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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: 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.