One of the concerns I have with the recent resurgence on Calvinism is that many Christians are attracted to a high view of God’s sovereignty and the Gospel but don’t yet understand what the Bible teaches concerning these five points. Recently, Dr. John Piper wrote a new book called Five Points: Toward A Deeper Experience of God’s Grace that seeks to help Christians understand the five points of Calvinism from the Word of God.
In chapter one of the Five Points, Piper briefly examines the historical roots of Calvinism. Chapter two through seven set from Scripture forth what is often termed as the TULIP system. Chapter eight is where Piper gets personal, sharing his own testimony of what the five points have meant to him. Chapter nine provides testimonies of people who have benefited from Piper’s teaching. In the final chapter, Piper seeks to lead his readers to worship and “receive the magnificent Christ who is the eternal Author of these doctrines” (93).
Five Points: Toward A Deeper Experience of God’s Grace is not your typical book on TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints). Rather than arguing from the Reformed confessions, Piper seeks to outline how the five points are taught throughout Scripture. He aptly notes, “I do not begin as a Calvinist and defend a system. I begin as a Bible-believing Christian who wants to put the Bible above all systems of thought. But over the years—many years of struggle—I have deepened in my conviction that Calvinistic teachings on the five points are biblical and therefore true, and therefore a precious pathway into deeper experiences of God’s grace” (9).
Many Christians object to Calvinism because they view it is a theological system derived more from the opinions of man than the Word of God. None other than the “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon noted, “That doctrine which is called “Calvinism” did not spring from Calvin; we believe that is sprang from the greater founder of all truth” (Exposition Of The Doctrines of Grace, Volume 7, Sermon #385). Spurgeon also noted, “I believe nothing merely because Calvin taught it, but because I have found his teaching in the Word of God” (Place for The Word, Volume 44, Sermon #2584- John 8:37). Finally, Spurgeon further elaborates on why he adheres to this system of thought commenting, “Now, there are certain doctrines commonly called Calvinistic (but which ought to never to have been called by such a name, for they are simply Christian doctrines) which I think commend themselves to the mind of all thoughtful persons, for this reason mainly, that they do ascribe to God everything” (Laus Deo, Volume 10, Sermon #572—Romans 11:36).
When Piper says, “I begin as a Bible believing Christian who wants to put the Bible above all systems of thought” (9), I was reminded of Spurgeon’s comments, namely that Calvinism has sought to distill only biblical doctrine. What is often missed in the Calvinist/Arminian debate is that Calvinism is not even about Calvin. Luther and Calvin were heavily influenced by Augustine who stated these doctrines in defense of Pelagius. My point here is to note that these doctrines are not new doctrines as Spurgeon and Piper have so rightly noted. Furthermore, the concepts found in TULIP are not the invention of Calvin or even Augustine but rather they simply define the framework of biblical Christianity specifically how “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) from beginning to end. Spurgeon noted, “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.”[i]
One last thing I appreciate about Dr. Piper’s book is his pastoral tone. While I’ve read dozens of books on Calvinism over the years, when I first heard Piper was going to write a book on this topic, I thought surely there can be nothing new said on this topic since so much is written in blogs, articles, journals, sermons, and the list goes on and on. Boy was I wrong! Piper ably seeks to show from the text itself how the Bible supports these doctrines. He does not do so with a view to impose Calvinism on the text, rather he walks through text after text showing how God’s grace is amazing from beginning to end. This is exactly what the Reformers and Puritans did, specifically the approach of working through texts to show what they mean, along the way striving to explain the doctrine behind them with the end result of revealing to the reader how to apply the Scriptures to their daily life. It is in this spirit I believe that Piper has written The Five Points. His goal is not to just help the reader understand a theological system. More importantly, he guides the reader towards a better grasp of the God who before the foundation of the world chose those who would be the object of His amazing grace (Eph. 1).
Whether you are convinced of every point of this book is inconsequential. What is of consequence is that you deal with the text of Scripture. Regardless of where you land on the Calvinistic/Arminian divide, Piper’s new book Five Points is classic Piper, saturated in Scripture, exulting in Scripture, and showing forth the supremacy of Christ in all things. Five Points is a book for those who question the validity of TULIP and their Scriptural warrant. This book is also good for those in Bible College and seminary wrestling with the doctrines of grace for the first time. Whether you are new to this issue or a seasoned veteran to these matters, Piper’s book has something for you. I recommend you pick up Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s grace for in doing so, you will encounter the truth “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), a truth found throughout the pages of Scripture.
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Christian Focus (2013)
I received this for free from Christian Focus book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
[ii] James Boice work in The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel is also helpful for its pastoral tone. For more through treatment on this topic, I recommend Joel Beeke’s Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism.