Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

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!

Some Pastors and Teachers – Sinclair Ferguson

fergSinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2017, 802 pp. $45.00

The day that Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, Some Pastors and Teachers arrived, I was like a kid in a candy store; a monkey in a banana factory; a shark in blood-infested waters. Gazing at the table of contents caused my heart to race, which is a testimony of my deep love for the church, theology, and pastoral ministry.

It was immediately apparent that Dr. Ferguson was attaching a high degree of importance to the past by acknowledging some of the great pastor-teachers in church history – men like John Calvin, John Owen, John Murray, and the Puritans.

Some Pastors and Teachers is a mixture of biography, systematic and biblical theology, and pastoral theology. Ferguson writes with theological precision and pastoral compassion and experience. He writes with a gravitas that is both weighty and inspirational.

While each of the thirty-nine chapters are commendable in their own right, chapter thirty-seven, was especially meaningful to me. Ferguson argues with great force that “all truly biblical preaching is preaching to the heart.” This kind of preaching is marked by several characteristics:

  1. A right use of the Bible which must first be directed to the mind. Ferguson adds, “When we preach to the heart, the mind is not so much the terminus of our preaching, but the channel through which we appeal to the whole person, leading to the transformation of the whole life.
  2. Nourishment of the whole person. Ferguson makes it clear that spiritual nourishment must be carefully defined: “There is a difference between a well-instructed congregation and a well-nourished one.”
  3. An understanding of the condition of hearers.
  4. The use of the imagination.
  5. Grace in Christ.

This behemoth of a book is filled with rich material that promises deep pastoral encouragement, comfort, and instruction. This “doxological Calvinism” is the best of all worlds. Such a theological framework strengthens minds, nourishes hearts, and ultimately equips pastors to feed, lead, love, and protect the flock – all for God’s glory.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

Long Before Luther

longNathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart of the Gospel From Christ to the Reformation Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017, 243 pp. $10.49

Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart of the Gospel From Christ to the Reformation by Nathan Busenitz recently hit the shelves. Busentiz sets out to discover whether or not the doctrine of justification by faith alone was taught and stressed prior to the days of the Protestant Reformation. Anyone familiar with the Reformers understands the motto, post tenabras lux (after darkness light). This little Latin phrase suggests that there was a darkness in the land in the days preceding the Reformation. Such an assertion is true. However, Busentiz asks whether or not any light existed at all. The answer is a resounding “yes!” Indeed, the author discovers that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is not an invention of the Reformers. Rather, they unearthed and recovered this doctrine which can be traced back to the apostles.

Dr. Busentiz utilizes Alistair McGrath’s book, Iustitia Dei, which he admits is “widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive treatments of the subject.” But comprehensive does not necessarily mean accurate as we shall see. For McGrath essentially argues that Luther and his Reformation buddies concocted what we understand now as justification by faith alone. Busentiz adds, “Because the doctrine of justification lies at the heart of the gospel, the implications of this charge are serious.”

McGrath delineates the three pillars of the Reformers’ view of justification which include 1) Forensic Justification, 2) Justification Distinguished from Regeneration, and 3) The Imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ. McGrath argues that these distinct doctrines are missing in the first fifteen hundred years of church history. Thus, as Busentiz notes, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was “a theological innovation introduced in the sixteenth century,” at least according to McGrath.

With this vexing concern before his readers, Dr. Busentiz carefully guides them on a journey where they discover that sola fide was taught by Augustine and the church fathers. The three pillars the McGrath identifies are used as a sort of litmus test which Busentiz uses to his advantage and I might add, with great skill.

In the final analysis, Busentiz argues that justification by faith alone is not an invention of the Reformers, nor is it a theological novelty. Indeed, this doctrine was taught by the apostles and the church fathers. While it was largely neglected for the first fifteen hundred years of church history, it was, nonetheless a part of the warp and woof of Christian orthodoxy.

While McGrath’s assertions concerning justification are troubling, the three pillars he identifies in Iustitia Dei actually serve Busentiz quite well as he looks backward and ultimately makes a compelling case for the historic doctrine of justification. Busenitz should be commended for his work as he settles the score on this crucial matter that concerns the gospel.

