Item description for Foundations of Grace (Long Line of Godly Men) by Steven J. Lawson...
Overview Understanding the doctrines of grace will give you a clearer picture of God's sovereignty. From the lawgiver Moses to the apostle John, and from the early church fathers to modern defenders of the faith, there has marched onto the stage of human history a long line of godly men, a triumphant parade of spiritual stalwarts who have upheld the doctrines of grace. In this book, the first in the three-volume A Long Line of Godly Men series, Dr. Steven J. Lawson takes you on a heart-stirring survey of the Scriptures to show that the Bible in its entirety teaches the doctrines of grace.
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Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.
Steven J. Lawson currently resides in Mobile, in the state of Alabama. Steven J. Lawson was born in 1951.
Reviews - What do customers think about Foundations of Grace (Long Line of Godly Men)?
Amazing book - but not enough on the ressurection! Dec 9, 2008
Ever since I first heard about Lawsons first book in the series I've wanted to get my hands on a copy. It sat on my this site wishlist for some time. But I did the responsible thing and bought all my course texts first, and sadly I've had to leave this one till now. Thankfully Reformation Trust helped me out with a copy of this first in a projected five volume series. I've enjoyed Lawson's style of writing (see my previous review) so tackling his (projected) magnum opus seemed a lot less daunting. The book opened with a wonderful 13 page forward by Dr John MacArthur on Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace which as Lawsons says in his preface is "priceless". How we view the Character of God is extremely important for understanding the actions of God. If God is perfect, just, righteous and does not change, then everything he does is right, true and just. Not only that, his actions are right because he does them. He is the ultimate standard by which we measure good. If we call something God does as unfair, or unjust then we are calling God's Character into question.
"God saves sinners by His Grace and for His Glory" - (page 35)
The Doctrines of Grace have certainly rocked my world at times and continue to do so. But Lawsons preface was a little unnerving and off putting. Saying that Arminianism is a starting point for atheism was pushing it a bit far. As far as I have understood it classical Arminianism holds to a Total Depravity, and (Un)conditional Election (based on God's foreknowledge of those who would excercise faith, different to the reformed understanding), but then to a Universal rather than limited atonement, and prevenient grace as opposed to irresistable grace and the possibility that those who are saved can then lose their salvation. While I don't find much steam for Arminian theology in scripture, it seems heavy handed to link it with atheism or universalism. What he is correct in recognising is that man becomes his own co-saviour if he adopts the Arminian position.
The book is survey of all the Biblical men who upheld the doctrines of Grace such as Moses, Joshua, Job, Paul, Peter etc. Chapters 2-8 surveys Moses to the Minor Prophets. Chapters 9-10 looks at Jesus from the Gospels. Chapters 11-18 covers Acts to Revelation. Each chapter is designed like a self contained unit. You can start the book anywhere or read it right through. Lawson opens by looking for what all of these men had in common. Each of them held the Sovereignity of God in high regard and saw the primacy of God's Glory. They also recognised man's total inability and need of sovereign grace. To them God was the creator, sustainer, and determiner of all things.
But by far the biggest theme in the book is Divine Sovereignity and Divine Providence. This is something we cannot hammer home too often. God is sovereign over all creation (page 46), over the hearts and minds of people (page 75), over evil spirits (page 108) and Decisions (page 152). Not only that but the Sovereignity of God is immutible and irresistable.
The book is filled with what I call "Ah hah" moments. Take the story of Moses in the bulrushes. Note how the story contrasts Pharoh's decree with the sovereignity of God over the heart of Pharoh's daughter. From a big picture standpoint, the story tells the reader that Yahweh is Lord not Pharoh. A theme which Paul picks up in the New Testament, when contrasting Jesus' rule with Caesars. The story also shows us that God is sovereign over the hearts and minds of all people. God's will is never frustrated by men and women like Pharoah. God is always faithful. But we also have the story of God hardening Pharoah's heart which is quite a reversal from Pharoh's daughter. We can't ignore that Pharoah hardened his heart just as many times as God hardened it, the implication is that the unregenerate man will harden his own heart against God unless God gives him a new heart.
One of the hottest areas of debate amongst many Christians is the idea of Eternal Security. I know how much unneccessary trouble I went through as a young Christian perpetually wondering about my salvation. It didn't help to listen to pastors who opened with "When you get to heaven and God asks you why he should let you in, what are you going to say to him?". So I was pleased to see that Lawson defended the doctrine (as he did for the others) time and time again. While the world perished, Noah and his family were spared. In the Exodus not one of the Israelites who crossed the red sea drowned. The Lord preserved David's life, and established his kingship, no man was able to come against him, even after sinning he was still called a man after God's own heart. I was glad to see that Lawson did not impose or stretch texts to say something they didn't. If a book does not teach preserving grace, even though the doctrine is true, we must not make the text say something it does not.
