Quick Takes: Grace Defined & Defended by Kevin DeYoung, Josiah’s Reformation by Richard Sibbes, The Future of Everything by William Boekestein

One or two of these didn’t end up being as “quick” as I’d intended, but I still don’t think of them as full-fledged posts, I think I’d need another 3-6 paragraphs each before I’d think of them as done. Oh well, what’s important (to me) is that they’re done and I can move on to the next books under consideration.

Grace Defined and Defended

Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400-Year-Old Confession Teaches Us about Sin, Salvation, and the Sovereignty of God

by Kevin DeYoung

Hardcover, 95 pg.
Crossway, 2019

Read: May 5, 2019

Read the Official Synopsis here.

At their very heart, the Canons of Dort are about the nature of grace—supernatural, unilateral, sovereign, effecting, redeeming, resurrecting grace, with all of its angularity all of its offense to human pride, and all of its comfort for the weary soul. That’s what Dort wanted to settle. That’s what they were jealous to protect. Some words are worth the most careful definitions, just as some truths are too precious not to defend.

This is the second book about the Canons of Dort I’ve read in this 400th Anniversary year, and it’s (not surprisingly) a handy little book.

DeYoung starts off with an introduction sketching the theological and historical context for the Canons of Dort, and explains why we should care about them today. It’s called “In Praise of Precision” and sets the tone for the whole book (the above paragraph is from it).

Then he moves into an examination of each Main Point of Doctrine (what most translations call “Heads of Doctrine”), one chapter for every Point. DeYoung covers them concisely, but thoroughly (well, as thoroughly as you can while being concise). It’s polemical as it has to be, but no further. Honestly, DeYoung saves his most pointed words for those who (on paper, anyway) agree with the Canons, but don’t share the spirit of them.

I’d prefer something deeper, but that’s never what you’re going to get from a DeYoung book, I know it. So that’s not something I hold against it. Really, my only complaint is that there’s no conclusion. The book screams for one, if nothing else, just a couple of pages tying the Points back to the introduction. But other than that, I don’t think I have a bad thing to say about it.

It’s succinct, accessible, full of DeYoung’s typical charm and focused on the precision those assembled at Dort. It’s an entry point to the Canons of Dort, but there are more in-depth studies that readers should pursue (e.g., this)—but this will get you started in the right direction. I should add that it’d be a decent enough examination of them if you’re not curious enough to read more (but you totally should).
3 Stars

Josiah's Reformation

Josiah’s Reformation

by Richard Sibbes

Kindle Edition, 176 pg.
Banner of Truth Trust, 2011

Read: May 19-26, 2019

Read the Official Synopsis here.

For the longest time, Richard Sibbes has been my go-to Puritan. His writing taps right into my heart. The doctrine is strong, the application wise, but throughout it all he’s convicting and assuring (in the best way). This collection, sadly, just missed for me.

This is a collection of four sermons from 2 Chronicles describing the work of Josiah. It’s a call to sincerity in the faith, of killing hypocrisy within, of the change that the preaching of free grace can make in the heart which spills into our lives. First and foremost, the goal isn’t the benefits of Christ and desiring them, but to desire Him, to love Him—which will protect from hypocrisy and surface holiness by driving us to something deeper and truer. He then preaches about the art of self-humbling and mourning for our sin. The final sermon focuses on the true desire of the renewed heart—being gathered to Christ. Who doesn’t need to hear/read this message?

It was probably me coming to it when I did, and nothing off in Sibbes’ work. I can’t point to a problem with the book, I just never connected with it. I can see the encouragement, the comfort, the urging to pursue holiness—it’s all on-target, Biblical and well-written. But it left me feeling disappointed. Again, it’s probably really good, and in a couple of years when I try it again, I won’t understand my reaction.
3 Stars
2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

The Future of Everything

The Future of Everything: Essential Truths about the End Times

by William Boekestein

Paperback, 135 pg.
Reformation Heritage Books, 2019

Read: April 7, 2019

Read the Official Synopsis here.

This is a great primer on Eschatology—it covers all the major points, develops them pretty well and shows how one can continue in the study of them as well as how they connect to the other points of the study of the End without losing sight of the rest of life and doctrine.

After setting the stage with a discussion of what Eschatology entails and how we can best understand prophecy, Boekestein moves on to Personal Eschatology—the death that awaits everyone (barring Christ’s return) and then what happens between that death and The End.

Then he moves on to General Eschatology (the End for everyone as a whole), with chapters on Christ’s Return, the meaning of the millennium, the general Resurrection, final Judgement, Hell and the New Heavens and Earth.

The last two chapters involve applying Eschatology to the New Covenant and Missions. How are we to act, think, and live in light of the coming End? These are things that are too often ignored when it comes to the study of Eschatology and it’s wonderful when they’re focused on.

One thing I really appreciated about this was that with the majority (possibly all, but I didn’t take notes on it) of the references to the Psalms that he made, Boekestein quoted/footnoted the Trinity Psalter Hymnal that the URCNA and OPC published last year. It’s a great way to get those metrical versions of the Psalms into your head, and hopefully into your heart (and vice versa).

One other thought I had while reading this is that there’s no need for my pastor to write a book on Eschatology. From his frequently cited sources, his perspectives, and even some of his phrasing, this could easily have had my pastor’s name on it. This doesn’t help any of you, but it is something I couldn’t stop thinking about.

I do wish his coverage of Postmillennialism was a bit more nuanced (and positive). I’m not a card-carrying post-mill anymore, but I still know the position isn’t quite as deficient and problematic as he makes it out to be.

This would a great introduction to Reformed eschatology—I want to stress the Reformed part, because the tradition is rich in its eschatological vision. Not in a focus on the end of the world, the timing of it, and how that’ll look, etc., etc. But how everything since the Ascension has been moving toward this point under the Kingship of Jesus Christ. It’s an assuring book, a helpful book, a great starting point (or refresher) for anyone studying Eschatology. Particularly for those who have no interest in starting such a confusing and volatile subject.
4 Stars

The Ten Commandments by Kevin DeYoung: A Warm, Engaging Study of God’s Revealed Will

The Ten CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them

by Kevin DeYoung

eARC, 208 pg.
Crossway, 2018
Read: September 23, 2018

My initial thought when I saw this book was: do we need another popular-level work on The Ten Commandments? We’ve got so many already, like: Ryken’s Written in Stone, Horton’s The Law of Perfect Freedom, Packer’s Growing in Christ. We’ve got Douma’s, Watson’s and Durham’s (newly republished) on the heavier end of the spectrum, too. Why bring out a new book by DeYoung? Still, I was intrigued, so I requested a copy.

Not too surprisingly, I’m glad I did. This is typical DeYoung: a strong, affectionate, orthodox take on the Law delivered in a very accessible and affable manner. He made me think, he made me reconsider a thing or two, and he reminded me of a few things I needed reminding of.

He begins this work against the framework of the secular “anything goes” point of view, where everything certainly does not go — as much as we as a culture might rail against an external source of morality — there are things that simply cannot be said or done. Giving us a choice between humanity’s unwritten, assumed code — or God’s revealed will. DeYoung then goes on to list reasons for the study as well as the following of God’s Law.

The other important groundwork comes from the midst of his very strong chapter on the First Commandment in which he describes the role of the Law for New Covenant believers. It’s still applicable, still binding — just in a different manner. I think this could’ve been developed more — maybe in its own chapter, but what we got here was good. I do particularly appreciate his metaphor of transposition. The Law in the New Covenant is the same for believers as it was in the Old, it’s just in a different key.

Following the introduction where he lays out his framework, DeYoung turns to consider the commandments individually. This is the bulk of — and the heart of — the book, with a chapter devoted to each commandment. If the book has any value, it’ll be found here, and there’s a lot of it to be found. I briefly considered summarizing each chapter, but why steal his thunder. Also, he’s not carving out anything new here, so there’s little need. What’s new is his expression of the timeless truths, his way of explaining and applying them. If you want a quick summary of what he’ll say about each commandment read The Heidelberg Catechism questions 92-115 or the Westminster Shorter Catechism questions 39-85, and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

Instead, I’ll just comment on a few highlights and a couple of problems I had (your mileage may vary). I found his comments regarding the Fourth Commandment to be helpful, but hesitant — in his effort to not be legalistic, or overly dogmatic, he comes across as wishy-washy. I appreciated most of what he had to say about the Second Commandment, but again, he’s hesitant enough in some of his application to stumble a bit. Which is not to say that the bulk of those chapters weren’t good and helpful — they were. I think he could’ve been more consistently so.

Conversely, the chapters on the Eighth and Tenth commandments were incredibly helpful. If you ask me, these two are where the American Church and American Christians stumble more often than we realize (or care about). Publicly, Protestants are expounding so much energy on certain applications of the Sixth and Seventh commandments that one would be tempted to think that 8-10 are concerns of the past. DeYoung doesn’t let the reader think that for an instant, and if you don’t come away from these chapters with a good dose of conviction of your own sin, you probably didn’t read it too closely.

The chapter on the Third Commandment was invaluable also. It’s far too easy for Western Christians to reduce this to “don’t be a potty mouth” and far too hard for us to really get what the importance of “name of the Lord” is. DeYoung does a yeoman’s job on both fronts and does a good job expounding the meaning of this commandment.

You’ll never walk away from any of these chapters thinking that DeYoung is writing a hellfire and brimstone jeremiad against the Church, you, or anyone. He’s sharply critical of a lot of general culture, and individual inclinations, but that’s to be expected. There’s conviction and inspiration both to be found in these pages — all delivered in DeYoung’s warm, almost conversational, style — a strong blend of wit and charm with the steel in his words. I won’t get into it, but his chapter on the Third Commandment contains one of the funniest anecdotes (more in the telling than the story) I’ve read from him. Ignoring his content for a moment, his writing style is what will keep me coming back to DeYoung’s books for years to come.

I think I’ve said before, I’m not a big one for study/discussion questions in books — I like to think the engaged reader doesn’t need them and someone leading a discussion/study of a book will be clever enough to come up with their own. But, I’m obviously swimming against the tide on this because publishers keep printing them. That said, on the whole, this is a pretty good set of questions and would help someone who likes those kind of questions for their own use or for those using the book in Family Worship, Sunday School, or Bible Study.

In the end, my question, do we need another popular-level book on The Ten Commandments? Is answered yes: we need frequent — constant — reminders of the revealed will we’ve been called to obey, so we never stop striving for that perfection and never cease calling on the Spirit’s assistance. We also need to remember how great our sin and misery are so that we constantly live lives of repentance. So bring on DeYoung’s good summary. And others as well — and we need to read them, as well as the older popular-level works. And then we need to push ourselves and read some of the less-popular level ones as well.

This is a good, short set of meditations and reflections on the perfect law, the law of liberty for a contemporary audience. It’s approachable, it’s warm, it’s pointed, and it’s Gospel-centered. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. It functions well as a refresher for those who need one, and a good starting point for their own study of The Ten Commandments. I’m buying a copy (at least one) for my personal library and will be encouraging my household to read it — and anyone else who asks.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Crossway via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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4 Stars