Who would have guessed that something as austere as Calvinism would become a hot topic in today’s postmodern culture? At the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, new generations have discovered and embraced a “New Calvinism” with fervor and zeal, finding in the Reformed tradition a rich theological vision. In fact, Time cited New Calvinism as one of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”
Letters to a Young Calvinist provides pastoral and theological counsel, encouraging participants in this tradition to find in Calvin a vision that’s even bigger than the New Calvinism might suggest. Noted Reformed philosopher James K.A. Smith contends that much of what traffics under the banner of New Calvinism reduces “Reformed” to a narrow concern with Calvinistic soteriology. Smith introduces New Calvinists to the “world-formative” Christianity that was unleashed with the Reformation, presenting the Reformed tradition as an Augustinian renewal movement within the church catholic. Offering wisdom at the intersection of theology and culture, he also provides pastoral caution about pride and maturity.
The creative and accessible letter format invites young Calvinists into a faithful conversation that reaches from Paul and Augustine through Calvin and Edwards to Kuyper and Wolterstorff. Together these letters sketch a comprehensive vision of Calvinism that is generous, winsome, and imaginative.
My friend Jamie Smith is never boring. Most of the time I cheered ‘Amen!’ as I read these letters, but even when I disagreed, I appreciated Jamie’s model of charity and humility as well as conviction. In the midst of all the encouraging energy of the ‘New Calvinism’ movement, it is also important to say that being Reformed is more than TULIP. These are rewarding and creatively written letters for all of us.
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California
I wish there had been a Jamie Smith to write letters like these to me when I was a young Calvinist. But, hey, I'm glad to get them today! This is a wise and delightfully written portrayal of a robust Calvinism for the twenty-first century.
—Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
Letters to a Young Calvinist is a splendid book that speaks to both head and heart, counseling the ‘young, restless, and Reformed’ toward growth into a wider and deeper Reformed tradition. . . . [T]he journey with Smith into the spacious and expansive Reformed tradition is well worth the ride. This wise and witty book is a delight to read!
—J. Todd Billings, associate professor of Reformed theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
Although Letters to a Young Calvinist may not please everyone in the Reformed camp (it is a big and diverse family after all), Jamie Smith has done a fabulous job articulating a winsome and engaging account of the depth, splendor, and joy of the Reformed tradition. I found much of what I hold dear about Calvinism reaffirmed in these interesting letters and at the same time was delighted to learn new insights that got me excited about the tradition all over again. I hope this book introduces a whole new generation to the richness of the Reformed understanding of the faith.
—Jim Belcher, author, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
James K.A. Smith winsomely steps into one of the most fascinating conversations in contemporary evangelicalism—the surprising resurgence of Calvinism among younger Christians. Letters to a Young Calvinist is thoughtful, nuanced, provocative, relational, and informed. No one will agree with everything here, but what I appreciated most was Smith’s careful insistence that there's much more to being theologically Reformed than believing in the famous (and fabulous!) five points of Calvinism. He shows that the Reformed tradition is covenantal and cosmic in scope, big and bright in scale, doctrinal and devotional in spirit. A thoroughly engaging read!
—Tullian Tchividjian, pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; author, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels