Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach by Brian Maier

Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach
By Brian Maier

            The book seems geared toward professional counselors because of the language used. When you say “theological” rather than “Biblical,” you are appealing to theologians, rather than your average church worker. The same with words like, “models,” “construct,” “conceptual,” and even the word “justice.” So, the book is for Christian therapists who are up on the lingo, but lack somewhat in their theological formation. It is not easy to apply what’s learned in a secular classroom to the lives of Christians, especially because the two worldviews are widely disparate. The world accepts many things as given that a Christian must pause and ask of God’s Word before deciding whether it’s something good, bad, or even none of the above. Given these, is the book useful?
            Yes, it is, if for none other reason that most Christian Therapists are lacking in Biblical formation. Reading this book will at least cause them to mentally engage with their Bibles and, therefore, with God’s opinions, on subjects they deal with on a daily basis. More than “evolved ape-like creatures,” humans are created in God’s image and cannot be reduced to a set of behaviors (that many think are easily changed given the right motivations), rather, many problems that our people face have to do with sin, whether their own, or those that others have done against them.
            To leave Christ and His Word outside of the Psychologist’s room is the worst mistake one could make (while at the same time allowing the disciples of Freud, Rogers and Jüng in to assist). I truly hope Christian counselors/therapists, etc. get a hold of this book; if for no other reason that it is a serious attempt to engage these topics with Scripture.
            The book needs a new cover, and perhaps even an editor’s hand to make its message more accessible to the masses, but it is a great read for anyone engaging clients (or fellow brothers or sisters) that have forgiveness issues.


4/5 Stars


Disclaimer: The book was received for free from Kregel Ministry books in exchange for an unbiased opinion.

Book review: 40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline By James B. Pate

40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline
By James B. Pate

If you’ve read any of the “40 Questions…” series, you know how good the work being done is and how much scholarship goes into each offering. Not all authors are at the same level of expertise, of course; some are better scholars than others, and some are better at allowing themselves to be understood. Given that disclaimer, this book is badly needed in today’s churches; perhaps even more in the Spanish world. So, here’s hoping it gets translated soon, and that Hispanic Pastors will pick it up to learn from it.
           The topic is a very current one and, as I said, badly needed. Not every church has an established membership process, some don’t even have one at all. Anyone that comes in through the doors semi-consistently is considered a member; sooner than that if they start tithing or giving offerings. The missing element of a mutual agreement (“covenant” may even be a better word) between the church and the prospective member in today’s environment harms not only the church, but it cheapens a member’s faithful Christian life.
            Beyond that, members need to know how their private matters (even their private sins) will be handled by the leadership. Some people have been surprised to learn, only too late, that there was no privacy agreement between them and the Pastor; and everyone ended up knowing everything that had been disclosed behind closed doors. This is the more common when a respected and/or beloved member decides to move to a different church in the area. It became open season on the poor member and character attacks, dressed in “concerned warning” garb made its rounds in the previous church and also the new one.
            Of course, we have to also know that not every member has the church’s best interest at heart all the time, therefore the need for a MUTUAL agreement.
Church discipline is also badly needed in our time; just because someone that committed a sin weeps at the altar does not mean they are ready to be fully reincorporated to whatever ministry they were involved in prior to their sin. I should not even have to tell you about how the church needs to protect its children and youth in every possible way from those that are not qualified for service in that area, or could be dangerous in other ways to the spiritual, physical, and even sexual well-being of our children!!!
            Where church discipline does exist, it is not usually done the Scriptural way, but in ways that the church attorney’s or a denomination’s handbook instructs the Pastor to do it. Shame on those who call themselves Bible Christians/Pastors, etc., but leave the Bible aside every time it conflicts with the official church Manual. This, sadly, will not change until we all learn what the Bible teaches on topics like this.
            So, yes, this book is a must-read for every minister, pastor, leader in every church. And it wouldn’t hurt every member to read it as well.
            I do have some doubts that a couple of difficult-to-interpret Bible passages were handled correctly, and think that the “turning over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” is handled with kid gloves rather than allowing the horrors of such a recourse to instruct us and our members to the seriousness of our sin; but those are rare enough that the book is still the go-to handbook for these issues.

