The doctrine of original sin is not an easy topic, so I was interested in reading more about it. This book was written clearly, defining terms for the layperson. Here are some notes on each section:
Introduction: A Fairy-Tale Beginning - Like fairy tales that begin darkly, so this world was plunged into darkness in Adam's fall. But the ending will be glorious for Christians, like a happily-ever-after story.
Part One: Understanding the Principle of the Rope
Chapter One: Strange and Troubling Truth
Defining terms, real-life examples. Then there are given Biblical examples of judgment on nations, even when just the head, such as King David, sinned.
Chapter Two: Original Rope
The Doctrine of Original Sin - Bible texts on the fall and before, how we were made in God's image. How sin twisted the aspect of "image of God" in areas of worship, community, and vice-regency: relating to creation.
So What Does All This Have to Do with Me?
How Was Adam's Sin Transmitted to Us? - Different views of this are explained: the "realist," "federalist," (or "covenant") and a mix of both aspects, along with Biblical support for each view. Criticisms for these. Douglas Moo and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones are cited as proponents of a mix of both views. The author's explanation of original sin is described vividly: "To put it another way, when Adam jumped off the cliff of sin and death in his rebellion against God, we were tied to him in his rebellion, and he pulled us over the side with him." Charles Finney found this truth "subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to human intelligence."
Chapter Three: The Rope that is Stronger
Arguments given against solidarity (the rope principle) in The Brothers Karamazov portray the horror of children suffering from the crimes/cruelty of others. How should/can Christians respond to these critiques?
The Gospel in Romans 5:12-21 - We are roped to Adam, but can be "roped to" and made righteous through the second Adam, Christ. "Because God has made us and this world to operate on a principle of solidarity, there is hope that we can be saved from the consequences of Adam's sin, not by our own efforts (which can never suffice), but through the actions of a representative, someone who will do what we cannot do, someone who will suffer in our place, on our behalf." (p. 60) We cannot deny the Scriptures or the world's corruption.
Chapter Four: Bound to a New King
Union with Christ - God sees the believer and Christ as one, though separate and distinct, through grace alone, and the Holy Spirit. This is vital for us. God is not remote.
Images of Union with Christ - The first illustration of our union with Christ in the Bible is the building. Built on Jesus Christ, we are living stones (Eph. 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-5).
The second analogy is the physical body (Eph. 4:15-16). Quote from Spurgeon: "So long as a man's head is above water you cannot drown his feet and as long as Christ, the Head of the mystical body, rises above the torrent of condemnation, there is no condemning even the least and feeblest member of His body!"
A third picture is the vine and the branches (John 15:1-17).
Fourth is the analogy of marriage. "Our union with Christ is greater than this marital intimacy, as it is based on a relationship not with another sinner but with our sinless Savior, who has demonstrated his love for us by dying on our behalf."
Fifth is the picture of children adopted by a Father (Eph. 1:5, Rom. 8:16-17).
Sixth is the amazing comparison to the relationship of the Trinity (John 17).
Martin Lloyd-Jones preached in response to questioners of the doctrine of original sin: "Once more I repeat what I said previously, that we must not begin to question our relationship to the world's first man, Adam, because every time you put the question I will make you ask the same question about our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ."
Chapter Five: Can We Blame the Rope?
Can we blame sin on our parents, etc.?
Ezekiel's Response - The Israelites blamed their forefathers for their present plight. God relayed, through Ezekiel, that the soul who sins shall die and other similar, just outcomes. No one is guiltless.
So is the Principle of the Rope Real? - How can these two seemingly opposed principles fit together? A hypothetical example is given to illustrate that there are effects from our sin, but each person is still responsible for their decisions.
Even genes cannot be an excuse for sin. John Frame argues that in one sense all sin is inherited (from Adam).
Turning from Sin to Follow Christ - No excuses for sin. Biblical examples of people who turned from their culture and family background to God.
Part Two: Applying the Principle of the Rope
Chapter Six: Bound Together for Joy
We are commanded to be joyful.
Three Indisputable Truths Regarding Joy
#1: All Christians Desire More Joy
#2: God Wants His People to Experience Joy (Morally, in contrast to God's sovereign will.)
#3: The joy level of many Christians is staying the same or even diminishing.
The Problem of Joy (review)
Proclaiming the Obvious - The foundation of all joy is the gospel (good news) of Christ. First of all, most people don't have a clear idea of the gospel. "The gospel is also diminished and joy leaks out--when those who have known the gospel for many years lapse into a works mentality in which they think that somehow we must do things to earn God's favor. For this reason, Jerry Bridges reminds us, we must preach the true gospel to ourselves every single day. Otherwise, we will soon feel defeated in the Christian life."
Another way the gospel is diminished is that some believe the lie that something other than God will satisfy.
The Discovery - Paul (in 34 of 50 times that "joy" and "rejoice" are used) connects his experience of joy to his relationship with other believers.
Making the Connection between Joy and Corporate Solidarity - Fruit bearing.
Fighting for Joy - Review the gospel. Read books on it. Invest in the body of Christ, with money, time, and gifts/abilities.
Chapter Seven: Bound Together in Marriage
There is an example given of a lovely marriage, and Biblical references to marriage.
Strengthening the Bond of Marriage
The Biblical Role of Wives - Submissive. Chris Brauns lists reasons why people don't like the word submission today, and counters them.
The Biblical Role of Husbands - Loving and serving, like Jesus. Asking for forgiveness. Being a good listener. Example of Philip Bliss laying down his life for his wife in the burning rubble of a train.
Chapter Eight: A Red Rope for Hurting Families
This chapter is encouraging for anyone who is discouraged about someone in their family, and focuses on the Biblical prostitute Rahab, and God's grace to her and her family.
"Identify with the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps God will be pleased to save not only you but your mother and father and your sisters and brothers as well. . . . Spend less time going over and over in your mind the decisions your family members have made, and spend more time growing in grace." (p. 136)
"Do not believe the lie that it is too late for your family. Do not buy the lie that your sins are too great. Run to the cross. Hang a red cord out your window. Put your trust in Jesus, and the grace of God will abound to you and your family." (p. 137)
"Be patient. The last chapter is not yet written." (p. 137)
Not that it is guaranteed that your family will all trust Christ, the author admits. But there is still reason to hope.
Why Did God Order Israel to Kill Everyone in Jericho? - The Canaanites had been given much time to repent. "The destruction of Jericho should serve as a sobering warning about the justice and holiness of God. It is only a preview of God's final judgment."
Encouragement for Those Hurting Because of a Family Member - Remember Rahab and the power of the gospel. And be careful not to think our decisions affect no one but ourselves. "We dare not take a path that will cause a bitter root to grow up in our lives, thereby defiling many." (p. 143)
All Christians Have a Family - Even if we are severed from physical family, as Christians we have a family in Christ.
Chapter Nine: A Rescue Rope for Those Facing the Fear of Death
Confidence in the Face of Death from Hebrews 2:10-18
The Incarnation - "Since we have flesh and blood, he [Christ] shared our humanity in order that he might be roped to us."
Four Ways Christians Benefit from Their Solidarity with Christ
The Story of Count Helmuth James con Moltke - An aristocrat by birth, Helmuth was expected to be a great leader in the time and ways of Hitler. Yet he opposed Hitler, and was eventually arrested and sentenced to hang, shortly before the end of WWII. He was not sorrowful but elated in his last days, as he wrote to his wife, finding that bravery that comes from Christ.
Chapter Ten: Roped Together in Country and Culture
"If Westerners continue to see ourselves as islands, the future will be very dark. Cultures and countries cannot flourish apart from a deep recognition of solidarity that only Christ and his church can make happen.
The Rise of American Solidarity - Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831 to see why democracy worked better there. He concluded that there was an abundance of natural resources, that the specific form of government (with smaller, local governments) was key, and that "a common culture of Christian morality had created a virtuous society." He also referenced the high regard for marriage and the mothers who taught their children Christian values.
George Washington, too, sacrificed for his country.
However, Tocqueville foresaw a possible problem for America: the rise of extreme individualism. This could lead to selfishness and blindness to any of the government's flaws, and to taking whatever is handed out.
The Problem of Radical Individualism - "Today many of the concerns articulated by Tocqueville have come to fruition."
"Today the autonomous self ("self in a castle," according to Scot McKnight) is seen as ultimate." (p. 170)
Why Radical Individualism Persists Today - Many people rail against individualism and long for the "good old days," yet refuse to go to church events.
It is hard to go against radical individualism because it has so permeated our culture.
Why the Church Is Uniquely Qualified to Counter Radical Individualism
The Biblical emphasis on Community - The epistle to Philemon deals with sharing the faith and being refreshed through the brethren. We must live like we believe we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
More Biblical examples are given.
"Does the use of your time, treasure, and talents reflect that you know and understand that you are roped together with your local church?" (p. 179)
A Final Summary - "[C. S.] Lewis allowed [in The Problem of Pain] that it is hard for us to comprehend that Adam represented all his descendants, but he also noted that our inability to understand something does not mean it is untrue." (p. 180)
Real life Lone Rangers don't exist. Moses, Ruth, David, Nehemiah, and Esther acted heroically because of love for community and God. Jesus is the ultimate example of this.
Appendix One: The Gospel and Assurance of Salvation
Likely many people have false assurance, but we can know that we are saved.
The Proper Basis for Assurance of Salvation - 1. Do you presently have faith in the Lord Jesus for salvation? 2. Does the Holy Spirit testify with your spirit that you are a Christian? 3. Does your conduct give evidence that you are a Christian?
For Further Reading
A list of resources is given.
Conclusion - I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is helpful and encouraging, pointing time and again to Christ and the hope found in Him in the midst of a sin-filled world. Our actions do affect others, for good or bad, and yet there is One whose actions are stronger than all of man's or Satan's. My only semi complaint about the book is the repetitiveness (though this may help drill it in the reader's head). It was still a great blessing to read. I appreciated the quotes from the Bible and Christian authors, and there are many additional worthwhile quotes and thoughts in the book that I couldn't take time to post.
NOW for the giveaway! I have an extra copy of this book for one person to win. If you want to have the chance to win this book, simply write a comment on this post with your e-mail address/blog address, and I will pick randomly from the entrants. The deadline for the giveaway is May 18.
For additional entries, post a link to this review on facebook, twitter, or google+, and let me know via a comment which ones you did.