Each year, I put together a “top ten list,” books that have personally encouraged me; books that I would commend to others. It is unusual to include a booklet in such a list but after reading Ian Hamilton’s, What is Experiential Calvinism this book will certainly make the top ten list in 2015.
Calvinism is quite possibly one of the most misrepresented system thoughts – both in the church and in the marketplace of ideas. Christians and non-Christians alike slice and dice this theological system into a cruel concoction which has nothing to do with Calvinism. This twisting and maniacal maneuvering made famous by the likes of critics such as David Hunt does nothing to serve people. Rather, it confuses the unsuspecting and irritates those who no better.
But Hamilton makes this much clear. While Calvinism as such is a theological system, it is much more than a system. It is at the very warp and woof of biblical theology. “Experiential Calvinism” writes Hamilton, has one preeminent concern: to glorify God.”
A substantial part of the book is committed to summarizing the main components of experiential Calvinism. The author presents eight in particular. Instead of summarizing each point, readers are encouraged to dig into Hamilton’s work so as to discover the deeper realities behind each component. The eight points are summarized as follows:
- The experiential Calvinist honors God’s unconditional sovereignty. The author cites B.B. Warfield, who argues, “Calvinists are humble souls, who, in the quiet of retired lives, have caught a vision of God in His glory and are cherishing in their hearts that vital flame of complete dependence on Him which is the very essence of Calvinism.”
- The experiential Calvinist cherishes God’s grace.
- The experiential Calvinist has a deep sense of the sinfulness of sin.
- The experiential Calvinist lives before God’s face.
- The experiential Calvinist shapes all of life by the revelation of God’s unimpeachable holiness.
- The experiential Calvinist is content and satisfied with scriptural worship.
- The experiential Calvinist pursues godly catholicity.
- The experiential Calvinist cultivates communion with God.
I stand with a handful of other Reformed minded people who take exception to the so-called Regulative Principle which is described in the sixth component. Hamilton obviously writes with the best of intentions but gets boxed in by a mindset which canonized the past and neglects elements of contemporary worship. Certainly, there is much drivel in the contemporary music scene. But much good is being accomplished as well. To ignore some of the songs being written by artists such as Stewart Townend, Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin is a mistake. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 10:31 should guide this discussion about worship.
This of course, is a minor criticism in light of the whole. Indeed, this concern is a mere “bump in the road” and should not distract readers from devouring the rest of the book. Iain Hamilton has served the church well by boiling down the essence of Calvinism which will lead people in the right direction for all the right reasons.
What is Experiential Calvinism is a must-read. It is both corrective and Christ-centered and offers the right blend of admonition and encouragement. My hope is that thousands and thousands of people will literally consume this little book and benefit immensely from the godly wisdom here.