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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating Scholarship on Sovereignty,
This review is from: Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace (Paperback)This stimulating and scholarly book was condensed from the two-volume "The Grace of God, the Bondage of the Will" published by Baker in 1995. Fourteen of those original chapters are included here, dealing with three areas of concern: 1. Biblical Analyses, 2. Theological Issues, and 3. Pastoral Reflections. Contributors include such renowned scholars, theologians, and pastors as Thomas Schreiner, D.A. Carson, J. I. Packer, John Piper, and Wayne Grudem.
The book commences with a very satisfying look at the sovereignty of God in the Old Testament, worked out carefully by Raymond Ortland Jr. Tom Schreiner's chapter on Romans 9 is likewise excellent and persuasive. Piper's chapter "Are There Two Wills in God?" is worthy of careful consideration for die-hard Calvinists. He offers a reconciliation between sovereign election and God's desire for all to be saved that is interesting . . . although I am not persuaded that his interpretation of I Tim. 2:4 is correct! Wayne Grudem's careful study of the Hebrews warning passages and the doctrine of perseverance is of special value. I highly commend it. His arguments are convincing and (I think) virtually impossible to refute. Packer's chapter on God's love is typically clear and concise and witty - but maybe a little too short for a book of this caliber. Carson's reflections on assurance offer food for thought by tying the issue together with other pertinent areas of theology. Baugh's look at foreknowledge and Schreiner's look at the Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient grace are also of value. Sam Storms, Jerry Bridges, and Ed Clowney offer helpful thoughts on the more pastoral issues.
The book is of special value in that it interacts well with opposing views and especially takes on Clark Pinnock and company who wrote "The Grace of God, the Will of Man" which is an attempted defense of Arminian theology. I think any theologian (from either side!) would benefit from a careful perusal of these pages.
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Available,
This review is from: Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace (Paperback)If you are looking for single, sustained, scholarly, and Biblical defense of predestination, then this book is a must-read. Several scholars join forces in this work to show that Arminianism is Biblically indefensible. Thomas Schreiner argues in his essay that Romans 9 teaches "individual election unto salvation," and his presentation is, in my mind at least, irrefutable. John Piper shows that the Calvinistic God is loving, and sincerely desires the salvation of all men, but still ordains only some to heaven. His essay on the "two wills of God" is one of the most enlightening articles I have read. Wayne Grudem spends a massive fifty pages exegeting passages in Hebrews that Arminians have claimed show that genuine Christians can lose salvation. His conclusion is that the Reformed doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints" stands firm, despite the warning passages of the book of Hebrews. S. M. Baugh's essay on the Biblical meaning of the term "foreknowledge" is more than a rehashing of the traditional Calvinistic prooftexts, and offers some fresh insights into the meaning of this word.
Overall, this book was well-written, scholarly, and Biblical. I highly recommend it. While not an easy-read, it is one of the best defenses of Calvinism I have encountered, and it puts most Arminian parallels to shame. For links to essays and articles written by John Piper and other Calvinists on predestination, I recommend the site,
This website is a massive resource of arguments for and against Calvinism, and is the best I have seen on this issue.
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, challenging explanation of Reformed theology,
This review is from: Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace (Paperback)This book is a condensation of "The Grace of God, The Bondage of the Will," which was a 2 volume work written to defend Calvinism, and as a response to 2 books by Clark Pinnock: "The Grace of God" and "The Grace of God, the Will of Man."
A few chapters have been removed to make the original into one book, but most of the terrific articles remain.
To many people today, Calvinism is an anachronism. After the 11th September outrage, How can people take a teaching seriously which proclaims that God is good, and yet completely in control of the world? Could a good God really be all-powerful, and yet allow (or even ordain) atrocities like that?
The contributors show that a proper understanding of the Bible involves believing that God is indeed sovereign, yet also loving, just and good.
John Piper's helpful chapter asks the question "Are there 2 wills in God?" And then seeks to show that God does indeed "fulfil all his will" and yet "is not willing that any should perish."
S.M. Baugh discusses the meaning of "foreknowledge" in the Bible, and argues persuasively that God's foreknowledge must mean a lot more than knowing what is going to happen in the future.
Jerry Bridges shows that a belief in the sovereignty of God has practical implications for everyday living, while Samuel Storms explains how it is worth praying to a God who has already decreed "the end from the beginning." In fact, he argues that there is not much point in praying to a God who is not in complete control of his world.
This book has been one of the most helpful explanations of Calvinism which I have read. Highly recommended.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Presents the Calvinist viewpoint well,
Space does not allow for the detailed discussion each article deserves, so this review focuses on a few articles (particularly those other reviews have overlooked) and make some general observations on the book's contribution to the perennial predestination verses free will debate.
The collection kicks-off with Ray Ortlund's case studies on God's sovereignty in the Old Testament. In doing so it nearly shoots itself in the foot, at least for this reviewer! Whilst Ortlund's rather pugnacious article makes some reasonable exegetical points concerning Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1, his section on Jonah perpetuates the misunderstanding surrounding this great prophet. To call the first true missionary to the Gentiles (who, incidently, had a 100% success rate) a "nasty, sulky prophet...clearly he is the bad example we are not to follow" is a staggering insult. If apologising is in order in Heaven, Orlund will be joining what will probably be a very long queue to the prophet Jonah!
Robert Yarborough contributes a more conciliatory essay on Sovereignty in John (a response to Grant Osborne's thoughtful essay in Grace of God). Donald Westblade handles the Calvinist view of election in an equally thoughtful manner, but in not avoiding the stumbling stone of double predestination, for this reviewer he inadequately deals with the implications of divine foreknowledge.
Wayne Grudem's essay on Hebrews 6, as other reviewers have noted, is a highlight of the collection. Whilst Hebrews 6 is not the only problem passage for Perseverance to be found in the Bible (Ezekiel 18:24-26, 2 Peter 2: 20-22 and even John 15: 5-6 spring to mind), it is perhaps the most sustained teaching in the New Testament contradicting "Once Saved Always Saved". Grudem argues well for the passage to be read in a Calvinist light. Though he crowns his argument with the old cliché of "the backslider was never saved", the article ingratiates itself by neither quoting the Westminster Confession, nor trashing opposing views and by keeping its Biblical focus on the passage in hand, rather than wandering off into the warm, sunlit uplands of Romans 9-11, Ephesians 1-2 and certain parts of the Gospel of John. Would that more Calvinists took this approach!
Four articles deserve special consideration as between them they cover what is, in effect, the keystone of 5-point Calvinist doctrine. If Bruce Ware can prove Effectual Calling and Grace (those who are elect in Christ will be saved come what may), Thomas Schreiner can disprove Prevenient Grace (God's grace is extended to all, it is down to us to appropriate it in salvation - a key part of Wesleyan Arminianism), J.I Packer reconcile God's love being for all, but only saving the elect (without the elect having to do anything about it), and John Piper prove that there are two wills in God, then 5-point Calvinism has won the day and the emperor is truly clothed.
Though the arguments of these four authors are strong, and certainly scriptural, in the opinion of this reviewer, they are not compelling. Schreiner's comment that, "The scandal of the Calvinist system is that ultimately the problems posed cannot be fully resolved," sounds like an admission of defeat. He does not adequately resolve the passages which state that salvation (and hence God's grace) is offered to all, such as John 1:9-13 (note how easy it is to assume v.13 is predestinarian if you have already decided it to be so!) and John 3: 14-18. Ware uses scripture rather selectively in his defence of ECG. He admits that there are problems with passages such as Rom 10:13 but doesn't follow them through adequately. Packer writes a characteristically pithy article, but doesn't resolve the tension inherent in the question of whether God's love can still be for all in the face of limited atonement. The only true Calvinist resolution remains to go down Pink's route and make God's love truly selective. This would satisfy logic, but do a disservice to the Biblical revelation of God! Piper, probably Calvinism's leading apologist, rests too strongly on secondary sources. I also agree with another reviewer that he is wrong about 1 Tim 4:2. He is hamstrung by a false dichotomy between whether God's highest commitment is to his glory, or to a love relationship with the saved. Why should God have to choose - he is God after all!
Don Carson's article on Assurance is characteristically thoughtful, well written and rounded. In summarising Compatibilism (an attempt to reconcile the full Biblical revelation of God's character with 5-point Calvinism) Carson inadvertently reveals the problem: God's character as revealed in Jesus Christ through the Bible is too rich and multifaceted to fit into the confines of a theological system, even one as established as Calvinism. For this reason Still Sovereign is unlikely to be the last word on the subject.
