IVP - Andy Unedited - September 2017 Archives

September 12, 2017

Science Fiction at Its Best

Science fiction at its best helps us care about ideas and care about people. Blake Crouch's Dark Matter hits both targets dead center. It's the best I've read this year among many top-rated novels in the genre.

TooDark Matter cover.jpg often SciFi is plot driven, like an action movie. It's fun, to be sure. And Dark Matter has plenty of action and drama. But that's not what sets this book apart.

So what's the central idea the book deals with? What would it be like to live a different version of your life, to follow a different key choice you made that would lead you down a different path? Yes, that's not entirely new, but its an important idea, one that the book makes you think about.

Likewise, Blake Crouch focuses on people--the other missing dimension from so many SciFi books. His central character, Jason Dessen living in present-day Chicago, is three dimensional, complex and conflicted. He and others are not cardboard cut outs used as excuses for a wild ride through the universe. They are people we can identify with, imagine ourselves with, imagine wanting to help.

What's chicago bean.jpgJason's dilemma? Think of those who are closest and dearest to you, and now imagine they are suddenly gone--either by your own choices or because of others. How do you feel and what do you do to get them back? Would you compromise your own values and ethics to do so? Would you let them go for a greater good? The gravity of Crouch's book draws us into all these questions.

In short, Dark Matter is deeply human, taking seriously both heart and mind.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:52 AM | Comments

September 6, 2017

A Generous Calvinism

Generous Calvinism may seem like an oxymoron, but in Saving Calvinism Oliver Crisp helps file the rough edges off a narrow, ossified version of this venerable tradition. The result is a Calvinism that embraces the breadth of its own heritage.

Calvinism Saving Calvinism.jpgis often known for what to many seems to be extreme views of predestination, total depravity and the like which make up the acrostic TULIP--a rather recent summary (see Ten Myths of Calvinism, ch. 3) for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints. The problem is that Calvinists are sometimes their own worst enemies in this regard--propounding their dogma in harsh, angry terms.

Recent proponents such as Tim Keller, Michael Horton, and Kevin Vanhoozer have given the movement a more careful and thoughtful presentation that is truer to the spirit of and range of the Reformed legacy. Oliver Crisp adds his own contribution to the discussion in four beneficial ways.

First, he is a master of clarity. Crisp explains the core (yet sometimes difficult to grasp) ideas of Calvinism in ordinary language with, yes, a "crispness," that is a model for all. The book and each chapter are clearly organized so we know exactly where we've been, where we are going, and why.

Second, heOliver Crisp.jpg does so with a wonderful array of metaphors, analogies and illustrations that make his prose vivid and memorable. Creating a video game, an ancient king, a broken transistor radio, a child using a cell phone, a play, paying parking fines, providing vaccines, and presents under a Christmas tree are just a few Crisp employees. Here we see a master teacher at his best.

Third, Crisp includes a variety of representatives from within Calvinism that are just as venerable as Jonathan Edwards and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones--such as B. B. Warfield and Karl Barth. He also introduces lesser-known lights such as Girardeau who argued against Edwards that humans can make free choices not determined by God, as long as those don't concern salvation. Crisp likewise gives an open hearing, with arguments for and against such variations as optimistic particularism and hopeful particularism when considering how many will be saved.

Fourth, Crisp is not just generous toward the broader Reformed tradition. He is generous toward the narrower perspective that is often stereotyped. He gives the best arguments for these viewpoints, acknowledging their strengths, even when he might end up elsewhere. He does not build straw men, weakly constructed, only to knock them down with a flick of his finger.

In this excellent introduction, Crisp clearly appreciates the whole Reformed tradition, and he wants his readers to do so as well.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM | Comments

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.