Book Review: What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?

If you’re a non-Calvinist and wish to understand how a well-bred Calvinist argues the five-points of Calvinism, that is, the Doctrines of Grace, then Richard D. Phillips What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? is a great place to start.  And if you’re a Calvinist but need to get a good grip on the Doctrines of Grace, I recommend the same.

In 97 pages, Phillips sets forth compelling arguments for why he thinks the Doctrines of Grace, the five-points of Calvinism, are so great.  In the Preface Phillips writes:

But I especially love these doctrines because of their marvelous theme: the sovereign grace of God for unworthy sinners.  For even greater than their enlightening effect on the mind, the doctrines of God are utterly transforming to the believing heart.  To love the doctrines of grace is to love God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.  (p. xi)

Even I found the book compelling and engaging on the TULIP: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Calvinism, Grace and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Book Review: What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?

  1. Ranger says:

    Yep, that’s a good one. Also, I’d suggest “The Doctrines of Grace” by Ryken and Boice. It’s also very clear and well argued.

  2. tc robinson says:

    Ranger, I’ve not read that one.

  3. Ranger says:

    Well why not? Shouldn’t you have read everything pertinent to the topic before posting about it? What kind of a blog is this?

    /sarcasm

  4. Bryan says:

    They Phil Ryken/James Boice volume is great. Sproul’s book, “What is Reformed Theology?” is also good. The first half takes you through church councils and history, the second through the 5 doctrines of calvinism. If someone’s interested in the historical battle between Augustine and Pelagius/Calvin’s followers and the Arminians I would suggest Sproul.

  5. John Radcliffe says:

    Are you planning to pass it on to Peter Kirk when you’ve finished?

  6. Richard says:

    Mike Horton’s work is pretty good also.

  7. tc robinson says:

    Ranger, Who then would be able to post on any topic? 🙂

    Bryan, I’ve read it under the older title, Grace Unknown. Yeah, somewhat different though.

    John, Do you think Peter would read it?

    Richard, the only book I have by Horton is that one on Covenant Theology. 🙂

  8. Richard says:

    TC, it’s a good start, but when you finish it think about reading his three-part project surveying essential topics of Christian theology through the lens of covenant:

    Covenant and Eschatology
    Lord and Servant
    Covenant and Salvation

  9. tc robinson says:

    Richard, it seems like you wish to convert me to Covenant theology. 🙂

  10. Richard says:

    If, after reading these books, you embrace the truth of covenant theology then I will not shed tears of sadness… 😉

  11. tc robinson says:

    Richard, my big problem with covenant theology is its allegorical hermeneutics.

  12. Richard says:

    TC, I struggled with the way covenant theologians interpreted the prophets and then one day it just fell into place.

    I have probably mentioned it before but I really would suggest a read of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy. More basic is his According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. Worth the effort if you get the time.

  13. tc robinson says:

    Yeah, I plan to do some reading in Covenant theology this fall. I don’t mind that one by Goldsworthy. Have you read Horton’s work on Covenant theology? I have but will get to it this fall.

  14. Richard says:

    Note to self, fall = Autumn 😉

    Yep I have read Horton’s work.

  15. tc robinson says:

    Good one, Richard. 🙂

    Yeah, I plan to get to it.

  16. Richard says:

    Did you read Goldsworthy’s article on the kingdom of God?

  17. tc robinson says:

    I printed it out but never got a chance. Thanks for the reminder. I believe I’ll get to it over the weekend. 🙂

  18. Richard says:

    Cool, let me know what you think. 🙂

    I recently came across The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever which I hope to get soon. It looks pretty good.

    I also had the following suggested to me; William Dumbrell’s The End of the Beginning, Tim Chester’s Creation to New Creation, and both Sidney Greidanus and Edmund Clowney.

  19. tc robinson says:

    Is that Mark Dever piece audio? Yeah, those seems goods. Whether Covenant or Dispensational, we are both going to end up in the same place, but one just gets there quicker. 🙂

  20. Bryan L says:

    I read the Boice/Ryken book a while ago and it was kind of my formal intro into Calvinism (I was a Calvinist for a little while). I can’t say whether it is good or not since I’m not a Calvinist and so no pro-Calvinism book is really any good to me : )

    Bryan L

  21. tc robinson says:

    Bryan L, we are either calvinists or non-calvinists.

