Including the Stranger (NSBT) by David Firth

book in str

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.

Two New Resources To Study Theology!

book ch th

This book that describes Christian theology is a real treat. I say that knowing full well that there are a plethora of such works ranging from overviews of theology all the way to massive, full systematic theologies. To me, it will find an audience among those who need something with real depth yet aren’t quite ready to spend the time that one of those 10-pound systematic theologies requires.

Most everyone has to wrestle with what order to study the great doctrines of theology and the one used here is as good as any. They come in this order: knowing God, God’s Revelation, God the Trinity, God’s attributes and works, humanity and sin, Jesus, Jesus’s saving work, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the future, and the Christian life.

I felt the beauty of this book is in its understandability. It takes subjects that may be opaque for many and makes them clear. Making the difficult plain is always the factor that ultimately decides the value of a work of this type. It is good theologically, biblically with many scriptures brought to bear, and historically. Knowing what church history says about these subjects is not as important as what is said biblically, but it is important. This work gives these viewpoints in proper proportion. There are also a list of key terms and resources for further study in every chapter. Those key terms will lead you to their other resource released at this time as well called “A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms.”

There’s probably no work of this type where any reader will agree with every point made, but that is not the issue anyway. What is needed is being introduced to the subject, why it is important, and ultimately what is at stake. This work checks all the appropriate boxes and would be a worthy addition to any student’s library.

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 con dict

Released as a companion volume to the fine work entitled “Christian Theology: The Biblical Story of Our Faith”, this work puts a lot of important information at one’s fingertips. In a day when most people will merely Google these terms, a book like this is really needed. You are aware, I hope, that Google doesn’t always give you the right answer or even a good answer. That can be most detrimental with theological subjects. Further, this work explains the term in only a paragraph or two. Fortunately, that brevity does not sacrifice clarity and understanding. Google can’t match that! I recommend this book and its companion volume to any Bible student or pastor. It’s a perfect place to begin for a deeper study of important theological concepts of scripture.

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.

Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture by Cook & Lawless

book sp war

I’ve never seen a book that approaches spiritual warfare in a better, more grounded way. William Cook and Chuck Lawless team to provide a work that avoids the excesses of most volumes on the subject of spiritual warfare.

It’s almost like they provide us two books in one. The first half of the book approaches the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and traces spiritual warfare as the subject is biblically developed. Really, what could be a better approach to grasping a biblical subject? Further, this half of the book could almost be used as a reference book as well as reading it straight through to develop the concept of spiritual warfare.

The second half of the book approaches the subject from a practical standpoint. Here its balance was even more dramatic. They followed the good advice they gave in telling us to study God rather than studying Satan to understand spiritual warfare. In fact, the usual suspects of such a book are refreshingly absent. No spooky stuff about demons, but rather practical discussion of how Satan works in our lives. What this volume lacks in shock it more than makes up in spiritual value. Five chapters are included in this second section of practical application and covers spiritual warfare in the local church, evangelism, missions, the family, and in leaders. It was so at once convicting and helpful. I’m convinced that this is exactly the sort of thing the Lord intended we dwell on as we process the concept of spiritual warfare.

The authors highlight so effectively the danger of looking into ourselves or our own strength as the open door to Satan entering and establishing a foothold. I needed what I read 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.

Why Church? by Scott Sunquist

book why church

It’s good to see a book championing the church. There has been a radical shift in how the world views local churches both culturally and in terms of impact. Scott Sunquist tackles this important subject both historically and biblically and with an eye to the future. He has written it in such a way that it’s not specific to a certain denomination, but looks rather at the core function of the local church.

He comes back to basics in chapter 1 and explains that the two purposes of the church are worship and mission. Chapter 2 is a fine survey of church history from the time of Jesus to the current environment of Post-Chrisendom. We may not be happy about the trends, but he lays them out for us to ponder.

The next five chapters make up his main premise by using five words to describe what a church is supposed to be doing. These words are come, stand, kneel, sit, and go. When he speaks of coming to the church, he is speaking of coming to Jesus in conversion, coming to the body of Christ for community, and finding our identity in the worship of Jesus Christ. His discussion of standing is a call to praise God. He may be less concerned about worship styles than you are, but I do think you will likely agree with his emphasis on the necessity of praise. As you probably guessed, the chapter on kneeling is about worship. He doesn’t approach worship as some touchy-feely, nebulous experience, but rather coming before God in confession and repentance. It’s a good approach I think. The chapter on sitting describes the great importance of sitting still to receive the Word of God. I found it to be quite helpful despite a few possible rabbit trails. The final chapter on going is about taking the church outside of its building and carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ.

There is a later chapter that he calls “healthy body movement”. Here he wrestles with the implementation of all he has discussed with a balancing of his five key elements. Don’t read that as if he has all the answers, but read it as taking suggestion on what you ought to consider as you work through that same dilemma. The epilogue mentions a few things that he did not write about in the book, but should be considered.

