Living for God's Glory - Excerpt from Preface
For many years, I have searched for a book that would cover the intellectual and spiritual emphases of Calvinism, the way it influences the church and everyday living, and its ethical and cultural implications. The book I had in mind would explain for todayâ€™s reader the biblical, God-centered, heartfelt, winsome, and practical nature of Calvinism, and would clearly convey how Calvinism earnestly seeks to meet the purpose for which we were created, namely, to live to the glory of God. By doing so, it would serve as a corrective to the many caricatures of Calvinism that still exist in North America and beyond. I searched in vain. Over the years, I have frequently used H. Henry Meeterâ€™s The Basic Ideas of Calvinism and Leonard Coppesâ€™s Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism, as well as a number of smaller books on the five points of Calvinism. But none of these, good though they are, covered all the emphases I had in mind. After giving a number of addresses on Calvinism for Malcolm Wattsâ€™ conference in Salisbury, England, for the Puritan Project in Brazil, and for a conference in Adelaide, Australia, I realized more acutely the real need for the kind of book I envisioned. I wish to thank these groups for the warm fellowship I received from them, and I am glad that I can finally respond to their requests to publish these addresses as part of this introductory volume on Calvinism.
Greg Bailey of Ligonier Ministries pushed me to do the book myself with a commitment that he would edit it and that Ligonier would publish it through its Reformation Trust Publishing imprintâ€”provided that I could complete it early in 2008 to be available in time to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Calvinâ€™s birth in 2009. So, in the end, I felt compelled to undertake the task myself. Looking back, I thank Greg for the early deadline and for his capable handling of my manuscript.
My first outline included fifteen chapters, but by the time I finished, the book had doubled in size. I apologize for that and hope the length wonâ€™t be a hindrance to anyone who wants to learn more about Calvinism. I do have some
justification, however, for expanding this book. In the 1980s, my doctoral dissertation adviser, D. Clair Davis, often said that Calvinism is so comprehensive that it is hard to get oneâ€™s mind and arms around it. He would then say, a bit tongue-in-cheek, that this comprehensiveness is one major difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism. Lutheranism could neatly bring all of its confessional statements under one cover in 1580 and call it The Book of Concord.1
But the Calvinistic faith is so rich that at least three families of confessional statements developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: the English-Scottish family, the Dutch-German family, and the Swiss familyâ€”none of which contradicted the others but built on and complemented them. This diversity is reflective of John Calvin himself. His theological work was comprehensive and, as a result, it has significant ramifications for a host of areas of human life, society, and culture. He was intent on bringing every sphere of existence under the lordship of Christ, so that all of life might be lived to the glory of God. That is why Calvinism cannot be explained simply by one major doctrine or in five points, or, if we had them, even ten points! Calvinism is as complex as life itself.
The breadth of Calvinism, earnestly and zealously lived out, is most clearly manifest in Puritanism. Therefore, I have held the Puritans up as examples in a number of areas, including sanctification (chapters 14 and 15), evangelism (chapter 21), and marriage and family life (chapters 23 and 24). The Puritans have much to teach us today about how to live with one eye on eternity and the other on this world, dedicating our entire lives to Godâ€™s glory. The target audience for this book is laypeople and ministers who are interested in learning the basics of Calvinism. I hope it also will serve as a stimulating summary and refresher course for those who are already avid Calvinists, much as Steven J. Lawsonâ€™s The Expository Genius of John Calvin from Reformation Trust excites those of us who are already familiar with much of its content.4 I have worked hard to keep this book simple, clear, and non-technical, in the hope that you might hand it to others to help them understand how you think as a Calvinist.
From the Preface of Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke. Posted with Permission.