Book Review: Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport
Richard Mouw’s Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport (Zondervan, 2004) should be read by every Reformed-leaning Southern Baptist. No, he does not dot his “i’s” and cross his “t’s” like strict Calvinists. Neither does he offer much of a biblical defense for his Calvinist heritage. But we could all learn from the gentle tone of Mouw’s writing. Mouw exemplifies in this book the humble spirit that is often missing among Calvinists.
Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport begins with the scene from the movie Hardcore, in which a man tries to explain the TULIP to a prostitute. Mouw, of course, sees the humor in the film’s stark presentation of Calvinist doctrines to someone who needs salvation before a theological treatise. But Mouw unapologetically comes down on the side of Calvinism all throughout the book. What the book becomes is a gentle apologetic for Calvinism that avoids the sterile theological debates in which Arminians and Calvinisms shout out Scripture passages to one another.
Mouw’s chapter “Mere Calvinism” is a very helpful summation of Calvinist soteriology, and his willingness to avoid hang-ups over “Limited Atonement” is a breath of fresh air. I also found helpful his description of Kuyper and that stream of Calvinism.
Two problems, however, surface in the book. The first is found in the basis of Mouw’s apologetic. Thankfully, he does not engage in the endless battle of Scriptural prooftexts used to justify one position over another. But his alternative is no better. The basis for his apologetic turns out to be personal experience. Several times, he mentions how he feels that Total Depravity is true. He grounds his Calvinist apologetic in experience, and that actually serves to undercut his arguments.
The second problem is even greater, though it stems somewhat from the first. An entire chapter is dedicated to Mouw’s inclusivist understanding of salvation, in which he entertains “hopes and hunches” that those who do not profess faith in Christ may wind up in heaven anyway. He admits that Scripture doesn’t always seem to line up with this belief, but (experience again) Mouw feels that it might be so anyway.
These are two caveats that the discerning reader will have to pass over if one wants to enjoy the book. I was encouraged as I read Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, happy to remember some of the reasons why I delight in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and divine choice.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog