Year End Book Review – Part 1
I love to read. However, I am not a speedy reader. Christian bloggers such as Tim Challies can knock down a hundred or so books a year – and manage to to review them all, but I’m lucky if I read a dozen. Accordingly, I can lump all my reviews for the past year’s reading into a couple of manageable posts. Let me first begin with all the books I have my hooks into but have not yet finished.
Books in Progress
- Lectures to My Students by Charles Haddon Spurgeon – I put this one down last Christmas because of the influx of new books I received and was eager to tear into. Spurgeon gives some timeless wisdom for all prospective preachers and pastors in this wonderful volume. Though I’m not likely to get into full-time ministry, I found his knowledge insightful and useful, even for a simple Christian layman. I definitely will pick this one back up.
- The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen – Maybe the most difficult volume I’ve ever attempted to read. I grew exhausted about halfway through, though I actually did learn much from his treatise on Christ’s Particular Redemption of the elect. I have since read other works by Owen, carried along by a little helpful editing and modernization of the text that I found very readable. Is there a version of Death of Death similar to Justin Taylor’s and Kelly M. Kapic’s wonderful Overcoming Sin and Temptation?
- Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin; A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith by Robert L. Reymond; Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem – I plan to teach a course on Systematic Theology beginning this year and these are among my primary sources. I also plan on utilizing the classic Reformed confessions and Thomas Watson’s A Body of Divinity and The Ten Commandments.
- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller – Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. He boasts nearly six thousand attendees in the very heart of Vanity Fair. This book is an Apologetic treatise answering seven of the most difficult questions non-believers pose about God and the Christian faith. It then delves into the reasons for faith in the one true God. I’m only a quarter the way through but so far this is one outstanding read.
On to the Reviews:
Author: Michael Horton
Page Count: 280
Genre: Reformed Theology
Synopsis: Horton answers the question ‘what does it mean to be saved by grace’? He unfolds the majesty of God’s grace by contrasting the depths of human depravity with the glory of God’s love in election. He covers the major points of Calvinism but goes deeper, illuminating every facet of God’s magnificent grace toward his blood-bought church.
Kudos: Putting Amazing Back into Grace is the best primer on the doctrines of Grace that I have yet read. Horton succinctly details the sovereignty and majesty of God over his entire creation in a way that does not minimize the theology to five mere systematic points. His scope is much broader, taking in the perfection of creation, the corruption of man, the infinite grace of God, the accomplishment of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit and the eternal good standing of those in Christ. He then inserts a chapter on the significance of the sacraments in our spiritual growth and one on the role of the priesthood in the life of every believer. His view on the sacraments has forever changed how I approach and experience them. Horton also includes an informative appendix listing many scripture references to support the doctrines of Grace at every point and a very eye-opening list of quotes from the early church fathers supporting the absolute sovereignty of God over all things past, present and future.
Knocks: I honestly can’t think of any negative points to this volume other than Horton’s paedo view of baptism – which, in reality, doesn’t bother me much at all.
Recommendation: Read Annually. A person can never know these truths too well and Horton’s work is lucid, yet warm. A true joy to read.
Title: The Sovereignty of God
Author: Arthur W. Pink
Page Count: 269
Genre: Reformed Theology
Synopsis: The author focuses the entire book on today’s most overlooked and abused doctrine – the sovereignty of God. Pink begins by defining God’s sovereignty, then moves on to show how God is sovereign in creation, administration, salvation, reprobation and operation. He then discusses the compatibility of God’s sovereignty with the human will and responsibility and with prayer. He concludes the book with chapters on our attitude toward God’s sovereignty, difficulties and objections and an insightful view into the value of the doctrine.
Kudos: This is THE book to read on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Pink does a thorough job of explaining how God governs the universe by his majestic power. He does so by providing a plethora of scriptural support for his position. He exposits the scriptures in loving detail and expertly cross references verses from all over the bible, chronicling the beautiful unity of this great doctrine across both testaments.
Knocks: AW Pink has been accused of being a hyper-Calvinist due primarily to the chapter on reprobation. Other publishers have excluded this chapter, but I didn’t read anything therein that is not consistent with scripture. The doctrine of reprobation is a difficult truth to wrestle with, but Pink pulls no punches in stating that God hates the wicked and has not set his redeeming love upon the reprobate. I highly recommend deciding for yourself if his assertions line up with scripture. Buy Baker’s unabridged version.
Recommendation: Read again and again until you have this doctrine down pat. God’s sovereignty is fundamental to understanding his nature and character. To embrace God’s absolute and complete reign over all things helps us to accept whatever comes to pass. Knowing with certainty that he is in control and nothing happens arbitrarily should be a comfort to all who call upon his name.
Author: Steven J. Lawson
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Page Count: 577
Genre: Reformed Theology
Synopsis: Lawson embarks on a five volume journey to reveal how the doctrines of Grace (AKA Calvinism) have been taught throughout church history. Volume 1, as the title suggests, starts at the very foundation of our faith: the bible. The author systematically combs every book of the holy scriptures, expounding on verses that demonstrate the seven great doctrines that formulate Calvinism: Divine Sovereignty, Radical Depravity, Sovereign Election, Divine Reprobation, Definite Atonement, Irresistible Call and Preserving Grace.
Kudos: Lawson has written a massive tome of scriptural texts that should be more than enough enough evidence to convict even the most jaded of skeptics that God is sovereign over creation and over both the salvation and reprobation of men. His prose flows smoothly and even at 500+ pages, it is a relatively quick read.
Knocks: Reading this volume straight through can become a chore. Lawson becomes a bit repetitious at times, but that is mostly due to the nature of the work. He is going through every book of the bible highlighting the same seven doctrines over and over. It is good idea to read a chapter at a time and then put it down. Come back later refreshed and all will be fine.
Recommendation: Read through once, but reference often.
I have more reviews to come! Check back soon for reviews on books by CS Lewis, Stephen J. Nichols and Thomas Boston.