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With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life Paperback – September 1, 2010
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“From the recent flurry of studies on John Calvin, it is evident that we can understand neither the sixteenth century nor our own times without reference to the reformer of Geneva. This little book reveals Calvin to be a God-saturated theologian whose love for Jesus Christ and his church touches every area of human life. A jewel of a book!”
―Timothy George, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
“In a culture that applauds self-glory, and in a church that often appears to have forgotten its Christ, the work of John Calvin is as timely as when it was first penned. This wonderful book invites you into a theater of power, wisdom, authority and grace, but it is not Calvin’s theater; it is the theater of glory of God in Christ. Here you will be thankful for the man Calvin and how he enables you to see life-shaping truths, but you will be even more thankful for Calvin’s Christ. For as is true of Calvin, is true of every follower of Jesus, the faint glory of the man is only as good as it humbly and relentlessly points you to the spectacular glory of his Lord. Which is, in fact, is the lasting legacy of the man this book remembers.”
―Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries; author, New Morning Mercies and My Heart Cries Out
“Contemporary interest in John Calvin and his writings has stimulated a widespread renewal in reform theology and with it has created considerable controversy regarding stereotypical perceptions of Calvinism. Speakers at the 2009 Desiring God National Conference made a significant contribution to these issues by focusing on practical aspects of John Calvin’s life and writings. These messages, edited by David Mathis and John Piper in With Calvin in the Theater of God, will be a blessing and encouragement to the reader in discovering an often neglected aspect of this influential theologian.”
―Jerry Rankin, President Emeritus, Southern Baptist International Mission Board
“Sadly, for many Christians John Calvin has become more of a theological caricature than the real-life man of passion, reason, and pastoral concerns that he was. Fortunately, this is a book that tears back the curtain and allows us to see and understand the key intersections where his theology and his everyday life collided and then merged into the passionate love for Scripture and zeal for upholding God’s glory that became his calling card.”
―Larry Osborne, Pastor, North Coast Church, Vista, California; author, Sticky Church
“These distinguished contributors do not seek to exalt John Calvin. But they rightly recognize that Calvin’s ministry helps us exalt Jesus Christ. Follow them into the theater of God and behold the glory of the One and Only.”
―Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
“In an age where Scripture is on the periphery in so many pulpits and man is glorified in so many churches, we desperately need this book. It reminds us not only of the great life and work of John Calvin, but most importantly the supremacy of the Scriptures and the Glory of God.”
―Britt Merrick, Founder, the Reality family of churches; Pastor, Reality Santa Barbara
“What does a theologian and his theology look like if he and it are firmly centered on the Triune God and His glory? These essays will show you. You will meet Calvin the pastor, the theologian, the polemicist, the husband, the father, the sufferer, the lover of God and his church―all roles played out in “the theater of God.” Whether you’re meeting Calvin for the first time or spending time with an old friend, this book will give you a glimpse of the wide horizons that are opened to one who has God’s glory firmly at the center of life. Be warned, Calvin’s vision is contagious.”
―Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries; author, Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought and The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World
“The authors of With Calvin in the Theatre of God present us with a world-changing vision of God’s glory that has profound ramifications for the practical realities of everyday life. Here we find proof again of that old axiom, There is nothing more practical than sound theology. I highly recommend it!”
―Steven L. Childers, President and CEO, Global Church Advancement; Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
“With Calvin in the Theater of God takes Calvin out of the ivory towers that many people mistakenly believe he lived in and shows how his robust theology played out in the practical life of a pastor attempting to care for his people. It shows how his belief in the sovereignty of God allowed him to suffer often, and suffer well, throughout his life. It shows how his hope in heaven allowed him to deal with the relentless stress and pressures of leadership. But most of all, this book shows what God can do through one man who’s eyes are fixed, not on what we can see, but what we can’t see, the things that are eternal. It inspired me to do the same as a pastor, husband, father, and man.”
―Jason Strand, Teaching Pastor, Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, MN
“No theologian, living or dead, has been more influential in my ministry than John Calvin. Reading With Calvin in the Theater of God reminded me why. Each essay contributed something helpful both to my understanding of Calvin's life and ministry and to my affection for the Savior that Calvin relentlessly served. Whether you’re a long-time student of Calvin or brand new to the Reformed universe, I highly recommend this book.”
―R. W. Glenn, Pastor of Preaching and Vision, Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN
“As a church planter in New Orleans, I am continuously confronted by the destruction of this world’s depravity. My primary counter-attack is to present a biblical vision of the glory of God in Christ. John Piper and my good friend David Mathis have compiled an amazing work displaying Calvin’s biblical vision of God’s redemptive glory.”
―Rob Wilton, Lead Pastor, Vintage Church, New Orleans, LA
“For a generation of Calvinists who seem to know little about Calvin himself, this is a timely book. By taking us straight to the heart of Calvin’s everyday life and ministry, the authors introduce us to Calvin the pastor and expose us to the daily grind of his pastoral work and personal suffering that shaped and informed his teaching and writing. Calvin’s voice can be heard throughout the book, exhorting us to live our lives “with one foot raised,” ready for the day God wills our departure from this world. This book left me with a hunger to taste and trust God more, and in the end, truly honors Calvin by pushing our thoughts and worship past him and to the true hero of God’s theater and Calvin’s ministry, Jesus Christ.”
―Beau Hughes, Campus Pastor, The Village Church, Denton, TX
“As a young pastor with less than a decade of experience, I desperately need the wisdom of faithful pastors who have gone before us. I have found in these pages much needed, refreshing, and challenging insights for the daily grind of ministry life. Lest we forget the divine glory that is shot through this “grand stage,” Calvin―through his life and his writings―pulls back the veil of seeming routine to reveal it once again in all its splendor. And the authors of this brief volume you hold in your hands serve as worthy guides and fellow stage-hands with the old master in the theatre of God. Read on, and behold again―in all things―God’s radiant glory.”
―Matthew Molesky, Pastor for Preaching, Calvary Community Church, St. Cloud, MN
“In this book you will meet John Calvin the pastor, apologist, evangelist, church planter, Bible teacher, theologian, and pilgrim. The version of Calvin you get from his enemies, and sadly even from some who claim to be his friends, is a hammer-headed, abstract bore. The real Calvin, and the theology he proclaimed, is the opposite. His life and ministry reflect the clearest message of Jesus and the deepest message of the Bible―the grace of God to sinners, for the glory of God.”
―Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal Priest; Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; coauthor, Rid of My Disgrace and God Made All of Me; editor, Christian Theologies of Scripture
“The great glory of God revealed in all things is the Copernican Revolution for anyone seeking to live everyday life in an extraordinary way. John Calvin’s addiction to this view of God is worth studious exploration. David Mathis and John Piper’s With Calvin in the Theater of God is without a doubt a must-read for those new to Calvin and looking for an introduction to the Revolution, or for those who are in need of another beautiful and freeing drink from the tavern of God’s sovereignty.”
―Steve Treichler, Church Planter and Senior Pastor, Hope Community Church, Minneapolis, MN
“If Calvin intrigues, inspires, or even baffles you, then you’ll want to get this latest contribution to his teaching ministry and life. This work digs through 500 years of history and unearths one of the church’s greatest treasures―the heart and mind of John Calvin―and places it not behind the walls of academia but on the pulpits of pastors and in the pews for laymen. Applying the brilliance of Calvin to the hardest theological questions and the most stubborn challenges of everyday Christian-living, this book will enlighten you with the great breadth of Calvin’s biblical worldview.”
―Robert S. Scott Sr., Pastor, Los Angeles Community Bible Church; general editor, Secret Sex Wars: A Battle Cry for Purity
“These writers are not just historical spectators observing John Calvin’s life. They are participants in the theater of God with Calvin, and they want you to participate in that theater by embracing the truth that drove Calvin: God’s glory is demonstrated preeminently through Christ, revealed to us through the Word, and manifested in our everyday life. This volume points you back to the unfolding drama of God’s kingdom.”
