Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Books #23: Sinners in the Hands of a Good God by David Clotfelter

Okay, prepare yourself. This is one of THOSE books. This is one of those books that can be controversial simply because of the subject matter. But as I was reflecting upon the books that have made an impact upon my thinking, I had to include Sinners in the Hands of a Good God by David Clotfelter. This is a book that I received for free at the Shepherd's Conference several years ago. Usually, the books that are given away are ones that go onto the shelf and might be referenced later. But this book, for some reason, I decided to read.

In this book, Clotfelter tells his theological journey attempting to understand Divine Justice and how that meshes with a God that is loving. But it is more than that. He deals with the eternality of Hell. He deals with human depravity and our ability to choose God. He talks about the atonement of Christ. He deals with even some of those difficult words like predestination. I really enjoyed reading this book. And it so impacted me when I first read it not necessarily because it says something new, but how he communicates through it. He deals with his struggles in wrestling with particular doctrines. He writes about the tension he has experienced between George MacDonald and Jonathan Edwards (although, I am glad in the end he sides more with Edwards than MacDonald).

Side Note: When I read a book, I underline or highlight and even occasionally, I will write thoughts into the margin. That is why my books mean so much to me. I can go back to this book and refresh myself in a short time on the key parts of the book that meant so much to me. I knew this book would make the list and when I went to get it, it is not in my library. I can't find it! I have remembered that I let someone borrow it, and obviously they have not brought it back. If that happens to be you, please return my book, I will forgive you!

Back to the Blog. Let me give you an example of one example of how he communicates the truth of human depravity. He struggled, as do many people, on whether our sin is really that bad. I mean, how could God punish someone for all of eternity for one lustful thought. Or hateful act. Or careless word. I mean, imagine if you or I only committed one sin our entire life, would that be enough to separate us for all of eternity from a Holy God. His answer (and mine) would be YES. Let me end with a short paragraph giving his reasoning. Maybe this will serve as a teaser for you to read this book (which by the way, can be found at Amazon right now for under $8).

"Even Christians tend to have shamefully small thoughts of the Deity. We fall easily into an attitude of smug familiarity with God, imagining Him to be pretty much as we are--just larger. But the sheer horror of the doctrine of eternal punishment--like the story of the crucifixion of Christ--seems designed to burn the complacency out of our hearts and minds, teaching us a new and proper awe of God. God is not merely holy; He is infinitely holy. He is not merely good; He is so good as to pay an infinite price for our salvation. He does not merely dislike sin; He hates it with a passion that can be fully expressed only on Calvary or in the depths of an everlasting hell. The Bible's doctrine of eternal punishment does not only teach us about punishment; it teaches us about the character of God" (94).

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