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Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity

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Evangelicals are known for their emphasis on conversion. But what about life after conversion and beyond justification? Desperately needed is a comprehensive theology of the Christian life from beginning to end, along with the means of formation and transformation. In Called to Be Saints, Gordon Smith draws on a distinguished lifetime of reflecting on these themes to offer Evangelicals are known for their emphasis on conversion. But what about life after conversion and beyond justification? Desperately needed is a comprehensive theology of the Christian life from beginning to end, along with the means of formation and transformation. In Called to Be Saints, Gordon Smith draws on a distinguished lifetime of reflecting on these themes to offer us a theologically rich account of our participation in the life of Christ. Both profound and practical, this book is a trinitarian theology of holiness that encompasses both justification and sanctification, both union with Christ and communion with God. Smith unfolds how and why Christians are called to become wise people, do good work, love others and enjoy rightly ordered affections. If holiness is the ongoing journey of becoming mature in Christ, then there is no better guide than Smith. Christians in every walk of life will find this a rich resource for learning what it means to "grow up in every way . . . into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).


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Evangelicals are known for their emphasis on conversion. But what about life after conversion and beyond justification? Desperately needed is a comprehensive theology of the Christian life from beginning to end, along with the means of formation and transformation. In Called to Be Saints, Gordon Smith draws on a distinguished lifetime of reflecting on these themes to offer Evangelicals are known for their emphasis on conversion. But what about life after conversion and beyond justification? Desperately needed is a comprehensive theology of the Christian life from beginning to end, along with the means of formation and transformation. In Called to Be Saints, Gordon Smith draws on a distinguished lifetime of reflecting on these themes to offer us a theologically rich account of our participation in the life of Christ. Both profound and practical, this book is a trinitarian theology of holiness that encompasses both justification and sanctification, both union with Christ and communion with God. Smith unfolds how and why Christians are called to become wise people, do good work, love others and enjoy rightly ordered affections. If holiness is the ongoing journey of becoming mature in Christ, then there is no better guide than Smith. Christians in every walk of life will find this a rich resource for learning what it means to "grow up in every way . . . into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

30 review for Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    A wise book for an increasingly juvenile world. Called To Be Saints offers arguments and principles that are personally and socially challenging - indeed, revolutionary - but can feel overwhelming in the sheer number of ideas in each chapter, ie there are many numbered lists here. Maturity, for Smith, includes wisdom, work, love, and joy through rightly ordered affections. Two appendices, which should have been made much, much shorter, or else become books of their own, cover the role of the chur A wise book for an increasingly juvenile world. Called To Be Saints offers arguments and principles that are personally and socially challenging - indeed, revolutionary - but can feel overwhelming in the sheer number of ideas in each chapter, ie there are many numbered lists here. Maturity, for Smith, includes wisdom, work, love, and joy through rightly ordered affections. Two appendices, which should have been made much, much shorter, or else become books of their own, cover the role of the church and higher education in spiritual formation. Everything here exists in a very fine and difficult balance. There’s so much (too much) to remember if you are reading for more than a treatise - you will need to choose what dwell with. For me, living in the fullness of time and vocational holiness stand out. Know that you can’t do most of this on your own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    This book might change your thinking about "sainthood". Sometimes, we conceive saints as these unworldly, serious, ascetic, and somewhat odd creatures. Gordon Smith would propose instead that being a saint is something to which all of us are called and what this means is growth into Christian maturity--a kind of perfection of holiness that isn't perfectionism but rather a kind of completeness or wholeness of life. This is especially important for many evangelicals, who may excel at seeing people This book might change your thinking about "sainthood". Sometimes, we conceive saints as these unworldly, serious, ascetic, and somewhat odd creatures. Gordon Smith would propose instead that being a saint is something to which all of us are called and what this means is growth into Christian maturity--a kind of perfection of holiness that isn't perfectionism but rather a kind of completeness or wholeness of life. This is especially important for many evangelicals, who may excel at seeing people come to faith but have little idea of how to direct them into becoming holy (or sanctified, a word drawn from the same root as saint--in other words, saintified). Most often, since we do the crisis experience of conversion so well, we simply propose additional crisis experiences. Smith proposes a different route. Smith begins with what he sees as the essence of the Christian life, which is union with Christ. To be in Christ is to be united with Christ through his Spirit, which is a profoundly humbling thing that promotes our dependence upon Christ, our focus on the person and work of Christ, and our Spirit-enabled obedience of faith. In a later appendix, Smith applies this to the scholarly life, which is a life grounded in prayerful dependence upon Christ and illumined by Christ. Smith then talks about four expressions of holiness that might surprise you. The first of these is wisdom, the practical understanding and knowledge of how to live well in the fear of the Lord. This can be expressed as having the mind of Christ, of seeing all of life through the lenses of creation, fall, and Christ's redemptive work. Wisdom that understands the cross understands suffering in light of the cross. The second expression of holiness is vocational holiness. By this, Smith means a life of good work that flows out of a sense of being called both into union with Christ, and into the world. Vocational holiness understands our agency in the world as fallen but redeemed image-bearers of God. It involves self-understanding of our temperament, skills, gifts and situation and lives in hopeful realism throughout the seasons of one's life. The third expression of holiness is social holiness expressed in our love for others in the communities to which we are called. This will find expression in radical hospitality where we welcome each other as we have been welcomed in Christ, forbearance, forgiveness and reconciliation, and in generous service to others. All of these are formed in the worship, teaching, and witness of our churches. Finally, and surprisingly, Smith speaks of joyful holiness--the ordering of our emotional lives around our hope in Christ. He sees these particularly worked out in the practices of worship, friendship, and sabbath. This last is especially radical because in sabbath, we trust that while we must rest God doesn't and his work is prior to and over ours. The book concludes with two extended appendices, one addressed to applying these truths to the life of the church, and the other to the life of the academy, particularly, but not exclusively the Christian university and seminary. I came away from this book with a different rubric for thinking about Christian maturity that is neither obsessed with sin nor activity, but rather in the kind of person we become in union with Christ--wise, called, loving, and joyful. That is a kind of "sainthood" that seems quite attractive, and one to which all, and not simply some "spiritual elite", might aspire.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Carr Jr

