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M. Downes "against heresies" (Wales, UK)
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The Unquenchable Flame
The Unquenchable Flame
by Michael Reeves
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.28

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A First Class Introduction to the Reformation, 30 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Unquenchable Flame (Paperback)
During my days in student work there were certain books that fell into the "must read" category. Quite simply books so good, so clear, so helpful, that they could shape the thinking of young minds with the truth of God's Word. To that list I would now add The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing the Reformation (IVP) by Mike Reeves.

Why is it a must read? For the following reasons...

1. It makes history live

Reader, dost though fear that church history is dull? Dost though entertain foolish thoughts about the boredom of reading about the past? Let thy fears be allayed. Stylistically, Mike Reeves does for Reformation history what Dale Ralph Davis' books have done for Old Testament narrative. The book abounds with creative descriptions of people, conflicts, debates, and controversies. A rollicking good read and a real page turner. The style will have you smiling and chuckling along.

2. It gets to the heart of the issues

In the space of 185 pages we get acquainted with religion before the Reformation, vivid portraits of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, the Reformation in Britain, and the Puritans who, in Milton's words were about "reforming the Reformation" as well as wearing black and scowling (p. 145). In this short amount of space Mike Reeves has really packed in all the burning issues (at times quite literally) that rocked Europe five hundred years ago.

3. It shows that sound theology matters

The Christian world before the Reformation abounded with theology. The trouble was so much of it was bad. I've stood in the side chapel at St. Peter's Cathedral in Geneva and read the Latin text Post Tenebras Lux (After Darkness Light). That is what the Reformation was all about: a Bible in your own language, a faithful preaching ministry, and a message of acceptance with God based not upon ceremonies, sacraments and works, but upon the free grace of God in Jesus Christ. And on this point a great gulf is still fixed between Protestant and Roman Catholic views of justification, even after a spate of recent attempts to narrow points of agreement and to work toward a jointly acceptable form of words. "As things stand, the Reformation is anything but over" (p. 180).
4. It is a recipe for revolution

And that, quite simply, because justification by faith alone ("Justification was what made the Reformation the Reformation" p. 171, "The Reformation was, fundamentally, about justification" p. 178) has been undervalued by evangelicals, and we are all the poorer for it. Forget about the New Perspectives and their implications for justification. The old perspective of the Reformers desperately needs to be understood today. Let Reeves explain:
To modern ears, the debates of the Reformation sound like rather pernickety wars over words. Is it, we ask, really worth squabbling over whether justification is by faith (as Rome agreed) or by faith alone (as the Reformers insisted)? (p. 182)
That all depends on what is at stake. "They were hardly small concerns being debated," but issues of eternal consequence (p. 182). Where will I go when I die? How can I know? Is justification a process? Can it be lost? Will I go to purgatory? Can I confidently rely for my salvation on the finished work of Christ alone?

In a day when Christian belief is derided from without, and when doctrine has fallen on hard times from within, reading about the ideas that shaped the Protestant churches of Europe in the sixteenth century is a bit like sticking your head into a barrel of icy water. Bracing, a violent shock to the system, and a sure way to make you mentally alert.

Really, you should come away asking yourself "if these truths mattered so much to the Reformers back then, how come they seem to matter so little to many evangelicals today?" Well, like Luther, try standing before the holiness of God (p. 42-3). Like Zwingli, stand at the edge of death's abyss and stare into eternity (p. 64). Like Calvin, see if what you believe is really worth believing if you have to endure exile from your homeland for the sake of the gospel (p. 90-2).

The book, of course (for it says so on the cover), is all about introducing the Reformation. At the back you will find a short guide for further reading. Make good use of it.

The only thing that marrs the book is the reproduction in English of two foul words that came out of the mouth of Luther. Granted one of them is of King James Version vintage, but, nonetheless, this is a blemish and may, for some readers, like a blue bottle resting on a buttered scone, spoil the enjoyment. So, as they say, tolle lege, take up and read.


Defense of the Faith
Defense of the Faith
by Cornelius Van Til
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best way to defend the Christian faith, 5 July 2004
This review is from: Defense of the Faith (Paperback)
This is a great place to start in understanding a distinctly Reformed presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics. Van Til stresses the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought and the myth of religious and philosophical neutrality. In his understanding we are either for God or against him. Therefore when Christians defend their faith they ought not to treat those they are in dialogue with as neutral, impartial or truly objective. While the use of evidence is not ruled out by any means Van Til is clear there are are no such things as brute or uninterpreted facts.
On rationality Van Til stresses that without the truth of the infinite personal Triune God of Scripture we have no way of knowing anything truly. But God, who knows all things, has been pleased to share a part of his infinite and exhaustive knowledge with human beings.
On Scripture, Van Til's position is that God's verbal revelation of himself in the Bible is self-authenticating and ultimately cannot be made subject to autonomous human rationality precisely because human autonomy is carried out in open rebellion to the God of the Bible.
Christians who favour more classical approaches to defending the faith (such as the traditional proofs for God's existense) would do well to consider Van Til's more biblical apologetic. He begins the task of defending the faith once the content of the faith has been established. If this seems like arguing in a circle then it is also true for Van Til that all people argue in circles. The revelation of God is the ultimate presupposition and court of appeal for Van Til because our ultimate authority (revelation, empirical evidence, reason etc) will always be part of our arguement. In this he is critical of some of his predecessors in the Reformed tradition (notably B.B. Warfield).
Simply a great stimulating read from perhaps the most significant thinker in 20th Century Christian apologetics.


The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy
The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy
by C.FitzSimons Allison
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heresy in its true colours, 2 July 2004
What a refreshing read. Far from the picture of heretics as the heroes of the early church this book looks at the darker motivations behind deviations from the faith. Heresy is seen as the desire to have things our way rather than God's way which is infinitely better. Lurking behind every heresy is a pandering to human sinfulness. In particular this is seen in the denial of Christ's unique Sonship (adoptionism) and the denial of his true humanity (docetism). The former is allied with our desire to establish our own righteousness before God and implicitly views Jesus as different from us only by degree and achievement and not by order or kind. The latter denies that God truly entered into the nitty gritty painful world of human experience but merely ghosted his way through the reality of human misery. It is the author's contention that heresy is ultimately a form of pastoral cruelty. This thesis is amply illustrated from the major theological and christological heresies of the early Christian centuries.
An unusual and thought provoking book. It is not so much a taxonomy of historical heresies than a post-mortem of the disease itself.


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