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Proclaiming a Cross-centered Theology (Together for the Gospel) Hardcover – 18 Sep 2009
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About the Author
Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks (9Marks.org). Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.
Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the chancellor & CEO and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004-2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. Ligon and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the ninth president of Southern Seminary and as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology. Considered a leader among American evangelicals by Time and Christianity Today magazines, Dr. Mohler hosts a daily radio program for the Salem Radio Network and also writes a popular daily commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Both can be accessed at www.albertmohler.com.
C. J. Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books, including Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Don't Waste Your Sports; and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of three married daughters and one son, and the happy grandparents to twelve grandchildren.
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for 33 years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God, Don't Waste Your Life, This Momentary Marriage, A Peculiar Glory, and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
R. C. Sproul (Drs, Free University of Amsterdam) serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and is the founder and president of Ligonier Ministries. He has taught at numerous colleges and seminaries, has written over seventy books, and is featured daily on Renewing Your Mind, an international radio broadcast.
John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where he has served since 1969. He is known around the world for his verse-by-verse expository preaching and his pulpit ministry via his daily radio program, Grace to You. He has also written or edited nearly four hundred books and study guides. MacArthur serves as the president of the Master's University and Seminary. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children.
Thabiti M. Anyabwile (MS, North Carolina State University) serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, and is the author of numerous books. He serves as a council member of the Gospel Coalition, is a lead writer for 9Marks Ministries, and regularly blogs at The Front Porch and Pure Church. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children.
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The results of this? I now have a good understanding about where many of these people are coming from. I also, however, have developed a good deal of frustration with hearing biblical truth not only questioned, but outright rejected and even maligned.
That's why I was so happy to get the chance to review Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology, a collection of essays based on the Together For The Gospel Conference talks. Al Mohler, Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur and other fine theologians contributed, and the book is a much-welcomed respite from the constant doubting and deconstructionism going on in many corners of evangelical theology. Instead, we get a beautiful, biblically-based collection of truth that fights back against the attacks of liberalism and paints a picture of the gospel that has honestly refreshed me.
Every chapter oozes the gospel, but some did stand out to me. Thabiti Anyabwile's essay on humanity's common ancestry as Image-bearers and the effects of this on race relations was fantastic and presented the issues in a way I'd never heard. R.C. Sproul's essay on the "Curse Motif of the Atonement" was spectacular, setting the foundation for understanding the gospel in a way that has been almost completely lost among my generation. Finally, Al Mohler's defense of substitutionary atonement is a great example of why I consider him one of the greatest intellectual Christians of our time. His history lesson on the development of attacks against the doctrine helps set things in perspective when you hear the latest "conversation" about it.
John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Greg Gilbert also contribute helpful essays.
These are the men I most admire when it comes to theology, and this compilation of gospel-defending, bible-embracing, God-honoring essays was perfectly timed for me. In a world where everyone, even many Christians, want to question everything, even the things God has made abundantly clear and beautiful, these are some of the men who are consistently, clearly, and astutely articulating the truth. The truths in this book can serve as an anchor for us against the siege of deconstructionism. Questions are good, but they need to have answers. We don't have them all, but many of those answers, especially pertaining to the gospel and the cross of Christ, can be found in this book. I'm very thankful for it.
1) Imagine the voice and preaching style of the individual authors as you read. (Caution: don't mix them. If you read Sproul and think Mahaney, it will get very confusing)
2) Invite several thousand friends over to sing various worship songs before reading each chapter.
3) Imagine the witty banter and thoughtful insight from the authors after each chapter.
4) Ask a friend or relative to surprise you with new books in your chair every time you leave the room.
5) Have a horse near you. A doll, a picture, a real live pony, any horse will do. You are, after all, suppose to be in Louisville.
Ok, so its not the same as being there, but for those of us that weren't at T4G08, its nice to have the teaching all in once book.
Since this book is a compilation of the T4G sermons, each chapter, like T4G itself is only loosely connected to any other. The one thing each has in common is a strong desire to proclaim the Gospel of the cross.
First up, is Ligon Duncon. His chapter, Sound Doctrine, is an argument for systematic theology and clear doctrine. He exposes the idea that we could be "doctrine-less" as being a doctrine in and of itself and stresses that the question is not should we or should we not have doctrine, but what doctrine should we have? He carefully reveals the ideas which question doctrine and thoroughly explains that doctrine is necessary and useful and that systematic theology is every bit as biblical as biblical theology.
Next up is Thabiti Anyabwile. Thabiti presents one of the freshest and profound arguments against racism I have ever read. As someone who once made "Jeremiah Wright look like a poster child for the Boy Scouts," he argues that "the trajectory of race is always toward racism and an unbridgeable otherness." He rejects the very idea of race, reminding us that we are descendants of Adam. We are of one race. Any acknowledgment of other sources or other races may very well suggest another savior. To Thabiti, the idea of race is contrary to the gospel. He acknowledges that we may have ethnic differences among us, and he certainly agrees that we have biological differences, but he urges that we realize four grounds for unity: 1) Unity in Adam, 2) Unity in Christ, 3) Unity in the Church, and 4) Unity in glory.
John MacArthur is next. He addresses the doctrine of total depravity. Claiming that "soft preaching makes hard people," MacArthur calls for a renewed zeal of this once common doctrine. As someone that is often outside of the reformed camp, I appreciate the careful way in which MacArthur explains this subject. This is a valuable chapter for the Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike.
Mark Dever presents a defense against five "improvements" to the Gospel. He urges pastors to "preach the Gospel we have been given" and be aware of various trends in theology that attempt to make the gospel social, larger, relevant, personal, or kinder. He argues that all the good points of these ideas are found within the Gospel, but to focus on any of them alone is to step away from the Gospel.
[For clarity, Dever has included and addendum written by Greg Gilbert entitled What is the Gospel? In it, Gilbert claims that the Gospel is the "declaration of the Kingdom together with the means of entering it." Gilbert's article has been expanded and published as a book now. What Is the Gospel? (9marks) is on my reading list and will be reviewed here soon.]
Sproul's contribution is a look at the Curse Motif of atonement. This is a hard hitting message which reminds us of the depth of what was accomplished at the cross. He charges his readers with this, "That is the reality we must make clear to our people - either they will bear the curse of God themselves or they will flee to the One who took it for them." This is an excellent explanation and argument for the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which sets us up for what is next.
Al Mohler provides eye-opening evidence for the fact that a most basic doctrine, that Jesus Christ bore the punishment for our sins, is under attack. As I read this chapter, I realized how much of hatred of substitutionary atonement I have heard in popular Christians books lately. Mohler gives an excellent argument for why questioning this doctrine is "an assault on the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ." This was one of the most valuable chapters in the book.
The last two chapters are meant to encourage, and they do it well. John Piper provides a walk through Hebrews and what it says about the Supremacy of Christ. He concludes, "Let us go to him outside the camp. For here we have no lasting city. But we seek a city which is to come, whose builder is God and whose light is the Lamb."
Finally, C.J. Mahaney contributes a message for pastors. He understands well, the conflict between a great conference, message, or book, and the day to day struggle of pastoring a "regular" church. He urges pastors to be grateful rather than complaining, to minister in faith (how often we neglect that!), and to love the people we serve. It is a simple and profound charge.
I was introduced to T4G by attending the 2010 conference. It was wonderful. It was truly the best conference I have attended and I wish I had known about it for 2006 and 2008. It is good that the messages are available in this format. This is an excellent book for any pastor or layperson. It is thoughtful and thought-provoking, and well worth the time to read.