The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (2nd Edition)

book cradle

I love this book! After having seen and used several New Testament Introductions, this volume strikes me as ideal. It’s clearly designed for advanced studies, yet is so well written and accessible that it will not bore the reader as some advanced studies do. I have never had access to the first edition and so am not sure the level of updating in this second edition, but this is an outstanding book.

Be sure to read the Preface to the Second Edition to see clearly the conservative outlook of Anfreas Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles Quarles, and design of the volume. On both counts, it is exactly what I would be looking for in this type volume. Chapter 1 speaks of issues of canonicity and even inerrancy. They well outline the twists and turns of scholarship while not allowing it to make them lose perspective. The chapter on the political and religious background is finely executed.

Chapter 3 expertly introduces the Gospels with a chapter following on each Gospel. Next we have a chapter on Acts, then one on Paul, followed by each of the rest of the books of the New Testament. An ending chapter and an epilogue well round out the volume.

Each of the chapters covering the perspective book is the greatest asset on the volume. Real background, scholarly thought, literary designs, theology, and contents of the book are all enlightening. Fine charts and maps only make the content better.

Again, I give this the highest possible ratings among Introductions of the New Testament.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology

book thiselton

What is called a theological companion turns out to be an astute theological dictionary from a seasoned theologian. The scope of this fine volume is so massive that it is hard to believe that one writer gave us the entire volume. Most dictionaries are compiled by a host of scholars who can even contradict themselves across entries, but here we have a unified approach to all things theological.

The book begins with a timeline of theologians to help you place the many theologians that will receive a biographic entry in the volume. That is a great help in seeing who was contemporary with each other. Next, there is a list of entries which is much easier than flipping through the large volume itself. Still, the majority of the book is a-to-z entries.

In addition to influential theologians, he gives almost every theological word imaginable whether common like “justification”, or biblical like “abba”, or of a modern scholarly bend like “open theism”, or even esoteric like “womanism.” Exhaustive is a fair description.

The articles are of various lengths following a logical approach to their complexity and importance. You might occasionally disagree with his choice, or find something missing like the “New Perspective on Paul”, but it is broad enough to cover most everything you might need in such a volume. You might even disagree on a theological conclusion, but you will never find him careless, naive, or harshly dogmatic. His lifetime in theology is apparent.

Quite simply, I must rate this a winner and consider it a jewel to have on your shelves.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Unchanging Witness–A Book For Our Day

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This issue of homosexuality is the roaring issue on the doorstep of Christianity. That the world is embroiled in it is no surprise, but that some corners of Christendom are bowled over by it is.  The biggest shock of all is what is proclaimed to be biblical and historic in Christianity on the subject. That is why this new book by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams is so timely, helpful, and important.

The task these scholars tackle with such aplomb is showing that homosexuality has always been biblically and historically wrong  in our Christian faith. They show in one succinct chapter how the gay movement has proceeded since it embarked upon a political path in the 1960s. Then the next 6 chapters show what all parts of Christianity has believed on the subject since the beginning with plenty of direct historical quotation and analysis. They may provide more than you will feel you need, but you will appreciate their careful labor.

The balance of the book examines the biblical passages mentioning homosexuality. They spend time mentioning every argument presented by pro-homosexual scholars. You see these other scholars have been incredibly unscholarly, careless, and even dishonest. Some may not like all that scholarly interaction, but this is a case where it’s needed appreciated.

A person can say they think homosexuality is acceptable because they choose not to accept the truthfulness of Scripture, but one cannot logically or honestly say the Bible supports homosexuality. These authors have put any Christians who study this subject in a great debt by so ably providing that proof.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

To Trump Or Not To Trump, That Is The Question

 

Well, that is a tough question. I’ve thought about it for a long time. Never in my life have I seen people who are a lot like me so torn. I’m Christian and conservative and the greater portion of my friends are too. If I expand my sample to my Facebook acquaintances who are proportionally about 90% Christian and conservative as well, I find the exact situation. They run from Trump-Is-The-Answer to Never-Trump. Worse, they are mad at those other Christians who are opposite of them—I mean really upset.

I’m a great microcosm of this newly divided group. I say newly divided because we have over the years, for the most part, been on the same page about presidential elections. Sure, we liked our options better some election cycles than others, but we have usually landed in the same place. Though we have been both bewildered and upset with Republican leadership multiple times, we have overwhelmingly voted for the Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan. I mean several of us were skeptical that John McCain shared our values, but we compared him to Barrack Obama and felt totally at peace with the lesser-of-two-evils argument. But that argument isn’t cutting it for all of us this time around.

