MINIGUIDES TO THEOLOGY. Authors: Various. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, from 2018 onwards.

These ‘miniGuides’ will bring maxihelp to those of us who sometimes struggle, sometimes even wrestle with matters theological, especially if we are pastors and teachers who want to help our hearers gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the Word and Ways of God. Seven volumes have been published so far:

THE BIBLE, GOD’S INERRANT WORD, Derek Thomas. God’s Word, the Bible, is of course foundational for faith. Christians living in a world which scorns the Bible, rejecting it as what it really is – God’s inerrant, authoritative, sufficient, relevant, and wonderful Word – will find their faith refreshed by reading this masterly defence of God’s Word as it focuses particularly on its inerrancy. So too will Christians languishing in churches where this high view of Scripture is denied. Derek Thomas, Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina, writes to answer the question, ‘How can we possibly believe the Bible to be the infallible or inerrant Word of God in the 21st Century?’ And he answers it in no uncertain terms.

SALVATION, FULL AND FREE IN CHRIST, Ian Hamilton. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord is God’s grand plan for His people. Ian Hamilton, the President and Professor of Historical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, declares that ‘The Bible is God’s written revelation detailing the great salvation Jesus accomplished for everyone who would ever believe in Him. By His sinless life, His sin-atoning death and His resurrection from the dead, Jesus accomplished the salvation that no human being, however devout, could ever achieve.’ His explanation of this thesis might surprise some, but it will surely reassure others as it supplies all with a Biblical justification for his thesis.

REGENERATION – MADE NEW BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, David McWilliams. As a minister I’ve been alarmed over the years to note that far too many people fail to recognise that Jesus’ words to Nicodemas in John 3.7 are an imperative – ‘You MUST be born again.’ Like Nicodemas, they try to fob Him off. ‘I can’t understand’ … ‘You must be joking’ … ‘How can this happen?’ But Jesus stands firm and repeats the imperative before giving those ‘wonderful words of life’ in John 3.16, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ David McWilliams, senior minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida, contends that ‘If we do not believe in Christ we need to understand these words because they are vital to salvation. But, even if we are believers already, exploring these words opens up to us a rich mine of truth about God’s salvation that each of us needs.’ So he unpacks these verses to our spiritual benefit.

SANCTIFICATION – TRANSFORMED LIFE, David Campbell. Regeneration, which marks the beginning of our new life in Christ, leads on to sanctification. David Campbell, pastor of North Preston Evangelical Church in Lancashire, England, sees sanctification as ‘A work of God that takes place inwardly and shows itself outwardly’ – as Paul writes in Romans 12.2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.’ David Campbell takes us through the process of sanctification, warning of pitfalls and preparing us to avoid them until finally we reach our journey’s end.

GROWING IN GRACE – BECOMING MORE LIKE JESUS, Jonathan Master. Along with sanctification comes growth in grace. Jonathan Master, President of Greenville Presbyterian Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina, sets out to show that ‘Christians – repentant sinners really trusting in Christ alone for their forgiveness and standing with God – ought to be growing in their faith, and if (they) are not, then something is very seriously wrong.’ ‘Grace’ truly is ‘a charming sound, melodious to the ear’, and it runs like a refreshing stream throughout Scripture from beginning to end, as through grace the Lord does His amazing work in the life of the believer. Jonathan Master traces the flow of this ‘life-giving stream’ as we come to Jesus and live in Him ‘till travelling days are done’.

THE CHRISTIAN MIND – ESCAPING FUTILITY, William Edgar. Sanctification, becoming ‘a new creation’ in Christ, involves not only drastic changes in behaviour and life-style, but also a whole new way of perceiving and thinking as we come to see more clearly God’s works of creation, providence and redemption, and especially as we come to look upon Him in His absolute sovereignty. To put it simply, as the hymnwriter George Wade Robinson, did: 

            ‘Heaven above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green;

Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen:

Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,

Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.’

As if it isn’t bad enough that the unbelieving world pours scorn on the workings of the Christian mind, many in the visible church join in with their condescending, even scornful approach to ‘Fundamentalism’, i.e. ‘Bible-believing Christianity’. William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, equips us to draw ourselves away from worldly ways and worldly thoughts and to working towards ‘having the mind of Christ’.

THE CHURCH – GLORIOUS BODY, RADIANT BRIDE, Mark Johnston. Although Christians have come to Christ one by one, God’s purpose is not that we remain bold, rugged individualists, but that we band together with fellow believers. In some quarters, the Church is not held in high regard. Her members don’t make the most of their membership. Some don’t pull their weight in maintaining her advance. Too easily worldly thoughts and worldly ways creep into the Church and soon spread their influence within her to blunt, even stifle her life and mission. Mark Johnston, minister of Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Richhill, Northern Ireland, puts before us a well-considered description of what the Church should be under God in the various aspects of her faith and work. His chapter on the vexed question of the unity of the Church is especially helpful as he turns aside from the wrong-headed approach of amalgamating denominations to focus on the model of the Holy Trinity within the ‘High Priestly Prayer’ of the Lord Jesus as the true model for Christian unity..

MiniGUIDES could well become one of the most valuable projects the Trust has set out on. Each volume bridges the gap between the lofty heights of academia and the person in the pew. We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to those whom the Lord raises up to deal with the deep things of the life, faith and work of Christians both individually and corporately, but we must also be thankful for those who distil this wisdom and bring it to us at our level. May the Lord richly bless this endeavour to the growth of His Church and people.

                                                                                                            – Bob Thomas