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The Truth of the Cross Hardcover – July 1, 2007
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The Truth of the Cross is the best book on the cross I have read. It is a 'must' for every church library and a book that I will give away many times to friends. This is so because it is sober (i.e., it contains historically informed reflections on salient biblical texts), sensible (i.e., it is well-argued), simple (i.e., it holds the reader's attention through grabbing illustrations and even a seventh-grader can its substance), and spiritual (i.e., it comes from a heart set ablaze by the Spirit). --Dr. Bruce K. Waltke, Professor RTS
The gospel is a message of good news that something extraordinary has happened. At the heart of that message is that Jesus, God the Son incarnate, has atoned for the sins of all His people, turning away the righteous wrath of God. The gospel is a cross-shaped message. Sadly, in our day, this message is being re-shaped into other forms, and the results are not happy. We can give thanks for this volume by R.C. Sproul, however, because in it he steps into the breach once more to provide a clear, concise, and thoughtful case for the biblical and historic Christian gospel of the cross. --Dr. R. Scott Clark, Associate Professor: Westminster Seminary California
The cross stands at the very center of our Christian lives. Still, many Christians are confused about the heart of the gospel, for many deviant views are in the air. R.C. Sproul blows the fog away in this wonderfully clear, theologically profound, and pastorally rich work. Learn afresh or anew what God has accomplished in the cross, so that you will boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ. --Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner, Professor SBTS
About the Author
Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international multimedia ministry based in Lake Mary, Florida, and can be heard teaching around the United States and overseas on his daily radio program Renewing Your Mind. He also serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew s Chapel in Sanford, Florida. During his distinguished academic career, Dr. Sproul has helped train men for the ministry as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and later at Knox Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than sixty books, including The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, What is Reformed Theology?, The Invisible Hand, Faith Alone, and A Taste of Heaven. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible. His impact on evangelical publishing was recognized in 2007 when the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association presented him with its Jordon Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given in recognition of exceptional contributions to the Christian publishing industry. Dr. Sproul and his wife, Vesta, make their home in Longwood, Florida.
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1. The Necessity of an Atonement
2. The Just God
3. Debtors, Enemies, and Criminals
4. Ransomed from Above
5. The Saving Substitute
6. Made Like His Brethren
7. The Suffering Servant
8. The Blessing and the Curse
9. A Secure Faith
10. Questions and Answers
The Truth of the Cross is not fun reading, yet it was a book I wanted to read and is the type of reading we should all undertake. Although the topic is complex, Dr. Sproul explains the atonement in a way that many can understand. I'm thankful for Dr. Sproul and the impact he has made on me and on thousands of others. If you hold to an Arminian viewpoint, you may disagree with Dr. Sproul's take on various theological topics; however, I still strongly recommend The Truth of the Cross. Dr. Sproul provides solid Scripture references and logical arguments that everyone should consider - arguments that I wholeheartedly agree with and point me to the cross.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before it shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7
He goes into detail explaining our problem (as fallen human beings), how our sin has affected our relationship with God, and exactly why the Cross is the only solution. After reading this book, one cannot but marvel at the grace of God. A deeper understanding of what both God did, and what Jesus did on the Cross makes for a much deeper, meaningful relationship with God. My life has been impacted by this book and given my a much greater appreciation for, and love of Jesus.
This book takes a look at the cross from many directions. Sproul demonstrates the necessity of the cross to appease God and justify man. He looks at all the different metaphors the Bible uses for sin, such as debt, enmity, and crime, and how the work of the cross satisfies each of those cases. He talks about why Jesus had to be both man and God and why He had to live for thirtysome years on this earth. The book explores atonement and substitution. It defines theological terms such as Augustianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Pelagianism, theopassianism, patripassianism, and forensic justification, among others. It defines Latin phrases such as "sine qua non" and "simul justus et peccator." The merit of "The Truth on the Cross" is that not only is it quite helpful in understanding the mechanisms of the cross, it also stops to contemplate these mechanisms. It is a theological work, but also a practical one.
As helpful as this work was, I have a couple of quibbles about it. The first is that Sproul sometimes takes exegetical liberties to make his point. For example, on page 112 he explores the line "We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." He goes on to say that this is true--which it is, but that is not the point of that particular line. The line expresses at the time of their future salvation, Israel's view that Jesus was stricken by God because of His sins, for falsely claiming to be the Messiah. This is why the next line begins with the word "but" to counter Israel's false belief. Ultimately, Sproul is correct in saying that Jesus was crushed by God, but he commits an exegetical hiccup because the meaning he draws is not the intended one.
