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By Faith, Not by Sight [Paperback]

Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
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Book Description

20 Dec 2013
A study of Paul's theology of salvation. The author argues that appreciating the believer’s union with Christ is central for understanding Paul’s thinking.

This book is about Paul’s understanding of how the individual receives salvation. What does the application of salvation to sinners involve for him? Does he distinguish between salvation accomplished and salvation applied? What is the place of justification in his theology? Gaffin argues that our union with Christ must be central to any attempt to understand Paul's theology of salvation.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Presbyterian and Reformed; First edition (20 Dec 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596384433
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596384439
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 336,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Gaffin brings together a lifetime of reflection on Paul's letters [in] ... this encouraging study.' -- Dr David Peterson, Oak Hill --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Ground breaking - at least for me 23 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A tremendously stimulating and helpful study of Paul's writings which alerted me to aspects of the doctrine of Union with Christ I had hitherto been unaware of.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good 26 Dec 2006
By Brian G Hedges - Published on
This is a very good book - one of the best books on soteriology I've read. It would be a good companion volume to John Murray's Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Murray was also one of Gaffin's teachers), which is an in-depth study of the atonement and the application of salvation to believers from start to finish.

Gaffin's focus is slightly different, and a needed balance to Murray. After carefully defining and distinguishing the terms historia salutis (the history of salvation - salvation accomplished in history) and ordo salutis (the order of salvation - salvation applied in experience) Gaffin sets Paul's soteriological concerns within the context of his summary statements of the gospel and the gospel's nature as solution to the plight of human sin. Gaffin next tethers his comments to "union with Christ" as the center of Paul's soteriology, and then develops Paul's anthropology and eschatology, then reading Paul's soteriology in those contexts, so that salvation is viewed within an already/not yet framework. Then Gaffin starts connecting the dots between sanctification and eschatology, justification and eschatology, etc. in very helpful exegetical theological reflections.

Along the way, Gaffin occasionally interacts with the New Perspective on Paul, usually critically. His primary dialogue partner is N. T. Wright, with whom Gaffin delivered the series of lectures which eventually became this book, at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church a couple of years ago. I am not persuaded that Gaffin fully understands all the nuances of Wright's theology, but some of his criticisms of Wright are probably valid. Very helpful is Gaffin's defense of the imputation of Christ's righteousness as the basis for a believer's justification and his refusal to polarize the individual dimensions of salvation from corporate and cosmic dimensions.

Most helpful to me is how Gaffin masterfully shows the centrality of union with Christ in his death and resurrection and the eschatological impact of those key gospel events on the believer's salvation. Gaffin draws heavily on the work of Herman Ridderbos and has made me want to explore Ridderbos for myself. Mostly, Gaffin makes me want to read Paul more closely and discover the richness of Paul's theological perspectives on Christ's glorious accomplishment in redemption.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must-read for anyone interested in Pauline soteriology and ordo salutis 3 Nov 2013
By Jennifer Guo - Published on
Pauline studies have recently been dominated by the so-called New Perspective(s) on Paul. “In view of reservations and denials that have accompanied the emergence of the New Perspective and are resulting in a diminished interest in the question of the ordo salutis in Paul, it seems appropriate to test these reservations and denials by examining his theology, especially his soteriology, in terms of this question and the issues it raises (p. 4).” Although this state of affairs is what prompted Gaffin to write this monograph, his primary concern here is not to evaluate or interact in detail with the NPP or its advocates. Rather, the NPP will remain in the background, coming into view only as it facilitates his positive presentation of aspects of Paul’s theology, primarily his soteriology.

Originally given as four lectures for the annual School of Theology of Oak Hill Theological College in London, this book subsequently went out of print (cheapest used copy on Amazon currently sells for $99.99!). After reading an advanced electronic review copy of the second edition, I am delighted that it will be released on November 6, 2013. For those who have read the first edition, in the preface to this second edition Gaffin notes that the revisions herein are not extensive, though occasionally they are substantive. In a number of places he has rewritten to enhance clarity, particularly in light of criticisms of the first edition. At several points he has addressed specific criticisms. Finally, a few footnotes have been added, as well as an author/subject index.

