Ten Myths About Calvinism

June 1, 2011

Kenneth Stewart’s Ten Myths About Calvinism looks like a good book to pass along to those who have an internet-assembled comprehension of Reformed theology or for those who have had the misfortune of reading anything by Loraine Boettner. You can listen to an interview with Professor Stewart here.

Some of Stewart’s criticisms line-up with neo-orthodox criticisms, namely the overemphasis on predestination, especially the TULIP pattern that was/is popular in the 20th century and today. Like Richard Muller, he sees this corruption as a more recent phenomenon and not the product of 17th century scholasticism. Also, he stresses that Calvin is just one figure in the constellation of Reformed luminaries who shaped the broader tradition, a tradition that does differ from Calvin. In the interview, Stewart rightly notes that later confessional theology (Dort, Westminster) was the result of developments across a broad range of theologians and controversies, and, as such, these documents do not reflect Calvin’s own thinking exactly. Stewart doesn’t claim that they contradict Calvin, but simply that they are not the same thing. He is not trying to pit “Calvin against the Calvinists” but, rather, to broaden the Reformed tradition, to include and go beyond Calvin.

Other issues covered in the book include revivalism, theocracy, and missions. He is pro-revival (with proper Reformed qualifications), sympathetic to Reformation theocracy (as an appropriate measure historically), and reveals the missionary impulse of Reformed thinking. The last chapters of the book cover the arts and social issues (gender and race).

Professor Stewart teaches at Covenant College, the college of the PCA.

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5 Responses to “Ten Myths About Calvinism

  1. Mike Cheek said

    Thanks for the recommendation. I need to be reminded of the breadth of Reformed thinking. (One reason I keep your blog on my short list.)

    I must confess I still tend to think in terms of these stereotypes, especially since a church my wife and I once attended embodied many of these myths / stereotypes. There is a reason these stereotypes exist. It is still painful to look back and consider this church before and after it’s Calvinist “takeover.” Before: an evengelically sound church that joyfully valued the creative arts in worship and After: the systematic elimination of everything in worship except some songs and long, increasingly angry sermons. Sad.

    Positively, however, this experience has also spurred a most beneficial personal reading and exploration, most recently working through T.F. Torrance’ totally awesome Incarnation and Atonement. (I first became aware of them on your website, I believe.)

    So … your blog and book recommendations are appreciated.

    • Kevin Davis said

      Thanks, Mike.

      My experience is that the independent (credobaptist) sort of churches don’t do a very good job, by and large, at adopting Reformed theology and praxis. My own EFCA church is an exception, but, otherwise, the Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed churches are usually the best places to go for Reformed beliefs and worship.

  2. Frank said

    Stewart doesn’t claim that they contradict Calvin, but simply that they are not the same thing. He is not trying to pit “Calvin against the Calvinists” but, rather, to broaden the Reformed tradition, to include and go beyond Calvin.

    One could write a book just on this subject! I really love this kind of historical thinking. I wish it were done more often, and not only with historical figures, but with ideas and beliefs and movements. Thanks for the notification.

  3. Thanks for alerting us to this interesting book, Kevin.
    I’ve found Richard Muller’s studies on Calvinist orthodoxy to be fascinating -surely some of the best historical theology written, so I’m eager to read this too – even though I’m no Calvinist ;0)
    (I recently had a positive comment from a ‘Ken Stewart’ on my modest blog; lo and behold, it’s the very same Professor Stewart!)

    • Prof. Stewart emailed me in order to thank me for the review — nice and gracious fellow.

      I think Muller’s a bit too hard on neo-orthodoxy — though neo-orthodoxy was itself too hard on Reformed-Lutheran orthodoxy — but, yes, I highly enjoy Richard Muller’s work as well.

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