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…

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…

Taking Pascal’s Wager, Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life by Michael Rota

Michael Rota is associate professor of philosophy at the University of St. Thomas and obviously a brilliant philosopher and apologist.  He has determined in this book to modernize and defend the so-called Pascal’s wager, developed by the 19th century French mathematician and theological Blaise Pascal.  In essence the wager is this: “It is rational to seek a relationship with God and live a deeply Christian life, because there is very much to gain and relatively little to lose” (pp. 12, 23).  The main argument of the book can be summarized as follows: If Christianity has at least a 50 percent chance of being true, then it is rational to commit to living a Christian life. Christianity does have at least a 50 percent chance of being true.  Thus, it is rational to commit to living a Christian life (pp. 13, cf p. 63). Part one of Taking Pascal’s Wager develops…

Every Thought Captive, A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth by Richard L. Pratt, Jr

The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society sums up this book well: “Richard Pratt has written a manual to help ordinary people engage in apologetics along the lines of Van Til’s approach.  In the process he has translated the philosophical terminology of Van Tillian apologetics into everyday language…both sound and stimulating.” Pratt has little use for evidential apologetics (pp. 72-80) believing that such arguments are unproductive.  He opts instead for Van Tillian’s presuppostionalism (pp. 81-98).  The four closing chapters provide specific biblical defenses against common objections by unbelievers.  He suggests two broad approaches—an argument by truth and an argument by folly, both based on Proverbs 26:5.  The argument by truth has three steps: The Christian should admit his answers rest on his commitment to Christ. Evidences from Scripture should be given. The unbeliever is shown that his rejections of these evidences is due to his commitment to independence (that is,…

The Invisible Hand, Do All Things Really Work For Good? by R.C. Sproul

The subject addressed in The Invisible Hand is the providence of God, a favorite theme of the author and minister, R.C. Sproul.  This particular book is an unusual mixture (for anyone but Sproul) of historical accounts, philosophy, Scripture, personal stories and references to novels.   He borrows the Westminster Confession’s definition of providence as his basis: God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy (p 19). Sproul tackles the sticky issues of sovereignty vs. free will (pp 80-86), the problem of evil and pain (pp 159-168) and the point of prayer in light of God’s providence (pp 201-207),…

The Eight Great Debates of Bible Prophecy Understanding the Ongoing Controversies by Ron Rhodes

Biblical prophecy is often the subject of discussion and sometimes intense and contentious debate.  Author Ron Rhodes seeks in this volume to reveal the basis for these debates, graciously explain various views and defend his understanding, which could be defined as a Revised Dispensational position.  Rhodes’s writing style is readable, interesting and informative.   By covering such a huge subject, the book obviously cannot be comprehensive yet it provides solid exegesis and excellent answers for the debates addressed.   As a thorough overview and primer of eschatological issues, The Eight Great Debates would be hard to beat. The book is organized around the major end time positions found within the evangelical community today.  Each “debate” section is subdivided into 27 short chapters, addressing particular issues related to that subject, plus a postscript reminding the reader that Christians should unite over essential doctrines, give liberty over the non-essentials, and be charitable in all…

Turning to God, Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural by David F. Wells

David Wells believes the biblical understanding of salvific conversion has been distorted in modern times and needs to be reclaimed by the church.  From at least the Reformation on, evangelicals saw conversion as a supernatural act of God due to the depravity of human nature (pp. 18-20, 173-174).  However, during the Second Great Awakening (1772-1850) a shift took place in which many began to believe that through use of the right means sinners would naturally turn to God.  During that same era truth was replaced by experience as the evidence of salvation (pp. 106-108).  Evangelicals need to take a fresh look at this distortion and return to the teachings of Scripture.  This slim volume is an attempt to do this very thing. Wells defines conversion as “turning to Christ from unfaithfulness and sin to receive God’s grace” (p. 42), and “Conversion” denotes a transformation from self-dedication to dedication to God…

The Coming Kingdom, What Is the Kingdom and How Is Kingdom Now Theology Changing the Focus of the Church? by Andy Woods

The kingdom of God has been at the forefront of Christian thinking since the day Jesus walked the earth, and in fact is dominant in the Old Testament as well.  Get the kingdom of God right and you will comprehend the Lord’s plan for humanity.  Get it wrong and you will inevitably go astray.  With this in mind Andy Woods wants to challenge and correct the common teaching that the kingdom of God is presently on earth in the form of the church.   This view, often called “Kingdom Now Theology,” is well represented by Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, “The locus of the kingdom of God in this age is within the church, where Jesus rules as king.  As we live our lives together, we see the transforming power of the gospel and the in breaking of the future kingdom” (p. 1).  And Rick Warren calls for Christians to “establish…

Heart, Soul Might, Meditations on Knowing and Loving God edited by Kevin T. Bauder

Kevin Bauder, who wrote the vast majority of the essays within this volume, is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis.  Joining him are two other professors at the seminary, Jonathan Pratt and Dan Brown.  Together they write on a number of important subjects which are valuable in themselves but which also give the reader a good understanding of the theological stance and philosophy of the seminary. Solid and balanced studies of doctrines dealing with Scripture, election and foreknowledge, the person of Christ, freewill and sovereignty, salvation, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are included.  More “practical” matters such as church membership, views on Sabbath keeping, the draw and deception of sin, prayer, and the finding of God’s will are also addressed.  A few chapters were expositions of specific biblical texts.  I found the articles on John 6 (Jesus’ bread of life discourse) and an article…

Faith Speaking Understanding, Performing the Drama of Doctrine by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

In 2005 highly regarded theologian Kevin Vanhoozer wrote an intense scholarly tome entitled The Drama of Doctrine. The present volume was written to make his unique approach to the understanding of Scripture, which he calls theodrama, more assessable to pastors and serious lay students of the Bible. But make no mistake; this work is a difficult read that only the adventurous should attempt, but if they do they will be rewarded for their effort. Vanhoozer’s thesis is that true discipleship cannot take place apart from theology, defined repeated as both knowing and doing truth (e.g. pp. xii, e, 20). He writes, “Desire for God without doctrine is blind, doctrine without desire is empty” (p. xiv). The uniqueness of Vanhoozer’s approach is the use of the theodramatic model (apparently gleaned from Kierkegaard — p. 18), which he believes articulates theology (by his definition) better than standard propositional, narrative or story methods…

The Gospel of the Lord, How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus by Michael F. Bird

Michael Bird, lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College in Australia, has written this work to address “the questions of how the Gospels came to be, what kinds of literature they are, and how they relate to Christian discourse about God…[and] to explore how the Gospels were shaped by the Christian movement and how they shape that movement themselves” (pp vii-ix). Toward this end, Bird has provided an intense volume in which he interacts with the latest scholarship, from liberal to conservative, on all related issues. He discusses the origins of the four Gospels, oral traditions, form criticism, literary genre and goal of the Gospels. The heart of the book however, is concerned with the Synoptic problem (pp 127-187) and the Johannine question (pp 188-22). The Synoptic problem is why Matthew, Mark and Luke are similar and yet different in many ways. Also at issue is the…

For the Glory of God, Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, by Daniel I. Block

Reading For the Glory of God had the feel of sitting at the feet of a learned professor as he pours out a lifetime of study of the Scriptures. The book provides insightful understanding concerning many biblical matters but is primarily focused on tracing the theme of worship throughout the Bible. Block states his thesis as such: In addition to a commitment to let all Scripture contribute to the recovery of a biblical theology of worship, this book is driven by two other foundational principles. First, true worship is essentially a vertical exercise, the human response to the divine Creator and Redeemer. For this reason the goal of authentic worship is the glory of God rather than the pleasure of human beings, which means that forms of worship should conform to the will of God rather than to the whims of fallen humanity. Second, knowledge of the nature and forms…

A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutiérrez

Originally written in 1971, this revised edition contains a new introduction, in addition to the original, and the reworking of portions of the first edition. While many similar ideals had been circulating prior to its publication, and were expressed in the Vatican II Council documents (1965) and the Medellin Conference (1968), A Theology of Liberation marks the official launching of the liberation theology movement and Gustavo Gutiérrez is seen as its father. Since then liberation theology continues to spread, morph and influence the Christian community not only in Latin America but throughout the world. While not embraced in totality, many of its ideas have filtered into the evangelical church and are expressed in the latest round of the social gospel. In A Theology of Liberation we find the roots of this social agenda being espoused by key Christian leaders and organizations today. A Theology of Liberation is a dense, detailed,…

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

In typical Yancey fashion the author uses his journalistic skills to question and dig deeper into a subject that perplexes him. This time it is Jesus. He is convinced that his fundamentalist upbringing clouds the real Jesus in his thinking. Over and over he makes derogatory comments about his boyhood church and hot beds of fundamentalism (in his opinion) such as Moody Bible Institute (pp. 14, 80, 85, 148, 187, 239, 252). Given this backdrop he sets out to discover the real Jesus. On the positive side, one of his key sources is the four Gospels which he has studied intently. Unfortunately, he has read the Gospels through various lenses which have skewed his view. Avoiding the rest of the New Testament—a serious error (p. 261)—he has attempted to discover Jesus through 15 Hollywood films (pp. 21-22, 85-86, 88, 193) and numerous novelists such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy (pp. 74, 121,…

Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller

In Generous Justice Timothy Keller is making a case for social justice as it relates to the corporate church and to individual Christians. Each chapter begins with a call to justice from the Bible which shows the foundation of a just, generous human community (see p. xvi) followed by the author’s biblical and philosophical defense of the propositions found in that chapter. Keller says that he is writing this book for four kinds of people: young believers who respond with joy to the call to care for the needy, those who approach the subject of “doing justice” with suspicion, younger evangelicals who have “expanded their mission” to include social justice along with evangelism, and those who believe that the idea that the Bible is devoted to justice is absurd (pp. x-xiv). Keller thinks all four types of readers “fail at some level to see that the Biblical gospel of Jesus…

Liberation Theology by Emilio A. Núñez C.

