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Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis, by Philip Graham Ryken. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2010. 240 pages. $14.99. Softcover. ISBN 9781596382060. Reviewed by Douglas J. Kuiper.

This book is highly recommended.

Every Christian family should have at least one book that explains the ten commandments and helps us apply them to our daily life. This book does that. Those desiring to study the ten commandments in Bible study would also do well to use this book. Its questions at the end of each chapter are an aid, not just in studying the book, but in applying the ten commandments to our daily life.

While pastoring the Tenth Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Philip Ryken preached on the ten commandments; this book is the fruit of that preaching. In two ways, the book makes this plain. First, it is intended to be read by Christians, sinners by nature, as greatly in need of a right understanding of the ten commandments as was Israel of old, and as greatly in need of guidance in applying them as God’s people have ever been. This explains the words of the book’s subtitle: “and Today’s Moral Crisis.” Second, the book is not merely about law; it is about the gospel of salvation from sin in Christ. I love the quote from Samuel Bolton that summarizes this point (p. 225):

The law sends us to the gospel that we may be justified; and the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified…. The law sends us to the gospel for our justification; the gospel sends us to the law to frame our way of life.

Three introductory chapters underscore that the Ten Commandments are binding in our lives today, that they have a threefold use, and how rightly to interpret them. The next ten chapters treat each commandment individually. In each chapter, Ryken explains the commandment; explains why we need the commandment; explains how we transgress the commandment; refers to one historical narrative from Scripture as illustration that God’s people are prone to break the law; and brings to our attention that Jesus Christ died for sinners such as we are. The last chapter again underscores that Christ is our Mediator to deliver us from God’s wrath.

Ryken’s understanding of the place that the law has in our lives, and application of it, is refreshingly sound.

One critique: in treating the second commandment, he refers to “image worship” as “idolatry.” The chapter makes clear that Ryken does properly understand the distinction between the first two commandments, but the terminology is misleading and confusing.

Do not begin reading the book until you desire to see your own besetting sins, and the depth of your sinful nature.

Do not finish reading the book until you rejoice in the mercies of God in taking our sin away, and bringing us into His fellowship, family, and church.