April 2012


HELP!: If you see anything that you think would fit into one of these categories then email it to me @ churst555@gmail.com and I will add it to next weeks list and cite you as the referral if I didn’t see it first!

REVIEWS:

Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension by Julie Canlis is reviewed by Marc Cortez.

God and the Cosmos: Divine Activity in Space, Time and History by Hal Poe and Jimmy Davis is reviewed by RJS at Jesus Creed.

Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton by Andrew Hoffecker is reviewed by Jeff Straub at CredoMag.com.

The Envy of Eve by Melissa Kruger is reviewed by The Upward Call.

And Man Created God: Is God a Human Invention? by Robert Banks is reviewed by Dave Jenkins at Servants of Grace.

How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lense by Michael Williams is reviewed by Michael F. Bird.

Jesus Interrupted by Bart Ehrman is reviewed by Nick Peters, son-in-law of Mike Liconia who wrote The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.

Loving Well (Even If You Haven’t Been) by William Smith is reviewed by Herb Hunter.

Genesis for Normal People by Peter Enns & Jared Byas is reviewed at Jesus Creed by RJS.

The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns is helpfully reviewed, separately, by James K.A. Smith and C. John Collins. Daniel Kirk responds to Smith’s review and Enns had promised to chime in.

Out of the Depths: Psalm 51 by Martin Lloyd-Jones is reviewed by Aaron Armstrong.

Grown in Grace by Sinclair Ferguson is reviewed by Mark Tubbs at Discerning Reader.

A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars by Jonathan Merritt is reviewed by Dan Darling at Servants of Grace.

INTERVIEWS:

Eerdmans blog has a One, Two part interview with author Gareth Lee Cockerill about his new/updated commentary The Epistle to the Hebrews in the NICNT series.

Andrew Hoffecker discusses his recent book Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton.

ByFaith Magazine interviews C. John Collins, author of Did Adam & Eve Really Exist?, about The Case For Adam & Eve.

Aaron Armstrong interviews Staci Eastin about her book The Organized Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Conquering Chaos.

AUTHOR HIGHLIGHTS:

Jonathan Lehman discusses church discipline from his new book Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus.

Sam Storms discusses John Pipers book The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God.

Michael Liconia discusses Matthew’s Math and His Genealogy of Jesus.

BOOKS & RESOURCES TO NOTE:

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has published a book Zeal for Godliness: Devotional Meditations from Calvin’s Institutes by various authors.

At TGC Kathleen Nielsen discusses four book on women by women and why you should read them.

Justin Taylor highlights a new book out on Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics titled Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader.

…….And Just Because it Interests Me:

At the Bible Mesh blog, Matt Crawford answers the question, “Why do we use the word ‘trinity’ when it doesn’t show up in the Bible?

Tim Challies discusses On Books and True Ownership.

Joe Carter answers the question, “Are Mormons Christians?

Andrew Wilson answers the question, “What’s Wrong with Inerrancy?

Tim Challies and David Murray discuss Thinking About Seminary.

Justin Taylor analyzes Smith and Collins reviews of Peter Enns new book the Evolution of Adam (See reviews above).

My wife and I are adopting from China. There are two things we need. First, prayer. This is not an easy road and it brings with it it’s own kind of stresses and joys. We need prayer for perseverance, growth in faith, emotional stability and spiritual strength among other things. We need daily prayer from as many people as possible.

Second, if you know anything about international adoption then you know its expensive. In fact, more expensive than most people can afford which is why most people who do it have to raise money….lots of money. While $30k is a lot of money and $10, $20, $50 or $100 here and there seems like it barely makes a dent, it helps more than a person might think because if a few hundred people gave a little, well, that makes a lot of money. Combine that with grants and well, we can get there. Grants are nice but they will not cover it all and we don’t want to take more than we need from them. So, we are asking for help from friends and family.

So here is my wife Katie, because she can do it better than I can, presenting our adoption fundraiser:

I’m no good at this part. Let’s call it “the asking.” It has been ingrained in me not to ask. When all my little friends were fundraising for sports or school my family opted not to get involved. We bought dozens of Girl Scout Cookies and gave to Save the Whales but we never asked for ourselves. It just wasn’t done. It somehow became a matter of personal pride as if I didn’t need to ask for help. I wouldn’t ask for help. I have no problem giving to others, but to be completely, 100% honest it’s not something I ever want to do.

