Review: The Five Points of Calvinism

The Five Points of Calvinism is a concise and convenient description of the doctrines of grace. First published in 1963, the second edition was published in honor of its fortieth anniversary. Although the new edition is three times larger and offers a plethora of new insight, the body is essentially the same.

The subtitle of the book is also the outline: “defined, defended and documented”. The first 15 pages explain the history of Calvinism. The bulk of this section pairs off the five points of Calvinism against the five points of Arminianism in order to demonstrate their differences.

In the second section, the authors use 55 pages to defend the five points. One by one, the authors present the points, defined and defended by scores of Scripture texts. For instance, just in the section on “irresistible grace” alone, the authors use 103 Scripture verses.

Finally, the book concludes with several appendices, of which I found McGuire’s “A Kinder, Gentler Calvinism”, Spurgeon’s “A Defense of Calvinism” and Daniel’s “The Practical Applications of Calvinism” to be very helpful.

The final section of the body (also the largest—60 pages) presents recommended reading. Three hundred and twenty-eight sources (compared to 104 in the first edition) are documented in annotated bibliography form, which was compiled by Quinn and proofed by Curt Daniel. I found this extremely helpful.

Because the authors contend that there are “thousands and thousands” of works on Calvinism, a condensed summary was helpful. I narrowed the list even more to twenty.

  1. Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin—Ford Battles (421 pages). Battles would take his students through this analytical study of Calvin’s magnum opus in one semester.
  2. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination—Loraine Boettner (435 pages). “Best overall treatment of the subject…one of those rare books that is profitable for both the beginner and the more advanced student.”
  3. The History and Theology of Calvinism—Curt Daniel (521 pages). “One of the most helpful and readable treatments of Calvinism in print. Worth its weight in gold!” Only available through Reformed Bible Church in Springfield, Illinois. Find MP3s here.
  4. The Deeper Faith—Gordon Girod (135 pages). “One of the clearest and most convincing statements of the distinguishing doctrines of the Reformed Faith that can be found anywhere.”
  5. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views—Dave Hunt and James White (427 pages). “Grew out of …White’s response to…What Love Is This? This book has a debate format and could well go down as the most lopsided debate in church history.”
  6. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God—J.I. Packer (126 pages). Because of its high quality, this book has remained in print for over forty years.”
  7. Sermons on Sovereignty—Charles Spurgeon (256 pages). Includes a brief sketch of Spurgeon’s life and a selection of 18 sermons dealing with some aspect of Calvinism or the sovereignty of God.
  8. Reformed Theology in America—David Wells (287 pages). “This is an outstanding book with a wealth of information and background on the shapers of Reformed theology in America.”

  1. A Biblical Theology of the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace—George Zemek. “Masterful exegetical treatment of the relevant passages of both the Old and the New Testaments which relate to the doctrines of grace.”
  2. The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23—John Piper (245 pages). “No one who comes from the Arminian persuasion can ignore this book. In our judgment, its exegesis and logic are airtight.”
  3. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith—Robert Reymond. “Reymond (emeritus professor of systematic theology at Knox) … has written arguably the best Reformed systematic theology within Calvinistic circles in recent times.”
  4. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free—James White (343 pages). Audio of his debates can be found here.
  5. Freedom of the Will—Jonathan Edwards (494 pages). “A classic! Although first published in 1754, the arguments set forth in this work have never been answered. It requires hard study, but no serious student can afford to neglect it.”
  6. Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility—D.A. Carson (271 pages)
  7. Bondage of the Will—Martin Luther (320 pages). “This is one of the great classics of Calvinistic literature and merits serious study.”
  8. Willing to Believe—R.C. Sproul (221 pages). “An excellent treatment of the freedom of the will.”
  9. Chosen by God—R.C. Sproul (213 pages). “The best book currently in print on the subject.”
  10. Chosen for Life—Samuel Storms (142 pages). “This book and Sproul’s Chosen by God are easily the best popular treatments of the doctrine of election.”
  11. A Price for a People—Tom Wells (168 pages). “The most readable resource now available (on Limited Atonement).” Great contrast with Lightner’s book on “Unlimited Atonement”.
  12. A Journey in Grace—Richard Belcher (154 pages). This is actually a novel. “The book has become something of a classic.”
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