The Essential Jonathan Edwards : A Review

The Essential Jonathan Edwards by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney

In 2010 the five-volume Essential Edwards was published by the authors of this volume. The authors have compiled much of that work into this present volume, making it much easier to access their previous work. If you’re just discovering Jonathan Edwards this book would be a great starting point to understand his life and his work as one of if not the greatest theologian America has ever produced.

This volume is divided into five sections following the same structure as the five-volume series published eight years ago. The first section provides a biographical overview of his life. The second explores the theme of beauty which was a common theme in his written works and sermons. The third section traces Edwards understanding of the good life. The fourth section addresses the nature of true Christianity as opposed to nominalism. The final section traces Edwards’s understanding of heaven and hell and how that understanding shaped his life and ministry.

This year will mark the 260th anniversary of Edwards’s passing and after all those years his works are still in print and still relevant today. Edwards served his day as a model pastor-theologian a dying breed in our day. His love of God and his commitment to sound doctrine and true godliness are evidenced not just in his writings but in his life work. If you’re unfamiliar with Edwards you won’t go wrong with reading this book.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Supernatural Power For Everyday People: A Review

Supernatural Power For Everyday People by Jared C. Wilson

This book gets to the heart of a problem many professing Christians find themselves experiencing, the problem of a stagnant and boring spiritual life.Whereas we are often forgetful of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers Wilson helpfully reminds readers of the crucial importance of the indwelling Spirit for the vitality of the believer’s spiritual and everyday life.

In the first chapter of this book Wilson addresses the problem which this book so ably addresses. In each of the following nine chapters Wilson explores how the Spirit serves as the divine provision for our problems. If I were to single out one chapter it would be the final chapter which addresses the baptism of the Spirit. In that chapter Wilson cuts through much of the confusion that shrouds peoples understanding of the filling or baptism of the Spirit and provides greatly needed biblical clarity.

For those who feel stagnant in their spiritual life this would be an encouraging and informing read. It is a helpful reminder pointing of the role of the Spirit in the Christian’s life.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Eschatological Discipleship: A Review

Eschatological Discipleship by Trevin Wax

In this book Trevin Wax addresses the task of discipleship in light of one crucial question. What time is it? Wax sets the Christian understanding on the world and history over and against the prevailing worldviews of progress, sexual revolution, and consumerism.

In the first section of the book Wax lays the foundation for understanding concepts of worldview and wisdom with a view to their relationship to the task of discipleship and understanding the times. In the second section explores the biblical foundations that support his understanding of eschatological discipleship drawing on both the Old and New Testaments. The third section explores Christianity and its relationship to the prevailing worldviews of our culture. The final section explores how eschatological discipleship can shape spiritual formation.

Not many books on the topic of discipleship address the philosophical and worldview issues addressed in this book. Wax’s book is helpful in addressing these neglected issues in the task of discipleship. As seen in the book when we are and where history is going are two important questions that must shape and inform our understanding of what it means to be disciples of the risen Christ. This book will help any reader understand how to live as a citizen of heaven in the present time.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards: A Review

A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards
Nathan A. FinnJeremy M. Kimble

Jonathan Edwards is considered the greatest theologian and philosopher America has produced, his writings have been in print since his life time, yet many can be daunted in where to start reading Edwards and how to read Edwards. This book helps to address both challenges.

This book draws on a wide range of church historians in addressing the major works of Edwards.  Each contributor helps the reader understand the background behind the writings of Edwards which is important for understanding Edwards’s thought. The contributions range from a general overview of how read Edwards by Dane Ortland to more specific overviews such as Nathan Finn’s chapter on Edwards autobiographical spiritual writings, Jeremy Kimble’s chapter on the revival writings, Michael McClenahan on justification, Gerald McDermott on Religious Affections, Rhys Bezzant on the Life of David Brainerd, Joe Rigney on Freedom of the Will, Robert Caldwell of Original Sin, History of the Works of Redemption by Sean Michael Lucas, Edwards’s Affectional Ethics by Paul Helm, and an appendix by a man who has does much to popular the work of Edwards today John Piper. Each of these provides valuable insight on the work of Edwards.

