Foundations of the Christian Faith by Boice

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Here’s a book that deserves to slide not only onto your shelves among your important systematic theologies, but also to be open on your desk. James Montgomery Boice was the quintessential pastor-scholar. In other words, there’s real scholarly depth in what he shares to go along with a full-orbed real-life outlook. I’ve used several of his volumes that cover books of the Bible to real profit. I’ve seen glowing recommendations in book review sources printed in the 1980s of the original four volumes that later turned into this volume as well as the current reviews that suggest the luster hasn’t faded as is often the case in many academic titles. It’s nice to finally get my own crack at it.

What, then, is my own opinion of its value? Strangely enough, I opened it first to the section on the Spirit of God because I had been doing some in-depth study on that doctrine. I noticed two things quickly: a) he had something to say that was worth wrestling with, and b) it was not a regurgitation of what I just recently read in the well-known systematic theologies I consulted.  As I looked further into the book, I then saw that the section on the Spirit wasn’t even the best one in the book!

The book is an attractive hardback that also now has a study guide. I don’t agree with every conclusion he arrives at, but this is a quality resource. Better still, for pastors, it will help you see how to take deep theological concepts and make them palpable to those in the pew without devolving into watered-down, calorie-free doctrine trying to pass itself off as a real theological meal.

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.

Marriage–A Helpful New Book!

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When I first picked up this book that professes to address marriage in its foundation, theology, and mission in a changing world and scanned the table of contents I thought—what a hodgepodge. Then, after closing the book at its end I thought—it worked! Somehow a book with 5 editors and dozens of authors came out with a unified, big-picture presentation of the Lord’s intention for marriage.

Section 1 contains four chapters on foundational issues. Looking back to the Trinity and its relation to marriage turns out to be the perfect starting place. Just read and you will see. From there, we look at Jesus in particular and the idea of commitment. Marriage gets such deep spade work here that how its presented in Scripture, the mistake of cohabitation, and the “high calling” of marriage along with the dignity of singleness all are unearthed. All these subjects will reappear later, but you’ll be better prepared because of this foundational view.

Section 2 addresses what it calls “description”. It’s almost like another pass at what Section 1 brought out, now with yet more depth. I have no idea how this section somehow presents theological understanding, addresses current societal derailments, and provides help for the challenges of marriage that all married Christians face at varying levels. Embodiment (you’ll enjoy knowing what that means), both the beauty and design of marriage, the biblical necessity of gender, and help with intimacy show up here.

Section 3 gives four helpful chapters on our brokenness in marriage. Again, there’s counsel on repairing that brokenness and restoring the beauty of marriage with even an in-depth discussion of marriage and divorce in Scripture. Section 4 presents four final chapters on mission and marriage. There’s even encouragement and guidance for churches to assist people with marriage.

As I said before, this book far exceeds my initial expectations. In addition to reading it through, it will serve as an excellent resource for a wide array of subjects that intersect with marriage that can be consulted as needed. It’s an attractive hardback that will bless Christians if it gets the large readership that it deserves.

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 Message of the Holy Spirit (BST) by Keith Warrington

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The Holy Spirit is expertly drawn by Keith Warrington from all across Scripture in this helpful volume that’s part of the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. I’ve used BST volumes on various books of the Bible for a long time but have really started loving these ones on Bible Themes. The design is simple but laudable: develop the doctrine directly from properly-exegeted texts. You probably have your systematic theology volumes at hand, but these books come from another angle and add something meaningful to your studies. I’ve not seen a loser among those I’ve perused.

After a bibliography and a brief Introduction, this book jumps in at Genesis and starts finding the Holy Spirit. The flow of argument follows the path the best works on the Holy Spirit do. We have two chapters on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Next, the author lingers over the relationship of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in six chapters covering the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. In my estimation, this section carried the most bullion on its pages. Part Three, as you would expect, presents the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. The final seven chapters on the Holy Spirit in the Epistles covers many additional doctrinal subjects involving the Spirit such as gifts, the role in salvation, sealing, unity, and filling. You need not agree with every point made to glean from this careful walkthrough of the most important biblical passages on the subject.

