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Pillars of Grace (A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume Two) Hardcover – March 11, 2011
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This book will ignite and impassion your heart for the gospel and the doctrines of grace that undergird it. Dr. Lawson has done something for which we will forever be grateful- he demonstrates conclusively that the truths of Calvinism and the Reformed faith are rooted in the history of the church, from the apostles to the emergence of Martin Luther in the sixteenth century. We have, of course always suspected this to be true, but few attempts have been made to demonstrate it, and none with such infectious zeal as is to be found in these pages. Few writers can marry church history, exposition, and sound doctrine in such a manner as this. Do not start reading this book unless you are prepared to find that you are unable to put it down. It is that good.--Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas: Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary Minister of teachin, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi
Reading Steven Lawson's Pillars of Grace is like taking a helicopter tour of a mountain range-a breathtaking survey of a series of majestic peaks all pointing upward to heaven. Each chapter offers an informative, fascinating, and accessible look at a significant teacher of God's glorious grace, from Clement to Calvin. Read this book and discover that to be Christian and Reformed is to be rooted in the church through the ages.--Dr. Joel R. Beeke: President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Grand Rapids, Michigan
In this important book, Dr. Lawson has documented the teachings of many of the most important theologians, churchmen, and Christian thinkers of these centuries, showing that these mend did indeed have much to say about God's saving grace- and much that will be of great encouragement to evangelicals today.--Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.: President, The Southern Baptist Theological Semminary, Louisville, Kentucky
About the Author
Dr. Steven J. Lawson is president and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a board member and teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, a board member and professor of preaching at The Master's Seminary, professor in residence for Truth Remains, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at Ligonier Academy. A popular conference speaker and author, Dr. Lawson's books include, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, and Pillars of Grace.
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On the positive side, this is a great instruction to the early church fathers, running from the Apostolic Fathers, Middle Ages, and through to the Reformation.
The author approaches the early church fathers pre-supposing they were Calvinistic in their theology. Admitting that the Apostolic Fathers touched little on theology beyond paraphrasing the New Testament, he nevertheless describes them as "hinting" or "alluding" to one of the five points of Calvinism. For the first two fathers, Ignatius and Clement, their support of election amounts to the use of the inclusive term "Elect" in the opening salutation of their epistles. They may have supported election, but this does not prove it, only that this was a common greeting between Christians.
He skips over one of the most popular works of the early church, the Didache. Even though this appears to be THE shorter catechism for new converts for centuries, possibly the teaching of the Apostles themselves, it is completely devoid of any Calvinism.
With Irenaeus, the phrase "the elect though foreknowledge" becomes predestination. Nearly everything he cites for supporting pre-destination sounds an awful lot like Molonism. But again, if you assume they were all Calvinist, it becomes easy to interpret that way.
He commonly leaps to conclusions. Dr Lawson quotes one of the early fathers, then says, "By this so-and-so supported this point of Calvinism." The writer may have, but Dr Lawson skipped the proof part and simply stated his conclusion. Again, it is only obvious if you assume the author supported Calvinism.
As for Augustine, I think too many people take his writings as literal Gospel. He could be wrong on some points. Note than when he wrote against Pelagius, one of the major heresies Augustine accused him of was not supporting infant baptism. In regards to election, I'm wary of his writings since he came to Christianity directly out of Manichaeism, where fatalism is a central doctrine. I find it interesting that the first theologian to come down hard on predestination was steeped in the secular version of it. Perhaps that is why he had no problem advocating it.
Instead of assuming the early church fathers had a primitive, undeveloped, or unsophisticated theology, emphasizing both free will and election, perhaps they knew that was as far as they needed to go, since as evident today, there is no adequate answer to the apparent dilemma. While there is sufficient Scripture to support predestination and election, there is this elephant throughout the Bible that we need to make a choice--freewill. Certainly, the Apostles didn't clearly settle the question. Rather than coming up with conclusive theology, maybe all Calvin did was come down hard on determinism. No matter what your theology, except Open Theism, Calvinists and Arminianists both must grapple with the question of why God would create people knowing they were going to spend eternity in Hell. As Dr Lawson points out, if you support Election, you must support both sides of it---God elected some for Eternal life with Him, the rest he predestined for eternal torment in Hell, through no choice of their own.
Although Dr Lawson is not trying to prove Calvinism, he does little to prove the proposition that the pre-Nicene fathers supported the five points.
For the price I paid, this volume was an absolute steal!!
Soli Deo Gloria!