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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: 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: FOUR VIEWS ON THE HISTORICAL ADAM

In Search of the Historical Adam

Four Views on the Historical Adam

Book Review by David P. Craig

In this counterpoint book the subject of the Historical Adam takes center stage. There are four views presented: (1) No Historical Adam – presented by Denis Lamoureux, Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph.s College in the University of Alberta; (2) A Historical Adam: The Archetypal Creation View – presented by John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College; (3) A Historical Adam: Old Earth Creation View – presented by C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary; and (4) A Historical Adam: Young-Earth View – presented by William D. Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master’s College.

The format of the book is as follows: Each Professor writes on essay addressing three essential questions: (1) What is the biblical case for your viewpoint, and how to you reconcile it with passages and potential interpretations that seem to counter it? (2) In what ways is your view more theologically consistent and coherent than other views? (3) What are the implications your view has for the spiritual life and public witness of the church and individual believers, and how is your view a healthier alternative for both? Upon answering these questions each scholar counters followed by a rejoinder from the presenter. At the end of the book there are two essays representing two different stances on the debate and impact on the Christian faith by Greg Boyd (Senior Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota) and Philip Ryken (President of Wheaton College and the former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia).

I Appreciated the personal testimony of Denis Lamoureux’s pursuit of truth in the fields of science and theology. He has definitely wrestled with and struggled with all the issues at hand – as a non-believer, as well as a believer in Christ. Lemorourex concludes that his view of evolution disallows for belief in the historical Adam that is revealed in the Scriptures. He argues at length that the reality of history conflicts with modern science. He believes that ancient science (the view of the biblical writers) conflicts with modern science and therefore what we have in the Bible is God accommodating inerrant spiritual truths.

In summary “Lamoureux rejects scientific concordism, the idea that God chose to reveal through the Scriptures certain scientific facts and that modern science, properly understood, can be aligned with the Bible. To the contrary, he says the authors of Scripture had an ancient perception of the world, apparent in their belief in a three-tiered universe, their view of the ‘firmament,’ and elsewhere. When it comes to humanity’s biological origins, the biblical authors likewise had a primordial understanding. They held to ‘de novo creation,’ the belief that God created man and everything else directly, immediately, and completely, that is fully mature.”

Lamoureux argues that Adam did not exist, but that Jesus Christ is a historical person who died and rose again for our sins. He attempts to show how modern science has changed his views on interpreting the Bible through understanding distinctions between ancient and modern science, language accommodation, and his rejection of concordism.

I found his essay to be interesting, but unconvincing. I especially struggled with his weak theological explanation of the historical “Adam” from the lips of Jesus and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. I also struggled with his interpretation of Genesis 1-11 as not being historical. Lastly, I found his interpretation and methodology in arriving at his conclusions insufficient – leaving me with more questions than answers. I agree with C. John Collins assessment of his essay when he writes, “Lamoureux has followed a style of reasoning that is oversimplified, specifically in that he generally poses either/or questions with only two options; he does not consider whether there are alternatives.”

In contrast to Lamoureux, John Walton believes that Adam was a historical person. He believe’s that the primary emphasis of the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern literature is to demonstrate that Adam (and Eve) are archetypal representatives of humanity. He believes that Genesis 2 is not about the biological origins of Adam and Eve. He argues that Adam and Eve may not even be the first humans who came into existence or the parents of all humankind. Walton doesn’t reject or accept evolution, but his view does allow for evolution and an old earth. I found Walton’s essay to be difficult to follow and his discussion of archetypes to be interesting, but not totally sustainable.

C.J. Collins, like Walton, agrees that Adam and Eve were real historical persons. He demonstrates in his essay with great theological precision how a real Adam and Eve are necessary to demonstrate our need of Savior (the second Adam – Jesus) to save us from the sin we inherited as legitimate children of Adam’s race.  He does a wonderful job of showing that the story line of the Scriptures reveals three major truths: (1) Adam and Eve as a pair represent humankind as one family; (2) Adam and Eve were created supernaturally by God; (3) Through Adam and Eve came forth sin. As a result all humanity is guilty before our creator God for our experience as sinners, and in need of redemption from the perfect Adam – the Lord Jesus Christ.

An interesting aspect of Collins’ view of Adam is that he may have been the chieftain of his tribe, i.e., there were perhaps many more people around when Adam and Eve were around. He is also critical of theistic evolution because it fails to account for the special creation of human beings as made in the image of God. He does not believe that a literal twenty-four hour days in Genesis One is required to maintain inerrancy.

Michael Barrick, expounds the most traditional of the four views presented. He argues for the supernatural creation of Adam by God, who is the father of all mankind. Barrick gives the most emphasis of the four views to the significance of Adam in understanding and applying the gospel. He holds to a literal twenty-four days and young earth perspective. He holds to a high view of the Scriptures and believes his view best accounts for the consistent testimony of the biblical authors (Moses and Paul) with Jesus’ teaching. Barrick’s essay argues that when science and the Bible have a conflict – science must always concede for Scripture is inerrant and totally authoritative on all matters it addresses.

In the concluding section of the book Greg Boyd and Phil Ryken (Theologian/Pastors) address the following issues raised by the other essayists by answering the following six questions: Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence (1) affect the rest of the Christian faith and those doctrines Christians have historically affirmed throughout the centuries? (2) shape a Christian worldview, especially the biblical story line from creation, fall, and redemption, to new creation? (3) have an impact on the gospel, or how the gospel is preached and applied, specifically in church? (4) have influence on how we live the Christian life and ‘do church’ as the body of Christ? (5) make a difference in our evangelical witness to a watching world? and (6) What is at stake in this debate for evangelicals in the church today?

Of the four views presented I found myself in the most agreement with Barrick, followed by Collins, then Walton, and lastly by Lamoureux. I think that Barrick’s essay was the easiest to read because it was the essay that took the passages of Genesis at face value – literally. The other three essayists seemed to have to do a lot of hermeneutical gymnastics to make their views work. This is a complicated issue. I appreciated the grace reflected by Lamoureux, Collins, and Walton in particular. Barrick came across more defensive and dogmatic than the other three. At the end of the day, this book deserves a wide reading. It shows the immense complexities of hermeneutics, science, theology, history, and inerrancy. I appreciated what each writer taught me – I gained new knowledge and insights on all five of these topics. I had many questions answered, and yet still have many unanswered questions. My hope is that this book will continue to spark theologians and scientists to work together in the pursuit of truth. I am grateful for the time invested by all the contributors and heartily recommend this book. It is a challenging read, but well-worth the effort.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: R.C. Sproul’s “WHAT IS THE CHURCH?”

A GREAT PRIMER ON WHAT THE CHURCH IS ALL ABOUT

WITC? SPROUL

Book Review by David P. Craig

R.C. Sproul examines what the Church isn’t, and what it is. In breaking down four key words from the Council of Nicea about what the Church is, Sproul articulates what it means that the church is (1) one, (2) holy, (3) catholic [i.e., universal], and (4) apostolic. Some of the issues addressed in this helpful book are: Why are there so many denominations? What are the essential truths that unite all Christians? What is Liberalism? Why do doctrines divide and unite? What’s an Evangelical? What does it mean for the church to be holy? What is the foundation of the church? What does it mean to be “in Christ”? What is the Gospel? What are the Sacraments? and Why should the church practice discipline?

Sproul covers a lot of ground in this short book. It is full of historical and theological insights, wisdom, and biblically based. I would recommend this book especially for new Christians and as a cogent argument for so-called “Christians” who are not a part of a visible local church. It will help you appreciate what unites Christians throughout history, today, and forever.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Erwin Lutzer’s “Where Do We Go From Here?”

