Calvin for Armchair Theologians (Audiobook): Christopher Elwood

13 May

John CalvinElwood conveys Calvin’s life and theology well in a sympathetic but brief format. However, the undercurrents of liberal thought mean that I do not recommend this book. Despite this, I was at time challenged deeply by the summary of Calvin’s theology, which is a credit to him more than the author.

The Argument of the Book

Elwood’s book had the following structure (mine not his):

  • Calvin’s life (Chapters 1-2)
  • Calvin’s theology (Chapter 3)
  • Calvin’s controversies and concluded life (Chapter 4)
  • Calvin’s legacy (Chapter 5).

Primary Audience & Purpose

The audience is “armchair theologians”, and they are expected to know a reasonable amount beforehand. Elwood’s purpose is to summarise Calvin’s life and thought.

Literary Features of the Book

Hovel Audio’s audiobook is excellent. The writing style is engaging, yet at a certain stage Elwood referred to God alternately as he or she which is unacceptable.

Is it Faithful?

Elwood argues successfully that Calvin was not a monster. His life is told well and sympathetically. His theology is presented (by summarising the Institutes) faithfully.

However, in the last section Calvin is called a father of liberalism, the author even claiming if Calvin had today’s “critical scholarship” he may have been a liberal. This is frankly quite the opposite of everything Calvin stood for and was a terrible oversight.

Is it Christ centred?

Calvin’s theology is and this shines through. However, the concluding chapter is well off track. Moreover the enthusiastic support is given squarely to Calvin not Christ, something he would surely despise.

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