My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Often, we find that our Christian life feels shallow. We find that we are struggling along in our relationship with God. We feel anger and we feel entitlement, and we find that we feel apathetic towards God. R.C. Sproul’s assertion is not that there is a problem with God. Instead, we must look to ourselves to find the problem. According to Sproul, our problem may be that we have an improper view of the holiness of God.
Spanning eleven chapters, Sproul takes different topics related to God’s holiness and shares examples of different Biblical personalities, as well as discussing Martin Luther and Johnathan Edwards as relates to their perspective of God’s holiness.
He discusses God’s total holiness. He discusses justice and mercy. He discusses our sin in relation to God. He discusses our inclination not to seek God because even our good acts are even tainted by our impure motives.
He discusses how holiness is what sparks the hatred of people towards us. They want none of our God, and they reject us as part of rejecting God.
There is much to like about this book. There are many sound theological points. I was especially taken by Sprout’s exegesis of Isaiah 6, and how Isaiah, even as a good person, was a man of unclean lips. I was amazed how the weight of my own sin hit me and how, even though I consider myself good, I am truly a wretched and awful and unclean person. Woe is me!
I was also shaken to the core by the discussion of God’s grace and how we cheapen it by being presumptuous with it. I am guilty of feeling like God owes me for my service and for my faithfulness, when I am a sinner, who deserves nothing more than death. I can only stand in awe of how God redeemed me.
There are some things here that are a theological stretch, especially for those of Arminian position. Sproul describes total depravity in several passages, and I think dismisses the complexity of the issue that Arminians have with total depravity. Right now, I’m going through a point in my faith walk where I am overly sensitive to the Arminian/Calvinist differences of thought, so your milage may vary on this one.
I also rolled my eyes a little at the whole chapter on Luther. I feel like I can’t read any Calvinist work that doesn’t contain too many references to both Luther and Calvin. I’ll never forget the quote I read in one of N.T. Wright’s works that reminded me that just because Luther, Calvin and the other reformers started the reformation, sola scriptura doesn’t mean interpret the Bible exactly the way Luther did. However, I will grant that Sproul’s discussion of Luther and his deep respect for God’s holiness was actually perfectly written, so that’s just my personal prejudice coming out.
Overall, this is an excellent book, and I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent with it. I’ve saved many, many quotes from the book to ponder over the next few months as I read other books and think about God’s holiness. This was a perfect book to read for my Reading Challenge’s book about holiness. I came away from this book much more in awe of God, and as I continue to ponder Sproul’s writing and quotes that I selected to save from this book, I find myself feeling more and more of a respect for God’s holiness.