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Book Review: The New City Catechism

Book Review: The New City Catechism

New City Catechism by Crossway Book CoverMany churches today no longer use catechisms to train up their people, particularly children, in great theological truths of doctrine. This is a tragedy. We live in a time where biblical and theological literacy is virtually non-existent in many churches. And I believe, a simple catechism is a good answer to curbing this epedemic of theological softness.

Crossway has produced a beautiful and faithful catechism for this very purpose. The New City Catechism was put together by notable pastor, Timothy Keller.

The catechism has 52 answers and questions of some of the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith. It is generic enough that it can be used by both Baptists and Presbyterians (and others who practice infant baptism) but specific enough to bring out the truths of the Gospel that all true believers necessarily agree and adhere to.

It is a simple format. The question is on one side, and the answer and supporting Scripture is on the other. On the answer, portions are highlighted to give shorter answers that kids can memorize.

Further, Crossway has put together several resources to enhance the use of this catechism. A companion site gives digital flashcards, web resources, and access to mobile apps as well. There is also a full curriculum that can be purchased for use in your church.

I am pleased to recommend this resource to all churches and families wishing to raise their congregations and family members to know the great doctrines of our faith.

Book Review: Kerux Commentary Philippians

Book Review: Kerux Commentary Philippians

Pastors and teachers are always looking for commentaries that help them expound the Scriptures with clarity and ease. This is what the Kerux Commentary series has set out to do. The latest in this series is their commentary on Paul’s letter to the Philippians by Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle.

In the Editor’s Preface, we see that the focus of the Kerux series is to give preaching units that focus on three different areas. They focus on the exegetical, theological, and homiletical purposes of the text. This means the job of the teacher is greatly eased by giving tools necessary that they would already be using. How does this work?

The first section of the commentary gives a summary of each preaching unit. It starts with a section of the text, for this review we will look at Philippians 2:5-8. Under that, they give the three areas discussed above. So, for example, in this section, the exegetical idea is how Christ modeled a servant. The Theological focus is humility. And, finally, the preaching idea is to climb down the ladder of privilege to reflect the attitude of Christ. 

After the three areas of focus, the commentary, in the summary section, lists “Preaching Pointers” that give the preacher/teacher ideas about what they should drive home when delivering the text.

As in most commentaries, the Kerux Philippians volume has an introduction with the typical information about the Epistle such as an outline, authorship, date of writing, location, audience, cultural issues, and the overall historical setting. This helps the teacher with major research into the history of the book saving them time in getting to exegete the actual text.

But where the commentary shines is in the meat of each preaching unit. The volume goes into literary structures, gives an exposition of the text, and then goes into academic analysis of various translations of different Greek words between English translations as well as other theological issues. Finally, it gives application that can be used for your congregation, class, or small group.

In summary, I find that the Kerux Commentary on Philippians is a technical, but easy to follow, commentary that is faithful to the biblical text and theologically conservative. It would serve any pastor or teacher well as part of their personal library. I give it four out of five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible

Book Review: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible

36026861Today I decided to do something I have not done in a while, read a whole book in a day. For a while, I have wanted to read Mark Ward’s Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. Today, I finally sat down and accomplished this task.

The debates surrounding the King James Bible vs. other English translations have been raging for decades. There are very heated and passionate discussions on the topic. Some of these discussions are rational and biblical but many are not. So in a very real sense, Dr. Ward is brave for tackling this topic head-on. But he is also to be commended in the very sincere, rational, biblical, and respectful way that he has approached the debate.

First, the book is easy to understand. It is written in plain language and not bogged down with tons of Greek and Hebrew. In fact, I honestly don’t remember reading much, if any, Greek and Hebrew in the book itself. That’s not the focus of the book. The focus is whether or not the King James Bible is still the best translation to use for the modern English reader.

Without giving away too much information, you should really buy the book, Dr. Ward takes the approach of looking at the English language itself. For example, he explores dead words that are used in the KJV. He is fair in stating that yes, we can look these words up in dictionaries, but points out that you need special dictionaries that include these words to begin with.

But the bigger issue Ward points out is what he calls “false friends.” False friends are words that we do not understand but do not realize we do not understand them. What is meant by this is that the words meant something significantly different in 1611 than what they mean today. He goes through quite a few examples of these in the book making a compelling argument for needing a fresh translation.

Dr. Ward also examines ten common objections to using translations other than the KJV. He explores these in detail and breaks down the argument and gives logical rebuttals to each of these arguments. These are arguments such as the new translations use corrupt manuscripts, they dumb down the English language, or the problem isn’t really that big.

