Thursday, December 23, 2010

The heart of 'Calvinism'

Just started reading a book entitled, 'Letters to a Young Calvinist'. The book is a series of hypothetical pastoral letters from the author to a young man, "Jesse", who has just come into the reformed faith. The author, James K. A. Smith, helps navigate Jesse through the depths and perils of the reformed faith. He answers Jesse's questions and offers him both Biblical and experiential advice.

An obvious reason why I have enjoyed the book so far is its contextual relevance to my life. This book speaks directly to those in the 'new calvinism' movement. More so, I have enjoyed the book because of the pastoral wisdom that James Smith's provides. For example, Smith warns Jesse against the tendency of young calvinists to be arrogant and prideful in their doctrine. Rather, the reformed faith should breed a deep sense of humility. He also challenges Jesse to make God's grace the foundation of his faith. In summarizing the reformed faith, James Smith writes to Jesse,

"At its heart, Calvinism is simply a lens that magnifies a persistent theme in the narrative of God's self-revelation; that everything depends on God. Everything is a gift. This doesn't just apply to salvation-it's true of creation itself. God created the world out of- and for- his pleasure, as an act of love. There's no hint of necessity or requirement here: God could have not created the world. The world exists and is sustained only because of God's sovereign action; and creation is still radically dependent on God's gift of existence. So we might say, that grace goes 'all the way down'. To merely exist as a creature is to be dependent on the gift of existence granted by a gracious God; to be is to be graced."

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