Category Archives: Book Reviews
The Closer: Reviewed by Tim Challies
Mariano Rivera has never been one of my favorite people. After all, for many years he was a fixture for the New York Yankees, divisional rivals of my own Toronto Blue Jays. When a game came to the final inning and the Jays were down by a run or two, Rivera would jog onto the field and shut it down. Once he came onto the field, the outcome was rarely in doubt.
But he has retired now, and I like him a lot better. No sooner did he retire than he got to work penning his memoir, The Closer. It’s quite a story. Born in abject poverty in Panama, Rivera grew up in, on and around fishing boats, working with his father to scrape together a living. When the tides were out, he and his friends would play baseball on the beach, improvising the equipment they needed: wadded up fishing nets for balls, rocks for bases, tree branches for bats, and milk cartons for gloves. It was an unlikely start to one of the great baseball careers.
When he was in his late teens, Rivera began playing shortstop for a nearby amateur baseball team. One day the pitcher played so badly that Rivera was asked to take over for a couple of innings. The results were so impressive that friends contacted a scout for the New York Yankees. Rivera gained a try-out, then a minor league contract. And the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to become the most dominant closer in the history of the game, earning 652 saves in the biggest baseball market in the world. He was an All-Star 13 times, won 5 World Series, and was once the World Series MVP. He had a storybook career and through it became world famous and fantastically wealthy, with his earnings topping $150 million. He has come a long way from that fishing boat in Panama.
But there is more to his story than baseball. In his early twenties Rivera was exposed to the gospel and became a Christian—an unashamedly outspoken Christian. While the book describes his life, it also describes his faith and, to borrow a sport’s metaphor, he leaves it all on the field. He tells how important his faith has been, how it has sustained him, and how the Bible has given him guidance throughout his life.
The Bible can’t tell you the story of my walk with the Lord, but it can tell you everything about how I try to live, and why the love of the Lord is the foundation of my whole life. For me, the Bible is not just the word of God, but a life road map that is packed with wisdom that you cannot beat even if you spent the next hundred years reading spiritual books and self-help books. It is the best kind of wisdom: Simple wisdom. This sort of wisdom, from the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, verse twelve: Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
When it comes to his faith, Rivera describes just what he believes and why he believes it. While it becomes clear that he loves the Lord, it also becomes clear that he is not a theologian. Unfortunately, a few of the things he says are unclear or confusing and probably owe more to Pentecostalism than to the historic Christian faith. And yet, again, it is clear that he is passionate about the Lord and the spread of the gospel. In the aftermath of his storied career he has both moved on and stayed just the same. “For the last nineteen seasons, the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to play professional baseball for the New York Yankees. My job was to save games, and I loved every part of it. Now I have a new job—probably better described as a calling—and that is to glorify the Lord and praise His name, and show the wonders that await those who seek Him and want to experience His grace and peace and mercy.” To do this, he and his wife have co-founded a church where they serve as pastors.
As is the case with most sports memoirs, this one is dominated by descriptions of games and plays. Those who love sports, and who love the Yankees in particular, will find it riveting. Those who are a little less enthusiastic about sports may find themselves skimming over certain sections. And if you’re like me, you may find yourself silently finding yourself hoping he’ll lose the games, just because he’s pitching for New York. In any case, Rivera’s story is a good one and well worth reading.
Source: http://www.challies.com (June 18, 2014)
A Primer on Substance Dualism - Book Review by David P. Craig
I had the privilege of taking four classes from Dr. J.P. Moreland while a student at Talbot in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Honestly, I had an easier time understanding Dr. Moreland when he lectured than reading his books. J.P. is a deep thinker, brilliant philosopher, and most importantly – an ardent follower of Jesus. While in school I read his book Christianity and the Nature of Science three times before I really got the gist of what he was saying. The Soul is a wonderful primer on the case for the existence of the soul in a sea of naturalistic thinking.
I am constantly dealing with proponents of physicalism or scientific naturalism as I seek to share the gospel with those who do not believe in God or the soul. I found that Moreland’s book was still challenging to read, but well worth the effort. The book gave me a good overview of the worldview of the proponents of scientific naturalism, and the case to be made for the soul known as substance dualism. Moreland constructs a strong case of both biblical and non-biblical arguments for the existence of the soul.