This book deals with the biblical, theological and sociological issues concerning liberation theology (p. 12). Liberation theology is a new way of doing theology (pp. 8, 17, 35, 74, 81, 122-124, 131-171), born out of the Latin American social context. It discards capitalism (pp. 29-31, 56-57, 95, 119, 156-157, 215), is a theology of action (praxis) rather than doctrine (pp. 136-138, 147-148, 188), rejects the reliability of Scripture (pp. 143-146, 216, 233-235) and when interpreting Scripture uses a hermeneutic of the kingdom of God as its guide (pp. 145, 155, 167, 189, 198-202, 226, 264). Liberation theology is concerned with social salvation, or the transformation of society, rather than spiritual salvation (pp. 176-206). Utopia is the goal (pp. 195-197, 200-201, 254) and it is achieved often through revolution and violence (p. 267). Even the person of Christ is changed: since the liberation theologians do not believe we can rely upon…

Simply Good News, Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N. T. Wright

Christianity Today proclaims N. T. Wright to be the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation. Some say he is the most important apologist since C. S. Lewis (on the dust cover). If so, then whether you agree with him or not, what Wright says carries considerable weight. In Simply Good News Wright is defining the gospel and working out its implications. He repeatedly, and correctly, states that the gospel is not good advice; it is a good news message about an event that has changed everything (pp. 4, 16). But Wright’s understanding about this event (which includes the cross and the resurrection) is not what many would assume. He agrees the message that Jesus died for our sins and took our punishment so that we could be saved and go to heaven is true, but it is a distorted message, which does not go far enough and in some…

The Sacred Text, Biblical Authority in Nineteenth-Century America by Ronald F. Satta

It is commonly taught in evangelical scholarship that the doctrine of inerrancy was invented and developed by A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield in 1881 with publication of their paper “Inspiration” (see pp. XI, 33). Ronald Satta proves in this small work that such was not the case—that, in fact, conservative theologians going back to the Reformation (pp. 2-3,9), and indeed to the Church Fathers (p. 54) have held to a well-defined view of both the authority of the Scripture and inerrancy of the Bible in the original autographs. Satta carefully surveys the commonly held views by conservative Christians during the nineteenth-century in America and concludes that “the assertion that inerrancy is a novelty is exposed as incorrect. Rather than innovators, fundamentalists are cast as the standard-bearers of the ascendant theory of biblical authority commonly endorsed among many of the leading Protestant elite in nineteenth-century America” (p. XV). As…

The Holy Spirit by A. W. Pink

A. W. Pink lived from 1886 to 1952 and wrote numerous books including The Holy Spirit. It has been critiqued and reviewed by numerous people and therefore warrants no extensive review from me at this time. A few comments will suffice. Of a positive nature, Pink expounds on many marvelous truths related to the Holy Spirit. He devotes 32 chapters, each detailing one aspect of the Holy Spirit, such as deity and personality, or some ministry directed to mankind, such as indwelling, transforming and convicting. Chapters average about five pages and therefore lend themselves to daily reading of a meatier level than common devotional works. There is much to appreciate in most of these chapters. Depending on one’s theological convictions, Pink’s covenantal and strong Reformed views will either irritate or please. He clearly equates the church with Israel (p. 20), believing that God abandoned Israel prior to the crucifixion (p.…

Left Behind and the Evangelical Crisis by Crawford Gribben

As the title implies Gribben has written a critique of evangelicalism as represented by the wildly popular fictional series Left Behind authored by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. Gribben’s conclusion is that the novels have poor theology of salvation, the church and the Christian life, even though being admittedly theologically sound much of the time. Gribben correctly understands the Left Behind series to be drawn from a dispensational view of Scripture. As a result the author has much to say about dispensationalism—its history, proponents, critics, and distinctions. I believe he fairly represents dispensationalism, which is not particularly common for someone of Reformed persuasion. He deals with popular myths about dispensationalism and rightly distinguishes between theologians who espouse a carefully thought out system and extremists who practice “current event” theology and set dates for the return of Christ. He would place the Left Behind novels, along with most “rapture fiction” past…

The God Who Is There Finding Your Place in God’s Story By D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010) 233 pp. Paper, $16.99

Don Carson admits up front that this book is not for everyone. It is not bumper sticker theology, yet it is aimed at those who have little acquaintance with the Bible (p. 9). The author’s approach is to “run through the Bible in fourteen chapters. Each chapter focuses on one or more passages from the Bible, unpacks it a little, and tries to build connections with the context, drawing the lines together to show how they converge in Jesus” (p. 9). The combination of these features makes for a unique volume, tracing the story-line of the Bible and revealing its major themes for the novice while providing challenging concepts and exegesis for even the most competent of Bible students. But it is at this point that the objective of the book seems to break down. I personally gained a great deal from much of what Carson wrote and I would…

Evangelical Feminism A New Path To Liberalism?, By Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006) 272 pp., Paper $10.99

Wayne Grudem is perhaps the most prolific evangelical author today writing in defense of the biblical roles of men and women in the church and in the home, known as complementarism. His thesis in this particular volume is that evangelical feminism (egalitarianism) has become a new path by which evangelicals are being drawn into theological liberalism (pp. 15, 17), because it undermines the authority of Scripture (p. 261). This thesis is repeated in virtually every one of the 36 chapters. The strength of this particular work is responding with solid biblical answers to the common equalitarian attacks on the traditional understanding of the biblical roles of women. These attacks, which began among evangelicals only in 1974 (p. 43), include: Accusations that portions of Scripture are wrong (pp. 33-52) Trajectory hermeneutics which claim modern developments in culture trump Scripture (pp. 53-80) “Cherry picking” favorite verses while ignoring others (pp. 81-102) Parachurch…

Messiah’s Coming Temple, Ezekiel’s Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple By John W. Schmitt and J. Carl Laney (Kregel Publications: 2013) 224 pp., Paperback $12.99

Messiah’s Coming Temple (MCT) is about the future temple which is prophesied in the Bible, particularly in Ezekiel 40-48. Many interpreters of the Bible try to allegorize or “spiritualize” the prophet’s vision of the temple, but Schmitt and Laney take pains to demonstrate the natural reading of the text: a future, physical temple will one day be built in the land of Israel. Interpreters in the dispensational tradition will heartily agree with this thesis, and overall the authors do a good job of “unpacking” the scriptural vision of a future temple. The book is particularly strong in dealing with architectural features of the new temple (one of the authors – John Schmitt – apparently built the first major model of Ezekiel’s temple). I thus learned much about the dimensions, as well as the “look and feel” of the temple described by Ezekiel. MCT contains some very interesting photos and outstanding…

Conversion in the New Testament, Paul and the Twelve, by Richard V. Peace (Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1999) 397 pp. plus XV, paper $33.75

Conversion in the New Testament is an exacting, thorough and valuable study of the conversion experience. Recognizing substantial differences between the sudden conversion of Paul in Acts and the gradual experience of the apostles in the Gospels, Richard Peace seeks to evaluate and harmonize the two. His aim is “to demonstrate that while there is such a phenomenon as Christian conversion and that it has specific characteristics, it occurs in different ways in the lives of different people” (p. 10). Drawing first from the life of Paul, Peace deduces that there are three elements in all conversion experiences: insight, turning and transformation (pp. 25-27, cf. pp. 49-50, 54, 93, 298-307, 346-353). Insight is the “aha” moment when one sees their spiritual condition and need and the truth of the gospel. Turning is a turning from sin and our former beliefs about Christ and a turning to the Lord for salvation…

God in Eclipse, God Has Not Always Been Silent, by John B. Metzger (Keller, TX: J House Publishing: 2013) pp. 227, paper $9.99

John Metzger, missionary and educator with Ariel Ministries, has written God in Eclipse directly to Jewish people “to put into simple language a debunking of the issues surrounding God’s nature” (p. 5). Most Jews have abandoned even Judaism (pp. 13, 19) and rejected Christianity, partly due to mistreatment by Christians throughout the ages. Therefore, Metzger distinguishes true believers and biblical Christianity from the corrupt forms that have too often emerged (e.g., p. 13). But the bulk of the book deals with an analysis of Scripture to demonstrate that the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) clearly teaches the same truths honored by authentic Christians and taught in the New Testament. Some of the highlights include: Demonstrating that the use of Elohim (Elokim) for God shows that God exists in a oneness in plurality, thus allowing for the doctrine of the Trinity (pp. 20-23, 51-60, 69-76. 164-175). That the Angel of the…

Understanding Scripture, An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning, edited by Wayne Grudem, c. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012) 203 pp., paper $12.99

Understanding Scripture is a helpful volume dealing with the primary issues related to God’s Word. None of the editors contributes to the book but 17 other scholars do. Understanding Scripture is organized around seven parts with two or more chapters within each part. The parts are interpreting, reading, canonicity, reliability of manuscripts, archaeology, and original languages. In addition, the concluding part provides chapters surveying the history of salvation and discussing how the New Testament makes use of the Old Testament. The book offers introductory material on these subjects and is not intended to be exhaustive. Those interested in deeper study of these topics will need to look elsewhere, but Understanding Scripture is a good starting point. Readers will have various areas of interest but for me a highlight was the discussion of the reliability of the biblical manuscripts including the types of textual differences among the manuscripts (pp. 101-117), and…

The New Calvinists, Changing the Gospel by E. S. Williams (London: The Wakeman Trust & Belmont House Publishing, 2014), 74 pp., paper $6.84

  As a physician and church leader in the United Kingdom, E. S. Williams examines the “New Calvinists” from a unique perspective. Interestingly the term is seldom used in the UK even though it has “penetrated deeply into the UK evangelical camp” (p. 51). (On a side note, I found the same to be true concerning the Spiritual Formation Movement on a recent visit to Britain. Church leaders were unfamiliar with the title even though the effects of the movement were evident everywhere.) Williams defines New Calvinism as “a growing perspective within conservative evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th century Calvinism while also trying to be relevant in the present-day world” (p. 7). However, it is a movement that “has made no attempt to separate from worldliness” (p. 68). This is a fundamental flaw, Williams believes, for, as Peter Masters writes, “You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification”…

What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About, a Survey of Jesus’ Bible, Gen. Ed., Jason S. DeRouchie (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013; 496 pp., Hard $30.99

Jason De Rouchie and 16 other contributors have joined forces to provide the church this truly unique and marvelous volume overviewing the message of the Old Testament (there is a companion New Testament Volume – What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About). In the preface DeRouchie tells us that the book is not about: A history of Israelite religion A summary of the events of history A synthesis of the sources behind the text A review of characters in the text A theology of the Hebrew Bible on its own A systematic theology A reflection of the reader “Rather, following the arrangement of the Jewish canon, this survey attempts to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament.” The book is targeted toward Bible college, seminary students and local churches…

