Chance_comps.inddIt is easy to think that much of the activities in our lives are nothing more than a string of random chance events that have no significance beyond their occurrence or connection to the bigger picture of our lives, let alone the lives of others. Further, when it comes to the good events in our lives we are quick to attribute them to God. But what about the bad events? Is God in those somewhere? Did He ordain them? Allow them? Is He indifferent to them?

Chance. Randomness. Unpredictability. Is there such a thing? What do they look like in everyday life? How would they work with a sovereign God? Is there a place for them within the Christian worldview? Seeking to answer these questions and more, Vern Poythress has written Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events. This book is a continuation of his previous books like Logic and Redeeming Philosophy in which Poythress seeks to understand these sciences in light of Scripture and the the existence of God as the foundation for all of life.

Overview

The book can be broken into two essential parts. In the first half of the book Poythress establishes the sovereignty of God as laid out in Scripture. From texts like Heb. 1:3 and Col. 1:17 it is established that God ‘s continual sustaining of the universe places God in sovereign control of it. From Scripture Poythress shows how God in involved in many kids of events:

  1. Coincidences – The arrow that kills king Ahab in battle (1 Kings 22:20-22), Abraham’s servant finding Rebekah at the well (Gen. 24), and the two spies sent into Jericho finding Rahab (Joshua 2).
  2. Disasters and Suffering – The book of Job, natural disasters (Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6), and the unjust death of Christ (Acts 2:23).
  3. Human Choices – Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt (Gen. 50:20) and Jesus’ death (Acts 2:23).
  4. Small Random Events – Lives of animals (Matt. 10:29), growth of grass (Job 38:26-27), everyday needs of humans (Matt. 6:25-34), and the casting of lots (Prov. 16:33)

From these passages, and many more, we can see that God and the Biblical writers saw God as sovereign over all things that happen in the universe – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

So if God is sovereign over all things then how does, or can, chance play into the Christian worldview? Poythress presents two views of chance from Websters Dictionary:

  1. something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause,
  2. the assumed impersonal purposelessness determiner of unaccountable happenings.

Essentially, Christians should not be afraid of the first definition but should reject the second. Christians can, Poythress says, accept the first definition because from the perspective of the person in a random event, such as Abraham’s servant meeting Rebekah at the well, both parties see their meeting the other person as unintentional. They do not see the cause of their meeting at the time. There is no “discernible human intention or observable cause” at the time of the event, and for many events, the causes may never be known, and therefore, leaving the event shrouded in the mystery of chance proper.

What the readers of Scripture see when they read events like Abraham’s servant meeting Rebekah at the well is a view of the event and the entire story from hind sight. In this case, hind sight is 20/20 when it comes to seeing the providence of their meeting. It becomes part of redemptive history.

So a proper understanding of chance can be embraced by Christians (the first definition) while at the same time realizing that the sovereign God has intentions and purposes behind everything whether we know it or not. Luck (the second definition), on the other hand, is to be rejected because to embrace it would mean a denial of the existence of God, and therefore His sovereignty. Poythress is wise to suggest that “chance is properly used to describe the limitations of human knowledge, not the limitations of God’s power.” (121)

Further, because God is sovereign over all he is involved in the inner workings of unpredictable and predictable events.

Unpredictable events arise in the midst of predictable irregularities. For example, the well to which Rebekah regularly walked had water in it. She could predict that she could find water when she arrived. She could not predict that she would meet Abraham’s servant. Unpredictable and predictable go together. (101)

As is common for Poythress, he uses the analogy of the trinity to explain and apply God’s involvement in and explanation for everything. He does so by applying it to the “random” flip of a coin:

God the Father plans the flip and its result. He speaks through the speech of God the Son, sending out his command to govern the coin. The Holy Spirit is present, applying the word of command to the coin. The coin comes up heads, according to his plan and his speaking and his power. According to God’s wisdom, the process and the result for the coin cohere with all other events in his plan. (108)

But Poythress is keen to the fact that mankind makes a god out of chance through idolatry. When we apply the definition of luck to chance, chance replaces God. This is true whether it is referring to astrology, sorcerers, or games of chance like Black Jack or 21. (see chap. 14)

The second part of the book deals with probability, and its varied aspects, and how it relates to mathematics. If readers are not familiar with logical formulas and probability, the second half of the book will prove some hard reading. The reading is good if you can wade through it but it is definitely slower reading. One does not have to grasp all of it to benefit from it.

