Charts on Systematic Theology: Volume 1 by Wayne House

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Wayne House has produced several well-received volumes of charts for Bible study. Kyle Roberts assists him here in producing this volume on Prolegomena, or the introductory matters in the study of systematic theology. This makes up one of the fine volumes in the Kregel Charts of the Bible and Theology series.

This book will fool you in the incredible amount of information it gathers in only 130 pages. It includes both wonderful insights for any Bible student and in-depth explanations of specialized scholarly subjects. The book is designed around 10 subjects.

The book begins with an explanation of what theology is. After a brief introduction, you have two multipage charts explaining both objective and subjective theologies. I found much more help in the former than in the latter! The second section wants to help us find out what are the possibilities of systematic theology. You may discover some camps you weren’t aware of, but the explanation of each group will give you a lot to think about as you form your own viewpoint. The third section is very helpful to encourage a Bible student to understand the different branches of theological study: systematic theology, biblical theology, historical theology, and philosophical theology.

Part four looks at the nature of doctrine and is particularly a description of current scholarly debate. The fifth section tackles what revelation is and where it’s located. For some Bible students, this will be new ground–you would be surprised how much scholarly ink is spilled on these reception theories. There’s some charts on general and special revelation as well. Part six looks at the knowledge and language of God. Since the Word of God is a book of words, these discussions raise some important questions. Part seven looks at hermeneutics and theological interpretation. This naturally goes to a description of types of hermeneutics. Once again, we will have objective and subjective viewpoints about hermeneutics. The charts contain much detail. Part eight takes us to faith and reason. The chart here has good apologetic value too. Part nine goes to the source and structure of truth. You may again be surprised that the hair was so finally split, but you will have a timely overview at your disposal in this book. The final section looks at the relationship between the testaments. The various viewpoints presented fall somewhere on the scale between unity and diversity and there’s also more objective and subjective theologies described as well. The book ends with a lengthy bibliography.

This book skews more toward the scholarly side than some other such volumes of charts. This book’s strength may also be its weakness. Yes, it contains vast amounts of information, but at times more than you’re used to finding in a chart format. In the end, that may be a matter of taste.

There can be no doubt that the authors have grasped the material, taken a snapshot of the scholarly world with all its debates, and made a thorough presentation to us. This book could be the perfect refresher course to pull off the shelf when any of these subjects we encounter with less frequency are faced in our studies. I recommend it.

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.

Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion by Philip King

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Here’s a fine supplement to your commentaries on the Book of Jeremiah. Philip King has envisioned a true resource that takes archaeology and shines it upon the text with skill. It strikes me that most books of the Bible could benefit from a volume designed as this one.

While Mr. King takes a critical stance (three of his favorite Jeremiah commentators are Robert Carrol, William Holladay, and William McKane), I was pleasantly surprised by many things he had to say. His chronological chart at the beginning of the book is not extreme at all. Though he follows some critical suppositions on sources, he upheld the widely accepted chronology and historical background of Jeremiah in most places.

In a brief introduction, he makes a good case for the value of archaeology and biblical studies. The first chapter gives the background of both the prophet Jeremiah and his book. In relating that history, he shares some pictures and information about archaeological discoveries or key places in the life and Book of Jeremiah. The historical background continued in chapter 2 and looked at superpowers that surrounded and impacted Israel in Jeremiah’s time. Chapter 4 gave a whole chapter to the relationship of Edom and Judah since it’s mentioned in detail in Jeremiah. There’s more great pictures and information throughout that chapter.

Chapter 5 brings us back to the cities of Judah and includes some in-depth information on Jerusalem. Again, pictures, drawings, and descriptions of archaeological digs provide wonderful information to the Bible student. Chapter 6 looks at inscriptions and literacy and everything that has to do with writing. Chapter 7 presents worship and architecture. Chapter 8 explains funeral customs with a good description of tombs. Chapter 9 enlightens agriculture while chapter 10 looks at crafts.

The quality of the archaeological information, pictures, illustrations, and historical insights never flag between the covers of this book. I wasn’t sure what I’d find in this book when I picked it up but I was pleasantly surprised.

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.



Demanding Liberty by Brandon O’Brein

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This book is hard for me to categorize. The author, Brandon O’Brien, warns us in the preface that that might be the case, but I had no idea that it would be thus to such a degree. It’s not exactly a biography, though I came to know Isaac Backus much better. It’s not exactly a historical treatise, but I found places where my historical understandings were off. It’s not exactly a political statement, but I wondered if there might be one just below the surface. I found myself asking what this author was up to quite early in the book, though I never was sure I could answer that question. To be sure, I found the book deeply interesting and hard to put down.

If the author desired to only overturn the applecart of our neatly packaged conclusions, this book was a smashing success. If he had some conclusion he wanted to take us to, then not so much. The titles alone of his previous books, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes and Paul Behaving Badly, had me wondering if he was something of a provocateur. When he admitted that he was a Baptist who had become a Presbyterian and now was writing on a Baptist hero, I wondered if he was something of a rabble-rousing raconteur too. As a Baptist myself, when some of his first comments seemed to overplay the lack of education of the early Baptists, I was sure that it was so. But alas, he was quite fair to the Baptists overall and even seemed to have a real admiration of their dedication and of Backus himself.

He did prove to me that I have been something of a reductionist in how I view the Christian heritage of my country. It was much more of a battle than I carried in my convenient memories, but I retain my amazement at where it landed. On a few occasions, he took that premise a little too far. I’m not convinced that the Jefferson described in the introduction was as anti-religion as he was portrayed, nor do I see the full weight of the parallel of conservative Christians today to their forebears with “a difference between being marginalized and feeling marginalized.” Still, there might be enough truth in it to call for some introspection.

This book held my attention until the last page. I’m still not sure whose side the author is on, or if he even knows. He did, however, ask good questions. My conclusions are ultimately the same, but I would have to admit that my views are a little more nuanced after reading this book.

We are at the point of this review where I’m supposed to give a recommendation. Perhaps if you’ve read this far you already have all the recommendation that I could give you. Clearly, this book influenced me. Maybe you will want to find out if it will have that effect on you.

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.

Death and the Afterlife (NSBT) by Williamson

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This new entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series on death and what follows by Paul R. Williamson is a sane voice on one of the more explosive theological issues of our day. It lives up to the standards set by previous volumes in this series edited by D. A. Carson. It’s obvious that the author expended the necessary energy to make this volume a meaningful contribution. In fact, I suspect for most of us this will be the first book we will reach for what we are considering “biblical perspectives on ultimate questions”.

The first chapter surveys the issue both in the present with all the requisite statistics and ancient viewpoints of various peoples in the ANE. The chapter concludes with the viewpoint of Christianity and on page 22 formulates five key concepts on what he calls “the personal eschatology of Scripture”. While we Christians might debate certain elements of those five key concepts, there’s no doubt he has set the parameters of this issue correctly.

The next chapter discusses death itself. That requires a deep look into biblical anthropology as well as defining the soul. You will start seeing in this chapter what you will enjoy throughout the whole book: he masterfully marshals the appropriate Scriptures, exegetes them carefully, and draws out appropriate theology. He dodges nothing. Even tough subjects like Saul consulting a witch to bring up Samuel is analyzed. Chapter 3 looks into the resurrection. As that doctrine is key to Christianity itself, he is thorough in looking at it from every vantage point.

Chapter 4 considers judgment. It was in this chapter that I had some disagreement with him because I hold to a pre-millennial viewpoint of prophecy. At times I thought the pre-millennial system would easily remove a few jams he became entangled in with Scripture exegesis. Still, I appreciated the spirit with which he would often mention how premillennialists would look at the situation, and how he was gracious when he disagreed.

Chapter 5 looks at the widely debated subject of Hell. He did a great job discussing the debate as it stands today, what had been believed in the past, and how to think about the issue today. While I might take a few things mentioned in Scripture more literally than he does, he doesn’t dodge that the Bible says a great deal about that unpleasant subject. The final chapter looks at Heaven. Heaven has been recast in modern days as this wonderful place that everyone is going to, so he takes this past our self-produced fictions of heaven to see what the Bible actually has to say. Again, he helps us look at all the appropriate Scriptures.

This book is at once helpful and important. It’s the perfect book to get your bearings straight on a theological subject that usually has more heat than light applied to it.

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.

John (Pillar) by D. A. Carson

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This commentary on the Gospel of John (Pillar New Testament Commentary series) by the renowned D. A. Carson has stood as a giant among commentaries for several years now. Glowing reviews can be found in a multitude of places. Carson himself comes the closest to having a following of any scholar I know. He’s conservative, sharp, thorough, and never fears going on record with what he believes. My guess is that the publishers of this series will hold on to this title for a long time, and if there’s ever any revision done it will be done by Carson himself.

Since Mr. Carson never beats around the bush about what he believes, he is particularly adept at writing an Introduction. He doesn’t meander through scholarly prognostications, but lines them up, assesses them quickly, and shoots down the ones that don’t deserve to stand. You will learn what he believes, why he believes it, and why it is right! Whether you will agree that he is right or not, his style of writing sticks in your mind and makes an impression long after other things would be forgotten.

