May 2015

A History of Christianity by Joseph Early“Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecc. 12:12) With all of the writing that goes on there is one area of writing that will always be with us – the writing of history. People have a fascination with history. History books connect us to the past and its people, places, things, and ideas, some of which we were directly a part of but much of which we were never part of. Every discipline in the history of mankind has books written on its history.

While reading history connects us to the past it also awakens us to a startling reality, not everyone agrees on the what’s, why’s, who’s, and how’s of history. Most facts are indisputable, however, there are plenty of differences. As objective as historians may set out to be in their accounting of history, each person writes from a slightly different perspective and sees things a little differently. No one tells history the same way – and this can be a good thing. If wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors, then history is better told and understood through a multitude of historians.

Young author and historian Joseph Early Jr. , professor of religion in the School of Theology at Campbellsville University, has recently made his contribution to the telling of Christian history in his new book A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey (B&H, 2015). Joseph is the author of Readings in Baptist History (B&H, 2008) and The Life and Writings of Thomas Helwys (Mercer Univ. Press, 2009).

As a survey, Early touches on the highlights of Christian history since the time of Jesus by looking at the major people, events, and places that shaped it. Written in narrative style, this book is reader friendly, especially for those looking to get their feet wet in the history of Christianity.

Early writes from a desire to show people that God is at work in the history of the world. If history is truly “His-story” then when Christians tell their history they should be doing so with the influence of providence behind every event and person showing how God is working through the march of time. As early notes in the beginning of the book

When one takes the long view of history, it is easier to see that, regardless of what was going on in the organized church, there are always those who seek to find God’s will for the church. As a Christian and a historian, I hope the readers of this book will be able to see the bright light of the gospel shining throughout the lives of heroic Christians no matter how dark the times may be. After all, we are promised that the light of the gospel will obliterate the darkness. (xviii)

While the book is necessarily short, considering the 2,000 years of history is covers, Early definitely shows that he capable of handling the material in a more in depth manner. His writing is clear and you do not feel like you are bogged down in the minute details of names and dates that can so easily characterize history books. Early wants his readers to enjoy and be drawn into what they are reading and his writing accomplishes that.

A History of Christianity is a well written introductory survey of the history of Christianity. This could easily be a go to book for new Christians looking to learn more about the history of their new faith. It would also serve well as text book for high school history class and homeschoolers. And of course, it is a great book for any Christian looking to learn more about how the Christian faith and the unique life of Jesus shaped not only Christianity, but also the history of the world.

I received this book for free from B&H 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.”


Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey“Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom. 1:22)

If you were to only listen to the media, and its secular hosts and guests, on the viability of religion then you would get the idea that it is inept, childish, and anti-intellectual. Religion only takes center stage in the news when it is the focus of negative press and ridicule. When the views it espouses are considered backwards and arcane. It is claimed that Christianity is a religion of wishful thinking. That is teaches its followers to “just believe” rather than using their minds. But is this true?

Within the secular university it is assumed that one must check their religion at the door of education in order to be educated. Secular education, and the history of fields like biology, seem to have forgotten that they owe much of their success to religion, namely, Christianity. For people who claim to be so concerned with finding truth, secularists and their various religious-like representatives seem to find everything but the truth. In fact, they seem to suppress it at every turn. While they may be good at discovering things within the world God has made, they cannot give meaning to it. In their search for truth they step on it at every turn.

But this observation is not new. In fact, it is at least as old as the New Testament. Paul observes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that, while God has clearly revealed Himself to man in nature, man, having seen it, suppresses that truth. Having suppressed it, he replaces worship of God with worship of the creation itself. Sin causes man to turn the world upside down. In trying to run from worshiping God, man simply replaces Him with the worship of God’s creation.

To help us unpack the God-substituting that man engages in teacher and author Nancy Pearcey has recently written Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (David C. Cook, 2015). Following her earlier books The Soul of Science, Saving Leonardand Total Truth, Nancy speaks to believer and unbeliever alike about truth and its foundation in God Himself.

Who Is This Book For?

