The past ten years or so has seen the rise of the Doctrines of Grace also known as Calvinism. Much of this resurgence of Calvinism has been a good thing as before this resurgence much of the discussion was only on how to do this or do that in the Christian life and ministry, but this resurgence of the Doctrines of Grace has brought with it a focus on the Gospel, and its central role in the Christian life and ministry. 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 look at the title of this book and determine it’s not for them. Others will look at 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 are. 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 clear he was a Calvinist but like me uncomfortable with the title “Calvinist”. Rather than focusing on the title “Calvinist” we both agreed that it is our wish to be biblical in our thinking and worldview. Dr. John Piper and several Pastors I know have also said the same thing that they wish to be known for what they preach from the Word rather than their systematic theology. Dr. Michael Horton once said that we are not first Calvinists we are Christians. The Christian Faith he noted wasn’t the “Calvinist faith” but the Christian faith.
While the whole book is good the following point in particular stood out to me about 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). Pastor Dutcher is right that often times Calvinist 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 myself have been guilty of doing this myself viewing Owen, Calvin, Spurgeon and the like, focusing on their mighty works God did through them rather than focusing on what God wants to do in and through my own 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 considering how their own theology fails to be put in practice in their daily lives. Killing Calvinism is exactly that, a book that considers theology not to be something that is known only in our minds, but rather theology that is explicitly grounded in and by the Word of God and fueled by a passion to love God’s people, His Church and His mission of seeking and saving lost, and making disciples for His glory.
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. The New Testament has much to say about how we are to love one another (the Bible mentions over 50 passages related to how we are to treat one another) which is why I believe Killing Calvinism will be one means the Lord will powerfully 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.
Author: Greg Dutcher
Publisher: Cruciform Press(2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Cruciform book review bloggers program. 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.”