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Manifestoes of grace

Books | The Reformation is still nailing theses to the church door

Issue: "The '96 Election," Nov. 16, 1996

The Reformation in the 16th century brought, among other things, a distinctive new emphasis upon scriptural authority, divine providence, and spiritual life in Christ. Now three of today's leading Christian thinkers have written sterling manifestos recalling us to that earlier emphasis.

Truth and Power is a collection of essays on the place of the Bible in the Christian life written over the past two decades by the dean of contemporary theology, J.I. Packer. Dealing with such issues as the place of the Bible in worship, in preaching, in everyday life, and in social controversy, the essays are profound yet accessible, thorough yet practical, academic yet devotional.

Over the years I have read just about everything Dr. Packer has written. But far from tiring of his work, I never cease to be amazed at his fresh style and immediate applicability. I couldn't put this one down--and I'll warrant you won't be able to either.

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Never one to shy away from controversy, R.C. Sproul tackles one of the stickiest theological questions in his newest book. The Invisible Hand is a powerful examination of the doctrine of providence--the execution of God's sovereign purposes in creation. But if that subject sounds doleful and dreary, think again.

In Mr. Sproul's practiced hands the subject comes to life in a passionate, relevant, and personal way. Indeed, this may be the most autobiographical of his many books--detailing several painful, even terrifying chapters in his own life. Throughout, he demonstrates from Scripture the gracious assurance that God has afforded us in providence that all things really do work for good. If you have ever struggled with the sovereign purposes of God--and who among us hasn't--this is a must-read book.

Michael Horton is one of the brightest rising stars in today's theological constellation--and his newest book, In the Face of God, is brilliant. It cuts directly across the grain of current evangelical thought and practice, and thus is a refreshing tonic of biblical fidelity and integrity. It is a book about our blithe toleration of rank heresy. It is about our loss of an appropriate fear of Almighty God.

Mr. Horton argues that American religion, in its quest for an interior, unmediated, private experience of God, has embraced the ancient heresy of gnosticism. He serves up not only a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone--though that is certainly a welcome reprieve from the steady diet of saccharine evangelical mush served up in much of the church today--but the alternative of genuine biblical spirituality. His balanced picture of authentic spiritual intimacy is both faithful and winsome.

The doctrinal distinctives of the Reformation brought a much-needed renewal to the moribund medieval church some 500 years ago. If these three books are any indication, they may well do the same for the church in our own day.

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