BOOK REVIEWS

Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning

grudemWayne Grudem, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2018), 1212 pp.

Wayne Grudem has become a household name in evangelical circles over the years. His landmark book, Systematic Theology, is used in Bible Colleges and Seminaries around the world. I have personally taught through his excellent book at least six times. As a result, hundreds of men and women have been equipped and edified in the Christian faith.

Dr. Grudem’s newest offering, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning is a wonderful companion to Systematic Theology. The book weighs in at over 1,200 pages and will likely turn some readers away. But walking away from Grudem’s book would be like gazing at a massive treasure chest and refusing to open it for lack of time or desire. Both responses would be tantamount to foolishness.

The introduction alone is worth the price of the book as the author establishes the foundation for Christian ethics by grounding his discussion in the holy character of God and sacred Scripture. Indeed, the essence of Christian ethics is living Coram Deo, and to the glory of God.

The remainder of the book is organized around the Ten Commandments. The basic outline is as follows:

  • Protecting God’s Honor
  • Protecting Human Authority
  • Protecting Human Life
  • Protecting Life
  • Protecting Property
  • Protecting Purity of Heart

Grudem does not leave any stone unturned here. Every ethical topic imaginable is explored. Each topic, of course, is subjected to uncompromising biblical standards.

Christian Ethics is a breath of fresh air that will embolden followers of Jesus Christ and challenge them to live with God-centered resolve in a postmodern ethos that has forgotten God. It is not only a response to the zeitgeist that surrounds us; it is a rally-cry for faithful Christians to live in a way that pleases the triune God!

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Theology

Resting in Free Grace – Resisting the Free Grace Movement

grudem

Wayne Grudem, Free Grace Theology: How Free Grace Diminishes the Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016, 160 pp. $11.42

Theological disputes have a tendency of generating more heat than light. The controversy surrounding the so-called Free Grace movement is no exception. Ever since the landmark book by John MacArthur was published, The Gospel According to Jesus, competing camps have vigorously fought to maintain their ground. Indeed, both positions including the Free Grace view and the so-called Lordship position have fought as if their lives depended upon it.

But the debate did not find its genesis in the musings of John MacArthur. The debate is as old as the Protestant Reformation itself. The age-old questions remain: How does a sinful person stand in the presence of a holy God? On what basis is this sinner justified? What role (if any) do works play at the moment of justification? Is sanctification a necessary component of the Christian life? And, are works a necessary result of justification?

Disheartened, discouraged, and dismayed. These three terms do not adequately describe my thoughts about the initial reviews of Wayne Grudem’s new book, Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel. One review observes, “Wayne Grudem is a Reformed Calvinist, so his views are skewed through Calvinist lenses.” The initial reviews fail to show any degree of constructive interaction with the book. One wonders if these early reviewers even bothered to read the book.

The Free Grace movement, whose primary tenets are found in Zane Hodges book, Absolutely Free. In that book, Hodges maintains,

… Lordship thought abandons the straightforward meaning of the word ‘believe’ and fills the concept of saving faith with illegitimate complications. The result is that the saving transaction is made much more complex than it actually is. But salvation really is simple and, in that sense, it is easy. After all, what could be simpler than to ‘take the water of life freely.’

The primary tenets of the Free Grace movement include:

  • A two-tiered discipleship, or two classes of believers, those who believe but do not follow Christ and those who believe and cast all their hope and future on Christ.
  • No calls to repentance in evangelism.
  • Giving assurance to people who are backslidden or have denounced the Christian faith.
  • Rejecting the notion that good works accompany justifying grace.

Dr. Grudem’s primary contention is that the New Testament clearly teaches two principles which stand in opposition to the Free Grace movement:

  1. Repentance from sin (in the sense of remorse for sin and an internal resolve to forsake it) is necessary for saving faith.
  2. Good works and continuing to believe necessarily follow from saving faith.

Grudem’s arguments against the Free Grace movement are summarized below:

First, the Free Grace movement misunderstands the doctrine of justification by faith alone and as a result, fails to truly teach the doctrine that Luther said, “is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls.”

Second, the Free Grace movement undermines the gospel by refusing to require repentance in the proclamation of the gospel.

Third, the Free Grace movement offers false assurance to people who make a profession of faith, but may in the final analysis not possess saving faith.

Fourth, the Free Grace movement fails to emphasize the fiducia component of faith, that is, a personal trust or adherence to Christ.

Fifth, the Free Grace movement embraces interpretations that are highly unlikely.

These arguments against the Free Grace movement are further explained in the five chapters of the book. My own view is that Dr. Grudem has succeeded in successfully refuting this movement. He should be commended for the gracious tone throughout this work. He does engage in rigorous polemic but does so without caricaturing his opponents. While he argues strenuously against the Free Grace movement, he admits it is not a false gospel. However, it is a diminished gospel.

Some may argue that the so-called Lordship controversy (a term that Grudem dislikes) is over. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Free Grace movement continues to influence people and diminish the gospel. Wayne Grudem’s excellent work is a needed corrective and a gracious response to a troubling trend.

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

 

BOOK REVIEWS · Theology

UNDERSTANDING THE BIG PICTURE OF THE BIBLE – Wayne Grudem, Ed. (2012)

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible, edited by Wayne Grudem is the resource that I needed as a first year Bible College student in the 80’s.  The introduction by Vern Poythress is worth the price of the book.  Dr. Poythress reveals the storyline of the Bible and skillfully unfolds God’s plan for redemptive history: “The Bible … makes it clear that God has a unified plan for all of history.  His ultimate purpose, ‘a plan for the fullness of time,’ is ‘to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth’ (Eph. 1:10), ‘to the praise of his glory’ (Eph. 1:12).  He continues, “The work of Christ on earth, and especially his crucifixion and resurrection, is the climax of history; it is the great turning point at which God actually accomplished the salvation toward which history had been moving throughout the Old Testament.”

Poythress introduces Christ in the Old Testament and the promises of God.  He reveals a fundamental assumption of the Old Testament, namely – that Christ would redeem a people for his own possession and make all things new.  The author affirms that Scripture “directly points forward through promises of salvation and promises concerning God’s commitment to his people.”

Warnings and curses are set forth: “Christ at his second coming wars against sin and exterminates it.  The second coming and the consummation are the time when the final judgment against sin is executed.”  Additionally, Poythress points to the covenants.  He adds,  “God’s commitment takes the form of promises, blessings, and curses.  The promises and blessings point forward to Christ, who is the fulfillment of the promises and the source of the final blessings.  The curses point forward to Christ both in his bearing the curse and in his execution of judgment and curse against sin, especially at the second coming.”

The author continues to show how Christ fulfills the promise set forth in the Old Tesatment.  This overview of the Bible’s storyline is the perfect set up for the rest of the book.  A top-notch host of scholars write from a conservative viewpoint; theologians that include the likes of Thomas Schreiner, Paul House, and Dennis Johnson, to name a few.  Part one summarizes the theology of the Old Testament.  Part two walks readers through the background to the New Testament, including a brief discussion on period between the Testaments.  Finally, part three examines the theology of the New Testament.

This work would be an appropriate place to begin for Bible College students or readers unfamiliar with the flow of Biblical history.  The discussion is simple enough to read for beginners but is challenging enough for readers who are versed in redemptive history.