(Review) Willing To Believe: Understanding The Role of the Human Will In Salvation by R.C. Sproul


Publisher and Publication Date: Baker Books. First published 1997. Re-published January 2018.
Genre: Christian non-fiction.
Pages: 240.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Baker Books. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.


To read an excerpt: Willing To Believe.

Link to read more information about Willing To Believe.

r c sproul

R. C. Sproul (1939-2017) was founder of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian discipleship organization located near Orlando, Florida. He was also founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. His radio program, Renewing Your Mind, is still broadcast daily on hundreds of radio stations around the world and can also be heard online. Dr. Sproul contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, spoke at conferences, churches, colleges, and seminaries around the world, and wrote more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

Summary: (Provided by the publisher)
Can a person choose to have faith?
What does an individual contribute to his or her own salvation? Does God wait on the doorsteps of our hearts, quietly hoping to be let in when we decide to open the door? Or does he call us and pursue us in a way we can’t resist? The debate between the irresistible call of God and a human being’s free will has raged for centuries. So what is the answer? And why does it matter?

In Willing to Believe, R. C. Sproul uncovers issues that provoked the Reformation and revived the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine. He carefully explores the relationship between original sin and human free will, clarifies misconceptions about the work of God in a believer’s liberation from sin, illuminates the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and offers compelling reasons to believe the work of salvation is in God’s hands.

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to this book because in Bible Study Fellowship, we are studying the book of Romans. At this point in the study we are in chapter 11: 33-36.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Translation from the ESV.

I felt Willing To Believe, would be a solid book to contribute to what I’ve been learning in BSF. However, it held pleasing surprises too.
Willing To Believe is a solid study of Christian history, specifically those who questioned “original sin” and “the work of God in a believer’s life.”
I’d not heard of Pelagius. I have read about Aurelius Augustine, also known as St. Augustine of Hippo (link is for further reading at Britannica.) A book I read a few years ago, Christianity In Roman Africa by J. Patout Burns Jr. and Robin M. Jensen, introduced me to Augustine and the early Christian Church in Northern Africa. If you’ve not read this book I recommend it. It is lengthy but it is a must read!
In Bible Study Fellowship, we’ve been reading about people who add to what God has done on the cross. This “adding to” is works. I believe that anything plus what God has already done on the cross through Jesus Christ is false and leads straight to Hell. We cannot add to our salvation. Salvation is from God alone.
One of the first things I learned in Willing To Believe are the words monergistic and synergistic.
“Monergistic means that regeneration is accomplished by a single actor, God. It means literally a ‘one-working.'” Page 22.
“Synergism, on the other hand, refers to a work that involves the action of two or more parties. It is a co-working.” Page 22.
In chapter one, we are introduced to the heated debate (A.D. 411-412) between Pelagius (Pelagianism belief) and Augustine. Pelagius (a British Monk) believed in synergism.
Pelagius did not like a prayer Augustine had written:

Grant what thou commandest, and command what thou dost desire. Page 32.

Pelagius did not like the first part of this prayer. In response, he wrote 18 premises. In Willing To Believe, between pages 33 and 41 these are listed and explained. In brief, Pelagius, “believed that God never commands what is impossible for man to perform.” Page 32.
When Sproul began the book with the information about Pelagius and Augustine, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in to by reading and reviewing this book. I felt unprepared for a heavy study of early church fathers and this subject. In retrospect, I was wrong to think this. Sproul is building a case for the book. Just as the apostle Paul was building his case in the book of Romans. The case in Willing To Believe is what part do humans have in salvation? The answer is from Jonathan Edwards, page 167.

Man is morally incapable of choosing the things of God unless or until God changes the disposition of his soul. Man’s moral inability is due to a critical lack and deficiency, namely the motive or desire for the things of God. Left to himself, he will never choose Christ unless God first changes the inclination of his soul by the immediate and supernatural work of regeneration. Only God can liberate the sinner from his bondage to his own evil inclinations.

The following chapters are theologians who took the road of either belief, monergistic or synergistic: Martin Luther, John Calvin, James Arminius, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Grandison Finney and Lewis Sperry Chafer. Their views are explored in respect to the theme of Willing To Believe.

Willing To Believe is organized well, it has solid explanations of the various views with respect to the subject; and the book itself has clarity and strength.


(Review) The Women In The Castle by Jessica Shattuck

The Women in the Castle

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow, HarperCollins Publishers. March 28, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II.
Pages: 356.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Very good.


The synopsis on the back cover of the book states the book is “set at the end of World War II.” The Women in the Castle shifts back and forth in time in the story. The time periods are as far back as 1923, and as recent as 1991. Most of the story is 1945 and 1950.
Marianne von Lingenfels’s husband is Albrecht. They have three children. Albrecht is a resister of Hitler and Nazi Germany. A failed plot to kill Hitler places her husband in the hands of his enemies and subsequent death. Marianne accepts the responsibility to care for the wives and children of the other resistors who perished. A castle belonging to Albrecht’s family is the fortress for the women and children.

My Thoughts:
The three women in the story are Marianne, Benita, and Ania. The three women are vastly different from each other. It’s possible the three women represent varying aspects of German women during World War II. And, the women contribute three unique stories.
Marianne is mature. She is a devoted wife and mother. She is faithful and responsible. She is trustworthy. She sees past emotion and fear, and can think clearly and rationally.
Benita is a young woman. She is a beautiful girl and enjoys her feminine charms. The war and post war took away her husband, youth, nationalism and pride.
Ania’s had limited contact with the Jewish population; and problems in the home take her eyes away from the murderous atrocities happening to the Jews. Her thrust is to survive for the sake of her children.
The aspect I liked best about the story is the sharp comparison between Marianne and Benita. They are at war because of their strong differences. Each one trying to understand and control the other.
A second aspect I liked is through Ania’s eyes I had a perspective of a German woman’s views during World War II and post war: the Holocaust, the Jews, the early years of the Nazi Party, feelings about Hitler, the wife of a German soldier, and survival amid the chaos of 1945.
It was difficult for me to like Benita. I have empathy for her but did not understand her feelings and choices. I did not want to throw darts at her but she placed a heavy weight on the “being in love and adored.” I believe it is possible this was a source of escape.
I loved the conclusion. I did not want The Women in the Castle to be a novel that did not have closure. It is not neat and tidy but the story has a solid rest.

(Review) My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

my cousin rachel

Publisher and Publication Date: Sourcebooks Landmark. April 18, 2017. Originally published 1951.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 400.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Good.

I’ve previously read and reviewed Rebecca  by Daphne du Maurier.

Link @ Amazon for My Cousin Rachel.

Amazon Prime has the film available. Rachel Weisz portrays Rachel from the book.

At the age of 18 months, Philip Ashley is orphaned. Philip became the heir of his older cousin, Ambrose Ashley.  His life is spent with Ambrose on the Cornwall estate. When Philip is a young man his older cousin traveled to Italy for health reasons. Letters are exchanged between the men. Philip is shocked when Ambrose tells him he married a young woman named Rachel. Rachel had been married once before and her husband died. Philip is angry at the new situation and is mistrustful of Rachel. Ambrose became ill and Philip traveled to Italy. By the time he arrives, Ambrose has died. Philip returns to England with a heavy heart. And in a dramatic change, Rachel became a guest at the estate. Philip is mistrustful of Rachel; however, he became enchanted by her charm and beauty.
The story builds with the mystery of whether Rachel is a good person or an evil person.

My Thoughts:
I did not know the author, Daphne du Maurier had written, The Birds until reading this book. Last summer I watched the film, The Birds for the first time. In both the film, The Birds and the book, My Cousin Rachel the viewer is taken on an experience of good versus evil. Is Rachel good or evil? Are the birds good or evil? Rachel comes across as feminine, sweet, charming and gracious. She seems innocent. The birds are something we see everyday. They are apart of the outdoor world. They are fun to watch. They are not considered something to fear. They seem innocent.
Philip is a young man who is naive. He has lived a sheltered life at the estate with his cousin. He has had limited contact with females. He has never been in a romantic relationship and he has never been in love. Add the naive element of his personality to a stubborn nature, and a bad decision is bound to happen. I felt like I was watching a train wreck slowly unfolding.
The plot builds slowly with mystery. The mystery is Rachel. Who is this young woman? Is she good or evil? What does she want? As an older woman, Rachel’s character is not shocking to me. I’ve known women like her before. But Philip is a young man. I felt empathy for him. On the other hand, he needed to wake up out of his stupor. Because of this last thought, My Cousin Rachel is a book that I felt the need to talk back to the characters. That seems silly but this is how I felt.

(Book Spotlight) An Argument of Blood, Oath and Crown, Book One by Matthew Willis and J.A. Ironside

04_An Argument of Blood_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

02_An Argument of Blood

Publisher and Publication Date: Penmore Press. June 17, 2017.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Pages: 369.

Book Tour @ Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

About The Authors: 

03_J.A. Ironside

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

03_Matthew Willis

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 15
Review at Jaffa Reads Too

Tuesday, January 16
Feature at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, January 17
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Friday, January 19
Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Monday, January 22
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, January 23
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, January 26
Feature at Let Them Read Books

Monday, January 29
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Tuesday, January 30
Feature at What Cathy Read Next

Wednesday, January 31
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, February 1
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Friday, February 2
Review at Bookramblings
Spotlight at Impressions In Ink

Monday, February 5
Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, February 6
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, February 7
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at Donna’s Book Blog