I enjoyed this book, underlined many sentences, wrote the most important page numbers in the front to be able to return to them, and clarified many points along the way. What more could I ask for from this book well worth seeking 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.

The Gospel of Mark by Witherington

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Perhaps you’ve already used other works by prolific commentator Ben Witherington. If so, you’ll know what to expect—broad research, lively writing, and a socio-rhetorical emphasis. This work on Mark is up to the same level as others of his that I have used. No one understands how he gets such copious amounts of writing done, but that is not ours to know. What is apparent is that he grades out well on quality amid all that quantity.

The Introduction will prove that he’s not skimming but probing deeply all the scholarly questions. In the first sections, unsurprisingly, he addresses genre and rhetoric. Next, he wades through Mark’s sources. I find both his ideas and the overall importance of the whole question of sources off the mark, but he again is clear as a bell on explaining what he thinks. There are, however, some good points on Mark’s style that he digs out that help no matter your perspective on sources themselves. From there he slides into authorship and dates Mark from 66 to 70. I enjoyed his explanation of Mark’s social context much more. You’ll find plenty of insights there as well as the next section on structure. He gives perceptive analysis on both Mark’s Christology and the widely-debated Messianic Secret viewpoint. All in all, the Introduction is a deep dive running over 60 pages.

The commentary proper maintains his level of work. You’ll see things introduced in the Introduction fleshed out even more in the commentary. There’s real value here and the writing remains engaging throughout.

I don’t always agree with Witherington’s conclusions, but I appreciate the clarity that he presents his with. Some scholarly writing so entertains differing viewpoints that you’re not quite sure which ones the author holds. Witherington will not fail you on that count ever.

While this commentary would not be my first choice for an exegetical commentary, it’s an excellent volume to give another angle. He’s not a parrot of any other commentator and that means you will get food for thought throughout.

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.

A Legacy of Preaching–A Great Two-Volume Set!

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Every preacher will want this set! Occasionally, a book about the history of preaching will come along and serve as a mighty motivating force for preachers. Dedication, zeal, power—all put on display in the lives of the best preachers of days gone by. It’s been at least 20 years since a book that blends biography and preaching counsel in a way that makes you want to grab a biblical text and get going has come along. This set, edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Kevin L. King, Bill Curtis, and Dwayne Milioni, has filled that lacuna for our generation.

Improving on the works of previous decades, this book employs a winning design. First, specialists on the subject were secured to pen each entry. Second, each writer had to follow the same format: historical background (biography), theology of preaching, methodology for preaching, and contributions to preaching. There’s even a helpful bibliography for each entry. This format was particularly helpful. You got to know the preacher and his preaching. You could say that the approach maximized the impact you could glean from each one.

Volume One covered the Apostles to the Revivalists. You got to think of Paul and Peter as preachers before heading into some of the Church Fathers. Next, Medieval times were covered including Bernard of Clairvaux, John Huss, and Girolamo Savonarola. The Reformers including Luther, Tyndale, and Calvin as preachers were given a look next. Puritan greats Perkins, Baxter, Owen, Bunyan, and Henry were great selections in that group of preachers. Only four revivalists were covered including Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield, but they were preaching giants.

Volume Two that covered the Enlightenment through modern times was even better. I love Nineteenth-Century British preaching and so was Part One here was my favorite in either volume. Alexander Maclaren and Charles Spurgeon are two of my favorite preaching heroes and real insights could be gained from their entries. I’ve read much on both of them, but I learned more here. The story of Gipsy Smith surprised me too.

Many more outstanding entries finished out the book. You might quibble over a few selections or omissions, (Where was G. Campbell Morgan?), but these volumes are pure gold. Mark them off as must-have books for the preacher! I’ll be consulting my set many times in the coming years I’m sure.

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.