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The Holiness of God
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109 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2005
This is a "one sitting" book that kept me turning the pages until wee hours of the morning. Few authors possess the keen ability to help readers come into a grasp of the nature of God's holiness, but through this book Dr. Sproul (along with his wits and unique sense of humor) is able to help us understand better and transport the reader into the presence of God.

We often hear many talk about how God is love, yet why do fewer ever speak of His holiness and justice? The Holiness of God reminds me yet again that my salvation (through Christ's propitiatory death) is an act of mercy and grace by God (not an obligation), since His absolute holiness demands only justice for my sins. Dr. Sproul helps readers dig deeper beneath a superficial surface of what it means that God is holy--bringing us into a deeper understanding and love of who God is, a greater awe for His absolute holiness, and reverence in worship. As the famous Reformed preacher Jonathan Edwards once wrote: "A true love of God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this."

One of my favorite chapters carries an intriguing title: The Trauma of Holiness. Why and how does holiness invoke trauma? Many other religions have invented god(s) who brought only comfort. Even Sigmund Freud espoused the theory that people invent "god(s)" to help them deal with scary things, to serve as a "crutch," so to speak. In this book Sproul draws a contrast by demonstrating how the one and only true God has certain characteristics distinct from those that would normally be attributed by the common man. Our true God possesses a uniqueness (an awesome "otherness"). After Jesus miraculously calmed the storm in the Sea of Galilee, the disciples felt uncomfortable and terrified (yes, terrified) upon realizing that they, in their sinfulness, were in the presence of the Holy One. What a contrast to those popular man-made ideas of God invented only to bring comfort!

This book helps us to see better the God who is--who not only brings comfort in time of need, invokes our adoration and praise, but also in whose Holy presence drives us to our knees in reverential worship.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2000
This book is unlike any that I have ever read in that it puts the LORD in His rightful place; on the throne, high and lifted up,exalted.
RC Sproul has a wonderful grasp on the Holiness of God. This book is a must read for any Christian who is serious about furthering his or her walk with the Lord. Holiness is not a topic that is preached on, and that is unfortunate, because the Bible tells us that without holiness "no man shall see the Lord." Dr. Sproul's work is compelling, yet easy to understand. I highly recommend this book, and I am willing to discuss it in more detail, so feel free to send me an email.
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69 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2002
Many have commented that this book by RC Sproul represents the pinnacle work of Sproul's illustrious publishing career. Some have heralded this book as being a contemporary classic. I must respectfully dissent from both views. While I certainly hold Sproul in high regard and consider this particular book to be very good, it could have been a little better.
It is important to emphasize that this book has many more strengths than weaknesses. Sproul's discourse on the immensity, from a finite perspective, of contemplating the holiness and 'otherness' of God is outstanding and should be required reading in churches all over America. American evangelicalism has gotten increasingly soft in the opinion of many (me included), with great emphasis being paid to human abilities and worshipping a God of love that is devoid of justice. Sproul squarely and correctly provides much needed balance in this book on these questions. God is sovereign, He is infinite, He is eternal, and He is holy - we are none of these things. It would serve the body of Christ well to sincerely take some time to contemplate these things so that the American church can hopefully return to a very clear theology about who God is, who we are, and who needs who in this scenario.
Sproul's analysis of the trials and tribulations of Martin Luther is also outstanding. It's amazing to me that many everyday Protestants know almost nothing about the most prominent figure of the Reformation, what he believed, what he espoused, and what his theological and personal struggles were. Luther is not God, but He 'wrestled' with God in many ways over the deepest questions of life. Woe to the American church that we don't have many more people willing and wanting to be like Luther in this respect - choosing instead a surface level faith that is blissfully indifferent to the gravity of these issues. I thought Sproul did a wonderful job in contrasting Luther's insatiable hunger for better knowing the things of God with the current yawning condition of the modern church.
Sproul also provides good material on God's justice, His wrath, and how such things cannot be divorced from His love and mercy. His treatment of the interesting similarities of God's dealings with Jacob, Moses, Job, and Paul is very insightful.
Despite these many strengths, I am compelled to give the book 4 stars for two main reasons. First, Sproul's chapter on the 'difficult' passages of the Old Testament struck me as a bit inadequate. More verses could have been analyzed, and the analysis itself could have been significantly more exhaustive. Sproul is correct that the difficult commandments of God in the Old Testament represent a formidable stumbling block for many. But I didn't think that Sproul's analysis did much to address them. Secondly, I felt that Sproul took way too much liberty in his interpretations of Biblical texts and events. Some no doubt disagree, but I don't think it's a good interpretational technique to take a passage of Scripture and recast it in different language in our efforts to prove a point. This type of practice really lends itself to strawman arguments and fundamental misinterpretation. Sproul did this throughout the book, and I often found myself asking, "How does he know the inner thoughts of the writers, or the unwritten aspects of the event in question, etc". I have always thought that it is much better to interpret Scripture in light of what Scripture says, rather than relying on our own ability to theorize about what Scripture does not say and then using those theories to advance some point. Going beyond what Scripture says is every bit as dangerous as ignoring what Scripture does say. Does Sproul do this here? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that he leaves himself open to this charge when he didn't have to.
Overall, I would certainly recommend the book due to its many strengths. But readers should be careful to test Sproul's slangish translations of Scripture and event theorization in light of the Word of God, because this is a real disappointment of the book. Slangish translations of Scripture are common among those theologians who don't hold to the plenary (word for word) inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and instead hold to an inspiration of concepts and big ideas. This view gives them wiggle room to play around with the actual words of Scripture. I would argue that a theologian who holds to plenary level inspiration should not be taking liberty with the text the way that Sproul does here. As a result, his translations should be meticulously scrutinized by the reader for faithfulness to the text. A very good book, but not perfect.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2006
Holiness on God's level is simply incomprehensible ... Sproul is not. God is Holy, man is not ... but ... we must be made Holy.