―James H. Grant Jr., Pastor, Trinity Reformed Church, Rossville, Tennessee
“This book is a beautiful capstone to the helpful array of Calvin volumes published in the past few years. However, this book is more about the God who Calvin worships than about Calvin himself. Each chapter plumbs the depths of Calvin’s wretched but repentant and Spirit-regenerated heart and brings us face to face with Christ on the cross and leaves us there on our knees as it directs our eyes to the glorified Christ on high.”
―Burk Parsons, Senior Pastor, Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Florida; Editor, Tabletalk
“With Calvin in the Theater of God is a rich and readable introduction to one of the church’s greatest pastor-theologians. Examining Calvin from many angles―including pilgrim, counselor, public intellectual, sinner―the contributors offer an elegant composite of the man even as they point to the object of his worship and work: Jesus Christ. It is perhaps the resolute faithfulness of Calvin’s life that most stands out here; this steadfastness, which in God's providence produced a major Christian movement bursting with energy today, reminds us that our faith is exercised hour by hour, day by day, trial by trial, all for the honor and acclamation of the Lord. Whether eminent or unknown, we are reminded in these pages that in the grand theater of God's glory, there are no bit players.”
―Owen Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; coauthor, The Grand Design; coeditor, Designed for Joy
About the Author
John Piper is founder and lead teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God; Don’t Waste Your Life; and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
David Mathis serves as the executive editor at desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church, and adjunct professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary. He writes regularly at desiringGod.org, and he and his wife, Megan, have four children.
Marvin Olasky (PhD, University of Michigan) is the editor in chief of World magazine, holder of the distinguished chair in journalism and public policy at Patrick Henry College, and senior fellow of the Acton Institute. He was previously a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, a Boston Globe reporter, and a Du Pont Company speechwriter. He is the author of twenty books and more than 3,500 articles. He and his wife, Susan, have four sons.
Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at SamStorms.com.
Douglas Wilson (MA, University of Idaho) is a pastor, a popular speaker, and the author of numerous books. He helped to found Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, and is currently a senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College. He blogs regularly at DougWils.com.
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I highly recommend this book, as it provides insight in to Calvin, who was a real human being with true brilliance from God, struggling with very trying times that he lived in and the sin within himself.
You'll find that the brilliant scholar/pastor was not only gifted, but also very human. This reminds all of us to remember that every thing we have is a gift from God.
The book is full of information that may not be well known for many readers. For instance, the fact that Calvin dictated letters of encouragement to others up until just 8 hours before his death. (23) Also, that he wrote his classic INSTITUTES not only to explain the truths of Christianity, but also to protect his fellow Protestants being persecuted in his native France. (36)
Each essay is well written and focuses on one aspect of the Christian faith as it related to the life of Calvin. The last section of Douglas Wilson's chapter on Calvin and the Bible entitled A REAL MINISTRY is nothing short of brilliant. Indeed, chapter 3 is perhaps the best one in the book.
One thing the reader will notice is how often Calvin's different commentaries and of course his classic INSTITUTES are quoted throughout the book. I had no idea how many commentaries Calvin had written.
The contributors wanted to clearly show that the passion of Calvin's life was to proclaim the glory of God, and they've done an outstanding job of doing that.
A must read for anyone wanting to know more about the live of a true pilgrim, John Calvin.
Top international reviews
The metaphor that this is the theatre of God is brilliant in its own right. Then describing our current situation as bad actors on a broken stage is simply breath-taking. In this theatre, we really have a script (i.e. Scripture) in our hand, and in this script we are given our lines (p. 94). We really should stay on task. But this happens: "Other actors and directors from other stage companies loudly maintain that the theatre is really theirs, that their scripts are better, their plotlines starker and grittier, their shows make more money, and in all this their rebellion is complete." (p.94) Looking at politics today, the liberal agenda, we can see how true this description is. The theatre of God has been usurped and we wish to rewrite even natural orders of things. Certainly in our pride, we think our script is better. - most certainly. Isn't this an apt metaphor for our human story? We are all bad actors - we are all sinners wanting to follow our own scripts.
