If you think that Calvinism is boring, narrow or joyless, then this book is for you. In fact, even if you know quite a bit about Calvinism, this book is for you. It is the best book-length summary of Calvinist principles, as they apply to every area of life, that I have read. In his foreword, Michael Haykin says that Calvinism ‘applies to all of life’. Contrary to popular opinion, this is true; and Joel Beeke and his fellow-contributors set out to prove it.
Joel Beeke’s prose is a delight to read — clear, thought-provoking and succinct without being superficial. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of Calvinism. The chapters are short and have a series of study questions at the end, supplied by Michael Haykin, which enable the book to be used in home or study groups.
After some brief historical introduction, Joel Beeke explains the main doctrines to which Calvinists hold, including (but not limited to) those summarised in the acronym TULIP — total depravity, unconditional election, limited (or, better, particular) redemption, irresistible grace, and perseverance.
He explains clearly what each doctrine teaches and how it differs from rival views, providing scriptural support and suggestions for further reading.
Calvinism is not just about doctrine, however. The next section deals with ‘Calvinism in the heart’ and opens with a chapter by Michael Haykin on Calvinist spirituality. True Calvinism, being nothing less than biblical Christianity, is rooted in a heart transformed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ and filled with his Spirit.
This is reflected in a God-exalting piety and in sanctified thought and practice, the subjects of the chapters that follow.
Underlying the practical nature of true Calvinism, the remainder of the book (nearly half of the whole) addresses how Calvinist doctrine and experience are lived out — in church life and order (I had just a slight reservation at points where ‘Reformed’ seemed to equate exclusively with ‘Presbyterian’); preaching and evangelism; marriage, family and work; and government and ethics.
These chapters include a welcome portrayal of the early Reformers’ zeal for evangelism and mission, and a moving and challenging description of the Puritan view of marriage and family life. The myths of the inward-looking, anti-mission Reformer — and of the Puritan who treats his wife as a second-class servant — are put to a well-deserved death by these chapters.
The book ends with an uplifting chapter by Sinclair Ferguson which takes us fittingly to Calvinism’s goal — the glory of the Triune God.
This book will strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, enliven your experience of him and encourage you in your daily walk with him. Buy it, read it and, by God’s grace, live it.