What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard D. Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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“Why would you want to believe that?” is what people often say when they hear about my Reformed perspective on the Bible and theology. Generally it is a perception built around misconceptions of what Calvinism is all about, that often with that ravenous demand that is buried deep within each of us to be our own masters and the shapers of our own destinies.
My response to that question is usually something about that it is what the Bible teaches, so I choose to believe it. There are definitely times where biblical theology is hard to swallow. Times when I have spoken so often about our faith to a dear soul who continues to refuse to believe and repent. Times when I want to change things and want God to do things my way. Times when God’s sovereign plan and his discipline of me is just so painful to endure.
Yet there is amazing beauty in the doctrines of grace, which is what the tenants of Reformed theology are called. Firmly based in the full testimony of the Bible, they offer incredible comfort, the “peace that passes understanding” that Paul talks about, and the steadfast hope of a future in the arms of God.
What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? is a little book that does a very big job of talking about just that. The hope and security we have in Christ is not something of our own devising, and so it is something that can outstand our undoing. The rich fullness of a belief in a God who is all together sovereign in human affairs, in the laws of the universe, and in every turn of a leaf is so breathtaking, anything less would not be God.
In the manner I have come to expect from Reformation Trust publications, Richard Phillips does a very good job at sharing just what is so great about the doctrines of grace in very accessible language. Get this book to either enrich your own understanding of these precious teachings, or let this be a short introduction to the doctrines if you have either despised them or have questions about them.
Legal: a copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No obligation was made to present a positive review.
Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel R. Beeke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Calvinism, you say? What is that exactly?
People have varying reactions to hearing the term Calvinism. There are many strong opinions for and against the Calvinist perspective on the teaching of the Bible. Yet with the strength of opinion, and perhaps because of it, Calvinism is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
Whether or not you identify as a Calvinist, Joel Beeke does a terrific job in presenting the tenants of this Reformation era theology. In the first section he takes us chapter by chapter through TULIP, an easy way to remember the basics.
What I found most helpful was the second half, which is a real life perspective of people who lived as the first Calvinists: Puritans. These 15th century Christians are often regarded to see how the teachings of John Calvin impacted how people lived everyday life. Beeke takes us through the family structure of a typical Puritan household along with how the faith was taught and practiced.
Do not be intimidated. At first glance this book with its more than 400 pages looks too large to tackle. However, Beeke uses accessible language and strong biblical support to present a basic look at what Calvinism is and the assurance of living in light of God’s sovereignty and for God’s glory.
[LEGAL: copy of the book was provided as compensation for this review by the publisher]
It would stand to reason that Christians who hang with reformation theology would have a problem with talking about “works.” One blogger recently suggested that reformed Christians have a “fear of works.” Even from its inception, the Reformation was reactive against the authority of the Papacy and the doctrine of the Roman Catholic church regarding penance and works as being a payment for sin. At that time the Catholic church was the only option in terms of Christian teaching and worship, and its intimate relationship with the ruling powers easily allowed the false doctrine of justification by works violate and tarnish the gospel. Martin Luther, John Calvin and others challenged the church’s position and many were burned at the stake for their challenge.
But the Bible does teach us to do good, in fact (dare I say) it requires Christians to do good works. Surely without good works there would never have been a Reformation and no one would have taken up the banner of the true gospel even to death without them. There is a dramatic difference between justification by works, which is outright heresy, and justification by faith. Indeed we are justified by our faith, and it is this gospel that is so clearly defined in the book of Galatians.
In The Pilgrim’s Regress CS Lewis talks about growing up and being handed a card that was covered front and back with rules. He found that there was no possibility of following all of the rules, and this set him on his journey to find what truth really was.
As I was wondering around in the forest of the Emergent Church (see part 2), I decided to follow what I believed to be God’s call on my life to serve as a pastor. I honestly thought that I had something figured out, and was ready to lead a group of people in the same direction.
My fervent determination to make a difference in the church instilled a passion for learning, and in the process was opened to a number of books and resources on church leadership and church models, which is how I was exposed to the work of Thom Rainer.