Thursday, August 27, 2009

John Calvin ed. by Burk Parsons Book Review

This year marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. This book introduces a new generation to Calvin. As stated in the forward: this best purpose of the book will be served if readers of this book will want to read Calvin himself.
Each chapter is written by a different author and the list is like a “who’s who” of the Reformed branch of Christianity. Due to the variety of authors, the reader will note some repetition and overlap of topics that could have been eliminated with better editing.
Burk Parsons begins by revealing that it was his studying of the Word of God that convinced him Calvin’s theology was the correct interpretation of Scripture. Derek Thomas next gives the reader a
short biography of Calvin. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us of Calvin’s heart for God with his life a marriage of learning and piety.
D. G. Hart addresses Calvin’s role as Reformer and encourager of Protestants in various countries. Harry Reeder notes how Calvin restored the role of church leadership with the offices of pastor, teacher, elder and deacon. Steven Lawson says Calvin was the most prolific of all the Reformers, systematically preaching through books of the Bible.
W. Robert Godfrey emphasizes Calvin in the pastoral role, comforting and admonishing based on the sovereignty of God. Phillip R. Johnson claims that Calvin’s writings, such as the Institutes (published when Calvin was only 27 years old), has secured him a place in history. Eric J. Alexander reminds us that Christocentric is the one word description of Calvin’s theology, preaching and thinking. Thabiti Anyabwile shows us Calvin understood the working of the Holy Spirit in salvation and in the union of Christ and the believer.
John MacArthur explains the first of the “five points of Calvinism,” total depravity. Richard Phillips brings light to the second point, predestination. Thomas K. Ascol defines redemption, recognizing the serious nature of sin. Keith Mathison explains the Remonstrance (opposing the teaching of Calvin) with the Canons of Dort answering the five points. He also gives a good summary of the doctrine of irresistible grace. Jay Adams rounds out the points of Calvinism with an explanation of the perseverance of the saints.
Philip Graham Ryken addresses Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ where, through the Holy Spirit and by faith, we receive Christ and all His benefits. Michael Horton clarifies Calvin’s teaching on salvation and what union with Christ really means. Jerry Bridges explains how Calvin’s theology is worked out in everyday in holiness through self-denial, cross-bearing and hopefulness. Joel Beeke ends the collection with a description of Calvin’s teaching on prayer as a holy and familiar conversation with God.
Calvin has received a lot of bad press over the centuries. If you would like to read what Calvin really wrote, what he really preached and how he really addressed his pastoral roles, this book is for you. As a Calvinist myself, I am glad to see such a readable and understandable book presenting Calvin to our generation.

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