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The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,740 ratings  ·  348 reviews
Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between the law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today?

By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship betw
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 31st 2016 by Crossway Books
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Start your review of The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters
Douglas Wilson
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Really informative.

This month’s pick is The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. That title is intriguing, but the subtitle—depending on who you are—is even more intriguing. It is Legalism, Antinomianism & Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters.

The Marrow controversy was an uproar in the early part of the 18th century in Scotland, and it was occasioned by the republication of a book written by one E.F. (probably a man named Edward Fisher) in the middle of the previous century. T
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book nourished my faith even while exposing a subtle legalistic spirit I’ve operated on as a Christian. ...more
Matthew Manchester
Took me 17 months to finish this book, but that's my fault not the book's. I'll admit, the last third of the book is not as good as the content before, but the book as a whole is the best succinct work on the gospel vs legalism & antinomianism that I know of. The book is also like a study guide and help to read "The Marrow of Modern Divinity", which you will want to read after finishing this book.

Trust me, after reading this book, you will keep it on your bookshelf close enough where you will pu
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology

What does a Scottish theological controversy from three hundred years ago have to teach believers today? A lot. And Sinclair Ferguson (perhaps my favorite living theologian) shows its relevance to the church today a his new book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance - Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters.

I am torn between giving this book three or four stars. Ferguson's handling of the Marrow controversy is interesting and informative and his exposé of the heart of
Juan R. Sanchez
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

In a day when the ongoing intramural debate about the place of the law in the life of the Christian, Sinclair Ferguson takes us back to Marrow Controversy to show us that both legalism and antinomianism share the same root - a failure to believe God's goodness (the gospel). In other words, both antinomianism and legalism misunderstand/distort the gospel. Therefore, the remedy for both is the same - understanding the gospel of grace.

Pastorally, Dr. Ferguson ca
Ben Chapman
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Historically informative, deeply biblical, and gracefully insightful, this book will never lose it’s relevance. Not while it’s sinners who Christ saves. Highly recommend.
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just fantastic (especially for pastors I think, but for anyone interested in the "sanctification debates"). Ferguson shows how subtle and deep-seated our misunderstandings of God can be and how knowing Christ corrects them. ...more
Tom F
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I highly recommend it. Makes me want to read The Marrow again.
Sarah Dodson
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
“In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in the undoing of an ancient work of Satan.”

Ferguson’s writings did not give me the tools to “do” this work, but rather delivered on the book’s namesake and showcased a lovelier, fuller Christ, whose goodness to us is given in both his grace and law, and neither given abstractly apart from Him. He teaches that Christ’s benefits are inseparable from Christ himself, and that we cannot earn what we can only enjoy by grace, in union with Hi
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
well-written and informative as well as convicting. It was good for me to read and I think I'll read it again. ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, and typical Ferguson - biblical, reformed, historical, pastoral, and experiential. Covers the history of the Marrow Controversy well and points to the theological issues raised that appear in all generations. Addresses antinomianism and legalism with biblical precision, showing both to be dangerous errors. The "medicine" for both errors is the gospel and understanding union with Christ.

Best chapters: Chapter 8 provides excellent exposition on the law and its relation in Old and N
Nathan White
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can confidently say that this is one of the top 5 books I've read in the last 10 years. With precision and pastoral care, Ferguson wades through the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation, and does so in a way that is both deep and practical.

I've read the Marrow of Modern Divinity a few times, and admittedly, nothing can replace a careful reading of that classic. But this work comes close, and it makes the key doctrines of the Marrow much more accessible.

I've read thro
David West
This book takes a slice of church history and develops theology by looking at that particular debate. There is a lot of good material in this book regarding the relationship of Law and Gospel. I'll need to go through this one again in order to grasp it all. Ferguson presented ideas which were new to me and left me thinking. Throughout the book he used several word pictures which were very helpul. Beneath all the history presented, there are nuggets to be mined.

Ethan McCarter
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
An excellent book to dive into for, not only an understanding of the Marrow Controversy of Scotland, but the relationship between law/Gospel, legalism/Antinomianism, grace/works, and assurance/doubt. Ferguson gives the reader an excellent, albeit brief, summary of the Marrowmen's position and defends their understanding of the Auchterarder Creed and the defense of the Marrow of Modern Divinity. One small area of quibble, that atleast I'd like to see, is more understanding of the other side of th ...more
Phil Griffin
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Excellent book covering the key topics of legalism, antinomianism, grace and assurance. Benefits largely from Sinclair Ferguson's thorough scholarly approach and strong pastoral insight. Superb on grace and assurance with some real helpful gems. ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
I finished the book with gratefulness for GRACE even though portions went over my head. I especially loved the prodigal son vs others son theme...
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
The "Marrow Controversy" from the Puritan era is the background for Ferguson's work on the role of the law in the life of the believer today. The first third of the book focuses largely on the original controversy. As one intentionally unfamiliar with the Puritans, I struggled with this portion of the book, and I suppose others in a similar position will struggle as I did.