Still Sovereign is a response to The Grace of God and the Will of Man, a collection of essays edited by Clark Pinnock in 1989. If time allows, reading the two volumes in parallel is highly recommended. As Grace of God is pre-Openness Pinnock (just - the germination of the Open Theist seed is obvious, and co-Open Theists Richard Rice and John Sanders feature prominently), the response in Sovereign is more measured and less knee-jerk than much of what has been published more recently. It is also a valuable introduction (and summary) of many of the contributors' theology, as well as contemporary 5-point Calvinist thought.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. I read it through to the end and found myself agreeing with quite a lot of it - and reading other parts with gritted teeth. Where it succeeds (where, I am sorry to report, Grace of God fails), is to keep its focus on the Bible, rather than appeal to philosophy. Still Sovereign's contributors are given enough space to develop their arguments, and are not constrained by the editor. Calvinism remains the majority view in evangelicalism, and this book explains it well.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the scholars are saying,
By A Customer
"An important restatement of the orthodox understanding of God's sovereignty in the face of serious challenges to that doctrine in the contemporary church."--Douglas Moo, Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"American evangelicals often resort to polemics, power-plays, and politics to deal with dissenting opinions in their midst rather than using polite but convincing refutation from scholars. This volume is a pleasant exception to this trend, bringing back into print a number of outstanding essays reflecting a biblical and Calvinist approach to the sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience of God. The ball is now clearly in the court of the "openness of God" movement to show that their perspectives are better grounded in Scripture."--Craig L. Blomberg, Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
"These essays return the discussion of divine sovereignty to its proper home where it matters most - the reverent reflection on God's saving grace and effectual love, in which dogmatics issues in doxology - and root the practice, prayer, and preaching of God's Lordship over all of life squarely in the biblical witness." --Kevin Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, The Divinity School, Trinity International University
"This book makes a compelling case that Calvinist soteriology is biblical soteriology, and in so doing secures for us a view of God that is awesome and entirely adequate for the dilemmas and pains of our postmodern world." --David F. Wells, Academic Dean, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A God Honoring Treatise on Sovereignty,
This one volume, 2000 edition is a series of fourteen chapters taken from the original 1995 two volume edition and was written by thirteen authors (Thomas R. Schreiner is the author of two of the essays). In the Preface, the editors apologize for having to omit certain chapters because of space limitations in the one volume edition but assure the reader "that these essays continue to contribute much needed argumentation for a view of God that displays his majesty, glory, and sovereignty most fully and most faithfully."
The authors seek to demonstrate from Scripture the solid Biblical basis for Calvinism and the Reformed teachings on sovereignty, election, foreknowledge, and perseverance. They examine the Calvinist position and compare it to the Arminian position and show how the Calvinist position is better supported by Scripture.
The essays are divided into three classifications: Biblical Analyses, Theological Issues, and Pastoral Reflections. The section on Biblical Analyses includes seven of the fourteen essays and focuses on what the Bible reveals on the questions of God's sovereignty, election, the will of God, foreknowledge, and perseverance of the saints. Biblical Analyses seeks to show support from both the Old and New Testaments for the doctrines of Calvinism. It covers topics such as God's sovereignty in the Old Testament, divine election in the Gospel of John as well as the Pauline epistles, perseverance, foreknowledge, and the problem areas in Romans 9-11 and Hebrews 6: 4-6. Theological Issues has four chapters and covers effectual calling and grace, prevenient grace, assurance, and God's love as universal and particular.
The book concludes with the Pastoral Reflections section which has three chapters and seeks to address the impact of Calvinism on ones ministering to a congregation. It is divided into three parts which include the impact of sovereignty in everyday life, the place of prayer and evangelism, and the preaching ministry in a Calvinist environment. The authors of this section seek to show that Calvinism should promote a greater enthusiasm in all of these areas, not less. Although the book does not have a bibliography, it has a large number of quotations, footnotes and Bible references. The emphasis is on the Bible's position on the subject being examined. The book has three indexes at the end, one each on persons, subjects and Scriptures.
This book promotes the concept that God is completely sovereign in all things and works all things after the counsel of His own will. It further represents mankind as totally unwilling and unable to come to God, left to its own devices; with the only hope for redemption being God's unilateral effort to redeem a number specified by God alone for salvation. God then effectually calls those individuals who are enabled to believe in Jesus Christ as their savior and given full assurance that their place in His family is unalterably secured for all eternity.
Scripture is used extensively to show a consistent Biblical basis for each position. The book is divided into a series of 14 essays that address areas of inquiry starting with the Old Testament basis for the assertion of God's sovereignty. It is interesting to note that six of the thirteen contributors got their PhD's from European universities, with two PhD's from secular universities in the United States and one PhD candidate from another secular university in the United States. Despite what might be seen as a heavily biased background in liberal academia, the writers are all solidly orthodox and conservative in their Calvinist/Reformed theology.
The writers give a considerable amount of space to the Arminian view; on the subject of God's foreknowledge, S. M. Baugh in chapter 7 quotes Clark H. Pinnock's assertion in his book Grace of God "Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God." Baugh concludes that the glory of man's free will is more important to Pinnock than God's omniscience. There is, it seems to me, a certain perversity to man's ongoing effort to maximize man and minimize God.
This book should be a delight and a joy for all those who have made peace with, and rejoice in the sovereignty of God. Page after page is filled with words and thoughts that honor and glorify God. Who would have thought a book on Calvinism could be such a page turner; I found myself looking forward to getting back to the book each time I was able to resume reading it. Each essay seemed to address significant topics which had been objects of personal reflection and meditation on earlier occasions in my life. Fred G. Zaspel in his review of this book said: "One of the few good things that has come from the rise of "openness theology" is the new wave of its critics who have rallied in outspoken defense of historic, biblical truth. This is one of those books." He goes on to say "My favorite are in the exegetical section of the book, but all the essays are consistently good and helpful and to the point."
