This book is part of the series, "Traditions of Christian Spirituality" (General Editor, Philip Sheldrake) In his Preface to the Series, (6-8), Sheldrake describes Christian spirituality as consisting in three things: Scripture, contextual living of the Gospels in particular cultures, times, and places, and the relation of individual experience to the wider Christian tradition of beliefs, practices and community life. (7) This volume is one of twenty-three in the series. Cornick specifies the goal of Reformed theology as "participation in God's divine activity." (17) He underlines this theme frequently which helps the reader to grasp why the Reformed tradition has only recently used the term "spirituality," that often brings to mind a life deeply informed by meditation and prayer.
I found the historical section of Cornick's Introduction weak but the history of the Reformed in Chapter 1 and the remainder of the book insightful. As happens frequently when serious scholars speak from both mind and heart, Catholics find that they are indeed kin to Protestants. Given the description of spirituality that governs this series, it is not surprising since Christians, regardless of their denomination, hold more in common than the particular issues that divide them. From a positive point of view, each brings an enriching emphasis to Christian spirituality. This series provides many fine examples of which this volume is one. I have long been struck by Calvin's attention to the Holy Spirit and this emphasis continues to inspire Reformed spirituality.
Cornick interweaves the lives of outstanding members of the Reformed tradition with lovely analyses of their contributions as examples of depths in Reformed spirituality that he argues convincingly and lovingly. As one might expect, the book is positive; the problems that one might suggest from Reformed history are softened but not absent as, for example, in Cornick's discussions of the pros and cons of federal theology and of predestination (Chs. 1 and 2). Cornick discusses as well art and music, but significant for American readers is his section on the Niebuhr brothers, Richard and Reinhold. Here the strong emphasis on Godly action results in the social gospel, the prophetic voice of the Reinhold Niebuhr heard in Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932). The claim of the Reformed to be "a Catholic people" (Ch. 5), comes to fruition in Roger Schutz, the founder of the ecumenical monastic community of Taiz.
The book contains helpful notes and a brief bibliography.