I even cringe a little every time I go out with my daughter and her “Fly Kids” to let them ask for donations. On the one hand I am so, so proud of this little girl who cried every time she had to sing in a group at church, as she whispers her three short sentences at every door that opens. Tears form just thinking about what she has done for us already. On the other hand my own pride makes me want to huddle in the car and let her do it on her own. I don’t want anyone to see my face, to know my desperate need, to know I can’t do this alone. I can’t.

But that is the truth, I can’t do this alone. We can’t do this alone. There is a little boy who will die if we fail in this. That responsibility weighs so heavily on our hearts. Perhaps someone else will come along and adopt him, perhaps not. Maybe he would find love in another mother’s arms, maybe not. But this mom is fighting so that those chances won’t ever have to occur. That if should no longer be a part of his life.

You can read the rest here where you can also make a donation if you are able.

Last words. If you knew you were going to die in a month, a week or a day what would you do? Where would you go? Who would you spend all of your time with? What would you say to them? What would be your last words to the friends and family you love?

Since none of us know when we will die we are to steward our time until death meets us. Jesus knew when He would die. He knew the end of His earthly life was soon and He redeemed the time and His last words. In John 13-17 we are given a front row seat to reading the last words that Jesus spoke to His disciples. The Last Word: Jesus’ Teaching in the Upper Room by Wallace Benn explores these last words of Jesus in the Upper Room.

There are two main themes that Benn draws out of these five chapters. The first is love. Dripping from these final words of Jesus to His disciples is His unconditional love for them. Let’s be honest, these guys are not the easiest to love! But neither are we. Beginning with the washing of the disciples feet, Jesus not only speaks words of love to His disciples but shows them pictures of His love for them. These loving acts mean many things and one of them is to model for them how they are to love fellow Christians and the world. Throughout these five chapters Jesus loves them in their doubts, weaknesses and blindness to the truth He is giving them as His last words.

Closely tied to the theme of love is, believe it or not, death. Though Christ both spoke love and demonstrated love while He was in the presence of the disciples, His death was to be the ultimate act of love to them and the whole world. His death was loving. And lovingly, He did what He could to prepare them for it. He comforted them with the promise that, though they could not come with Him now, He would return for them. He encouraged them with the promise of sending the Holy Spirit as a comforter who would lead them into the truth and understanding of all He taught them.

In addition to much encouragement, Jesus also warned the disciples. He warned them that if they did not abide in Him they would be cut off like useless branches from a tree. Tied with this warning to produce fruit that accords with abiding with Christ, Jesus warns them about living in the world until He returns. The disciples saw the persecution Jesus faced and they faced it themselves. But they would continue to face it while He was gone.

Following these warnings, Jesus closes His words for the disciples with a prayer for them. These are perhaps some of the most powerful words of Christ for His children. In this prayer He looks to His impending death, acknowledges the Father in everything, asks for protection of His followers and prays that the world of believers would be unified together as with the unity that He shares with the Father. There could be no more fitting last words.

The Last Word is an easy and delightful book to read. Benn does a great job of drawing the reader into the story, helping us to see ourselves in the disciples and in turn, points us to the comforting last words of Jesus as the source of life. This book would be  a great devotional and with the study questions in the back it would make for a helpful Bible study guide for a small group. This is the kind of book every Christian can benefit from as they dive into the final words of Jesus.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review. The views expressed in this review are my own.

To some the mere mention of the end times and eschatology turns their stomachs. To others, it is a hot button issue that people will stake their lives on and the faith of others against. Still others cannot even clearly articulate their position on the rapture, millennium or the new heaven and earth. After all, once Christ returns, what will it matter then what we think now?

But these kinds of reactions and thoughts, though at times understandable, should not characterize the Christian. After all, since the beginning of time, with the fall of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3, God’s people have been looking to the end. From Genesis to Revelation, there is a looking to the end and fulfilling of the end throughout Scripture. Eschatology is considered by many theologians to be a unifying theological discipline as it brings together the hopes and expectations of God’s people in a broken world.

40 Questions About the End Times is not your typical book on eschatology. Most books on the end times are intentionally written seeking to present the view of the writer. So, the eschatological view of the writer may be on the cover of the book such as premillennialism, amillennialism or postmillennialism. No doubt there is value to these kinds of books because the author believes their position is what Scripture teaches. In serving the author, they also serve the reader.40 Questions About the End Times is different. Though the author does have his own eschatological position, he does not clearly state it anywhere in the book. Schnabel’s goal is to read “the relevant texts of the Old and New Testaments afresh” (p. 11). So this book is an exegetical, historical, grammatical and linguistical examination of the relevant texts of Scripture that answer the 40 questions Schnabel seeks to answer.

