Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book: The New Calvinism Considered

Well, it’s book time around these here parts. I’m staring at a shelf full of books that I’d like to get through, so I’m going to work back towards the book-a-day posting. Today, we’ve got The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker. Provided by EP Books.

I get nervous when we have “new” theologies based on theological ideas that have been around for centuries. It’s like we have a modern idea, but are afraid to claim that idea or trust it to stand on its own, so we package it and label it with an historic-sounding name, whether that’s “Calvinism” or “Traditionalism” or anything else that comes to mind. That’s not so much a critique of today’s book as it is a generic rant.The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker

Moving away from that consideration, let us consider The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker. It’s published by EP Books, weighs in at 124 pages, is burdened by endnotes instead of footnotes, and can be read twice in a week. It looks like this: Further, it’s available from Amazon on Kindle as well as other sources.

Rather than dissect this book completely, because by the time you validated my dissection, you could read the whole thing yourself, I’ll give you some quick hits on Walker’s work here.

The first is this: The New Calvinism Considered is an inside-job discussion. Walker is clearly part of the overall batch of theology that considers itself “reformed.” I find this as a strength, just as Wesleyan self-examinations are more valuable in understanding what Wesleyans think. Walker may not identify with some of the “New” Calvinist proponents, but he clearly identifies with the overall sweep of Calvinism. Walker does not do a take-apart on the major headlines of the Doctrines of Grace or the Reformation. So do not look here for a heavy-lift on the theological side.

That much is not a drawback, given the subtitle of “A Personal and Pastoral Assessment.” The New Calvinism Considered isn’t presented as settling out the theological issues. It’s about the practical outworkings of the theology.

In this, we see the second aspect of Walker’s work. He presents the New Calvinist movement with both its blessings and some of its major failings. The New Calvinism Considered does not spare the celebrity fandoms nor the excesses among some who identify with the theology.

As a note on these excesses, though, Walker has not demonstrated that the problems with Mark Driscoll or James MacDonald are inherent to any form of Calvinism, new or old. He does, however, show that these are among the trouble spots for holders of Calvinistic doctrine in The New Calvinism Considered.

Walker’s writing is easy to follow. As stated above, you could read this twice in a week if you wanted to, and you’d be well-served to do so. The New Calvinism Considered touches on the good and the bad, providing positive examples alongside cautionary tales. This is not, however, the book to persuade someone to embrace a Calvnistic theology nor to discard one. Rather, it’s a valuable illumination for those who already hold these views. For the budding Reformed Theologian in your life, it should fill their stocking—or other Regulative Principle-approved gift receptacle.

Outside the Reformed views, though, I do not see The New Calvinism Considered having wide applicability.

For more on Jeremy Walker, check out either the blog tour page for The New Calvinism Considered or this blog:

(Note: free book in exchange for the review)

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