HOPE AND DIRECTION IN OUR PRESENT CRISIS

WDWGFH? Lutzer

Book Review by David P. Craig

Anyone who has lived their lives in the United States as a Christian for the past 20-50 years has witnessed a radical change in five major areas: (1) Our economy; (2) Our morality; (3) Our education; (4) Our Legal Rulings; and (5) The gaining privileged position of Islam and the decline and vilification of Christianity.

Lutzer gives ample illustrations to demonstrate the decline of the Judeo-Christian worldview and values that many of us grew up with, but doesn’t stop there. Going back to the Bible and history he gives us examples of how these types of changes and hardships for Christians have always been the norm. Hardship and suffering are certainties in the life of a Christian, but Lutzer reminds the reader “the consistent lesson of 2,000 years of church history is that the church does not need freedom to be faithful…If there is any truly good news in America, it will not be announced in Washington but will be heard through the lips and lives of believers who share the good news of the Gospel wherever God has planted them. Our task, quite simply, is to witness to the truth of the Gospel in a nation that is under judgment.”

Erwin Lutzer writes compellingly about the calling of the Christian as aliens in this world. He doesn’t minimize the hardships or sufferings that lie ahead. However, he uses examples from the Scriptures to demonstrate that our sufferings are purposeful and that we ultimately will win in the end. We have amazing resources and promises from God by which we are to live in the world and make a difference until Jesus returns. Lutzer’s book is more encouraging than depressing, because he reminds us of the sovereignty of God and how we are a part of His plans that cannot be thwarted no matter how bad things look now. Ultimately everything we do for Jesus matters and lasts for eternity.

I highly recommend this book because it offers numerous constructive things to focus our attention on until the return of Christ. It offers biblical thinking, principles to live by, and actions to take that really do make a difference in our society and for the sake of eternity. It offers hope for the present and for the future. You will be encouraged that you can stop being part of the problem, and how you can be part of God’s solution in our culture.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: DENNY BURK’S “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SEX?”

GOD’S INTENTION FOR SEX

WITMOS BURK

Book Review By David P. Craig

Denny Burk has written both a brilliant critique of errant sexual views and presented a cogent case for the biblical meaning of sex that transcends all cultures and time. Burk’s thesis developed in this book is that sex is a gift from God that is to be enjoyed exclusively within the covenant of marriage so that it might magnify God’s own covenant love for his people and thus bring glory to Him. The glory of God [all of who God is put on display] is the ultimate purpose of everything a Christian does – including sex.

There have been many books written by Christians in the past several years but they usually fall short in applying a teleological view of sex. In other words they address what the Bible has to say about sex, but not necessarily what the purpose of sex is. Burk writes: “What they [with reference to Mark Driscoll’s recent book on sex and marriage – but can be applied to various other authors] never asked, however, is the teleological question: Does this act fulfill God’s purposes for the sexual union? Does this act fulfill Gd’s ultimate purpose for marriage and sexuality–the glory of God? This is where teleology can help us.”

Burk proceeds to write a biblical theology of sex with a God-centered ethical foundation based on virtually everything the Bible has to say about our bodies, our interpretation of the relevant passages pertaining to sex, our marriages, conjugal unions, family planning, gender, sexuality and singleness. In all these areas Burk does a remarkable job of what he describes as blending biblical theology, ethics, and cultural issues pertaining to sex. He writes, “I am favoring a bleded approach that gives a privileged place to teleology within the framework of divine revelation. Scripture is plainly concerned with the formation of moral character as the basis for moral choices (as in character ethics). Scripture is also concerned with rules and divine commands (as in deontology). But Scripture also focuses on the glory of God as the purpose of all things (as in teleology).”

