On the cusp of John calvin's 500th anniversary, new generations of Christians have discovered and embraced a "New Calvinism," finding in the Reformed tradition a rich theological vision and deep committment to sound Christian doctrine. In Letters to a Young Calvinist, Reformed theologian and philosopher James K.A. Smith warmly invites others into this tradition to find in the person of John Calvin a vision even larger than the New Calvinism might suggest. By using a letter-styled format for each of his chapters, Smith provides a creative method for imparting the wisdom of the Calvinistic tradition upon younger generations of Reformed Christians. Together they sketch a comprehensive vision of Calvinism that is generous, winsome, and altogether imaginative.
Who would have guessed that something as austere as Calvinism would become a hot topic in today's postmodern culture? At the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth, new generations have discovered and embraced a "New Calvinism," finding in the Reformed tradition a rich theological vision. In fact, Time cited New Calvinism as one of "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now." This book provides pastoral and theological counsel, inviting converts to this tradition to find in Calvin a vision that's even bigger than the New Calvinism might suggest. Offering wisdom at the intersection of theology and culture, noted Reformed philosopher James K. A. Smith also provides pastoral caution about pride and maturity. The creative letter format invites young Calvinists into a faithful conversation that reaches back to Paul and Augustine, through Calvin and Edwards, extending to Kuyper and Wolterstorff. Together they sketch a comprehensive vision of Calvinism that is generous, winsome, and imaginative.
James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. Smith has been a visiting professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), Fuller Theological Seminary, and Regent College. He is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today award winners Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and editor of the well-received Church and Postmodern Culture series (www.churchandpomo.org).
"My friend Jamie Smith is never boring. Most of the time I cheered 'Amen!' as I read these letters, but even when I disagreed, I appreciated Jamie's model of charity and humility as well as conviction. In the midst of all the encouraging energy of the 'New Calvinism' movement, it is also important to say that being Reformed is more than TULIP. These are rewarding and creatively written letters for all of us."
--Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California
"I wish there had been a Jamie Smith to write letters like these to me when I was a young Calvinist. But, hey, I'm glad to get them today! This is a wise and delightfully written portrayal of a robust Calvinism for the twenty-first century."
--Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
"Letters to a Young Calvinist is a splendid book that speaks to both head and heart, counseling the 'young, restless, and Reformed' toward growth into a wider and deeper Reformed tradition. . . . [T]he journey with Smith into the spacious and expansive Reformed tradition is well worth the ride. This wise and witty book is a delight to read!"
--J. Todd Billings, associate professor of Reformed theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
"Although Letters to a Young Calvinist may not please everyone in the Reformed camp (it is a big and diverse family after all), Jamie Smith has done a fabulous job articulating a winsome and engaging account of the depth, splendor, and joy of the Reformed tradition. I found much of what I hold dear about Calvinism reaffirmed in these interesting letters and at the same time was delighted to learn new insights that got me excited about the tradition all over again. I hope this book introduces a whole new generation to the richness of the Reformed understanding of the faith."
--Jim Belcher, author, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
"James K. A. Smith winsomely steps into one of the most fascinating conversations in contemporary evangelicalism--the surprising resurgence of Calvinism among younger Christians. Letters to a Young Calvinist is thoughtful, nuanced, provocative, relational, and informed. No one will agree with everything here, but what I appreciated most was Smith's careful insistence that there's much more to being theologically Reformed than believing in the famous (and fabulous!) five points of Calvinism. He shows that the Reformed tradition is covenantal and cosmic in scope, big and bright in scale, doctrinal and devotional in spirit. A thoroughly engaging read!"
--Tullian Tchividjian, pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.; author, Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels
"In this series of epistolary exhortations, Smith addresses the faults of the Calvinist theology to which he subscribes--for example, its seeming lack of charity and production of arrogant followers. He then calls on young Calvinists to rise above haughty intellectualism to embrace the richer, more sustainable Reformed tradition that grew out of Calvinist ideas. . . . Smith welcomes readers to embrace more than just a grumpy theological debate. He opens them to a tradition defined by grace, enjoyment, and group worship. This slim introduction will leave readers wanting more history and will prepare them to dive into more challenging texts."
"A much-needed, easily read response to the rise of much neo-Calvinism in our time. I wish I had read something like this book when I was in my twenties. I think I would have been spared a number of mistakes if I had read it. . . . If you know a young neo-Calvinist, or an older one who is teachable and willing to think, get this book to them as soon as possible. . . . Letters to a Young Calvinist is a nuanced and relational book. It avoids the sweeping polemical tone of so much modern neo-Calvinism. . . . It is a small book filled with incredible value for both pastors and faithful Christians without formal training in theology. . . . The genius of this book is that Smith offers such helpful insight at the precise intersection of faith and culture at a time when it is so lacking in the church. . . . His creative use of the letter form engages young Calvinists, and older ones as well, in a rich conversation. . . . This is a generous and well-written book that might even show the non-Calvinist how Reformed Christianity can actually help to foster renewal and reform without becoming a divisive (sectarian) force in the church. . . . Smith's thought is really the kind of healthy, well-balanced, Reformed theology that can engage the ecumenical conversation happily and foster a genuinely missional vision of the church, something missing in so much neo-Calvinism. The danger for the young and restless Calvinists is that they often sound more like Calvinistic fundamentalists than robust Reformed Christians. There is a world of difference. Smith will help a new generation understand this if they read his excellent book."
--John H. Armstrong
"There are many books out there that describe Reformed theology and that invite people to become part of the Reformed tradition. However, most of these books are a product of the years before the advent of this young, restless, Reformed reality that is all the rage today. Most such books predate the New Calvinism. New to the field, and largely distinct from the rest, is Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith. This is one of the few books to speak directly to this new young, restless, Reformed movement. Written in the form of letters from a mentor to a young man who is investigating Reformed theology, the book offers a winsome 125-page introduction to the tradition and to the way it works out in real life."
In 2009, Time magazine called New Calvinism one of the "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now," noting both the draw and the drawbacks within this postmodern return to grace-driven Christianity. In this series of epistolary exhortations, Smith addresses the faults of the Calvinist theology to which he subscribes--for example, its seeming lack of charity and production of arrogant followers. He then calls on young Calvinists to rise above haughty intellectualism to embrace the richer, more sustainable Reformed tradition that grew out of Calvinist ideas. Though written for a college-level audience, Smith's guide to all things Reformed may leave some searching for a glossary of theological terms. And critics of Calvinism will not find answers to all of their questions: why aren't humans more responsible for their destiny, and why wouldn't God choose to save everyone? Yet Smith welcomes readers to embrace more than just a grumpy theological debate. He opens them to a tradition defined by grace, enjoyment, and group worship. This slim introduction will leave readers wanting more history and will prepare them to dive into more challenging texts. (Nov.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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