God’s Glory Alone, the Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life by David VanDrunen
David VanDrunen contributes this excellent volume to “The 5 Solas Series,” edited by Matthew Barrett and written in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. VanDrunen is clear that the Reformers did not actually adopt the five solas as their official mottos, but they perfectly summarize the essence of their theology and distinction from Rome (p. 13). He encapsulates the solas with this statement:
Christ alone, and no other redeemer, is the mediator of our salvation. Grace alone, and not any human contribution, saves us. Faith alone, and no other human action, is the instrument by which we’re saved. Scripture, and no merely human word, is our ultimate standard of authority. God’s glory alone, and that of no creature, is the supreme end of all things (p. 14).
The author believes the revelation of the glory of God is the larger story of Scripture (p. 49) and takes great pains to argue we must not turn the theocentric thrust of Scripture into something anthropocentric (pp. 26-28). That is, Soli Deo Gloria is about God’s glory revealed, not our glory, what Luther called the theology of glory vs. the theology of the cross (pp. 16-17). Nor is the primary emphasis in Scripture on how we glorify God but on the glorification found intrinsically in God. But after all the protests have been made, Vandrunen concedes that humanity is called to give glory to God in worship and in living (pp. 38, 40, 85, 96-105, 152, 170-171). He clarifies the balance at the conclusion of the book by stating, “First and foremost, God glorifies Himself but He glorifies Himself in part through glorifying us and allowing us to glorify Him through our godly response to His grace” (pp. 170-171).
VanDrunen offers some valuable studies of how “glory” is used in Scripture (pp. 48-69), the glory cloud which led Israel and later departed (pp. 48-69), and the prophecy of its return, and glory as revealed in the Messiah (pp. 64-72) who appears first in humility, then later in exaltation (pp. 72-82).
The last section of the book makes application of the glory of God to life today. Unique challenges face the modern believer, especially with the distractions of technology and specifically the internet which is by design an interruption system geared for dividing attention (pp. 109, 117, 120). In addition, we live in an age of narcissism and vanity (pp. 131-150), which shuns the fear of the Lord and self-denial (pp. 162-166). In the meantime, we should see ourselves as sojourners, living in exile and possessing dual citizenship in heaven and on earth (pp. 157-160).
A few of VanDrunen’s covenantal views peek through at times, but they do little to deter from the overall value of this book. Of the five volumes in this series I believe this is my favorite.
God’s Glory Alone, the Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life by David VanDrunen (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 186 pp., paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel