The Power of His Presence. By Adrian Rogers. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995. 191 pp. Cloth, $14.99.
This motivating book for Christians by Southern Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers merits a somewhat mixed review, I believe. First, three points of commendation are in order.
First, it is a book on the inner, or spiritual, life. We need more of these “to be” books; we are swamped with “to do” books.
Second, Rogers roots the spiritual life where it must be rooted, in the presence of God in us. Many have made the mistake of rooting the spiritual life in its evidences, such as purity or power. The titlemisleads, but the book does not make that mistake. Admittedly, the theme sentence is jarring. “Real salvation,” it intones, “is not merely about getting man out of earth into heaven. It is also about getting God out of heaven and back into man” (pp. ix, 42). But one can overlook a bit of questionable logic when the subject is as sublime as the presence of God within man.
Third, the author wisely uses the biblical type of the OT tabernacle and temple as his central metaphor for God’s presence. This leads him down biblical paths to fruitful applications, such as that all of life is sacred and none of it secular for us who are full-time temples (pp. 26-28). Unfortunately, he also leads the reader down some speculative trails. It’s not so certain, for example, that the tabernacle was tripartite because God is a Trinity (p. 16), and even less likely that it illumines the tripartite nature of man (pp. 17-20). Here, as elsewhere, distinctions are drawn too neatly. Accuracy is sacrificed on the altar of homily; interpretation makes way for alliteration. Still, the metaphor is interesting.
Fourth, Rogers scores some valuable points when he steps up to face some of the great issues of salvation and the spiritual life:
The Spirit-filled life is the normal Christian life (p. 48).
The filling of the Spirit in Eph 5:18 is a process, not a crisis (p. 56).
There are carnal, deformed Christians (pp. 72-74).
Christians out of fellowship with God are subject to repeated spiritual failure, satanic corruption, addiction, and destruction (pp. 112-123).
Regular confession of sin for forgiveness is necessary for daily fellowship with God (p. 110).
God will forgive us only if we forgive others (p. 138).
Assurance of salvation is vital. “The lack of assurance is a great problem among God’s people. Living without assurance is like driving with your parking brake on” (p. 157).
Unfortunately, it is just here that Rogers is most contradictory and confusing. He closes the book with not one, but two presentations of eternal security. But chapters 12 and 13 are so disparate that one wonders if Rogers himself wavers between two opinions.
Chapter 12 is entitled “Blessed Assurance.” It is anything but that, since it offers a three-legged stool of assurance: my present faith in Christ, my present behavior, and God’s work and word and witness. That is a shaky stool, since as any reader of the previous chapters might testify, two of those legs totter because they are legs of flesh.
By the end of chapter 13, there is no assurance left for people who do not have “a burning desire to live for God” or for those who do not “love the church” or for those who fail to keep “all of God’s commandments”! Feeling the pinch, Rogers announces that “keep His commandments” really just means “desire to keep His commandments,” but it won’t wash. One suspects that Rogers is aware of his confusion, but that his misreading of 1 John 2, 3, and James 2 occasionally drives him to preach a conditional assurance.
In contrast, the final chapter establishes our eternal security on seven sturdy pillars, all firmly planted in heaven. Here our assurance is founded on Christ’s statement (John 5:24) that our eternal life began the moment we believed (p. 182). This rings true. It also rebuts the statement 20 pages earlier that the only belief that matters for assurance is “right-now belief.” One cannot believe both chapter 12 and chapter 13. If Adrian Rogers is wavering between these two opinions, we hope he chooses the latter.
Topeka Bible Church