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on September 1, 2005
Doug Wilson is a bit of lightening rod. Whether it is the good people of Moscow, ID or his fellow Reformed brethren, Wilson has a tendency to cause people to either love him or hate. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy him - it hasn't always been that way, but I had the opportunity to meet him in person and he exemplified Christian humility. He, in a sense, has a Pauline aspect to him and his writing, "strong in letter", although I wouldn't call him weak in person. With that said, I will get into this review:

First, please read the book and not simply buy into some of the negative reviews. The reviews I have read, for the most part, are great distortions of the contents of this book. For example, two negative reviews here ("Right-Wing Propaganda" and "A Great Defense of R.C. Theology") are completely misguided. So, if someone claims that Wilson believes in "baptismal regeneration" or absolutizes the statement "Christians can fall away" demonstrates that they have not read Wilson charitably, but looking to find fault and responding merely to words rather than the argument. Within the context of this book, his language is clear. Next, this book has nothing to do with "right-wing" anything. Please, please, please read the book.

Second, the contents: In Part I, in order to lay the ground work, Wilson goes through the "Bona Fides" (Calvinistic, Evangelical, Reformation, Tradition & Systematics, & Individualism). Anyone that believes Wilson denies "justification by faith alone", "Calvinism", or thinks he believes in "baptismal regeneration" simply has not read this section closely. He clearly holds to the WCF respecting the sovereignty of God and imputation of Christ's righteousness. Part II delves into the "Covenant, Church, & Sacraments". I wish he would tweak certain things here and there, but as an introduction to the "objectivity of the covenant", this section serves as a suitable helper, especially reintroducing many within the Church to the Reformational view of the sacraments (not sacerdotalism). Part III covers "Apostasy and Assurance". Here he discusses Assurance, Apostasy, Heretics and the Covenant, Sons of Belial, False Brothers, Blessings and Curses. This is an important section, because he helps with many of the practical implications of the "objectivity of the covenant", which "Reformed", as usually set up as simply 5 points, will often break down. The fourth and final section discusses "Faith and Good Works". This section will assure anyone that believes he denies justification by "faith alone", and will cause the Reformed, which are often too influenced by Luther hermeneutic, to rejoice in the Torah of the Lord. He ends the book with a brief critique of the "New Perspective on Paul", which is often accused of being a part of. This should make that point moot, but since enough people have said he is, it has some sticking power.

Third, acquire the book and read it for yourself. The Scriptures, I believe, are opened up more clearly through the lens of the covenant rather than the "five points" proper. For those that want to protest, claiming this is a recent phenomenon must recognize that Dordt was only 400 years ago. The "five points", in light of Church history, is relative newcomer. With that said, there is nothing in this book that denies the essence of the Reformation, but it will help you gain a rich understanding of the Reformation and, more importantly, your Bible.

This is a good book, popularly written, and will allow you to get into the nut and bolts of Wilson's thinking.
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on January 12, 2013
Wilson hits a home run in this easy to read book on reformed theology! The breakdown of the book, see below, was very helpful to understand the flow of the argumentation. In Part I he simply lays down the foundation that he is truly reformed. From there he begins to systematically work through where he "differs" with the Westminster Confessions of Faith (WCF). Of course Wilson does not believe he is in disagreement with the WCF, it would take someone much more familiar with the WCF than myself to be the judge of that. He asserts time and again that he agrees with much of what the WCF teaches. The problem, Wilson believes, is in the one sided interpretation of the WCF which does not represent the fullness of the WCF. Countless quotes are given from the WCF and other theologians. Wilson takes his task in affirming his position seriously and makes very persuasive arguments. I would highly recommend this book for anyone in the reformed faith. Wilson, in my opinion, has laid out a great case for the so-called Federal Vision. Now I know there are some disagreements in the FV, but if most of the FV guys are generally in Wilson's camp on theology then i cant understand what the big fuss is all about.

Book Breakdown:

Part I: Introduction & Bona Fides

Part II: Covenant, Church, and Sacraments

Part III: Apostasy and Assurance

Part IV: Justification and Good Works

He also includes a brief discussion on The New Perspective of Paul in the Appendix.

While Wilson lays out a great case, it would be nice to see a book or debate on this subject. Maybe we can see that in the future

You can find me @ryanraysr for other reviews and info.
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on July 29, 2004
This is a great work that needs to be read by everyone who submits to the Westminster Confession. As the previous reviewer stated, for too long Presbyterians have comprised and essentially become Baptists. For instance, many of the Southern Presbyterians viewed our children just liked the rest of the unconverted! This is not traditional Reformed teaching, and I am glad to see Wilson (who is an ex-Baptist, by the way) counter this.

Wilson goes on to show that real apostasy happens in the covenant. This is a very controversial topic, but it is one that needs to be discussed. The analogy of the husband is amazing, and it goes to show how that baptized "Christians" who are in heresy or licentious living are adulterating the Covenant for which the were brought into! It is not that they never were *really* in the Covenant, but the fact that they were is what makes their actions so horrendous.

Wilson also does a great job to show that there is much more to "Covenant" than individual election. This is the view of Baptists and many Presbyterians, but is not historic Reformed teaching. We cannot see election, but we can see Covenant. This is why the Covenant is objective, and everyone who receives Trinitarian baptism is brought into the New Covenant and is objectively a Christian.

Some say that Wilson is denying the perseverance of the saints. This is not at all the case, however. He plainly states that it is by grace that we persevere. Many people are reading Wilson with a "Hermeneutics of Suspicion", and see what they want to see.

The appendix on the New Perspective is very short, so it didn't adequately deal with the topic, however, it wasn't intended to be an in depth response. It was intended to show that he is not an advocate of the New Perspective as the RPCUS erroneously contended.

Another aspect of the book that is excellent is his critique of the language of the "visible and invisible" church of the Westminster Confession. He opts for more Redemptive-Historical terminology with the "historic and the eschatological" church. This is more biblical theologically informed than the "visible and invisible church" terminology.

This is a terrific book, and needs to be read by everyone who loves the Reformed faith. We need to realize that the Reformed faith is not centered around TULIP, but around Covenant. Many contemporary "Reformed" have compromised historic Reformed teaching. Thank you Doug Wilson for showing us that.
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on July 23, 2014
This book is really about the wheat and the tares.

Wilson is asking the Church to stop playing God as though eternal election was visible to us here and now.

Moreover, covenantal objectivity is a vital part in restoring discipline in the church.

Disclaimer: This book might not make much sense to a Baptist. The audience is assumed to be paedo.
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on July 4, 2012
In this book Doug Wilson gives a more biblical understanding of the covenant without surrendering a robust calvinism. He resolves the tension between the "apostasy" and "assurance" verses by returning to a more biblical view of the covenant. He teaches we cannot function by trying to discern the eternal degree or invisible work of God, but instead must function in light of the covenant calling sinners to covenental faithfulness. The Covenant is objective, it can be seen and photographed. Everyone that has been baptized into the triune God is in the covenant and obliged to keep it on the terms of blessings and curses. "Christians" does not equal "elect" or "saved". This is a robust Calvinistic view of the covenant with the overarching theme of Sola Gratia and Sola Deo Gloria!
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on May 4, 2004
For far too long, the richness of the reformed faith has been smothered by those who would make us Baptists. As a PCA presbyterian, I believe (with only a few exceptions) that the Westminster Confession fo Faith is a true and accurate representaion of what the Bible says about providence, salvation, the Church, etc. This naturally includes the sacraments. In addressing this topic, our confession says that Baptism is "a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life."
The Confession clearly teaches that Baptism is more than just a symbol, but an actual means of grace. Without being superstitious about it, we believe that baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). We don't beleive that there is magic in the water, or that baptism works "ex opere operato", but we do believe it does something.
Given that, Wilson makes the case for the idea that a "Christian" can be cut off from Christ and lost for all eternity. Before he does so, however, he is very careful to affirm the 5 points of the Synod of Dordt, stressing that he still believes in unconditional election and in the perseverance of the saints. His point is that those who are part of the Church, but not elect from before the foundation of the world, are still genuine parts fo the church, covenentally attached to Christ, and are subsequently cast off for all eternity. In short, he makes a compelling case for the fifteenth chapter of John.
Wilson redefines the word "Christian" to include all those who have been baptized in the name of the triune God. This is far more consistent with Scripture, which uses the word Christian only 3 times, always in an objective sense. (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, 1 Pt. 4:16).
His comparison of the word "Christian" to the word "husband" is brilliant. He draws the following parallel: If a husband is cheating on his wife, is he still a husband? Of course he is. In fact, that is what makes his actions so wrong! In discussing an adulterous husband, no one would say, "Well, at least he's married!", or "He isn't really married.". Being married is what makes his crime so disturbing. Likewise, if a person is covenentally attached to Christ through baptism, calling them a Christian simply describes the nature of the covenental relationship, not whether or not the person is being faithful. Someone who is adulterous in their relationship to Christ is still a "christian" in the objective sense. In fact, that is why their actions are so disturbing. If we say that Lesbian bishops are not "Christians", we have given up the means by which we may charge them as heretics.
Wilson's book made me think like few others have. A warning is in order, however: If you are a Baptist, Campbellite, etc., you will not agree with a word in this book. If you are a presbyterian who believes his own confession, you should agree wholeheartedly with nearly every word.
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on April 21, 2006
When I finished this most controversial book, I looked up from its pages and thought, "What's to disagree about? This sounds like what I have always understood to be the reformed faith!" Those that disagree with the book do not understand the high sacramentalism of their own Westminster standards. Wilson says nothing that the Bible, nor the WCF already say. What has happened in the reformed world is this: in the wake of the 2nd Great Awakening, presbyterians lost their high covenant theology for a Zwinglian-Baptistic-pietistic theology that demanded confessions of faith for covenant children and we lost our belief in the efficacy of the sacraments particularly baptism. Wilson's book is sure to charge the pietist mind with loomings of Rome; I would urge those offended to restudy the confession, be converted or go down the street to the local Baptist church and be done with it.
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on March 8, 2013
This book was an eye open to me when I first read it. So grateful for it.

It is clear, biblical, and objective.
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on December 31, 2007
It's difficult to express how saddened I am to read how far from the Reformed message, for which so many Christians were martyred, Douglas Wilson has strayed. One reviewer says all that distinguishes Wilson's theology from Catholicism is its lack of purgatory. To be fair, he also omitted the Pope, but he won't survive long without him; he's on the same course that other ex-Reformed "theologians" like Scott Hahn and Gary Matatics have taken to Rome. Of course, since the real issue isn't the Pope vs. Scripture, but Scripture vs. an infallible interpreter (the Mormon prophet, the board of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, etc. are other competitors for the title), perhaps Wilson will claim the position for himself. The tone of his book, with its inconsistent but dogmatic definitions, suggests he might. [Rome, by the way, cannot appeal to Scripture to defend the Papacy, since it defends Papal authority on grounds that private interpretation of Scripture is unreliable. Any appeal to Scripture, therefore, is circular. The Pope is the authority because Scripture says so; Scripture's testimony is true because the Pope says it is.] Much of Wilson's book is written with the same circular logic, totally ignoring Scripture. Reformed theology has never taught that Infant Baptism makes one a Christian except in a symbolic sense; it is the equivalent of circumcision. All Wilson is doing is making an argument against infant baptism to the delight of those supporting believer's baptism (those who are of the age of reason). So, no, a Muslim cannot objectively identify a Christian; he can only identify someone who CLAIMS to be a Christian. (Writing this sentence simply reminds me of how shallow this book is; did Wilson ever take a course in logic?) Moreover, if one is required to perform works to safeguard one's salvation, when is one ever sure of salvations? (The answer is "never".) As for losing salvation once given by God, let's look at the Scriptural support: John 10:28: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." John 10:29: "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." Phil 1:6: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." And, who can separate us from the love of God? asks Paul. After listing all the great dangers (life, death, famine, tribulation, demons, he adds, "nor anything else in all creation, [and that includes ourselves, my note] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Finally, Paul refers us to the "Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption," (Eph 4:30) a seal being a guarantee, a mark of ownership. And, no wonder, for we are also told "You are not your own; you were bought at a price." (1 Cor 6:19b-20a) Now perhaps Douglas Wilson knows someone stronger than God the Father, or can explain why Paul was wrong, and how the Holy Spirit can fail in His mission as a guarantee of our redemption. As for me, I think I'll put my faith in them rather than him to assure perseverance of the Saints -- not on our strength but on God's. He has totally misunderstood the role of baptism and works. A final note on Wilson's fuzzy thinking: The analogy of the adulterous husband is a false one. Whether a person is a Christian depends on God, not the person. Whether a person is a husband depends on whether he takes marital vows, not what he does with them. That's why John was so emphatic when he wrote in 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us." To make his point absolutely clear, he adds, "For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their going SHOWED that none of them belonged to us." Please note that these were not merely nominal Christians but prominent members of the early church, well-respected men. Based on the historical context, some scholars believe they were perhaps even church elders who became corrupted. They may have been as prominent as Douglas Wilson himself, their names lost to history only because they were not really of us. Note that John never says they stopped calling themselves Christians. How many corrupt televangelists bring discredit on the Body of Christ by using his name? Can a Muslim know objectively that he is a Christian just because he claims the name? In the current Presidential election, Mitt Romney, the member of a polytheistic faith claims the name Christian. Does that make him one? I'm not questioning his morals, by the way. I was Legislative Director for a Mormon congressman for three years and would put his integrity up against almost anyone in politics today. My point is that Wilson's measurement of a Christian -- someone who calls himself one -- isn't God's standard. This is a layman's review. For a more scholarly one, I recommend Not Reformed at All: Medievalism in "Reformed" Churches (Trinity Paper,)
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on February 15, 2010
The author begins in an intriguing fashion by acting as though he is willing to challenge any non-Scriptural confession, but he never identifies who he is reacting against (after all, I might like to check out the other side of the story). He also fails to fully explain his main thesis ("objectivity of the covenant"), and eventually he just devolves into arrogant sectarianism (while acting like he's taking the "high road"). The early chapters seem well-written, but the later chapters are filled with confusing sound-bites -- didn't the publisher's editor read the whole book?
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