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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High King of Heaven: A Review

High King of Heaven edited by John Macarthur

In this rich resource edited by John Macarthur some of the brightest and most faithful servants of Christ have come together to provide a work that explores, explains, and exalts the biblical person and work of Christ. The various contributors cover a wide range of Christological passages in both the Old and New Testaments.

This book is composed of 23 contributions arranged in four main sections addressing the person, work, word, and witness of Christ. Every contribution is filled with both theological reflection on the biblical text in question as well as practical application for today. One of my personal favorites in this book is Steven Lawson’s chapter on Christ as the Good Shepherd. Lawson helpfully explains the encouraging truth behind that title and helpfully points pastors to imitation of Christ.

In a day and age when many view deep theological reflection as dry and unhelpful this book shows how wrong that view is and how important theological reflection on the biblical truths concerning the person of Christ is. I would highly commend this book to any believer and especially to fellow pastors as they will find great encouragement in this labor of love.

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.

Embodied Hope: A Review

Embodied Hope by Kelly M. Kapic

The best books to read on suffering are those written by those who are personally acquainted with it. Author and professor Kelly Kapic writes not as one detached from suffering, but as a fellow-sufferer and the husband of one deeply acquainted with pain and suffering.

In eleven chapters Kapic provides pastoral and theological wisdom in regard to pain in suffering. In the early chapters of the book Kapic addresses how pain and suffering often tempt us to think ill of God and the need to be reoriented to God and the place of lament and questions in pain in suffering. In the second of section Kapic points readers to the cross and the significance there is in Christ’s identification with us for the pain and suffering we find in this world. In the final section Kapic addresses the importance of community for suffering saints, also noting how in  suffering there is a temptation to isolate oneself from community for fear of how others will react.

Of all the subjects one could read about it might be asked why anyone should want to read a book on pain and suffering. Kapic speaks to certainties of life in addressing pain and suffering. If you are a Christian you will suffer in some way, it is part of being a follower of Christ sharing in His sufferings. Not only that those you love and know will suffer. If you are in ministry everyone you minister is suffering or will suffer. Kapic’s book is a valuable resource that points faithfully to the bedrock foundation we have in hope even and especially in the midst of suffering.

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.

Not God Enough: A Review

Not God Enough by J.D. Greear

J.D. Greear in this book addresses a problem all to common among professing Christians, a small view of God. In this book Greear directly challenges the small view of God held by many with the biblical view of God in all his majesty.

In two parts comprised of seventeen short chapters Greear explores the biblical attributes and character of God. Greear points to his own challenges in his journey of understanding God in all His greatness and bigness in such a way that moved him to bold faith. Greear does a great job in pointing out the importance of a right view of God for the life of the believer.

While many seem to think theology is unimportant this book helps show how wrong that understanding is. The most important thing we can know about someone is what they believe about God. Greear rightly points that the Bible does not allow for the small or personalized God many people claim to have, instead he puts to a God who is awesome in every way. I highly recommend this book, get it, read it, and give it as a gift you won’t regret it.

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.

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Review

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith by Gregg R. Allison

This latest title by SBTS theology professor Dr. Gregg Allison is a true gift to all pastors and teachers in the local church. Many pastors strugggle knowing they should teach their people the major doctrines of the Bible but lack a suitable plan or outline to do so. In this book Allison has provided a must have resource that will enable pastors to lay a foundation of theological soundness in the lives of their people.

In eight sections comprised of 50 chapters Allison walks through all the most important doctrines beginning with the doctrine of God and going all the way to eschatology. Each chapter provides a general overview of the doctrine in question, a general guide to teaching the doctrine, and a teaching outline with a list of recommended resources.

This might be one the most helpful resources for pastors published this year. My recommendation would be to get it and use it to teach your church or a class in your 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.

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.

Review of Pastoral Theology

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Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace is a book that stands apart from other books on the issue of pastoral ministry. Whereas many books on ministry focus more on the how-to of ministry the authors of this book provide a biblical theology of pastoral ministry.

This book is divided into three main sections. In the first section the authors provide a look at the trinitarian foundation of pastoral ministry. In a day where pragmatism is so emphasized it is refreshing to read a book that emphasizes the character of God and the importance of having one’s identity centered in Christ. The second section provides a look at the issues of anthropology, ecclesiology, and missiology. The authors rightly point the leaders to the relationship of God’s grace and compassion in the ministry. The last section addresses the practical God commanded tasks that underscore the work of pastoral ministry. The authors address the pastor’s role as under-shepherd of God’s flock, the role of preaching,  and the priority of family in pastoral ministry.

I believe that this is one of the most important books on pastoral ministry that has been written in recent years. I would commend every pastor to buy this book and read it as what is lacking in much of evangelicalism today is a biblical understanding of pastoral ministry and this book is a helpful corrective to that.

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 Preaching in the New Testament

Among the many books that have been published on the issue of preaching Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths truly stands apart. Most of the recent publications on preaching in recent years have focused more on the how to of preaching. In contrast to those work Griffiths seeks to explore what the New Testament has to say about preaching and its priority in the local church.

This book is divided into three main sections. In the first section a biblical theology of the word is presented, the key terms used to describe preaching in the New Testament are explored, and the word ministry of all believers is addressed. In the second section of the book Griffiths narrows in with laser focus on six of the most prominent New Testament passages that address the issue of preaching the word, his work addressing Hebrews and its implications for the church are worth the price of the book. Th third and final section provides an overview of the material covered in previous chapters with some important implications of this work explored.

Biblical preaching has fallen on hard times, and rather than argue for the importance of preaching simply based on its importance in church history we must have a biblical foundation for preaching in the church. Griffiths in this work points to the solid foundation for understanding the enduring importance of preaching in the life of the church which is found in the New Testament.

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 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.