Produced from a series of (edited) lectures given at the 2009 Desiring God National Conference on the God-glorifying life, ministry, theology and praxis of John Calvin, this book provides an invaluable insight into one of the most influential pastor/theologians the world has ever seen.
Calvin himself uses the metaphor of the theater of God being the stage upon which all of history plays out, and each of the authors of this book’s chapters tackles, with an appreciative but fair hand, as aspect of the Christian life as it is rightly lived – in a manner that makes little of self, much of God and, specifically, most of his glorious grace to us in Jesus Christ.
While each of the contributing authors does a fantastic job, chapters by Julius Kim, Douglas Wilson, Sam Storms and John Piper stood out to me as particularly helpful, covering:
- At Work and Worship in the Theater of God: Calvin the Man and Why I Care – Julius Kim
- The Sacred Script in the Theater of God: Calvin, the Bible and the Western World – Douglas Wilson
- Living with One Foot Raised: Calvin on the Glory of the Final Resurrection and Heaven – Sam Storms
- Jesus Christ as Denouement in the Theater of God: Calvin and the Supremacy of Christ in All Things – John Piper
In addition, the appendices on Calvin’s involvement in the matter with Servetus (which ultimately ended with Servetus’s death as a heretic) and a brief biography of his life, written by Mark R. Talbot and David Mathis respectively, were very helpful in understanding some of Calvin’s shortcomings, but also the incredible way he was used by God throughout his life, despite many very serious challenges and difficulties. The appendix on Servetus in particular also brings much needed perspective to this often talked about issue, and while it does not whitewash Calvin’s part, it does show that his part was very much as a background character in an issue that was much larger and more removed from Calvin than many of his critics would have people believe.
My wife and I are attempting to read through Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion together across the course of a year, and I must admit that, having only read one other of Calvin’s works, I have found this volume to be very helpful in filling in some of the details of Calvin’s life and ministry from a range of angles in a concise and engaging way.
This book has made me even more thankful for John Calvin, for the way God used him greatly in 1500s Geneva, and for the flow-on effect of his ministry which continues to benefit believers to this day.
If you are looking for a relatively short overview of Calvin, with elements of biography (not mere hagiography), but focussing on how his faith and ministry worked out in everyday life, I would definitely recommend this book. A digital copy can be accessed over at DesiringGod.org