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The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

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Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between the law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today? By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship betw Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between the law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today? By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship between God's grace and our works—Sinclair B. Ferguson sheds light on this central issue and why it still matters today. In doing so, he explains how our understanding of the relationship between law and gospel determines our approach to evangelism, our pursuit of sanctification, and even our understanding of God himself. Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.


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Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between the law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today? By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship betw Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between the law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today? By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship between God's grace and our works—Sinclair B. Ferguson sheds light on this central issue and why it still matters today. In doing so, he explains how our understanding of the relationship between law and gospel determines our approach to evangelism, our pursuit of sanctification, and even our understanding of God himself. Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

30 review for The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

  1. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Really informative. This month’s pick is The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. That title is intriguing, but the subtitle—depending on who you are—is even more intriguing. It is Legalism, Antinomianism & Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. The Marrow controversy was an uproar in the early part of the 18th century in Scotland, and it was occasioned by the republication of a book written by one E.F. (probably a man named Edward Fisher) in the middle of the previous century. T Really informative. This month’s pick is The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. That title is intriguing, but the subtitle—depending on who you are—is even more intriguing. It is Legalism, Antinomianism & Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. The Marrow controversy was an uproar in the early part of the 18th century in Scotland, and it was occasioned by the republication of a book written by one E.F. (probably a man named Edward Fisher) in the middle of the previous century. The reason it was controversial is the same reason these perennial themes will always be controversial on this side of the Jordan. The relationship between grace and law is certainly a theological problem, but it is far more than that. It is a practical pastoral problem. It is a challenge to the sanctification of every Christian. One side or the other wants control of the spiritual thermostat in your church, To pick up on a distinction that Ferguson makes in this book, there is far more involved in the grace/law discussion than overt doctrinal commitments. Both sides of the Marrow controversy subscribed to the Westminster Confession. An open legalist avows that the law is the way to salvation. A lesser legalist avows that the law empowers us to live holy lives in the pursuit of sanctification (which it does not, any more than speed limit signs are hooked to your accelerator). But we need to go a step further. There is something that Ferguson describes as the legal temperament. The human heart is deceitfully wicked, and can turn absolutely anything into a rope (of sand) to climb up to Heaven with. Consider the famous story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the Temple to pray. The one beat his breast and cried for mercy. The other thanked God (soli Deo gloria) that he was not like other men, and that his superiority was all of grace. And so it was that he went home unjustified. But here is the hook. And so how many of us have gone home and thanked God that we are not like that Pharisee? John Newton touched the thing with a needle, when he wrote this: “Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines—as well as upon works! A man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature, and the riches of free grace!” I want to commend this book to pastors, and to do it with a sense of urgency. Use this book as a diagnostic test, not of your doctrine, but of your doctrinal temperament. And that is because the distance between the adjective and the noun here is sometimes an enormous one. In some cases it is the distance between Heaven and Hell.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    This book nourished my faith even while exposing a subtle legalistic spirit I’ve operated on as a Christian. http://amzn.to/1OrXNpT This book nourished my faith even while exposing a subtle legalistic spirit I’ve operated on as a Christian. http://amzn.to/1OrXNpT

