2014 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Knox, the Protestant Reformer who risked life and limb for the sake of the gospel in Scotland and much of western Europe. Steven Lawson retells the story in his newest work, John Knox Fearless Faith.
The author guides readers though the fascinating account of Knox’s life – a life filled with pain and persecution, powerful preaching, and passionate appeals. He portrays the Protestant Reformer as one who “remained stout of heart and strong in conviction” even as he neared the end of his life. Lawson observes, “To the very end, Knox was preaching Christ and Him crucified, exalting his Savior and extolling his Lord.”
John Knox Fearless Faith is a boon for discouraged pastors who have experienced the sting of false accusation and the pain of persecution. It serves a sort of theological balm for pastors who are lonely in ministry and on the verge of throwing in the ecclesiastical towel. In a few short sentences, Dr. Lawson rightly summarizes the fiery Reformers passion for truth and his steely resolve:
Through these many dangers, Knox persevered in his ministry, boldly preaching the Word and trusting God for the outcome. Beneath his frail body was an unshakeable confidence in the sovereignty of God. He believed that his times were appointed for him by an all-powerful God. He knew that he was invincible within the allotted time of the divine will. His faith remained strong in the One who orders all things.
As Knox approached his final years, his commitment to God grew yet deeper. The opposition he faced never subsided, even to the end, but neither did his confidence in God.
May pastors find strength in this godly man whose birth 500 years ago marked church history and changed a generation. May John Knox fuel our resolve to boldly preach God’s Word and wield the mighty sword of Reformed truth for the world to see and savor. May pastors lead the next generation of Christians who live with the integrity and the zeal of Knox. May they rebuke and admonish carnal professors who seek to divide Christ’s church. May they be inspired by his example as they champion the cause of truth and challenge every rival from Rome, Mecca, Salt Lake City and every heresy that poses a threat to the gospel!
I waited for Gregg Allison’s, Historical Theology for over a year. After carefully devouring over 700 pages, Allison’s work does not disappoint.
Historical Theology is patterned after Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology and follows a topical-chronological framework that makes studying historical theology a real delight. For those familiar with historical theology, a discipline that is often presented in a dull and dreary manner, Allison’s work is a gift that will be utilized and appreciated by many Bible students and pastors.
Historical Theology is arranged in seven sections:
Part 1: The Doctrine of the Word of God
Part 2: The Doctrine of God
Part 3: The Doctrine of Humanity
Part 4: The Doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit
Part 5: The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption
Part 6: The Doctrine of the Church
Part 7: The Doctrine of the Future
Each section follows a predictable pattern that moves readers through the respective doctrinal developments that begin with the early church and proceed to the middle ages, the Reformation, and the modern period.
The author presents historical developments in a fair and gracious manner. He alerts readers to matters that pertain to heretical proclivities as well as orthodox dogma.
Historical Theology will no doubt serve as the standard textbook in Bible College and Seminaries for many years to come.
Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, by Alister McGrath is a detailed overview of the progression of heresy in the church. Part one defines heresy and provides a helpful summary of the origins of the idea of heresy. “The essential feature of heresy is that it is not unbelief (rejection of the core beliefs of a worldview such as Christianity) in the strict sense of the term, but a form of that faith that is held ultimately to be subversive or destructive, and thus indirectly leads to such unbelief.”
Part two examines the roots of heresy. McGrath provides a fascinating historical survey of the development of heresy and its early development in church history.
Part three summarizes the classical heresies of Christianity including Ebionitism, Docetism, Valentinism, Arianism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. McGrath does an especially noteworthy job on his treatment of the arch-heretic, Pelagius. However, I would commend R.C. Sproul’s, Willing to Believe to any readers interested in a deeper look at the Pelagian heresy.
McGrath rightly points out the pervasiveness of Pelagianism “on Western culture, even if its name means little to most. It articulates one of the most natural of human thoughts – that we are capable of taking control of ourselves and transforming ourselves into what we would have ourselves be.” Indeed, the tentacles of Pelagianism are not only choking the world, this diabolical worldview has found entry into the American church.
Finally, part four focuses on the impact of heresy. The author urges the reader to recognize that “the pursuit of orthodoxy is essentially the quest for Christian authenticity” and to recognize the tendency that heresies have in “repeating themselves.”
McGrath’s book is a noteworthy summary of the history of heresy. However, if one is a newcomer to this subject, I recommend starting with John Hannah’s, Our Legacy: A History of Christian Doctrine. Additionally, Harold O.J. Brown’s work, Heresies will provide readers with a detailed look at the heresies that have consistently plagued the church. Each work is a clear reminder of the danger of heretical ideas creeping into the fabric of the church.