Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review: Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael S. Horton

I finished reading Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael S. Horton the same week that our small group study on the 5 points of Calvinism came to completion. The group study focused on teaching by Arturo Azurdia III downloaded of the internet. The audio messages made an excellent companion to Horton's work.

The subtitle of Horton's book is An Introduction to Reformed Theology. Thus, he covers the doctrines of grace (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints) as well as touching upon covenant theology, the priesthood of all believers, and the sacraments. For the most part however, the book concerns itself with the 5 points of Calvinism.

For someone born in the 70's, and having grown up in 80's, how could I not appreciate a book on theology that uses Loverboy's music and the movie Flatliners in several analogies? I was hooked with the references from the 80's. Along with those teaching devices, I enjoyed Horton's style and found he was very clear and concise in explaining, defending, and promoting the reformed perspectives on the aforementioned theological subjects.

Horton, at appropriate times, compares the Reformed approach to other approaches to theology in the Christian church whether they be evangelical, Catholic, or other. The author did this in a fair and courteous manner which was refreshing and enlightening. Balance was seen in critiques of some practices in Reformed circles.

In an effort to "own" this book, taking tips from How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren, I compiled a fairly thorough overview of the book. At most points I believe I understood the author and hope the following is an indication of that.

Chapter 1 - Jumping Through Hoops Is for Circus Animals

Summary: the doctrines of grace are integral for us

Chapter 2 - Created with Class

Summary: a proper doctrine of creation is important to understanding the doctrines of grace

Key Ideas:
  • we need to see the majesty of humanity to comprehend the horror of the fall
  • we need to understand ourselves to fully understand God
  • benefits of the doctrine of creation: 1) We have a 'weighty' existence. 2) We are free to enjoy work. 3) Nothing is 'secular' or 'spiritual'. 4) God is in control. 5) There is evidence of an Intelligent Designer. 6) We are without excuse.
Chapter 3 - Rebels Without a Cause

Summary: a proper doctrine of the fall (total depravity) is crucial for understanding and appreciating grace

Key Ideas:
  • our fall is complete
  • sin is our fault, but part of God's plan
  • our attempts to earn grace are futile
  • we can make no positive, Godward movement
  • benefits of the doctrine of the fall/original sin/total depravity: 1) Nobody is exempt from the fall and we should take this into consideration in our relationships. 2) Nobody is good from God's perspective and thus self-righteousness is dealt a death blow. 3) God's grace is magnified.
Chapter 4 - Grace Before Time

Summary: despite some objections, the doctrine of unconditional election is necessary because of the human condition: dead in sin

Key Ideas/Objections:
  1. Election denies free will - our will is a product of our character and we would always freely not choose God
  2. Election makes salvation deterministic - election s not arbitrary but rather is caused by the love and mercy of a kind Creator thus God's determining defeats fatalism
  3. Election is unfair for passing over some - election does not exclude anyone who wants to come to God because our sin is so grave that none want to come
  4. Election must be conditional - God does not need a worthy object to love and our foreknown response would always be "no"
Chapter 5 - So What?

Summary: the doctrine of election revolutionizes our relationship with God in a practical way

Key Ideas:
  • election helps us to be humble; we are loved though not lovely, chosen though not choice
  • election encourages gratitude; he wanted me
  • election aids worship; the better we understand God the more properly we worship
  • election strengthens our pursuit of holiness and service; we have a higher motivation than reward/punshment
  • election alters our evangelism; it effects our message, methods, and motivation
  • election enlivens prayer; we can pray with hope and expectancy
  • we should believe election because it is biblical, not because it is pratical
Chapter 6 - Climbing Jacob's Ladder

Summary: the doctrine of the incarnation is Christ coming to secure the salvation of God's elect

Key Ideas:
  • every step of salvation is God moving closer to us
  • God is transcendent yet immanent
  • Jesus bridged the infinite to the finite
Chapter 7 - He Got What He Paid For

Summary: the grace and love of God was manifested in the sacrifice of Christ

Key Ideas:
  • Christ accomplished the taking away the sins of the world
  • the atoning work of God knows no boundaries
  • salvation is universal in that it crosses all barriers, but not in the sense that it includes everyone
  • because of the international elect remnant, the world is saved
  • "For whom did Christ die?" is a question of paramount importance
Chapter 8 - God's Eternal Purpose

Summary: in god's mind Christ was slain when God chose the elect before the foundation of the world

Key Ideas:
  • the sacrificial system was not designed to remit the sin of those outside of the covenant community
  • the scope, intent, and purpose of the Father, Son, and Spirit are identical
  • if Christ atoned for everyone's sin then either all are saved or the sin of unbelief was not atoned for
  • God loves all people but He does not love all people the same
Chapter 9 - Satisfaction Guaranteed

Summary: at the cross, Jesus accomplished our reconciliation, propitiation, and redemption as well as being our substitute and sacrifice, thus God was satisfied

Key Ideas:
  • Christ accomplished salvation for the elect as opposed to securing the potential for all to be saved
  • redemption means "to buy back"
  • propitiation means "to remove God's wrath"
  • reconciliation means "to render no longer opposed"
  • substitution means "to suffer on someone else's behalf"
  • God has been satisfied
  • salvation is God's gift, we look in vain to find a hook to hang our hats on
Chapter 10 - Righteous Sinners

Summary: grace imputes righteousness before it imparts righteousness

Key Ideas:
  • the guilt imputed by Adam was charged to Christ, and Christ's righteousness was imputed to us
  • it is our union with Christ which both credits us with righteousness and imparts the fruit of righteousness
  • faith alone in Christ alone is the only condition for both justification and sanctification
  • faith is: 1) knowledge of the facts, 2) assent to thos facts, and 3) trust based on that knowledge and assent
  • we do not cooperate with our regeneration but we do cooperate with our growth
Chapter 11: No Lost Causes

Summary: God will preserve His elect and they will persevere

Key Ideas:
  • salvation is an event and process that will include calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification among other things
  • all of God's trees bear fruit
  • if we are created then we cannot separate ourselves from the love of God
  • if adopted, we are members of God's eternal covenant family
  • 1 John 2:19 - if they were of us, they would have continued with us
Chapter 12 - Two Keys to Spiritual Growth

Summary: the neglected sacraments of the Lord's Supper are means of grace

Key Ideas:
  • we must strip our faith of traditions that are without Biblical warrant
  • sacraments are channels of God's grace
  • it is up to opponents of infant baptism to give reason for departing from it
  • communion is a reminder we are a forgiven people
  • the sacraments are necessary for spiritual growth
Chapter 13 - A Kingdom of Priests

Summary:though end times speculation is fruitless, end times truth concerning the return of Christ and the resurrection is profitable for our lives as priests

Key Ideas:
  • New Testament believers constitute the New Israel
  • the Bible is a story of 5 theocracies/covenants: 1) Eden/Adam, 2) Ark/Noah, 3) Promised Land/Abraham, 4) Israel/David, and 5) Earth/Jesus Christ
  • we are a kingdom of priests responsible for displaying the fruits of faith
  • our priesthood makes all we do a calling
  • Jesus IS coming and we WILL be resurrected
This was an excellent book and my understanding of Reformed theology is significantly increased. Horton does an admirable job at explaining why Reformed theology puts amazing back into grace. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who would like to deepen their knowledge of this tradition.

1 comment:

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