The shape of things to come

The shape of things to come February 16, 2024

As I opened the blank page to write a review of Andre Naselli’s short book Predestination: An Introduction (part of the excellent “short studies in systematic theology” series from Crossway), I turned off the audiobook version of Senator John Danforth’s book Faith in Politics. I just happened–though Naselli would be quick to point out that it is definitely not by chance–to be listening to Danforth recount his visit to Cambodia in the wake of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Starving and dying children everywhere, the gruesome actions of the Communist movement is truly one of the worst things human beings have ever done. A discussion of how the visceral reality of that kind of evil intersects with the doctrine of predestination is what is missing from Naselli’s book.

Which is not to say that Predestination isn’t a good introduction to the theology of, well, “predestination.” It is. Short, readable, and engaging, this little book is a solid overview, intellectually robust, pastorally devotional, and evenhanded in its treatment of the various perspective on the topic. It also has a short summary of each chapter at the end of the book in question-and-answer format, which is something I’ve not seen before. (And since I’ve reviewed books in this series before, I’ll assume that it wasn’t there and not that I just missed that particular feature.) This really is a great place to start if you want to learn about predestination.

But, and I really didn’t think this through while I was reading the book, I think it is a relevant point that Naselli deals the place of sin in predestination as an abstraction–God does not ordain it–but not in its real, tangible, reality. It is one thing to show a theological proof drawn from Scripture that God does not sin while still ordaining the reality of sin in His grand plan of existence (which is something I join Naselli in affirming). It is something very different to say that God ordained this sin which is held right in front of us in all its naked wickedness. That requires a different response, or at least a more nuanced and worked out one. To be sure every book does not have to do every thing; and no doubt a short study in systematic theology on the topic of sin is forthcoming (and if it isn’t, it should be). It may be that the kind of pastoral response engaging with real world evil requires is beyond the scope of a short systematic theology like this, but that is also the challenge readers are going to raise when thinking about this topic.

That said, this is still a solid place to begin and will make a great gift to someone who wants to start reading deep in theology, or just to have on your shelf for your own benefit.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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