All in all, Ward does a superb job of explaining why we should not ditch the KJV but also should not expect it to be the primary English translation used in every day study. This book should be required reading for people looking for a good English translation and I give Authorized a five star rating!

You can read Dr. Ward’s blog and see his other books at By Faith We Understand.

Book Review: Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals

Book Review: Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals

M56526Gavin Ortlund’s new book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals, seeks to give us instruction on why we need to look to church history for answers in today’s age of advancement and millennial thinking.

Ortland argues that Evangelicals have lost touch with the history of the Christian Church. Much of this is for fear of becoming too close to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. And, as he explains, those are valid fears. But the fears should not keep us from exploring the rich heritage of Christianity and to explore the scenarios and events that have helped shaped the theology of the church between the first century and the church today. After all, was there nothing good that came out of the church in its first 1500 years of existence?

Ortland points out an alarming trend of people leaving Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. He highlights a prominent Christian Celebrity, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, to illustrate this point explaining that Hanegraaff left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy a couple of years ago. He demonstrates that this has been happening at an alarming rate. And why is this happening?

So what is causing this trend? Obviously, every person’s story is unique, and we must leave room for a wide array of different kinds of factors in each case. However, one of these recurring themes among these denominational migrations is related to how Dreher interpreted Hanegraff’s conversion: the desire for historical depth.

Gary Ortland – Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals Chapter 2

Historical depth is the problem according to Ortland as well as others. So the solution, according to Ortland, is Theological Retrieval.

Theological Retrieval is the process of studying church history. But not just the history of the church, the writings of the early church. Ortland shows a process of rediscovering the early writings of the Early Church Father’s and filtering how we ended up with the doctrines that we hold so dear today.

The second half of the book shows practical methods for engaging in theological retrieval. He explores topics such as God (Theology Proper), the atonement, and art.

In each of these cases, he takes the theological concept, puts the current thinking on the topic in light, then looks to see what the church has written about the topic historically. He admits that to be a good systematic theologian, you must respect historical theology as a discipline. In this book, he meshes those two disciplines together.

Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is not an easy read. There were times when reading that I had to force myself to get into the text or just put it down and come back later. However, the truth contained within and the methods examined and displayed are valuable and to be encouraged.

Because of this, I give Theological Retrieval for Evangelical three out of five stars. However, I do recommend it as a read for those who are seeking to know the history of their faith and how their Evangelical Protestantism fits into the elaborate history of the Christian Church.

I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Grace Defined and Defended by Kevin DeYoung

Book Review: Grace Defined and Defended by Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung’s book, Grace Defined and Defended takes readers on a journey through the 400 year-old confession called the Canons of Dort. This simple, yet informative, book shows the history and circumstances that lead to the canons being written birthing the formula for what we now call TULIP.

The book does not get heavy into a theological treatise. DeYoung addresses this at the beginning stating:

My first goal is to explain the Canons of Dort. Think of this not as a  mini systematic theology or as an exegetical exploration of key salvation texts, but as a brief, accessible commentary on the background and theology of Dort itself.

DeYoung definitely delivers. He brings the articles of the canons to succinct and clear statements with explanation in modern English that leave no doubt on the history and meaning of the articles. 

The main text of the book does not give the full text of the canons. Rather, DeYoung takes key phrases that build the meat of each article and expounds upon it. This helps to keep the book short and focused sticking with the most important facts of the documents. Full texts of the positions of Dort and the Arminian position (Remonstrant) can be found in the appendixes at the back of the book. Scripture proofs are also provided for each of the points.

It is good to note that at the beginning of the book DeYoung takes a history of the TULIP acronym explaining that, while good, it does not give the full picture of Calvinism or even the canons of Dort. He does make sure to say that TULIP is good for a summary but it is not the complete story or position.

I have to give Grace Defined and Defended five out of five stars. It is easy to read and understand while giving a clear history on the Canons of Dort. I applaud Kevin DeYoung for another outstanding book to help educate the church on what it believes and why it believes it.

I was given a free copy of the book by the Publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Confronting Christianity

Book Review: Confronting Christianity

Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin is a new book out by Crossway Publishing. McLaughlin poses twelve difficult questions for Christians to engage with regarding their faith, realities of that faith, how they are viewed by the culture and how it impacts their own lives. But what this book also does is turn the same questions around on the culture who likes to attack Christianity in these twelve areas.

So what are the areas discussed? Atheism, Diversity, One True Religion, Morality, Violence, Literalness of the Scripture, Science, Women, Homosexuality, Slavery, Suffering, and Hell. McLaughlin tackles all of these issues head on without apology.

