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Book reviews. I typically read 40 to 60 books a year, but don’t write near that many reviews! Partly I’m lazy, but partly I put too high of an expectation on myself for writing a review. I think every review must be a detailed or interactive exercise where I critique or expound. I’m also a slow thinker and writer, and a detailed review may take several hours – and I don’t always have that much time.

A blogging friend, who used to have a book review site, did more simple reviews – but I always appreciated them. She typically just gave a brief overview and general opinion of the book in 5 or 6 sentences, and then shared some quotations or excerpts from it. The excerpts gave me a feel for the author’s style and key points. I need to write more reviews like that. There are personal benefits to more detailed reviews however. I “own” the contents of a book in a deeper way when I take the time to thoughtfully interact with it. I guess I am willing to do that with some books but not others. What is your book review style?

This review is on: The Cross of Christ by John Stott.

I’ve wanted to read this book for years – it is considered a classic and Stott’s pinnacle work. When I found a hardcover edition in good condition in the Goodwill bins for about 25 cents I was thrilled!

While close to 400 pages and an exhaustive work on the cross of Christ, I found it very readable. Except for a handful of parts where things got overly academic or analytical, I think the book is accessible to your interested layperson. It was truly a “page turner” for me. I was deeply moved by this exposition of the cross and read it faster than I anticipated. While theological, the book emanates Stott’s pastoral warmth and care. He covers all that you’d think and more: God’s attributes and man’s sinfulness, the OT sacrificial system, the need for the cross, the penal substitutionary atonement, what the cross accomplished, practical content on how the cross should affect how we live our lives, etc. The substitutionary atonement is strongly defended – a point on which I very much agree, and is under attack by some today.

In this post, and for the rest of the week, I will share quotes and excerpts from the book.

Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, ‘only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross’, wrote Canon Peter Green, ‘may claim his share in its grace.’

The reason why many people give the wrong answers to questions about the cross, and even ask the wrong questions, is that they have carefully considered neither the seriousness of sin nor the majesty of God. In order to do so now, we shall review four basic biblical concepts, namely the gravity of sin, human moral responsibility, true and false guilt, and the wrath of God. We shall thus see ourselves as sinful, responsible, guilty and lost. It will not be a pleasant exercise, and our integrity will be tested in the course of it.

All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for radical salvation, let alone a radical atonement to secure it. When on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God…then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.

– Follow along this week if you’d appreciate more excerpts from the book.