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The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God's Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love Paperback – February 29, 2012
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“A refreshing, clearly-written, thought-provoking, truly enjoyable book that will help overcome many misconceptions and deepen people’s faith and joy in God each day.”
—Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
“Forster pulls few punches with his critiques both for Calvinists and also their opponents—this vigor is what makes this exploration of joyous Calvinism so welcome and challenging.”
—Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
“Concerned that some of the negative press which Calvinism receives is actually provoked by Calvinists themselves, Forster here offers a refreshing restatement of the Reformed faith. In the tradition of the personal, pastoral confidence and joy one finds in the Heidelberg Catechism, he presents an account of the Reformed understanding of salvation that is accessible, reliable, and delightful. A super book to read for oneself or to give to Christian friends who may never have understood the joy that lies at the heart of Calvinism.”
—Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary; author, The Creedal Imperative and Luther on the Christian Life
“Calvinism has been the target of countless caricatures, but none so misguided as the notion that it is the enemy of joy. Forster insists rightly that Calvinism is ‘drenched with joy,’ and has done a masterful job of accounting for the beauty and delight intrinsic to biblical Calvinism. I pray this book gets a wide reading.”
—Sam Storms, Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“Forster does a wonderful, twofold service for God’s people in this book—he retrieves Calvinism from portrayal as a dark and distasteful version of Christianity and, instead, presents it as an attractive and beautiful expression of biblical religion. Forster speaks with deep wisdom rooted not only in a well-informed theology, but also in his own experience as he wrestled with the sufferings of life and ultimately found comfort in the God who is profoundly merciful and sovereign in Christ. I highly recommend this book for all who seek godly encouragement and joy in the midst of life’s trials.”
—David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Westminster Seminary California
About the Author
Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) serves as the director of the Oikonomia Network at the Center for Transformational Churches at Trinity International University. He is a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the editor of the blog Hang Together, and a frequent conference speaker.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Real Calvinism is all about joy." (16) We Calvinists need to do a better job of communicating that. We need to be affirmative, expressing the joy of living in the truth of Calvinistic theology. Foster gives us a blueprint for that very task in this book.
His goal is, "to tell you what Calvinism says, especially what it says about your everyday walk with God and the purpose of the Christian life, and how you can have the joy of God even in spite of whatever trials and suffering the Lord has called you to endure." (22)
Most people are badly mistaken about Calvinism (even Calvinists) so Foster takes a detour and clears up some mistaken thoughts about Calvinism. (As a Calvinist myself, I really appreciated this section.)
Foster tackles God's love for individuals (as opposed to God loving "humanity" in general), and what that means regarding salvation. (It is an excellent passage.) He also notes that Calvinism is not "all about predestination and God's sovereignty" though he does note Calvinists have a "high" view of those areas to preserve other important doctrines. He notes that a distinctive of Calvin's theology was a "high" view of the work of the Holy Spirit (supernatural regeneration). "For the Calvinist, the whole Christian life, individually and collectively - salvation, worship, discipleship, and mission - is not only from God and to God but also through God in the overwhelming, all-encompassing, miraculous power of the Spirit." (43)
Forster reminds his readers that God loves us individually, intimately, completely. He explains how this affects salvation. He shows how traditions other than Calvinism depersonalize God's love and reduces the work of Christ. He also realizes that there is "no solution" to the problem of God's personal love and the fact that not everyone is saved. (66) The reason God chooses some for salvation is hidden within God. He covers the work of the Holy Spirit, transcending our nature. He also covers the work we must do in sanctification, most notably, endure suffering. Our salvation is secure so we have no fear.
Forster reminds us of a sermon he heard. "Joy is not an emotion. Joy is a settled certainty that God is in control." (146) Therefore, there is joy in Calvinism because a Calvinist knows God is in control.
Calvinists are not off the hook, however. Forster is quick to point out where we have gone overboard or misrepresented the intent of Calvinism.
The Appendix has frequently asked questions covering the more technical aspects of Calvinism not covered in the main text. (For example: What is TULIP? Another: what about "four pointers"? And: Did God cause the Fall?) Forster also recommends several books for further reading.
Forster explains some aspects of Calvinism better than I have ever read before. Other areas he leaves in the realm of mystery. That's appropriate because, after all, we are talking about God whose thoughts are so much higher than ours. If we could understand it all, that would make us God.
I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to understand Calvinism on a conversational level. Technical this book is not. Readable it is. Forster wrote this book because he felt every Christian should be able to understand what Calvinism is. (196) He has done an excellent job.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
I will not go into a long review of this book for one reason; it's so good you should just read it for yourself. I agree with another reviewer who pointed out that writers such as Piper and Packer unpack these things in a more through way, but they do so indirectly. Their works are less about looking at Calvinism's "Five Points" and more about Calvinists looking at God with different "points of five" appearing here and there. Forster on the other hand tackles the doctrines of grace straight on and in a way far more inspirational than just how each point relies on the next for a cogent argument. As an added bonus Forster tosses in obscure factual nuggets or under-utilized philosophical ideas that make the book feel a bit more like learning about the five points all over again. It was that freshness that perhaps most caught my attention and jumps Forster's book to the top of my "favorites on the five points" list.
One thing I am still undecided on is where having some basic knowledge of the five points is helpful or not in reading the book. Forster doesn't make much use of the traditional labels for each point (i.e. TULIP). If you know the points then you know what he is talking about as he speaks to the content of each point while bypassing the brand. If on the other hand you didn't know the traditional labels when you started you still won't by the time you finish. The ideas? Yes! The labels? No! Ultimately this is a good feature that keeps the book from bogging down in the same "defenses of labels" diatribes that other five point books suffer from (i.e. by "limited" we don't mean limited, but "particular" - thought we don't use particular because we don't want to spell it "TUPIP"...), but it may not be as helpful for people who wanted to learn about the five points of Calvinism only to finish and still not be sure what those five points are as far as TULIP goes.
This book is especially good for the stodgy theologian who has forgotten that Reformed Theology is more about Grace and God's Personal Love and than the secondary tools such as Predestination and Election. But how many stodgy theologians do we know that would actually read a book with the word "Joy" in it's title. :)
The Joy of Calvinism is meant to be a buffer to the traditional arguments that have ransacked Calvinistic theology for decades. And Forster accomplishes his task with a great deal of skill.
The thesis: "Real Calvinism is about joy." But the author essentially argues that Calvinism has been poorly explained and even misrepresented - especially in the twentieth century. An example is the acrostic, TULIP which he rightly notes is not a formulation of the famous Synod of Dort (1618-1619). Rather, it is more of an expression that was popularized by Lorraine Boettner in his book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. While Forster's argument is a bit overstated, it carries a certain amount of weight. He suggests a new formulation as outlined below:
State of man before salvation: wholly defiled
Work of the Father in salvation: unconditional choice
Work of the Son in salvation: personal salvation
Work of the Spirit in salvation: supernatural transformation
State of man after salvation: in faith, perseverance
The book responds well to the classic arguments that emerge from Arminian and Roman Catholic perspectives. Forster's writing is humble, thought-provoking, challenging, and affirms historic Calvinistic theology with warm-hearted enthusiasm. It is a welcome addition to a growing number of books that eagerly promote Calvinism - what Spurgeon called, "a nickname for biblical Christianity."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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