Course Review: Apologetics 101 – Scott Oliphint, Westminster Theological Seminary

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Apologetics comes from the reality of Scripture. It is not an invention of theologians and philosophers.


Letter II‘ve decided to try something new, to start a new type of series. I love to read, and I’ve been writing book reviews for years. I also love to listen to lectures, and often fill the time during my daily commute with courses from the online libraries of schools such as Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster, Gordon-Conwell, Covenant, and others.

So I’ve decided start providing summaries, analysis, and critiques of these courses and lecture series, partially to help me process what I’ve encountered and partially because it’s not something I’ve seen done before and I think it’ll be fun.

The first series of lectures I will be reviewing is Dr. Scott Oliphint’s course Apologetics 101 at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS).

Scott is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster. He is one of the foremost experts on Cornelius Van Til and the sphere of presuppositional apologetics (along with John Frame and the late Greg Bahnsen), and is perhaps best known for his re-framing of presuppositionalism in the form of Covenantal Apologetics.

Scott is on Twitter, has written for Ligonier and DesiringGod, and has many resources available on SermonAudio.

This course is available for free on iTunesU.

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Book Review: Arminian Theology – By Roger E. Olson

roger-olson-arminian-theologyLetter IIn On Liberty the Nineteenth Century British philosophy John Stuart Mill wrote that “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them… he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

That is, we must not lock ourselves into echo chambers, only listening to voices that sound like our own.

Roger Olson‘s Arminian Theology is a book that I saw sitting in my library bookstore and piqued my interest, and my curiosity, mainly because I had never read a true defense of Arminian Theology – and believing the thoughts of John Stuart Mill presented above to be true – I have been feeling it my duty for quite some time to read another side of the argument. However, there is something else which should be added to the thoughts of Mill, and those are thoughts of C.S. Lewis, from his book An Experiment in Criticism where he writes that “We can never know that a piece of writing is bad unless we have begun by trying to read it if it was very good and ended up by discovering that we were paying the author an undeserved compliment.” I went into this book giving it the benefit of the doubt, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The goal of Olson’s book is, as the subtitle points out, to discuss the myths and realities of Arminian theology. He begins by giving the outline of the age-old debate, by defining his terms, and by giving a basic overview of orthodox Arminian and Calvinist positions. He then goes on to address the myths of Arminian theology, to include: Arminianism is the opposite of Calvinism; a hybrid of Arminianism and Calvinism is possible; Arminianism is not orthodox evangelicalism; the heart of Arminianism is free will; Arminian theology denies the sovereignty of God; is human-centered; is not a theology of grace; doesn’t believe in predestination; denies justification by grace alone through faith alone; and believes in the governmental theory of atonement.

Olson systematically goes through providing explanations for why each of the myths regarding Arminian theology is false, and offering sources which explain the actual Arminian position, usually to include John Welsey, Simon Episcopius, Thomas Oden, and many others (as well as Arminius himself).

One downside of this (though it does show Olson’s sincerity) is that he is often forced to point out that many of Arminianisms main proponents do believe in and teach the myths put forth, though Olson regulates these to misunderstandings of Arminiansm – still, it does mean that not all of them are really myths, or at least that Olson’s understanding of Arminianism isn’t necessary uniform without that theological group.

Overall, Olson does a good job explaining his position and clarifying the position of Arminianism, and I have to say that walked away with a better understanding of where they are coming from (though I’d still posit that there are many gaps in the argument).

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Olson’s writing is his honesty and willingness to acknowledge the weaknesses in his own system. For instance Olson can be found noting that “all caviling aside, Arminians know that their belief in libertarian freedom is a mystery (not a contradiction).” He also does well at representing his opponent’s view, and understanding why his opponents object to his system: “These two views are incommensurable. To the Arminian, compatibilist free will is no free will at all. To the Calvinist, incompatibilist free will is a myth; it simply cannot exist because it would amount to an uncaused effect, which is absurd.”

