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4 Stars Out Of 5
A great book on sin
November 4, 2013
There has been a growing complaint amongst church critics that we don't speak about "sin" from the pulpit anymore. And it's no wonder! Sin is such a downer! Such a depressing subject. "Hey, the cross has removed the debt and placed you in the grace of God - you're free!"
"Now.... do you want to talk about sin?"
But if we have adopted the language "I am saved;" then it's probably a good idea to know what it is - that you have been saved from.
Editors Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson offer a wonderful treatise on the subject in their book: Fallen: A Theology of Sin. Is it light reading for the plane trip from Sacramento to Houston? Probably not. The book does read and feel like it's meant for seminary students and pastors - but also to be fair, it's not entirely a "chapter book."
Each chapter is written by an author or contributing editor who have each wrestled with a particular aspect of sin as a subject. In "Fallen" the contributors cover the fall, sin's origins, meanings, vocabulary, the significance of sin in the world, the role the law played in resolving sin and how we should think about sin today.
Together the contributors have assembled a wonderful resource that tackles a heavy subject without "feeling" heavy.
I highly recommend this text as a "return to" source for teaching and instruction.
Thank you to Crossway for this review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
In Fallen: A Theology of Sin, Crossway and the editors Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson deliver another valuable and useful book to add to the Theology In Community series that has also given the church books on the deity of Christ, suffering, God's glory, and the kingdom of God. This is another treasure trove of practical information that exudes solid doctrinal teaching on the overlooked and under-studied topic of sin. I reviewed The Deity of Christ and found it immensely helpful and highly recommended; this volume follows suit.
The books first chapter is written by world renowned scholar D. A. Carson. This theological heavyweight considers the intrinsic and contemporary significance of sin and in all too typical fashion his work is both helpful and enjoyable. I am particularly fond of authors whose writing reminds me of their preaching; in the sentences and paragraphs I could almost hear Dr. Carson's talks on the same topic. Carson represents sin as it is understood in the Bible and reflects on our society's spiritual poverty as a result of being bereft of this knowledge.
Chapters 2 and 3 are written by Paul R. House. This is my first acquaintance with his writing but it will assuredly not be my last. In chapter 2, House discusses the treatment of sin in the Old Testament Law while noting how incomplete such an endeavour will be in the small space allotted. Nevertheless, House offers a summary that is beneficial and enriching. House looks at the definitions of sin the Law offers and traces the themes surrounding sin in the texts under consideration. In chapter 3, House moves on to discuss the treatment of sin in the prophets. This chapter looks at contributions towards the Old Testament's teaching on sin from each book of the Former Prophets as well as highlighting the books of the Latter Prophets and their demonstration of the universal scope of sin. I appreciated his contribution to the discussion and will not hesitate to read more of his work if the opportunity arises.
Robert W. Yarborough is passed the baton and endeavours to investigate sin in the New Testament without interacting with any of the writings of Paul. He considers the indirect evidence of sin from these books by investigating invitations to repent as well as instances of conversion. He adds to his observations a concise summary of 2 word groups associated with sin; the hamartia word group and the adikia word group. This chapter was artfully written and its presentation helps with an understanding of sin that has breadth and depth.
Concerning chapter 5, I'll get right to the point: Douglas J. Moo's chapter entitled Sin in Paul is alone worth the price of the book. I do not consider myself overly intelligent, but I do consider myself fairly well-read. However, this chapter provided me with some "wow" moments; I encountered ideas and explanations that I had never come across before. The style is winsome and the content is top tier. Moo deals with the vocabulary of sin, the nature of sin, the larger environment of sin, and the consequences of sin among other topics the apostle to the Gentiles grappled with in his writings. To belabour the point, in my copy there is an almost unhelpful amount of marginalia, underlining, circling and highlighting; I might have been better off noting what was not extremely helpful. If for this chapter alone, buy the book!
Christopher Morgan, in the sixth chapter, looks at sin with the metanarrative of the Bible in mind. He considers sin in light of creation, the fall, redemption and the consummation. This section offers the reader a wide-ranging assessment of sin in Scripture. This chapter contains several lists and charts that are excellent summaries and provide me, as a teacher, with valuable tools.
A very delightful and informative presentation of sin in historical theology is Gerald Bray's contribution to this collection. Chapter 7 offers an intriguing perusal of sin through the ages of church history. Bray writes in a manner that is easy to read and the information he conveys captivated my attention.
Chapter 8 contains a thorough exposition of what a theology of sin for today should look like. His explanation and investigation into sin in its pre-fall context was fascinating and memorable. Of note, this chapter contained some memorable illustrations that I intend on using in some sermons in the near future.
Sydney H. T. Page investigates the relationship between Satan and sin and evil. He looks at Satan's roles in regards to sin; tempter, deceiver, accuser, afflicter. But he also reminds the reader of the defeat of Satan, sin, and evil through the work of Christ on Calvary.
The next chapter, the tenth, is practical and pastoral and perceptive in regards to its topic; temptation. The author, Davis B. Calhoun, produces a wide range of encouraging and informative quotes from church history. After the Moo chapter, this was the most edifying chapter as it adroitly answered numerous question about temptation: What is temptation?; What does the bible say about temptation?; How could Jesus be tempted?; What are the source or causes of temptation?; How do the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt us?; When does temptation become sin?; How can we overcome temptation?; What happens when we Confess our sins?; and what are the results of temptation? As is obvious, Calhoun covers a lot of ground and he does so in an engaging way.
Finally, the smooth and soothing prose of this chapter, courtesy of Bryan Chapell, is reminiscent of his excellent verbal communication skills. Entitled aptly Repentance That Sings, this final section offers are harmonious finish to the book. Though delivering a comfortable read, this chapter was, for me, very convicting. Though I enjoyed the skilful writing, I could feel the God's thumb of conviction gently pressing on my heart as the chapter progressed. The editors prove their worth by choosing this chapter to end on; it was full of practical application and powerful motivation to take our own sin seriously and, by the grace and mercy of God, deal with it.
I highly recommend this book as valuable resource on the doctrine of sin. Its able authors deliver another valuable contribution to the Theology in Community series. Let these words of D. A. Carson convey the importance of understanding sin and the value of a book such as Fallen: "It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is" (22).
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.