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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.

My 10 Favorite R.C. Sproul Books by David P. Craig

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Since R.C. Sproul’s promotion into the presence of Christ’s glory on December 14, 2017 I have had mixed emotions. No single person has had a greater influence on my understanding of the Triune Nature of God, the Gospel, the Bible, Reformed Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, teaching, and preaching than R.C. Sproul. There have been a lot of great tributes to R.C. in recent days, but I have been out of sorts since his passing. I have sorrowed as if I lost a blood brother and comrade in the ministry. He was the mentor who has most influenced me by far – especially intellectually – helping me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. The way I am going to pay tribute to R.C. is by writing about the books he wrote that influenced me the most. I have read over 60 of his books.

At one time I could keep up with his writing and let him know at a book signing table at a Ligonier Conference (early 90’s) that I had read all his books and he said to me, “I bet you haven’t read Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Fetschrift for John Gerstner; a book I edited for my Mentor in 1976.” He was right, I hadn’t read this book. I’ve since read his chapter in that book entitled “Double-Predestination.” But I was never able to keep up with his writing while he was alive. Since his death I have been re-reading some of his books, articles, watching videos, and listening to his audio recordings. I am so grateful that Ligonier Ministries has such a plethora of his resources available so that maybe before I die I can catch up on all the great writing, teaching, and preaching of this amazing Theologian and friend in Christ.

I never thought I would be so sad at someone’s death that I only met a few times “live”. I attended four Ligonier Conferences and was able to say hello to him each time and thank him for his ministry in Fullerton, and Pasadena in CA; and Orlando twice. I also got to spend some time in a smaller group setting with him at WTS in Escondido while working on my D.Min. there. Dr. Sproul was always humble, gracious, and kind. He treated me with dignity and respect and modeled what he taught. As others have made great tributes to him, I’d like to give my “two-cents” with the hope that maybe I can influence others to read, or listen to him. I can honestly say that I love R.C. and can’t wait to see him on the other side. I am grateful beyond words for what he has meant and will continue to mean to me and has tremendously deepened my relationship with Jesus.

I will write a little blurb on each of the 10 books he wrote that have impacted me the most:

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(1) Apart from the Bible itself – no other book has made a greater impact on me than The Holiness of God. At the time (summer of 1986) I had never heard of R.C. Sproul. I was a second year student my sophomore year at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was working at a church near my home as an intern that summer working with college students. On my day off I went first thing in the morning to read a book at my favorite spot in a cove in Corona Del Mar near my home in Huntington Beach. On the way to the beach I stopped by the bookstore (Pilgrim’s Progress Bookstore – long since out of business, unfortunately) and R.C.”s book caught my eye. I was fascinated by the topic and decided that I would read it at the beach.

I don’t know how long it took me to read the book, but by sunset I was reading the last words at the beach and found myself literally on my knees weeping over my sin in repentance before this Holy God of which Sproul knew so well. I realized that though I had been a follower of Christ from the age of six; I was in practice full of unconfessed sin; a great idolater; and desperately needed to elevate my view of God and His character and attributes.

Since 1986 I’ve probably read this book a dozen times. It’s my go to book when I need to re-charge my spiritual batteries. It’s also set the tone for my personal life; relational life, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Reading this book helped me strive to place God at the center of all of life and seek to live “Coram Deo” – before the face of God and for His glory.
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(2) A close second to R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God in impact is his classic Chosen By God. Like many young college or seminary students I wrestled with the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, free will, faith, election, and how all these work together. I was definitely (though I’d never heard the term before) a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian before reading this book. R.C. brilliantly and cogently helped me see that I was dead in my sin and that I needed nothing short of the miracle of God’s electing grace to save me from a destiny banished from Him – had He not sovereignly  graciously and mercifully intervened. I’ve given at least 100 copies of this book away over the years and it’s my go to book to recommend to anyone who wrestles with how God saves His chosen ones. If anyone wants to understand the biblical doctrine of predestination – this book is an outstanding introduction.

