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The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library) Paperback – September 22, 2003
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"Not since I read one of Sproul's earlier books, The Holiness of God, has a book simultaneously shaken my soul and comforted it with the presence of God. . . . This is theology at its finest. It is truth for living." --Rob Taylor, Emmaus Journal
"Sproul does his usual workmanlike job of clarifying difficult topics and rendering them comprehensible to the lay reader. . . . The Invisible Hand throws welcome light on a neglected facet of God's action and human experience." --Christian Library Journal
About the Author
R. C. Sproul (Drs, Free University of Amsterdam) is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries. He has written more than sixty books, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, Chosen by God, What Is Reformed Theology?, The Glory of Christ, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, and Getting the Gospel Right. He is also general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, which has been published with the New King James Version and the English Standard Version. Dr. Sproul was professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale until 2004 and, before that, taught at Reformed Theological Seminary. He serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, Sanford, Florida, and teaches on the national daily radio program Renewing Your Mind.
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Top Customer Reviews
Sproul's purpose in writing this book is "to look at the question of providence, not only from a doctrinal viewpoint, but chiefly from an examination of concrete experiences of the flesh-and-blood people whose lives and struggles are recorded for us in sacred Scripture" (2). And this he does par excellence. You can almost feel Abraham's stomach churn as he ponders the immanent sacrifice of his beloved son Isaac, while splitting firewood for the altar early in the morning. You can almost hear the waves of the Nile lapping against the basket of bulrushes which contained the future leader of God's chosen people from slavery to the promised land. You can almost see Joseph's bloodied, mangled, technicolor coat as he wept in the presence of his brothers, compassionately telling them, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive" (Gen. 50:20). Our God is not "out there". . . He is right here.
Some of the areas of God's providence that this book touches on deal with God's involvement with His creation through miracles, the display of His glory, evil in the world, prayer, the flow of history and the history of redemption. At least one chapter is devoted to each of these topics which are very broad topics in and of themselves, but Sproul briefly touches on the involvement of God in each one of them displaying His love and purpose for His creation.
Sproul says that providence "is not merely that God looks at human affairs. The point is that He looks after human affairs. He not only watches us, He watches over us" (17). As far as the biblical teaching that all things that work together for good to those who love God is concerned, Sproul makes a clear distinction between the proximate, or soon occurring, and the ultimate. For example, we may experience things in our lives that are supremely good. These things are proximately and ultimately good. But we may also experience things that aren't good at all, but are for our good. Just like veggies to a kid, these things are proximately bad yet ultimately good. Sproul says that when Paul tells us that all things work together for good to those who love God, that he does not say that all things that happen are good things. What Paul is saying is that all things that happen to us, good and bad, are working together for our good. Ultimately it is good that these things happen to us (171).
One of the reasons why I love this book is because Sproul is such a ponderous writer and he writes with the views of history on the tip of his pen. He asks the hard questions and he's lets you search for the answers along with him. Sometimes the answers lead to more questions but never before learning something valuable about the providence and ways of Almighty God. If you've ever charged to the throne of God with the question, "Why?!", read this book. You'll gain invaluable insight into the purposes of God which will give you and incredible thirst for the "Unmoved Mover", as Aristotle called God. This book will bring you to your knees in tears at the feet of your creator God in awe as you realize his involvement in every detail of your life with the goals to make His desires yours and to change you into the likeness of His Son. Afterward, you'll be able to stand higher and firmer in the confidence that He is the sovereign Captain of your soul and the loving Master of your fate. I read this book at a time in my life that I would label "tragic" and it pointed me to the providential grace of God in a way that truly restored my soul to trust in my God. Sometimes He calms the storm . . . sometimes He calms the child.
"God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy (p 19)."
Sproul tackles the sticky issues of sovereignty vs. free will (pp 80-86), the problem of evil and pain (pp 159-168) and the point of prayer in light of God’s providence (pp 201-207), and has to admit that these are unsolvable mysteries to our human minds, but of course not to God’s. Still, according to Romans 8:28, God promises to cause all things to work together for the good for His people. As Sproul writes, “For the Christian every tragedy is ultimately a blessing, or God is a liar” (p 174).
Sproul also discusses miracles, demonstrating that their purpose in Scripture was to serve to authenticate the agents of revelation. The question for modern times is, “Can they do less (p 193)?” While I think Sproul could have developed this idea better, nevertheless he asserts, “It is clear that however we define a miracle we must place the alleged miracles of today in a different class, or category, from those recorded in the Scriptures” (p 194).
I take exception with the author’s view that the invisible church includes angels (p 134) and that Peter is the “rock” upon which the church is built (p 136), but overall The Invisible Hand is a readable, helpful manual of the providence of God directed towards the average Christian.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel