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Posted October 15, 2011
Pillars of Grace
Review by Matthew Everhard. Senior Pastor,Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Brooksville Florida.
I recently had the saddening experience of watching two dear members leave our congregation. After two hour-long phone calls, I was able to get to the root of the issue: my recent sermons on the doctrine of election from Acts 9. Though I tried my best to dissuade them from leaving the fellowship, they were resolute. "We cannot, in good conscience, stay in a church that preaches predestination," they said. Although they had seen it in our written Confessions, heard of it in our new member's class, and been made aware of our doctrine in Sunday School, this was the last straw.
It is because of this event that reading Steven Lawson's second volume of his "Long Line" series was such a healing salve to my bruised Calvinistic soul. Lawson takes great pains to trace the history of the preaching of the doctrines of grace, all the way from the Early Church Fathers (Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr), through the venerable pens of men like Augustine and Anselm, and ultimately to the Magisterial Reformers (Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin). Lawson adequately demonstrates that the preaching of the Sovereignty of God is by no means an aberrant teaching, confined to the peripheries and fringes of extremists, but rather is in fact the heartbeat of generations of orthodox evangelicals.
All told, Lawson provides 23 biographical sketches outlining the circumstances that shaped some of history's most critical figures. Among them, Lawson's treatment of the life of William Tyndale stands out. Like a fast-paced novel, he chronicles the Reformer, who risked life and limb to translate the Bible into his beloved English vernacular. Often the reader will be awed at the providence of God and the incredible dangers His servants endured to give witness to His saving power. Lawson then surveys the influential writings of each man, often recommending their more persuasive books, letters, and tractates to the reader.
Following these biographical sketches, Lawson proceeds to give ample evidence of the doctrines of grace in each man's teaching and writing. He follows a predictable format, rarely deviating, by showing how these men consistently taught: divine sovereignty, radical depravity, sovereign election, definite atonement, irresistible call, preserving grace, and divine reprobation.
It is in these "sampling" sections that the reader will discover just how pervasive the doctrines of grace have been. Pastors, in particular will find deep resource material for doctrinal sermons, as Lawson has done a lifetime of research on our behalf. Often, Lawson provides upwards of 100 citations of a particular man's life and writing per chapter.
Although Lawson's theological sections (essentially the last third of every chapter) grow repetitive at times, often stringing together quotation after quotation, his point comes across loud and clear: preaching the sovereignty of God is hardly a fringe "minority report" held by Calvin and a few of his more zealous followers. On the contrary, election, predestination, and the total depravity of man is at the very center of historic gospel preaching.
Ultimately, Lawson's work provided this pastor with much fodder for reflection and preaching material. Even more importantly, Lawson r