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Book & Movie Reviews

(18 posts)

Book Announcement: Devoted to the Service of the Temple

I have become increasingly interested lately in the history of the Church and in the lives and writings of the pastors and theologians to whom we owe our great heritage. Among the books I have had my eye on recently is Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins, which I discovered at Pastor Steve Weaver’s Blog (Steve is co-editor). (Who can resist Reformed Baptist theology from a guy named "Hercules"?) Steve has become one of my favorite Bible expositors (listen here), so whatever he is reading is of interest to me. Pastor Weaver has provided the following information on the new book: The new book exploring the spirituality of 17th century Baptist pastor Hercules Collins is now available for order online here. Description: While largely forgotten in modern times, Hercules Collins (1646/7-1702) was highly influential among the late 17th and early 18th century Calvinistic Baptists of London. Through a biographical sketch and 35 sample selections collected from Collins's writings, Michael A. G. Haykin and Steve Weaver introduce us to the vibrant spirituality of this colossal figure. Product Details: ISBN: 9781601780225 Format: Paperback, 160 pages Retail Price: $10.00 Commendations: “Hercules Collins is one of the great figures from our Baptist heritage—a pastor who suffered much for the cause of Christ and left a great legacy for generations that followed. There is something especially compelling about the witness of a man who was oppressed and imprisoned for his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The witness of Hercules Collins as pastor, prisoner, and preacher is worthy of the closest attention in our own times. We are indebted to Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver for bringing Hercules Collins to life for a new generation.” —R. Albert Mohler, Jr. “The secret of Collins's courage and strength lay in his relationship with the Lord Christ. The enormous contemporary value of reading his life and writings is not just in its exposition of his evangelistic methodology, and its indirect comments on today's broader theological scene, but in the inspiration it gives to the heart of each Christian for growth in grace and deeper spirituality.” —Geoff Thomas “We are indebted to Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver for these carefully chosen selections . . . For too long Baptists have had little access to the richness of their theological tradition. We have a great past, and many able servants have given their lives to the cause of our churches, and yet so few of their works have been reprinted. This book continues a very encouraging recent trend, in which the best works are being restored to print. May the Lord bless this book, and the efforts of its editors.” —From the Foreword by James M. Renihan Authors: Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky & Research Professor of Irish Baptist College, Constituent College of Queen’s University Belfast, N. Ireland. Steve Weaver is the pastor of West Broadway Baptist Church in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Previews: Front Cover Back Cover Foreward by James Renihan Excerpt #1: “God is the Gospel“ Excerpt #2: “Plain Preaching“

Book Review: The Grand Weaver

After receiving several books for review purposes, I have learned a couple of things. First, I would rather choose my own books. Second, I don’t like reading books for the purpose of reviewing them. I would rather read for my own education and edification. With that said, I hope you’ll understand if this is not a particularly well-written review. It is, after all, my first book review, as well. The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us through the Events of Our Lives is the first book I have read by Ravi Zacharias. I had, of course, heard of him as an author, apologist, and conference speaker. By all reliable accounts, he is fairly sound theologically and well spoken of by others whose work I do know and respect, so my expectations going into this book were high. Perhaps those high expectations colored my thinking as I read and made me too susceptible to disappointment, and disappointed I was. I want to state clearly that this is not a bad book. It simply did not, in my opinion, demonstrate biblically “how God shapes us through the events of our lives.” Throughout the book, especially in the first half, Dr. Zacharias depends on anecdotes that illustrate the providential hand of God in directing our lives. These stories, for the most part, serve that purpose well, although, at times, I wondered if Zacharias was not leaning a bit too far toward the mystical. Too little was added by the author, however, to draw that conclusion—and that is a major complaint I have about this book. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who drops the ends of sentences and, with a meaningful look, expects you to get it? That’s how I felt reading this book. Zacharias would almost make his point, and then offer an anecdote, poem, or quatation intended to convey the message. It was like . . . you know? The second half of the book contains two chapters that are really quite good and could easily stand alone, Your Will Matters and Your Worship Matters. The following quotation from the latter is the kind of solid, straight-forward writing that is lacking elsewhere in the book: Teaching must become the center of worship again, and the ideas that shape our expressions must be biblically induced and shaped. I am not for a moment suggesting that right teaching will guarantee a throbbing, lively church. It may not. But I am suggesting that displaced and misplaced teaching will guarantee a heretical church. The message of the book is that God is directing the circumstances and events of your life to make you who he wants you to be, and that you will never see this until you begin to look at your life from his perspective. And that’s an important message. It is a message that is conveyed, after a fashion, through the stories in this book. I only wish it had been conveyed more through biblical exposition. You may enjoy the style of this book. I didn’t. If you are easily moved by poignant stories and you think anecdotes prove anything, this book is for you. If you are a pastor looking for fresh illustrations to spice up your dull sermons (because those provided in the Bible aren’t interesting enough), this book might be for you. However, if you are looking for a biblical exposition of the sovereignty and providence of God, this is not that book.

Book Review: Devoted to the Service of the Temple

Wednesday··2007·08·15 · 3 Comments
Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins is a collection of the writings of seventeenth-century Particular Baptist pastor Hercules Collins edited by Dr. Michael Haykin and Pastor Steve Weaver. At 139 pages, including a bibliography, it is a short, easy read, but one that is packed full of rich pastoral theology. The book begins with a thirty page introduction, providing a brief biography of Hercules Collins and the historical setting of his writings, followed by thirty-five short chapters, which are excerpts of his writings. This book can easily be read in one sitting, as I did, or one chapter (2–3 short pages) a day, as a devotional. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find such rich theology in any devotional book written today. We owe considerable gratitude to Dr. Haykin and Pastor Weaver for bringing us this collection of writings from this great, though lesser known, “dead theologian.” I heartily recommend it to you, and leave you with this quotation from chapter five, titled God is the Gospel: There are many good objects in heaven and earth besides thee. There are angels in heaven and saints on earth. But, soul, what are these to thee? Heaven, without thy presence, would be no heaven to me. A palace without thee, a crown without thee, cannot satisfy me. But with thee can I be content, though in a poor cottage. With thee I am at liberty in bonds. . . . [I]f I have thy smiles, I can bear the world’s frowns. If I have spiritual liberty in my soul that I can ascend to thee by faith and have communion with thee, thou shalt choose thy portion for me in this world, “For in the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” —Hercules Collins, Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007).