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism, Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry by Gregory Alan Thornbury (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013) 223 pp., paper $7.99

Gregory Thornbury, former professor of philosophy at Union University and now president of the King’s College, believes that the era of classical evangelicalism, represented by Francis Schaeffer, J. I. Packer, John R. W. Stott and most pronounced, Carl Henry, is quickly slipping away. He fears that “perhaps the evangelicalism I ‘signed up for’ is gone forever. Worse yet, perhaps it never even existed” (p. 32). In fact, many leading theologians today see classical evangelicalism and Henry, its main intellectual promoter, as relics of a bygone era (pp. 11, 21, 30). Thornbury hopes to reverse this view by reintroducing Henry to a generation that has marginalized him. This is necessary partly because even Henry’s fans find him almost incomprehensible. As Millard Erickson quipped about Henry’s work, “I hope someday that it is translated into English” (p. 24). The author attempts to do just that by, in essence, paraphrasing his second and…

The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ,by Yusufu Turaki, (Nairobi, Kenya: WordAlive Publishers Limited, 2006), 127 pp., paper $8.99

I was first introduced to Turaki via his marvelous little book, Foundations of African Traditional Religion and Worldview, a book that is a must read for anyone engaged in African ministry. Turaki, an African theologian and professor of theology and social ethics, in The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ has written a concise, compact Christology applicable for anyone, but especially geared for the African church. Turaki states that the purpose of his book “is to develop a biblical basis and foundation for presenting and proclaiming Jesus the Messiah as the only valid, authentic and unique Saviour of the whole world and the Mediator between God and man” (p. 5). Turaki then organizes his book by chapter around Jesus as the Messiah, as the Christ, as Mediator and as Redeemer. He also writes concerning the ingredients of salvation, the mission of the church, Christianity in the midst of cultural and religious plurality,…

Engaging with Keller, Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical,Ed. By Iain D. Campbell and William M. Schweitzer (Darington, England: Evangelical Press, 2013), 240 pp., paper $14.39

One of the most creative and influential pastors, theologians and thinkers in the evangelical church today is Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and a prolific author. The six contributors to this volume all admire Keller, share his Presbyterian background and theology, yet believe some of Keller’s doctrines and practices fall short of biblical teachings. Keller is trying to package Christianity for the “contemporary unchurched and largely postmodern audience” (p. 21), yet at the same time maintain orthodoxy. This is a different endeavor and these men believe that Keller often falls short of his goal. One general concern is that Keller adopts a twofold answer to many questions. For the traditional modernist he provides standard orthodox theology, but for the postmodern audience he supplies a different approach and set of answers (p. 21). It is the second set of answers that have these authors concerned.…

Recovering the Reformed Confession, Our Theology Piety and Practice, by R. Scott Clark (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2008), 362 pp. paper $25.00

As a professor of church history and historical theology at Westminister Seminary California, in addition to being a pastor of a Reformed church, R. Scott Clark is highly knowledgeable of Reformed history, theology and practice. He believes there are some important problems in today’s Reformed churches (p. 1), for they have lost their identity because of two alien impulses (p. 36). First is the quest for “illegitimate religious certainty” (p. 39). Chapter two is devoted to this subject and we find listed the creation debate and theonomy as examples. Chapter three is concerned with the second impulse: the “quest for illegitimate religious experience” such as mysticism, pietism and revivalism. Clark sees both Martin Lloyd-Jones and Jonathan Edwards as promoters of this latter alien impulse (pp. 80-112). Clark is championing confessional Protestantism. Thus, he is negative on pure biblicism in which the Christian looks to Scripture as his only authority (pp.…

The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, by Thomas R. Schreiner (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 714 pp., hard $44.99

Thomas Schreiner, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary, has written what in many ways is a marvelous biblical theology. Biblical theology differs from systematic theology in its approach and purpose. In systematics one is seeking to organize all of Scripture around key doctrinal subjects, such as the Godhead, salvation and Scripture. Biblical theology follows the historical timeline and wraps itself around a common theme, seeking to unwrap each biblical author’s contribution to that theme. Schreiner believes the “kingdom of God” is the unifying theme that pulls together all the books of the Bible (p. xii), “Scripture unfolds the story of the kingdom and God’s glory is the reason for the story” (p. xiii). Schreiner’s definition of the kingdom of God is important as might be discerned. The author offers three components that comprise the kingdom: the rule of God, those being ruled [people], and a realm [the universe]…

Strange Fire: the Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship,by John MacArthur (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 331 pp., Hard $22.99

John MacArthur has long been concerned about the dangers of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Over twenty years ago he wrote Charismatic Chaos which documented many of the excesses of the movement. The major criticism at the time of MacArthur’s position was that he painted too broadly and thus lumped those on the lunatic fringe of charismania with those who were substantially more biblically sound. The fringe crowd, after all, composed a small minority of the total Pentecostal/Charismatic family. Whatever MacArthur’s critics might think of Strange Fire, they can no longer claim that the extreme Charismatics are either the minority or unusual. The fastest growing, and most visible, segments of the movement are those formerly identified as fringe. There are still many doctrinally sound Charismatics within Christendom today and MacArthur takes great pains to say so (pp. 81-82). But the extremists are everywhere and growing rapidly. In addition there are…

The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism by Michael John Beasley, (The Armory Ministries: 2013), e-book available from Amazon, 198 pp., $.99.

It has been well over two decades since Wayne Grudem wrote his ground breaking book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, which attempted to give theological legitimacy to common practices found especially in Pentecostal and charismatic circles. Those practices had to do with the so-called “sign gifts” of miracles, healings, tongues and prophecy. Grudem’s burden focused almost entirely on prophecy and words of knowledge. Pentecostals and charismatics have long claimed extrabiblical words, visions and prophecies that came via direct communication from the Holy Spirit. But it was common knowledge that many, if not most, of those supposed revelations were inaccurate in whole or in part. The Old Testament had condemned fallible prophets to death (Deut 13, 18) so obviously this was a serious issue to God. If this seriousness was carried over to the New Testament era what was to be done with those who claimed…

My Dream of Heaven, by Rebecca Ruter Springer (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 1898, 2002), 179 pp., Hard , $9.62

During the latter half of the nineteenth-century, due in part to the tremendous loss of life during the Civil War as well as the encroachment of German rationalism and interest in spiritism, many were struggling with questions and doubts concerning the afterlife. In response a number of books were written, some based on Scripture, others on supposed dreams and visions, to provide answers about heaven. Springer’s book, originally entitled Intra Muros, was among the latter, but has distinguished itself by being published and read over a hundred years later, while most of the others disappeared rather quickly. Springer takes pains to make clear that her near-death experience was not inspired by God and carries no divine authority (pp. 155-157). Still, much like today’s near-death accounts, she believes her supposed trip to heaven will offer valuable insight into eternity and give hope to the reader. However her revelation is riddled with…

Unmasking the Antichrist, Dispelling the Myths, Discovering the Truth by Ron Rhodes (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2001), 244 pp. paper $13.99.

Ron Rhodes, president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, has written a solid book, from a dispensational understanding of end times, with particular focus on the antichrist. Rhodes covers a lot of ground in this very readable volume including: · An overview of various views concerning the antichrist (chapters 2, 5-7). · Historical identifications of the antichrist (chapter 3). · Discussion of who or what the restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2 is (chapter 9). · The character, names and titles of the antichrist (chapters 11-12). · The antichrist’s role and function (chapters 13-14, 16). · The false prophet (chapter 15). · The mark of the beast (chapter 17). · And the final destiny of the antichrist (chapter 18). While Unmasking the Antichrist is obviously centered around the antichrist, along the way Rhodes is also providing a helpful understanding of end time events, especially those involving the Tribulation period in which…

Revelation, by Alun Ebenezer (Darlington England: Evangelical Press, 2012) 224 pp., paper $15.29

In a back cover endorsement, Alistair Begg recommends first reading the introduction and the conclusion of this little commentary on Revelation. Good advice for, by doing so the reader will understand the author’s approach to interpreting this important New Testament book. Ebenezer clearly lays out the four major approaches to its interpretation: preterist, futurist, historicist and idealist (pp. 215-218). He also offers a short overview of positions held by postmillennial, premillennial and amillennial theologians (pp. 218-221). Ebenezer identifies himself as an amillennialist (p. 221) and, thus, aligns himself most closely to the idealist method which sees Revelation dealing with principles in which God has governed the earth throughout history. However, he believes elements of all four approaches are necessary. He writes: Revelation was written to seven specific churches at a specific time in history to help them in their situation, but is also intended for the church throughout time. The…

Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan (New York: Random House, 2013), 216 pp. plus xxxiv, cloth $27.00

For some inexplicable reason Zealot has become a best-selling sensation, yet there is absolutely nothing new or profound revealed in the book. Zealot is merely warmed up, liberal theology that has been around since German rationalism and higher criticism of the 18th century. It is the same poor scholarship and skepticism that infiltrated the major American denominations toward the end of the 19th century and resulted in the doctrinal deconstruction of much of Protestant Christianity in the early 20th century. Today such denominations, no longer having a unique reason to exist, are in deep decline, although with the appearance of the emergent church in the early 21st century some of its doctrine and emphasis have become fashionable again. The thesis driving Zealot is that there is a massive divide between the Jesus of the Gospels (the Christ) and the historic Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth). The Jesus of the New Testament…

The Jewish Gospels, the Story of the Jewish Christ by Daniel Boyarin (New York: The New Press, 2012), 160 pp., cloth $21.95.

Daniel Boyarin is the Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the world’s leading Talmud scholars. In The Jewish Gospels Boyarin challenges how most modern Jewish theologians have interpreted the New Testament Gospels and Jesus Himself. He examines the Old Testament prophecies, New Testament narratives and Jewish extra-biblical literature such as First Enoch and Fourth Ezra and reaches some startling conclusions, considering they come from a highly respected Jewish rabbical scholar. Boyarin concludes: · The idea of a Trinity or at least a second member of the Godhead has been present among Jewish believers long before the coming of Jesus (pp. XVII, 5, 44, 56, 72, 102, 128, 132, 142, 158-160). · The big distinction between Judaism and Christianity did not take place until the Council of Nicaea (pp. 1, 13-15). Some Old Testament Jews believed that the Messiah, who would…

The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ, by Bruce Ware (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013). 156 PP., Paper $15.99

Dr. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a doctrinally solid yet thoroughly readable treatise on the humanity of Jesus Christ. While Jesus’ divine and human natures cannot actually be separated, nor does Ware try to do so, nevertheless he does attempt to show how Jesus’ humanity functioned within the person of Christ and why it was/is necessary for our Lord to possess both divine and human natures in one person. As might be imagined this is no easy task and few theologians could have pulled off what Ware has done. And he does so exceptionally well. Ware states his thesis as such, “I want to present here some of the evidence from Old and New Testaments that the human life of Jesus is real and to show how important it is that He lived our life in order to die our death…

An Introduction to the New Covenant, General Editor, Christopher Cone (Hurst, TX: Tyndale Seminary Press, 2013) 375 pp., paper, $27.00.

This volume, authored by six theologians, is an excellent and important entry into the debate concerning the extent and application of the New Covenant. Depending on how it is approached there are up to five views on the church’s relationship to the New Covenant (see pp. 83, 89, 101, and 204). · Replacement—The church is entirely fulfilling the New Covenant. · Partial —The church is partially fulfilling the New Covenant, but complete fulfillment awaits the millennium. · Participation—The church does not even partially fulfill the New Covenant, but does participate in its spiritual blessings now. · Two New Covenants—God has made one New Covenant with Israel and another with the church. · No relationship—The New Covenant was made exclusively with Israel and the church is not directly related to it and is experiencing no spiritual benefits from the New Covenant now. This book defends the “no relationship” position, even though…

Freely By His Grace, Classical Free Grace Theology, Edited by J. B. Hixson, Rick Whitmire, and Roy B. Zuck (Duluth, Minn: Grace Gospel Press, 2012) Hardback, 615 pp., $29.00.

Freely By His Grace is an effort by sixteen pastors and theologians to defend and explain what is commonly called “free grace” soteriology (p. xiii) and related themes. As with any multi-authored volume, this one is uneven in both content and style but is a good representation of the positions taken by the majority within the Free Grace Alliance (p. 343). Still, as Michael Stallard points out, the Free Grace movement is not monolithic and its “members disagree on the nature and role of repentance, the elements necessary for a gospel presentation, how to view good works as evidence of regeneration, and how to interpret various passages about rewards to name a few areas” (p. 343). The authors are universally opposed to the more extreme Free Grace teachings sometimes referred to as the “crossless gospel” (pp. 12-13, 59, 66, 145). This crossless gospel now appears to be the understanding of…

Redacted Dominionism, A Biblical Approach to Grounding Environmental Responsibility,by Christopher Cone (Eugene, Oregon: WIPF & Stock, 2012)Paper, pp. 122, $17.00

One of the most controversial issues facing the world, and the church, today is that of environmentalism. Unlike the world which develops its views pragmatically, or politically, or scientifically, or rationally, the church should always begin with the Word of God. What God says should be the reference point from which all other considerations are analyzed. This is exactly what Chris Cone is attempting to do in this book concerning ecological concerns. How the Christian, in particular the evangelical community, should view the environment and handle its various crises ought to emerge from a thorough understanding of what Scripture says on the subject. Cone spends a great deal of time interacting with Lynn White Jr.’s views (see pp.4-9; 27-55), especially a paper written in 1967 entitled, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crises.” White indicts evangelicals as being “a primary culprit for environmental degradation,” primarily because they have accepted a…

Charting the End Times, a Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy, by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 141 pp., hard, $16.50

Charting the End Times is a powerful resource dealing with eschatological issues from a dispensational, pretribulational perspective. The book’s title is somewhat misleading, for this volume is far more than a collection of beautiful and helpful charts; it is a primer for all things pertaining to prophecy. As such it deals with foundational subjects such as biblical covenants, dispensations, canonisity, Jewish feasts and Israel’s tabernacle and temple. Upon this foundation prophecies regarding the future are detailed and explained in a format understandable to any serious student of Scripture. One need not have a degree in Bible to appreciate Charting the End Times but those who do will gain insight as well. Two cautions are in order. First, Ice and LaHaye are not arguing and defending their theological positions, they are simply stating them. Those looking for comprehensive discussions of various eschatological and exegetical differences on prophecy will want to look…

Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy by Thomas Ice & Timothy J. Demy, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1997) 237 pp., paper $10.98

This book is a handy reference work dealing with times and details concerning biblical prophecy, from a pretribulational, and dispensational perspective. It is organized alphabetically, like a small encyclopedia in which the reader can search for a word or phrase to find its meaning and how it is used in Scripture. The book opens with “Abaddon” and closes with “Zion,” with hundreds of short descriptions in between. Fast Facts is thorough and at the same time concise. It is an excellent starting point for understanding or refreshing one’s memory about prophetically-related subjects. The book has a number of helpful charts, but lacks indexes. For those knowledgeable on eschatology, especially as understood by dispensationalists, there will be few surprises in Fast Facts. However the authors take the “historical-prophetical” interpretation of the seven churches found in Revelation 2-3. Although not a unique view, I was not expecting to find two futurist scholars…

The Great Tribulation, Past or Future?

Dispensational theologian Thomas Ice joins with covenantal/preterist theologian Kenneth Gentry to debate the timing of the Great Tribulation. Ice defends the position that the Tribulation is yet future, while Gentry supports moderate preterism which teaches that the Tribulation is past, having come in and around the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. They each write two chapters presenting their views and one chapter rebutting the position of the other. While the stated purpose of the book is to provide “a condensed introduction to and an overview of the basic issues,” the book is nevertheless highly technical and would only be recommended to those serious about the difference between the two camps. The book is far too complicated and intense for me to offer a blow-by-blow review, but I will mention two matters. First, the preterist position relies heavily on its interpretation of Matthew 24:34. “This generation” according to Gentry, is…

The Rapture and Beyond

by John C. Whitcomb (Waxhaw, North Caroline: Kainos Books, 2012), pp. 175, paper $13.00 from Whitcomb Ministries. Whitcomb addresses three eschatology matters in this book. In Part One he deals with the destiny of the church including the Rapture, rewards for believers and the distinctions between Israel and the church. Part Two handles the Tribulation and the Second Coming, while the final section is devoted to the Millennium. The book is uneven, with a number of chapters being rather simplistic in nature, as the author states strong views without corresponding argumentation. But several other chapters carefully develop important positions with well thought-out support. The stronger chapters are those previously published in other books or journals and revised for this volume. These include: Chapter five which deals with Daniel’s seventy-weeks and shows why “weeks” must mean years leading to fulfillment of this prophecy, in particular the 70th week, during the Tribulation…

Christ’s Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer

by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, Eds (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 220 pp., paper $19.99. Joining MacArthur and Mayhue in this work are three other members of The Master’s Seminary (Michael Vlach, Matthew Waymeyer and Nathan Busenitz). Together they write a solid understanding and defense of premillennailism, with MacArthur laying out the thesis of the book on the first page: This primer (basic, introductory book) intends to provide a clear and convincing biblical explanation for the interpretive approach to Scripture that results in a knowable futuristic view of Christ’s millennial reign on earth, the certain validity of God’s promises to future Israel, and the crucial differences between Israel (as a people and a nation) and the NT church. The authors are not only presenting a case for premillennialism in general but for dispensational premillennialism in particular. MacArthur writes that dispensationalism results from three things: interpreting Scripture normally, understanding Old Testament…

Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy

by Timothy Paul Jones, David Gundersen, Benjamin Galan (Torrence, CA: Rose Publishing, 2011), 363 pp., Paper 19.99 Timothy Paul Jones, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, is the main author of this beautiful and helpful volume. The book is literally filled with colorful diagrams, charts and pictures that enhance its readability and makes a difficult subject a joy to read. Jones writes in a gracious tone, often humorously and with clarity. It is the authors’ goal not to argue but to produce a “deeper recognition of the majesty and sovereignty of Jesus in all of life – including the end of time” (p. 6). I believe he successfully meets his goal. The purpose of the book is to carefully map out the major evangelical positions on eschatology. To this end Jones provides four eschatological views (amillennial, postmillennial, dispensatonal premillennial, and historical premillennial), three theological systems (Dispensationalism,…

The Sovereignty and Supremacy of King Jesus, Bowing to the Gracious Despot by Mike Abendroth, (Ryelands Road, UK: Day One Publications), pp. 239, $11.99.

Steven Lawson states in the forward of this book, “The foundational truth of all Christian theology is that bedrock doctrine of all doctrines: the sovereignty of God over the entire universe” (p. 11).  Abendroth attempts to flesh out this thesis by tracing the concept of Jesus as king throughout the Bible.  The word “king” is found in the NKJV 2237 times in 1801 verses; it is obviously a huge subject in the Bible.  Of course not all of these references speak of the Son, but Jesus’ role as king is well established in Scripture.  Abendroth makes his case for the sovereignty of Jesus over all things in part one, consisting of four chapters.  In part two he makes application, providing helpful chapters on preaching (6-7), prayer (8), worship (10) and the Lord’s return (11).  Abendroth is a strong Calvinist which is evident throughout, but especially in chapter nine on election. …

Majestic Destiny by Curtis H. Tucker (Redmond, Oregon: Last Chapter Publishing, 2011), 292 pp., paper $15.99.

