INTRODUCTION: Ever since I have been a committed follower of Jesus Christ, I have been a Calvinist. That it not to say that I had ever called myself a INTRODUCTION: Ever since I have been a committed follower of Jesus Christ, I have been a Calvinist. That it not to say that I had ever called myself a Calvinist until more recently, but instead that what seemed obviously to be the natural and correct interpretation of what I read in the scriptures, was (mostly) in line with Calvinism. As I grew in knowledge, I realized that the theological tradition I belonged to was called Calvinism, and that term only meant good things. "Arminianism" however, was quite the opposite. I could not conceive that anyone could proudly call themselves an Arminian or a Liberal (later in my life things like "Pelagian" were added). Those were dirty words to call people if you wanted to mock them. I could also not conceive that there were many people who saw the term "Calvinist" this same way. I remember the first time I realized this, when a friend told me he left a particular college because they were "a bunch of Calvinists". This was shocking to me.
REVIEW: But enough about me. Let's talk about Greg Forster and this book. Forster has set out to correct this misconception, by showing how the doctrines of Calvinism do not teach about a cruel God who restricts our freedom and forces himself on us and unfairly condemns all those he leaves out, but instead teaches a God of love who we can find peace, joy, and freedom in. This is not a normal treatment on Calvinism in which we walk through the infamous TULIP and explain why Calvinism is the only sensible way to interpret scripture. Certainly Forster defends his position where necessary, and also explains opposing positions, but this book is much more about the philosophy of Calvinism and it's logical conclusions and applications. I think most people, including many Calvinists will be surprised to find out that the real implications of Calvinism are far from what they thought they were. Without giving the hood away, Calvinism ends in joy, not in bigotry and stoicism.
RECOMMENDATION: It my recommendation is that every Christian should read this book, no matter what you think. Calvinists will get the chance to reflect on their theology. It is relieving to realize that the doctrines of Calvinism are not the point of Calvinism, but instead are a result of the point of Calvinism. Those who oppose Calvinism will get the chance to sit back and maybe clear up some misconceptions that you have about Calvinists, even if you still conclude by the end that they are wrong. If you've never thought about it, then here is your opportunity.
ADVICE: 1. Take this book slow and give yourself time to read think and digest. This is not a thick book, but is very dense. Do not expect to pick it up at your bedside at 11:00 and get much out of it.
2. Read the WHOLE book. This includes the Introduction and "Detour". If you do not understand some of the issues surrounding the book, there is an excellent 40 page appendix summarizing and answering many questions you have about the doctrine and history of Calvinism and related issues, including a brief summary of the man Calvin himself.
3. Be patient. No book is perfect. If you belong to a certain group, denomination, or belief and you are not fully, fairly, or rightly represented in Forster's argument, let it go and stay focused on the point. You have to take the book as a whole. What you read toward the end will probably help you understand something that threw you off in the beginning. This happened to me when I read a terrible summary of 4-point Calvinism (to which I hold to) in the appendix. Remember that the point of this book is not to fully represent and argue against other traditions, but instead to look at the real implications of Calvinistic doctrine. ...more