I also sometimes felt that there were not enough Scripture citations. When he discusses Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled by the crucifixion of Christ, he mentions the fact that "Jesus' execution was outside Jerusalem. . . . outside the holy city where the presence of God was concentrated. He was sent into the outer darkness" (131) and that, when the sky became dark at His death, "[i]t was as if God had veiled the light of His countenance" (132). He may be right in saying those two events fulfill prophecies, but I think it would be much more helpful if he cited some references instead of relying on logic and general knowledge.
Now, I have no doubt that R.C. Sproul is a very intelligent man. I have heard some of his sermons before and I have seen videos of him released by Ligonier Ministries, of which he is the founder and chairman. But I think one of the faults of this book, owing to Sproul's great intelligence, is that it does not adequately explain theological terms, especially those pertaining to contrary positions. Augustianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Pelagianism get their definitions in the span of one combined sentence. To say this is reductionist might be an understatement. According to his definitions, Pelagianism is clearly heretical and the first two "represent significant debates within the Christian family" (12). Still, I wanted to know more about the distinctions between Augustinianism and Semi-Pelagianism, and he did not discuss them much further. I think that because he understands these distinctions well, he assumed that we would, too.
A similar situation is particularly evident in his ninth chapter, which is a defense of the doctrine of limited atonement. He says that the doctrine of limited atonement does not have to do with a repudiation of universalism, which is fine. Rather, Sproul states, this doctrine has to do with the question of to whom the atoning work of Christ applies, and it applies only to the elect. Again, this is fine. But then my question is, "Why does this doctrine arise as a distinction of reformed theology? To what is this doctrine responding?" And here I think Sproul does not do so good a job. Instead of ending with the statement that "it was God's design that Jesus should die not for everybody indiscriminately, but only for those who would believe" (146), Sproul continues and states that "[f]or the Arminian, salvation is possible for all but certain for none. In the Calvinist position, salvation is sure for God's elect" (148). He writes, "The Calvinist knows that not everyone will respond to the gospel message, but he also knows with certainty that some will respond to it" (149). Isn't this a foray into the doctrine of irresistible grace? I understand that they are linked together, but it made things confusing for me, as I was left lacking an understanding of limited atonement alone and how it stands counter to the Arminian position.
Because he is so intelligent, Sproul is sometimes prone to explain things in a particular way that suits his mind, but perhaps not the minds of others. In other cases, to make things easier to understand he becomes slightly reductionist. And sometimes his intelligence makes his writing a little hard to read--his thought process can be confusing, and his sentences awkward and long. (Seeing five clauses, or four non-serial commas, in one sentence is not a rarity. Admittedly, I think I suffer from this, as well.) But his intelligence is also of tremendous benefit to us. As I mentioned, I developed a more organized theology. I know a little more about the "why"s and the "how"s of the cross. Through these, I have developed a greater thankfulness for Christ and His work. If you are looking for a small primer on the theology and truth of the cross, I recommend to you this book. (And though I think this book does a good job of balancing theology and worship, if you would like to pair this with a more reflection-minded book, I also recommend to you C.J. Mahaney's "Living the Cross Centered Life.") For all the time I spent discussing its shortcomings, it is still an excellent and accessible book that helped me better understand and appreciate the cross. It is not merely a thought exercise, but a comprehensive look at the cross to foster an appreciation for it. I'm sure that, should you read it, it will benefit you--all for, as R.C. Sproul would no doubt say, "soli Deo gloria!"
(This book was provided free for review by Reformation Trust Publishing, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)
In it, Mr. Sproul takes us on a nine chapter journey from the necessity of atonement to the assurance of a secure faith. Man is clearly defined in view of God's character. Man's position is clearly stated in view of God's justice. Man's fate is clearly charged in view of God's statutes.
THE TRUTH OF THE CROSS clearly and concisely establishes Christ's purpose, role and intent in the act of salvation. THE TRUTH OF THE CROSS isn't lumber and nails, thieves and soldiers; THE TRUTH OF THE CROSS is the culmination of the marriage of Old Testament law and prophesy with New Testament grace.
THE TRUTH OF THE CROSS is in fact, a life changing read. I easily rate this book 5 stars out of 5 on the following scale:
+ poor read
++ so-so read
+++ good read
++++ excellent read
+++++ life changing read