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Manchester

    Took me 17 months to finish this book, but that's my fault not the book's. I'll admit, the last third of the book is not as good as the content before, but the book as a whole is the best succinct work on the gospel vs legalism & antinomianism that I know of. The book is also like a study guide and help to read "The Marrow of Modern Divinity", which you will want to read after finishing this book. Trust me, after reading this book, you will keep it on your bookshelf close enough where you will pu Took me 17 months to finish this book, but that's my fault not the book's. I'll admit, the last third of the book is not as good as the content before, but the book as a whole is the best succinct work on the gospel vs legalism & antinomianism that I know of. The book is also like a study guide and help to read "The Marrow of Modern Divinity", which you will want to read after finishing this book. Trust me, after reading this book, you will keep it on your bookshelf close enough where you will pull it down continually to read sections of it. It's gospel rich.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    What does a Scottish theological controversy from three hundred years ago have to teach believers today? A lot. And Sinclair Ferguson (perhaps my favorite living theologian) shows its relevance to the church today a his new book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance - Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. I am torn between giving this book three or four stars. Ferguson's handling of the Marrow controversy is interesting and informative and his exposé of the heart of What does a Scottish theological controversy from three hundred years ago have to teach believers today? A lot. And Sinclair Ferguson (perhaps my favorite living theologian) shows its relevance to the church today a his new book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance - Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. I am torn between giving this book three or four stars. Ferguson's handling of the Marrow controversy is interesting and informative and his exposé of the heart of legalism is biblical and incisive. There are some penetrating insights in this book concerning the gospel and how legalism and antinomianism are not so much opposite errors as they are "non-identical twins" that are born from the same womb, namely a distrust of the goodness of God. Ferguson explores the varied expressions of this distrust. Some of the most striking insights in this book concern: the danger of separating Christ from his benefits, the basis of the free offer of the gospel and the warrant of faith, the problem of preparationist teaching in some streams of Reformed theology, and the relationship of Calvin's view of faith/assurance and the view of the Puritans. My qualms with the book are two: (1) I think the book could have benefited from better editing. It was interesting, but seemed uneven in its pacing. I really wanted to read and understand this book, and therefore stuck through the difficult bits. But I could imagine lots of readers giving up earlier. Overall, I didn't feel that this book was as well-written as Ferguson's other books (most of which I've read). (2) More importantly, I wasn't as satisfied with Ferguson's discussion of antinomianism as I was his discussion of legalism. In particular, I'm not sure he sufficiently emphasizes the discontinuity between the old covenant and new covenant and the extent to which a believer's relationship with the Mosaic law has changed. Ferguson seems to accept the traditional position of Reformed theology, which sees a fair bit of continuity between the old and new covenants. But more recent scholarship has challenged this perspective in several important ways. (I'm thinking, for example, of Brian Rosner's important work Paul and the Law in the NSBT series, published by IVP.) I would like to have seen more interaction with these varied perspectives on the law within the Reformed stream of theology. As it stands, Ferguson's book remains very helpful with much to which I can agree. But I'm not convinced that his treatment of the law in the life of the believer is sufficiently nuanced. Note: Readers who are interested in these theological issues, specifically legalism vs. antinomianism, might wish to consult my book Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life. Unlike Ferguson, I do not discuss the Marrow controversy. But my book does address the spiritual dynamics of sin and grace, the relationship between law and gospel, and the issues of justification, sanctification, perseverance, and assurance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Juan R. Sanchez

    The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson In a day when the ongoing intramural debate about the place of the law in the life of the Christian, Sinclair Ferguson takes us back to Marrow Controversy to show us that both legalism and antinomianism share the same root - a failure to believe God's goodness (the gospel). In other words, both antinomianism and legalism misunderstand/distort the gospel. Therefore, the remedy for both is the same - understanding the gospel of grace. Pastorally, Dr. Ferguson ca The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson In a day when the ongoing intramural debate about the place of the law in the life of the Christian, Sinclair Ferguson takes us back to Marrow Controversy to show us that both legalism and antinomianism share the same root - a failure to believe God's goodness (the gospel). In other words, both antinomianism and legalism misunderstand/distort the gospel. Therefore, the remedy for both is the same - understanding the gospel of grace. Pastorally, Dr. Ferguson carefully exposes the nature of saving faith and the root/foundation of Christian assurance. Whether or not you're interested in an old theological debate (the Marrow Controversy), I highly recommend Ferguson's The Whole Christ. May it give our pastoral ministries a "tincture" of salvation being all of grace in the whole Christ, received by faith alone.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ben Chapman

    Historically informative, deeply biblical, and gracefully insightful, this book will never lose it’s relevance. Not while it’s sinners who Christ saves. Highly recommend.

  7. 4 out of 5

    mpsiple

    Just fantastic (especially for pastors I think, but for anyone interested in the "sanctification debates"). Ferguson shows how subtle and deep-seated our misunderstandings of God can be and how knowing Christ corrects them. Just fantastic (especially for pastors I think, but for anyone interested in the "sanctification debates"). Ferguson shows how subtle and deep-seated our misunderstandings of God can be and how knowing Christ corrects them.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom F

    Excellent book. I highly recommend it. Makes me want to read The Marrow again.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Dodson