There are five basic principles of interpretation that Schnabel follows. First, though both testaments are the word of God, it is the New Testament that receives the primary voice in the interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies. “The prophecies of the Old Testament must be integrated into the framework of New Testament prophecy. While the Old Testament remains the revealed word of God, it is the New Testament that informs Christians how to read the Old Testament” (p. 11). The New Testament is the churches guide for interpreting the Old Testament. Second, because, though Jesus said that his return was imminent, Jesus said many times that no one knows the day or hour when Jesus would return and that His return would be like a thief in the night, we are to steer clear of date setting. Third, that “the early Christians believed the end times began with the coming of Jesus, in particular with his death and resurrection” we need to take this seriously by allowing it to inform our understanding of end time events. Fourth, because the first century Christians believed that Jesus might return in their lifetime, “this means that the apostles interpreted biblical prophecy concerning the end times as either fulfilled or as about to be fulfilled in the near future” (p.12). Fifth, as faithful interpreters of Scripture we need to interpret prophetic texts the same way we would any other text of Scripture. We need to take into account the genre of the book, the historical, cultural, and literary background as well and the context of the texts and intent of the author. We need to let the text tell us what it is intending to say, whether literally, figuratively or symbolically, instead of telling the text what we want it to say just so it fits our presuppositions of the end times.

40 Questions About the End Times is an even handed approach to interpreting many biblical texts concerning the end times. Because of Schnabel’s first interpretive principle (see above), the New Testament is given the primary voice in answering the questions. However, in answering every question, the Old Testament texts that give birth to the New Testament discussion are brought into the conversation. Schnabel rightly holds to the already-not-yet tension of eschatology in Scripture. The predominate Old Testament text from which Schnabel sees most of the New Testament referring to eschatologically is Daniel 7-12. There is a lot of discussion given to Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation.

One of the guiding beliefs Schnabel holds to is that the coming of Jesus, namely the resurrection, inaugurates the beginning of the end times (see question 1). Thus, the end times have already begun in Christ. The eleven signs of the end times (see question 3) are to be understood as occurring between the first and second coming of Christ (see question 4). This leads to the belief that all of the NT texts that refer to the return of Christ are speaking of the same event, though they mention different aspects, and thus there is no secret rapture of the church before a seven year tribulation (see question 10) and further, Christians will live during (are living in now) the tribulation as discussed in Dan. 12-13, Matt. 24, 1 Thess. 4-5 and Rev. 1, 4, 7 and 12 (see question 8). Many other issues are discussed such as the future of Israel, the meaning of the millennium, the relationship between the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments of Rev. 6-16, many of the events in Revelation and the day of judgment.

I applaud what Schnabel has done here and readers will find it very helpful. If you are unsure of where you are with a number of end times issues, this book is for you. If you are in transition between eschatological views, this book is for you. If you are seeking a fresh (as much as a work can be) approach to the end times passages in the New Testament that does not have a certain eschatological position as its agenda, this book is for you. If you are firm in your conviction about your eschatology, this book is still for you. In short, this book is for every laymen, pastor, student and teacher who wants to gain a better grasp on the end times passages of the Bible.

40 Questions About the End Times is scholarly in research, timely, exegetically based, lucid in presentation and respectful to various end times positions. Schnabel unashamedly affirms what Scripture is clear on, leaves room for disagreement where it is not and does not tread where Scripture does not allow.

NOTE: I received this book for free to review for Kregel and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

HELP!: If you see anything that you think would fit into one of these categories then email it to me @ churst555@gmail.com and I will add it to next weeks list and cite you as the referral if I didn’t see it first!

REVIEWS:

The Advent of Evangelicalism Ed. by Kenneth Stewart & Michael Haykin is reviewed at Sharperiron.org.

The Beginning and End of Wisdom by Douglas O’Donnell is reviewed by Kevin Fiske.

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp is reviewed by Mark Tubbs.

Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris is reviewed by Jared at Christians in Context.

Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation ed. by Geisler & Roach is reviewed by Dave Jenkins at Servants of Grace.

Chapter 10 of Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll is critiqued by Brad Littlejohn at The Calvinist International.com.

Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics Ed. by Copan & Craig is reviewed by David Dewberry.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson is reviewed by Jason Seville.

Isaiah By the Day by Alec Motyer is reviewed by Kevin Fiske.

Retrieving Doctrine: Essay’s in Reformed Theology by Oliver Crisp is reviewed by Marc Cortez.