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

Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World – Thomas Schreiner (2017)

covenantThomas R. Schreiner, Covenant and God’s Purpose For the World, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 136 pp. $9.97

Biblical theology is the discipline that reveals the storyline of Scripture. It looks at the big picture, which begins at creation and culminates with the new earth, where God makes all things new. “The purpose of biblical theology,” according to James Hamilton “is to sharpen our understanding of the theology contained in the Bible itself through an inductive, salvation-historical examination of the Bible’s themes and the relationships between those themes in their canonical context and literary form.”1

Thomas Schreiner makes a significant contribution to the field of biblical theology with his latest work, Covenant and God’s Purposes For the World. This volume, which is part of Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology Series is not as extensive as Hamilton’s work noted above or Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum’s, excellent volume, Kingdom Through Covenant. But the brevity of Schreiner’s short book is a real strength, as we shall see.

Dr. Schreiner’s book unpacks the various covenants that unfold in Redemptive history including the covenant with creation, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the new covenant. “The covenants,” writes Schreiner, “help us, then, to see the harmony and unity of the biblical message.” Ultimately, the author achieves this goal as he alerts readers to the apex of God’s saving work: “The promises of Abraham are fulfilled in the new covenant that Jesus brings, for he is the true offspring of Abraham, and all those who belong to him are the children of Abraham. The land promise is fulfilled in an inaugural way in his resurrection and then in a consummate way in the new creation.”

Covenant and God’s Purposes For the World demolishes the “cookie cutter” approach to hermeneutics that Dispensationalism offers. In its place, is a clear portrait of God’s redemptive plans for his people – a plan that promises “a new world of peace and righteousness is coming in which God the Lamb will reign … The promise that David won’t lack a man on the throne is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He reigns now from heaven at God’s right hand as the son of David, as and Lord and Christ.”

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

  1. James Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 47.

The Influence of Spurgeon: A Boon for the Soul

 

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on this date, June 19, 1834 – one hundred and eighty-three years ago.  I got to thinking about the influence that Spurgeon has had on my thinking, theology, and Christian life.  This thought led to another interesting tidbit.  I have been influenced by many Christian men over the years – most of whom I have never met.  On Spurgeon’s birthday, consider a few noteworthy men who have played a role in my life.  I commend their lives and writings to you.

C.H. Spurgeon Courage in the face of adversity, an unwavering trust in God’s sovereign purposes, rock-solid commitment to prayer, and a die-hard, Christ-exalting determination in the pulpit.

Jonathan Edwards The sovereignty of God in all things.

John Owen The glory of Christ, communion with Christ, and the death of death in the death of Christ.

John BunyanWarm-hearted devotion and Pilgrim’s Progress.

John CalvinHumility, contrition, and trembling before God’s Word.

Martin Luther Commitment to truth and rediscovering justification by faith.

William Tyndale – Zeal for translating the Word of God into the language of the common man.

John Knox  – Steely resolve in the face of adversity.

Thomas Watson Courage under fire and commitment to biblical principles.

Polycarp Refusing to bend under pressure.  An enemy of pragmatism.

Martyn-Lloyd Jones Biblical preaching/logic on fire!

Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, David Brainerd Missionary zeal.

John PiperDelighting in God and the fight for joy.

Al Mohler – Confronting culture with the unchanging truths of Scripture.

Francis Schaeffer Heart for lost people, love for truth, and biblical worldview.

John MacArthur Faithfulness in the pulpit.

Steven Lawson Expository preaching.

R.C. Sproul – The holiness of God and Reformed theology.

Ron Nash – Christ-saturated intellectual and spiritual passion.

John Frame The doctrine of God.

J.I. Packer Knowing God and Christian creeds.

Wayne Grudem Systematic theology and a biblical understanding of the Trinity.

David A. Steele (Dad) Commitment to Scripture, leadership, and personal integrity.

Wayne Pickens Patiently and lovingly shepherding the flock, commitment to truth, and personal integrity.

Bruce A. Ware – High view of God and the authority of Scripture, and a commitment to the eternal relations of authority and submission in the Trinity.

Don Robinson – Evangelistic zeal, bold resolve.

Cal Blom Pastoral faithfulness, spiritual disciplines, and integrity.

David Needham – Lover of God and family.

Ron Frost – Approach to God and scholarship.

Hugh Salisbury Evangelistic zeal and love God and people.