    “In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in the undoing of an ancient work of Satan.” Ferguson’s writings did not give me the tools to “do” this work, but rather delivered on the book’s namesake and showcased a lovelier, fuller Christ, whose goodness to us is given in both his grace and law, and neither given abstractly apart from Him. He teaches that Christ’s benefits are inseparable from Christ himself, and that we cannot earn what we can only enjoy by grace, in union with Hi “In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in the undoing of an ancient work of Satan.” Ferguson’s writings did not give me the tools to “do” this work, but rather delivered on the book’s namesake and showcased a lovelier, fuller Christ, whose goodness to us is given in both his grace and law, and neither given abstractly apart from Him. He teaches that Christ’s benefits are inseparable from Christ himself, and that we cannot earn what we can only enjoy by grace, in union with Him. Surprisingly quirky and at times a bit dense, this book has left me with a clearer view of the fullness of freedom and grace that is in Christ. I truly feel like I can swim more daringly, and in more expansive gospel waters because of how much “bigger” and “full” (indeed, Whole!) I understand Jesus to be from these lessons.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    well-written and informative as well as convicting. It was good for me to read and I think I'll read it again. well-written and informative as well as convicting. It was good for me to read and I think I'll read it again.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cbarrett

    Excellent book, and typical Ferguson - biblical, reformed, historical, pastoral, and experiential. Covers the history of the Marrow Controversy well and points to the theological issues raised that appear in all generations. Addresses antinomianism and legalism with biblical precision, showing both to be dangerous errors. The "medicine" for both errors is the gospel and understanding union with Christ. Best chapters: Chapter 8 provides excellent exposition on the law and its relation in Old and N Excellent book, and typical Ferguson - biblical, reformed, historical, pastoral, and experiential. Covers the history of the Marrow Controversy well and points to the theological issues raised that appear in all generations. Addresses antinomianism and legalism with biblical precision, showing both to be dangerous errors. The "medicine" for both errors is the gospel and understanding union with Christ. Best chapters: Chapter 8 provides excellent exposition on the law and its relation in Old and New Testaments and its relation to the Christian. Chapters 9-10 on assurance. Assurance needs to be addressed with balance and nuance, especially determining the cause for lack of assurance. Nuance and word precision would be Ferguson's wheelhouse.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathan White

    I can confidently say that this is one of the top 5 books I've read in the last 10 years. With precision and pastoral care, Ferguson wades through the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation, and does so in a way that is both deep and practical. I've read the Marrow of Modern Divinity a few times, and admittedly, nothing can replace a careful reading of that classic. But this work comes close, and it makes the key doctrines of the Marrow much more accessible. I've read thro I can confidently say that this is one of the top 5 books I've read in the last 10 years. With precision and pastoral care, Ferguson wades through the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation, and does so in a way that is both deep and practical. I've read the Marrow of Modern Divinity a few times, and admittedly, nothing can replace a careful reading of that classic. But this work comes close, and it makes the key doctrines of the Marrow much more accessible. I've read through the Marrow with the men in my church, and I'm reading through this with the women in my church. Both studies have proved to be invaluable. I wish that every Christian would read this book. I will be recommending it for years to come.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David West

    This book takes a slice of church history and develops theology by looking at that particular debate. There is a lot of good material in this book regarding the relationship of Law and Gospel. I'll need to go through this one again in order to grasp it all. Ferguson presented ideas which were new to me and left me thinking. Throughout the book he used several word pictures which were very helpul. Beneath all the history presented, there are nuggets to be mined. This book takes a slice of church history and develops theology by looking at that particular debate. There is a lot of good material in this book regarding the relationship of Law and Gospel. I'll need to go through this one again in order to grasp it all. Ferguson presented ideas which were new to me and left me thinking. Throughout the book he used several word pictures which were very helpul. Beneath all the history presented, there are nuggets to be mined.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ethan McCarter

    An excellent book to dive into for, not only an understanding of the Marrow Controversy of Scotland, but the relationship between law/Gospel, legalism/Antinomianism, grace/works, and assurance/doubt. Ferguson gives the reader an excellent, albeit brief, summary of the Marrowmen's position and defends their understanding of the Auchterarder Creed and the defense of the Marrow of Modern Divinity. One small area of quibble, that atleast I'd like to see, is more understanding of the other side of th An excellent book to dive into for, not only an understanding of the Marrow Controversy of Scotland, but the relationship between law/Gospel, legalism/Antinomianism, grace/works, and assurance/doubt. Ferguson gives the reader an excellent, albeit brief, summary of the Marrowmen's position and defends their understanding of the Auchterarder Creed and the defense of the Marrow of Modern Divinity. One small area of quibble, that atleast I'd like to see, is more understanding of the other side of the coin and where the Kirk was coming from against the Marrowmen. It's not historical theology true, but it would be nice to get more background on the Marrow and the controversy; that may just be my opinion though. An excellent book for the pastor, the layman, or any seeking to understand the complex issues of Law and Gospel. Ferguson is a superb writer, pastor, and theologian. Highly recommended!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Libby Powell

