Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition
by James K. A. Smith
(Brazos Press, 2010, 160 pages)
This was my second time through Jamie Smith’s wonderful little introduction to Reformed theology. It is a quick read that covers a lot of ground. Smith models his book after Christopher Hitchen’s Letters to a Young Contrarian and George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic. Unfortunately, Smith’s attempt at the form suffers (at least to my taste) from too forced an effort at engaging in an imaginary dialogue. While most books in this vein are comprised of letters that only briefly allude to the interests or questions of an imagined correspondent, Smith’s letters engage more thoroughly with the imagined half of the correspondence. I find this dependence on the other half of an exchange more frustrating than illuminating. That being said, the content of the book is excellent. Smith sketches a vision of Reformed theology that stretches far beyond the usual preoccupations with questions of how an individual is “saved.” According to Smith’s vision, Reformed theology is a vital, comprehensive, and flawed tradition that serves as an excellent starting point for seeking a greater expression of the catholicity of the entire Church. Annoyances with the style aside, this is a sophisticated, accessible, and personal expression of Reformed theological tradition.