Pastoral Theology by Akin and Pace

book pastoral theology

Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace team to provide us with an outstanding volume on pastoral theology. Its design is what sets it apart from others in the field. It aims at more than the “what” by focusing on the “why”. That doesn’t mean that the book isn’t practical, but that it draws its practicality by providing the reader with a stronger desire to take pastoral work seriously.

The book begins with more theological foundation and builds to pastoral ministry. Section One has three chapters covering theological, Christological, and pneumatological doctrine and the relationship for the pastor and God’s character, champion, and Companion.

Section Two covers anthropology, ecclesiology, and missiology. This guides us even more to ministry. From there, the book blossoms into a passionate plea for preaching and pastoral ministry. Every page was full of nuggets. I don’t see how any preacher couldn’t be deeply challenged, guided, and encouraged. The chapter on balancing our families in ministry is worth the price of the book.

This book succeeds on both the level of theology and ministry. I can’t imagine a better book for pastoral theology. Let’s read it and remind ourselves why our ministry is so critically important and how scriptural the ministry is!

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 Counselor by A. W. Tozer

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Here’s another Tozer title that elicits soul searching. Moody Publishers now prints several of his titles and this one is slightly longer than some of the others I have seen. As you can imagine, this is another volume on the Holy Spirit. That was always a favorite subject for Tozer and he doesn’t disappoint here.  He reminds us of the Person of the Holy Spirit and entices us to be filled with the Spirit. If you are a Tozer reader, that will come as no surprise. Though he returned to this theme again and again in his writings, this one is the best I’ve seen from him on the subject so far.

He begins by explaining the Holy Spirit comes only when Jesus Christ is glorified. That entire chapter was outstanding and a great springboard for the book. He is in no way trite when he argues that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come through the intellect. In chapter 3 he comes at our churches. He says, “The Holy Spirit can be absent and the pastor goes on turning the crank, and nobody finds it out for years and years.” Ouch!

He is very sensible in what can be replicated from Pentecost and what cannot. He believes that the filling of the Spirit always arrives in an instant. In chapter 6 he turns the spotlight on we readers and how to evaluate. In the next chapter he explains spiritual gifts followed by the probing chapter on what we really need. The last chapter is a plea to be holy and not block the fullness of the Spirit.

Add this title to the string of pearls known as Tozer’s writings. It’s another winner.

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 Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters by Kostenberger

book john theology

This book covers a great deal of territory on the Gospel of John. Prolific commentator, Andreas Kostenberger, has written an outstanding volume here. Think of it as a book that summarizes all the issues and themes that scholars often talk about involving John’s Gospel to put beside your commentaries on John. Zondervan is putting out a whole series called the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) in eight volumes to cover the New Testament. Authors in the series are required to have already written a commentary on one of the books in their section. Mr. Kostenberger has already written a highly-rated commentary on John in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series. Though its stated audience is for upper college and seminary-level students, I found it, as a pastor, accessible and easier to read than many volumes of its kind.

Part 1 of this book provides the historical framework for Johannine theology. He begins in chapter 1 by explaining how John is a “spiritual gospel” and breaks down how he intends to approach his subject in this book. In chapter 2 he approaches the much-discussed subject of the Johannine community. That hypothesis has a lot of baggage and he expertly guides us through it. There’s a great deal of scholarly interaction in this section too. Next, he tackles typical introductory matters including authorship, date, provenance, and destination. He arrives at conservative conclusions while well surveying the field. In every section of this book, remember he addresses both John’s Gospel and the Epistles of John. In a sense, it’s a two-for-one deal.

In part 2, he wades through what he calls literary foundations for Johannine theology. That involves a discussion of genre which he carries out in great detail. Don’t miss chapter 3. It’s a motherlode of extraordinary information of what he calls linguistic and literary dimensions of John’s Gospel and letters. I found so much information there that greatly expanded my thinking on the Gospel of John.

Chapter 4 is a nice, lengthy literary-theological reading of John’s Gospel followed by a chapter in the same vein on John’s letters. Part 3 discusses major themes in John’s theology. There’s a chapter on John’s worldview and use of Scripture, one on the Messiah and His signs, one on the word as creation and new creation, one on the Trinity, one on the festivals and the symbolism involved, one on the trial of Christ, one on the new messianic community, one on John’s love ethic, one on his theology of the cross, and finally one on mission. Part 4 is basically a summary and a discussion of how John’s theology fits in with the rest of Scripture. The book ends with a lengthy bibliography.

This is now the third volume in this series that I have reviewed, and the quality is high. In fact, in this volume on John, I can’t think of another volume that covers the subject so broadly and so well. This is an indispensable volume for the student of John.

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.

Handbook of Biblical Criticism (Fourth Edition)

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This book is handy to have near the desk. I’ve used an older addition when Richard Soulen authored alone to great advantage in the past, but this view, fourth edition, now co-authored with R. Kendall Soulen is even better. Pretty much any term you may encounter in scholarly reading that is obscure to you will be explained succinctly in this book. They cover technical terms, names, tools, and interpretive approaches. I noticed this later edition covers even more interpretive approaches from other parts of the world that you especially might not be familiar with.

For me, the book’s value is in its quick explanation of terms that I just didn’t know. He further helps me in words I’m a little fuzzy on or that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Even in words I knew well, it was a help to see their careful explanation in a small compass. In cases where the entry warranted, I noticed articles that were longer than in the previous edition.

The entries cover all the bases. Terms about various types of criticism, special grammatical terms, famous biblical texts, scholars who had a major impact in biblical interpretation, and the latest approaches are all covered. Several entries have helpful bibliographies attached.

Again, this is the perfect book to have on hand to grab for that quickly needed explanation while you’re in the middle of other study. I’m glad to have it near and I highly 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.

Of God and Men A.W. Tozer

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This title is not as well-known as many of A.W. Tozer’s other volumes. Don’t let that lack of fame fool you as it has all the qualities that we have come to love in Mr. Tozer. In fact, even more than some of his other books he lived up to his title of modern-day prophet here. A few times he even sounded angry at our casual, carnal Christianity. He couldn’t suffer spiritual foolishness easily.

At 167 pages, this book is an easy, yet profound read. The chapters are short, but pack a punch. He knew God from the Scriptures and personal relationship and he knew men from his own heart and ministering to others. His clear perceptions sparkle on every page.

I’m sure what sticks out to me may not be the same thing that sticks out to you, but several things did stick out to me. I love his chapter on holiness before happiness. He compares Christians to soldiers who do not seek to be happy on the battlefield, but who seek to get the war over with so he can go home to his loved ones. Home is where you’ll find happiness. His point is that we be a good soldier no matter what as we have great happiness to come.

Another favorite chapter was on how not all faith pleases God. He said, “let us beware that the Jesus we ‘accept’ is not one we have created out of the dust of our imagination and formed after our own likeness”. I also loved the chapter on backing into our convictions. One other chapter that I especially appreciated was the one on cultivating simplicity and solitude. There he admonished us to avoid the “digest type of mind” that loves short facts. Wow, if he could see us now!

This is another great Tozer title that will bless your soul.

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 Theology of Mark’s Gospel by David Garland

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This book is the equivalent of a whole shelf of books on the Gospel of Mark. Veteran commentator, David Garland, has written an ideal volume here. Think of it as a book that summarizes all the issues and themes that scholars often talk about involving Mark’s Gospel to put beside your commentaries on Mark. Fortunately, Zondervan is putting out a whole series called the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) in eight volumes to cover the New Testament. Authors in the series are required to have already written a commentary on one of the books in their section. Mr. Garland has already written a commentary on Mark in the NIVAC series. Though its stated audience is for upper college and seminary-level students, I found it, as a pastor, accessible and easier to read than many volumes of its kind.

The book is divided into two parts, though that division is a little skewed. Part one only has two chapters covering introductory matters while the rest of the whole book is on major themes in Mark’s theology. While those first two chapters on introductory matters were well done, I feel part two is where the immense value of the book comes out.

Do you know why I find chapters 3 through 14 so valuable? It’s because all the issues that I’ve encountered in commentary reading on Mark’s Gospel get discussed in a clear, suggestive summary of what’s been believed and straightforward reasoning behind conclusions Mr. Garland offers. Some of these subjects were ones I’ve tried to get smaller individual volumes on, but was thrilled to find them all here.

He discusses what the introduction of Mark 1:1-13 means. He covers the Christological titles of Jesus, such as the Son of Man. Other standout chapters were his explaining the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Mark. He made great sense of the secrecy motifs that you so often hear of in regards to Mark’s Gospel. Another subject that you hear about so often is the prominence of discipleship and he covered it in great depth. Don’t miss chapter 10 on the requirements, costs, and rewards of discipleship – that chapter is quite perceptive. He makes clear what the atonement means in Mark’s Gospel, and as you might expect, covers Mark’s eschatology. The last chapter is on the debate over the end of Mark’s gospel, and though I find the longer ending more accurate, he well covers the issues.

As I said before, I can’t believe how many volumes I’ve looked for that could be replaced by this one volume. For my money, it’s quite a bargain.

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 Extent of the Atonement by David Allen

book-atonement

Here is an encyclopedic treatment of the oft debated topic of the extent of the atonement. In particular, it’s a refutation of the limited atonement. To be sure, it’s focus is the atonement and not the totality of the Calvinistic system. This book really serves two distinct purposes. On the one hand, it makes a case for a universal atonement, while on the other hand, it presents an exhaustive history of what has been believed on the subject in the past.

The historical research done is mind blowing. I can hardly believe the volume of pages of reading that would’ve had to have been done to pull it off. No matter which side of the issue you are on, you must appreciate all the historical research that has been marshaled into one place for us.

Though I agree with the author in holding a universal atonement position, many things I learned here were a surprise to me. I already knew that there was no known precedent for the limited atonement in the church fathers, so my surprise came in the Reformation era. The biggest shock was that John Calvin himself did not hold to a limited atonement. In fact, we can find no historical proof of it before Beza. I was further shocked through the next several chapters to find several Calvinistic theologians that I knew did not hold to a limited atonement even if they did the other elements of Calvinistic theology.

