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Category Archives: Book Reviews

I usually review books that are of a Theological or from a Christian Worldview – I am sometimes asked to review books sent to me by publishers of all stripes – I usually read, review, and recommend books that help you grow in your love for and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Book Review on J.P. Morelands “The Soul”

The Soul

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.

 

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Book Review on J.I. Packer’s: Finishing Our Course With Joy

Finishing Our Course With Joy Packer

How To Finish The Race of Life Well

Who better to address how to approach the finish line of life successfully than 88-year-old and world-renowned theologian – J.I. Packer. Some people say when E.F. Hutton talks people listen, not me. However, when J.I. Packer talks I listen and if you are wise, so should you.

In this short e-book J.I Packer tactfully and theologically addresses the excuses that the ages 65 and beyond crowd make for “coasting” or “relaxing” in the final years of life. It’s a well-known fact that retirement doesn’t exist in the Bible, so what Packer does is show how we can learn from the Apostle Paul and how he finished his life by: seeking opportunities to invest in those who would outlive him; making the most of his maturity and wisdom (working smarter, not harder); with humility (as opposed to living pridefully); and with great intensity and zeal for the things that will last beyond the grave in eternity.

With his characteristic theological precision and humble guidance Packer will motivate you to live for those things that bring glory to God by investing in that which will outlast your own life by living for others. Joy comes to those who seek Jesus first, then in increasing the joy of others by pointing them to Jesus, and lastly by the joy that results for you in delighting in God and others. This book will definitely increase your joy and help you to finish your course well because of Him, and for Him.

 

 

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Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s: Everyone’s A Theologian

A PRIMER ON THE MAJOR DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE

Everyone's a Theologian Sproul

Book Review by David P. Craig 

This book is almost a word for word account of R.C. Sproul’s DVD teaching series entitled “Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theology.” Having watched this video series in the past I immediately recognized the content. I’m glad this series has now been made available in book form.

R.C. is a master teacher and in this book he covers the subject of Theology in its broadest sense. Theology not only refers to the study of God, but to everything that God has revealed to us in the Bible. In sixty short, but jam-packed chapters R.C. unveils with depth and clarity a summary of what the Bible has to say about its most important themes: Theology Proper – The study of God; Anthropology and Creation – The study of man; Christology – The study of Jesus; Pneumatology – The study of the Holy Spirit; Soteriology- The study of salvation; Ecclesiology – The study of the Church; and lastly (no pun intended) – Eschatology – The study of last things.

This book is an excellent introduction to all of these subjects and the sub topics they address. As R.C. Sproul says, “Everyone, is a theologian, but either a good or bad one.” You will come away from reading this book having learned a ton of important truths that will help you become a better theologian. With profound depth, clarity, historical, and practical wisdom Sproul will delight and intrigue you in helping you grow in your journey and intimacy with God – using your head, heart, and hands for His glory and your good.

 

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Book Review: Tim Keller’s “The Reason For God”

The Reason For God Keller

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.

 

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Book Review on Spiritual Warfare by Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura

A PRIMER ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE

spiritual warfare borgman

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.

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: John MacArthur’s “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ”

Jesus is Lord of All, Or He’s Not Lord At All

The Lordship of Christ MacArthur

Book Review By David P. Craig

One of the most troubling aspects of Christianity at the end of the twentieth century on into the twenty-first century has been the bifurcation of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. There has been a tendency among modern Christians to view God as some sort of “Cosmic Genie” who grants us all our wishes – if we have enough faith. However, the Bible presents a different picture of God. He is a God who cannot be manipulated or controlled by Satan – let alone puny little human beings. God’s soverein nature and character needs to be heeded if we are to take the Scriptures and the Christian life seriously.

In this short book (five chapters) John MacArthur makes a clear case for God’s sovereignty and clearly articulates what that means for our salvation and sanctification. In this book you will get a clear picture of the holiness of God and how His greatness. There is no juxtaposition between His holiness and justice. Because God demands and requires righteousness from His subjects he shows the necessity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection on our behalf as the sole reason for our salvation.

Personal salvation demands repentance and faith in a sovereign and Holy God who requires nothing less than our submission to His Lordship in all of life. MacArthur clearly articulates who God is, who we are, and how salvation and sanctification manifest themselves biblically in our lives. I recommend this book especially for new Christians who haven’t read a lot of theology or have the time to commit to lengthier treatments on God’s sovereignty, His salvation, or how we can live the Christian life (sanctification).

*This book was given to me free of charge by the Booksneeze Program and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

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Book Review: David Jeremiah Study Bible

BOOK REVIEW: AN OUTSTANDING RESOURCE

David Jeremiah SB

By David P. Craig

One of the great things about living in the 21st century is the proliferation of great study Bibles that are now available. David Jeremiah’s Study Bible is the result of 40 years of study and 4 years laboring specifically on this Bible. The results are terrific. It’s a Bible that is chalked full of theological insights, practical applications, and a plethora of helpful information to help you grow in your understanding of, and application of the Scriptures.

Some of the unique features of this Bible are:

Easy-to-read type; Book Introductions; 8,000 study notes; 100′s of sidebars on 100′s of topics; Over 50 articles on Doctrinal issues; Helpful illustrations; Answers to tough questions; Wise insights; Words of Jesus in red-letter print; Colorful charts, tables, and maps; A massive topical index and concordance; and a Harmony of the Gospels; available in King James and New King James Versions. One of the best features can be found online or on your phone. There are places throughout the Bible to scan your phone or go on the web for even more articles and helpful tools by Dr. Jeremiah for Bible study.

You can get a great introduction to this Bible by watching a video from Dr. Jeremiah at http://www.JeremiahStudyBible.com. I purchased this Bible for my parents and my wife, and so far we are all really enjoying Jeremiah’s insights and notes.  I personally like the balance of theological explanation and practical application in the study notes. This study Bible will only help you better apply Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). I highly recommend this Study Bible for your personal growth in the Lord.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Jerry Sittser’s “A GRACE DISGUISED”

RECOGNIZING GOD’S GRACE IN YOUR LOSS

A Grace Disguised Jerry Sittser

Book Review by David P. Craig

One of the most difficult things to grapple with in life is to lose someone you love deeply. In this book Jerry Sittser shares the gut wrenching story of how he lost his wife, mother, and daughter in a car accident.  What Jerry does well in this book is he walks us through his journey of loss and how God’s grace intermixed in the various contours of his pain. Jerry’s story is our story. We all experience loss – jobs, loved ones, status, youth, health, pets, dreams, and many more. The author not only grapples with his own loss, but also the realities of loss that we all have to wrestle with in life.

What I like about this book is that it doesn’t offer simple steps to dealing with loss. The author helps you identify and grapple with the difficult realities we face in our losses. In the preface to the book Eugene Petterson describes this book as a “companion” for your journey of suffering and loss. That’s the way I felt as I read this book. As a fellow journeymen in the path of suffering I felt like I had a wise companion to walk with me and share with me in my loss.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with loss: loss of a loved one, job, or anything that once was precious to us, and is now no more. Jerry helps you to gain God’s perspective in a compassionate and gracious manner. This not a “self-help book,” or an “easy answers book.” The author writes as a fellow struggler of the harsh realities of the tremendous loss he has faced. However, he also recognizes that all human beings have and will suffer loss and that we all desperately need the grace of God to sustain us. He shares helpful stories, insights, and pearls of wisdom to encourage you with your own losses and how to move forward in grace and truth.

As a result of reading this book you will be encouraged to go deep in the multi-faceted realities of your loss and pain, as well as gain a new perspective of how God’s grace is available to help you move forward in your loss. I am grateful for Sittser’s vulnerability, transparency, honesty, and amazing insights into the grace of God. He comes across as a friend, a counselor, and an empathizer. It’s a serious book, because it’s dealing with serious pain. Sittser walks the talk and in the end is a very helpful and gracious guide and companion for your own journey of finding your own disguised grace in your loss.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Book Reviews, David P. Craig, Suffering

 

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Book Review: Sam Storm’s “TOUGH TOPICS”

Clarity in the Storm of Controversy

Tough Topics sam storms

Book Review by David P. Craig

Sam Storms has a name that is an oxymoron if there ever was one. His writing is anything but stormy. He writes more like the “calm” before the storm. This is exaclty how he handles difficult questions: calmly, rationally, theologically, and biblically. There’s hardly anyone who will agree wholeheartedly with his answers to the 25 questions raised in this book, but irregardless you will benefit from his skill as an exegete, practical wisdom, pastoral encouragement, theological acumen, and passion for God’s glory exhibited throughout the book. In each chapter he gives ample biblical, theological, and practical support for his answer to each question. He also provides a list of 2-5 recommended resources on each topic at the end of each chapter for those who want to study the topic in greater detail.

The book isn’t divided systematically or topically. Almost all the questions stand alone. If I were to organize the book I would organize the book in the following manner:

(1) Theological Questions – (a) Is the Bible Inerrant?; (b) What is Open Theism? (c) Does God Ever Change His MInd? (d) Could Jesus Have Sinned? (e) Does the Bible Teach the Doctrine of Original Sin? (f) What can We Know about Angles? (g) What Can We Know about Satan? (h) What Can We KNow about Demons?

(2) Exegetical Questions – (a) What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “Judge Not, that You Be Not Judged?” (b) What is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? (c) Does Hebrews Teach that Christians Can Apostasize? (d) What was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?

(3) Practical/Pastoral Questions – (a) Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved? (b) Will People Be Condemned for Not Believing in Jesus though They’ve Never Heard His Name? (c) Can a Christian Be Demonized? (d) Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? (e) Will There Be Sex in Heaven? (f) What Is Baptism in the Spirit, and When Does It Happen? (g) Should All Christians Speak in Tongues? (h) Is There Healing in the Atonement? (i) Why doesn’t God Always Heal the Sick? (j) What is Legalism? (k) Are Christians Obligated to Tithe? (l) Does Satan Assign Demons to Specific Geopolitical Regions? Are There Territorial Spirits?

Sam Storms has done a wonderful job of tackling each of these questions. I highly recommend this book as a resource that all Christians can use for life. My hope is that this is just the first of a series of more question and answer books to come. As a pastor-theologian Storms is more than qualified to tackle the most difficult of questions in truth, with love, gentleness, and respect.

*I was provided with a copy of this book for review by the publisher and was not required to write a postive review.

 

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Tim Challies on How He Writes a Book Review

How I Review a Book

Tim Challies

A question I often receive is this one: “Can you give me some advice on writing a book review?” I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot tell you how to write an academic review or one you would want to submit to a journal. I became a book reviewer rather by trial and error and only through a very informal medium. Even then, I focus almost entirely on popular-level reviews of popular-level books. Having said that, I typically use a loose formula that I think can be helpful and that often resonates with readers.

IDENTIFY

As you write a book review, it is important to ensure you are properly understanding the book and its author. Therefore, the first thing to do is to identify the book’s topic, audience, purpose and and structure. Here are questions to ask and possibly answer in the opening paragraphs.

What is the book about? This is an obvious question and it is usually easy to answer. However, there are times when the author has a little trick up his sleeve and the question is not quite so simple.

Who is this book written for? Who does the author identify as his audience? You will almost always find this in the first few pages.

Why did the author write this book? What does he hope to accomplish through the book? How does he defend the simple fact that he dedicated time to preparing the book? What benefit will there be to you if you read it? Depending on the book’s format or genre, this may come in the form of a thesis statement the author means to prove. Alternatively, it may just be an idea he wishes to explore or a set of facts he wishes to teach.

How has the author structured the book? How does he progress from the first chapter to the last? Some books are heavily dependent upon a specific structure while other books are much less so. The more heavily dependent the book is upon a structure, the more important it is that you describe it.

What is unique about this book? What makes this book different from others and especially from others that deal with a similar topic? The author may make this clear in the book’s opening pages, or it may be something you need to look for on your own. The more books you read on a topic, the more you will be able to identify what sets one book apart from another.

 DISCUSS

How well does the author succeed? Earlier you identified the book’s topic, audience, purpose and structure. Now you will want to tell your readers how well he succeeded in these things. Did he do justice to the topic? Did he write in such a way that this will appeal to his audience? Did he achieve his purpose? Did he follow a clear structure and was that structure helpful?

What strengths did you identify? What are some of the author’s and the book’s most notable strengths? What does he accomplish better than other similar authors and how is his treatment of the topic superior to similar books?

What weaknesses did you identify? It is unfair to only treat a book’s weaknesses, but it is equally unfair to pretend they do not exist. If a book is marked by notable weaknesses that take detract from its readability or the treatment of the topic, make a note of them.

Is it faithful to Scripture? This question is most important to ask when a book interacts with the Bible and claims to interpret Scripture, but is worth asking for any topic. If Scripture speaks to the topic, note whether the book treats the subject in a way that is consistent with the Bible.

How does it compare with other similar books? There is almost no topic that has only a single book written about it, so you do well to compare books to one another. This helps your reader narrow in on the best book on a topic. Does this book make a better case than others before it? Does it update arguments or interact with new facts? When and why should I read this treatment of the subject instead of another one?

What did the book mean to you? There is value in making a book review personal by speaking of what it meant to you. Did it encourage or strengthen you? Did it sadden or infuriate you? Did it bring you moments of joy in a difficult time? Do not neglect the personal touch!

RECOMMEND

Having identified the book’s topic and purpose, and having discussed its strengths and weaknesses, it is time to tell your reader how they can or should respond to it.

Who should read it? Is there anyone who should read the book? Is there a category of person you are convinced ought to read it? If so, serve them by encouraging them to pick up a copy.

Who should not read it? Is there anyone who should not read it? If so, protect them by warning them away from it.

Who might read it? If it is not a book that is not exciting enough to command people to read or bad enough to command them not to read, then suggest some people who may benefit from it.

This is a loose format I follow in many of my reviews and I have found it quite effective in reaching a general audience with an interest in popular-level books. I hope you find it helpful!

*SOURCE: November 27, 2013 @ http://www.challies.com/articles/how-i-review-a-book

ABOUT TIM CHALLIES

Tim blogs at challies.com and is a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and the co-founder of Cruciform Press.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Book Reviews

 

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