Essentially, Poythress argues that despite the seemingly randomness and unpredictability of many events in the universe (coin flip or atoms moving), it is only possible because of God’s sovereign presence and control. God makes them possible and actual.

Some of the best reading in the book is Poythress’ discussion of gambling it its utter foolishness. Most gamblers think they can beat the house. But because of the existence of probabilistic independence (PI), there is no system one can learn or master to beat the house. PI is used to describe events in which no amount of knowledge can have an influence on the outcome of a given situation, event or act. Applied to the game of roulette, this means that the outcome of 100% of the throws a person makes are 100% independent from one another. There is no system to master that will enable a person to influence the ball to fall on the number they have bet on. The house has the advantage – and it knows it. Casinos only exist because of the law of PI.

Conclusion

Chance and the Sovereignty of God is a great addition to the ever growing books by Poythress on various scientific fields. Poythress is well qualified to address the issue of chance and probability, not only from an education standpoint, but also from a Biblical standpoint. He interprets all of life through the lens of Scripture, as every Christian should.

I recommend this book for Christians looking for a biblical view of chance and probability. This is not an exhaustive book but it will get readers feet wet and lay a foundation for further reading and study. While readers will not always agree with Poythress’ conclusions, there is much to be learned and agreed with.

You can purchase this book from Westminster, Crossway or Amazon.

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.”

Look and Live by Papa“We worship our way into sin. We must worship our way out.” (14) It is a long established belief of most religions that whoever one believes their creator to be, that creator created their creatures to worship. Christianity believes no less. Worship is part of the warp and woof of humanity. We cannot not worship. Since we are always worshiping, the only thing we need to concern ourselves with is to what, or whom, our worship is being given to.

For Christians, our worship and affections are to be directed towards God in Christ. Anything less is idolatry. It is towards this goal that, recording artist and worship leader, Matt Papa has written Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ (Bethany House, 2014). Matt says, “My goal is to help you overcome idolatry and certain sadness by pointing you to the all-satisfying, sin-destroying glory of Jesus.” (15)

Overview

Look and Live has several features that make it stand out.

First, Matt writes with an open heart as he opens himself up to his readers by sharing some of the most deeply destroying sins in his life. From the opening pages, Matt opens up about his long time struggle with sexual sin. This is no easy task for a well-known music artist. Matt shares the struggles of his own battle against idolatry as a means of exemplifying how one can practice what he is preaching in his book. He admits

I would love to tell you that today I stand ‘cured’ of these things, but I’m not. I have been radically changed, and these wounds of mine, these diseases that I thought might bury me, have been tremendously healed. But I’m not ‘fixed.’ I’m still longing for the cure – that final blessed remedy that happily waits in one place – the glory on His face. Until then its all out war. (21)

Second, Papa gets what it takes to turn from idolatry to worship of God. As the title indicates, the freedom of worshiping Christ is accomplished by looking to Jesus so that we can live with Jesus – both in this life, and the next. In explaining his continuing journey from idolatry to worship of Christ, Matt describes the process as an exchange. “The change came, but only by experiencing a greater Thrill. It was by beholding a greater Beauty. God.” (22) This exchange happens when we see the glory of God in Christ over against the things our hearts wander after. What happens, Papa explains, in idolatry is glory exchanged from God to the idols of our hearts. “We have all seen glory, and exchanged it. Betrayed it. We have all seen the dazzling silver of His excellence, and sadly, we have misaimed it.” (61)

It is glory that Papa wants the readers to clearly understand, lest the point of the book is lost. After distinguishing between glory-within (a quality that someone or something possesses) and glory-given (the response of someone to something or someone that possesses glory-within), Papa hones in on glory-within. It is here that the book takes it focus. Idolatry is the worshiping of the reflection of glory in things and people rather than the source of that glory in Christ.

