Ten Keys for Unlocking the Bible by Colin S. Smith

This little volume is the forerunner of a series of four books entitled Unlockingthe Bible. It is designed to give a high-altitude view of Scripture to those unfamiliar with its message. With this in mind, as I read the book I kept asking myself, “Would I give this to a new believer?” My answer is “no!” for two reasons. First, it “flies” so high and far that I think the “view” is missed almost entirely. Someone unfamiliar with Scripture would gain little from this book. Secondly, Smith makes a number of errors in his biblical interpretation. He misunderstands Galatians 3:2-4 in particular (p. 31) and the Law in general (p. 34). He does not understand the purpose of the Pentecost in Acts 2 (pp. 108, 109). He misinterprets Romans 7 and 8 (pp. 119, 120). And he gives the all too common (by evangelicals) implication that Mother Teresa was...

A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur

MacArthur provides us with a comprehensive, readable and thoroughly biblical exposition of the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” In contrast to a well-publicized study of sermons on this great parable (See Christless Christianity by Michael Horton, pp. 48-61) which twisted the story into various therapeutic explanations, MacArthur rightly explains that the parable was aimed at the hard-hearted, legalistic Pharisees and the central figure is the “good” son, not the father or the Prodigal. MacArthur’s understanding is summed up early in the book. The prodigal represents a typical sinner who comes to repentance. The father’s patience, love, generosity, and delight over the son’s return are clear and perfect emblems of divine grace. The prodigal’s heart change is a picture of what true repentance should look like. And the elder brother’s cold indifference—the real focal point of the story, as it turns out—is a vivid representation of the same evil hypocrisy...

The Story of Joseph and Judah by Warren Austin Gage and Christopher Barber

This volume is the first in a planned series entitled “The Masterpiece Study Series.” When completed, the ten volumes will cover a number of other major Old Testament characters, as well as the four Gospels and their human authors. These books are not commentaries as such, but more like guided tours through biblical literature. Each chapter includes helpful background and theological information, numerous study questions, plus suggested application and reflection. Concerned that too often students of Scripture get lost in the details, the authors want their readers to dig deeply but at the same time stand back and enjoy the big picture. “Our goal in this study,” they write, “is to help recover something that has largely been lost, by learning to read the Bible not only as a scientist, but also as an act of love” (p. 6). The Story of Joseph and Judah is intended to guide...

Soul Restoration: Hope for the Weary by Terri Blackstock

Blackstock, formerly a writer of secular romantic novels, is now an author of Christian fiction (none of which have I read). At the conclusion of her novels Blackstock has made it her habit to write a short afterword stating clearly the spiritual point that she has tried to flesh out in her story. These afterwords, with some additions, comprise the content of this little devotional book. Soul Restoration contains two dozen inspirational readings which, for the most part, are true to Scripture and helpful to the reader. There are exceptions to this as Blackstock occasionally uses Scripture out of context or claims an extrabiblical promoting from the Lord. The most notorious of such accounts is on page 32 in which the Lord supposedly prompted her to read Isaiah 49:24-25, take it out of context and claim a promise from Him for a spiritual healing for a friend’s unsaved daughter....

Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis By William Webb

William Webb, who received his ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and is presently professor of New Testament at Heritage Theological Seminary, has written this book to introduce and promote a new hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures, what he calls “redemptive-movement.” The author’s primary concern is figuring out which statements from the Bible should be followed as expressed in Scripture and which do we have the right to take further to the redemptive spirit of the statement due to cultural changes (p. 13). Webb is trying to weave a path somewhere between what he calls static hermeneutics (grammatical-historical) and radical hermeneutics (liberal and neo-orthodox). With redemptive-movement interpretation the exegete will agree that statements, commands, etc., in Scripture can be taken at face “on the page” value. But the meaning was for the original time and culture only; it was never meant to be timeless in its application. Many statements and...

The Promised One by Nancy Guthrie, Wheaton: Crossway, 2011; 285 pp. paper $15.99

The Promised One is a 10 part study guide for women which “is uniquely designed to help you to look into the wonder of the first book of the Old Testament—Genesis—and see how it prepares for and points to Christ” (p. 9). The controlling scriptural passage is Luke 24:27 in which Jesus instructed the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The verse reads, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (ESV). On this foundation Guthrie writes, “Most people see the Bible as a ‘guidebook for life.’ But Jesus is saying here that the Bible is not about what God wants us to do but about who God wants us to see. And it is Jesus we are going to see as we study Genesis together” (p. 24). Herein lie both the strength and the weakness of...

Prolegomena by Christopher Cone

Prolegomena is the study of presuppositions, definitions and theological methods which are foundational to any doctrinal system. This volume concerning prolegomena is decidedly dispensational in approach and thus lays the groundwork necessary for understanding Scripture dispensationally. Cone, among other things, handles issues related to the existence of God, Scripture, hermeneutics and theology. He spends over a third of the book discussing hermeneutical matters and defending the Historical-Grammatical method. He deals much with Dispensationalism and distinguishes it from Covenant Theology. I believe Cone has done his homework and offers an excellent theological study which is basic to systemic theology....

The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), 959 pp., hardback $26.99

This volume is quite similar to Dever’s earlier work on the New Testament, with the same positives and negatives (see review on The Message of the New Testament). The Message of the Old Testament, like its predecessor, provides one transcribed sermon per biblical book, as originally preached by Dever at the church he pastors. The idea is worthy but it proves in practice more difficult with the Old Testament than the New. Some Old Testament books are so massive and their message so foundational to the faith that only one sermon barely touches the highlights (think Genesis, Psalms or Isaiah). Others are so small and relatively insignificant that a full message hardly seems warranted. To devote one message to Jeremiah or Exodus and one to Zephaniah or Obadiah seems out of balance. Since I was using Dever’s book as an aid to my own overview sermon series through the...

The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever

First, let’s mention what this book is not. It is not a one-volume commentary on the New Testament. If you are looking for analysis of difficult issues and texts you will be largely disappointed. Nor is this a Bible handbook giving copious details about authors, dates, outlines and the like. If you need that kind of information you would be wise to look elsewhere. What you will find in The Message on the New Testament are twenty-eight transcribed and edited sermons, one on each book plus an overview message. There is much to commend in Dever’s volume: it gives solid exposition of the biblical texts, presents excellent overviews of the New Testament books, sets forth a great example of how to preach this type of sermon and is edifying to the reader. There are also some negatives—mostly unavoidable due to the nature of the project: Difficult issues are mostly...

The Last Word by N.T. Wright

N. T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham (Anglican Church), prolific author and biblical scholar, and is best known to many as the unofficial liaison between the New Perspective on Paul and evangelicalism. This work does not deal specifically with the NPP, rather Wright is trying to foster an understanding of Scripture which allows for and even nurtures such views. Wright is proposing what he calls a “new understanding of the authority of Scripture.” Exactly what is this new understanding? Let’s begin with the positive. By definition, Wright states “that the authority of Scripture must mean…‘the authority of God exercised through Scripture’” (p. 25). With this stripped-down definition we can agree. God’s authority is bigger than Scripture—it includes all that He is and does. Still Scripture is God’s written word and carries the full authority of Himself in all it proclaims. The Last Word provides much in the way...