  22. Richard says:

    TC:
    Is that Mark Dever piece audio?
    Nope it’s a 900+ page book 😉

    we are both going to end up in the same place, but one just gets there quicker

    Well I am already there in part but not yet there in full. 😀

  23. tc robinson says:

    Richard, I didn’t know Dever had written so much. I always associate him with little books.

    We too. 🙂

  24. Richard says:

    Glad to hear it 🙂

    On a different note, though I hope related, Shane Lems pointed out that Klyne R. Snodgrass has written a helpful commentary on all the parables of Jesus, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus He interracts with C. H. Dodd, N. T. Wright and Blomberg. It looks quite interesting.

  25. tc robinson says:

    Forthcoming or for purchase already? Yeah, it does look good. I especially like the notables.

  26. Richard says:

    It’s out now, I am planning of dedicating 2009 to the Gospels and the parables in particular, so I have added it to my ‘to buy’ list.

  27. tc robinson says:

    Yeah, I’ll definitely consider it. Right now I need about $1000 to spend in books. 🙂

  28. Richard says:

    TC, would you agree with Blaising and Bock on pp.182-185 of their Progressive Dispensationalism?

    Do you see how, (not, “do you agree with” but try to understand the flow of my argument here) on the day of Pentecost a “new” Israel is formed?

    So the Apostles make sure that there are 12 of them, the remnant are gathered in Jerusalem. Wright notes that “the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, always was the feast of the giving of the Law; fifty days after coming through the Red Sea, they arrive at Mount Sinai, where Moses…goes up and comes down with the tablets of stone. Now Jesus has ascended to heaven, and sends the Holy Spirit to be the way of life for God’s redeemed people. This is the fulfilment of the Torah, the Law. But there is of course a difference. The original law was written on tablets of stone; the new law, the law of the Spirit, is written on human hearts.”

    The 12 Apostles and the disciples, being baptised in the Spirit, are made into God’s true humanity, his new Israel. I am reminded of Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31.

    Then of course we have the Gospels portraying Jesus as the faithful Israel not least by applying Hosea 11:1 to Jesus in Matthew 2:15. Of couse Jesus is the “Son of God” a title of Israel and all Christians are “sons of God”, we are little Israelites in Jesus.

    Jumping back to Acts 2, “Peter’s sermon … [is] about the fact that God’s new day has dawned at last, the great and glorious day of the Lord spoken of by the prophets, and about the fact that the crucified Jesus has been exalted as King and Lord over Israel and the whole world. And the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit are given not just to comfort, inspire and enlighten us for our own private benefit, but to send us out as heralds of this new dawn, as messengers of this new King.” (ibid)

    Can you see how this works? Again, I am not asking you to agree I just wonder if you can see how the story works. It took me a while before I saw how it all clicks in together. 🙂

  29. tc robinson says:

    Richard, I’m of the already/not yet persuasion. From the very inception of Jesus’ ministry the Kingdom was on his mind. There’s no doubt about that.

    Luke says he spent 40 days talking about the Kingdom following his resurrection (Acts 1:3). The presence of the Kingdom comes in phases in the Scriptures. That is what I see.

    A complementary hermeneutic allows me to agree with Bock and Blaising. But of course you and I are going to differ on some different phrases of the Kingdom.

    I’m awaiting the Millennial Kingdom. 🙂

  30. Richard says:

    So you would agree that Jesus is currently reigning from the throne of David as explained by Bock and Blaising?

  31. tc robinson says:

    Yes, Richard. I find it hard to deny. Traditional Dispensationalism got it wrong on this one. 🙂

  32. Richard says:

    So if Jesus is currently reigning from the throne of David and so fulfilling OT prophesy about this, why do you still look forward to it happening in the future; i.e. if it is a present reality why have it as a future hope?

  33. tc robinson says:

    Richard, I’m a Progressive dispensationalist. Notice, “progressive.”

    As I read Scripture, I see the unfolding of Kingdom in phases. We’re now in the mystery form of the kingdom.

    Jesus sitting on the throne of David does not=a fulfillment of all OT prophecies. That is quite a leap my brother. 🙂

  34. Richard says:

    Not a complete fulfilment, but the prophecies about Jesus sitting on the throne of David have been fulfilled, or better, are being fulfilled.

    And I am not saying we have had a fulfillment of all OT prophecies, but that they are in the process of fulfillment.

    You would agree that Jesus sits enthroned as King? If so what is his kingdom (presently) as you see it?

  35. tc robinson says:

    Yes, “being fulfilled” is a better expression.

    The Kingdom now is in its mystery form. I see the church as a manifestation of the kingship of Christ now.

  36. Richard says:

    What do you mean by “The Kingdom now is in its mystery form”?

  37. tc robinson says:

    It’s part of the now/not yet motif, so Paul could speaking of us being “brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col 1:13, TNIV).

    But even in this form of the kingdom we still awaiting what John points to in Rev 2:26-27.

  38. Richard says:

    So if I may sum up thus far; you agree that Jesus is currently reigning from the throne of David over the Church which is his kingdom.

    Cool, so do you see that the church is expanding as people from all nations bow the knee and are baptised into the kingdom, the church?

  39. tc robinson says:

    Richard, I never said that the church is the kingdom. The church is a manifestation of the mystery form of the kingdom. But it is certainly not the kingdom.

  40. Richard says:

    Could you explain that? I don’t follow your line of thought.

  41. tc robinson says:

    Well, even though Christ is now on the throne of David, Scripture nowhere says that the Kingdom=the church or the church=kingdom.

    Even before there was such a thing as the church, we had the real presence of the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus (Matt 12:28).

  42. Richard says:

    Ok, so could you explain what you understand “kingdom” to mean, you can quote Goldsworthy if you want to. 😉

  43. Clare says:

    Richard, I replied to your comment on my blog post about Goldsworthy’s article and made some comments on this topic.

    I’ve heard Greg Boyd call the current form of the kingdom a ‘mustard-seed kingdom’, a phrase which I like and which I think expresses something of what TC meant by ‘mystery form’. Is that right? The kingdom is a ‘tiny’ seed, hidden right now but one day it will be fully manifested and God’s victory will be seen by all.

    My understanding of the already-not yet of the kingdom is that although Jesus has won the ultimate victory the whole world is (still) under the control of the evil one (1 Jn 5.19). We who believe have been rescued (in Christ) and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus (Col 1.13). We are in a battle of kingdoms.

    It makes most sense to me to go with Boyd’s explanation of the kingdom (of Jesus) as being where God reigns, where his will is fully done. So yes, the kingdom is here (slowly growing and taking ground; in God’s people, the Church) but the great and magnificent Kingdom of God is still to come. It is what we pray for, that God’s kingdom comes and his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. There will be a day when this will actually be a visible reality. That’s where the wolf and the lamb come in…
    Both forms of the kingdom are ultimately the same thing, but bigger is better!

    Actually, I’m remembering that Boyd is more specific about what the kingdom is like: it ‘looks like Jesus Christ’ and anything which does not look like Jesus is not the kingdom. He’s always thought-provoking! (some might say controversial! 🙂 )

    Interesting discussion – hope you don’t mind me joining in!

  44. tc robinson says:

    Richard, I believe the Kingdom refers to the government of heaven impacting earth in a saving manner (Matt 6:10). So I can freely speak of the kingdom now without surrendering the totality of the kingdom come to the church=kingdom concept.

    If the Kingdom was already present in the ministry of Jesus (Matt 12:28), How could it be the same as the church? I must reject such notion on the grounds of the witness of Scripture.

    Clare, yes, Boyd is making similar arguments. But I still see a millennial kingdom in view for Israel and the redeemed in the church age, but then the final stage of the eternal kingdom.

  45. Richard says:

    Clare & TC,

    If the Kingdom was already present in the ministry of Jesus (Matt 12:28), How could it be the same as the church?

    The kingdom is, as Clare says, where God reigns in a special way. It is his spehere of rule. So Jesus is anointed king at his baptism, crowned king at his resurrection and enthroned as king at his ascension. After which he sits as king on the throne of David and his kingdom proceeds to expand out from Jerusalem, through Samaria to the ends of the world. I like your concept of a ‘mustard-seed kingdom’ Clare! 😉

    Jesus’ kingdom being expanded by his heralds running all over the world preaching the gospel as per Romans 10, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” which of course in full in Isaiah 52:7 is:

    How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
    who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
    who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”

    The church is then the kingdom in that it is spehere of rule, it is composed of those who have bowed the knee to King Jesus.

