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 Practicing the Power

Practicing the Power by Sam Storms has been an eye opening read for myself. Being from a cessationist background myself my only encounters with charismatic worship and use of the gifts have been seeing the types of uses Sam Storms would be critical of as well. One example comes to mind, for my world religions class in college we had to attend a worship service at a place of worship different from our faith background and I chose to attend a nondenominational charismatic church. That day they had a guest speaker who commanded everyone to speak at tongues at the same time, no order no interpretation just unintelligible noise. This book has helped me see that not all those who believe in the ongoing use of the sign gifts are like that or like the televangelist fakes found on TV.

I think the first four chapters of this book are probably the most useful as there are many points of application that would prove valid and useful for those in the cessationist camp. In those chapters he focuses on the importance of the Spirit’s presence in the believers life, the need to have an earnest desire for the work of the Spirit, and the importance of prayer and fasting in regards to the spiritual gifts. In those chapters he shows reflects in his writing the biblical balance between appropriate use of means and an understanding of God’s sovereignty. I did find his chapter on deliverance a help review of an area that seems to be largely neglected in Baptist circles.

The greatest issue I have with this book is the fact that Sam Storms seeks to differentiate between prophecy in the Old and New Testament, having one serve as authoritative while the other it seems to be is more subjective. I do not see anywhere in the New Testament where this distinction is made or where it is so subjective.

The most important thing this book has one for me is to help me understand those coming from a charismatic background better.

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 This Is Our Time

 

In This Is Our Time author Trevin Wax identifies and explores some of the pervasive false beliefs shaping our culture, and in many ways shaping evangelicals. Wax in this work displays an adeptness for understanding the pervading views and values of our culture.

As Trevin Wax notes in his introduction this book is really divided into two main sections. In the first half of the book he examines the habits that shape our life, and in doing so really explores where and how the false beliefs of our culture are so easily transmitted. In the first chapter he addresses the habits surrounding our usage of smart phones and social media. Chapter two addresses the influence that Hollywood and popular entertainment have and how one can see either a reflection of what society is in entertainment or the vision the maker has for society’s future. The third chapter addresses the idea that happiness has become the ultimate good for many in society. The fourth chapter addresses society’s attempt to find happiness through materialism.

In the section in which the focus shifts to the larger myths of society the problem of feeling to at home in society. Trevin helpfully points to the importance of the needed tension of being in but not of. The next two areas of focus are marriage and sexuality. The final chapter addresses the false beliefs surrounding progress and the equally problematic view that the former times were better.

If you’re looking for book to aid you in exegeting culture than I would recommend this book for you. I do believe that Trevin Wax’s time in Romania has helped him understand American society and culture in a way that is not possible if one has not stepped outside of it. As the saying goes if you want to know what water is like don’t ask the fish, and I think to truly understand any culture one must be able to see it from both an inside and outside perspective, something I think Trevin does in this work.

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 The Resurrection Fact

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The Resurrection Fact edited by John Bombaro and Adam Fransisco, released in time for Easter this year, provides an excellent defense of the resurrection of Christ against some of the more recent challengers.

A wide range of contributors address key objections to the resurrection, for example Mark Pierson provides excellent insight in historical matters surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ. Contrary to many skeptics the best historical evidence does demonstrate that it would be unlikely for Jesus body to have been left for scavengers. He did die and He was buried. Many of the chapters a list of recommended resources to dig deeper. Reading the modern ideas put forward in challenge to the resurrection of Christ it becomes clearly that the alternative explanations such as the swoon theory, mass hallucination, etc. all require a blind faith that ignores the clear historical evidence surrounding Christ.

Overall this book provides a good defense of the resurrection with each contributors demonstrating attention to details. I think this book would be a good one to place in the hands of students today as many will be confronted with objections that parallel those dealt with in this book.

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

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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 The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb

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The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel is a much-needed book. One doesn’t have to look to far to see how many have fallen in their chase after fame in evangelical circles.

There is a subtle line in ministry between a desire to have a wide reach for the sake of making the gospel known and having a wide reach so that we are known. In this work wisdom and insight is drawn from J.I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson. In a day and age where evangelical leaders are more concerned in building personal platforms based on their personalities the authors and those they draw from provide a helpful corrective.

The first part of this book in which the authors interact with J.I. Packer, Marva Dawn, and John Perkins provides a helpful contrast between a worldly pursuit of power and God’s power demonstrated in human weakness and love. The second section of the book helps the reader understand how to embrace way of Christ in ministry. In a church culture that entices pastors to fixate on platforms and popularity this serves as a powerful corrective.

The most important chapter in this book in my opinion is the seventh chapter as it fully explores the terrible reality that many churches and leaders have adopted the posturing of the dragon as seen in revelation as opposed to way of ministry that is faithful to Christ. Small church pastors might think themselves immune to the temptations for power that are evident in many mega church personalities, but the truth is the temptation to build a ministry that elevates self is found in churches of all shapes and sizes. This book should be required reading for anyone in ministry.

Disclosure: I received a 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.

Reformation 500 in 2017

This coming year will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In light of that in the coming year I will be reviewing resources on the Reformation both new and old. I will also do a series of posts highlighting the significance of the Reformation for today. One of the first books I will be reviewing is Legacy of Luther edited by Stephen Nicholls and R.C. Sproul. You can get a free ecopy today only here (HT: Challies).

Review: Saving the Saved

In Saving the Saved Bryan Loritts provides a grace-infused look at the gospel of Matthew that avoids the ditches of legalism and antinomianism. Loritts main target is the legalism that seeks to measure up and earn what can only be received by grace.

Loritts early on identifies the nature of the fight we all face by looking at the temptation in the wilderness and calls it, “a fight between resisting or resting in his Father’s love (p. 29).” Throughout the book Loritts walks the reader through the ministry of Christ as recorded by Matthew displaying our utter need for Christ and his grace as apart from him we have no goodness. The second section of this book focuses upon Christ’s death and resurrection as the focus of resting in the Father’s love through faith. The third section of this book demonstrates that resting in love does make a real difference in the life of the believer.

Loritts does a great job of dealing with the text and the issue of meritocracy in our culture. This is a helpful corrective to the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism which is running rampant disguising itself as Christianity. It seems like it’s difficult for authors these days to write a book extolling grace without falling into the ditch of antinomianism but Loritts has managed to avoid that pitfall in this work.

Disclosure: I received a 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: 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.