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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 Chair of Church History and 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
On the positive side, this book helped sharpen my thinking, clear up misconceptions I'd had, and gave me good illustrations and some interesting arguments and concepts to think about.
But, honestly, I was disappointed. Several years ago, I became a five-point Calvinist, and I don't know if I could get to sleep at night if I didn't believe the Calvinistic doctrines. I was a far less secure believer before I discovered God's sovereign grace. And so I came to this book to warm my soul at the fire of God's unshakeable grace. All that to say, it could have been me, but this book didn't warm my soul that much. Personally, I didn't need to be convinced of Calvinism's truth; I needed it to get me to bed at night. Also, I would probably have gotten more from a more exegetical approach than Forster's more philosophical approach. (I remember being disappointed and thinking, "I warmed my soul more when I was reading Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine and The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel by Boice & Ryken." Anyhow, maybe I'll revisit those to refire my soul...)
This is the brilliance of Forster's book. He doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. He makes one thing very clear: Calvinism produces God-centered, Christ exalting, community building, human life fulfilling joy.
There are many books emerging in the wake of this renewed interest in Calvinist theology, but Forster's is creative and unique in its attempt to directly tie Calvinism into a central emotional theme: joy. Because we are all looking for joy, aren't we?
Audience: Anyone interested in developing a foundation for what Calvinism actually teaches, but who thinks most Calvinists are pretentious and annoying.
I would add Forster's book to James Smith's Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition and Collin Hansen's as required reading for those coming into reformed theology.
"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.
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