To the believer, Nancy wants every Christian to reject the attitude that they should never know anything about any religion except Christianity. As one of her students put it, “Exposing the mind to ideas is like exposing the body to germs. Its the way to build immunity.” (60) Its like those who work with counterfeit money. They first study real money so they know what it is in look and feel. They do so under the assumption that they will encounter counterfeit money. They are not trying to avoid a counterfeit, rather, they want to be able to spot it when they see it. The same goes for Christians and other religions and ideas. We always need to know our own faith more than another but we don’t master our faith with the idea in mind of never knowing anything about any other religion. We need to be able to spot counterfeit ideas to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we will never be able to if we never engage them. Citing G. K. Chesterton, Nancy points out that “ideas are actually more dangerous to the person who has not studied them.” (255)

To the unbeliever, Nancy wants every atheist and secularist to see that by rejecting God’s existence they are rejecting the very foundation upon which their entire life and all of reality is built on. They have rejected worshiping the God of creation only to turn around and worship everything in creation. As Nancy’s husband, J. Richard Pearcey, says in the foreword, “Finding Truth argues that no secular worldview adequately accounts for the phenomena of man and the cosmos – what we know of human nature and physical nature. For these worldviews see only a slice of reality and then try to direct human beings into measuring themselves by that narrow slice and living accordingly.” (19) When we reject God as the maker and sustainer of reality then we lose the ability to account for all of reality.

Unmasking to Find Truth

The book is built on 5 principles to unmasking idolatry and finding truth based on Romans 1. Here is a summary of each principle:

  1. Identify the Idol – Idolatry is the act of worshiping anything other than God. When man rejects God he is not rejecting worship but is rejecting the right object of his worship. Man in turn worships everything else but God. When man worships God’s creation then he turns those things into gods to be worshiped. These objects of man’s idolatry are found in the ideas, philosophies, and worldviews man creates in a effort to replace God.
  2. Identify the Idols Reductionism – Ideas like materialism, rationalism, and humanism are all God replacements that reduce all of reality to a sliver of reality and seek to understand all of it in light of that sliver. Idolatry is inherently reductionistic. Because idols are reductionistic they lead us to destructive behavior. “Idols always lead to a lower view of human life,” says Nancy, and “when we reduce people to anything less than fully human, we will treat them as less than fully human.” (98-99) Idolatry seeks to absolutize a part of creation and “then everything is defined in its terms.” (45)
  3. Test the Idol: Does It Contradict What we Know About the World? – Having identified what a particular worldview has reduced reality to, we then ask if it is true to reality. A reductionistic worldview “is like trying to stuff the entire universe into a box, we could say that inevitable something will stick out of the box.” (47) For example, materialism reduces everything to the physical world. Since reality is only physical then there is no room for free will or even an explanation for the thoughts of a person since you can’t observe them. The Christian worldview is the only worldview that consistently takes into account all of reality.
  4. Test the Idol: Does It Contradict Itself? – This is the idea that idol-based worldviews are self-refuting, collapse internally, and commit suicide. For example a cultural relativist may claim that there is no universal truth. This claim of course is a universal truth and contradicts the statement itself.
  5. Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity – If we are going to knock down idolatrous worldviews then we must offer something in their place. This is where the Christian worldview enters in. We must show why the Christian worldview is the only one that is coherent and comprehensive. This it is the only one able to make an account for all of life in a holistic, not reductionistic way. One way to do this is to show that while idol-based worldviews reject God and Christianity, they actually need and use them both to exist. This is the idea of borrowed capital. Greg Bahnsen used to say that atheists “are breathing God’s air all the time they are arguing against them.”


So must Christians check their religion at the door in order to become educated and in order to gain respect in the world? Is Christianity just wishful thinking? Are Christians required to withhold thinking in order to “just believe”? The answer is a resounding no and that what Finding Truth is all about teaching. Christianity is the only worldview that can consistently provide a comprehensive view of reality that accounts for what we know of man, nature, and beyond. Christianity does not hinder exploration, education, or advancement. Rather, it makes it possible.

Finding Truth is truly one of the best apologetics books to date. An apologist in the line of Francis Schaeffer, she shows herself to have a clear understanding of the Christian worldview and an undeniable ability to communicate it. She models how to love God with your heart and mind. She is faithful to the text of Scripture and writes from a genuine desire to help atheists and secularists see the hollowness of their ideas while calling them to the truth as found in Jesus Christ.

This is one of those books that I wish I could out into the hands of every Christian. Additionally, this is the perfect kind of book to go through with an atheist or secularist friend who wants to know more about Christianity and is open to critique of their own worldview. Nancy wants everyone to see that knowledge of God provides a universal framework” for seeing, understanding, and living all of life to its fullest. (270)

I received this book for free from David C. Cook 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.”

