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The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile) Hardcover – March 1, 2007
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Through an introductory study of John Calvin's preaching, Steve Lawson provides a practical Homiletics I refresher course that can be read in one evening, but should be read annually for lifelong impact. Factual yes stimulation, simple yet penetrating, The Expository Genius of John Calvin contains many scriptural and theocentric golden nuggets and hands-on practical tips for beginning expositors and seasoned preachers alike. May God use it to revitalize Christ-centered and Spirit-empowered applicatory preaching in our needy day.--Dr. Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Grand Rapids, Michigan
An infectious appreciation of the preaching of John Calvin from the pen of Steven Lawson. No one reading this volume can fail to appreciate the debt we owe to the 'Genevan Reformer' Lawson has consulted the best of current scholarship and has produced a comprehensive distillation of the contours of the Reformer's preaching and, with it, a compelling advocacy of consecutive expository preaching. A magnificent achievement.--Derek W.H. Thomas, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia S.C. Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Ga.
In this book, Dr. Steve Lawson has masterfully presented us with thirty-two keynotes that made Calvin the best preacher of the Reformation, all of them centered around the Word of God preached expositorily. He describes for us in a powerful as well as profound way how Calvin brought his congregation upward to gaze upon God's glory as he preached verse by verse, then ended his sermons with prayer filled with the Word! Dr. Lawson is right in saying that because of the spiritual bankruptcy of our time, we need Calvins once again. I would make this book recommended reading in courses such as homiletics and missions for any serious pastor and student of theology.--Dr. Alonzo Ramirez, Professor, Biblical Reformed Seminary, Peru
About the Author
Dr. Steven J. Lawson is president and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a board member and teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, a board member and professor of preaching at The Master's Seminary, professor in residence for Truth Remains, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at Ligonier Academy. A popular conference speaker and author, Dr. Lawson's books include, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, and Pillars of Grace. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Like I said, this book is not what I expected, but I was not disappointed. From the very beginning, in the introduction, Steven J Lawson sets the tone and his purpose for this book.
The goal here is not to take a sentimental journey-the hour is too desperate for such a triviality. Rather, the aim of this book is to raise the bar for a new generation of expositors.
This immediately changed my view towards reading the book from one
of lighthearted observation, to realizing there may be something in this book that will convict me, and this made me excited.
I have to say that all I have known about John Calvin before this book, was that some people love him and others hate him. There is hardly any in between. I know all about Calvinism, and have heard many a time that what we know as Calvinism is not what Calvin emphasized or taught. I know all about Arminianism and how the two have argued non-stop. I have heard Calvin quoted, but only maybe a handful of times, no where near as often as Edwards, Spurgeon or Luther.
What I ended up learning of Calvin was very convicting to me. Calvin was a man of the Word. Everything for Calvin centered around the Bible, and he thought no outside source to be on a level even close to the Bible. In Calvin's teaching and preaching, He gave very short introductions, usually just reminded people of the previous passage taught, then moved right into explaining the passage he was teaching. Calvin was an expository teacher, meaning he would go straight through a book of the Bible, teaching every single verse in that book, simply aiming to explain what each and every verse means. I believe this is the best way to remain faithful to the whole of the Bible. Calvin almost never quoted other people, using rather other scripture to clarify hard to understand passages. Calvin was the first to emphasize the idea that you interpret the less clear parts of scripture by the more clear parts.
Here are some lines from the book that really stood out to me.
Because a sermon is simply an overflow of a preacher's life, the man of God must prepare his heart well. A sermon rises no higher than a preacher's soul before God.
Later in the book it gives an image of Calvin preaching while pointing at the people to whom he was preaching. Calvin note that while 1 finger was pointed at the people, 3 fingers where pointed back at himself. He saw himself as the main one being addressed by the scripture he taught. This was such a huge point to me. How easy is it to read scripture and listen to sermons without letting is penetrate and change your mind and heart?
