John R. Muether
Cornelius Van Til was arguably the most significant and yet most under-appreciated Christian apologist of the 20th century. That is so in part because his writings are not always easy to understand and he has often been viewed as a…
Primer is a new journal published twice a year by the FIEC. Each issue focuses on one subject with different authors providing analysis from various angles. The journal is aimed primarily at church leaders, to help them engage with significant theological issues, but any Christian keen to wrestle with such topics would benefit from it. The first issue was on the doctrine of Scripture. This second issue is on the doctrine of sin.
The introduction warns that preaching on the subject of sin can easily become one-dimensional. A repercussion is that hearers become overly familiar with the concept and fail to be struck by its seriousness.
The first two articles help us to see the great depth to the Bible’s teaching on sin. Graham Beynon gives an overview and evaluation of recent publications on the subject. Tim Ward examines sin as both rebellion and idolatry, giving suggestions on how to go about preaching on sin.
The next article comprises an extract from Calvin’s Institutes. This is helpfully introduced and annotated by Mark Troughton. There follows an insightful article from Kirsten Birkett on sin and addiction, drawing from Augustine’s City of God. This is followed by a short Q&A section, in which John Frame answers some of the most commonly asked questions about sin.
The journal concludes with an excellent article by the editor, David Shaw. He discusses how we preach about sin in a culture where people increasingly see themselves as victims and divert blame from themselves to others. He ends the article with implications for the church and for evangelism. I found the implications for the church to be especially perceptive and helpful.
All of the articles are written to a high standard and are designed to encourage church leaders to think and be better equipped to preach sin and to point people to the great answer to sin. A couple of the articles left me wanting more explanation of the conclusions reached, but that is perhaps inevitable in a journal of this size.
Not every reader will agree with every point made or share every emphasis, but that will serve to further sharpen their thinking on the subject. If subsequent issues of Primer are to the same standard, then this will prove to be a valuable journal.
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