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,...

The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing with Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr has written a fascinating book on the effect of the internet on lives and, in particular, our way of thinking.  The author’s thesis is that modern technology, especially the internet, is rerouting our brains (p. 77), changing the way we think (p. 18) and the way we read (p. 90), is designed to divide our attention (pp. 115-116, 136-143, 194) train us to multitask (pp. 113-114), and “pay attention to crap” (pp. 142).  Carr contends that net reading is, by design, distracting and superficial; it seizes our attention only to scatter it (pp. 115, 118).  Thus large chunks of information is gained at the expense of concentration, contemplation (p. 5), and linear thinking (p. 10).  Google, for example wants to digitize all information including books (pp. 152, 163), but has designed its system such that the reader moves from site to site quickly.   The more clicks the...

Social Justice: Modern Roots and Promoters

(Volume 25, Issue 1, February 2019/March 2019) As we attempt to evaluate the social justice movement, especially in light of the debates within evangelicalism surrounding the publication of The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, it would be helpful to trace its roots.  The emphasis on social justice that is now all but omnipresent within Christianity did not appear out of thin air; there are predecessors and forerunners who have paved the way for comingling of the biblical gospel with a social agenda producing a hybrid gospel and mission for the church.  In two earlier TOTT papers, “The Social Gospel” Parts 1&2, the development of the 19th century Social Gospel movement which led to theological liberalism was detailed. In those articles, it was documented that German rationalism, higher criticism, Enlightenment and Romanticist thought were interlaced and embraced by first European and later American Protestantism. When the dust had...

The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl F. H. Henry

Written in 1947 by new-evangelism’s most influential theologian, The Uneasy Conscience was a watershed book pushing evangelicals toward social engagement.  Henry believed that Fundamentalists (used interchangeably with evangelicals at the time) had withdrawn from challenging and leading culture. Fundamentalists were concerned, he complained, almost exclusively with individual sins, not social evils (pp. 3, 7, 39). What evangelicals lacked was a developed organized campaign against injustice (p. 11). They needed to reclaim their seat at the table dealing with cultural ills and not leave the efforts to non-evangelicals, and whenever possible, Fundamentalists should unite with non-evangelicals for social betterment (pp. 78-80).  Henry admits that for the most part the non-evangelical had already dismissed the Fundamental voice and reacted with either denunciation or silence (pp. 21, 34).  However, it is time, he thought, to get back in the game and take a front row seat in the battle for justice. To...

Susie, the Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Roy Rhodes Jr.

This is only the second biography ever written about the wife of the famed 19th century preacher. Those familiar with Charles Spurgeon are aware that his wife was a semi-invalid, seldom leaving the house for 23 years (1868-1891).  Fewer are aware that prior to her illness she was an energetic, well-traveled young woman.  All that seemed to change with the birth of her twins at age 36.  Some painful physical condition, one apparently never described in the historical record, began at that time.  Two surgeries, and other treatments could not cure her, yet she was not idle in seclusion. She raised the twins, largely in the absence of her husband, and spent most of her ministry time administering a book fund by which she ultimately gave away 200,000 books, mostly Spurgeon’s, to poor pastors who could not afford to purchase them. This and her contributions to her husband’s autobiography...

God’s Glory Alone, the Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life by David VanDrunen

David VanDrunen contributes this excellent volume to “The 5 Solas Series,” edited by Matthew Barrett and written in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  VanDrunen is clear that the Reformers did not actually adopt the five solas as their official mottos, but they perfectly summarize the essence of their theology and distinction from Rome (p. 13).  He encapsulates the solas with this statement: Christ alone, and no other redeemer, is the mediator of our salvation.  Grace alone, and not any human contribution, saves us.  Faith alone, and no other human action, is the instrument by which we’re saved.  Scripture, and no merely human word, is our ultimate standard of authority.  God’s glory alone, and that of no creature, is the supreme end of all things (p. 14). The author believes the revelation of the glory of God is the larger story of Scripture (p. 49) and takes...

Christ’s Call to Reform the Church by John MacArthur

John MacArthur sees the imminent need for the church to reform.  A new reformation, as he understands it, would require a return to the five solas of the sixteenth century Reformation.  Short of such an appreciation and adherence to the solas (pp. 177-194) any attempt for church revival will be superficial and temporal.  Of late the church has gotten sidetracked by any number of things, including social justice (pp. 9-11), attempts to attract unbelievers through worldly means (p. 99), minimizing theology (p. 25), subjectivism (pp. 4, 180-181), the prosperity gospel, and tolerance of the pagan culture (pp. 110-114).  Depending upon the reader’s perspective, MacArthur is either taking the opportunity to ride his hobby horses or is offering insightful application of the text of Scripture.  I choose the latter, fully realizing that these are well-worn themes in MacArthur’s teaching ministry but obviously still pertinent. The author chooses to address his...

Christ Alone, the Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior by Stephen Wellum

Stephen Wellum contributes Christ Alone to The 5 Solas Series, edited by Matthew Barrett and published by Zondervan.  Each volume handles one of the foundational Solas of the Reformation, showing why each is important and detailing the theology behind it.  Christ Alone does not disappoint in its mission.  Wellum, who is a professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sees “Sola Christus as the linchpin of coherency for all Christian theology” (p. 22).  With this in mind “the goal of this book is to learn from the Reformers’ Solus Christus so that we might proclaim the same Christ in our context today” (p. 24).   Wellum divides his book into three parts: the exclusivity of Christ’s identity, the sufficiency of His work, and the Reformers’ teachings on Christ and their relevancy for today.   In Part One the author deals largely with the incarnation and its...