The Lord Is Good by Christopher R. J. Holmes

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This book by Christopher R. J. Holmes challenged me. For sure I enjoyed it, and I learned great things, but this is no lazy summer afternoon reading. You can decide for yourself, but I need books like this. I need to be pushed past the fluff that prevails in Christianity today. I can’t say I agreed with every single word he said or every conclusion he drew, but I felt a connection with Mr. Holmes because I felt on every page that he sincerely believed that the Lord is good!

Don’t let the subtitle “seeking the God of the Psalter” lead you to believe that this is some sort of commentary on the Book of Psalms. Truth be told, had the printer accidentally left off the subtitle, I would probably have only thought that he quoted Psalms more than other books of the Bible. This observation is no criticism, however, because this is a profound theological work. Still, you will likely see a few verses in the Psalms far differently after reading this book.

As I read this book, I thought at times that the author could easily go to the field of philosophy and succeed. Still, his biblical observations were rich. At other times, I thought he had something of a love affair with Thomas Aquinas and was at least a member of the fan club of Augustine and Barth. For me, what he drew from each of them and put together was closer to what I would think than any one of the three individually. Mr. Holmes deserves credit because it would be a gross misrepresentation to say that he merely regurgitated what others had said. These three theologians have put such a strong stamp on what Christianity believes on the subject of the goodness of God that it would be impossible not to greatly interact with them in a book like this one.

There are nine chapters in this book that cover the subjects of simplicity, you are good (that doesn’t mean what you first think), goodness and the Trinity, you do good, the good Creator, goodness and evil, teach me your statutes, goodness and Jesus Christ, and perfection. I could only read one chapter, or sometimes only half a chapter, at a time. There was too much to take in! Every chapter was great, but my personal favorite was the one on goodness and evil. That one really helped some light bulbs come on for me.

I’ve learned that this book is part of IVP’s series entitled Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture. Though this is by far the most interesting subject to me of those released, if this series can turn out more works like this one it will be a dandy.

We all have our systematic theologies on our shelves, but this is the type of theological work that needs to find its place beside them. The Lord’s attribute of being good is brought alive here and I’m a richer person for 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.

Determined to Believe? by Lennox

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This book is one of the most thoughtful, balanced, and needed volumes that I have seen a long time in the always turbulent Calvinist/Arminian debate. He takes us back before these later labels to the more correct label of theological determinism and helps us wrestle with the sometimes tricky concepts of the sovereignty of God and human freedom. In tone and in content this book is a tour de force that refuses to accept the theological constraints that have been foisted upon us and takes us back to the Bible itself.

Both in the brief prologue and the introduction on what this book is about, we immediately notice something that is rare in this debate –civility. There’s no way he can agree with everyone, but he is altogether kind to those with whom he cannot. Occasionally, I almost wondered if he’s spilled too much ink in a cautious attempt to be respectful. Still, that may be what this subject demanded.

He had me by just a few pages into chapter 1. His discussion of the nature and limitations of freedom brought the subject into clear focus as he explains the difference between the liberty of spontaneity and the liberty of indifference. He introduces terms like determinist, indeterminacy, compatibilists, and incompatiblists. He makes an indisputable case that there can be no morality without freedom, nor love without free will. He gives a great discussion of how there are both atheists and Christians who hold to determinism. Chapter 2 dives into various kinds of determinism including physical determinism and theistic determinism. The logic employed is flawless and unanswerable. Chapter 3 develops some of the earlier thoughts to discuss the moral problem with determinism. As you will see, there is a major moral problem with it. Chapter 4 with its interesting title of “weapons of mass distraction” talks about the plethora of labels that have overtaken this debate. He turns us to Scripture and shows us what the apostle Paul said about following men or labels and how perhaps this debate stumbles out of the gate in the approach to it that so many of us take.

Chapter 5 begins part two that now feels comfortable to address God’s sovereignty and human responsibility head on. Again, he writes with clarity and does not allow himself to be bound by the clichés that have robbed the debate of its vitality. In chapter 6 he turns to the biblical vocabulary and instead of turning to a theological book goes straight to the Bible to discuss and define foreknowledge, predestination, and election. Part three begins with a chapter on human capacity and its limits and it is where we are now able to discuss some of the common arguments given, including some of the letters of TULIP. The next chapter looks at the human condition and digs into God’s righteousness and justification by faith. Chapter 9 tackles what the Bible says about being drawn by the Father and coming to Jesus Christ. Chapter 10 asks hard questions about the common explanations given for regeneration. Chapter 11 cycles to the gospel and human moral responsibility. The balance of the book looks directly at some of the key Scriptures that serve as the battleground of this issue: Romans 9 – 11 (5 chapters), several passages on assurance (1 chapter), several passages on endurance (1 chapter), and passages in Hebrews (2 chapters). The book ends with a very brief epilogue and questions for reflection.

I don’t see how you’d want to dig into this subject without availing yourself of this incredible book. I give it the highest 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.

A W. Tozer: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume

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It’s hard for me to find the words for how outstanding this volume is! Count me as one of those people who finds A. W. Tozer as one of the most penetrating, spiritual writers of all time. This beautiful, hardback collection of three of his spiritual classics can’t be missed. These titles have mostly been available as paperbacks in the past, but now we have something a little more worthy of these treasures. I wouldn’t be surprised if people call this one of the great publishing events of the year.

The first title, The Knowledge of the Holy, must be included in any list of the greatest Christian books of all time. It is, out of an impressive list, Tozer’s greatest work. This book impacted me several years ago, and it was a joy to go through it again. In conversational language he presents God Almighty in a way few ever have before. The theology is incredibly deep yet perfectly accessible. He astutely feels that so much of what’s wrong with Christianity today is our misunderstandings of God Himself. The attributes of God are shorn of any sort of dry, academic language and are presented in a way that makes you love, respect, and be in awe of God more.

The second title, The Pursuit of God, is another of his best-known works. He disdains our resting on the laurels of our conversion and pushes us to go hard after really knowing God. This book makes us thirst after our Lord and is a true masterpiece.

The third title, God’s Pursuit of Man, might fall slightly below the two mountain peak titles above, but it is a true sequel to The Pursuit of God. It moved me as well.

Not only is this volume with its three incredible titles worthy of the reading time of every Christian, I imagine it would change Christianity itself if it were widely read.

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.

Righteous by Promise by Karl Deenick

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If you are like me, this book may shatter your confidence about your understanding of circumcision in the Bible. While I might have glibly thought I knew all about the subject, this book exposed the shallowness of my thinking. Karl Deenick has contributed a worthy volume to the multifaceted, highly-respected New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson. Every volume I peruse in this series raises my overall impression of it, and this volume is no exception.

Even though this book strives to produce a systematic theological understanding of circumcision, its strength lies in the exegesis of a multitude of passages about circumcision. In other words, the author makes conclusions based on what biblical passages actually say. Whether you would agree with every conclusion or not, he has done all the necessary spadework for you to make your exegetical and theological conclusions.

The design of this book was a good one to broach the subject of circumcision throughout the Bible. Circumcision clearly is used in different ways, yet the author will take you to a feasible big-picture conclusion at the end.

He begins with an introduction that defines the dimensions of scholarly debate on the subject. As you will see, scholars have not been unified in their conclusions. The next chapter looks at circumcision in Genesis and sees the sign of the promise established. The following chapter looks at circumcision throughout the Old Testament as the sign is developed. We are taken through Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and a few other references. Chapter 4 enters the New Testament and entails a discussion of blamelessness and walking in the New Testament. Passages in Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians are addressed. Chapter 5 is dedicated to the major discussion of circumcision in Romans 2-4. Chapter 6 does the same for Galatians. Chapter 7 is the aforementioned conclusion that looks at righteousness by promise, righteousness by faith, and righteousness through the promised seed. In this approach, the Old Testament is tied to the New Testament and the big picture view of circumcision emerges.

This book is valuable. You can use it for your own careful study of circumcision, or keep it on hand as a reference anytime a biblical passage mentions circumcision. In that case, you’ll have a fine exegetical tool. This book is well worth having!

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.

Charts on Systematic Theology: Volume 1 by Wayne House

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Wayne House has produced several well-received volumes of charts for Bible study. Kyle Roberts assists him here in producing this volume on Prolegomena, or the introductory matters in the study of systematic theology. This makes up one of the fine volumes in the Kregel Charts of the Bible and Theology series.

This book will fool you in the incredible amount of information it gathers in only 130 pages. It includes both wonderful insights for any Bible student and in-depth explanations of specialized scholarly subjects. The book is designed around 10 subjects.

The book begins with an explanation of what theology is. After a brief introduction, you have two multipage charts explaining both objective and subjective theologies. I found much more help in the former than in the latter! The second section wants to help us find out what are the possibilities of systematic theology. You may discover some camps you weren’t aware of, but the explanation of each group will give you a lot to think about as you form your own viewpoint. The third section is very helpful to encourage a Bible student to understand the different branches of theological study: systematic theology, biblical theology, historical theology, and philosophical theology.

Part four looks at the nature of doctrine and is particularly a description of current scholarly debate. The fifth section tackles what revelation is and where it’s located. For some Bible students, this will be new ground–you would be surprised how much scholarly ink is spilled on these reception theories. There’s some charts on general and special revelation as well. Part six looks at the knowledge and language of God. Since the Word of God is a book of words, these discussions raise some important questions. Part seven looks at hermeneutics and theological interpretation. This naturally goes to a description of types of hermeneutics. Once again, we will have objective and subjective viewpoints about hermeneutics. The charts contain much detail. Part eight takes us to faith and reason. The chart here has good apologetic value too. Part nine goes to the source and structure of truth. You may again be surprised that the hair was so finally split, but you will have a timely overview at your disposal in this book. The final section looks at the relationship between the testaments. The various viewpoints presented fall somewhere on the scale between unity and diversity and there’s also more objective and subjective theologies described as well. The book ends with a lengthy bibliography.

This book skews more toward the scholarly side than some other such volumes of charts. This book’s strength may also be its weakness. Yes, it contains vast amounts of information, but at times more than you’re used to finding in a chart format. In the end, that may be a matter of taste.

There can be no doubt that the authors have grasped the material, taken a snapshot of the scholarly world with all its debates, and made a thorough presentation to us. This book could be the perfect refresher course to pull off the shelf when any of these subjects we encounter with less frequency are faced in our studies. I 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.

Death and the Afterlife (NSBT) by Williamson

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This new entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series on death and what follows by Paul R. Williamson is a sane voice on one of the more explosive theological issues of our day. It lives up to the standards set by previous volumes in this series edited by D. A. Carson. It’s obvious that the author expended the necessary energy to make this volume a meaningful contribution. In fact, I suspect for most of us this will be the first book we will reach for what we are considering “biblical perspectives on ultimate questions”.

The first chapter surveys the issue both in the present with all the requisite statistics and ancient viewpoints of various peoples in the ANE. The chapter concludes with the viewpoint of Christianity and on page 22 formulates five key concepts on what he calls “the personal eschatology of Scripture”. While we Christians might debate certain elements of those five key concepts, there’s no doubt he has set the parameters of this issue correctly.

The next chapter discusses death itself. That requires a deep look into biblical anthropology as well as defining the soul. You will start seeing in this chapter what you will enjoy throughout the whole book: he masterfully marshals the appropriate Scriptures, exegetes them carefully, and draws out appropriate theology. He dodges nothing. Even tough subjects like Saul consulting a witch to bring up Samuel is analyzed. Chapter 3 looks into the resurrection. As that doctrine is key to Christianity itself, he is thorough in looking at it from every vantage point.

Chapter 4 considers judgment. It was in this chapter that I had some disagreement with him because I hold to a pre-millennial viewpoint of prophecy. At times I thought the pre-millennial system would easily remove a few jams he became entangled in with Scripture exegesis. Still, I appreciated the spirit with which he would often mention how premillennialists would look at the situation, and how he was gracious when he disagreed.

Chapter 5 looks at the widely debated subject of Hell. He did a great job discussing the debate as it stands today, what had been believed in the past, and how to think about the issue today. While I might take a few things mentioned in Scripture more literally than he does, he doesn’t dodge that the Bible says a great deal about that unpleasant subject. The final chapter looks at Heaven. Heaven has been recast in modern days as this wonderful place that everyone is going to, so he takes this past our self-produced fictions of heaven to see what the Bible actually has to say. Again, he helps us look at all the appropriate Scriptures.

This book is at once helpful and important. It’s the perfect book to get your bearings straight on a theological subject that usually has more heat than light applied to 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 Origin of Paul’s Gospel by Seyoon Kim–A Classic!

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The designation “classic” isn’t trite regarding this groundbreaking study by Seyoon Kim. It would not be hyperbole to say that this book could stand up against the 10 top books on the New Perspective on Paul and still come out ahead. With scholarly wizardry, Mr. Kim neuters the arguments of the NPP’s most influential proponents. While we can’t deny that this book leans heavily to the technical side, nor dispute the fact that it might be beyond the reach of the beginning student, it’s a tour de force on how to marshal the Scriptures themselves to craft tight arguments rather than the nebulous fair that much of the scholarly world releases these days.

Chapter 1 is essential to rank the most important elements of Paul, his theology, and his background. Chapter 2 is about Paul the persecutor and reviews his life before the Damascus experience. Many scholars hijack this background to form the basis of the later conclusions about Paul. As you will see here, they stretch a few facts much too thinly as well as creating others from thin air.

Chapter 3 is about Paul’s incredible experience on the road to Damascus. Mr. Kim returns to the clear portrait of Scripture that meeting Christ on the road to Damascus is exactly what changed Paul’s life and led to everything he believed. It’s sad that the scholarly world would rob us of the obvious and replace it with something that is obscure at best. Chapter 4 looks at Paul’s gospel, the revelation behind it and the mystery involved in his New Testament revelation. The balance of the book is three extended chapters on the Christology and soteriology at the core of Paul’s teaching.

There are a few other amazing things in this book. I was impressed with the extensive exegesis that was done on all kinds of passages. Fortunately, there are great indexes that makes this book an outstanding reference volume on your shelves as well. There are sections of this book that served better as a reference than afternoon reading. Still, the depth of thought is incredible.

