Mouw's title refers to a scene in the Paul Schrader movie Hardcore in which a Dutch-American Reformed man from Grand Rapids is asked by a young woman what he believes. His response is that he believes in "tulips," referring to the acronym that has helped many of us remember and organize some of the doctrines that define Calvinist thought. Even though the movie character might have his theological head on straight he doesn't do a very good job of presenting his faith to this young woman. Mouw, however, does a splendid job of presenting the TULIP doctrine and of laying out the five points in a way that helped me think of them anew. While I have known this stuff for a long time Mouw's description is fresh and he brings great insights into how this doctrine fits into today's world.
Where Mouw really shines, though, is in the way he presents Calvinist beliefs as not a closed theology, designed to keep people out but rather as a particular view of scripture which, in his case, has been adjusted and affected by his experiences and by the writings of others. As I got to the end of the book I was reminded of Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy. What I liked most about McLarens's book is that he seemed open to learning things about his faith from others – both Christian and non-Christian. Some probably think he goes a little too far in being open to other beliefs. While there were indeed parts of his book that caused me some consternation, I appreciated the spirit in which he wrote, a view that says that he has his beliefs but that he is willing to listen and learn. I believe that what Mouw lays out in his book is a "Generous Calvinism." Mouw isn't ready to compromise his beliefs but he is happy to listen and learn from others. He talks about his "hunches" and what things make him uneasy but does so with a clear love for the Canons of Dordt (a very old document laying out some of the basic tenets of Christian belief from a Calvinist perspective) but also a clear love for his brothers and sisters who don't share his theological perspective. It is this delightful tone which Mouw sets in this book that makes it so enjoyable and helpful. I highly recommend Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport both for Reformed folks who could use a refresher course but also for people who just don't get what Calvinists are really about or who think of Calvinism as a dreadful set of doctrines. Mouw's book is a great place to start a dialogue.