Third, Papa understands how to read Scripture which serves him in defining glory and working it throughout the book. Recognizing that glory is used in Scripture to describe more than just God, Papa seeks to draw the reader into Scripture’s use of the word in its varied contexts. Essentially, while all things God has created reflect, to a degree, the glory of God, God Himself possesses the glory those things reflect. This is of course most clearly seen in Christ. This is glory-within. Christ possesses the glory of the Godhead and as such His creatures are to worship Him – alone. While is can be an act of worship to enjoy the reflection of God’s glory in His creation, it is not an end in itself. The glory we see in God’s creation is that of “scattered beams.” Papa explains, “When we merely look at creation, we are bored. We are disappointed. It is dim. But when we look along creation to its Source, it becomes exponentially brighter.” (142)

Fourth, if we are to look to Christ, because He possesses glory, then through what do we look to Him to see that glory? The answer to this question is what Papa is building up to through the entire book. Simply enough, we are to look to Scripture and prayer (among other spiritual disciplines) in order to behold and confront the glory of Christ into which we grow from faith to faith.

It is in the final chapter, Show Me Your Glory, that Papa brings home what he has been working towards all along. Christ only walked the earth for a little over 30 years. Then He left. Though He was gone physically, He did not leave us without Himself. What He left us with of Himself can be found in the pages of inspired Scripture. It is in Scripture that we see the glory of God in Christ. It is in reading it that the Spirit of God illumines our hearts and minds to the glory of Christ revealed in it.

While we may read the Bible for many reasons, and asks many questions of the Bible as we read it, the most important question Papa wants us to consider is, “Where is the glory?” (229)

Conclusion

When I agreed to read this book I was not sure what I would get. I am typically skeptical of books that tend to speak to the spiritual aspect of the Christian life because too many of them try to interpret Scripture in light of their experience in a way that is unnatural. Look and Live is far from that. Though Papa weaves in his personal battles with sin, He allows Scripture to interpret his experience and shape his response to it. When I read the line I quoted at the beginning of this review I knew this was going to be a good book – no, a great book.

Papa gets glory and you need to get this book. Papa’s writing is engaging, honest, poetical, musical, biblically sound, and on target. He is well read in Scripture and wide array of Christianities best thinkers like Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis. This book will easily make my top ten books for the year!

You can purchase this book from Bethany House or Amazon.

I received this book for free from Bethany House 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.”

Whats Up TG by Harrell and KlumpenhowerThe message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing for all of humanity to hear and for Christians to build their faith around. For a few years now a lot of books have been published on defining the gospel and its implications for our lives. In addition to writing books on a more adult level, there are a number of books out that aim to explain the message of the gospel to children.

Last year Jack Klumpenhower released his book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, through New Growth Press. This book is great tool for helping teachers of Sunday School aged kids the teach the gospel through the stories of the Bible and not merely moral lessons. Following this book, Jack has teamed up with Deborah Harrell, author and educator, to write What’s Up?: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You REALLY Are.

What’s Up? is a workbook curriculum designed for 5th-8th to teach them the basics of the gospel and its implications for their lives. The book uses various interactive teaching methods such as lecture, hands on activities, question and answer time, and projects for the students to do in class and at home. While written by Deborah and Jack, many of the lessons are heavily influenced by material produced by Serge in their Sonship and Gospel Transformation courses. There are fifteen lessons that are designed for 90 minutes of class time. Most of the lessons have two parts to them so the book can be expanded into twenty -seven lessons.

The Teachers Guide

In this curriculum, the role of the teacher is to guide the students through the material. All of the material that is in the Student Guide is also in the Teacher Guide but the Teacher Guide has additional material to help guide them on teaching the lesson. The lessons are divided into a beginning review of the previous week, the lesson for the current week and then it closes with an activity to make the lesson stick throughout the week as the student works on it at home. While each lesson is written to be done in a week, most of the lessons have two sections in case the teacher wants to expand the material into two weeks making it twenty-seven lessons.

The Teacher Guide has a lesson summary outlining where the lesson is going along with a preparation section guiding the teacher on how to prepare for the lesson. Inserted throughout the lesson are short boxes with helps for the teacher to further explain the purpose of the material and how to walk the students through it.

The Student Guide

Like the Teacher Guide, the Student Guide has the entirety of each lesson in the book. Each lesson has well-done graphics that are sure to draw Whats Up by Harrell and Klumpenhowerstudents into the lesson and that they can identify with. While the teacher will be guiding the student through the lesson, the lesson explanations are clear enough that the students can easily understand the content and what is being asked of them.