4/5 Stars


Disclaimer: The book was received for free from Kregel Ministry books in exchange for an unbiased opinion.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook by Richard A. Taylor

Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook

by Richard A. Taylor


The book is part of the “Handbook for Old Testament Exegesis” series published by Kregel. I have elsewhere given my take on a couple others from the series. At first glance I’d venture to say that Richard Taylor takes on the most difficult hermeneutical handbook of the whole series, dealing with the not-so-easily-definable genre of apocalyptic literature.
            The section on comprehending figurative language was useful as it cited interesting examples. The bibliographies that appear interspersed throughout the book are also welcome additions and point to further research sources.
            The grandiose statements of any author attempting to teach something usually sound so good that they may just be too good to be true; that’s when one appreciates an author that is willing to test his own principles and show others plainly what he does with a text and how he goes about the exegetical task. In short, how he puts into practice his own principles. Reading his results we can assess whether he promised more than he could deliver and whether or not his exegetical advice works in the way one expects it to. Of course, the author gets to choose his exemplars, and there’s nothing the reader can do about it. It could be that the author is just choosing a passage he is most familiar with. Nevertheless, if we can show me through his process that his methodology renders sound exegetical conclusions, then, I just might be willing to bite.
            I chose to evaluate Taylor’s work on the basis of his exegetical treatment of Joel 2:28–34. I wanted to see how well he applies his own advice, and what sorts of results he gets from it. No unexpected insights there, the text and its interpretation were pretty much standard. Perhaps the author should have chosen a more complicated pericope in order to demonstrate what his methodology can accomplish.
            The book is useful, and no one should venture to interpret apocalyptic literature without its assistance.

3/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: Preaching Old Testament Narratives by Benjamin H. Walton


Book Review: Preaching Old Testament Narratives

by Benjamin H. Walton


I was excited to learn Kregel was publishing this book. Belonging to a tradition that usually misuses Old Testament narratives in preaching, I was excited to learn how to do better from now on. With page after page of endorsements by some well-known names in the preaching and theological communities (really, twenty-one of them!) the book promised to be a definitive guide on the subject.
            The book is a step-by-step guide that begins, wonderfully enough, with the topic of Biblical hermeneutics. Skipping this step is what makes most other books on homiletics much less useful. Also quite helpful is the author’s emphasis on choosing a complete unit of thought in order to preach it. So many just choose one verse here or there and forget that the Holy Spirit that inspired the text had a message to convey. Faithfulness to the Word and the Spirit that birthed it demand that we heed this step.
            I also quite enjoyed and agreed with “Write a Manuscript, Then Ditch It.” Reading a sermon in the twenty-first century is a no-no in so many ways, and it quickly alienates Millenials. Talk to people like people. They are not automatons, neither should you be one. Connect. Look them in the eye and preach the Word to them.
            However, the addition of general preaching tips, though useful in the example above, made the book longer than it needed to be. I picked up the book to learn how to preach Old Testament narratives. Nothing more. I already know how to preach, just teach me this one thing, do in concisely, briefly, clearly and then let’s part ways. I have a long list of other things I must learn, and I have many books waiting for my attention.
            Oh, before I forget. One or two acronyms are cute and maybe useful; use too many and you lost me. And the author did.

