Below are some short reviews from books I’ve recently finished.
Backslider – Andrew Fuller
This short book, by Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) showed up as a recommended read on Amazon.com while I was looking for another book of a similar theme. I was surprised to find out that Charles H. Spurgeon “did not hesitate to describe Fuller as ‘the greatest theologian’ of his century.” Fuller was widely considered by others to be the greatest Baptist theologian of the 1800’s. In his short work, Fuller wastes little time in expounding on his theses, “The Backslider: it’s nature, symptoms, and means for recovery.” If the reader didn’t realize this was a work over 200 years old, reading chapter 1 would’ve seemed like an address for the modern day Church. Fuller states, “professors [of Christianity] are continually falling away from Christ; either totally, so as to walk no more with him [Christ], or partially, so as greatly to dishonor his name.” This assertion is no doubt evidence of today as well. Fuller points out it is, “the work of a faithful pastor to strengthen the diseased, to heal the sick, to bind up the broken, to bring again that which is driven away, and to seek that which is lost.” As he begins his dissection of the varieties of backsliding, he emphasizes that backsliding “originates in a departure of heart from him [God].” Andrew Fuller goes on to describe the nature of backsliding before delving into some of the symptoms and effects. He concludes his brief work by summarizing means to recovery from backsliding which begins with reading the word of God, especially those passages that relate to the backsliders current situation, i.e. Jeremiah 2, or Psalm 25, 32, 38, 51, and 130. To Scripture reading, Fuller wisely (and biblically) suggest the addition of prayer. This may seem like a no-brainer, but as he points out they “mutually assist each other.” A second means of recovery is reflection upon the “circumstances of thine offences”, while thirdly Fuller recommends reflecting on “the goodness of God in having hitherto borne with thee.” As he works through this final chapter, he adds 5 more helpful suggestions for backslider recovery, each of which are rooted in Scripture. Overall this is a highly recommended, extremely helpful book for not only the backslider or one who has backslidden but everyone who is wondering how best to bring backsliders back. James 5:19-20
Saving Faith (Kindle Edition) – A.W. Pink (1886-1952)
Saving Faith is an excerpt of Pink’s larger work Studies on Saving Faith and was assembled by www.monergism.com. It is available as a free download from their site. Let me just say that after reading this book, I most likely will purchase the expanded version because of Pink’s writing style, pastoral care, and brilliant exegesis. This was the first book I’ve read of the classic books of Pink and it’s easy to see why he is such a well thought of theologian. I will admit, I was a bit confused with Pink’s direction at the beginning of Saving Faith, but this could be due to its extraction from a larger work. This difficulty hinged on Pink’s definition of saving faith and its distinction from counterfeits. Boiling down his argument and exegesis true saving faith is a product of regeneration, or being born again. The counterfeits, or those who possess non-saving faith, “are willing for Christ to save them from hell, but are not willing for Him to save them from self. They want to be delivered from the wrath to come, but they wish to retain their self-will and self-pleasing.” Once Pink established his thesis and drew distinction between the various “types of faith” this book soared. In my opinion, what Pink seems to be addressing is the “no-Lordship Controversy” that was sparked and dealt with severely by Pastor John MacArthur several years ago. Essentially, this viewpoint states that one can have Christ as Savior, but need not submit to Him as Lord of their lives, thus dividing Christ through an unbiblical distinction. Perhaps the term had not been coined yet when Pink wrote his work, but I cannot help but see this as a potential audience he’s addressing. Perhaps best summarizing his position, Pink draws distinction between 3 groups of people identified in the Old Testament: 1) Heathen Gentiles 2) National Israel 3) Spiritual remnant Israel (see Romans 9:6). He then draws parallel to John’s Gospel 1) Hardened leaders of the nation (scribes, Pharisees, priests and elders) 2) Common people who “heard Him gladly” 3) Those who received Him as their Lord and Savior. In using these examples from the Old and New Testament, Pink compares them to those of today: 1) Those who make no profession at all 2) Those attracted to Christ in a natural way, i.e. not openly antagonistic 3) Those “few” who deny themselves and take up their cross daily. Pink goes on to say that counterfeits to genuine saving faith can often be more than a historical knowledge or head knowledge of Christ, but nevertheless falls short of being a quickening and saving faith. If you’ve ever preached or taught to a wide-variety of people, this distinction is important because it seems so many people fall into the second group, yet have not been born again or truly saved.
The Reformed Faith (Kindle Edition) – Lorraine Boettner
This short book is available for free download from www.monergism.com and provides a succinct, yet well-developed introduction to the reformed faith, or more commonly called Calvinism. Boettner begins his study with a discourse on the sovereignty of God, then proceeds to discuss man’s totally helpless condition, Christ’s atonement, and the foreknowledge of God. He likewise addresses some common objections in the form of passages that appear universalistic and then contrasts the common, widespread Arminianism beliefs with the subject of his work, Calvinism. Many people are probably once like I was and at the very mention of the word Calvinism are immediately repulsed and reject it as a system invented by man. The problem is, most, like I did, do not fully understand what it is. Simply put, Calvinism was a point by point response to 5-points of beliefs laid out by the Remonstrants (The 5 Articles of Remonstrance), followers of Jacobus Arminius. Those points, known as Arminianism, were rejected and considered heresy at the Synod of Dort (1618). The subsequent response was the Canons of Dort, or more commonly called the 5-Points of Calvinism. This debate between the two sides has been well chronicled throughout Church History and continues to this day. It should be noted that this senate, verdict, and response occurred more than 50 years after the death of Calvin, so those who view him with disdain because of Calvinism, do so erroneously. Boettner has written a very helpful book that provides a good introduction into the biblical basis for the 5-point response.