Monday, March 5, 2012

The Joy of Calvinism, by Greg Forster

Overview (from NetGalley): The Bible’s command to “rejoice continually” seems impossible and, frankly, unreasonable. Yet despite the apparent difficulty in fulfilling this commandment, Gregory Forster argues that Calvinism holds the key—namely that “real Calvinism is all about joy.”
Forster passionately holds to this belief, and systematically demonstrates it by addressing popular misconceptions of what Calvinism is and is not. Dismantling negative expressions of Calvinist theology, Forster positively reiterates its fundamental tenents, showing how God’s love is the driving force behind every facet of Calvin’s doctrine of salvation.
Written accessibly, The Joy of Calvinism is an important addition to the conversation surrounding Calvinism and its advocates. Skeptics and those who have had negative perceptions of Calvinism, as well as Calvinists themselves, will find this a helpful resource for clearing up the controversies and grasping the winsomeness of the doctrines of grace.
Review: I was very excited to read this book. I had the opportunity of obtaining a copy from Crossway through NetGalley for reviewing purposes; not in exchange of a good review, but in exchange of an honest review. As a reformed Christian, I was very happy to see a book like this being published. And I must say I was very pleased. Forster does a great job of almost reinventing the "5 points of Calvinism". Distancing himself from what Calvinism denies, he explains what Calvinism celebrates, the joy behind knowing and understanding that God is really, actually, and actively in control of everything; that all he has done and does has a purpose, a reason behind it; that nothing that ever happens is by chance.
Forster's take on the 5 points is refreshing, and uplifting, centering on God's personal love for His people and how this love defines everything else for Him and for those whom He calls. This book is mostly aimed at reformed Christian (or Calvinist, a term I really don't like), but it really is essential for every one who wants a better understanding on this small part of the reformed faith, as well as skeptics and naysayers.
Although I think it's a great book, it does have a few flaws: an Introduction that could've been (if edited correctly) the first chapter; a "Detour" that (again, if edited correctly) would've been a great Introduction; and a few times when, trying to explain something more simply, the author ends up confusing the reader, only to have one more paragraph where it all comes clear again.
Those few misses aside, this book is a great tool for new believers, Bible school teachers and church leaders in reformed or Calvinists churches.
Finally, a quote from the book that I thinks sums it up perfectly: "Joy is not an emotion. Joy is a settled certainty that God is in control." It really is.
4 out of 5 starts

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