Finally, Olson also offers a very good formula to abide by when critiquing other systems. Define your terms, be able to describe you opponents view as he would before opposing it, make sure you’re not attacking a straw man, admit your own weaknesses, and avoid attributing to the opposing party things they explicitly reject. All are great advice for anybody who wants their opponents to take them seriously, and I think Olson plays by his own rules fairly well in this text.

That said, I would recommend this text to Arminians and Calvinists alike.  It is a good read, and great for clarifying the Arminian position.

Memorable Quotes:

-“The most common root of confusion in theology is misunderstanding of terms.” (p15)

-“I have concluded that appealing to Scripture alone cannot prove one side right and the other side wrong… It is largely a matter of that mystery called perspective. Philosophers have called it ‘blik.’ It is a basic way of seeing reality. We see the world as such-and-such even when proof is lacking.” (p70)

“And Arminians do not see a way to embrace divine determinism (monergism) and avoid making God the author of sin and evil.” (p98)

-“A concept that is compatible with anything and everything is empty.” (p100)

-“The free will of human beings in Arminius’s theology and in classical Arminianism is more properly denoted freed will.”

Specific Criticisms

While I am a fan of this text, it is not without its share of difficulties. On of the main ones is that Olson addresses the ‘myth’ that the heart of Arminianism is free will, and then essentially argues the opposite (one way around this criticism would be to say that he means for the heart of Arminianism to be the ‘freed will’, but this is never stated outright). Hence we find Olson continually arguing in favor of free will, especially from the standpoint that “[free will] is necessary to protect God’s reputation.” (p98) 

Another issue is that the text is mainly directing his argument against ‘high calvinism’ or hypercalvinism. Olson acknowledges early on that hypercalvinism is not the primary view within Calvinism, and yet it is hypercalvinism that most of his arguments are aimed against.

Other areas include what one might call ‘gaps in logic’. For instance, Olson says that “Thus predestination is conditional rather than unconditional; God’s electing foreknowledge is caused by the faith of the elect.” (p35) and again, “Rather, the decisions cause God to know them.” (p188) How can an effect precede a cause? This is never addressed by Olson.

There are also instances such as these three quotations; Olson wants to make the point that humans action is necessary for salvation, but they don’t play a part, they cooperate but don’t contribute, they are a partner but play no part. “Thus salvation is conditional, not unconditional; humans play a role and are not passive or controlled by any force, internal or external.” (p37) “Cooperation does not contribute to salvation, as if God does part and humans do part; rather cooperation with grace in Arminian theology is simply nonresistance to grace.” (p36) “In salvation, God’s grace is the superior partner; human free will (nonresistance) is the lesser partner.” (p63) Frankly, I don’t think Olson makes his point clear at all.

There are various other nitpicks I have with the text, but one of the only other ones worth noting here is his statement that “Arminian belief in general redemption is not universal salvation; it is universal redemption from Adam’s sin.”(p33) My problem with this statement is that no proof text is provided to support it, and it is presumably an idea that is added on extra-biblically in the need to account for all the facts.

Book Review: All of Grace – By C.H. Spurgeon

 

Spurgeon All of Grace.pngletter-aAll of Grace was the first book of Spurgeon‘s which I ever. I read it once a few years ago and found it to be wonderful, I’ve recently read it again and found it to be just as wonderful, touching and relevant as the first time I read it.

The design of the text is one aimed at introducing an unbeliever to the gospel, as Spurgeon says in the first chapter “Reader, do you mean business in reading these pages? If so, we are agreed at the outset; but nothing short of your finding Christ and Heaven is the business aimed at here.” It is a text directed at the new or potential Christian, and yet it’s content may no doubt be enjoyed and and benefited from by the most advanced of Christians, and the reason for this is quite simply that what is presented is the gospel truth and the Christian spirit may never tire of the truths of salvation and sanctification.

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Book Review: The Certainty of Faith – By Herman Bavinck

Bavinck Certainty of Faith.pngletter-aAs Bavinck says in his second chapter: “When our highest interests, our eternal weal or woe is at stake, we must be satisfied with nothing less than infallible, divine certainty. There must be no room for doubt.”