One of the primary uses of the graphics is to articulate for the student, in the language they would most likely use to say it, things they, or others, might say or think about the lesson content. Whether it is answering a question or asking one, the pictorials of kids their age will greatly aid the learning process for the student.

Lesson Content

The main objective of the What’s Up? workbook is to drive home the gospel message. The lessons follow a three-fold outline. First, the gospel message itself is presented to the students. This focuses on Jesus, the gospel, sin, our hearts, justification, and holiness. What teachers and students will see is a natural progression of the gospel message as it is presented in Scripture.

Following the presentation of the gospel are five lessons that deal with heart issues. These tackle things like moralism, idolatry, and unbelief. These lessons help to take the truth of the gospel and root out false thinking about ourselves and God that keep us from the truth.

Finally, the last five lessons address applying the gospel to the students lives. These lessons address repentance, forgiveness and living the Christian life in faith. These lessons really take the message of the gospel and make it the driving force in the believers life. Everything in the lesson is built around the gospel shaping the students daily life

Conclusion

What’s Up? is the perfect example of what Jack Klumpenhower was driving at in Show Them Jesus. This material is gospel-saturated, Biblically grounded, age appropriate, engaging, easy to follow, and easily adaptable. This is a model for how to teach the gospel and its implications to kids. I hope to see more of this material made for kids younger than 5th grade and older than 8th grade. If you are looking for new material for Sunday School, homeschooling, or even a Wednesday night program then this is for you!

You can purchase these items from the following retailers:

Student Guide: Westminster Books, Amazon & New Growth Press

Teacher Guide: Westminster Books, Amazon & New Growth Press

Teacher Guide w/ 5 Student Guides: Westminster Books

I received this book for free from New Growth Press 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.”

 

Exodus by Garrett“Exodus is the true heart of the Old Testament.” (138) So says Duane Garrett in his recently published book A Commentary on Exodus: Kregel Exegetical Library (Kregel, 2014). Garrett explains further at the beginning of the book:

Exodus it the true beginning of the story of Israel. Genesis is essential to the story, but it is a prologue, describing the lives of individual patriarchs rather than the history of a people. With Exodus we begin the story of the national entity called Israel….Exodus is the beginning of everything that is distinctively Israelite, and it is the fountainhead of most of the literature of the Old Testament that follows. (15)

A Commentary on Exodus is part of the new exegetical commentary series, Kregel Exegetical Library,  published by Kregel. This commentary series is mainly written for pastors to provide them with an exegetical foundation of the text along with theological guides. Each chapter is characterized by the following:

  1. Covers a literary unit -The chapters cover literary units regardless of size.
  2. Translation – The author provides an original and fresh translation with detailed footnotes explaining the basis of the translation along with other translation possibilities and textual variants.
  3. Structure – Following the translation the author outlines the structure of the passage.
  4. Commentary – Ample commentary is provided on the text along with footnotes where necessary.
  5. Theological Summary – Concluding each section are are list of theological points and summaries to take away from the text.
  6. Homoletical Helps – While most of the previous commentaries in this series had homoletical outlines at the end of each section Guarrett’s book does not.

Introduction

Garrett spends the first 130 pages of the book with introductory material. From the start he lays to rest any use for the documentary hypothesis theory by saying it “is of doubtful value” and “the theory is not based in any ancient Neat Eastern analogies but is from start to finish an analysis based in extrinsic and peculiar criteria.” (17)

Since Exodus opens it setting in Egypt, and constantly looks back to Israel’s exodus from it, Garrett is insistent that an understanding of Egypt is essential to an understanding of the book. He spends twenty pages discussing things like the land near the Nile, its chronology and history, rulers, and language. The discussion of the Nile becomes key when he later discusses the ten plagues, or “twelve miracles”, as he calls it, particularly when interpreting how literal we are to understand the turning of the Nile into “blood.” (283-85)

As might be expected, discussion of the Exodus is given the most space in the introduction. Garrett covers four views on dating. In addition to the early and late date, which most people are familiar with, he discusses a “very early date” of 1550 B.C. and a “very late date” of 1150 B.C. (93-96), but finds them to be highly problematic. Recognizing that respectable scholars champion both the early and late date position on the Exodus, Garret comes just short of siding with either. Garret is more concerned with the historicity of the Exodus itself, concluding that, “We have ample reason to believe that the biblical account is true, but we do no have sufficient information to specify the details of when it all happened and of what pharaohs were present.” (103)

