Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Finally Alive": A Book Review

The subtitle of this book is "What Happens When We Are Born Again" and that tells the reader exactly what the book is about.  The Table of Contents reveals a work of 203 pages in length consisting of 15 chapters (plus a conclusion) divided into 5 sections.  To get a flavor of Dr. Piper's book, here at the titles of those 5 sections:

I.  What Is The New Birth?
II.  Why Must We Be Born Again?
III.  How Does The New Birth Come About?
IV.  What Are The Effects Of The New Birth?
V.  How Can We Help Others Be Born Again?

John Piper is always easy to read even when he is dealing with a profound theological subject such as regeneration.  This book is loaded with Scripture and is an outstanding modern work on the new birth, one many who are sitting in church pews on Sundays need to read.  Note the following remarks of Piper early in the book:

"I want to say loud and clear that when the Barna Group uses the term born again to describe American church-goers whose lives are indistinguishable from the world, and who sin as much as the world, and sacrifice for others as little as the world, and embrace injustice as readily as the world, and covet things as greedily as the world, and enjoy God-ignoring entertainment as enthusiastically as the world--when the term born again is used to describe these professing Christians, the Barna Group is making a profound mistake."

Dr. Piper then plunges into the Scripture and reveals the divine creation of spiritual life.  Such life is necessary for, by nature, we are spiritually dead, enslaved to sin and Satan.  Faith in Christ is demanded but, apart from a supernatural work by the Holy Spirit, faith is absent.  We need to be born again.  Once we are born again, faith follows leading to justification, adoption, and glorification. 

John Piper is Reformed in his theology and that is evident in this book.  The ordo salutis he presents clearly places the new birth before faith, regeneration before conversion.  Yet, as those who read Piper already know, he is very evangelistic.  The last 2 chapters, which comprise the 5th section of the book, clearly bring this fact to the light.  For example, he writes:

"God's role in bringing about the new birth is decisive, and our role in bringing about the new birth is essential. ... Tell people the good news of Christ from a heart of love and a life of service. ... If people are to be born again, it will happen by hearing the word of God, centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They will be 'born again through the living and abiding word of God...the Gospel.'  God's work and your work come together like this: 

  • "God causes the new birth through the seed of the word, the gospel.
  • "God brings about the new birth through your telling people the gospel.
  • "God regenerates people through the news about who Christ is and what he has done on the cross and in the resurrection.
  • "God gives new life to dead hearts through your words when you speak the gospel."

This book is a solid explanation of the doctrine of regeneration.  It is very readable even for those with little theological understanding.  I strongly recommend "Finally Alive".

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