The title of this book, The Certainty of Faith, seemingly has two different connotations. At a glance, the title seems to refer to a discussion on how it is that the Christian comes about having certainty in their faith; in actuality, the book is an answer to that self-same question. The book is not primarily a discussion on how to obtain certainty in faith, but a discussion of the differing types of certainty, one of which is faith.

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Book Review: Chosen By God – By R.C. Sproul

RC Sproul Chosen By God.pngLetter TThe topic of predestination is one of those topics within Christian discussion which is both unavoidable and greatly controversial, and here in his book Chosen By God R.C. Sproul takes on the task of explaining and providing a Biblical account of salvation and the role that the choice of God plays in this.

Predestination as Sproul defines it “in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born.” 

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Martin Luther on Faith & Works

Martin Luther 1.pngLetter IIn his Preface to Romans, Martin Luther makes the statement that “If we do not choose goodness freely, we do not keep God’s law from the heart… Granted that, in appearance and conduct, you observe the law, owing to your fear of punishment or hope of reward, yet you do nothing from free choice and out of love for the law, but unwillingly and under compulsion; were there no law, you would rather do something else. The logical conclusion is that, in the depths of your heart, you hate the law.” 

In this passage Luther sums up what is one of the key points of Christ’s teachings, that is, that it is the heart that is of pivotal importance in matters of the law, not the outward actions; thus, it is faith, not works, for it is faith that brings about a love of the law.

This position as laid out stands in contradistinction to the approach of the Pharisees, who (because they focused merely on outward action) were seen as “whitewashed tombs”.

One of the key things that Luther wishes to explain is the relationship between faith and works (or the law), to show the true purpose of the law, and how it relates to faith.

In doing so, Luther makes the keeping of the law a matter of the heart. If you keep the law outwardly, doing the law under compulsion, then your heart is still bad; if you do the law under compulsion then in truth you despise the law.

In opposition to this, one who is truly changed will come to love the law, and thus when they do the works of the law it will be because they want to do those things, not because they are afraid of the fear of punishment or the hope of reward that may result.

This basis of the heart of faith being one that wants to do the works of the law feeds into Luther’s later discussion of just what part works play in the Christian life. Thus he ends up asserting: “It is impossible, indeed, to separate works from faith, just as it is impossible to separate heat and light from fire.”

This statement fits perfectly into Luther’s structure of faith/law. The heart of faith wants to do the works of the law; because the heart of faith wants to do the works of the law, it cannot help but do them.

The person with a true faith will perform the works of the law because the works of the law will be what they desire to do; the works are thus an outworking and a result of the faith, in the same way that heat is an outworking and a result of the fire.

One of the more interesting relevancies that Luther’s formulation has here for ethics is in refuting the ideas of those such as Immanuel Kant, who argued that it is when we do the works of the law unwillingly that we are truly being ethical – for, as Kant argued, not liking what you’re doing but doing it anyway shows a higher reverence of the law itself.

To this sort of idea Luther answers “no”, because the person who does the law under compulsion – while they may have some reverence for the law – are still in their hearts corrupt.

It is better to do the works of the law because you have a changed heart that desires to do them than it is to do them under compulsion.

Book Review: Just Do Something – Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung Just Do Something.pngLetter IIn honour of Kevin DeYoung be appointed as the Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS, it’s worthwhile to reflect on some of his work. While DeYoung hasn’t written many books, those books he has written are incredibly timely, and Just Do Something is no exception.

When you look around the church today, have discussions with members, and generally engage with those who desire to follow God, you quickly discover that one of the central questions is “How do I figure our God’s will for my life?” “How can I make sure that I’m in the center of God’s will?”

To try and discover God’s will is no doubt a noble thing, but a certain non-Biblical understanding of God’s will and how to follow God’s will has crept into the church and served to undermine our ability to do that very thing. Thus, DeYoung’s goal in this book is to look at how best to define God’s will, at some of a the ineffective or un-Biblical ways we try and find God’s will, and how to do better.