    Kingdom refers to the government of heaven impacting earth in a saving manner
    Sound good but could you flesh it out a bit? I see no issue with this and explaining the Church = Kingdom. Once we have a biblical understanding of kingdom of course. 😉

    It is important to note that in Mark’s gospel Jesus we find the following, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” The time that Jesus is referring to is found in earlier verses, in verse three we find Mark quoting Deutero-Isaiah specifically the announcement of a second exodus in Isaiah 40. This is important because we find Isaiah 40-55 has three key themes; the first is that of a second exodus [by the death of Christ], the second is the destruction of the enemies of Israel [by the resurrection of Christ] and thirdly is the enthronement of Yahweh [at the ascension of Christ].

    That’s me done for today I think. 🙂

  46. tc robinson says:

    But where does Scripture say the Kingdom=church and vice versa?

  47. Richard says:

    I must confess I am slightly worried to find you posing such a question. It is implicit in Scripture. God’s kingdom is the sphere of his rule, does God reign over the Church? If so then the Church is God’s earthly kingdom already, though we wait its fulfilment in the future. It was inaugurated during his earthly ministry and grows, like that mustard seed, through the NT age. Look again at Ps. 2:

    Verse 7 was fulfilled at the resurrection of Jesus “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” Verse 8 is being fulfilled now through the agency of the Church:

    “Ask of me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.”

  48. tc robinson says:

    God’s rule over the church doesn’t make the church the kingdom any more than God’s rule over ancient Israel.

    You are saying what Scripture doesn’t say. Nowhere do we read that the church is now the kingdom of God.

    Psalm 2:7 has been fulfilled but vv. 8-9 are yet future (Rev 2:26-27 and 19:15).

  49. Richard says:

    But in the OT that was God’s kingdom. The Biblical concept of the kingdom of God involves, God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule. This then manifests itself in differing ways, the ideal is the restoration of what we find in Gen 1-2.

    Psalm 2:8 is being fulfilled as his kingdom expands by the elect from all nations being converted.

  50. tc robinson says:

    What was God’s kingdom in the OT?

    The restoration is going to come (Rom 8; 2 Pet 3, Rev 21-22).

    What about Psalm 2:9 and those texts from Revelation?

  51. Richard says:

    What was God’s kingdom in the OT?

    That is one of those short questions that necessitate a huge answer. The kingdom of God manifests itself in Eden, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. The goal of redemptive history being the restoration of Eden and then some. So you can see that your question is a difficult one to answer in a comment, in gereral at any rate.

    I will link to Vos’ article later.

    For a more indepth answer I would suggest, as I have before, Goldsworthy’s essay “Gospel and Kingdom” and G. K. Beale’s Temple and the Church’s Mission.

    The restoration is going to come (Rom 8; 2 Pet 3, Rev 21-22).

    True to an extent. The restoration is already/not yet. The goal of the restoration is to return to Eden. Now in Eden man reigned over the earth, he was God’s viceregent, so Ps. 8:5 “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.” THis then explains those verses in revelation. We are redeemed humanity and we are reigning on earth, this will be perfected in the new heavens and new earth.

    What about Psalm 2:9

    Not all will submit willingly and will be judged accordingly. I don’t see this as denying what I have already said.

  52. tc robinson says:

    As a progressive, I agree with your contention of the manifestation of the kingdom of God. I think a traditionalist would agree as well.

    Yes, I agree with Adam as viceregent in Eden. But I see Psalm 2:9 as yet future and to be fulfilled according to Rev 19:15, where’s quoted by John.

    Thanks for the link. 😉

  53. Richard says:

    Psalm 2:9 is not yet fulfilled but is in the process of being fulfilled. In Rev 19 the “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” is IMO the preached gospel. 🙂

  54. tc robinson says:

    So who are the riders with Christ on white horses? And when is this going to happen?

  55. Richard says:

    I would hesitate to specify who they are precisely but I would say that they are probably the Church.

    Let me quote Mathison’s Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope pp. 154
    Revelation 19:1-6 is a glorious vision of rejoicing in heaven over the judgement of God upon Jerusalem. In verses 7-9, John reveals that even as the harlot is being judged, the bride of Christ is preparing herself for the wedding feast. With the destruction of the old temple comes the establishment of the new temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was the final redemptive act in the entire complex of events which inaugurated the present age. Jesus was born as the King (Matt. 2:2); He was identified as the King at his baptism and transfiguration (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; cf. Ps. 2); He was demonstrated to be the Davidic King by virtue of his resurrection (Acts 2:30-31); He was officially crowned at His ascension (Dan. 7:13-14); finally, the destruction of Jerusalem was the definitive sign that He was the promised messianic King, whose kingdom will grow until it fills the earth (Matt. 24:30).

