James Boice. Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001. 224 pp. $14.76
James Boice was the well-known pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He held that post for thirty years, faithfully executing his duties with a primary emphasis on expository preaching.
Dr. Boice loved the doctrines of grace. His sermons were consistently saturated by the biblical doctrines which were rediscovered during the days of the Protestant Reformation. But as Boice argues, these precious doctrines are quickly fading from prominence. Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace sets out to answer this important question?
Part One: Our Dying Culture
The first section diagnoses the church in America. The author is especially concerned with the pragmatism which continues to exert an unhealthy influence on Christendom. The author writes, “What has hit me like a thunderbolt in recent years is the discovery that what I had been saying about the liberal churches at the end of the 1960’s and in the ’70’s now needs to be said about the evangelical churches too.” Boice maintains that the church is worldly. He laments a church that has discarded “transcendent authority” and replaced it with pragmatism and relativism.
He continues by demonstrating that the current church has caved in to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:1) and has slid unwittingly into a secular worldview. Additionally, the church has subtly embraced tenets of humanism, relativism, and materialism – worldviews which clearly militate against the historic Christian faith.
Instead of influencing the world for God’s glory, the church has given up her high standards. And she has, in the final analysis compromised the great doctrines of Scripture.
Part Two: Doctrines That Shook the World
Dr. Boice argues that the church needs a new reformation. Such a reformation will no doubt includes the revival of the five solas – grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory.
Boice carefully introduces readers to each historic doctrine, making an appeal to their biblical warrant and admonishing believers to restore these precious doctrines to the forefront of the church and the Christian life. He makes it clear that these doctrines complement one another. Indeed, to surrender one of these gems would be to discard them all!
Part Three: The Shape of Renewal
The final section discusses the path forward. What would the church look like if she recovered the solas of the Protestant Reformation? First, our worship would be reformed. Boice adds, “The first and most important thing to be said about true worship is that it is to honor God. If what we call worship is not God-centered and God-honoring, it is not worship.” The author laments the current state of “worship” and contrasts this condition with the biblical standard.
Second, our lives would be reformed. Such reformation would involve recovering an awareness of God, especially his holiness, sovereignty, transcendence, immanence, and wisdom.
Another aspect of reformed lives would entail biblical repentance. This kind of repentance would involve a new attitude toward self and a new attitude toward God.
Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace is a superb book. Written by one of the most influential Reformed theologians and pastors of our generation, it is a wake-up all to the church. It is filled with practical wisdom and strong challenges. I commend it highly!