Book Reviews of hand in Hand
Randy Alcorn's book Hand in Hand should be required reading in every seminary, christian college and high school. There are few topics that can become a tool of polarization in the body more than God's sovereignty and choice. Randy's treatment of this topic is full of the humility, grace and love of God's absolute truth that we have come to expect from him. He takes us thru a history and back story of this pivotal discussion in such a way that denominational lines transform from battle lines to a unified recognition that God is SO SOVEREIGN... that within His sovereignty believers have meaningful choice. Alcorn argues that rather than as defenders of a theology, we should approach God's word with shields down like the Bereans and thru the Spirit hear it on all counts regarding this topic. In the end, Alcorn in his methodical way helps bring order and clarity to a topic that has caused much turbulence in the Church for centuries. One of the benefits of this book is resulting insights that can produce profound joy and peace.
Executive Director, Hope for Orphans
Randy has a gift for taking on big theological topics and rendering them for a popular audience of thinking people, people who want to deal with the most important questions of the faith, but are not necessarily trained in theology. (Heaven and If God is Good can now IMO (in my opinion) be called classics of this type of writing).
Randy writes this kind of book better than anyone IMO. He makes it look easy, but in fact it is really hard to do—to take what could be intimidating theological issues and translate them for the layman. And yet, at the same time, not making things so simplistic that they lose all theological heft.
—James Scott Bell
The debate over the sovereignty of God and the free will of man originally heated up between Augustine of Hippo and Pelagius in the 4th century. This debate has raged throughout church history and does not show any signs of letting up. Arminians accuse Calvinists of serving a "tyrant God" who plays the role of a puppet master, making free will an illusion. Calvinists accuse Arminians of serving a "timid God" who is weak at the knees.
Hand in HAND by Randy Alcorn addresses the thorny issue of God's sovereignty and the free will of man. Alcorn does not promise to end all arguments. But he does enter the ring as a sort of "theological referee." The author is a former Arminian theologian who has since turned into a Calvinist. While Alcorn prefers to say that he is a 4 point Calvinist, since he is uncomfortable with particular redemption, he is committed to Calvinistic presuppositions. This theological shift allows the author to sympathize with Arminians and provide some good teaching points for Calvinists who tend to be overzealous.
Alcorn begins by reassuring readers that the subject should be discussed and notes six important reasons for pursuing the matter:
1. To develop a deeper appreciation for God and his Word, which reveals him to us.
2. To help us mirror Christ's humility.
3. To embrace all of God's inspired Word, not just parts of it.
4. To foster unity in the body of Christ.
5. To avoid fatalism and crushing guilt.
6. To prevent us from becoming trivial people in a shallow age.
Several features make Hand in HAND a worthy book; a book that will likely win the Gold Medallion Award:
First, Alcorn writes with the proper tone and spirit. Second, misunderstood terms are clearly defined. Third, the lines of orthodoxy are clearly drawn. Fourth, a determinism continuum is presented. Fifth, Biblical Calvinism is presented correctly. Sixth, all readers are admonished to trust a sovereign God. In what proves to be the best chapter in the book (chapter 10), the author encourages readers of all theological backgrounds to trust in a God who is sovereign. [note... read more about each of these in the full review at the author's link below]
Hand in HAND will not be received well by Open Theists and Hyper-Calvinists. Some Arminians and Calvinists may be bothered as well by some of the content. But as a pastor who has travelled a very similar theological path from Arminianism to Calvinism - and even attended the same Bible College, I trust that thousands of people will devour Hand in HAND in the days ahead. There is no doubt that Alcorn's work will spark questions and stimulate debate. But my prayer is that the debate will produce more light than heat. And in the final analysis, people will be drawn closer to the Savior and bank on his all-sufficient grace. Indeed, he is sovereign over all!
—Dr. David Steele
This review originally appeared on the author's blog, veritas et lux.
Randy Alcorn, bestselling author and leading Christian apologist tackles the question of God's sovereignty and man's free will" in his new release, hand in Hand. The spelling of the title with a lower case "h" and an upper case "H" presents a word picture of the mysterious paradox. While the topic is divisive and can causes arguments, Alcorn believes that alone is a "compelling reason" for studying the issue, "tobetter understand what "cannot be "fully" understood with finite minds.
The first chapter focuses on six excellent reasons for a study that asks, "If God is sovereign, how can I be free to choose? But if God is not sovereign, how can he be God?" It's a mystery and seeming contradiction Alcorn debates in "light of allScripture." He also uses charts, illustrations, allegories and quotations of well-known Christian authors to offer a fair and balanced view of common theological positions to explore the thorny issue.
Each of eleven chapters builds on the previous chapter and he begins with the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism in chapter two. He acts as a "theological referee" to explore their principles in easy-to-understand language.
He explains Armenians believe "human free will is compatible with God's sovereignty," a position Alcorn favored for much of his life. While "Calvinists affirm people are free to choose according to their natures" yet, he writes, God must first "empower him" because man is incapable of "choosing to follow God" without God's intervention due to his sin nature.
Late in the book Alcorn discloses what his current position is in "light of all Scripture" and he encourages readers to do the same. He emphasizes, "God's choices come first, and ours second", and warns against taking Bible verses out of context. He encourages readers to measure what they read by Scripture and "reflect on God's Word" to determine their own position.
By books end readers will understand a bit more about God's mysterious sovereignty and why Alcorn considers "free will" to be "meaningful choice." However, Alcorn writes, regardless of position "all who love Jesus, and are saved by his sovereign grace alone can walk 'hand in Hand with God." Chapters conclude with extensive end notes in addition to a small-group discussion guide.
This review originally appeared on the Seattle Examiner website.