The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson

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There’s no doubt that Sinclair Ferguson is a savvy theological writer. There’s no doubt that the Contours of Christian Theology series by IVP is a theological heavyweight either. While I couldn’t exactly call this my favorite Ferguson title, it did dig deep as the series is known to do. Books in this series don’t merely regurgitate the main tenets of a doctrine but linger where it makes sense to look under stones where treasure might be found. I always reach for this series when I’m starting a detailed study of a particular doctrine.

Chapter 1 introduces the Holy Spirit in an effort to shorten the distance that stands between Him and most believers while explaining all kinds of theological perspectives. Chapter 2 looks at the Spirit of Christ by explaining “Paraclete” and scoping out the relationship between Christ and the Spirit. Chapter 3 looks at the gift of the Spirit by examining Pentecost. Chapter 4 tackles the ongoing aspects of Pentecost. Chapters 5 through 7 wades through the Spirit’s role in salvation. I felt the author bogged down in a pet subject here. His theological positions are well known, and whether you agree or not, perhaps some of this would have fit better in a different book. Chapter 8 looks at other issues involving the Spirit and salvation like first fruits and sealing. Chapter 9 reviews the relationship between the Spirit and the body before chapter 10 dives into the explosive territory of gifts. The final chapter on the “Cosmic Spirit” serves as a great conclusion.

Ferguson always stretches my mind. Whether I agree with him or not, I always find a warmness of one who loves Christ as he writes. There’s no way I’d study the Spirit and not see what he has to say.

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.

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.

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.

An Old Testament Theology by Waltke

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That Bruce Waltke is revered in Old Testament scholarship is beyond dispute. His works on some OT books are the highest rated commentaries we have on them (particularly Proverbs and Micah). He’s written on most every section and genre of the OT and even contributed on Hebrew syntax. It comes as no surprise that Waltke would be chosen to deliver a comprehensive OT theology with those credentials. As he has done before, he even credits an associate who helped, in this case, Charles Yu, as a contributing author–but make no mistake—this is a Waltke work.

He gives 6 chapters of thorough explanation on what bible theology is as well as the importance of OT theology. By the time he’s done with this introduction, which compares to many a whole book on the market today, we are 170 pages deep.

Part Two covers chapters 7-28 and is labeled “Primary History”. It’s not just a chapter on every book or a combination of books of the Old Testament, yet every book that includes a historical element is covered. He lingers over the foundational Book of Genesis in covering the Cosmos, man, the Bride, the Fall, and the Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants. He follows a theological interpretation of Creation that doesn’t demand a literal creation, which is less than I would believe. Still, he was more conservative in places that I anticipated, and as works are graded these days, he would be labeled “conservative”.

Part Three covers chapters 29-35, is called “other writings” and addresses Wisdom Literature. As you probably know, that is one of Waltke’s specialties. The final 70 pages of this fine volume are made up of helpful indexes.

To my mind, this volume is one of the three most important OT Theologies on the market today. Because of the cruciality of OT Theology, and because of the three distinct approaches, I recommend having this Waltke volume along with Paul House and Eugene Merrill. If one is all you want, this book gives you the most material.

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.

 

Here in Spirit by Jonathan Dodson

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This book has a wonderful approach to the study of the Holy Spirit. Most such books run straight to controversy as if the Spirit was nothing more than an academic question or a “spirited” debate. The better ones remind us that the Spirit is a Person. This one by Jonathan Dodson goes one better by stressing that He desires relationship—a relationship that is not merely representative of the Father and the Son, but personal to Himself. The author went so far in that vein that repentance was required in his life for what was rank neglect of the Spirit on his part. Perhaps like me, you aren’t far behind him!

Dodson knows how to connect with this generation. I’m not sure the word “hip” is still in currency as I don’t have a hip bone in my body, but he knew how to pull in a great deal of popular culture. For the record, I don’t think I had ever seen even one movie he referenced, but he told enough of the plot that I could connect the dots easily. What won the day for me was his prevalent sincerity and contributive content.

He didn’t drown in tongues, or gifts, or other strange favorites, but he displayed a clear understanding that preferred to stay on task for a relationship with the Spirit. My strongest recommendation for this book is the positive conviction it brought to me. In short, I prayed differently this morning. In a book aimed at Christians at all points of our journey, what could be a better endorsement?

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.

Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal

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We must have discussions like this one. A couple of decades pass and our very world has changed with smartphones and other electronic devices. It has affected Christians along with everyone else. We are finally pausing to search out the implications of this seismic shift. Several practical Christian books have probed how we might deal with a world that has changed and is not going back. (One by Tony Reinke lies on my desk). In this volume by Craig Gay, however, the broader theological implications are mined. This book is less of how you ought to alter your life in the days to come and more of what does it even mean. Both types of books are needed and I’m rooting for their success.

The author writes with balance. He neither denies his own use of the technology he writes about nor encourages its complete rejection. In fact, his analysis seems to embrace its good at least to the extent of sharing the Gospel and other wholesome features while exercising caution on the other end. Our society has changed. To what extent should a Christian change with it?

To bulk up his premise, the author surveys other paradigm-shifting technological advances from the plow to automated manufacturing. He traces how economic concerns are usually the driving force. He turns his discussion toward theology by considering “ordinary embodied human existence” with the background of the Incarnation of Christ and God’s mission for us.

The book is deep reading. If you find that kind of theological reading difficult, this book will be a challenge. Theological junkies will find it the perfect discussion of an all-encompassing subject. If you can handle academic reading, and enjoy well thought out analysis, this is the book for 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.

