An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Letters to a Young Calvinist - James K A Smith

Letters to a Young Calvinist
An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition

James K. A. Smith
Brazos Press, 2010
ISBN 978-1-58743-294-1
160 pp; pbk; US $14.99

Publisher's websiste

In The Devil Reads Derrida Jamie Smith offers an apologia for writing popular works: he sees it as 'a responsibility to function as public intellectuals for the church as "public"'. This popular book does just that - it serves the church; it provides an accessible and erudite introduction to the Reformed faith in an epistolatory format.

He has traveled from Plymouth Brethren to Pentecostal and Reformed. He knows popular evangelicalism. This book provides, in part, insights from the journey. As one who has traveled to neocalvinism from traditional anglicanism to free church to house church charismatics I appreciated Smith's helpful advice. As one unfamiliar with the different streams of Reformed in the US I found this a helpful and insightful guide. I particularly appreciated his comments on the different 'Reformed confessions' (Letters XX-XII). He also has some useful comments about the justification 'debate' and Tom Wright.

Thankfully Smith doesn't focus on TULIP, election and predestination - not that they aren't important issues - but there are other issues: 'I have a hard time believing that the denial of limited atonement is the most pressing matter of discipleship right now. We should be more worried about Walmat' (p. 91).

He draws upon Augustine, Calvin and Kuyper and makes an excellent case for the virtues and strengths of the Calvinist position. Calvinism he sees as: 'a lens that magnifies a persistent theme in the narrative of God;s self-revelation: that everything depends on God (p. 14); as an 'Augustinian renewal movement within the church catholic' (p. 40); as a '"region" of Reformed theology' (p. 44); as a counter to 'the rampant gnosticism that characterises North American evangelicalism' (p. 103); it's 'an entire "complex" or "world- and life-view"' (p. 110). This is a broad and fully biblical view.

There are many introductory books to Reformed thought, but most are dry and dull; this one is full of wit, warmth and wisdom. Buy it, read it and then buy another to give away.

Letter 1 - Welcome to the Family
Letter 2 - On Religious Pride
Letter 3 - Proud to Be a Calvinist?
Letter 4 - Grace All the Way Down
Letter 5 - God Owes Us Nothing
Letter 6 - God Doesn't Even Owe Us an Answer
Letter 7 - Semper Reformanda
Postcard from Geneva
Letter 8 - A Historical Tour of Reformed Theology
Letter 9 - Augustine, Patron Saint of the Reformers
Postcard from Princeton
Letter 10 - To be Reformed Is to Be Catholic
Letter 11 - On Being "Confessional"
Letter 12 - Beyond Westminster
Letter 13 - God's "Social" Gospel
Letter 14 - Our Promise-Keeping God
Postcard from Amsterdam
Letter 15 - Elected to Love
Letter 16 - Church Matters
Letter 17 - Too Reformed for Church?
Postcard from Seoul
Letter 18 - On Grumpy Speculations
Letter 19 - Wide-Angle Calvinism
Letter 20 - Far as the Curse Is Found
Letter 21 - What Are We Saved For?
Letter 22 - Bibliographical Providence
Letter 23 - Enjoying God by Enjoying Creation

No comments: