Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review - Doctrines that Divide By Erwin Lutzer

Doctrines that Divide by Erwin Lutzer

"Doctrine is a vital part of the Christian faith, but certain doctrinal 
beliefs have divided the church for centuries. Today when many are calling
for unity by glossing over major theological differences, Lutzer revisits
those differences and shows not only how the divisions came about but also
why such divisions were necessary." (back of the book)

This book does not have to be read chronologically. If there are specific questions to specific doctrines, this book makes it easy just to jump to the chapter that pertains to the readers question. Here is a list of all the chapters and doctrines this book covers:
          1. Is Christ Truly God?
          2. Is Christ Truly Man? 
          3. Was Mary the Mother of God?
          4. Was Peter the First Pope?
          5. Justification: By Faith, Sacraments, or Both?
          6. Why Can't We Agree About the Lord's Supper?
          7. Why Can't We Agree About Baptism?
          8. How Many Books Are in the Bible?
          9. Predestination or Free Will: Augustine v. Pelagius
        10. Predestination or Free Will: Luther v. Erasmus
        11. Predestination or Free Will: Calvin v. Arminius
        12. Predestination or Free Will: Whitefiled v. Wesley
        13. Can a Saved Person Ever Be Lost?

I read this book in order and was just amazed at the different questions Lutzer raises that I had never even thought to raise. Important questions. 

For example: I always knew I believed in the Trinity, but when asked, "Did God die on the cross?" I answered "No, God does not die". So was Jesus God? I answered "yes". So did Jesus die on the cross? I answered "Yes". So did God die on the cross. Ummm "yes?"

I believe it is a good thing to wrestle with these very deep theological truths. It is good to understand that God is mysterious and that the creature will never completely understand the Creator (Job 36:26). As a Baptist, I "know" what I should believe and I trust those who teach me, but I think there is a time to reflect on "why" I believe certain doctrines and not others.

Lutzer does a great job unfolding and unpacking what other doctrines uphold to. And I found myself understanding where the opposition came from and why they believe their doctrines, but in the end, I was grateful for a clearer picture of my own convictions. The knowledge obtained by reading this book is priceless. In an age where doctrinal lines are being blurred for the sake of unity within the "body", this book is invaluable. 

Here is a small excerpt that really caught my attention: "I have learned never to let a person tell me that he believes in Christ without asking, "Which Christ?". Albert Schweitzer, the humanitarian, believed in a Christ who was essentially insane; Rudolf Bultmann, the German theologian, believed in a mythological Christ; Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, believed in a human Christ; many modern cultist believe in a created Christ."

What we believe about Jesus is crucial! It is so easy to dismiss learning and studying these things because we believe these pursuits to be for pastors or professors, but nothing can be further from the truth. Lets look at Scripture:

Hosea exclaims: "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6)
                           "... a people without understanding will come to ruin!" (Hosea 4:14)
Isaiah explains: "my people will go into exile for lack of understanding" (Isaiah 5:13)
Jeremiah perceives: " they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God. (Jeremiah 5:4)
Proverbs says: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge (Proverbs 19:2)
Paul expected us to learn: "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of  goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." (Romans 15:14)
Paul implored: It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have already learned. (Philippians 3:16)
Paul prayed:  "...asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9-10)

And there are so many others!

One of my favorite verses is this: 
 . "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," ~ I Peter 3:15

The experience I had from reading this book is that I know nothing! And I say this not to discourage you from reading it, but as an encouragement TO read because God is just so deep, and so wide, and so big, and so awesome that we will never fully "know" Him. But this excites me! He is so NOT boring! He is so NOT ordinary! He is so NOT bland! And the more I learn about God, the more I want to learn about God. And the more I learn about God, the more I learn about myself. Who I am? Who I want to be? He reveals all my what's, why's, where's etc through Himself. 

I really hope you consider going deeper in your faith by learning more and more about our Creator. 

You can buy this book on Amazon here.
5 out of 5 stars
Book is 243 pages long