Contemplates Calvin's Institutes as practical spiritual theology
Readers of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion
often regard this masterwork of doctrine as a cold, sterile, and merely intellectual project. But Matthew Myer Boulton reads it very differently, arguing that for Calvin, Christian doctrine is properly conceived and articulated primarily for the sake of practical Christian formation -- the immersive, restorative training for wholeness and holiness embodied in the church's disciplinary treasury.
Although Calvin famously opposed the cloister, Boulton shows that his purpose was not the eradication but the democratization of monastic spiritual disciplines. Just as Calvin endorsed the "priesthood of all believers," so too did he envision that ordinary disciples could live with God daily, consecrate themselves to the art of knowing God, and embrace spiritually formative practices including scriptural and theological study, daily prayer and worship, regular Psalm singing, frequent reception of the Lord's Supper, renunciation of "the world," rigorous moral accountability, and the like.
Read an excerpt from the book on EerdWord
John D. Witvliet
-- Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary
"Life in God is a beautiful example of how patient theological and historical reflection can be a catalyst for contemporary renewal. . . . This volume calls us to dispense with the destructive dichotomy of doctrine and practice and to embrace approaches to theology that explicitly strengthen a Christian way of life. Boulton demonstrates how the writings of John Calvin continue to serve as a provocative, inspiring, and clarifying conversation partner for contemporary theologians."
Elsie Anne McKee
— Princeton Theological Seminary
"One of the great strengths of Boulton's aptly named book is his emphasis on Calvin as a very practical religious thinker who was more interested in being a helpful interpreter of the Bible than in dogmatic logic. Building on newer research that places the reformer squarely in his historical context as pastor to people going through spiritual upheaval, Boulton provides a thoughtful and lucid examination of key themes in Calvin's thought."
S. Mark Heim
-- Andover Newton Theological School
"Boulton continues to manifest here his special gift for melding scholarly insight into theological classics with fresh reflections on the lived realities of worship, prayer, and service in Christian communities. Crisp historical vignettes and lucid interpretations of Calvin's Institutes go hand in hand with very contemporary counsel for pastors and churches."
-- director of Refo500 and president of International Calvin Congress
"A stimulating and fresh approach to Calvin's Institutes. Boulton succeeds in demonstrating that for Calvin doctrine is in itself practical - and that Protestant theology today can gain much from reading Calvin."
Reviews in Religion and Theology
"A text that serves as a fine introduction to John Calvin's theology from the perspective of practical formation, and which gleans from Calvin some direction for the future of Protestant theology."
Calvin Theological Journal
"A fresh reading of John Calvin's key doctrines that seeks to provoke fruitful twenty-first century theological thinking about Christian formation."
"This book is at once a major reinterpretation of Calvin and a recommendation of Calvin as a pastoral and practical theologian. . . . It is important for what it has to say about the necessity of doing theology in a pastoral mode with an eye to basic catechesis and formation."
"This book deserves a wide reading among pastors and teachers, and especially ruling elders, who are often left out of the conversation."
"A vigorous reinterpretation of the work of John Calvin. . . . Boulton is among the group of scholars recasting Calvin for today, and he writes with persuasive clarity."