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Ancient Israel: Religious Institutions
Ancient Israel: Religious Institutions
by Roland de Vaux
Edition: Paperback
55 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars THE SECOND VOLUME OF A FRENCH CATHOLIC PRIEST/ARCHAEOLOGIST, August 22, 2014
Father Roland Guérin de Vaux (1903-1971) was a French Dominican priest who led the Catholic team that initially worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was the director of the Ecole Biblique, a French Catholic Theological School in East Jerusalem, and he was charged with overseeing research on the scrolls. His team excavated the ancient site of Khirbet Qumran (1951–1956) as well as several caves near Qumran northwest of the Dead Sea. The accompanying volume to this book is Ancient Israel, Volume 1: Social Institutions.

He wrote in the Introduction, “Though this section has been entitled ‘Religious Institutions’ … the title is not meant to indicate a rigid distinction, for religious penetrated the entire social life of the nation. Circumcision had a religious significance; in the sense defined above, the monarchy was a religious institution; war itself, at least at the beginning of Israel’s history, was a religious act; and Israelite law, even where it concerned profane matters, remained a religious law, and allowed for the possibility of an appeal to the judgment of God. In this section, however, we shall discuss those institutions which are directly concerned with the external worship of God.” (Pg. 271) He adds, “The Israelites worshipped a personal God who intervened in history: Yahweh was the God of the Covenant. Their cult was not the re-enacting of myths about the origin of the world, as in Mesopotamia, nor of nature-myths, as in Canaan… Israel was the first nation to reject extra-temporal myths and to replace them by a history of salvation, and all the echoes of ancient myths which can be perceived in certain passages of the Old Testament do not lessen the originality of this idea.” (Pg. 272) He continues, “The study of cultic institutions is therefore bound up with biblical theology. But it is connected also with the history of religions, where it looks for analogies, for the explanation and perhaps even the origin of rites… we are not concerned to describe how in fact the Israelites practices their religion, for they were, especially at certain periods, allured to a syncretist, or even to a purely pagan, cult… Our aim is rather to describe those cultic institutions which the Old Testament presents at legitimate institutions of true Yahwism. We shall describe first, the places of cultic worship, secondly, the persons involved in it, then the acts prescribed… and lastly, the religious calendar and its feasts.” (Pg. 273)

She says of the “Tent” (i.e., portable sanctuary), “The most ancient texts give no indication what this tent looked like, how it was set up, or what its furnishings were. The Priestly tradition, on the other hand, gives a lengthy description of the Dwelling when Yahweh orders it to be built (Ex 26) and when Moses carries out the order (Ex 36:8-38). This description is very difficult to understand, and it is hard to see how the various elements it mentions can be combined… It is only too obvious that much of this description is merely an idealization; the desert sanctuary is conceived as a collapsible temple, exactly half as big as the Temple of Jerusalem, which served as the model for this reconstruction. However, since everything in the description is made up, and the notion of a ‘prefabricated’ sanctuary clashes with the idea… that the authors of this description could not wholly remove it—that the dwelling was a Tent.” (Pg. 295-296)

Of the Ark, he says, “it seems probable that the Ark and the Cherubim represented the throne of God in the sanctuaries of Shiloh and Jerusalem. But can we say the same of the simple Ark of the desert period, in which there were neither Cherubim nor kapporeth below them? … Yet there is a second interpretation of the Ark’s significance to be considered. According to Dt. 10:1-5… the Ark appears to be nothing more than a small chest containing the tables on which the Ten Commandments were written… as extra-biblical documents show, there is no contradiction involved in the vivid contrast presented by the notions of the Ark as a pedestal or throne and of the Ark as a receptacle.” (Pg. 301)

He says of the “Book of the Law” (2 Ki 22-23), “For a long time critics favoured the idea that this ‘discovery’ was a pious fraud and that Deuteronomy was written to show the lawfulness of Josias’ reform; to-day this opinion has been abandoned. It is quite certain that the work belongs to an older age, and recent studies seem to have proved that it is a collection of Levitical traditions which originated in the Northern kingdom and which were brought to Judah after the fall of Samaria…” (Pg. 338)

He admits of the “Urim and Thummim”: “Nor have we any idea what they looked like. Small pebbles or dice have been suggested, and, more often, little sticks… they were picked out of the pocket of the ephod. Some authors see a parallel in the ancient Arab custom… [of] divining by means of small sticks or arrows, similar to that practiced by the king of Babylon… [but this] may well have nothing to do with the Urim or Thummim used by the priests.” (Pg. 352)

He points out about the Babylonian exile, “The deportations did not, however, empty Palestine of all its inhabitants. Part of the tribe of Levi stayed on in Judah: the members of the line of … the Levites who lived up and down the country were counted among the common people who the Chaldeans left to work the land… Moreover, the community in Judah still kept up its religious and liturgical life in some way; the people continued to frequent the provincial sanctuaries which had been reopened after the failure of Josias’ reform, and the same syncretist cult was practiced there as in the days before the reform. Some of the people, however, remained faithful to the legitimate forms of Yahwism.” (Pg. 387)

He says of the Sabbath, “In Israel, the weekly sabbath was certainly of great antiquity. It is mentioned in the Elohistic Code of the Covenant… in the Yahwistic Code… in the two redactions of the Ten Commandments… and in the Priests’ Code… i.e., in all the traditions of the Pentateuch. And everywhere it is described in the same way, as a seventh day on which may rest after six days of work… The law about the Sabbath is given in both redactions of the Decalogue, and there is no reason for saying that in both cases it is a later addition, inserted into the primitive texts… the weekly Sabbath goes back to the first origins of Yahwism. Should we go further back still? None of the theories we have examined has brought forward sufficient evidence to prove that the Sabbath originally came from Mesopotamia, or from Canaan, or from the Qenites… Obviously, the Sabbath day may have originated outside Israel, but we cannot prove this.” (Pg. 479-480)

This volume (and its companion) will be of interest to those studying the early days of Israel; it emphasizes the biblical material more than archaeological material (but that may be a “plus” for some readers).