So ... how far are we from Holiness??? Sproul points out that the distance between man and angels can be hypothetically measured. God said we were created a little less than angels. However, the Holiness distance between man and God is infinite.

Sproul effectively places God's Holiness at the root of the old testament "hard stories" of God's Justice (e.g. Uzzah struck down 'protecting' the Ark, the sons of Aaron vaporized for using the wrong incense) ... these are particularly difficult and frightening acts of God that are seemingly inconsistent with a loving and merciful God (at least for me). Sproul walks you through the seeming paradox quite effectively. No prophet could bear to look upon God's Holiness (they thought they wanted to). Why? ... the incomprehensible distance between man and the Holiness of God is deadly. As Isaiah said ... 'I am undone' ... by mere proximity to the Holy Being.

Sproul gets down to the simple fact that Christ is our only bridge to God's Holiness. Only Christ can reflect the face of God to man. Sproul's rationale for bridging the infinite gap by 'justification through faith' in the Lord Christ is well written.

Holiness is a topic that seems to drag authors into being over wrought. Words simply do not communicate the incomprehensible I suppose. Sproul does an excellent job being readable, understandable and avoiding being over wrought on this heavy topic.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2005
With this being the first book I've read by R.C. Sproul, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew Sproul to be reformed as well as a well respected theologian. I stumbled across this book after listening to a call in talk-radio program. The caller was unsure of his salvation because he was living a life of sin. He wanted so badly to turn from his sins, but didn't feel he had the strength or capacity to do so. I was expecting the talk-show host to recommend a book on sexual addiction or something, but I was surprised to see that he recommended a book on God's Holiness. I was quite shocked. I was so accustomed to preachers telling me to focus on God's love and Grace when we are consumed in sin and want out. I had only heard the extremists who preach "fire and brimstone" talk about God's Holiness. Rarely had I heard God's Holiness preached from the pulpit. I had always heard it mentioned, but never preached.

Because I had never read anything by Sproul, I was expecting to read a condemning book by a dry theologian. I always carried the impression that those who preach about God's Holiness weren't real, honest people. This is because everyone lives a screwed up life, consumed in sin. None of us are any different than the sex addict who can't get seem to get his life straightened out. I had experienced too many campus preachers who preached nothing but "fire and brimstone" and bragged about their self-righteousness. I was expecting a book that was dry, dishonest, and without a hint of God's love and grace. I was wrong.

