With Calvin in the Theater of God

The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life

by David Mathis and John Piper

John Calvin saw this world as God’s theater where his glory is always on display. Just as “day and night pour forth speech,” the universe and history are not silent either; they tell the glory of God. Reflecting on over 500 years of Calvin’s legacy, John Piper and this book’s other contributors invite us to join Calvin in the theater of God.

Stemming from the Desiring God 2009 National Conference, this volume includes chapters by Julius Kim, Douglas Wilson, Marvin Olasky, Mark Talbot, Sam Storms, and John Piper. It touches on topics such as Calvin’s life, the Christian meaning of public life, sin and suffering, the joy of the last resurrection, and Jesus Christ as the dénouement of God’s story.

Editors John Piper and David Mathis, along with the contributors, make John Calvin’s Christ-exalting perspective on the glory of God accessible to today’s readers. Both Calvinists and other evangelicals interested in the life and work of Calvin will find these essays refreshing and instructive, leading to a robust understanding of the world as the theater of God.

First Edition 2010
Crossway Books (Wheaton, Illinois)

“From the recent flurry of studies on John Calvin, it is evident that we can understand neither the sixteenth century nor our own times without reference to the reformer of Geneva. This little book reveals Calvin to be a God-saturated theologian whose love for Jesus Christ and his church touches every area of human life. A jewel of a book!”
Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School; executive editor, Christianity Today

“In a culture that applauds self-glory, and in a church that often appears to have forgotten its Christ, the work of John Calvin is as timely as when it was first penned. This wonderful book invites you into a theater of power, wisdom, authority and grace, but it is not Calvin’s theater; it is the theater of glory of God in Christ. Here you will be thankful for the man Calvin and how he enables you to see life-shaping truths, but you will be even more thankful for Calvin’s Christ. For as is true of Calvin, is true of every follower of Jesus, the faint glory of the man is only as good as it humbly and relentlessly points you to the spectacular glory of his Lord. Which is, in fact, is the lasting legacy of the man this book remembers.”

Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries; author, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

“Contemporary interest in John Calvin and his writings has stimulated a widespread renewal in reform theology and with it has created considerable controversy regarding stereotypical perceptions of Calvinism. Speakers at the 2009 Desiring God National Conference made a significant contribution to these issues by focusing on practical aspects of John Calvin’s life and writings. These messages, edited by David Mathis and John Piper in With Calvin in the Theater of God, will be a blessing and encouragement to the reader in discovering an often neglected aspect of this influential theologian.”

Jerry Rankin, President, International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention

“Sadly, for many Christians John Calvin has become more of a theological caricature than the real-life man of passion, reason, and pastoral concerns that he was. Fortunately, this is a book that tears back the curtain and allows us to see and understand the key intersections where his theology and his everyday life collided and then merged into the passionate love for Scripture and zeal for upholding God’s glory that became his calling card.”

Larry Osborne, Pastor, North Coast Church, Vista, California; author, Sticky Church

“These distinguished contributors do not seek to exalt John Calvin. But they rightly recognize that Calvin’s ministry helps us exalt Jesus Christ. Follow them into the theater of God and behold the glory of the One and Only.”

Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Young, Restless, and Reformed

“In an age where Scripture is on the periphery in so many pulpits and man is glorified in so many churches, we desperately need this book. It reminds us not only of the great life and work of John Calvin, but most importantly the supremacy of the Scriptures and the Glory of God.”

Britt Merrick, Founder, The Reality Family of Churches; Pastor, Reality Santa Barbara

“What does a theologian and his theology look like if he and it are firmly centered on the Triune God and His glory? These essays will show you. You will meet Calvin the pastor, the theologian, the polemicist, the husband, the father, the sufferer, the lover of God and his church—all roles played out in “the theater of God.” Whether you’re meeting Calvin for the first time or spending time with an old friend, this book will give you a glimpse of the wide horizons that are opened to one who has God’s glory firmly at the center of life. Be warned, Calvin’s vision is contagious.”

Stephen J. Nichols, Research Professor of Christianity and Culture, Department Chair of Bible and Theology, Lancaster Bible College

“The authors of With Calvin in the Theatre of God present us with a world-changing vision of God’s glory that has profound ramifications for the practical realities of everyday life. Here we find proof again of that old axiom, There is nothing more practical than sound theology. I highly recommend it!”

