Book Review: Calvin for Today

Review: Edited by Joel R. Beeke, Calvin for Today. Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids, 2010. 279 pages.

Calvin for Today is an edited compilation of the addresses given at the 1st Puritan Reformed Conference, which was hosted by Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Michigan), in August 2009. The theme of the conference was “Calvin for the 21st Century,” and was attended by a diverse group of people with interest in the Reformed faith.  The addresses in Calvin for Today reflect the richness of Reformed theology as they examine a number of different ways in how John Calvin’s ministry continues to be relevant to the 21st century.  Furthermore, the articles do not need to be read in their specific order, which makes it an excellent topical resource for theological libraries.

Calvin for Today contains both information and practical applications of how to use Calvin’s thought in the world and culture in which we live today. Written for the man or woman in the pew, yet retaining a flavor of the spoken style, it is informative to the mind, stimulating in thought, and practical for one’s life. The book begins as the conference did, with an introduction sermon by Dr. David Murray, entitled “What Kind of Love is This.” From there, the book is broken into five different overarching topics dealing with John Calvin and his theology:

  1. Calvin and the Bible
  2. Calvin the Theologian
  3. Calvin and the Church
  4. Calvin the Ethicist
  5. Calvin and His Contemporary Impact

Within these five topics are addresses which focus on a number of different subjects including Calvin on preaching Christ from the Old Testament, missions, the church, Scripture, the Spirit’s work, redemption, ethics, believers’ benefits, the early church, reprobation, marriage, reforming the church, the resurgence of Calvinism in America, and why Calvin is important for the 21st century. The contributors of these addresses include Jerry Bilkes, Michael Haykin, Nelson Kloosterman, David Murray, Joseph Pipa, Neil Pronk, Donald Sinnema, Derek Thomas, and Cornel Venema.

Calvin for Today is particularly good for the resurgence of Calvinism in American evangelicalism. In this day and age, as Calvinism has been growing more than ever in the last 150-years, it is important to know Calvinism in its entirety and not limit one’s self merely to the doctrines of grace or God’s sovereignty. Here readers will see that Calvin was more than just 5-points; that Calvinism actually affects all areas of life. For example, John Calvin’s high-view of the Scriptures and his view of family and marriage, to his view on how the Spirit works, and the role, doctrine, and reforming of the Church, are all best seen as they are put together in the book’s conclusion which looks at Calvin’s contemporary impact in the 21st century. “The Resurgence of Calvinism in American” by Ligon Duncan runs through the nine influences over the last 150-years in the American culture that has helped bring about the resurgence of Calvinism, both old and new. Concluding the book is Joel Beeke’s “Twelve Reasons Why Calvin is Important Today.” In his typical systematic approach, Beeke spends his time addressing what he believes to be the 12 major reasons that John Calvin is still contemporary and important to the Church today.

Out of the number of books that have been published in the past couple of years, this title stands out in a way like none other which I have read. Calvin for Today deals not just with the light issues of Calvinism—that is, not only the doctrines of grace—but digs deep, showing that Calvinism is more than soteriology. Furthermore, it does so in great depth, yet in a way that is understandable and applicable for the layman in the pew. The book—being that the chapters are edited addresses—is easy to read and comprehend, but still has the level of richness and information as a lecture in a seminary class, for example. I don’t know of a book that exists which consists of scholars and pastors like those listed above that deal with Calvin, and better yet, relate his theology to the 21st century Church. Regardless if one is an old or new Calvinist, this book will help shed light on how to properly understand and learn Calvin’s theology, and how to apply and reform the Church today.


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