Book Review

Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation by Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein

Simonetta Carr
Joel R. Beeke
Friday, August 29th 2014
Sep/Oct 2014

By publishing their small booklet Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation, Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein have done a great service to the church. The original intention, as stated in the preface, was to "help us more deeply celebrate [Christ's] birth, allow us to see more clearly how it is connected with the rest of His Ministry, and help us understand its importance for our lives."

There are several reasons why I heartily recommend this book. First of all, it's well written and well organized. Some may think these qualities should come last after an evaluation of contents, but in the unplanned busyness of my days I found them refreshing and remarkably helpful. The book contains just over one hundred small pages packed with teachings, quotations, applications, and anecdotes, and yet never cluttered or overwhelming. In fact, the book is a pleasure to read and can easily grab the attention of children when read aloud. Thirty-one meditations is just the right number to take us through Advent. And yes, for inquisitive minds, there is a section of reference endnotes.

The preface itself is an example of clarity, as it lists simple reasons behind this work, suggests several uses and even ways to introduce the subject to others, whets our appetite for a serious study of this book and beyond, and ends with an useful list of other resources. My only gripe is the omission of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo from this list, something that Boekestein, upon my inquiry, called an "oversight." "Cur Deus Homo is a fundamental book on the incarnation and ought to have been mentioned," he said. "On the other hand, the further reading suggestions we included could only include a small sample of the literature available on the subject."

Another reason I recommend this book is that I am not aware of any other works like it. The titles listed in the preface are relevant and weighty, but this is the only brief overview of the reasons why Christ came to earth I have seen in print. A similar book on another important topic is John Piper's Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.

I also appreciate the substantial contents of each chapter. From the start, we know we are not reading a light pamphlet. In chapter 1, we learn that Jesus came to do the will of his Father. Immediately, we are brought to consider deep theological truths such as the Trinity, the Covenant of Redemption, and especially the two wills of Christ. Yet the tone is pastoral and never dry. In fact, this chapter sets the pace for the rest of the book in giving us clear and practical applications. For those who may be tempted to brush the doctrine of Christ's two wills aside as unimportant, the authors quote John Calvin's explanation that it teaches us our need for a mediator and "stimulates us all to render prompt obedience to God."

I was impressed by the uniformity of style. This is a small detail, but it adds to the ease of reading. More importantly, I was inspired to see in both authors the same passion and pastoral care.

As a parent and Sunday school teacher, I believe this book can be useful in family devotions. The chapters are simple enough for children, at least from seven years of age, and the quotations, Bible stories, and anecdotes will keep them focused.

Finally, the book can be used as an excellent tool to help others understand Christianity. As the authors explain in the introduction, "Understanding why Jesus came to earth also has apologetic value." Familiarity with these thirty-one answers to the question of why Christ came to earth will enrich our presentation of the gospel to our neighbors.

From the start, the authors remind us that "this little book cannot begin to exhaust the riches of the great mystery that God became man" (viii). On the other hand, it's a good start, and the authors inspire us to deeper study by listing some additional reasons for Christ's incarnation with relevant Bible passages. By utilizing all its resources, we can keep this booklet by our side for much longer than thirty-one days as we continue to meditate on the shocking and earth-shattering event of the coming of Emmanuel’the infinite God with us in finite human flesh.

Photo of Simonetta Carr
Simonetta Carr
Simonetta Carr is the author of numerous books, including Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia through a Mother’s Eyes, and the series Christian Biographies for Young Readers (Reformation Heritage Books).
Friday, August 29th 2014

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

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