Book Review: Deviant Calvinism (Broadening Reformed Theology) by Oliver D. Crisp

Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology by Oliver D. Crisp


Oliver Crisp’s latest book, Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology, is an attempt to demonstrate that the Reformed tradition is much broader and wider than it is commonly characterized. His book succeeds in accomplishing this task. Indeed, I was eager to read this book because of my own theological history. I was once part of the young, restless, and Reformed crowd. Gradually, I grew out of my hyper-calvinism and into a gray area that was difficult for me to define. I thought perhaps I could (or should) no longer claim the title of “Reformed” … but I often found much of my theological inspiration from Reformed thinkers such as Barth. Crisp confirms my suspicions: Reformed theology is much broader than the neo-puritan calvinism that most people think of when they hear the title.

Reader be warned: this book is not for the faint of heart. It is a work of analytical theology and thus reads very philosophically. For one not familiar with reformed theological jargon or interested in “variant” strands of this tradition, it might be a difficult or tedious book to read. Crisp explores concepts such as eternal justification, libertarian calvinism, Augustinian universalism, and Barthian universalism. His focus is not so much on the Scriptural warrant (or lack thereof) for certain doctrinal claims as it is on the logic which lies behind them – noting what truth claims a doctrine necessarily requires or denies. Much of the book revolves around a discussion of various ways one in the Reformed tradition might hold to the belief in universalism. Thus, it was a helpful addition to my current interest in the presence of universalism in evangelicalism.

I recommend this book as a thought-provoking read to all those who are invested in the Reformed tradition.

Note: I received this book from Fortress Press in exchange for an unbiased review.