I was very shocked to see early on the Sproul actually had a personality and even more shocked to see that he had a sense of humor. It seems that Sproul wasn't going to be dry after all. And not only that, but Sproul made it very clear that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He was well aware that he, like me, didn't have his life together either. Sproul was everything but dishonest, and displayed more humility than most "grace and love only" preachers. This brought me a great sense of comfort and trust, because Sproul knew that his readers would become even more aware of their sinfulness as they tackled the subject of God's Holiness.

This lead me to believe that those who typically preach God's Holiness, and seem to act as if they have no sin in their lives, actually have had no realizations towards God's Holiness. Think about Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah chapter 6:5

"My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!"

When Isaiah approached God's Holiness, he became more aware than ever of his sinfulness. No man can enter God's presence and walk away with any concept of self-righteousness. It just doesn't happen. Those who truly understand God's holiness are those who are more aware of their sinfulness and depravity than anyone else. This reminds me of the tax collector in Luke, who

"dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, `O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.'"

Contrast this to the Pharisee who prayed:

"I thank you, God, than I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don't sin, I don't commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income." (Luke 18:11-13)

I think the church needs to focus more on God's holiness. Why do we avoid such a crucial subject? Why can't we be more honest and admit to the world that our God isn't only a loving God? Why can't we honestly tell people that our God is also holy and wrathful? I think many people are shy of the Old Testament because they've only been taught love and grace their whole lives. And this makes them afraid to even look at the Old Testament. This subject needs to be emphasized more now than ever! Its time to stop viewing God as a giant teddy bear and see Him for who He really is!

In conclusion, I strongly recommend "The Holiness of God" to anyone who is seeking an honest study at a subject that is very much avoided in the church today. I truly believe that you, like me, can relate to the author and tackle this intriguing subject. And in the end, you will see God for who He really is and gain a greater sense of worship for the one who created you and saved you from the wrath that we all deserve.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
I told someone recently that I was reading The Holiness of God by Sproul and they looked at me like I was an alien. They responded with surprise that I had not read it and went on to rave about the book. Sometimes books get a bit too much pub and then don't live up to the hype; however, this book is not one of them. The Holiness of God is classic Sproul and it is a much needed message for the church of any age, but in particular, the message of a transcendently glorious God is desperately needed today.

Sproul starts off the book in a chapter entitled The Holy Grail. It is in this chapter where he recounts a story of how God forever changed his life by revealing the majestic holiness of the God to him. From this point on, Sproul says he was captivated by the holiness of God.

The chapter on Isaiah 6 entitled Holy, Holy, Holy is just plain awesome. Sproul combines transcendent theology with passion and delivers it in a clear, lucid manner that is engaging to the soul.

For example,

"To be undone means to come apart at the seams, to be unraveled.... [It is] personal disintegration.... [Isaiah] was considered by his contemporaries as the most righteous man in the nation. He was respected as a paragon of virtue. Then he caught one sudden glimpse of the holy God. In that single moment, all of his self-esteem was shattered. In a brief second he was exposed, made naked beneath a gaze of the absolute standard of holiness. As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to maintain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed--morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed."

"There is a special kind of phobia from which we all suffer. It is called xenophobia. Xenophobia is a fear (and sometimes hatred) of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. God is the ultimate object of our xenophobia. He is the ultimate stranger. He is the ultimate foreigner. He is holy, and we are not."

This is just great stuff. And it serves as a timely tonic for our current age that seems to have chiseled a God who looks and acts more like our little buddy than the transcendently enthroned King of kings.

Sproul also writes about Christ's holiness. In the chapter, The Trauma of Holiness, Sproul shows how Christ demonstrates his utter differentness and superiority over everything by calming the ferocious storms. Peter's response should be the model, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5.8).

My only criticism is Sproul's insertion of a chapter on Martin Luther. I was jamming along, just drinking up the radiant holiness that this book was warming me with and then...bam....a chapter on Luther. Now, I have nothing against Luther, but, it just seemed a bit unnecessary and out of place. Perhaps others disagree.

