Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter


August 21, 2012

Are We TogetherR.C. Sproul has a long history of making a stand for truth. He has an equal history of standing firm against error, using his ministry platform to refute errors that are seeping into the Evangelical church. On several occasions he has reacted to those who have sought to minimize the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholic theology. Faith Alone and Getting the Gospel Right are both insightful looks at the critical importance of affirming and protecting the Reformation gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone. These books were largely a response to “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” and “The Gift of Salvation” (ECT 2). 

While ECT may seem like ancient history, there are many Protestants today who continue to minimize the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, even going so far as to say that the Reformation is over and that it is time to reunite with Rome. Others may not go quite that far, but they still believe that the differences are not significant enough to prohibit a great deal of unity. “The Manhattan Declaration” was just one recent attempt to find common cause on issues such as abortion and traditional marriage. With such efforts in mind, Dr. Sproul returns to the fray with Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism.

He makes his purpose clear in the book’s opening pages: “In this book, I have a simple goal. I want to look at Roman Catholic teaching in several significant areas and compare it with Protestant teaching. I hope to show, often using her own words, that the Roman Catholic Church has not changed from what it believed and taught at the time of the Reformation. That means that the Reformation is not over and we must continue to stand firm in proclaiming the biblical gospel.” He means to show that the gospel itself is at stake and to do this he looks at six core doctrines in which Catholicism varies from the clear teaching of Scripture: Scripture, justification, the Church, sacraments, the papacy and the role of Mary. He closes with a reflection on how Protestants should now relate to Roman Catholics without minimizing theological differences.

What I have long appreciated about Dr. Sproul’s books on Catholicism is that he is charitable and respectful in his tone, always careful to show where Protestants have erred in their understanding of Catholicism and ensuring that he properly represents even those positions that he does not hold to. Thus he looks at Catholic doctrine as it is explained by its foremost theologians and official documents. Having allowed Catholicism to explain itself, he goes to Scripture to show where it has strayed.

When discussing Roman Catholic theology, Protestants have too often been ignorant, careless, or unfair. The power of this book is that R. C. Sproul is fair, precise, and charitable as he proves that the errors of the Roman Catholic Church are both deep and significant, and that the Roman Catholic gospel is not the gospel of the Bible. Even as he calls for us to love our Roman Catholic friends, he warns that we cannot consider them brothers and sisters when the gospel itself is at stake. Are We Together? serves as a helpful primer on Roman Catholic theology and a powerful stand for the gospel. I highly recommend it.

Are We Together? is available at Amazon ($17 hardcover) or Ligonier Ministries ($13.60 hardcover, $7.20 ebook).

June 28, 2010

Doctrine by DriscollMark Driscoll must be a busy guy. As if his ministry at Mars Hill isn’t enough to keep him busy every hour of the day, he has also written a long line of books, the most recent of which is titled simply Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Like several of his previous volumes, this one is co-authored with his friend and theological mentor Gerry Breshears. While using the term “systematic theology” may not be entirely helpful in describing this book, it at least gives an idea of its contents. Doctrine exists to provide an overview of what Christians ought to believe.

As theological tomes go, this one is particularly interesting, particularly effective, in its structure. Each chapter introduces a topic through a single word and then shows how that topic is really all about God. The first chapter is “Trinity: God Is” while the second is “Revelation: God Speaks.” That sets that pattern that continues through each of the book’s thirteen chapters (the last of which, not surprisingly, is “Kingdom: God Reigns.” This beautifully takes doctrine out of the abstract and applies it directly to God himself. It takes a noun and matches it with a verb, showing for example how the doctrine of the church is not about us, but about God, about his desire to send his Word into all the world (the chapter is titled “Church: God Sends”).

May 31, 2010

Have you ever considered what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to walk and talk with God in the Garden of Eden? Have you thought of the things you might say to God if you were to hear his footsteps today? What Christian hasn’t experienced a pang of jealousy when he reads “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” And what Christian hasn’t experienced a little pang of remorse when he reads how Adam and Eve squandered that unique privilege. There was God, walking in the garden as he had done before. Adam and Eve recognized the sound of his footsteps, for they knew their God. But this time, instead of rushing to him and rejoicing in his presence, they fled and they hid themselves. They had sinned and they knew that there were consequences for such tyranny. For the first time they feared their Maker.

March 25, 2010

This morning I’ve got Whitefield and Wesley on my mind. This morning I was thinking about John Wesley’s infamous and divisive sermon called Free Grace and went looking for what I had written on it in the past. This was the sermon that began a significant rift between Whitefield and the Wesleys, for not only did it set them at theological odds, but it also betrayed Whitefield’s trust in Wesley. Though the men continued to love one other, this sermon was a very significant force in the eventual separation between them. Wesley’s sermon, though still highly regarded by some, is hardly a fair, biblical or thorough treatment of the subject of free will, free grace or predestination. It relies far more on shock, bold claims, and outrageous exaggerations than it does on Scripture.

One of Wesley’s biographers, Julia Wedgwood, was harsh but fair when considering this sermon. She says,

March 02, 2010

Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia must be one of the few banks in the world that allows you to order gold bullion online. Visit their web site, punch in your order along with your credit card information, and a couple days later FedEx will deliver your gold to the door, all sealed up in a plain and boring little envelope.

The gold comes in bars, though not those massive gold bars you see in the movies. For somewhere around $1200 you could purchase a 1 ounce gold bar and have it delivered to your home. It would be 22mm wide, 38mm high and 2.3mm thick. You’d soon find that your dollar does not go far when you are using it to buy precious metals. What you would do with it once you buy it is a bit trickier—maybe you’d put it in a safe deposit box or maybe you’d just bury it out in the backyard. You probably wouldn’t want to carry it around in your pocket.

February 25, 2010

Aileen and I were once members of a church that, after a few years of existence, began to de-emphasize doctrine. Some of the pastors seemed to reach the conclusion that “doctrine divides” and that the church really just needed to focus on evangelism and on “action.” They seemed to determine that a sound theological foundation held in common was unattainable and unrealistic. Therefore, doctrine should be laid aside and the church should rally around the things we had in common—a desire to reach others with the gospel and a desire to serve other people. It was a bit of a naive strategy, of course, and one that was bound to cause problems.