Chapter 1: The Order of Salvation and the Theology of Paul
In the first of four chapters, Gaffin gives some background on the NPP and provides some fair generalizations as to the differences between them and the Reformation/confessional Protestantism in regards to their respective assessments of Pauline teaching, especially concerning justification. Then, Gaffin lays his theological cards on the table and states that he is working within the Reformation understanding of Paul and his soteriology, particularly in the tradition of Calvin and Reformed confessional orthodoxy, building on the biblical-theological work within that tradition of Vos and Ridderbos. Then Gaffin lays some foundations, drawing attention to several general matters that need to be clear before even addressing the ordo salutis in Paul. Here, Gaffin addresses biblical theology and redemptive-historical interpretation, the problem of interpreting Paul, Paul as a theologian, and the relationship between biblical theology and systematic theology.

Chapter 2: The Order of Salvation and the “Center” of Paul’s Theology
With these general foundations in Pauline studies established, Gaffin moves on to Paul’s teaching on the ordo salutis (as distinct from historia salutis). Gaffin affirms that Paul does have an ordo salutis, but asserts that an inquiry into the center of Paul’s theology is necessary in order to address it in a way that minimizes the risk of imposing a foreign or distorted agenda to Paul. Using primarily 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Gaffin brings us to the final conclusion that the center of Paul’s theology is the gospel, and the center of that gospel are the death and resurrection of Christ as the fulfillment of Scripture, which has its significance in relation to human sin and its consequences. Gaffin asserts that the center of Paul’s gospel-theology is actually not the ordo salutis, but rather, the historia salutis. He then states that this does not de-center justification in Paul, as some allege, even though it does represent a slightly different emphasis from what has been largely accented since the Reformation.

These conclusions raise the question of the relationship between the historia salutis and the ordo salutis in Paul, and in turn, the more specific question of the place of justification in Paul and how aspects of personal salvation relate to center of the death and resurrection of Christ. In addressing these questions, Gaffin demonstrates the already and not-yet dual focus of Paul’s eschatology and the importance of sin and its consequences in Paul’s soteriology. He then spends some time developing Paul’s understanding of union with Christ, because it is, according to Gaffin, an important part of the center of Paul’s theology – the key soteriological reality comprising all others. Then he talks about how Paul views the relationship between union and justification, as well as the essential role of faith in being united to Christ. Gaffin asserts that union with Christ by faith is the essence of Paul’s ordo salutis.

Chapters 3: The Order of Salvation and Eschatology – 1
The message fleshed out in the previous chapter is eschatological to the core. Therefore, the controlling concern of the latter two chapters of this book is eschatological and seeks to address the questions of how Paul elaborates on the eschatological salvation in Christ that is received by faith, and what are the primary eschatological dimensions and soteriological implications of being united to Christ by faith.

Chapter three pertains to the relation of eschatology to anthropology and sanctification. Much of the discussion here relates to 2 Cor. 4:16, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” This is a key text for issues related to Paul’s ordo salutis. “In explicit anthropological terms or basic anthropological profile, 2 Corinthians 4:16 brings into view the impact or outworking of union with Christ in the life of the Christian. It shows that union with Christ as it is realized throughout the period between Christ’s resurrection and his return. It spells out the basic situation, anthropologically, of that union during this period, in terms of both its present eschatological reality and the present limits on that reality” (p. 65). Moreover, this verse reflects the “already/not-yet” nature of our union with Christ and our sharing in its attendant benefits.

The second part of chapter three explores what Gaffin dubs as Paul’s “soteriological anthropology” by bringing together distinctions noted in the previous chapter as well as this one, and by focusing on their interplay: distinctions between forensic and transforming, inner and outer, faith and sight, present and future. Gaffin’s approach here is to use as a reference point the distinction between the forensic and the renovative, since this twofold benefit of union with Christ addresses the twofold consequence of sin. The rest of chapter three addresses the renovative; in other words, sanctification.

Chapter 4: The Order of Salvation and Eschatology – 2
Chapter four addresses the forensic or legal aspect of salvation in Paul. Here, Gaffin first introduces the perspective of the Westminster Standards in relation to a future aspect of the believer’s justification. Then he makes the case for it with four components: a presumptive consideration stemming from the structure of Paul’s soteriology and eschatology, the forensic significance that both death (including bodily death) and resurrection have for him, his teaching on adoption, and his teaching on the final judgment. The teachings of Paul in relation to a future aspect of justification are summed up well in the Westminster Confession of Faith: “the alone instrument of justification…is…not alone in the person justified” (11.2).

Paul’s teaching on the final judgement as judgment according to works raises the question of how the believer’s faith relates to good works, and to this point Gaffin devotes some time, demonstrating that in the life of the believer, there is a synthetic relationship with faith and works, a constructive bond between faith and what faith does. It’s hardly possible to discuss this issue without almost immediately thinking about Paul and James, and the erroneous views that pit them against each other in terms of justification. To this issue Gaffin next turns, showing that Paul and James are in agreement in regards to justification, for the position that Paul teaches is not “faith alone”, but “by faith alone.” “The faith by which sinners are justified, as it unites them to Christ and so secures for them all the benefits for salvation that there are in him, perseveres to the end and in persevering is never alone” (p. 119). The final section of the chapter and book deals briefly with how Paul relates justification to the present – the ongoing circumstances of the Christian life.

This little book packs a huge, intense theological punch. Gaffin is firmly rooted in Reformation tradition and the Vos-Ridderbos tradition of biblical theology; yet he is not afraid to diverge from Reformation thought/accent when his exegesis convinces him to. Gaffin has written a masterful summary of Pauline soteriology and ordo salutis that interacts with the New Perspective(s) on Paul when it facilitates his positive presentation of aspects of Paul’s theology/soteriology, and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested [Pauline] soteriology and [his] ordo salutis. Though not written for his academic peers, this book is a level above popular Christian reading. If you don’t have introductory knowledge about soteriology and biblical theology, at times you may find yourself reading and re-reading, stopping to ponder. and perhaps needing to rest your brain. But it will be well worth the effort. Footnotes are not overwhelmingly extensive, but provide excellent suggestions for further reading. I know that I will be availing myself of the recommended readings, for Gaffin’s intention in writing this book was to provide an overall perspective; therefore, at a number of places he had to assert rather than argue, and affirm instead of develop. And I know I will be reading this book again to glean more from Gaffin’s sweeping knowledge of Pauline soteriology.

*I received a free electronic copy of the book for review from P&R Publishing. I was not obligated to provide a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are honest.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Strong Work, Yet Discernment Needed 4 Aug 2008
By William Turner - Published on
This short work contains a depth of theological teaching that should be read both cautiously and with consistent consideration. Professor Gaffin (Systematic Theology Chair, Westminster Philadelphia) has given the Christian Church a short, systematic work of Paul's 'Ordo Salutis/Historia Salutis' which illuminates areas which Gaffin feels have been underdeveloped by our Reformation heritage. What Gaffin sets out to do is find the center of Paul's theology then see how this center affects salvation 'accomplished and applied', echoing the famous work by Dr. Gaffin's teacher, Dr. John Murray.

Essentially, Gaffin comes to the conclusion that the center of Paul's 'order of salvation' is seen in 'Union with Christ', which is by faith alone from first to last. Though, as Gaffin voices in agreement with the WCOF, it is a persevering faith which remains until the very end. His understanding of Union with Christ sees lucid explanation of this central truth in Paul's language from 2 Cor. 4:16 and 5:7, where the title of the lectures is taken from. As stated before, Gaffin views the center of Paul's theology as Union with Christ, yet a center which is cloaked in an eschatological expectation and movement of the believer. He sees this expection/movement from key passages on the new creation in Christ which 'already' has inner redemption (faith), but does 'not yet' have final justification/adoption openly, a verdict declared before all of creation (sight).