The Swans Are Not Silent

Wednesday··2007·09·12 · 2 Comments
I have recently finished reading a series of books by John Piper called The Swans Are not Silent. You may have read the several excerpts I have posted as I read. In my mind, nothing short of Scripture serves to inspire and encourage like the biographies of great saints of the past. This series has been especially good that way. These books are a great entry-point into the history and theology of the Christian church. Rich in theology and fascinating in history, yet written on a level that should be easily understood by anyone of high school age and up, they will whet your appetite for more—more history, more theology, more of God’s working through the ages. Titles in the series are: The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton The thumb-nail sketches of great theologians of the church from Augustine and Athanasius to J. Gresham Machen show us that the struggles we face are not greater than those that Christians have faced since the beginning of the church; that the heresies that are prevalent today are the same attacks on the truth that Satan has been using for centuries; that the truth that has sustained God’s people is the same truth that sustains us today; and that the one true God upon whose grace we rest is as faithful today as he has always been—“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Book Review: The Black or White Chronicles

Wednesday··2007·09·26 · 2 Comments
The Black or White Chronicles by John Aubrey Anderson Book One: Abiding Darkness Book Two: Wedgewood Grey Book Three: And if I Die I am not a fan of Christian fiction. I have read very little of it, but what little I have read I have found to be generally lame as literature and theologically weak, at best. The theme of these books, spiritual warfare, has received especially bad treatment and so increased my skepticism. So when I began this series, I expected to trudge joylessly through the first volume, pat myself on the back for graciously giving my time to this work, and move on to better things. Not exactly overcome with enthusiasm, I began . . . The setting of The Black or White Chronicles is the segregated South of the 1940s and continuing into the ’60s. The story revolves around Moses Lincoln “Mose” Washington, the great-grandson of a slave and operations manager of the local cotton gin, Amanda “Missy” Parker, the daughter of the gin owner, and their families. The community provides a variety of colorful characters. The story begins in 1945 with seven-year-old Missy Parker, her twelve-year-old brother Bobby, and eleven-year-old Moses “Junior” Washington, who form an inseparable confederation known in the community as “those Parker children.” Basically good kids, they routinely get into the kind of mischief that naturally germinates in childish imaginations, such as building a crude boat out of siding stolen from one of Mr. Parker’s cotton sheds. The action begins when Missy Parker is singled out for a demonic attack. In a dramatic scene on Cat Lake, demons possess several cottonmouth water moccasins (remember, fiction) and attack the three children as they play at the Cat Lake Bridge. In the ensuing struggle, Mose Junior saves Missy’s life, sacrificing his own in the process. Out of this tragedy, an unlikely friendship is formed between the two disparate families. More importantly, Missy and her family come to know Christ through the witness of the Washington family. And that is all I am going to give away. I found in these books a few pleasant surprises: Any work of fiction that deals with spiritual warfare will inevitably be speculative. Scripture simply does not tell us enough about the spirit realm of angels and demons upon which to build a good novel. One of my fears before reading these books was that they would be filled with the kind of wild, paranoid nonsense that seems typical of those obsessed with “spiritual warfare.” However, I was relieved to find nothing of that nature in these stories. While the author’s descriptions of angelic and demonic activities are necessarily speculative, I don’t believe he went overboard with it. Other than the unsupportable claim that everyone has their own personal guardian angel, I found no blatantly unbiblical representations of angels or demons. The sovereignty of God was clearly presented. Throughout the book, the belief is repeated that God is in control, that Satan can do nothing that God does not allow, and that believers need not fear the powers of darkness. The Gospel is fairly accurately presented, and its proclamation is made the primary goal of the protagonists throughout the books. There is an unfortunate element of decisional regeneration, but there is also an emphasis on genuine repentance and faith, and on God’s sovereignty in drawing sinners to himself. I do have couple of complaints about these books: Clichés: there are apparently no unattractive women in the South—most of them are beautiful, and many of them are jaw-droppingly stunning; there are no bad cooks in the South—all the food, wherever you go, is the best you’ve ever had; the men—the good ones, anyway—are all brave and steadfast; the dogs are all smart . . . you get the idea. The third volume, And if I Die, left too many loose ends untied. A fourth volume is almost demanded to bring the saga to a satisfactory end. Admittedly, I picked up the first volume with a negative attitude. After the first couple of chapters, I remarked to my wife that it was a combination of Stephen King, Jack Chick, and Garrison Keillor. By the end of the book, I was ready to dig into the second. I did not expect to enjoy even one of these books, but I must admit that I enjoyed all three. They were entertaining, inspiring, and fun. They will not challenge you intellectually, if that’s what you require, but if you are looking for something to lighten up your reading schedule, The Black or White Chronicles could be just what the doctor ordered.

John Calvin’s Work Ethic

I picked up Steve Lawson’s little book The Expository Genius of John Calvin late last night and got about half-way through it before falling asleep. Calvin’s life is a monument to God in many ways. One of the things that impresses me about him is his incredible work ethic, driven by his passion for his calling to preach the Word. [Calvin’s] drivenness can been in his letter to one Monsieur de Falais in 1546: “Apart from the sermons and the lectures, there is a month gone by in which I have scarce done anything, in such wise I am almost ashamed to live thus useless.” It should be noted that Calvin had preached a mere twenty sermons that month and given only twelve lectures. He was hardly the idle servant he imagined himself to be. —Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin (Reformation Trust, 2007), 45. It can hardly be disputed that Calvin drove himself harder than was wise, and his health suffered for it. Yet such was his passion for preaching and teaching the Word that he simply could not do nothing, even when bedridden. Theodore Beza wrote of him, “He had no expression more frequently on his lips than that life would be bitter to him if spent in indolence.” Lawson writes: Eventually, Calvin did become an invalid, but he had himself carried to church on a stretcher in order to preach. —Ibid., 48. Think of that the next time you’re tempted to call in sick. This is a great little book that could easily be read in one or two sittings, and I encourage every pastor to read it. However, this is not just a book for pastors. We all need encouragement and inspiration to be passionate and diligent in our pursuit of God and his Word.

Book Announcement: Heirs With Christ

Reformation Heritage Books is publishing a new book by Dr. Joel R. Beeke on the beliefs held by the Puritans on the doctrine of Spiritual Adoption. Heirs With Christ: The Puritans on Adoption will be out on June 3rd, and is available for pre-order here. To read the Foreword, click here. I don’t believe I have a single book specifically dedicated to the doctrine of Adoption, so this will be a welcome addition to my library. Description: The Puritans have gotten bad press for their supposed lack of teaching on the doctrine of spiritual adoption. In Heirs with Christ, Joel R. Beeke dispels this caricature and shows that the Puritan era did more to advance the idea that every true Christian is God’s adopted child than any other age of church history. This little book lets the Puritans speak for themselves, showing how they recognized adoption’s far-reaching, transforming power and comfort for the children of God. Endorsements: “Dr. Beeke is well-known for his landmark work setting the record straight on the Puritan doctrine of assurance. Now he comes to our aid again with a superb treatment of the Puritans on adoption. I welcome his expert entry into this important field, and commend his keen insights and careful analysis to all who are interested in knowing ‘what the Puritans really said’ about adoption.” —Ligon Duncan “In this short but spiritually substantive book, Dr. Beeke—a wise and careful ‘pastor theologian’ in the best sense of both words—introduces us to the Puritans’ comforting and transforming work on spiritual adoption. More than just historically informative, this volume should be warmly welcomed by all Christians who want to learn more about this crucial aspect of our identity as sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” —Justin Taylor Heirs with Christ now available from Westminster Bookstore.

The Courage to Be Protestant

These are just a few reviews of the book I am currently reading, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World by David Wells. Albert Mohler: On the Other Hand, Protestant CourageTim Challies: The Courage to Be ProtestantNathan Pitchford: Book Review: The Courage to Be ProtestantRoger Overton: Interview with David Wells on The Courage to Be Protestant Part I, Part II I’ve been posting some excerpts this week, and I’ve been amazed at the difficulty of choosing highlights. It seems as if each paragraph is fairly bursting with potent insights into today’s church and culture. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that is so immediately—if you’ll forgive the cliché—relevant.

Book Review: Augustine As Mentor

This is a review by Pastor Jerry Drebelbis, who has the dubious distinction of being my pastor. Augustine As Mentor: A Review By Jerome Drebelbisi    Take a moment and peruse the number of books written by or about Aurelius Augustine, or Augustine of Hippo, 354430 A.D. One reason for the numerous volumes is, in part, because Augustine, himself, was a prolific writer. More than 100 books along with sermons, letters and notes to friends and fellow church compatriots are attributed to him. So it is no wonder the copious number of books written about Augustine. Among these writings Edward Smithers, assistant professor of Church History and Intercultural Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, brings us another perspectiveAugustine as Mentor, A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders1.    Mr. Smithers believes that many pastors today . . . are struggling in isolation without a pastor to nurture their souls (p. v). He is not alone in this concern. Anderson and Reese emphasize this same problem in the forward of their writing. We live in a world of disenchantment with knowledge for knowledges sake.2 If this spiritual isolation impacts church leaders today then what is the solution to escape the dilemma? Augustine as Mentor attempts to address this issue looking back at the beginning of the Church and one of its giants as a leader. Analysis:    The book divides into six chapters. Chapter one examines biblical examples of mentors in the first century. While the author admits that the word mentor is not in Scripture he does recognize the discipline can take other forms, such as that of discipling. He uses Jesus and Paul as primary examples of those who mentored/discipled those around them. Numerous New Testament references are given to support the position.    Chapter two unpacks mentoring as it appeared in the third and fourth centuries. The author, with copious references, details the lives of men like Cyprian of Carthage, Pachomius of Egypt, and Basil. These men and others formed in the authors view a backdrop and example from which Augustine developed his own style of mentoring.    Chapter three asks the question, who was Augustines mentor? Obviously some time is spent examining the way Augustines mother, Monica, influenced his spiritual development. Her example of holiness and practical faith are featured with numerous references to Confessions. The reader is then given a look at several of Augustines friends and companions. Alypius, Evodius and Ambrose were not only close companions to Augustine but also mentors. Smithers convincingly argues that while he finds that Augustine wrote very little about Valerius, Augustines predecessor, Valerius was his most significant mentor.3    Chapter four, the longest chapter88 pages, brings the work to a climax. How did Augustine mentor others? The author draws from Augustines forty years in the ministry, 391430, with citings from his numerous letters, books and preaching and supervisory method as examples of how Augustine discipled both subordinates and fellow bishops.    Chapter five gives us Augustines thoughts on the subject. Once again from abundant references, the reader is given Augustines perspective of how a mentor should live and work. Five principles are mentioned as the framework of a mentors life. This leaves the reader wondering if Augustine, himself, adhered to his own ideals. The author answers the question by quoting Possidius, Augustines friend and biographer; I believe, however, that they profited even more who were able to hear him speaking in church and seeing him there present, especially if they were familiar with his manner of life.4 In specific, Augustine lived what he preached and proclaimed. As great a man as Augustine was the author does admit that one failure, if we can consider it such, in Augustines life was that few, if any, of his disciples followed in Augustines example to defend the church from heresy or to supply others with theological thought and exegesis (p. 257).    The final sixth chapter is a short exhortation for leaders today. The author reminds the reader that a mentor must always be a disciple at heart, always learning, always growing in the faith, as did Augustine. He was disciple, mentor, leader, releaser of other into ministry, but most of all follower of Jesus Christ. The author leaves the reader with the question; will todays church leaders intentionally look at leadership potential around them and search for able people to outshine them? (p. 259). Synthesis:    The reader can be assured that Mr. Smithers is very familiar with the subject. The book is well documented referencing many sources both from early church writings to more recent analysis. One easily moves through the authors thoughts as he presents his arguments for discipleship and mentoring. His style, easy to follow, often opens with a question. For example, How Did Augustine Mentor? (p.134). The author then supports his answers by partitioning Augustines life into various elements to demonstrate how Augustine mentored in each one, the monastery, books, letters, councils, etc.    While the book is well documented and thoughts expanded in an orderly fashion, progressing through the book becomes almost tedious. One wants to say, Alright, I get the idea; lets move on. Unless the reader truly wants to know more about Augustine, for the average, sometimes overwhelmed, busy pastor, the book has too much detail. And while the book is true to its title, Augustine as Mentor, one wonders if Mr. Smithers is writing for the average church leader or his own colleagues.    The last chapter, Shepherding Shepherds Today is only two pages. While there is benefit in knowing about mentoring in the early church, more thought and space could have been afforded to application today. Many pastors are, like this one, interested in not only the what but even more so, the so what. In the final analysis the reader wants to know what the authors suggestions are that he has gleaned from his study. What from the authors perspective, in twenty-first century culture, does he believe the pastor can and should pursue in depth? With this question always in mind there is a disheartening realization that the reader is given 257 pages of information but only two pages of application. The reader may have been more ably assisted if the author had balance the work more evenly.    For example, one theologically prominent subject today is that of spiritual formation. Using Augustines writings the author could easily have moved into this realm of current significance. After all, is this not what Augustine was attempting to do with his contemporaries? In other words Augustine, who relied upon his biblical and theological premises, challenged heresies like Pelagianism, Arianism. How could those thoughts apply to our relativistic postmodern culture? How could Augustines thoughts have been organized to enhance ones growth in spiritual formation? Answers to questions like these would have greatly enhanced the work. 1 Edward L. Smithers, Augustine as Mentor, A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, 2008. ↑ 2 Keith R. Anderson and Randy D. Reese, Spiritual Mentoring: A Guide for seeking and Giving Direction (Intervarsity Press, Dowers Grove, 1999), forward. ↑ 3 Ibid, p. 112. ↑ 4 Ibid, p. 229. ↑ i Jerome Drebelbis has pastored Grace Evangelical Free Church in Beulah, North Dakota, for ten years. He is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a Masters of Divinity. ↑ 

Book Review: The Advent of Evangelicalism

This is review is courtesy of my pastor, Jerry Drebelbis. The book in review, The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities, can be purchased here, or you may download the table of contents and a sample chapter here. The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities:1 A review by Jerome Drebelbis    At first glance Haykin and Stewarts edited analytical essays on David Bebbingtons 1989 work, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1960s, is rather daunting covering 432 pages. But moving into the various analyses from different scholars perspective proved both profitable and interesting. Value in reading such an analysis can be found on several levels. Analysis of a classic: Now some twenty years after publication Bebbingtons work is considered a classic. His study and analysis of evangelical movement, thought and doctrine as influenced by Enlightenment philosophy is considered by some a seminal study of great importance.2 Because of the importance of Bebbingtons study a second look is always worthwhile. Thus Haykin and Stewarts edited volume is both timely and valuable. Every contributor goes to great length to examine various aspects of Bebbingtons thesis. Did evangelicalism begin in the mid-eighteenth century? Just how influential, if at all, were Enlightenment philosophers on Christian theology and practice? Can the evangelical movement truly be characterized by Bebbingtons quadrilateral elements, biblicist, conversionist, cruciform and activist? These and other issues are brought to the forefront for analysis as each contributor examines one or more of the elements and attempts to answer the question. Did evangelicalism being in the mid-eighteenth century and can it be typified by these four elements? How each contributor approached the topics proved interesting and fully worthwhile both from an historical standpoint but also from a theological perspective. Each contributor assists in bringing precision to Bebbintons thesis but even more so gives sharper focus to the time period and preceding factors. Organization: To answer these questions and bring precision to the issue, The Advent of Evangelicalism is very nicely organized into four sections (its own quadralateral if you will); an introduction, a geographical regional perspectives, analysis of eras, and finally from a doctrinal (or theological) analysis. In each case the contributor was quite thorough, given subject limitations, in his analysis providing copious quotations and bibliographical references. Thus, were given a broad viewpoint of the evangelical movement both synchronically and diachronically. This was very helpful in that the reader is given a better understanding of the evangelical movement not only in a particular country but also through time. Theological: The main theme in Bebbingtons work was that Enlightenment thought and its philosophers heavily influenced evangelicals. Of particular interest was the contributors discussion on theological diversity and continuity within the period and their understanding of thought and theology as it related to the Enlightenment. This discussion was very beneficial to those of us who normally do not study the movement or evolution of theological thought from one century to another. Most helpful was the analysis of various denominational distinctions and how they may or may not have been influenced by enlightenment ideas. For example John Coffey notes that the differences were more a matter of one of degree, and even the politics of evangelicalism owed much to Puritanism.3 Conclusion: The Advent of Evangelicalism gives us a better understanding of ecclesiastical history not only of the 18th century but the time leading up to it. Examining the subject from a broader chronological perspective, regional differences and theological standpoints was very beneficial. But in another sense the work is also comforting. The reader is given a better understanding that historically and theologically evangelicalisms roots are not necessarily tainted with humanistic enlightenment as we may be led to believe. Rather the roots from which evangelicals are born are from sound theological thought emanating from centuries prior as the Holy Spirit worked in and through his Church in time and events. 1 Haykin, Michael, A.G. & Stewart, Kenneth J., The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities: B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, 2008 ↑  2 ibid, p. 13 ↑  3 Ibid, pg. 269 ↑ 
I am not a big believer in New Years resolutions, but last January I set a goal of reading fifty-two books, an average of one per week, in 2009. I didnt quite make it. Militating against my goaland providing a convenient excuse for falling shortwere several fat volumes that I couldnt, and didnt want to, breeze through quickly. By December 1st, I was getting burned out, and made a new resolution: I would begin no more serious reading projects until January. And so I didnt. Youll see the only two books begun in December at the bottom of the list that follows; they are not what youd call cerebrally taxing. You will also notice that I read a fair amount of fiction, including a couple of volumes that will probably earn me a few scowls from certain quarters. I offer no apologies. I enjoy select fiction, and pity you if you dont. So there. Three of the books on the list are as yet unfinished. I have noted the page numbers for my own benefit, to give me an idea of how much I have actually read. It amounts to about forty pages, or (very roughly) 1520,000 words per day; not an extremely large amount, really. While I have no intention of matching the voracious habits of Tim Challies, I hope to meet my goal of fifty-two in 2010. I might do it by reading more short books. Is that cheating? I suppose it is. Well, Im beginning to ramble, so without further ado, I give you my list of books read in 2009, categorized and with some brief commentary. Books read in 2009 Theology, Church History, &c. F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture A good entry-level book on the formation of the canon. 349 pages. David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant An excellent commentary on the state of the church today. 253 pages. Voddie Baucham, What He Must Be if he wants to marry my daughter I began this book expecting to either like it with reservations, or hate it. I expected to like it because I most definitely believe that courtship, as opposed to dating, is the biblical pattern for Christians. Furthermore, I believe the folly of dating is so obvious that even atheists who desire stable lives and marriages ought to be able to see how counterproductive the modern popular method of mate-catching is. My reservations, on the other hand, were due to my experience years ago with the Gothard cult. I am all too familiar with the ability of some to come oh-so-close to the truth before veering off into utter insanity. Thankfully, Baucham did not. In fact, to my great surprise, I didnt disagree with him at all. If you have daughters and/or sons, you want this book. If there is anyone in your world at all whom you might influence in this area, you want this book. 216 pages. Albert Mohler, Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth In addition to being an adept theologian and Bible expositor, Albert Mohler is also one of the most astute cultural commentators today; but you already knew that. 160 pages. John Piper, God Is the Gospel An absolutely wonderful book. I thought it a bit redundant, but excellent overall. Very highly recommended. 190 pages. Leland Ryken, How to Read the Bible as Literature by Leland Ryken If you have any interest in interpreting Scriptureand I hope you doyou will want to read this. Very interesting, easy reading, highly recommended. 208 pages. Iain Murray, A Scottish Christian Heritage Iain Murray makes my list of top three Christian authors. This book is another reason why. 403 pages. Joel Beeke, Walking as He Walked 133 pages. Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher Enlightening. Profiling three early American black pastors, this was a part of church history I hadnt known existed. 191 pages. J. I. Packer, Knowing God A great basic-level book on a profound subject. If you havent read this classic, I hope youll put it on your list. 316 pages. TMS Faculty, The Masters Seminary Journal: Volume 19, Number 2 (Fall 2008) I wouldnt normally list a journal here, but then I dont normally read journals from cover to cover. This issue was dedicated to a biblical view of homosexuality. Far from being overly academic and over the head of the average layman (as one might expect of a seminary journal), this issue was quite accessible even to a simpleton like me. If you dont subscribe, I believe you can still order individual back-issues as long as they remain available by visiting the TMS Journal web page. Articles included are: John MacArthur, Gods Word on Homosexuality: The Truth about Sin and the Reality of Forgiveness Michael A. Grisanti, Cultural and Medical Myths about Homosexuality Irvin A. Busenitz, Marriage and Homosexuality: Toward a Biblical Understanding Richard L. Holland, Parenting and Homosexuality Alex D. Montoya, The Church’s Response to Homosexuality R. C. Sproul, Scripture Alone 210 pages. Michael Horton, Christless Christianity 270 pages. Burk Parsons (editor), John Calvin: a Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology Not a biography, but an excellent portrait of the mans character and applied theology. 