Biblical Theological Intro to OT and NT Ed. by Pelt and Kruger

Christ. Kingdom. Unity. These three words summarize the Christian worldview regarding the message of Scripture. Christ is the central figure of Scripture who accomplished redemption and to whom the Old and New Testaments point to. The kingdom is the “thematic framework” in which Christ the redeemer operates and to which every other theme of the Bible is tied to. Unity describes how Christ and kingdom are presented from Genesis to Revelation. Rather than each book standing on its own, disjointed from the others, and Christ and kingdom being haphazardly presented in Scripture, each theme is coherently and consistently presented in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

It is around these three themes that A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised and A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized have been written (Crossway, 2016). These two books are the product of professors, past and present, at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi and are edited by Miles V. Van Pelt (OT) and Michael J. Kruger (NT).

In short, these two volumes provide lay Christians, seminary students, and pastors with possibly the best biblical and theological introduction to all 66 books of the Bible from a decidedly Reformed perspective. There are several reasons why these books ought to be on your shelf.

First, these books accomplish the goal of presenting the overall biblical messages of Christ and his kingdom through the unity of Scripture. The authors do not take the higher critical road by fragmenting and juxtaposing the books of the Bible to each other. Rather, they see Scripture, as it presents itself; a unified whole with each book contributing to the overall themes, namely, Christ and kingdom. There is unity in the diversity. As Miles Van Pelt states in the preface to the Old Testament volume

Our goal is not to dismantle the Scriptures into as many unrelated parts as possible but rather to show how the vast, eclectic diversity of the Scriptures has been woven together by a single, divine author over the course of a millennium as the covenantal testimony to the person and word of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit according to the eternal decree of God the Father. (13, BTIOT).

Michael J. Kruger says as much in his introduction to the New Testament volume

Because God is the ultimate author of the New Testament writings, the distinctive theologies of individual books and the overall theology of the New Testament are fully harmonious. (23, BTINT)

Second, tying the themes of Christ and unity together, these books focus mainly (though not to the exclusion of traditional systematic theology categories) on the redemptive-historical nature of Scripture. If there were no unity to the books of the Bible we would be hard pressed to find overarching themes and a redemptive-historical focus might be impossible to argue. Much like reading the Bible straight through itself, reading these two volumes straight through will give the reader an amazing grasp on every book of the Bible in terms of its overall content, biblical context, and theological focus. If you need to read another book in order to be convinced of the redemptive-historical narrative of Scripture then this is one to get.

Third, tied to the second feature, each book is presented in its biblical-theological context. While some contributors do more or less than others on which aspect they focus more on, each chapter discusses how each book of the Bible fits into the overall message of Scripture (biblical) and what each book of the Bible uniquely contributes theologically (theological). This combination gives the reader a more balanced and broad understanding of each book of the Bible.

Fourth, as it relates to the Old Testament, they have taken the position to present the books in the order as they appear in final form in the Hebrew Bible. Van Pelt takes a few pages to discuss the history and rational for the varied ways the OT books have been ordered. Many Christians are not aware that there is more than one way the books of the Old Testament have been ordered depending on the text being used. In his chapter The Twelve, Daniel C. Timmer discusses the varied ways in which the minor prophets have been ordered. For some very enlightening discussion on why Proverbs, Ruth, and Song of Songs are in that order see Van Pelt’s chapter Song of Songs (419-20).

Finally, these books are highly accessible to the average Christian who knows their Bible fairly well and provide great content for pastors and teachers to help their congregations go deep into the text. Though the contributors are scholars, most of whom are ordained ministers and many of whom have pastoral experience, their scholarly experience has not prohibited them from producing a highly readable and accessible text. Their diversity of education and ministry experience is brought into these books and makes them that much better. This will probably be the standard biblical-theological introduction to the Bible from a Reformed perspective (or from any perspective for that matter) for years to come.

I cannot recommend A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament and A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament enough. These are solid, conservative, theological, biblical, and informed books that will help Christians better understand the broader message(s) of the Bible (Christ, kingdom, unity) as well as the many sub themes that play out in the text.

These are two books that should be standard texts for pastors and teachers and any Christian who desires to know the Bible better.

I received this book for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Habits for Our Holiness by Philip NationGenerations of Christians have rightly championed the practice of spiritual disciplines. Whether it be prayer, Bible reading, singing, worship or fasting, Scripture calls us to practice these things and to grow in our practice of them. They are the building blocks of the Christian life and means through which we grow in our walk with the Lord in Christ-likeness.

