Book Review: Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport by Richard J. Mouw

  • 9780310231974Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (October 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310231973
  • Amazon.com

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport: Making Connections in Today’s World by Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary is one of the better books on Calvinism that I’ve read in recent years.

The title of book plays of a scene from the movie Hardcore.  A pious Calvinist elder meets a Venusian young woman in a Las Vegas airport, where they begin a conversation.  The conversation begins thus: “What kind of church do you belong to?”  she asks.  “It’s a Dutch Reformed denomination,” he responds,” –a group that believes in TULIP” (p. 12).  This scene, which Mr. Mouw opens his book with is significant for several reasons.  First, the gentleman behind the movie Hardcore was a student at Calvin college while Richard J. Mouw was a professor there, and was brought up in the Dutch Calvinism of the school.  Second, the scene featured something of a rebellion by the gentleman behind the movie.  You see, though he was brought up thus, he would trade in his Dutch Calvinism for the wits of Hollywood.

Third, and more importantly to the thesis of the book, president Mouw wants his readers to know that if Calvinists are going to make connections in the 21st century, they cannot take the approach of the well-meaning pious Calvinist elder.  I believe he succeeded.

But as Mr. Mouw begins his survey of each letter in the TULIP, I was tempted to put the book down, saying to myself that this is just another book on Calvinism.  However, I was proven wrong.

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport if nothing else, is the honest wrestling of a mature and convinced Calvinist who is willing to live with the tensions and difficulties which Calvinism as a soteriological approach raises.  Mr. Mouw is not only not afraid to speak of the weaknesses of Calvinism, but he is willing to differ with Calvinists who continue to take a scholastic approach to the matter.

But I especially like his approach to non-Calvinists, quoting Baptist Calvinist Spurgeon kind words toward John Wesley, to illustrate how Calvinists should respond in the 21st century.  Plus, Fuller Theological Seminary’s diversity calls for this approach, I believe.

At any rate, if you interested in how to connect Calvinism, the doctrines of grace, in today’s postmodern world and so on, you’ll find Richard J. Mouw’s work to be a good place to start.  You’ll find the stories and anecdotes both instructive and disarming at the same time.  What do I mean?  Instructive in the sense that even voices from the past can teach us as we seek to connect, and disarming, because caricatures and certain approaches are not effective and are also totally unnecessary.

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