    IVP Acadamic has been a faithful publisher, continuing to promote materials that teach the full breadth of our Gospel hope and promote a reformation of evangelicalism for the past century. Gordon Smith's recent volume on Christian maturity certainly does not disappoint in continuing that tradition. Smith wrote Call To Be Saints to address a concern he found in evangelicalism; a deficient view of sanctification. It does not require a convincing argument for anyone familiar with evangelicalism to IVP Acadamic has been a faithful publisher, continuing to promote materials that teach the full breadth of our Gospel hope and promote a reformation of evangelicalism for the past century. Gordon Smith's recent volume on Christian maturity certainly does not disappoint in continuing that tradition. Smith wrote Call To Be Saints to address a concern he found in evangelicalism; a deficient view of sanctification. It does not require a convincing argument for anyone familiar with evangelicalism to realize he is correct. In a post-Great Awakening world, the evangelical church is interested in quick conversions, mere professions of faith. While most leaders are saddened when those converted under their ministry do not produce the good works of salvation, they still feel relieved, thinking their converts are still "saved". The popular addage is "You can be a Christian and not have a relationship with Christ." Is it, then, any wonder that the statistics on matters like divorce and sexual activity are no different in the Church than they are in society? While most evangelicals would like to see more change in the lives of their congregants than "just saying a prayer", no matter what, those who "just said the prayer" are still "in". Such shallow definitions of salvation have earned the laughter of Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, and even the Protestant Reformers, on the majority of American spirituality. No one denies there is a problem, and there have been attempts to fix them. Smith, in his book, points out that there has been a greater interest in spiritual disciplines throughout evangelicalism in recent years, thanks to the hard work of teachers like Dallas Willard. Such teaching has even led to recovering some of the benefits of Catholic and Orthodox practices that too many Protestants (sadly) threw away after the Reformation. While such efforts are worth commending, Smith believes such a response is jumping the gun at this point. So far, says Smith, we have only asked how we grow in grace, without asking what the end goal is. If we are to begin the journey these disciplines take us on, we need to know the destination. And that is where his book comes in. Smith, of course, begins his book by explaining the need for this particular book and its subject matter, and he makes some excellent points, similar to the ones made in the beginning of this review. The meat of the book is in chapter 2. Before we can understand the use of spiritual disciplines or even describe the holiness we are called to as believers, we have to know how we become holy, and that is by union with Christ. Smith provides rich exegesis of the pertinent passages (namely, Ephesians 1), and interacts with historical and modern treatments of the subject. Such a view of salvation is very different from the one found in evangelicalism, and will lead to the deeper view of salvation the movement so desperately needs. The theological content of this chapter alone is of monumental benefit for the Church. Once he has established the theological framework for how we become holy, Smith spends the remainder of his book describing what that holiness looks like. He sees holiness as fourfold; it is wise, works good, shows love, and is joyful. The four chapters in which he expounds these facets of holiness show the same depth as the chapter on union with Christ. To have a modern treatment on what the Christian life is to look like is refreshing. Too often, evangelicals have a few shallow behaviors they utilize to judge the faith of others, rather than look at the actual content of the holiness we are called to. Throughout the entire book, Smith goes to great effort to ground his work in the doctrines of the Trinity, the person of Christ, salvation and creation, sin and faith, and finally, the role of the Church. Framing the discussion in this context is illuminating, and is necessary to keep in mind if we are to understand the work of God in our lives. It is very difficult to find places to disagree with Smith on. If there are, they are very minor and have little bearing on the crux of his argument. I am sure there were details I differed with him on, but once completing the book, they were forgotten. Once the book is closed, the reader is only left with a feeling of great hope as they look towards the grand, beautiful calling God has for us. And Smith makes it a point to show just how possible it is for us to attain this high calling through our union with Christ. The fact that the the word "academic" is on the spine of the book might make some potential readers assume this book is inaccessible, but they would be greatly mistaken. Smith is very careful in his explanations and is easy to understand. It does not require a sharp intellect to follow him through this book. And he also includes suggestions on how the ideas of his book can be practical. He points out ways the fourfold holiness he is describing can shape our practice, both individually and corporately. While the book might not be as practical as some would like it to be, Smith gives enough in his book for readers to start with, and he has laid a foundation for others to build on. In the end, this book is extremely edyfing for all who read it, and it provides a vital call to the evangelical Church, one that has been ignored in recent years. May the Church heed Smith's words and find the full wisdom, work, love, and joy that is provided by our union in Christ.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Called to Be Saints" is a simply wonderful book that explores what it is that makes for Christian maturity. The author identifies four specific aspects of a mature Christian life; to be a wise person, to do good works, to love others and to know the joy of friendship with God. This book is refreshing, clear and generous in spirit. It was a delight to read. The book is capped off with two appendices that address what the author believes are the two institutions that most share the potential for l Called to Be Saints" is a simply wonderful book that explores what it is that makes for Christian maturity. The author identifies four specific aspects of a mature Christian life; to be a wise person, to do good works, to love others and to know the joy of friendship with God. This book is refreshing, clear and generous in spirit. It was a delight to read. The book is capped off with two appendices that address what the author believes are the two institutions that most share the potential for leading God's people into maturity; the church and centers of higher education.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad Strelau

