Mr. VanUffelen is a teacher at Covenant Christian High (Grand Rapids), and a member of Faith PRC.
The Beauty and Glory of the Father, edited by Joel R. Beeke. Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 2013. [Reviewed by Scott VanUffelen.]
One of the most humbling and awe-inspiring experiences one can have is standing at the base of a cluster of giant redwood trees in the midst of a lush forest. Their towering greatness looms above you, casting a serene and peaceful shadow over the tranquil landscape. As the fresh aired stillness pervades the scene, a deeply rich calmness and beauty settles upon you as your senses become alive to the sights and sounds of nature praising God. A Christian, quickened in this experience, cannot help but bask in the beauty and glory of the Father who created and sustains such majesty by the power of His word and love.
The above scene is an extrapolation of the cover picture aptly chosen for the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary’s latest conference book. The Beauty and Glory of the Father is the printed collection of eleven lectures given at their August 2013 conference rejoicing in God the Father, wrapping up their Trinitarian theme of the past two conferences focusing on The Beauty and Glory of Christ (2011) and The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit (2012). The stated goal of the conferences was to “reinforce the ongoing necessity of cultivating a Trinitarian piety” in the Reformed believer, something that this book does well.
The layers of richness in this book led me into a deeper and richer love of my Father and a more complete understanding of His infinite love, a love first and foremost for His Son. Setting the tone for this conference was Bartel Elshout’s lecture on “The Father’s Love for His Son,” using John 3 as his guide. Not knowing much about this pastor, I was eager to see how he was going to use this chapter (famously used by Arminians and proponents of the free offer of the gospel) to show how, from creation to redemption to final glorification, all of Scripture’s testimony revolves around the Father’s love for His Son. The answer given was notbut rather verse 35: “The Father loveth the Son.” These beautifully simple words overshadow any and all emphasis on the Father’s love for the world, for His children, etc. The Father loveth the Son! Out of this deep love He sent His Son to be the Savior. So begins a thorough look at how the Father’s love is the fountain of all theology.
I read this book at the time of year when we naturally focus our attention on the birth and incarnation of the Son of God. It brought a welcomed depth to the discussion and celebration. Reading this book primarily on Sunday evenings, I found this was a delightful and treasured way to end the Sabbath. Basking in the loving words of the Father to me and His church through the preaching, I could end the Sabbath with relatively short chapters expounding the holiness, mercy, and faithfulness of my Father, and prepare for the beginning of a work week with a calling to rest in His loving Hands.
The reader will be deeply moved by the emphasis on the Father’s love to His Son as the reason for all of the Father’s creative work, as well as the need for the sending of His Son. The lectures make a point of stating that the Creation was a gift of love of the Father to His Son, not a gift for mankind. This same love motivated the Father to create Adam in the image of His Son. We were created in His image to know, love, and serve the Son perfectly. What wretchedness, then, was the Fall, wherein we lost the image of God’s own Son! God so loved His Son, God so loved His creation made for His Son, that in love He sent His Son to save His people and to redeem them—yet also for the glory of His Son! With this theology in mind, the reader is impressed even more by how often the gospels record the testimony of God to His people: “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him,” or the words of Christ Himself saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Not all of the chapters are deeply profound, nor freshly insightful for a mature reader, but they are profoundly biblical. As such, they add layers of substance to the discussion and to the expression and understanding of our worldview. The heart of this, for me, was the emphasis on the Father being known as the Savior, not the Son alone. The church is able to see the Father in the face of Jesus, and this is through the work of the Holy Spirit. Even as Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time when He would no longer be with them, He comforted them with the truth that the Holy Spirit would continue the ministry of the exalted Son. At the conference, the very next lecture reinforced this concept by looking at the amazing wonder of adoption as the work of God the Father made possible through the redemptive work of His Son (). We are not God’s children by nature; God has only one natural Son. But we are His children through atoning sacrifice. This should, and does, affect our relationship with God, and with His church.
The final section of the book is deeply comforting, reminding us how often the Lord says to us that He loves us. The Father loves us in Heaven. He loves us in our trials. He loves us in our chastisements. In all things He loves us, for His Son’s sake.
Reading this book made me regret not having read the first two when they were published. The doctrine of the Trinity is not something that is meant to be relegated to seminary instruction but is meant to be the cornerstone of our understanding and worship of God. Begin with this book, as I did, and you will be richly rewarded in “The Beauty and Glory of Our Father.”