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...

No Quick Fix, Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, & Why It’s Harmful by Andrew David Naselli

Andrew Naselli is associate professor of New Testament and Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis.  Believing himself and others to have suffered spiritual harm as a result of higher life teachings, he writes this small volume (which is a miniature version of his longer and more detailed book Let Go and Let God? (p. 3), that pinpoints higher life’s history, theology, and errors. While Naselli never actually defines higher life theology, he describes it as the “Let go and let God” approach to Christian living.  It was formed out of a combination of Wesleyan perfectionism coupled with teachings drawn from the holiness movement.  The higher life movement itself began in 1858 and culminated in the early Keswick movement in 1875.  Keswick, with its annual conference, developed and spread higher life teachings until 1920 when, largely due to the influence of Graham Scroggie, the Keswick conference shifted closer...

Defining Deception, Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement by Costi W. Hinn and Anthony G. Wood

Costi Hinn is the executive pastor and Anthony Wood the teaching pastor at Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California.  These men are uniquely equipped through study and experience (Hinn is a nephew of Benny Hinn and formerly deeply involved in Benny’s ministry) to expose the false teachings of the radical edge of the charismatic movement.   While the authors give helpful background, historical and doctrinal information about the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave Movement, they are primarily focused on the so-called Fourth Wave (see pp. vii, 55) of Pentecostalism: the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and Bethel Church in Redding, California.  Since much less is understood by most about this Fourth Wave, Defining Deception is a welcome and helpful effort. The authors list key leaders of the Fourth Wave (pp. v-vii) such as Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson, Todd Bentley, and Todd White, as well as “generals of the faith” who paved the way...

The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers, Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles by Abner Chou

Abner Chou, professor at The Master’s University, has written an important book concerning biblical hermeneutics.  But Chou’s book is not covering standard interpretation issues, rather its focus is on how the human authors of the Bible handled and understood Scripture even as they wrote it. A key concern among Bible expositors is how the NT writers quoted and interpreted the OT.  Did they randomly rip certain scriptures from their context and use them for their own purposes?  Or did they, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reinterpret OT texts to reveal their true or deeper meaning (Sensus Plenior)? Chou believes neither and offers this study to show that the apostles did not change the meaning of previous revelation but fleshed out its implications (p. 22).  Let’s follow Chou’s reasoning. First, the author champions literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutics (pp. 13-14). This approach lets the Bible speak for itself and therefore is...

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary Edited by Peter A. Lillback

Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) is at the heart of the so-called Christocentric hermeneutical approach to Scripture in which Christ is found in every text, Old and New Testament.  This short and general book written by five professors at the seminary, documents what WTS now teaches concerning Scripture and its interpretation, especially since 2006 when distinctive lines were drawn (p. 80).  As Kevin Vanhoozer writes in his endorsement, “This is as clear a statement of the ‘Westminster way’ of reading Scripture of which I am aware.”  It should be noted that Vanhoozer is not necessarily in agreement with the “Westminster way”, he is merely stating that this little volume explains it well. Much of what Seeking Christ in All of Scripture outlines would be accepted and appreciated by any who take a conservative view of inspiration and inerrancy.  Also, most of the hermeneutical principles mentioned are agreed upon by all...

Christ-Centered Preaching, Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chapell

When Bryan Chapell wrote Christ-Centered Preaching he was president and professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.  He now pastors Grace Presbyterian church in Peoria, Illinois.  Apart from the last two chapters, this volume is a relatively standard, and excellent, manual on homiletics.  It resembles the classic Biblical Preaching written by Haddon Robinson and covers much of the same material and more. Chapell recognizes that there is no one right style of preaching, but he is convinced of the importance of expository preaching (pp. 15-16, 30-33), as opposed to topical, moralistic and therapeutic preaching that has become increasingly common (p. 19).  Chapell believes that expository preaching is committed to proclaiming the actual revelation of God (pp. 30-31, 46, 59, 75-77).  In structuring such sermons the author addresses all the important elements of the message: introduction, proposition, outline, conclusion, content, application, and illustrations.   Much practical instruction...