3/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Book Review: The Spirituality of Paul by Leslie T. Hardin


Book Review: The Spirituality of Paul

by Leslie T. Hardin


The idea behind The Spirituality of Paul is a great one. The chapter titles draw the reader into the book. Who doesn’t want to understand “Paul the man,” aside from Paul’s theology? Even reading a little bit of “Paul the theologian” seems like a nice break from all the New Perspective/Old Perspective debates on his theology of law versus grace. One of the first titles that caught my eye was on “Paul’s Devotion to Scripture”; next was the chapter on spiritual gifts. I confess I did not find every chapter as compelling.
            What I didn’t like about the book was the way the author concludes the chapters, going beyond what the biblical explorations warrant to give too much of his own convictions, feelings, and theology. I read the book to learn about Paul’s spirituality, not the author’s. Whether you agree that gifts of the Spirit like tongues are in operation in today’s church or not. I was very uncomfortable with the author’s pontificating about it at the end of that chapter. Though pretending not to take sides and advocating a “let’s not judge each other” line, the author clearly does have a position and makes it clear while pretending to be neutral.
            Yes, that ruined the book for me and would not recommend it. I prefer to read an author who is upfront about his convictions and argues for them by exegesis, citation of other scholars, and logical argumentation.

2/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament by Charles Irons


Book Review: A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament
by Charles Irons



Similar cover and format to Philip Wesley Comfort’s A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament, you will get added benefit if you keep both volumes handy as you study the Greek New Testament. In fact, I would have loved to have both volumes combined into one somehow.  This is intermediate Greek and it may not be helpful for the beginning student of Koiné Greek; however, I would not have it too far away when preparing a sermon based on a New Testament text. There’s much to like in the volume, although many times I wished the author would go into greater detail. I wonder if the publishers limited him a little too much, in order to match the size and layout of the aforementioned volume (and probably Comfort also got limited to the standards of this series). Yes, the aim is to help the intermediate student read through the New Testament “with minimal interruptions”, but let’s face it, we still have to have our Greek New Testament open and this volume (along with Comfort’s), so the interruptions are present no matter what; given that, I’d love a little more detail.

The book needs to update its Bibliography to current NT Greek linguistic discussions/intermediate grammars to be more accurate and, therefore, useful to the Seminary student; otherwise, they may get blindsided by more current research not present in this brief tome.

The resource is recommended, though perhaps the best place for the information would be as footnotes (along with Comfort’s book) in a Reader’s Greek New Testament. THEN, the interruptions to the reader would be truly minimal.

3/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader

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Book Review: Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader edited by Karen H. Jobes

            As far as Hebrew Bible is concerned (the Christian “Old Testament”) Karen H. Jobes is a big player and a respected scholar. The book is designed to help students read the Greek of the Septuagint or LXX, that is, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek done about three centuries before the time of Christ. However, anyone interested in learning Biblical Greek should look for help elsewhere; this material is for someone with a good year of Koiné Greek under their belt and interested in progressing in their reading skills.
            The student will find help with the wider Greek vocabulary of the Septuagint (as compared to the more limited vocabulary of the New Testament). There will also be help with the peculiar Hebrew-influenced syntax of the LXX Greek, as it will be challenging for the person used to the Greek constructions in the New Testament.
            There are chapters with readings from Genesis, Exodus (the Ten Commandments!), Ruth, some Psalms, Hosea, Jonah, Malachi, and my favorite, Isaiah, including, of course, Isaiah 53, the most famous Messianic chapter in the Hebrew Bible.
            The notes explicate terms, syntax, and contextual issues; there are also notes on textual issues both in the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint manuscripts, and even the Dead Sea Scrolls. I think I would have liked more detailed notes on exegetical issues (or maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Daniel Wallace’s intermediate Greek syntax). Jobe’s book also has a brief Glossary of Technical Terms.

4/5 stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry book review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Book Review: What Happened in the Garden, edited by Abner Chou


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Book Review: What Happened in the Garden edited by Abner Chou

Written by the faculty of the Master’s College, the book takes a Bible-believing, conservative stand. What is at stake in the issue at hand is the reality of Adam and Eve as real people directly created by God, and their actual fall into sin that left humanity in need of a Messiah that would atone for all sin and restore creation back to its original state. The story of redemption from that time, through the Patriarchs and Israel to Jesus and the New Covenant community, and the awaited eschaton are explained by that need, unless the story of Adam and Eve is just a metaphor and not an actual event in history. Well, some Christian scholars are precisely asserting the latter and the Master’s College faculty take the task of defending the traditional view in a no less scholarly way.
            With chapters on Hermeneutics and History, Genetics of Adam, A Map of Misreadings, Genesis 3 and Original Sin, Thermodynamics and the Fall, etc. there’s something for everyone. Nicely footnoted (and the footnotes are at the bottom of each page! Yay!), the authors are in conversation with liberal and conservative scholars on their respective topics.
            A good resource to have on a foundational issue. Get this book, read it and share it with your church.

4/5 stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry book review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

­Book Review: Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider

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Book Review: Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider


The book is edited by two Dallas Theological Seminary graduates so the overall perspective will be from that Seminary’s ideological point of view; though the writers come from different universities, including three former professors of mine at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is refreshing that the ideology behind this study is one of Biblical trustworthiness; one will not have to worry about whether the authors think Paul was mistaken in his prophetic views (as some liberal Christians assert).

Part 1 introduces the foundations for a doctrine of the future, including a good chapter by Charles C. Ryrie himself. Part 2 is a Biblical theology of the future, examining what the Bible itself has to say on the topic, division by division (Historical books, the Prophets, the Synoptic Gospels, etc.). I was surprised to find myself enjoying the historical part of the book, and the analyses on part 3 will be helpful to anyone wanting a primer on, say, Augustine’s view of the future, or that of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or Jürgen Moltmann. Overall, the authors made an excellent effort in laying out the basics of each view. Part 4 brings in the praxis of a doctrine of the future to contemporary situations.

Of course, as other books, my personal theological stance on prophecy is not represented since I am not a traditional or progressive Dispensationalist, but no one expected the authors to be perfect. :-)

Finally, I applaud Kregel for printing the footnotes at the bottom of the page (as opposed to endnotes that one has to hunt down to make sense of), making it more useful to students and scholars; the book is much, much better because of this.

A solid 4/5 stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry book review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review: 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate



Book Review: 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate

Kregel is publishing some exciting books; I am a fan of this series (did I say that before? It’s still true). If you’ve had questions on all the talk about “the historical Jesus”, this is a good book to begin your quest for understanding.


Pate is a first-rate scholar, highly respected, and sometimes he is even correct in his stances. He is well-read and is able to write in a non-academic way, which sometimes is lacking on other scholars. ;-) Furthermore, this is not a skeptic voice, but a believing one. Pate is a conservative, but that does not mean he is not a careful scholar (isn’t it sad I have to make sure to point this out? Liberal propaganda certainly colors the way people see Bible-believers). You will find some good answers for those that assert the Gospel stories cannot be taken as historical truth.

Again, this is a good primer on the topic and I think you could do much worse than this series by Kregel.

4/5 Stars


 Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry book review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book Review: Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament




Book Review: Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament
By Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Written by one of the biggest names in Hebrew Bible studies, the book is a much needed, scholarly study of troubling themes in the Old Testament. I appreciated how Kaiser did not sugar coat nor dumb down the issues. He tackled questions at their hardest to explain. Issues like Evolution or Creation (How could there be light before the sun and moon were created?), Grace or Law, Monogamy or Polygamy (Didn’t heroes of faith like Abraham and David have many wives?), Peace or Genocide (Didn’t God command the extermination of entire peoples?), etc. are confronted head on. Yet, Kaiser approaches the topics as one who believes the Bible to be the Word of God. This in itself is refreshing in this day and age. Trust me. Not many like him left in academic circles.

If some of God’s actions in the Old Testament have seemed troublesome to you in the past, this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy. Though, let me warn you that part of Kaiser’s honesty will cause him to leave some issues unresolved to your satisfaction. Again, he is handling the Word the best way he can, while still allowing for mystery in the will and actions of God; as it should be, I guess. Personally, I like clear-cut answers, and black or white points of view, but I understand that they are not always possible.