Lawsons most controversial chapter is called "Christ, The Calvinist". I'm sure he chose that title for shock value. Personally I don't like the title. Something about it makes Calvin seem superior to Jesus, which I'm sure Lawson did not intend. I was glad to see a discussion on the Gospels. So often those in the reformed tradition are not nearly as good on the gospels as they are on the epistles. Lawson devotes one long chapter to the three synoptics, and an even longer chapter to Johns Gospel. I have to say if anyone was not a Calvinist before reading John they certainly are afterwards. John 3:16 has always posed a problem for some reformed theologians (my mind goes back to the recent John 3:16 conference trying to disprove Calvinism) but I had no idea that the word "world" (kosmos)had so many possible meanings in Johns Gospel. Lawson highlights 10 possible uses of the word - Entire Universe, Physical Earth, World System, Humanity minus believers, Large group, General public, Jews and gentiles, Human realm, Non Elect, or Elect Only. So given that Lawson reminds the reader that he needs to be careful in saying John is always referring to every living person when he says "world".
However the book is not perfect and I do have some minor points of contention. Lawson can give the impression that the "Doctrines of Grace" were a system of thought floating around and something that the biblical authors all knew and worked from as a guide. "Each of the Biblical authors were firmly committed to the doctrines of Grace." - page 103. I highly doubt there was any such formulation at the time, and to be fair to Lawson I don't think this is what he means. It would have been helpful for say that the writers of Scripture had a worldview or better yet a God-view consistent with the Doctrines of Grace.
After reading this book I was convinced that the doctrines of Grace were not the invention of 16th century reformers. Hopefully this will put to rest those deluded arguments advanced by the likes of Dave Hunt and others on the net. My main criticism of the book is that it ignored the idea of physical body resurrection. This seems to be one thing that the reformed camp suffers from. We have spent so much time defending the five points of Calvinism that we forget to discuss what the end result of Salvation is, namely resurrection. This is surprising given its prominence in the Westminster Confession and many other reformed systematic theologies such as Berkhof's or Grudem's. Personally I would like to see the conversation shift, or better yet expand to include this area.
There are so many directions a book like this could take, and its easy to go off on tangents. At times I wanted Lawson to discuss the relationship between the Doctrines of Grace and the Narrative structure of the Bible. Other times I felt Lawson needed to emphasise that scripture tells one coherent story. But those tangents require books in and of themselves. What He does do here is stick to the task at hand, that is defending the doctrines of Grace as a biblically faithful. Lawsons strength is in his style. He writes with clarity, conviction and the heart of a pastor. His eloquence will satisfy the lay scholarl or the general reader interested in the reformed faith. The book is long, but his style makes for easy reading. The questions at the end of each chapter will help with reviewing the material. The book will prove to be a valuable addition to your bookshelf. Personally I can't wait for the next installment in the series.
A Tour de Force of the Doctrines of Grace Oct 25, 2008
I remember my first encounter with Calvinism back in high school. I was shocked at the thought of such people who would label themselves as such, who adhered to such strange teachings. And while I am always hesitant to label myself as a Calvinist, I have come to love the sweet doctrines of grace over the short years of my faith. The question that arises many times is, "Why would this be called Calvinism and not biblical teaching?" Well, the short answer is that Calvin articulated these truths in a very systematic way. He articulated them in a very organized way, but by no means did he invent them. If you've ever heard of the "5 Points of Calvinism" or the acronym "T.U.L.I.P.", then that's what I'm referring to.
These points or teachings highlight some facet of our condition or our salvation. Over the centuries there have been numerous caricatures that have come with this teaching; caricatures which portray a false and inaccurate view of Calvinism. Pastor Steven Lawson, who at one point had a hard time swallowing these teachings (as did I), goes back to the Word of God in an attempt to systematically work from Genesis to Revelation highlighting how these doctrines of grace have always been the foundation of Scripture itself, not man. He rightly points out that these teachings did not originate with Calvin nor with Luther nor with Augustine himself; these teachings flow out from the mouths and pens of the biblical writers who were "...moved by the Holy Spirit [and spoke] from God" (2 Pet. 1:21b).
Book Structure: Lawson works systematically, from Genesis to Revelation, honing in on how the particular books emphasize one or multiple doctrines of grace.
Notable Quotes: (there are so many to choose from!) "Frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God's Word. No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment in that it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind. It is repugnant to the sentiments of the unregenerate heart. Like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election, because it has been revealed by God, must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith. If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no option but to accept what it teaches" (p. 11).
"Thus, A Long Line of Godly Men is not primarily about men at all, but rather about the God to whom the lives of these men testify. Though godly men come and go, as any survey of history makes clear, the God who spoke through those men never changes, and neither does His message. . . . The God of Moses, the God of Peter, the God of Chrysostom, the God of Luther, the God of Edwards, the God of Spurgeon, and the God whom we serve today commands us to proclaim the unchanging truths laid down in the past" (p. 20).
"The message of the entire Bible is the truth of the sovereignty of God in the salvation of lost and ruined elect sinners. It is the message of God choosing for Himself a people through whom He will show His grace, supremely for His glory and intentionally for their good" (p. 99).
"Strong men always proclaim a strong message. They do not read the polls and check the surveys before they give their opinions. In fact, they do not even have opinions--they have convictions. They bleed convictions. They are strong men anchored in the strong Word of God, and, as such, they bring a message with gravitas and punch. When they stand to speak, they actually have something to say--and they say it, whether anyone listens or not. When they sit to write, they do not skirt the issues--they tackle them. When they address the times in which they live, they do not tickle ears--they box them. They do not have one message for one group and a different message for a different group. Wherever they go and whomever they address, they have only one message--God's message. This is what makes them strong men. They speak God's Word, or they do not speak at all" (p. 103).
Conclusion: In short, this book is great way to go back to the Word of God itself and seeing for oneself how truly biblical the doctrines of grace are. It has been a delight to me to once again that our God reigns and that salvation is wholly His doing.
A thought provoker Sep 18, 2008
This book was much longer than i am used to. That being said it read in about the same time. That is to say that the truths detailed as the author related it to scripture just kept unfolding. This book went further back as it dealt with the doctrines of grace to show it earliest roots which as you may guess were not the reformation, contrary to many a persons thought. As you open this one up it will be long before you want to put it down.
Fantastic! Jun 11, 2008
Dr Lawson really brings home the hope and excitement of these doctrines of grace truly opening up God's love letter to us-The Bible,In such marvelous way and in such simplicity as well so everyone can see the beauty of God's Sovereignty thoughout the Bible,Fantastic Job on this volume and looking forward to the other titles in this series
Extols a Magnificent View of God May 7, 2008
Steven Lawson is the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., and is widely known for his vibrant expository preaching.
This is the first volume in a planned series of five that will chronologically survey 3,500 years of men who believed in and upheld the doctrines of grace. This volume moves through the pages of Scripture and displays more than 40 biblical authors who delighted in the doctrines of grace and God's sovereignty in salvation. Volumes two through five will take their biographical studies from the pages of church history in the following manner: Volume 2: Pillars of Grace (2nd - 16th centuries)
Volume 3: Forces of Grace (16th - 17th centuries)
Volume 4: Progress of Grace (17th - 19th centuries)
Volume 5: Triumph of Grace (19th century - present)
An excellent 13-page foreword by John MacArthur opened the book with "Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace." He answers the question of "Why did God determine to elect the redeemed?" by showing the inter-Trinitarian relationship of love and promise and glory. I am glad to see this teaching in print because my audio tapes of MacArthur's sermons on these texts (Titus 1:1-2, 2 Timothy 1:9) wore thin from listening to them so much. I think that this Trinity-in-eternity understanding of the "promise of redemption" did more to help establish the beauty of sovereign grace in my mind than any other dimension of the doctrine.
Right from the beginning, Lawson establishes his belief that true revival comes to the church when biblical theology and doxology ignite the church in a flame of passion for the glory of God. He says, "Over the centuries, seasons of reformation and revival in the church have come when the sovereign grace of God has been openly proclaimed and clearly taught. When a high view of God has been infused into the hearts and minds of God's people, the church has sat on the elevated plateaus of transcendent truth."
You have to love an author that really believes in the power of God's truth to change lives, and who writes with the passion coming out of such a conviction. Lawson says,
"Never has the need been greater for the truths of sovereign grace to be firmly established in the church. ... Let us now embark on this God-exalting, Christ-honoring pursuit. Ultimately, our view of God is at stake. It will affect everything. May we elevate Him in our hearts to the highest place, which belongs exclusively to Him. To God alone be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
An additional strength of the book is his ability to provide a succinct historical context for the life and book of each author. Job, Hosea, Moses, John, Peter, Jesus, etc. - they each are set in their historical context. This has the effect of drilling home the truth that the "doctrines of grace" are not a product of Calvin or Augustine or Spurgeon, but instead are divine truth as known and taught throughout all of God's dealings with mankind. To know God in truth is to have a high view of God's sovereignty.
Lawson writes, "This survey from cover to cover in the Bible will lay an immovable foundation for the sovereign grace of God."
Indeed, that is exactly what this book accomplishes. I look forward with great anticipation to the publication of each of the volumes in this series.