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Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition Paperback – November 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In 2009, Time magazine called New Calvinism one of the "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now," noting both the draw and the drawbacks within this postmodern return to grace-driven Christianity. In this series of epistolary exhortations, Smith addresses the faults of the Calvinist theology to which he subscribes--for example, its seeming lack of charity and production of arrogant followers. He then calls on young Calvinists to rise above haughty intellectualism to embrace the richer, more sustainable Reformed tradition that grew out of Calvinist ideas. Though written for a college-level audience, Smith's guide to all things Reformed may leave some searching for a glossary of theological terms. And critics of Calvinism will not find answers to all of their questions: why aren't humans more responsible for their destiny, and why wouldn't God choose to save everyone? Yet Smith welcomes readers to embrace more than just a grumpy theological debate. He opens them to a tradition defined by grace, enjoyment, and group worship. This slim introduction will leave readers wanting more history and will prepare them to dive into more challenging texts. (Nov.)
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From the Back Cover
Exploring the Riches of the Reformed Tradition
"I wish there had been a Jamie Smith to write letters like these to me when I was a young Calvinist. This is a wise and delightfully written portrayal of a robust Calvinism for the twenty-first century."--Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary
"James K. A. Smith winsomely steps into one of the most fascinating conversations in contemporary evangelicalism--the surprising resurgence of Calvinism among younger Christians. Letters to a Young Calvinist is thoughtful, nuanced, provocative, relational, and informed. No one will agree with everything here, but what I appreciated most was Smith's careful insistence that there's much more to being theologically Reformed than believing in the famous (and fabulous!) five points of Calvinism. A thoroughly engaging read!"--Tullian Tchividjian, author, Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels
"Jamie Smith has done a fabulous job articulating a winsome and engaging account of the depth, splendor, and joy of the Reformed tradition. I found much of what I hold dear about Calvinism reaffirmed in these interesting letters and at the same time was delighted to learn new insights that got me excited about the tradition all over again. I hope this book introduces a whole new generation to the richness of the Reformed understanding of the faith."--Jim Belcher, author, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
"Most of the time I cheered 'Amen!' as I read these letters, but even when I disagreed, I appreciated Jamie's model of charity and humility as well as conviction. In the midst of all the encouraging energy of the 'New Calvinism' movement, it is also important to say that being Reformed is more than TULIP. These are rewarding and creatively written letters for all of us."--Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary California
"A splendid book that speaks to both head and heart, counseling the 'young, restless, and Reformed' toward growth into a wider and deeper Reformed tradition. . . . This wise and witty book is a delight to read!"--J. Todd Billings, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
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I remember when this first came out I was first starting to read a bit about Calvinism because of the rise of the Restless and Reformed movement. It is particularly these young new Calvinists that Smith was hoping to reach, although I have heard him say that this book never caught on as he hoped it would.
When it first came out, I remember that it was notable because Smith took a position that the essential parts of Calvinist (or Reformed) thought was not TULIP, but covenantal theology. And part of the ramifications of that, was that Smith did not believe that you could be a real Calvinist and be Baptist. You could subscribe to the principles of TULIP, but that in and of itself is not Calvinism.
I am glad I did not read this when it first came out and I first thought about picking it up. I just didnâ€™t have the appreciation for either Smithâ€™s work or an understanding of his perspective that would have allowed me to really understand his point.
I am no more a subscriber to TULIP than I was when this book came out. But I certainly have more of an appreciation for Reformed theology, at least that of the Dutch Reformed wing that is more focused on Ecclesiology than Soteriology (church more than salvation).
Smith here is writing a series of letters (of which we only see his side, similar to CS Lewisâ€™ Letters to Malcolm). These are mostly short, one or two pages and occasionally just a postcard length.
Letters seem a bit old fashioned to me now. My wife and I wrote the occasional letter to one another before we were married (18 years ago now) but even then we were as likely to email or text chat as write mailed letters.
The recipient of the letters for Smith is a young person that Smith made up as a combination of some of the youth he worked with in a pentecostal church in California and Smithâ€™s own younger self. This young man, new to the Reformed world out of a pentecostal background is working through what it means to be reformed and how that can affect this participation in his current church, his theology and his potential call to ministry.
Smith deals with both the strengths and weaknesses of the Reformed tradition honestly and I think in a very helpful way.
I learned a bit about Reformed theology, but as someone that is not Reformed, I still think there is value in reading it because regardless of your tradition, this is about maturing as a Christian.
This was a quick read, it could fairly easily be read in two to three hours even if you are a slower reader.
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