Book Review: The Expository Genius of John Calvin
Editors Note: As part of my Lenten Vow of blogging Thursday’s will be book reviews. This is kind of the bread and butter of my site, but they won’t necessarily all be theological.
I picked this book up and added it to my reading list for the spring. I hadn’t read anything by Lawson previously and so I had no real expectations.
The book is small and has well designed packaging. Upon reading the book, I was a bit disappointed. The book was one part biography and another part model for modern preachers. As a biography, it was a bit too short to get beyond anecdotal stories and popular level introductions. As a standard for preachers, it had some content that frightened me.
The book wove the biography together with a list of principles from Calvin’s life. This list was continuous from chapter to chapter, but there was not a summary list of all of the principles that I could find in any appendix. One of the things that was very helpful was the appendices that contained several of Calvin’s sermon plans. Looking over these plans was a great window into Calvin’s methodology. Quite frankly, these appendices were worth the price of the book in themselves.
Lawson does make sure to say that we should not hold everything Calvin did up as a standard (in the sense of preaching without notes or preaching 7+ times a week). At the same time, he presents such a positive view of Calvin, it is hard not to walk away thinking that if every preacher were Calvin, the church would be a great place and heretics would cower in fear before the most average of pastors. My fear is that the small size of this book will make it attractive to laymen who will hold their pastors to the titanic example of Calvin. This can be dangerous to our churches. Each pastor should be held to the standards of scripture, some of which Calvin embodied incredibly well. But we must remember that each of us has been gifted differently and our ministries will function differently. In fact, if every minister looked, preached, and pastored just like Calvin, the Church would be in shambles. Jim from Raleigh needs to preach/pastor like Jim from Raleigh.
So the book isn’t bad if you are looking for a short introduction to Calvin’s life and work, just be careful not to assume that everyone should be a little Calvin.