Reviewed by: Mark Melton
Date posted: 03/17/2013
The Joy of Calvinism, by Greg Forster. Published by Crossway, 2012. Paperback, 208 pages, list price $15.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Mark Melton.
Calvinism and joy are not terms we typically see linked together. But Greg Forster (an OPC member), in his book The Joy of Calvinism, sets out to demonstrate that a proper understanding of historic Calvinism will find it to be imbued with joy. This book uses the term Calvinism as it is popularly used in evangelicalism, focusing primarily on Calvinistic soteriology.
To be sure, Calvinism is frequently misunderstood. But, Forster says, "it seems to me that Calvinists, myself included, have not been communicating well about our ideas. And we have tended to blame the audience for what are really our own failures in communicating" (p. 14).
One cause of this failure to communicate is the tendency of Calvinists "to communicate about it (viz., Calvinism) only in highly technical, formulaic, and (especially) negative terms" (p. 15). Forster points out that "the 'five points of Calvinism' are now virtually the only terms in which Calvinism is formulated" (p. 16). Sadly, these five points are "almost entirely negative; they tell you a lot about what Calvinists don't believe, but very little about what Calvinists do believe" (p. 16).
Forster's goal in this book is to describe "what Calvinism says about your everyday walk with God and the purpose of the Christian life, and how you can have the joy of God, even in spite of whatever trials and suffering the Lord has called you to endure" (p. 22). He makes the case that Calvinism is profoundly pastoral in its orientation.
Before launching into his explanation of why genuine Calvinism is "drenched with joy" (p. 26), Forster devotes the opening chapter to his own "five points about Calvinism." He identifies and refutes five of the most egregious misrepresentations of what Calvinists believe.
To understand the joy that infuses Calvinism, argues Forster, one must begin with God's love for his own. The bulk of the book is devoted to an overview of four principles summarizing a biblical theology of God's love: (1) God loves you personally; (2) God loves you unconditionally; (3) God loves you irresistibly; (4) God loves you unbreakably. The book concludes with a helpful appendix that addresses twelve of the most frequently asked questions about Calvinism.
Forster has provided a great service to the church in crafting this basic primer on Calvinism. It is written for "the person in the pew" and is thus quite readable. He warmly and cogently demonstrates why "real Calvinism is all about joy" (p. 15). Thus, those within and without the "Calvinist camp" would benefit from Forster's winsome portrayal of Calvinism.
I hope that this work will find an ever-broadening audience. It could certainly prove most helpful in Bible study groups, inquirers' classes, leadership training, etc. I highly recommend this book.