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

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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.

 

 

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

Spurgeon’s Sorrows – Zack Eswine

spurgeonI have a friend who was born in 1834.  That would make him 183 years old.  He went home to be with Jesus in 1892 – at the peak of his ministry and in the prime of his life.  I have often asked why God takes the heroes of the faith so soon – Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, and John Calvin all died in their 50’s.  David Brainerd and Jim Elliot died before they reached the age of 30.  While the question is interesting to ponder, the question is not ours to ask.  Enter the Creator —

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2, ESV).

“You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great” (Job 38:21, ESV).

“And the LORD said to Job: ‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it’” (Job 40:2, ESV).

I have been learning from my friend, C.H. Spurgeon for nearly 25 years now.  He has taught me many lessons.  He introduced me to Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, a book he read over 100 times in his short life.  Spurgeon has taught me the importance of expositional preaching.  On many occasions, he has reminded me about the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching, not to mention living the Christian life.  He has inspired courage and conviction and prompted me to be unwavering, even in the darkest of days.

But one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my British friend is how to deal with melancholy.  Zack Eswine helps highlight some of those lessons in his book, Spurgeon’s Sorrows.  The subtitle accurately reflects the basic theme of the book, Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression.  

Spurgeon’s Sorrows is arranged in three parts.  Part One walks readers through the basics of depression.  What is it?  How can one recognize it?  What is spiritual depression?  Part Two presents a path for helping people who suffer from depression.  And Part Three is a practical section that offers practical assistance for dealing with depression.

Chapter nine is worth the price of the book as the author directs readers to the promises of God and shows how Spurgeon utilized this habit of claiming the promises of Jesus in his daily walk with God.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows is a short book filled with biblical counsel for people who battle depression and provides help for anyone who is reaching out to folks who are wading through the Slough of Despondence.  In the final analysis, readers are encouraged to cling to their Savior who promises to walk with them through every valley.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (Psalm 23:1–2, ESV)

4 stars

Andrew Fuller: Holy, Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission

John Piper, Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016, 57 pp. $8.99

For years now, John Piper has been churning out a series of stunning biographical portraits of pivotal leaders in the church. His newest offering is no exception as he offers up a refreshing volume on the life and legacy of Andrew Fuller.

Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission is a sweeping overview of the well-known pastor/theologian. Dr. Piper highlight’s Fuller’s passion for world missions and the impact he had on the expansion of evangelism around the globe.

The life of Fuller is presented as one that was both theologically rich and traumatic. Fuller was committed to expository preaching and expended a great deal of energy in his weekly sermon preparation. Yet, his life was also plagued by tremendous suffering, losing eight children with his first wife.

The intellectual life of Andrew Fuller is explored in some detail. Most interesting is the impact that Jonathan Edwards had on Fuller’s thinking and theological framework.

At the heart of the book is Fuller’s antipathy for hyper-Calvinism. Piper alerts readers to this pernicious error and shows the development in Fuller’s thought and his gradual repudiation of a system of theology that discouraged evangelism and failed to call sinners to believe the gospel.

Readers should understand that while Fuller rejected hyper-Calvinism (or high Calvinism), he did nonetheless embrace historical five point Calvinism with a great deal of vigor and enthusiasm. Fuller stands in a long line of godly men who cling to the doctrines of grace and faithfully proclaim a “faith that was once delivered to all the saints.” Once again, the influence of Jonathan Edwards loomed large on Fuller’s theological commitments.

Finally, the author unveils Fuller’s stance against the heresy of Sandemanianism, a teaching that twisted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission is a deeply encouraging book that should be devoured by gospel-loving, truth-saturated Christians. This book is sure to spark good discussion and prompt many to dig deeper into church history.

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