Ancient Israel:  Social Institutions
Ancient Israel: Social Institutions
by Roland de Vaux
Edition: Paperback
61 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRST VOLUME OF A FRENCH CATHOLIC PRIEST/ARCHAEOLOGIST, August 22, 2014
Father Roland Guérin de Vaux (1903-1971) was a French Dominican priest who led the Catholic team that initially worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was the director of the Ecole Biblique, a French Catholic Theological School in East Jerusalem, and he was charged with overseeing research on the scrolls. His team excavated the ancient site of Khirbet Qumran (1951–1956) as well as several caves near Qumran northwest of the Dead Sea. The accompanying volume to this book is Ancient Israel: Religious Institutions.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1957 book, “the institutions of Israel have usually been studied as part of a larger whole… it has been felt that Old Testament institutions could well form the subject of a special study. For this the main source is evidently the Bible itself… the Bible does not treat directly of these questions, but the historical, prophetical and wisdom books contain much information, all the more interesting because it tells us what actually did happen and not what ought to have happened. To make use of all these texts calls for accurate exegesis, and before we can draw conclusions, literary criticism must assign dates to the various passages, for the development of institutions followed the course of history… The present book offers only the conclusions of all this research… In the study of the Old Testament itself, institutions occupy a subordinate place, and the reader may sometimes feel that he is very far from the spiritual and doctrinal message he seeks for in the Bible. Nevertheless, he is always on the border-land of biblical religion, and often in direct contact with the message it enshrines… the Word of God is a living thing, and a man is better able to hear its tones if he listens to it in the actual surroundings in which it was first given to mankind.”

He notes, “It is clear, that the most common form of marriage in Israel was monogamy. It is noteworthy that the books of Samuel and Kings, which cover the entire period of the monarchy, do not record a single case of bigamy among commoners (except that of Samuel’s father, at the very beginning of the period). The Wisdom books, too, which provide a picture of society in their age, never mention polygamy.” (Pg. 25) Later, he adds, “In a society which tolerated polygamy, the possession of a large harem was a mark of wealth and power. It was also a luxury which few could afford, and it became the privilege of kings. Saul had at least one concubine… and elsewhere there is mention of his ‘wives’… Even when David was reigning only in Hebron, he already had six wives… and in Jerusalem he took more concubines and wives… The ‘king’ in the Song of Songs has sixty queens and eighty concubines… Whatever we may think … Dt. 17:17 had good cause to warn the king against possessing too large a harem.” (Pg. 115)

He says of the status of women, “the wife of an Israelite was by no means on the level of a slave. A man could sell his slaves or even his daughter (Ex 21:7), but he could never sell his wife, even though he had acquired her as a captive in war (Dt 21:1). The husband could divorce his wife, but she was protected by the letter of repudiation, which restored her freedom… The social and legal position of an Israelite wife was, however, inferior to the position a wife occupied in the great countries round about. In Egypt the wife was often the head of the family, with all the rights such a position entailed. In Babylon she could acquire property, take legal action, be a party to contracts, and she even had a certain share in her husband’s inheritance.” (Pg. 40)

Of slaves, he said, “In everyday life the lot of a slave depended largely on the character of his master, but it was usually tolerable. In a community which attached such importance to the family, in which work was scarcely conceivable outside the framework of the family, a man on his own was without protection or means of support. The slave was at least assured of the necessities of life. More than that, he really formed part of the family, he was a ‘domestic’ in the original sense of the word… He joined in the family worship, rested on the Sabbath… shared in the sacrificial meals, and in the celebration of religious feasts… including the Passover… from which the visitor and the wage-earner were excluded… He could share in his master’s inheritance.” (Pg. 85)

He comments on the Jubilee year in Leviticus 25, “The practical application of this law seems to encounter insuperable obstacles. Unless we arbitrarily suppose… that the fiftieth year was really was really the forty-ninth, the last of the sabbatical years… Secondly, the directions on the redemption or liberation of the slaves would be ineffective in themselves and are in contradiction to the law of the sabbatical year, which provides for their liberation every seventh year… one may advance the hypothesis that the Law of Jubilee was a late and ineffective attempt to make the sabbatical law more stringent by extending it to landed property, and at the same time to make it easier to observe, by spacing out the years of remission. It was inspired by ancient ideas, and made use of the framework of an archaic calendar…. But it was a Utopian law and it remained a dead letter.” (Pg. 175-177)

This volume (and its companion) will be of interest to those studying the early days of Israel; it emphasizes the biblical material more than archaeological material (but that may be a “plus” for some readers).


Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church [Paperback] [2012] (Author) Michael Horton
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church [Paperback] [2012] (Author) Michael Horton
7 used & new from $19.89

5.0 out of 5 stars HAVE WE CREATED A GOSPEL OF "INNER ENLIGHTENMENT" AND "MORAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT"?, August 22, 2014
Author Michael Horton wrote in the first chapter of this 2008 book, “I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any member of secular programs and self-help groups. Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little bit more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: ‘do more, try harder.’ I think that this is the pervasive message across the spectrum today.” (Pg. 16-17)

He adds, “I am not arguing … that we have ARRIVED at Christless Christianity but that we are well on our way. There need not be explicit abandonment of any key Christian teaching, just a series of subtle distortions… in my view, we ARE living out our creed, but that creed is closer to the American Dream than it is to the Christian faith. The claim I am laying out in this book is that the most dominant form of Christianity today reflects ‘a zeal for God’ that is nevertheless without knowledge.” (Pg. 20-21) He further adds, “If this book will only have raised questions that provoke us to deeper analysis of our witness in the world today, it will be sufficient.” (Pg. 27)

