Saturday, December 22, 2007

Review: Signs of the Spirit

I wish I could say that I'd made it successfully through Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections. The truth is that I've tried a number of times. I want to say it's just because they're in microscopic fontsize in my Banner of Truth editions of Edwards' works, but it's also because it's hard stuff. Sam Storms knows this and that's why he's graciously given the church this book, Signs of the Spirit.

The book is Storms' (who has also written the excellent One Thing and Pleasures Evermores) interpretation of Religious Affections. The book majors on that, but also includes an interpretation of Personal Narrative which illustrates Edwards beliefs in action.

Storms first outlines the importance of Affections in Christian life. Then explaining a dozen signs that prove nothing about the reality of someones Christianity. They're mostly things that we'd expect to see in a real Christian but they don't prove the person is actually a Christian. These are things such as intense affections, ability to talk about experiences, bodily effects, that affections have come from a scripture effects (Jesus' temptation was demonic though it was built on scripture, twisted to cause sin rather than divine affections). The stunning thing is that many of these things are markers we often take as proof of life in Christians today. Yet they prove nothing.

Then we get a dozen signs that do prove real faith, centred upon affection for the excellence of Christ in and of himself. That's to say, not just love of Christ because he rescues us from hell, nor that he brings us to eternal life in the new creation. No, real Christianity is marked by interest in Christ because of his excellency. This is the idea that John Piper has captured in his question would you be happy in heaven if Jesus wasn't there? Storms, Piper and Edwards stand together in this conviction. And that leads them to revel in showing us Jesus. It's not that we're not to enjoy God for his benefits but that we see him as glorious in and of himself. So captivated should we be by Christ that we can't bear to take our eyes off him to survey ourselves.

In the rest of the book we also gain some cracking perspectives on preaching and praise in the church which we'd do very well to pay attention to. This is my book of the year and one I expect I'll return to again and again. Storms has two great strengths, one is the way concern for Christ permeates his writing. The other is that he writes really clearly. Edwards is hardwork to read but set among Storms writing he appears much more accessible. So much so that I am resolved to go back and attempt to read the original again - which is Storms explicit goal for his readers.

Excellent interview with Sam Storms about the book
See also Enjoying God Ministries

1 comment:

  1. Cheers for the heads-up: still time to add it to my Christmas list :) It helps having a Christian Bookshop manager -father!