When I say I’m a great microcosm of this group, I mean I have both thought about voting for Mr. Trump and not voting for him. Like others in this group, I’ve NEVER thought of voting for Mrs. Clinton. Still, I’ve never thought Mr. Trump was the answer, I’m positive that he shares neither my Christian nor my conservative values, and he lacks the temperament to be a leader. So while I’ve never for a moment thought he’s just what our country needs, I was at one point deciding to vote for him. At other points I had decided I would not.

Why would someone who has been a Christian as long as I have suddenly vacillate so much? Why would someone who has been so sure of the right answer in every presidential election of his lifetime be all over the place this time? Even worse, why would someone who is a pastor, however unreasonable this expectation may be, not have the explanation this election cycle? In my defense, I am not alone.

The problem with deciding is not one of a lack of intelligent arguments. Both sides have given great fodder for thought. Here’s the best, from my point of view, from each side:

Vote for Trump

  1. The Supreme Court.

Most believe that we have a better chance of molding the Supreme Court a more conservative direction with Trump. Not that the Supreme Court has done either Christianity or conservatism much good in my lifetime, it is still important since there will likely be a few vacancies in this term. We know that Mrs. Clinton will nominate people who continue the moral collapse of our nation. With Mr. Trump, there is at least a chance. I fear he will fail us here, perhaps by nominating his liberal sister, but it is still a shot with none on the other side.

  1. The Lord Doesn’t Advance His Work Through Government, So Vote for the One Least Antagonistic to Christian Work No Matter His Or Her Morals.

That makes a lot of sense. The Lord works in spite of government and almost oblivious to it. Think how little Jesus had to say about Rome. He never did any political crusades. When I first heard that argument from a pastor in Ohio it really got my wife and I thinking.

  1. Mr. Trump Has Never Said Anything Against Parental Rights.

I’ve not actually heard this one, but it concerns this father of six homeschooling children very much. Mrs. Clinton and her it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child attitude strongly feels that the state owns the children. She has believed it her whole career. Even Mr. Obama hasn’t attacked on this front. Perhaps he wanted to and ran out of time, but Mrs. Clinton will likely make an attempt even if Congress, I believe, will keep her in check on this one.

On the other hand:

Don’t Vote for Trump

  1. In a Choice Between Two Evils Choose Neither

When I first heard this from some pastor friends in Ohio, it really got me thinking again. I already alluded to how we have been comfortable in previous elections with the lesser-of-two-evils argument, but perhaps there was a clear lesser of two evils. Can we argue that there must always be a lesser of two evils that we must pick? What if our choices were Hitler and Stalin? Would the theory hold? Some of us have sensed a Hitleresque attitude in Mr. Trump with his trust-me-I-will-fix-it attitude with no details but himself. On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton could be the Stalin with her far-left ideas. (I realize there’s a little exaggeration here, but you get the idea).

  1. Christians Will Lose Their Moral Authority In Supporting Mr. Trump.

A missionary friend shared an article that is far better than what I could say (here). He reminded us how all of us lambasted President Bill Clinton for his lies and affairs in office. We all said then that he lost his moral authority to be President. Now we support Trump? When the next President that we don’t like does greatly immoral things, how can we say anything after Mr. Trump has bragged on his adulteries in this election? This may end up being the most important issue of all as it actually undermines Christianity itself and its voice in our generation.

  1. As Long As We Stay In A Two-Party System, We Need To Force The Republican Party To Get Back On Track.

We are blowing an easy layup this election. Mrs. Clinton is one of the most beatable candidates the Democrats have ever put up with her email scandal and various other gross illegalities. The Republicans need to know that we are true to our principles and not their party. They had better put up a candidate whose principles we can support. In other words, the decades ahead are more important than one 4-year term.

So What Are We To Do?

I’ve seen Christians I respect on both sides. I’ve seen pastors I admire on both sides. I’ve seen missionaries who really love the Lord passionately on both sides. I suspect those who read this article are made up of some on both sides.

Ted Cruz got it right—vote your conscience. I’ll only add that we carefully seek the Lord. I’ve made an emphasis in my ministry for soul liberty and this is a great place for it. It’s time we realize that those who love the Lord are greatly divided here and both sides have good arguments, so the attacks on each other should stop. We should stop accusing those who support Mr. Trump with being immoral. We should also stop threatening those who cannot with supporting Mrs. Clinton.

