Presbyterians of the Past

Saint Peter’s Principles,
Peter A. Lillback

It is encouraging to find out that other writers have trouble writing. Peter A. Lillback required over ten years to compose Saint Peter’s Principles, P&R, 2019. The book is a leadership-devotional training manual developed from Scripture, particularly from the experiences of the disciple Peter. The author proposes that users of his book read one of the 128 sections every three days for a year (xvii). The sections are not long (3 to 5 pages); each begins with brief Scripture texts that are used to explain leadership principles with anecdotes, personal experiences, and ideas from others to encourage those who want to learn to lead. At the end of the sections are “Spiritual Exercises” that include questions, lists, thoughts, and meditations. To bring it all together Dr. Lillback summarizes his principles in a table, 491-502, for a quick reminder of both the content and Scripture from which a principle was drawn. I could identify with one of the author’s experiences related in “A Providential Prologue for St. Peter’s Principles.” In my case, I found out after my vehicle broke down on a busy Interstate that the previous week someone’s car was disabled on the same route and as he waited for help, thieves shot and killed him. Count your blessings Dr. Lillback.

Now, to move on to the title of the book. On page 18 the author defends his titling Peter a “Saint” pointing out it distinguishes Peter from Peter Laurence, author of The Peter Principle, 1969. I can see Dr. Lillback’s point, but my question is, why not use instead the biblical term “Apostle”? There were only a handful of apostles with each uniquely charged to distribute the gospel, make disciples, build the first-century church, and in some cases be the lungs through which God breathed his inscripturated Word. As Dr. Lillback notes, all Christians are saints, but the uniqueness of the apostles, their supernatural gifts, and temporary administration is diminished rather than strengthened by the use of “Saint.” Peter said of himself that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet 1:1), and his fellow apostle, Paul, said he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” (2 Tim 1:1). Apostles were made by the will of God; Saints are made by the will of man.

Despite my concern about terminology, it is hoped those seeking help regarding leadership principles from Scripture have not been deterred from reading Saint Peter’s Principles. The book is an obvious labor of love, it is Bible based, and it has numerous anecdotes that are poignant, contemplative, and funny, and readers will find it beneficial for learning leadership principles. [A PDF review copy was provided by P&R.]


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