Friday, September 7, 2018
Book Review: The Soul's Quest for God
First sentence: O Lord, Thou hast created us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee. These immortal lines from the pen of Aurelius Augustine capture the deepest sentiments of every Christian.
R.C. Sproul's book is aptly named: The Soul's Quest for God. This is a book about Christians seeking and searching for God. It is not a book about nonbelievers seeking God. Sproul's point--one of them at least--was that conversion was just the start, the beginning. It is not the end of the soul's quest for God but the starting place.
I would definitely recommend this one.
In the first chapter, "Restless Hearts," Sproul reminds readers that the quest is not a mere intellectual seeking of knowledge about God, a collecting of facts. Yes, seeking God means seeking knowledge and using our minds. But it also means our hearts are engaged--fully engaged--in our seeking. To know him is to love him. To seek God is an act of the mind and the heart.
Favorite quote from this chapter: "When no thirst is present, it is difficult to drink. But it is easy to drink water when thirst demands to be quenched. Jesus promised to fill those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He made no promise to fill those who are not hungry." (17)
In the second chapter, "Sweetness and Honey: Loving the Word of God," Sproul introduces readers to the prophet, Ezekiel. He is given to readers as an example of someone who 'feasted' upon the whole counsel of God. "Even those words that were "hard sayings" became delectable to him." How?! Why?! Why did Ezekiel love God's Word so much? What made God's words SWEET to him? That is what this chapter is about. How Ezekiel's coming face to face with the HOLINESS of God changed him and changed his tastes.
Favorite quote from this chapter: "The Christian who seeks a deeper experience of God by ignoring the hard sayings of Scripture gets nowhere. The full nourishment of the soul requires feeding on the whole counsel of God." (40)
In the third chapter, "Divine Illumination: The Secret of Christian Progress," Sproul stresses the importance of the Holy Spirit. He gives us spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear. He teaches and guides but also rebukes and corrects. The Holy Spirit is not optional but essential in the Christian life. He writes, "The biblical revelation gets the Word of God to the mind. The immediate illumination of the Holy Spirit carries it from the mind to the heart. The Word of God can be in the mind without being in the heart; but it cannot be in the heart without first being in the mind." (63) He continues, "The first thing we must do is get the Word of God into our minds. That responsibility is ours, not God's. We are required to be diligent in our study of Scripture. We cannot reasonably expect the Spirit to give us the excellent sense of the Scripture in our hearts if we are unwilling to work to get it in our minds. A cavalier approach to Scripture will not do. The only "devotional" reading of God's Word that pleases him is a devout study of his Word." (64) Christians then pray for the illumination of the Spirit as they read so they can understand and obey.
My favorite quote from this chapter: "A word of advice I often give my seminary students is this: As you study the Bible, take special care to mark the passages you find difficult to accept. That is, mark the passages you don't like. Then give special attention to them. Closer scrutiny may reveal that you simply failed to understand the meaning of the text. At the very least, the extra study will give you a new understanding of the Word of God. But suppose that after further study you remain convinced that your understanding is correct, but you still don't like what it says. This is a golden opportunity for rapid advance in sanctification. If you don't like what the Bible says, there is either something wrong with the Word of God or something wrong with your thinking. By isolating these texts you have a quick and easy way of discovering where your thinking is out of sync with the mind of Christ. You now exactly where you need to repent or change your mind. While in seminary I had a card on my desk that read: You are required to believe, to teach, and to preach what the Bible says, not what you want it to say." (61-62)
In the fourth chapter, "The Witness of the Holy Spirit," Sproul continues his discussion of the Holy Spirit. This chapter is closely tied with chapter three. "If we are to know and understand the divine mind, we require the assistance of the Holy Spirit. (87)
In the fifth chapter, "Loving the Law of God," Sproul discusses the role the law plays--if any--in the life of the Christian. What is a believer to make of the law--the LAW OF GOD? This chapter spends some time in Psalm 119!
My favorite quote from this chapter: "It seems as though everyone wants to know the will of God, yet nobody wants to know his Law. This is theological madness. The easiest and best way to learn the will of God is by studying his Law. The Law reveals what pleases God: obedience. God's will for our lives is that we be sanctified." (113)
In the sixth and seventh chapters, Sproul turns to Scriptural examples of obedient men and women who pleased--or delighted--God. He discusses Mary, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and finally Joseph.
In the eighth chapter, Sproul turns philosopher and discusses the soul--what it is.
In the ninth chapter, "The Feeding of the Soul," Sproul discusses how important it is that the soul is fed or nourished. He examines ways of feeding the soul including Bible reading, prayer and worship. "There is no hope of reaching a deeper level of Christian growth and experience if we neglect the Word of God." (180) "A disciple or "student," of Christ is one who enrolls for the whole course. There is no graduation from this school until we enter heaven. True disciples do not merely dabble in Scripture or occasionally allow their ears to be tickled by the Word of God. True disciples are earnest and diligent in abiding in the Word." (184) "God speaks to us in his Word; we speak to him in prayer. Hearing the Word of God demands a response. That response includes, but is not limited to, action. It requires verbal expression. God both invites and commands us to speak to him." (190)
In the tenth chapter, Sproul discusses "Barriers to Progress." In this chapter he first mentions how only Christians SEEK AFTER God. Then he stresses how this is a life-long journey. He largely uses John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress to discuss this quest. The second half of the chapter shifts the discussion to assurance of salvation--both true assurance and false assurance.
Favorite quote from this chapter: We desire evil without hell and heaven without God. The pursuit of evil is the road to hell. The pursuit of God is the road to heaven. To seek God is the business of the Christian. The quest begins at conversion; it doesn't end there. (205)
In the eleventh chapter, "The Soul's Final Destination," Sproul talks about humanity's never-ceasing pursuit of happiness. What is happiness or the Christian equivalent of happiness? Will we achieve it this side of eternity?
My favorite quote: "It is hard to serve and worship an unseen God. We prove the adage "out of sight, out of mind" by our slothful struggle. Yet there is a mixture of kindness in that lack of visibility. Though we long to see him, the vision itself, were it possible, would be fatal to us. For a person with an impure heart to gaze upon the face of God would be to receive the death penalty." (234-5)
Playlist for The Soul's Quest for God
My One Thing by Rich Mullins
Invisible God by Andrew Peterson
God-Shaped Hole by Audio Adrenaline
Magnificent Obsession by Steven Curtis Chapman
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible