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New Book about Calvinism

New Book about Calvinism February 22, 2011

I’m slowly working my way through an advance copy of a forthcoming book on Calvinism entitled Ten Myths about Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition by Kenneth J. Stewart to be published by InterVarsity Press in March.

Kenneth Stewart is professor of theology at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA.  His academic credentials are impeccable (e.g., two doctorates, one from Edinburgh).

Everyone interested in Calvinism and Calvinist theology ought to order a copy of this book and read it as soon as it is published.  I will be writing a review of it for a Christian publication.  Hopefully my review will be published in May.  I will announce that here as soon as it is definite.

Here’s a quote to whet your appetite: “TULIP cannot be allowed to function as a creed.” That’s in the chapter on the myth that “TULIP is the yardstick of the Truly Reformed.”

The first four myths are ones commonly believed by people in the Reformed tradition or who call themselves Calvinists.  (Not all Calvinists are “Reformed.”)  The other six are ones commonly believed by people critical of Calvinism and/or the Reformed tradition generally.

Stewart’s book seems aimed particularly at those influencing the “young, restless, Reformed” movement as well as those critical of it (like myself, I suppose).  I suspect Stewart sees himself as mainstream Reformed and also moderate in terms of not using Calvinism (especially TULIP) as a yardstick for all in the Reformed tradition or all evangelicals. 

However, so far (I’ve read about half the book), he does not take exception with any of the so-called TULIP doctrines.  He is critical of the device and prefers terms like “definite atonement” to “limited atonement.”  He prefers a positive spin on Calvinist doctrines rather than a negative, exclusivistic one.

I’m a little unclear exactly who are the Calvinists he criticizes.  He names names of positive examples (and many of them I would not consider positive such as Edwin Palmer, author of The Five Points of Calvinism), but rarely (so far never) names names of negative ones.

One of the most interesting parts of the book (so far) is an exhaustive account of the history of the TULIP device.  According to Stewart it cannot be found before about 1913 and Reformed theologian Lorraine Boettner (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination) popularized it.  Unfortunately, Stewart argues, it has become the canon of authentic Reformed orthodoxy among many of today’s Calvinists.

I’ll post more comments about this book in the future, but I’ll leave my complete response to my published review.  In the meantime, I urge you to order and read it and then let me know what you think of it.

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