Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love – John Crotts (2018)

graceJohn Crotts, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, 137 pp. $14.00

The matter of truth is of utmost importance for the follower of Jesus Christ. However, sometimes a person with a passion for the truth has a tendency to “steamroll” the unsuspecting – the one who has either never learned the truth or the one who has chosen to reject “unreasonable aspects” of the truth. Loving the truth is both necessary and commendable. However, when the truth is eclipsed by arrogance or pride, the beautiful truth ends up looking ugly and fails to serve people well.

John Crotts has observed this problem directly and addresses the matter in his book, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love. While truth is never minimized or marginalized in the book, the author challenges readers to tell the truth with grace and urges them to “temper truth with love.”

Description

The book begins with some basic biblical instruction concerning the art of graciousness. “God cares about more than just the words you say,” writes Crotts. “He also cares about how you say those words. It is not enough always to say the truth; you must also say the truth in love.”

Crotts surveys the subject of graciousness in Scripture. The depth and breadth of graciousness is explored and practical suggestions are offered. Specific examples of graciousness from the life of Jesus and Paul are commended. And biblical examples are cited that point out the propensity for people in the church to be ungracious. Of course, the subject matter is practical in our generation as much as it was in the first-century church.

With a solid biblical foundation in place, the author moves forward with a biblical prescription for cultivating habits of graciousness.

Prescription

Three specific angles are broached including the cultivation of graciousness in the heart, through actions, and in the community. Once again, the Bible guides the thoughts of the author as he presents practical ways to build graciousness as a habit into the fabric of one’s life.

The final chapter, The Gospel and Graciousness is a powerful closing word that will push readers in the right direction as they submit to the Holy Spirit and surrender to his promptings. “A gracious church will impact a community,” writes Crotts. So tempering truth with love is the proper balance that believers should strive for. John Crotts’ excellent work is a first step in the right direction.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith – Gregg Allison (2018)

alGregg R. Allison, 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018, 426 pp. $19.36

I have been teaching theology for over twenty-five years. During that time span, I have been privileged to use some of the finest theological resources available. Contemporary books like Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine or John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief have been a never-ending source of theological wisdom, and have instructed and encouraged my soul. Books geared to laymen like J.I. Packer’s, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs and R.C. Sproul’s, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith have also proven themselves to be faithful friends.

But despite the wealth of resources for pastors and teachers, very few provide insight for actually teaching theology. For this reason, Gregg Allison’s new book will be a welcome addition to many personal libraries. 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology is part systematic theology and part pedagogy. Indeed, it is a tool to be reckoned with.

A brief look at the table of contents reveals what initially looks like a traditional systematic theology text. Eight branches of systematic theology are arranged from the doctrine of the Word of God (Bibliology) to the doctrine of future things (Eschatology), respectively. Each branch is subsequently arranged into bite-sized pieces which are designed to be easily digested by the reader.

Each of the fifty chapters contains a one-page snapshot of the content, which includes a summary, main themes, and key Scriptures. Three main sections may also be found in each chapter including:

  1. Understanding Doctrine – Major affirmations, biblical support, and major errors associated with a particular doctrine.
  2. Enacting Doctrine – The case for teaching the stakes for minimizing, marginalizing, or repudiating a particular doctrine.
  3. Teaching the Doctrine – Practical pointers and help with teaching a particular doctrine.

“Christian doctrine is Christian belief based on Scripture,” writes Greg Allison. “The church bears the primary responsibility for constructing and transmitting good theology, with an essential assist from the theological wisdom of the ages. The sound doctrine is believed, practiced, confessed, and taught.”

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology succeeds in carrying out the aims of the author. It is a treasure chest of biblical wisdom that will encourage and educate. Many pastors, teachers, and professors will benefit from this well-sharpened tool which will lead to the edification of the saints and glorify the Triune God!

Highly recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? – James Boice

boiceJames 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!

ON FIRE FOR CHRIST: Remembering John Rogers (February 4, 1555)

The smell of burning flesh hung in the air.  The villagers turned their heads and gasped.  Stray dogs fled.  The man’s wife wept bitterly.  His children watched inThe_Burning_of_Master_John_Rogers horror and the smell burned their nostrils.  The stench was a vivid reminder of who sat on the throne.  Mary Tudor ruled with ironclad authority.  Her subjects were obligated to obey.  Any dissenters would pay the ultimate price.  The world would remember her as “Bloody Mary.”

The day was February 4, 1555.  The man roped to the pyre was known well in the British village – a man of humble origins.  A man with bold ambitions and simple obedience to match.  A man who dared to challenge the throne with two simple acts – preaching the Word of God and printing the Matthews-Tyndale Bible.  His name was John Rogers.  Pastor, father, martyr.  He was the first Christ-follower to pay the ultimate price of death during Mary’s bloody reign of terror.  He was the first of hundreds who would die at the hands of this blood-thirst tyrant.

John Rogers stands in a long parade of God-centered men; men who preached the truth, confronted sin, lived uncompromising lives, and finished strong.  Like Rogers, some were martyred.  Others died of old age or were tormented with disease.  Those who participate in this Christ-exalting parade still have something to say.  Their courage emboldens us.  Their lives inspire us.  Their theology instructs us.  Their devotion moves us to action.2014-02-03 08.41.07

February 4, 2018 marks the anniversary of Roger’s brave march to the pyre.  Over 460 years later, the world is a very different place.  Yet the persecution of Christ-followers has not decreased.  It has increased.  As people committed to the sovereign reign of Jesus stand for truth,  righteousness, and justice – the persecution will grow steadily.  As Christians take a stand against homosexual marriage, abortion, human trafficking, and pornography – the persecution will escalate.  Tolerance is the popular buzzword, yet fidelity to God’s Word will not be tolerated by many in this world.  John Rogers is a reminder to stand firm in the face of adversity.  His picture is glued to the flyleaf of my preaching Bible and beckons me to boldly declare the truth of God’s Word – unashamed, unhindered, and resolute – on fire for Christ!

Semper Reformanda!

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down – Albert Mohler (2018)

mohlerR. Albert Mohler, Jr. The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down Nashville: Nelson Books, 2018, 181 pp. $13.51

Americans understand the idea of revolution. It is a part of our collective DNA. However, many Americans stop short when spiritual revolution comes into view. Albert Mohler argues in his latest book that such a revolution will come when we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “This short prayer turns the world upside down. Principalities and powers hear their fall. Dictators are told their time is up. Might will indeed be made right, and truth and justice will prevail. The kingdoms of this world will all pass, giving way to the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down presents the Lord’s Prayer in a systematic and thoughtful way that encourages, challenges, and even provokes readers. “Praying,” writes Mohler, “forces us to articulate our doctrines, convictions, and theological assumptions. These aspects of our Christian life come to a unique focus in prayer because when we speak to God we are explicitly revealing who we believe he is, who we believe we are, what his disposition is toward us, and why he has that disposition.” So in some respects, prayer is the great leveler. It uncovers what is truly important to us.

Dr. Mohler carefully unpacks each line of the Lord’s Prayer, explaining the intent of the prayer and calling believers to pray obediently and with God-centered resolve. The author reemphasizes, “Every word we utter in prayer, every idea, and concept that we form as we pray, and every emotion that flows out of our heart is a reflection of what we believe about God and about the gospel of Christ.”

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down is another gem from the pen of Albert Mohler. It is a short read that packs a punch. Readers will enjoy Mohler’s witty writing style. But more importantly, they will be educated and encouraged to learn the essence of the Lord’s Prayer in clear and unambiguous language. Pride is confronted and individualism is toppled in this little book. Indeed, as the author writes, “Man’s pride has no place before the throne of God.” And God is exalted as the coming of his kingdom is explored, forgiveness extended, and the people of God are delivered from the powers of an ungodly age.

The Bucket List

The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is about two very different men who are both diagnosed with terminal diseases. One of the men, upon learning of his condition, decides to draft a “bucket list.” The list would include achievements and things to see before he “kicks the bucket.” After viewing the film, I began to re-visit my bucket list:

  • Attend a baseball game at every major league park in America
  • Visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London
  • Walk the streets of Geneva where John Calvin ministered
  • Stand at the Castle Door in Wittenberg
  • Climb the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial

A bucket list is an important tool because it helps a person discern what is most important in life. What is on your bucket list? Who would you want to see? What would you want to accomplish? Where would you travel?