The middle of the book was the best part of the book, where he focuses on the role of the law and the way that legalism and a
Glenn Crouch
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
I was a little curious as to what exactly this book was about as I don't recall ever hearing of the Marrow Controversy, but since Tim Keller was doing the forward I thought I would give it a go.

First, I was a little surprised as to how long the forward was - whilst I have encountered long forwards before, I was a little concerned that I was hearing everything of value in the Foreword - thankfully that was not the case. Whilst it did take me a little while to "get into" the story and the associat
Joe Cassada
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly the most important contemporary theological book a pastor can read today. I am indebted to Sinclair Ferguson for his bringing modern-day attention to the issues addressed long ago in "The Marrow of Modern Divinity."

Faithful pastors should do all they can to read both "The Whole Christ" and "The Marrow of Modern Divinity."
Donald Stevenson
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this book - I just wish that the author would have written in more accessible English so that it could have a wider audience. Every teacher of God's Word needs to read this and any believer would be blessed by working through it. ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A veritable trove of verity. I will carry a number of these insights for the rest of my days. A permanent contribution.
Ferguson stretches the Marrow Controversy into a book-length treatment of legalism and antinomianism. I say "stretches" (and I don't use the word negatively) because each chapter isn't exactly dedicated to a historical treatment of the controversy, but rather uses the controversy as a springboard to discuss related issues. I listened on audio, so my notes are less detailed than usual.

The book is very good to bring out the practical, pastoral issues connected to a very technical debate. Some of t
Ryan Hawkins
An enjoyable read. It was about Christ, the gospel, legalism, antinomianism, and especially Covenant Theology. I agreed with almost everything he wrote and it was interesting to learn about the Marrow controversy, but I think his lengthy Covenant Theology support for the tripartite dimension of the law is unfounded (I think Progressive Covenantalism is more accurate than Covenant Theology).

But I give it an easy 4 stars because pages 47-55 were, I think, the best pages I have read all year—possib
John Uit de Flesch
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Truly an exceptional read. I’m not even sure how to put this book into words. The Whole Christ is a nonfiction book that I highly recommend that every Christian read! I didn’t expect to love this book so much, but it was fascinating! Packed with truth and hope, it really dug deep, and took apart and explored the idea of grace. There was some history concerning Thomas Boston, the Marrow Controversy, and other theologians. There were some startling truths revealed about legalism. There were Biblic ...more
Peter Dray
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sinclair Ferguson uses a little known theological spat from 18th Century Scotland to be a launch pad for a helpful discussion that's remarkably contemporary. There is helpful material on the relationship between grace and law, repentance and the call to obedience, and how we ought to speak of the love of Christ.

I loved the early chapters especially. There was a clear emphasis on how our union with Christ means we cannot separate Christ from his blessings. I loved the section on the "in-law" rela
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was an unexpected treasure. It is a surprising combination of historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, and practical pastoral theology, using the "Marrow controversy" of the 1600's (of which I knew nothing prior to reading this book) as the basis for an incredibly insightful discussion on law and grace, legalism and antinomianism. But theological words aside, Ferguson's approach and writing were not only enjoyable, they were full of God's grace. This book will go do ...more
Jim Savastio
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very profitable and thought provoking. A wonderful exposition of God's grace in Christ! ...more
Eric Durso
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
This book will require your absolute attention. It is an academic level read. However, I urge you to make the effort for within the pages are treasures worth the labor of mining for them. This is hands down one of the most helpful, informative, and necessary books of my Christian life thus far.
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Sinclair B. Ferguson is Associate Preacher at St Peter's Free Church in Dundee and also Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, South Carolina and prior to that, he was minister of St. George's-Tron Church in Glasgow. ...more

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“The benefits of the gospel are in Christ. They do not exist apart from him. They are ours only in him. They cannot be abstracted from him as if we ourselves could possess them independently of him.” 3 likes
“The subtle danger here should be obvious: if we speak of the cross of Christ as the cause of the love of the Father, we imply that behind the cross and apart from it he may not actually love us at all. He needs to be “paid” a ransom price in order to love us.” 2 likes
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