Commentary

The chapters divide the book into seven sections with an appendix on the songs of Moses. Regarding the two midwives mentioned in 1:15-19 Garrett sees them as the only two that helped the Hebrews with deliveries. He argues against a group of midwives citing that the mentioning of the two and the overall context indicate that they are the only ones. I am not convinced by this. I see Shiphrah and Puah as the overseers of the midwives (though the context does not say so), and though Garrett disagrees, I think vs. 19d (“before the midwife gets to them” (authors trans.)) makes this clear.

One of my favorite sections of Exodus is the ten plagues. Garrett calls them the “twelve miracles” and includes the account of Moses’ snake eating Pharaoh’s magicians snakes and the crossing of the Red Sea and miracles before and after the “ten plagues” as most people understand them. While Garrett does not come out and state it clearly, he identifies the “twelve miracles” as such because they give credibility to what Moses tells Pharaoh.

The business that Moses and Aaron have with Pharaoh, that they are agents of God sent to demand that the Israelites be released to go out and worship YHWH, is already known (Exod. 5:1-4). What is yet to be established is Moses’s bona fides, that his claim to be God’s spokesman is valid. (274)

While Garrett does not make the connection himself, I think this shows another way in which Moses is a type of Christ. Though Jesus did make claims to be God in ways that would make sense to the Jews at the time, He never said the words, “I am God come in the flesh.” No, what He did was work miracles that testified to who He said He was. Anyone could claim to be the Son of God, but no one but Christ could do the things He did in God’s name. This is what Moses is doing. He not only claims to be from God but God works miracles through him to show Pharaoh that he is from God.

Garrett gives a lot of fascinating info regarding the explanation for the plagues. Of particular interest to readers will be his explanation for the Nile turning to blood. In short, Garrett argues, in a well-reasoned and convincing manner (though I am still on the fence with it), that the Nile did not turn into ‘literal’ blood but water that was blood-like in appearance and still had deadly and devastating effects on the people and animals. He explains

But had the whole river turned to literal blood, it would have been a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. The Nile in Egypt is almost 600 miles long. If it had all become literal blood under the Egyptian sun, the whole river would have become a thick, decaying sludge of biological waste. No potable water would have been available for the entire population for months or even years…..It is more likely that the waters looked like blood and were a token of the death and judgment on Egypt that was to come. (285)

Regarding the Ten Commandments, I think this is the weakest part of the book. Less than seventeen pages are given to explain what are the ten foundational commands for Israel’s life. Readers will have to look elsewhere for a more in-depth explanation for these.

Finally, Garrett’s discussion of the building of the tabernacle is very well done. His commentary is enlightening and his theological reflection is on point. Some readers will be surprised to read that, in God’s giving Moses the plans to the tabernacle, they are not complete. “Certain details are emphasized not because they are architecturally critical for the structure but because they are theologically important.” (547) “Many purely structural details are left out,” Garrett says, and “one may assume that many details are left out since the missing information could be filled in with common knowledge or common sense.” (547, 571)

Conclusion

Garrett’s commentary is a great addition to the available material on Exodus. His translation is well-reasoned, commentary is thorough, and theological reflections are solid. Garrett’s book will help readers of Exodus gain a better appreciation for this often ignored book. You will see why he calls it the “true heart of the Old Testament.”

You can purchase this book at Westminster, Amazon and Kregel’s web site.

I received this book for free from Kregel 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.”

 

New-Apostolic-ReformationWhile there are sections of Christianity that believe the office of apostle died out with the original apostles of first century Christianity, there is a growing movement that believes this office has been re-instituted and will lead a world-wide take over of the world by Christians. This movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). While its historical roots are relatively short its influence has spread around the world. Spending the better part of ten years in research, Holly Pevic, managing editor of Biola Magizine, has become an expert in her own right on the NAR movement. R. Douglas Geivett, author and professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, has also spent much time researching the NAR movement. Both Holly and Douglas have organized their material on the NAR into the new book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement published with Weaver Book Company. This book is a more academic look at the NAR movement while the companion book, God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement, is a condensed version written for a lay audience.