We know that the Apostle Paul had some important goals in his life. But if Paul had a bucket list, what would be on it? Philippians 1:12-18 is a window into the heart of Paul:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice …

At the top of Paul’s “bucket list” is that the gospel of Jesus Christ would spread to every man and woman and every boy and girl in great power to the glory of God. And indeed, the gospel spread like wildfire in the ancient world. The gospel would eventually explode in Europe and Africa and China. The gospel would ignite all around the world! What caused this gospel to progress with such great power?

The Gospel Progressed Because of Ferocious Persecution

The Method God Used

Imagine serving on a team that was commissioned to help promote the flourishing of the gospel. What methodology would you employ? Would you initiate a massive advertising campaign? Would you pump money into a missions program? Or perhaps you enlist the help of an army of volunteers?

In the first century, God providentially used Paul’s imprisonment to cause the powerful spread of the gospel. This persecution came as no surprise to the apostle and should not surprise us either. Jesus told the disciples,

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour” (Matt. 10:16–19, ESV).

One of the methods that God used and continues to use to advance the gospel is persecution.

The Meaning Behind God’s Method

Paul refers to the advance of the gospel. The word advance comes from the Greek term prokopei which refers to the progress of an army. It comes from a verb that means “to cut down in advance.” It describes the removing of any barriers which would hinder the progress of an army.1 Paul’s imprisonment took place so that the gospel might advance in a mighty way. The end result is that people would benefit greatly and God would be greatly glorified.

Verse 13 describes a flourishing gospel; one that became known “thought the whole imperial guard.” “The praetorian guard,” writes John MacArthur, was likely a group of nearly ten thousand soldiers who were stationed throughout Rome to keep the peace and protect the emperor.”2 Paul glories in this gospel which became known “to all the rest” for the great name sake of Jesus, his Savior.

The Model Prisoner

The apostle Paul was chained to a Roman guard (Acts 28:16). Consequently, the guards circulated in and out as their shifts changed which gave Paul a remarkable opportunity to bear witness to Christ. No doubt, the guards would have witnessed his body language and learned things about him that would have otherwise been difficult if not impossible. In short, God used this model prisoner to serve as an ambassador for Christ.

No less than one hundred years later (A.D. 155), Polycarp of Smyrna would also serve as a model prisoner and give his life for his Savior. After his arrest, the judge ordered Polycarp to renounce Jesus. The judge promised that if he would swear by the emperor and curse Christ, he would be set free. Polycarp’s response is priceless: “For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?”3When the judge threatened to burn him in the pyre, Polycarp simply answered that the fire would only last a moment, whereas the eternal fire would never be extinguished. After Polycarp was tied to the post in the pyre, he gazed into the heavens and prayed aloud, “Lord Sovereign God … I thank you that you deemed me worthy of this moment, so that, jointly with your martyrs, I may have a share in the cup of Christ … I bless and glorify you.”4The gospel progressed because of ferocious persecution. Notice two principles that will serve us in our generation. 

First, remember to maintain an eternal perspective. God’s in his providence permits persecution so that Christ might be proclaimed. We may reason, “In order for the gospel to progress in a country like China, communism must be rooted out.” But the reality is this: Communism continues and the underground church is flourishing! God’s providence may close doors that open others doors. Paul maintained an eternal perspective. He maintained his passion for the spread of the gospel and made the best of every opportunity.

Second, allow persecution to strengthen your resolve for proclaiming the gospel of Christ. When you are ridiculed for believing in a personal Creator who fashioned the world, be encouraged. Continue to proclaim the truth, despite the ferocious persecution. When you are mocked for believing in absolutes, be encouraged in that truth and proclaim it despite the ferocious persecution. And when you are challenged for believing that Jesus is the only One who can forgive sin, be encouraged in that truth and proclaim it, despite the ferocious persecution.

How did the gospel progress in the first century? It progressed in large measure because of ferocious persecution. But the gospel also progressed because it was fearlessly proclaimed.

The Gospel Progressed as it was Fearlessly Proclaimed

The persecution of Paul not only helped advance the cause of the gospel; it strengthened the resolve of Christians to preach the uncompromising message of the gospel.