Personally I enjoyed most the chapter on the revival writings of Edwards as it provides great background information in regards to Edwards work as an apologist for the Great Awakening. I also enjoyed the chapter on The Life of David Brainerd a work that has had a profound impact on the history of Christian missions. If you’re looking at reading Edwards I would commend this book, if you’re wondering where you can find his works they are available in many print editions as well as here http://edwards.yale.edu/ .

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Graciousness: A Review

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Book Cover

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love by John Crotts

This book addresses one of the most important characteristics in the life of the believer and the local church, graciousness. One doesn’t need to look far to see that there is a great imbalance among Christian in regards to grace and truth. This book helps demonstrate the great importance God places on graciousness and calls the reader cultivate that quality.

This book begins with addressing the importance of graciousness in that it is essential to being a loving person. The author the provides a practical understanding of graciousness and its value in the believers life. Following that Crotts points to the examples of graciousness found in Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul. In the fifth chapter we see the danger faced by ungracious churches as evidenced by the church in Ephesus and the warning given to it in Revelation. The final chapters of the book address provide practical ways of cultivating and practicing graciousness internally, individually, and corporately.

It’s my firm belief that the key cause of decline in local churches in America isn’t owing to the changes in our surrounding culture, it is owing to a loss of graciousness at both the level of the individual and the level of the local church. As Crotts points out the church in Ephesus was the supreme example of a church who was active and doctrinally correct but unloving. I heartily commend this book to all believers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Theology, Church and Ministry: A Review

Theology, Church, and Ministry: A Handbook for Theological Education edited by David Dockery

In the past I have reviewed books directed at pointing pastors back to the importance of theology for pastoral ministry viewing the local church as primary sphere for theology. In this book edited by Dr. David Dockery the various contributors a resource that points to how theological education can be done in service to the church.

The first section of this book consisting of five chapters from five contributors provides an introduction to the basis and purpose of theological education in regards to preparation for ministry.  Michael Duduit’s chapter on theological education and ministry calling provides helpful insight into some recent trends in theological education as well as a reminder of the primacy of calling.

The second section addresses the content of theological education with chapters from experts in each area of theology. The authors of these chapters make clear there is no shortcut to theological education. I think the two most important chapters are on the two on biblical languages. Kenneth Matthews helps show the importance of the original languages of the Old Testament and the the value they have for ministry especially as pastors spiritual life is deepened in his reading the original Hebrew. Constantine Campbell’s chapter is equally helpful in regards to the importance and value of Greek.

The third and final section shows the importance of theological education for the ministry of the church from the work of the pastor to missions and its significance for the global church. Lawless’s chapter on theology, evangelism, and mission is significant for his attention to both the local church especially as in regards to preparing students to lead and equip congregations for evangelism in the future. I think the most important contribution in the whole volume is the chapter written by Dr. Daniel Akin, his axioms should in my opinion govern the actions and plans of all of our SBC seminaries.

We live in a time where two things have happened and continue to happen. One is the continuing lowering of commitment to theology among pastors, many pastors could care less about theology and this is wrong. The second is many in academia see theology as an engagement done for those in academia with no attention to the local church. This book is a helpful corrective in both areas. I hope that every faculty member of every SBC seminary gets this book and reads it. I would commend this book to those beginning their theological education as it will help show the value and importance of the task of theological preparation. Pastors who might have neglected their studies might be stirred from that neglect through this book.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

They Came for Freedom: A Review

They Came for Freedom by Jay Milbrandt

Much myth surrounds the Pilgrims and what led up to the first Thanksgiving. In his latest title Jay Milbrandt provides an engaging look at the Pilgrims and the events that surrounded them.  Well researched and well written this is history that makes that past come alive.

Throughout this book Milbrandt traces the journeys of both the Pilgrims and Squanto. Milbrandt faithfully records the pressures and persecutions that led the Pilgrims to leave England for Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to America. One sees in the life of Squanto which in my opinion demonstrate  God’s providence. We often romanticize the Pilgrims but Milbrandt demonstrates the harsh realities they faced in the new world. In many ways I am convinced that it was the Pilgrims religious convictions that separated Plymouth colony from all the failed colonies that came before them.

