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4 Stars Out Of 5
Book Review: Living for God's Glory
September 21, 2015
In "Living for God's Glory," Joel Beeke introduces readers to the roots of Calvinism and how it is considered "true religion" in the words of B.B. Warfield. This book spans nearly 400 pages and touches on a vast array of themes showing how Calvinism impacts every aspect of a Christian's life. The six parts of the book investigate the historical roots, doctrines, and practical outworking of the thoughts that originated from the reformer John Calvin. Although Beeke wrote the majority of the chapters, there are several other contributors including Sinclair Ferguson, Ray Pennings, and Michael Haykin. As a whole, I find the book to be a valuable resource for those unfamiliar with the depth and breadth of Calvin's thinking as he wrote extensively on many topics to focus believers on the glory and sovereignty of God in all aspects of life. What the author makes clear though is that Calvinism as a whole may have originated from Calvin's work but later developments from other reformers, scholars, and pastors have also defined Calvinism as we know it today. The Puritans were likely the group that most effectively popularized Calvinism in their congregations, households, and governments. I especially enjoyed the section on Christian piety and the Christian home which undoubtedly are the specialities of the Puritans. Men such as Owen and Bunyan understood that holiness is the key to enjoying and glorifying God to the utmost. To our detriment, the theology and spirituality that we practice in evangelical circles today have strayed far from that of the reformers. The result is a stunting of the Christian life which leads to a myriad of grave implications to family, church, and society. Thus, throughout the book, Beeke continuously urges believers to rediscover the rich theology of our spiritual forefathers such as Calvin and the Puritans. The only weakness that I can point out is that throughout the book, there seems to be a lack of critique and discussion on the weaknesses of Calvinism. Although the authors do point out in several places where Calvinism was twisted to fulfill unintended purposes (e.g. political gain), actual examination of Calvin's theology and its shortcomings were mostly avoided. Naturally, this may well be part of the author's intent to keep the book short but critique is also an important way of fully appreciating the topic in question.
I would happily recommend this book to those unfamiliar with Calvinism and its wide-ranging applications to the Christian life. The book is not technical in terms or theology but the average layperson may be bogged down by some of the historical details and unfamiliar topics such as philosophy. Thus, "Living for God's Glory" may be more suitable for those more familiar with theology in general and have an appetite for digging into the topics more thoroughly. However, I am thankful for Beeke and the other contributors for putting together a solid work that introduces Christians to Calvin's thought and theology.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Reformation Trust of the book in exchange for a book review.
This book kicked my butt! What I mean by that is I wrestled with this book for months as I struggled to come to a complete understanding of this faith I call Reformed. Not that we can completely come to a full understanding of Reformed theology or Calvinism as some would call it. This book was exactly what I expected to read from Joel Beeke; Vast amounts of history, an expounding of the five points of Calvinism, heavy use of catechisms and a healthy spattering of Biblical proof texts. Overall I loved getting into this text and literally having the world of Reformed theology opened up to me.
Joel Beeke starts off this "introduction" to Calvinism by saying, "A Fresh hunger for Calvinism's biblical doctrine and spirituality is causing the roots of Reformed theology to spread throughout the entire world". Indeed the recent resurgence of Reformed literature is no small human effort, but that done by the outpouring of God's Spirit on a parched and dry spirituality.
The book leads readers through six sections of Reformed soaked chapters. First take off into a short section of its history. From there we move on to Calvinism in the mind and the heart. We leave those two sections to , my favorite section, Calvinism in the Church. This section included a huge study on the preaching and worship of the Puritans, which I found very interesting. We jump next into a section on Calvinism in practice and from there we land the plane in a wonderful Doxology by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. All these sections work together well and are very well written and easy to understand as a whole.
As i have already stated, my favorite section on the Puritans, was well worth reading the rest of the book. I found it most helpful in my own life to see the different methods used by the church fathers in explaining to their people, the whole counsel of God. I found a lot of applicable material in the pages of this book and my prayer is that these applications will not terminate on myself but will find a place for the glory of God to be manifest in my life and practice.
I do recommend this book for anyone who is skeptical of what true biblical Calvinism looks like, or what it should look like, and also to those who think they already know. This book was an excellent primer on Reformed theology and even included a little bio of Calvin and his practices. The text is written in an understandable way and flows very nicely. One of the things I did not enjoy was the heavy use of the King James version of the Bible. Some references threw me off a little bit only because I am not used to the old english version of the Bible. This volume will definitely serve me well in the future study of history and biblical Calvinism. Very Helpful!
Please check out Reformation Trust Publishing for more information or to purchase this wonderful book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Prior to reading this book, I had a bit of a negative attitude towards Calvinism; specifically when regarding limited atonement. Since I am the type of person who prefers to not be uninformed about something, unless it gets a bit too complicated lol, I felt it was appropriate to read a book about Calvinism in order to get a better perspective and see if my perception would change at all... After my reading, I can say my perception of Calvinism has partially changed, though certainly not everything. Living for God's Glory introduces readers to what is Calvinism theologically and historically.
I feel Living for God's Glory is an apologetic for Calvinism based on the information and tone, and because of that fact it makes it harder for me to review this book since it would be unfair to review it simply based on the theology itself; I try to be professional about my reviews after all. I will say this, despite what Joel Beeke wrote I still don't believe in limited atonement and still feel it is wrong, but he did make some good points about other Calvinist doctrines and at the very least convinced me to view Calvinism a bit more tolerantly. To quote a friend: "Most Christians believe in bits of both Calvinism and Arminianism." Keeping this in mind, I did have two dislikes about Living for God's Glory outside of the controversial topic of limited atonement: 1) Though this was certainly an educational read, at times Mr. Beeke's book was dry and boring, especially when talking of history; unfortunately this is coming from someone who likes to read about history. 2) Part of the time, his writing tone seemed a bit arrogant and biased. Other than those complaints, he and other contributors obviously did their homework (a lot of it) when compiling historical and theological information and I respect them for that much.
Disclaimer: Ben Umnus was given a free copy of this book by Reformation Trust Publishing, but he was neither paid for his review nor was he commanded by Reformation Trust Publishing to write a positive review. This review is the personal, written opinion of Ben Umnus. This disclaimer is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Calvinism is all the buzz these days. Last year, Time Magazine listed the rise of "The New Calvinism" as number 3 on a list of "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now". The five points of Calvinism are gaining adherents at a rapid rate. At the same time, a deep-seated rejection of Calvinism remains popular in large swaths of evangelicalism.
When it comes to the internet, fierce debates over Calvinism are the norm. Calvinists routinely suspect the worst of their "Arminian" opponents who are often pictured as near-Pelagians. Arminians think that Calvinists tout a dour, sour-faced God who gleefully condemns people to Hell with no chance for salvation. No wonder then, that Calvinists don't evangelize.
From my vantage point, as a convert to Calvinism from a Baptist non-Calvinist viewpoint, both the Calvinist superiority complex and the Calvinism-is-of-the-devil overreaction share a common shortfall. Neither extreme really appreciates the full ramifications of Calvinism for all of life. Both have a certain amount of ignorance with respect to the history and teaching of Calvinism from the Reformation onward. A historical perspective and an appreciation for Calvinism's impact on worldview and theology beyond the rather specific and limited focus of the five points would do much good all around.
It is these reasons and more which make Joel Beeke's book "Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism" such an important resource. This book is packed with material illustrating how Calvinism impacts all of life.
The book starts off with an historical treatment of the origins of what we call Calvinism and a look at several of the Reformed confessions. Then it moves on to a Scriptural defense of the teachings of Calvinism. Here we find a treatment of the 5 points of Calvinism as well as the 5 solas. We also find that the sovereignty of God, or theocentrism is the doctrinal heart and soul of Calvinism.
The book goes further and surveys the piety of Calvinism and its impact in the church. In these sections we learn a lot from the Puritans on sanctification and church life. Particular emphasis is placed on the emphasis of the role of preaching in worship, which is truly Calvinism's gift to the wider church.
The book then goes on to how Calvinism provides a "theology for all of life". I was particularly struck by this section. The discussion of a Puritan home and marriage was eye-opening. Indeed the medieval era had downplayed the physical aspects of the marital union. The clergy were above sex, or were supposed to be, and that was left for mistresses and secret elopements. The marriage wasn't about that, it was a societal convention. The Puritans took the Bible's teaching on the importance of the marital union and brought back a Biblical morality and a healthy enjoyment of physical pleasures within the confines of marriage.
I also enjoyed the chapter on vocation, and how Calvinism invests the idea of a life's calling with great significance. Political and ethical questions are also addressed from the perspective of Calvinism.
The book concludes with a chapter by Sinclair Ferguson on doxology as the end goal of Calvinism. As it was John Piper's ministry in particular that drew me toward Calvinism, I can testify that Calvinistic theology if it is actively embraced and understood should tend toward a doxological thrust in life. Everything should be seen as flowing from God's good hand, and our very salvation is a free gift of God's grace. Calvinism should make us worshipful and humble, not proud.
Joel Beeke and the other contributors to this book are to be commended for showing us how doctrine should impact all of life. They open up the horizons of contemporary Christians to see the beauty of faithful orthodox piety of previous generations. The book does get long and can be quite varied at times. But the work can be seen as an anthology from which to glean what you find interesting and helpful. I recommend this book heartily.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Reformation Trust Publishing for review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.