Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Traditionby James K. A. Smith
Who would have guessed that something as austere as Calvinism would become a hot topic in today's postmodern culture? At the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth, new generations have discovered and embraced a "New Calvinism," finding in the Reformed tradition a rich theological vision. In fact, Time cited New Calvinism as one of "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now." This book provides pastoral and theological counsel, inviting converts to this tradition to find in Calvin a vision that's even bigger than the New Calvinism might suggest. Offering wisdom at the intersection of theology and culture, noted Reformed philosopher James K. A. Smith also provides pastoral caution about pride and maturity. The creative letter format invites young Calvinists into a faithful conversation that reaches back to Paul and Augustine, through Calvin and Edwards, extending to Kuyper and Wolterstorff. Together they sketch a comprehensive vision of Calvinism that is generous, winsome, and imaginative.
- Baker Publishing Group
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Meet the Author
James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. Smith has been a visiting professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), Fuller Theological Seminary, and Regent College. He is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today award winners Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and editor of the well-received Church and Postmodern Culture series (www.churchandpomo.org).
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Letters to a Young Calvinist by James Smith is the second book I have reviewed targeted at the Young Calvinists. The first was Young, Restless, Reformed by Collin Hansen. Both of these books seek to address the growing interest in reformed theology among a younger audience. "Reformed theology often goes by the name Calvinism, after the renowned 16th-century Reformation theologian John Calvin. Yet even Edwards rejected the label, saying he neither depended on Calvin nor always agreed with him. Still, it is Calvin's followers who produced the famous acrostic TULIP to describe the "doctrines of grace" that are the hallmarks of traditional Reformed theology: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints." ~ Christianity Today Smith's book is written much like its title. In each chapter "Smith" writes a letter to his younger self in the past whom he names Jesse and each chapter seeks to share some insight about Calvinism. The fictitious Jesse is having a run in with an Armenian and the author helps the young man arpaoch various subjects and doctrine from a more mature view. I hope that Smith's attempt at writing this book was to somehow make reformed theology easier to understand, I know that is part and partial why I read it. but even for me several of the chapters were very heavy and left my mind spinning. The chapters were written with the idea that you already had some reformed theology background, or at least were already heading off in that direction - so there were several times I wished there was some backstory to help me out. There is a wonderful chapter that gives some reformed theology history. but again it read like a history lesson and not as a letter between friends. Actually, do you know what this book felt like? It's a cross between Brian McLaren's New Kind of Christian and The Screwtape Letters only the book was about Calvinism. So if THAT sounds interesting to you, then I would certainly pick it up.