Monday, December 29, 2014

Brush Up on Your Knowledge of the Bible

In light of the recent Newsweek article which misrepresents Scripture, below are a few suggestions to brush up on your knowledge of the Bible, its history and transmission.

The Question of Canon
Product Description
2013 Preaching Survey of the Year's Best Books for Preachers Did the New Testament canon arise naturally from within the early Christian faith? Were the books written as Scripture, or did they become Scripture by a decision of the second-century church? Why did early Christians have a canon at all? These are the types of questions that led Michael J. Kruger to pick apart modern scholarship’s dominant view that the New Testament is a late creation of the church imposed on books originally written for another purpose. Calling into question this commonly held "extrinsic" view, Kruger here tackles the five most prevalent objections to the classic understanding of a quickly emerging, self-authenticating collection of authoritative scriptures. Already a noted author on the subject of the New Testament canon, Kruger addresses foundational and paradigmatic assumptions of the extrinsic model as he provides powerful rebuttals and further support for the classic, "intrinsic" view. This framework recognizes the canon as the product of internal forces evolving out of the historical essence of Christianity, not a development retroactively imposed by the church upon books written hundreds of years before. Unlike many books written on the emergence of the New Testament canon that ask "when?" or "how?" Kruger focuses this work on the "why?"—exposing weaknesses in the five major tenets of the extrinsic model as he goes. While The Question of Canon scrutinizes today’s popular scholastic view, it also offers an alternative concept to lay a better empirical foundation for biblical canon studies.

Fabricating Jesus
Product Description
Modern historical study of the Gospels seems to give us a new portrait of Jesus every spring--just in time for Easter. The more unusual the portrait, the more it departs from the traditional view of Jesus, the more attention it gets in the popular media. Why are scholars so prone to fabricate a new Jesus? Why is the public so eager to accept such claims without question? What methods and assumptions predispose scholars to distort the record? Is there a more sober approach to finding the real Jesus? Commenting on such recent releases as Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, James Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty, Michael Baigent's The Jesus Papers and the Gospel of Judas, for which he served as an advisory board member to the National Geographic Society, Craig Evans offers a sane approach to examining the sources for understanding the historical Jesus.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
Product Description
For over twenty years, Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels has provided a useful antidote to many of the toxic effects of skeptical criticism of the Gospels. Offering a calm, balanced overview of the history of Gospel criticism, especially that of the late twentieth century, Blomberg introduces readers to the methods employed by New Testament scholars and shows both the values and limits of those methods. He then delves more deeply into the question of miracles, Synoptic discrepancies and the differences between the Synoptics and John. After an assessment of noncanonical Jesus tradition, he addresses issues of historical method directly. This new edition has been thoroughly updated in light of new developments with numerous additions to the footnotes and two added appendixes. Readers will find that over the past twenty years, the case for the historical trustworthiness of the Gospels has grown vastly stronger.

You can find these and other associated titles in this genre here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: Edwards On The Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God by Dane Ortlund


When I first started reading Edwards On The Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God I wondered what I got myself into. I wasn’t a big fan of Jonathan Edwards and was never really interested in the legacy of his theology. The further I read the more I understood what I was missing. Author Dane Ortlund unravels Edwards’ theology as he looks into how and why he saw the beauty of God. As we find out, Edwards should not be known only (maybe not at all?) for his fire and brimstone sermons. I found this to be a fascinating look into the life and teaching of Edwards and the foundation he has laid for us all.

In thirteen brief but well worked chapters Ortlund fleshes out the Christian life theology of Edwards as found in the beauty of God. He notes that

 (T)the very first thing to be said about the Christian life is that for Edwards, beauty is what makes God God. “God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above ’em, chiefly by his divine beauty.”  Not sovereignty, not wrath, not grace, not omniscience, not eternity, but beauty is what more than anything else defines God’s very divinity. Edwards clearly believed in these other truths about God and saw all of them as upholding and displaying and connected to God’s beauty. Yet none of them expresses who God is in the way that beauty does. Dane C. Ortlund. Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Kindle Locations 319-324). Crossway.

