Thursday, December 08, 2016

Book Review of Saving Calvinism by Oliver D. Crisp

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Saving Calvinism: Expanding the Reformed Tradition
by Oliver D. Crisp
ISBN 978-0-8308-5175-1
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Calvinism, like many other "isms" has become co-opted by many of its proponents for many things that were never intended (especially by Calvin), and disparaged by its despisers for everything they dislike about Christians with Biblical conviction.

Crisp, in a very readable and engaging style, seeks to communicate about the Reformed tradition in way that gives people room for multiple viewpoints within the tradition, while at the same time having enough clarity about Reformed identity to have that term actually mean something.

Crisp argues that Calvinism, and indeed the Reformed tradition, is broader than what many people think. While explaining the TULIP acronym, he argues that theology done in the tradition of Calvin and his like minded Reformers in broader than this. He argues that congregational churches that co-opted the term Calvinism to embrace something akin to the TULIP theology of salvation, but that all of true Reformed theology needs to be embedded in 1/ a theology based upon the creeds and confessions AND 2/ an ecclesiology that is either episcopal or presbyterian in nature.

Crisp engages a number of hot button issues in Calvinist theology, some that are brought to the forefront from more liberal proponents of the Reformed tradition (universalism), and others that are brought up more forcefully in more traditional circles (free will v. predestination). In all of these matters, Crisp is engaging and thoughtful.

I don't agree with everything about Crisp's analysis, or his theological proposals, but I do think this book deserves a careful read by many, especially those who find themselves in Reformed traditions or who might label themselves in some way "Calvinist".

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