Thursday, 18 July 2013

D. G. Hart's History of Calvinism

I'm enjoying the second wave of my summer vacation at Carolina Beach, North Carolina, where my family and I will be for the next week and a half. I always look forward to our time at the beach each summer since I get the opportunity to participate in my second favorite sport: surfing (snow skiing is #1). This morning, I experienced the joy of watching my two older boys (ages 10 and 8) successfully surf for the first time.

While on vacation in NC, I finished reading D. G. Hart's Calvinism: A History. Darryl is a prolific author, having written a number of books over the years on American Presbyterianism, evangelicalism, religious politics, and biographies. I can't say that Calvinism: A History is a fast read, but it certainly offers an impressive sweep of the progression of Calvinism from the Reformation to the present.

Given Darryl's interest in Presbyterianism, it makes sense that he would spend more time with this particular form of Calvinism than other denominations, such as the Baptists. However, Hart does devote significant sections to movements outside of the United States, including the Netherlands and Scotland, with chapters devoted to Abraham Kuyper's influence among Dutch Calvinists as well as Thomas Chalmers and the "Great Disruption" of 1843 in Scotland.

Calvinism: A History is written with a sophisticated style that should be appealing to scholars wanting a solid overview of the Reformed movement from the 1500s to the present. Specialists will no doubt complain that certain details and specific figures were left out of the narrative. But in fairness to Hart, he had a tremendous task to write a fluid summary of five hundred years of history, and should not be faulted for offering his particular take on Calvinism. While I don't envy him for taking on this particular assignment, I applaud Hart for completing such a mammoth undertaking.

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