    The Whole Christ is one of those books that's packed theologically with Biblical truth that flows into practicality. It's a book that made me think deeply as I read and test every point that was made against the Scriptures... only to find that the conclusions drawn along the way are wholly in sync with the Word. It's a book that exposed tendencies toward ungodly thinking and living in myself that I scarcely recognized before, much less understood. It uncovers the root of legalism/antinomianism f The Whole Christ is one of those books that's packed theologically with Biblical truth that flows into practicality. It's a book that made me think deeply as I read and test every point that was made against the Scriptures... only to find that the conclusions drawn along the way are wholly in sync with the Word. It's a book that exposed tendencies toward ungodly thinking and living in myself that I scarcely recognized before, much less understood. It uncovers the root of legalism/antinomianism for what it is - a misunderstanding of who God is and consequently the divorcing of God's law from his character. It digs deeply into the Gospel for it's truest treasure - Christ himself. Saturated in the Truth, masterfully laid out, and incredibly relevant. I highly, highly recommend it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Phil Griffin

    Excellent book covering the key topics of legalism, antinomianism, grace and assurance. Benefits largely from Sinclair Ferguson's thorough scholarly approach and strong pastoral insight. Superb on grace and assurance with some real helpful gems. Excellent book covering the key topics of legalism, antinomianism, grace and assurance. Benefits largely from Sinclair Ferguson's thorough scholarly approach and strong pastoral insight. Superb on grace and assurance with some real helpful gems.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I finished the book with gratefulness for GRACE even though portions went over my head. I especially loved the prodigal son vs others son theme...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darby Stouffer

    The final paragraphs of this book include the poignant phrase “Sir, we would see Jesus.” And indeed, that is what this book accomplishes. Every time I read Sinclair Ferguson I leave feeling more strengthened, bolstered, encouraged, and joyful in my faith. What a gift this (humble, unassuming) man is to the church. May more be raised up like him. (For anyone reading, I’ve been informed there are accompanying lectures to this book available on Amazon Prime. I’m excited to view them and encourage y The final paragraphs of this book include the poignant phrase “Sir, we would see Jesus.” And indeed, that is what this book accomplishes. Every time I read Sinclair Ferguson I leave feeling more strengthened, bolstered, encouraged, and joyful in my faith. What a gift this (humble, unassuming) man is to the church. May more be raised up like him. (For anyone reading, I’ve been informed there are accompanying lectures to this book available on Amazon Prime. I’m excited to view them and encourage you to do the same!)

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

    The "Marrow Controversy" from the Puritan era is the background for Ferguson's work on the role of the law in the life of the believer today. The first third of the book focuses largely on the original controversy. As one intentionally unfamiliar with the Puritans, I struggled with this portion of the book, and I suppose others in a similar position will struggle as I did. The middle of the book was the best part of the book, where he focuses on the role of the law and the way that legalism and a The "Marrow Controversy" from the Puritan era is the background for Ferguson's work on the role of the law in the life of the believer today. The first third of the book focuses largely on the original controversy. As one intentionally unfamiliar with the Puritans, I struggled with this portion of the book, and I suppose others in a similar position will struggle as I did. The middle of the book was the best part of the book, where he focuses on the role of the law and the way that legalism and antinomianism are not so much opposites, but different reactions to the law such that the law is made void by either holding it up higher than Christ, or in setting it entirely aside. There's a great quote on page 168-169 regarding the role of the law: "Commandments are the railroad tracks on which the life empowered by the love of God poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit runs. Love empowers the engine; law guides the direction. They are mutually interdependent. The notion that love can operate apart from law is a figment of the imagination. It is not only bad theology; it is bad psychology. It has to borrow from law to give eyes to love. The last third of the book is devoted to the assurance of salvation, which Ferguson argues is tied to the person of Christ, not our own faith. All in all, this is a very good book, though my own biases against the Puritans bled through and prevented me from enjoying this as others might.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Crouch

