Friday, March 4, 2005

The Salvation Controversy by James Akin

A reader noticed I had recently finished it and asked me to give a few thoughts on Jimmy Akin's little book. Well, for starters, it's just that: little. I would have really appreciated seeing Jimmy spread his theological wings broader, flex his sizable apologetic muscles longer. I was stunned to see his very handy little glossary and biblical citation index at the end of the book followed by a few pages of -- well, nothing. No index, no bibliography. Nothing. He makes almost no mention of the distinction between, let alone the basis, of mortal and venial sins. He also explained merit far too much in passing. TSC was a primer, whereas I expected a sustained, nuanced treatise. I really hope someone republishes this book, only now the way it should be: with an index, a bibliography, and some much deeper discussion of other key issues.

Of course, having said all that, let me be quick to say every bit of TSC is superb. I was disappointed by what Jimmy didn't mention, NOT by what he did discuss. I suspect he avoided in-depth, explicit discussion of merit and degrees of sin because he was more intent on providing the bigger picture of salvation in which these contested ideas fit (and quite comfortably so, I should add). His discussion of the biblical roots of indulgences, for example, is one of the best features of the book. A definite contender for the best material in the book is his discussion of TULIP and predestination in light of the Catholic truth. I read an online version of this chapter a year or two ago, and it was just as invigorating now as then! In general, a good feature of the book is how Jimmy plants the seed -- a biblical reference here, a magisterial citation there -- and expects the reader to follow up.

The bottom line is, any Evangelical under the tired illusion that Catholics believe in salvation by works needs this book. I mean, everyone should at least be in the 13th century of theological discourse, let alone the relentless proclamation of grace, grace, grace, which is the Catholic faith, heard in every century before and after that time. TSC is a double shot of theological whiskey: small and fast but “right pawrful” stuff.

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