Mr. Charles Terpstra, member of Faith PRC in Jenison, Michigan and full-time librarian/registrar/archivist at the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary
The following book is reviewed by Prof. Douglas Kuiper, professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and member of Trinity PRC in Hudsonville, Michigan.
This book is the thirteenth, and latest, in Ligonier’s “A Long Line of Godly Men Profile” series. Each man who is featured played a pivotal role in European or American church history. These books are all about 200 pages long, but the pages are short. In other words, any of these books would be easy reads for many high school and even junior high students.
John Wycliffe (1328-1384) lived in England during the medieval era. In that day, apart from some dissenting groups, Rome was the only church. Few Bibles existed, and those that did were in Latin. The printing press had not yet been invented. One of Wycliffe’s great accomplishments was to translate the Latin Vulgate into English, so that any literate Englishmen could read the Bible in his own language.
But did you know that Wycliffe was also one of the first men to teach that the earthly authority of the king was distinct from the pope’s spiritual authority, and that the people could oust ungodly civil and spiritual leaders? Or that the authority of Scripture alone is determinative? Or that Christ was the only head of the church, and the pope had no claim to that honor? And that he denied that Christ was bodily present in the mass? He did all of this almost 150 years before Luther and Zwingli opposed Rome!
The first chapter of this book gives a basic overview of Wycliffe’s life. The second develops his doctrine of Scripture (his view of what the Bible is, especially emphasizing sola Scriptura), and his resolve to explain it according to its plain meaning. He was convinced that a wrong view of Scripture was the root of all Rome’s errors.
Chapter three demonstrates that Wycliffe’s theology was orthodox. This is striking: in a day in which Rome’s errors prevailed, Wycliffe taught the main points of what would later be known as the five points of Calvinism. In a few areas he fell short of the Reformers: he did not oppose purgatory, and did not clearly teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone. To be clear, he did not deny justification by faith alone, but he never formulated the doctrine. He did teach that faith was God’s gift and a necessary part of salvation. Rather than faulting Wycliffe for falling short in these areas, we should be amazed that God raised a man in the mid-fourteenth century who saw the truth as clearly as he did, and opposed so many of Rome’s teachings and practices!
The next chapter is an overview of Wycliffe’s main writings. Chapter five focuses on his preaching, including his view of what preaching is, why it is important, how it should be done, and the necessity of having converted preachers. Chapter six is devoted to his work of Bible translation. The last chapter treats his legacy. That legacy included the rise of the Lollard movement that promoted Wycliffe’s teachings. It also included the spread of Wycliffe’s ideas to Europe through John Hus in Bohemia. And it included suffering. Rome did not persecute Wycliffe while he was alive, but after he died, his bones were dug up so that they could be burned. But those who defended his ideas suffered. Rome would not tolerate opposition.
Until Martin Luther. Rome did not tolerate Luther, but she could not destroy him. He would develop Wycliffe’s ideas, and the religious world would be changed forever.
The book is informative and succinct. It encourages us to be like Wycliffe in that we understand the importance of God’s Word for all of life.
The following book is reviewed by Rev. David J. Engelsma, former editor of the Standard Bearer, professor emeritus of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, and member of Trinity PRC in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Glorification is part of a series of succinct explanations of fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. The treatment is always thorough, if brief. Generally, the books are sound. These characteristics make the series especially useful to the layman and theological student.
Although directed, presumably, to the largely Arminian “evangelical” audience, this volume takes issue with the Arminian doctrine of foreknowledge. Cole contends that sinners are unable “to respond to the gospel unless God acts sovereignly toward them.” Hence, “divine foreknowledge is informed by divine determination” (54). Likewise, the author “affirm[s] the eternal security of the children of God.” Only this truth confesses a “glorious salvation” 116). In defense of faith’s origin in election, Cole appeals to John 10 (54).
The special worth of the book is that it gives biblical and spiritual content to theological glory, as in the “glory of God” and the “glory of the child of God.” This content of glory, the author derives from several outstanding passages of Scripture, including Psalm 19; Exodus 24; Isaiah 6; John 1; Mark 9; Acts 9; Revelation 21; and more. All glory is God’s. “Glory is not an attribute of God…. Rather glory…is a descriptor that summarizes the attributes of God” (38). In a wonder of grace, He shares His glory with humans—not all humans, but only those in union with Christ Jesus. “The startling biblical truth is that this [glorious] God shares his glory with us” (14).
Abundantly referenced, the book quotes a magnificent description of the coming glory of the Christian by a little known French Protestant named Simon Goulart (1543-1628).
The eternal and blessed life with God in heaven, accompanied by rest and unspeakable glory, is the goal of the faith of Christians. This is the harbor of their hope, the refuge of all their desires, the crown of their consolation that they will certainly enjoy, having escaped from the travails of this miserable and fleeting earthly life, indeed from death itself. They will receive in heaven…glorified bodies, healed of all evils, no longer afflicted by sin, ignorance, errors, illness, sadness, worry, fear, anguish, or enemies. They will be delivered from all pain and suffering. They will enjoy fully and completely the Lord their God, the fountain and inexhaustible treasure of all good things, who will pour out on them all his goodness, his infinite joy, with which he will satisfy all their thoughts and desires…. The eternal Father will disclose his burning and unspeakable love for them…. This is the goal on which our gaze should be fixed throughout our earthly pilgrimage…. This is the home that we long for, amidst the banishments, the weariness, the dangerous fears of this valley of misery and the shadow of death…(93, 94).
Herman Bavinck receives his due in this exposition of glory.
Abraham Kuyper influences the author to speculate that the impressive cultural achievements of mankind, appropriately purified, will enhance the new world (100).
A short review does not imply a work of limited worth. The book is a rare study of a vitally important truth of the gospel and of salvation. The Christian is called to live to the glory of God. His present honor is his beginning to possess the glory of God in Jesus Christ by the Spirit. His motivation in all his Christian life is one day fully to share in this glory.