We owe Wipf and Stock Publishers a debt of gratitude for keeping this important work in print. For the record, this book will still be important 20 years from now. It’s hard to explain how influential this book has been. In any event, it deserves a place in every serious library New Testament today.

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 Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton

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Mark this systematic theology down as one that tries to unite deep theological thinking with living the Christian life. The Christian Faith by Michael Horton provides another viewpoint and presentation for those doing systematic theological study. The volume truly has its own voice and in no way regurgitates what other major systematic theologies have to say.

Be sure to check out the introductory chapter that lays out both his ideas of doctrine and theology as well as a description of what he will attempt to do in this volume. He states that he is “writing from the perspective of a reformed Christian living in North America”. He admits that he doesn’t speak for all Christians but hopes to speak to all Christians in this book. While sticking to his own perspective, he also emphasizes that the Christian faith is one faith.

Part One is five chapters on knowing God where he discusses the presuppositions of theology and covers the doctrine of the Scriptures. Part Two is about the God who lives and in three chapters he discusses the doctrine of God and the Holy Trinity. Part Three is five chapters on the God who creates which will discuss his view of predestination, creation, providence, as well as the doctrine of man. Part Four is three chapters on the God who rescues which covers the doctrine of Christ. Part Five is 10 chapters on the God who reigns in grace that covers the doctrines of salvation and the church. The final part discusses in three chapters the God who reigns in glory which is a look at eschatology. As you can see, he organizes the material of systematic theology in a different fashion that I’ve seen others do.

I’m glad to have this volume on my shelves. It may not be the first systematic theology that I will pull out when I’m studying a particular doctrine, but it is one I plan to consult in any detailed study of theology that I’m digging into. It’s a boon to a Bible student to have an asset like this volume that approaches the subject from a different angle. You will see listed in the book an impressive array of respected theologians who highly recommend this book. It’s one that you will want to check 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.

Historical Theology by Gregg Allison

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Here’s an excellent help for when you are studying doctrine. Designed as a companion to Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, this volume looks beyond what to believe to what has been believed. I fully agree that what has been believed is a wise thing to consider when formulating doctrine. Though this book is technically a textbook, any pastor or Bible student could glean much from its use. It reads much better than a typical textbook too. Mr. Allison must have aced a creative writing class somewhere in his past.

Though this book is tied to Grudem’s work, it could be used independently or with any systematic theology. The order the doctrines are approached matches Grudem, as do the overall conclusions. I’ve used Grudem’s work extensively over the years, so I knew in advance where I would and would not agree with Mr. Allison. His judicious handling of historical fact even when it didn’t completely match his own opinions is praiseworthy. For that matter, I found his tone toward other viewpoints a model of grace. His respectful approach adds much value to its already rich content.

When working systematically on doctrine in the future I’ll still first reach for my favorite, trusted systematic theologies, but I will definitely grab this book too before I stop. Discovering the history of belief on the major doctrines is at once revealing and the icing on the cake. This book delivers!

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 Clear and Present Word (NSBT) by Mark Thompson

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This entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series by Mark D. Thompson dives into an oft-overlooked aspect of biblical theology – the clarity of Scripture. Since this clarity, which is often called the perspicuity of Scripture, faces such widespread negligence, or even disdain, Mr. Thompson tells us why we can confidently assume clarity and use the Bible in our lives.

The first chapter is a detailed look at how rogue scholarship has victimized the concept of biblical clarity. Their attempt to render the acceptance of clarity as absurd is turned by the author as he takes their arguments and objections one by one.

The second chapter sees God as the communicator. Though some claim human words by definition obscure the clarity of what God reveals, we see that the opposite is true. The clarity of Scripture springs from the character of God. In other words, because the Almighty God has chosen to communicate, what he chooses to communicate must be clear.

The third chapter wrestles with the fact that Scripture sometimes explains that it is hard to understand. For example, such a statement is made about parables in the Gospels. This book shows us how those two ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. We can, in fact, have a Bible that presents both the clarity that God intended while upholding his inscrutability.

Chapter 4 is on what the author calls “engaging the hermeneutical challenge”. He explains how hermeneutics have taken a life of their own, and in the scholarly world at least has created more doubt than belief in the Word. It is true that the Bible that the author argues possesses clarity also has a wide variety of conclusions by its readers. His discussion of this fact is quite helpful.

The final chapter is Mr. Thompson’s attempt to tie everything he has stated together to both restate the clarity of Scripture and give it an understandable definition. The title of the book is the hint you need to forecast what he concludes.

This book succeeds in fulfilling the aims of this series. It finds the sweet spot and expounds with scholarly, logical, and conservative aplomb. It’s a 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.