The past five years have seen an explosion of resources aimed at helping Christians think through what the Gospel is and what the Gospel demands. All this writing and preaching on the Gospel is reason for the Church and Christians to rejoice. Before this such valuable resources were so readily available, many Christians were focused more on programs than on the Gospel. Salvation by Grace: The Case For Effectual Calling And Regeneration by Dr. Matthew Barret was written to defend the doctrine of monergism, the teaching that regeneration is exclusively the work of God. Barret focuses on what Scripture teaches on this vital doctrine with a view to examine Reformed theologians and confessions. Along the way, he evaluates both the Arminian position and contemporary attempts to chart a middle course between the Calvinist and Arminian systems.
A few things must be said about this book. First, this book is not for the faint-hearted. Given this book is derived from Dr. Barret’s dissertation, he has clearly done his homework researching the subject matter, something that is quite evident as you work though this text. The comprehensive nature of this book may overwhelm some and make them think this is just another attempt by an academician to demonstrate how smart he is. The truth is Barret is concerned about this issue because how we understand the doctrine of regeneration is crucial both to answering the questions of “What is the Gospel?” and “What does the Gospel seek to accomplish?” Regeneration is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which the divine nature and divine life are given (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). It is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word of God (John 5:24) when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to the divine provision of salvation. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits worthy of repentance as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. Good works will be its proper evidence and fruit (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 5:17-21; Phil. 2:12b; Col. 3:12-17; 2 Pet. 1:4-11). This obedience causes the believer to be increasingly conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). Such conformity is climaxed in the believer’s glorification at Christ’s coming (Rom. 8:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2, 3). With that understanding in mind, we can then understand why this issue is so important and thus why this book is so important, namely because some people say we cooperate with God in some way to accomplish regeneration. Since salvation is all of grace and to the glory of God, the foundation for our regeneration is rooted solely in the work of God.
Barret’s effort is also important because it is steadfastly grounded in the Word of God and in the tradition of orthodox historic Christian doctrine. Some people may object on the last point thinking we don’t submit to creeds and confessions. I think that is nonsense. Yes, we don’t submit to creeds given we believe the Bible is authoritative for faith and practice. However, we absolutely need creeds and confessions because they are helpful reminders of what the Church has always taught about the foundational issues of the faith such as regeneration. Furthermore, we need these confessions to learn from older godly men who thought through these issues as they formulated the confessions. Since we are a distracted generation, the confessions ground our thinking in what others have said and taught about biblical doctrine. Do we pledge allegiance to creeds? No! Can we learn from creeds? Yes! That distinction is important for we must first submit to the Word of God and then we must also be willing to learn from what others have said about the Word. It is in this spirit that Dr. Barret engages both the Word and the Reformed confessions, using both in their proper elements in order to illuminate the important biblical doctrine of salvation for Christians today.
Ours is a day that desperately needs to understand the faith of our forefathers. This is where I think this book shines, not only because of its biblical engagement but also because of its historical examination. The truth is Salvation by Grace: The Case For Effectual Calling and Regeneration is scholarship at its finest. It engages the Word, tracing the history of the topic of monergistic salvation, showing where people and movements have gone wrong all the while showing the pastoral consequences of monergism, all with a view to lift high the glory and majesty of God’s amazing grace. From the depth of scholarship, to the engaging writing style, and for its practical value, Salvation by Grace is an eminently helpful book on an issue not talked about enough from this reviewer’s perspective. This excellent book is one I pray will be a means the Lord will use to bring understanding and clarity to both lay Christian and scholars on the issue of regeneration. I highly recommend you pick this book up and I pray the Lord uses it to powerfully combat easy-believism and nominalism.
Author: Matthew Barrett
Publisher: P & R (2013)
I received this for free from P & R book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”