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(3) Shortly after reading Chosen by God while in Bible college I read a book called the Psychology of Atheism by R.C. Sproul which I found in the school library. The book has been re-published under the title: If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? This book peaked my curiosity because at the time I had an ongoing ministry with philosophy students at a college department across town called Reed College. There was a period of time where I would drive over to Reed College once a week and wait outside the Philosophy Department to talk with Philosophy students (most of whom adhered to Atheism or Agnosticism). R.C. Sproul’s book is essentially a practical exposition of Romans 1. It makes a great case for the fact that people are atheists not because of the evidence of atheism, but because they want to live in sin. I found this to be the case then; and I still find this to be the case. In our secular culture I consider this book “must” reading for believers who take evangelism and apologetics seriously. It gives one a deep understanding of the psychological makeup of those who are in rebellion against God.

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(4) Another book that has helped me tremendously in the area of apologetics and evangelism is Reason to Believe. I read this book when it was titled Objections Answered when I was doing a lot of evangelism with professing Agnostics and Atheists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I still think this is the best book available to give to lay-people to help them answer the 10 biggest objections to the Christian faith. R.C. is famous for making the complex simple via his use of language, illustrations, and biblical theology and exegesis. I have used his arguments in this book hundreds of times over the years in evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.

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(5) Pleasing God. I can’t remember the first time I read Pleasing God, but it’s a book I’ve read and used in counseling, teaching, and preaching many times over the years as a great introduction to the biblical doctrine of sanctification. In this book Sproul tackles the greatest enemies in the battle of our seeking to please Christ: the battle with the flesh; the world; and Satan. Laced throughout this book is the reality of God’s grace and practical ways to please God. I still think this is the best introduction available on the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

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(6) I have read this book on the Attributes of God as it has transformed into three different titles over the years: One Holy Passion; Discovering the God Who Is; and most recently Enjoying God. There simply is no better introduction on the character, nature, and attributes of God than this book. R.C. does a wonderful job of explaining the major concepts of how God is different than us and worthy of our worship and passion.

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(7) The best introduction to how to read and study the Bible is still Knowing Scripture. In this short book R.C. gives a plethora of helpful information for anyone who wants to know how to read, interpret, and apply the Scriptures.

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(8) One of the most comforting and practical doctrines for Christians to understand is the providence of God. R.C. has helped thousands of believers around the world be comforted through his teaching on the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign working to bring about His ends for our good and God’s glory in all things in his classic The Invisible Hand of God.

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(9) The least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. In The Mystery of the Holy Spirit R.C. handles the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit with great clarity and makes the complex and controversial issues related to the Spirit understandable and practical. I know of no other better introduction to the Holy Spirit than this great work by Dr. Sproul.

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(10) In 2012 I had a brutal bout with cancer. I read several books while undergoing treatment and wrestling with pain, unemployment, and even death. I have read a lot of books on suffering over the years, but this is still my first choice to give caregivers, people in pain, and those helping people understand the biblical purposes and practical ramifications of suffering.

I feel sort of bad because I’ve left out a lot of great books by Dr. Sproul. Even though many books of R.C. are introductory in nature. They are all deep, profound, cogent, and full of helpful theological truth that are practical, weighty, and lead one to becoming more and more like Jesus each day. It seems that almost every book R.C. Sproul wrote was well written, thorough, and yet he never said too much. I have given away more of his books as gifts than any other author by far. I’ve also recommend his books more than any other author. He was so omnicompetent it’s just hard for any modern writer or theologian to match him on just about any subject. I will continue to read Sproul’s books, listen to his teaching, and watch his videos. He had a unique style, was always interesting, and always taught me something new about the glory and grandeur of God. I can’t wait to see him in heaven and listen to him chatting it up with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and the many he influenced along the way – like me.

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Book Review of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

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“Insightful Thoughts From a Beautiful Follower of Jesus”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (what a beautiful name) has written a delightful book highlighting her conversion to Christ and instruction on many topics that are thought provoking and insightful. Among the variety of topics covered in this book are evangelism; hospitality; education; homosexuality; church planting; male and female roles in complementarity; hermeneutics; dating; marriage; parenting; foster care; adoption; and worship.

