Finally Free, Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

While Finally Free is focused primarily on the sin of pornography the biblical principles and practical teachings found within are applicable to all forms of enslaving sin.  Unlike some books on sexual sins Lambert draws attention to better themes as well, such as: Christ, the gospel, and grace.  He writes, “This book is about something much better than pornography.  This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography” (p. 12).  Toward this end the author offers eight strategies around which the book is organized (p. 19), dedicating a chapter to each of the strategies: godly sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, using your spouse/singleness, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus. A couple of themes developed include the importance of true, godly repentance (pp. 23-25) and grace, by which Lambert identifies two kinds: forgiving and transforming.  Transforming grace, as Lambert sees it, is...

The Hidden History of the Historic Fundamentalists, 1933-1948, Reconsidering the Historic Fundamentalists’ Response to the Upheavals, Hardships, and Horrors of the 1930s and 1940s by Jim Owen

Jim Owen, former Associate Professor of History at The Master’s College, believes that historic fundamentalists, especially dispensationalists, have been unfairly portrayed by historians (including many evangelicals). These historians see “historic fundamentalists…as theologically ‘challenged’, politically indifferent, socially uncaring, and economically only one small step above a Social Darwinian Neanderthal” (p. xv).  Owen writes this massive tome to set the record straight, specifically by “redress the misinformation” and demonstrating that an “important segment of historic fundamentalism was vigorously active in seeking to help alleviate the distress and poverty that attended the Great Depression” (p. xxiv).  Additionally, “Historians must be questioned as to why they have allowed this important segment of historic fundamentalist’s history to be ignored, denied, misinterpreted, reinterpreted or downplayed so that the contribution they did make is never given due consideration” (p. xxiv).  Owen’s goal is to prove that “the infamous fundamentalist siege mentality with its supposed indifference toward...

Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics – Part 2

(Volume 24, Issue 5, October/November 2018) As stated in Part One of this series, redemptive-historical (RH), or Christocentric hermeneutics, is becoming increasingly popular, especially within Reformed and Covenantal theological circles. In short, RH is the idea that all of Scripture speaks of Christ.  This does not mean that Christ is found under every rock but that all Scripture concerns Christ. The Bible should be read through the lens of Jesus and Christ should be preached from every text.  Christ and His redemption plan, therefore, become the rubric through which all Scripture is to be interpreted and preached. In the previous paper I challenged these assertions, pointing out that once we accept this hermeneutical system the exegete no longer uncovers the meaning of the original authors (both human and Divine), but now imposes upon the text a forced meaning that is often not there and not intended.  To be sure,...

Gospel Reset, Salvation Made Relevant by Ken Ham

The thesis of this small volume written by Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, is that, “The gospel message hasn’t changed, but the way in which it needs to be presented in a secularized culture does need to change” (p. 10).  Ham contends that due to the public educational system in America, lack of biblical instruction in the churches, and failure to teach apologetics to believers, especially young people, our society has become so biblically illiterate that few can comprehend the gospel message as traditionally presented.  In addition, millennials who have been raised in church are leaving the faith, never to return, because they have been inundated by evolutional theory gone unchallenged by the church. Ham sees presenting the gospel to a generation that does not know who Jesus is, or what sin is (pp. 13, 42, 43, 59, 112), nor believes in truth (p. 117), will need...

Expositional Preaching, How We Speak God’s Word Today by David Helm

Expositional Preaching is part of the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series, which is comprised of 10 books detailing what Mark Dever and company consider to be the marks of a healthy church.  David Helm, who is lead pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago and is the chairman of the Charles Simeon Trust which promotes practical instruction in preaching, is a logical choice to author a contributing book on the “mark” of expositional preaching.  The definition given for expositional preaching is “Empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text” (p. 13).  Helm quotes Charles Simeon as one who understood what expository preaching is: My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there.  I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak...

