Exploring Christian Theology–Now A Finished Set

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It’s great to see this fine, inexpensive three-volume set that serves as an excellent primer to theology be now complete. (Don’t be confused as I was with this being volume 2 as the set was released in a 3-1-2 order). This set has a chance to be really helpful as size, price, and accessibility are all in its favor. I realized a long time ago that very few people are going to read a full-blown systematic theology tome.

This volume covers Creation, the Fall, and salvation. That means the doctrines of man, sin, and salvation are all covered. As for might imagine in a series that tries to teach the spectrum within believing Christianity rather than one narrow viewpoint as in most such volumes, this one is forced to address controversial Calvinism issues. The writers did a good job walking that tightrope no matter which side of the Calvinist line you fall. Clear discussion that will enable you to think your own thoughts in context are provided.

The text includes really helpful charts and graphs. Historical context about what Christians have believed in the past is exceptionally well done and clear. It really added to the value of the book. Even in the salvation section it was fascinating to read the history of thought about predestination.

I would disagree with points along the way, but the book was a winner and any Bible student would be greatly enriched by reading it.

I wholeheartedly recommend both this volume and the entire three-volume set.

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.

Volume 1

Is This Really The Time For A Witch Hunt? (IBTR #71)

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There is nothing quite as unnerving as something coming back as a boomerang and smacking you up side the head. I fear that many may be having that experience already. It will only get worse. Every group that gets carried away with its demands of holding the party line to points of minutiae has such potential in changing times. This series has highlighted many such points among Independent Baptists, but I imagine these have not been dominating thinking as much as it did only a few days ago.

The change is shocking; its pace alarming. A mere two months ago I wrote an article in this series entitled “Where Will Independent Baptists Be In 10 and 25 Years?” I am no prophet, though I feel more sure about those predictions now than I did when I wrote that piece. It was almost surreal to reread what I myself had written–not because it was particularly brilliant, but because things tipped over so quickly. I did not see that coming!

Shootings, flag debates, racial wars, and especially, homosexual marriage legalization, and the general mood of the country–no, I did not see it coming in a few days, even if I thought it would over time.

Do you feel as so many Christians do that we are the subject of a witch hunt? It may sound dramatic, but have you had your visions of them coming for you?… Did you refuse to perform that gay wedding? Are you intolerant? How dare you discriminate against me! I feel marginalized by you! Something needs to be done about you!… Pessimists never had it so good. Fearmongers look like brilliant scholars. These are the days to make crackpot predictions because you may look like a genius tomorrow.

There is new material to work with every day. Today, for example, I read of a Baptist Church in New York City that is taking major flak for merely passing out VBS invitations. People in that community said it was discriminatory because of the church’s position on gay marriage. They also said it was offensive because the church workers were white and the community is predominately black. See where that could go? Or think about the Confederate flag debate. Every argument made against it could also be made against crosses–remember the KKK used to burn them in the yards of innocent Black folks. See what I mean?

Now let’s come back to the issues that have plagued the Independent Baptist world for several years and the subject of this series. Do you suppose some folks have felt the victim of a witch hunt for a long time? The very way we all feel now? You know, scanning Facebook pictures for pants, or trying to find your music playlist, or looking for information that you visited an unapproved church or listened to an unapproved preacher, or you were disloyal in some way to our exalted group. Many have told me that they almost live in hiding because they so fear the backlash from family or churches.

Can the recent days finally make us empathetic? Will changes in our country finally make us realize what some of us have done? Can we finally see how we have made some others feel? Think about our country and world today. I assure you that some other Independent Baptist with a different standard is not the enemy, nor is some differences in worship styles, etc., our big problem today. We do have some problems today…big ones ( we still have our hope too), but these decades-long issues in some of our churches are not it. Read the news today and answer me this: Is this really the time for a witch hunt?

Find all articles in the series here.

The Message of Malachi (BST) by Peter Adam

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This volume is part of the fine, economical Bible Speaks Today series published by IVP. The series is aimed at pastors and teachers and is one of the best at that audience. This volume addresses the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi. As one of the Minor Prophets, Malachi is one of the lesser known books of Scripture, and so help is appreciated.

The Introduction is a little thin compared to some BST volumes, but the author still well explained Malachi’s theme as a conflict between God and His people. The people contradicted the Lord in profound ways, proving their thinking was far the Lord’s conclusions. Their service was sub-par and they were in quite a mess.

He addressed some of the issues typically found in the Introduction in his lengthy commentary on 1:1, so look there for introductory issues.

The commentary is well written, engaging, and thoughtful. He ties in other Scripture appropriately and summarizes well. This will serve as a solid, helpful contribution to our studies of the book of Malachi.

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.

My Quest On Presidential Biographies

Have you heard of the popular idea of reading a quality biography on every President of the United States? There are blogs where bloggers trace their journey through the Presidents, there are groups on Goodreads dedicated to this pursuit, and there are far more people starting this quest than you might imagine. I don’t know exactly what percentage of them finish, but many start. Presidential biographies do quite well on non-fiction bestseller lists as well.

Why might this be so popular? Well, it makes a good bucket list item–I mean, we have 44 Presidents so far. Still, there has to be more to it than that. More profitably, it is an exciting and thorough way to grasp the history of our country. Even if you love to read, and even if you love history, have you ever read anything more boring than a text book? Stringing together key facts will never match the living tales of history’s greatest shapers. In addition, disgust with modern history might make going into the past a cathartic experience.

It takes some commitment. A biography of John Tyler, for example, will never match one of George Washington, but you will have to read one of him to finish this feat. Plus, if you pick the wrong biography, even the more interesting Presidents may be difficult to get through.

I have decided to join the other Presidential biography readers to the lofty heights of achieving this goal. My only difference is that I am going to be a rebel to the typical rules of accomplishing it. I will not force myself to read them in order, but as the spirit moves me. I also might read two or three of one President before I read one of another. The point is pleasant reading, learning, and growth. In other words, I am more excited about the journey than the summit.

If you know me, or read this blog, you know I read all kinds of Christian literature. That is not going to change. I also read other non-fiction, as well as only very occasional fiction, and I don’t plan to change that either. But I am going to fit this in even if it takes a lifetime, assuming I have a lifetime to give it.

If you are even remotely thinking about reading Presidential biographies, you must check out this blog: My Journey Through The Best Presidential Bios by Stephen Floyd. The amazing thing about this blogger is that not only is he doing them in order, but he is reading several on each President. Then he gives a detailed review on each title followed by a summary post on the biographies of each President. He apparently loves the rest of us to compile such an incredible amount of material for us. I will read him before I decide on each President. He even tells us if a volume is expensive or hard to find–talk about doing all the work!

As he has done, I am going to list each volume in my library. When I finish and do a review, I will link it in the list. Click on the highlighted ones to go to my individual reviews. I might even do a summary post on particular Presidents to share my thoughts about the man, unless laziness overtakes me. If any of my blog readers or Facebook friends and acquaintances, are either on the quest or starting it, please let me know in the comment section or a private message. My readers are overwhelmingly Christians (with varying levels of loving to read), but I would love to know if any others are on this journey.

 

MY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY:

Washington by Ron Chernow

G. Washington in the American Revolution by James Thomas Flexner

G. Washington: Anguish and Farewell by James Thomas Flexner

His Excellency G. Washington by Joseph Ellis

Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser

G. Washington by Willard Sterne Randall

G. Washington by Shelby Little

J. Adams by David McCullough

J. Adams and the American Revolution by Catherine Dinker Bowen

J. Adams by Anne Husted Burleigh

America’s First Dynasty: The Adames by Richard Brookhiser

T. Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

J. Madison by Richard Brookhiser

Madison’s Gift by David Stewart

The Last Founding Father (Monroe) by Harlow Giles Unger

J. Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger

J. Quincy Adams and the Union by Samuel Flagg Bemis

The Life of A. Jackson by Marquis James

American Lion (Jackson) by Jon Meacham

Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer

William Henry Harrison by Gail Collins

Polk by Walter Borneman

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

Team of Rivals (Lincoln) by Doris Kearns Goodwin

A. Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years by Carl Sanburg

Great Captain (Lincoln) by Honore Morrow

Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography

Herdon’s Life of Lincoln

Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant

Captain Sam Grant by Lloyd Lewis

Grant Moves South by Bruce Catton

Grant Takes Command by Bruce Catton

The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by Richard Welch Jr.