Overview of NAR Movement

A New Apostolic Reformation? serves two basic purposes. First, the authors give an overview of the NAR movement beginning at its earliest roots in the Later Rain Movement after World War II and then critique the movement based on Scripture. Second, the authors lay out for the reader the size of the NAR movement which reaches to almost every corner of the globe. The NAR movement is based on two central beliefs: first, that the New Testament office of apostle has been restored to the church and, second, that it is a reformation within Christianity through which God will eventually convert all of the world and to which all of the Church must submit to and join. It is through this movement that Christ will take over the world (1). This movement is considered to be an army for Christ that will bring about what is called the “Great End-Time Transfer of Wealth” which will take all of the wealth from the world and give it to this divine army for redistribution to the righteous all over the world (2). In their overview of the NAR movement, the authors systematically work their way through the entirety of their leaders, leadership structure, outreach extensions such as politics and media, main Scriptural support for their beliefs, and key doctrines that define their movement. The NAR movement has strong political influence, internet presence, and spreads its message through powerful Christian t.v. networks like the Trinity Broadcasting Network and their own GOD TV as led by Rory and Wendy Alec (21). The tiered leadership structure of the NAR movement begins with the prophets who receive special revelation from God, who then pass it onto the prophets, and then to the church leaders. The Scriptural foundation for the NAR’s belief in present day apostles rests on Ephesians 2:20, 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28. All three of these verses mention apostles and prophets as two of several offices God gave the church for the growth of the church. Essentially, NAR followers believe that while Christianity, as almost a united whole, has believed the offices of apostle (like that of Paul) and prophet (like Jeremiah) have been gone since the passing of the first century, they have been wrong on this understanding and God has re-established them for today. The main leaders of the NAR movement are Bob Jones, Paul Cain, C. Peter Wagner, Bill Johnson, and Cindy Jacobs. Some of their major ministry outlets include the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and Harvest International Ministry (HIM). They have extensive influence through print and internet publications such as Charisma magazine and they even have their own Bible translation, The Passion Translation, which apostle Brian Simmons claims he was commissioned by God personally to produce (8).

Overview of Authors Response

The response of the authors to the teachings of the NAR movement is broken down into three basic categories: the apostles, the prophets, and their view of spiritual warfare. Through several chapters the authors carefully walk through the main tenants of the NAR beliefs and compare them to Scripture. First, regarding present day apostles, the authors are careful to point out that while there was more than one kind of apostle in the NT, there was only one group of apostles that were sent by Christ Himself. It is this group that has most certainly died out. What NAR apostles have to claim is that Christ is once again sending new apostles and is appearing to them. However, they do not make this claim for themselves, nor can they. They cannot meet the Biblical criteria (85). The authors do a good job of presenting the classic case for why the office of apostle has died out and will never be brought back. Second, regarding the present day prophets, NAR leaders believe that God is still revealing His secret will and plans (Amos 3:7) to present day prophets to proclaim to all of the church. They have the same authority as OT prophets (102-03). A distinct role of OT prophets was their prophetic role towards nations. This is something lacking with NT prophets (126-27). While some may rule out the present day gift of prophecy, the authors do not. They believe the gift is still given today (128-29) but the office (as in the OT) does not exist, nor does the word they speak apply to the universal church (129). Finally, when it comes to the NAR’s view of spiritual warfare they hold to a dominionism theology. This is the means through which God, through the church, as revealed to the apostles and prophets, will advance His kingdom (150). The essence of “strategic-level spiritual warfare is the act of confronting evil spirits that are believed to rule specific geographical regions, cultural groups, and societal institutions.” (151) For the kingdom of God to advance they must be “neutralized or cast out.” (152) The essence of the authors response to this teaching is that Scripture does not tell us there are specific spirits that claim certain areas, nor that we are called to name them and drive them out.

Conclusion

A New Apostolic Reformation? provides a fascinating and eye-opening look at a worldwide movement that is everywhere. I have personally run into a number of people throughout my life that I now know are part of this movement. There is no doubt that most Christians know someone who is involved in this group but do not realize it. This book will open your eyes to it and give you some basic help for coming along side of these followers and leading them to the truth. I recommend this book to any who might know people involved in the NAR movement, to any who are involved in it and have some suspicions that things are not right, and to those who want to be more informed about the movement.