I just happened to be doing this review while churches around the world are quiet in the buildings with most services held online during the Covid-19 crisis. It strikes me that perhaps we haven’t given thought to how incredibly powerful and wonderful the local church is in our lives. Maybe this book can help us reflect and plunge forward.

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.

Doing Theology with the Reformers by Gerald Bray

book doing theo.jpg

This book by Gerald L. Bray, a known Reformation expert, isn’t exactly what I expected—it’s better. For some reason, I imagined something of a brief systematic theology cast in the History of the Reformation. There is some of that, to be sure, but much more. It wasn’t until the mid-point of chapter 3 (nearly 100 pages in) before the book really mentioned some of those subjects. My favorite part was those first 100 pages! Mr. Bray writes history with verve. I found the pages turned quite easily. I got more out of it than some far lengthier books for sure.

Whether he talked about Bible interpretation, the Covenants, reformed theology, he always infused it with clear historical context. That he could write so thoroughly and yet so winningly suggests his profound knowledge of his subject. To me, he could sift through reams of data and clearly distinguish what was most significant.

The look of this book might tip you off that it is a companion to the larger Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) series before you even read that it is. There is that distinctive green. More importantly, there is that same labor of love behind its careful scholarship.

You don’t have to follow reformed theology to benefit from this book. It will lead you to clear historical context of a pivotal moment of church history.

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.

God’s Relational Presence by Duvall and Hays

book gods relational.jpg

There are getting to be quite a few large volumes on biblical theology available to Christian readers today. Many of them are scholarly and well done. They may focus the work along different lines – redemption, love, forgiveness, or the kingdom – but don’t dare think of this volume by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays as an anomaly. This focus on God’s relational presence as the cohesive center of biblical theology makes perfect sense. It will not replace those others described above but it will complement them well. Our God is about relationship and as the authors scan Genesis to Revelation they will prove to you how prevalent it is. Mark me down as at first surprised and then convinced!

This author combination has already proven to work well before in the well-received title Grasping God’s Word and several other projects. Duvall is the New Testament scholar who balances out Hays the Old Testament scholar. Together they have learned how to communicate across the Canon.

I saw no signs of haste. The theme is well carried out while the detail is well fleshed out. In every part of Scripture, they find evidence of this controlling theme or overarching storyline of Scripture and show it to you. Don’t miss the introduction where in the very first paragraph they lay out their basic thesis and explain what they are trying to do to perfection. It well makes you know what to expect across the thorough volume.

Unlike many such books they didn’t just ask us to believe them, they showed us. So many biblical texts are pulled in while the expansive bibliography shows the breadth of scholarship as well. There’s even an occasional chart or graph that is quite instructive.

I found this book more successful in its presentation than some others of its kind and 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.

The Church (Contours of Christian Theology) by Edmund Clowney

book the church

By this point, I have used almost every volume in the Contours of Christian Theology series. All these volumes have run between good and great. They all are books to ponder after you’ve already consulted your systematic theologies. None of them are for shallow readers but are for those who are interested in really digging in the theology. This volume on the church by Edmund P. Clowney is one of those that fall on the “great” end of the scale. He has such probing, interesting things to say about the church and handles beautifully where ecclesiology touches on any of the other main doctrines.

There are 18 chapters that cover the church from every conceivable angle and address every theological issue I can imagine on ecclesiology. While I might not agree with a few statements here and there, this volume definitely leans to the conservative point of view. Just check his references and endnotes and see who he quotes. That will make it clear where his perspective comes from.

The beauty of the book was how he took very familiar concepts, exactly those concepts you would imagine you’d find in a book about the church, and said them in new ways that stretched your thinking. He wrote a book of scholarly depth and theological precision without sacrificing clear, persuasive writing. Concepts within ecclesiology are highly debated and rigidly held so there’s little hope that he will fall exactly where every reader does but don’t let that keep you at bay. You will work through all these issues in a much more thorough fashion with far more satisfying results if this book is one you carefully use. A well-done volume!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Check Out The New “Best of Christianity Today” Series!

book CT

Two out of the three new releases in the Best of Christianity Today (CT) series published by Lexham Press have come across my desk:

Christ the Cornerstone: Collected Essays of John Stott

John Stott is a writer who always says something I find worth listening to. It doesn’t matter if I even agree with him on the point in question or not, as he speaks to me deeply with any words he has ever penned. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that he had written a series of penetrating articles for Christianity Today between 1977 and 1981. This lovely hardback volume with its attractive dust jacket includes a short introduction that explains these essays and the type of writing Stott does in them. Though he wrote the articles randomly to speak to readers then, this volume collects them in six categories: Scripture and theology, the Christian disciple, the mission of the church, the church around the world, church challenges, and social concerns.

