Book Review: Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons from the 500th Anniversary Celebration

Edited by David W. Hall, Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons from the 500th Anniversary Celebration. P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2010, 289 pages.

Preaching Like Calvin is the newest addition to the Calvin 500 Series from P&R Publishing. These 289-pages contain 16 sermons which were (all but one) originally delivered at the Commemorating Calvin Conference, July 9-11, 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. The sermons cover a variety of topics—from Predestination and The Christian Life, to The Offices of Christ and Calvin’s Cherished Text—by a host of speakers including Iain D. Campbell, Edward Donnelly, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Martin Holdt, Hywel R. Jones, Steven J. Lawson and Derek W. H. Thomas. As is said in the book’s introduction, “Preaching Like Calvin faithfully preserves the original sixteen sermon texts, including their original ‘shape’ and, in some cases, brief preaching notes and preaching outlines.” Editor David W. Hall notes that the “goal has been for the written versions of the sermons to mirror the oral form in which they were delivered, thus ensuring, as much as possible, that the written word is a facsimile of the spoken word.” Because of this, the reader is able to experience the sermons to their fullest, in book form.

Preaching Like Calvin begins with a foreward by Rev. Eric Alexander, which, though brief, outlines three great characteristics of John Calvin—a man of “Gigantic Intellect,” “Extraordinary Industry,” and “Remarkable Godliness.” This 3-page forward succeeds in whetting the appetite for the readings to come. Beginning the sermons, David W. Hall opens with a message which summarizes Calvinism under three points (“The Glory and Sovereignty of God,” “The Fall of Man,” and “Calling to the World”). In the third sermon of the book, Henry Luke Orombi examines the question, “Who is the faithful servant whom the Master has set over his household?”—a message laced with the urging passion to proclaim the Word of God; followed by Bryan Chapell, who looks at the doctrine of predestination with the focus on its blessings—reminding us that “predestination is meant to bless believers’ hearts.” In chapter 6, Peter A. Lillback discusses All the Glorious Offices of Christ “as taught by the apostle Paul and explained by Calvin;” while W. Robert Godfrey’s follows up with his message which focuses on Calvin’s Cherished Text—John 17:3. In chapter 12, Joel R. Beeke discusses Cherishing the Church by examining The Church’s Status, The Church’s Substance, and The Church’s Success. Martin Holdt addresses John Calvin and Psalm 110, and Edward Donnelly looks at what it means to be More Than Conquerors. The book finishes with a message delivered by Derek W. Thomas entitled Bowing Before the Majesty of God—a very powerful message which looks at God’s Incomprehensibleness, God’s Sovereignty, and God’s Glory—a perfect ending thought for this collection of sermons.

Initially upon hearing about these sermons, which were preached at the 500th Anniversary celebration of John Calvin, I wasn’t sure what to expect, thinking that perhaps they would all be messages about Calvin himself. I realized immediately upon beginning Preaching Like Calvin that this wasn’t the case! These messages, though celebrating Calvin’s life and what he has done in contribution to Christianity, focus on many different aspects of the doctrines he taught—but most of all, focus on the Christ he loved and lived for. Because of this, these messages not only give us a glimpse into Calvin’s life, but also bring to us thoughts and applications for every man’s Christian walk. With so many sermons on such a variety of topics, this book is great to pick up and read at any given time, and also serves as being a great resource for the doctrines and teachings of Calvinism.

Preaching Like Calvin is a fantastic book, full of engaging expositions, thoughts, and truths that are applicable to any Christians’ life. You don’t have to be an expert on Calvin to be able to appreciate what is presented through these sermons. Although “these messages provide a current apology for the vitality of Calvinism, and are exemplars to modern audiences of what living Calvinism looks like and sounds like today” (David W. Hall), they are not delivered in a way that is hard to understand or “over one’s head.” Some hear the name Calvin and think they are about to read a whole lot of hard-to-grasp theological terms; but in this collection, we are clearly presented gospel truths in an applicable and comprehensive way. Because of this, I would feel confident recommending this book to anyone—student, parent, preacher or layman. Overall, Preaching Like Calvin will prove to be a great addition to anyone’s collection.

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