You can purchase this book from Amazon or Weaver’s site.

I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews 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.”

Passion for the FatherlessWhile adoption has been going on for a long time it has enjoyed a recent spike in attention within Evangelical circles. The accompanying wave of recent books on adoption has been good for both to-be adoptive parents and families as well as the children whom they adopt. Parents can be better equipped and children can be better cared for with their varying needs.

In 2011 Daniel J. Bennett wrote A Passion for the Fatherless: Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans. Now in its 2nd printing, the book seeks to provide a robust theology of adoption along with many practical applications, specifically as it pertains to families considering adoption and churches having adoption ministries. Bennett writes from the perspective and heart of a pastor and adoptive father. This enables him to write in such a way as to reach ministry leaders and adoptive families.

Being an adoptive father myself, I have read numerous books on adoption by both secular and Christian authors. While all of these books have their benefits, there are several reasons why A Passion for the Fatherless is the best book on adoption that I have read yet.

First, Bennett’s book has some of the best theology of adoption in print. He treats aspects that other books simply do not. He roots adoption in the glory of God saying, “What makes a Christian orphan ministry unique is its focus on the glory of God.” (37) He continues, “Our primary desire for orphans is to see them burst forth in worship of God.” (53) While acknowledging that many non-Christians adopt, he stresses that they do not do so for the purpose of seeing God glorified in the process and the life of the adopted child. It is because of what the gospel has done for us that we adopt and it is for what the gospel can do for the orphan that we adopt.

On page after page Bennett dives into Scripture and applies it to adoption. He draws attention to the compassion of God for the orphan as the source of our compassion, he explores the aspects of suffering, reliance on God, good and bad reasons for adopting, the role of the family and church in adoption and wise decision making in adoption.

Second, Bennett rightly roots the logic for adoption, especially international adoption, within the Great Commission. “Both proclaim the gospel.” (91) This is one thing I keep returning to in my mind every time someone asks me why we adopted internationally and not domestically (in the US). The answer is the same answer we give for overseas missions – because the spread of the gospel calls us to it. When we take the gospel to the world we bring their needs back home with us. God is not color blind when it comes to evangelism and neither is He when it comes to adoption. Through our salvation God adopts people from every tongue, tribe and nation into His family. If we properly root our theology of adoption in the adoption we receive in salvation then we will come out with the same thoughts towards adoption.

Third, Bennett brings to the forefront the reality of suffering that is involved in adoption. While it is good to talk about the joys, blessings and rewards of adoption, there needs to be more discussion on the suffering and heartache in adoption. We need discussion on the suffering of the orphan as well as discussion on the suffering experienced by families who do adopt. That’s right, there is suffering on the other side of adoption. It is the reality of loving anyone, especially those who have had to live for years without a loving father and mother. Just like a spouse who brings baggage into a marriage, orphans come into your home with baggage that will take years to unpack.

Bennett points out that it is our “worship of the idol of ease [that] prevents us from caring for the orphan.” (115) For Americans who believe they need to give their kids everything, buy them a new car when they go to college, give them an extravagant wedding, take expensive family vacations and subject them to as little suffering and hardship as possible, they will have a very hard time being convinced that they should consider adoption. But adoption involves suffering. This is no less than what Christ did for us on the cross. He suffered that we would live in Him. When you adopt you bring suffering and hardship into your family for the sake of giving life to another. This is what God did for us in Christ.

Finally, Bennett gives great detailed advice on the aspects of an orphan ministry for your church. Here is one place where his role as a pastor shines. He discusses how to approach your church with the ministry idea, how to use parachurch ministries and how to structure the ministry itself. There are several helpful outlines of forms for churches and prospective adoptive parents to use for things like applying for aid and figuring out the projected costs of adoption. I have filled out many of these myself and Bennett’s content is up to date.

A Passion for the Fatherless is the best book I know of for prospective adoptive families and churches looking to start an orphan ministry in their church. The theology is rich and deep and the application is real and relevant. The end of each chapter has a complete study guide to lead a group through the book. Bennett gets adoption, its rooting in the gospel and the role of the family and church in adoption. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I received this book for free from Kregel 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.”