    I was a little curious as to what exactly this book was about as I don't recall ever hearing of the Marrow Controversy, but since Tim Keller was doing the forward I thought I would give it a go. First, I was a little surprised as to how long the forward was - whilst I have encountered long forwards before, I was a little concerned that I was hearing everything of value in the Foreword - thankfully that was not the case. Whilst it did take me a little while to "get into" the story and the associat I was a little curious as to what exactly this book was about as I don't recall ever hearing of the Marrow Controversy, but since Tim Keller was doing the forward I thought I would give it a go. First, I was a little surprised as to how long the forward was - whilst I have encountered long forwards before, I was a little concerned that I was hearing everything of value in the Foreword - thankfully that was not the case. Whilst it did take me a little while to "get into" the story and the associated theology (theologies), I did in fact quite enjoy this. The Author does a good job in not only filling in the history of the Marrow Controversy but thankfully also does a good job explaining the history that led to it. At the same time, this is quite a good way to examine modern understanding of Antinomianism vs Legalism and how our Christian Assurance fits into all that. Quite a good read :)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joe Cassada

    Quite possibly the most important contemporary theological book a pastor can read today. I am indebted to Sinclair Ferguson for his bringing modern-day attention to the issues addressed long ago in "The Marrow of Modern Divinity." Faithful pastors should do all they can to read both "The Whole Christ" and "The Marrow of Modern Divinity." Quite possibly the most important contemporary theological book a pastor can read today. I am indebted to Sinclair Ferguson for his bringing modern-day attention to the issues addressed long ago in "The Marrow of Modern Divinity." Faithful pastors should do all they can to read both "The Whole Christ" and "The Marrow of Modern Divinity."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Donald Stevenson

    Loved this book - I just wish that the author would have written in more accessible English so that it could have a wider audience. Every teacher of God's Word needs to read this and any believer would be blessed by working through it. Loved this book - I just wish that the author would have written in more accessible English so that it could have a wider audience. Every teacher of God's Word needs to read this and any believer would be blessed by working through it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    A veritable trove of verity. I will carry a number of these insights for the rest of my days. A permanent contribution.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Ferguson stretches the Marrow Controversy into a book-length treatment of legalism and antinomianism. I say "stretches" (and I don't use the word negatively) because each chapter isn't exactly dedicated to a historical treatment of the controversy, but rather uses the controversy as a springboard to discuss related issues. I listened on audio, so my notes are less detailed than usual. The book is very good to bring out the practical, pastoral issues connected to a very technical debate. Some of t Ferguson stretches the Marrow Controversy into a book-length treatment of legalism and antinomianism. I say "stretches" (and I don't use the word negatively) because each chapter isn't exactly dedicated to a historical treatment of the controversy, but rather uses the controversy as a springboard to discuss related issues. I listened on audio, so my notes are less detailed than usual. The book is very good to bring out the practical, pastoral issues connected to a very technical debate. Some of these issues include how to word the gospel presentation (Can a pastor say indiscriminately, "Christ died for you"?), whether or not repentance is a prerequisite for faith (Does the gospel invitation require some kind of performance before coming to Christ?), and the nature of assurance. I particularly appreciated the concluding chapters on assurance. You know that if DeYoung and Keller have blurbed the book, Ferguson isn't coming down on Tchividjian's side. Other blurbers include Horton, Begg, Parsons, Kapic, and Beeke. For my reviews of related books, see here and here. Read one short, positive review here. Mark Jones asks some important questions and makes some observations here; for example, he writes, "The Reformed theologians that I have studied in the seventeenth century were very careful in describing how faith is an antecedent condition for receiving the benefits of the covenant. They had to in order to ward off the Antinomian view that faith was not a condition for receiving the benefits of Christ." One comment I've heard is that Ferguson doesn't dig deep enough to reveal that the author of The Marrow of Modern Divinity misrepresented others' positions; I don't know if this is true or not. Forward (by Tim Keller) Church of Scotland, early 18c Edward Fisher's The Marrow of Modern Divinity (1645) Marrow supporters were accused of antinomianism; critics were suspected of legalism 4 things Keller learned Thomas Boston was a leading Marrow supporter Can't just "believe your justification" Introduction Socratic dialogue (17c) Marrow definitions Ch 1: How a Marrow Grew Knox/16c Auchterarder Creed trap (1717)—William Craig's preaching license was revoked; the General Assembly denounced the Auchterarder Creed and ordered the Auchterarder presbytery to restore Craig's license Boston read Marrow (1700) Marrow republished in 1726 (first republication was in 1718) Boston and other Marrow men Ch 2: Grace in the Gospel Issue of how to word the gospel offer ["Christ died for you"] Boston: gospel at stake Hypothetical universalism Amyraldianism Boston's concern with rigid Calvinism; proclaim gospel to all Marrow syllogism Augustine's totus Christus Union with Christ John Murray's commentary on Romans Ch 3: Preparation, Distortion, Poison Spurgeon and Pilgrim's Progress Bunyan should have put the cross before the wicket gate (question of whether Bunyan was depicting conversion or assurance) Perkins vs Bunyan (1-page ordo salutis)—see charts here Boston's paradigm shift in preaching—free offer of the gospel Jonathan Edwards on Boston's view of the covenant of redemption Job's bad counselors Practical pastoring: how to receive sinners (elder brother wonders if prodigal is sorry enough) Ch 4: Danger! Legalism Shakespeare's Malvolio was a legalist Vos: legalism separates God's law from his person NPP (legalism tendencies?) Ch 5: The Order of Grace Marrow: repentance is not not a prerequisite for coming to Christ; sanctification makes no contribution to justification Ordo salutis is logical, not necessarily chronological Penance vs. repentance Thief on cross isn't an argument for delaying repentance Law doesn't justify, but it’s a good rule of life (WCF) Translating Hebrew "covenant" into Greek Love doesn't ignore the law; it fulfills it Ch 6: Suspicious Symptons Pilgrim's Progress: Christian and Faithful Ch 7: Faces of Antinomianism Agricola (antinomian) vs. Melanchthon Connection between antinomianism and hyper-Calvinism Antinomianism is an over-realized personal eschatology 3-fold uses of the law goes back at least to Aquinas John: Moses/Jesus relationship is complementary, not antithetical Paul: "not under law" (Rom. 6:14)—gospel upholds the law WCF had prooftexts at the request of Parliament Boston on the symbolism of the Decalogue Satirical/antinomian version of Philip P. Bliss's hymn: "Free from the Law, O blessed condition, I can sin as I please and still have remission." You are under law: see those flashing lights? Ch 8: Causes and Cures Antinomianism God's grace in giving the law Grace implies obligation; Christ said to show love by keeping commandments Christ fulfilled the law, so that it might be fulfilled in us Ch 9: The Marrow of Assurance Assurance Medieval movement from congruent merit to condign merit Calvin and the WCF Chapter on assurance in WCF Ch 10: How Assurance of Christ Becomes Assurance of Salvation Ch 11: "Hindrances Strew All the Way" Functions of affliction (correction, character building, revelation of grace/glory) Hindrances to assurance Implications of union with Christ Assurance is not pride—it's confidence in our Father Conclusion Sir, we would see Jesus. Appendix: Thomas Boston on Faith