The Definition of Proclamation

The Greek term for preach in verse 15 means “to be a herald; to proclaim with authority.” This message must be listened to and obeyed. Paul sets forth this imperative to herald the truth in 2 Timothy 4:2-4. He writes,

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Martin-Lloyd Jones says, “The most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church, it is the greatest need of the world also.”5 And Steven Lawson adds, “True biblical preaching is authoritative in nature and body proclaims God’s Word without compromise or apology.”6 Such is the call of every Christ-follower who fearlessly proclaims the truth.

The Defining Marks of Proclamation

Two marks, in particular, emerge in Philippians 1:14-17. First, proclamation must be confident.Peithō, the Greek term which is translated, confident means “to have faith; to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person – in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:38-39 highlights the confidence that believers enjoy: “For I am sure (peithō) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

Second, proclamation must be bold and fearless. Paul stresses the importance of speaking the word boldly without fear (Phil. 1:14). The word translated bold means to “endure; to have courage.” Dr. Luke refers readers to the courage of Paul the apostle, who proclaimed the truth “with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). Such a ministry marks the one who is committed to the proclamation of God’s Word.

William Tyndale was a man who modeled the marks of bold proclamation. Born in 1494, he attended Oxford, Magdalen Hall, and Cambridge Universities. A student and adherent of the Protestant Reformation, Tyndall engaged in numerous debates with Roman Catholics. One Catholic leader mocked Tyndale: “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope.” Never content to put up with heresy, Tyndale replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you.”

Tyndale was a confident, bold, and fearless theologian and scholar who translated the Bible into an early form of Modern English, likely with Luther’s help in Wittenberg. But he was arrested and imprisoned for 500 days. He was tried for heresy and treason in a kangaroo court and ultimately convicted. He was sent to be strangled and burnt at the stake in the prison yard on October 6, 1536. The final words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”

Unfortunately, not everyone has the courage of Tyndale. In fact, Paul tells us that there are two different kinds of preachers.

The Different Kinds of Preachers

Some preach Christ “from envy and rivalry” (v. 15). Paul explains that this man proclaims Christ out of selfish ambition. Such a man is not sincere and proves to be unfaithful in the final analysis (v. 17).

Some preach Christ from “good will.” Paul says the motivation of this man is love (v. 16). Such a man understands that the apostle was providentially placed in prison for the defense of the gospel.

The Gospel Progressed as it was Faithfully Proclaimed

“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).

The gospel refers to the “glad tidings of the kingdom of God” or the “good news.” It is the proclamation of the grace of God which is manifest and pledged in Christ.

Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a perfect life and was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He perfectly kept the law of God. Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; he was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). Jesus was glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father. He bore the wrath of God on the cross for everyone who would ever believe (Rom. 3:25). He redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). Jesus became our substitute on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). He reconciled us to God by making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). He made us right with God so that we might have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). And Jesus forgives sinners and enables them to stand holy in the very presence of God.

CONCLUSION

In the first century, the gospel progressed because of ferocious persecution, fearless proclamation, and faithful preaching. It was the gospel of Jesus Christ that motivated the apostle Paul. Proclaiming Christ and hearing that Christ was being preached was his passion. The apostle writes, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

I had the pleasure of visiting a small church in a former communist country a few years ago. The pastor was so proud of the little structure which was smaller than most elementary school classrooms. I noticed a sign above the pulpit, written in a language unfamiliar to me. I asked the pastor, “What does that sign say?” With a smile on his face, he said through a translator, “We preach Christ crucified!

What would it look like if each one of us committed ourselves to fearlessly and faithfully proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ? What would it look like if we committed ourselves to fearlessly and faithfully proclaiming the gospel in the sphere where God has placed us?

The gospel progressed because of ferocious persecution, fearless proclamation, and faithful preaching. Will you make it a goal to proclaim the gospel of Jesus fearlessly and faithfully, despite the persecution that surrounds you? May gospel proclamation become a part of every Christ-followers bucket list!

