Book Review: Truth For All Time

Author: John Calvin

Pages: 92

A résume of John Calvin’s first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, this brief outline (Brève Instruction chrétienne) was written by John Calvin in 1537 and was translated to become this book by Stuart Olyott in 1998. Calvin who was a prominent figure of the Protestant Reformation realized that the truths of the Bible that were rediscovered at the Reformation must be spread to the whole world, to recover the Biblical Gospel that everyone requires in this world. Thus, Calvin felt that it was important to present the Christian faith in a form which ordinary people could understand. This is what drove him to write this short book; to build up believers’ faith by helping us understand the teachings of the precious Holy Scriptures that had been hidden to many people before the rise of the Reformation.

As we read this book, we are brought to know how Christians are supposed to live according to the will of God. He introduces to us the Biblical views on the concepts of knowing God and knowing ourselves, God’s law, faith, prayer, sacraments and the church, all of which are important components of the Christian faith. As a brief outline, this book does not offer a comprehensive study on these topics; that would be found in the much longer Institutes of Christian Religion which was also authored by Calvin. However, it is sufficient in introducing these biblical concepts and to trigger deeper exploration of His Word in order that we feel the warmth of God’s ardent love towards His people who have been brought into personal union with His Only Son, Jesus Christ. May this book help drive us to remain faithful to God’s Word. (FHW)

Book Review: A Problem Of Poverty

Author: Abraham Kuyper

Pages: 94

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch statesman, philosopher, churchman and journalist. His works and writings present to us a unique and balanced perspective on ‘social problems.’  One such work is his persuasive speech to the first Christian Social Congress in the Netherlands, on November 9, 1891, where he warned people about the challenge of socialism, individualism and the reality of poverty and other social issues. This book was the result of said speech being written down. It delves into the meaning and the undertaking for us to possess what Kuyper calls an “organic social life”, a balanced solution to social problems, which is unique to Kuyper as he constructed it with his Calvinistic view.

This book itself covers the social problem in 4 parts. In the first part, Kuyper highlights the reality of poverty. He stresses the fact that indeed there are people who are poor and suffering, and contemplates  how Christians have been slow to react to these social problems as they have been complacent regarding matters of cultural mandate as well as taking part in social life outside of the Church. Furthermore, he teaches on how the message of Christ and the reality of sin bring not only a new perspective on social problems but also serve as the spearhead for us all in studying and solving these dilemmas.

In the second part, he highlights Jesus as our example of an agent of social change, and an illustration of what it took to be one. Kuyper also examines the impact of a community (specifically the church) in being an actor of a social reform. Thirdly, Kuyper examines how humanity has dealt with social problems over the course of history, from the French Revolution to Socialism, acknowledging some valid points that these respective ages address yet also the dangers that these new ideologies bring. Lastly, He shares with us a perspective of how the Christian worldview is used to approach poverty while also encouraging us to take action.

There seems to be increasing attention to poverty as well as a growth in the number of student activism addressing this very topic; all the while, socialist ideas are on the rise. Those that hold liberal views clash with those with populist and conservative views in order to provide the sole solution to this social quandary. In an a age like this, this book/speech has never been more relevant for Christians or non-Christians, to introduce and examine this particular social problem, while giving attention to the dangers of worldly solutions to it, and bringing the light of a Reformed Christian perspective on the issue based on the Word of God. (HS)

Book Review: Thoughts For Young Men

Author: J.C Ryle

Pages: 75

‘Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.’ (Titus 2:6 KJV).

Many young men and women today go about their lives without acknowledging the fact that every second of their existence should be viewed within the scope of eternity. Not realising that the habits cultivated from their young age would only result in two possibilities, either getting themselves nearer to God, or going further from Him and following the customs of this world. In this book, Ryle seeks to follow the apostle Paul’s advice to Titus when specifically addressing the attention to young men. Through all of the sub-sections, which include: ‘reasons why young men need exhorting’, ‘dangers that young men face’, ‘general counsels’ and ‘special rules of conduct’, Ryle emphasises that young men should view everything in the scope of eternity. Here, he persists on the importance of “remembering your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecc 12:1 ESV).

The book reminds us of the chief end of man—to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. As members of the youth, “we find ourselves in desires that nothing in this world could satisfy” (C.S Lewis), this should lead us to realise that true satisfaction does not come from this world or ourselves for that matter. Unlike “the backslider in heart”, who is “filled with the fruit of his ways” (Prov 14:14 ESV), a good man is satisfied by the fruits of his ways—which is only found in serving God, our Creator through taking up the cross, following Christ during our youth and throughout our lifetime, acknowledging that “our labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58 ESV). May all of us through this book, be reminded again to live to present the works of His kingdom alone. (AEM)