Book Notice: Ten Myths About Calvinism

Kenneth J. Stewart
Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition
Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011.
Available at Amazon.com

Ken Stewart is professor of theology at Covenant College. Stewart sets out to do the seeming impossible: explode common “myths” and misunderstandings about Calvinism and Reformed Theology. He deals with two sets of myths:

Four Myths Calvinists Should Not Be Circulating (But Are)

1. One Man (Calvin) and One City (Geneva) are Determinative.
2. Calvin’s View of Predestination Must Be Ours.
3. TULIP is the yardstick of the Truly Reformed.
4. Calvinists Take a Dim View of Revival and Awakening.

Six Myths Non-Calvinists Should Not Be Circulating (But Are)

5. Calvinism Is Largely Antimissionary.
6. Calvinism Promotes Antinomianism.
7. Calvinism Leads to Theocracy.
8. Calvinism Undermines the Creative Arts.
9. Calvinism Resists Gender Equality.
10. Calvinism Has Fostered Racial Inequality.

The conclusion concerns, “Recovering our Bearings: Calvinism in the Twenty-First Century”.

Overall a good read. I particularly liked the discussion of myths # 3 and 9.

Stewart points out that the Canons of Dort (from which TULIP was developed) have no explicit confessional authority among the Reformed churches.  I esp. liked his quote that: “Where Calvinists writers today show no such generous interest in defining and articulating their Calvinism [re: limited atonement/deliberate redemption], it may be an indication that they have accepted that they are now theologizing for an identifiable Calvinist narrow way, a Calvinism on the margins, rather than for the evangelical Protestant tradition as a whole. Such a tendency, if it in fact exists [MB note, it does!!!], represents a dramatic reversal, a self-imposed ghettoization compared even to the nineteenth century. It is time to ask hard question as to who led the way this retreat. Is this ghettoization an unacknowledged remnant of the fundamentalist era of the early twentieth century” (pp. 89-90).  Compared to some Calvinists who want to define themselves against evangelicalism (justification by separation), Stewart wants Calvinism to prosper for the sake of the wider Christian world – amen!

On the Reformed and Gender, I recently read through a book on eschatology by a Reformed pastor. I was rather taken back when this author listed his godly ancestors in the faith who went ahead of him, listing them all the way back to the 1700s, yet he did not include one woman in the list. Evidently his mother and grandmothers were not worth the ink of being mentioned (I’m hoping he might list the women in his next book, but for some reason I doubt it). In stark contrast, there are some Calvinist egalitarians like Roger Nicole and Richard Mouw. Stewart describes the work and ministry of trailblazing women during the reformation such as Katharina Schuetz Zell and Marie Dentiere. He admits that the Reformed tradition has not always encouraged women who felt led to engage in proclamation. In the end he advocates “the need for cross-gender collaboration to be maintained in the worldwide cause of the gospel” (p. 244).

For those who want to discover an irenic Calvinism or want to know that not all of us Calvinists are VR’s (visciously reformed), I recommend reading this book.

  • Todd

    Covenant College or Covenant Seminary?

  • Todd

    Covenant College or Covenant Seminary?

  • Kstewart

    Mike:
    Thanks for noting my book. Unless I am mistaken, you are the first in Australia to do so on the web. Just a few qualifiers:
    1. As Todd suspects, I teach in Covenant College (Lookout Mt. GA) rather than our sister institution, Covenant Seminary (St. Louis)
    2. The Synod of Dordt is not responsible for TULIP. My chapter on the subject (plus an important appendix ‘The Earliest Known Use of TULIP’ traces this back in print to 1913). The problem highlighted is the wide ‘gap’ between Dordt and TULIP.
    3. My point about the misuse of TULIP is that far too many who are zealous for it overlook not only the non-equivalence of it with Dordt, but more fundamentally – that _unless_ they stand in one of the Dutch Reformed traditions, Dordt itself has no confessional standing in their churches. They must find such doctrines in the articles of faith their churches hold, or else cease contending as though TULIP’s ideas are enshrined there. For this reason, I contend that TULIP is functioning as a creed and shouldn’t be permitted to,
    Again, thanks!
    Ken Stewart

  • Kstewart

    Mike:
    Thanks for noting my book. Unless I am mistaken, you are the first in Australia to do so on the web. Just a few qualifiers:
    1. As Todd suspects, I teach in Covenant College (Lookout Mt. GA) rather than our sister institution, Covenant Seminary (St. Louis)
    2. The Synod of Dordt is not responsible for TULIP. My chapter on the subject (plus an important appendix ‘The Earliest Known Use of TULIP’ traces this back in print to 1913). The problem highlighted is the wide ‘gap’ between Dordt and TULIP.
    3. My point about the misuse of TULIP is that far too many who are zealous for it overlook not only the non-equivalence of it with Dordt, but more fundamentally – that _unless_ they stand in one of the Dutch Reformed traditions, Dordt itself has no confessional standing in their churches. They must find such doctrines in the articles of faith their churches hold, or else cease contending as though TULIP’s ideas are enshrined there. For this reason, I contend that TULIP is functioning as a creed and shouldn’t be permitted to,
    Again, thanks!
    Ken Stewart

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    Mike, I made the same mistake of assuming Dordt = TULIP. In a private email from Ken Stewart which he said I could share here he said, “The main reason I am posting you directly is that I would challenge you to read the Canons of Dordt and to try to get TULIP out of them. The topics don’t line up:
    Dordt’s ‘Heads” (as set out in Schaff’s ‘Creeds of Christendom’ are:
    1. Divine Predestination
    2. Death of Christ and the Redemption of Men Thereby
    3-4. The Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God and the Manner Thereof
    5. Perseverance of the Saints

    Not only don’t the topics line up, but the emphasis is so very different. TULIP stresses things which are, at best, implicit in the Canons and makes them explicit. Total Depravity in TULIP is really about Original Sin as described by Dordt. But there is a difference of emphasis. Limited Atonement is not a fair representation of Dordt’s teaching about the Sufficiency of Christ’s atonement with an Efficiency for the elect.
    So, I hope you will reconsider your too-easy equating of these.”

    He also recently wrote more about this here: http://kevinfiske.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/myth-tulip-has-the-imprint-of-antiquity/

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    Mike, I made the same mistake of assuming Dordt = TULIP. In a private email from Ken Stewart which he said I could share here he said, “The main reason I am posting you directly is that I would challenge you to read the Canons of Dordt and to try to get TULIP out of them. The topics don’t line up:
    Dordt’s ‘Heads” (as set out in Schaff’s ‘Creeds of Christendom’ are:
    1. Divine Predestination
    2. Death of Christ and the Redemption of Men Thereby
    3-4. The Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God and the Manner Thereof
    5. Perseverance of the Saints

    Not only don’t the topics line up, but the emphasis is so very different. TULIP stresses things which are, at best, implicit in the Canons and makes them explicit. Total Depravity in TULIP is really about Original Sin as described by Dordt. But there is a difference of emphasis. Limited Atonement is not a fair representation of Dordt’s teaching about the Sufficiency of Christ’s atonement with an Efficiency for the elect.
    So, I hope you will reconsider your too-easy equating of these.”

    He also recently wrote more about this here: http://kevinfiske.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/myth-tulip-has-the-imprint-of-antiquity/

  • Pingback: Roger Olson on “Reforming the Reformed” | Euangelion


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X