Reformation Month: October 1

31 Days, 31 Books

It was the history of Calvinism that first started me stumbling down a flight of theological stairs that changed my life.  I was sitting in Henry Wood’s history class and he was lecturing on the founding of America.  He was talking about the beginnings of the country, but there was no talk of Columbus or the native American tribes and only a few references to Jamestown and Plymouth.  The lecture was on the impact of Calvinism in the colonies.  I had barely recovered from that lecture when he assigned a short book called John Calvin: His Roots and Fruits by C. Gregg Singer.  Try as I might, I could not shake a fascination with these unusual people and doctrines named after the Genevan Protestant Reformer. That was now many years ago and many books on Calvinism ago.  I am still just as amazed when I read such a history today as I was when I first learned of the various Reformed peoples, such as Separatists, Puritans, Huguenots, Scots-Irish Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, and others, who crossed the pond and carved out colonial settlements.  And colonial America is just part of the story.  That bigger story needs to be told.  And I want to be there when it is told.

So, I am very thankful for D. G. Hart writing another book on the influence of Calvinism.  Calvinism: A History  is a thorough history of moderate length and of sound scholarship.  Yes, Dr. Hart holds to the Two-Kingdom view of theology.  Yes, his views clash with mine and others’ Kuyperian theology.  But a big part of the fun of Calvinism is the clash of ideas.  And it should be viewed as fun! We should argue, debate, shake our heads in dismay at the other believer’s views, and then rejoice together over God’s grace and go spread the Gospel.  Too often, we just do the arguing and debating parts.

Dr. Hart has written some worthy histories on Christian issues, several books on J. Gresham Machen, and a biography of Joh Williamson Nevin.  This new work is published by Yale University Press, which we should pray will take a few baby steps toward recovering their historic Calvinistic doctrines. Calvinists are often at their best when they are doing scholarly labors.  This book is a good scholarly contribution toward a better understanding and appreciation of the Calvinist influences growing out of the Protestant Reformation.

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