Curtis Tucker defends a pretribulational, dispensational, eschatological understanding of the kingdom of God.  He believes a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth is taught in Scripture and wraps this book around that theme.  With this, Tucker stands firmly with all dispensational theologians, but Majestic Destiny is not a rehash of typical dispensational distinctives; rather, the author has a particular subject in mind—the kingdom of God.  As is evident from the book’s endorsements from Bruce Wilkinson, Joseph Dillow, and Earl Radmacher among others, some dispensationalists agree with Tucker but many others, including me, do not. The thesis of the Majestic Destiny, repeated in various forms throughout the volume, is “The big idea of the Bible is not getting people to heaven.  The big idea of the Bible is the coming kingdom of Christ” (p. 18).  Said with greater clarity, “From Genesis to Revelation, the main theme of the Bible…

The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel L. Hoyt (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2011, revised 2015), 236 pp., paper $19.95

Dr. Hoyt has provided an excellent, comprehensive understanding of the judgment seat of Christ.  He states that the purpose of this study is “to carefully establish the limits of this judgment in regard to its nature and results” (p. 179).  The thesis is “that the judgment seat of Christ is a most solemn evaluation at which there will be no judicial punishment for the believer’s sins, whether confessed or unconfessed, but rather commendation according to the faithfulness of the Christian’s life” (p. 15).   Hoyt rejects the prominent view of only one general judgment (pp. 17-22) espousing the understanding of most premillenialists that there are five major eschatological judgments (pp. 22-23).  The judgment seat of Christ is specific to the church-age believer and occurs between the rapture and the second-coming of Christ (pp. 47-54).  In describing the judgment seat of Christ the author provides individual chapters on the setting, nature,…

Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man by Michael John Beasley. The Armour Ministries, 2011, 144 pp., $10.95

In this volume Beasley concurs with the criticism heaped on Rob Bell and his heretical book Love Wins.  But he is justly confused as to why others, particularly C.S. Lewis who taught essentially many of Bell’s errors, receives accolades from the critics of Bell.  This is a valid point.  Lewis, who never claimed to be an evangelical (pp. 11-12), is quoted and followed by evangelicals almost without question. For example, Beasley points out that John Piper builds upon Lewis for his concept of hedonistic Christianity and Timothy Keller draws much of his apologetics from Lewis as well (see my review of Keller’s Reason for God).  Lewis gets a bye from many evangelicals because he is creative, eminently quotable and seldom directly enters the realm of theology.  Yet a careful reading of his works, both polemical and fictional, reveals serious false views: He rejects penal substitution, minimizes justification by faith, accepts…

How Then Should We Choose, Gen. Ed. Douglas S. Huffman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009) 269 pp. paper $11.99

As the subtitle explains, this is a book that examines “three views on God’s will and decision making.”  Huffman has identified the dominate views found within evangelicalism and gathered champions of each position to present his case and interact with the other systems. The “specific-will” view is represented by Henry and Richard Blackaby:  “The core belief of this perspective is that God not only has a specific will for individuals but also communicates that will to people so they can follow it” (p. 33).  The Blackabys believe that the Lord communicates His specific will independent from Scripture and mostly through an inner witness.  As a result they teach “the key to knowing God’s will is being able to recognize when He is speaking to you.  Even a cursory examination of the Bible reveals that God communicates with individuals” (p. 53).  The essence of the specific-will position is that the Lord…

The New Nature by Renald E. Showers (Renald E. Showers, 1996) 182 pp, paper $9.95

In The New Nature, Renald Showers has provided one of the finest explanations of the transforming nature of regeneration available anywhere.  Admitting that “nature” is not a biblical term Showers prefers “disposition.”  He writes, “The old nature is a disposition of enmity against God…the new nature is a favorable disposition toward God.  It consists of the law of God written in the human heart.  The Holy Spirit places it inside the believer at the moment of regeneration” (p. 9).  Throughout the book Showers clearly distinguishes and defines certain terms and concepts that are often confused:  old man, new man, regeneration, new and old nature, total depravity, flesh, etc.  While saints under the Old Covenant were regenerated and given a new disposition they were not empowered by the Holy Spirit while those under the New Covenant are.  During this present age the new disposition will give the regenerate man the desire…

Scandalous, the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, by D. A. Carson. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 170 pp. $15.99 paper

This book is an edited version of five sermons that Carson preached at a Resurgence conference in Mars Hill, Seattle.  Carson attempts not only to detail events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ but also to explain what they mean.  He does so by “unpacking” (a favorite word of the author) five sections of the Bible.  By doing so Carson gives solid teaching on the gospel message. Scandalous is meaty yet readable and contains detailed explanations yet is nicely illustrated.  One issue that I would take is Carson’s covenantal view of the book of Revelation (pp. 80-90).  With this aside I believe Scandalous well worth reading.  I especially appreciated Carson’s statement about idolatry: If you want something bad enough, that thing becomes god for you.  It is idolatry, which means that instead of wanting God, you want the thing which de-gods God (p. 46).

Israel and the Church by Ronald E. Diprose (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2004. 281 pp., paper, $16.99)

Diprose is academic dean at the Evangelical Italian Bible Institute in Rome, not a place one might expect a strong scholarly work supporting a premillennial view of Israel.  Nevertheless, the subtitle of the book summarizes well the contents:  “The Origin and Effects of Replacement Theology.”  Diprose actually addresses two concerns: replacement theology—the idea that the church has replaced Israel as the people of God and what he calls “the new majority view.”  The bulk of the book deals with replacement theology while “the new majority” is regulated to an appendix.  Diprose admits that replacement theology has been the dominant view within the church since post-apostolic times until the middle of the 19th century (p. 30).  However, he does not believe that this theology emerges from Scripture.  Chapter two is devoted to a careful analysis of the pertinent Scriptures on the subject and, based especially on Romans 9-11, the author concludes…

Hell Under Fire, General Editor Christopher W. Morgan and Robert Peterson

The traditional understanding of hell, long held by the vast majority of conservative Christians, is under heavy fire today.  Both universalism and annihilationism have made considerable inroads into evangelicalism.  Perhaps the best recognized proponent of annihilationism is John R. W. Stott, while the most recent champion of universalism is Rob Bell.  There continues to be, therefore, a need for serious and scholarly examination of this subject.  Hell Under Fire is just such an examination as nine different authors contribute to this well-written and well-organized book of the afterlife. Al Mohler writes the opening chapter, “Modern Theology:  The Disappearance of Hell,” which clearly defines and illustrates the modern theological landscape on the subject of hell.  This is followed by detailed study of what the Old Testament has to say on hell (Daniel I. Block), what Jesus said (Robert W. Yarbrough), what Paul wrote (Douglas J. Moo) and what the Book of…

Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God: A Theological Study on the Plurality and Tri-unity of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. by John B. Metzger

John B. Metzger, Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God: A Theological Study on the Plurality and Tri-unity of God in the Hebrew Scriptures.  San Antonio, Tex.: 2010.  905 pp., cloth, $49.95. In the view of some Christians today, the Old Testament is not as relevant to the Christian life as the New Testament is.  As the thinking goes, the Old Testament contains some interesting stories about God and the Israelites and it contains some wonderful prophecies about the coming Messiah but it does not give us as much information about God as the New Testament does.  Particularly, it does not tell us much about the relationship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  It does not explain the Trinity to us.  But, in the words of the author of Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God, “God did not present Messiah in…

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright

In this volume Wright attempts to address three themes:  the problem of evil in our contemporary culture in the light of Jewish and Christian traditions; a Christian perspective on the problem of evil, especially as it touches the global empire, criminal justice and punishment, and war; the corporate as well as the individual response, especially in relationship to forgiveness (see p. 18).  Wright states the central point of his book as:  “The ultimate answer to this aspect at least of the problem of evil—is not only that in the new world God himself will be beyond the reach of the moral blackmail of unresolved evil, but that we shall be as well” (p. 143). Wright takes to task those in our culture who naively hope that human progress will ultimately abolish evil, or at least greatly diminish human wickedness.   He sees the need to take the wind out of the…

Evangelical Hermeneutics and the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by Rynold D. Dean. Iron River, WI: Veritypath Publications, 2010. 251 pp. paper $24.99

Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser states, “The relationship between the OT and the NT stands as one of the foremost, if not the leading, problems in biblical research of this century” (p. 1).  Rynold Dean tackles this thorny issue by first lamenting that there has been a recent shift within evangelicalism away from the past understanding of biblical interpretation controlled by context, meaning and inspiration (pp. 7, 12-13, 19). The author rejects postmodern hermeneutics that has infiltrated much of modern scholarship, both secular and biblical, and states his position that the intention of the authors (of Scripture) is what is found in the written text  and each text has one definite meaning (pp. 43, 46, 50, 52). With these presuppositions in mind Evangelical Hermeneutics goes on to explain and analyze six major views within conservative evangelicalism concerning the New Testament writers use of the Old Testament: 1. Contemporary Judaism/Second Temple Hermeneutics…

The Gospel of the Christ by Thomas L. Stegall

Stegall, a former member of the Grace Evangelical Society (p. 21), has written a massive (almost 800 pages) book challenging the relatively new understanding of the gospel as promoted by Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin.  The subtitle says it well, “A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith.” According to Stegall the crossless gospel proponents, as stated by Hodges, believe “all forms of the gospel that require greater content to faith in Christ than the Gospel of John requires, are flawed” (p. 31).  Using John 6:47 as the essence of the gospel (p. 86), crossless adherents believe that “a lost person can receive eternal life by ‘faith alone in Christ alone,’” yet without needing to believe in or even know about Christ’s person and work (p. 32). In order to come to this conclusion, crossless teachers twist numerous Scriptures from their obvious soteriological meanings to…

The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology, a Comparison Analysis by Guy Prentiss Waters

Dr. Waters, who wrote an excellent book critiquing the New Perspective on Paul entitled Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul: a Review and Response, has rendered a similar service in respect to the Federal Vision.  The Federal Vision overlaps in many areas with the New Perspective (pp. 2-6, 57, 63-76, 274-277), but the two systems are not synonymous.  The Federal Vision is more of an intramural debate among those in the covenantal camp as is reflected not only in the title but in the many discussions throughout the book related to covenant theology and the Westminster Confession.  Waters attempts to frame the Federal Vision proponents as emerging from the “theonomy” wing of Reformed theology (pp. 6, 292, 296) but does not pay adequate attention to the subject to prove his case, in my opinion. What Waters does pay massive amounts of attention to is the convoluted sacramentalism promoted by…

Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen

Machen’s great classic, published in 1923 at the height of the Fundamentalist/ Liberal battle, has been reviewed far too many times to need much comment by me.  However, in the face of new waves of liberalism sweeping over the evangelical community, Christianity and Liberalism is as relevant today as when it was written.  Indeed there is an eerie sense of déjà vu as Machen identifies the apostasies of old liberalism that have resurfaced in the new liberalism of the emergent church and other movements.  A quick listing of some of these issues will show the similarities.  Old liberalism taught: 1. A sentimental religion (p. xi); Christianity is life, not doctrine (pp. 17, 38-39).2. That doctrines are unimportant (pp. 5-6, 16-24, 43, 47) and experience, not truth, is what matters (p. xiv).  Yet liberalism uses evangelical terminology which makes it all the more dangerous.3. That tolerance is more important than truth (pp. 15, 40-45).4. That…

Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church Edited by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock

This volume, when published in 1992, signaled a new era for dispensational theology.  While dispensationalism, as framed by John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie and Dwight Pentecost, had already been altered in many ways from its original form as developed and popularized by Charles Darby, Lewis Chafer and C. I. Scofield, this new understanding, known by most as “progressive dispensationalism” restructured the system’s approach to Scripture in radical new directions.  Bruce Waltke’s response to David Turner’s chapter on the New Jerusalem, which portrays Israel and the church as one people of God, states, “This position is closer to covenant theology than to dispensationalism” (p. 348).  This comment could serve as a summary for the entire book. Written by ten theologians who have credentials in the dispensational camp, and responded to by three Reformed scholars, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church is a heavy read.  Subjects covered include the present reign of Christ, the…

Free Grace Soteriology by David R. Anderson. Xulon Press, 2010. 384 pp. cloth $24.08

While everyone within conservative evangelicalism agrees that salvation comes as a gift of God’s grace and is received by faith alone, there is much disagreement concerning the content and results of saving faith.  On one side stand the “Lordship” salvationists who insist that saving faith includes repentance from sin and obedience resulting in spiritual fruit which verifies regeneration.  At the other side are those who espouse “Free Grace” soteriology.  The defenders of “Free Grace” are concerned that the Lordshipers have, in their zeal to assure authentic faith, gone too far and added works to faith.  Free Grace leaders define faith as belief, trust and appropriation.  However, repentance usually is either not part of the salvation process or is defined as changing one’s mind about who Jesus Christ is.  Fruit is not inevitable and some true Christians never evidence any sign of regeneration while others may completely apostatize and yet still…

Simply by Grace by Charles C. Bing

Simply by Grace is a clear, simple book on the gospel message and what it means to be saved.  It covers many primary subjects well: salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, assurance of salvation, the importance of good works as a Christian and the rewards to follow, walking in freedom, our identity in Christ, etc.  The book could serve as a helpful resource for new Christians. However, in Bing’s attempt to avoid the error of works salvation he tips too far in the opposite direction.  “Belief in Christ as Savior is the one condition for salvation” (p. 109) he proclaims, and he is correct.  But he never explains what he means by belief or faith.  He denies that works is an evidence of salvation (pp. 85-87) due to the subjective nature of works—how many are enough, what is the motivation and so forth.  He even writes…

In Light of Eternity, Perspectives on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Alcorn, clearly one of evangelicalism’s most gifted writers, often turns his attention to the glories of heaven.  He has written several novels dealing with heaven including, Deadline and The Edge of Eternity and a rather large study on the subject entitled simply Heaven.  In Light of Eternity is a scaled down or abbreviated version of Heaven. Overall, the book is quite helpful.  In a Christian publishing world wrapped up with life on earth and best selling authors such as Joel Osteen promising us our “Best Life Now,” it is refreshing to read a solid book on the next life.  Alcorn interacts with much Scripture, offering moving illustrations, valuable quotes and insights worth pondering.  It should be mentioned that some of his insights are closer to speculation than fact (e.g. pp. 30, 48-49, 79, 94-101).  For example, when Billy Graham is asked by a child whether or not her dog would…

Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

While John MacArthur is credited as the principle author of this book he writes only the introduction and two chapters out of twenty.  The rest of the book is written by staff members of Grace Community Church or are revisions of positional papers from the church that MacArthur pastors.  The volume offers a solid conservative biblical response to some of the hot button issues facing the church, and the world, today. Right Thinking is organized around four parts: entertainment and leisure, morality and ethics, politics and activism, and tragedy and suffering.  Many chapters present strong challenges to our culture, as well as culturally influenced evangelical communities, including subjects such as entertainment, celebritism, homosexuality, the environmental movement and mercy ministries.  Other chapters provide helpful insights concerning controversial issues such as internet dating, video games, in vitro fertilization, birth control, passive euthanasia, global warming, racism, and illegal immigration.  The final section addresses…

What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

My first exposure to this well written book was from one of the pastors at our church who lamented that such a book even needed to be written.  We are almost two thousand years on this side of the cross and we are still debating why Jesus came.  Of course this should not surprise us given the vast importance of the gospel and our fierce enemy who does all in his power to keep mankind in spiritual darkness.  So it is with open arms that we welcome Gilbert’s clear presentation of the gospel as found in Scripture. What Is the Gospel? is part of the 9Marks series of books which has two basic premises:  The local church is far more important to the Christian life than many Christians realize and local churches grow in life and vitality as they organize their ministries around God’s Word (p. 11).  To this end…

Our Legacy, The History of Christian Doctrine by John D. Hannah

John Hannah, professor of historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, has provided the serious student of the Word a valuable tool in Our Legacy.  In approximately 350 pages Hannah is able to give a reliable and objective synopsis of the history and development of seven essential doctrines:  Scripture, the Godhead, the person and work of Christ, salvation, the church and end times.  Hannah maintains that the earliest church fathers believed and proclaimed the core teachings of Scripture but did not explore detail or systematize theology until forced to do so when contrarian opinions and false teachings arose.  As the need became evident the truths of Scripture were studied and hammered out and stated in various creeds.  But as new challenges and disagreements developed various wings of theological expression sprang up.  Hannah identifies many of the key views and theologians that have influenced theological thought by discussing them within the periods…

The Courage to Be Protestant by David F. Wells

David F. Wells, the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is one prolific writer.  For some forty years he has addressed some of the thorniest subjects in theology with a sincere pastoral heart for the church. Wells could well be considered the one Christian writer who over the past 20 years best articulates the pulse of evangelicalism in this world. Whether or not one agrees with Wells, one thing is for sure, he will make you think. The current book under review, The Courage to Be Protestant, is a volume which builds on four previous books by Wells: No Place for Truth (1993); God in the Wasteland (1994); Losing Our Virtue (1999); and Above All Earthly Pow’rs (2005). In No Place for Truth Wells provides a keen study of evangelicalism in the 1990’s. Then in God in the Wasteland the author rightly portrays…

The Pre-Wrath Rapture View, An Examination and Critique by Renald E. Showers

In the 1980s the late Robert Van Kampen, well-known investor and founder of the Van Kampen family of mutual funds, developed a new eschatological view he called “Pre-Wrath Rapture.”  He was able to persuade Marvin Rosenthal, then director of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, to adopt and popularize this view.  Since that time, to my knowledge no denomination, seminary, Bible college, mission organization or theological scholar of note has accepted the Pre-Wrath view.  However, a small pocket of believers is enthusiastic about the system.  It is for this set of believers that Showers has written The Pre-Wrath Rapture View. Showers, who has for many years served on the staff of The Friends of Israel as well as on the faculties of several Bible colleges, has spent much of his life studying end-times issues.  As a result he is uniquely qualified to critique the Pre-Wrath Rapture view and his critique…

The Cross of Christ by J. R.W. Stott

The Cross of Christ is surely one of the finest books ever written on this most central theme of the Christian faith.  It provides deep insights and practical guidance at every turn and does so in very readable form.  Not only is this rather large volume theologically sound but the reader will also repeatedly pause to worship the One who has done so much for us. The book is developed around four parts beginning with an overview of church history and the early foundational role of the cross.  The middle two sections systemize the scriptural teaching concerning the cross, showing both the need for Christ’s death and what it achieved.  The final part applies Christ’s cross-work to our lives as Christians.  What Stott endeavors to show from beginning to end is that Christ’s death was a substitutionary atonement (p. 16). Part one introduces Stott’s great theme and concludes with this…

Christian Faith 101, the Basics and Beyond by Steven Tsoukalas

Tsoukalas has written a brief primer (barely over 100 pages) on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  His focus is on three major doctrines: the Godhead (with separate chapters on each member of the Trinity), the person and work of Christ, and salvation.  He closes with a practical chapter on living the Christian life and the role of the church. The format used is quite helpful.  Each chapter is broken into four sections:  “The Basics” (which details the essentials of that particular doctrine), “Beyond the Basics” (which handles some deeper material), “For Discussion” (for use by group studies) and “Meditations” (which attempts to provide means of application). Theologically the book is right on target and who has its best use among those new to the faith or in need of a short refresher.  There were, however, a few statements to which I take exception: • I believe Tsoukalas goes beyond…

The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy

In recent years much debate has taken place within evangelical circles concerning what Christ actually accomplished on the cross.  A number of factors has brought this debate to a head: a feminist charge that traditional atonement theories encourage abuse, radical new ideas that reject conservative views, the fact that Scripture itself offers several images to explain the atonement and the growing popularity of the Christus Victor understanding (pp. 9-12).  It is the goal of this book to sort through four of the most widely held theories of the atonement held by conservative Christians.  The method used is to follow four scholars who respectively explain and defend the four theories.  Each position is then critiqued by the other three theologians.  This allows for a healthy exchange of ideas and solid rebuttals by those who have carefully studied all the pertinent issues.  The four views under discussion are:  • Christus Victor represented by…

Pierced for Our Transgressions, Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach

Debate concerning Christ’s cross work has become intense of late.  The traditional view, often termed penal substitutionary atonement, has been accepted and taught by the evangelical church throughout the ages but is now under open attack.  The doctrine of penal substitution states that “God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin” (p. 21).  Certainly there is nothing new about this.  One only has to note higher-critical attacks which poured out of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (forming “old” liberalism) to see a parallel.  For “old” liberalism to be successful penal substitution had to be jettisoned.  As any student of church history knows, as liberalism won the theological and denomination battles, new movements, denominations, churches and organizations were created which maintained fundamental doctrinal stances.  Those taking their stand on the…

Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter J. Chantry

Originally published in 1970, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? has been reprinted seven times by The Banner of Truth Trust; the most recent reprint being in 1997. The author, Walter J. Chantry, has a Bachelor of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and has pastored Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania since 1963.  Among his other responsibilities, he currently serves as editor of the monthly “Banner of Truth” magazine from Banner of Truth Trust publications.  Today’s Gospel is a short book, only 93 pages in all, with large print.  It is an exposition of Jesus’ conversation with the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17–27 and each chapter discusses different portions of this dialogue.  After brief explanations of each verse, the author then proceeds to discuss how those truths relate to today’s evangelism.  Jesus’ exchange with the wealthy young man was an evangelistic one and this book seeks to apply the…

Living at the Crossroads: and Introduction to Christian Worldview by Michael W. Goheen and Craig G. Bartholomew

