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Reformed Suggestions


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Hi there.

 

Could anyone suggest books or other reading material dealing with the Reformed (Calvinist) tradition? I'm currently reading some Barth (Evangelical Theology), and would like input on what else is good and why.

 

I'm aware that one can (easily) paint Calvin is something other than a progressive, and do so in strong terms. That said, Barth was a socialist, and Marilynne Robinson wrote an excellent essay a few years back entitled "Onwards Christian Liberals." So, thanks! :)

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Robert McAfee Brown, a Presbyterian and liberation theologian, wrote many books from the perspective of what I consider the reformed tradition. You might also try Protestant Christianity by John Dillenberger and Claude Welch. It sets reformed Protestantism in context.

 

Thanks!

It'll be good to read a Presbyterian liberal theologian after reading Barth.

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You're welcome. There is also a book by W. Fred Graham (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1971). The title is something like The Constructive Revolutionary. It is about Calvin, but from a somewhat different perspective than most authors. I read it maybe 25 years ago, and that is about all I remember about it. I tried googling Graham, but without much luck.

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  • 1 month later...

When taking the Presbyterian ordination exams, it was common knowledge that Shirley Guthrie's (Shirley is male, btw), Christian Doctrine was THE book to read. I would also recommend Dan Migliore's Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine.

grandpawombat: I'll have to check out Brown. Thanks.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Robert McAfee Brown, a Presbyterian and liberation theologian, wrote many books from the perspective of what I consider the reformed tradition. You might also try Protestant Christianity by John Dillenberger and Claude Welch. It sets reformed Protestantism in context.

 

If you are seriously interested in understanding Calvinism, I would suggest Calvin's Institutes. I've read the first two books and they're pretty interesting. I was very interested in Calvinism for a couple of years and I've read a lot of books from that perspective. I used to believe that Calvinism most closely paralleled the Bible. I have since moved away from that doctrine, because I just can't believe in limited atonement (and all of the other "limits" or boundaries that Calvin saw in the Bible). I am still attending a Reformed Church, though...

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Hi, I'm back, and I wanted to give an update.

 

I finished Evangelical Theology, and found it fascinating enough that I began reading Barth's commentary on Epistle to the Romans.

 

All I can say is wow. I realize he's controversial, but this book has really, really affected me. The way he talks about the separation between man & God, and their reconciliation through Christ spoke to me.

 

I'm only about a third of the way through it, though, as it is a rather long and dense. I took a break to read Shirley Guthrie's Christian Doctrine, which I found to be a nice intro textbook of sorts (though I wish it had more citations), and Barth's influence on Guthrie was quite obvious.

 

So... yeah. I'm not sure what I'll read next, but I felt I should post an update.

 

Thanks for the additional suggestions!

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  • 1 month later...

Hi all.

 

So, since I started this thread, I've read a lot, and I wanted to share what I found. Reformed Christianity / Calvinism has as much potential to be progressive Christianity as any other tradition, and I've found some works I thought people may like to know about. Me making this list is as much for my benefit as anyone else's, as it helps me organize some thoughts.

 

"Onward Christian Liberals," by Marilynne Robinson.

This is a 10 page article from the Spring 2006 issue of The American Scholar. It is extremely accessible, and directly argues how a Calvinist POV can connect to a progressive one. I won't try to sum it up, but I will say that she subverts or redeems (depending on one's perspective) several of those infamous Calvinist beliefs involving predestination and the total sovereignty of God. Sadly, this article is extremely hard to find online, but a library should be able to help you out.

 

The Epistle to the Romans, by Karl Barth

This is as dense as the previous article was accessible. Fueled by Calvinism and using the existentialist language of Kierkegaard and Buber, Barth wrote a commentary on the Biblical book Epistle to the Romans. Though not as explicitly anti-Nazi as The Barmen Declaration that he also authored, Romans nevertheless was written with denouncing nationalism and antisemitism in mind. In what amounts to a postmodern critique, Barth argues the human condition is uncertain, and that (objective, universal, eternal) Truth is not something we can ever obtain through human capabilities. If you ever wanted to see what Christianity can look like when it embraces a radical doubt in its own righteousness (and not just the sinfulness of individuals), look no further!

 

Calvin's Ladder, by Julie Canlis

I'm about 70 pages into this one so far, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. The usual view of Calvinism is that it is fundamentally anti-mystical in its approach to Christianity. Calvin is, in this view, the "anti-Merton". While Canlis does not claim that Calvin is as mystical in his theology as St. Teresa of Avila or Meister Eckhart, she is making a convincing argument that the previous claim is quite inaccurate. A central element of Christian life for Calvin is unity in Christ, and she discusses his understanding of how one "ascends" with Christ. She highlights his similarities to St. Bernard, and in his redefinition of the neo-platonist categories that Christianity appropriated early on. Later in the book, she has chapters on how this ties into the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist, and Church Father Ireneaus, but I haven't gotten to those yet. Honestly, this one has the most tenuous link to progressive Christianity, but it's what I'm reading, and there have been a few threads on Christian mysticism as of late.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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