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Books: A thirst for Gerstner

Books | Remembering the great works of the late John Gerstner

Issue: "Tinkering with the tax code," April 6, 1996

On Sunday afternoon, March 24, John H. Gerstner went home to be with the Lord. He was undoubtedly one of the most influential Reformed apologists and teachers of our time-making a significant impact on the lives and ministries of such men as R.C. Sproul and D. James Kennedy.

In addition, Dr. Gerstner was one of the most prolific authors working in the evangelical world. In a festschrift-an academic tribute from his peers-published in 1976, the bibliography of his writings spanned a full 16 pages. And in the 20 years since, the number of his books, tapes, videos, pamphlets, and articles has more than doubled.

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was the publication of the massive, three-volume The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards. The first full-scale theology of Edwards ever produced, it was the capstone of a lifetime spent studying, writing about, and interpreting America's most outstanding Christian intellectual. It systematizes the wide-ranging work of Edwards on almost every subject imaginable-from the decrees of God and the mystery of revelation to the doctrine of angels and application of providence. It even contains a very helpful "commentary" on Hebrews, compiled from Edwards's sermon notebooks and his various published works. If this were Dr. Gerstner's only published work, his place among the stalwarts of our time would be secure. But he wrote more-so much more.

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His last book, Reasons for Duty, was released only a few months ago. It is a brilliant Reformed explanation of the continuing relevance of God's law in the life of the believer. With a practical exposition of the Ten Commandments and a comprehensive application of the doctrines of grace, the book is a delightful and refreshing look at a subject too often fraught with conflict and controversy. It is a glimpse of Dr. Gerstner at his very best-forthrightly biblical, stalwartly Reformed, and passionately pastoral.

I have many favorite books from his hand. His Repent or Perish is a clarion call to orthodoxy; his Theology for Everyman is a joyous distillation of Reformation doctrine; his Wrongly Dividing the Truth is a devastating critique of antinomian and dispensational teaching; his small booklet, The Problem of Pleasure, is a telling defense of God's good providence in the affairs of men and nations; and his Heaven and Hell is a powerful indictment of modern theological sloppiness. Each is a reminder to me of the great truth that one man happily abandoned to the gospel of Jesus Christ can still make a tremendous difference in this poor fallen world.

Dr. Gerstner was 81 at the time of his death. He will be profoundly missed-but his legacy will live on.

"And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, 'Write, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.'" (Revelation 14:13).

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