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The Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition

Shane P. Lems

Reviewed by: David C. Noe

Date posted: 08/14/2016

The Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition, by Shane P. Lems. P&R Publishing, 2013. Paperback, 143 pages, list price $10.99. Reviewed by OP elder and professor David C. Noe.

Shane Lems set out to write a book that is suited to “a Sunday School or church education class” (p. 9). In this he succeeds admirably. The work contains twelve chapters and includes four appendixes. Lems helpfully structures the presentation of the material by the familiar TULIP acronym. As its cover design indicates, the book is aimed at middle and high school youth readying for profession of faith. For that reason, the writing is brisk and simple. Lems stresses that his book is meant to provide the reader with “a basic knowledge of these doctrines and show you where they are found in the Bible” (p. 11).

Each chapter contains numerous scriptural references, and there is an appendix with a complete scriptural index. Another appendix contains a brief list of recommended titles and a concise index of “TULIP in the Confessions.” This includes both the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. The end of each chapter features both questions for group discussion and “Memory Work” (i.e., two verses to hide in one’s heart).

Two examples of Lems’s writing will illustrate the book’s overall tone, and thereby allow readers to gauge whether it would be useful to them. In chapter 7, Lems writes: “Arminians say that Jesus’ death unlocked the door of our prison cells. All that we have to do is open the door by our faith. In Arminian teaching, Christ is like a lifeguard who throws a rope out for people who are drowning. All they have to do is grab the rope.… But according to the doctrines of grace (TULIP), Christ’s atonement actually saved people” (p. 51). We read in chapter 8, “This is why we say preaching is so important. Some people think preaching is boring. Others think preaching doesn’t work. But the Bible says preaching is very important (2 Tim. 4:1–3). And it works!” (pp. 65–66).

Lems’s work is doctrinally sound, approachable, and in places quite winsome. He is aware of the limitations of his simple approach, and points to additional resources for further study. The work’s great strength, its simplicity, is at the same time a possible weakness for covenant youth and their elders who may desire something deeper. The youth in some congregations may be ready for more meat and less milk. For other congregations, Doctrines of Grace will closely match the maturity and understanding of their youth and be a great blessing.

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