Mornings On Horseback (T.R.) by Davis McCullough

River of Doubt by Candice Millard

The Presidency of T. Roosevelt by Lewis Gould

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The Life of Wilson by Josephus Daniels

Wilson by A. Scott Berg

The Life of Warren G. Harding by Willis Fletcher Johnson

The Autobiography of C. Coolidge

Coolidge by Amity Shales

Herbert Hoover in the White House by Rappleye

H. Hoover: A Biography by Eugene Lyons

H. Hoover by Joan Hoff Wilson

No Ordinary Time (FDR) by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Truman by David McCullough

Eisenhower by Stephen Ambrose

My Three Years With Eisenhower by Capt. Harry Butcher

President Kennedy by Richard Reeves

Richard Nixon by Fawn Brodie

In The Arena by Richard Nixon

G. Ford by David Brinkley

An American Life by Ronald Reagan

The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon

Speaking My Mind by Ronald Reagan

When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan

R. Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader by D’Souza

Reagan’s War by Peter Schweizer

Reagan:Inside Out by Bob Slosser

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan by Shirley

Hand of Providence by Mary Beth Moore

41: A Portrait Of My Father by George W. Bush

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Bush by Jean Edward Smith

 

These volumes may seem a hodgepodge set and they are. I have picked them up over the years (I clearly have wanted to be on this journey for a long time and have already read some) as I came across them in good deals. I have several more volumes than I need to secure. Would love to hear any recommendations! God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Message Of Lamentations (BST) by Christopher Wright

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Here is the latest entry in the Bible Speaks Today series by IVP. This is a natural assignment as he already gave us an outstanding volume on Jeremiah in this series. Mr. Wright writes as one in love with the text and it shows on every page. He highlights things that interest pastors and teachers rather than the esoteric information some more scholarly volumes bog down in. He understands where this series is aimed and beautifully delivers.

I thought this volume’s greatest feature was how he captured the suffering and near hopelessness that pervades Lamentations. He drew the historical context with precision and the events of the fall of Jerusalem were too severe to sugarcoat. He still found what hope there was, he explained what lament really means and why such words are used, and where the Lord is in it all.

He filled the pages with good things. His comparison with Isaiah 40-55 and how it contrasts Lamentations helped make sense of the whole. This volume is a winner for a lesser known book of the Bible. I hope Mr. Wright get future commentary assignments as he is a joy to read. Pastors and teachers will love this book.

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.

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

ftalk-guinness Could a book be more timely? Here is a man who has spent 40 years in the trenches of apologetics in our declining culture and who distills what he has learned and gives it to us in this volume. He sees apologetics in its noblest form—a way to lead others to Christ. I hate to use a trite designation like “instant classic”, but I believe this is the right place to use it. Mr. Guinness had me hooked in the Introduction as he perceptively diagnosed our age as the Age of the Self and the Selfie. We can never engage in this age unless we understand it first. It is the effects of that age that has done a number on what he calls “the art of Christian persuasion.” The loss of evangelism has been the greater cost, he rightly explains. He pays tribute to C. S. Lewis, Frances Schaeffer, and Peter Berger as those who have influenced him over the years and this volume is truly worthy to stand beside their works. I am shocked at how many sentences I underlined and how many paragraphs I starred all through this volume. It never lagged, it had no fluff or filler, and was masterful to the last page. I often give more of a summary of content in a book review, but in this case I just want to encourage Christians everywhere to read and interact with this volume. I fear my summary might obscure how good this book really is.  I give the highest recommendation possible to this volume that will likely be as important in 30 years as it will be when first released. 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.