Richard Mouw — Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport (2004)

I am Dutch and a Calvinist (more specifically a neo-Calvinist). The obligatory joke here is that God decided this before the beginning of the world. Words like “Calvinism” make people feel uncomfortable; people are suddenly confronted with theological conversations that seem to mean everything and nothing at the same time. Lucky for us, in contemporary times getting burned at the stake for small distinctions is unlikely. But we also shouldn’t be lazy when it comes to knowing what we believe about the “ultimate things.”

Mouw takes his book title from a scene from the Paul Schrader film, Hardcore. This film focuses on a Dutch Reformed man from Grand Rapids who goes to LA in search of his daughter, who has run away while attending a Christian youth conference. He ends up in the Las Vegas airport with a prostitute who has a lead on where his daughter might be. They have a brief conversation about their beliefs in which he can only manage to say that he believes in TULIP—the five points of Calvinism. The film suggests that in the emerging postmodern world, TULIP is a shabby antique of a theology.

Mouw has written this small book (127 pages) to show that the Calvinist heritage does indeed speak to a diverse and pluralistic culture. Using clear and concise language, he gives a brief explanation of the five points of Calvinism, and then goes on to apply them to contemporary conversations about God’s sovereignty, the basis for cultural renewal and evangelism. Mouw is always reiterating the need for humility and compassion along side of conviction, in order to change the stereotype of Calvinism as an arrogant view that can be used as a pedestal and hammer—or in the case of South Africa, apartheid. For all of its downsides, Mouw also points out the valuable contributions that Calvinism has made to thoughtful Christianity, and a Christian engagement with culture and the public sphere.

I recommend reading this book, you might be surprised to find that God had you listed a Calvinist the whole time.

–gpv

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