The Storm-Tossed Family, How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell Moore

The Storm-Tossed Family was honored with Christianity Today’s 2019 Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year Award, so I was curious as to why. I found the book interesting in places, even if Moore often wrote in generalities and loaded the work with clichés.  I was bothered by his constant references to the “gospel,” without defining the gospel clearly.  This is especially true when he quoted positively several Roman Catholics who presumably would reject Moore’s understanding of the gospel: Thomas Merton (p. 136), Flannery O’Connor (p. 249), and J. R. R. Tolkien (p. 263), along with Wendell Berry who never claimed to be a Christian (p. 83).  Concerning the gospel, I would assume that Moore accepts penal substitution (p. 27 alluded to this), but he emphasizes the Christus-Victor view on the atonement, writing, “At the cross, Jesus defeated the accusing spirits by break the deception they have over human image-bearers.”...

The Unseen Realm, A Critique

(Volume 25, Issue 4, July/August 2019) Michael Heiser’s view of Scripture and the supernatural realm has generated much attention within evangelical circles recently.  His concepts have generated a wave of speculation that some are now riding.  What does he teach and how concerned should the discerning Christian be?  This critique will provide some answers. It all began when Heiser was examining Psalm 82:1, which reads in the NASB “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. “Michael Heiser, currently Executive Director of the School of Ministry at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, came to believe that he had discovered the key to understanding God and Scripture which had long been buried by the western world and the evangelical community. That key was:  “The God of the Old Testament was part of an assembly – a pantheon – of other gods” (p....

The Apostles’ Creed, Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

The Apostles’ Creed is one of the first (fourth century), and most universally accepted and honored, of the ancient creeds and confessions (pp. xxiii, xvii, 199). It is a summary of what the Bible teaches on many cardinal doctrines (p. xxii), however, it is not the embodiment of “the entire body of biblical truth” as Mohler claims (p. 200).  John MacArthur, in his foreword, correctly states that “The creed leaves out essential doctrines like the authority of Scripture, the depravity of man, the deity of Christ, and the means of salvation: justification by faith.  It also contains nonessentials like the role of Pilate and the descent to Hell” (p. xiii).  Nevertheless, The Apostles’ Creed affirms fourteen core doctrines that all true Christians accept. Mohler devotes a chapter to each of these doctrines and offers seven reasons why the creed is useful (pp. xx-xxii). Included in these reasons are that...

The Glory of Grace, an Introduction to the Puritans in Their Own Words by Lewis Allen and Tim Chester

There has been a renewed interest in the lives and writings of the Puritans in recent years.  But, for most Christians, actually diving into their literature is an overwhelming task due to archaic language and intensity of their theology and writing style.  For those who nevertheless would like to dip their toes into Puritan waters this little volume is an excellent start. In the Introduction the authors give a brief history of the Puritans, show why they are still important today and outline their distinctions. Allen and Chester aim to allow the reader to hear the Puritans in their own words.  They have also modernized some of the language to make it easier for the 21st century reader to comprehend. In doing so the authors have chosen 11 Puritans to showcase: Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, Samuel Rutherford, William Bridge, Jeremiah Burroughs, Anne Bradstreet, John Owen, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan,...

The Lord’s Supper Part 2

(Volume 25, Issue 3, May/June 2019) The Supper in Practice If you visited a variety of local churches of various denominational stripes, you will find that the Lord’s Table is practiced in many different ways. In some congregations, believers remain seated while the elements are brought to them. In other assemblies, believers come forward to receive the elements from the pastors or priests, or serve themselves, and then return to their seats.  In a service I attended a few years ago, the congregants stood up during the Lord’s Supper while the elements were rapidly dispensed and consumed.  The service presented the feel that the Breaking of Bread was a necessary ritual that should be celebrated as quickly as possible so that they could get to the “praise music.”  These are just some of the ways in which the Table is practiced by Christians. Also, different traditions observe communion at...

The Lord’s Supper Part 1

(Volume 25, Issue 2, April 2019) During the formative days of the Reformation, when Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli were at the height of their influence, they came together to discuss some of the theological differences that had surfaced between the various leaders of the movement.  As they sat down to hammer out these matters they would check off doctrine after doctrine in which they were in basic accord. The two men were in agreement concerning salvation by God’s grace through faith alone, that the Scriptures were the only authoritative revelation from God, and the issues of eternal life.  As a matter of fact, they could join hands over virtually all the essential beliefs – what have been termed the non-negotiables of the faith.  The discussion came down to one final issue that of the Lord’s Table.   Zwingli went first, laying out a very detailed formation of his understanding...

Subversive Sabbath, the Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World by A.J. Swoboda

Subversive Sabbath won Christianity Today’s 2019 Book of the Year award in the spiritual formation category, and thus represents well spirituality as understood by mainstream evangelicalism today. Written by a pastor and seminary professor, the book’s strength lies in its reminder of the believer’s need for rest as grounded in the Sabbath principle and modeled by the Lord Himself in the creation account. If the Lord rested after His work of creation, the author insists, so should we (pp. 5, 7, 15).  Taking Sabbath rest seriously will result in better health, more productivity and freedom from a messiah complex in which many Christians seem to believe they are essential to the continuation of the universe (pp. 46, 58).  God has embedded Sabbath rest into the rhythm of life so that we recognize only the Lord is necessary and therefore we can learn to trust in Him, rather than ourselves...

Called to Be Saints, An Invitation to Christian Maturity by Gordon T. Smith

Called to Be Saints seeks answers to three substantive questions: What is the beginning of the Christian life? What is the character of Christian maturity? What is the approach and means of formation so that we may grow up in our salvation (p. 9)? In response to the first question, Smith, who is president and professor of systematic and spiritual theology at Ambrose University College and Seminary, writes, “What makes a Christian a Christian is participation in the life of Christ Jesus, or union with Christ. One is a Christian because one is ‘in Christ’” (p. 37 cf pp 38-61). The remainder of the book addresses the final two questions developing what the author sees as the four essentials of Christian maturity (pp. 36, 184-185, 221-222).  Holy people: Are wise (chapter three; pp. 63-87) Do good work (chapter four; pp. 89-125) Love others (chapter five; pp. 127-152) Have joy...

Should Women Be Pastors and Leaders in Church? My Journey to Discover What the Bible Says About Gender Roles by Bill Rudd

Bill Rudd recently retired after serving as a pastor in four conservative churches over a period of 50 some years.  He has also been an adjunct professor in two seminaries.  Toward the end of his pastoral ministry Rudd shifted from the complementarian to the egalitarian position on the role of women in the church and in the home.  This book chronicles that journey, defending egalitarianism through his new interpretations of pertinent scriptures and support of modern egalitarian scholarship (for example, N.T. Wright is quoted often, pp. 38-39, 104-106, 179, 233-234, 261, 263-264, 274, 341, 343, 345). This is a long book which details many reasons for the author’s radical shift in theology but, when the smoke has cleared, three biblical arguments and one prominent motive emerge.  In my reviews I virtually never ascribe motives, but Rudd reveals his own repeatedly.  He believes complementarianism, often referred to as patriarchy (and...

For Thou Art With Me, Biblical Help For The Terminally Ill and Those Who Love Them by Bruce A. Baker

Bruce Baker is a pastor, theologian, author and a personal friend of mine.  In August of 2017 he was told he has ALS and only a short time to live.  So far he has lived longer than expected and continues to minister as he can.  For Thou Art With Me is a product of his life and ministry during this time of illness. Baker is a man of the Word.  He studies and teaches it with accuracy.  When he comes to the subject of death I am not surprised that he provides biblical insight and sound teaching.  Couple this with the fact that he is facing death himself and is personally seeking answers to many related questions, and the expectation is an excellent, helpful, practical and theologically sound treatise for those who are terminally ill and those who love them.  Baker does not disappoint. He covers, in readable fashion,...