The past ten years has seen the rise of the Doctrines of Grace, also known as Calvinism. In his helpful book, Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology, Pastor Greg Dutcher writes, not as an outsider critiquing what he doesn’t understand, but as an insider looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the movement.
Killing Calvinism will affect each person differently. Some will see the title of this book and determine it’s not for them. Others will see the title and think this is a helpful book for them to read and consider. Some will read this book and disagree with its points entirely. In my opinion, this book is needed because many Calvinist do struggle with being humble because they have not yet come to understand what the Doctrines of Grace truly entail. R.C. Sproul once said that a Calvinist who lacks humility is an oxymoron.
Recently I was having a conversation with a new friend from church. My new friend is a former Pastor and well-educated man. As we talked it became apparent that he was a Calvinist, but (like me) was uncomfortable with the label. Rather than focusing on the label “Calvinist”, we both agreed that it is our wish to be biblical in our thinking and worldview. Dr. John Piper and several other pastors I know have also said the same thing—they want to be recognized for what they preach from the Word rather than their systematic theology. My friend noted that it’s not the “Calvinist faith”, but the Christian faith that we are called to preach and live.
While the whole book is good, the following point in particular stood out to me with regards to Spurgeon and Whitfield:
“Make Spurgeon and Whitefield your models rather than Owen or Calvin, because the former were evangelists and won many people to Christ in a way that is nearer to our own day” (53).
The author is right—often Calvinists do focus more on Owen, Calvin, or Spurgeon and what they did in their ministries than viewing them as models for our ministries. This point is especially relevant as I have been guilty of doing this myself regarding Owen, Calvin, Spurgeon etc., focusing on their mighty God-inspired works, rather than focusing on what God wants to do in and through my life. I think the perspective Dutcher has on this is spot on and is one I hope all Christians, regardless of where they land on the theological spectrum, will consider.
Killing Calvinism is a helpful book written with a pastoral tone and from a pastor’s heart to fellow Calvinists. The work contained in this book is the truth “spoken in love” by a fellow Calvinist, for fellow Calvinists. Not only will Calvinists be well-served by considering the reflections in this book, but I also believe those of other theological persuasions will be helped by reading this book and thinking about how their theology fails to be put into practice in their daily lives.
I recommend every Christian read this book carefully and prayerfully to learn from the pitfalls of being haughty, and the need for humility in our interactions with one another. Killing Calvinism will be one means the Lord will use to correct some, train others, and equip Christians on what humble God-honoring theology looks like in practice. May God give those of us who are Reformed ears to hear what He is saying through books like Killing Calvinism.
This review first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Theology for Life. To download this issue please click here.