Having never even seen the two volume edition, I have no idea what has been omitted from the present volume; it seems to me the major points have been covered. For me the greatest joy was in reading the Biblical Analyses essays, the same as Zaspel's exegetical section; I found the writers words honoring and glorifying the Lord to be very gratifying. This was on the level of a devotional which left my spirits high and left me rejoicing in the God of my salvation. I can appreciate how one who has not made the transition from Arminian free will might have real problems with this book; it is also possible that the Arminian reader might find the Biblical proof needed to turn and recognize God's sovereignty in all of the affairs of men.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Comes To Pass Except By His Word,
(IT IS ENOUGH THAT HE SPEAK - JOHN 1)
'We cannot of ourselves conceive of His purposes, nor can we understand how He will accomplish them. We have His word that He will make all things work together for good to them that love Him, that are called according to His purpose. There is no promise God cannot keep, and the time that He will keep it is the time of His appointment.' pp. 328-329
Professor Clowney delivered a redemptive-historical recollection of Him who has determined the end from the beginning, Almighty God, and His efforts through His word, and the power inherent in His word to achieve its purpose in bringing God glory. It is not as if though God, whom has remained silent for an eternity, remains inactive: 'The epochs of the history of redemption are marked by God's watching over His word (Jer 1:11-12). In the interval between promise and fulfillment, the promise often seemed impossible of realization.' Clowney pressed ahead to best the open-theism brigade through an intelligent employment of theology proper: 'Time and time again, indeed, epoch after epoch again, God carries forward His purpose, and the impossibilities that stagger our minds are made tributary to His plan, for they are included in His purpose.'
In bringing the redemptive plan of God to the discussion table, Clowney included his pledge to respect and uphold a familiar commitment to the mysterious outworking of God's secret counsel, particularly in the redemptive power of preaching: 'Biblical preaching cannot compromise the sovereignty of the Lord.' p 326 Clowney denied the popular claims of John C Maxwell to prominence through a pulpit ministry through a firm affirmation that the Word preached is more than a mere display of man's intellect or for man's glory alone, set right by what appears to be a sweeping statement: 'The ministry of the gospel is not a mere leadership role or speaking assignment. It is part of the eternal plan of God to accomplish His purposes.' p 340
John Piper, Chapter 5, Are There Two Wills In God?
(GOD SOMETIMES LETS THAT SIN BE - ISAIAH 45:7)
Piper's proposal is the conventional way to reconcile texts that seem a contradiction in terms - or even possibly in God's nature. His views are in line with historic Christianity, and he draws especially from Jonathan Edwards' work, Concerning The Decrees In General, And Election In Particular, in support thereof. Even though God wills all people to be saved, a fact repeatedly offered as pillar texts by Arminians and which do seem to suggest human self-determination, yet under Piper's closer scrutiny they yield an entirely different outcome: 'There is no mention here of free will.' p 124
'This means that the distinction between terms like 'will of decree' and 'will of command' is not an artificial distinction demanded by Calvinistic theology. The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation.' p 122 Through a whole range of biblical texts Piper shows how God may command one thing, and yet decree another. The one-sided appeal to the universal love of God is only a half-truth, and not as innocuous as it may seem. The real problem is that by nature all men are in a state of apostasy from God, so Piper rightly guards God's reputation from rash charges as 'the first thing to affirm in view of all these texts is that God does not sin.' Ibid Consequently, Piper is certain that it is God who sovereignly orders events, if it seems wise and good to do so, so that sin does come about; yet He does so without "tempting" us to sin (James 1:13), thus doing no violence to the will of His creatures.
"I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create the darkness; I make weal and create woe. I am the LORD who does all these things." Isaiah 45:7
Wayne Grudem, Chapter 6, Perseverance Of The Saints:
(IT IS IMPOSSIBLE - HEBREWS 6)
"enlightened" [Gk: photizo]
Eph 1:18 "that the eyes of your enlightenment"
and Heb 6:4 "having once being enlightened"
: 'Contrary to the assertion of several interpreters, does not carry the sense of 'believed the gospel' or 'came to faith' in these or any of its 11 NT uses. It refers to learning and understanding, and therefore the most that can be confidently claimed for it is that it speaks of those who have heard and understood the gospel. Certainly such intellectual understanding of the facts of the gospel is an important step toward saving faith, but it does not in itself constitute the element of personal trust in Christ that is essential to faith.' pp. 141-2
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God is Sovereign and Man is Responsible: Unresolvable Truth,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.,
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Sovereign,
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I am very pleased with this book.
I like all the books of Thomas R. Schreiner, he is an excellent writer.
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Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace by Thomas R. Schreiner (Paperback - March 1, 2000)