To Trump or not to Trump? Just take the Lord into the voting booth with you and pray that He will make something good out of our disastrous choices.

 

 

 

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Introduction to World Christian History by Derek Cooper

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This book serves as a short introduction to Christian history and actually covers that territory in 250 pages. It’s other unique feature is the extent it goes to prove that Christianity has a global rather than a western history.

The volume was successful in proving what we often forget–Christianity has had peak periods all over the world. I personally wasn’t aware how some areas, like, for example, the Far East, had periods of flourishing in Christianity. The history is presented in broad sweeps, but you could easily get the big picture and know where to pursue other studies.

Reading a broad introduction also made it easy to notice trends. I was amazed how getting close to any government often spelled a sudden destruction of Christianity. There was proof given too of how European countries that once were highly Christian are now  mostly secular.

The downside of the book is that it makes no distinction of anything ever called Christian. It passes no judgment except where western excesses were presented, or so it seemed to me. In an effort to make a global case, it was too threadbare in presenting American Christianity.

Still, it is a great book for a broad perspective and a global emphasis.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

God Has Spoken In His Son–A Great Theology on Hebrews

book God spoken

Peter O’Brien is one of the most respected scholars of our day contributing some of the most trusted commentaries we have including an outstanding one on Hebrews in the Pillar Commentary series.  Here he has expanded those studies that would have made the Introduction of his Hebrews commentary too long and especially delved into the theology of Hebrews. Unlike some such volumes that I have seen, he discusses what can actually be found in the text and mines its significance to grasping the unique and powerful Book of Hebrews.

Chapter One addresses God revealing His Son. He sees the clear tie to the Scriptures and even explains how Hebrews uniquely presents scriptural quotations. His reflections were powerful in this study. In chapter two he traces how Hebrews presents Jesus as the perfect High Priest. Jesus is not only superior, but His sacrifice is as well. The next chapter continues that thought to the salvation Jesus provided. He then discussed the people of God receiving this salvation.

He gave a huge chapter on the warning passages that make for fascinating reading no matter if you fully agree or not. Those passages are both unique and central to what Hebrews is giving us and I appreciated him drawing it out so well.

O’Brien continues his outstanding work here and I highly recommend this volume.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures–An Important New Book

book authority

Likely the most important book of its kind for this generation, this massive volume covers the doctrine of Scripture from every conceivable vantage point. Edited by the redoubtable D. A. Carson, this book maintains a consistently high level of scholarship. Though I did not read every page (I wanted to provide somewhat of a timely review),  I read much and was impressed throughout.

The volume begins with a spectacular introductory essay by Carson that was fascinating. He at once laid bare the lines of debate and an outline of the history. Starting a trend that carried through the book, he named names. He was never ugly, but he put people with positions and then evaluated positions in this successful romp through the issues.

Next comes nine chapters on historical topics. There might be more information than you feel the need to know, but in any future historical questions you will likely find your answers here.

The heart of the book was chapters 11-24 on biblical and theological topics. These articles were excellent even if certain parts were somewhat esoteric. Still, the great subjects were fully addressed. The next section on philosophical and epistemological topics carried the theological discussion forward. The section on comparative religion topics was much less interesting to me, but that is likely a matter of taste. The book ends with Daniel Doriani encouraging us to think holistically and then some FAQ by Carson.

This book is a major publishing event. Pastors will find some that is helpful clarification, but some that is needless complication. We must remember, though, that the book is dedicated to scholarly concerns in addition to what is helpful to us. There were statements that I could not agree with in these pages, but this book is a presentation of the conservative position. To that end, it was just what was needed in our complicated days.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Bush by Jean Edward Smith (Presidential Bio Series)

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Here’s the first stab at a definitive biography of George W. Bush by a major biographer. I don’t think it will hold that title long if another famous biographer tries his hand, but it is first in that sense. It’s hard for me to classify this biography. On the one hand, the skilled hand of Mr. Smith is ever present, yet he makes blunders as well. I could hardly put the book down, yet I disagreed often and picked up on clear bias.

There is plenty of research, no character discussed is ever wooden, and you learn much about Mr. Bush’s personality. Still, Smith paints in broad strokes. He equates Bush’s distinct Christianity with a lack of sophistication, his penchant for “deciding” as reckless and brash, and his outlook, particularly on Iraq, a general naivety that continually led him astray.

Smith failed to see that perhaps that Christianity gave him a moral grounding that is often tragically missing in Washington. Right or wrong, he really meant well. His “deciding” was surely better than indecisiveness in horrific events. ( 911, Katrina, the Great Recession–Bush wasn’t a lucky man).When Smith outlined what Bush should have done, he at times looked like the naive one when he seemed to feel that his ideas would have flawlessly followed the script. No matter the plan, the players in Iraq and surrounding areas were the equivalent to having a tiger by the tail. We all learned that together.

When he suggests that Bush overreacted to 911, he doesn’t connect the dots to what he told us in this book–we all wanted to go fight somebody! The Democrats were ready too. A few started disagreeing when Iraq was brought up, but very few at the beginning.Even in this harsh assessment too, there is no doubt that Bush believed there were weapons of mass destruction. If you sincerely believed that to be true, what else could you have done? He writes as if 20/20 hindsight was at Bush’s disposal beforehand.

There’s criticism of his managing of his staff. What president didn’t have staff issues, or been guilty of listening too much to the most agreeable staff members. That’s the human element that always complicates management.

Bush had some failures for sure. Like most of us, often our greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses come from the same component of our personality. It was likely true for Bush too. Amazingly, he quotes Bush admitting, to some degree, many of the very things Smith perhaps overemphasizes. I actually grew to appreciate Bush in places I had not before, especially in things like his handling of the mortgage crisis. We teetered on the edge of a crisis to rival the Great Depression and it called for measures that we might most of the time strongly disagree with. It’s almost 8 years later and Bush clearly got that one right.

As for the book, Smith tells us he thinks Bush is a horrible disaster in the first paragraph. (Was the editor asleep?) Forget building a case and convincing the audience over the course of the book. That crazy method put him on trial as much as Bush page by page.

So is this a great book? I closed it at the end more confident that Bush was a genuinely good man who gave it his all. I was further convinced that Bush would be a guy quite enjoyable to spend a day with. He’d defend his overall approach as it was a matter of principle to him, yet he would readily admit his mistakes, and he’d be a gracious host whether you agreed with him or not. I found that refreshing here in July 2016 as this book hits the shelves and we are in more danger than in Bush’s days and miss his magnanimous ways.

So I reached those conclusions and grew in appreciation of Bush while this book I couldn’t put down tried to convince me that he was a failure. Does that make it a five-star wonder or a one-star dud? I have no idea. I’ll be gracious like George W. Bush and give it 4 stars.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The World and the Word–An Introduction to OT

book world

This volume is a substantial, in-depth introduction to the Old Testament by respected scholars Eugene Merrill, Mark Rooker, and Michael Grisanti. You can tell it aims beyond basic, beginning study as it has a less flashy look (there’s a place for those too) and much text to digest.

Three chapters lay out in a helpful fashion the world of the Old Testament. Historical and cultural aspects presented here moor the Old Testament days for us.

Chapters 5-9 cover the text of the OT and how it has been studied. In the process, you get quite a history of trends and the various critical methods that the OT has been subjected to. While some of us would find little value in that subject, it was written with purpose–to show how much OT study has run off the track with dubious critical approaches. So many available OT Introductions are infected with those methods and this serves as a powerful corrective.

Chapters 10-44 cover the books of the Old Testament. Some of the issues addressed above are discussed again in regards the individual book. Further the contents and theology are effectively presented. Though charts and maps are few, those presented are excellent.

To my mind, this is a fine asset to have and I plan to consult it in individual book study in the days to come.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Josephus–Carta’s Illustrated The Jewish War

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Carta Jerusalem keeps finding ways to put their treasured maps into the hands of Bible students. This book is especially creative in that regard. Most of us are very familiar with Josephus and here we have the popular translation by William Whiston of Josephus’ The Jewish War.  What makes this classic new and vibrant is the Carta maps profusely interspersed at appropriate places in the text. 

An added jewel in an introduction by noted New Testament scholar R. Steven Notley that really helps us get hold of the life, writings, and importance of Josephus.

Pictures of places add even more as does a users’ guide for The Carta Bible Atlas and The Sacred Bridge, which are the best in the field and are loved by many of us.

This is a publishing event and a real asset to have!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.