Tim Chester, IVP £8.99
Review by Rona Moore
paperback edition, £5.00, gift edition, £10.00. An easy read and good introduction to Calvin’s theology.
Never read Calvin? Feel rather daunted by the prospect?
Well, this little book is just the thing for you. It was written for ordinary people who do not have much background in theology, so that they could begin to get a grasp of all that the Scriptures teach. It’s brilliant. It’s heart warming, encouraging, and – you may be surprised to learn – very easy to read. In fact, it is a sheer delight to read. (I read it through in one evening.)
It gives you an overall picture of God’s plan for us and includes a chapter on prayer as the way we communicate with God.
Furthermore, it is a short book – only 74 pages long. When you have read it, you will want to recommend it to others, as I am doing now; and if you want to give it as a present to someone, then there is a special gift edition which looks rather smart.
“Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism” (2008)
by Joel Beeke.(Reformation Trust)
500 years on from John Calvin’s birth there have been fitting commemorations of this great servant / leader of the church. If you are still wondering what it was all for, here is a superb book to make it clear. The author of the lion’s share of it is Dr Joel Beeke, a good friend of Heath Church. He writes simply, warmly and with great conviction. The foreword was penned by Dr Michael Haykin who may be less well known to many of you. Not long ago he was well received by the ministers at the Bala conference. In July 2010 he is to travel from the States as the main speaker at WEST’s Revival conference.
The book is divided into six parts:
Calvinism in history
Calvinism in the mind
Calvinism in the heart
Calvinism in the church
Calvinism in practice
Of the 28 chapters, 18 of them are written by Dr Beeke. Other contributors are James Grier, Michael Haykin, Derek Thomas, Ray Lanning, Robert Oliver, Ray Pennings, Nelson Kloosterman and Sinclair Ferguson.
So who is it for? I think it has broad appeal. The well-read, convinced Calvinist will enjoy it. But so too will the Christian who is wanting to deepen his or her understanding and walk with God.
What? Calvin again?
Thought all that was so last year!
Well even so, here is another wonderful little gem. 127 small pages of loving, gentle advice and encouragement on how to cope with life’s circumstances.As a Christian.The whole purpose of our regeneration is, he says,“that our lives might demonstrate to others a harmony and accord between God’s righteousness and our obedience, and that we might thus confirm that he has made us his children by adoption”.
Why should we love God’s righteousness? Because God is holy and we now belong to Him, and in gratitude for all that Christ has done for us.We should aim for perfection, even though we shall never reach it in this life. Integrity, by which he means “absolute simplicity of heart, freedom from pretence … In other words, the essence of right living is spiritual,when the soul is inwardly moved to give itself sincerely to God, and thus to lead a righteous, holy life”.Calvin is realistic, not idealistic, recognizing our fallibility:“none of us is strong or keen enough to hurry on as briskly as we ought”.This is not highmindedness, nor ‘pie in the sky’ theology, but down to earth practical encouragement from a pastor who knew himself well as well as other people.
But you can also tell he was a preacher; imagine listening to this: If, then, we are not our own, but belong instead to the Lord, it is clear what we must do to avoid going astray, and what our goal must be in every department of life.We are not our own: let no will and reason therefore determine our plans or the things we need to do. We are not are own: let us therefore look beyond what the flesh suggests is good for us.We are not are own: let us therefore forget ourselves as much as we can – ourselves and everything around us.Again, we read that we are the Lord’s: let us then live and die for him.We are the Lord’s: let his will and wisdom govern all we do.We are the Lord’s: let every part of our lives be directed to him as to their sole end.
The key to Christian living is a reorientation to God, denying self.We ought to seek God’s will and glory, avoid ungodliness, think of others, serve our neighbour, love the unlovely,with a real love from the heart and a life yielded to God. In return,we enjoy God’s generous provision of peace and satisfaction in accepting that all things are ordained by God, and also His grace in times of trouble.
We live under the Cross. Even Jesus himself was not treated softly or leniently. Bearing the cross, Calvin says, is bearing all manner of trouble and adversity; this includes persecution, but also includes all the afflictions that a person encounters in this life.We readily think of Romans 8: 28, but Calvin draws attention to Romans 8: 29 that we should be conformed to the image of His Son.That is what God is doing with us.The all things that work together for our good humble our pride, produce hope, teach us obedience, remedy selfindulgence, keep us in God’s love even in innocent suffering and persecution, comfort us in grief and pain, and reconcile us to God’s will, justice and fairness.
Heaven should become our longing. It is our true home, so we should not love this present world – not hate it, but look beyond it, desiring the life to come.There He will wipe away our tears, crown us with glory, clothe us with gladness, satisfy us “with the endless sweetness of his favours” and raise us to share in His blessedness.
But while we remain on earth, we can enjoy God’s blessings, for He has given people all that they need – and for their enjoyment. But we must maintain a careful balance.We should not focus on these material blessings, nor yearn for them; but we should enjoy what God has given us personally and be prepared to give an account of how we have used them. He has given us food not just for our nourishment but for our pleasure as well.With clothing, God had not only our need in mind, but attractiveness and decency; but not magnificence and glamour that tends to pride, contempt and immorality. Keep the balance! Calvin also talks about the beauty, scent, colour and material of His creation for our delight. Contentment to live within what God has given us frees us from worry and reckless ambition.
So, you can see that this is not high level theology, not heavy academic doctrine, but an encouragement to walk in righteousness and accept all that God has given us. It is easy, pleasant reading; I read it all in one afternoon.
A wonderful little gem. Just like the other one, Truth for All Time.Have you read that one yet? Don’t miss out on these little gems, and don’t be put off by what others have said about Calvin.He is eminently readable, and has written these things to help ordinary people like you.
John Calvin:A Guide to Christian Living.
Banner of Truth, 2009.
Extract: Loving the unlovely
The Lord requires us to do good to all.He makes no exception, even though most people are unworthy if we judge them on their merits. Scripture, however, forestalls us,warning us to pay no attention to human worth in itself, but rather to consider the image of God which is in all of us, and which deserves all our respect and affection. Especially should we acknowledge it among God’s servants in the faith (Gal 6: 10), because it is being renewed and restored in them by the Spirit of Christ.
If someone, then, turns up who needs our help,we have no reason to refuse our aid.
What if we claim that he is a stranger?We are reminded that the Lord has stamped him with a mark hich should be familiar to us: we are thus urged not to despise our own flesh (Isa 58: 7).
What if we maintain that the man is worthless and beneath contempt?The Lord replies that He has honoured him by causing His own image to shine within him.
What if we say that we owe him nothing? The Lord tells us that He has put him as a substitute in His own place:we are to think of him as the one for whose sake God has bestowed His blessings on us.
What if we think he is not worth lifting a finger for?We should hazard our lives and goods on account of God’s image which we are meant to see in him. Even supposing the man deserved nothing from us, but instead had grossly abused and injured us, that is no reason to stop loving him, or offering assistance and support. For if we argue that he deserves only ill of us,God might well ask what ill He Himself has done to us,He to whom we owe every good thing. For when He commands us to forgive men (Luke 17: 3),God lays those sins to His own charge.
This is the only way we can attain what is not only difficult for human nature, but totally abhorrent to it – namely, loving those who hate us, repaying evil with good, and praying for those who slander us (Matt 5: 44).This, I repeat,we can attain, if we are careful not to dwell on the evil which men do, but rather to look upon the image of God which they bear, and whose worth and dignity can – and should – move us to love them, and to bury their faults which might otherwise repel us.
John Calvin, from his Guide to Christian Living