Last year I reviewed Richard Philips’ book, “Jesus the Evangelist. I just read his latest work, “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace.” I highly recommend the book, even though I don’t particularly care for the unfortunate title. Usually the line, “What’s so great about…” expresses cynicism and Philips endeavors to do the exact opposite. A better title would have been “The Great Doctrines of Grace,” or “The Thrilling Doctrines of Grace” or some other fitting adjective.
Philips explains and exalts over the doctrines of grace, commonly referred to as “the five points of Calvinism.” He opens the book with his main theme:
I LOVE THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE. I love them as doctrines, that is, as biblical teachings that are sublime and wonderful beyond all human expectation. There can hardly be thrills greater to the mind than those produced by the central doctrines of the Reformed faith. But I especially love these doctrines because of their marvelous theme: the sovereign grace of God for unworthy sinners. For even greater than their enlightening effect on the mind, the doctrines of God are utterly transforming to the believing heart. To love the doctrines of grace is to love God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. He is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and unless we anchor our faith in the fullness of grace taught in Scripture, we will never glorify God for our salvation as He so richly deserves.
Later, in speaking of the purpose of the book, he adds:
This purpose is to help believers feel the power of these precious truths in their lives. In other words, I aim not merely to teach the doctrines of grace, but to show what is so great about them. And how great they are! If we really believe the Bible’s teaching on the sovereign, mighty, and effectual grace of God, these doctrines not only will be dearly beloved, they will exercise a radical influence on our entire attitude toward God, ourselves, the present life, and the life to come.
Philips accomplishes his goal by spending one chapter for each of the five points and begins with an overarching treatment of the sovereignty of God. These six chapters explain theological truth in a manner that communicates practical application to the life of the believer. Non-Calvinists often criticize discussions of the doctrines of grace as being cold calculated systematic theology irrelevant in the day-to-day life of the believer. Philips explodes this erroneous notion by boldly drawing the lines between deep theology, high worship, and wide expansive application to Christian discipleship.