Overall, I think the book is a must read. I am catapulting it to the `top-ten' status.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2006
I believe that R.C. Sproul's book, "The Holiness of God", is one of the most important theological books of this generation and that history will prove that to be true. Many reasons are obvious---the easy readability, the engaging humor, the correct use of many biblical texts, the fascinating look into the personal accounts of Martin Luther's life and how that relates to one of the most critical periods in world history (the Reformation), Sproul's masterful exposition of Isaiah's encounter with the living God in Isaiah 6, and the ease at which Sproul is able to unpack and distribute to the reader a true sense of that unfathomable yet foundational characteristic of our awesome God, namely, His holiness.

The reader is left with a deeper, more profound understanding of God's holiness and His separateness from us and, at the same time, a greater conviction of his own depravity and unworthiness before our God. This results in true spiritual growth in Christlikeness (as the Scriptures demand) as one's understanding of God's character is challenged and his sinful heart is exposed in order to be confessed and cleansed.

The truths of this book truly set me free (to love and worship my Lord as never before) when my unsaved father died unexpectedly last year and I wrestled (as Jacob did with the angel of the Lord) with my Heavenly Father and His supposed "injustice" in sovereignly sending my earthly father to an eternal hell. I read it, prayed, cried, and agonized for months until the truth of God's holiness and justice pierced my aching heart with peace and acceptance. My God became bigger, more sovereign, more just, and more loving and merciful in my eyes as I more deeply realized the truth (as Romans 9 teaches), "What right does the pot have to say to the Potter, this is unfair?". No explanation necessary.

I must highly recommend this book and suggest that you give a copy to everyone you know, believer or unbeliever, if you want them to be exposed to the foundational truth of God's awe-inspiring holiness and to be transformed into His likeness.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
I cannot recommend this book more highly. Of all of the aspects of the character of God, R.C. Sproul confronts what is arguably the most important for us as created beings to understand. I have yet to talk to someone who has this book who does not also refer back to it time and again to grow in some fresh way in grasping the holiness of God. It is provocative on many levels only because of Sproul's fidelity to the Word of God, the Bible. It is written on the level of a primer but broaches subjects many scholars shy away from. For most, reading this book will change your understanding and relationship with God.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 1999
For those who are looking for a book which will give them warm fuzzies of God and his relationship with man, this is not it! This book acurately describes the holiness and sovereignty of God in a way which no doubt, many modern readers may find troubling. Man's response is now (as it has always been) either one of hatred to this infinitely holy and sovereign God, or one of adoration. soli Deo gloria!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2005
I have been an avid reader my whole life. In the last several years, since I first heard the Lord's call in my heart, I have read many, many books on theology and apologetics. Other than the Bible itself, there are two books which have had the biggest impact on my thinking and on my faith. One is "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. The other is "The Holiness of God" by R.C. Sproul. This book is absolutely brilliant. It was penned by a man who is obviously very much aware of his own profane nature in the presence of a holy God. Any Christian who is serious about his or her faith needs to read this book. I'd recommend it for non-Christians as well with the following caveat: it will hurt, but it will give you a real understanding of the God whose justice demands payment and punishment from every one of us, and by whose mercy sent His own Son to make the payment that we never could in a thousand lifetimes. It brings home the awesome mystery of what holiness is, what it means that God is holy, and what it means when He tells us to be holy. It brings you face to face with God the Father, about whom we sometimes forget as we focus on the Son.

Sproul cites examples, from the Bible and others, of persons who have come to know God as He really is, and what their reactions were. Martin Luther, trying to make himself holy but failing miserably, and in so doing coming to know the only Holy God. Isaiah, crying out, "I am undone!" Simon Peter, seeing Jesus calm the storm by His very voice and crying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" He also relates his own first profound experience of God's holiness. With a degree in philosophy, he appeals to the thinker, but he also makes his points in a way that the average layperson can understand.

Another important thing Sproul does throughout the book is to define "churchy" words like "righteous," "woe," "glory," and of course, "holy". Words that don't spring up in everyday conversation and tend to call up images of fire-and-brimstone preachers are properly used and defined, when some other authors and even some biblical translations avoid them because they sound too archaic. He calls us to realize the importance of understanding these words as they were originally used, as modern synonyms often don't have the same profound meanings.

My recommendation: Go ahead and buy it. If you check it out from a library, you'll end up buying it anyway.
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