(IVP Academic, 2016)
***Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are mine.
Does Calvinism need saving? In Saving Calvinism Oliver Crisp does not necessarily argue for the salvation of Calvinism, but issues an invitation to study the breadth and depth of a tradition within Reformed Theology. Most associate Calvinism today with the acronym TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance (Preservation) of the Saints). It is this acronym today that brands Calvinism.
However, as Crisp goes on to say, there is much more to Calvinism and Reformed Theology. The Calvinism and Reformed Theology today needs to resemble also a Reformed ecclesiology. If churches which claim to be Reformed do not resemble a Reformed ecclesiology (that of, say, a Presbyterian church), then is it Reformed at all? Crisp also argues, in this Reformed Ecclesiology, that Calvinists and Reformed church goers must be confessional and creedal.
Of course, what would a book on Calvinism and Reformed theology be without investigating the tough issues which are pervasive in this tradition? Crisp touches on all of the main doctrines: free will, the purpose of God’s election, purpose of God’s creation, the Cross and potential for hopeful universalism, and the penal substitutionary atonement. I did not find myself in agreement with everything Crips wrote, however, I do appreciate his willingness to provide a broad exposure to differing perspectives within the whole Reformed tradition.
One other characteristic of the book I appreciate is the language. Crisp is very conversational with the reader and as a student of theology, I appreciate his ease of language. That is to say, it is not complicated to understand. If at one point a concept or word seems theologically complicated, Crisp gives a clear and simple (not simplistic) definition in the next sentence. This language and presentation of Reformed theology allows those with differing views a theological voice within the breadth of the Reformed tradition.
Though disagreements abound in some places more than others, I enjoyed being given new information, ideas, and insight into a tradition so contemporarily focused on TULIP Calvinism. If you’re a Calvinist, I implore you to give this book a serious read.
This review originally appeared on http://www.dylanpriceblog.com. Read more of Dylan’s reviews and writing there.