    The entire book is filled with tremendous insight on the important relationship between church and the lives of the saints that make it up. The chapter on vocational holiness (4) is of great worth and an important message for the barista, artist, mechanic, doctor and pastor!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dave Hornor

    Lots of repetition.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Gordon Smith's Called to be Saints is a theological inquiry into what it means to be a mature Christian. It is not a theology of the means of holiness and sanctification but an examination of what they might look like in the believer and in the Christian community. Smith defines maturity "in Christ" and then examines four facets of that maturity: wisdom, good work (vocational holiness), love, and joy. The second chapter, on Union with Christ, is the central argument of the book. "I will stress t Gordon Smith's Called to be Saints is a theological inquiry into what it means to be a mature Christian. It is not a theology of the means of holiness and sanctification but an examination of what they might look like in the believer and in the Christian community. Smith defines maturity "in Christ" and then examines four facets of that maturity: wisdom, good work (vocational holiness), love, and joy. The second chapter, on Union with Christ, is the central argument of the book. "I will stress that what makes the Christian a Christian is participation in the life of Christ Jesus, or union with Christ." This union leads to transformation and maturity. His discussions of wisdom, work, love, and joy are broad and deep, with much interconnection and building upon one another. The ideas are wonderful and clear, even if his prose does not always sparkle and there is a bit of repetition and turning back on itself. He ends with two long appendices about how to make transformation and maturity central in the local church (in worship, in the renewal of the mind - teaching, in witness and mission) and in the Christian college (or Christian college ministry). "Prayer without teaching is, quite simply, a subtle form of disobedience, Jesus commissions us to make disciples by teaching them." Overall, a very good book for individuals and congregations to consider.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    I have long been interested in spiritual theology. Gordon Smith has provided a overview of a theology of the Christian life that I find compelling. The book is written in accessible language and is a valuable contribution, especially for pastors. Highly recommend to those interested in developing a vision for spiritual formation in their congregation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Smith

    A logical follow-up to Smith's other excellent work "Transforming Conversion" this book answers the question: what are the contours of Christian Maturity and how should we think as a result about the process of ongoing discipleship. Excellent.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy Greco

    Called to Be Saints is one of the most encouraging books I've read in years. Smith is clear and pastoral. His understanding of both Scripture and the human soul make for a compelling call to holiness. Great read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Rodriguez

    Really, really enjoyed this. I read this book as "research" but personally enjoyed it on a number of levels. Union with Christ vs moral perfection as the aim of maturity is a fantastic insight. The chapter on joy was a delight!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Smith's look at what a mature Christian will look like is deeply theological, incredibly applicable and filled with wisdom.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ian Leslie Campbell

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Huggins

  17. 5 out of 5

    Becky

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Peterson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cresta Riposo Books

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Beckett

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maarten De vries

  23. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nate Duriga

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelvin Rosas

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Parrett

  27. 4 out of 5

    Justin Dewell

  28. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  29. 4 out of 5

    Peter Kyhn

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Brown

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