This book is one I would recommend to anyone who wants to better understand the Pilgrims or earlier colonial America. While sometimes authors add more fiction that history or make history dull this is not the case with this book. There’s plenty of time to read it before Thanksgiving this year so make sure you add it to your reading list.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Eats With Sinners: A Review

Eats with Sinners by Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers in this book, that arose from a sermon series that made a great impact on the church he pastors, draws on the example of Christ in the gospels in pointing readers in how to practically engage the lost.

In this book Chambers draws out thirteen characteristics that marked Jesus and his outreach to sinners. In his chapter on urgency Chambers makes the argument that the church in America largely lacks a sense of urgency to reach out to the lost, whereas Jesus instilled a sense of urgency in his disciples in pointing out the harvest is ready. This also ties into his last chapter on vision, too often we don’t see or care to see the lost around us which in turn kills our sense of urgency.

More than a book on evangelism and outreach this book gives us a reminder of what Christ’s character was like in his earthly ministry. I think far too often our evangelism is stifled by the simple fact that we are not striving to be like the one who saved us by His grace. This book has far greater implications than simply evangelism as it touches upon qualities that are essential for us to be fruitful believers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Preaching as Reminding: A Review

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by [Arthurs, Jeffrey D.]

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs

While there are many good books written on the subject of preaching of them are rather unremarkable and fail to leave a lasting impression. Preaching as Reminding is both a good book and a remarkable one and I believe will leave a lasting impression on the preaching ministry of those who read it.

The basic premise of the book is that one of the primary roles of the preacher is that of remembrancer a title derived from Lancelot Andrewes sermon “Remember Lot’s wife.” As Arthurs notes in his introduction the role of stirring memory through preaching receives little attention although there many examples of that very role in Scripture. Arthurs states, “Ministers must serves as the Lord’s remembrancers because things learned can be buried, lost, amputated, or corrupted (p. 6).” In the first three chapters of the book Arthurs fleshes out a biblical theology of memory. In chapters one and two the importance and meaning of God remembering is developed. In the second our forgetfulness and the way to remember are addressed. In the third chapter Arthurs begins to address the role of preaching in stirring memory. Andrews makes the statement, “In a sense, all biblical preaching is in the context of a worship service is an act of reminding (pp. 48-49).” Andrews proceeds to argue the importance of memory in stirring the affection. In the closing chapters Arthurs draws out the implications of the importance of memory in the areas of style, the use of story, delivery, and ceremony and symbol in the context of preaching and worship.

I think Arthurs makes a sound case for the importance of stirring memory in the preaching of the word. His chapters on style on delivery have been truly helpful to me in thinking through and evaluating my preaching ministry. I would commend this book to all those called to be preachers called to be the Lord’s remembrancers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Encountering God Through Expository Preaching

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Encountering God through Expository Preaching by Jim Scott Orrick, Brian Payne, and Ryan Fullerton is a masterful treatment on the issue of expository preaching. While many books have been written on the subject of preaching in general and expository preaching in particular, in the church there is still a continued drift away from giving expository preaching its proper place in the life of the local church. As noted in the introduction expository preaching is central and indispensable to true worship.

This book is divided into three main sections. The first section addresses the character and life of the man called to preach God’s word, proper Scripture interpretation, the benefits of exposition and the value of topical messages when done in a biblical manner. The final three chapters of the first section cover the role of the Spirit in the sermon and preaching, these chapters elevate the overall contribution this book makes to the vast collection of books on preaching as far too often attention is paid to the mechanics of preaching at the expense of attention to the necessity of God’s work in preaching.  The second section addresses delivery, Scripture reading, and understanding the structure and genre of biblical texts. The final section covers the use of manuscripts, outlines, and preaching without notes.

This book  highlight the intended purpose of preaching as a means of encountering God through his word as it is faithfully expounded. I would highly recommend this book to any pastor.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.