Foundations: No.81 Autumn 2021

Book Reviews


John Piper, Crossway, 2021, 752pp, £29.33 h/b (Amazon), £18.36 (Kindle)

Piper has now produced over fifty books. Like the others, this latest one is careful and exact, fresh in tone, homiletic in style and eager to present biblical truth. It contains some few recycled older pieces but this is primarily fresh material, even where the themes are familiar. It is, may we suggest, his “Hamlet”.

It is in three parts. Part 1 seeks to define the subject. Typically, Piper makes use of traditional material such as the Westminster Confession but seeks a new spin, here including the idea of our enjoying God. He also tackles the push back that such high views of God’s sovereignty can tend to provoke.

Part 2 looks at the ultimate goal of providence. In three sections, it goes back first to creation and even before that, then looks at the history of Israel from Abraham to the return from the exile. A third section introduces the new covenant.

It is not until Part 3 and the nature and extent of providence that we begin to touch on more expected themes such as earthquakes, the 2004 tsunami and the testimony of Nate Saint and Elizabeth Elliot (379). This final part has nine sections and is very practical. The topics are nature, Satan and demons, kings and nations, life and death, conversion and sanctification, ending with the triumph of Christ and his return. This part of the book is full of helpful statements on living the Christian life in the light of God’s sovereign providence. Perhaps a quotation will give you the flavour:

… in this one night God created perhaps one hundred thousand widows in Assyria and hundreds of thousands of fatherless children. These are not just numbers. They were real people with real families. This calls for great trust in the wisdom and justice and goodness of God. The same sovereignty that can kill 185,000 soldiers in one night can work a million circumstances of widows and fatherless children for their eternal good if they look away from the false gods of Assyria and from themselves to the God of Israel and call on him for mercy. (367)

One would not wish to defend every piece of exegesis, e.g., Hebrews 12:15-17, (452) but the overall drift of the argument is sound and reliable.

Mind-stirring and heart-warming, the book closes with ten reasons to see and savour God’s providence. Doing so, it is asserted, will awaken awe in us and lead to true worship and make us marvel that we are saved, humbling us because of our sin. It will cause us to see that everything is part of God’s design; will help protect us from the trivialising effects of culture and from trifling with things divine and help us be patient and faithful amid life’s most inexplicable circumstances. Further, it will expand our understanding of God’s sovereignty in suffering; make us alert and resistant to man-centred substitutes claiming to be good news and make us confident that God has the right and power to answer prayer and change people’s hearts. Finally, it will show us that evangelism and missions are essential as God uses means and, sounding a very Piperian note, will assure us that for all eternity God will be increasingly glorified in us, as we are increasingly satisfied in him.

A general index and Scripture index add to the book’s usefulness. If you have not read Flavel’s Mystery of Providence, read that first but do make time for this excellent volume too.

Gary Brady
Pastor, Childs Hill Baptist Church, London


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