BOOK REVIEW: Mere Calvinism, Jim Scott Orrick

Mere Calvinism by Jim Scott Orrick

“I held to what is called Calvinist doctrine before I had read a single page of the writings of Calvin.”

Overview: In Orrick’s own words, the purpose of his book is to write a, “simple, easy-to-understand explanation of the Five Points of Calvinism.” One of his main desires is that his book can be spiritually and intellectually beneficial to all types of Christians– from the newest Calvinist to the most experienced one. Throughout the book, Orrick follows the template of giving an in-depth overview of each doctrine of grace followed by a section dedicated to refuting common rebuttals or questions these doctrines could cause to arise. At the end of every chapter, several discussion questions are provided making this book ideal for a small group or a personal Bible study.

Appraisal: I have been a Calvinist for the majority of my life. I have been raised and taught the Doctrines of Grace for at least half of my life. However, this book was impressively thought-provoking, laid out, presented on the basis of Scripture, and the author articulated several vital arguments of which I had never heard before. Orrick starts the first chapter of his book defining what a, “Calvinist,” is. In a very simple way, he explains that a Calvinist (in accordance to the Doctrines of Grace) is somebody who believes that God does all that he pleases, and that he is the initiator, sustainer, and finisher of the salvation of men. It is nearly impossible to turn more than a page in this book without seeing a passage of Scripture that Orrick uses to back up his claims. As he states that the purpose of his book is, “not to explain what John Calvin taught but to explain what the Bible teaches.” Case in point, I was struck and fascinated by Orrick’s strong exegesis and overt skill in communicating to the reader through the lens of God’s word. Throughout the book, the author also raised up several extremely good rebuttals and scriptural texts against Arminianism and Open Theism (arguments I’d never heard before). My favorite section of the book is entitled, “What if?” In this section, Orrick asks the question, What if any one of the given “doctrines of grace” is not true? Going through each and every doctrine, the author shows the fallacies and issues that arise if any of these are abandoned. This section is almost worth the cost of the book alone, as it brings to light the countless problems of ideologies departing from Calvinism (Arminianism, Open-Theism, Amraldyianism, ext).

Criticism: It is very difficult for me to file any complaints against this book. One of the main issues that I had with it was too short. The Doctrines of Grace are so complex and beautiful, so much more could have been written on the subject. However, I realize the purpose and mission of the book is not to divulge every lasting implication of these doctrines but to be an easy-to-read tool and spiritual benefit to the lay-believer. One of my colleagues also pointed out to me that the title of the book (Mere Calvinism) is almost misleading. Calvinism, he claims, is not only the belief in the Doctrines of Grace, but in the spiritual inheritance of Calvin. My friend believes that the title may in fact be misleading as it does not address these other issues central to Calvin’s system; however, that is an issue for another time. All in all, neither of these complaints damage in the least the high regard in which I hold this book.

Recommendation: I can without a doubt recommend this book to any and every believer. Not only will reading this book polish up apologetic and intellectual skills, but it also portrays the beauties of the 5 points of Calvinism found all throughout Scripture, leading to the worship of God. It analyzes these in such a way that cause the reader to again discover the joy and awe that come from truly knowing their Creator and their Creators role in their salvation. As I finished reading this book, I walked away refreshed and rejoicing, praising and marveling at the awesome God we serve. I firmly recommend this book to all believers: whether someone just beginning to probe the depths of Calvinism, or a long-time theologian, everyone will benefit from this book.

Grade: 9/10

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