As I write this it is a few days before Easter, so I think it good and proper to write something about Christ, although, as I expect, really good articles have been written by others, I modified my course. Instead, I will write a bit about a book published quite recently by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson titled, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. I will avoid writing what could be considered a proper book review, and, after a very brief introduction to its subject, will focus on how the book has helped and affected me in a profound way.
Put simply, The Whole Christ, brings to the reader’s attention a controversy from the 18th Century involving a theological book titled The Marrow of Modern Divinity, whose supporters (among the more famous, Thomas Boston) came to be accused by some of Antinomianism. This event came to be known as the “Marrow Controversy.” I shall leave further information as to the precise contents of The Whole Christ, to more capable reviewers, its numerous endorsements, and the typical publisher’s blurb. I will move onto the important impact it has had upon my own heart and mind, for which I am eternally grateful to Dr. Ferguson.
First, I was struck by how easy it is for us to separate Christ from the benefits that are found in him. Indeed, I did not know I was guilty of such things until it was pointed out to me by Ferguson’s book! I would ask the reader the following, “When you talk of things like ‘Justification’ or ‘Assurance’, do you emphasize how they are tied in with the very person and work of Christ?” This becomes exceedingly important given the innumerable things we as believers have by are union with Christ. If we separate them, we not only paint a very incomplete picture of who Christ is, but also the benefits we gain as believer. I would press the point by simply asking my reader, “How well can you discuss ‘Adoption’ with only minimal mention of Christ?”
Second, as the full title of the book suggests, the issue of Law and Gospel is a great focal point. And what was impressed greatly upon my heart was that how we view the Law very much betrays how we view God in our heart of hearts. For both the Legalist and Antinomian view the Law of God in negative terms, and, therefore, make God out to be a cosmic buzzkill who treats us as slaves ultimately (granted we are slaves, but slaves who have a gracious Master who adopts us as sons), or we are saved by Jesus from that bad old Law of the Father (granted we are saved from having to meet the standard demanded of the Law, but now we are enabled to actually carry it out gladly for the pleasure of our Father in Heaven). Certainly, both such views are foreign to Psalm 1, to name but one example!
My last point I will mention is that The Whole Christ was a great assistance for me in impressing upon me the proper use of Church tradition and its usefulness in modern issues. Dr. Ferguson impresses the reader with the depth, breadth, and practicality of his knowledge on the Reformed tradition in particular. Even though most of the sources and discussions he uses are centuries old, he is able to bring their full usefulness to the reader’s attention in a biblical manner. It is no small feat he performs when he demonstrates how useful such old controversies can be to modern ones. Truly, there is “nothing new under the sun,” and Dr. Ferguson helps the reader to understand why many supposedly “new” discussions are not so new, if one takes the time to spend a bit of time gaining some genuine familiarity with one’s spiritual forebears and the discussions they had, despite their not knowing of N. T. Wright or using modern terminology. The approach Dr. Ferguson takes is truly refreshing in a time when the old blind adherence to tradition is still alive and well, but also the increasingly fashionable new tradition of being “anti-tradition” that has appeared in some circles.
I will end this “non-review” book review, with the strongest of recommendations for Sinclair Ferguson’s book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. I hope it proves to be as a blessing to you as it was to me.
See ya around!