We must all be pupils of the Holy Scriptures, even to the end; even those, I mean, who are appointed to proclaim the Word. If we enter the pulpit, it is on this condition, that we learn while teaching others. I am not speaking here merely that others may hear me; but I too, for my part, must be a pupil of God, and the word which goes forth from my lips must profit myself; otherwise woe is me! The most accomplished in the Scripture are fools, unless they acknowledge that they have need of God for their schoolmaster all the days of their life.
Calvin also was intent in his belief that Scripture was his ultimate authority, and that he was only to teach what the Bible itself taught.
Where the Lord closes His Holy mouth, let us also stop our minds from going any further.
My limited views of Calvin were changed dramatically in seeing how humble he was. Calvin saw everything he taught as first pointed at his own heart. He lived in constant repentance, humility, and submission to the God's word, and made no attempt to hide himself from the piercing action of the living Word of God. This is a point in which we would all to good to imitate Calvin. I know that I personally can listen to a hundred sermons, teach a hundred Bible studies, and write a hundred blog posts, without letting my heart be affected.
Many are content to have the gospel preached, provided it does not touch them, or make them uncomfortable.
This is what Calvin aimed to fight against, purely by preaching the Word. Calvin also always had a higher goal in mind, keeping heaven and the throne of God in view at all times.
Having brought God's Word to the people, he then desired to bring the people to God's throne. His intent was to leave them in the presence of the Father.
In thinking about this point, I was extremely convicted of the fact that I don't even do that in prayer. How low and near sighted have I set my sights! I don't teach that way, I don't lead that way. I don't lead my family that way. Oh God, I pray that you would continue to convict my heart of the pride that causes me to think I could do better than to teach your word. Break me of the sin of teaching others without myself learning. Lord, that I would be humble and be humbled in my daily reading your Word. Please Lord, let me not forget or lose sight that the hour is too desperate for such trivialities.
legal note: Reformation Trust Publishing will be sending me this book as compensation for this review. Thank you Reformation Trust!
As a primer on ministerial rhetoric, the book mostly succeeds. We get some very helpful hints on preparing and delivering the expository sermon. Unfortunately, however, the book's positive points are often overshadowed by the author's rose-colored exaltation of Calvin himself. Calvin was certainly a brilliant man who has contributed immeasurably to the history of the Christian faith. Yet he was also a deeply flawed man who was unfortunately influenced by the excesses and abuses characteristic of the day in which he lived.
It is certainly appropriate to honor our forefathers in the Faith. But like many Calvinistic apologists, Dr. Lawson comes dangerously close to outright deifying the man. For example, Chapter Three opens with a quote from B.B. Warfield which asserts that "No man had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction." Similarly, the closing chapter is headed by a quote from Charles Spurgeon which states that "Among all those who have been born of women, their has not risen a greater than John Calvin; no age before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival." So by these statements are we to assume that Calvin was on par with the Apostle Paul, with Peter, James and John, or even the Lord Jesus Himself? I am sorry, but this smacks of idolatry.
Finally, Dr. Lawson's work makes frequent use of the same fallacious language which, again, is all too characteristic among those of his persuasion. At various points in the book, he uses terms such as "sound doctrine" and "Biblical truth" as if they are automatically synonymous with Calvinism, which they are certainly not! Similarly, he describes the modern church as being "spiritually bankrupt" and a "whitewashed tomb." While the church certainly does have its problems, such broad generalizations are both unfair and inaccurate. Although Dr. Lawson does not explicitly state why he believes this way, one assumes that it may be because they simply are not Calvinistic enough.
Overall, I do believe this book was well intended and I did gain some important insights from it. But the author's blind and rigid allegiance to Calvinism greatly hinders his ability to view these issues objectively. While there is much to learn from Calvin and other giants of the past, we must remember that they were still imperfect, fallible humans whose weaknesses can teach us as much as their strengths.
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