The Identity and Attributes of God by Terry Johnson

I must best describe this book as pure joy. I’d heard good things about it, but had been warned that it is heavily imbibed with quotations. To my mind, that usually doesn’t work. In those cases the author seems more of a compiler than a writer. I wondered going in if this would be more of a good reference than a good read. The more I read, the more my weak expectations were proven wrong.

The book is full of quotations, so how did the author pull it off? By picking the very best quotes, by seamlessly weaving them into the work, and by then writing thoughtfully around them. In the end, you get rich theology for your mind and warmth for soul. This is not a compilation. This is a book!

This book doesn’t address ever attribute, but covers some of the most important ones to ingest. After a discussion of God, the Trinity, and what the incommunicable attributes are, those of God as Creator and of His providence are brought to light. One of the best sections was holiness. Another favorite was goodness. I gained so much from it. The one on love started slower but really pierced my heart by end.

The book ends abruptly, but the author has delivered another volume on other attributes from another publisher.

You’ll see a pastor’s heart and a theologian’s precision throughout your read of this precious book. If this book doesn’t help you, I doubt you’re even trying.

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.

Christian Theology by Adam Harwood

Here’s a new Systematic Theology that fulfills a distinct need on two fronts. First, it’s a bit more manageable than most systematic theologies without sacrificing the needed depth. Second, it’s from a distinctly Baptist perspective. In that vein, it doesn’t follow the Calvinistic approach that clearly dominates the systematic theology market. That difference means you get more perspective as several other popular volumes are so closely aligned as to render some redundant.

There’s also a unique presentation here that allows one new avenues of thinking. As I was reading, I was struck with how this material was obviously honed through years of interacting with students. Every section was quite approachable and useful. Only in the section on Last Things did I feel he left some questions unanswered, or at least gave a briefer treatment.

Who would benefit most from this book? Pastors will appreciate it for sure. It would also be a boon to one embarking on their first attempt at a really deep, thorough study. Several other such volumes might sink your studies by their opaque style, but that is not the case here. Even if you can handle those volumes, this one still gives a different perspective like I mentioned before that makes it still particularly valuable.

I keep a stack of 3-4 systematic theologies always close by. This one will join them on that often-used pile.

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.

Acts (CSC) by Patrick Schreiner

This latest release in the Christian Standard Commentary (CSC) series is the first to replace an author from the NAC that the CSC is replacing. To be honest, I was surprised to see the John Pohill work replaced as I had enjoyed using it in the past. In the author’s preface where he mentioned the type of commentary Pohill and others had written, he laid out his desire to especially focus on “the narritival and theological content of Acts with an eye toward the ecclesial.” I only had to start reading before I realized that he was on to something.

He begins the introduction by telling us of the main proposals for the “theological heart” of Acts. From there he develops quite convincingly this theme as our Triune God sharing with us. He traces the big picture through the Father, the Son, the Spirit, the Word, salvation, the church, and witnessing. Now that’s what I call getting the big picture. The Trinitarian perspective is brilliant and undoubtedly correct.

Next, he takes on narrative, genre, Lucan concerns, and structure and imparts much meaningful material along the way. There are even some helpful graphs provided. He ends with traditional introductory issues and has conservative conclusions.

The commentary proper is at once well researched and well written. Despite the expertise, I think pastors and Bible students can score a winner in this volume.

Count be as won over! This is a real treat.

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 Servant of the Lord and His Servant People (NSBT) by Matthew Harmon

Here’s another interesting title in the the NSBT series that is a series with some of the most incredible variety of any that I know. Though there are several books on slavery in biblical times and ones on the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, and though there are many devotional titles on being a servant, this theological treatise carves out its own niche.

It has an interesting introduction that looks at the words in Hebrew and Greek that can be translated as either slave or servant. It well explains what a challenge it can be and how it all depends on the context as the words have quite a range of meanings.

In chapters 2-5 Harmon explores four key OT characters as servants. Adam, Moses, Joshua, and David are quite effectively presented as servants though not rigidly in the same way. Good stuff!

The next two chapters cover the Isaianic servant and Jesus the servant par excellence in turn. From there a group, the apostles, are covered including Paul, Peter, and others. Finally, the church in each part of the NT is presented as a servant people.

In addition to the interesting theme, every passage used has carefully done exegesis for you. That has its own distinct value and can be used in study of the passages themselves.

This volume joins other recent releases in the series as a winner. I’m not 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.

Ezra-Nehemiah (ZECOT) by Gary V. Smith

I’ve loved all the ZECOT volumes releases to date, but this latest entry by Gary Smith deserves special commendation. Perhaps he has grasped the format of the ZECOT the best I’ve seen so far. His work is good; his presentation is near perfect. I even enjoyed it more than his widely-received work on Isaiah (NAC/CSC). In that vein, I liked it more than a recent release on Ezra and Nehemiah in the NICOT series as well.

After a bibliography and translation, he dives into a strong Introduction. He begins with a clear presentation of historical background. It’s spruced up with some pictures and graphs that were particularly effective. His conclusions are conservative here as well as the following section on date and authorship. The concluding work on literary features is his best work here and, of course, matches the distinctive contribution of the ZECOT series.

The commentary proper is even better and continues the use of timely charts. Every section gives a main idea, the literary context, structure and literary form (rich), explanation of text ( what most are looking for), and canonical and theological significance (perceptive).

This is one to get!

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.

Sermons and Addresses of George Smeaton

Here’s an attractive new volume by popular older theological writer George Smeaton. You probably are aware of his influential writings on the Holy Spirit and the Atonement that have been around for 140 years. In this new release sermons and addresses are collected and presented to us in one book.

The book begins with a fine biographical sketch by John Keddie. This is particularly valuable since there has been so little written on Smeaton. Since there’s so little for Keddie to draw from, there’s much more on his career than his personal life. His ministry and theological writing are well described as well as several theological controversies of his time that he was involved in. Next, the Introduction gives a few details on these sermons and addresses. What is unique about these addresses are how they really add to a biographical understanding of Smeaton themselves.

The first five are excellent sermons that have both an exceptional theological basis and a clearly experiential side. The next two look at the profound revival of his time. The one “The Improvement of a Revival Time” makes you pine for what we know so little of. The last several are excellent yet give good historical background and strong encouragement particularly for preachers.

This beautiful hardback is the perfect setting for these writings. I think you’ll like them.

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 Lost Sermons of Spurgeon (Collector’s Edition) Volume 6

This beautiful set of Spurgeon’s early sermons continues in this volume 6. The spine of this collector’s edition is green but the exquisite look remains. What a set this is turning out to be!

The Foreward this time is by Mark Dever and focuses on Spurgeon and the art of preaching. He discusses the calling and what it entailed according to Spurgeon. From there, he discusses Spurgeon’s advice on preaching. All good stuff!

After reprinting the Introduction from previous volumes, and a few pictures of Spurgeon’s notes, the sermons begin with the first one a lovely one on Immanuel. I love how the notes always tell us if he had a later sermon on the text and whether there are similarities. I remember the later one on Jehovah Jireh but the one here really isn’t the same. The other notes are fascinating as well.

The sermons are awesome again. Anyone who loves Spurgeon needs these volumes! Anyone who loves preaching needs them too. I give it the highest possible recommendation!

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.

Philippians (TNTC) by Jeannine Brown

Philippians is the latest new release in the rapidly unfolding complete revision of the time-honored Tyndale New Testament Commentary series. Brown replaces the somewhat controversial Ralph Martin volume that was itself a revision of his earlier work. Without doubt, that Martin volume took the most criticism in the series. For that reason, this is a welcome replacement.

This work, fortunately, is not going to be as controversial. I wouldn’t call this book riveting as it aims slightly more toward scholars than is typical of this series. At times, what Bible students or pastors would want takes a back seat to more scholarly interests. The author seemed quite knowledgeable, but took, perhaps, too academic an outlook for this series.

I also saw something, too, in this volume that I had not seen in any other I could remember. When I said it had an academic tone, it seemed as though she wrote for younger seminary students. She would explain what she was talking about as if it were the reader’s first encounter with the subject. For example, when discussing reconstructing the situation of the Philippians she had two full paragraphs on how to have a balanced approach in historical reconstruction. That would be helpful to a new student but perhaps others wouldn’t like it. She sounded like a professor teaching at many points.

I’m not suggesting this is a bad commentary just that it might not be for all tastes. She is an accomplished scholar and has written and edited major works. Perhaps that is more her forte than a work for Bible students and pastors or the typical TNTC user.

Still, she handled Philippians 2 far better than Martin did and has for sure superseded his work. I wouldn’t want this volume to be my only one for Philippians, but it one be fine as one of a few I’d consult.

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.

FDR by Jean Edward Smith (Presidential Bio. Series)

FDR is clearly one of our most consequential presidents. Smith is one of the best presidential biographers. I knew, then, this would be a good read and I was not disappointed.

