This week makes 4 weeks since ankle surgery. I’ve had more reading time than normal and wanted to share with you some good books read during recovery. I’m planning to teach a class this fall at church on God’s sovereignty which greatly shaped my book choices, but these are good reads regardless. Most are available on Kindle:
“Chosen by God” by R.C. Sproul (I’d read this a couple times in the past)
This is an easy read and a wonderful introduction to the doctrines of God’s sovereignty
“Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World” by Tom Schreiner
A fast-paced overview of God’s redemptive narrative in Scripture organized by covenants.
“The Sovereignty of God” by A.W. Pink
Holy smokes, this one knocked my socks off. Pink wrote this in 1918 as a candid response to the man-centered teachings so prevalently proclaimed throughout the church.
“Freedom of the Will” by Jonathan Edwards
This is a tougher, slower read and I scanned much of it for research purposes.
“40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law” by Tom Schreiner
Are Christians under the Mosaic Law? What was the purpose of the Law? Are Christians supposed to tithe? And many more! Each question has a short, stand alone biblical treatment.
“Spurgeon’s Calvinism” by Charles Spurgeon, edited by Stephen McCaskell
A thrilling read, this book is a collection of Spurgeon’s sermons combined with his short booklet, “A Defense of Calvinism.”
“From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention” by Thomas Ascol
What does Geneva have to do with Nashville? This is a concise presentation of Baptist history and the latest edition includes the Charleston (S.C.) Confession of Faith.
CURRENTLY IN PROGRESS:
“Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility” by D.A. Carson
A examination of the tension that exists in Scripture from a God who presents himself as both omnipotent and benevolent, the meaning of human freedom and choice, and more.
“Amazing Grace: God’s Pursuit–Our Response” by Timothy George
This was first published in 2001 as a doctrine study for the Southern Baptist Convention and is a clear, simple exposition of what are known as the doctrines of grace.
I’d be interested in checking out the book Devine sovereignty and human responsibility. I enjoy philosophical works. Got to admit I’m not religious in any sense, but I enjoy interesting perspectives and continually challenging myself to broaden perspective. Glad you are reading. When I was hospitalized for nine months last year and had seven abdominal surgeries that’s basically all I did to get through the days. I’m reading a good book right now called Adrift, about a man who was lost at sea for 76 days and survived. It’s an interesting tale of sea faring misadventures, survival and hope. All of us will likely have at least one experience that tests us and reveals a greater truth. The book cautiously explores the fabric that ties us all together…the author put it best, ‘the heartfelt realization of one’s insignificance yields a calming sense of being connected to the greater whole.’ I have always sought to improve my world as a therapist though the empathy I know now has increased and the sense of interconnectedness I have with others has deepened. We are all essentially the same no matter our views or experiences.
Whoa, nine months! My goodness! I’m glad you’re doing better. I’m going to have to check out “Adrift” for sure…sounds like an amazing book. The Carson book does assume the reader has a biblical worldview but would be interesting nonetheless. Also consider some philosophical works by C.S. Lewis, like “Mere Christianity.”
It’s a few years old now, but I recently finished Ricky Skaggs autobiography, “Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music”. It’s a good read for anyone who is interested in Mr. Skaggs or a practical history of 20th century bluegrass. Playing on stage with Bill Monroe at the age of six and then later becoming one of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys as a teenager was only the start of an amazing journey. He’s likely forgotten more about music than I’ll ever know.
Harkening back to the theme of Ben’s original post, the book is also an interesting look at one man’s walk with God. Mr. Skaggs is very open about his faith and the role it plays in his life and music.
I’ve honestly thought about God’s sovereignty in salvation every day for at least the last 7 years. People ask if I’m a Calvinist. I cannot answer until I hear their definition of a Calvinist, because 99/100 I am not a Calvinist according to their definition. However, if Spurgeon were to ask me if I am a Calvinist, I’d say, “Brother Charles, you’d better believe I am.”
I’ve thought about God’s sovereignty in salvation every day for at least the last 7 years. That’s how important I think it is.
Do I think it’s a primary issue? I’ll quote Spurgeon when asked about the spiritual condition of John Wesley, and I strive to exhibit the same charity to those who may not agree with me, as long as they maintain integrity, a love for truth, and a commitment to the gospel:
“I can only say concerning [Wesley] that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one ‘of whom the world was not worthy.’ I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Savior, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.”
Those are super kind words, thank you. Theology is my favorite topic to discuss. There is much misunderstanding and mischaracterizations surrounding these particular doctrines. God’s sovereignty, particularly in how it relates to salvation, is what fuels me to preach the gospel, and a passion of mine is to clearly communicate these truths to others.
Just some more thoughts using bullet points, cause it’s easier some times.
I really don’t know the five points, but per my knowledge Calvinism means you are elected for salvation, and no matter what anyone says or does, it’s inescapable, saved or lost.
This is solely based on God’s prerogitive. He chooses. Man has no voice in the matter.
Some say that the doctrine of election negates the need for witnessing, given that we are part of the elect or we are not.
My difficulty with Calvinism has at least two issues. It’s quite painful to think about, and if Calvinism was so, why is there so much Biblical content. commanding us to be witnesses. eg. Matt. 28:19.
As far as the importance of this doctrine, I’m led to ask, “If we are saved, isn’t belief or non belief in Calvinism a non essential?”
Lastly, isn’t Calvinism soundly rejected by Southern Baptists? We were part of the Calvary Chapel movement, (which I still love), for about 15 years, but we’ve been attending a Southern Baptist Church for several months, and will likely become members soon.
What say you, when you a few moments? I’m not trying to draw swords. These are just some things I think about.
Good thoughts, and I’ll give you some “brief-er” answers. Please feel free to ask more questions or ask for clarification! Let me first say that many of Christendom’s most famous missionaries/evangelists were Calvinists, such as: George Whitefield (Great Awakening), Charles Spurgeon (Prince of Preachers…if you haven’t, please read his evangelistic appeals!), Jonathan Edwards (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God), William Carey (Father of modern missions), Lottie Moon, and we could go on and on.
So, if these men/woman, whom proclaimed to millions the free offer of God’s gracious salvation to any who would believe and repent, were Calvinists, then we must reject the false conclusions many draw from the doctrines of grace (a.k.a. Calvinism).
Yes, God has elected to salvation (Eph. 1:3-14, Romans 8:28-39, etc.), but has also chosen the means to get them there. Nothing is automatic, robotic, mechanistic, etc. This is a paradox, of course, but we can expect those (Is. 55:8). There will be no one in heaven who did not genuinely want to be there, and no one in hell who genuinely wanted to be in heaven.
Do you mean that God commands what he wants, then brings it to be just as he commanded? If so, you’d agree with Scripture. Listen to what God says to Isaiah, for instance in 46:9b-10:
“I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”
So is God accomplishing his purpose or man’s? We don’t think God is going to surrender or alter his eternal plans according to a man’s voice, right? At the same time, man is a free moral agent who makes real choices that really matter and have real consequences. Yes, both of those are true, and they must be if we’re to believe the Bible. NOTE: they are not a contradiction, but a paradox. There is a vast difference between the two.
The weighty and mind-blowing truths of God’s sovereignty, that he can do whatever he wants with his creation, is a sobering and tough truth to contend with. I have learned to rest in the tension and to think about it with care. Paul especially knew this. That’s why he says to the objector of these truths in Romans 9:18-20– So then [God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
But listen…I promise that the struggle to understand these truths is so worth it! I know it’s tough, but they are ultimately the sweetest doctrines. It took me 3+ years of intense struggle to arrive there, by the way.
On the contrary, evangelism, faith, and repentance are the means God uses to bring about his eternal plan. All who are to be saved must call upon the name of the Lord. There is no way, on this side of eternity, to know who the elect are. We are to preach the gospel to all creation and trust God to work. Men must believe! They must repent! And if God were not sovereign and gracious to give men new hearts, NONE would believe (Eph. 2:1-3, Rom. 8:7-8, 1 Cor. 2:14, etc., etc.)!
Southern Baptists were historically Reformed (Calvinistic) in their soteriology. Throughout the late 1800’s and much of the 20th century, there was a shift away from those doctrines. However, in the last 20+ years there has been a reversal and now over 30% of SBC pastors identify as Calvinists. We just elected a Calvinist SBC president this week, J.D. Greear, who’s church in N.C. has commissioned almost 200 international missionaries, most of whom have gone to the most dangerous places in the world.
Finally, let me say that though Calvin’s name is associated with a sovereign grace, God-centered salvation theology, Calvin did not invent them. Calvin never knew of anything called “Calvinism.” These truths have been held, taught, and fought for throughout church history (read up on the Augustine vs. Pelagius debate).
Let me know if you have more questions! I encourage you to read “Chosen by God” by R.C. Sproul.
Do I believe those who reject Calvinism can be saved? Heavens yes! This is not a salvation issue! It affects my worship, how I approach ministry/evangelism, my humility, but if we had to have a perfect theology to be saved, no one could go to heaven.
I want to go on record as saying some of the most godly, God-fearing, God-loving brothers I have are not Calvinists. I’ve gone around the world with Church of Christ brothers, preaching the gospel together, in gospel unity. Yes, there are essentials: One God, three persons, dual nature of Christ, sacrificial atonement, literal resurrection, requiring repentance/faith unto salvation…those and a few other essentials, I do not budge. But this is an in-house debate and I would be ashamed if anyone outside the kingdom was discouraged at two sides bickering–it is not worth that.
I’ve given this a little more consideration, and it reminded me of your 2 part teaching a few months back on God’s sovereignty. I think I had mentioned that the biggest takeaway that I got was that he ordains absolutely everything, because he is sovereign.
So, in that context, Calvinism makes a good deal of sense. I’m still completely on the fence though, in terms of embracing this doctrine, and at this time quite content with being there.
This may not be the best comparison, but several years back there was a movie called “The Butterfly Effect”. Though I didn’t see it, I believe the premise was that even the breeze created by a butterfly flapping it’s wings leads to another event and another event eventually resulting in something cataclysmic. Cause and effect, if you will.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.
Remember the emphasis on "work together, not “work out” in the teaching? That was good.
I have much more swirling around, but my writing’s already getting a bit disjointed.