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Book Review: A Journey in Grace – By Richard P. Belcher

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letter-a AJourney in Grace follows the progression of a young pastor as he is confronted with the question “Are You a Calvinist?” Not knowing the answer to the question, he goes out to discover whether or not he is. In his endeavor he is aided by fellow pastors, his friends, his professors and his fiance, as he slowly unravels the theology behind Calvinism as it relates to Scripture, to philosophy, to the ministry, to other denominations, and to the world at large.

Belcher does well at offering an introductory text to Reformed theology. In a short space he covers a wide degree of angles, ranging from the logic of theology to our ability to communicate truth, from common misconceptions and critiques of Calvinism to the way it has developed throughout the course of history. The author also does well at engaging the general mood of many churches in regards to the often poorly defined entity that is Calvinism.

The text covers most of the bases well in a short and fairly concise manner, especially considering that it’s written in novel form. This format makes the text especially accessible to layman and those who have had very little or only negative exposure to Calvinism, or those who find themselves daunted by more systematic and academically themed approaches. This is further enhanced by other recommended books which are littered throughout the text which give the reader some hint of where to go for more information.

All in all, it’s a good introduction in a format that one doesn’t find often. There is nothing groundbreaking to be found, but then there isn’t meant to be.

Memorable Quotes:

-“There would never be a situation where one of the elect would not want to be saved, for the regenerating power of God will grant sight, desire, power and enablement to the elect in the work of salvation.”(p128)

-“The Calvinist would say, if there is no perseverance, there is no salvation; and if there is salvation, there will be perseverance.”(p134)

-“It’s not that doing the will of the Father saves a person, but it is stating that the saved person will do the will of the Father.”(p139)

-“[The pastor] knows it is his responsibility to enter the pulpit, saturating his mind with the Word of God, and to preach it, trusting God through the Word to convict and save sinners.”(p152)

Specific Criticisms

I don’t really have any criticisms of this text. Sometimes the plot seems forced, but then it is forced, because the story is only a medium through which to offer an introduction to a system of thought. It succeeds at what it sets out to do, which is to serve as an introduction to reformed theology for layman.

The Art of Christian Leadership

ChristianLeadership.pngLetter TThere are no shortage of books on the topic of leadership. Indeed, pointing out this fact is the first thing that most books on leadership seem to do. These books also point out that there is a crisis of leadership in the world today, such as having traded true leadership for celebrity. 

In order to discuss a philosophy of Christian leadership, we first need a working definition of leadership. A precise definition might be stated as such: Christian leadership is the dialogic art of influencing others toward God’s agenda. In order to make clear what is meant by the definition it will be necessary to unpack in turn each aspect of what is being stated.

Leadership and Others, A Dialogue Concerning God’s Agenda

In unpacking our definition we must first assess the players involved. In this definition two actors may be assumed outright, the leaders and the “others.” The first thing to unpack is that the art is made up of leaders influencing “others.” Christian leadership is not confined merely to influencing Christians. Our Christianity seeps into every aspect of our lives, our interactions with Christians and non-Christians, and these interactions include those instances of leadership over both groups. Christian leadership does not vary depending on which group the individual is working with.

Along with the leaders and the others that the leader is influencing, there is also God. This  is important for establishing the dynamic of the relationship between the leaders and those being led, because it is this aspect of the definition which introduces the servant-leadership aspect of the art.

Some books on the topic of leadership state that the leader is merely influencing the followers to achieve a defined mission; others specify that it is influence to achieve a common goal. In the first instance the influence toward a “defined mission” could place the goals, vision, and mission of the leader over and above those of the followers. In the second instance influence toward a “common goal” could still face the risk of placing some sort of merely human goal as the primary thing to be achieved. That God is also an actor indicates that neither the leader – nor even the group – is the thing of primary importance; it is God’s agenda that takes the central focus.

Again, this focus on God’s agenda introduces the servant-leadership aspect of the art. The chief implication of this is that the leader is a servant, yet this servant-hood is not first and foremost to the group. Primarily, the leader is a servant of God.

In being a servant of God two primary things may be assumed, a love of God and a love of neighbor, the latter of which indicates that the servant-leader will have a love for those that he or she is leading. Since the leader has a love for those that he or she is leading they will act in such a way towards their followers that exemplifies that fact.

