Jun 26

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, by DA Carson ???

This is actually a combination of two books, the first being a treatise on the sermon on the mount, and the second “Jesus Confrontation with the World” on Matt. 8-10. The latter were derived from sermons that DA Carson preached early on in his life, and the former is a exposition that we also wrote many years ago, though in a sermon type format. It is Carson in the “easy-read” mode, speaking in admonitions and encouragement towards a full Christian life. Carson is repetitive with other writings of his, and doesn’t offer critical insights that one is accustomed to in his more academic writings. This is a book that offers a good read of a “devotional” type.

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Jun 24

Practical Religion, by J.C. Ryle ????

This book is a series of 21 papers written by J.C. Ryle, former bishop of Liverpool, on aspects of practical Christianity. In it J.C. Ryle accounts the necessity for regular Bible reading, prayer, and other aspects of life which maintain the health of a Christian person. There was a moderate amount of repetition of examples, and the papers were more like sermons than expository articles. They provided good reading for self-examination and contemplation on how to live the Christian life in a better manner, focusing on the things that are most important in life.

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Jun 19

Above All Earthly Powers, Christ in a Postmodern World, by David Wells ?????

This is the fourth in a series of books written by David Wells on the status of the church in the last 20 years. In all of the books in the series, he offers insights into how the church has drifted away from its doctrinal moorings and yielded to the Zeitgeist of pluralism, commercialism, and materialism, while turning the focus of worship from God to self. In this book, Wells takes a particular aim at the influences of postmodern thinking on the nature and behavior of church. In the first several chapters, he defines postmodernism. I tend to agree with his assessment that postmodernism is really just another form of modernism, a form which has run the experiment of the Enlightenment to its bitter deadly end. He then addresses how America has gone from a uniform white European Protestant community to being a multicultural hodgepodge, and how that has affected the way we think and act, as well as the way we “do” church. The next chapter addresses how Americans have actually become much more spiritual across the board, yet much less religious. This is a result of a lost basis for religion, especially the grounding of the authority of Scripture, while enhancing the authority of the inner self, and how one feels about god. Next, Wells discusses how the entirety of “meaning” has found a new home. Whereas the older philosophers such as Sartre and Camus spoke of our existential despair, the new think is almost a sense of giddy irrational joy regarding our meaninglessness. Unfortunately, the Christian response has been sociological rather than soteriological, i.e., has tried to answer man’s quest for meaning in terms of help groups rather than giving the gospel. Wells brushes with how the new thinking about Paul has contributed to the evangelical problem by diminishing the work of Christ on the cross. Next, Wells speaks of how our current age has lost its “centeredness”, attacking the openness theology of Clark Pinnock as contributing to the meaninglessness of events in the world where even God has lost control. Wells does a devastating rebuke of openness thinking. In the end, Wells ends with his characteristic theme of showing how all of these postmodern thought patterns has led to the behaviors that we now see in the church, including the Willow Creek phenomenon, church marketing, and the church as the focus of every sort of commercial enterprise. While Willow Creek style pastors have a true desire to help the church to grow, they have sacrificed truth in the process. Thus, they ultimately have nothing to offer the post-modern man, longing for true truth. Church must “preserve its cognitive identity and distinction from the culture” in order to truly flourish. Christians are not to incorporate into or conquer post-modernity, but rather stand for Christ, as post-modernity will die as all other philosophies have died. This book is a must-read for Christians who truly wish to make an impact on post-modern man.

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Jun 18

By Faith Alone

By Kenneth Feucht books 1 Comment »

By Faith Alone, by Gary L.W. Johnson, and Guy P. Waters ??

I did not completely read this book, and skimmed many sections. It is edited texts of a number of talks given by Presbyterian Reformed people, mostly addressing issues of the new thinking on Paul, as now promoted by N.T. Wright, and on the Auburn Theology. The new thinking sections have been more clearly and better handled by others, such as DA Carson, and so little new is offered. The Auburn Theology issue is the creation of a straw man, attacking was they view as a Romish deviation of theology, as first suggested by John Murray from Westminster Theological Seminary. Their complaint is the tendency of Auburn Theology, that is, Federal Vision, to speak of a single Covenant, rather than multiple covenants that God has given to man. They offer no clarification as to exactly what they are contesting except for perhaps the different terminology being used, and I am left bewildered as to exactly where they view the problem with Federal Vision to be. Essentially, they resemble a group of academic Presbyterians with a severe case of constipation. Unfortunately, such name calling has led to potential divisions within the PCA denomination, and we are none the better for the sloppy theology that this book provides. They offer more name calling rather than arguments to defend or contest the statements of the Federal Theologians. Please understand, while I do not support theological orientation of federal theology, it is mostly because I am having such a hard time defining what is exactly is, and how it is so seriously deviant from covenantal reformed theology to lead to such rancor and discussion. My advice is to not waste your time with this book.

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Jun 15

The Providence of God, by Paul Helm ?????

This was a hard book to rate, in that it was not an easy book to read. A few sections had to be re-read a number of times, and still pretty much passed me by. I have reviewed other books in the past by Paul Helm. Dr. Helm is noted as one of the premier conservative Christian philosophers alive today, and currently teaches at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. In this text, Helm tackles the hardest of all possible problems, the issue of God’s providence. This book, as I understand from other sources, was written as the philosophical response to Openness theology. What does “providence” mean? How does providence fit philosophically with the thought of human freedom, with the idea of petitionary or intercessory prayer, with the idea of human responsibility, or with the idea of the existence of evil. Helm efficiently shows how all of these concepts relate to the same issue. He shows that if one believes in a situation where God is not knowledgeable of the precise future, or has not determined all future decisions that one will make (God taking “risks”), it does not lend to easier solutions to the problem of evil, the problem of freedom, etc., than if one believes in a God who ordains all that will come to pass (God in a no-risk situation). So, Helm concludes with a strong “Calvinistic” approach to free-will and providence, though remaining very gracious to disagreement. In the end, Helm does a laudable job at showing the consistency of one’s free will and a God who has determined all that is, was, and will be. Helm shows that not only is a no-risk God the most logical (as well as Scriptural) conclusion, but also the conclusion that offers the Christian the greatest comfort, knowing that the future is not in our hands, but in His. Thus, he provides a rational basis for life and obedience as a Christian person, not in “immobility” of feeling that there is no point in acting, since the fates will be what they will be, but, since we remain ignorant of the future, living out our lives as responsible moral agents under a God who will make all things, evil or good, work out for our best. This is not a book for everybody. Perhaps one needs to possess a certain insanity to even think about the philosophical implications of providence. If your are one of those tormented souls that troubles over philosophical details of good, evil, determinism, and the fates in a theistic context, this is a must read book.

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