Wonderfully Made by John W. Kleinig

Here’s a book of theology that is at once timely for our days and provocative to the mind. He delves deeply in Scripture to formulate a theology of the body. With a world that’s lost its way in viewing our own bodies and a church that in some sectors has gone wobbly, such guidance as found in this book is nothing short of a tonic.

Don’t start imaging some sort of political plea, nor even much of a cultural critique. The author assumes that you know that we are culturally in a different time (though some similarities with ancient periods exist). Further, he beautifully assumes the Bible is where truth is found. He never argues how the Bible has the better blueprint. Of course it does! Let’s just find out what it says. He writes, too, with Christian love yet without fear or apology for truth. Most authors can’t score that balance.

To be sure, he writes with a Lutheran perspective that I do not share. If you are like me and don’t share his background, don’t sweat it. It was little distraction to me. He would often speak of something like, say, baptism that would make me momentarily bristle, but it was easy to keep focused on his theme and find so much that helped and even challenged me.

After a chapter on “body matters” to orient us he divides his subject into the created body, the redeemed body, the spiritual, the sexual body, the spousal body, and the living body. The chapter on the created body was top notch on issues that we used to call “the doctrine of man” (anthropology). The two chapters on the redeemed and spiritual bodies are where you most might run into his Lutheran sensibilities on salvation issues, but good things to process still abound. The chapters on the sexual and spousal bodies (this is more than you think) are interconnected as well and address burning current issues. As started earlier, it’s not presented so much as a harbinger of the end as that of what is true, what has always been true, and what will always be true. The last chapter on the living body is really a conclusion.

The world is falling apart for sure, so it’s especially nice to read a book that keeps its head as this one does. By the way, it can hold up as a solid work of theology as well. This book is theology as it should 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.

Handbook of Evangelical Theology by Robert Lightner

Here is a nice book to introduce biblical doctrine to someone. Whether that be an introductory class Bible college class, or maybe for even a more valuables use, for someone alone or in a small group making a serious jab at understanding Bible doctrine, this book will fill a real need. Saying that this book is good for an introductory work by no means implies that it is shallow. There is real depth but the communication is helpful for someone who would be new at Bible study. I suppose the author’s many years of teaching made him ideal to write such a work.


The work is thoroughly conservative with no concessions to nonsense. In case you were wondering, the author subscribes to a dispensational outlook in prophecy and is committed to inerrancy of scripture throughout.


The sections of the book correspond to the great doctrines of the Bible. Near the beginning of each chapter there is historical perspective to help orient the reader but that does not dominate the discussion. Then after a careful laying out of the doctrine itself he concludes each section with a discussion of major areas of difference among evangelicals. I think that section has real value. It can come as a surprise to those studying theology for the first time that there are such differences. To my mind, it is better to go ahead and allow the reader to know that upfront. Plus, while there is not value in arguing, sometimes hearing different viewpoints can help one formulate their own more strongly.


This is a fine book. I might disagree on some little point, but how could that not be the case in any detailed work in systematic theology or Bible doctrine? I happily recommend this book to anyone interested in studying the great doctrines of the Bible.

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.

Baptism: A Guide to Life From Death by Peter Leithart

It’s hard for me to put my review in words for this book. It’s part of a Christian Essentials series where I had already been blessed by the one on the Lord’s Prayer. I was very intrigued to look into this one about baptism. In the first few pages of the book he reminds us of the challenges of this subject. Around Christianity the battle lines are drawn and people are ready to fight at the drop of a hat. Because that is true, I did not come to this book expecting to read what I would agree with down the line. No, I was happy to learn what others thought. How can the opinions of baptism be so profoundly different?

In light of that approach, I do have a much better view of how others view baptism. Perhaps it would be best to describe the approach of this book as liturgical , which is not my viewpoint. It’s only fair, then, that I put my bias on the table before I tell you what I think might be wrong with this book.

In short, it seems to me that he puts more weight on the back of baptism than it can legitimately bear. There were paragraphs where he described what I would say happened when I received Christ where he made it sound like it happened at baptism. To be fair, I think he would argue that those benefits of Christ rolled over him at baptism. I don’t think that is the case, and so his beautiful prose might lead younger believers to a conclusion that I think would not be beneficial.

But there is another question. Did I enjoy the book? I must confess that I did even with my table full of caveats. There were paragraphs when he would write something where all I could say was, wow, I had never thought of that before. What a blessing! Then the next paragraph I might think, you shouldn’t attach that to baptism! For example, he writes so many beautiful things that the Bible says about water. They are profound! Unfortunately, if it involved water, he was convinced it was about baptism. I think that’s completely over the top, but it was good to refresh my heart about many things the Bible did say even if baptism was not the subject.

I’m sure this book on baptism could be in no way more conflicted than this review! It’s the best I could do. It will be up to you, if you are intrigued or 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.

Rebels and Exiles (ESBT) by Harmon

Chalk this volume up as another smashing success in the new ESBT (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology). I love how this series takes a broader view than many similar series, yet imparts so much vital information. Matthew S. Harmon gifts us with something powerful about the doctrine of sin with a view toward redemption. After you read this book, you will agree that the concept of rebels and exiles is key in Scripture.

After making a good case in his brief introduction that “exile” is a proper rubric to study sin, he plunges into tracing that line throughout the Bible. Chapter 1 was my favorite, not because his writing deteriorated later, but because the story of Adam was like a home run out of the park to illustrate his theme. Additionally, he provided nugget after nugget that I especially enjoyed that imbibed freshness into an old story. Subsequent chapters follow the timeline of scripture seeing “exile” all along the journey. I will have to admit that it was there.

He followed through until he got to the New Creation where “exile” is finally banished. His final chapter on the practical implications of what he has written about brought theology out of the textbook and into life. I loved how he explained how we have a homesickness for a place we’ve never been!

At the end he gave some detailed suggestions for further reading as well as a thorough bibliography.

The success of this volume makes me even more excited to look at the others in the series. You have here accessible theology with real depth. What more could you ask for?

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.

Systematic Theology (2nd Ed.) by Wayne Grudem

This release is exciting! It’s fantastic to see this widely used systematic theology get a fresh updating to extend its life and reach even further. As someone who has used the earlier edition extensively, I am happy to report that this gets helpful revision and new paragraphs without sacrificing what we loved in the older one. It does not appear to me, either, that he has changed his opinion on many matters. He just states even better what he has been saying well in this book for 25 years.

Because there have been few changes in conclusion, or even in design, it is likely that whatever shortcomings you found in the earlier edition will continue to be found in this new release. For example, I always thought his discussions about the doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit could have been fuller and more prominent among the other doctrines. Don’t misunderstand me; these discussions were still good. I’m just talking about their prominence among systematic theology at large.

It is obvious that systematic theologies get graded more on the reader’s agreement than its quality of work, and so if you follow Grudem’s theology this is easily going to be your favorite one. I suggest it ought to be one of your choices no matter your theological predilections. In fact, I think the best way to use systematic theologies is to have at least three or four of varying perspectives for you to wrestle through. If you take that approach, as I always have, this simply must be one of your choices. I know it’s always been that way for me. If I’m going to study a doctrine, Grudem is going to be one of those first three people I read before I branch out. This revision only makes that more happily the case for me. I don’t always agree with him, but I always appreciate what he has to say.

This is a phenomenal, well thought out, and well communicated volume that could not fail to enrich any Bible student who used it. I know the word “indispensable” can be overused and cliché in a book review, but this is that place where it must be said.

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.

Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (ESBT) by Morales

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This title by L. Michael Morales is my first foray into the new Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (ESBT) series. Coming from the same publisher (IVP) as the highly-regarded NSBT series, it takes a different aim. Rather than narrowly focused topics that shine incredible light onto a precise point (NSBT), this series (ESBT) takes steps to re-approach with the same depth greater swathes of theology. Such synthesis is a refreshing onslaught that I applaud.

As for this title itself, I judge it an all-around success. If you read widely in theology, you will see that the Exodus motif crops up often. The average Bible reader never gets past the Exodus in Moses’ day but “exodus” is an exquisite painting of redemption that shows up throughout Scripture and provides a big picture understanding of the overall theme of Scripture. You can imagine, then, just how profitable a study like Morales delivers here can be.

The book is in three parts: the historical Exodus out of Egypt, the prophesied second exodus, and the New Exodus of Jesus. The historical Exodus is presented thoroughly and with great insight. The second part uses the Prophets to highlight the Exile and the exodus from the Captivity with equal skill. As it should be, the book climaxes with Jesus in the ultimate exodus. I gained many points of understanding in this volume but the big picture was always in view.

This book is a great help and encourages us to believe we might be having a real barn burner of a series taking off here!

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.

Canon, Covenant and Christology (NSBT) by Matthew Barrett

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At this point, with the multiple titles available in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, you know you’re going to get something that is at once interesting and theologically weighty. I’m sure the editorship of D. A. Carson contributes to that ongoing quality. In any event, this latest title by Matthew Barrett is as outstanding as any in the series. It’s strong stance on the divine inspiration of Scripture makes it run against the grain of most modern literature, but also makes it of even more value.

To be sure, looking at the Scriptures from a Christological perspective was a brilliant idea. This book reaches the heights that the whole idea suggests to those who love the Bible.

Though this work focuses mostly on Jesus in the Gospels and what we see there about Scripture, it’s impact is even greater. The first chapter reminds us of both the overall importance and perfect credibility of divine inspiration. I particularly enjoyed the comments about Sensus Plenior. The next chapter weaves together critical ideas like progressive revelation, word – act-word revelation, and the covenant. You will not have to agree with every idea about the covenant to be profoundly blessed by this chapter.

Next, the book dives more into the details found in the gospels. There’s a chapter on the Matthean witness, one as a case study on the Word made flesh, one about the idea of living by every word from the mouth of God as found in each of these books, one on the Johannine witness, and a final concluding chapter that takes these issues and discusses their importance to the future of doctrinal studies.

I can’t think of a dud in this series, at least among those that I have looked at, but mark this one down as one of the best!

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.

Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (2nd Ed.) by Thomas Schreiner

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To label a book “important” or “influential” is probably too often done, but it would be hard to deny that this book has held that reputation for 20 years. Now, Thomas Schreiner takes the time to update his work in this second edition. When we are discussing Paul’s theology, no one book holds the field. In fact, I can’t think of a scholarly subject that has more pages written about it, particularly over the last 30 years or so. In that light, holding an important place in that crowd is quite an accomplishment.

Another reason that some of us might like this book is that several of the other most popular books on the subject are not nearly as conservative or orthodox. Many are mesmerized by the so-called “New Perspective on Paul”. To be clear, this book is not just a book against that perspective, but it will sufficiently address it for a thinking person and put it out to pasture as it belongs. Another feature to help you ascertain its value, is that it follows more of a reformed position in many cases and, perhaps, is most influenced by John Piper whom he mentions in the preface. If you like me are not as reformed as him, as many are not, you will still find incredible value in this book.

He says he does not want to make the book so boring as to interact with every scholar out there. While he may be selective, he is effective. I think it’s fair to say that he does not dodge any relevant issue in Paul’s theology.

Permit me to oversimplify his approach. He takes the position that Paul’s is championing God’s glory in Christ. In other words, Paul is the writer in scripture who most addresses the doctrine of salvation. In that light, he takes what Paul teaches us on a round-robin circuit of systematic theology. Again, he really doesn’t hide from any issue whether it is controversial or not. Some things he addresses are missed by others as well. Don’t miss his chapter on suffering. Still, he holds as the organizing principle that Paul is upholding God’s glory in Christ.

The value of this book is not it’s final conclusions, but it’s help for you to reach yours. In that way, let’s keep those labels of “important” and “influential”.

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 Holy Spirit by Gregg Allison and Andreas Kostenberger

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This inaugural volume in a series entitled “Theology for the People of God” is so ideal that it makes one excited for the whole series. At the same time, this book sets the bar high for those who will write the following titles. Scholars Gregg Allison and Andreas Kostenberger, prolific scholars to be sure, took the time to produce a book we need. As you can guess, the work has a conservative and baptistic bent, but is fair in all the issues and one that everyone should use.

This work is divided into two parts: biblical theology on the Holy Spirit working its way chronologically through scripture followed by systematic theology that digs deep into the doctrine itself and places it in the context of all doctrinal thinking. I found the second half more interesting, but that is not to disparage the first half. It was more a matter of taste and enjoyment of subject. To be sure, it is critically important to explore how doctrines are developed throughout scripture.

The second half on systematic theology began with an outstanding look at the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity. The chapter on the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit was just as exceptional. In all, four chapters explore the Holy Spirit both as an Individual and Collective Member of the Trinity. From there, the Holy Spirit’s role in Creation and Providence, the role in scripture, relation to angelic beings, relation to human beings, relation to Jesus Christ, the role in salvation, relation to the church, and the future. As you can see, nothing was left out in systematic theology and all the content presented was level headed, interesting, and enlightening.

As with any work that touches on systematic theology, of course, you will disagree on some points. I did, but none of the major points. My only criticism of the work, and it is a slight one, is I felt that the development of being filled with the Spirit, or being full of the Spirit, and distinguishing it from the baptism of the Spirit, perhaps, fell a little short.

This is an outstanding book that every Bible student and pastor ought to have. I have at least 20 pages in this book especially notated for something I want to remember. For me, that’s a sign of a great book. I say, bring on the rest of those volumes in this series soon!

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.

Including the Stranger (NSBT) by David Firth

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This book has two things in his favor. It’s another of these unique entries in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson, that are theologically astute and make a distinct contribution to both scholarship and biblical studies.The other plus is that renowned scholar David Firth contributes this volume in his area of expertise, the Former Prophets which include Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In fact, Firth has already delivered an outstanding commentary on the books of Samuel. His deft hand shows throughout this volume.

His premise is that a unifying theme of these Former Prophets Is the treatment of strangers or foreigners. It is a theory that he very well may convince you on because (It made sense to me). Even if it isn’t the overarching theme of these books, it is at least in play in a key way.

To my mind even if you don’t agree with his premise, you have something of a fine introduction to each of these historical books of the Old Testament. In fact, I could not imagine studying these books without consulting this work going forward. To me, it almost does what Barry Webb’s “Five Festal Garments” does for the Five Scrolls. Count this another winner in an outstanding 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.