The Christian Doctrine of Humanity (Crisp and Sanders, Editors)

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This collection of cutting-edge essays on the doctrine of humanity is the sixth installment in a series entitled “Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics”.  They proceed from the Los Angeles Theology Conference hosted by Fuller Theological Seminary. Previous entries addressed Christology, Trinitarian Theology, the Atonement, the Word of God, and the task of dogmatics. A wide-ranging group of specialists is assembled in each case and this time includes Marc Cortez, Hans Madueme, Ian McFarland, Richard Mouw, Lucy Peppiatt, and Frances Young, and total 12 contributors that look at humanity from many vantage points.

Let’s be clear. There’s no shallow wading here. Though these essays are not geared toward a popular audience, they are well written, There’s a good chance, however, that they will go deeper than you get in most volumes. If you’re game, then, this book is an important, challenging read. As I read, it struck me that many of these essays were in the realm where the doctrine of humanity bumps against the other major doctrines—Christology, Eschatology, Pneumatology, among others. Along the way, you will get a clear overview of where scholars are still debating this key doctrine. You will notice as well that current events are bearing on these theological issues as questions of how we personally identify ourselves is addressed as well, yet with a warmness toward biblical clarity and longstanding Christian belief.

All 12 essays were well done. My favorites were Marc Cortez’s look at “Nature, Grace, and the Christological Ground of Humanity”, Hans Madueme’s “From Sin to the Soul: a Dogmatic Argument for Dualism”, and  Lucy Peppiatt’s “Life in the Spirit: Christ’s and Ours”. I took something that helped me from each of them.

I imagine this will be a much-cited and influential book for some time to come as it fully succeeds in what it sets out to do.

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 Gracious and Compassionate God (NSBT) by Timmer

 

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The New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) tackles the beloved Book of Jonah in this entry by Daniel Timmer. There’s really not a dud that I’ve seen in this series. Many attribute this consistent quality to the editorship of revered scholar D. A. Carson. I suspect that along with careful selection of contributors is responsible for the prestige of the series. If you value D. A. Carson as many do, you should know that he calls this volume by Timmer “a book to cherish”.

The subtitle accurately outlines what you will find between these covers: “mission, salvation, and spirituality in the book of Jonah”. In fact, chapters one and two take mission and conversion/spirituality in Jonah and relates it to the entire biblical corpus.

Chapters 3-6 take Jonah chapter by chapter drawing out its theology and again tracing the themes mentioned earlier. At times, the author is quite strict about the theology that can legitimately be mined here, perhaps overly so. Still, there are loads of great theological introspection for this familiar story. The concluding chapter effectively ties it all together.

Mark this down as another entry in this winning series!

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.

Finding Favour in the Sight of God (NSBT) by Belcher

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This latest entry in the New Studies In Biblical Theology (NSBT) by Richard Belcher and edited by D. A. Carson presents a theology of wisdom literature. Since this series has already provided Hear My Son by Daniel Estes and Five Festal Garments by Barry Webb, I opened this volume with something of a here-we-go-again attitude. I was in that fog for a few pages before I realized that this book was a really good one. Think of a field laden with nuggets. Often, I would catch myself saying, yes, that is what that wisdom book is about!

Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes make up the bulk of this volume. Since they each provide their own difficulties, help is appreciated. Theology and structural concerns shine throughout this volume.

The opening chapter explains why wisdom literature is such a challenge in the formulation of Old Testament theology. Making Creation its foundation was a reasonable hermeneutic. Chapter 2 discusses the theology of Proverbs 1-9. The structure outlined made sense to me. That’s followed by a brief chapter on the hermeneutics of Proverbs. Chapter 4 rounds out the study of Proverbs by concluding its main theological themes.

The next three chapters look at Job. For my money, this section is the richest in the book. In these chapters, I was amazed at how much he could impart to us. The chapters divide the Book of Job into three parts, but it’s so much more than that! The speeches, the structure, the theology–all so perceptive!

Ecclesiastes gets three chapters as well. If they aren’t quite as good as the ones on Job, they still are fine specimens of drawing theology out of a wisdom book. The final chapter on Jesus and wisdom makes the perfect conclusion to this book.

This book provides perfectly what you would want in this type of volume. Let’s rate it highly recommended.

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.

Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar by Winn

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Mark’s Gospel has intrigued scholars for years. Or maybe it has confounded them. There’s a general consensus that Jesus is Messiah and that Mark is written against a Roman backdrop, but paths diverge from there. Adam Winn takes a stab at it arguing that Jesus as Lord directly counters Roman propaganda. He further posits that Christians would have read it as such in those days. Winn explains in his acknowledgments that this is his second pass on this subject. He wrote on the Christology of Mark in his doctoral dissertation and has since imbibed the contributions of his critics. To me, this work benefits from that mature reflection.

The Introduction possesses great value as a reflection on what’s been believed along with a perceptive analysis of trends found in the text of Mark itself. The secrecy motive, redaction studies, and other criticisms good and bad are well explained too. Fortunately, he unpacks his own approach, which gives you a good basis to take in what he will share over the course of the book.

In chapter one, he reconstructs the historical setting. That analysis is foundational as he sees Roman influence as a driving force in Mark. Chapter two develops the equally essential element of his approach as he explains Christological titles in Mark. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions about the individual titles to glean from the chapter.

The next two chapters trace this theme through the traditional lens of the powerful Jesus in Mark 1-8:21 and the suffering Jesus in Mark 8:22-10:52. In chapter five he returns to the secrecy motif through his Roman lens followed by one on Christology.

If you are familiar with volumes that attempt to provide a thematic analysis of a biblical book, you will find this book to be a good representative of the type. It may be a specialized subject, but it is one well done.

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.