What did the Calvinist say after he fell down the stairs? “Glad I got that over with!”
I grew up an Arminian (that be fancy talk for “free willers”), attended an Arminian seminary and pastored in Arminian churches for more than eight years. I didn’t really understand Calvinism and didn’t care to until I downloaded a Mark Driscoll sermon by accident. Calvinism has been a growing movement over the last ten years or so but unfortunately many people still misunderstand it. If you really want to know what Reformed theology is about, you could pick up little books promising to explain TULIP but I would actually turn to these books for a better understanding of modern Calvinism’s approach to religion, the Gospel, predestination, the Bible, etc.
5. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller (Dutton 2008). Most people outside the Reformed camp think of Calvinists as legalistic, self-righteous Pharisees. Certainly some who understand the Gospel have not yet let it sink in to their heart and soul can be inclined. But, as Tim Keller masterfully shows in this brief but powerful work, a person who has made the Gospel journey from head to heart will not make such a mistake. My book of the year from 2008.
4. The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (Crossway 2012). I have helped pastor churches in Texas, New York, West Virginia and Ohio and have yet to be part of a congregation where the majority of members could share a succinct, Biblical definition of the Gospel. Matt Chandler has been blessed by God to be one of the most powerful preachers in his generation largely because his sermons are always Gospel centered. In fact, in my opinion, the reason neo-Calvinism is a growing movement is because of the focus on the Gospel. This was my Book of the Year last year and it is a must read.
3. Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election by Sam Storms (Crossway 2007). In my experience, election is the biggest stumbling block to embracing Calvinism. While Loraine Boettner’s work is a classic (and Loraine was a man…and still believed in predestination), no Reformed theologian has the gift of explaining complex issues simply without being shallow as Sam Storms.
2.Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan 1996). I left my liberal/emergent/open view behind after hearing a sermon by Mark Driscoll and reading the works of Lee Strobel and this massive yet readable work of theology by the brilliant yet kind & humble scholar Wayne Grudem. If this work is too much to read, I would recommend Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan 1999) and if that is too much then at least pick up Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Dr. Grudem and his son Elliot Grudem (Zondervan 2005).
1. The ESV Study Bible (Crossway 2008). It has become a joke that you can recognize any member of the “Young, Restless & Reformed” group by whether or not they carry an ESV Study Bible. But, as I’ve told my Free Seminary Class many times, one does not need to be a Calvinist to appreciate this work, which is simply THE best study Bible available. The articles and notes are superb but they are largely written by those within the Reformed camp.
Even if you are a committed Arminian or Molinist, you will be blessed by these books. Give them a look.
Next week, I will hit the Five Books Every Christian Should read to understand Arminianism. Until then, grace and peace.