Posts by Ryan McGraw

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The sacraments have always been a point of contention in the church. Someone once said that the sacraments serve as a litmus test of the strength or weakness of a system of theology. This is because many aspects of what we believe, such as the doctrines of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, of...
Robert Strivens, Philip Doddridge and the Shaping of Evangelical Dissent , Ashgate Studies in Evangelicalism (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015). 201pp. Hardcover. For many students of Reformed Orthodoxy (1560-1790), the eighteenth century “high orthodox” period is notoriously difficult to navigate...
Herman J Selderhuis, Calvinus Pastor Ecclesiae Papers of the Eleventh International Congress on Calvin Research , vol. 39, Reformed Historical Theology (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016). 467pp. Hardcover. $150.00. Many scholars have demonstrated ably that John Calvin neither founded nor...
What is essential in an adequate list of Divine attributes? Summarizing the attributes of God is a difficult task, and hardly two lists of divine attributes agree. In this light, many people have asked, “Where is the love of God in the Westminster Shorter Catechism?” The fourth question describes...
A while back, I published a relatively critical review of Crawford Gribben’s biography on John Owen. Gribben’s Owen was initially jarring to me. In my previous assessment of his work, I noted that the book was a mixture of “scholarly brilliance and conjecture.” I also noted, “Gribben’s work makes a...
A doption has been occasionally undervalued and neglected in church history. Yet Paul treated adoption as the end to which the Father predestined his elect (Eph. 1:5). Adoption is the sum of our privileges, or our “inheritance,” in Christ. Our adoption is in Jesus Christ, the natural son, that we...
Chad B. Van Dixhoorn, God’s Ambassadors: The Westminster Assembly and the Reformation of the English Pulpit, 1643-1653 , Studies on the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017). 215pp. Hardcover. $40. T here is a growing interest in the history—and especially the...
E ating disorders can fall towards two extremes. Some abuse God’s good gifts by eating too much food or bad food; others starve themselves, perhaps attempting to lose weight or control their body in some other way. Similarly, baptism is often either abused or neglected. For example, some treat it...
Joel R. Beeke, Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination: Early Lutheran Predestination, Calvinian Reprobation, and Variations in Genevan Lapsarianism , vol. 42, Reformed Historical Theology (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017). 252pp. P redestination has frequently occupied the attention...
T he first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (and Larger) Catechism famously states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Some have asked whether this is actually one end rather than two, saying instead that man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God by...
Philip McCosker and Denys Turner, eds., The Cambridge Companion to the Summa Theologiae , Cambridge Companions to Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). 368pp. Paperback. $34.99. Regardless of one’s theological convictions, it is undeniable that the Summa Theologiae of Thomas...
T he doctrine of Scripture has often been the battleground on which the fate of true and false religion is decided. In the seventeenth-century, Roman Catholics taught the authority of Scripture, while denying its sufficiency and clarity. Socinians taught the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture,...
W. Bradford Littlejohn and Scott N. Kindred-Barnes, eds., Richard Hooker and Reformed Orthodoxy , vol. 40, Reformed Historical Theology (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017). 355pp. Hardcover. H istoric Reformed orthodoxy was marked both by unity and diversity. The development of Reformed...
J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith . Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 250pp. Paperback. Christians often polarize one another over their approaches to apologetics. While different apologetic schools compete for dominance in...
J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith . Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 250pp. Paperback. Christians often polarize one another over their approaches to apologetics. While different apologetic schools compete for dominance in...
J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith . Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 250pp. Paperback. Christians often polarize one another over their approaches to apologetics. While different apologetic schools compete for dominance in...
T heology is the doctrine of living to God. More specifically, we live to God, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit. How we define theology determines how we study theology. If theology is merely the science of God, in which we study biblical data in order to talk about God, then open Bibles, clear...
F or many, theology has a dry and arid connotation. For others, theology is the necessary objective backdrop for understanding the teaching of the Bible as a whole. For Peter van Mastricht (1630-1706), theology was “the doctrine of living for God through Christ” (8). This reminds us that theology...
I recently discovered a book on how not to lose your faith in seminary. As I read the book description, I simultaneously understood the reality of the temptation that the authors aimed at and I was thankful that the institution in which I teach self-consciously militates against such tendencies. It...
I have been warmly commending, Peter van Mastricht’s Theoretico-Practica Theologia for a decade. However, students have wondered whether my promises that someone was translating it into English were empty. Now that these promises are finally coming to fruition with the publication of this first...
Whitney G. Gamble, Christ and the Law: Antinomianism at the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018). T his series of books introduces readers to historical figures and backgrounds surrounding the Assembly that produced the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger...
Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes and Divine Affections W hy does it seem like no two lists of the divine attributes are identical? The previous post showed that part of the reason for this is that God is an incomprehensible and simple being. He is simply always beyond our grasp even...
Standard Questions, Incomprehensibility, and Simplicity G od is incomprehensible. This means that he is always beyond us. The heaven of heavens cannot contain him (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 2:6; 6:18), much less our feeble minds and lisping speech. For this reason, lists of divine attributes have...
I have often noted in conversation that “scholasticism” is a bad word with bad connotations for many people. However, it has also become a strange word that does strange things to people. In some cases, it may even produce strange people or make the strange ones even stranger. When I hear, “...
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister Is Called to Be . Banner of Truth, 2017. 796pp. Hardcover. I nterest in Puritanism has gained traction in the past fifty years or so. This has had mixed results. On the one hand, the resurgence of...