This means that the Christian leader will not abuse or exploit their followers, and if they have been placed in a position of authority they will not abuse that position out of love for those who they are leading and the One they serve. Indeed, the leader will act knowing that they will someday be required to give an account to God of their actions.

When God is the one being served the individual loses all authority when they abuse their power and use it in a wrong way; as G.K. Chesterton points out, one “cannot have a shred of authority if he merely has the power to do it and not the right to do it.” Chesterton’s point here is rooted in the truth that authority is something given from God, and therefore one cannot do anything in authority unless one is right in doing it; what one is ‘right’ in doing is derived from God and his agenda.

The art of leadership involve the three actors of the leader, the others, and God. This relationship is one of a God-derived love, and furthermore it is a dialogue.

This dialogic aspect is the final key dynamic of the leader-followers relationship. The leader is not merely influencing others towards God’s agenda, but they are doing so while in dialogue with those they are leading.

Leadership is not a one way conversation; the only time in which that sort of leadership is feasible is when the leader is receiving direct revelation from God. In lieu of that, the leader must converse with those he or she is leading. One of these implications is that the leader must have an idea of where his people are. The leader is operating within a given context and with a certain group of people and the leader must be aware of what God is already doing in that place so that he or she may avoid merely trying impose an alien change to the direction of a group without knowing where or why they were headed where they were. Leaders therefore need to ask themselves what kind of situation those they are leading are facing. The Christian leader is one who invites discussion and constructive feedback from those that he or she is working with.

Finally, the Christian leader does not lead in such a way as to make themselves indispensable. Rather, the leader leads in such a way as to produce more leaders, echoing the command to go out and make disciples. As Henry Blackaby asserts “one of the most tragic mistakes leaders commit is to make themselves indispensable.”

God’s Agenda: Vocation and Calling in Leadership

God’s agenda is a central facet of Christian leadership, which gives it a close relationship to the ideas of vocation and calling. This aspect of Christian leadership is generally seen as being of utmost importance, as William Willimon puts it:

Faithful pastors must have a vivid sense of vocation, a sense of being summoned by God to do his work. The work that pastors do is too demanding to do it for any other reason than the conviction that one is called to do this work, that God wants you to do it.

With such a strong emphasis the need for a sense of vocation is certainly seen as strong.

Here Willimon is referring specifically to the context of pastors, and those within the Christian community vary on whether they apply the language of vocation and calling to professions outside of the pastorate.

Along with Martin Luther, we can extend the language of vocation and calling to areas outside of the pastoral ministry. However, also along with Luther, it would be incorrect to view this sense of calling and vocation as a calling to a specific area of either Christian ministry or secular work.

A mediating position would be that which is sometimes deemed the “wisdom” approach to the will of God as opposed to the “specific-will” approach.

We are called to pursue God’s will, where God’s will is not defined as some specific action but as the pursuit of righteousness.

As Luther’s view has been summarized, “Christian vocation is not finally about production… it is about the neighbor, about giving oneself to the other in love and service in the glorious freedom of the gospel.”

In this understanding of calling and the will of God, Luther would be in disagreement with those such as Willimon and Blackaby, who assert a specific calling to a specific position. In Luther’s understanding our calling and our vocation is to serve our neighbors and in so doing to lead in a righteous manner and to righteous ends.

Biblical-theological Framework

The Biblical and theological frameworks of leadership have been touched on throughout the discussion above, yet it is helpful to lay them out in a more straightforward manner. There are three key theological themes that provide a framework for the above practice of leadership: the state of man, the call to righteousness, and the sovereignty of God.

The State of Man

In discerning how to lead people you must know where people are at.

From Scripture we may observe that the state of man is fallenness; man is sinful, and man is also loved by God and made in his image. This serves as a vital theological foundation for leadership because man as created by God yet fallen is one of the key basis for the servant aspect of leadership, for the love that the leader has for those under his or her care.

Because man is made in the image of God we must love those who are in our care. Yet while man is made in the image of God, he is also fallen, and we must realize this as we are working with people. Realizing this fallen aspect of mankind keeps the leader aware of the imperfection of the system he or she is working in, and furthermore it keeps them humble, knowing that they themselves are imperfect. Knowing that these imperfections are in place the leader can expect failure, but because of the hope that is in Christ and the sovereignty of God, he or she may trust that their failure will not be fruitless.

The Call to Righteousness

While mankind is fallen, he has been called to righteousness. On the one hand this a plea for the gospel, yet it the key to leadership that has been already discussed in terms of calling and vocation, that Christian leadership is the dialogic art of influencing others toward righteous ends.  

It is this aspect of Christian leadership which allows it to not merely be confined to Christian ministry, for any leader can conduct their affairs such that they lead towards a righteous end.

A Christian business leader can exercise that call to righteousness by managing his employees in a Godly manner, not taking advantage of them. At the same time the Christian business leader can also influence others toward righteous ends by leading his company toward fair dealings with other companies and by engaging in business practices which do not exploit the system. A Christian military leader may lead a righteous life in fulfillment of that call, and then influence his troops towards righteousness by serving as an example of righteousness, and by making tactical decisions in accordance with a just-war theory. A Christian political leader may again serve as an example, and may influence others toward righteous ends by pursuing policies which would glorify God.

Finally, a Christian minister is called likewise to be that example, and may influence his congregation towards righteous ends, spurning them towards evangelism in general or towards any specific program that would glorify God; yet, the minister in this case does not pursue the specific program because God wills that specific program, but because it is a program that is in accord with glorifying God.

The Sovereignty of God

The sovereignty of God is immense importance for a framework of leadership. Perhaps the greatest benefit the sovereignty of God has for the leader is in its ability to let them trust in the perfect plan of God and the fact that all things will work for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Because the leader has this trust he or she may be confident than even in their own personal failure – or even the failure of their projects or their group – that God will still bring good out of those failures.

Nothing is ever a total failure; because God is sovereign some benefit will always come out of those actions which are done with the aim of pursuing righteousness.

It is the sovereignty of God which assures the leader that he will be held accountable for his actions as a leader. This accountability is what will help keep the leader from acting improperly in his position. It will both motivate the leader to put their entire heart into the work, knowing that it glorifies God, and also keeps them in the fear of the Lord, knowing that he will hold them responsible for the way they have used their leadership.

As has been stated, Christian leadership is is the dialogic art of influencing others toward righteous ends. These righteous ends are synonymous with the agenda of God, for God’s agenda is that his people pursue righteousness.

The Christian leader, thus, is one who influences whatever group he or she oversees in such a way that upholds Christian values; the Christian leader will lead in a righteous manner, and will make sure that the goals being pursued are ones through which God can be glorified, if for no other reason than that the job was done well in service to the neighbor. In this system the leader is capable of setting the specific agenda through dialogue with the group, so long as that specific agenda coincides with the general agenda God has of pursuing righteousness.

This is a system of leadership that may be applied to any sort of leadership in any context, for any action may be done in such a manner so as to bring glory to God.

Book Review: Introducing Covenant Theology – By Michael Horton

Horton Covenant Theology.pngLetter MMy first exposure to Michael Horton came through reading essays of his online. This text counts as the first full book which I read by him, and it came highly recommended. Introducing Covenant Theology is, as the title so aptly puts it, Michael Horton’s introductory text to the idea of Covenant Theology.

Horton begins his study by establishing the overarching significance of the covenant motif within Scripture. This done he begins his study of what this idea of covenant actually entails, both in it’s secular historic background and with the context of Scripture. Once the intricacies of the covenant have been traced in Scripture Horton is then able to expound upon how this translates into a system of thought, it’s influence on other areas of belief, what it means for the study of Scripture and theology as a whole, and what it means for the individual believer and a framework in which they may view both the Old and New Testaments as a complimentary whole.

