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.

Advertisements

Christmas: A reminder of the goodness of creation

CMG - Love Came Down - Square - Blank

Sometimes as Christians we can adopt an attitude that despises or neglects the goodness of God’s creation. For many there understanding of the created order begins with the fall and misses God’s declaration that everything that he created was good.

In her forthcoming book Love Thy Body author Nancy Pearcey points to the hope of creation when she says the following in the first chapter, “Finally, at the end of time, all creation will be restored and renewed by God’s grace. The Bible speaks of salvation using terms like restore, renew, redeem—all of which imply a recovery of something that was originally good.”

Christmas tells the story of how God has begun the rescue of restoring, renewing, and redeeming creation.  This was done by the Word, which was God, becoming flesh. God displays the dignity of humanity and his love for creation in coming into his creation to rescue fallen humanity and redeem his creation from the curse.

Christmas reminds us that while creation is not the ultimate reality it is a good reality. A good and beautiful gift given by God not to be despised or rejected.

Review of Word Centered Church

Word Centered Church a revised edition of Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman demonstrates the vital role the Bible should and must have in the life a local church. Given the fact that by and large the Bible does not have a central place in the life of many local churches this is a timely book.

This book is composed of three main sections. The first section addresses the ways in which God’s word functions. The second section addresses the role of the sermon which is to come from the Word. The final section addresses the word’s place in the life of the local church. Churches are to sing the word, pray the word, disciple with the word, and spread the word through personal evangelism.

While many pastors I know might agree with the centrality of the word in preaching I think the attention that Leeman gives to singing and praying the word are helpful correctives given the current conditions in many churches. Many leaders in the church would be greatly helped if they considered the importance of affirming the word of God in what is sung by the congregation. Leeman also addresses a clear problem in the prayer life of local churches in how divorced it is from biblical example and precept. In many church prayer meetings one would be hard pressed to hear the reverberation of God’s word in the prayers made.

Whether pastor or layman this book will prove to be helpful in thinking through the central place the Bible should and must have in the local church if we are to be faithful to God.

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 Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching

In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching the various contributors have provided an important resource for pastors. Many pastors avoid preaching the Old Testament for the simple fact they don’t know how to preach it.

A large chunk of the Old Testament is narrative, and often when it is preached it is mishandled. Lawrence Turner helps pastors understand the importance of plot in preaching the narrative passages. Paul Kissling likewise focuses in on narrative but with an eye toward preaching on characters. Christopher Wright’s work on preaching the law is particularly helpful in understanding the principles which apply to today. Through each chapter of the book every major genre and the major sections of the Old Testament are addressed with the closing chapters providing guidance in how to deal with difficult texts and how to preach Christ from the Old Testament in such a way that one does not butcher the text.

As a preacher I have to be honest that until I read this book I had not given the Old Testament the attention it deserves in my preaching ministry and had thus robbed my hearers of a balanced diet so to speak. This resource has reminded me of the importance of preaching the Old Testament and has helped me to think through how to actually preach the Old Testament in such a way that is faithful to the text and beneficial to the hearers.

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.

What are we for?

pastorspecialist

In The Pastor as Public Theologian Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer makes the following provocative observation, “What are pastor-theologians for? The short answer: for cultivating life and for coping with death. “Death” is more than the moment of dying. It is rather the sense of “Death” is more than the moment of dying. It is rather the sense of an ending that casts its dark shadow over everything else in our stories
  an ending that casts its dark shadow over everything else in our stories (Vanhoozer, The Pastor as Public Theologian, pp. 104-105).”

We know that death is certain, we all say the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. Yet there is in our culture and even in our churches a certain unwillingness and inability to cope with the reality of death. I once visited a man who had been just diagnosed with cancer. He was in his 80s and in light of the doctors prognosis had opted not to receive treatment. This does not mean that he had begun to cope, or was willing to begin the process of preparing for death. Quite the opposite. During the months before his passing he did not mention the word cancer, even to his wife. On one particular occasion he did express that he was expecting a miracle and shared with me a booklet by Norman Vincent Peale that he had been given on the subject of claiming miracles.

The challenge for pastors today in my opinion is to minister to a people who have been conditioned by the culture to ignore the reality of death in every day life. I believe philosopher Luc Ferry clearly points the predicament of man in ignoring death:

Death is not as simple as an event as it is ordinarily credited with being. It cannot merely be written off as ‘the end of life’, as the straightforward termination of our existence…Death is, in the midst of life, that which will not return; that which belongs irreversibly to time past, which we have hope of recovering. It can mean childhood holidays with friends, the divorce of parents, or the houses or schools we have to leave, or a thousand other examples: even if it does not always mean the disappearance of a loved one, everything that comes under the heading of ‘Nevermore’ belongs in death’s ledger ( Luc  Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, pp. 4-5).

Death lies lurking in every area of life, casting its shadows everywhere. Which means the liberating light of the gospel needs to be brought and applied to every area where death casts its shadow. Lets us be committed to knowing how to minister to those going through death’s shadows in every day life.

 

Review of The Heart of the Church

The Heart of the Gospel, part of Joe Thorn’s three part series on the church, focuses in on  the most important aspect of the church the gospel. Thorn in his introduction demonstrates the fact that one of the primary problems the church has is the fact that it is not driven by the gospel which should be the central driving force of the church.

This book is comprised of three parts divided into twelve short and easy to read chapters. In the first section of this book Thorn addresses the gospel as the central theme running from Old to New Testament. In the closing two chapters of the first part the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are addressed. The third part of this book addresses the doctrinal truths of the gospel beginning with justification and its consequences and ending with sanctification and good works. The final section addresses the character and nature of God as revealed in the gospel.

Of the books in this series I think this one stands as the most important as it reminds pastors and church leaders of the central place the gospel is to have in the church, a place that it does not have in many churches. Without the gospel being central the aspects of character and life will never be what they need to be. In a day where there is increasing abandonment of the biblical gospel Thorn has given the church a wake up call to the supreme importance of the gospel, the whole gospel, for the very existence of the church.

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 Biblical Doctrine

This book belongs on the shelf or ereader of anyone who has benefited from the preaching and writing ministry of John MacArthur. Biblical Doctrine is a book that truly lives up to its name.

This systematic theology covers all the major categories that would be expected. In every doctrine that is explored and expounded one sees MacArthur’s pastoral heart and eye for application. From the very beginning of this work the importance of doctrine for spiritual growth is emphasized as it says , “Spirituality involves God’s Spirit taking God’s Word and maturing God’s people through the ministry of God’s servant for the spiritual growth of individual believers, which results in the growth of Christ’s body.” The second chapter of the book is in my opinion of the greatest in this work. In this chapter on sees the high view of Scripture that has been the bedrock of MacArthur’s ministry explored and defended.

Whether you agree with MacArthur on every point of doctrine or not you will find this a valuable resource. Each chapter begins with a hymn related to the doctrine addressed and closes with a prayer and recommended resources. The charts found throughout the chapters also add to the usefulness of this work.  I would say if you’re a pastor or student of the Word you can’t go wrong in adding Biblical Doctrine to your library.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy 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 Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God

51ASj71vUcL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Noted Luther scholar Robert Kolb in this work helps remind readers that the Reformation sparked by Luther was itself a rediscovery of the Word. Kolb in this book traces that rediscovery and how it brought about the Scripture-centered church that rose out of the Reformation.

Kolb begins by addressing the place of Scripture in Luther’s childhood and youth highlighting that though the people were largely separated from the Scriptures there were aspects such as the reading of Gospel lessons which prevented the gospel from completely withering away under the papacy. Kolb proceeds to address Luther’s discovery of the Bible in the university as well as his overall understanding and interpretive framework. Kolb addresses the role the Scriptures placed in Luther’s work as professor, preacher, and translator. Kolb proceeds to address Luther’s shaping of his fellow colleagues.

One is reminded in this work the enduring power of God’s word. The Reformation and Luther’s life and legacy bear witness to the power of a church that finds its rhythm in the Biblical realities of repentance and forgiveness of sin, and that power holds promise for today as well.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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 Reformation Theology

cover107275-medium

In Reformation Theology Matthew Barrett has brought together some of the leading theological minds of our day to provide a work that melds historical and systematic theology.

One could not ask for a better selection of contributors as each contributor stands as an expert in their respected field. Each chapter is truly representative of the course of doctrinal development in the Reformation with each author drawing on less famous Reformers and the confessions that arose from the Reformation.

This book would help many pastors and church leaders be awakened to the importance of doctrinal specificity, something lacking in many churches and broader evangelicalism.  Reading this work one is confronted with the fact the Reformers thought and engaged in doctrines concerning God and the Gospel in a way that many of us today have not. I appreciate most the fact that each author provides further recommended reading both secondary and primary sources and so any reader who wishes to delve deeper has a robust list of recommended reading to follow up on.

I know this book most likely won’t appeal to the average church members, but I do hope that many pastors would read this book and have their doctrinal indifference challenged.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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 God the Son Incarnate

In my reviewing if I receive an egalley of a book that I find truly exceptional and valuable  I purchase a hard copy for my  personal library. Stephen J. Wellum’s latest work on Christology God the Son Incarnate is one such title. Wellum’s work ably traces the historical trends surrounding Christology and defends the biblical teaching concerning the person of Jesus Christ.

In four major sections Wellum addresses the epistemological basis for Christology, the biblical basis of Christology,  the historical developments of Christology in the church, and finally addresses some recent developments surrounding kenotic Christology and defending orthodox Christology.

While this book blends apologetics, biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology addressing the most important question of who Christ is. Wellum’ s interaction with contemporary trends in Christology is needed reading especially as Wellum addresses many of the false Christologies that are paraded in documentaries around Christmas and Easter. Wellum rightly puts the emphasis upon Scripture in coming to rightly know and understand who Jesus is, something that seems to be lacking among evangelical pastors. Wellum states, “Rightly identifying Jesus, then, requires doing Christology from “above,” starting with Scriptures as God’s own accurate authoritative word written in texts that interpret one another (p. 106).” In a day and age when many evangelical pastors seem to want to build a Christology “from bellow” Wellum’s emphasis is a needed one. Wellum makes clear we are wholly dependent upon the Scriptures as divine revelation to rightly know Jesus. This book is worth the time and effort to work through because of the value of its subject Jesus the incarnate Son of the Father.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy 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.