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Hawkins

    An enjoyable read. It was about Christ, the gospel, legalism, antinomianism, and especially Covenant Theology. I agreed with almost everything he wrote and it was interesting to learn about the Marrow controversy, but I think his lengthy Covenant Theology support for the tripartite dimension of the law is unfounded (I think Progressive Covenantalism is more accurate than Covenant Theology). But I give it an easy 4 stars because pages 47-55 were, I think, the best pages I have read all year—possib An enjoyable read. It was about Christ, the gospel, legalism, antinomianism, and especially Covenant Theology. I agreed with almost everything he wrote and it was interesting to learn about the Marrow controversy, but I think his lengthy Covenant Theology support for the tripartite dimension of the law is unfounded (I think Progressive Covenantalism is more accurate than Covenant Theology). But I give it an easy 4 stars because pages 47-55 were, I think, the best pages I have read all year—possibly even in the last two years. They were so clear and good. He explained much of what I’ve been wrestling with concerning how salvation is “in Christ.” In those pages, he writes: - “The gospel offer is Christ *himself* in whom the blessings are found.” - “Calvin’s emphasis [was] that salvation becomes ours *in* Christ and not merely *through* Christ…’By this faith we grasp Christ *with those graces and blessings promised in him.’”* Then he talks about how the preacher of the gospel isn’t to think “How can I offer these benefits?” But rather, “How do I preach Christ himself?” Then he explains the Calvinist/Arminian divide on the gospel offer, and how this is solved when we preach Christ himself (see 51-52 on this; it’s brilliant). And finally he explains how this “in Christ” doesn’t allow for any second blessing. — In short, read the book if you’d like. But if not, just read pages 47-55. They were that good. I’ll be doing some sort of blog post of them soon. Would I recommend the book as a whole? Probably not. But I would wholeheartedly recommend 47-55.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Uit de Flesch

