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An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity Paperback – April 1, 2004
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"For those puzzled by the ongoing grip of Calvinism on many serious believers, Godfrey's journey from an Alameda, California, high school swimming pool to the biblical truth we call Calvinism will be an eye-opener . . . and possibly a turning point in their own lives." --Joel Nederhood
"Although written in autobiographical form, this book is really about God. Regardless of one's theological background, any believer can read with great edification this hymn to God's grace in Christ from one whom many of us have been privileged to know as a mentor, example, churchman, and friend." --Michael S. Horton
About the Author
W. Robert Godfrey (Ph.D., Stanford University) is president of Westminster Theological Seminary in California. He is the author of Reformation Sketches: Insights into Luther, Calvin, and the Confessions, and God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1.
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"One obvious effect of psalm-singing was that Reformed worshippers had the psalms well planted in their minds and hearts. If we should hide God's Word in our hearts that might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11), singing the Word is one of the best ways to do that. Early Reformed leaders did not so much argue that we may sing only psalms as they argued that the psalms are the best songs to sing because they are divinely inspired...Yet the variety of elements that we find the psalms assures us that our songs will have a truly inspired balance. The Psalms balance the communal and the personal, as well as the objective and the subjective. They balance head and heart, intellect and emotion. They are the perfection of praise." (p.146)
He did not stop at explaining Reformed doctrines along with his life stories, but continued on with handling practical life issues. For example, in his doctorate study majoring in history, pursuing ordination, and raising family; a wife and three children, he explains the doctrine of divine calling for every Christian; not only specific calling, which is usually vocation-wise, but also in terms of three basic callings; to work, to raise a family and to worship (p.87-88). Some memorable lines that I find interesting are as follows:
"(quoting Luther who rejected the idea that only the clergymen are called, as well as commenting on a celibate life), All callings are honorable before God, with the possible exceptions of burglary and prostitution. It is God's Word and preaching which make celibacy - such as that of Christ and Paul - better than the estate of marriage. In itself, however, the celibate life is far inferior. The dearest life is to live with a godly, willing, obedient wife in peace and unity" (p. 85-86).
Those who have attended Dr. Godfrey's speaking engagements would see that he is not only someone who loves history; the history of the Reformation in particular, but who also actively and passionately engages in it. By active engagement of history I mean not only passively taking in information as to what happened in the past and relaying that information, but also ensuring the accuracy of the collected accounts and formulating the moral of the story; as to what to learn from it, and in light of it, how we should conduct our lives accordingly, or how we should interpret the current events going on in the world. He describes it as follows on the value of learning history following the study of Psalm 78:7,
"We see three benefits to the study of history here: we learn to trust, to remember, and to obey (I think the right order should be to remember, to trust and to obey).The wisdom we should gain first is to compare ourselves to history and see how much we take after our fathers. Have we learned the dangers and patterns of sin that surround and tempt us? Are we more characterized by faith, remembrance and obedience, or by unbelief, forgetfulness and disobedience?" (p.97).
This book is Reformed Theology in a nutshell explained at a personal level; an extremely valuable resource for both new and mature Christians to continue growing in grace for reason that "True Calvinism is always religion of the heart more than a religion of the head" (p. 142).
Reformed Christians know that the truths of the Reformation are exciting, applicable, vibrant and most importantly come straight from Scripture. Dr. Godfrey does a great job of laying down the framework for Reformed Christianity from innumerable Scripture references and shows his passion and excitement for his faith. It was fun to read the first couple pages of a chapter concerning a portion of his life and then having him lead us into a deeper discussion of what and why the Reformed tradition believes about certain things.
This book can be a quick read, or it can be a starting point for further study. In my title for this review I called it a "Reformed Theology Primer", which I think is quite applicable for somebody wanting to know more about the Reformed faith. But for somebody who has been studying the Reformed faith for a number of years, I still found the book very engaging and quite worth the read.
I like Mike Horton's quote on the back which reads something like, "...this book is really more about God." (I loaned the book out so I can't quote it directly!) I couldn't agree more.
Mark Vander Pol
Soli Deo Gloria
It was refreshing to hear how he borrowed Calvin's "Institutes" from a local pastor as a teenager, and also read Cornelius Van Til's "Defense Of The Faith" as a young person. My own conviction is that we patronise our youth far too much in our churches, rather than teach them the solid meat of the Word. There must be other Robert Godfreys out there wanting to be fed!
I share Godfrey's appreciation of Reformed theology. Two things that I found slightly annoying though were:
1) His emphasis on Sunday ("The Lord's Day") as the Christian Sabbath. My understanding is that the early Reformers didn't take this view, and many Calvinists today don't. He goes into it at length in at least two chapters that I can recall. When taken too far this really can bring believers into bondage!
2) Paedo-baptism as a logical outworking of his understanding of covenant theology. There's the subtle implication here that Reformed Baptists are not fully Reformed!
However, this is Godfrey's personal journey concerning Reformed theology, so perhaps I'm being needlessly critical regarding the above.
Definitely a stimulating read.