My Favorite Books Part V

(Volume 23, Issue 6, November/December 2017) Since I began writing book reviews a number of years ago, it seemed to some that the majority of these reviews dealt with books that were either errant or at best mixed in their biblical accuracy.  So in August 2004 I began listing, by category, the better books that I have reviewed to encourage the reading of quality Christian literature.  Approximately two years ago the fourth volume of “My Favorite Books” was published to which I would like to add another 30 books or so. In addition, for clarity sake I thought it might be helpful to pull all the lists together and mention the titles of books previously identified.  Hopefully our readers will recall that just because a book is cited as a favorite does not mean that it is without some problems. Complete reviews of each volume can be found on our…

Grace Alone, Salvation as a Gift of God by Carl R. Trueman

Grace Alone is part of the “Five Solas Series” edited by Matthew Barrett.  Each sola is given its individual volume, with Grace Alone written by well-respected Reformed theologian and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary Carl Trueman.  As a church historian, Trueman is well-equipped to cover and explain the events and theologies surrounding the Reformation.  The author agrees with B. B. Warfield’s view that the Reformation was the triumph of Augustine’s view of grace over his view of the church (pp. 18, 52).  Trueman wants to distance himself from the modern antinomianism movement flying under the guise of grace, because it misses the point of why grace is needed (p. 17).  Grace is needed because sin is real.  He writes, “Sin is violent, lethal rebellion against God, and biblical grace is God’s violent, raw, and bloody response” (p. 31).  As a result of sin our need is not spiritual healing but…

God Took Me by the Hand A story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridges

God Took Me by the Hand is a short autobiography of the life of longtime servant of God and author Jerry Bridges.  Bridges, whose whole ministry was in conjunction with the Navigators (he recently passed away), uses his simple and clear writing skills to chronicle how an ordinary boy was greatly used of God.  The purpose of this book, he writes in the first chapter, “is to explain, illustrate and exalt God’s providence” (p. 12).  He accomplishes this goal, detailing how the Lord orchestrated his life step-by-step.  Bridges does not whitewash his life as he transparently admits times of failure, confusion, hurt, loss and doctrinal error.  But through it all God’s providence, defined as God’s “constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people” (p. 19), was evident.  And Bridges assures us that God’s providence is at work…

Survive or Thrive, Six Relationships Every Pastor Needs by Jimmy Dodd

Jimmy Dodd is founder and president of PastorServe, an organization devoted to aiding pastors in their lives and ministries.  Survive or Thrive details how PastorServe attempts to fulfill its mission.  Dodd founded PastorServe in 1999  to “provide care, coaching and crisis support to pastors” (p. 29).  The present problem, as Dodd sees it, is that most pastors’ gifting exceeds their maturity, a point the author demonstrates in the first section of the book.  In general, Dodd views most pastors as a mess, hiding behind a professional façade and trying to never disclose their brokenness.  The following generalization, toward the end of part one of the book, expresses his sentiments. I know that the pastor is fragmented and weak.  He has a temper, is generally a slob, and does not have the respect of his staff.  Sadly, he is commonly disrespectful of his spouse and he secretly abhors poetry.  And to…

No Little Women, Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd

Aimee Byrd, author and co-host of the Mortification of Spin podcast, is on a mission.  She declares that everyone is a theologian, whether they know it or not, so “everyone in the church needs to be a good theologian” (p. 34).  As the title implies Byrd is particularly desirous that women be equipped theologically so that they are not easy marks for false teachers who often target poorly taught women in the church (2 Timothy 3:6-7). Her exhortation is timely because a plethora of women’s ministries and books exist which are mere fluff (see pp. 116-120, 127-129), appeal to the desire to extrabiblically hear God’s voice (pp. 59, 145, 150) and teach false and even heretical doctrines.  The antidote to these concerns is not to create women’s ministries as a separate entity (pp. 13, 19, 22, 48, 50-52, 91, 96-97, 104-106); nor to focus all women’s Bible studies on women’s…

Apostle of the Last Days, The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by C. Marvin Pate

In this scholarly, detailed and thorough volume, Marvin Pate, professor of Christian Theology at Quachita Baptist University, traces the theology of the Apostle Paul throughout his New Testament epistles.  All 13 letters written by Paul are given careful consideration as Pate devotes 10 of his 12 chapters to overviews and discussion of the issues within each book.  Foundational to Pate’s understanding of Paul is his belief that the apostle was combating four conflicting eschatologies prevalent in the first century world (pp. 20-30, 138-139).  These were: Hellenistic/Syncretism (pp. 90, 167-168, 238-242) The Roman Imperial Cult (pp. 61-65, 87, 90, 165-167, 184-187, 217-218) Merkabah Judaism (Jewish Mysticism) (pp. 24-26, 29-30, 48, 102, 128-129, 216-217, 260-267) Non-Merkabah Judaism (Legalism) (pp. 26, 41-42, 169, 187-189, 270) Tracing these four eschatological systems through the writings of Paul is both the strength and weakness of Apostles of the Last Days.  On the positive side, identifying the…

Rescuing the Gospel, The Story and Significance of the Reformation by Erwin W. Lutzer

Erwin Lutzer, former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, has written an excellent overview dealing with the principle personalities and events surrounding the Protestant Reformation.  The book is written with the layman in mind, with simple language and an abundance of full-color pictures and maps.  In a short 200 pages, everything the average person would want to know about the Reformation is covered, beginning with the pre-Reformation reformers John Wycliffe and John Hus. Martin Luther draws most of the attention with 10 of the 17 chapters devoted to him.  While his contribution to the Reformation is given much space, not everything Lutzer says about Luther is positive.  Luther’s passion for truth is evident, but his stubbornness, anger, unnecessary battles and hatred for the Jews is detailed as well.  Huldrych Zwingli receives a chapter, as do the Anabaptists, while John Calvin gets two.  The closing chapter, “Is the Reformation Over?”, is…

The New Apostolic Reformation An Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries Part 2

( Volume 23, Issue 5, September/October 2017) Having surveyed the foundation of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and some of its theological distinctives in the first part of this article, we will now press on to investigate its infiltration into wider evangelical circles. We will then put the teachings of NAR to the test of Scripture.   Infiltration The influence of NAR has become broader, and therefore more dangerous, as many of its ideas are being accepted by traditionally non-charismatic churches and organizations.  This acceptance is due to a number of factors. Bethel, Hillsong and IHOP music has found enthusiastic reception in churches, youth ministries and among young adults throughout the evangelical spectrum. Many have no understanding of the teachings of NAR and no concept of what it is. Influential NAR teachers and books are making in-roads into evangelical circles. Due to rampant biblical illiteracy and general apathy toward Scripture and…

Solid Ground by Gabriel N.E. Fluhrer

Reviewed by Kurt Goedelman, Director of Personal Freedom Outreach Efforts to undermine God’s Word are nothing new, but today’s assaults have become so refined and widespread that even some who claim to be Evangelicals have joined the campaign. This is why Gabriel Fluhrer, in his editor’s preface of Solid Ground, writes, “Each generation must own for itself the cardinal truths of the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and ours is no exception. Indeed, in my own estimation, our generation is in danger of seeing what is perhaps the most central doctrine of the Christian faith — the doctrine of the inspired and concomitant inerrancy of Scripture — eclipsed to a degree previously unknown in the modern era” (pg. x, italic in original). Solid Ground is an excellent collection of essays by eight prominent authors, pastors, and teachers who are committed to the “vital conviction that the Bible…

Hermeneutics, Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation (2nd Edition) by Henry A. Virkler and Karelynne Gerber Ayayo

The stated goal of this text is “to give the reader not only an understanding of the principles of proper biblical interpretation but also the ability to apply those principles in sermon preparation, personal Bible study, and/or in writing” (p. 12).  I believe that Virkler has been successful in obtaining this goal.  He defines hermeneutics as “the science and art of biblical interpretation“ (p. 16), and “essentially a codification of the processes we normally use at an unconscious level to understand the meaning of communication” (p. 19).  In order to interpret Scripture correctly, several “gaps” have to be bridged.  These gaps are historical, cultural, philosophical and linguistic (p. 19). Unfortunately, successfully bridging these gaps has proven difficult historically, therefore before hermeneutical principles can be applied other issues must be addressed such as: inspiration (pp. 20-21), senus plenior (pp. 24-25, 49-59, 171), illumination (p. 28), inerrancy (pp. 29-39), allegorical approaches (pp.…