  1. See William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 20.
  2. John F. MacArthur, Philippians (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), 61.
  3. Cited in Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity – Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1984), 44.
  4. Ibid, 44.
  5. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 9.
  6. Steven J. Lawson, Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call For Expository Preaching (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2003), 42.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering – Timothy Keller

kellerI have yet to meet a person who enjoys pain and suffering.  Yet suffering is a part of the warp and woof of life.  It is not a part of God’s original intent for creation.  Since Adam’s first sin, pain and suffering have been an abnormal part of the cosmos.  Suffering is an unwelcome guest who bullies his way to the table and makes demands – much like a  soldier on a bloody battlefield.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller addresses this topic with candor and clarity.  Keller leaves no stone unturned here.  The book is organized into three sections:

Understanding the Furnace

Keller introduces the problem of pain and suffering and explores some of the philosophical challenges that Christ-followers must understand and address.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity,” writes Keller.  Yet our culture has a tendency to respond to suffering in ways that are helpful and wrongheaded.  The moralist response to suffering is to “do good.”  The fatalist’s response to suffering is to “hang in there” and “endure.”  The dualist response to suffering is “purified faithfulness.”  And the secular response to suffering is focussed on “technique.”  A combination of these erroneous responses to suffering litter the current milieu and produce a generation of confused and discouraged people.

Keller rightly alerts readers to the importance of worldviews and their relation to the subject of pain and suffering.  Ultimately, the matter of pain and suffering is a matter of faith.  “Faith,” writes Keller “is the promise of God.”  He adds, “We can be fully accepted and counted legally righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ, solely by free grace … It means freedom from fear of the future, from any anxiety about your eternal destiny.  It is the most liberating idea possible and it ultimately enables you to face all suffering, knowing that because of the cross, God is absolutely for you and that because of the resurrection, everything will be all right in the end.”

Facing the Furnace

Part two provides readers with the theological muscle – a crucial part of the battle.  Keller unpacks the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and provides a painful but biblical rationale for the role of suffering the lives of people.

At the heart of this discussion is an important look at the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The author summarizes, “That is, in order to satisfy justice, in order to punish sin so that in love he could forgive and receive us, God had to bear the penalty for sin within himself.  God the Son took the punishment we deserved, including being cut off from the Father.  And so God took into his own self, his own heart, an infinite agony – out of love for us.”

Keller’s treatment in part two travels great distances to help resolve the problem of evil – the so-called “Achilles heal” of the Christian faith: “So while Christianity never claims to be able to offer a full explanation of all God’s reasons behind every instance of evil and suffering – it does have a final answer to it.  The answer will be given at the end of history and all who hear it and see its fulfillment will find it completely satisfying, infinitely sufficient.”

While Keller never attempts to provide a comprehensive answer to the problem of evil, his treatment of this thorny subject is some of the best in print.  He may not satisfy the disciples of David Hume, Voltaire, or Sam Harris – but he does give ample ammunition for believers who are looking for honest answers.

Walking With God in the Furnace

Parts one and two explore the philosophical and theological angles of pain and suffering.  Part three helps readers with practical application.  They are given practical tools for “walking with God in the furnace.”  The very notion of walking with God in the furnace assumes pain – pain that some are unwilling to admit.  But practical experience reveals that we live in a broken world; a world which has been torn to shreds by the consequences of sin.

Keller urges readers to walk with God in suffering: “If you go into the furnace without the gospel, it will not be possible to find God in there.  You will be sure he has done terrible wrong or you have and you will feel all alone.  Going into the fire without the gospel is the most dangerous thing anyone can do.”  So the gospel is the first and last defense of every Christ-follower; indeed it is the hope of the watching world.

Second, the author stresses the importance of weeping during seasons of adversity.  Elijah serves as an example of a man who cried out in great agony.  He was a man unafraid of weeping.  Such an approach is not only honest – it is a sign of emotional health.

Third, Keller demonstrates the need for trusting in God during days of pain and adversity.    Joseph is portrayed as an example of a man who trusted: If the story of Joseph and the whole of the Bible is true, then anything that comes into your life is something that, as painful as it is, you need in some way.”  Jesus too demonstrated trust in his Father and points believers in the identical direction.  Keller continues to alert readers to other tools that they should utilize during their dark days.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering is a watershed book that deserves to be read.  Christ-followers will no doubt be encouraged by this Christ-exalting book; a book which drives readers to the cross of the suffering Savior.

Highly recommended!