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An interesting read with highs and lows. I began the book expecting more info on fruits of salvation, but as whole it didn’t deliver strongly either way. The beginning (historical context) was quite interesting and I really loved the ending with regard to assurance. (“Christian assurance is not self-assurance and self-confidence. It is the reverse: confidence in our Father, trust in Christ as our Savior, and joy in the Spirit...”). Curiously, the author seems to deny limited atonement, which rea An interesting read with highs and lows. I began the book expecting more info on fruits of salvation, but as whole it didn’t deliver strongly either way. The beginning (historical context) was quite interesting and I really loved the ending with regard to assurance. (“Christian assurance is not self-assurance and self-confidence. It is the reverse: confidence in our Father, trust in Christ as our Savior, and joy in the Spirit...”). Curiously, the author seems to deny limited atonement, which really helps his conclusions on assurance. Limited atonement is a major death knell for Calvinist assurance. His treatment of legalism and antinomianism were helpful and hit home at points. While the author did use Scripture throughout, I felt it was streamlined around his use of logic and history. Plenty of pertinent passages were ignored. Not being Reformed, I choked a bit on his constant returns to creeds, confessions, and Calvins Institutes. Interesting, helpful, but not a must read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shantelle

    Truly an exceptional read. I’m not even sure how to put this book into words. The Whole Christ is a nonfiction book that I highly recommend that every Christian read! I didn’t expect to love this book so much, but it was fascinating! Packed with truth and hope, it really dug deep, and took apart and explored the idea of grace. There was some history concerning Thomas Boston, the Marrow Controversy, and other theologians. There were some startling truths revealed about legalism. There were Biblic Truly an exceptional read. I’m not even sure how to put this book into words. The Whole Christ is a nonfiction book that I highly recommend that every Christian read! I didn’t expect to love this book so much, but it was fascinating! Packed with truth and hope, it really dug deep, and took apart and explored the idea of grace. There was some history concerning Thomas Boston, the Marrow Controversy, and other theologians. There were some startling truths revealed about legalism. There were Biblical truths presented that I hadn’t quite grasped before. It is a study on the gospel – and that cannot be studied enough! For it [the gospel] reveals that behind and manifested in the coming of Christ and His death for us is the love of a Father who gives us everything He has; first His Son to die for us and then His Spirit to live within us. ~ The Whole Christ by Sinclair B. Ferguson It’s a bit of a deep read … some paragraphs I had to reread a couple times … but still, so good, it kept me reading. Even if you aren’t a big reader, I would give it a try. Maybe listen to it on audiobook. It is such a needful message for the Church. Why? Because I think we all, as Christians, struggle with understanding grace – and accepting that there is nothing we can do to earn it. It’s is all Christ. And the love of God! Understanding the love of God! Ah, The Whole Christ presented such precious truths. It was interesting, deep, informational, compassionate, heartfelt, and soul-stirring. A great book for all of us Christ-followers to add to our collection … especially pastors! The Whole Christ is geared, somewhat, toward pastors. It speaks very plainly, but also with gentleness and great encouragement. A truly worthwhile read! I’m so glad I picked it up, even though I was nervous about reading such a intimidating-looking book. (I’ve not read many deep, theological books). The Whole Christ made me marvel about the greatness of my God. It encouraged me. And it helped open my eyes even more to the basic, fundamental truths about the Christian faith – about Jesus Christ, grace, and truth. There is only one genuine cure for legalism. It is the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ Himself. This leads to a new love for and obedience to the law of God, which He now mediates to us in the gospel. ~ The Whole Christ by Sinclair B. Ferguson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peter Dray

    Sinclair Ferguson uses a little known theological spat from 18th Century Scotland to be a launch pad for a helpful discussion that's remarkably contemporary. There is helpful material on the relationship between grace and law, repentance and the call to obedience, and how we ought to speak of the love of Christ. I loved the early chapters especially. There was a clear emphasis on how our union with Christ means we cannot separate Christ from his blessings. I loved the section on the "in-law" rela Sinclair Ferguson uses a little known theological spat from 18th Century Scotland to be a launch pad for a helpful discussion that's remarkably contemporary. There is helpful material on the relationship between grace and law, repentance and the call to obedience, and how we ought to speak of the love of Christ. I loved the early chapters especially. There was a clear emphasis on how our union with Christ means we cannot separate Christ from his blessings. I loved the section on the "in-law" relationship we have with the law through Christ.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Millie

    i’ve heard rave reviews for this book over the last few years, but i found it surprisingly difficult to follow/digest ferguson’s writing. maybe i should re-read and pay more attention to the footnotes. nonetheless, still so important to dive deeper into the following topics: the relationship between law and grace, the dangers of legalism, the beauty of the union that believers have with christ.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book was an unexpected treasure. It is a surprising combination of historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, and practical pastoral theology, using the "Marrow controversy" of the 1600's (of which I knew nothing prior to reading this book) as the basis for an incredibly insightful discussion on law and grace, legalism and antinomianism. But theological words aside, Ferguson's approach and writing were not only enjoyable, they were full of God's grace. This book will go do This book was an unexpected treasure. It is a surprising combination of historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, and practical pastoral theology, using the "Marrow controversy" of the 1600's (of which I knew nothing prior to reading this book) as the basis for an incredibly insightful discussion on law and grace, legalism and antinomianism. But theological words aside, Ferguson's approach and writing were not only enjoyable, they were full of God's grace. This book will go down as one of the greatest depictions I have read (outside the Bible) of God's love and mercy displayed in Christ. It has helped me cherish the gospel again and reminded me to glory in Christ alone. While somewhat theological at times and seemingly geared toward pastors, I say to any reader, "Take and read!" Updated - 12/Apr, 2018 After some discussions with friends about legalism/antinomianism, I decided to go back over some of my highlights of this book. Wow, I was reminded of why I loved it so much. I thought I would share some here, partly to share with the two people that actually read my reviews, and partly to just have these registered somewhere! CONCERNING LEGALISM: “Legalism is simply separating the law of God from the person of God.” (83) “The essence of legalism is a heart distortion of the graciousness of God and of the God of grace.” (88) “Legalism is almost as old as Eden itself. In essence it’s any teaching that diminishes or distorts the generous love of God and the full freeness of his grace. It then distorts God’s graciousness revealed in his law and fails to see law set within its proper context in redemptive history as an expression of a gracious Father. This is the nature of legalism. Indeed we might say these are the natures of legalism.” (95) “Christ should be presented in all the fullness of his person and work; faith then directly grasps the mercy of God in him, and as it does so the life of repentance is inaugurated as its fruit.” (101) CONCERNING ANTINOMIANISM: “Although in one sense antinomianism is the ‘opposite’ error from legalism, in another sense it’s the ‘equal’ error, for it similarly abstracts God’s law from God’s person and character (which undergoes no change from old to new covenant). It fails to appreciate that the law that condemns us for our sins was given to teach us how not to sin.” (141) “The deepest response to antinomianism is not ‘You are under the law’ but rather ‘You are despising the gospel and failing to understand how the grace of God in the gospel works!’ There is no condemnation for you under the law because of your faith-union with Christ. But that same faith-union leads to the requirements of the law being fulfilled in you through the Spirit. Your real problem is not that you do not understand the law. It’s that you do not understand the gospel. For Paul says that we are ‘in-lawed to Christ.’ Our relationship to the law is not a bare legal one, coldly impersonal. No, our conformity to it is the fruit of our marriage to our new husband Jesus Christ.” (153–154) "At one level the problem [of antinomianism] is indeed rejection of God's law. But underneath lies a failure to understand grace and ultimately to understand God. True, his love for me is not based on my qualification or my preparation. But it is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather he accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ's sake. Nor does he mean to leave us the way he found us, but to transform us into the likeness of his Son (Rom 8:39). Without that transformation and new conformity of life we do not have any evidence that we were ever his in the first place." (154) “Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both.” (156) “There is only one genuine cure for legalism. It’s the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself.” (157) “Commandments are the railroad tracks on which the life empowered by the love of God poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit runs. Love empowers the engine; law guides the direction. They are mutually interdependent. The notion that love can operate apart from law is a figment of the imagination. It’s not only bad theology; it’s poor psychology. It has to borrow from law to give eyes to love. . . . Neither the Old Testament believer nor the Savior severed the law of God from his gracious person. It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything his Father commanded him. Nor is it for us.” (168–169, 173)

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