Professor Jay Wegter, in his review* of this book, was impressed by the amount of cultural analysis and worldview information packed into little more than 200 pages.  The authors’ purpose is “to seek to carry on in the worldview-conscious tradition of James Orr and Abraham Kuyper, whose aim was simply to shine the brightest possible light on the Christian church’s mission in the public life of culture” (p. XIII).  While this may have been the aim of the authors I believe their understanding of worldview and missions is actually shaped far more by Lesslie Newbigin, the former officer of the World Council of Churches and missionary to India.  Newbigin is mentioned on at least 18 pages and is footnoted 31 times.  Given Newbigin’s associations and influence on the emerging church this should send up red flags to anyone reading this volume.  This does not immediately imply that the authors’ or…

The Coming Apocalypse: A study of Replacement Theology vs. God’s Faithfulness in the End-Times by Renald Showers

In the Western world at least, in which racism is one of the few forbidden sins, the recent rise in anti-Semitism is perplexing.  How can civilized, educated, tolerant and pluralistic people despise a race of people solely because of their ethical lineage?  But for those who understand the biblical teaching concerning Israel there is no surprise.  Unfortunately due to myriad of reasons from biblical illiteracy, to the popularity of Replacement Theology, to lack of interest in prophetic teaching, to an unwillingness to wade through massive tomes on the subject, the average Christian has little understanding of Israel’s past, present or future. Enter Dr. Showers’ highly readable yet concise overview of Israel’s God-ordained role throughout biblical times, today and as related to end times.  Showers aptly demonstrates that Israel has been, and remains, at the core of God’s plans for mankind. The Coming Apocalypse begins with a clear and forcible challenge…

Spiritual Gifts by Renald E. Showers

In a mere sixty pages, Renald Showers has provided for the people of God one of the finest treatments of spiritual gifts available. The booklet is thoroughly biblical, well reasoned, logically ordered and very readable. Showers begins with a general definition of spiritual gifts, their purpose and function. In the opening pages he lays the groundwork for his later discussion of tongues and prophecy by distinguishing edifying gifts from sign gifts. Every spiritual gift, he explains, was given for the purpose of ministering to others, never ourselves (p. 8). In the second chapter, Showers indicates that spiritual gifts are sovereignly distributed (although, I could wish he had discussed 1 Cor 12:31 and 14:1 more thoroughly) and outlines the biblical teaching on spiritual gifts. In chapters three and four, he makes the case for the cessation of certain gifts in general and revelational gifts in particular. In light of well-respected evangelicals…

All Old Testament Laws Cancelled; 24 Reasons Why All O.T. Laws Are Cancelled and All N.T. Laws Are for Our Obedience by Greg Gibson

Gibson has written this book from the New Covenant Theology position, which lies somewhere between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.  Its basic creed accepts the five solas of the Reformers (Scripture, grace, faith, Christ and glory to God alone).  In addition, it rejects infant baptism and all Old Testament laws as binding on the New Testament believer (p. 7).  This particular volume is interested in challenging Covenant Theology’s understanding of the Mosaic Law.  The author states his thesis as, “All Old Testament commands are cancelled, and all New Testament commands are for our obedience” (p. 10).  He sees Douglas Moo as being in line with this thesis, “The entire Mosaic Law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that the Law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people.  Christian behavior, rather, is now guided directly by ‘the law of…

Whatever Happened to Hell? by John Blanchard

Of all the books that I have read on the subject of hell, this one is easily the most readable. It is filled with quotes, anecdotes, and the like, which lends great interest; yet the reader is not shortchanged in the process. That is because Blanchard does not sidestep the hard questions and big issues wrapped around Hell. The author defends a conservative, biblical position against popular theories of universalism and annihilationism. He does however take a metaphorical view of the fire of Hell (pages 160-166), preferring to see Hell’s fires as the wrath and judgment of God. Overall, Whatever Happened to Hell? is an excellent contribution to the study of this important and serious issue.

What You Need to Know about Jesus in Twelve Lessons by Max Anders

This book is part of a larger ten part series called “What You Need to Know.” Other titles include subjects such as God, the Holy Spirit, the church and salvation. They can be read for personal enrichment or used as a study guide for a Bible study or Sunday school class, since each chapter includes helpful study and discussion questions at the end. This particular volume is well written, interesting and accurate. Some of the stories and applications offered are of limited value but can be quickly skimmed by those uninterested. The book shines in the doctrinal sections as Anders gives solid instruction on the subject of Christology. He also recommends supplemental reading for those wishing to pursue this subject further. My one complaint is that some of Anders’ heroes and quotes are taken from unbelievers and those espousing false doctrine. Why, I often wonder, do so many evangelical writers…

What Saint Paul Really Said by N. T. Wright

Wright is the most recognized popularizer of what is now termed the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). This is a theological perspective which clearly finds its roots in such doctrinal liberals as Albert Schweitzer and Rudolph Bultmann. Its formation, however, is owed to the writings of two other entrenched liberals, E. P. Sanders and James Dunn. This alone should raise numerous red flags in the mind of any serious student of the Word, for the devil’s children are not likely to offer God’s people a framework for truth. Great caution is in order, yet many in evangelical circles are clearly embracing many facets, and often the entire theory, behind the NPP. It is not uncommon today to hear former evangelical pastors and professors claiming that we have had the gospel wrong for two thousand years and are now finally enlightened by the NPP. This capitulation on the part of many…

What Love is This? by Dave Hunt

Hunt is a man who writes with passion and conviction. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, there is never a doubt that he is leading with his heart. That is not to say that his mind is not engaged, quite the contrary – there are few authors who do as much copious research as Hunt. This 400-page book is full of footnotes as Hunt draws from dozens of authors on all sides of the issue. The issue is an attack on Calvinism. In a personal conversation with Hunt he told me his book would make me a zero point Calvinist, and while it certainly did not do that Hunt does land some solid blows, especially in the areas of limited atonement and the extreme teachings of some regarding perseverance. This leads to one of the problems with this type of book, the subject is just too vast and…

What Is Reformed Theology? by R. C. Sproul

Who better to write a book on the basics of Reformed theology than its poster boy, R. C. Sproul. Surely no one living knows this subject better than Sproul. Add to this Sproul’s gift of communicating deep subjects in an understandable way and you have a winning combination. Sproul is not so much arguing for the Reformed position in this book as he is informing the reader exactly what the Reformed position is. To be sure he can’t help some arguing but mostly he sticks to his battle plan and simply teaches. The book is divided into two sections, the first being the Reformed foundational theology which rest upon five key doctrines: the centrality of God, sola scriptura, sola fide, devotion to Jesus Christ and commitment to Covenant theology. The second section concerns the so-called TULIP, or five points of Reformed theology’s soteriological teachings. Sproul rightly understands that the TULIP…

What Angels Wish They Knew by Alistair Begg

This is a fine book suitable for contemplation by the unbeliever as well as a refresher for the Christian dealing with the unbeliever. It is well written, understandable, and full of interesting stories and quotes (although I wished he had gone a little lighter on Shakespeare and Spurgeon). Begg attempts to engage the mind of the unsaved in the details of the gospel message. I believe he accomplishes his goal very well. What Angels Wish They Knew does not unnecessarily offend, but neither does it pull any punches when expressing the “Good News.” I would recommend this book for the seeking unbeliever or as a text for an evangelistic Bible study.

Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul N. Benware

Benware has provided, in this volume, a marvelous study of biblical prophecy from a pretribulational, dispensational perspective. He carefully discusses hermeneutics and various schools of prophetic thought (e.g. amillennialism, postmillennialism, premillennialism, preterism). He analyzes these positions—both pro and con, and provides a dispensational framework which he believes best explains eschatological matters. And throughout, Benware, while clearly disagreeing with opposing views, takes an irenic approach. The book is filled with excellent charts, topical and scriptural indexes and helpful footnotes. in my opinion, this is the go-to book for those desiring to study and/or teach biblical prophecy from a dispensational position.

Toward an Old Testament Theology by Walter C. Kaiser

Thank the Lord for Bible scholars; those men who spend endless hours pouring over what every other scholar and pseudo-scholar in any known language for the last 2000 years has said about every sentence and word in Scripture. And thank the Lord that you “are not” one. Kaiser is a true scholar, and we are grateful for this volume that develops in depth the theology of the Old Testament. Surely the reader will at times weary of the constant references to the opinions of unknown, but apparently worthy, scholars of all ages. It is amazing at times how many ideas can be gleaned from what seems to the average Joe–Christian as a straightforward passage. It is equally amazing, after all the intellectual dust has settled, to discover how often Joe–Christian was right. When all is said and done, maybe the regular non-scholar type can understand the Bible, even if they…

Today’s Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter Chantry

Long before John MacArthur started the “Lordship salvation” war men such as Chantry warned that the gospel message was being watered down by an easy believeism that gutted the gospel of its true message. Chantry declares that, “Differences between much of today’s preaching and that of Jesus are not petty; they are enormous. The chief errors are not in emphasis or approach but in the heart of the Gospel message.” Based on the account of the Rich Young Ruler, Chantry demonstrates that what passes for the gospel message today is not what Jesus was teaching. This little book (less than 100 pages long) is a must read for anyone trying to comprehend the Lordship battles. The author is obviously Reformed in doctrine, and as such, some will flinch at a few concepts, but overall this is an excellent study on the subject of the true gospel message and its illegitimate…

Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism by General Editor: Herbert W. Bateman IV

Dispensational theology has never been static. Today there are at least three discernable perspectives within the realm of dispensationalism: traditional (Scofield, Chafer), moderate or revised (Ryrie, Walvoord, Pentecost) and progressive (Bock, Blaising). While the perspectives differ on a number of important and minor details they all cling to the remaining sine qua non of dispensationalism—a clear and definite distinction between Israel and the church. This volume has been written by five Dallas Theological Seminary-related professors (four teach at DTS presently) for the purpose of discussing three key issues over which contemporary dispensationalists have some disagreement. The issues are hermeneutics, the biblical covenants, and the relationship between Israel and the church. The outstanding matter in the section on hermeneutics, debated by Elliott Johnson (moderate) and Darrell Bock (progressive), is how the Old Testament is to be understood in light of the New Testament. Traditional and moderate dispensationalists believe that the Old…

Those Invisible Spirits Called Angels by Renald Showers

This is an excellent book dealing with the general subject of angels from a biblical perspective. Showers discusses both holy and fallen angels, but does not mention the spiritual warfare movement. If you are interested in that subject you might want to turn to Overrun by Demons authored by Thomas Ice. While I found this volume sound and helpful Showers does give two questionable accounts of supposed angel experiences in modern times (e.g. pp.12-14). These types of incidents cannot be verified or documented. Whether they were angel encounters, or not, is complete conjecture and has no place in a work that is otherwise based upon Scripture. Other than these two illustrations I would heartily recommend this book.