There are several classic works on the spiritual disciplines which have served Christians for decades and will continue to do so. Building on these works, pastor, teacher, and author Philip Nation has written Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out (Moody, 2016).

Habits for Our Holiness is written in a way so as to show us what the spiritual disciplines are, how they are to be practiced individually and in community, and how they send us out into the world. While Nation does not necessarily break new ground in explaining the disciplines, he does provide the reader with a fresh look at them and seeks to broaden our view of what constitutes as a discipline and the contexts in which we are to practice them.

Nation roots all of the disciplines in love. “Love is the central discipline of the Christian life (13),” and as such “love is what propels habitual holiness and the desire to follow God into the world for His redeeming mission. Internal transformation (founded in our love for Christ) manifests itself in external action (Bible reading, fellowship, prayer, serving, giving, etc.) (25).” If the whole law can be summed up in the commands to love God and others, and Jesus’ life is perfectly marked by that same love (whom we are to follow), then it is only fitting to see the practice of the spiritual disciplines as expressions of love; love for God and love for others.

But Nation goes further than encouraging Christians to plant these spiritual disciplines in their lives. He weaves in the challenge to practice these disciplines with the body of Christ. As the subtitle states, what grows us up ought to draw us together. So when we pray, read the Bible, worship, evangelize, serve, and lead we don’t just practice these things for their own sake or our own selves. We do them in the context of the community of the faith – the body of Christ. We love others when we practice these disciplines with others. We study the Bible ourselves but we also do it with other believers. We pray by ourselves but we also pray with other believers. On fasting in community Nation says

As believers, fasting is a practice that can greatly strengthen our relationships with one another. Rather than allowing ourselves to remain at the proverbial surface level, we must be committed to another person’s spiritual well-being to enter a fast with them. It becomes a powerful testimony to friendship and ministry to each other when you skip meals as friends, a small group, or an entire church for the purpose of crying out to God for help and comfort. (97)

Finally, the disciplines that grow us up and draw us together also send us out. We don’t just practice them for our own selves or the body of Christ but we also practice them as a way of sending us out (missional) into the world to share the love of God in Christ so that they too might share in the blessings of these disciplines once they are brought into Christ’s salvation. For example, prayer can turn missional “when you seek for God’s kingdom to reign in the hearts of those living in your community.” (79)

Seeing the practice of the spiritual disciplines, not just in the personal arena but in the communal and missional as well, roots them within the context of discipleship which contains all three spheres. If we stop at personal application then we cut our own discipleship short. We cannot grow in the fullness of Christ-likeness if we merely relegate the practice of the spiritual disciplines to the personal realm. We must practice them in personal, communal, and missional contexts.

Habits for Our Holiness is a great book on the spiritual disciplines that should be read by Christians for generations to come. It is rooted in the history of its content and accomplishes the task of broadening the scope of the subject into communal and missional applications. If you want a fresh take on the spiritual disciplines to help you grow more then this is the book to read. Nation rightly applies the practice of the spiritual disciplines within the whole context of Christian discipleship.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishers for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Psalms Vol 3 by Allen RossAllen P. Ross has concluded his three volume commentary set on the Psalms for the Kregel Exegetical Library with Volume 3 (90-150). For those who might choose to jump into the second or third volume they will need to refer to the first for introductory material to the book. The introduction of the book covers a number of issues related to the Psalms. Among other things there is a short history of the interpretation of Psalms, discussion on the various types of Psalms (praise, lament, etc.), a guide on types of literary features within the various Psalms and a short intro to the theology of the Psalms. Concluding the introduction is a brief overview of the exegetical method employed throughout the book. Ross offers a number of helpful tips and guidelines for the exegesis process.

Each chapter follows the same structure:

  1. Introduction – This is an overview of the Psalm itself touching on unique interpretive features along with a discussion of any textual variants in the footnotes.
  2. Composition and Context – This looks at the overall features of the Psalm such as the historical, theological, biblical and literary context of each individual Psalm. This prepares the reader for the next three parts.
  3. Exegetical Analysis – This includes a one line summary of the message of the Psalm and the basic outline.
  4. Commentary in Expository Form – This section comprises the bulk of each chapter and has an exegetical outline followed by detailed commentary.
  5. Message and Application – Here the message of each Psalm is summarized and contemporary and timeless application is given.

