The Mysteries of Christianity – A Book Review by David Campbell
The God who knows everything about himself has by no means told us all. There are many things that remain a secret, known only to himself. Much, we may be sure, has been passed over in total silence. And when he has spoken, he has told us only a very little. The mysteries of Christianity which form the subject of this book arise from this latter fact. We know only in part. And what we do know we by no means fully comprehend.
One example is the doctrine that God is a trinity. Another is the union of the divine and the human in the person of Christ. A third, Christ’s work of atonement. A fourth, what the Holy Spirit does in conversion. A fifth, the outworking of God’s purposes regarding sin and salvation. Dr. Crawford labels these mysterious doctrines. Not because they are unintelligible. But rather because we reach so quickly the outer limits of our understanding of them.
The chapters of this book (originally a series of lectures) are apologetic in purpose. They are a response to the charge that the above doctrines are too mysterious and incomprehensible to be true. Dr. Crawford’s thesis (which he powerfully defends) is that ‘the mysteriousness of certain doctrines is not in itself… any sufficient reason either for excluding them from the articles of the Christian faith, or for discrediting the Christian system on account of them’ (p.28).
That of course may suggest a reason for Christians deciding not to read the book. The mystery inseparable from the key truths of Christianity is something with which they are contentedly living. That there is a vast and impenetrable ‘beyond’ is not a problem for their faith. Nor is this feeling of remoteness from the subject the only potential obstacle. The treatment of it is by no means easy. This is a mind-stretching book. Readers will need to be wide-awake and ready to give it their best attention.
For all the difficulties, however, this is a very valuable work which will repay the effort involved in reading it. For one thing, it is fitted to curb unwarranted speculation. There is a natural and healthy inquisitiveness that has been productive of great good in every walk of life – including the life of faith. And God’s revelation has been given to us to explore. But the temptation to go beyond what has been revealed is strong. Crawford’s Mysteries of Christianity brings us face to face with the limits to what God has revealed and discourages the attempt to transgress them.
More positively, the exposition of the doctrines themselves is first-rate. I would highlight, in this connection, lectures ten and eleven on the purposes of God. My suggestion, in fact, would be that a reader start with these. They will hopefully whet his appetite for the book as a whole. Certainly they will provide him with an illuminating treatment of a controversial yet foundational truth.
One helpful feature is the side notes. In the margins of many of the pages are brief summaries of what a particularly important paragraph or section is teaching. If you are losing your way or needing a reminder of the gist of the argument these side notes are invaluable.
This new Banner of Truth edition comes with an introduction by Sinclair Ferguson. Don’t skip over it. In it you will meet Dr. Crawford himself. You will also be given a persuasive argument for taking the time to read his book.
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