He spends a great many pages criticizing Joel Osteen. He observes, “I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst. We hear nothing that might offend a non-Christian, much less a believer in Christ; nothing about God’s holiness, our condemnation, or Christ bearing our condemnation in our place. There is nothing in this message about the Trinity or the resurrection of the dead and the age to come. In fact, there is very little mention of Christ at all---a point that even reporters have pressed in interviews with Osteen.” (Pg. 72) He adds, “Osteen’s God is uncomplicated. Characterized by only one attribute (love), God’s forgiveness is cheap. His love does not require consistency with his justice, holiness, and righteousness. Therefore, it is not MERCIFUL love---that is, compassion toward those who deserve judgment. By contrast, the God of the Bible is far more interesting a majestic. Finding a way to love sinners that does not violate his holy character, God gave his Son to fulfill the law and bear our judgment in our place. The biblical plot of the redemptive drama is rich, while Osteen’s story is thin---with me rather than God at the center.” (Pg. 89)

He points out, “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality. Coming to the cross means REPENTANCE---not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God’s drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makeovers.” (Pg. 94) Interestingly, he also admits, “James Dobson’s books have been helpful, but we have also benefited tremendously from the wisdom of non-Christians… Just as people are not likely to get the best entertainment at church, they may not get the same quality of daily advice from their pastor that they might get from Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. You just don’t need the Bible in order to know that … the secret to a good marriage is ‘talk, talk, talk,’ divorce is normally devastating for children, and it you don’t rule your credit cards, they’ll rule you…there are plenty of non-Christian families who actually do a better job at doing the right thing than some Christian families.” (Pg. 101-102)

He suggests, “When even good, holy, and proper things become confused with the gospel, it is only a matter of time before we end up with Christless Christianity: a story about us instead of a story about the Triune god that sweeps us into the unfolding drama. The God of fundamentalism may have been too graceless, but the God of contemporary American religion is too trivial to be worth our time. The old-time religion may have been too legalistic, adding its own rules and regulations to God’s law, but at least it recognized that God COMMANDED certain things.” (Pg. 109-110)

He concludes, “The focus of such piety is on a personal relationship with Jesus that is individualistic, inward, and immediate… My personal relationship with Jesus is MINE. I do not share it with the church.” (Pg. 163) He adds, “While the gospel calls us to look outside ourselves for salvation, Pelagianism and Gnosticism combine to keep us looking to ourselves and within ourselves. Together, they have created the perfect storm: the American religion. No one has to teach us a gospel of inner enlightenment and moral self-improvement; rather, the Word of God has to BREAK our addiction to this glory story by telling us the truth about what God’s law really demands and his gospel really gives.” (Pg. 166)

Horton’s book will certainly ruffle some feathers, and upset others; but it is a heartfelt and challenging perspective on the contemporary church, and will be fascinating reading for a wide variety of readers (whether or not they always AGREE with him!).


Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Horton, Michael [Baker Books, 2012] (Paperback) [Paperback]
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Horton, Michael [Baker Books, 2012] (Paperback) [Paperback]
by Horton
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from $77.98

5.0 out of 5 stars HAVE WE CREATED A GOSPEL OF "INNER ENLIGHTENMENT" AND "MORAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT"?, August 22, 2014
Author Michael Horton wrote in the first chapter of this 2008 book, “I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any member of secular programs and self-help groups. Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little bit more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: ‘do more, try harder.’ I think that this is the pervasive message across the spectrum today.” (Pg. 16-17)

He adds, “I am not arguing … that we have ARRIVED at Christless Christianity but that we are well on our way. There need not be explicit abandonment of any key Christian teaching, just a series of subtle distortions… in my view, we ARE living out our creed, but that creed is closer to the American Dream than it is to the Christian faith. The claim I am laying out in this book is that the most dominant form of Christianity today reflects ‘a zeal for God’ that is nevertheless without knowledge.” (Pg. 20-21) He further adds, “If this book will only have raised questions that provoke us to deeper analysis of our witness in the world today, it will be sufficient.” (Pg. 27)

He spends a great many pages criticizing Joel Osteen. He observes, “I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst. We hear nothing that might offend a non-Christian, much less a believer in Christ; nothing about God’s holiness, our condemnation, or Christ bearing our condemnation in our place. There is nothing in this message about the Trinity or the resurrection of the dead and the age to come. In fact, there is very little mention of Christ at all---a point that even reporters have pressed in interviews with Osteen.” (Pg. 72) He adds, “Osteen’s God is uncomplicated. Characterized by only one attribute (love), God’s forgiveness is cheap. His love does not require consistency with his justice, holiness, and righteousness. Therefore, it is not MERCIFUL love---that is, compassion toward those who deserve judgment. By contrast, the God of the Bible is far more interesting a majestic. Finding a way to love sinners that does not violate his holy character, God gave his Son to fulfill the law and bear our judgment in our place. The biblical plot of the redemptive drama is rich, while Osteen’s story is thin---with me rather than God at the center.” (Pg. 89)

He points out, “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality. Coming to the cross means REPENTANCE---not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God’s drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makeovers.” (Pg. 94) Interestingly, he also admits, “James Dobson’s books have been helpful, but we have also benefited tremendously from the wisdom of non-Christians… Just as people are not likely to get the best entertainment at church, they may not get the same quality of daily advice from their pastor that they might get from Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. You just don’t need the Bible in order to know that … the secret to a good marriage is ‘talk, talk, talk,’ divorce is normally devastating for children, and it you don’t rule your credit cards, they’ll rule you…there are plenty of non-Christian families who actually do a better job at doing the right thing than some Christian families.” (Pg. 101-102)