257 pages. William Whitaker, Disputations on the Holy Scriptures Not a light, entertaining volume, but well worth the labor. Read it, and you should understand the fundamental difference between Roman Catholicism and Christianity, and why the Reformation was necessary and is still as relevant today as it was 500 years ago. 718 pages. John MacArthur, Follow Me A good little book to give young Christians/new believers. 107 pages. Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God Volume One My edition contains two volumes in one, but after completing the first, it was time to take a rest from such meaty fare. Not that it is overly difficult; it is simply extremely dense. Dont let that put you off from reading it, though. It is much easier going than the Whitaker volume above, and in any case, we benefit from reading things too difficult for us. Our brains, like our muscles, must stretch and hurt in order to grow. 606 pages (volume 1). Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were Everything you think you know about the Puritans is wrong. 281 pages. James Spurgeon, The Texas Baptist Crucible: Tales from the Temple I had read this before, but a desire for something different one evening caused me to pick it up again. And this one is certainly something different. Spurgeon (no relation) gives a guided tour through the cult-like world of extreme independent fundamentalist Baptists. Read this book; you will laugh (a lot!), cry, be angry, but you will also see how, by the grace of God, a young man was delivered from his bondage. 284 pages. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness Another good book to give young Christians/new believers, or to read for yourself. 222 pages. Steve Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards An excellent introduction to Edwards. Like Lawsons previous volume on Calvin, it is not really a biography, but more of a portrait of Edwards character and thought. 168 pages. John MacArthur, The Jesus You Cant Ignore As usual, MacArthur does not beat around the bush. Like the title says: Jesus was very straight-forward about who he is, and only by willful rejection can his message be missed. 256 pages. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism Another excellent number from Iain Murray and Banner of Truth, with a number of good lessons for orthodox Calvinists. 164 pages. Donald S. Whitney, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Heath Recommended for Christians of all ages. 112 pages. History Stephen Ambrose, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II Incredible! You must read this before observing another Memorial Day. 655 pages. Martin Gilbert, The Second World War: A Complete History Recommended to me by history maven and friend Tim Challies, this one-volume treatment of WWII (including a thick section of maps) gives an excellent overview of the war. My only complaint is that, in my inexpert opinion, the war in the Pacific could have been given more space. But then, Sir Martin is an Englishman (and Churchills biographer), so its understandable that his focus would be on Europe. 846 pages. Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, Enigma: The Battle for the Code Another WWII book, this one about the crucial work of the Allied code breakers. 422 pages. Simon Baatz, For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago A shocking, true story of justice mocked. The emasculation of the American justice system can be traced, at least in part, to this eighty-five-year-old miscarriage of justice. 560 pages. Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness As you might suspect, I had to completely ignore the authors theology to find the benefit of this book. While Im no authority on the subject, I think No Future is a fairly accurate account of events in post-apartheid South Africa. While I found it a quite interesting and educational read, I think 200 pages could have sufficed. 304 pages. Fiction Ian Fleming, Casino Royale Early last year, I got caught in a debate over the fitness of Daniel Craig to be the new 007. I didnt like him, still dont. Im a Sean Connery fan. However, a certain blogger who wishes to remain nameless assured me that, if I had read any of the novels, I would certainly see my error. Well, that cut me to the quick. I have long disdained those illiterates who see movies rather than read books, so I hurried to rectify the situation. I hunted down a used hardcover Casino Royale (the 1st Bond novel, and the setting of Craigs 007 début). In the end, I must confess that Craig fit the part well enough, but not as well as Connery. I couldnt picture either Moore or Brosnan in the part. It might interest you to know that 007, in this episode, never utters the phrase vodka martinishaken, not stirred. He drinks mostly brandy and champagnelots of Champaign. And he has a cocktail of his own invention that sounds suspiciously like something more likely to be drunk by a woman. All this is just to make an excuse for having read something so vapid. The novel itself was unremarkable in any way. Quite dull, really, but mercifully short. 187 pages. George Orwell, Animal Farm A parable of redistributive justice I hesitate to list this under fiction. 113 pages. George Orwell, Ninteen Eighty-Four Another work of nonfictional-fiction. As of 2008, with a dedicated White House email for reporting dissenters and school children being taught to sing praises to Big Brother the President, this classic seems less far-fetched than ever. 326 pages. Tom Clancy, Red Storm Rising A re-read of my favorite Clancy novel. 652 pages. Michael Crichton, State of Fear Read this book! send a copy to Al Gore! If you really dislike ignorant celebrities spouting off on their pet issues, parroting propaganda ginned up by scientists, this book has a treat in store for you on page 553. 603 pages. G. Gordon Liddy, The Monkey Handlers A good story, but poorly written. 338 pages. Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express My first reading of Agatha Christie. An engaging, enjoyable story, but the genre just doesnt grab me enough to compel me to run out and get another. 295 pages. Stephen King, Duma Key Possibly Kings best so far, at least of the few Ive read. 611 pages. Lars Walker, West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure and Faith Being a mighty Norseman myself, Viking lore attracts me. Lars Walker is an aficionado of Nordic history, and his knowledge of that history brings authenticity to his work. West Oversea is not all realism, however. It does include a few elements of fantasy and magic that I could have done without (Tolkien and Lewis bore be to death, so Mr. Larson shouldnt feel bad). Nevertheless, I enjoyed it more than might be expected, considering my anti-fantasy predjudice. 277 pages. Elizabeth Prentiss, The Little Preacher Read this one with the kids. Everyone, including Dad, enjoyed it. Even the seventeen-year-old who feigned boredom secretly liked it. 175 pages. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol Another one read with the kids. I love this book, even though Dickens Christmas is entirely secular, making Freds protest that Scrooge doesnt keep Christmas ring hollow. 175 pages. John Knowles, A Separate Peace I saw this one as I was Christmas shopping this year and, remembering it as one of the few books assigned in high school that I actually enjoyed, picked it up and read it again, and enjoyed it again. 186 pages. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes I know, a bit juvenile. Sometimes I just need a rest. This book, which I had not picked up since I first read it some thirty-plus years ago, fit the bill perfectly. If I tell you how much I enjoyed it, youll laugh at me; so I wont. 392 pages. Unfinished J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels Volume 3, John 110 I am presently including the expository portion of this work in my Lords Day posts. I really cant recommend it highly enough. Each chapter begins with a brief exposition of the text (averaging only about 1500 words, these would make an excellent step up from any daily devotional you might be reading), followed by several pages of commentary notes. Easy, enjoyable reading. 636 pages. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour A must-read classic (and I rarely use that term). Bring your longest attention span. 1189 pages. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich If you want to understand the why of WWII, you really need to read this book. 1245 pages, small print! Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life Yikes. This book is old news, and Ive already read the reviews, as well as several excerpts, so I already knew it was a bad book. I just didnt really know how bad. How bad is it? really bad. “Its not about you,” says Warren; then he proceeds to write a book all about you. Have I mentioned that this is a bad book? I havent decided if its as bad as The Prayer of Jabez. I think probably not, but thats the best praise I can give it. Even at $1.50 from a second-hand store, I got took. I didnt finish it, and, unlike the previous three, probably never will. 334 pages.

2012: A Mini-Review

We watched 2012 last night because, the little woman said, “I couldn’t find anything else that looked good.” We watched it and, in fact, enjoyed it, even though it was just a replaying of a story that has been told who knows how many times before. Really, there was nothing original about it. It contained the same plot and many of the clichés you would expect in an end of the world story, or for that matter, many Hollywood productions these days: the good guy who has generally failed at everything, especially his marriage, and the kid who resents him; the crazy comic-relief guy; the cold-hearted politician; the scientist with a superior conscience; evil bourgeoisie who trample over the proletariat; an absurd number of in-the-nick-of-time, flames-licking-at-your-back-pockets moments. On the positive side, it was a fairly high-quality production, and not at all cheesy like, say, Independence Day (basically the same story, plus aliens). As in Independence Day, the cherry on top is the character-of-questionable-sanity. Woody Harrelson delivers an hilarious performance as a conspiracy theorist radio host who just happens to be right this time. Also worth noting is that the apocalypse, in this case, is not the fault of evil capitalist environmental rapists. Someone in Hollywood slipped up on that one. This is one you can watch with your family (if you haven’t already—hey, I never claimed to be cutting edge). It’s rated PG-13 for “intense disaster sequences and some language.” There was some profanity, but it was not gratuitously (i.e. fashionably) obscene.
I didn���t read as much this year as last, but when I look down the list, I���m surprised I read as much as I did. If this is what a slacker can do, imagine what could be done with a little ambition! Completed in 2010: Greg Gilbert, What Is the Gospel��� This is a great little book, accurately and concisely answering our most fundamental question. 121 pages. Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided��� A sad book. While I am very glad to have read it, and hope you will too, I can���t say I enjoyed it. Read it if you value truth above your heroes. If you hold certain men to be untouchable, it will only make you mad. 342 pages. Iain Murray, Wesley and Men Who Followed��� This is the second Iain Murray book I read last year. Murray is among my favorite authors, certainly my favorite historical author, but I didn���t enjoy this one, either. It seemed he was laboring to write a charitable biography of a man with too many flaws to defend. 270 pages. J. Stephen Yuille, Ed., Trading and Thriving in Godliness: The Piety of George Swinnock��� 235 pages. This and the two that follow are volumes in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series from Reformation Heritage Books. These little books provide excellent devotional reading, as well as windows into the lives and characters of their subjects. Each is prefaced with a brief biography of. Michael A. G. Haykin, Ed., A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards��� 169 pages. Thabiti Anyabwile, Ed., May We Meet in the Heavenly World: The Piety of Lemuel Haynes��� 128 pages. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim���s Progress��� This was a new edition from Crossway with updated language and filled with nice illustrations. I enjoyed it myself, and recommend reading this to young children. Still, I prefer an original version for adult and mature teen reading. 240 pages. John Piper, Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton��� The fifth of Piper���s The Swans Are Not Silent biographical/theological series. Highly recommended. 128 pages. Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day��� I didn���t finish this book. I enjoyed it quite a lot as far as I went, which was right up to the point at which I realized that I despised Stevens. He is a very entertaining character until one notices that he has no character. 245 pages. Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom��� Obama violates every principle in this book. I love it (the book, that is, not Obama���s policies). 230 pages. Robert Bork, Coercing virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges��� Short and easy reading (especially for Bork!). An important book; the title says it all. 192 pages. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet/The Hound of the Baskervilles��� Hey, we all need a little entertainment now and then. I had read The Hound as a young lad. Study in Scarlett was a first. Great story! This 1933 film (watch it on Hulu if you must) is so far off the original as to be unrecognizable. Read the book. 301 pages. Sir Martin Gilbert, The First World War��� Martin Gilbert, Churchill���s official biographer, is becoming one of my favorite historians. Like his Second World War, this is probably as thorough an account as can���or, at least, should���be squeezed into one volume. 615 pages. Together for the Gospel, ��� These are the lectures from the first (2006) Together for the Gospel conference. The mp3s are all available online, but there is something about having the words in front of you that can���t be gotten from an audio file. The reverse is also true. With these, you can do both. I recommend it. 176 pages. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich��� You might recognize this from last year���s list. Well, give me a break! It���s 1245 pages of small print, and it was my going to bed reading. As I commented last year, If you want to understand the why of WWII, you really need to read this book. Begun, not completed: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom���s Cabin��� I read this one as a kid, after having read the excellent Classics Illustrated version (I miss those!). I liked it then, but it means more to me now. 536 pages. J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)] Volume Four��� Should wind up John���s Gospel this year. I can���t recommend this highly enough. John Calvin, Commentary on The Gospel According to John John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World��� You���ve seen a few excerpts on this site. More to come, but you���ll have to buy it to get the whole, rich load. 400 pages. Kevin Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline��� I���m barely into this one; it���s serious stuff! It���s incredibly challenging and, I think, just what the church needs right now. 384 pages. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour��� Reading this book has become my life���s work. I���m not sure why it���s taking me so long (besides the 1244 pages of small print). It���s not overly difficult, and it���s thoroughly enjoyable, yet I read it in spurts. I will finish it one day, and I suspect that, when I do, I���ll start all over again.