There Really Is a Difference by Renald E. Showers

This volume is a solid comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology. Although the author strongly holds to dispensationalism, I believe he is fair in his depiction of the covenantal view. Showers lays out both positions, evaluates them, and comes down on the side of dispensationism. Along the way we are given an examination of the major Old Testament covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, Palestinian and New), discussions of the history and theological positions relative to the Millennium, and a good presentation of the dispensational understanding of Law and grace in the church age. Showers, along with many dispensationalists, believes that the church, while having no part in the physical aspects of the New Covenant, nevertheless participates in the spiritual benefits of that Covenant. I remain unconvinced, seeing the New Covenant as given to Israel and having nothing to do with the church. Dr. Showers is a professor and that fact is easily…

The Truth War by John MacArthur

The Truth War is a serious call to arms against false teachers that are infiltrating the church today. Based loosely on Jude 3-4, MacArthur demonstrates the vital importance and urgent need “to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” MacArthur believes the evangelical movement today is in deep trouble due to biblical illiteracy and a willingness to tolerate heresy. The antidote is to once again affirm the absolute centrality of the place of truth in our faith. Truth must not and can not be shoved aside as extra baggage. Rather than being trivialized it must again take center stage in the life of the church. In this volume rather than targeting a particular movement or concern the author takes a scatter-gun approach. He discusses the emergent church movement, John Armstrong’s theological flip-flop, the dangers of both modernity and postmodernity, ancient and current…

The Silent Shepherd by John MacArthur

The Silent Shepherd is not a systematic study of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, although it does detail many of His attributes and ministries. The target audience appears to be laymen with limited knowledge of this subject. A study guide is included to walk students through a Bible study on the material. The Silent Shepherd is basically sound in its teaching on the Holy Spirit, although there is a curious blending of Reformed and dispensational theology. For example, while taking the dispensational approach of the distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit in the church age, MacArthur nevertheless maintains the standard Reformed view of three divisions of the Law. The civil and ceremonial aspects of the Law have been done away with, but not the moral. This is an indefensible position, supported by Reformed presupposition, not by the Scriptures, which never breaks the Law into three parts. Biblically, the Law…

The Problems of the Afterlife by Samuel Fisk

Fisk has written a short but solid study of the theology of Hell. He manages, in less than one hundred pages, to successfully combat some of the important challenges to the traditional view of hell including universalism, annihilation and attempts to distort the meaning of the words “eternal” and “destruction.” Fisk’s little book is thoroughly biblical, well researched and documented, filled with excellent quotes and supplies a good bibliography. Quite an order for such a small book.

The Potter’s Freedom by James R. White

Norman Geisler’s disturbing book, Chosen But Free (see our review) sent ripples of anger throughout the Reformed community, not so much for what it said, but for what it claimed to be. In that book, Geisler wants the reader to believe that he is a champion of a moderate form of Calvinism, labeling the usual Calvinistic understanding as “extreme Calvinism.” The problem, as anyone who knows the subject at all could attest, is that Geisler it not representing Calvinism at all, but rather four-point Arminianism. That is, he holds to eternal security but strongly rejects all the other doctrines of grace. Had Geisler owned up to his Arminianism and attempted to argue for his position, his book would have largely gone unnoticed. But when he claimed to be a Calvinist, a true Calvinist as opposed to the “extreme” variety, he stepped on some major toes. The Potter’s Freedom is a…

The Pocket Prophecy Series by Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy

Ice and Demy have teamed up to write numerous booklets on prophetic topics. The booklets written so far are: · The Truth About the Tribulation · The Truth About the Rapture · The Truth About the Millennium · The Truth About 2000 A.D. & Predicting Christ’s Return · The Truth About the Antichrist and His Kingdom · The Truth About the Last Days’ Temple All volumes are less than fifty pages long and are written from a dispensational perspective. Developed in a question and answer format, the authors answer most questions on the given subject, in a style that is easy to read. The booklets do not go into great detail (obviously) nor do they offer a defense against those who take other positions. I find these little volumes highly useful as a quick overview of eschatological issues.

The Plan of Salvation by Benjamin B. Warfield

The chapters of this book are devoted not to the discussion of soteriology in general but to “The Order of Decrees.” Warfield, the great Princeton theologian, takes a five-point Calvinistic, supralapsarian position. Along the way he deals with Pelagianism, Sacerdotalists, Arminians, Amyraldianism, Synergism and other lapsarian views. At issue is, “Whether the redemptive work of Christ actually saves those for whom it is wrought, or only opens a possibility of salvation to them” (p.24). In the chapter on Calvinism, Warfield allows others, such as those who deny limited atonement, to be in the Calvinist camp, but only as inconsistent brethren who “strike at the very heart of Calvinism” (p.94). This is not a nightstand book, but it is excellent even if one does not agree in all points with Warfield.

The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper

Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” has raised many controversies. The media has focused its attention on who was responsible for Jesus’ death, but Piper tackles the meatier question – “Why did Jesus suffer and die?” This little book gives 50 answers to that question in 50 two-page chapters. While abbreviated, Piper’s answers are not lightweight. There is substance here, solid Scripture support and much to prime the pump for further study. I would be in total agreement with almost all that is found in this volume, with few exceptions. Those exceptions include: • A questionable interpretation of Colossians 2:13 (pp 32-33). • The title of chapter 13; “To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation,” is problematic, since rituals have never been the basis for salvation. • A strange view of ancestral bondage (chapter 20). • Somehow twisting the meaning of Hebrews 11:25 into…

The Openness of God by Clark Pinnock and others

This is one of the most important books presenting the Open Theism point of view, which is designed to challenge the traditional understanding of God. Five different men deal with the biblical, historical, theological, philosophical and practical issues that swirl around this important debate. If there were any one book that would most clearly represent the concepts of Open Theology this would be it. I will not at this point critique the book or its depiction of God. This will be done in a future Think on These Things article. Suffice it to say that Open Theism is a heresy that is spreading in evangelical Christianity and needs to be clearly challenged.

The Law and the Saint by A. W. Pink

One of the most important differences separating the dispensational and Reformed approach to Scripture concerns the Old Testament Law. Neither school of thought teaches that the Law must be kept in order for a person to be saved, but once saved things change. The dispensationalist believes that the Christian is dead to the Law and released from the Law. But the Reformed understanding is that the church age believer is sanctified as he keeps the Law, just as the Old Testament believer. That is, the Law is the Christian’s rule of life. Pink’s little booklet represents clearly and succinctly the Reformed position. Pink labels those who believe the Law must be kept, as legalistic (he is correct). He labels those who believe that the Law has nothing whatever to do with believers – the dispensational position — as Antinomians (against law) (with this label we disagree). Those, of course, who…

The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges

The fear of the Lord, while a major topic in Scripture, is not a particularly popular theme among Christians today. For this reason alone this volume is a welcomed addition to our reading list and Bridges, who has spent a lifetime studying and writing about God, has much to offer on the subject. Bridges defines the fear of the Lord as the combination of three elements: “Respect (which toward God means reverence) in recognition of His infinite worth and dignity, admiration of His glorious attributes, and amazement at His infinite love” (p. 26). With this definition in mind Bridges spends four chapters portraying the majesty of God by tracing the greatness, holiness, wisdom and love of God in Scripture. The rest of the book deals with our response to this awesome God. The Joy of Fearing God is not a technical work and does not handle with detail the thorny…

The Healing Promise by Richard Mayhue

There is probably no more important and comprehensive book concerning the subject of divine healing than this one. Mayhue covers a lot of ground as he analyzes the ministries of faith healers such as Benny Hinn, conducts valuable interviews with John MacArthur and Joni Eareckson Tada as well as those who have been deceived, and carefully handles pertinent scriptural passages. This discussion of difficult sections from the Bible will be most appreciated by the serious Christian. Isaiah 53, James 5:13-18, 2 Corinthians 17:7-10, Galatians 3:5, Matthew 8:14-17 and 1 Peter 2:24 are among the Scriptures that Mayhue interprets correctly, giving the reader a better understanding of physical healing as God designed it. The Healing Promise is an excellent book which will answer many questions and give a biblical perspective on the subject of healing.

The Greatness of the Kingdom by Alva McClain

No more valuable book addressing the Kingdom of God, from a dispensational point of view, has ever been written than The Greatness of the Kingdom . What a joy to read a scholar who has wrestled carefully with such an important subject, and yet is able to communicate his insights in such an excellent manner. I cannot recommend this work too highly.

The Great Work of the Gospel by John Ensor

There is certainly much about The Great Work of the Gospel to commend. As the title indicates, Ensor is dealing with a great theme—the gospel—and he thoroughly explores its many facets. Along the way the author exposes and debunks a number of the faulty teachings relevant to the gospel which are popular today. I particularly like his comment on forgiveness: “Ask a hundred people if they want forgiveness, and a hundred people will say, ‘yeah, sure. And can I have fries with that, and a large Pepsi?’ They have no great sense of needing God’s forgiveness but believe it would not hurt to have it in their pocket just in case” (p. 32). Ensor demonstrates how therapeutic and man-centered most gospel presentations have become and calls the church back to a God-centered message as found in Scripture. He is not afraid to tackle thorny issues such as the tension between…

The Great Exchange by Philip H. Eveson

Everything that you ever wanted to know, and most likely more, about justification by faith alone is found in this volume. Eveson deals with the teachings of Scripture, develops a biblical definition for justification, and defends this definition against both ancient and present challenges. He seems to have two major concerns. The first is a new understanding of the doctrine of justification espoused by Dr. N. T. Wright that literally turns the whole New Testament on its ear. The other concern is the recent coziness between evangelicals and Roman Catholics. The Great Exchange deals with both of these issues well. This is not a book for everyone. While it contains some solid teachings and a good defense of the biblical doctrine of justification, it will hold the interest only of those who are for some reason immersed in this debate.