What is Experiential Calvinism? Ian Hamilton — Quick Book Review


Hamilton’s ‘What is experiential Calvinism?’ is a quick read that packs a swift punch. I loved it.

Here’s why every Christian should read it.

  1. It demolishes the stereo-type that Calvinism is dead-orthodoxy. Hamilton makes a strong case for a Calvinism that is bursting with life, love and Spiritual experience.
  2. This book is a healthy corrective to the emerging ‘High-Church Calvinism’ that is creeping into reformed circles. I’ve noticed that some ‘converts’ to the reformed faith — having run for refuge from shallow, broad evangelicalism — have run to the opposite extreme. Desperate to get away from hype, and superficial experientialism — they have fallen into the ditch at the other side of the road — that is, they deny that experience has any part to play in the Christian faith at all. This cold, sterile, intellectualism is not biblical Christianity — and neither is it true Calvinism. Hamilton reminds us:

“No one who has been mastered by the glory of God in Christ can remain coldhearted and detached.”

3. The book is an encouragement. Personally, I don’t understand a non-experiential Christianity. I was birthed into the Kingdom of God in a blaze of Holy Spirit experience. God met with me. Not just once, but several times. Hamilton’s book is encouraging because it assures me that my experiences are not marginal, unique or weird — but they bear the marks of God’s dealings with his people throughout history.

4. The book is a challenge. In some circles experientialism has become divorced from the glory of God. Some charismatic circles emphasise experiences that are detached from the Triune-God, the scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is mysticism and it’s unhealthy.

5. The book has the potential to create greater unity amongst charismatic and non-charismatic, reformed types. Charismatic believers who have had a genuine encounter with God should feel at home in Hamilton’s book. Hamilton’s book takes us deep into the Father Heart of God. Whilst the book can help us weed out false experience, it can also help us discern true experience wherever it is to be found. Charismatics should find much that they are able to say, ‘Amen!’ to.

Buy it. Read it. Revel in it.