Living for Gods Glory – An Introduction to Calvinism
On April 11, 2010 At 6:34 am
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The theological system known as Calvinism is often caricatured or simply dismissed as a relic of the past. But as Dr. Joel R. Beeke shows us in this comprehensive treatment, Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, is biblical, God-centered, heartfelt, winsome, and practical. As such, it is uniquely suited to help Christians fulfill the purpose for which they were created-to live to the glory of God.
With the gifted help of eight contributors, Dr. Beeke traces the roots of Calvinism and sets forth its doctrinal distinctives, then explores how Calvinists live out their beliefs in every sphere of life, from their private devotions to their service in the church, from their marriages to their careers, from politics to ethics. Through the examples of John Calvin himself, the Puritans, and other Calvinists of the past, this God-exalting belief system emerges as a timeless guide for Christian living.
User Ratings and Reviews
2 Stars Introduced But Not Intrigued
I read this book hoping to clear up some aspects of my Calvinist upbringing that I didn't understand. Unfortunately, the book is dry and repetitive. I'll admit that I read it skeptically, having already rejected some of the tenets I'd questioned for a long time, but I found the author's arguments insulting. Instead of presenting a legitimate representation of those opposed to Calvinism, he failed to objectively present their views, instead making them out to be unintelligent and unthinking.
I do commend the author for the amount of time and research put into the project and for having many notes in each chapter. However, the sense of arrogance and pride that come across in the presentation of the material left a sour taste in my mouth.
5 Stars Great Book from Amazon
This book gives great insight to the reformed faith. Anyone who is truly seeking for the true gospel will find it here in this text. It is very well documented and written. I would recommend it to all.
5 Stars Sound No Trumpet Before You
With the commemoration of Calvin's 500th birthday, a number of goodly volumes have seen the light, but none has sought to move heaven and earth, for God's glory, as this particular volume.
'Calvinism is as complex as life itself.' p xii
To increase the harvest, the workers need be pulled in, in a biblical manner of speaking. The yield of Calvinism has indeed proved itself a hundredfold, and the contributors share in the awesome responsibility to recall afresh the wisdom of the man through his writings, the piety through his passion for Christ, the proofs through his simplicity of life, the love for his assembly through unceasing prayer. The plainness of Calvin's devotion to Christ marks the road less travelled on, though frequent markers placed by Calvin assures the reader that with Spurgeon we can quietly rejoice, 'God's choice makes chosen men choice men.' And for that we all are in Calvin's debt.
Dr Beeke identifies the need of the hour: 'We must first ask, who are the saints? Many would say they are people who have been baptized or have made decisions for Christ at evangelistic camp meetings. However, Scripture and Reformed confessions define saints as those 'whom God calls, according to His purpose, to the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit' (Canons of the Synod of Dort, Head v, Art. 1) and as 'they whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit' (WCF, 17.1).' p 116 As the barren fig tree that would not bear fruit, the reprobate cannot show the growth visibly attendant in the lives of the elect. In shaping their evangelism, the Reformed have always shown their dependence on the apostolic model, in both its teaching and its practice: 'Along with other Reformers, Calvin taught evangelism in a general way by earnestly proclaiming the gospel and by reforming the church according to biblical requirements.' p 276 The Puritans excelled in their rousing appeals to the common people through a thorough use of the means of grace, as 'evangelism was a Word-centered task of the church, particularly of her ministers. They were truly 'fishers of men', seeking to awaken the unconverted to their need of Christ, to lead them to faith and repentance, and to establish them in a lifestyle of sanctification.' p 290
Consumed by a need to live coram Deo, or biblically-experientially, much of the work in 'Living For God's Glory' hinges on the experience of faith that all believers must look for in dependence upon Christ, for only then can we be in one accord with John Calvin: 'All our progress and perseverance are from God.' In a chapter devoted entirely to experiential preaching, Joel Beeke states the need for such a style of comprehensive preaching in our age: 'It aims to apply divine truth to the whole range of the believer's personal experience, including his relationships with his family, the church, and the world around him. In other words, it addresses the entire range of Christian living, focusing heavily on a believer's spiritual well-being and maturity. With the Spirit's blessing, the mission of such preaching is to transform the believer in all that he is and does to become more and more like the Savior.' p 256
Reflecting on the multitude of challenges and the ferocity of changes forced upon the church militant, re-enforcing the message of old and its delivery remains as the only ordained means in bringing the sheep into Christ's fold: 'In 1 Cor 2:10-16 Paul says that good exegesis is spiritual. Experiential preaching does not minimize these aspects of interpretation, but neither is it content with them. The Word must be applied spiritually. Specifically, such preaching teaches that Christ, the Living Word and the very embodiment of the truth, must be experientially known and embraced. It proclaims the need for sinners to experience who God is in His Son.' pp. 257-258
'By far the most culpable contortion of passages of Scripture out of their natural meaning and connection is found in the history of those theological schools whose pulpits have rejected the doctrines of sin and grace, and were forced to find substitutes for these in semi-religious or wholly secular themes.' WGT Shedd, Homiletics & Pastoral Theology p 150
The Word of God too often is preached in a way that will not transform listeners because it fails to explain what the Reformers called 'vital religion'. Dr Beeke goes on to list three marks that are the primary motivation for, an essential step requisite in, an experiential preacher: 'Such preaching is transforming because it accurately reflects the vital experience of the children of God (Rom 5:1-11), clearly explains the marks and fruits of the saving grace necessary for a believer (Matt 5:3-12; Gal 5:22-23), and sets before the believer and unbeliever alike their eternal futures (Rev 21:1-9).' pp. 256-257
Beeke reveals the connection in the 'call' to extraordinary obedience, and God simultaneously acting upon the minister's heart by His Spirit: 'Scripture says that there should be no disparity between the heart, character, and life of a man who is called to proclaim God's Word, and the content of his message. There must be no disjunction between their calling and living, their confession and practice. Their preaching must shape their lives, and their lives must adorn their preaching. Ministers must be what they preach, not only applying themselves to their texts but applying their texts to themselves. Their hearts must be transcripts of their sermons.' p 270 It was said of William Perkins, the father of Puritanism, that 'As his preaching was a comment on his text, so his practice was a comment on his preaching.'
