The New Nature. By Renald Showers. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1986. 182 pp. Hardcover, $12.95.
My first introduction to Renald Showers’s work came as I was rushing down the stairs of a seminary library, researching Paul’s “old man/new man” terminology. A friend stopped me, directed me to Showers’s doctoral dissertation, and out from the microfilm came pure gold. Thus it was a joy to see his work appear in popularized form. Dr. Showers is certainly competent to have written such a book. Academically qualified and having taught for numerous years, the author reflects constant interaction with the standard questions in this area. It is this which makes it far more than a book on the new nature. It is really a book that addresses the thorny problems relative to sanctification: Paul’s understanding of law and grace, the regeneration of OT saints, the definition of the old and new natures, the spiritual condition of the speaker in Romans 7, and the role of the Holy Spirit, to name a few. To each, standard dispensational answers are clearly and understandably given and explained.
However, the work is not without its weaknesses. For example, its usefulness is limited by Showers’s “trial lawyer” defenses; his perspectives are presented unhindered by the arguments and counterarguments of his opposition (cf. pp. 56–57, 65–67, 92–93). His survey of historical theology is extremely limited (pp. 17–18), and his range of possible usages for the Old Man and the New Man does not even consider correlations with Adam and Christ, respectively. His definition of “death” in Romans 6 and 7 as “release” from the power of sin and law comes close to the definition of “separation” preferred by many, but how then is the unbeliever “dead”? Is he released from God? Also, how was Paul alive and in what way did he die in Rom 7:9–11 ? What of the threat of death for sinning believers in Rom 8:6 and 13 (cf. 1 Tim 5:5–6)? And in spite of being published in 1986, there is no response to Needham, whose view that the believer has but one nature and that the sinful passions arise only from the corporal body threatens Showers’s entire construction.
But most disturbing is his handling of 1 John 3:9. After careful and balanced language stating that the believer should (not will) progress in his Christian life (cf. pp. 126–27), he denies that the believer can sin habitually (pp. 129–35), seemingly contradicting his earlier statements concerning Romans 6 and 7 (pp. 95–97, 101–103). It is especially surprising that he employs the argument from the present tense, vis-à-vis its use in John in general, and Kubo and Marshall’s objections to classifying the present tense verbs in 1 John as habitual (durative) in particular.
In spite of these observations, the book is a fresh, enjoyable reassertion of “Chaferian” sanctification. Readable, profitable, and well-researched, it is certainly worth the price to have in any Christian’s library.
Mark A. Ellis
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society