Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday School Reading - December 21, 2008

Before getting to reading recommendations for this week I wanted to share a quote from William Willimon's book, Conversations with Barth on Preaching [Nashville: Abingdon, 2006] (HT: Shane Lems). Willimon writes:

The domesticating of revelation… [is] the process of making the gospel respectable. When the gospel is offered to man and he stretches out his hand to receive it and takes it into his hand, an acute danger arises which is greater than the danger that he may not understand it and angrily reject it. The danger is that he may accept it and peacefully and at once make himself its lord and possessor, thus rendering it innocuous, making that which chooses him something which he himself has chosen, which therefore comes to stand as such alongside all the other things that he can also choose, and therefore control. (181)

What Willimon expresses here is the danger of elevating the importance of ourselves in responding to the gospel. It is not just that we may reject the gospel and confirm our condemnation. It is also that we may seek to possess it and then to rule over it rather than to humbly respond in repentance and faith to the message of what God has done to save and gather a people for himself.

With that, on to Sunday School recommendations. There are a few books in the church library that you may want to check out that I did not recommend below. This is mainly because I don't think that they're the best books on these topics but that said, you should still find some of them useful and it is cheaper than buying new books so you might want to look at Five Views on Sanctification, Sanctification by A.W. Pink, and Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce. Under book recommendations I've included several books on justification but not on sanctification. This is partly because the above are available in the library and also because I don't think you'll find anything better than Murray's work on the topic. Please see the free articles to read online also. Before moving on to the rest of our book recommendations here are our Catechism questions for this week:

Q32. What benefits to they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A32. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

Q33. What is justification?
A33. Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Q35. What is sanctification?
A35. Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Here are a couple of book recommendations on the double graces of justification and sanctification:

Redemption: Accomplished and Applied by John Murray - I'm continuing to focus on this and the Hoekema book as the best two on the order of the application of salvation. For this week read the two chapters in Murray on Justification and Sanctification (chapters 5 and 7). Please note that Murray follows the order in the Westminster Standards and so discusses adoption in between the double graces. I don't think that there's anything wrong with this as justification, definitive sanctification, and adoption are all simultaneous benefits of union with Christ. We addressed sanctification before adoption because I think that Calvin's focus on the duplex gratia is very helpful.

Saved by Grace by Anthony Hoekema - Again, this is following along with both of these books. Read the chapters by Hoekema on Justification and Sanctification. Both chapters are helpful though you'll notice that most of Hoekema's discussion on sanctification is following Murray's.

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith by John Owen - Here is a classic work on justification. If you've ever read Owen then you know that he was very technical and his works are not easy to read through. This is certainly true about this book as well. That said, this is one of the easiest places to move into Owen (except for maybe The Death of Death in the Death of Christ) as all of the Greek and Latin quotations have been translated and Carl Trueman (one of the foremost scholars on Owen) has provided a helpful introductory essay.

Justification by Francis Turretin - Being that this is one of the fundamental doctrines coming out of the Protestant Reformation (as Martin Luther wrote, the church stands or falls on the doctrine of justification) sometimes the classics are the best. This is a short book (only 144 pages) by one of Calvin's successors (Turretin was Pastor in Geneva for nearly forty years in addition to teaching theology in the pastor's academy founded by Calvin though Calvin died before Turretin's birth) translated by James Dennison (who also translated Turretin's three volume Institutes of Eclentic Theology). Turretin answers 10 key questions on the doctrine of justification by faith in this work.

Justified in Christ: God's Plan for us in Justification ed. by Scott Oliphint - I'm just mentioning this work again in case anyone bought in on a previous recommendation. Richard Gaffin's article (the first following Sinclair Ferguson's introduction) deals with justification as a manifestation in history of the last judgment. This is not an easy article to read but it is helpful.

Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine by John Fesko - This book was just published this year and is the definitive work currently out there on the doctrine of justification and includes sections addressing the errors in the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision theologies. Fesko is Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at RTS Atlanta and Pastor of an OPC church in Georgia. This is a well written book that reflects both of those roles. The best thing about this book is that by the author's own admission there is nothing new in it!

As I mentioned, the duplex gratia and union with Christ form the heart of Book 3 in John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. See especially chapters 1-5. To see Calvin's pastoral heart in action we have to realize that Calvin believes that only right knowledge and doctrine lead to a right and pious life so go on to read chapters 6-10. Herman Bavinck addresses both of these doctrines in Chapters 3-4 of volume 4 (Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation) of Reformed Dogmatics. If you have Bavinck's work then it's very helpful how he ties together sanctification and perseverance/assurance in chapter 4. Charles Hodge writes about justification and sanctification in Volume 3 (warning .pdf file), Chapters 17-18 of his Systematic Theology. His son, A.A. Hodge, deals with them in chapters 30 and 32 respectively of his Outlines of Theology (Google Books link). A.A. Hodge actually believed in eternal justification (like Abraham Kuyper) so I do not recommend following him in that particular point. If you'd like to know why then just send me an e-mail. Robert Lewis Dabney writes about justification and sanctification in his Systematic Theology.

Finally, here are some articles and essays that you can read online for free regarding these doctrines:
"The Doctrine of Justification: An Outline of its History in the Church and of its Exposition from Scripture" by James Buchanan - Note that this is a book by Buchanan that has been made available as a large .pdf file.
"Definitive Sanctification" by John Murray - If you only read one of these articles then make sure it's this one.
"The Doctrine of Justification" by A.W. Pink
"The Doctrine of Sanctification" by A.W. Pink
"Sola Fide: The Reformed Doctrine of Justification" by J.I. Packer
"The Importance of Justification" by R.C. Sproul
"Justification: Still the Radical Truth" by Ligon Duncan
"Does Justification Still Matter?" by Michael Horton
"The Indicative and the Imperative: A Reformation View of Sanctification" by Michael Horton
"Putting Sin to Death" by Ligon Duncan
"Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection" by Sinclair Ferguson
"Sanctification" by B.B. Warfield

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