Two significant new books we have obtained for the PRC Seminary library of late are from the Crossway series “Theologians on the Christian Life,” which looks at the practical side (application) of some major theologians of the Christian church, past and present (See these previous posts on other volumes in this series).
One is by Dr. John Bolt of Calvin Seminary here in Grand Rapids, MI and titled Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service (2015). About this work the publisher has this to say:
Herman Bavinck looms large as one of the nineteenth century’s greatest Christian thinkers, contributing much to modern Reformed theology. Yet, despite his theological prowess, Bavinck was first and foremost concerned with being “a worthy follower of Jesus.” In this book, John Bolt—editor of the English edition of Bavinck’s four-volume masterpiece, Reformed Dogmatics—brings the great Dutch theologian’s life and work to bear on following Jesus in the twenty-first century, helping us see the direct connection between robust theology, practical holiness, and personal joy.
The other title is the one we highlight today – Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God (also 2015) by Dr. Gerald Bray. In a recent post on Crossway’s blog, Bray asked and answered the question, “Does Augustine still matter?” He gives an eight-part answer to that question, the first two of which are these:
1. The Importance of Real Relationship with God
The first thing we notice about him is the emphasis he placed on the relationship of the individual to God. He lived in a world that was rapidly becoming Christian, at least in a formal and public sense. It would have been very easy for him to have gone with the flow, as many of his contemporaries did. But Augustine confessed that he became a Christian only when the Holy Spirit of God moved in his heart, and not before.
He had to be brought face to face with his sinfulness and complete inability to save himself. He was forced to recognize that he had no hope other than to put his trust in Jesus Christ, who had died to pay the price of his sin. He had to learn that to be a Christian was to be in fellowship with the Son of God, to be united with him in a deeply individual union that rested on personal conviction, not on outward support or tradition. From beginning to end, his faith was a walk with God that could only be expressed as a dialogue between two spirits. Take that away and there would be nothing to speak of at all—no faith to confess and no life to live.
2. The Necessity of the Church
Next on the list comes his adherence to the church. Augustine knew that although every Christian must have a personal faith that is not dependent on outward rites and traditions, he also belongs to the universal church. Christians cannot leave the church and live on their own, as if nobody else is good enough for them. There may be good reasons for establishing new congregations, but believers ought to be in fellowship with others and not cut themselves off as if nobody else is quite as good or as pure as they are.
There is no such thing as a pure or perfect congregation, as those who have tried to establish such things have discovered to their cost. In every place, the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest; the sheep and the goats will only be separated at the last judgment. It was Augustine who first stated this clearly as the reason for not breaking away from the church, and his logic is as valid today as it was when he wrote.
Bray’s other six points are worth reading too, so that you may understand further why Augustine – a fifth-century church father – still matters. Follow the link below to read the full post.