How does God draw sinners to himself? What means does he use? What are the theological ramifications and the experiential events associated with the receiving of salvation?
The Puritans use the term "preparation" to describe the method and means that God uses to lead sinners to Christ. This was a serious issue that required much examination and articulation on their part. Doctrinal precision and clarity was important to the Puritans. They in their quest to serve God according to the Bible, faced opposition on many sides. Many were forced to leave their homelands to remain free to preach and worship, free from the errors and control of the Roman Catholic Church and the established state churches of the time.
This issue of preparation, is one in which they stood in stark contrast to the ruling authorities. Puritan theology flows from the reformation. The doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election play an enormous part in their view of preparation. While Rome preaches that unregenerate sinners can gain merit, do good works, towards their salvation as apart of their preparation beliefs, the Puritans deny that a sinner can do anything on his own to earn salvation.
Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley examine the differences and defend the Puritan doctrine of preparation as being in accordance with reformation theology in their book, Prepared By Grace, For Grace. This is not for the faint of heart. In light of the controversies surrounding this doctrine, you can imagine that the language and descriptions are necessarily precise. If theological studies aren't your cup of tea then you may find this book to be a little tedious.
I for one, found the book interesting in the fact that I could see into the world and thoughts of the great Puritan theologians of old. Their love for God and truth, and the steps they would take for the freedom to practice their faith is inspiring. I also came away with a greater understanding of the entire "event" of salvation. So often, we settle for a simplistic, vague understanding, when we should long to immerse ourselves into the depths of these glorious truths.
I would like to thank Cross Focused Reviews for sending me this free review copy.