W hat is the minimum requirement for a sound Christian profession of faith? The answer to this question is as difficult as it is important. Some churches have tried to push back to “the fundamentals” in order to stem a rising tide of liberalism. Others have reacted to strict creedal subscription in...
Joel R. Beeke, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2017). 202pp. Paperback. B eing assured that we belong to God in Christ and that his Spirit dwells in our hearts is vitally important. Assurance that we are true Christians is a biblical duty...
Richard Snoddy, The Soteriology of James Ussher: The Act and Object of Saving Faith , Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 287pp. Hardcover. J ames Ussher (1581-1656) was a prominent theologian in Northern Ireland in the seventeenth-century who, until...
Preachers are weak and imperfectly sanctified men. They hold the treasure of gospel ministry in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin (Eccl. 7:20). Not many should be teachers because we all fail in man things (Jas. 3:1). In light of such...
Paul T. Nimmo and David A. F. Fergusson, The Cambridge Companion to Reformed Theology (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). 345pp. Paperback. W hat is Reformed Theology? This is a valid and important question. Answering it may be more difficult than appears at first. Unlike Lutheran...
Every Christian needs to understand the theology of preaching in Scripture because Christ designed every Christian to sit under sermons. Yet are there ways for all believers to participate in sermons? All Christians, and not the preacher only, should participate actively in the preparation,...
Matthew Levering, Was the Reformation a Mistake? Why Catholic Doctrine Is Not Unbiblical . Grand Rapids, MI, 2017. 231pp. Paperback. $16.99. W e allegedly live in an age of tolerance. Yet tolerance often takes on distorted meanings. Contrary to popular misconceptions, tolerance does not mean that...
Rik Van Nieuwenhove, An Introduction to Medieval Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 296pp. Paperback. $25.00. W hy review a book on medieval theology on a site devoted to Puritan and Reformed theology? At least two reasons are prominent. One good reason for doing so is that...
Preaching Christ is part of the definition of preaching, but it is not the only task of preachers. Warning every man and teaching every man in order to present every man perfect in Christ (Col. 1:28) requires wise and specific application. What should sermon application look like? If I tell my...
It is one thing to have a sound theory of preaching; it is another thing to stand behind a pulpit twice a week. Theory can easily fall apart when we meet instances in which we are not sure how to the biblical model of preaching. This is true both when preaching biblical books that do not appear to...
Richard A. Muller, Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017). 329pp. Hardcover. $45.00. R ichard Muller has gained a (deserved) reputation as one of the leading scholars of historic Reformed orthodox...
As children learn by watching their parents, so preachers and hearers learn much by looking at the Apostles. The principles taught in the preceding nine post risk resembling a shapeless cloud instead of a face reflected in a mirror without adding concrete examples. This post provides an example of...
Ulrich G. Leinsle, Introduction to Scholastic Theology , trans. Michael J. Miller (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2010). 392pp. Paperback. $29.95. F or most Protestants, medieval theology is a strange world. We are familiar with slogans such as, post tenebras lux (“after...
When a man and a woman are engaged to be married they can hardly talk about anything else. In fact, we might suspect that something is wrong if they don't express excitement about the wedding. The church is espoused to Christ and looks forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9)...
Mark Jones, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017). 240pp. Hardcover. $19.99. M any theologians have complained recently that Reformed theology has stressed the divine attributes to the neglect of divine triunity. Whether such an assessment of classic...
Sound exegesis is insufficient for sound preaching. This assertion might seem surprising in light of the popular resurgence of consecutive expository preaching. While we should welcome and encourage the shift toward expository preaching due to its emphasis on biblical texts and books, it is not...
Matthew Barrett, ed., Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 784pp. Hardcover. $45.00. R eformed theology aims to be biblical. Yet being Reformed also describes historic branches of confessional Christian churches. This means that Reformed theology must be both...
Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015). 168pp. Paperback. $21.00. C atholicity is as important as it is often misunderstood. In search of a deeper connection to historic...
Owning a home brings blessings and liabilities with it. While a home can be a good investment it requires maintenance. Homeowners generally have two options in maintaining their homes: they can hire someone to do the work, or they need to get the tools that they need to do it themselves. They need...
David VanDrunen, God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life , The 5 Solas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). I t may surprise some readers to learn that the Solas of the Reformation (God’s glory, Scripture, grace, faith, Christ) do not appear in this form in the writings of...
Matthew Barrett and Michael A. G. Haykin, O wen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ , Theologians on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015). 296pp. Paperback. A s a minister, I would love to believe that everyone in the church would read John Owen. There are few...
Hunter Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution 1638-44 , Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015). 264pp. Hardcover. $105.00.
 
 T his is likely the most significant work written to date on the...
Every divine work reflects God's Triunity. This means that if we want to understand what God is doing in our lives we must begin with who God is. The Father always acts through his Son and by his Spirit. We come to the Father, by the Spirit, through the Son (Eph. 2:18). Preaching in relation to...
As the previous two posts demonstrated ( #1 , #2 ), Amandus Polanus envisioned Christians interpreting the Scriptures with the help of the church. In colloquial terms, this means that no Christian can read their Bibles well by themselves on a private island with no external aids or input. Yet it...
M y previous post demonstrated Amandus Polanus’ teaching that the Scriptures are clear in themselves and that there is a difference between magisterial and ministerial interpretations of Scripture. Magisterial interpretation belongs to God himself speaking in Scripture while ministerial...