Firm Foundations: Creation to Christ. By Trevor McIlwain with Nancy Everson. Sanford, FL: New Tribes Mission, 1991. 582 pp. Paper, $24.95.
Few books will promote the grace position as well as Firm Foundations. This is not a theology book on the issue of grace. Rather, it is a study of the Bible from a grace perspective that is intended to help believers understand who God is and how this knowledge should affect their lives. It is a Bible study series that follows selected topics beginning with Creation and ending with Christ. The book includes 50 studies written in a lesson-plan style to be used by the teacher. McIlwain includes a 100-page introduction that explains his purpose for the book.
The book was written to evangelize tribal peoples who have never heard of Jesus Christ. McIlwain found that it was better to start from the beginning and communicate who God is and what He is like before discussing what Christ did on the Cross. He covers in particular the different redemptive analogies that God has placed in the Bible to help the OT people understand the necessity of the coming death of the Messiah. These analogies include, among others, the covering that God required for Adam and Eve, which necessitated the death of an animal, the account of Abraham and Isaac, the blood on the doorposts in the Exodus, and animal sacrifices. They show that God is holy and that He must judge sin, but that He does provide a substitute for man. McIlwain feels that American Christianity is answering questions that no one is asking. Unless people know that they are lost, they see no need for Jesus Christ. Using the OT rightly includes using it to show man his lostness. The author feels that if we spent more time talking about God and His character we would see more people asking, “What must I do to be saved?”
In the introduction McIlwain explains his philosophy of missions and why it is better to start with who God is and what He is like before going to the Gospel. I found the ideas presented there to be very challenging and enlightening.
Some GES readers will be bothered by McIlwain’s presentation of perseverance. It is, however, very mild, though, since he states that a person could commit adultery, murder, steal, etc., and still be a believer. He believes that the reason people do not persevere is because they were taught a “Lordship” gospel which does not really save.
I highly recommend this study for anyone who wants to teach grace in a way that will positively change lives. It is an excellent overview of the Bible and a great way to build a solid foundation of grace in the lives of believers.
R. Michael Duffy
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society