Book Review

"The Truth of the Cross" by R. C. Sproul

Denise M. Malagari
R.C. Sproul
Wednesday, January 2nd 2008
Jan/Feb 2008

Over the years I've begun collecting extra copies of books that I have found to be insightful, motivating, and rooted in gospel truth. They are the kind of books that you go back to again and again. Each page draws you to the heart of the gospel and spurs you into prayer and reflection. Most importantly, these are the kind of books from which any person at any point in their spiritual walk can benefit. It took only one chapter of R. C. Sproul's new book, The Truth of the Cross, to convince me that this was one of those books. At only 178 pages, Sproul manages to capture the heartbeat of Christianity-Christ's atoning work on the cross-and expound on its depth, richness, and necessity. Sproul engages the reader with a combination of Scripture, history, and apologetics, which all seek to drive home our need for Christ.

The cross is a central symbol in the Christian faith. It floods Christian bookstores, greeting cards, jewelry counters, and book covers. It serves as a reminder that Christ died for our sins. However, the depth and importance of its message are grossly neglected in many modern evangelical circles. After a thorough reading of the New Testament, it is fair to say that the central crux of Christ's ministry continuously points to the cross. His message, actions, and teachings all culminated the day he changed the world. "If we could read the New Testament with virgin eyes, as if we were the first generation of people to hear the message, I think it would be clear that the crucifixion was at the very core of the preaching, teaching, and catechizing of the New Testament community-along with, of course, the attending capstone of Christ's work" (5). Sproul's opening chapter starts out with a strong push toward the obvious: man is sinful and in desperate need of sal vation. We cannot forget or excuse our sin. It is a universal bond that can only be broken one way, through Christ. Sproul points out that "if we can convince people of the truth of the identity of Christ and the truth of the work He accomplished, it will become instantly apparent to them that they need it" (7).

The truth and necessity of the cross are heavily dependent on the nature of God. Sproul spends a good deal of the second chapter outlining God's nature through the pages of Scripture. Through every twist and turn God is consistently just, merciful, and loving. No matter what name sin is given-whether it be a crime, debt, or enmity-Sproul continuously emphasizes God's consistency in dealing with our sin. God does not forget or overlook our trespasses. He lovingly opens up a way for redemption and salvation that is whole and everlasting. Christ's work on the cross turned God's justified wrath away from the elect.

The later chapters of this book heavily emphasize humanity's total depravity and deep need for what the cross accomplished. Sproul does not sidestep the fact that salvation is a work of God, as we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. Instead, Sproul clearly sets forth the victory and freedom that arise as a result of Christ's work on the cross and subsequent work in the heart of every believer.

It is undeniable that this book strives to bring the truths of the cross, God's nature, and Christ to the forefront. In each chapter Sproul clearly accomplishes this in a way that is both insightful and refreshing. He not only draws his readers back to core gospel truths, but also masterfully weaves in critical doctrines such as election, limited atonement, and justification in a way that adds depth and clarity to the necessity of Christ's pivotal work.

R. C. Sproul does a phenomenal job in this book outlining the need, necessity, and understanding of the cross by examining various doctrines and Scripture, and by illustrating the nature of God. Yet another strong point that cannot be overlooked is the apologetic tone this work takes. Sproul wraps up this book with an entire chapter dedicated to answering difficult questions that arise in connection with the magnitude of the cross. The questions posed range everywhere from why the shedding of blood is necessary, the concept of God's presence to those in hell, humanity's depravity and limited atonement, and how today's postmodern philosophies affect views of the atonement. Sproul's approach to these questions is concrete and direct. In an age heavily bent toward tolerance and free will, it is becoming a rarity to find those who will approach doctrine and religious topics in a straightforward fashion.

Over the years, a lot of ink has been spilled regarding the truths of the cross; a myriad of theological dissertations and sermons have all sought to teach on this topic. Out of this vast array there are too few that have sought to present a solid theological standpoint in a relevant way. Sproul's work does just that. He approaches a weighty topic in a thorough yet concise manor. This is by far one of the best comprehensive works on the cross available.

Wednesday, January 2nd 2008

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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