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.

 

Advertisements

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 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 ane 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.

Review of Biblical Authority After Babel

Biblical Authority After Babel:Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity by Kevin Vanhoozer maybe one of the most important books on the impact of the Reformation and biblical interpretations to come out in recent years. As noted by Vanhoozer the Reformation is not and has not been without its critics and opponents. There is a vocal crowd that believes the Reformation is at fault for rampant Western individualism and the fractured nature of Christianity. As someone who is appreciative of the Reformers and the work of the Reformation I am grateful for Vanhoozer’s work in this book.

Vanhoozer begins his work by addressing the criticism that has circled around the Reformation. Looking at those who see the Reformers as the cause of the evils of modernity. This work is retrieval theology at its best. As Vanhoozer states in his introduction he is retrieving the priesthood of the believer in regards to biblical interpretation and catholicity as expressed in Mere Protestant Christianity. I agree with Vanhoozer when he says in the introduction, “The kind of Protestantism that needs to live on is not the one that encourages individual autonomy or corporate pride but the one that encourages the church to hold fast to the gospel, and to one another.”In this work he draws on the solas of the Reformation in addressing issues pertaining to interpretive authority, the church, and the priesthood of the believer.

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation drawing near Vanhoozer has provided a book that ably defends the good that came from the Reformation, responding to the critiques surround’ the Reformers and building upon their contribution with an eye to future developments in Protestantism. In light of current trends in evangelicalism such as individualism, isolationism as seen in the growing nondenominational movement, and an ecumenical spirit which is critical of the Reformation I can think of no better book for pastors and leaders to read on these important issues.

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: Becoming a Pastor Theologian

The past two years have brought with them a call to  returning to the historic precedent of the pastor as a theologian. Editors of Becoming a Pastor Theologian, Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand,   also released The Pastor Theologian last year which was reviewed here as well. The essays contained in this work are the product of The Center for Pastor Theologians first annual conference which met last year.

The first section of this work has a broad focus on the identities of the pastor theologian, many of which are complimentary and overlapping. Rightly the first identity addressed is that of the pastor theologian as biblical theologian. Leithart demonstrates the importance of being rooted in the Scriptures and provides three horizons for the pastor theologian in biblical theology those being the hermeneutical,   homiletical, and  liturgical. Also of note ,and this is illustrative of the movement of those seeking a resurgence of the role of the pastor-theologian, is the practicality of it all in that pastor-theologians are called to be generalists in human suffering and specialists in death. James K.A. Smith draws on Augustine of what it means for a pastor theologian to be a political theologian, Smith’s understanding of this is a helpful correction to many pastors in his addressing the need for political theologies to shape habit and desire. Vanhoozer’s essay draws on his previous work in focusing on the role of the pastor as public theologian. Hiestand’s chapter draws on the previous title he and Wilson published in calling for the pastor as an ecclesial theologian who does theology not just with the church or the larger public in mind but as with the intention of interacting with other theologians. Wilson’s chapter should be recommended reading for every pastor and every seminary student. I believe there is no greater need for the Church today than for the pastors of churches to cruciform theologians.

The second section of this work draws in historical examples of the pastor theologian. First with Manetch’s work on Calvin. It is easy to forget that Calvin was no ivory tower intellectual, he was one who did his theology in the midst of and for the church. I think most of us will benefit from Philip Graham Ryken’s treatment of Thomas Boston. Boston was an ordinary pastor in a small church, his theological contributions arose from his pastoral ministry. Castaldo highlights the importance of mentoring by drawing from the example of John Henry Newman. A final look is given to Bonhoeffer and his role as a case study of the ecclesial theologian.

The final section addresses the pastor theologian and the Bible and there are three chapters in this section that stand out. Jason Nicholls provides an important look at the pastoral epistles and draws five mandates for the pastor theologian from them. Eric Redmond focuses on the pastor theologian as giver of wisdom, something greatly needed in the realm of theology and the absence of which he clearly highlights. The final chapter looks at John the apostle and what can be learned from his second epistle in regards to creativity in writing theology.

This is a rich resource which compliments previous works in regard to the pastor as theologian. In a  day and age when pastors are encouraged to sell there birthright as theologians for a bowl of pragmatism this book is sorely needed. If you’re a pastor you might fear that expressing a greater interest in theology is impractical, the contributors of this volume prove the contrary that theology essential to the vitality of your ministry. Get this book and read it. I plan on interacting further with several of the chapters further on this blog at a later point in time.

I thank InterVarsity Press for sending me this book and hope it reaches a wide audience.