Friday, September 27, 2019

Book Review for "Assurance of Heaven"

For those of you who have been reading Quest Forums articles for a while, this entry is going to be a bit different. Author George Mains recently asked me to review his new book, Assurance of Heaven: God’s Promise to Anyone Who Believes the Gospel. For the sake of full disclosure, I will mention that George is a friend of mine. However, I have no interest in writing reviews for compensation and I am getting nothing for doing this. My critical voice is unencumbered, and you can rest assured that you are getting my honest opinion.

This won’t go too in-depth, as I want to avoid writing a summary rather than a review. A few things struck me during my reading of Assurance of Heaven. First is its genre. Christian publishing is largely divided into two camps. On the one hand are academic theological works, books that are written for experts. On the other are what I would call “spirituality” books that offer a sort of sanctified self-help to a wider, more popular audience. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with either type, they both serve important purposes. It is simply to note that they rarely coincide. Assurance of Heaven is a change of pace because of the way it fuses accessibility with rigorous theology.

George writes in a very personal style, sharing his life experiences in coming to a mature faith. Rather than detaching himself, he speaks of his struggles in learning the true nature of salvation and the steps it took for him to become confident in his position in Christ. This openness on his part is an encouragement that makes the things he discusses come alive. They are not mere concepts, but the center of his life that he wants to make available to everyone willing to listen to what he has to say.

That, of course, leads to the subject matter so well summarized by the title. Every word of this book is devoted to the sole purpose of teaching people that they can be sure of their salvation if they trust in Christ. The simplicity of the gospel is powerfully put on display. George argues biblically and forcefully to show that our justification is neither frontloaded (requiring reformation before redemption) nor backloaded (a salvation based on works). He explains the concept of a “Three Chair Theology” to show that believers can be “carnal,” but never “lapsed” or “professing.” Above all, he makes it unmistakably clear that those who come to the Lord never need to fear that the Lord will let them go. The confidence of that knowledge allows them to let go of working for acceptance and instead live in gratitude and love.

Along with the message of the book, I think it is worthwhile to mention the way it is conveyed in pictures. Almost every chapter is concluded with a simple diagram that well captures the central premise that preceded it. They are so good at this that I found myself wondering if just the collection of the diagrams should be made into a short pamphlet. They are excellent, easily understood illustrations of the truths of the Christian faith.

George and I are very similar theologically, so it is difficult for me to find a point of difference. One might be his interpretation of James 2:19 (pp. 120–121). And that would be nitpicking on my part. I agree with his overarching point that believing is, indeed, the only requirement for salvation. But I do not think James is talking about the manifestation of belief when he says that the demons believe in God. I prefer the simpler reading that the apostle is reminding believers that intellectual knowledge is not the same as trust.

Another possible issue, which is purely a subjective one, is that Assurance of Heaven felt focused more on the errors of Reformed theology and less on those of the Arminian view. Both are certainly answered, but simply as a matter of personal emphasis, I probably would have reversed the balance if I had written this myself. That makes it more of an observation than a critique, obviously, but I thought I would mention it.

Returning to praise for the book, I want to draw attention to how wide of an audience it has. I literally cannot think of anyone who would not benefit from reading it. Those who do not yet know Christ will learn how to have a relationship with God in these pages. Those who think they have one but do not will learn the futility of their self-effort and will find the way to grace. Those who belong to God but have doubted their position will be reminded that nothing can remove them from His hand. And those standing in confidence will learn how to give the gospel to others. As a result, I give Assurance of Heaven my highest recommendation.

You can purchase Assurance of Heaven here in either paperback or ebook format. If you do, please make sure to go back after reading it to leave a rating and review. Doing so will help to increase the book’s profile and allow it to reach more people. Since this is the message the whole world needs to hear, I hope you will do what you can to share it.

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