Do You Believe? 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life, Paul David Tripp. Wheaton: Crossway, 2021. Hardcover, 478 pages.
J. Gresham Machen, one of the founders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, once wrote: “If our doctrine be true, and our lives be wrong, how terrible is our sin!” In this book, Paul Tripp is addressing this “dangerous dichotomy.” It so often happens that there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we live each day.
Paul Tripp hardly needs an introduction. He’s the author of numerous books and articles. He’s one of the main figures associated with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation in Philadelphia. He’s renowned for his biblical wisdom and superlative communication skills, traits well-evidenced in his latest offering.
In Do You Believe? Tripp surveys twelve key Bible teachings and explains how they ought to impact our lives. These are the twelve doctrines covered:
- Holiness of God
- God’s sovereignty
- God’s omnipotence
- Image of God in man
- Perseverance and glorification of the saints
As you can tell, this isn’t a comprehensive systematic theology text. But at nearly 500 pages, it gives the reader plenty to chew on with just these twelve teachings.
Every doctrine in the book is covered in two chapters. The idea is that the doctrine is explained in the first chapter and then applied in the second. However, readers will find that the “doctrinal” chapters are also full of applications to life. We benefit from the fact that Tripp just can’t help himself.
Each doctrinal chapter begins with the author’s paraphrase of a relevant section of the Westminster Confession of Faith. What follows in each chapter, both doctrinal and practical, is consistent not only with the Westminster Confession, but also the Three Forms of Unity. In other words, this is a book containing Reformed theology. That said, regrettably some things are left out or minimized. For example, in his paraphrase of the Westminster Confession on creation, Tripp leaves out “in the space of six days.” Why? I can see several ways that this aspect of the Bible’s teaching on creation might impact our lives. When we teach the doctrine of justification, it’s important to stress its legal character. Justification pictures a courtroom proceeding. While Tripp defines justification as God’s declaration that we are righteous in Christ, the legal character of justification is just barely there. Again, I can think of several ways that understanding its legal character can be transformative for us daily.
Overall, however, this was a wonderful book. The writing is felicitous, the theology beautiful, and the applications thoughtful. Let me tell you how I’ve used this book already and how I plan to use it in the near future. On page 83, there’s a powerful section about how God’s attributes confront and expose us for who we are in ourselves. That section inspired a prayer of confession I used recently in a morning worship service. I keep a file on my computer of sermon illustrations and ideas – Tripp’s book gave me several new ones. Like many consistories, ours goes through a book regularly. When we’re done our current one, I’ll be proposing Do You Believe? as the next. I’ll also be using it in the regular leadership training we do in our church. To sum it up, I’m going to be sharing it with as many people as I can. It might really help bridge that deadly gap between creed and conduct.
 Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1923), 48.
Originally published in Clarion 71.25 (2022 Year-end Issue).