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.