It is in this anthropological makeup that Gaffin sees Paul stressing His central outworking, that of a Union with Christ that has yet to take place, though Gaffin is careful in his articulation of this sense. So, the thrust he sees is not a schizophrenic, dualistic Christian, but a singular person being renewed `day by day' yet groaning from the `outer man' because it has not yet experienced fully the justification declared upon the total person, though the person is still irrevocably justified in His standing before God. The outer man still consistently feels the affects of the judicial condemnation upon sin from the original fall. I believe his treatment of the one person/nature of the new creation was well-done, clear, and biblically defended.

Other areas of incredible strength and edification: Gaffin's treatment of key theological terms such as 'resurrection', 'death', 'justification', and 'adoption', to name only a few. As Gaffin sees Paul's center as a Union with Christ, cloaked in an eschatological movement towards 'final justification' specifically in the makeup of the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 4:16, 5:7, Rom. 8:19-25), one powerfully sees how his explanation of a key term such as 'resurrection' plays deeply within his understanding of the whole. I found his treatment of resurrection both as a present/future reality convincing on many levels, though I still question parts of his treatment as I felt the `forensic/judicial' quality of resurrection at the final consummation does not hold the exact same focus as the initial declarative act. I believe he maintains a balance during the majority of his explanation, yet at times, speaking of resurrection as a 'future forensic event' becomes somewhat questionable, even after his many qualifications on the matter.

Another area of strength that cannot be denied here is how well in passing he treats the proposals of the New Perspective on Paul. I believe Gaffin does an excellent job maintaining the orthodox view of imputation/justification, seeing it not a means to extend the boundaries of the covenant community (as the NPP puts it) but as the singular method in which God, by grace alone, gives an individual new life in Him. This is to be highly praised in view of the present situation where the NPP (and others like it) are gaining a lot of ground in Christian scholarship today.

I must also give Dr. Gaffin an infinite amount of credit for the clarity he maintains in his definition of Rom. 1:5, Gal. 5:6, etc. He maintains Reformation orthodoxy by stating that 'the obedience of faith' is not faithfulness to God's commands, otherwise it would be 'the faith of obedience'. He sees 'faith working through love' (Gal. 5:6), as the clearest expression of 'saving faith'. Clearly, Gaffin maintains the primacy of faith as the sole instrument in receiving justification/imputation. In a time where faith essentially has been confused as synonymous to faithfulness/obedience, I find this treatment extremely refreshing and needed. It is faith working in love, not faith that is work. Nor is this obedience of faith a continuing faithfulness to God's covenant commands as the grounds for maintaining justification (as the NPP sees it). Simplistically, it is not 'faithfulness' to God in His covenant(s) (Law), but faith in God's promises (Grace), and works are the manifestation of the primacy of faith alone as saving. Clearly, this is not merely semantical, but substantive for the clarity of the Gospel.

My few objections overall: I find Gaffin to be thoroughly within the Reformed tradition on many aspects, specifically to the Law's core as the model for fellowship with God. I, not being Reformed, of course would disagree as I see Grace, not Law, as the motivation for the Christian life (Rom. 6:14). Gaffin essentially sees the Law almost as the final say in the Christian life, yet somewhat confuses by saying the Christian's salvation is one all of grace. I find this somewhat confusing for the Christian because it certainly blurs the Law-Gospel distinction. Gaffin, though he sees only minor problems in his treatments (viewing everything in the vein of grace), tends to blur this important distinction which becomes especially problematic at the pastoral level. It is not a life of obedience to the moral core of the Law of God (Mosaic) 'because of grace'. That is somewhat contradicting unless you have allowed the two to become somewhat blurred, as Gaffin has. Neither is my rebuttal antinomian, as I see the NT 'Law of Christ' (1 Cor. 9, Jas 2) and the 'Law of the Spirit' (2 Cor 3) superceeding the Mosaic Law in all areas as the sole rule of life for the Christian by grace alone (Rom. 6:14).

Further, as stated before, the majority of his understanding of 'final justification' is essentially similar to the 'glorification' of the Christian spoken about from the common pulpit. Gaffin even says that the term he's using (final just.) lacks prominence in scripture. Yet in his understanding, it could be implied (such as 2 Tim. 4:1 for an example). I find no issue with his expression of 'open declaration' as a sort of 'final justification/adoption', since this is clear from scripture (Rom. 8:19-25). However, to link this as he does to the forensic nature of justification (connected from his understanding of resurrection, Christ, and the believer), and place its final verdict/outcome upon the works of the believer (as he does from Rom. 2:5-13, etc.) makes it impossible for someone truly to have assurance of salvation presently, let alone for future justification. He qualifies it saying (in Reformed fashion) that grace through faith alone will keep the person. However, I find this qualification devoid of pastoral consideration. Preaching this can never give assurance when you say to your congregation that unless they have perseverant works till the end, they will not reach their 'final justification'. How does this not come across as legalism at best? I find these problems inherent in Gaffin because of his Gospel-Law blurring. He qualifies both Law/Gospel (as well as Just/Sanc) to keep the distinctives, yet it seems only superficial. There really is no distinction in his fuller treatments.

Finally, I see this same problem playing out in Gaffin's muteness on rewards. Essentially, Gaffin denies rewards based on Christian merit/works flat-out. Passages on 'rewards' essentially become texts on works evaluated at the singular final judgment for the Christian's 'final justification' (Rev. 22:17, 2 Cor. 5:10). Gaffin tries to qualify this in different ways (you can read this explanation), but works are contingent for this final hearing. If you had enough works till the very end, by grace through faith, you'll be at the final hearing, essentially is what he says. The rewards question always plays heavily into the Law-Gospel dichotomy, those who see rewards usually maintain clearer (not simply qualified) distinctions here. Gaffin, though he attempts to keep a distinction in word, continues to explain this 'distinction' as if there never is one. Law is Gospel, Gospel is Law and forms some sort of blurred Law-Gospel-Law chain in God's plan for the saved, when it seems to be Law-Gospel, with Grace being the final word from God to man.

Overall, I find Gaffin's work excellent on so many levels. He is faithful to the majority of Reformed/Reformation teachings found in the WCOF and other confessions. However, I find his blurring of Law-Gospel to create a multitude of issues for Protestant theology. The Protestant tradition is built on this distinction, and Gaffin, though attempting to maintain it, explains his work in a manner that almost seems devoid of it at times (specifically in the areas of final judgment, rewards, and the Christian Life).

I find this final evaluation to be faithful to Gaffin since throughout his work he attempts to reform the Reformation center of `Justification by Faith' to being something more present/future and not past (Union with Christ presently with eschatology as its central focus). Though he carefully qualifies himself throughout, he essentially has moved the center of Pauline theology to exclude the all-important distinction of Law-Gospel in Protestant teaching. Yes, these are interrelated in areas (type/shadow), but they are not to be as blurred as Gaffin, in the end, concludes. He cannot have both, a Law-Gospel distinction and a singular economy only of grace manifested by law-keeping, which is essentially what he attempts to maintain. Still, an excellent read for a very serious and well-discerned student or minister of the Word.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Introduction to Reformed Pauline Studies 21 Mar 2014
By A&J Torrey - Published on
This second edition of By Faith, Not by Sight by Richard Gaffin comes at a time of relative peace in the theological world. Though the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and theological offshoots continue to make headway in the theological world, the lines have been drawn and welcomed discussion has occurred involving both sides. Still, when it concerns the intricacies of Paul and his theology, guidance remains valuable for both pastors and laymen. It is with this non-scholastic audience in mind that By Faith, Not by Sight is written. Considering this, the level of writing and exegesis in By Faith, Not by Sight is geared toward the church and not professional theologians.