Book Review: The End of the Law

Some time ago, I decided to purchase a copy of The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology, a volume in the New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology series from B&H Academic. But then, clever fellow that I am, I remembered that I could possibly get a review copy, having previously posted reviews on B&H books. Shortly thereafter, I was happy to see said volume arrive in my mailbox. I had only to crack the book open, however, to be reminded of the pretentiousness of the word “theologian” at the head of this blog. I am, if you haven’t noticed, an amateur of amateurs among theologians. This book is not written to the average guy but to genuine scholars. It is not that it is completely over my head, or beyond the average reader of this blog, but as for judging the scholarly minutia involved, I simply am not qualified. So I passed it on to a real theologian, and I am grateful to my pastor for relieving me of the responsibility and fitting this into his busy schedule. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason C. Meyer (B&H publishers, Nashville, TN, 2009) A Review by Jerome Drebelbis, Pastor, Grace Evangelical Free Church For many years I have struggled with and investigated the issue of continuity and discontinuity between the two Testaments. How does the Old Testament Law fit, it at all, into New Testament doctrine and practice? When Jesus tells us that he came not to abolish the Law and Prophets but to fulfill them (Mat. 5:17), was there more to his proclamation than what the cross demonstrated? One of the most perplexing struggles is Israel’s relationship to the Church as found in Romans 9-11. Much of my investigation through various commentaries left more questions unanswered than answered. I would come away dissatisfied. I am grateful to Jason Meyer for answering these and many other questions as to how the Law fits within the New Testament paradigm. While his study is not easily digested, the exegetical work is careful, exacting and well documented. I enjoyed his analysis of those authors he not only agreed with but also those with which he took issue. This assisted in clarifying some questions that remained. What was most helpful was his lengthy and in depth exposition of Romans 9-11 (chapter 6). Additionally valuable as a pastor, and every lay Christian, was the final chapter’s inclusion on ethics. How does one apply the Mosaic Law in Christian living? Mr. Meyer bridges the two worlds bringing the discussion full circle from biblical text to our world.

Book Recommendation: Sexual Detox

Times have changed. People are still the same, but my, how the times have changed. When I was a teenager in the early ’eighties, pornography was acquired only through determined effort. The availability was limited, and there was a stigma attached to it. Men had to expose themselves to the embarrassment of purchasing it in face-to-face transactions at the drugstore or other public establishment, or sneak away, looking over their shoulders in fear for their reputations, to “adult” bookstores. Boys had to take the risk of shoplifting it, or if lucky, find their older brother’s or father’s stash of dirty magazines. A decade later, little had changed for boys like Tim Challies. Tim is the author of a little book I read early this morning called Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn. Beyond that, he requires little introduction here. Add another decade, and all that has changed. Anyone can, free of charge and in total privacy, consume all the porn he wants—with no effort beyond a few clicks of the mouse, and no risk of public embarrassment. This has created the perfect environment for a virtual pandemic of sexual perversion. This corruption, and its cure, is the burden of Sexual Detox. Here’s a sample: If you are like most young men, you have already started to give in to temptation. Perhaps you have only just begun to look at pornography, or perhaps you’ve been doing it for many years. Perhaps you struggle with masturbation. You don’t want to indulge yourself, but somehow it’s a whole lot tougher to quit than you would have thought. Perhaps you’re finding that, more than ever, sex is filling your mind and affecting your heart. . . .  You will never stop until you see the monstrous nature of the sin you are committing. You will never stop until the sin is more horrifying to you than the commission of the sin is enjoyable. You will need to hate that sin before you can find freedom from it. That means you need more grace. You need to cry out to be changed so you do see the monstrous nature of this sin, and then you need to act, in faith that God will meet you with grace as you seek to cut off pornography and begin the reset. . . .  The first message of this book, then, is that you must see what porn is doing to your heart. You must recognize that the corruption of pornography is real and, despite the convenient and self-indulgent lies we can tell ourselves, that corruption is only going to get worse. The sin underlying the consumption of pornography will not stop escalating until it cripples your marriage, or until you die, or until you get too old and weak to care about sex. The only difference for single guys? The sin won’t stop escalating until it destroys any hope you will ever get married. —Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn (Cruciform Press, 2010), 15, 17–18, 21. Sexual Detox is not a book of moralistic “do better” or therapeutic “live happier.” It offers straight talk about sin and death, grace and redemption. Sexual Detox makes a thoroughly biblical theological attack on the poison that is pornography. In doing so, it strikes at the root of the problem: the sinful human heart. It reiterates the truism spoken by Albert Mohler that we do not have an alien problem in need of an inner solution, but an inner problem in need of an alien solution. The problem is our sin; the solution is Christ. Sexual Detox takes in the big picture, offering, in addition to specific help with porn and the sin it breeds, a general theology of sex. So, while it is addressed to men, I believe it will be tremendously helpful to women, as well. This book will take women a long way towards an understanding of biblical sexuality, and I think I can say—without hyperbole—that this might be the last book about sex that any man needs to read, ever, and all in 108 small-format pages, readable in one sitting. Buy this book. Buy extra copies. Get it into the hands of as many young men as you can. Learn it and live it. Sexual Detox is the first book published by Cruciform Press. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit

Five of the Best from 2011

It has been my custom on the first of the year to post a list of books read during the previous year, with short reviews. This year, Im just going to post five of the best, and Im not even going to say much about them. Im doing that because I normally write this post bit-by-bit throughout the year as I read, while each book is still fresh in my mind. I didnt do that last year. I read far fewer books than usual last year, making the complete list embarrassingly short. Im lazy. On the plus side, you get a bonus bulleted list (see above) at no extra charge. Now, the list, in no particular order. Jack Higgins, The Eagle Has Landed Possibly the best military/espionage novel I have ever read. Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion To be honest, I didnt expect to like this one, but it surprised me. I dont think Ive ever called a book must read, and Im not going to start now, but this is definitely a should read for anyone who uses any kind of social media, and that includes your cell phone. Digital technology is a wonderful thing, but it is changing us, and not always for the better. If you blog, read blogs, use Facebook . . . well, the more you communicate in non-face-to-face contexts, the more you need this book. Tim Challies, Sexual Detox I reviewed this one here. Mike McKinley, Am I Really a Christian? As fundamental (not fundamentalist) as fundamental gets. Id like to see this one handed out to every member of every church everywhere. Dan Phillips, Gods Wisdom in Proverbs Ive only just begun this one, but based on what Ive read so far, I have high expectations.