Beeke justifiably commends the spiritual empowerment needed by the humble shepherd of God's flock who applies the Word faithfully and well to his hearers' hearts, not to his own gain or glory: 'Therefore, a true Calvinistic preacher must be 'determined not to know any thing…save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified' (1 Cor 2:2).' p 258 One wonders why preferential treatment is ever-abounding in the ever-increasing lap of luxury of the preacher of 'good livin', a symbol of the parody that has ever-afflicted the consistently needy church – even in Calvin's day.
4 Stars A God honoring read
A few years ago if you were to ask me what Calvinism was I would have been able to connect it to TULIP but it would be unlikely for me to be able to identify each point for you. Not only that but my upbringing educated me concerning Calvinism to believe that God doesn't love the world and there is no need to evangelize. These were the faulty beliefs tacked on to the word Calvinism.
However, I began to see things differently as I entered college and started to read things on my own. I soon learned what the five points are and how they really aren't such a bad thing. Eventually, I became so enamored with the heart behind Calvinism and the logical ideals that I took on the Reformed faith.
What broke me was the God exalting view of the Reformers. I didn't love God like the people I was writing did, and there wasn't any other system that was dedicated to seeking the face of God like the Reformed faith did.
I found this to be very true:
"As Calvinists, we are enamored with God. We are overwhelmed by His majesty, His beauty, His holiness, and His grace. We seek His glory, desire His presence, and model our lives after Him." (pg. 42)
But until recently Calvinism and the Reformed faith to me was still the "five points."
I began to see that my beliefs changed everything about my life. Calvinism impacted all of my decisions. It changed my view of why I work, it changed my view of worship, my relationship with my wife, or even how I will raise and instruct by baby daughter.
Calvinism suddenly became so much more than the five points of Calvinism. It became a dramatic shift in how I lived my life.
Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke seeks to give instruction to men like me who have seen the radical theocentric vision of Calvinism and are not sure yet of just how this is supposed to look like in a life.
Beeke begins the book by providing some very interesting information on church history concerning different creeds. His point in doing this is to squash the mistaken ideal that all Calvinism is, is five points. I found the creedal section of the book very informative. Creeds discussed were the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Standards, and the Calvinistic Baptist confessions. I found the information provided to be very helpful and informative.
Beeke then moves on to discuss the singular focus of Calvinism- God. He argues that this separates Calvinism from every other religious system. I would cite that as the reason for my own deep affections for the Reformed faith.
Beeke states the thesis of Calvinism and then moves on to overview and defend each of the points of TULIP.
Concerning total depravity:
"My dear unsaved friend, you are a "sin-aholic." You are a slave this very hour, a slave in your bed tonight–even when you pray. And you will be a slave until God's almighty power raises you from spiritual death, opens your blind eyes, unstops your deaf ears, and breaks the chains of depravity that enwrap you. And even then, until your last breath, you will battle against your addiction to sin, for we remain recovering sin-aholics to the end (Rom. 7:24)." (pg. 56)
I agree with Beeke's insightful examination of total depravity and found the above paragraph to be especially piercing (although I am not sure if "enwrap" is a word.)
Beeke does an excellent job of examining and defending each point of TULIP. These few chapters would be an excellent source while in a Systematic Theology class concerning soteriology. The chapters are full of examples and illustrations.
The next step for Beeke after outlining and defending TULIP was to move on to the foundational points of Calvinism which are Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. He presents these points then defends them against their rival systems.
The next movement in Living for God's glory was the most interesting part of the whole book for me. Beeke began to examine the practical outworking of Calvinism in the life of a believer. The second part of the book was titled "Cultivating the Heart." This part sought to provide the actions that must be associated with Calvinistic thought. Many practical helps were contained in these few chapters.
The final movement for Living for God's glory concerned Calvinism and the Church. Topics presented were ecclesiastical concerns, missions, preaching, and evangelism.
Weaknesses of the Text:
Joel Beeke proves himself to be a very well researched writer. However, a weakness with having such a good grasp concerning other references is an overabundance of quotations. The quotations were pertinent and insightful, but a well placed quotation can draw me deeper into the text, whereas an over abundance of quotations can cause me to lose focus of what the writer himself is trying to get across.
This was an excellent read. If I can define how it reads it is like a systematic theology on Calvinism. Very academic, well written, and inspiring.
Excellent addition for a believer's library.
5 Stars Calvinism, Puritanism, and Kuyper.
Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism written by Joel Beeke
All men inherit sin from Adam. Is man so devoid of character that he cannot not repent and accept Jesus as Savior without the help of the Holy Spirit? Can the Holy Spirit cut to the heart that man accepts Christ as Savior, but not know that it will be effective? What is the nature of man's sinfulness? Is man totally depraved that he cannot come to a saving knowledge/Faith in his God? Calvinism or Orthodox Reformed theology accepts the teaching of predestination that God chooses some men for salvation and others for damnation; That is only through the Holy Spirit that a heart truly repents and has Faith in Jesus that is effective for salvation; That who is chosen will be saved and those who are not chosen will never seek after Jesus nor repent. The doctrine of predestination is explained in this work, but does not stop there.
Calvinism of the Heart is about the Holy Spirit, Sanctification, and Piety. God chooses people unto Salvation to bring Glory to God. Repentance and Faith are gifts from God. It is through the merit of Jesus Christ that man is saved. It through God's grace some accept Jesus as Savior. Our best acts are like filthy rags. It is only through the mercy of God anyone is found acceptable. It is not I or anyone else who choose God, but God who chose his flock. Since the fall of Adam man does not have an inclination to obey God or to choose obedience to God; man is totally depraved. Sanctification comes from and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Only through the Grace of God does a man work towards the Glory of God. Faith precedes sanctification from God. Sanctification comes from God through out the Christian's life on earth. Piety is evidence of sanctification in the Christian life. Piety is not just a bunch of do-nots but a Christian working towards God's Glory. Legalism is a theological perspective of obedience brings salvation; Reform theology (known also as Calvinism) rejects this. Obedience does not bring salvation, but lack of evidence may mean one has not truly repented and believed.
God is the primary cause of all things, but chooses secondary causes for almost everything that happens. God caused the storm, but the storm followed the rules of nature. An individual accepted Jesus as Savior because the Holy Spirit caused the individual to believe. The individual was taught about Jesus from one individual or many individuals. It is common that God uses ordinary means to bring about extraordinary ends. God chooses the preached word, people sharing their Faith, and evidence of changed lives to bring about others to accept Jesus as Savior.
I am not arguing the person came to a saving Faith because of a wise argument or well operated church program. I am saying God chooses to change a sinner's heart after the gospel is shared. Beeke's work argues that John Calvin taught predestination and the importance of evangelism. John Calvin taught men to be ministers; these men were sent back to France and faced almost certain death preaching the Gospel. Also in the book also discuss of a missionary mission sent to Brazil where the preachers of the word in a foreign land were killed: No his thought on predestination did not stop from him preaching the sharing of the word or the sending out people to risk their lives to talk about Jesus. This book talks a more totality of the Gospel taught. Not just the come to Jesus message, but the whole Gospel and the doctrines taught in the Bible. God chooses salvation to come to some when they have a more complex understanding of God and His ways. Also included in the book is a history of evangelism and missionary work in the Puritan community.
Other issues of church practice are surveyed such as the democracy of church eldership and the form of worship.
The book also deals with Calvinism in practice in a person's day to day life. The author mentions Kuyper's lectures on Calvinism, but I found this book much more informative then a book I have read that explained those very lectures. Discussed is that sexual relation between man and wife are to glory of God and not purely for reproduction. This is contrasted to the Roman Catholic Church teaching that celibacy brings more glory to God. Discuss is the puritan marriage, roles of the couples, how the husband is to love his wife and wife obey their husband: The puritan practice to keep the children two years apart, division of work and the protection of the health of woman in the marriage. How the family is to be involved in the choosing of spouses with specific examples in puritan culture. The puritan family is dealt separately which includes family devotion.
Beeke explains the difference between what the Catholic Church taught about spiritual labor and other labor in contrast to what Calvin taught. All work whether secular or not is for the glory for God when chosen and done in a godly manner. Beeke also speaks about Calvinism and politics. Included is Kuyper's view that the Christian is to be very active in contrast to John Macarthur's view that Christian identification with government issues should be used sparingly. There also is the statement that Calvin's democratic structure of church government advanced the concept of democracy.
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