Admittedly, I started this biography with some negative impressions of him. Since Smith is an ardent admirer of Roosevelt (and a near worshipper of Eleanor), I felt I’d be giving my best shot at not viewing all through the lens of my bias. Where did I land when I finished this book? As I thought, the New Deal did a few short term positives (CCC) but I am even more convinced of it being a long term disaster. In a sense, WWII bailed it out from full exposure. On a positive note, he was, I readily admit, an effective war time leader. This book raised my grade substantially on his war leadership.

This biography showed his being raised in privilege, his tight relationship with his mother, his charming nature, his ambition, and his pride. He was a master politician who perfected the art of propaganda and was a user of people. For example, early in his political career he aligned with the Prohibition wing of his party while being famous for loving to drink and mix martinis for guests. He often fought for progressive policies for the disadvantaged while never living a moment of his life in their shoes. He was vengeful and if you ever really crossed him he never forgot. Just before the war and after unprecedented legislative success, he had a period of political missteps that even Smith admitted were born of his hubris.

The book didn’t cover up his sham of a marriage, at least after having several kids. He carried on an obvious affair that he little tried to hide. Finally, it put his career in jeopardy and he stepped back though he kept her in his life at times and she was with him when he died. Strangely, Smith praises them for sticking together in a completely loveless marriage to remain a powerful political couple.

In my presidential biography reviews, I always try to notice the religious side of the man. Had you asked FDR, he would have quickly said he was a Christian . Perhaps he helped create a Christianity that is pervasive in our day. More than a matter of faith reaching the heart, his was more tied up in his heritage. It’s what the Roosevelts and Delanos were much like they were New Yorkers. It really didn’t affect his life in any meaningful way except being against the more grotesque atrocities. Though you might could argue that he took what Woodrow Wilson started and put it over the top, he in no way had the deep religious feelings that Wilson had. I think Wilson was off base, but he thought he was following the Bible. FDR would be more likely to quote the Bible when it was politically expedient.

This book also showed me that he should be commended for how he had the grit to face the crippling affects of polio. He also likely would not have run for a third and fourth term had not the events leading up to World War II started happening. Also, everyone knew around him that he would never survive his fourth term though everyone kept it quiet. Finally, despite all the glaring character flaws I’ve mentioned, he was eminently likable.

How he rose to the heights he did in WW2 is beyond me. I agree with most of his decisions throughout. The friendship he forged with Churchhill was both real and prudent. I even see his wisdom regarding Stalin. He stretched the rules at times, and though I despise his sometimes blatant disregard for the Constitution, I can begrudgingly agree with a few wartime choices, kind of like a few things Lincoln did. Can you imagine our country today had Hitler won? Those are the only cases where the lines can be legitimately fudged I would cautiously argue.

FDR deserves some credit for saving the republic in WW2 while he set in motion actions that may still destroy it. How’s that for consequential?

For the biography itself, it’s top notch. A step below Chernow and McCullough, but not below many others. It’s only failure was its ending. You’re reading along and FDR dies and the book abruptly ends. No funeral, no postscript, no nothing. Still, I so enjoyed reading it.

Ezra and Nehemiah (NICOT) by Harrington

This book replaces the thirty-year-old Charles Fensham volume that had been widely used. This new entry is much more geared to scholarly types than the more pastor-friendly earlier work. Most new NICOT volumes lean that direction, but this one seems to especially answer the detailed questions that scholars ask. I imagine scholars would rank it highly while pastors might only marshal information from it that would require them to put it together themselves. There is a place for such works, but make your expectations in that direction.

If you are after introductory issues, you’ll get over 90 detailed pages here. Some subjects will be more illuminating than others, but I can’t think of any omissions. The sections on the text and date cover many ideas with mostly conservative conclusions at until a discussion of the final compilation of the books. The discussion of setting covers some themes and structure clearly in the latest parlance. The final 2/3 of the Introduction covers historical background and is the best work here. With that information you can reconstruct the times with distinct advantage. As I understand it, themes of Second Temple Judaism are a specialty of the author. It shows. I thought it was good except when she put how Ezra and Nehemiah dealt with mixed marriages as harsher than, and perhaps a departure from, the Pentateuch. Could not the Lord for His Own purposes have led them to take a stronger stand during times of the acute stress of a seventy year captivity? Our scholarship can collapse under its own weight if we disconnect it from Whose word it is.

The commentary proper exhibits what we found in the Introduction. Expert scholarship that outranks its theology. The bibliography and copious footnotes show the author’s scholarly prowess. Application is not really in view. Take the mass of quality scholarship and make your own application . Then you will be able to squeeze out all this book has to offer.

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.