The completion of this third volume gives the interpreter over 3,000 pages of a commentary on Psalms. This is an impressive feat for a commentary on any book of the Bible, let alone Psalms. This set of commentaries seems to be well received and I trust it will be well liked and recommended by exegetes, scholars, teachers and pastors for many years to come.

This commentary is written for the pastor with the educated layman in mind as well. The only area in which it might have improved was in the theology of the Psalms as a book and as individuals but that is not the primary purpose of the book. Ross is keen on exegesis and models it well. He has a good grasp of how the Psalms speak to all of life’s experiences and how the Psalms still speak to the church today. I recommend Psalms Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 by Ross for all pastors, Bible students and laymen alike.

NOTE: I received this book from Kregel in return of a review but was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics by BartholomewWhen it comes to the field of hermeneutics there are those who rehash ideas and those who shape and create. Craig G. Bartholomew is a shaper and creator. For decades Bartholomew has been reading, writing, and speaking on hermeneutics. Some of his most notable books along these lines have been The Drama of Scripture (2nd Ed.) and the now nine volume Scripture and Hermeneutics Serieswith another on the way.

Bartholomew has recently written two new books on hermeneutics one of which is Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture (Baker Academic, 2016). Those familiar with the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series will recognize some echoes of those works (albeit much more condensed) as well as those of his other works.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is a condensed version of Bartholomew’s lifetime work on hermeneutics. While Bartholomew is a shaper of the field, this book is more of an overview of the field itself as Bartholomew has studied it. He is giving the reader a look at various aspects of the field and how they have been developed over the life of the church. This is not a ground level introduction on the basics of hermeneutics but an academic introduction to the more broad issues at hand.

There are several features of this work which rise above and tie the book together. First, Bartholomew believes that hermeneutics must be christocentric (as the writers of Scripture were) and trinitrian (since the Bible is about God). Christ is the central person to which Scripture points and Christ operates and exists within the trinity. We must get Jesus and the trinity at the center of the Bible and our understanding of it in order to rightly interpret Scripture (8).

Second, Bartholomew places a high priority on reading and interpreting Scripture in the context of the church. It is through a historical theological lens that issues like biblical theology and the relationship between philosophy and Scripture are discussed. The church has a primary role in the interpretation of Scripture and places like the academy/scholarship are to submit themselves to it (468-74).

Third, as the subtitle states, this is a book about hearing God in Scripture. Bartholomew builds his theology of hearing Scripture on the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear Oh Israel!” This is a call to listen to the words of God. God is addressing his people and his people must hear! To Bartholomew, this is a necessary spiritual discipline that all interpreters of the Bible must practice.

Finally, this is a book that reflects a deep, well-informed, critical, and engaging mind. Bartholomew has drank deep at the well on the issues he tackles and has contributed to the well himself. He offers carefully nuanced reflection on the current state of hermeneutics and challenges those in the field in ares they can improve on.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is the reflection of a lifetime’s work in the area of hermeneutics. There are few who could have written a book of this magnitude with the same depth of analysis, knowledge and understanding of the field. Bartholomew has simultaneously summarized the field of hermeneutics (as he sees it) and given charitable critique as a way forward for the church.

I received this book for free from Baker Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Theology of Biblical Counseling by Lambert“Counseling is a theological discipline” – Heath Lambert

With the explosion and growth of the various psychotherapies and counseling techniques developed within the last few decades by secular psychology, there has been an ever growing tension within the Christian community as to how the Christian counselor should use, if at all, these new therapies.

The divide between Christian counseling/psychologists/integrationists and Biblical counseling and lies in (1) how or whether or not to utilize secular counseling methods for Christian counseling and (2) how relevant/helpful Scripture is to counseling. So questions arise such as, “Does Scripture have a primary role in Christian counseling”, “Can Scripture speak to all counseling needs,” or “Do secular counseling approaches help or hurt the counseling process?”

Seeking to answer these questions and more, Heath Lambert has written A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry (Zondervan, 2016). Lambert is the executive director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, serves as an associate pastor and professor, and is on the editorial board of The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is the author of The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams and Finally Free.

Scripture’s Foundation for Counseling

The first line of the book, as stated above, is the most contentious part – counseling is a theological discipline. It might not seem immediately apparent that this is contentious but this is the dividing line between Christian counseling and Biblical counseling. “Whether it is necessary to use secular counseling techniques” and “whether the Bible is a sufficient counseling resource” is what divides them.

