The Implication of Inerrancy for the Global Church edited by Mark Tatlock

The Master’s Academy International has self-published this excellent volume on the challenges facing biblical inerrancy globally.  There are 18 Master’s Academies in 17 countries today.  Leaders of the academies each wrote a chapter discussing the unique implication of inerrancy in their respective countries and cultures.  In most situations inerrancy is outwardly affirmed, at least by the evangelical community, but, in reality, and in practice, inerrancy is denied or revised to mean something different from the official definition.  Inerrancy as defined by Paul Feinberg is, “When all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical or life sciences” (p. 182). In addition, R. C. Sproul draws a distinction between infallibility, in which the Scriptures are unable to make a...

Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings

Todd Billings, professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary, was in his late thirties when he was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2012.  Rejoicing in Lament chronicles his journey through chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, suffering, and uncertainty about his future.  From the time of his diagnosis Billings immersed himself in the study of Scriptures, especially the Psalms (p. ix).  His insights from Scripture, forged in the furnace of pain and anxiety, make up the heart of this book.  Billings offers no pious platitudes but rather tackles the hard questions with clarity and boldness.  His conclusions will benefit both those suffering similar illnesses and those attempting to show compassion and understanding to people who are ill. I wondered as I read the book, however, if Billings’ strength as an author and theologian might also be his weakness. His strength lies in his deep insights and in wrestling thoroughly...

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider

Originally published in 1977, Rich Christians, now in its sixth edition, is perhaps the most important book within the Christian genre calling for social justice. While everything from environmental issues to politics is addressed, the thrust of the book is alleviation of poverty throughout the world. Sider’s book has been studied, critiqued and embraced for decades now and needs little review from me. However I will contribute a few thoughts. While Sider admits that much progress has been made since the original publication of Rich Christians (p. 5), much more needs to be done. There are a number of balanced and helpful ideas within its pages including admissions of the benefits of market economics, although he has several problems with it (pp. 150-156), and nevertheless still calls for redistribution of wealth (pp. 232, 235). He rightly draws attention to the vast need of the poor throughout the world and...

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...

Ecumenism: Another Gospel, Lausanne’s Road to Rome by E. S. Williams

For a no-holds-barred, well documented, and biblically sound critique of the Lausanne Movement, this work by E. S. Williams would be difficult to beat.  The concluding statement demonstrates well what the author intends to prove, “In light of the evidence presented in this study, we must conclude that Lausanne is a heretical movement that is perverting the gospel of truth” (p. 150).  In order to come to this conclusion Williams organizes his book around individual chapters devoted to his concerns.  He begins with the history, background, and founders (Billy Graham and J.R.W. Stott) of the original Lausanne Congress in 1974.  Their social/political action was combined with the gospel to provide the “whole gospel” (p. iv).  The social agenda has continued to be a key component of Lausanne and evangelicalism to this day (see pp. 8-11, 13-14, 40-45, 117-128, 148).  A strong charismatic element was added at Lausanne II held...

How to Bring Your Children to Christ…& Keep Them There by Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort admits that the title of this book is not the best.  No parent is capable of bringing their children to Christ, nor to keep them there, both being a work of God.  Still he chose to stick with the title (p. 13).  Nor does the author turn Proverbs 22:6 into a promise that all children raised in a godly home will turn out great (pp. 7-8), yet he strongly implies that his children did because he and his wife “adhered to certain guidelines and principles from God’s Word” (p. 18), and because they prayed for their children’s salvation (p. 22).  Taken too far these all but guarantee a crisis of faith for parents if their children do not come to Christ, and live for Him. In fairness Comfort is rightly concerned about the danger of false conversions (pp. 14, 23-26, 81-92, 130).  False conversions happen often because...

The Pastor as Public Theologian, Reclaiming a Lost Vision by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan

The Pastor as Public Theologian is the latest in several recent books calling pastors back to their role as theologians.  This one, interestingly, is written by two academians, neither of whom is a pastor: Kevin Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Owen Strachan, Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College.  Perhaps for this reason they wisely asked twelve pastors to make contributions to the book, each providing a short essay on a variety of pastoral related subjects. The burden of the book is that “theology is in exile and, as a result, the knowledge of God is in ecclesial eclipse” (loc. 168).  The solution is for pastors, churches and seminaries to reclaim a lost vision for the pastor ministering as theologian (loc. 174-186).  The claim that something is lost implies that something once existed.  To...

Slow Kingdom Coming, Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World by Kent Annan

Kent Annan would be in the Shane Claiborne ecclesiastical camp which focuses almost entirely on social justice within a Christianized context.  The contention of Annan, and others holding his view, is that we are in the kingdom of God now, but the kingdom has not yet come in all of its fullness – the “already, but not yet” theological position.  This means, according to Annan, that we can participate with God in bringing in the kingdom (pp. 39, 98, 115).  This idea has been in existence for a long time, and eschatologically is normally called postmillennialism.   Postmillennialism has historically been expressed in two forms: evangelical, which teaches we partner with God in bringing in the kingdom through evangelism.  As the gospel is spread ultimately the majority of people will become Christians and Christ’s kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven.   The liberal form of postmillennialism teaches...

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...

Helping Johnny Listen, Taking Full Advantage of the Sermons We Hear by Thadeus L. Bergmeier

While there are numerous books written to help preachers communicate better, there are few written to aid the listener to get the most out of the sermons they hear.  Helping Johnny Listen is one of those few, and it is a good one.  Bergmeier defines preaching as the “Proclamation of the Scriptures to a group of people for the purpose of calling them to change something in their lives” (p. 12).  If this is the case it is only logical, and biblical, that the Lord will hold the listener of such sermons accountable to how they listen and what they do with what they hear (pp. 15-26).  On a practical level, both physical and spiritual preparations are essential.  Physically the hearer should come rested, learn to focus and ignore distractions, be in regular attendance and engage their minds (pp. 31-46).  Spiritually we should come hungry for the Word, worshipping...