Nov 19, 2008

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology

12 Min Read

John Calvin is often reviled as a humorless doctrinarian who preached an austere theology that twisted Scripture. In John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, Burk Parsons and a cadre of godly pastors and scholars seek to set the record straight in honor of the 500th observance of John Calvin's birth in 1509.

The book's nineteen succinct chapters explore aspects of Calvin's life, ministry, and teachings, and establish his importance even for the twenty-first-century church. Contributors, in addition to Parsons, include some of the most gifted and godly Reformed leaders alive today. The foreword is by Iain H. Murray. Indexes of Scripture passages, subjects and names, and theological terms make the book helpful for those who want to delve into specific topics.

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology is a winsome portrait that dashes stereotypes about Calvin and the theological system that bears his name. In answer to why it is important for laypeople to study John Calvin's writings, Burk Parsons explains:

"First of all, the people of God should be wholeheartedly engaged, first and foremost, in the daily study of God's Word. Second, as God's people study God's Word in depth they will quickly understand the necessity of interpreting Scripture with Scripture, and that is precisely what Calvin helps us to do -- to the end that we might know and proclaim the whole counsel of God. Third, John Calvin was not an ivory-tower theologian who was out of touch with the real-life struggles of God's people. Not only did he struggle himself, but he knew well the plight of his people in his congregation. He could empathize with their afflictions and so shepherded them in preaching, praying, writing, and counseling. Calvin was, first and foremost, a pastor of God's people."

Table of Contents

1. The Humility of Calvin's Calvinism
2. Who was John Calvin?
3. Calvin's Heart for God
4. The Reformer of Faith and Life
5. The Churchman of the Reformation
6. The Preacher of God's Word
7. The Counselor to the Afflicted
8. The Writer for the People of God
9. The Supremacy of Jesus Christ
10. The Transforming Work of the Spirit
11. Man's Radical Corruption
12. Election and Reprobation
13. Redemption Defined
14. Transforming Grace
15. A Certain Inheritance
16. The Believer's Union with Christ
17. The Principal Article of Salvation
18. The True Christian Life
19. The Communion of Men with God
20. Index of Scripture


Jay E. Adams is a teacher, speaker, and author. A former professor at Westminster Seminary California and a retired pastor, Dr. Adams has authored more than one hundred books, many of which have been translated into other languages. Among his publications are Compassionate Counseling, From Forgiven to Forgiving, and Encouragement Isn't Enough.

Eric J. Alexander is a retired pastor of St. George's-Tron Church in Glasgow, Scotland, and a council member of Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is a former president of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in Great Britain, and he served as chairman of the Scottish Council of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Rev. Alexander preaches and teaches at conferences and seminaries in Europe and the United States.

Thabiti Anyabwile is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Rev. Anyabwile is a conference speaker and author of several books, including The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors, and the forthcoming What Is a Healthy Church Member?

Thomas K. Ascol is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla. He also serves as executive director of Founders Ministries and editor of Founders Journal. Dr. Ascol has written numerous articles and contributed to several books, including Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches and A Puritan Speaks to Our Dying Nation. He is also editor of the book Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry.

Joel R. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is also pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation and editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books. Dr. Beeke has authored more than fifteen hundred articles for various periodicals and reference works, and has written or edited fifty books, including The Quest for Full Assurance, Meet the Puritans, Walking as He Walked, and Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption.

Jerry Bridges has served with the Navigators since 1955. He speaks regularly at conferences and seminaries throughout the country and serves as a council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is the author of several books, including The Pursuit of Holiness, Trusting God, Transforming Grace, and Respectable Sins.

Sinclair B. Ferguson is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and is distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Ferguson is also a council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He has written several books, including In Christ Alone, The Holy Spirit, Taking the Christian Life Seriously, and The Sermon on the Mount.

W. Robert Godfrey is president and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California. He has taught at many colleges and seminaries, and frequently speaks at Christian conferences throughout the country. A council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Dr. Godfrey has written several books, including An Unexpected Journey, Reformation Sketches, and Pleasing God in our Worship.

D. G. Hart is director of academic programs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Philadelphia, Pa. Previously he served as dean of academic affairs and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California, where he remains an adjunct member of the faculty. Dr. Hart has written several books, including A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, and has co-authored several others with John R. Muether, including Seeking a Better Country: 300 Years of American Presbyterianism and With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship.

Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California. In addition to serving as editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine and as host of the popular radio show The White Horse Inn, he is the author of numerous books, including God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology, Too Good to Be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype, and Covenant and Salvation.

Phillip R. Johnson is executive director of Grace to You in Panorama City, Calif., and is a pastor at Grace Community Church. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur for nearly thirty years and edits most of Dr. MacArthur's books. Rev. Johnson may be best known for the Web sites he maintains, including The Spurgeon Archive and The Hall of Church History.

Steven J. Lawson is senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., and serves on the ministerial board of Reformed Theological Seminary and on the board of directors of The Master's College and Seminary. Dr. Lawson has authored many books, including Famine in the Land, Foundations of Grace, and The Expository Genius of John Calvin.

John MacArthur has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., for nearly forty years and is heard on more than two thousand radio outlets worldwide on the radio program Grace to You. He is president of The Master's College and Seminary and has written numerous books, including Charismatic Chaos, Faith Works, The Gospel According to Jesus, Ashamed of the Gospel, and A Tale of Two Sons. He is also the author of the twenty-six-volume MacArthur New Testament Commentary series.

Keith A. Mathison is an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine in Orlando, Fla., and is associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible (ESV). Dr. Mathison is author of several books, including Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper, and Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?

