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The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism [Paperback]

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Pages   110
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.66" Width: 5.44" Height: 0.34"
Weight:   0.39 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 2, 2000
Publisher   P & R Publishing
ISBN  0875524591  
EAN  9780875524597  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This book draws on the covenant to shed light on evangelism and the way of salvation. It explains where and how human responsibility enters into salvation.

Publishers Description
Draws on the covenant to shed light on evangelism and the way of salvation, Explains where and how human responsibility enters into salvation.

Buy The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism by Norman Shepherd from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780875524597 & 0875524591

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More About Norman Shepherd

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Shepherd taught systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1963-1981. He later served two pastorates in the Christian Reformed Church, retiring in 1998.

Norman Shepherd was born in 1933.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Good, but Incomplete  Jan 16, 2007
Dr. Norman Shepherd is a good theologian and pastor in the denomination in which I serve. We have called upon him more than once to preach the Word in the local church which I serve and his preaching has always been faithful to the Word.

That is why I say that this book is good. And it's good in terms of his emphasis on the promises of God and the responsibility of men in the covenants which God has entered into in the history of redemption.

What is lacking is the word of assurance to the contrite believer. Yes, we are called to faithfulness, of living out our faith in obedience and holiness. There's no doubt about this.

The contrite believer needs to be constantly re-assured of a great truth that does not shine through in this book: Repentance (like faith) is a gift of God. (see Acts 11 & 2 Timothy 2) All the good we do is proof that God is at work within us. (Philippians 2, Hebrews 13).

Believers need to know that even their holiness is not their own. It is the work of God within. This could stand to shine through. Even our holiness is a work of God's grace. This is only glanced at in a reference to Ephesians 2:10 and at the end: "The Christ who was obedient for us is the Christ obedient in us." This should have been developed far more than it was.

It's a good book, but an incomplete one. Three stars.
A More Corporate and Covenantal Perspective (High View of the Church)!  Jan 13, 2007
Norman Shepherd's book The Call of Grace has aided to the current controversies within the Reformed faith regarding justification. It is provocative to many Reformed, in my opinion, not because it is unbiblical but because it ceases to be a part of any one particular camp. It really is a book that seeks to be both orthodox and ecumenical. It teaches covenant theology from a more rational and corporate perspective, rather than the individualistic and rhetorical perspectives that many teach through today.

Norman Shepherd, in the beginning of the book mentions how "there have been long standing differences between adherents of the historic Lutheran and Reformed confessions." He goes on to say that there are significant difference in the doctrine of the law. No problem there, right? Reformed pastors teach the moral law to be valid after conversion, but Lutheran believe in a more "spiritual" law, or a law that is not still mandated by the Old Testament.

These types of disagreements have caused many to teach a law-gospel dichotomy; that the law is a type of detour sign that shows us the gospel. The law is said to be part of a "covenant of works" that no man could tackle and then so the detour aspect comes in to play to show "grace" to the recipient. Then, after conversion, depending on your denomination, a type of new law comes in to help guide the Christian.

But Norman Shepherd proposes something different. He says that the Abrahamic covenant was a covenant of grace (with conditions of obedience) and the Mosaic covenant was also a covenant of grace (with conditions of obedience).

Many Reformed teach that there was a covenant of works with Adam (Westminster Confession mentions this term but does not say it is a "meritorious" covenant). And yet some Reformed even teach, as the dispensationals do, that the Mosaic covenant was yet another covenant of works. This then leads to that law-gospel dichotomy, that the law was completely separate from grace, and that only the new covenant was a covenant of grace.

If the covenants of old were covenants of works then, at best, they were covenants of grace disguised as covenants of works. In other words, God would have had to be deceiving the people since, according to Paul, even the OT saints were saved the same way we were (Romans 4). Why would God lie? Or, why would Moses propose a false promise?

