Monday, March 31, 2014

Amazing Grace: God's Pursuit, Our Response

Timothy George, Amazing Grace: God's Pursuit, Our Response. Crossway, 2011. Second edition. 152 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4335-1548-4

Timothy George is the founding dean of Samford's University Beeson Divinity School. He teaches theology and church history. He serves as executive editor of Christianity Today. He has written over twenty books. One of my favorite books by Timothy George is Theology of the Reformers. It is one of the best books I have read on the Reformers' theology. I have talked a couple times with George is person, and have always found him to be a gracious person. I have the greatest respect for him.

Amazing Grace was originally published as the 2001 Doctrine Study for the Southern Baptist Convention. I read it several years ago and enjoyed it. I find George to present the "Doctrines of Grace" or Calvinism in a balance way. The topic of Calvinism is now even more heated in the Southern Baptist Convention now than when this book was first published. I am glad that George has published a second edition. George notes there are only slight changes in the new edition. One of the changes is the title. The original title was "God's Initiative--Our Response." The new title refers to one of the most popular hymns, "Amazing Grace" which was penned by John Newton, a former slave trader. George notes, "Grace is the great theme of the Bible from first to last. Sola gratia, by grace alone," is the most fundamental affirmation of the Reformation and of all true evangelical Christianity." George's book emphasizes the grace of God, but it also includes human response. He shows how both is affirmed in Scripture.

Amazing Grace is divided into six chapters. Some of the titles are "Our Gracious God," "The Providence of Mystery," "Saved by Grace," "A Graceful Theology," "Grace and the Great Commission," and "Living by Grace." In the chapter on providence, George provides "lessons from providence." Some of these are: "God is the sovereign Lord of history;" we can often see the hand of providence "only in retrospect;" God works in "suffering and tragedy" to bring about His glory; "God's grace is sufficient when the answer is no;" the cross is the place where grace and providence meet."

George presents a different acronym to replace TULIP in his chapter on salvation. The acronym is ROSES.
R-Radical Depravity
O-Overcoming Grace
S-Sovereign Election
E-Eternal Life
S-Singular Redemption

George thinks total depravity is not "the best way to express" the pervasiveness of sin. It imples there is nothing good in mankind. He thinks irresistible grace is "misleading because it seems to suggest that sinners come to God in a mechanical, impersonal way . . ." In contrast, the Bible teaches both "human free agency and moral responsibility." Unconditional election can also be viewed incorrectly. For it  "suggests that God's election to salvation does not involve a genuine human response. . ." He also disagrees with double predestination. George states that "no lost sinner who ever comes before the judgment bar of God will be able to blame his eternal condemnation on the fact that he was not elected." The chapter also looks at others aspects of the two acronyms.

Chapter five discusses objections that Calvinism undermines evangelism and missions. George disagrees with this contention by providing two examples who were committed to both Calvinism and evangelism: William Carey and Charles Spurgeon. The last chapter discusses how the whole Christian life is lived by grace. George tells the reader why grace is so amazing: "It is undeserved;" "It's Unexpected;" and "it's inexplicable." In other words, there is nothing we can do to earn it. George argues how God's sovereignty and human response can be reconciled is a mystery. The last part of this chapter George describes the "marks of a gracious Christian." These marks are "a grateful heart," "a humble countenance," "a forgiving spirit," "a life of love," "a passion for souls."

Amazing Grace is a well-written book which shows that salvation is by the grace of God. We did not do anything to earn such a great salvation. It is a gift. Georhe likes the acronym GRACE--God's Riches at Christ's Expense. It is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled with God.

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