Mr. Allen, in my view, presented some compelling exegesis and logical argumentation throughout the book. I felt he was honest with what his research uncovered. If the theologian he studied made any statements positive toward a limited atonement, he readily admitted it. After reading this book, it will now be an encyclopedic resource for me when I want to look up a theologian to remember his position on the limited atonement.

After he completed his historical review, he reviewed in-depth the most popular, common, new title presenting the limited atonement, “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her.” I felt he answered it beautifully, without superficiality or generality, and was quite successful. His closing chapter on why an unlimited atonement is important made an excellent conclusion.

The only negative thing that I noticed in this fine title is that I fear it is more likely to rile than persuade his opponents. At times, he would take his opponents to task for being over-the-top in their statements and would turn around and be overly harsh to them on the same page. Remember it seems that way to me, and I was on his side as I read.

Still, this book is a tremendous resource. It offers outstanding history and makes salient points that may be tough for those who hold to a limited atonement to answer. I highly 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.

The Attributes of God: Volume 2 by Tozer

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When you have Tozer on the Attributes of God you have Tozer at his best. Perhaps you have read his “Knowledge of the Holy” and found it one of the most amazing books you have ever read as I have. This volume, along with the corresponding volume 1, cover the same territory but with a more conversational and devotional approach. It is profound and worth reading even if you have read “Knowledge of the Holy.”

After an Introduction that talks about God’s Character in general, Tozer presents ten of the attributes in ten in-depth chapters. These attributes cover God’s self-existence, transcendence, eternalness, omnipotence, immutability, omniscience, wisdom, sovereignty, faithfulness, and love. There’s not a clunker in the bunch as I found meaning, warmth, and enlightenment in every chapter. You always get the feeling that you were reading a man who knew the Lord in the way you wanted to.

This edition by Moody has over 100 pages of a study guide by David Fessenden that really help readers dig into this volume. Mr. Fessenden is clearly well versed in Tozer’s writings and often quotes his other volumes to illumine the text here.

I highly recommend this volume. It is a true must-have 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.

Biblical Theology by John Goldingay

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John Goldingay, who has already produced a three-volume theology of the Old Testament and another on Isaiah’s theology among many other works, has now broadened his sights to the theology of the entire Bible. Because of his stature in the scholarly world, I predict this will become an influential volume.

As for me, I picked it up with a fair amount of skepticism. As a staunch conservative,   I find Mr. Goldingay sometimes on the other side side of the tracks. (There is a debate out there about whether he is really an evangelical or not). For the record, I found several sentences that were subversive to my eyes in this book. I thought I should pick one such statement for this review to prove my point. On page 74 in an explanation of Jesus as the I AM he says, “… The New Testament’s references to ‘worship’ of Jesus need not imply that he is seen as divine.” Are you kidding? To be fair, in the next paragraph, he returns to a more orthodox description, yet he has some such statements along the way. He is clearly a provocative writer, but where he succeeds as a writer may also be where he fails. As a provocateur he should stop short of inciting cardiac arrest in his readers!

Not that I am the standard, but I found myself disagreeing with many of his conclusions  along the way too. I only mention that because of what I want to say next.

This book threw away the mold of traditional theologies. I had never noticed before just how close a script all such volumes had in the past. From differing theological perspectives, they all present the same way. Here’s the Doctrine of God and off they go …1, 2, 3. Goldingay, for the better or worse, wrote his own script. That approach makes for creative new Approaches to study, even if you are a conservative like me who says often as you go, “O, you’re wrong again there, Mr. Goldingay.”

If you are as conservative as me, this is not going to be your first choice for a theology on your shelf. But if you are like me, you are going to make it one of a handful you always consult just to help you think outside the box. He simply made me think about things that I had never thought of before. I like that! I’ll make my own conclusions anyway, thank you. So I unashamedly give 4 out of 5 stars and recommend a book that I thought I might not.

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.

Devoted To God by Sinclair Ferguson

This book is special. Its title might not suggest the wallop it packs, though the subtitle “Blueprints For Sanctification” at least sends you the right direction. When the author says he is going to approach his subject by doing some expositions of the key NT passages you still might realize what you are in for. It’s only when you actually start reading and the chapters add up that you see the treasure you have. Those passages he expounds are ones we read over too quickly and their incredible value he simply unfolds. Along the way, the book proves itself an instant classic. That might be cliché, but I believe time will prove it true.

There’s an appendix that lists the “Blueprint Passages” at the end, and he has something to say on each, but he soared in Romans 12, Galatians 2:20, and especially Romans 6. He really helped me see the role the Law has in the life of the Christian today. He steered away from extremes that find so many adherents these days.

I could not say that I agreed with every sentence in the book, but he always carefully explained himself and made you do your own thinking. I can’t follow all reformed conclusions that were made, but I think most Bible believers will be helped and everyone needs this book. I challenge you to see if you can’t agree with his final chapter on the ultimate goal. I sure did.

I must give you warning. This book is not for casual reading. It demands slow, reflective reading. You invest that effort and you will be rewarded immensely. This is one of the great ones.

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.