While some of these articles are more theologically probing than others, they teach us many things. Some of the articles are specific to a specific condition of those years that might not be exactly the same in our day but the value of the essays is in how to biblically think about the world and what’s going on. To be sure, there may be places where you might completely disagree with some political observation he makes. Ignore that as you read because the real issue is what spiritual concerns are involved. One of the reasons Stott is so helpful is that he makes you a better thinker. He never seems in-your-face but rather a gentle, kind man with a keen mind who would love to talk to you about issues with the Bible open. He strikes me as the man who would have no problem with you disagreeing with him on some issue as long as spiritual concerns were kept front and center.

This book is a gem!

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.

Architect of Evangelicalism: Essential Essays of Carl F. H. Henry

To go along with the new volume of John Stott’s essays is this equally attractive collection of Christianity Today articles by Carl F. H. Henry. Henry writes with a stronger tone than Stott and his articles cover a larger swath of years, but he also had something powerful to say to readers in those days that can be gleaned by us today. In some ways, issues only present themselves again in different garb but they are the same issues. Maybe Stott could write a little better to the common person, but Henry knew how to get his point across as well.

This volume also contains a little introduction to explain how the articles came about and the type of writing that Henry does. Once again, the essays are categorized for us this time as: defining evangelicalism, evangelicals and modern theology, evangelicals and education, and evangelicals and society. The words that come to mind when I see his essays are fearless and theological. Again, you will like some of these articles better than others, but you will find them all together making a captivating collection.

We need some of the things said in this volume trumpeted throughout the land again!

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.

 

 

Authentic Human Sexuality (3rd Ed.) by Balswick

book authentic hum.jpg

Judith and Jack Balswick update their textbook on authentic human sexuality from a theological perspective that has been much in use since 1999. These updates appear about a decade apart each time, but can anyone imagine the depths of societal chaos that has changed precipitously in this last decade. I’m sure this update took a great deal of work to stay up-to-date. I think you will find their approach sensitive, thoughtful, careful, and scholarly. You might think they capitulate slightly in a few places, and though they share various viewpoints, they do hold to a Christian perspective as has been acceptable in Christianity for a long time.

The book is divided into four parts. Part one is five chapters on the formation of sexuality, which will begin with sexuality as God’s good gift, then take the subject through socio-cultural aspects, all before it stands before modern developments such as the LGBTQ issue. They also cover physiological issues quite deeply and special issues. They will make you aware of the reasoning behind some of the modern theories, even if you find those theories quite subversive as some of us do. Ultimately, they do hold that Scripture presents a heterosexual union is God’s design though they are careful to espouse Christian love in dealing with individuals. (Note: I missed some key paragraphs in my initial review that makes me substantially lower my rating).

Part two looks at authentic sexuality and covers relationships, singleness, cohabitation, and marital sexuality. Part three is three chapters covering inauthentic sexuality with issues like infidelity, harassment, abuse, violence, pornography, and addiction. The final part is simply a concluding chapter on a sexually authentic society.

This textbook reads well, is thorough, and covers all the necessary subjects that this volatile subject includes in our day. Some of the material covers things that you might find awkward or unpleasant, but this book accomplishes even in our chaotic days what a textbook on sexuality from a Christian perspective must cover.

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 Feasts of Repentance (NSBT) by Michael Ovey

book feasts nsbt

This latest release in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson, is an interesting read. Sometimes trying to tackle all that the author, Michael J. Ovey, did in this volume can be a disaster. He’s ultimately trying to talk about the doctrine of repentance, he’s wanting to limit his evidence to Luke-Acts, focus on the feasts found in those two books, and tie the whole thing to systematic and pastoral theology. Though I don’t imagine that many writers would formulate that design, he did seem to pull it off.

In case you’re wondering, of all those things he wove together, repentance was his main subject. There’s another volume on repentance in this series, but they truly do not cover the same ground. His first chapter digs into what I find to be the most common question about repentance: is it necessary to salvation? He makes a good case for it being present in all actual conversions, and he is pretty good at marshaling Scriptures to prove his point. The second chapter got more into the Luke-Acts specialty as he looked at the feasts in these books and how repentance was handled in them. There was some interesting information there that I could say frankly that I’d never thought of. In later chapters, he looks at repentance in terms of Jews and Gentiles, how identity and idolatry are key to understanding repentance (one of the better chapters), and entering repentance into the discussion of faith and salvation. For the record, he does hold to a reformed view in this chapter. His final chapter looked at repentance in terms of forgiveness and the church. Along the way, there were some telling comments about our day.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ovey passed away before this book was released. It’s clear he had put a lot of work into it. By this point, you should probably have a great idea of how a NSBT volume works. This is another good representation of the unique contribution this special series makes.

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.