He begins by explaining some distinctive characteristics of John’s Gospel. That section opens up issues that will reappear in many ways later. His second section has to do with the early reception of John’s Gospel. He sifts a lot of history quickly and makes a strong case for his opinion. As he moves closer to present times, he effectively banishes some of the stranger scholarly reconstructions that have been foisted upon John. In the third section on authenticity he gets into evaluating source criticism as well as some other critical analyses. To be the conservative hero that he is, he occasionally steps farther into criticism than I would expect, but his conclusions still come down firmly in the conservative camp. These discussions, of course, lead naturally to one about the relation of John and the Synoptics. At length, he gets to the section on the authorship of John’s Gospel. In my opinion, he particularly excelled in this section. After you read this section, you will see that attempts to discredit the possibility that John the Apostle wrote this gospel are more smoke and mirrors than reality. In the section on the date and provenance of John’s Gospel he well surveys the field before he arrives at a date around A.D. 80-85. Another section on the purpose of John’s Gospel is enlightening as is the one on the theological emphases in John. He barely discusses structure before he provides us with an outline.

The commentary proper is the same thoughtful, careful, determined work that you found in the Introduction. The Gospel of John is one of the most important books in the Bible, and I have two or three special commentaries on John that I never fail to consult when looking at a passage in John. This commentary is one of those volumes. You could almost label this commentary “famous”. Believe it or not, it’s quality can bear its fame.

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 Origin of Paul’s Gospel by Seyoon Kim–A Classic!

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The designation “classic” isn’t trite regarding this groundbreaking study by Seyoon Kim. It would not be hyperbole to say that this book could stand up against the 10 top books on the New Perspective on Paul and still come out ahead. With scholarly wizardry, Mr. Kim neuters the arguments of the NPP’s most influential proponents. While we can’t deny that this book leans heavily to the technical side, nor dispute the fact that it might be beyond the reach of the beginning student, it’s a tour de force on how to marshal the Scriptures themselves to craft tight arguments rather than the nebulous fair that much of the scholarly world releases these days.

Chapter 1 is essential to rank the most important elements of Paul, his theology, and his background. Chapter 2 is about Paul the persecutor and reviews his life before the Damascus experience. Many scholars hijack this background to form the basis of the later conclusions about Paul. As you will see here, they stretch a few facts much too thinly as well as creating others from thin air.

Chapter 3 is about Paul’s incredible experience on the road to Damascus. Mr. Kim returns to the clear portrait of Scripture that meeting Christ on the road to Damascus is exactly what changed Paul’s life and led to everything he believed. It’s sad that the scholarly world would rob us of the obvious and replace it with something that is obscure at best. Chapter 4 looks at Paul’s gospel, the revelation behind it and the mystery involved in his New Testament revelation. The balance of the book is three extended chapters on the Christology and soteriology at the core of Paul’s teaching.

There are a few other amazing things in this book. I was impressed with the extensive exegesis that was done on all kinds of passages. Fortunately, there are great indexes that makes this book an outstanding reference volume on your shelves as well. There are sections of this book that served better as a reference than afternoon reading. Still, the depth of thought is incredible.

We owe Wipf and Stock Publishers a debt of gratitude for keeping this important work in print. For the record, this book will still be important 20 years from now. It’s hard to explain how influential this book has been. In any event, it deserves a place in every serious library New Testament today.

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.

1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing

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Who would’ve thought that 1983 was so pivotal? I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on Ronald Reagan and thought the mantra was Reagan and Gorbachev, not Reagan and Andropov! This book for me was a shocking revelation. In addition to its revealing nature, this book is as fortuitous in its timing as I’ve seen in a long time. We live in the days when the fear of nuclear war has been taken from the closet, dusted off, and put prominently back on the shelf. There’s North Korea, there’s Iran, and Russia is starting to seem more 1983 than 2018.

When I say that this book is a shock for me, it’s not only the major history from the 1980s that I was clueless about, but worse it’s the fact that we almost had a nuclear war and the United States wasn’t even aware of it at the time. I pray we figured something out since then, but it’s all a little unnerving in light of where confidence in the United States government falls on the scale at this moment.

This book reads well and is hard to put down, which is quite a feat since you know we didn’t have nuclear war 30 years ago. The author, Taylor Downing, has done some interesting research into some recently-declassified material. I can see why they waited a while to release it! We owe a debt of gratitude to our intelligence services, but it appears they let one slip by them here. The author has a background in producing documentaries and looking into these overlooked subjects. Isn’t it strange that someone from Great Britain produced this book of so critical an episode in our history that has been often overlooked?