While there were various covenants made throughout Scripture (the covenant of redemption, of creation, of grace, etc), Horton breaks them down into essentially two types, a covenant of law and a covenant of promise, which are each administered by God in a different way. In the first God conditions something upon the people holding up a certain end of a bargain. In the second God simply promises, unconditionally, to do something for the people.“The covenant of law pertains to the nation’s remaining in the earthly land; the covenant of promise pertains to the eternal inheritance in Jesus Christ, Abraham’s seed. No Israelite was ever justified by works, but the nation had to keep the conditions of the law in order to remain in possession of the earthly type of the heavenly rest.” (p.101) Thus, “So while it is true that Old Testament saints were justified by faith according to the Abrahamic promise, the theocracy itself was to be maintained and vindicated by strict adherence to Torah.” (p.59)

This covenantal motif sets up an excellent perspective in looking at Scripture and is in short wonderfully informative in dealing with how God both reveals himself to and deals with his peoples. In terms of personal impact, this latter notion gives great security to the believer. There is a covenant of works, but this covenant is not the covenant which salvation rests upon; it doesn’t rest upon anything that the believer must accomplish. Rather, salvation (the covenant of redemption which is “an eternal pact between the persons of the Trinity”(p.78)); it is a covenant of promise, a completely one-sided move by God in order to enact salvation. It is the promise of God, which he is intent on keeping and will fulfil and doesn’t rely on us.

The framework presented here is wonderful for giving the believer an overarching understanding of the flow and history of God’s dealings with humanity whilst also affirming and instilling a rich theology on which the believer may stand.

Memorable Quotes:

-“When Reformed theology hears Scripture teaching both divine sovereignty and human responsibility, divine election and the universal offer of the gospel, it affirms both even though it confesses that it does not know quite how God coordinates them behind the scenes… God does not limit his sovereignty, or any of this other attributes, to make space for human freedom. Rather, his freedom is the very space within which our creaturely freedom is possible (Acts 17:24-28).”(p.19)

-“Abraham was not only justified before he was circumcised; he was justified apart form works while he was still ungodly in himself. The point is not simply that God justifies the uncircumcised, but that God justifies the wicked.” (p.71)

-“God’s predestination is hidden to us, but Christ is not.” (p.79)

-“However, Scripture nowhere presupposes a universal knowledge of the gospel. The law is universal because it is natural: we are simply “wired” for it. It belongs to us by nature in creation, while the gospel is an announcement of good news in the even of transgression. It has to be preached, whereas the law belongs to the conscience of every person already.” (p.93)

-“Our knowledge, freedom, and power are not merely less than God’s (quantitatively); they are in a different class altogether (qualitatively).” (p.112)

-“What happens ‘east of Eden’ is this: culture is no longer sacred but secular, yet the secular is not literally ‘godless,’ a realm beyond God’s concern and involvement.” (p.118)

-“The Bible functions as the constitution for the covenant people, not for the secular state.” (p.127)

-“One cannot treat the Lord’s Supper in an individualistic manner, but only as a covenant meal.” (p.159)

-“Jesus did not make the law easier, but more difficult.” (p.179)

Specific Criticisms

Perhaps my only criticism of this text is that while it is an introductory text, I don’t feel that it is a good introductory text for the casual layman; rather, it is a good introductory text for the student or somebody already bent towards reading theology and fairly familiar with the Reformed tradition. Even being used to reading such texts there were various parts of this text (mainly towards the beginning) which I felt drug a bit. For me, the text didn’t really pick up until around Chapter 5 which is where he begins to build upon the theory after firmly grounding it in Scripture and meticulously detailing the significance of it – this is no doubt important, but it drags abit regardless. Perhaps Horton was somewhat aware of this when he began Chapter 4 with “The most difficult part of our argument lies behind us.”

I will offer one other small critique, and this is something that I’ve noticed both in this text as well as his systematic theology book The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. This is that he often bogs down the text in discussing various opposing and supporting quotations. On the one hand this can be a good thing, as it lets you know exactly where he’s coming from, where he gets his ideas, and that he’s not just sliding by all these possible counterarguments, but [at least for me] it also made the text somewhat tedious at points as I waited for him to finish the given discussion and continue on the primary point that he was intending to make. This aspect is another reason why I would suggest the text more to students than to the casual layperson, the text is geared towards not just laying out and introducing the system, but to giving many of the ins and outs which the regular reader will not likely be interested in.