So Shepherd goes on to say that the OT covenants were full of promise and grace. This then leads to the proposition that Christ did not come to morally earn a covenant of works, as many men teach (what is known as "active obedience").

Shepherd moves on through this little book to teach us that we should view election through covenant rather than viewing covenant through election. He says that when we view covenant through election we attempt to become "as God."(p.83)

Please allow me to comment a bit more: Ever since I became a pastor I have believed that we should teach election through covenant. To me it was the only way out of being tried as one who is judgmental. The accusations against Calvinists have been that they do not evangelize because they believe it is a waist of time to preach to reprobate, and that God will draw the elect. But we do not know who the elect are, as Shepherd proposes, and so we make a covenant assumption when evangelizing, hoping that all who we come in contact with are God's elect. Subliminally we know this is likely not true, since God has told us there are people going to hell. But we don't presuppose things based on what God knows but based on what we know; based on what God had revealed to us. And God has not revealed to us who the elect are and are not. So the debate narrows to that epistemological question: Do we act on what God knows or what we know? Which is reality to us on earth: the invisible or the visible?

Many Reformed do not understand the implications of epistemology and polemics within theology. The study of knowledge and the art of debate have come a long way since the Reformation. We certainly need to learn how to apply the great doctrines of grace in a more concise and logical way to where God's righteousness and God's mercy (law and grace) do not oppose one another to create the confusion of today's many divided camps. We need to know when the more Platonic philosophy is important and when the Aristotelian philosophy is important (two camps that have created harsh and unreasonable dichotomies).

The new covenant, as Shepherd teaches, brings clarity. It is based on the same promises in the old covenants but with that final fulfillment of the cross and resurrection. Christ is that living sacrifice that lives out his mercy and righteousness in our lives. Christ is obedient in us (p. 104); which is probably one of his harder statements to swallow, if you are a modern Reformed. But suffices to say, the doctrine of sanctification and its very reason of existing (see Shepherd p. 62) is very seldom taught or written on in the Reformed world. This lack of knowledge has fueled and even ignited this whole controversy, in my opinion. Certainly Christ's works are not infused like the Roman Catholics teach but his works must indeed have an eschatological outcome of some sort.

