Left Behind and the Evangelical Crisis by Crawford Gribben

As the title implies Gribben has written a critique of evangelicalism as represented by the wildly popular fictional series Left Behind authored by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. Gribben’s conclusion is that the novels have poor theology of salvation, the church and the Christian life, even though being admittedly theologically sound much of the time. Gribben correctly understands the Left Behind series to be drawn from a dispensational view of Scripture. As a result the author has much to say about dispensationalism—its history, proponents, critics, and distinctions. I believe he fairly represents dispensationalism, which is not particularly common for someone of Reformed persuasion. He deals with popular myths about dispensationalism and rightly distinguishes between theologians who espouse a carefully thought out system and extremists who practice “current event” theology and set dates for the return of Christ. He would place the Left Behind novels, along with most “rapture fiction”...

The God Who Is There Finding Your Place in God’s Story By D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010) 233 pp. Paper, $16.99

Don Carson admits up front that this book is not for everyone. It is not bumper sticker theology, yet it is aimed at those who have little acquaintance with the Bible (p. 9). The author’s approach is to “run through the Bible in fourteen chapters. Each chapter focuses on one or more passages from the Bible, unpacks it a little, and tries to build connections with the context, drawing the lines together to show how they converge in Jesus” (p. 9). The combination of these features makes for a unique volume, tracing the story-line of the Bible and revealing its major themes for the novice while providing challenging concepts and exegesis for even the most competent of Bible students. But it is at this point that the objective of the book seems to break down. I personally gained a great deal from much of what Carson wrote and I...

Evangelical Feminism A New Path To Liberalism?, By Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006) 272 pp., Paper $10.99

Wayne Grudem is perhaps the most prolific evangelical author today writing in defense of the biblical roles of men and women in the church and in the home, known as complementarism. His thesis in this particular volume is that evangelical feminism (egalitarianism) has become a new path by which evangelicals are being drawn into theological liberalism (pp. 15, 17), because it undermines the authority of Scripture (p. 261). This thesis is repeated in virtually every one of the 36 chapters. The strength of this particular work is responding with solid biblical answers to the common equalitarian attacks on the traditional understanding of the biblical roles of women. These attacks, which began among evangelicals only in 1974 (p. 43), include: Accusations that portions of Scripture are wrong (pp. 33-52) Trajectory hermeneutics which claim modern developments in culture trump Scripture (pp. 53-80) “Cherry picking” favorite verses while ignoring others (pp. 81-102)...

Messiah’s Coming Temple, Ezekiel’s Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple By John W. Schmitt and J. Carl Laney (Kregel Publications: 2013) 224 pp., Paperback $12.99

Messiah’s Coming Temple (MCT) is about the future temple which is prophesied in the Bible, particularly in Ezekiel 40-48. Many interpreters of the Bible try to allegorize or “spiritualize” the prophet’s vision of the temple, but Schmitt and Laney take pains to demonstrate the natural reading of the text: a future, physical temple will one day be built in the land of Israel. Interpreters in the dispensational tradition will heartily agree with this thesis, and overall the authors do a good job of “unpacking” the scriptural vision of a future temple. The book is particularly strong in dealing with architectural features of the new temple (one of the authors – John Schmitt – apparently built the first major model of Ezekiel’s temple). I thus learned much about the dimensions, as well as the “look and feel” of the temple described by Ezekiel. MCT contains some very interesting photos and...

Conversion in the New Testament, Paul and the Twelve, by Richard V. Peace (Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1999) 397 pp. plus XV, paper $33.75

Conversion in the New Testament is an exacting, thorough and valuable study of the conversion experience. Recognizing substantial differences between the sudden conversion of Paul in Acts and the gradual experience of the apostles in the Gospels, Richard Peace seeks to evaluate and harmonize the two. His aim is “to demonstrate that while there is such a phenomenon as Christian conversion and that it has specific characteristics, it occurs in different ways in the lives of different people” (p. 10). Drawing first from the life of Paul, Peace deduces that there are three elements in all conversion experiences: insight, turning and transformation (pp. 25-27, cf. pp. 49-50, 54, 93, 298-307, 346-353). Insight is the “aha” moment when one sees their spiritual condition and need and the truth of the gospel. Turning is a turning from sin and our former beliefs about Christ and a turning to the Lord for...

