Written by Philip G. Ryken Reviewed By Geoffrey Grogan

This book covers a great deal of ground. It is divided into four parts. Part 1 is headed ‘Saved from sin’, and deals with Creation and Fall, Sin and judgement, and Inability. Part 2, ‘Saved by grace’, is the longest and handles election, deliverance, redemption, expiation and propitiation, reconciliation and resurrection. Part 3, ‘Saved by faith’, focuses on regeneration, faith and repentance, union with Christ, justification and adoption. Part 4, ‘Saved for God’s glory’, has chapters on the communion of saints, sanctification, perseverance, glorification and mission.

A distinctive feature of the book is the fact that each chapter focuses on one Biblical passage, and these are not always the most obvious. For instance, expiation and propitiation are illustrated from Luke 18:9–14 rather than from an epistle, while the characteristics of adoption are shown from 2 Samuel 9:1–13. This gives a freshness to the way these doctrinal themes are treated. The author makes much use of Biblical stories and the narrative theology to be found in them. This is of course no surprise as he is also the author of Discovering God in Stories from the Bible (also IVP). The reader is exposed to a considerable amount of Biblical material of various genres, and there are also helpful quotations from the Early Fathers, the Reformers and contemporary writers.

Its theological stance is clearly Calvinistic, and, when necessary, he argues his case persuasively and courteously, but it does not dominate the book in an obtrusive fashion. He makes theological points very clearly and helpfully. Some of the chapters are masterly, and I was particularly impressed by those on inability, on union with Christ and on sanctification. I doubt whether I have ever read a clearer exposition of the last of these. His chapter on perseverance, although not handling some of the texts which appear to Arminians to deny the Calvinistc understanding of it, is nevertheless very helpful in dealing with it in the context of suffering. He is also helpful on theological aberrations which have found their way into some evangelical churches, such as Prosperity Theology. The book is eminently readable and its style is vigorous, direct, economical and exceptionally free of jargon. The writer is a minister and so, not surprisingly, there is a sermonic flavour to the style (so often there seem to be three point of importance on an issue!), but it is the sermon-style of a most able communicator. So often the reader finds himself or herself challenged in the realm of values, attitudes and actions as well as understanding.

The book is not geared to the needs and concerns of the advanced student, and you will look in vain for detailed treatment of contemporary evangelical discussions of subjects like Justification and Eternal Punishment, but it furnishes an excellent introduction to central Christian truths. The first-year theological student in particular would find it invaluable, but all interested in clear Biblical thinking on great topics would learn much from it. My first student year was well over fifty years ago, but I am glad I have had the chance of reading it!

There is a good bibliography and helpful study notes, intended to help to reader the discover whether he or she has really understood the material given in the main text.

Geoffrey Grogan