Review: Putting Amazing Back into Grace

Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton

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Disappointed By This One

I know lots of people have read this book and absolutely loved it. I had seen it recommended by at least two sources that I highly respect, so I expected it to be great. The truth is, I had to force myself to finish it, and really didn’t enjoy it at all.

It wasn’t the theological perspective. I’m highly sympathetic to Horton’s theology, with the exception of his paedo-baptism. It’s not that I think his book is “unscriptural”. In fact, he quotes hundreds and hundreds of scriptures throughout the book. It’s not that it was difficult to read. Other reviewers, and even J.I. Packer in the foreward, refer to this as “pumping intellectual iron.” (p. 8) I didn’t find it very stimulating at all, and it is curious to me that so many have described it that way.

It seems that it is intended to be a primer of Reformation Theology, put in accessible terms. The 5 points of Calvinism are sprinkled throughout, though given different names. The 5 Solas get their piece. A presbyterian view of the sacraments gets a chapter (infant baptism, the “spiritual presence” of Christ in communion). He concludes with an chapter on amillenial eschatology. Throughout the book Luther is referred to much more frequently than Calvin (hardly at all), though the doctrine is definitely Calvinist and not Lutheran.

One big disappointment for me, was that it felt so canned and pre-packaged. Instead of really digging into the texts of scripture, dozens of texts are simply referenced, and then smothered with thick layer of Systematic Reformation interpretation. It’s not even that I disagree with Reformed Theology, or a systematic approach. Something about the way it was done here was, frankly, kind of boring, and I labored to keep getting through it.

What annoyed me most was the condescending tone toward his own evangelical background. All along the way, he took potshots at what he was taught during his upbringing, with the sense that “I’m so much smarter than that now.” I didn’t think it was necessary, and it detracted from his project.

I understand that this was one of the first books that Horton wrote as a younger man, and so this may just reflect where he was at, at the time. I’m currently reading his Pilgrim Theology and am enjoying it, so I know it’s not the author, probably just this one book.

An introduction to theology that I like better is John Frame’s Salvation Belongs to the Lord. Frame is irenic where Horton seems chippy. I found Salvation . . . delightful to read where Putting . . . was a chore for me.

Review: William Grimshaw of Haworth

William Grimshaw of Haworth by Faith Cook

Another gem from the Great Awakening

I love reading about the figures of the 18th century Great Awakening. The best known, of course, are George Whitefield and John Wesley, as well as Jonathan Edwards in America, but there were dozens of men who who were mightily used by God at the time, and William Grimshaw is one of them.

Grimshaw went to Cambridge, and then entered the ministry as a Church of England minister, all without having been converted. A current of the awakening began to swirl around him, as a book came into his hands (Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices), and men who had believed the gospel began to cross his path. Before long, he himself was converted, and his parish, based in Haworth, began to feel the effects.

Grimshaw was tireless in his efforts to bring the gospel to everyone in his parish. He would sometimes pull unusual stunts to get the attention of his congregants. One time, a group of young people were playing a game instead of attending church on the Sabbath. Grimshaw disguised himself, and hid amongst them, until finally one of them noticed him, and they all fled in fear. Grimshaw later gathered the whole group in church, rebuked and admonished them, and then preached Christ to them, to great affect.

Grimshaw was a preacher, and cared passionately for the souls to be saved. His was an example of An Earnest Ministry, and under the influence of the Wesleys, he also circuited miles and miles around his own parish, preaching the gospel, gathering groups of believers together in to “societies” and then traveling back to them to help their spiritual growth.

John and Charles Wesley preached often in his church, as did Whitefield. John Newton was his friend, and visiting him, and later writing a biography of him. Henry Venn, and the Countess of Huntingdon were also his friends and fellow-laborers.

There are fascinating examples of how he dealt with differences in his day. He tried to find a position between the calvinism of Whitefield and the arminianism of Wesley. He had dealings with many outside of the Church of England – baptists, dissenters, moravians – though he himself resisted strongly any attempts for the methodists to pull out and become dissenters themselves. He is a good example of charity with brethren who differed from him on these points. To one man, who started a baptist church in his own city, and pulled away members from Grimshaw’s church, he said, “God bless thee, James; God bless thy undertaking! Perhaps God has given thee more light than he has given me – God bless thee!” (231)

His life is an example of a man who wore himself out spreading the gospel to everyone he could. Faith Cook is an excellent biographer (see also Selina: Countess of Huntingdon), and she gives Grimshaw the treatment he deserves.

I highly recommend this biography, as well as any others you can find from the Great Awakening. J.C. Ryle’s Christian Leaders of the 18th Century is the place to start, and then branch out to Whitefield, Wesley, HuntingdonDaniel Rowland, and Jonathan Edwards in America.

Oh that we might see an awakening like this today!