Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints. Edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008. 157 pp. Paper, $14.99.
The subtitle implies that this book might be on the Reformed doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, the fifth point of Calvinism. While that doctrine does get brief discussion (cf. pp. 39-44), it is not the focus of this book. Instead, the focus is on perseverance as it relates to sanctification. That is why the subtitle speaks of endurance and not perseverance.
The authors include four well known and best-selling authors: John Piper, John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges, and Randy Alcorn. The other authors are Helen Roseveare and Justin Taylor (the co-editor).
The section by Piper dealing with the Reformed doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, though very short (just 6 pages), is worth the price of the book. Piper’s warns about two extremes: the “deadly [thinking that] perseverance is unnecessary…for final salvation” (p. 40) and the “deadly [thinking that] perseverance puts or keeps God on our side” (pp. 41-43).
I found this statement amazing: “So when the fear of not persevering raises its head, don’t try to overcome it by saying, ‘Oh, there is no danger, we don’t need to persevere.’ You do. There will be no salvation in the end for people who do not fight the good fight and finish the race and keep the faith and treasure Christ’s appearing. And don’t try to overcome the fear of not persevering by trying to win God’s favor by your exertions in godliness” (p. 42). So what should eliminate the fear? Piper does not say! Calvinism has this way of saying contradictory things and assuming the audience will simply accept it.
Piper does say that “God’s favor comes by grace alone, on the basis of Christ alone, in union with Christ alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone” (p. 42). Yet that doesn’t answer the question of how the Calvinist deals with his fear that he is not one of the elect. The bottom line, unstated but understood, is that one lives with that fear until death, at which time he finds out whether he is born again or not.
In a section entitled, “Overcoming the Fear of Not Persevering,” Piper says, “Therefore, perseverance is necessary for final salvation, and perseverance is certain for all those who are in Christ.” But how does it help to know that perseverance is certain for all those who are in Christ if the only way one can know he is “in Christ” is by persevering till death? According to Calvinism and Scripture (e.g., 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Tim 2:12; 1 John 2:28) no one can be sure he will persevere to the end until his life is actually over. Piper’s Calvinism leaves people fearful of not persevering and thus fearful that they may not be in Christ. Ironically the more a Calvinist focuses on his desire for assurance, the more he fears spending eternity separated from God. The only real way a Calvinist can overcome the fear of not persevering is by keeping busy and not allowing his mind to obsess about his eternal destiny.
There is also an amazing discussion by Randy Alcorn of the sacrifices he made as a result of picketing an abortion clinic. He ended up resigning as pastor and only receiving minimum wages after this in order to avoid an abortion clinic receiving one-fourth of his salary. The entire discussion is very moving and well worth reading. While I’d read some of this before, it was powerfully written here (pp. 73-77).
Two of my favorite chapters in the book are not even called chapters. After the book ends there are two appendixes (not identified as such) in which the Justin Taylor publishes his interview with all the authors excluding John MacArthur (pp. 115-27) and a separate interview of just John MacArthur and John Piper (pp. 129-45). These are excellent because the writers open up and talk about their backgrounds and their thinking and motivation.
There are some amazing statements from John MacArthur concerning his book The Gospel According to Jesus. For example, “I was so exercised because that ‘no lordship’ theology was coming out of the heritage (Dispensationalism) that was my heritage in a sense” (p. 129). “I was really not moving in Reformed circles as that time. I was a leaky dispensationalist. That was my world, and I realized that I was much more one of you (Reformed Covenant theology) than I was one of them” (p. 129).
Bridges, Acorn, and Roseveare do not seem nearly as Calvinistic or theological as Piper and MacArthur. I suppose the former agree with Reformed Lordship Salvation. However, that doesn’t come out in this book.
This book is worth reading. I recommend it.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society