Steven L. Childers, President and CEO, Global Church Advancement; Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

With Calvin in the Theater of God takes Calvin out of the ivory towers that many people mistakenly believe he lived in and shows how his robust theology played out in the practical life of a pastor attempting to care for his people. It shows how his belief in the sovereignty of God allowed him to suffer often, and suffer well, throughout his life. It shows how his hope in heaven allowed him to deal with the relentless stress and pressures of leadership. But most of all, this book shows what God can do through one man who’s eyes are fixed, not on what we can see, but what we can’t see, the things that are eternal. It inspired me to do the same as a pastor, husband, father, and man.”

Jason Strand, Teaching Pastor, Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, MN

“No theologian, living or dead, has been more influential in my ministry than John Calvin. Reading With Calvin in the Theater of God reminded me why. Each essay contributed something helpful both to my understanding of Calvin's life and ministry and to my affection for the Savior that Calvin relentlessly served. Whether you’re a long-time student of Calvin or brand new to the Reformed universe, I highly recommend this book.”

R. W. Glenn, Pastor of Preaching and Vision, Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN

“As a church planter in New Orleans, I am continuously confronted by the destruction of this world’s depravity. My primary counter-attack is to present a biblical vision of the glory of God in Christ. John Piper and my good friend David Mathis have compiled an amazing work displaying Calvin’s biblical vision of God’s redemptive glory.” 

Rob Wilton, Lead Pastor, Vintage Church, New Orleans, LA

“For a generation of Calvinists who seem to know little about Calvin himself, this is a timely book. By taking us straight to the heart of Calvin’s everyday life and ministry, the authors introduce us to Calvin the pastor and expose us to the daily grind of his pastoral work and personal suffering that shaped and informed his teaching and writing. Calvin’s voice can be heard throughout the book, exhorting us to live our lives “with one foot raised,” ready for the day God wills our departure from this world. This book left me with a hunger to taste and trust God more, and in the end, truly honors Calvin by pushing our thoughts and worship past him and to the true hero of God’s theater and Calvin’s ministry, Jesus Christ.”

Beau Hughes, Campus Pastor, The Village Church, Denton, TX

“As a young pastor with less than a decade of experience, I desperately need the wisdom of faithful pastors who have gone before us. I have found in these pages much needed, refreshing, and challenging insights for the daily grind of ministry life. Lest we forget the divine glory that is shot through this “grand stage,” Calvin—through his life and his writings—pulls back the veil of seeming routine to reveal it once again in all its splendor. And the authors of this brief volume you hold in your hands serve as worthy guides and fellow stage-hands with the old master in the theatre of God. Read on, and behold again—in all things—God’s radiant glory.”

Matthew Molesky, Pastor for Preaching, Calvary Community Church, St. Cloud, MN

“In this book you will meet John Calvin the pastor, apologist, evangelist, church planter, Bible teacher, theologian, and pilgrim. The version of Calvin you get from his enemies, and sadly even from some who claim to be his friends, is a hammer-headed, abstract bore. The real Calvin, and the theology he proclaimed, is the opposite. His life and ministry reflect the clearest message of Jesus and the deepest message of the Bible—the grace of God to sinners, for the glory of God.”

Justin Holcomb, Director, the Resurgence; coauthor, Rid of My Disgrace

“The great glory of God revealed in all things is the Copernican Revolution for anyone seeking to live everyday life in an extraordinary way. John Calvin’s addiction to this view of God is worth studious exploration. David Mathis and John Piper’s With Calvin in the Theater of God is without a doubt a must-read for those new to Calvin and looking for an introduction to the Revolution, or for those who are in need of another beautiful and freeing drink from the tavern of God’s sovereignty.”

Steve Treichler, Senior Pastor, Hope Community Church, Minneapolis, MN

"This book is a beautiful capstone to the helpful array of Calvin volumes published the past few years. However, this book is more about the God who Calvin worships than about Calvin himself. Each chapter plumbs the depths of Calvin's wretched but repentant and Spirit-regenerated heart and brings us face to face with Christ on the cross and leaves us there on our knees as it directs our eyes to the glorified Christ on high."
Burk Parsons, Associate Pastor, Saint Andrew's Chapel, Sanford, Florida, editor, Tabletalk