A few weeks ago I promised that today I would do a book recommendation for a new book which works over a topic which is near and dear to my heart. The book is Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher, published by subscription e-publisher CruciformPress.
Dutcher's book is already raising a few eyebrows because, by golly, it's taking a
The laundry list is simple: Calvinists sometimes love a system rather than a savior; we love books more than discipleship; we love the position of God more than the person of God; we forget how to evangelize; we live in a small circle; we know it all; we demean those who aren't (yet) Calvinists. And to his credit, Dutcher doesn't turn this book into an organ to run down his fellow Calvinists for, frankly, walking the path all of us walk to get to our adolescence in the faith. Dutcher's prose is serviceable and readable, and his points are pragmatic -- immediately actionable.
Except for the 3-5 pages he spends defending Bill Hybels in his chapter about living in too small a circle, I commend the book to you as utterly worth your time, especially if you are yourself discipling someone new to our team in the Christian theology league.
I want you to go and buy Greg Dutcher's book. I think there are a lot of people reading this blog who need it not to find out what is wrong with other people, but what is wrong with the way they are personally doing Calvinism. This booklet is absolutely the friendly audit of the movement, and in its analysis it covers the obvious bases.
What? This book is only about 100 pages, and you can read it in about an hour if you mark it up really good. You could have read through to chapter two by now if you had bought the book already.
Oh: I see. You came for the fireworks today. It's Wednesday, and I promised to "light up one of my favorite topics" when I came to this book review. You're one of those people.
Listen: the biggest problem with the so-called Young-Restless-Reformed movement is how allegedly self-aware we all are. Hipsters run around hash-tagging themselves as having #FirstWorldProblems and wearing plaid and drinking PBR in some kind of meta-ironic way -- the YRR are always rolling their eyes at how theologically-wonky they are while at the same time assembling reading lists of out-of-print books and marking up lists of their own rudimentary engagement errors while at the same time not really having any lost people they know to tell about the amazing Jesus they have 1343 uses for in soteriology and sanctification alone. Or on the other side of the team bench they find themselves hypnotized by how close to antinomianism they can ride their motorcycles up to on the way to the MMA PPV, rattling on about Christ being bigger than sin but not so big as to actually conquer any sin in them personally.
Dutcher's book is a fine piece of work to start with for someone in cage-stage Calvinism to present to them as utterly-friendly to the movement so that they don't make the grade-school errors so many of us (note the pronoun) have made -- but let's be honest with ourselves: we have much worse problems than the ones Greg notices here.
Joe Thorn's Note to Self scratched the surface of those problems, and I credit him for that. Note to Self is probably the second book you should read in this category of theological self-help -- right after Killing Calvinism. But that said, I think at some point the navel-gazing has to stop and we have to live a little and take our licks to grow up. The way that Calvinism really becomes a way to worship God and not just a kind of seminary education is to live a little, and then die a little, and then maybe die a little more, until there is less of you and more of the Jesus you ought to be leaning on left to do the things you say you believe.
So fine: read the books. Sort of read them once and hide them away for a year or 3 so that you are forewarned about the kind of person you really are. Then, after you have tried to live inside the warning, go back and read them a second time and see how well you did. It will sting a little, but it will be worth it. Every one of you needs it, and it'll be OK if you don't take my word for it.
It won't be OK, however, if you don't figure these things out on your own.