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Book Notes: Calvin, Christianity, and Lloyd-Jones

By Matthew Barrett–

J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink, eds. Calvin’s Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2012.

This book covers a range of topics on Calvin’s theology and its reception:

Section 1: Calvin’s Theology of Scripture and Revelation, and Its Reception (chapters by I. John Hesselink and Mark Husbands)

Section 2: Calvin’s Theology of Union with Christ and Its Reception (chapters by J. Todd Billings and Michael Horton)

Section 3: Calvin’s Theology of Election and Its Reception (chapters by Carl Trueman and Suzanne McDonald)

Section 4: Calvin’s Theology of the Lord’s Supper and Its Reception (chapters by Sue Rozeboom and Timothy Hessel-Robinson)

Section 5: Calvin’s Theology of Church and Society, and Its Reception (chapters by Jeannine E. Olson and David Little)

Though I have not read all the chapters yet, I greatly benefited from J. Todd Billings’s chapter, “Union with Christ and the Double Grace: Calvin’s Theology and Its Early Reception,” as well as Michael Horton’s chapter, “Calvin’s Theology of Union with Christ and the Double Grace: Modern Reception and Contemporary Possibilities.” In my mind, both of these chapters, especially Horton’s which is an impressive survey and analysis of current scholarship, provide much clarity over the union with Christ debate in Calvin studies.


Robert Louis Wilken. The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012.

If you are a historian of any kind, this book is a must-read. Wilken takes on the impossible task of chronicling and interpreting the first thousand years of Christianity. But what makes his account unique is that he often pays attention to Christianity’s influence in parts of the world that most Christians never think of when recounting church history. That said, here is an interview with Wilken where he talks with Timothy George on the Beeson Podcast. Also, here is a review of the book by Peter Leithart.

Here is the publisher’s description of the book:

How did a community that was largely invisible in the first two centuries of its existence go on to remake the civilizations it inhabited, culturally, politically, and intellectually? Beginning with the life of Jesus, Robert Louis Wilken narrates the dramatic spread and development of Christianity over the first thousand years of its history. Moving through the formation of early institutions, practices, and beliefs to the transformations of the Roman world after the conversion of Constantine, he sheds new light on the subsequent stories of Christianity in the Latin West, the Byzantine and Slavic East, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Through a selected narration of particularly noteworthy persons and events, Wilken demonstrates how the coming of Christianity set in motion one of the most profound revolutions the world has known. This is not a story limited to the West; rather, Christian communities in Ethiopia, Nubia, Armenia, Georgia, Persia, Central Asia, India, and China shaped the course of Christian history. The rise and spread of Islam had a lasting impact on the future of Christianity, and several chapters are devoted to the early experiences of Christians under Muslim rule. Wilken reminds us that the career of Christianity is characterized by decline and attrition as well as by growth and expansion.

Ten years in the making and the result of a lifetime of study, this is Robert Louis Wilken’s summa, a moving, reflective, and commanding account from a scholar at the height of his powers.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Great Doctrines of the Bible: Three Volumes in One: God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; The Church and the Last Things. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

Crossway has done us a great service by making available in one large volume Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s volumes on the Trinity, the Church, and Eschatology. Actually, the subtitle of the book does not tell the whole story. Truly, Lloyd-Jones does not limit himself to the Trinity, for example, but covers really the entire range of topics in systematic theology, from biblical authority to Christology, from soteriology to eschatology. This book is an excellent entry way into the theology of Lloyd-Jones, but it is also an introduction to theology itself. Here is a warm introduction to the book:

On Friday evenings in post-World War II London, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones held discussions in one of the halls of Westminster Chapel. These discussions tackled the practical issues of the Christian life, but the questions that arose often involved matters of doctrine. The meetings were so well-attended, and so many people were asking about the biblical doctrines, that Lloyd-Jones moved the meetings into the Chapel itself and began to give a series of lectures on doctrine. Out of those lectures came the initial material for a three-volume series, Great Doctrines of the Bible. Now this material is combined into one volume—a comprehensive systematic theology of the Christian faith.

Concerned that the truth be in words “understood by the people” and that it not remain only in the head, Llloyd-Jones uses clear language and makes application in each chapter. Through this book he extends to Christians a compelling invitation to study the Scriptures and to learn and integrate doctrine with daily life. For when we do, we encounter the riches of God’s grace and come to understand more deeply the significance of the cross.

 Matthew Barrett (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University (OPS). He is also the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett has contributed book reviews and articles to various academic journals, and is the author of the forthcoming book with P&R, Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. He is the editor, along with Ardel Caneday, of the forthcoming book: Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan, 2013). He also edited Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy.

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