The fundamental claim Lambert is making as a Biblical counselor is that Christians who are counselors are not required to utilize secular counseling techniques/methods or sources of information outside of Scripture but should use and view Scripture as necessary to Christian counseling as the primary source of information for dealing with ones problems; though it does not always have to be the only source.

The reason for this belief is found in the opening sentence of the book; if, as the author argues, counseling is a theological discipline then the use of Scripture in Christian counseling is not only helpful but necessary. If the goal of counseling is to answer questions, offer solutions to problems and help in troubled times, then Scripture must be a part of that. Thus, counseling is theological because it is based on Scripture.

In the second chapter of the book Lambert lays out a doctrine of Scripture as the foundation for why it is sufficient for counseling. Of the four areas of sufficiency that he explores, material sufficiency is where the disagreement lies. This “refers to the actual contents of Scripture and means that the Bible tells us everything we need to know from God about any topic.” (48) This means that everything that God wants us to know from Him through special revelation has been said and is contained in the Bible.

The net effect of this statement is that though the Bible is not particularly about dentistry or business, it does give enough information and guidance as to how to carry out these vocations in an ethical and moral way that glorifies God. However, in a general sense we understand that the Bible is not a dentistry guide but generally addresses many other things more specifically. It may not deal with business practices directly but it does address issues that relate to how to carry out ethical business practices.

God has spoken enough in Scripture to give us a starting place when counseling people.

Theology’s Dance with Counseling

The bulk of the book spends eleven chapters showing the relationship between ones theology of various topics and how that works out in Biblical counseling. This is where Lambert’s main message hits home and shines as the reader is able to see his thesis in action.

Each chapter opens with a real life counseling situation, moves into a discussion of the doctrine at hand, and then closes by showing how a biblical understanding of that doctrine informs the problems in the counseling situation.

What these eleven chapters give you is a short but packed systematic theology of every major doctrine along with examples of how that doctrine can, and does, apply to counseling. If you are not sold on Lambert’s thesis in the first chapter then reading the rest of the book ought to convince you of its validity.

Conclusion

A Theology of Biblical Counseling is Jay Adams’ Competent to Counsel 2.0 for to the 21st century. This is a solid book that every pastor and Christian leader who engages in counseling should read and learn from. Though this is not the first book of its kind, it is definitely the most comprehensive and up-to-date.

I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Literary Introductions by RykenThere is nothing like being able to read a literary work in its original language, as it adds such color and dimension to the work being read. The text goes from being viewed in black and white to being seen in full color.

Understanding the literary features of a text has a similar effect. The beauty and artistry of poetry can be appreciated by just reading it but when you understand the various literary forms being used by the author it comes alive and the meaning becomes clearer.

The same goes when reading the Bible. While the Bible is more than just another book in terms of its content and divine authorship, it is just like any other in terms of its literary content. It contains a vast array of literary genres and forms just like those found in any other piece of literature. When we avail ourselves to learning and understanding these genres and forms we have allowed ourselves to get closer to the mind and intent of the writer.

Having already written Ryken’s Bible Handbook and The Literary Study Bible, Leland Ryken, former professor of English at Wheaton College, has written a new book, Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible, as a companion and sequel to his popular A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms of the Bible. This new book draws from, utilizes, and expands upon the work he has already done in past books to help Christians better understand the meaning and message of the Bible.

The purpose of this book is very simple – to introduce the reader to and explain the various literary genres and forms contained in all 66 books of the Bible. Many books on the Bible and its literary characteristics organize the books or certain passages around the various literary forms thus giving you a catalog of forms with examples of each. Ryken’s book takes the reader through every book of the Bible separately and gives an overview of the literary features contained in each but without example passages.

There are six aspects of the books of the Bible discussed in each chapter:

