The Doctrines of Grace is an excellent book that speaks to the doctrines of grace; and since 2009 is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, we decided to include the book in this issue’s reviews.
While you cannot think of the doctrines of grace and not think about John Calvin, Boice and Ryken do so in an intentional way. This is a good study book to work through these great doctrines since the authors help the reader associate them with Calvin. Boice and Ryken are clear that if the church is going to see great days, these truths must be widely known, preached, and embraced. They are further on target in maintaining that nothing is more needed today than the recovery of these great doctrines.
In the forward, R. C. Sproul writes about James Boice’s reaction to the news of his terminal cancer. He was not able to complete this book, but Ryken was able to do so quite admirably. Sproul said it was hard to tell where Boice left off and Ryken took up the pen.
The book is clear. It is not about any kind of Christianity but Calvinism because Boice believed that Calvinism was good for the church and its abandonment usually led to liberalism. Ryken’s comment in the preface gives you an idea of what the book is all about. From chapter eight, which Ryken calls the most important chapter in the book, Boice wanted to portray a kind of Christianity that was biblically based and theologically rigorous Calvinism but also practical and warm hearted. Ryken said, Boice so “earnestly wanted to convey the warmth and vitality of true Reformed spirituality.”
There is neither apology nor hesitation to set forth the doctrines of grace so clearly present in Calvinism as over against Arminianism. The author’s contention is that evangelicalism needs what Calvinism has to offer. The nine chapters in the book develop this sentiment clearly.
While part one develops the broad themes of Calvinism and its place in history, part two sets forth the five points of Calvinism. Part three concludes with an excellent chapter on the true Calvinist and how Calvinism has continued to impact the world.
The authors sought to end the book on the same positive note voiced by the late Abraham Kuyper at the close of his famous Princeton lectures on Calvinism in 1898. Kuyper maintained that the future looked bright for Christians because of Reformed, Calvinistic theology. But Ryken is correct when he says, “Our ability to fulfill this glorious calling will depend in large measure on our response to the doctrines of grace.”
For a rich blessing, we recommend this book for reading, studying, and looking afresh at the glorious doctrines of grace.