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Truth In All Its Glory: Commending The Reformed Faith (Resources for Changing Lives) Paperback – October 30, 2004
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"With his customary elegance of style and power of prose, Bill Edgar brings us a substantial book defining the content of the Reformed tradition. He never avoids difficult issues, nor does he sidestep controversy. This is a book to be read and reread with pleasure and profit. It is a 'must' for officer training classes, and a valuable textbook for anyone seeking to understand the modern Reformed church." --Robert M. Norris
"A winsome presentation . . . Truth in All Its Glory is a prayer, and Edgar is never far from doxology as he leads us into the wonder of the God whose glory is at the heart of all true Reformation theology." --Timothy George
About the Author
William Edgar (DTh, University of Geneva) is professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary and, among other things, a professional jazz musician. His published works include Reasons of the Heart: Taking Note of Music and articles on cultural apologetics, the music of Brahms, and African-American life.
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While it is fair to say this volume contains little that is new, yet it must be pointed out that its warm, honest and sensitive tone is something not always common to expositions of Reformed theology. Written specifically as a commendation of the Reformed faith, the author's tone is important and ought not to be passed over without comment. As professor of apologetics and as an astute cultural critic, Edgar writes in a winsome and informed manner. Caricatures are shed, Reformed involvement in social evils are admitted and addressed, and commentary relevant to groups traditionally at odds with the reformed theological outlook (chiefly Catholics and Arminians) are always tempered and fair. Truth in All It's Glory exults in the richness and consistency of the Reformed faith, yet it never becomes triumphalistic or exaggerated in its claims. As a result, I predict it will prove valuable beyond those already within the Reformed camp.
In terms of particular strengths and weaknesses, several points can be made. First and bearing in mind its intended purpose, the strengths of the book include the following:
* Edgar's overview of the history of the Reformed faith not only provides us with an accessible and positively stated account of the origins of Reformed theology, but it also roots Reformed theology in scripture and in the creeds and confessions of the church prior to the sixteenth century. Not only does this circumvent the charge the Reformed theology is a relative novelty, but it also pushes those of us within the Reformed tradition to consider the contributions of those living and theologizing prior to Luther and Calvin.
* In a similar vein, Edgar's setting of the Reformed faith in its larger context helpfully connects Calvinism to world missions and revival. This in turn helps to undercut the usual stereotyping of Reformed theology as rationalistic and theoretical, rather than vital and experiential. It also highlights something of the error in equating the Reformed faith's emphasis on divine sovereignty with a lack of interest and participation in evangelism and outreach.
* As the above mentioned already suggest, Edgar's introduction is apologetically focused. Indeed, not only does he subtlety work against and undo some of the more common misunderstandings of Reformed Christianity, but along the way our author reveals the potency of the Reformed faith in being able to attend to contemporary questions (e.g. What about the problem of evil?; Does God change His mind?; How could the sin of the first couple plunge the whole human race into sin?; Can we lose our salvation?) Not only do familiar objections fall away before Edgar's gracious and fair-minded presentation, but his overall style reminds us that orthodoxy need not be served cold.
Second, and concerning the weaknesses of this volume, I see few problems with Edgar's distillation of the Reformed faith. Even the few that I will mention briefly, I hold to be largely understandable in light of his stated aims.
* Edgar's presentation is very evangelical in its presuppositions and conclusions. While I for one am grateful for this, yet as an introduction to the Reformed faith, perhaps some discussion of the breadth of outlook that characterizes the Reformed theological tradition would have been appropriate and helpful. Perhaps a chapter or portion of a chapter dedicated to highlighting the various branches of the Reformed faith and some of the more persistent intramural debates would have better served the beginning reader (as well as those who inhabited the Reformed tradition but who do not generally operate along evangelical lines).
* While not everything can be covered in an introduction, yet in a volume which intends on initiating its readership into the distinctive or key elements of the Reformed faith why is there no elucidation of common grace? Further, although Edgar does proffer a brief exposition of the Ten Commandments, why is there no explanation of the Reformed understanding of the place and function of God's law? And surely more could have been said concerning the kingdom of God as well as offering the reader some exposition of the Reformed understanding of the Holy Spirit. Don't we have some important contributions to offer the wider church on these points?
* Given the persistent and widespread stereotype of Reformed Christians as "the frozen chosen" and as those unwilling or unable to preach the gospel freely, I would have liked to have seen hyper-Calvinism identified, denounced, and set off at a distance from the evangelical and biblical version of the Reformed faith here advocated. The residue of hyper-Calvinism and the kind of suspicion against Reformed theology that it produces in those who grasp the comprehensiveness of redemption really must be nullified if the Reformed faith is to take deep root in the soil of new hearts and minds.
Finally, then, who will want to read and recommend this book? For a start, I imagine RUF workers and other campus ministers will find it practical for training new staff and for placing in the hands of interested students. Teaching and ruling elders will find this suitable for their own edification as they will for the preparation and training of new officers. Teachers of adult Sunday school and small group leaders will find this makes for good curriculum -with only minor adaptation I can see it being the basis of a wonderful course and discussion series. Certainly those thinking about or wanting to prepare for seminary will also find this a helpful `head start'as will just about anyone concerned to discover the basic content and emphasees of the Reformed faith.
Kudos to Professor Edgar for undertaking and succeeding at what is actually a more difficult task than is often imagined, namely, setting forth the truth in all its glory.