We read that the beauty found in Christ is the central thrust of the book as we weave our way through all the chapters. The author covers a wide and necessary range of topics around this theme in Edwards’ theology. New birth, love, joy, gentleness, prayer and Satan are just a few of the chapter topics we find within these pages. All well researched and all well written.

Its worth noting that Ortlund does not have any hagiographic tendencies towards Edwards. The final chapter considers several of Edwards’s shortfalls, though, as the author reveals, they can be forgiven.

I enjoyed this book. I was reminded what the Christian life is all about and just how often I forget the truths Edwards spoke on so often. Compelling and engaging I would certainly recommend this work.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.    

Find out more by clicking here to listen to an author interview by the guys at Reformed Forum.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reformed Forum 2014 Books

This past weekend the Reformed Forum held their first conference. Plenary speakers included Dr. Lane G. Tipton and Dr. K. Scott Oliphint. The conference was fantastic and a good time was had by all. Though intentionally small in number, attendees came from Texas, California and Massachusetts. Many of us met for the first time and many of us renewed old friendships.  Reformed Forum has made available the videos and audio. Check 'em out. And, have a look at some of the books that were referenced and offered at the conference here. I'm already looking forward to next years conference.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: The Theology of the Westminster Standards by J.V. Fesko

Much has changed since the 17th century. As we read the Westminster Standards that fact is not always at the forefront in our analysis and understanding. Author J.V. Fesko opens up the context of the writing of the Standards in his TheTheology of the Westminster Standards. Utilizing new data now available on the internet Fesko delves into the major issues and persons that revolved around the writings of the Divines. As Fesko notes, “A benefit of reading the Standards within their original historical and theological context is that the contemporary reader learns how to read a confession of faith. In the present day those who employ confessions of faith often fail to understand that confessions can be highly nuanced documents. The running joke in Presbyterian circles is, “Put three Presbyterians in one room and you’ll get five different opinions.” This humorous observation is equally true of Reformed theology in the early modern period.” (J. V. Fesko. The Theology of the Westminster Standards (Kindle Locations 342-346). Crossway.) Further, “…Early modern Reformed theologians had a slightly different outlook on life and theology than we do today, and despite whatever similarities in doctrine and conviction are shared with theologians in the twenty-first century, the differences can be significant.”(J. V. Fesko. The Theology of the Westminster Standards (Kindle Locations 339-341). Crossway.) Thus, a proper understanding of the historical context and the mindset of the key players is vital.

There are too many fascinating insights this work highlights to explore in this brief review, but let me point out a few that were enlightening to me and likely to you the reader. For example, though John Calvin was often referred to in the debates on various points, he was by far not the “go to” theologian for the Divines. Many past & contemporary 17th century theologians were cited and even those with opposing theological viewpoints. Hence we see that the Divines were not “Calvinists.” They were all learned, thoughtful, godly men who contended for the truth in their own manner.  To label them Calvinists is completely false and leads to much misunderstanding.

Fesko begins by setting the stage with the historical context. War, religion and politics were all intertwined in the 17th century and at least a fair understanding of the existing and recent events prior to the convening of the Divines is necessary to apprehend the backdrop to the assembly. Here the author does an admirable job for the reader.

From there, Fesko launches into the Doctrine of Scripture, God and the Decree, Covenant and Creation, The Doctrine of Christ, Justification, Sanctification, The Law of God, The Church, Worship and Eschatology. This is not small work. Though comprehensive it is not exhaustive according to Fesko.

In each chapter the decisive debates are laid out noting the key arguments, the key players and the conclusion resulting in the precise wording of the Westminster documents (at least as it was originally written).  Some of the interesting points brought to light were that there were two parties in the debates over justification; those who believed in the active obedience of Christ and those who did not. There were 70 speeches against the active obedience and 176 in favor. In the chapter on sanctification the reader receives a thorough definition of the various forms of antinomianism and the arguments cited against it. Did you know there was virtually no one of a premillennial disposition during this period? And, it wasn’t as crazy as we may think to label the pope as the antichrist. This is all such fascinating stuff I found myself often glued to my Kindle.