The Call of Grace is packed with clear teaching if you are willing to break down the walls of today's theological reductivism. And at only 105 pages, you should be able to read it in only a few nights.
Not convincing  Apr 19, 2005
The author of this book tries to demonstrate that to avoid legalism and antinomianism we must look at God's redemptive program "covenantally". There are two major sections in the book. The first section deals with the major redemptive covenants in the Bible (Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New); the second section deals with how the "covenant perspective" affects evangelism, election, and regeneration. Shepherd's approach is unlike that of other Reformed theologians. He argues that the "prophets and apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant, whereas we [modern Reformed theologians] have tended to view the covenant from the perspective of election" (p. 83). The thesis of this book is alarming and can undermine salvation by grace through faith alone. By emphasizing "covenant keeping" at the expense of Christ's sacrificial work and God's electing grace, Shepherd has turned around and gone back to the theology of the Medieval Scholastics that the Reformers opposed. In his discussion of the Mosaic Covenant, he argues that the Israelites had to obey the stipulations of this covenant in order to receive salvation (p. 40). Most Reformed scholars argue that the Mosaic Covenant did not provide eternal life, but temporal life in the Promised Land. Shepherd states that the Abrahamic Covenant was conditional, yet he forgets that God is the ONLY One who passed between the torn animals (Genesis 15:17). Therefore, God will fulfill this covenant regardless of the faithfulness (or faithlessness) of His people. Shepherd also states that the New Covenant is not opposed to the Mosaic Covenant (p. 57). If that is the case why did God have to give a New Covenant in the first place (Jeremiah 31:31)? The New Covenant is unconditional, and those who receive Christ will have the Law written in their hearts forever. He also states that in "Jesus we are enabled to become the covenant keepers that God intended us to be from the beginning" (Ibid). This sounds more like Romanism (with its view of infused righteousness) rather than Protestantism (with its view of imputed righteousness). Romanists say that we are infused with Christ's righteousness so that we can persevere and be successful covenant keepers. Shepherd's chapter on the Great Commission is deplorable and one can easily detect his postmillennial bias. I'm sorry to say but the Messianic Kingdom in its fullness cannot arrive in the present age, it will come at the Parousia (Revelation 20). His chapter on election is also controversial since no believer can have assurance of salvation since he or she cannot know whether he or she is an elect until he or she has fulfilled all the covenant requirements. I would argue (like most Reformed scholars do) that we are in the covenant of grace (or New Covenant) due to God's election of us in Christ. His accusation that traditional Reformed theologians cannot give comfort and assurance to struggling believers can also be turned around and used against his own view. Shepherd's theology does not only undermine assurance of salvation by putting primacy away from election, but destroys assurance by insisting on "covenant faithfulness" to the very end. Another disturbing part of Shepherd's book is his insistence that baptism "is therefore to be understood as of a piece with the total transformation of salvation" (p. 102). Therefore, baptism is part of the covenant obligation that one must go through in order to be saved. If this isn't works-salvation, I don't know what is. He argues that baptism is essential because there "are no secret believers, but only baptized believers" (p. 101). Did Shepherd forget that Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple or believer (John 19:38)? If covenant faithfulness is necessary for salvation what about those struggling believers like Lot, Samson, Solomon, Ananias and Sapphira, the Carnal Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), and those Corinthians who died for abusing the Lord's Table (11:30)? Paul did not condone their behaviour but he knew that Christ's sacrifice covers all sins. To argue that we are not saved by works, but we won't be saved without them is double talk. The typical believer will assume a works-salvation mentality regardless of how you phrase the demands for works. Between antinomianism and legalism, Shepherd's view will make people slide down the hill of legalism. The Biblical way of looking at the relationship between salvation, covenant, and law is to subordinate covenant under Christ's sacrifice just as law is subordinate to the covenant. To put Christ's sacrifice, the covenant, and the law on an equal footing will undermine Christ's work on the Cross and lead believers into a Romanistic or Judaistic mentality. For those who think this book is such a great breakthrough in Reformed thought should think again. Shepherd's view sounds eerily similar to the Judaistic notion of covenant keeping by strict obedience. In fact, Shepherd does throw the Old Covenant into the New. The only positive thing about this book is that it will show the average believer where "ultra-covenantalism" will lead if left unchecked and gives readers a good understanding of unorthodox covenant theology.
This is NOT Reformed Covenant Theology  Feb 14, 2004
Shepherd departs from the Reformed tradition when he insists that covenant keeping, i.e., faithful evangelical obedience, is necessary for justification. He de-emphasizes classical Reformed teaching, such as eternal and unconditional election, justification by faith alone (apart from any of the works of faith), and the centrality cross of Jesus Christ in the life and consciousness of the believer. Read this book if you want to explore an innovative and "Arminianish" theology of salvation, but turn elsewhere if you want to understand the classical Reformation view.

For a solid and orthodox articulation of classical Reformed Covenant Theology, I recommend Louis Berkhof's _Systematic Theology_, and for a more thorough treatment, Herman Witsius' _The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man_.

Read something from the other side  May 29, 2003
Shepherd was thrown out of Westminster Seminary for his unbiblical view on soteriology in 1981, but not without leaving his mark in the seminary's faculty, which remains a problem to this day.

This book contains some very simple words, combined in a way to form sentenses and paragraphs that make no sense. So it is hard for those who lack the ability to discern the subtleties of theological language -- let alone Shepherd's confused language -- to really understand what he is saying, and to realize how unbiblical his view is.

For a short critique, I suggest that you search the Internet for John Robbins' review on this book, entitled, "False Shepherd". I think he rightly calls Shepherd's view "Neo-legalism".


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