Book Review: Pillars of Grace by Steven J. Lawson


Steven J. Lawson is not only a great preacher, but an avid studier and writer of famous church historians. Pillars of Grace is a compilation of every major theologian and church figure from 100-1564 who stood up for the truth of the gospel. It is a marvelous effort from Lawson, who writes one of the most riveting church history books in recent memory.

Pillars of Grace is not a typical church history book that exhaustively documents all the teachings or life events of every major player in early or Medieval church history. Rather, it is selective in who is exactly discussed, and what makes their contributions to Christianity so special. Lawson sets out to prove that the church figures who made the most impact in church history and were emblems of faithfulness to God were those who held to what Reformation doctrine calls the Doctrines of Grace, which includes radical depravity, definitive atonement, sovereign election, irresistible call, and preserving grace.

            Beginning from Clement of Rome all the way to John Calvin, we see a marvelous and inspiring picture of these beliefs in each person. These are the components that describe the truth, depth, and necessity of the gospel, and each figure exemplified these traits in some way or another. Of course, the criteria is not to base the church figures beliefs out of the TULIP formula, but to base it on the teachings of Scripture. Does the Scripture affirm the corruption of man and the sovereign election of God in salvation? Does it teach that God preserves the saints? Lawson is able to make an adequate case from even the time of Ignatius and Justin Martyr (who did not have as fully developed of a systematic theology as later generations) that these teachings in the Bible are both true and necessary for the life of the Christian and the church.

            This book is a valuable resource in how it documents the line of godly men in church history. It provides good autobiographical detail, church figure’s work, their theology, their battles, and their commitment to the biblical teachings concerning the doctrines of grace. The book even has a unique study guide at the end of each chapter that challenges the reader to remember and recite the importance of each church historian’s ministry and doctrine. Pillars of Grace is, by far, the most exciting church history book I’ve read. It does not come off at dry or meandering. Rather, it is thematic, purposeful, and inspirational. Through the examples of these church historians, we understand the central doctrines of Christianity and why they must be cared for, especially in our day of apostasy, lukewarm feelings for doctrine, and defense against the claims of skeptics. This book should be on the shelf of both laypeople and Christian scholars.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary copy from Reformation Trust Publishing. I was not obligated to give a good review, but only my honest opinion.