He Will Reign Forever, A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God by Michael J. Vlach

Michael Vlach, Professor of Theology at the Master’s Seminary, has written what I would consider the finest book on the kingdom of God since Alva McCain’s The Greatest of the Kingdom.   He writes from a decidedly dispensational position and argues that the kingdom is the central and unifying theme of Scripture (pp. 5, 21-28, 582).  His goal, as stated in the introduction, is “To present a comprehensive biblical theology of the kingdom of God from a new creationist perspective” (p. 11).  He unpacks this statement on pages 14-16.  Vlach rejects theological positions which advocate replacement theology (pp. 17, 367), or that attempt to reinterpret the Old Testament via the New Testament (pp. 32-41), and any ideas that the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1:26-28 is incumbent on the church today (pp. 15-17, 60-67, 456-458, 544-545).  Prophecies and promises concerning and given Israel in Scripture will be literally fulfilled (p. 17)...

Good News for a Change, How to Talk to Anyone About Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

Matt Mikalatos is an energetic and enthusiastic evangelist who has served with Cru for over 20 years and has experimented with numerous methods of proclaiming the gospel to the lost.  In Good News for a Change he shares some of his passion and methods as he encourages his readers to intentionally share the good news of Christ with those the Lord brings in their pathways.  “The point of this book,” the author writes, “Is to talk about ways we can more fully participate with God in the beautiful work of bringing human beings back into the loving embrace of the one who made them” (p. xviii).  Specifically, he wants “to talk about how to have conversations about Jesus where even people hostile to Christianity thank you afterward and feel loved and excited about the conversation” (p. xviii). This is a tall order given that in the New Testament reports...

How to Stay Christian in Seminary by David Mathis & Jonathan Parnell

It is common knowledge that seminary can be a spiritual graveyard (pp. 18, 34).  Intellectual accessibility exceeds spiritual capacity in a hurry (p. 16).  The purpose of this small book is “not to steer Christians away from seminaries, but to help those studying at seminary, or preparing to do so, in their expectations and approach to this season of life” (p. 19).  The authors, who both are on staff at desiringGod.org, want to help seminarians keep and develop the heart from which they will minister.   They offer seven ways to do this and devote a chapter to each, which are: Know Your Value of Values Be Fascinated with Grace Study the Word for More Than Words Push Your Books Aside and Pray Love That Jesus Calls the Weak Be a Real Husband and Dad Keep Both Eyes Peeled for Jesus This volume offers helpful insights, important cautions and valuable...

Blessed, A History of the American Prosperity Gospel by Kate Bowler

The prosperity gospel has emerged from the roots of the 19th century New Thought movement, coupled with elements of 20th century Pentecostalism and the American “can-do” spirit, to become the dominant force in 21st century Christianity, especially in America but increasingly exported globally (chapter one).  Professor Kate Bowler spent years researching for this book, visiting 25 percent of all prosperity megachurches, attending all of the major conferences and participating for 18 months in a small African American prosperity church (p. 261).   Her research is thorough, objective and insightful.  The book is developed according to a three-fold thesis (p. 7): Seeking to show how millions of American Christians came to see money, health, and good fortune as divine. Documenting the transformation of Americans who question an ethic of self-denial, and replacing it with a method of reaching into “God’s treasure trove and pulling out a miracle”. Explaining how the prosperity...

Is There a Meaning in This Text?  The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

When Kevin Vanhoozer wrote this book, he was professor of Theology at the Wheaton College and Graduate School. He is now research professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  In 1988 he wrote Is There a Meaning in This Text? revising it ten years later into its present form.  It has over 500 pages of small print and minimal spacing which could be expanded to 700 pages if normal sizing was used.  It contains almost 1700 footnotes, which inconveniently are located at the end of each long chapter (eight altogether).  The writing style is difficult, redundant and scholarly.  As a result, few outside of the academic world will dare approach this volume.  With this in mind, a review would demand either a 20-page analysis or a short summary.  I have chosen to take the summary route. Vanhoozer is discussing how any text, especially the Bible, can be...