Readers of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion often regard this masterwork of doctrine as a cold, sterile, and merely intellectual project. But Matthew Myer Boulton reads it very differently. In Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation, and the Future of Protestant Theology Matthew Myer Boulton argues that for Calvin, Christian doctrine is properly conceived and articulated primarily for the sake of practical Christian formation--the immersive, restorative training for wholeness and holiness embodied in the church's disciplinary treasury.
Although Calvin famously opposed the cloister, Boulton shows that his purpose was not the eradication but the democratization of monastic spiritual disciplines. Just as Calvin endorsed the "priesthood of all believers," so too did he envision that ordinary disciples could live with God daily, consecrate themselves to the art of knowing God, and embrace spiritually formative practices including scriptural and theological study, daily prayer and worship, regular Psalm singing, frequent reception of the Lord's Supper, renunciation of "the world," rigorous moral accountability, and the like.
Life in God is a beautiful example of how patient theological and historical reflection can be a catalyst for contemporary renewal...This volume calls us to dispense with the destructive dichotomy of doctrine and practice and to embrace approaches to theology that explicitly strengthen a Christian way of life. Boulton demonstrates how the writings of John Calvin continue to serve as a provocative, inspiring, and clarifying conversation partner for contemporary theologians.
-John D. Witvliet
Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary
"One of the great strengths of Boulton's aptly named book is his emphasis on Calvin as a very practical religious thinker who was more interested in being a helpful interpreter of the Bible than in dogmatic logic. Building on newer research that places the reformer squarely in his historical context as pastor to people going through spiritual upheaval, Boulton provides a thoughtful and lucid examination of key themes in Calvin's thought.
-Elsie Anne McKee,
Princeton Theological Seminary
Boulton continues to manifest here his special gift for melding scholarly insight into theological classics with fresh reflections on the lived realities of worship, prayer, and service in Christian communities. Crisp historical vignettes and lucid interpretations of Calvin's Institutes go hand in hand with very contemporary counsel for pastors and churches.
-S. Mark Heim
Andover Newton Theological School
A stimulating and fresh approach to Calvin's Institutes. Boulton succeeds in demonstrating that for Calvin doctrine is in itself practical - and that Protestant theology today can gain much from reading Calvin.
-president of International Calvin Congress
Boulton (God Against Religion), professor of theology and president of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind., offers a vigorous reinterpretation of the work of John Calvin, the man at the head of the Christian Reformed tradition, who is traditionally thought of as dour. Boulton makes the case that Calvin understood Christian doctrine as a framework for spiritual formation--a means to live and practice life in God. Boulton offers a rereading of Calvin's opus Institutes of the Christian Religion and criticizes the dangers of Calvin's thought--byways of quietism, masochism, and misanthropy, where believers can get stuck through misunderstanding. But if divine predestination also leaves permanent room for future striving, and the Christian cross is understood as a sign of divine solidarity, then Calvin begins to seem possibly even a bit mystical. Boulton is among the group of scholars recasting Calvin for today, and he writes with persuasive clarity. (Oct.) Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.
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