By now, between the informative videos on Monday and the short stories on Wednesday, you ought to have a pretty good handle on some of the history and stories behind the production of the NIV as a translation and translations in general. The study of translations in general and how different ones come into existence is truly fascinating. It is a marvel to see all of the working parts of the making of a Bible translation and this week you have been able to see some of those parts in the making of the NIV in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

What you may not also know is that the CBT has created an app for the NIV to help you get the most use out of it especially when on the run. Here are some helpful facts about the NIV app:

• Highlight, underline, take notes, bookmark and create margin notes
• Download study Bibles and read study notes right beside the Bible text
• Search the entire Bible for verses containing entered keywords
• Access cross-references and footnotes by long-pressing tagged words
• Read downloaded NIV Bibles offline
• Customize the font size and type, scroll, 3-tap, 2-tap, keyboard, & swiping
• Access your past 50 viewed verses in the history folder
• Night mode for low-lit reading
• Share verses & notes via Facebook, Twitter, email, & SMS
• Listen to the Bible read out loud to you



You can down the app for iPhone/iPad and Android.

In addition to the app there is a 365 day daily devotional plan that you can subscribe to.

And finally, here is a really cool infographic outlining the breadth and depth of NIV support materials produced for studying the Bible — more than any other English translation. [download here]





Hopefully you had a chance to check out the fascinating videos Monday on some of the history behind the NIV and Bible translations in general.

Today I wanted to share several snippets of interesting history behind the making of the NIV. These short stories, shared by CBT committee members themselves, go behind the scenes and into the heart and lives of those who gave so much of their lives to put the Bible into plain English.

Financial Crisis: Escalating Costs Nearly Derailed the NIV

“It was a good thing the New York Bible Society had no idea what the final price tag would be for a contemporary English translation of the Bible. If it had, the society might never have agreed to fund the project, which ultimately cost more than $2 million.”

Ken Barker: Finding a Calling in Bible Translation

“Barker and the other translators and committee members started every session with prayer, asking for wisdom and help in achieving the desired balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation. They wanted to be faithful to the Bible’s original languages and the English language, and respectful of the Word of God.”

Bruce Waltke: Translation as an Exercise in Faith

Why would they go through so much effort and sacrifice?

“They believed God would use it,” Waltke said. “He has. When I look at the fruit of it, and I see the people, it’s just a wonderful thing.”

The NIV Study Bible: Lighting the Way

“The diversity in the scholars’ backgrounds served as an added check that prevented the notes from having a distinct denominational or theological bias. If an agreement couldn’t be reached by the general editor and associate editors regarding the meaning of a passage, the notes would offer two or three views on the matter.”



NIVIn 1965, the Committee on Bible Translation took on the most massive translation project of modern times: to prepare a contemporary English translation of the Bible from the best available original manuscripts. Since its release in 1978, the NIV has become the world’s most read and most trusted modern-English Bible translation with over 450 million copies distributed worldwide. Upon the 1978 release of the NIV, readers were ecstatic that they could finally understand the Word of God in contemporary language. But the CBT’s work was far from complete. A smaller group of committee scholars assembled study notes, maps, charts and diagrams to provide additional content and context, resulting in the NIV Study Bible. This Bible released in 1985 and provided unprecedented clarity with over 20,000 study notes and hundreds of study tools available to readers. The NIV Study Bible was designed for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Bible. To date, the NIV Study Bible has sold more than 10 million copies, making it the best-selling single study Bible available over the past 30 years.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the NIV the CBT has made a video featuring CBT chair Douglas Moo and others as they explain the history behind this remarkable translation:


In this next video, CBT chair Douglas Moo delivers a paper at the annual 2014 ETS meeting titled “We Still Don’t Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr”. In it, Moo discusses some more history and philosophy behind Bible translations:


Check back later this week for more info on the 50th anniversary of the NIV!



The Secret Life of a PastorIt is without a doubt that one of the hardest jobs is that of a pastor. They are responsible for the lives of so many people and the weight can sometimes be crushing. While there are many times of joy and encouragement, there are often times of sadness, loneliness, and discouragement.

Pastors need encouragement during all seasons of life, including before they even take their first church. There are perhaps no better people to encourage pastors than other pastors. Seeking to do just that, seasoned pastor and educator Michael A. Milton has written The Secret Life of a Pastor (and other intimate letters on ministry) (Christian Focus, 2015). Milton has been a pastor, Army chaplain, and seminary professor at three different schools.

Throughout his ministry Milton provided his students with short letters of encouragement and challenge regarding their time in seminary and future ministries for which they were preparing. The Secret Life of a Pastor is a collection of 20 of these letters. The topics range from seminary life, family life, ministry life, preaching, counseling, prayer and much more. His experience in ministry shines through each letter. He has a heart for the ministry and future ministers.

There are three things that really stood out in these letters. First, as true to being a seminary professor, Milton challenges students to take their studies seriously. He strongly emphasizes the languages as they will provide the bedrock from which your teaching and preaching ministry will come from. Also, he challenges students to be realistic about what seminary education is about. It does not take the place of the local church. The seminary classroom has its limits and the student does well to know those limits. Get involved in a local church with a good pastor who can mentor you and give you hands on ministry training. You need an outlet to practice what you re learning as you are learning it.

