Last week, as a part of a blog tour, I began a series of blogs on Kent Eiler and Kyle Strobel’s 2014 book – Sanctified by Grace. Today I “officially” wrap things up with my review of the book! (Though I will still be writing about some of the essays in this book in the future) Let me just be upfront with my opinion – this book will serve as a great textbook for any upper-class undergraduate or seminary level systematic theology course.
According to Eiler and Strobel there needs to be a recovery in Christian dogmatics in which Christian rationality is grounded in the movement of the Spirit within the sphere of grace. (7) Also, dogmatics needs to take on the temptation to accept unformed natural reason as the only possible form of “reason” in the academy. (8) Given these two points, Strobel and Eiler have edited a collection of essays that provide a dogmatic account of the Christian life in which doctrine/life and confession/practice are held together. Here is what they have to say in their own words:
The approach is straightforwardly doctrinal – focusing the life of the Christian on the triune God who creates, elects, calls, and redeems. This is the God of grace who gives himself in Jesus Christ and who catches people up in the movement of his Spirit of love.
The book is broken up into four parts: 1)The Gracious One, 2)The Graces of the Christian Life, 3)The Means of Grace, and 4)The Practices of Grace. Part one is grounded in the idea that an account of the Christian life requires a careful elaboration upon the one who establishes, sustains, and perfects the Christian life. This section includes essays on the Trinity, election, creation/providence, salvation, and sanctification.
Part two treats the way God’s grace works out in the lives of his creatures. It covers the relationship between reconciliation and justification, victory and redemption, as well as mortification and vivification.
Part three takes a look at the channels or instruments by which God’s grace in Christ is offered and set forth. In other words it addresses the means of grace including, Scripture and Sacraments.
The final part covers the “practices of grace.” It takes a “practical turn” (though its all been practical throughout) by addressing the practices of prayer, preaching, forgiveness, and doing theology.
This book really isn’t typical. Most books on dogmatics aren’t really geared towards helping make sense of our lives as Christians. This book really is dogmatic theology in a different key, its dogmatic theology written with people’s growth in mind. For this reason I think that this book is perfectly suited for upper-class undergraduates. The reason I don’t think it would be a suitable resource for freshmen or sophomores is that many of these essays are written at a high level and would probably be too complex for underclassmen. I think this book would also be very much suited for seminary students. In seminary people often find themselves asking – so what does this have to do with what I’m going to be preaching about in 2-3 years? This book could show seminary students that complex dogmatic discussions really are important for the everyday life of Christians.
All in all this is a great resource for classroom use. In the future I will find myself assigning particular essays or maybe even the whole book for my own classes.