There are believers who have gone before, who have left behind not a legacy of their own, but a legacy for Christ. They are believers full of both knowledge and wisdom that despite the eras of difference between us and them, their writings and teachings remain relevant for us today. Outside of our study of Scripture, they are an important source for Christian encouragement, Christian understanding, and Christian growth and therefore become a worthy investment of our time. Drawing attention to this area comes the book series, “Theologians on the Christian Life.”
Edited by Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor, the series examines the theology of known men of Christian faith. However, the books are not merely a summarization of their complete theology, but rather focuses specifically on their understandings of the Christian life. This is meant to transform the value from something that is merely informative to something that is transformative. As each spiritual great is examined, the authors have utilized and explained each theologian’s writing so that it compels believers to learn about God, God’s Son, and God’s plan in order that they may be motivated to live for him.
The most recent release, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, is a contribution from Michael Reeves and the thirteenth book of the series. There can be no doubt that the author has done a tremendous job at outlining Spurgeon’s theology of the Christian life. To do this he has developed the book around three primary areas: Surgeon’s high view of Christ and how that shaped all that he did, said, or preached (chapters 2-4), his emphasis on the new birth (chapters 5-7), and then finally examining how Spurgeon view the Christian life (chapters 8-12). In this way, the author has captured the very foundation of what drove Spurgeon’s practical theology, exegesis in preaching, and emphasis on evangelism.
Readers should not expect this book to read like a biography. While Reeves does spend the first chapter outlining the life of Spurgeon for the sake of context, neither this book nor the series as a whole is meant to serve as a thorough biography of any of the theologians being examined. At appropriate times the author does bring in pertinent biographical information to function as an aid in understanding Spurgeon’s meaning when teaching. Sharing brief stories and exchanges that Spurgeon had with others, such as those over his very own cigar smoking, the author has captured both the humor in a man viewed as serious and the faults in a man that many view as faultless (pg. 30-31). Spurgeon and his wife endured many physical sufferings through their lives, and it is well documented that Spurgeon himself often existed in states of depression, points that the author brings attention to in chapter 11. Therefore, this is not a book meant to elevate a man or elevate a man’s theology but meant to elevate God.
By the end of the book, readers will find themselves appreciating how the author has sharpened the focus on spiritual growth and they will certainly be encouraged to do so. They will be encouraged to not take personal Bible study for granted but see that it “requires wakeful, attentive study and deep reflection on what is written” (pg. 47). A favorite chapter will be on prayer to which Reeves describes Spurgeon’s view as one that saw prayer as the “battleground on which faith wars with natural unbelief” (pg. 145). The right quotes at the right time combined with an exhortation to Christians make for a great book.
With that said, I am left with one question, “Why?” There are literally millions of books being published every year that compete for our attention, so why is this one worthy of our attention? If the goal is to introduce reader’s to a theology of the Christian life, why not read Scripture? If the goal is to let Spurgeon speak and minister to the readers, as the author intends to do here, why not read Spurgeon directly? Even if the goal is to combine the two by learning theology of the Christian life from those who have gone before us, again I ask, “Why not consult their writings directly?”
In terms of writing capabilities and presentation of Spurgeon on the Christian life, author Michael Reeves does an exceptional job. Therefore, for those interested and wanting a summary of his teachings, this is a great book and no doubt readers will be encouraged. However, I would suggest that for those willing to invest the time, there is more value in reading his writings directly.
To purchase a copy of Spurgeon on the Christian Life click here. Note that this title will not be released until February 22nd so your purchase will not be delivered until on or after that date.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of the book.