Calvin’s Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities
edited by by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink
(Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 250 pages)
Research on John Calvin has been plentiful in recent years, especially leading up to and following the celebrations of his 400th birthday in 2009. This volume combines essays that sketch some of the major aspects of Calvin’s thought with essays that survey modern receptions of Calvin. The structure of the book is very interesting. It consists of five sections, each on a different doctrine, with two essays in each section. In each section, the first essay deals with the shape and early reception of Calvin’s treatment of a doctrine, while the second deals with the modern reception and the contemporary possibilities of Calvin’s treatment. I’ve not seen a book with this particular structure before, and I think it works pretty well.
All the essays were worthwhile, but I found the two articles on Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper particularly interesting. Sue A. Rozeboom shows how heavily Calvin relied on his contemporaries for his thinking on the sacraments, and Timothy Hessel-Robinson explores the ecological and ecclesiological possibilities of Calvin’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Part of the strength of this collection is that it both thoroughly grounds Calvin’s original doctrine in the primary and historical sources, while also developing Calvin’s thought in new directions. This double emphasis ensures that Calvin is understood rightly and responsibly in his original context before he is employed to deal with contemporary issues. This is a very helpful book for those interested in Christian doctrine and the history of the Reformation.