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller is reviewed by Dave Jenkins at Servants of Grace.

INTERVIEWS:

Kenneth Stewart is interviewed by Credo Mag about whether Calvinism is anti-missions. Stewart is the author of Ten Myths About Calvinism.

Gerald Bray is interviewed again about his book God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.

David Wells discusses his book Returning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary and Supernatural.

Lydia Brownback is interviewed by Justin Taylor about her book A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything.

Matt Chandler interviews Jonathan Dodson about his new book Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Matt Smethurst interviews Liao Yiwu about his book God Is Red: The Secret Story of Hos Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China.

Trevin Wax interviews Jared C. Wilson about his forthcoming book Seven Daily Sins.

Nathan Bingham interviews Justin Taylor author of the blog Between Two Worlds.

AUTHOR HIGHLIGHTS:

Mark Talbot describes what it means to be a Christian philosopher.

Phil Ryken discusses the background to his recent book Loving the Way Jesus Loves.

BOOKS & RESOURCES TO NOTE:

Brian Croft highlights Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad in light of Platt’s message at T4G.

Paul Tautges recommends the most recent book in the Living in a Fallen World series titled HELP! I Want to Change by Dr. Jim Newheiser.

Justin Taylor highlights a new book on the Reformation titled The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence and Rupture.

Paul Tautges recommends a new book Help! I’m Living with Terminal Illness.

Louis McBride introduces us to Jerry Walls’ most recent book Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation. Walls already has a book on heaven and hell.

Louis McBride overviews The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff which tackles 17 of the most misused verses in the Bible.

Justin Taylor shares the recommendation he wrote for the new B&H book by Danny Akin titled 10 Who Changed the World.

…….And Just Because it Interests Me:

James Hamilton Jr. answers two questions concerning Bible translations: What Makes a Translation Accurate? and Should I Consider Using Multiple Translations or Just One?

Marc Cortez answers the question, “Do Seminary Grads Burn Out Quickly?

Electronic Murder? First Person Shooter Video Games.

Three Views on How Often a Church Should Celebrate The Lord’s Supper.

“The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also” (p. 17)

It is with these timeless words that Martin Lloyd-Jones begins Preaching & Preachers which is one of the most classic books on preaching. Lloyd-Jones faithfully ministered to the congregation at Westminster Chapel in London for over thirty years and the thousands of sermons he preached there echo throughout the Christian world even today. Originally given as a series of lectures to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary, Preaching & Preachers is a clarion call for ministers of the gospel to take their task of preaching seriously.

If the most urgent need in the Christian church is true preaching then “the primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God” (p. 27). But the urgency Lloyd-Jones speaks to is not just the timeless need for preaching the truth of Scripture. Lloyd-Jones believed that preaching in the church was waining:

While men believed in the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God and spoke on the basis of that authority you had great preaching. But as belief in the great doctrines of the Bible began to go out, and sermons were replaced by ethical addresses and homolies, and moral uplift and socio-political talk, it is not surprising that preaching declined. (p. 21)

For Lloyd-Jones, there was an untie-able knot joining belief in Scripture as the authoritative Word of God and truly great authoritative preaching. If one does not accept the authority of Scripture then how can one preach the words it contains with any kind of authority? If it merely offers some words of wisdom, moral guidance or examples to follow then it stands as an equal next to every other book out there that vies for our attention as it seeks to do the same. But, if Scripture is from God and has the message of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ then it carries with it and in it an authority that is unrivaled by any other book. It is the belief in this authority that needs to drive the words of the preacher.

With the 40th anniversary edition of Preaching & Preachers there are a few additions to enhance the readability and impact of the book. First, subheadings have been added throughout in order to follow the flow and change of ideas and subjects within each chapter. Second, the end of each chapter has questions to hep reflect on the content of the chapter. Third, sprinkled throughout the book are a number of contemporary preachers reflections on the impact of Llyod-Jones book and preaching on their own preaching ministries. Readers will find that these inserts will help to make the content of the book more palatable (as some of it can be hard to swallow) and enable you to be more appreciative of Lloyd-Jones style.

I have come upon reading this book at the age of thirty and I have to admit that had I read this book while in college or seminary I might have passed much of it off as irrelevant, stuffy, offensive, wordy and I might not have bothered to finish it. This is a book that every young preacher can benefit from reading but I am not sure they could appreciate it. Lloyd-Jones is very opinionated and only seems to see areas as grey where he is in the grey about them. Most everything else he comments on is black and white – period. His critique of the state of preaching of his day is eerily similar to that of our own today. He would never debate, believed you should always wear a black robe while preaching, decried the public testimonies of the famous, was skeptical of too much music in the church,  felt tape-recording was an abomination, was put off by books on method, was ardently against altar calls and was not in favor of lay preaching.

