What I Am Reading: Forged from Reformation – Part 3, The Rest of the Solas

Late in 2019, I finally was able to devote the time over Thanksgiving mostly to finish reading the final chapters of the book Forged from Reformation: How Dispensational Thought Advances the Reformed Legacy. To recap, my first post of this extended book summary covered the first section on historical theology. The second post covered the second section which included several essays on the “formal principle” of the reformation, that of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). This final post on the book covers the remaining sections of the book which cover in a single essay each of the other four solas, except for soli deo gloria which has two essays. Without further delay, below follows brief summary and comment each of these remaining essays. 

Chapter 13: Dispensationalism Advances Sola Gratia by Grant Hawley. He rightly traces the general direction of how reformation theology had a mix of both a recovery of grace and marring of grace. His insight that the Reformation was more about the Pelagian versus Augustinian distinction of effort and effort as opposed to the Biblical distinction of grace and law is correct. I have had similar thoughts over the years of my contemplation of Calvinist controversies. However, Hawley does leave room for more work to be done on this. 

Chapter 14: Sola Fide in Every Dispensation by Glenn R. Krieder. The author gives an extended discussion of sola fide especially as it concerns early dispensationalists. Of particular interest to me was a discussion of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s eccentric view of the offer of the Mosaic covenant, a view that holds that God wanted them to reject it and call out for grace instead (see Chafer’s work Grace for details on this in Chapter 4, Section Two, Sub-section II, I use a Kindle edition but it can be found easily in various formats online).. However, the explanation Chafer seems to give, according to Kreider, to the matter seems to place him in a strange way in the very (Augustinian) Reformed position that Hawley previously claimed to be an area in which dispensationalists developed further. Perhaps the solution to this is to still give Chafer some degree of charity, since elsewhere he squarely distinguishes the law versus works as the essential characteristic of this dispensation. If it may be so that he permits a grace versus efforts distinction in the earlier dispensations, then perhaps one can allow that. It would seem that this very issue of effort versus grace or law versus grace is a decent theological argument against Chafer’s novel understanding of the Mosaic Covenant. It is better to take the posture of later folks along the lines that the law was a rule of life of works under the superstructure of an overall salvation by grace through faith.

Chapter 15: Solus Christus by Paul J. Scharf. This essay had good historical data about Catholics and Mary, which I found interesting. The author also gives some careful and promising explanation at the beginning of the disepensational section of the essay on how dispensationalists should not differ further from the reformed position on Christology but that they can go somewhat further and give some new emphasis, especially the known dispensational emphasis on the truth that believers are in Christ. It was an interesting discussion.

Chapter 16: Soli Deo Gloria as Pinnace of Dispensationalism’s Sine Qua Non by Christopher Cone. In this essay, there were some challenging thoughts from Dr. Cone about the various dispensationalists who don’t quite take Ryrie’s approach that the glory of God is the end of human history. I am left however wondering if he hasn’t made the case as strongly as he claims that many dispensationalists weren’t like Ryrie on this issue. I just question if he is reading the figures accurately, but I may be mistaken and I will save final judgment on that for another day. There is a key description of all the ways God’s glory is manifested that would be useful material for anyone studying the topic (pp500-501). He also gave an interesting comparison of grace and glory (pg509). In discussing the Reformers, he speaks well of Calvin as opposed to other Reformers. The key insight that he reaches is that there seems to be the distinction between intermediate ends, typically pertaining to man and/or creation, and the final ends, pertaining especially toward God and His own glorifying of Himself. Perhaps there is some explanatory value in those thoughts concerning how we live our lives day to day but not consciously thinking about God’s glory in every single thing we are or do. In fact, this line of thinking also shows up in the next essay.

Chapter 17: Soli Deo Gloria Revealed Throughout Biblical History by Luther Smith. The author ultimately agrees wih the preceding essay, but this author does note a different aspect of the glory of God through vocation. Interestingly, contrary to Cone, he painted C. I. Scofield favorably. This also would support my questioning if Cone is a little too hard on how he interprets older dispensationalists. In this essay, I also have more to consider as the interpretations of Dr. Smith about the glory of God in the seven dispensations didn‘t always seem natural. He also had an interesting description of the failure at the end of the church age.

Chapter 18: Semper Reformanda: Always Reforming by Christopher Cone. The book concludes with a short essay by Christopher Cone on the topic of Semper Reformanda: Always Reforming. This essay well concluded the book by reminding the reading of the place we have in the Reformataion lineage—that to be always reforming our views to be in more consistency with the truth. He links agility with the willingness to be always reforming, and cites both Martin Luther and the Biblical king of Judah named Josiah as examples of how to be always reforming. At the end of such a book of theological reasoning, this chapter provided an edifying conclusion to the book.

This book is an excellent historical theological discussion of the relationship of modern dispensational theology to the Reformation, and any theology student who loves the Reformation but is skeptical about dispensationalism has got to read this book. No critic of dispensationalism should ignore it. It is a great book! May we continuously reform our views to be more in accord with Scripture, and dispensationalism is a great way to start.