The book isn’t perfect. Though I appreciated much of what he had to say once he got to this crisis, I thought he caricatured Ronald Reagan leading up to that event. Of course, President Reagan responded as he went along but it was always from core principles. The pre-Gorbachev “warmonger” Ronald Reagan was the same man as the post-Gorbachev peacemaking Ronald Reagan. The results he managed to get were the ones he was always after. I doubt the same could be said of Gorbachev who I’m sure never intended to lose the Soviet Union.

This book is so good, interesting, and revealing that to say much about it would make me a spoiler. Part of the enjoyment of this book will be the surprises you will gain as you go. There will be events you’re aware of such as the death of three Soviet presidents before Gorbachev, the shooting down of a Korean civilian jet, the “evil empire” comment, and so much more, but I promise you there’s so much you didn’t know too.

The year 1983 never stood out to me before and I’m even a Ronald Reagan fan. It’s a big deal to me now – I’ll never think of 1983 the same again. For that reason, how could I label this book anything other than a success?

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.

Check it out here.

We Want You Here by Rainer

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This attractive hardback is a resource to put in the hands of visitors to your church. Thom Rainer, who has provided so many church resources, wrote this book. Since guests have such a wide variety of backgrounds, it took a lot of skill to pitch this book at a level that could catch the attention of many. It seems to me that Rainer pulled it off.

The first chapter gives five good reasons that the visitor is wanted at your church. Chapter 2 is one that not so much lowers expectations as it changes expectations. Gone is the idea that the church is a place of perfect people, yet there remains the high expectation that we as broken people will be loving to the broken people who visit us. Chapter 3 advertises the beauty of relationship. Chapter 4 talks about strengthening families in the context of the variety of family situations. Chapter 5 introduces God and is gently evangelistic. Chapter 6 encourages coming and being part of it while the last chapter thanks them for coming.

The chapters are short and easy to read without sacrificing what needs communicating. It’s classic Rainer. As a pastor, I’d be happy to put this attractive resource in visitor’s hands.

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.

Isaiah (NIVAC) by Oswalt

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I love this book. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in the New International Version Application Commentary (NIVAC) series. Two words come to mind about the content of this commentary: mature and conservative. The tough questions are in no way dodged and quality, robust analysis can be found on every page. It probably helped that John Oswalt had already turned out an impressive commentary on Isaiah in the NICOT series. This second pass is something special.

The Introduction to Isaiah that he provides is rich, probing, and something different. Not that he fails to cover the normal introductory issues, but how he succeeds in tying these introductory issues to contemporary life is something to behold. The historical background he provides is a page turner. His conclusions in the section on authorship and date blow much of the absurd liberal scholarship that Isaiah has been subjected to right out of the water. The section on the central themes of Isaiah bring the book alive. He discusses the uniqueness of Jehovah, servanthood, the Lord of history, and realized righteousness. There’s some quality theology all across that section.

The commentary itself is excellent and follows the typical pattern of this series. Whether you agree with every conclusion he makes or not, you will find this commentary an outstanding asset to your studies. You need 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.

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton

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Mark this systematic theology down as one that tries to unite deep theological thinking with living the Christian life. The Christian Faith by Michael Horton provides another viewpoint and presentation for those doing systematic theological study. The volume truly has its own voice and in no way regurgitates what other major systematic theologies have to say.

Be sure to check out the introductory chapter that lays out both his ideas of doctrine and theology as well as a description of what he will attempt to do in this volume. He states that he is “writing from the perspective of a reformed Christian living in North America”. He admits that he doesn’t speak for all Christians but hopes to speak to all Christians in this book. While sticking to his own perspective, he also emphasizes that the Christian faith is one faith.

Part One is five chapters on knowing God where he discusses the presuppositions of theology and covers the doctrine of the Scriptures. Part Two is about the God who lives and in three chapters he discusses the doctrine of God and the Holy Trinity. Part Three is five chapters on the God who creates which will discuss his view of predestination, creation, providence, as well as the doctrine of man. Part Four is three chapters on the God who rescues which covers the doctrine of Christ. Part Five is 10 chapters on the God who reigns in grace that covers the doctrines of salvation and the church. The final part discusses in three chapters the God who reigns in glory which is a look at eschatology. As you can see, he organizes the material of systematic theology in a different fashion that I’ve seen others do.

I’m glad to have this volume on my shelves. It may not be the first systematic theology that I will pull out when I’m studying a particular doctrine, but it is one I plan to consult in any detailed study of theology that I’m digging into. It’s a boon to a Bible student to have an asset like this volume that approaches the subject from a different angle. You will see listed in the book an impressive array of respected theologians who highly recommend this book. It’s one that you will want to check out!

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.