  1. Orientation – The beginning of each chapter orients you to the book itself and gives basic info such as the meaning of the books name (Genesis means “beginning”).
  2. Generalizations – This gives a brief description of the content of the book like how Deuteronomy contains a number of orations/sermons to Israel about obedience to the Law and entering the Promised Land.
  3. Uniqueness – Where necessary, whenever a book contains unique topics or interpretive issues they are discussed such as the time aspect in the prophets and more specifically in the book of Isaiah.
  4. Charts – Each chapter has “Book at a Glance” chart which is a basic content outline divided by chapters. For instance, Habakkuk is divided into three sections: (1) 1:1-11 is Habakkuk’s first question and God’s reply, (2) 1:12-2:20 is Habakkuk’s second question and God’s reply, and (3) 3 is Habakkuk’s exalted vision of God.
  5. Literary Features – This contains separate unite on the major literary forms in each book of the Bible. For instance, the Gospel of John contains gospel, narrative, various categories of story (hero, miracle, testimony, etc.), proverb, and prayer.
  6. Summarization or Literary Form and Religious Vision – This concluding section summarizes the intention of the books religious message as expressed through the literary forms as well as literary tips for reading each book and quotes from literary commentators specific to each book. For example, 1 John has a series of tests for how to tell if someone is a Christian and they are not given in a single running list or argument. Therefore, you would not extract John’s argument the same way you would Paul’s.

Literary Introductions is a must have book for any Christian who wants to read and understand the Bible better. For Christians who are new to the Bible there is a lot that will help get you more oriented to the message of each book and help make more difficult sections easier to understand. For those like me who have been reading the Bible for years there is still a lot that can be gained from this book. As you read through different chapters and learn new things about how different books work, lights will begin to go on as you put pieces together.

I received this book for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Expository ApologeticsWhile reading books on the theory of various apologetics methods is necessary and beneficial, it is certainly helpful to read books that provide practical discussion and mock conversations on how to employ those methods in everyday life. What good is it to know what a method is if you don’t know how to use it?

Presuppositionalism is an apologetics method that has been gaining a lot of ground in the recent years. The two best sources for practical explanations of how to use this method have been Richard Pratt’s classic work Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of the Christian Faith and sections in K. Scott Oliphint’s more recent work Covenental Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Both books provide mock conversations used to show how the presuppositional method looks in practice.

Recently, Voddie Baucham Jr., has written a new book along these same lines called Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word (Crossway, 2015). Voddie is a well-known pastor, speaker, and writer and is the dean of African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. The book gets its title from Voddie’s unique way of preaching and practicing presuppositional apologetics when he speaks.

The expository part of the title comes from his commitment to expository preaching and the apologetics part comes from how, in his messages and speaking, he answers objections to Christianity or arguments in the passage of Scripture he is preaching from. For Voddie, “Expository apologetics is merely the application of the principles of biblical exposition to the art and science of apologetics.” (20)

The first few chapters of this book give a basic overview of and defense for Christian apologetics as Baucham explains passages like 1 Peter 3:15, Romans 1:18-32, and Acts 17:22-33. His explanation of the Peter passage is thorough and clear and probably gives one of the best defenses of why all Christians are to engage in apologetics.

His discussion of the Romans passage is the standard explanation for why the presuppositionalism is the best method (some say only biblical method) to use given the relationship between man and sin. Presuppositionalism does not rely as heavily on evidences to defend the faith because the problem is not evidential but spiritual – man is dead in sin and needs to be supernaturally awoken from it. Unbelievers reject the evidences God has given them of himself because of their sin. This does not mean Christians are not to familiarize themselves with evidences for Christianity or dismiss questions about those evidences. It does mean that Christians do not argue primarily from the evidences for the truth of Christianity.

The core of the book is found in chapter five on Learning Apologetics through Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms and chapter six on The Ten Commandments. Baucham firmly believes that the best way to train someone to defend the Christian faith is to teach them the various creeds, confessions, and catechisms. If one can learn the content of these Christian writings then one has learned the basics of the Christian faith and learned how to respond to objections to it. Similarly, learning the many implications of the Ten Commandments further equips Christians to defend the faith and cut to the heart of the unbeliever’s questions, doubts, and objections to Christianity.

There is a lot to like (love) about this book. Baucham presents the material in how own unique way that adds to the body of existing material, rather than just merely repeat it. He is to be commended for his commitment to Scripture and the usefulness of the Church’s various creeds, confessions, and catechisms that seek to faithfully summarize the teaching of Scripture.

My only criticism of the book is that it suffers from too much trailing. There are many times in which the thought goes and goes only to end abruptly without actually finishing the thought or really answering the questions posed by the author. More time needed to be spent directly on topic rather than various off-shoots.

Expository Apologetics is a must read for fans of presuppositionalism. Even those who are persuaded by other apologetic methods can benefit from this book. This would be a great book for any Christian, especially upper level high school teens and college kids. It might serve well as a good small group book to train Christians to defend their faith better.

I received this book for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 924 other followers