amazon.com, Westminster Bookstore, Monergism Books and Reformation Trust
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Reformation Trust Publishing for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.