Book Reviews

Book Review: “John Newton on the Christian Life” by Tony Reinke

newton-reinkeNewton on the Christian Life presents the theology of John Newton (more on that later) in light of Christian living. Central to Newton’s theology is the notion that “to live is Christ.” We as Christians are to continually rely upon Christ in all things.

The book has only parts of Newton’s biographical information found throughout the various chapters, but there is enough there to get a picture of the mighty fall the man had and the depths from which God plucked him. Here is the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” and who was friend of such prominent persons as William Wilberforce, yet who had worked on a slave ship and taken place in the vulgarities thereof. It is truly a story of grace, but Reinke emphasizes throughout the book Newton’s own commitment to “to live is Christ.”

The concept of living as Christ or “being Christ” is central to the book, which highlights again and again. Newton’s belief in, description of, and application of this concept are each drawn out in detail. Admittedly, this emphasis became a little overmuch by the end of the book as it seemed some themes were touched on over and over. However, there are many other insightful points throughout the book which are intertwined with Newton’s emphasis.

For example, the chapter on “Christian blemishes” utilizes examples of how we might live our life as Christians in ways which are largely commendable, but which lend themselves to certain sins. Another chapter highlights the effects of indwelling sin from Newton’s perspective (himself a Calvinist) and applies this to the Christian life. The chapters on spiritual weariness and battling insecurity are extremely pastoral and applicable in their content and tone and, I think highly valuable. Yet another deeply insightful section was chapter 9, which speaks about how trials in our lives can be used as spiritual discipline. Finally, the section on “Victory Over Mr. Self” that spoke of theological controversies had profound insights into how we should treat others with whom we disagree. I should note that I’m a Lutheran and at no point felt that I was not getting value for my time out of this book, despite Newton’s own strong Calvinism. I would say that anyone could benefit hugely from these chapters.

There is a wealth of firsthand quotations from Newton himself in the book, which makes it well worth engaging for that purpose alone. The pastoral tone and care that Newton had shines through in these quotations and Reinke himself does an excellent job summarizing points in a way that lends itself to the same tone as the man about whom he is writing.

One critique may be my own obtuseness coming through, but I think it’s worth mentioning. When I first got the book I saw some guy with a wig on the cover and thought–reasonably enough, I think–that “Newton” probably referred to Isaac Newton. It wasn’t long into the book before I was disillusioned, but I think that although it might make sense to leave books in the series consistent, given that not everyone may immediately think of John Newton instead of Isaac Newton, it might have been a better choice to include first names across the board. I asked a few friends who they thought the book was about based on the cover or title and every single one said Isaac Newton. It’s not a substantial critique, but I think it was worth a mention.

Another criticism I have is that there is virtually no use of women as examples in the discussions. Much of this is because Newton himself did not use women as examples in his letters and Reinke worked closely with Newton’s own writings. However, it would have been nice to have some counter-balancing examples to show that women struggle with the same problems. Here and there this is brought out in a letter, but it is very rare and noticeably so.

Newton on the Christian Life is an excellent read worthy of a thorough study. The examples he used can be applied in all kinds of pastoral contexts, and the emphasis on life in Christ is commendable. Moreover, the last several chapters are completely full of deeply impactful and applicable insights into the Christian life. The book comes highly recommended.

The Good

+Great insight into the pastoral theology of John Newton
+Extensive quotes from the letters of Newton
+Filled with insights

The Bad

-Sometimes repetitive
-Title could stand to be clearer
-Almost every single generic person used as an example is masculine

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.


Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman– I review another book in this series, this one focusing on Martin Luther.

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)


Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2015).



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.


About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


11 thoughts on “Book Review: “John Newton on the Christian Life” by Tony Reinke

  1. Thanks for the review. Looks interesting.

    Posted by Anthony Baker | July 22, 2015, 7:54 AM
  2. Wow I never even noticed before that the cover never clarified it was John Newton. I suppose I recognized the series’ cover design was about Reformed figures.

    Posted by SLIMJIM | July 24, 2015, 12:57 AM


  1. Pingback: Sunday Quote!- We Influence Toward… or Away From Christ | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - August 30, 2015

  2. Pingback: Sunday Quote!- On Theological Controversies from John Newton | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - September 20, 2015

  3. Pingback: 2015: The Year’s Best Books, My Reading, Blogs, and More! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - January 27, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,865 other subscribers


Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
%d bloggers like this: