Chosen in Christ? by James L Crookes; price £4.95. Published by and available from John Ritchie Ltd.
Sadly the great Biblical doctrines of election and predestination have too often been distorted, and in some cases have led to extreme theories of determinism where moral choice and human responsibility are negated, with knock-on human logic leading to false ideas about a limited atonement and irresistable grace. This is in spite of the clear revelation of Scripture that God is both sovereign and at the same time willing that all men should be saved, and that the overwhelming message of the New Testament is that whosoever will may come.
Several useful publications have appeared recently to correct these erroneous ideas, and here is another just published; but one quite different in style and readability. The author, with a lifetime of experience, has structured his reply to determinism in the form of a dialogue between a mature believer and a younger one who has come to him for help and clarification. It is easy to identify with the problems in the discussions, and as they proceed in dialogue format, interest is maintained better than with uninterrupted prose. Young believers especially will find this book clear and its explanations easy to follow.
There are seven different discussions in the book dealing in turn with perceived difficulties and associated problem texts from the Old and New Testaments which, on the surface, appear to be deterministic. The author shows clearly that this is not the case by reference to context, grammar, and the framework of all of divine revelation. The important principle that perceived difficulties must not override clear statements of divine revelation is once again applied very effectively.
The conclusion drawn is that anything which impugns the revealed character of our great God and Saviour must be rejected, and that Scripture is not given to us for us to formulate theories, rather that we might know the truth, believe it, and follow it. This does not mean we shall completely understand it all, for many things are beyond our comprehension. The things of God must be like that in many of their aspects, or else God would not be God. Humble, loving obedience plays the major part in our advance in spiritual wisdom and understanding, as does faith in our initial response to the gospel.
What in the World is God Doing? by C Gordon Olson; published by Global Gospel Publishers; price £8.99. Available from John Ritchie Ltd.
Subtitled "The Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide", this comprehensive work was produced primarily for students of missions in colleges and seminaries in the USA. From that background there are some parts of it which readers of this magazine will not endorse, such as the concept of mission boards and societies, the role of the pastor in the church (sic), and so on. Nevertheless there is very much of great value to be gleaned from its pages for any who have an interest in missionary work and an exercise to promote it by praying, giving, and going, which, the author contends, should be true of every believer, and we certainly endorse that.
The subject matter is organised into five sections. Part 1 starts with useful definitions, and surveys the clear missionary message of both Old and New Testaments, ending with an analysis of what is meant by a "call" to serve God. Part 2 is a very interesting and enlightening account of the history of missionary work from AD 33 to the present. Part 3 deals with Contexts, the different religious and secular backgrounds into which Gods Word must penetrate. Part 4 describes regions of the world where the gospel is being spread, and points out many significant imbalances of personnel against needs in these different areas. The last part is about various functions involved in missionary work, ranging from preparation for going overseas, the types of work done, the agencies which provide support, and the role of the home church. The last paragraph is entitled "Our time may be short".
The author makes clear that the primary function of the missionary is to spread the gospel, not losing sight of this in even very desirable social concerns. The danger of diluting the message and of ecumenical liberalism is well signposted. The establishing of local churches and the involvement and equipping of local believers to take up positions of leadership is a necessary outcome. The model of Antioch in Acts 13 is strongly upheld as both practical and desirable in the sending and supporting of missionaries.