Second, Milton strongly challenges ministry students regarding their families. I think chapter seven, Your Wife, Your Children, and the Church, is the best chapter in the whole book. More seminarians need to be counseled on taking care of their families first. You are a husband and father before you are a pastor. The ministry is demanding and you will spend a lot of time with other people but your family, and your church, needs to know they are first. He is purposeful to point out that pastors have a great responsibility to their families, especially their children, in how they talk about their congregation at home. His counsel is wise:

If you only tell your family about the ugly side of the church, then that is the opinion they will have of it. It is not that they are not smart enough or not spiritual enough to know the difference. It is only that the love and relationships of family will begin to color their view of the church……It is easier to complain to your family and murmur about the problem people than to speak of the healing that you are able to see over time. So be careful. You could cause callousness to develop in the souls of your family members. You could leave them with a burden they were not intended to bear. (45-46)

Third, Milton rightly stresses that the pastor is to build his ministry on the Word. From the pulpit, to the counseling room, to the hospital bed, Scripture is to shape and guide everything a pastor does. While his emphasis on this runs throughout the book, in chapter twelve Milton lays out eight reasons, from the letters of Paul and preaching experience, “why expository preaching is the power for the pastorate.” (67) It is just as easy to abandon Scripture in ministry as it was to study Scripture while preparing for it.

The Secret Life of a Pastor is a wonderful collection of letters written from the heart of a pastor to pastors present and future. This is a book that those preparing for ministry and those actively in ministry greatly benefit from. Its counsel for future ministers needs to be heard by all and it will provide great encouragement and rejuvenation for those in ministry.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus 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.”

How to enjoy Reading Your Bible by FerrinWhen I was a kid I hated reading. My sister on the other hand loved it. I would read what I had to for school and that was it. When I reached high school I read through the Bible a few times for our youth group program and I did enjoy it. But outside of that I hated it. I wanted to be outside rollerblading, or skateboarding, or shooting my pellet gun. I did not want to read. Reading required me to slow down and be quiet. Sometimes I literally cried when I had to read.

Now I love to read and I love reading the Bible. Though my youth pastor played a large role in my current love for reading, there were a number of factors that led to my love of reading. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many Christians. Not only is there a decline in reading in the general population there is a decline in reading of the Bible by Christians. Not only is the culture post-Christian, it seems that the Evangelical Christian church is becoming post-Christian merely because less and less Christians are reading their Bible and therefore don’t know it.

So how do Christians begin to read the Bible so that they can develop an enjoyment of it? That’s why Keith Ferrin, author of Falling in Love With God’s Word, has recently written How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible (Bethany House, 2015). There are many factors that contribute to Christians not enjoying reading the Bible and Keith aims to help Christians overcome these and put them on a path to enjoying and loving to read the Bible.

The book is divided into ten steps to help people develop enjoyment while reading the Bible. Keith is not content for Christians to just read the Bible out of habit and duty. No, he wants Christians to enjoy reading the Bible. If Christians can move from reading out of duty to reading out of enjoyment then their Bible reading will be much more effective and, well, enjoyable!

Like with any other relationship, our relationship with God is built on time spent with Him and we do so through prayer and Bible reading/study. When we read merely out of a sense of duty we can tend to read just out of guilt and for the purpose of knowing more about the Bible. But Keith wants to remind us that reading the Bible is not just for knowing more what is said but who is saying it. We read the Bible to know God better through Jesus. Knowing our Bibles better is always important but if we fail to know God better in the process then we have missed a lot in our reading.

Through the ten steps for reading the Bible to enjoy it Keith gives a lot of practical guidance that can be used immediately. One thing that really sticks out is the priority Keith puts on reading the Bible in context. That is, while many devotionals tend to focus on reading a few verses, or even just one at a time, Keith wants to help you develop an enjoyment for reading by reading in big chunks. For instance, the Epistles of the New Testament were written as letters to be read aloud at one time. Why do we break them up in bits and pieces? “We try to figure out what Philippians 4:13 means without being able to say what the book of Philippians is about.” (67) Keith wants us to enjoy the whole Bible and not just a few of our favorite verses.

How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible is an excellent book with some of the best advice on how to develop a lifestyle of consistent Bible reading while enjoying it at the same time. This is a good book for new Christians who are not used to reading or for Christians who are going through a season in their Christian walk where they find reading their Bibles to be more of a chore than an enjoyment.

You can also check out Keith’s earlier book Falling in Love With God’s Word and his very helpful web site for more information and helps on reading the Bible.

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.”


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