Monday, August 14, 2006

Review: Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? is one of James Montgomery Boice's final books. He wrote it in response to what he believed to be the ignorance of God and neglect of the gospel of grace as the root problem of the church today. Instead of a focus on God and His gospel, the church has become focused on worldly success--large memberships, large budgets, programs up the wazoo, a nosedive in worship. Boice's belief was that only a return to the Word of God can change the state of today's church. Boice felt that the major emphasis of this change should be centered around the five foundational truths of the Protestant Reformation; that is, the modern church must have as its central confession the Five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, and soli Deo gloria must once again become the standard of theology and practice in our churches if we are ever to hope for a second Reformation. By the way, for those reading who don't know what these are, those Latin terms mean Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Glory to God Alone. Boice presents a convincing argument that we as a church have abandoned these five foundational principles. We have abandoned the sufficiency of Scripture; abandoned the exclusivity of the Gospel; abandoned a salvation given, not earned; abandoned trust in God through Jesus alone as the way of salvation; and abandoned the exaltation of the Creator rather than the creature. Instead we have taken on worldly substitutes that are but pale imitations. We have replaced sufficiency with ambiguity; exclusivity with relativism; the free gift with a salvation of works; surrender at our inability with self-confidence; and humble deference and awe with arrogant self-esteem or self-importance. Boice examines each of these five solas individually, building a case for each as the standard for Christian practice. He then moves toward application in the areas of worship and life. Boice does excellently in outlining the failures of modern worship techniques and concepts, showing them to be largely man-focused rather than God-focused. He points out very glaringly the Godward thrust of the old hymns, and challenges the reader to consider worship that has a Godward focus rather than personal enrichment. The final chapter on reforming our lives I found to be somewhat disappointing. While Boice soundly hammered home what is necessary to achieve reformation in our lives--i.e. lives of repentance, lives of faith, and lives of community--but he does little to give the reader practical suggestions of how to achieve this. He is long on theory in this chapter but short on application. I find myself wondering if this chapter was actually published unfinished. All in all, this book is a great precursor to his final book, The Doctrines of Grace. Indeed, they seem to be meant to be read in tandem, this one first and The Doctrines of Grace second. I would recommend this book to all of us; particularly one who is looking to bring about change in his or her church or ministry.

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