If you are a Christian or unbeliever because of the issue of suffering, this book offers quite a detailed exposition on the Christian perspective. I have read quite a few books on this issue but Calvin's insight is yet another that I have not come across before. His view is biblical and yet to grasp that and then to accept it is a long road to travel on Christian walk. It is very counterintuition but I think what Calvin sees from the bible is right - and very simple. Even so, I believe only mature Christians would be able to see it, agree with it and accept it. It is challenging, and because of that, it is revealing of our hearts.
Here is another description about our days that we should lament: "The worship of the church has become a feel-good experience, rather than a meeting with the holy God of the universe. Exciting music has become the new sacrament mediating the presence of God and his grace. Sermons have become pop psychology, moralistic exercises in self-help." "We need to hear Calvin's voice once again calling us back to the Scriptures as our only ultimate source of truth and life." (p.37) Sola Scriptura has two components - and of late evangelicals have been contending only one of them which concerns the inerrancy of the Scriptures. But quite rightly so, Wilson (a contributor) points out that what the place is for the Scriptures is also important. "In our day the thing we are really clueless about is the authoritative centrality of God's Word." (p.93) Spot on. Convicted. If we believe the centrality of God's Word, I guess more people would expend more time and effort in studying, knowing, meditating God's Word than we normally see today.
This comes back to my point at the beginning that this book is bittersweet in that something as fundamental as Calvin's to our church history and heritage and Christian walk, so few of us are interested in, let alone be acquainted with, it. It has to be offered in this brilliant condense scholarly format so that it is accessible for us. It shows up how flippant our faith and its grounding is. Reading this book is a good start in the right direction.
In the first chapter, Julius Kim writes very creatively, drawing fascinating parallels between the persecuted and pilgrim life of his own father and that of Calvin. "John Calvin was a faith-possessed pilgrim with a singular passion to know God and to make him known", as a student and as a servant of God's Word. Mark Talbot picks up the theatre motif but from a different angle, seeing human life
"being acted out...by broken actors...on a broken stage, a stage strewn with the wreckage of sin and suffering. This makes our acting difficult and sometimes dangerous. We not only find all sorts of obstacles--all sorts of adversities, calamities, and horrors--strewn across the stage's surface, but we also can never be sure that its floorboards are sound and that our feet will not break through as we take our next step, or that the whole surface will not suddenly shift cataclysmically with all of the accompanying damage to us and the overall environment." The purpose of the analogy is to reveal Calvin's profound and realistic view of sin, evil and suffering. This is nitty gritty, 'where-the-rubber-hits-the-road' theology and I found it gripping.
Douglas Wilson turns to the "sacred script" of the play, advocating that "Calvin worked out the principle of sola Scriptura more consistently than many
of his fellow Reformers, and the implications were world shattering". This is a no holds barred assault on liberal and higher critical views of Scripture - "The serpent was craftier than all the beasts of the field, having completed some post-doctoral work in Europe" - and a call to bold, fearless preaching of the inspired, authoritative Scriptures. If you only read one chapter of this book, read this one!
Turning from the sacred to the secular, Marvin Olaskey looks at how Calvin challenged the conventional wisdom in the worlds of government and business. Sam Storms picks up Calvin's own exhortation to a Christian in which he encourages her to "learn to have one foot raised to take our departure when it shall please God", and shows how this characterised the Reformer's own approach to life and how it should also characterise ours. There's a wonderful exposition of 2 Corinthian 4:16-18 in among this and its one of the most pastoral sections of the book. John Piper concludes things in his own inimitable style, focussing on Christ as the ultimate expression and focus of the glory of God and the true theatre of God's works of providence and grace.
I would suspect that however much - or little - you already know about Calvin, you will find much in this volume that will inform and inspire you. It goes a long way to correcting some of the false caricatures that abound about its subject and with its passion and pastoral concern cannot fail to stir the heart of all who read it. This is a 'must read' and I cannot commend it too highly.