Over the course of the past weekend I had the privilege of speaking to a group of around 80 teenagers who are preparing to serve God with Baptist Youth over the summer. It was a daunting and deeply humbling experience, and also one which enthused and inspired me about what God is doing among young people within our Association of churches. The topic which I was given was 'A Beginner's Guide to Salvation', and I sought to emphasise the work of God in salvation, starting in eternity, issuing in regeneration, resulting in faith and repentence, and granting justification, adoption, and ultimately glorification. To do all of this in the space of one hour felt next to impossible, and I'm sure that I failed in many ways to communicate as I ought.
One book which was of tremendous help to me in my preparation, however, was Being Born Again by Gary Brady. My first encounters with Gary have been via his excellent and pretty eclectic blog, and I have come to respect his meditations on historic Christianity, as well as his more quirky thoughts on such varied things as hats and soft drinks!
Being Born Again is Gary's latest book to be published by Evangelical Press, with his previous two volumes being commentaries on Proverbs and Song of Songs respectively. The stated purpose of the book is to provide an introduction to the whole topic of the 'new birth' or 'regeneration'. This is a much needed study, given the cloudy thinking on this issue amongst unbelievers and believers alike. Gary writes with the aim of reaching those who are not born again, and of inspiring those who are to appreciate and share their faith.
The book seeks to answer a series of questions which one may have about 'being born again', and does so through the use of solid exegesis, vivid illustration, and copious quotation from other writers. Themes such as the essence or definition of 'being born again', the ruling out of those things which it is not, and an assessment of how it is pictured all serve to give the reader a broad biblical picture of what it means to experience regeneration. Issues including why regneration is needed, when it takes place, and how it is evidenced are all dealt with in reasonable detail, as is a chapter pleading for those who do not know the Saviour to seek God for salvation.
The procedural basis and suppositional background of the book is Reformed evangelical. The ordo salutis outlined in the book is largely that which can be traced in Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied, although this volume is much easier to read than the former. The tone of the text is warm and pastoral without being light, and there are moments of lyricism which are a delight to read. For instance, when writing of the need for regeneration in order to please God it is stated that:
'Faith is a flower that will only grow where the field has been prepared and transformed' [p.86]
Such phrasing (and there are numerous other examples) makes what are at times abstract concepts easier to digest, and lends a flow and fluency to the book which ease the reader through fairly deep theological waters. The same can also be said of the pastoral emphasis of the book, where the author is keen to address the consciences of his readers as well as their heads. Efforts are made to dispel false assurances of regeneration as well as needless doubt - a balance which is difficult to strike in preaching, not to mention the written medium.
Being Born Again is full of helpful quotes and illustrations from a variety of authors, classic and modern. This serves to give the book an air of being well-read, without it seeming bookish or dry. My one regret is that the multiplicity of quotes from other authors do not contain footnoted references that can be followed up. Nor does the book contain an exhaustive biliography. I imagine that the absence of these two elements is connected with the book's purpose of reaching non-believers and informing young believers about regeneration without cluttering the page or their minds.
All in all "Being Born Again" is an excellent resource, on a much neglected topic. The author has gone to considerable pains to write faithfully, clearly, and in a God-honouring way about this amazing work of God in the hearts of sinful men and women. I would give this book to a young believer who desires to know more about their faith (perhaps after they have worked through Peter Jeffrey's more basic Bitesize Theology) or to someone who is thinking deeply about their need of salvation. Every Christian who reads this book will find food for their soul, and inspiration to make Christ known to an unbelieving world. (It was a pleasure to recommended both Peter Jeffrey and Gary Brady's books at the youth training day on Saturday).
I close with a quotation which deeply touched me, as the author pleads with believers to pray for the salvation of others. As someone who is currently awaiting and excited about the arrival (DV) of their first child, the following words stirred and humbled me about how I ought to long for new life to spring up in the hearts of those who don't know Christ:
"We must be gentle and show respect and keep a clear conscience, of course, but we should be as eager for new births as most women are to bear their own children. Like Paul we should labour until Christ is formed in others (Galatians 4:19)".
Being Born Again is written by Gary Brady, consists of 175 pages, and is published by Evangelical Press. It is priced at £7.95.