Book Review-1/9/2012

 

Editor's Note: Each month, we try to review some of the best new books from Christian publishing houses. We do this both to keep you up to date on material being published today and to help authors of noteworthy books get the word out. Sometimes, however, we like to touch on classics of Christian literature that merit a fresh reminder. This issue's venture down that road doesn't go too far into the past, but this book has certainly established itself as a modern classic.

The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, 1985.

Best recent reprint: (in a single-volume collection with Chosen by God and Pleasing God) 2010, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass., 9781598564686, 600 pages, $24.95, hardcover.

The infinite, perfect God of the universe, He who created the heavens and the earth and sustains them by His Word, cannot abide sin. That this same God chooses to reveal Himself to sinful men in explicit terms and desires to be reconciled to them is the great mystery of theology and philosophy.

R. C. Sproul's meditation on this theme, The Holiness of God, remains one of the finest and most accessible discussions of the nature of God and the implications thereof for men.

Sproul begins at the "back door" of the matter, sharing his own encounter with the mind-bending infinity of God in an undergraduate philosophy course. From there, he explores how our holy God reveals Himself through Scripture, focusing on the story of Isaiah, and then seeks to arrive at a working definition of "holy".

The meat of the book comes in the middle chapters, when Sproul engages what he calls the "trauma of holiness"-the impact of the complete "otherness" of God on sinful men when we realize His true nature. When we are confronted by God, all our pretense and self-righteousness are undone. Sproul shows that mankind cannot withstand God's presence, and that sinful men will go to great lengths to avoid, hide, or destroy true holiness to assuage their guilt.

He shares examples from Scripture (Jacob, Job, Habakkuk, Paul) of those who have contended with God (looking for justice in the temporal sense and forgetting their own finite sinfulness) and been shown mercy by surviving the experience. He relates the story of a more modern figure, Martin Luther, who wrestled with God for years until he realized that it was only through God's grace that anyone can receive peace.

 Through these glimpses, Sproul beautifully sets up for readers the sheer magnitude of the work of Christ. God in His infinite holiness condescended to become man so that His justice could be satisfied through the infinite sacrifice of His Son. He shows that it is only when we see the magnitude of God's holiness that we can see the depth of our depravity and fully recognize the necessity of such a sacrifice for our redemption.

Sproul has more or less made a career out of studying and proclaiming God's holiness, but it is a message that never loses its power. In this book, his observations are presented clearly and plainly, so that even the untrained reader comes away with a wealth of theological insight. He takes readers on a journey from discovery to discomfort to redemption to obedience, covering more ground in the process than many much longer books.

For the enduring nature of its content and Sproul's gift of prose, The Holiness of God continues to impact readers in a new generation and should continue to do so for years to come. The brightness of God makes the light of His glorious salvation shine forth like nothing else, and Sproul showcases that truth for us excellently.

Justin Lonas

Type: Christian Philosophy/Theology
Target: All
Take: Must Read

 

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