I highly recommend this book especially for college students and Christians who regularly engage in evangelism and apologetics. It is great place to start before getting into some of the more formidable books on the subject by Moreland such as his Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Debating Christian Theism; Consciousness and the Existence of God; Christianity and the Nature of Science; and Body and Soul. Moreland knows his stuff. He has put the cookies on the bottom shelf in this book to help Christians understand the importance of the soul’s existence and how to present the case for the soul with skeptics.
Mere Christianity for the 21st Century - Book Review by David P. Craig
In 1943 in Great Britain, when hope and the moral fabric of society were being threatened by the relentless inhumanity of global war, an Oxford don – C.S. Lewis was invited to give a series of radio lectures addressing the central issues of Christianity. Over half a century after the original lectures, the topic retains it urgency. Expanded into book form, Mere Christianity set out to provide a rational basis for Christianity in an era of modernity.
Fast forward to the 21st century. We now live in a post-modern era in the western world. When Lewis wrote in 1943 lines of black and white, right and wrong were very clear, not so anymore. How can we believe in a personal God in an age of skepticism unlike the times of fifty years ago? Are there any cogent reasons to believe in God in an age of relativistic thought? Enter Tim Keller.
Tim Keller’s Reason for God has provided for modern Christians and skeptics what C.S. Lewis provided in his time – a reasoned defense over the main objections to Christianity: (1) There can’t be just one true religion; (2) How could a good God allow suffering? (3) Christianity is a straightjacket; (4) The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice; (5) How can a loving God send people to Hell? (6) Science has disproved Christianity; (7) You can’t take the Bible literally…and then in provided seven offensive cases for the coherency of rational Christianity: (1) The clues of God; (2) The knowledge of God; (3) The problem of sin; (4) Religion and the Gospel; (5) The true story of the cross; (6) The reality of the resurrection; (7) The dance of God.
In reading the book one finds a step by step macro level picture of why a reasonable belief in God is rational and compelling in a postmodern world. All other world-views leave one full of loopholes and contradictions. Only Christianity gives one the comprehensive lenses by which we can see ourselves, the world, and a personal God more clearly and logically. Life, relationships, and our place in the universe has meaning, purpose, and hope if there is indeed the existence of a Holy God who came and died for us to know Him and to make Him known.
I highly recommend this book for both skeptics of Christianity and believers in Christianity. It will answer the most important questions we can ever ask about faith, life, the after life, and the most important issues of our day. Tim Keller answers the profoundest questions we have with humility, sensitivity, biblically, and practically. It is one of the “must reading” books for our times. I especially would like to see Christians giving this book to their unbelieving friends and reading the book with them. It is a great book for discussion and building bridges to the gospel – and thus opening the door for a relationship with God through His Son – Jesus Christ.
A PRIMER ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Book Review By David P. Craig
As a pastor for almost 30 years I’ve experienced corporate, individual, internal, and external spiritual warfare of various kinds. Spiritual warfare is a lot like a military battle nations face with its weapons and surprises that are unpredictable, and the attacks of the enemy often come when you least expect the enemy to show up. Over the years I’ve read books that see a demon behind every bad thing that happens in life (the extreme of demonic awareness) to those who say that Satan and his demons are totally bound today (no presence of the demonic). Borgman and Ventura have written a book that really does what they say they are going to do in the subtitle: strike a biblical and balanced perspective.
The authors have written a solid exposition based on the most extensive account on spiritual warfare in the Scriptures: Ephesians 6:10-20. The Puritan William Gurnall wrote the classic text on this passage a few hundred years ago, but it’s massiveness and ancient language makes it a popular but widely unread book on the subject. On the other hand, this book is short (128) pages, comprehensive, clear, illustrative, practical, insightful, theological, and focuses on the Majesty and Supremacy of Christ over the demonic realm.
I now have a new go to book to give to people who have questions about Satan and demons and how they operate today in the 21st century. Questions like How can I prepare myself for the spiritual battle? How can I fend off the attacks of the demonic? Can a Christian be possessed or demonized? And many others. I like the fact that the authors stick close to the text of Scripture and offer answers that are biblically sound and cogently articulated. If you’re only going to read one book on spiritual warfare – this is the one I would recommend you get. I think one of the best features of this book are the questions for the discussion at the end of each chapter so that it can be used for a sermon/small group series on spiritual warfare.
*I was provided a free copy of this book for review by the publishers and was not required to write a positive review.