The book is an easy read. McLaughlin uses stories from her own life and others to illustrate key points and brings science and Scripture to easy levels to understand. Her grasp of the culture wars that contend with Christianity are second to none.

I highly recommend this book to be part of your library to strengthen your faith and to help equip you in the area of apologetics. I easily give it four out of five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishing in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review: Remaining Faithful in Ministry

Book Review: Remaining Faithful in Ministry

John MacArthur’s new book, Remaining Faithful in Ministry, is a convicting, challenging, and motivating read that every pastor or preacher should have in his library.

MacArthur, who recently celebrated fifty years of ministry at Grace Community Church, writes on 2 Corinthians 4 and the faithful ministry of the Apostle Paul. In fact, the book reads almost as a biography of the Apostle.

The book seeks to examine the life of Paul and how he was faithful in his ministry. It does this by looking at nine key areas (convictions) of his life and ministry. These are the superiority of the new covenant, ministry is a mercy, the need for a pure heart, the need to preach the Word faithfully, results belong to God, his own insignificance, the benefit of suffering, and the need for courage.

Throughout each chapter, MacArthur examines the writings of Paul as well as accounts of his life from the book of Acts. Each shows a man who was deeply devoted to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ after his conversion challenging each of us as believer’s to step up and do the same.

The book is well-written and easy to understand.

Overall, I recommend this book not only to pastors and preachers, but to every Christian. It is a short read that can be finished in one sitting of a couple of hours. It will challenge and convict you and stretch your faith for growth and maturity.

I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher in exhange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Can We Trust The Gospels?

Book Review: Can We Trust The Gospels?

Can We Trust The Gospels? by Peter J. Williams, is the latest work in a whole line of works that seek to explain the reasons we have for confidence in the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ. This is a subject that has any number of works written both for and against the validity of the Gospel books in the New Testament.

Williams’ book is masterfully written with a fresh new look at the topic. He incorporates new evidence from archaeology from the last 50 years that demonstrates even further that we can, in fact, trust the Gospel accounts as both historically accurate and spiritually fulfilling.

Williams starts out by exploring the testimony of Non-Christian sources and their take on the Gospel accounts. He finds that they match with precision. If the Gospel writers were putting forth lies about these events, why would the secular sources reference and agree with these same events?

Williams also tackles the question, which books are true Gospels? What is to be included? He puts historical measures for this process in place as well as church acceptance throughout history.

A large emphasis is also put on the knowledge of the Gospel writers themselves. The writers knew their geography. They knew the culture. They knew specific events and names. There are things that are in the Gospels that could not be known if you were not intimately acquainted with the culture and locations in which the Gospel accounts take place.

Another area of focus is whether or not we have the actual words of Christ within the Gospels. A persuasive case is made that we do indeed have the actual words of Christ based on the strong culture of oral tradition that was present in the first century. He also addresses perceived contradictions in the text which are mostly due to people ignoring the fact that words can have multiple meanings.

The final chapter of the book is titled, “Who Would Make All This Up?” This, of course, is a key question. The stories contained in the Gospel were not safe stories to portray in the time immediately following Christ’s death and resurrection. The fact that these people were willing to put their lives on the line gives further authenticity to their message.

Overall, Can We Trust the Gospels? is a delightful, easy and quick read. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the area of apologetics and also anyone who would like to deepen their faith in the validity of the Scriptures.

I received this book free from the Publisher, Crossway, in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Book Review: The Teaching Ministry of the Church

Book Review: The Teaching Ministry of the Church

The Teaching Ministry of the Church, edited by William R. Yount, is a resource designed to help churches and pastors set up an educational ministry within their church. Educational ministries range from Sunday School to youth group, to adult education.

The book is written by a slew of authors in various essays. While much of the book is profitable, particularly regarding methods of Bible Study, I found much of the teaching advice and instruction to be outdated and short-sighted.

The book does not seem to grasp modern culture and educational research. Its methods look to be from the 1970s and would fail to capture audience attention in the modern culture.

In short, the book captures the right needs for education in the church. It also captures the correct roles for God, Pastors, and Laity in teaching the church. But the book fails in actually instructing how to best execute that educational role.

With all of this in mind, I do not recommend this resource.

Book Review: Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke

Book Review: Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke

Joel Beeke has come out with a call for reformed preaching. Reformed Preaching discusses what Joel calls Experiential Preaching. This is not to be confused with experimental. 

The book begins with an examination of what experiential preaching is and challenges preachers to look at their methods of preaching to see if they are preaching to the heart and soul of those who hear the message. Beeke then proceeds to explain the elements of Reformed preaching.

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