Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Worshipping with Calvin
by Terry L Johnson
This chunky book may seem intimidating but it contains such an interesting amount of information that I found my attention captured for its entirety. It is well laid-out and comprehensive for the most part. It gives and excellent and trust-worthy history of the Reformation- its great men of faith, its doctrines, its influence. 
Primarily, Worshipping with Calvin seeks to deal with current problem of churches forsaking the God-glorifying traditions of the past in the aspect of worship. The author's goal is to open the eyes of Christians who have been letting a 'pop' attitude taint their worship. 
I thought it was very good in that the author didn't lift Calvin or the other reformers up but always brought it back to God's word. It was because of Jesus that anything good took place during the Reformation. 

Although a great book, I have my doubts that it will reach further than the audience which already believes the majority of what is put forth in this paperback tome! I know that ''reformed'' Baptists and especially Presbyterians will love this book. 
But if the vision of the author was to reach the contemporary church I think he failed in his goal. The book is simply too large to capture the attention of most readers. Rather, it will appeal to Christians who are used to devouring 500-page books.

Lastly, I do have an issue with a portion of the book which will obviously not bother many of the readers of the book. I cannot agree with the portion on baptism. It is argued, as usual, that peudo-baptism is the New Testament equivalent of circumcision. Yet there are many errors in that view. 
Because of Jesus, we New Testament believers are in a whole new ''era''. No longer do we experience grace as a covenant people or even as covenant families but as individuals in covenant with God.  Each person is responsible to God for his sin. There is no guarantee or promise that a Christian- no matter how faithful- will see each of his children come to Christ. There is no promise that a Christian's offspring are elect. By God's grace, it often happens that way. But not always. And there is definitely no promise in Scripture. 
Baptizing your children as infants is a stumbling block to the poor children. They grow up thinking they are somehow under special grace when in truth, until Christ saves them there is no life in them! It is so similar, by the way, to the Arminian influence on children. In both groups, hundreds of children grow up thinking that they are going to heaven and that all that is needed is perhaps ''affirmation of their faith'' or sanctification!
Salvation doesn't come quietly or unnoticed. Not that every person will have a Saul-like conversion. But becoming a new person doesn't just happen gradually or secretly. An unsaved person is dead and a saved person is alive. It's so distinct. 
Secondly, I thought this was pretty bad: page 190 quotes from a historic Presbyterian church's beliefs...''Emergency baptisms, those for dying infants were discouraged because of their magical implications. The infants of believers are already part of the covenant of which baptism is a sign, and are not at risk if the die before being baptized.''
If infants are indeed 'safe', then why not abort all our babies, so they can go to heaven?
And if infants or believers are safe, why are they not just as safe as 8-year olds, 14 year olds, 20-year olds? What makes the difference? Aren't we all born in sin?

The book also says: ''Because it was recognized that God's covenental dealings embrace believers and their children (Genesis 17:7, Acts 2:38-39), the Reformers affirmed the propriety of infant baptism.
Below is Genesis 17:7... Christians of the New Testament should not take Old Testament covenants such as this Abrahamic covenant and try to apply them to themselves! In this verse, God is speaking to His chosen people the Israelites.
Genesis 17:7
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

As for the second verse, I quote from this article: (by a reformed Baptist pastor)

''Acts 2:38-39, which actually contains a promise to parents that if their children (or anyone 
else for that matter) repent and believe, they too will have their sins forgiven and be saved...''

That is just my little attempt to explain what lay heavily on my heart as I read this otherwise great book. I know many more people who can explain it better. 

I was very pleased to receive this complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.