The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God's Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love - eBook
Removing the petals from the TULIP!
Greg Forster is to be commended for his effort to produce a work that aims to explain Reformed Christian doctrine for the layman apart from theological jargon. While there is a crying need for such a book, unfortunately, this is not the one. Admittedly not a theologian himself, Forster demonstrates a personal grappling with historical Calvinism and seeks to explain why it has been so badly misinterpreted and misunderstood by its critics. While not deviating from the essence of Reformed theology, he at times seems to confuse the issue further. He takes aim at the "TULIP" acronym with which Calvinism is most readily recognized and substitutes his own "WUPSI" position in its place. And while his justification for doing so may be well-intentioned, it does little to actually clarify the meaning of "the five points." There are some valuable parts of the book. As a pastor I was greatly helped by his charge to the preacher to be released from "the anxiety of persuasion" that sometimes places undue pressure on the messenger to "win" hearers to the Gospel and results in heavy guilt when it doesn't happen. I needed to be reminded of that! Such flashes of insight were rare, however. I found myself getting lost in many of his arguments, having a hard time determining whether he was advocating or opposing certain points. His rationale may have been valid, but he did not always demonstrate that clearly. If I put the book down and returned to it later, I consistently found it difficult picking up his train of thought. At times his discussion seemed contradictory, but that was probably due to the awkward manner in which he interwove his positions with opposing ones. At one place in the margin I wrote, "is this author really a Calvinist?" The most glaring weakness is Forster's lack of adequate biblical exposition. Given the fact that he was attempting to explain a theological system, one would expect to see more extensive discussion of the key passages. By the author's own admission, this is not a theological text, but it does tackle an important theological topic and does not deliver what it promises. In short, it did not show me "the joy of Calvinism" in a meaningful way. Therefore, this book probably would not be the one I would recommend to someone attempting to become familiar with a basic understanding of Calvinism. I would choose R.C. Sproule's "What is Reformed Theology" instead.
July 1, 2012
A new take on the 5 points of Calvinism
I was very excited to read this book. I had the opportunity of obtaining a copy from Crossway through NetGalley for reviewing purposes; not in exchange of a good review, but in exchange of an honest review. As a reformed Christian, I was very happy to see a book like this being published. And I must say I was very pleased. Forster does a great job of almost reinventing the "5 points of Calvinism". Distancing himself from what Calvinism denies, he explains what Calvinism celebrates, the joy behind knowing and understanding that God is really, actually, and actively in control of everything; that all he has done and does has a purpose, a reason behind it; that nothing that ever happens is by chance.
Forster's take on the 5 points is refreshing, and uplifting, centering on God's personal love for His people and how this love defines everything else for Him and for those whom He calls. This book is mostly aimed at reformed Christian (or Calvinist, a term I really don't like), but it really is essential for every one who wants a better understanding on this small part of the reformed faith, as well as skeptics and naysayers.
Although I think it's a great book, it does have a few flaws: an Introduction that could've been (if edited correctly) the first chapter; a "Detour" that (again, if edited correctly) would've been a great Introduction; and a few times when, trying to explain something more simply, the author ends up confusing the reader, only to have one more paragraph where it all comes clear again.
Those few misses aside, this book is a great tool for new believers, Bible school teachers and church leaders in reformed or Calvinists churches.
Finally, a quote from the book that I thinks sums it up perfectly: "Joy is not an emotion. Joy is a settled certainty that God is in control." It really is.
March 5, 2012
best introduction to Calvinism I've read
Foster reminds us of the command to rejoice without ceasing. He writes, Ã¢ÂÂ...if you want to understand the command to rejoice at all times, and still more if you want to obey it, of all places you might start looking for help with that problem, the best place to start is with Calvinism.Ã¢ÂÂ (14) More specifically, soteriology Ã¢ÂÂ the understanding of how sinners are saved Ã¢ÂÂ as developed from Calvin.
Ã¢ÂÂReal Calvinism is all about joy.Ã¢ÂÂ (16) We Calvinists need to do a better job of communicating that. We need to be affirmative, expressing the joy of living in the truth of Calvinistic theology. Foster gives us a blueprint for that very task in this book.
His goal is, Ã¢ÂÂto tell you what Calvinism says, especially what it says about your everyday walk with God and the purpose of the Christian life, and how you can have the joy of God even in spite of whatever trials and suffering the Lord has called you to endure.Ã¢ÂÂ (22)
Most people are badly mistaken about Calvinism (even Calvinists) so Foster takes a detour and clears up some mistaken thoughts about Calvinism. (As a Calvinist myself, I really appreciated this section.)
Foster tackles God's love for individuals (as opposed to God loving Ã¢ÂÂhumanityÃ¢ÂÂ in general), and what that means regarding salvation. (It is an excellent passage.) He also notes that Calvinism is not Ã¢ÂÂall about predestination and God's sovereigntyÃ¢ÂÂ though he does note Calvinists have a Ã¢ÂÂhighÃ¢ÂÂ view of those areas to preserve other important doctrines. He notes that a distinctive of Calvin's theology was a Ã¢ÂÂhighÃ¢ÂÂ view of the work of the Holy Spirit (supernatural regeneration). Ã¢ÂÂFor the Calvinist, the whole Christian life, individually and collectively Ã¢ÂÂ salvation, worship, discipleship, and mission Ã¢ÂÂ is not only from God and to God but also through God in the overwhelming, all-encompassing, miraculous power of the Spirit.Ã¢ÂÂ (43)
Forster reminds his readers that God loves us individually, intimately, completely. He explains how this affects salvation. He shows how traditions other than Calvinism depersonalize God's love and reduces the work of Christ. He also realizes that there is Ã¢ÂÂno solutionÃ¢ÂÂ to the problem of God's personal love and the fact that not everyone is saved. (66) The reason God chooses some for salvation is hidden within God. He covers the work of the Holy Spirit, transcending our nature. He also covers the work we must do in sanctification, most notably, endure suffering. Our salvation is secure so we have no fear.
Forster reminds us of a sermon he heard. Ã¢ÂÂJoy is not an emotion. Joy is a settled certainty that God is in control.Ã¢ÂÂ (146) Therefore, there is joy in Calvinism because a Calvinist knows God is in control.
Calvinists are not off the hook, however. Forster is quick to point out where we have gone overboard or misrepresented the intent of Calvinism.
The Appendix has frequently asked questions covering the more technical aspects of Calvinism not covered in the main text. (For example: What is TULIP? Another: what about Ã¢ÂÂfour pointersÃ¢ÂÂ? And: Did God cause the Fall?) Forster also recommends several books for further reading.
Forster explains some aspects of Calvinism better than I have ever read before. Other areas he leaves in the realm of mystery. That's appropriate because, after all, we are talking about God whose thoughts are so much higher than ours. If we could understand it all, that would make us God.
I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to understand Calvinism on a conversational level. Technical this book is not. Readable it is. Forster wrote this book because he felt every Christian should be able to understand what Calvinism is. (196) He has done an excellent job.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
February 14, 2012
Loved this book
Greg Forster is program director for American History, Economics and Religion at the Kern Family Foundation. His program supports educational activities that equip future pastors and other evangelical leaders with a biblical understanding of work and economics. He is also the author of five books and has a doctorate in political philosophy from Yale.
For a long time I have been looking for a book that would help me understand the true mechanics behind the Calvinist theology. And pretty much every book I have read was about Ã¢ÂÂsomething elseÃ¢ÂÂ and Calvinism was merely the Ã¢ÂÂsettingÃ¢ÂÂ of the book. I approached ForsterÃ¢ÂÂs book with some skepticism, secretly hoping that this book would be different.
For the most part, all that is known about Calvinism is the acrostic TULIP, or those in the world who have Ã¢ÂÂsaidÃ¢ÂÂ they are CalvinÃ¢ÂÂs biggest fans. And so consequently what we are left with is a weak Calvinism or a misunderstood Calvinism. Forster rolls up his sleeves and breaks down the common misconceptions and fights for his faith like a lawyer in a courtroom.
The title: The Joy of Calvinism comes from ForsterÃ¢ÂÂs chapters that are all arguments of GodÃ¢ÂÂs love. Calvinism, Forster argues is about GodÃ¢ÂÂs unconditional and personal love for his faithful. Ã¢ÂÂGod loves you so much that he will utterly demolish all obstacles in order to save you. He will smash right through the system of nature - without a second thought, if thatÃ¢ÂÂs what it takes to save you.Ã¢ÂÂ
This book was very helpful and powerfully packed with solid teaching. With each chapter, I was carefully taken by the author through the love of God and the extreme measures that God took to save me. Is this book easy to read? I wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt say that.. this isnÃ¢ÂÂt light bedtime drivel or Ã¢ÂÂfeel-goodÃ¢ÂÂ theology. This book will challenge your preconceived ideas of Calvinism and ask where you stand. Did God set out to save the worldÃ¢ÂÂ¦ and fail? Or did he set out to save you?
Thankfully this book is short and the author uses clear examples and has an easy to listen to voice. The back of the book is packed with answered questions and helpful tools to continue your own study.
I could not be more appreciate of this work and am highly thankful I have read this. I would certainly add this to the extremely short list of books I would read again. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Crossway Publishing for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.
March 30, 2012