He suggests, “When even good, holy, and proper things become confused with the gospel, it is only a matter of time before we end up with Christless Christianity: a story about us instead of a story about the Triune god that sweeps us into the unfolding drama. The God of fundamentalism may have been too graceless, but the God of contemporary American religion is too trivial to be worth our time. The old-time religion may have been too legalistic, adding its own rules and regulations to God’s law, but at least it recognized that God COMMANDED certain things.” (Pg. 109-110)

He concludes, “The focus of such piety is on a personal relationship with Jesus that is individualistic, inward, and immediate… My personal relationship with Jesus is MINE. I do not share it with the church.” (Pg. 163) He adds, “While the gospel calls us to look outside ourselves for salvation, Pelagianism and Gnosticism combine to keep us looking to ourselves and within ourselves. Together, they have created the perfect storm: the American religion. No one has to teach us a gospel of inner enlightenment and moral self-improvement; rather, the Word of God has to BREAK our addiction to this glory story by telling us the truth about what God’s law really demands and his gospel really gives.” (Pg. 166)

Horton’s book will certainly ruffle some feathers, and upset others; but it is a heartfelt and challenging perspective on the contemporary church, and will be fascinating reading for a wide variety of readers (whether or not they always AGREE with him!).


By Michael Horton - Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Reprint) (5.2.2012)
By Michael Horton - Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Reprint) (5.2.2012)
by Michael Horton
Edition: Paperback
4 used & new from $20.13

5.0 out of 5 stars HAVE WE CREATED A GOSPEL OF "INNER ENLIGHTENMENT" AND "MORAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT"?, August 22, 2014
Author Michael Horton wrote in the first chapter of this 2008 book, “I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any member of secular programs and self-help groups. Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little bit more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: ‘do more, try harder.’ I think that this is the pervasive message across the spectrum today.” (Pg. 16-17)

He adds, “I am not arguing … that we have ARRIVED at Christless Christianity but that we are well on our way. There need not be explicit abandonment of any key Christian teaching, just a series of subtle distortions… in my view, we ARE living out our creed, but that creed is closer to the American Dream than it is to the Christian faith. The claim I am laying out in this book is that the most dominant form of Christianity today reflects ‘a zeal for God’ that is nevertheless without knowledge.” (Pg. 20-21) He further adds, “If this book will only have raised questions that provoke us to deeper analysis of our witness in the world today, it will be sufficient.” (Pg. 27)

He spends a great many pages criticizing Joel Osteen. He observes, “I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst. We hear nothing that might offend a non-Christian, much less a believer in Christ; nothing about God’s holiness, our condemnation, or Christ bearing our condemnation in our place. There is nothing in this message about the Trinity or the resurrection of the dead and the age to come. In fact, there is very little mention of Christ at all---a point that even reporters have pressed in interviews with Osteen.” (Pg. 72) He adds, “Osteen’s God is uncomplicated. Characterized by only one attribute (love), God’s forgiveness is cheap. His love does not require consistency with his justice, holiness, and righteousness. Therefore, it is not MERCIFUL love---that is, compassion toward those who deserve judgment. By contrast, the God of the Bible is far more interesting a majestic. Finding a way to love sinners that does not violate his holy character, God gave his Son to fulfill the law and bear our judgment in our place. The biblical plot of the redemptive drama is rich, while Osteen’s story is thin---with me rather than God at the center.” (Pg. 89)

He points out, “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality. Coming to the cross means REPENTANCE---not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God’s drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makeovers.” (Pg. 94) Interestingly, he also admits, “James Dobson’s books have been helpful, but we have also benefited tremendously from the wisdom of non-Christians… Just as people are not likely to get the best entertainment at church, they may not get the same quality of daily advice from their pastor that they might get from Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. You just don’t need the Bible in order to know that … the secret to a good marriage is ‘talk, talk, talk,’ divorce is normally devastating for children, and it you don’t rule your credit cards, they’ll rule you…there are plenty of non-Christian families who actually do a better job at doing the right thing than some Christian families.” (Pg. 101-102)

He suggests, “When even good, holy, and proper things become confused with the gospel, it is only a matter of time before we end up with Christless Christianity: a story about us instead of a story about the Triune god that sweeps us into the unfolding drama. The God of fundamentalism may have been too graceless, but the God of contemporary American religion is too trivial to be worth our time. The old-time religion may have been too legalistic, adding its own rules and regulations to God’s law, but at least it recognized that God COMMANDED certain things.” (Pg. 109-110)

He concludes, “The focus of such piety is on a personal relationship with Jesus that is individualistic, inward, and immediate… My personal relationship with Jesus is MINE. I do not share it with the church.” (Pg. 163) He adds, “While the gospel calls us to look outside ourselves for salvation, Pelagianism and Gnosticism combine to keep us looking to ourselves and within ourselves. Together, they have created the perfect storm: the American religion. No one has to teach us a gospel of inner enlightenment and moral self-improvement; rather, the Word of God has to BREAK our addiction to this glory story by telling us the truth about what God’s law really demands and his gospel really gives.” (Pg. 166)

Horton’s book will certainly ruffle some feathers, and upset others; but it is a heartfelt and challenging perspective on the contemporary church, and will be fascinating reading for a wide variety of readers (whether or not they always AGREE with him!).


Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton (Jun 1 2012)
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton (Jun 1 2012)
17 used & new from $6.05

5.0 out of 5 stars HAVE WE CREATED A GOSPEL OF "INNER ENLIGHTENMENT" AND "MORAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT"?, August 22, 2014
Author Michael Horton wrote in the first chapter of this 2008 book, “I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any member of secular programs and self-help groups. Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little bit more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: ‘do more, try harder.’ I think that this is the pervasive message across the spectrum today.” (Pg. 16-17)

He adds, “I am not arguing … that we have ARRIVED at Christless Christianity but that we are well on our way. There need not be explicit abandonment of any key Christian teaching, just a series of subtle distortions… in my view, we ARE living out our creed, but that creed is closer to the American Dream than it is to the Christian faith. The claim I am laying out in this book is that the most dominant form of Christianity today reflects ‘a zeal for God’ that is nevertheless without knowledge.” (Pg. 20-21) He further adds, “If this book will only have raised questions that provoke us to deeper analysis of our witness in the world today, it will be sufficient.” (Pg. 27)

He spends a great many pages criticizing Joel Osteen. He observes, “I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst. We hear nothing that might offend a non-Christian, much less a believer in Christ; nothing about God’s holiness, our condemnation, or Christ bearing our condemnation in our place. There is nothing in this message about the Trinity or the resurrection of the dead and the age to come. In fact, there is very little mention of Christ at all---a point that even reporters have pressed in interviews with Osteen.” (Pg. 72) He adds, “Osteen’s God is uncomplicated. Characterized by only one attribute (love), God’s forgiveness is cheap. His love does not require consistency with his justice, holiness, and righteousness. Therefore, it is not MERCIFUL love---that is, compassion toward those who deserve judgment. By contrast, the God of the Bible is far more interesting a majestic. Finding a way to love sinners that does not violate his holy character, God gave his Son to fulfill the law and bear our judgment in our place. The biblical plot of the redemptive drama is rich, while Osteen’s story is thin---with me rather than God at the center.” (Pg. 89)

He points out, “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality. Coming to the cross means REPENTANCE---not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God’s drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makeovers.” (Pg. 94) Interestingly, he also admits, “James Dobson’s books have been helpful, but we have also benefited tremendously from the wisdom of non-Christians… Just as people are not likely to get the best entertainment at church, they may not get the same quality of daily advice from their pastor that they might get from Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. You just don’t need the Bible in order to know that … the secret to a good marriage is ‘talk, talk, talk,’ divorce is normally devastating for children, and it you don’t rule your credit cards, they’ll rule you…there are plenty of non-Christian families who actually do a better job at doing the right thing than some Christian families.” (Pg. 101-102)

He suggests, “When even good, holy, and proper things become confused with the gospel, it is only a matter of time before we end up with Christless Christianity: a story about us instead of a story about the Triune god that sweeps us into the unfolding drama. The God of fundamentalism may have been too graceless, but the God of contemporary American religion is too trivial to be worth our time. The old-time religion may have been too legalistic, adding its own rules and regulations to God’s law, but at least it recognized that God COMMANDED certain things.” (Pg. 109-110)

He concludes, “The focus of such piety is on a personal relationship with Jesus that is individualistic, inward, and immediate… My personal relationship with Jesus is MINE. I do not share it with the church.” (Pg. 163) He adds, “While the gospel calls us to look outside ourselves for salvation, Pelagianism and Gnosticism combine to keep us looking to ourselves and within ourselves. Together, they have created the perfect storm: the American religion. No one has to teach us a gospel of inner enlightenment and moral self-improvement; rather, the Word of God has to BREAK our addiction to this glory story by telling us the truth about what God’s law really demands and his gospel really gives.” (Pg. 166)

Horton’s book will certainly ruffle some feathers, and upset others; but it is a heartfelt and challenging perspective on the contemporary church, and will be fascinating reading for a wide variety of readers (whether or not they always AGREE with him!).


Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church
by Michael Horton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.98
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5.0 out of 5 stars HAVE WE CREATED A GOSPEL OF "INNER ENLIGHTENMENT" AND "MORAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT"?, August 22, 2014
Author Michael Horton wrote in the first chapter of this 2008 book, “I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any member of secular programs and self-help groups. Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little bit more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: ‘do more, try harder.’ I think that this is the pervasive message across the spectrum today.” (Pg. 16-17)

He adds, “I am not arguing … that we have ARRIVED at Christless Christianity but that we are well on our way. There need not be explicit abandonment of any key Christian teaching, just a series of subtle distortions… in my view, we ARE living out our creed, but that creed is closer to the American Dream than it is to the Christian faith. The claim I am laying out in this book is that the most dominant form of Christianity today reflects ‘a zeal for God’ that is nevertheless without knowledge.” (Pg. 20-21) He further adds, “If this book will only have raised questions that provoke us to deeper analysis of our witness in the world today, it will be sufficient.” (Pg. 27)

He spends a great many pages criticizing Joel Osteen. He observes, “I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst. We hear nothing that might offend a non-Christian, much less a believer in Christ; nothing about God’s holiness, our condemnation, or Christ bearing our condemnation in our place. There is nothing in this message about the Trinity or the resurrection of the dead and the age to come. In fact, there is very little mention of Christ at all---a point that even reporters have pressed in interviews with Osteen.” (Pg. 72) He adds, “Osteen’s God is uncomplicated. Characterized by only one attribute (love), God’s forgiveness is cheap. His love does not require consistency with his justice, holiness, and righteousness. Therefore, it is not MERCIFUL love---that is, compassion toward those who deserve judgment. By contrast, the God of the Bible is far more interesting a majestic. Finding a way to love sinners that does not violate his holy character, God gave his Son to fulfill the law and bear our judgment in our place. The biblical plot of the redemptive drama is rich, while Osteen’s story is thin---with me rather than God at the center.” (Pg. 89)

He points out, “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality. Coming to the cross means REPENTANCE---not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God’s drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makeovers.” (Pg. 94) Interestingly, he also admits, “James Dobson’s books have been helpful, but we have also benefited tremendously from the wisdom of non-Christians… Just as people are not likely to get the best entertainment at church, they may not get the same quality of daily advice from their pastor that they might get from Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. You just don’t need the Bible in order to know that … the secret to a good marriage is ‘talk, talk, talk,’ divorce is normally devastating for children, and it you don’t rule your credit cards, they’ll rule you…there are plenty of non-Christian families who actually do a better job at doing the right thing than some Christian families.” (Pg. 101-102)