As Fesko notes in his conclusion, “Historical context is all-determinative for understanding the theology contained in the Westminster Standards. As helpful and necessary as popular commentaries on the Standards are, a contextually sensitive reading of the documents must first be established. What political and theological concerns did the divines have, and how do these concerns appear in the Confession and catechisms? Who were the dialogue partners of the divines, whether positively or negatively?” (J. V. Fesko. The Theology of the Westminster Standards (Kindle Locations 9586-9589). Crossway.) We cannot ignore the historical context of the assembly any more than we can ignore the historical context of Scripture. This work starts the reader down the road to more intensive study of the Westminster Assembly and its work. Extensively footnoted with general and Scripture indices as well as an annotated bibliography, this book is a superb foundation.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.      

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Knowing God by J.I.Packer

The Mens and Ladies groups at Redeemer Church in Hudson, Ohio will be reading and studying through the well known and foundational book by J.I. Packer, Knowing God this Fall. We look forward to having you join us if you're in the area for a great time of fellowship and edification. Find out more here.

Product Description

One of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals (Christianity Today, 2006) Platinum Book Award, Evangelical Christian Publishing Association For over 40 years, J. I. Packer's classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. This edition is updated with Americanized language and spelling and a new preface by the author. Stemming from Packer's profound theological knowledge, Knowing God brings together two important facets of the Christian faith— knowing about God and also knowing God through the context of a close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God. Explaining both who God is and how we can relate to him, Packer divides his book into three sections: The first directs our attention to how and why we know God, the second to the attributes of God and the third to the benefits enjoyed by a those who know him intimately. This guide leads readers into a greater understanding of God while providing advice to gaining a closer relationship with him as a result.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pick Three Theology Books of the Week

Here are three works to consider...

Everyone's a Theologian by R.C. Sproul

Product description
Many people react negatively to the word theology, believing that it involves dry, fruitless arguments about minute points of doctrine. Yet as Dr. R.C. Sproul argues,everyone is a theologian. Any time we think about a teaching of the Bible and strive to understand it, we are engaging in theology. Therefore, it is important that we put the Bible's varied teachings together in a systematic fashion, using proper, time-tested methods of interpretation so as to arrive at a theology that is founded on truth. That is precisely what Dr. Sproul does in Everyone's a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. This book is anything but a dry discussion of minute points of doctrine. Dr. Sproul, demonstrating his trademark ability to make complex subjects easy to understand, surveys the basic truths of the Christian faith, reminding us once more of what God is like and of what He has done for His people in this world and the next.

Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets from IVP Academic

Product description
2013 ECPA Book Award finalist! With the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, IVP's Black Dictionary series completes its coverage of the Old Testament canonical books. A true compendium of recent scholarship, the volume includes 115 articles covering all aspects of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the twelve "minor prophets" and Daniel. Each book's historical, cultural, religious and literary background is thoroughly covered, alongside articles on interpretation history and critical method. Pastors, scholars and students will find this a deep resource for their Old Testament studies.

Introducing Biblical Theology by Sigurd Grindheim

Product description
How do the different books of the Christian bible contribute to telling the story of God's salvation in Jesus Christ? How can the diverse and sometimes confusing range of perspectives in the bible join together in one picture?

Sigurd Grindheim shows students how this picture can be seen as that of the Triune God, the God who interacts. God makes human beings who enjoy a peaceful relationship with him. This relationship is broken because of sin, but God continues to reach out to human beings through covenants. Human failure to be faithful shows that God needs to intervene in a more direct way. In his son Jesus Christ, he comes to earth and brings reconciliation. Grindheim draws on insights from scholarship and tradition to answer the major questions and presents them in a highly accessible form, using examples, revision questions and charts. This book is written specifically for students at the start of courses in the Bible, Theology and Ministry, and for those searching for a deeper understanding of the theology of the Christian bible.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Al Mohler's Response to Matthew Vines; God and The Gay Christian

Al Mohler has an outstanding response to God and The Gay Christian by Matthew Vines and it can be read here. In part Mohler writes

Readers of his book who are looking for an off-ramp from the current cultural predicament will no doubt try to accept his argument. But the real question is whether what Vines claims is true and faithful to the Bible as the Word of God. But his argument is neither true nor faithful to Scripture. It is, nonetheless, a prototype of the kind of argument we can now expect.

...Biblical Christianity cannot endorse same-sex marriage nor accept the claim that a believer can be obedient to Christ and remain or persist in same-sex behaviors. The church is the assembly of the redeemed, saved from our sins and learning obedience in the School of Christ. Every single one of us is a sexual sinner in need of redemption, but we are called to holiness, to obedience, and to honoring marriage as one of God’s most precious gifts and as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.

Read the entire post here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty by Brett McCracken

Although the spells of Harry Potter still cause some Christians to recoil, the millennial generation has become increasingly congenial toward pop culture. Brett McCracken’s Gray Matters examines the gray issues between Christians and culture. The goal of the book is to help believers think about healthy consumption that honors God, enriches life, strengthens community, and advances mission. - Patrick Schreiner

Product Description
Culture is in right now for Christians. Engaging it, embracing it, consuming it, and creating it. Many (younger) evangelicals today are actively cultivating an appreciation for aspects of culture previously stigmatized within the church. Things like alcohol, Hollywood's edgier content, plays, art openings, and concerts have moved from being forbidden to being celebrated by believers. But are evangelicals opening their arms too wide in uncritical embrace of culture? How do they engage with culture in ways that are mature, discerning, and edifying rather than reckless, excessive, and harmful? Can there be a healthy, balanced approach--or is that simply wishful thinking?

With the same insight and acuity found in his popular Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken examines some of the hot-button gray areas of Christian cultural consumption, helping to lead Christians to adopt a more thoughtful approach to consuming culture in the complicated middle ground between legalism and license. Readers will learn how to both enrich their own lives and honor God--refining their ability to discern truth, goodness, beauty, and enjoy his creation.

I'm currently teaching through this book with a senior high school class, I highly recommend it. Read all of Schreiner's review here at TGC.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Weakness is the Way: Life With Christ is our Strength by J.I. Packer

Weakness is the Way: Life With Christ is our Strength 
by J.I. Packer

This comparatively short book with its strange title delivers a powerful blow to the rampant triumphalism that has infected much of the Bible-believing world. Using Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians as his principal resource, J. I. Packer has once again provided us with both the theological depth and practical wisdom necessary to live in a way that pleases and honors Christ. - Sam Storms

Product Description
For Christians, weakness should be a way of life. Yet most of us try desperately to be sufficient on our own, and we resent our limitations and our needs.
Renowned theologian and Bible teacher J. I. Packer reflects on his experience of weakness—having been hit by a bread truck at a young age and now facing the realities of aging—in order to teach us the importance of embracing our own frailty, and also to help us look to Christ for strength, affirmation, and contentment. Find here a path from discouragement to freedom in light of our all-sufficient God.

I just purchased and I'm anxiously looking forward to consuming it soon. Any thoughts?

To read the entire review by Sam Storms at TGC click here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame

Named one of World Magazine's Book of the Year, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame hit the top shelf. With many good reviews already, this one is for the shelf of every pastor, teacher, theological student and armchair theologian. See more below.

Product Description

Systematic Theology is the culmination and creative synthesis of John Frame's writing on, teaching about, and studying of the Word of God. This magisterial opus—at once biblical, clear, cogent, readable, accessible, and practical—summarizes the mature thought of one of the most important and original Reformed theologians of the last hundred years. It will enable you to see clearly how the Bible explains God's great, sweeping plan for mankind.

 Editorial Reviews

"John M. Frame's Systematic Theology is a remarkable achievement. It is simultaneously scholarly yet accessible, sweeping in scope but penetrating in insight, steeped in historic orthodoxy yet fresh in reflection."
—Peter A. Lillback, President, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Systematic Theology . . . is a worthy climax to the life's work of one who has only ever sought to be a faithful servant of Christ, teaching in his church. It is a privilege to celebrate its appearing and to commend it for serious study. I guarantee that the dividends of such study will be uniformly high. Thank you, John Frame, for this superb gift."
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College

"This new systematic theology comes from one of the great theological minds of our age. John Frame's contributions to theology are already massive and many, but now he has given the church a systematic theology. This is a very important book, and it represents a lifetime of consecrated theological reflection. This new volume promises to be an enduring contribution to evangelical theology."
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"John Frame is one of my favorite theologians, and his Systematic Theology is filled with the deep learning and warranted wisdom of a lifetime. I commend it warmly to the Lord's people everywhere."
—Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture

Frame has produced what should become required reading in seminary classrooms and pastors studies for years to come.
—Mark Young, President, Denver Seminary

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events by Vern Poythress

If you have a chance, check out the latest from Vern Poythress, Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events.

