Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Five Points

Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace. John Piper. 2013. 94 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Christians love God. He is our great Treasure, and nothing can compare with him.

Premise/plot: John Piper wants his readers to know God better, to taste and see for themselves how GOOD God is. His goal in writing is to have his readers ENJOY God more and more. "Enjoying God is the way to glorify God, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy..." He asserts in this short little book that the "most crucial kind of knowledge [for believers to know] is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation." He continues, "To experience God fully, we need to know not just how he acts in general, but specifically how he saves us—how did he save me?" And just one more, "To know him in his sovereignty is to become like an oak tree in the wind of adversity and confusion. And along with strength is sweetness and tenderness beyond imagination. The sovereign Lion of Judah is the sweet Lamb of God."

John Piper introduces readers to the doctrines of grace, the "five points" of Calvinism. While he stays with the TULIP acronym, he rearranges the book to suit his own purposes.
I have found, however, that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.
1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.
The first chapter is essentially an introduction. The second chapter addresses the historical roots of the doctrines of grace and offers a basic summary of all five points. The eighth chapter is John Piper's testimony about what understanding the doctrines of grace have meant to him. The ninth chapter is more testimonies--these testimonies are all from the cloud of witnesses (Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, George Mueller, Charles Spurgeon). The tenth chapter includes two final appeals: quotes from Charles Spurgeon and J.I. Packer.

Chapters three through seven focus on the five points: Total Depravity, Irresistible Grace, Limited Atonement, Unconditional Election, and Perseverance of the Saints.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I've read dozens of books on the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. Some I've liked better than others. Some are very weighty--theologically--and not practical to recommend. Keep in mind that a) not every believer likes to read to begin with, b) not every believer likes to read theology c) not every believer is equally familiar with Scripture, d) not every believer has been exposed to reformed theology, e) to someone who has never been exposed to reformed teaching and preaching, the doctrines of grace may prove so overwhelmingly contrary to everything they think they know that they shut down and become defensive.

I would recommend this one. Why? It is short. It is straightforward. It is logically organized. All the main points and insights are backed up clearly with Scripture. Sometimes Scripture passages are unpacked for readers in the text. Sometimes only Scripture references are provided. Skeptical readers can be like the Bereans and see for themselves if it is so. (Acts 17:11) It is passionately, zealously presented. Far from being dry and boring, this one illustrates how theology can energize your life. Piper also packs this one with quotes.

I agree with Piper (and nearly everyone else) that the place to begin sharing about the doctrines of grace is with the "T" of Total Depravity. If you can show someone that the Bible clearly, plainly teaches the total depravity of man, then it will be easier to persuade them of the truth of the other four points.
Man’s depravity is total in at least four senses.
1. Our rebellion against God is total.
2. In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.
3. Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.
4. Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.
The aim of this book is to deepen our experience of God’s grace. The aim is not to depress or to discourage or to paralyze. Knowing the seriousness of our disease will make us all the more amazed at the greatness of our Physician. Knowing the extent of our deep-seated rebellion will stun us at the long- suffering grace and patience of God toward us. The way we worship God and the way we treat other people, especially our enemies, are profoundly and wonderfully affected by knowing our depravity to the full.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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