Iain H. Murray is a co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is minister emeritus of the Australian Presbyterian Church. Rev. Murray has authored many books, including A Scottish Christian Heritage, Evangelicalism Divided, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, and The Puritan Hope.

Burk Parsons serves as minister of congregational life at Saint Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and is editor of Tabletalk, the monthly Bible study magazine of Ligonier Ministries. Rev. Parsons is also editor of the book Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God's Grace.

Richard D. Phillips is senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C. He is also a council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and is chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology. Rev. Phillips' preaching is heard nationwide on the radio program God's Living Word. Among his twenty-one published books are his most recent titles, What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? and Jesus the Evangelist.

Harry L. Reeder is senior pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala. After completing his doctoral dissertation on "The Biblical Paradigm of Church Revitalization," he authored his first book, From Embers to a Flame. Dr. Reeder is devoted to the ministry of church revitalization, hosting conferences in the United States twice a year called "Embers to a Flame."

Philip Graham Ryken is senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and is a teacher for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Dr. Ryken is broadcast nationally on the radio program Every Last Word. He has written or edited more than twenty books, including What Is the Christian Worldview?, City on a Hill: Recovering the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century, and Bible commentaries on Exodus, Jeremiah, Lamentations, 1 Timothy, and Galatians.

Derek W. H. Thomas is John Richards professor of practical and systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss. He is also minister of teaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and editorial director for The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Among Dr. Thomas' many books are God Strengthens: Ezekiel Properly Explained, Mining for Wisdom, and Praying the Saviour's Way. Along with John W. Tweeddale, Dr. Thomas is co-editor of a forthcoming book on the life, ministry, and doctrine of John Calvin, to be published by the Banner of Truth Trust.


"If you have neglected Calvin's writings for fear they are too difficult or too dreary, this book will change your mind. It is a compendium of his thought presented, as we might expect from these writers, clearly, engagingly, and with a devotional warmth that encourages us to know the God whom we worship."

--Alistair Begg, Senior pastor Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio

"Deep calls to deep, and Burk Parsons' rich and insightful work on John Calvin takes us both deep and wide into the heart of this extraordinary saint. Most of all, I'm grateful to God that a whole new generation of believers can now be introduced to one of the greatest theologians of all time. I highly recommend this book to all who are seeking a closer--and deeper--walk with our Savior!"

--Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder, Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, California

"I personally have benefited in the reading of this work, and most heartily commend it. The value of this book is that it brings out something of John Calvin's own life and struggles, and then summarizes his doctrinal position, not just as an academic exercise, but in the true spirit of genuine Calvinism, which points men to Christ and justification by faith, producing godliness of life and true communion with God."

--Dr. Morton H. Smith, Professor of systematic and biblical theology, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, South Carolina

"On the five-hundredth anniversary of John Calvin's birth, it is utterly fitting that a book of essays should appear that is designed for ordinary Christians, not scholars. The scholars will have their conferences, of course, and rightly so, but here is a collection of essays that will inform and move ordinary readers to grasp something of the profound gift God gave to the church in the person and ministry--and especially the writings--of Calvin. Read this book, then find yourself drawn toward many profitable and stretching hours reading Calvin's Institutes and some of his many commentaries."

--D. A. Carson, Research professor of New Testament Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois

"To my knowledge, there never has been a collection of authors of any edited volume under whose ministry I would rather sit than these. What stands out is that they are humble, holy men of God. Most of them are too old--too seasoned--to care about scoring points. Their lives witness to the preciousness of Christ and the importance of purity. Expect no bombast. Expect humble, measured admiration and wise application. This is a good way to meet John Calvin: in the holy hearts of humble servants of Christ. The only better way would be to read the man himself."

--John Piper, Pastor for preaching and vision Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota

"Calvinism often gets bad press, and John Calvin must rank among the least understood--and most misunderstood--of all the great leaders in church history. We badly need a fresh look at both, one that rightly reveals Calvin not as a doctrinal demagogue, but as a loving pastor, passionate evangelist, and sympathetic counselor, and above all as someone concerned to have all his thinking and living rendered in terms of obedience to God. This is it! Twenty modern pastors, preachers, and authors have combined their knowledge and skills to produce a book that will inform and inspire countless readers for years to come. I know of nothing quite like it and I commend it enthusiastically and without reservation."

--John Blanchard Preacher, teacher, and apologist Author, Does God Believe in Atheists?

"Reading Burk Parsons' new book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, was like following a great chef on an early morning trip to the farmer's market. Burk chose an incredible array of authors to speak to the most important themes of John Calvin's life, and the combination has resulted in a veritable feast of delicacies and delights. Surely this book will help introduce one of history's most gospel-centered men, Calvin, to a generation that wants to relegate him to dusty antiquity and dry orthodoxy. To read Calvin is to understand what a mind informed by the gospel and a heart enflamed with God's grace is supposed to look like! Thank you, chef Parsons!"

--Scotty Smith, Senior pastor, Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee

"There is a fresh breeze blowing in these pages. A new generation has discovered the riches of biblical truth to be found in John Calvin's work. Written in an inviting and accessible style, this book extends an invitation to all to come and learn as well. However, what they will learn will have far less to do with Calvin and far more to do with the centrality and greatness of the triune God whom he served. Calvin would have wanted it that way, and so do we."

--David F. Wells, Senior research professor Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts

"Virtually all of the great Reformers of the sixteenth century were students of the great church father Augustine. If we are to experience another renewal of the church, a renewal that many of us see as much needed today, I believe it will come through those who have been careful students of John Calvin. If you want to know why I say this or have any doubt that Calvin is all that important, then read this fine book. It presents a veritable kaleidoscope of perspectives on the many-sided greatness of this man and his work. I highly recommend it."

--G. I. Williamson, Pastor, Editor, Author, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes

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