Product Description

What if all events—big and small, good and bad—are governed by more than just blind chance? What if they are governed by God?
In this theologically informed and philosophically nuanced introduction to the study of probability and chance, Vern Poythress argues that all events—including the seemingly random or accidental—fall under God’s watchful gaze as part of his eternal plan. Comprehensive in its scope, this book lays the theistic foundation for our scientific assumptions about the world while addressing personal questions about the meaning and significance of everyday events.

Chance and the Sovereignty of God from Westminster Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

More videos of Vern Poythress on the issue of chance can be found here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions

One of two books this year named by World Magazine as Book of the Year, James Anderson's, What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive approach to Life's Big Questions, hit the mark. Check it out.

Product Description

How do you view the world?

It’s a big question. And how you answer is one of the most important things about you.

Not sure what you’d say? Join James Anderson on an interactive journey of discovery aimed at helping you understand and evaluate the options when it comes to identifying your worldview. Cast in the mold of a classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, What’s Your Worldview? will guide you toward finding intellectually satisfying answers to life’s biggest questions—equipping you to think carefully about not only what you believe but why you believe it and how it impacts the rest of your life.

Listen here to an author interview by the gents at Reformed Forum.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-Progress by Rob Bentz

Rob Bentz’s book, TheUnfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-Progress published by Crossway, is an enjoyable read. Bentz incorporates personal anecdotes with Scripture and insightful examination to provide the reader with a fresh understanding of how the church, Christ’s bride, should operate in today’s world.

The work is broken down into three segments, each worth careful study. In part one he lays the groundwork for his book in The Foundation and offers background and understanding as to what it means to be part of God’s chosen community. In part two Bentz delves deeper into what it means for the church in The Construction. Here he delineates several facets where we, as Christ’s bride, should be toiling. To love one another, encourage, serve, and dwell together in peace are all aspects Bentz, with love for the Church, explicates with great clarity.

Bentz concludes with the heart of the matter in part three, The Completion. Here we read that “Sanctification matters!” Indeed it does and Bentz lays it out for us. He marks out that, “God’s church, is miraculous because it’s his activity.” And “The church is victorious; Jesus said it would be.” Believers, one and all, take part in the glorious, wonderful work though we are broken and sinful. This section was most inspiring and helpful.

The Unfinished Church was indeed and enjoyable and informative book. This would be a great book for a church library or any new believer especially. I rate this 4.5 out of 5. Get it, read it and apply it!

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.   

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Title: The Word of the Lord

Based on Nancy Guthrie's history, The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets will be another fine study.

Nancy Guthrie on her newest study, "The Word of the Lord" from Crossway on Vimeo.

In the Old Testament, God spoke to his people through prophets—men specially called to speak God’s Word to his people. The New Testament makes it clear that such prophets, whether chastising or comforting, testified to Israel’s final redemption and ultimate hope: Jesus the Messiah.
Over ten weeks of guided personal Bible study, relevant teaching, and group discussion, Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie will help you see the person and work of Christ in:
  • Hosea's willingness to redeem his unfaithful bride from slavery
  • Isaiah's divine King and suffering Servant, who will be punished for his people
  • Daniel's stone, not hewn by human hands, that will crush every human kingdom
  • Ezekiel’s vision of a city where we will enjoy Jesus’s presence forever
Gain a fresh perspective on the message of the Old Testament prophets, a broader understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture, and much more when you join Nancy on this incredible journey to see Jesus in the Old Testament!

About the Author
Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at conferences around the country and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary. She and her husband, David, are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches nationwide and they also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is the author of numerous books including Holding on to HopeHearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, and the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.