Subscribe now

Chosen in Christ: Revisiting the Contours of Predestination (Reformed Exegetical Doctrinal Studies series)

By Cornelis P. Venema
March 2020 | Review by Paul Wells

Synopsis

Cornel Venema revisits the important doctrine of predestination to re–familiarize the church with truths about God’s sovereignty in salvation. But he does not merely re–visit old ground but also engages a host of historic and contemporary challenges to the doctrine. He addresses the subject from exegetical, historical, contemporary, and pastoral vantage points.

  • Publisher: Mentor
  • ISBN: 1527102351
  • Pages: 408
  • Price: £13.99
Buy this book »

Book Review

Those who have read any of Cornelis Venema’s previous writings on the covenant, justification, or eschatology will already know what to expect, and they will not be disappointed. Venema, who is President and Professor of Doctrinal Studies at the Mid-America Reformed Seminary, lives up to expectations with this title on a thorny subject.

It’s quite correct to remark, as the author does in the introduction, that the number of books on the subject might discourage readers from this one. However, many of them are complex historical studies or rather unreadable, and few of them give the succinct spread of exegesis, biblical theology, and historical theology that this one does. The level is demanding for the average reader, who would best stick to Arthur Pink, but it is well-pitched for pastors, theological students, and others who want a well-balanced and biblically faithful presentation of the subject, and who are not put off by detail.

The book presents a fine introduction which sets the scene, followed by nine chapters covering the subject in the Old and New Testaments, the Pauline epistles, Augustinian and Reformation theology, the Dort debate with Arminianism, Barthian theology, and the neo-Arminianism of the open theology movement. Thus Venema brings us right up to the present, even if one is not all that taken with the dialectical meanders of modern theology.

The conclusion with theological and pastoral reflections is stimulating, revisiting perennial issues such as the fairness of God in choosing some and not others, whether the number of the elect is few, the nature of the gospel offer, human freedom, and the question of election and assurance.

I enjoyed the biblical presentation, particularly the material bearing on election in John’s Gospel, Romans, and Ephesians. Venema is right to resist the recent fad of playing up collective while playing down individual election. The presentation of Arminianism was balanced, and the discussion of Dort useful, but those who think that Moïse Amyraut and the Saumur school provided a third way with their novel approach to the divine decrees will be disappointed.

In the light of the Christian tradition as a whole, Thomas Aquinas hardly gets the place he deserves, while Barthianism gets 40 pages. Personally I thought it would have been better to discuss the thought of Suarez and Molina and ‘middle knowledge’ in the context of the development of prescience from Aquinas to Arminianism rather than with relation to open theism.

The book has the advantage of a handy glossary and bibliographical details are given for each chapter. Scripture and subject indexes are a good concluding feature.

Paul Wells

Liverpool

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Why Should I Trust the Bible?

We should trust the Bible, says Timothy Paul Jones, because it is ‘grounded in the words of a man who died and rose again’ (p.111). Jones’s basic presupposition is this: ‘If we live in a world where it is possible…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Who Am I? Human Identity and the Gospel in a Confusing World
Thomas Fretwell

In today’s secular society, religion is often regarded as without rational or scientific basis, and therefore irrelevant to life in the modern world and all areas of public engagement. If that is our social context, then it is no wonder…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Pastor’s Life: Practical Wisdom from the Puritans
Matthew D Haste & Shane W Parker

This book highlights ‘some of the many lessons that today’s pastors can learn from the Puritans’ (p.151). As such it is aimed at pastors, but the lessons are really for anyone who is a Christian leader. The opening chapter provides…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church
Stephen J Nichols

What a breath of fresh air this book is! Stephen Nichols has given us 40 vignettes from church history that are brief enough to be digested over a bowl of cereal. The book doesn’t aim to be a beginner’s guide…