Monday, April 7, 2014

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport

Richard J. Mouw, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport: Making Connections in Today's World. Zondervan, 2004. 141 pages. ISBN 978-0-310-23197-4

This is what the publisher says about the book:

"Let's face it, many non-Calvinists hold a less-than-positive view, sometimes due to caricatures. This friendly, conversational book helps clear up some misconceptions and distorted views. If you're not a Calvinist, here is an engaging inside look. And if you are a Calvinist, Richard Mouw shows how to live gently and respectfully with others--Christians and non-Christians--who hold different perspectives. Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport focuses not on what Calvinists believe but on how they live. From a movie scene to the author's personal experiences in Las Vegas, you are invited to travel with Mouw and see the Reformed faith in a new light. Yes, it still does travel well!"

Richard J. Mouw returned to the classroom as Professor of Faith and Public Life after serving as President of Fuller Theological Seminary (1993-2013). He originally came to Fuller as professor of Philosophy in 1985. Before coming to Fuller, he served seventeen years as a professor at Calvin College. Mouw has written many books including: Uncommon Decency :Christian Civility in an Uncivil World; Consulting the Faithful; He Shines in All that is Fair: Culture and Common Grace. In Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport Mouw asks the question: Is Calvinism still viable in the 21st century? He believes it is. He sets out in this book to correct distortions or myths that non-Calvinists have of Calvinism. One might say that he presents a kinder, gentler Calvinism. Two things one can say about Mouw is that he is respectful of other views and is willing to learn from other. These are virtues that we all should emulate.

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport is divided into twelve chapters. The chapters are short and can be easily read in one sitting. The book has one chapter which explains the TULIP acronym. Mouw calls this chapter "Mere Calvinism." The rest of the book describes the larger Reformed faith and responds to caricatures of it.

In the chapter, "After the Election," Mouw shows how Christians are elected to serve. He argues that Christians are called to be active in the political and social arenas. He describes his own involvement in political activities in the 1960s and how it shaped his life. He also mentions the Reformed emphasis on "covenant theology" and how this teaching softens the teaching of predestination. It is interesting that in this chapter Mouw shows how he has learned from both a Catholic priest and a Jewish Rabbi how to live a Christian life. This is a common theme in the book on how Mouw is willing to learn from others. Mouw does say that "God saves us as individuals;" but He does not want "us to live our lives in isolation from a corporate involvement" (67). This is a good point made by Mouw. One of the weaknesses of Northern American evangelicalism emphasis is the emphasis on the individual. Mouw also says that "We need to find our individual callings in the context of the larger calling of the Christian community to which we belong" (67).

In his chapter, "Confessions of a Traveling Calvinism," Mouw points out some of the weaknesses of Calvinism. One of these weak areas is ethics. Mouw speaking of Calvinist says, "Calvinists have certainly not stood out in the Christian community as especially pure people when it comes to the way they behave. They have frequently been intolerant, sometimes to the point of taking abusive and violent action toward people with whom they have disagreed" (114-115). He thinks that Calvinists must develop the important virtue of humility in dealing with others. They must have "a desire to learn from others." Mouw calls himself an "ecclectic Calvinist." He has needed to learn from other traditions to flesh out the beliefs of Calvinism. He sees Calvinism as a world and life view. An important emphasis in Calvinism is the Soevereignty of God. God is sovereign over every area of life. God calls us to expand His kingdom to all areas of life.

Calvinism in Las Vegas is an excellent introduction on how Calvinism is applicable to the 21st century. Mouw notes that though his Calvinism is not completely the same as the Calvinism that his grandmother brought from the Netherlands, but it is rooted in it. This is a good book to see what Calvinism looks like from the inside. 

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