2 Great Books on the Doctrine of Christ

book mess christ

The Message of the Person of Christ by Robert Letham

This book by Robert Letham on the message and Person of Christ is in the well -received Bible Speaks Today (BST) series edited by Derek Tidball. I found the book to be pitched at just the right level for the aims of this series and helpful for Christians new and old. It was thoroughly accessible and even included a nice study guide at the end.

There’s 24 chapters in five sections entitled Christ promised, Christ incarnate, Christ crucified, Christ risen, and Christ ascended. The book begins with a quite lengthy bibliography followed by a short introduction of what the author hopes to accomplish in this book. There’s also a prologue explaining man as being in the image of God.

The section on “Christ promised” explains Christ as the offspring of the woman, and then tackles the important subjects of Jesus being of the seed of Abraham and the son of David. Further, he sees Jesus as King as related to us in the Old Testament, followed by two chapters that cover the Servant of the Lord passages in the Book of Isaiah that are about Jesus Christ.

In the next section, the author begins by describing the birth of Christ. I would have expected a lengthier section on the Virgin Birth of Christ, but what we have is very good here. Jesus is followed through His ministry and His humanity before we finally come to the deity of Christ in chapters 11 through 14. There’s much to learn here.

The balance of the book from various angles covers the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The author relates many wonderful thoughts here. In fact, I’d call this a great overview. There is an appendix studying church history on this important doctrine.

This book is the perfect first in-depth book to study on the doctrine of Christ for any Christian. I warmly 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.

 

book person christ

The Person of Christ by Donald MacLeod

Here’s the book on the doctrine of Christ you need if you really want to dig deep, both about the doctrine itself and its historical development. Frankly, it taught me so much. It’s part of the respected Contours of Christian Theology series edited by Gerald Bray and published by IVP.

I thought the author’s approach was unique and ideal. He took most of the main concepts of the doctrine and traced the debate that formalized them in church history. In fact, he took these concepts in the order that they were debated. Along the way, he fully explained each doctrine, the viewpoints that fall short of an accurate Christology, and a wonderful definition of some of the more obscure theological terms. Though he covered concepts that are barely mentioned in many theological works, I found him easy-to-read and follow. In short, I loved this book.

He divides the book into two sections. Part one goes from the Gospels to Nicea, which he calls “very God of very God” and traces out the deity of Christ. In this section, he will cover the virgin birth, the preexistence of Christ, Christ as the Son of God, and the Jesus of history and the faith.  Those last two chapters of that section I found to be profound and so helpful to me.

Part two goes from Chalcedon on through most major theological questions on the doctrine of Christ, which he calls “very God, very man”. In this section, he discussed the Incarnation, the fact of Jesus being perfect both as God and man. He beautifully explained the Kenosis of Christ, as well as the sinlessness of Christ. I have several pages with a multitude of underlined sentences that were greatly illuminating for me.

I wouldn’t necessarily call this the first book to pick up if you were studying the doctrine of Christ, especially if it was your first time to do so; but if you really want to dig out this doctrine, you cannot pass by this great book. I’ll put it in the must-by category for 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.

Evangelical Theology by Michael Bird

book bird theo

Michael Bird has found a niche in the world of systematic theologies. His title explains where he’s coming from. He is striving to provide a “genuinely evangelical theology textbook”. While he doesn’t trace out every side path as some of the larger systematic theologies do, he still makes a grand presentation of what the Bible teaches about theology for those who fall in the evangelical category. Mr. Bird writes in a pleasant way that communicates deep subjects for easy understanding.

He divides this theology into eight parts. Prolegomena, the triune God, the kingdom, Jesus Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and humanity, and the community (church) are the order in which he approaches the subject of systematic theology. He begins the book with an essay entitled “why an evangelical theology?”. He presents six key factors that have defined where modern evangelicalism is today that really all centers around great debates over the last several centuries. In this essay, he, in his own words, lays his “ecclesial and theological cards on the table”. After discussing his own denominational journey, he describes himself as a follower of Jesus, an evangelical, reformed, broadly Calvinistic, yet I must praise him for his ability not to be boxed in. His confession that he has more background in biblical studies than systematic theology is clear throughout the text, but in my view, makes this a great secondary resource to go along with your favorite major systematic theology.

For purposes of this review, though I scanned the whole book, I carefully interacted what he shared about Christology. It is in this reading I did that I came to really respect this book as a great asset to have for theological study. He covered all the main points of the doctrine, he included a few extras of the unusual questions that sometimes pop up in these studies (like “did Jesus descend into hell?). Most importantly, in places where I didn’t agree with his conclusions, I still learned from him. To my mind, that makes for the ideal theological reading.

I enjoyed this work. I’m happy to have it on my shelf beside several other old standbys. The subject of systematic theology is one where one or two works are simply not enough. I suggest you add this fine work to those you consult on systematic theology.

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.

Embodied Hope by Kelly Kapic

book e hope

Kelly Kapic dives deep into the theology of suffering in this fine volume. There’s nothing of glib, overly-generalized platitudes, or fluff to be found in its pages. There’s no attempt to dissect suffering in a dry academic way either. No, this book probes what the Bible actually teaches on the subject of suffering that interacts with all our lives in some way.

Though there is starting to be a sizable body of work on suffering in print today, this work can qualify as a theological work. That is not to say, however, that it lacks heart at all. In fact, the author was probably the perfect candidate to pen this book. On the one hand, he is a trained theologian, while on the other hand, his wife has faced incredible suffering. Having already survived cancer, she has also lived with connective tissue disease as well as Erythromelalgia, or “man on fire” syndrome. As you can imagine, the author struck the right balance between heart and head as he wrote here.

The book itself is divided into three main parts. In part one, he examines the struggle itself. He admits that we can have hard thoughts about God in times of profound suffering. Along the way, he explains how important lament is to suffering despite people’s preference for the stiff upper lip. In describing our questions that come with pain, he exposed our tendency to jump back and forth between self-praise and self-condemnation. Of course, neither are the sole answer. He also explained how we should be mindful of our mortality and how that might be tied up in the things we learn in suffering.

In part two, he tackles what he calls “the strangeness of God”. With skill, he takes us to Jesus Christ and His cross. In the final section, he makes worthwhile practical conclusions. I was enlightened as I read.

This book has already been recommended by several people who have our ear on the subject of suffering. For example, Joni Eareckson Tada, who herself has written much on pain, says she loves this book.

Whether to put on your theological shelves, or to help you wrestle in life’s dark moments, I recommend this book as a winning effort.

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.

Known By God by Rosner

book known

What I begin noticing when reading this book is how little I had thought of its subject before, how few books I had ever seen on the subject, and how at a loss I would have been to talk meaningfully about it. Brian Rosner has stepped into the lacuna to explain some theology that’s comforting to know but rarely discussed. In fact, the book is part of a series by Zondervan called “Biblical Theology For Life”. Mr. Rosner has at once written with theological and exegetical depth as well as with personal anecdotes and practical explanation to make this a helpful, accessible work.

While we spend so much time thinking about our knowing God, Mr. Rosner explains how important it is to be known by God and how that fulfills something deep inside of us that allows us to secure a personal identity.

He has one chapter where he, in his words, identifies the angst in us and how this subject speaks to it. Chapters 2 through 10 explain how believers in Christ have an identity where we are known by God as His children and that’s tied to Jesus Christ. He does a great job explaining from both the Old and New Testaments this concept as well as differentiating between being made in the image of God and being known by God. He explains all the elements that make up our personal identity while further showing how they come up short in explaining the Christian’s position.

The third section made up of chapters 11 through 15 seek to explain the relevance of this theology to our lives. Those chapters cover significance, humility, comfort, direction, and being known by God. To my mind, the chapter on significance was especially apropos to the fruitless struggle so many have finding significance.

I’m not aware of all the literature out there on the subject, but I’m convinced having this book on the shelf could answer any possible question on it that might arise. It’s also an area where some of the systematic theologies might come up short. The book is well done, has a few charts, and nice quotes on several pages that really add something to the discussion. Mr. Rosner has co-written a major exegetical commentary on First Corinthians, but proves himself adept here with a completely different kind of work. I judge it 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.

A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude by Davids

book theology j p j

Here’s another volume in the impressive Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series by Zondervan that will include eight volumes when complete. This volume addresses between its covers James, Peter, and Jude. As you can imagine, this book covers the least addressed elements of theology in the New Testament. Peter Davids, the author, has spent his career in this portion of Scripture including two major exegetical commentaries on James and First Peter. He is the perfect author to tackle this subject.

Chapter 1 serves as an introduction that traces out common themes and issues among these New Testament epistles. He argues that the Greco-Roman background and educated writing style are true for each of these letters. Further, he sees a monotheistic outlook with a strong Christology. To his mind, all four letters put a strong emphasis on the the source of sin (desire or lust).

The other four chapters address each of these four letters individually. Issues commonly found in the introduction of an exegetical commentary are studied in each case, but its emphasis on theology is brought out in the latter part of every chapter. Mr. Davids wrote as one who greatly admired these four letters. He did agree with a few conclusions that I could not, particularly in the area of sources, but he has written a scholarly, predominantly conservative work.

Each chapter also gives an outline followed by a literary – theological reading of the book. I felt he covered well where commentary and theology meet. His tracing of the important theological themes in each of the letters was spot on in my opinion. As an added bonus, the book is attractive, well written, and contains a few charts where appropriate. Coming in at 300 pages, the author manages to neither dodge any important issue, nor become so prolix that he wearies the reader.

In my judgment, this book holds up well with the other fine volumes already released in this series. If you are beginning a study of James, Peter, or Jude, put this book in the must-buy category.

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.

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

book tozer coun

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)

book handbook

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

book-tozer-god-men

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.