Arky-Arky Malarkey

If Hollywood makes a movie on any religious theme, they are going to get it wrong. That’s my presupposition, which is based on 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Romans 8:6–8, and it has never let me down. Consequently, I am never among the crowds of neo-evangelicals quivering with excitement over the next big theatrical “opportunity for the gospel.” Still, I’m thankful for the discerning and non-quivering few who are willing to take one for the team, pay the cash, sacrifice the time, and see the junk I don’t want to so I can read their reviews and, unfailingly thus far, have my presuppositions affirmed. Most recently, the Big Deal has been Noah. Here are my favorite reviews: Sympathy for the Devil I’m a Christian and I think “Noah” deserves a four star review Great review, in spite of the honorable mention given to The Passion of the Christ. Noah Probably Would Have Sued For Defamation A No Holds Barred Review of Noah : The Movie (2014) I know it’s been said that we can’t judge movies by the same standards as sermons, but I disagree. As I said in my critique of Spiderman 3, “whenever anyone, whether Christian, Roman Catholic, Jew, Muslim, or atheist opens his mouth on anything touching on God, theology, or spirituality, he is obligated to get it right.” Furthermore, any retelling of Noah’s story that isn’t deliberately gospel-centered is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I explain why here: Baptism in 1 Peter 3.

My Perfect Bible

Yesterday, Eric Davis posted If I Could Design My Favorite Bible. His description of the perfect Bible is very nearly my own, so, having recently purchased my own nearly-perfect Bible, I thought I would post my own ideal. It looks like this: Fine goatskin leather Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but a good cover can protect it for years, even generations. Furthermore, the type of cover is, in part, what determines if your Bible will lay flat on its own, or flip shut on you when you let it go. The other part is the binding. Therefore, . . . Smyth-sewn binding While the fine cover serves an important purpose, it isn’t much good if the pages fall out. That is what will happen, eventually, with a glued binding. The more immediate benefit of a sewn binding is its flexibility. Lay it open on a table, desk, or your lap in church, and it will lie there nicely, leaving your hands free to restrain that rambunctious lad sitting next to you. Large font Once upon a time, not that long ago, in a land not so far a way—right here, actually—this didn’t matter. Now, it does. I don’t know why. Double column Single column is fine for compact editions, but on wider pages like you are going to have in any large print book, it’s easier to track from line to line across a narrower column. In my double-column Bible (contra Mr Davis), my eyes hardly have to move. In addition to reading ease, I have to believe that lessens eye fatigue. Paragraph layout Davis says double-column format “has the appearance of a dictionary or reference guide rather than a readable text,” but then, ironically, advocates one-verse-per line formatting because “verses are meant to be found, identified, and referenced.” Highlighting the irony, he admits that “it does interrupt the flow of the read a tad,” which is exactly why I prefer paragraph layout. Certainly, it is handy at times to be able to quickly pick out a verse, but Scripture is meant to be read and absorbed as a whole, not chopped up into disconnected bites. Narrow margins This is a personal preference of mine. As one who does not write in his Bible, wide margins are just space-wasters that add to the size of an already-large Bible. Black letters Red letters give the impression that some words are more inspired or important than others. Furthermore, not all Bibles agree on which words are Christ’s (compare various translations of the book of Revelation). Moreover, red print is harder to read than black. Footnotes and cross-references Center or side-column references are a distraction, and take up too much space. My new Bible places all notes at the bottom of the page. No extra-textual additions I would compromise and retain chapter and verse numbers because you have to have some point of reference if you want to remember where you read something, but I can do without the added headings. Heavy-weight paper For me, this is a balancing act. My hands don’t work well, so I don’t want a Bible so thick that I can’t easily get a grip on it. On the other hand, super-thin paper makes the pages difficult to separate and turn. High-opacity paper I didn’t know that high opacity adds weight, but I guess it makes sense. I can’t imagine, though, that it would be enough to make any perceptible difference. I like opaque paper, and if you write in your Bible, you’ll want it even more. NASB The NASB is still the most accurate English translation, and accuracy is the number one priority. The ESV is a great translation, but I honestly don’t think it’s such a great improvement in readability—or maybe I should say, I don’t find the NASB difficult. In any case, I would never trade accuracy for readability. If I need to improve my literacy to understand the text, so be it. This is not to say the NASB needs no improvement. I’m sure it could be made more accurate, but that’s for better scholars than I to judge. I wish they would eschew the capitalized pronouns as the pseudospiritual affectation they are (as the ESV does); I wish they would do away with the replacement of Yahweh with Lord; most of all, I wish they would abandon tradition and entirely omit the extra-biblical passages found in brackets (most notably, Mark 16:9ff and John 7:53–8:11). Fortunately, I don’t have to design my own to get most of these features. I recently purchased the most beautiful Bible I’ve ever held in my hands, the Schuyler Quentel from* It’s available in four translations (including ESV), three sizes (identically formatted and paginated), and five colors. My antique marble brown thinline fulfills my desires almost to a T. Beginning with the binding, it’s goatskin covered (including the flyleaf) and smyth-sewn. At just under 1½ inches thick (1.1" advertised), it’s easy to grip. The page edges are “red under gold,” the effect of which is that they appear red or gold, depending on the light and angle at which they are viewed. The paper (28 gsm) is quite a bit thinner than Davis’s ideal, but it is thick enough to handle nicely, and considerably thicker than the typical thinline (as is the Bible itself). Opacity is not listed, but I’ve seen pages a lot more transparent than these. Line matching is also employed, which means the lines on both sides of the page line up, eliminating the shadow effect you would otherwise see between the lines. The font is a clear 11-point. The layout is simple and elegant: two columns of paragraphs in black print with dark red page headers and chapter numbers, with notes at the bottom of the outside column and cross-references at the bottom of the page. The only distracting feature is the extra-textual headings included, but that’s a small complaint. Other than several nice maps and blank, lined pages in the back, there are no extra features, which suits me fine. I’ve never seen a back-of-the-Bible concordance that contained anything I was looking for, anyway. No extra features keeps the bulk down. I love this Bible. It’s a sturdy binding, with easy-to-read format and print, but not bulky. And it’s beautiful. I ordered the antique brown, because I’m usually wearing brown shoes (yes, I’m serious). I’ve thought of getting a matching black one for when I’m wearing black shoes (still serious, but I probably won’t). The price was a bit steep, but if you own a smart phone, you’ve spent as much or more on a gadget you don’t need, is probably hurting you, and you will replace—probably already have replaced—many times. Did I mention, I love this Bible? It could very likely be the last one I buy. I can’t imagine finding one that fits my requirements more exactly. * This is not a paid advertisement. I just really like this Bible.


Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

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