Therefore, Burk argues that the four aspects of sex as defined by God in the context of marriage as a covenant between and man and a woman are designed for (1) the consummation of marriage, (2) procreation, (3) expression of love, and (4) pleasure. However, these four purposes “comprise the means by which we glorify God with our sexuality.” Burk unfolds his thesis methodically, clearly, and with great theological depth that “the ultimate purpose of human sexuality is the glory of God and that the ultimate ethic is to glorify God with our sexuality.” I can’t possibly recommend this book high enough for both Christians and non-Christians to come to grips with the reason, meaning, and purpose for one’s gender, identity, sex, and marriage according to God’s great design.

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

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Book Reviews, David P. Craig, Sex

 

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BOOK REVIEW: BRYAN CHAPELL’S “CHRIST-CENTERED SERMONS”

MODELS OF REDEMPTIVE PREACHING

CCS Chapell

 APPLYING CHRIST-CENTERED PREACHING IN YOUR MINISTRY

Book Review by David P. Craig

It’s hard to believe that its already been nineteen years since Bryan Chapell penned his classic text on preaching – Christ-Centered Preaching (CCP). Since that time Christo-centric preaching has been on the rise and pastors have become much more exposed to biblical theology and the redemptive historical method of interpretation in helping the busy pastor with sermon preparation. This new work by Chapell is a wonderful complement and sequel to his seminal text that his been so influential in both Reformed and Non-Reformed circles.

Whereas Chapell laid the foundational ground work for Christo-centric preaching in CCP, here he helps the preacher apply the groundwork by giving various examples of sermons that demonstrate the various genres of Scripture and how they point to Christ. Part One focuses on the structure of the Christo-centric sermon by giving examples of informal, formal, inductive, and expository sermons. Part Two delves into various redemptive approaches of Scripture passages. Part Three focuses on sermons that reveal how a variety of redemptive truths can be used from the Scriptures to apply to our lives.

The common denominator of all the expository sermons found in this book is that they focus on saying what God says in the passage. The preacher is encouraged to proclaim the truths gleaned from the passage in order to convey what was originally intended by the Holy Spirit. “Making sure God’s people know what God has said and why he has said it is the tandem goal of expository preaching.” All of the sermons in this book focus on the empowering power of grace through Christ that is found throughout the Scriptures. The message of the gospel and God’s grace in Christ is what leads us to repentance, salvation, and genuine transformation from darkness to light.

The author masterfully teaches and guides the preacher by showing him that “Christ-centered exposition does not require us to unveil depictions of Jesus by mysterious alchemies of allegory or typology; rather, it identifies how every text functions in furthering our understanding of who Christ is, what the Father sent him to do, and why.” In Christ-centered preaching the listener is helped to apply the biblical text by answering four main questions from the passage: (1) What am I to do? (2) Where am I to do it? (3) Why am I to do it? (4) How am I to do it?

Chapell writes, “In essence, redemptive exposition requires that we identify an aspect of our fallen condition that is addressed by the Holy Spirit in each passage, which he inspired for our edification, and then show God’s way out of the human dilemma.” The way out of the dilemma of our fallen condition is through the motivation of grace and holiness because the realities of the cross. We are enabled to have victory over sin due to our union and communion with Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.

I highly recommend that you read Chapell’s first book on preaching before reading this one. However, it’s not essential that you read his first book because he does a lot of review and explains everything he is doing in each sermon in this new offering. He lays out the foundations and theory in his first book as a solid basis for its application in this new one. Together these two books provide a tour de force of Christo-centric preaching resources for the Christ-centered preacher.

Chapell gives various ways that the same passage can be preached using different strategies without changing the biblical author’s intent. His introductions and demonstration of how the principles work for each sermon are immensely instructive. The sermons in this book are based on the following passages of Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Judges 6-8; Psalm 126; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Isaiah 44:9-23; Numbers 20:1-13; Romans 15:4; Luke 17:1-19; Titus 2:11-15; and Romans 6:1-14. By providing sermons on various genres from the Old and New Testament Chapell has provided a wonderful guide for preachers to learn better how to apply the principles of Christ-centered preaching from Genesis to Revelation.

 

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