God in Eclipse, God Has Not Always Been Silent, by John B. Metzger (Keller, TX: J House Publishing: 2013) pp. 227, paper $9.99

John Metzger, missionary and educator with Ariel Ministries, has written God in Eclipse directly to Jewish people “to put into simple language a debunking of the issues surrounding God’s nature” (p. 5). Most Jews have abandoned even Judaism (pp. 13, 19) and rejected Christianity, partly due to mistreatment by Christians throughout the ages. Therefore, Metzger distinguishes true believers and biblical Christianity from the corrupt forms that have too often emerged (e.g., p. 13). But the bulk of the book deals with an analysis of Scripture to demonstrate that the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) clearly teaches the same truths honored by authentic Christians and taught in the New Testament. Some of the highlights include: Demonstrating that the use of Elohim (Elokim) for God shows that God exists in a oneness in plurality, thus allowing for the doctrine of the Trinity (pp. 20-23, 51-60, 69-76. 164-175). That the Angel of...

Understanding Scripture, An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning, edited by Wayne Grudem, c. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012) 203 pp., paper $12.99

Understanding Scripture is a helpful volume dealing with the primary issues related to God’s Word. None of the editors contributes to the book but 17 other scholars do. Understanding Scripture is organized around seven parts with two or more chapters within each part. The parts are interpreting, reading, canonicity, reliability of manuscripts, archaeology, and original languages. In addition, the concluding part provides chapters surveying the history of salvation and discussing how the New Testament makes use of the Old Testament. The book offers introductory material on these subjects and is not intended to be exhaustive. Those interested in deeper study of these topics will need to look elsewhere, but Understanding Scripture is a good starting point. Readers will have various areas of interest but for me a highlight was the discussion of the reliability of the biblical manuscripts including the types of textual differences among the manuscripts (pp. 101-117),...

The New Calvinists, Changing the Gospel by E. S. Williams (London: The Wakeman Trust & Belmont House Publishing, 2014), 74 pp., paper $6.84

  As a physician and church leader in the United Kingdom, E. S. Williams examines the “New Calvinists” from a unique perspective. Interestingly the term is seldom used in the UK even though it has “penetrated deeply into the UK evangelical camp” (p. 51). (On a side note, I found the same to be true concerning the Spiritual Formation Movement on a recent visit to Britain. Church leaders were unfamiliar with the title even though the effects of the movement were evident everywhere.) Williams defines New Calvinism as “a growing perspective within conservative evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th century Calvinism while also trying to be relevant in the present-day world” (p. 7). However, it is a movement that “has made no attempt to separate from worldliness” (p. 68). This is a fundamental flaw, Williams believes, for, as Peter Masters writes, “You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan...

What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About, a Survey of Jesus’ Bible, Gen. Ed., Jason S. DeRouchie (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013; 496 pp., Hard $30.99

Jason De Rouchie and 16 other contributors have joined forces to provide the church this truly unique and marvelous volume overviewing the message of the Old Testament (there is a companion New Testament Volume – What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About). In the preface DeRouchie tells us that the book is not about: A history of Israelite religion A summary of the events of history A synthesis of the sources behind the text A review of characters in the text A theology of the Hebrew Bible on its own A systematic theology A reflection of the reader “Rather, following the arrangement of the Jewish canon, this survey attempts to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament.” The book is targeted toward Bible college, seminary students and local...

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism, Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry by Gregory Alan Thornbury (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013) 223 pp., paper $7.99

Gregory Thornbury, former professor of philosophy at Union University and now president of the King’s College, believes that the era of classical evangelicalism, represented by Francis Schaeffer, J. I. Packer, John R. W. Stott and most pronounced, Carl Henry, is quickly slipping away. He fears that “perhaps the evangelicalism I ‘signed up for’ is gone forever. Worse yet, perhaps it never even existed” (p. 32). In fact, many leading theologians today see classical evangelicalism and Henry, its main intellectual promoter, as relics of a bygone era (pp. 11, 21, 30). Thornbury hopes to reverse this view by reintroducing Henry to a generation that has marginalized him. This is necessary partly because even Henry’s fans find him almost incomprehensible. As Millard Erickson quipped about Henry’s work, “I hope someday that it is translated into English” (p. 24). The author attempts to do just that by, in essence, paraphrasing his second...