Beeke, Joel R. Living for God’s Glory. Lake Mary, FL.: Reformation Trust, 2008. xvi + 416 pp. $24.00
In Living for God’s Glory, Joel Beeke (president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary) presents a compact-yet-comprehensive look at Calvinism. Beeke’s presentation includes biblical and historical support for the five points most often associated with Calvinism – Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistable Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints – but goes on to discuss the origins of Calvinism, as well as its role in sanctification, ecclesiology, and other matters such as marriage and family.
According to Beeke, Calvinism is not predominantly hinged on the doctrine of predestination, but rather, it stresses, “the comprehensive, sovereign, fatherly lordship of God over everything: every area of creation, every creature’s endeavors, and every aspect of the believer’s life” (41). This theocentricity serves as the primary mark of Calvinism. Everything else stems from that central tenet. God’s sovereignty is revealed in salvation, in sanctification, in ecclesiology, in worship, in preaching, in evangelism, in marriage, and in parenting.
That fully-developed worldview is Beeke’s greatest contribution to the Calvinism discussion. So often, debates linger on the extent of the atonement and the false accusation that Calvinism hinders evangelistic zeal, that some find it impossible to wrap their minds around the Biblically-grounded, all-encompassing, joy-inducing, worldview that is Calvinism.
Beeke’s introduction to Calvinism is well written and clearly the result of many years of studies and research. And, generally speaking, he is a gracious host to those who are perhaps exploring reformed theology for the first time. However, he makes one very specific statement that readers may find troubling.
In discussing the extent of the atonement, he writes:
“Some Christians today are fond of saying, ‘I am a four-point Calvinist.’ They accept all of the TULIP acronym except limited atonement because they think it sounds too restrictive to say that Christ died only for the elect. ‘Christ died for everyone,’ they say, ‘and, with the Spirit’s help, each person must accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as an act of free will. When that occurs, that person is born again.’
Basically, this is popularized Arminian theology, which the Synod of Dort argued against in the Second Head of the Canons, titled ‘The Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby.’”
In doing so, he eliminates a large number of those who would agree with him on every single point aside from limited (or, as he prefers, definite) atonement. There is a strong argument that Calvin himself would differ with Beeke on this point. Many who might agree with Beeke even on this point, might argue that he draws the circle too small, around too few, and fails to honor those who would differ on this point with strong historical and (even more importantly) biblical support.
Aside from this critique, Beeke has provided an excellent resource that strives to move the discussion beyond five points, and presents a compelling and comprehensive perspective on Calvinism. Detractors will find points of contention, for Beeke does not shrink back from controversy. However, those who come to the book to gain a better grasp of this rich theological heritage will be encouraged and strengthened with a renewed sense of understanding what it means to live for God’s glory.
Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism
I received this book free from the publisher through the Reformation Trust book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.