Though there is much in the book some readers will have a hard time stomaching, those who finish the book will be greatly rewarded. This is a chance to sit a the feet of one of the Christian churches greatest preachers and learn. Preaching & Preachers is full of biblical foundations for preaching, personal examples, wisdom and advice. For all of the hard to swallow pills in this book there are many more spoons full of sugar to help them go down that make the book well worth the time to read.

I recommend Preaching & Preachers to all preachers. Many preachers should probably read it a few years out of school and into ministry. More mature students could handle the book in school and would be all the better for it. There is a reason this book is a classic and I trust it will serve generations of preachers to come.

NOTE: I received this book from Zondervan for free to review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the opinions expressed are my own.

If there are two things that are in ample supply they are skeptics towards the Christian faith and apologetic books that respond to their objections. There are many good apologetic books available  that respond to the many objections to the Christian faith and do so at many levels. Some are simple, some are more complex and all have their place.

Meet the Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations by Bill Foster is another apologetics book but it is a different kind of apologetic book. In this book Foster has distilled a lot of information, argumentation and truth down into 4 categories of skeptics with easy to understand terminology and explanation.

The foundation of the book, and the first thing that makes this book stand out, rests on helpfully categorizing all skeptics into four groups: spiritual, moral, scientific and biblical. The rational for these four groups is that “a person’s total worldview consists of how he sees the world in three broad categories,” the fourth of which is biblical (p. 33). In the course of the conversation, if the believer can quickly identify the category in which the skeptics objections lies then they will have accomplished the first step in correctly responding to the objection.

Once the objection has been categorized there are a few more steps in the process of responding to the skeptics objection(s). One big step in the task of identifying the root idea of the skeptics objection. Using the analogy of a tree or plant, a skeptics objection often has a root idea that produces their objection. This is often a false premise or misunderstanding about the truth and the Christians actual beliefs. Interestingly enough, many times these root ideas are personal and have developed as the result of the loss of a loved one or the skeptic having gone through a trying time in their life. These experiences often shape how an unbeliever thinks about God, the world and reality. Christians should take care as the unearth these root ideas so as not to be insensitive.

Moving from the category to the root idea, Foster finally deals with certain words that are frequently used by the skeptic in an attempt to dismantle the Christian faith. Foster labels these as clarifying words. It is important to know and identify these words in a conversation because often times the skeptic and the Christian have different definitions of these words. One needs to clarify what they mean in order to make sure both parties are on the same page and to make sure that the skeptic is using the right words and definitions.  Likewise, it is very important for the Christian to make sure they are using the right words and definitions as well. In analyzing these red-flag words, Foster explains how the skeptic typically defines them so the believer can hear the skeptic right. If necessary, the Christian can correct wrong uses of these words and through this help the skeptic see the fault in their own objection. One classic example of a word that is often misused is the word tolerant or tolerance (see pg. 75).

Another aspect in using the right words is making sure the Christian does not use words the skeptic does not know. Words like “born again” and “inspired” need to be carefully used and should not be used without explanation or definition. We live in a post-Christian era where many unbelievers have never seen a Bible let alone have any basic knowledge of it content. Carefully defining terms and using more appropriate terms is wise.

For some one who has read a lot of apologetics books, I find this book to be very helpful. The apologetic arguments and lines of defense in this book are not necessarily new. What Meet the Skeptic does that very few apologetics books do is take those tried and true responses and put them into real life scenarios so believers can see how to use them when the rubber meets the road. This book walks you through the though process of the skeptic and their objections and helps you to see them for what they are at a level that is helpful to Christians who are just getting into apologetics and more seasoned veterans. This process of identifying the objections category, root idea and then working through the red-flag words is simply brilliant and a method that other apologetics books need to follow.

Accompanying this book is the Meet the Skeptic Workbook. This provides a great opportunity to work through this book with other believers in a safe environment in order to develop comprehension of the material and test the method in order to hone your communication skills. This is great for small groups of all ages and levels of apologetics skills.

I recommend Meet the Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations to anyone who wants to grow in their ability to accurately defend the Christian faith.

NOTE: I received this book free from the publisher through New Leaf Publishing Group Book review program on CreationConversations.com. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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