Please enable javascript in your browser to view this site!

Subscribe now

John Calvin: A Heart For Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology

By Burk Parsons
June 2009 | Review by Dan Peters


As the five hundredth anniversary of John Calvin's birth approached (2009), Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk magazine and minister of congregational life at St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, FL, brought together an impressive group of pastors and scholars to reconsider Calvins life and legacy. Contributors include Jay Adams, Eric Alexander, Thabiti Anyabwile, Joel Beeke, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, D. G. Hart, Michael Horton, Phillip R. Johnson, Steven J. Lawson, John MacArthur, Keith Mathison, Richard Phillips, Harry Reeder, Philip Graham Ryken, Derek Thomas, Thomas Ascol, and others.

  • Publisher: Evangelical Press
  • ISBN: 978-1567691061
  • Pages: 246
  • Price: £8.00
Buy this book »

Book Review

The 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth makes this year a good opportunity to celebrate the life and ministry of the great Reformer. In this book, nineteen evangelical writers attempt to do just that, each contributing a brief essay on some aspect of Calvin’s career, theology or discipleship.

The result is a wide-ranging, fast-moving compilation, in which the reader never gets too bogged-down but is given a flavour of what this man stood for and why he is so significant. As one would expect, some of the essays stand out more than others. For me, a particular gem is Robert Godfrey’s piece on Calvin, the ‘counsellor to the afflicted’. He paints a picture of a tender and sympathetic pastor, a perspective always absent in the popular caricatures of John Calvin. Other notable contributions are Phillip Johnson’s evaluation of Calvin the writer, and Philip Ryken’s helpful thoughts on ‘union with Christ’ as the central concept in Calvin’s doctrine of salvation.

In some ways, however, this book has a significance beyond its actual content. Many of its contributors are eminent pastors and scholars. In one of the commendations that come with the book, John Piper writes: ‘To my knowledge there has never been a collection of authors of any edited volume under whose ministry I would rather sit than these’. Calvin, of course, has always polarised evangelical opinion, and it is surely very encouraging that in the Christian world of 2009 such a world-class selection of leaders can be found to write a book in appreciation of him.

The book is not without faults. Because of its multiple authors there is a degree of repetition. Also, in some of the doctrinal chapters (John MacArthur’s on human depravity is a prime example) one seems to be reading the author’s own treatment of the doctrine, interspersed with a few Calvin quotes, rather than an evaluation of Calvin’s treatment of the doctrine! And then there is the absence of a chapter on Calvin’s doctrine of the Trinity. I suppose any book engaging with Calvin’s theology inevitably feels the gravitational pull toward a ‘five points’ approach, and perhaps that accounts for the disappointing neglect here of arguably his most significant contribution.

Undoubtedly, however, the book effectively celebrates this remarkable man. If, in this anniversary year, you find yourself wondering what all the fuss is about, and you cannot quite pluck up the courage to delve into Calvin’s Institutes, this book might well be the one for you.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Jesus in Jerusalem: Prelude to the cross
Robert Bashford

This is a most helpful and informative book in which, from all four Gospels, Robert Bashford examines the last week of Jesus’s ministry in Jerusalem. In a useful introduction, he suggests a chronological timetable and deals convincingly with the alleged…

See all book reviews
The History and Theology of Calvinism
Curt Daniel

This must be the most comprehensive study of the subject available today. It is difficult to think of any aspect of Calvinism that is not covered. It is divided into two major sections. The first covers the history, and ranges…

Searching Our Hearts in Difficult Times
John Owen

It is difficult to do this book justice in a review – the only way to grasp how helpful it is will be to read it for yourself. John Owen has a reputation for writing in a style that is…

An Introduction to John Owen: A Christian vision for every stage of life
Crawford Gribben

This unusual yet valuable book is not a biography of the influential Puritan. Rather its purpose – which it achieves capably – is ‘to discover the kind of life he hoped his readers would experience’ (p.13). Drawing on Owen’s extensive…