He suggests, “When even good, holy, and proper things become confused with the gospel, it is only a matter of time before we end up with Christless Christianity: a story about us instead of a story about the Triune god that sweeps us into the unfolding drama. The God of fundamentalism may have been too graceless, but the God of contemporary American religion is too trivial to be worth our time. The old-time religion may have been too legalistic, adding its own rules and regulations to God’s law, but at least it recognized that God COMMANDED certain things.” (Pg. 109-110)

He concludes, “The focus of such piety is on a personal relationship with Jesus that is individualistic, inward, and immediate… My personal relationship with Jesus is MINE. I do not share it with the church.” (Pg. 163) He adds, “While the gospel calls us to look outside ourselves for salvation, Pelagianism and Gnosticism combine to keep us looking to ourselves and within ourselves. Together, they have created the perfect storm: the American religion. No one has to teach us a gospel of inner enlightenment and moral self-improvement; rather, the Word of God has to BREAK our addiction to this glory story by telling us the truth about what God’s law really demands and his gospel really gives.” (Pg. 166)

Horton’s book will certainly ruffle some feathers, and upset others; but it is a heartfelt and challenging perspective on the contemporary church, and will be fascinating reading for a wide variety of readers (whether or not they always AGREE with him!).


Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spritiual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond
Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spritiual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond
by Paul M. Elliott
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars A CALL (FROM A FORMER RULING ELDER) FOR LOCAL CONGREGATIONS TO SEPARATE FROM THE OPC, August 22, 2014
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Paul M. Elliott is president of TeachingTheWord Ministries, and is the principal speaker on The Scripture-Driven Church radio broadcast; he is a former Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and has written other books such as A Denomination in Denial (An Evaluation of the Report of the Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church).

He wrote in the first chapter of this 2005 book, “Like cancer in the human body, liberalism in the body of the church begins undetected and unrecognized. By the time Christians … recognize the cancer of liberalism and are stirred to action, often it is too late to stop its deadly progress. The damage has been done, and a spiritual crisis is upon the church. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church [OPC] is now in such a spiritual crisis, and the crisis has spread well beyond it. The crisis centers on the conflict between authentic Biblical Christianity and an Antichristian counterfeit. The church needs to understand the nature of this crisis, how it came about, its deadly effects, and what Scripture says must be done. That is the purpose of this book.” (Pg. 11-12) He adds, “we shall see how present-day neo-liberalism strikingly parallels the old liberalism, but with contemporary points of emphasis and new subtleties… we shall examine neo-liberalism’s corrupting influence on the OPC and other denominations.” (Pg. 15-16) Significantly, he adds, “this book is a call to recognize the dangers of remaining in the OPC, and to acknowledge that the time has come to separate from it.” (Pg. 28)

He is strongly critical of Norman Shepherd [e.g., The Call of Grace]: “Norman Shepherd and those who follow his errors substitute the waters of baptism for the blood of Christ. They teach, in effect, that God’s covenant is a covenant in water, not blood.” (Pg. 53) He adds, “In God’s economy, faith and works are mutually exclusive in justification; mingling the two is impossible… but Shepherd says that the impossible is not only possible, but necessary. He redefines faith to be ‘faith-plus.’ He erects a false doctrine of justification that un-Scripturally packs all sorts of works into the ‘saving faith’ which he equates with ‘justifying faith.’” (Pg. 55)

He asserts, “neo-liberals pretend to be what they are not, and profess to believe what they do not… Neo-liberals profess salvation by faith in Christ alone, but they teach salvation by Christ plus man’s faithfulness. Neo-liberals profess to believe in the authority of Scripture, but they teach the primacy of human scholarship… Neo-liberals profess to preach the all-sufficiency of His obedience for the salvation of souls. Neo-liberals profess to believe in full assurance of salvation, but they teach that the believer can never be assured.” (Pg. 65-66)

He argues, “In the long run, it is not simply a matter of the OPC tolerating the preaching of two gospels. The true Gospel is being displaced. Satan is quite content to fight a war of attrition. If the false gospel continues to be propagated at the seminary level as the one that is ‘truly Reformed,’ it will take only a generation for the preaching of the true Gospel to become rare or even die out entirely in the denomination. That is exactly what has happened in other denominations.” (Pg. 125) He charges, “The OPC has had thirty years to purge itself of these errors, and has repeatedly refused to do so. Instead of removing the cancer it has stimulated its growth. In 2004 it showed once again that it has no stomach for the hard choices it needs to make.” (Pg. 237) He adds, “it is not surprising that Norman Shepherd’s heresies, which were allowed to take root over thirty years ago, have spread like a cancer in the years since. It is not surprising that Shepherd and his followers continue to be welcome in many parts of the OPC. It is not surprising that Richard Gaffin’s teachings have become the dominant position at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and have flowed from there into the churches of the OPC and other denominations.” (Pg. 284)

He asks, “how does a neo-liberal minority dominate the OPC today?... liberals rely on the cooperation, or at least inaction, of the doctrinally indifferent…. Their watchword is tolerance. They see controversy as one of the greatest evils, and they see tolerance of varying views under one big confessional tent as the way to avoid controversy… Doctrinal disputes are an airing of dirty laundry that must be avoided… Intolerance of error becomes the only intolerable thing.” (Pg. 313-314)

He recalls the separation of his own home congregation from the OPC: “before deciding to recommend separation from the OPC, the session authorized a Sunday evening study series on the doctrinal issues at stake… The study… shifted its focus to the errors commonly taught---Shepherdism, Federal Vision theology, and the New Perspective on Paul… The congregation subsequently separated from the OPC by voting on a resolution of separation … It also made it clear that the congregation was separating from the authority of a body that has abandoned the marks of a true church of Jesus Christ, rather than withdrawing under the authority of that body as if it still possessed the Biblical qualities to exercise spiritual authority.” (Pg. 339-340) He concludes, “this book has been a call to recognize the new dangers of remaining in the OPC, and to acknowledge that the time has come to separate from it. We urge you to be obedient to that Biblical imperative, no matter what the cost.” (Pg. 365)

This book will be of interest to those concerned with the Federal Vision and Norman Shepherd controversies, as well as debates within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and other conservative Reformed denominations.


Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root
Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root
by David J. Engelsma
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.93
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5.0 out of 5 stars A SHARP AND STINGING CRITIQUE OF THE FEDERAL (COVENANTAL) VISION THEOLOGY, August 22, 2014
David J. Engelsma (b. 1939) is emeritus professor of the Protestant Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids Michigan, from which he retired in 2008 after teaching for twenty years.. He pastored Protestant Reformed Churches in America from 1963 to 1988. He has written many other books, such as Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of Gospel, Common Grace Revisited, Reformed Worship, Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant, The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 2012 book, “The first part of this book is an expanded version of a speech commemorating the sixteenth-century Reformation of the church…Genuine commemoration of the Reformation consists of maintaining the Reformation’s confession of the one, true gospel of salvation by sovereign grace. It consists also of anathematizing… the false gospel of works, will, and worth of the sinner… Hence, this book… The theology that calls itself the federal vision is a grave threat, if not the CHIEF threat, to the Reformed faith---the Reformation’s gospel of grace---in our time. The heretical fruit of this theology is the bold teaching of justification by faith and works. Its heretical root is the doctrine of a conditional covenant… This book purposes the eradication of the heresy of the federal vision.”

He explains, “The advocates of the doctrines published by [Norman] Shepherd call their distinctive theology federal vision. One thing about this name should be noted, the main thing: derived from the Latin ‘foedus,’ ‘federal’ means covenant… The federal vision’s reaching concerning justification is the doctrine of Roman Catholic Church, condemned by the Reformation. It is the doctrine of justification by works that Scripture condemns in romans 3-5 and in the epistle to the Galatians.” (Pg. 18-19) He adds, “The federal vision is a theology of the covenant---a body of teachings about the covenant. This is what the federal vision is fundamentally. Only secondarily is it a doctrine of justification, of predestination, or sanctification, and of perseverance… The federal vision is a distinctive doctrine of the covenant of God with his people in Jesus Christ… By ‘vision’ in the name of their theology, the men of the federal vision propose that their covenant doctrine is new a different. It is certainly and strange in comparison with the covenant doctrine of the Reformed creeds.” (Pg. 25)

He observes, “It is the distinctive teaching of the federal vision’s fundamental doctrine of the covenant that the covenant is conditional. The covenant of God depends upon us humans with whom God establishes his covenant. Because the federal vision is especially a doctrine of the covenant with regard to baptized babies of believers, the distinctive covenant doctrine of the federal vision holds that the covenant depends upon baptized infants.” (Pg. 28-29) Later, he adds, “[the FV] teaches that salvation, in the covenant, depends on the sinner, upon the sinful, baptized infant, upon what that sinful infant will do, namely, perform the conditions of believing and obeying… it teaches that, in the covenant, one child makes himself to differ from other children with regard to salvation. According to the federal vision, all alike are united to Christ and all alike receive the grace of God. That one is everlastingly saved in distinction from the others is because one performed the conditions of the covenant, whereas the others did not… The federal vision’s doctrine of a conditional covenant is false doctrine… in that it teaches grace---SAVING grace---in the covenant that can be and often is resisted. Here, the federal vision nails its Arminian colors to the mast!” (Pg. 49-50) He adds further, “The federal vision tells the Reformed churches and members that the reason for its doctrine of the ‘real’ falling away of covenant saints is its doctrine of a conditional covenant.” (Pg. 69)

He argues, “the federal vision teaches a form of baptismal regeneration… It is essentially the same as the Roman Catholic doctrine. All the children are united to Christ and saved---temporarily. But this covenant established with all the baptized children alike can be annulled. The union with Christ can be severed. The child can lose the life and benefits of Christ that once he or she possessed. For the covenant established at baptism is conditional. If the child… should fail to perform the conditions of the covenant, the child will fall away from Christ and perish. There is a falling away of covenant saints. There is a loss of covenant grace and salvation.” (Pg. 89)

He suggests that Norman Shepherd’s The Call of Grace is the playbook of the theology of the federal vision. It denies justification by faith alone and all the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism). It is the book that unleashed the controversy over the federal vision upon the public arena of Reformed Christianity in North America.” (Pg. 95) Later, however, he observes that “The treatment [at Westminster Theological Seminary] of Shepherd and his teachings by adversaries and supporters alike was appalling…. [it] was a travesty of justice and a trampling upon the basic rules of Reformed church order.” (Pg. 236)

He asserts, “The creeds settle issues. They determine what is biblical and Reformed, once and for all. Reformed churches and people do not have to be forever reinventing the wheel. Reformed churches and people are not in such a position … as allows Pelagianism and Arminianism to come up again and again in new forms in their midst as legitimate subjects of fresh discussion and debate. They are CREEDALLY Reformed.” (Pg. 121-122) He admits, “Although the phrase ‘covenant of grace’ does not occur in Scripture, it is found in the Reformed creeds, which by the phrase rightly express the teaching of Scripture.” (Pg. 127)

He acknowledges, “we do not know with absolute certainty the election and salvation even of the godly couple---the parents---who present their child for baptism. It is possible that one or both are hypocrites… only God and the godly couple themselves know with absolute certainty that the two who present the child for baptism are elect, saved children of God. Is there any Reformed church that has not had the painful experience that one whom they regarded as a godly man or a godly woman when he or she presented a child for baptism falls away and evidently perishes everlastingly?” (Pg. 166)

Relentlessly critical, this is also perhaps the most concise and clear critique of the Federal Vision that has yet appeared. It will be of great value to anyone who is following this subject.


