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Book Review – On Being Presbyterian

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Despite being Baptist, I love and admire Presbyterianism. My parents are Presbyterians and raised me in that environment. Though I may not necessarily believe in them, I am at least sympathetic to many of the tenets of Presbyterianism, such as covenant theology, infant baptism and the Presbyterian system of church government. It was with some interest, then, that I began to read On Being Presbyterian by Sean Michael Lucas. This book, recently published by P&R Publishing, is intended to serve as a primer on all things Presbyterian. Lucas wants to show “how a particular type of identity is formed, as the confluence of beliefs, practices and stories.” He seeks to introduce the beliefs, practices and stories that have converged to create Presbyterianism as it exists today.

These three divisions form the structure for the book. In the section dealing with beliefs, Lucas looks at God’s sovereignty, the priority of grace, covenant and kingdom, the nature and purpose of the church and the signs and seals of God’s grace. When dealing with practices, he examines piety, worship and church government. The final section looks at the genesis of Presbyterianism through the leadership of Calvin and Knox, and then turns to an examination of Presbyterianism in America. The book wraps up with an epilogue entitled “On Becoming Presbyterian” where he suggests what would be expected of a person who wished to adopt this system of beliefs and how a person might set about finding such a church body.

This book often recalled memories from my youth, many of which were very good memories. It helped me realize that in many ways I continue to be Presbyterian at heart, for it was necessity rather than desire that drove us out of these churches (there are far more solid Baptist churches in Canada than Presbyterian ones). While I do love Baptist churches, there is a part of me that will probably always be Presbyterian.

Ultimately, as a Baptist, I suppose that my view of this book only counts for so much. Eventually we’ll need to ask other Presbyterians for their views on the book. They are, after all, more qualified to pass judgment on it. So let’s look at some of the men who have endorsed this book. Ligon Duncan endorsed it saying it is a “popular introduction to Presbyterianism that I can put in the hands of Bible-believing, gospel-loved Presbyterians and other evangelicals interested in this part of the Christian family.” Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, says “The people who fill Bible-believing Presbyterian churches increasingly have little Presbyterian background. Lucas provides a terrific resource to get everyone up speed.” John Muether of Reformed Theological Seminary says it is “A compelling and coherent account of the distinctive features of Presbyterian identity that draws the vital connection between Reformed faith and practice. Pastors, elders, and Presbyterian laypeople will want to study this book and pass it on to their children.”

I enjoyed On Being Presbyterian and would recommend it either to those who are interested in learning about the distinctives of Presbyterianism, or those who are Presbyterian and would like to learn and understand more about their beliefs, practices and history. It is well-written and quite easy to understand and absorb.


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