The Content
By Faith, Not by Sight is broken up into four chapters that build upward in their application of Paul’s theology. Opening with exegesis, and incorporating general themes and application, it’s able to move the reader from the lay of Paul’s mind to the outworking of his theology as it applies to the church and her eschatological future.

The first chapter, titled “The Order of Salvation and the theology of Paul,” provides an excellent introduction to the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) as well as providing the lens by which Paul’s writing will be studied throughout the book. Tying together the important definitions and elements of Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology, By Faith, Not by Sight supplies an excellent example of Pauline exegesis and “Problem[s] of Interpreting Paul” (10-19). Far from supporting just a standard in-context approach to Paul, Richard Gaffin brings to light the many complexities that are Paul’s particular writing, intelligence and Spirit driven inspiration. These sections are expounded so finely that the book’s value is almost obtained in them alone.

Chapter two, titled “The Order of Salvation and the ‘center’ of Paul’s Theology,” introduces the reader to definitions that are invaluable to the inspection of Paul’s writing. Far from being simply terms for the “theologians,” the expressive and definitive language of “salvation accomplished/salvation applied” and “order of salvation/history of salvation” (21) brings great refinement for clear teaching of Paul’s theology while consequently expanding the understanding of the church. It’s also within this chapter that Richard Gaffin provides one of the resounding principals for the entire book: “the controlling focus of Paul’s theology, as for Jesus before him, is eschatology” (29). It is with this in mind that By Faith, Not by Sight reveals how justification and sanctification depend upon the doctrines of Christ, sin, and the resurrection. In a brief section, Richard Gaffin aptly demonstrates how tightly knit the doctrines of justification and sanctification are to the doctrine of the resurrection, and subsequently to each other (34-40).

It’s also here in chapter two that two of the only flaws to this book are presented. The excellent inclusion of Biblical theology found throughout the book is surprisingly absent from portions of this chapter. Though Richard Gaffin provides phenomenal insights from 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 in their appropriate sections, he fails to address Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 10 and what the role of baptism is in uniting us with Christ. It would seem pertinent for a book that declares “Union with Christ” to be the most central theme of Paul’s theology (41) to explain the expressive role baptism plays in this doctrine.

In the final two chapters, By Faith, Not by Sight turns its sights (no pun intended) on the eschatological realities of union with Christ. This combined understanding of how justification and sanctification flow congruently from union with Christ and His resurrection make an impact on the proper interpretation of Paul’s soteriological language during discourses of eschatology. The application of this exegesis touches upon the bodily resurrection (63-64), the eschatological realities of soteriology (69) and the powerful elements at work in the Christian’s life (76-84). It’s after describing the particular applications that the full purpose of the title, By Faith, Not by Sight, is realized. This verse turn thesis comes from 2 Corinthians 5:7, and is expertly applied to the doctrines of justification, sanctification and resurrection--providing application to the now while maintaining theological assurance for the future.

With respect to its intent, By Faith, Not by Sight is an outstanding success. In a highly condensed style, Richard Gaffin is able to address almost every important subject concerning Paul’s theology, salvation, justification and union with Christ. Though not structured as a systematic theology, this book is an excellent introduction to a systematic approach of the soteriological and eschatological realities of Paul’s writing in the Scriptures. Even the most complex of the eschatological topics are addressed in a way that the modern laymen can understand, appreciate, and communicate for further encouragement to the church.

Individuals seeking to understand some of the finer details of these topics will be pleased with the condensed nature of the book and the particularly excellent sections of exegesis as they are presented. For those seeking an introduction into Pauline studies this book is a must have.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear teaching of Apostle Paul's explanation of salvation. 28 Jun 2014
By Anne Berthlot - Published on
This is a choice of my husbands, an addition to his library. It's a book by a respected theologian on the order of salvation from a reformed prospective.

While the book is supposed to be a new one it arrived in damaged condition with a deep slash that not only damaged the cover but also slashed six pages. We were disappointed but couldn't remember from which bookseller it was ordered.
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