    Revelation 19:11-21 is a vision of the King of kings going to war against his enemies. This is a vivid description of the fulfillment of Psalm 110. Now that Christ has been seated at the right hand of God as the King of kings, His reign will include His triumph over all His enemies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:25-26). The scene described in these verses of Revelation parallel that of Daniel 7. In Daniel’s prophesy, the coronation of Christ as King is connected with his judging of the nations, specifically the “little horn” of the fourth kingdom. The fourth kingdom in Daniel is Rome, and the parallels between the “little horn” and the “beast” of Revelation are too numerous to be ignored. We conclude, therefore, that the coming of Christ for judgement upon the nations and the beast is the same one described by Daniel as occurring in connection with His ascension.

  56. tc robinson says:

    Well, I didn’t expect an agreement with my position on the text in question. 🙂

  57. Richard says:

    Sorry to disappoint you 🙂

  58. Pete says:

    Hi tc, we’ve never met, but I hope you don’t mind me commenting in this discussion. Nice blog btw.

    Revelation 1:6 seems to suggest that at least one legitimate way of using the word ‘kingdom’ is in with reference to the church. I’d say similar things about 1 Peter 2:9 with it’s allusion (near-quote of LXX perhaps?) to Exodus 19:6.

    On a related-but-different note, I’d love to know what a progressive dispensationalist perspective is on the distinction between Israel and the Church. As I understand it (I was brought up in a more classical dispensationalist background) that’s always been the major distinctive of dispensationalism.

    I should add, having been a premill dispensationalist, then an amillenialist, I’m now a postmill. So, as far as I see it, the kingdom has been inaugurated, is coming progressively (the bit the amills often miss out, or downplay?) as the gospel is preached, and will one day be consummated (resurrection day).

    Many thanks,

    Pete J

  59. Richard says:

    Good points Pete 🙂

  60. Dr. James Willingham says:

    What I find so compelling about the doctrines of grace is that each one of them, and I mean the TULIP outline and Presdestination and Reprobation are invitations to trust the Lod Jesus Christ for salvation. Luther Rice stated, “predestination is in the Bible and you had better preach it.” Dr. Eusedin in his introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity declared, “predestination is an invitation to began one’ spiritual pilgrimage.” I was an atheist before my conversion 51 years ago on 12-7-57. That Saturday night at Youth for Christ meeting in the Lindell Blvd Bible Church in St. Louis, MO, I saw Jesus (whether in a vision or hallucination I can not tell) standing about 4-5 pews in front of me, facing me, looking me right in the eyes with his hand raised like he was knocking at a door. I ran the other way, but before I got hom, He change my mind like He opened Lydia’s heart and at home I received Him as the one I asked to forgive me of my sins and I felt a great burden lifted off of my heart, a burden that I didn’t even know I had. It took several years before I came to believe and preach the doctrines of grace, but I thank God for His great Mercy and Grace. If they had not been unconditional and irresistible in the most wonderful sense of the word, I would have never been saved.

  61. Dr. James Willingham says:

    What I find so compelling about the doctrines of grace is that each one of them, and I mean the TULIP outline and Presdestination and Reprobation are invitations to trust the Lod Jesus Christ for salvation. Luther Rice stated, “predestination is in the Bible and you had better preach it.” Dr. Eusedin in his introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity declared, “predestination is an invitation to began one’ spiritual pilgrimage.” I was an atheist before my conversion 51 years ago on 12-7-57. That Saturday night at Youth for Christ meeting in the Lindell Blvd Bible Church in St. Louis, MO, I saw Jesus (whether in a vision or hallucination I can not tell) standing about 4-5 pews in front of me, facing me, looking me right in the eyes with his hand raised like he was knocking at a door. I ran the other way, but before I got home, He change my mind like He opened Lydia’s heart and at home I received Him as the one I asked to forgive me of my sins and I felt a great burden lifted off of my heart, a burden that I didn’t even know I had. It took several years before I came to believe and preach the doctrines of grace, but I thank God for His great Mercy and Grace. If they had not been unconditional and irresistible in the most wonderful sense of the word, I would have never been saved.

  62. tc robinson says:

    Dr. Willingham, I see you do love the doctrines of grace. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s