4/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry book review program. The program does not require a positive review, only an unbiased one.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

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Book Review: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament by Philip Wesley Comfort


 Needless to say, this is not a book for the average believer. But it is a book pastors and Bible teachers that care about every word in the Bible should read. With Bart Ehrman and other skeptics attacking the trustworthiness of the New Testament, the time has come for Christian leaders to become well informed and conversant with issues of text criticism. This book, while not answering Ehrman’s twisted logic, does help us understand the different types of manuscripts the scholars work from. It would also help those that revere the KJV to understand why other translations, while not being liberal (ESV, NET, for instance), have some verses that read differently. The book helps clear up the “missing verses” misunderstanding so common in popular Bible translation wars.

The book includes information on the Early Manuscripts, and a helpful Annotated List of the Manuscripts of the New Testament. The book also has a very helpful and informative Appendix on The Significance of the Nomina Sacra (Sacred Name) and the way it (in its various incarnations) appears in New Testament Greek manuscripts.

Highly recommended resource.

4/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review - 40 Questions on Baptism and the Lord's Supper


40 Questions on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper 

By John S. Hammett

This particular series has proven very helpful as it addresses topics of importance to any believer in the 21st century. The present tome is no exception. It has a wealth of information on the Christian practices of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (others call the latter, Communion or The Eucharist). The author’s point of view is theologically conservative, accepting the Bible as the Word of God; which is refreshing, given the current academic trend of disbelief. The author got his Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and therefore, the reader should not be surprised to learn he favors Baptist doctrinal stances.
            Hammett does address what others believe about baptism and the Lord’s Supper and he does it in a respectful tone and endeavoring to be fair. This is also refreshing, given the polemic nature of Christian disagreements on these and other doctrinal topics. He does not simply knock down straw men; although, I’m sure proponents of alternative views will be able to point out where Hammett has misunderstood or unintentionally misrepresented their doctrine.
            My own perspective differs from the author’s, but I can appreciate the work he put into his research. I love the format of the series and trust we will get more quality work in other areas of theology and Christian doctrine

4/5 Stars

Disclaimer: The book was received for free from Kregel Ministry books in exchange for an unbiased opinion.

Book Review - For the Love of God's Word

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For the Love of God’s word: An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation


By Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson

Köstenberger was academically influenced by Grant Osborne and D.A. Carson, two heavy-weights in the interpretation department; that fact alone makes one expect a quality book. But Köstenberger is a scholar of the first rank on his own merit and this book ably demonstrates that fact (I apologize for not knowing enough about the co-author Richard Patterson). Written to be used as a simple textbook on Biblical interpretation, the book contains not only the essentials, but the fundamentals on the art and science of interpretation.
            The book is an abridged version of their more academic Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, but if you have never read the bigger tome, you will not think anything is missing from the abridgment. The authors have carefully distilled the fundamental content and made it more accessible. This is good news for readers that do not have much time but do need to hone in their hermeneutical skills.
            Throughout the book there are shaded boxes with a synthesis of the chapters contents and these are very helpful. They will give you outlines of steps, definitions, arguments, procedures, etc. that you can refer back to when you are done reading the book. They will serve as an excellent refresher for years to come. They also will test you on whether you understood and learned what the authors intended for each chapter in question. The examples given throughout the book are very useful and capably illustrate the hermeneutical principles being studied. There is a useful glossary at the end of the book for the technical/academic jargon used in case one is not familiar enough with it.
            For my taste, the layout of  Scott and Hays’ Grasping God’s Word is more inviting for first time students; but I would recommend the present text as a handy reference to further explore certain types of hermeneutics or if in need of exegetical examples of proper interpretation processes.

4/5 Stars

Disclaimer: The book was received for free from Kregel Ministry books in exchange for an unbiased opinion.