The Auburn Avenue Theology Pros & Cons Debating the Federal Vision
The Auburn Avenue Theology Pros & Cons Debating the Federal Vision
by John Barach
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars PAPERS FROM A THREE-DAY CONFERENCE PRESENTING BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE, August 22, 2014
This 2004 book contains the papers presented at the Knox Theological Seminary’s Colloquium on the Federal Vision held on August 11-13, 2003. Editor E. Calvin Beisner wrote in his Introduction, “The men involved, on both sides… were shepherds in God’s flock and worthy of respect. I learned that sad personal divides had arisen… In the two months leading up to the colloquium, I maintained my hope that most of the controversy could be explained as misunderstanding and that intense, face-to-face discussion of carefully written papers could dispel the misunderstanding, defuse much of the dispute, and restore strained relationships. Much of that hope was rewarded in the two days of discussions… Yet although much misunderstanding was cleared away and warm relationships were renewed, the colloquium did not result in any consensus that no serious, substantive disagreements really divided the groups… the two groups… remain strongly opposed over specific doctrines, and it is likely—and good---that the debate will intensify in the future as the straw men fall by the wayside and the real antitheses become more clear.” (Pg. xii-xiii) An equal number of “Supporters” of the Federal Vision and “Critics” are included in this collection.

Douglas Wilson notes, “when it goes to seed, systematic theology places itself beyond correction or modification. But our confessional tradition requires us to confess that councils and synods have erred and do err. The bar to which everything is to be brought is Scripture … people tend to assume that the necessarily precise language of systematics is the way language is used in the Bible for example, the word ‘elect’ has a theologically precise meaning in systematics. It has multiple meanings in the Bible, with ONE of them lining up with the precise theological use. But the precise theological use tends to get read back into the Bible across the board, thus making Scripture say things it does not say.” (Pg. 4)

Joseph Pipa Jr., however, counters that “Scripture must interpret Scripture and the interpreter must use analogy of faith. It is not rationalistic to do so… There appears as well to be a certain disdain for the role of systematic theology. The Auburn Avenue men accuse Reformed theologians of falling into the rationalism of Hellenism and the Enlightenment… A further methodological problem is in the area of definitions. The imbalanced formulations with respect to covenant and church have led Federal vision proponents to redefine or ambiguously define election, regeneration, justification, adoption… We will need to agree on definitions and methodology as we work our way through the various issues.” (Pg. 11-12)

Steve Schissel argues, “The inclusion of the Gentiles is not an, ‘Oh yeah, that’s also important’ issue. It is THE issue occupying administrative center stage in the New Testament Scriptures. Aside from it, and its implications, there’s nothing new in the New Testament. Those who obsess over the ordo salutis [“order of salvation”] obsess over a manufactured problem. We must learn to ask the right questions, and that soon.” (Pg. 35) But Christopher Hutchinson replies, “to claim that the justification of the Gentiles has priority of place in the NT over the very doctrine by which they are justified in the first place appears wrong headed, and perhaps driven by another concern… in so strongly making the case that the inclusion of the Gentiles is THE main theme of the NT, the Person of Christ Himself appears to be given a second-order status, along with the doctrine of forensic justification.” (Pg. 54)

Richard Phillips argues, “The Federal vision writers emphasize ‘faithfulness’ as the condition that must be fulfilled by us in order to realize the blessings of God’s covenant. They share this emphasis with the so-called New Perspective on Paul and with the writings of Norman Shepherd… the Federal Vision writers introduce a works-righteousness that is wholly at odds with the Bible’s gospel. Their version of good news is really bad news, at least for any sinner who finds he must be saved by his own faithfulness; it makes of the covenant of grace an implicit covenant of works.” (Pg. 84) Morton Smith concludes, “let us return to [B.B.] Warfield regarding saving faith. It is not faith that saves, it is Jesus who saves through faith alone. This living faith never stands alone, but is always accompanied by good works. If one does not find any evidence of good works in his life, then he needs to ask whether he has every exercised saving faith, that is, to rest and trust in Christ for his salvation.” (Pg. 116)

Tom Trouwborst asks, “The paramount question here is do we know who has been granted perseverance by God?... the case concerning infants is not unique. That is, adult professors also fail to persevere in their profession. Experientially, we know that some of those baptized as infants, children and adults deny their baptism and their Lord… the ‘dilemma’ with infants and perseverance is not unique to their class but is an issue for all members of Christ’s Church, young or old. This is not to encourage doubt or to second-guess the standing of the brethren about us, but is simply an acknowledgment of the Creator-creature distinction which Van Til emphasized.” (Pg. 199-200) Douglas Wilson suggests, “The picture of apostasy that I have found most helpful… is the picture that unfaithfulness in marriage provides… Being baptized… means that you have the ring on your finger, and you have taken the vows. It does NOT mean that you are being faithful to those vows. It simply asserts the objective reality of something to be faithful or unfaithful to.” (Pg. 231)

Phillips asserts, “Yes, revivalistic evangelicalism has trounced the biblical idea of the church. But the remedy is not to advance a medieval and, yes Roman model of the church in its place, whereby a sacerdotal soteriology casts its cursed shadow upon the Reformed doctrines of grace… In place of today’s churchless para-evangelicalism, let us advance the biblical church in all its declarative power. But let us never advance church membership and rituals and a new priesthood as sources of salvation without the central necessity of personal saving faith in Jesus Christ.” (Pg. 251-252)

This is a well-balanced and fair volume. For anyone seriously studying the Federal Vision, this will be “must reading.”


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