Humble Calvinism is a relatively short, very well constructed overview of the five points of Calvinism, with a distinct focus on how they should cause those of us who subscribe to them to live, act, and evangelise as believers.
Having come to Reformed theology around five years ago, one of the first books I read at that time was John Piper’s Five Points Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace – a book I would highly recommend to this day. Jeff’s book Humble Calvinism reminds me of that volume in its pastoral approach to explaining and applying the five points to the life of the reader.
In his book, Jeff makes it clear what each of the five points of TULIP – an acronym used to summarise Calvinistic theology (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints) – mean, helping to clarify and alleviate some common misunderstandings.
A huge focus of the book is on humility, and rightly so given some of the more negative aspects of what is, largely, a very positive movement (the Reformed resurgence, characterised early on by the Young, Restless, Reformed crowd). Though I do not consider myself a cage-stage Calvinist by any means, I still found myself being helpfully reminded that true Calvinism is not primarily a ticket to winning theological arguments, rather it is a theological framework that drives us to a deep appreciation and gratitude for the grace of God at work in our lives, for it is God alone who saves sinners, with nothing contributed by us other than the sin (and resulting destruction) from which we are saved.
As Jeff says in the book, “Humble Calvinism is no oxymoron.” Rightly understood, Calvinism leads to humility, graciousness and thanksgiving. It motivates us to be missional, while trusting God at all times with the outcome and it focuses us on God, rather than ourselves.
On the back cover, Jeff writes that he thinks “Calvinism’s biggest problem is Calvinists like me.” and “If you’re Reformed and think you don’t need this book… you likely do.” I think, after reading, that the type of Calvinist Jeff is seeking to be and exhorting the reader to be is a very true and good type of Calvinist, and I agree – if you love the truths of the Reformed faith and think you’re beyond this book for some reason… please stop and read it! It’s well worth heeding the important reminders therein.
Approachable in its style (somewhat Jared Wilson-esque in style at times, to be honest) and important in its message, this is definitely a book to read if you are a Calvinist. If you’re an Arminian, I’d still encourage you to take a step over the theological fence and read this book too! Christians on both sides would do well to have a firm understanding of true Calvinism, which also happens to be ‘humble Calvinism’.