Friday, November 30, 2012

Killing Calvinism - Book Review

I just finished reading Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside. I found the title of this book to be alluring.  It snatched my attention from the first time that I heard of it.  It was on my watch list for books that I was hoping would go on sale eventually.  Strangely enough, when it did go on sale, it wasn't me that purchased it, but it was my wife who purchased this book. She saw it on the when she was browsing through the Kindle books and decided to pick it up.  I was surprised to see it listed with my books, but quickly started to read it.

Like I said, the title of this book is what drew me in, but what kept me reading was the openness and honesty of the author.  From the subtitle, How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, I could tell that this book was going to deal with the reality of people's reaction to, what is popularly called, Calvinism, and the difficulty of relaying that truth to others. There are so many knee-jerk reactions to salvation and the sovereignty of God that it is hard to get past all of that and into the actual teachings of Scripture.  The flip side to that coin is the pride, anger and arrogance that seems to go along with those who hold this view, whether that is a reality or not, many seem to detect a connection here.

Greg Dutcher shares a quote from John Piper regarding the anger:
When a person comes to see the doctrines of grace in the Bible, he is often amazed that he missed it, and he can sometimes become angry.  He can become angry that he grew up in a church or home where they never talked about what is really there in Romans 8, I Corinthians 2, and Ephesians 2.  They never talked about it -- they skipped it -- and he is angry that he was misled for so long.
I understand that sentiment.  There are so many passages of scripture that were never discussed or taught. I have seen this anger in me.  I don't want to do things that might hinder others from seeing and savoring the greatest aspects of God's amazing grace, and I definitely don't want my attitudes to dim their glory.  The author shared another Piper quote that really rang true:
I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love producing doctrines.  But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in a large matter, because of their intellectual rigor.  They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that.  And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative. 
So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn't tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender.  Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic.
So I don't go into a Piper-quoting frenzy, I will stop there.  I do appreciate how the author, through these quotes and through personal experiences and confessions, displays the typical dangers that seem to cloud the  teachings of these doctrines.  I was stirred, again, by the author's love, not of Calvinism, but of the Lord, to keep in mind God's wonderful grace.

If you are a Calvinist, 5-point or no... I recommend getting this book.  I found it extremely helpful and encouraging.  I will end this book review by sharing another quote in the book, this one by R.C. Sproul.  This quote is on that I found to be extremely interesting and full of eye-opening encouragement.  I concerns Sprouls acceptance of the teachings of Calvinism:
The combination was too much for me.  Gerstner, Edwards, the New Testament professor, and above all the apostle Paul, were too formidable a team for me to withstand.  The ninth chapter of Romans was the clincher. I simply could find no way to avoid the apostle's teaching in that chapter. Reluctantly, I sighed and surrendered, but with my head, not my heart.  "OK, I believe this stuff, but I don't have to like it!" 
I soon discovered that God has created us so that the heart is supposed to follow the head. I could not, with impunity, love something with my head that I hated in my heart.  Once I began to see the cogency of the doctrine and its broader implications, my eyes were opened to the graciousness of grace and the grand comfort of God's sovereignty.  I began to like the doctrine little by little, until it burst upon my soul that the doctrine revealed the depth and the riches of the mercy of God.
If I know you and you are interested in reading this book, and you have a Kindle, I think that I can "loan" this book.  I have never tried this before, but I would be willing to give it a shot.  Let me know.


  1. I can relate very strongly with the feelings of anger at having "missed it" for so many years. I also remember that feeling of "I believe it, but I don't have to like it" until one day---I loved it. :) God's grace is overwhelming, as is His patience with us. :) Good thoughts to chew on...

    1. I thought you might relate to a couple of those comments. If you want to borrow this book, let me know. I believe that you could read it on your computer (Kindle Cloud Reader).

  2. As I understand Calvinism's Five Points - I believe each of them comes from the Bible. If one loves the Bible, how could you not then love Calvin's Five Points - TULIP?

    Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)

    Unconditional Election

    Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)

    Irresistible Grace

    Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

    1. I think that most people struggle with these five points, not because they don't come from the Bible, but because they stand in such a harsh contrast to our current cultural perspectives.


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