 

People, the Land and the Future of IsraelThe debate over the future of Israel will last until its future has come. With all of the ink spilled on both sides of the debate it tends to entrench supports further into their positions than it does convince the other side. There are few books that really make advancements in the discussion and too many of them rehash the same thoughts under a different book cover.

Meeting to address issues surrounding the future of Israel, a group of pastors, theologians and biblical scholars met at Calvary Baptist Church in 2013 to host a conference on the future of Israel. With an impressive line up of contributors such as Darrell L. Bock, Craig Evans, John S. Feinberg, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Eugene Merrill, this was an great opportunity for the leaders of Dispensationalism to advance the discussion. Since the conference, the addresses were put in book form named after the conference title, The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God with Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser as editors.

What Is Good

For Dispensationalist’s there is much to like about the book. There is an impressive line up of contributors who have contributed to the discussion elsewhere as well. There is also diversity in the streams of Dispensational thought as seen by more classically minded theologians such as Eugene Merrill and John Feinberg and more progressive types like Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising. There are also chapters by some pastors. The book is fairly comprehensive (as touted on the top of the back of the book) in that it addresses both testaments, hermeneutical issues, theology, church history and practical considerations. Despite the shorter length of the chapters many of them are good and the Old and New Testament sections have a fair amount of continuity.

What really stood out to me was the emphasis, especially in the Old Testament, on the covenants as the driving interpretive grid rather than the dispensations. In fact, there was little to no mention of dispensations. This will bother some but it encouraged me. The emphasis on the dispensations over the covenants has been, in my mind, one of the biggest problems for Dispensationalism.

On the Old Testament, Walter Kaiser Jr. has the best chapter with “Israel According to the Writings” and does a great job addressing the Davidic covenant, Daniel and Esther. For the New Testament Michael Wilkins has the best chapter with Israel According to the Gospels” in which he primarily works with Matthew. While he does see Jesus as the fulfillment of the “OT hopes, prophecies, and promises” he does not see this as Jesus replacing the content of the Jewish covenant promises (i.e. land) or the church replacing Israel as God’s people (see whole chapter). For instance he states

The twelve disciples/apostles symbolize the continuity of salvation-history in God’s program, as Jesus sends them out to proclaim to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that the kingdom of heaven has arrived. But there is a form of discontinuity as well, because the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones judging the house of Israel. The twelve disciples/apostles have continuity with the twelve tribes of Israel, yet they do not replace Israel. But they will form the foundation of a new community of faith, the church that Jesus will build. (92)

Craig Blaisings’ chapter on hermeneutics is the best of the third and fourth sections. While I think his fourfold evaluation (comprehensive, congruent, consistent and coherent) of supersessionist theology (borrowed from David Wolf) can cut both ways, he manages to get himself beyond the standard classic dispensational accusation against it of spiritualizing the text (see Renald Showers There Really Is a Difference for an example of simplistic critique) and is able to present a more reasoned and accurate of the hermeneutical principles of covenant theology.

What Could Have Been Better

When I first saw this book was coming out I was looking forward to it. Given the list of contributors I had high expectations for the book. Specifically, I was hoping the book could advance the discussion over the future of Israel. While there were several shining chapters in the book, in large part, I think it failed to do what it could have done.

First, while you cannot judge a book by its cover, the cover does not help the book with images that are reminiscent of a sensationalist Dispensational eschatology. To go with the cover, the Foreward by Joel Rosenberg was out of place with its alarmist and over-realized eschatology against the back drop of a book full of scholars.

Second, while there are a number of good contributions much of the content moves too fast and is a shortened rehashing of the same stuff you find in most books about Israel. Simplicity can be good depending on the audience but I think a big opportunity was missed with this book. The authors were not afforded enough time in their chapters to expand on some of the ideas which could have made the book much more productive. The book gives good interpretation of the biblical texts but it could be better.

Conclusion

The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel seeks to address a wide range of issues related to the future of Israel. Given the structure of the book I would say this would be a good entry level book into Dispensational theology for college students and as a secondary source book for graduate level studies. Biblically literate laymen and women will benefit from it as well.

I received this book for free from Kregel 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.”

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