The author writes in an entertaining way, and yet shares insights with tremendous depth and cogent logic. My wife and I have both enjoyed discussing the variety of topics brought forth by Butterfield and are grateful for her wisdom and biblical insight. Though we don’t agree with all of Butterfield’s conclusions we especially appreciated her honesty; critique of Christian legalism; and insights into reaching out to those who identify themselves in any way other than “Christian.”

As a pastor in a very secular community I was given many illustrations that will help me become better at reaching out to those who are “outsiders” of our church community. I am grateful that Rosaria has shared her “secret thoughts” publicly. As a result I think that my wife and I have been equipped to be “salt and light” in our community and will be more effective in our outreach to those who desperately need Christ (as do we) in our community.

Rosaria is to be commended for her service to our Lord as a Christian wife, mother, educator, evangelist, and disciple maker. Any follower of Christ would be encouraged in their pursuit of Christlikeness and better reflect His inner and outer beauty as a result of reading and practicing the wisdom articulated in this delightful book.

 

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Book Review on Stu Weber’s “Four Pillars Of A Man’s Heart”

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“Required Reading For Every Man”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I’m one of those guys who is always about ten to twenty years behind on the latest books, television shows and movies. Stu Weber’s book came out many years ago (In the 1990’s) but as I prepared for a men’s retreat I’ll be leading in a few weeks I think this book stood out more than all the others I read as a book I would whole-heartedly recommend to any man. I missed it when it first came out, but I’m sure glad I read it. I would argue that this book is more relevant today than when Weber first penned it.

Many Christian men are clueless today about what it means to be a man. If men take their cues from our culture they are in serious trouble. However, if they look to the Scriptures for guidance they will find exactly what they need to know about biblical manhood. Stu Weber provides an essential guide to biblical manhood in this book. He identifies what he calls the “Four Pillars of Biblical Manhood.” These pillars when functioning in balance make for a man who is strong and balanced in the way that God designed him to be.

The four pillars (all found in Genesis 2:15-18) in a man’s heart are that he is to be a provider (King); protector (Warrior); teacher (Mentor); and a connector (Friend). If he is out of balance in any of these areas it will lead to chaos. However, if he is balanced in these areas of his life with his relationships; work; and ministry it will result in a tremendous impact on his marriage; family; church; and community/nation.

Weber has written a book that is biblical; full of illustrations and applications; and that is theologically sound. He defines, identifies, and explains clearly God’s design for men in a way that is logical and practical. This is a book that any man of any age will find encouragement, hope, and motivation to be all that he was designed to be for the purposes of God as a man in his brief time on earth.

 

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Book Review Of Stu Weber’s “Tender Warrior”

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“God’s Design For Biblical Manhood”

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

I can hardly believe the speed with which God’s design for biblical manhood and womanhood has been decaying in American culture. I am so grateful for the legacy that my own parents have left behind for their four children, and multiple grand, and great grand children. My parents weren’t perfect by any means, but they were godly and strove to be biblical in every aspect of life which nowadays is saying a ton. In a culture where idolatry, selfishness, and any semblance of character and integrity are woefully lacking – this book offers much needed help for men who take God, marriage, parenting,, and friendship seriously.

Using personal examples, biblical examples, and principles based on God’s design for biblical manhood exemplified in Jesus, Stu Weber has written a very good biblical manual for men to help them think and act in accordance with God’s design for manhood. In a day where confusion reigns in regard to God’s purpose for men and women this book gives clarity and practical teaching on the purpose, calling, meaning, and design for manhood. I highly recommend Weber’s book as a helpful guide for men of any age.

 

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Book Review on Cabal’s and Rasor’s “Controversy Of The Ages”

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A Good Example of Civil Discussion on A Controversial Topic

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

As a pastor who tries to keep current with the latest discoveries and teachings in science and how they mesh with the Bible I found this book immensely helpful from a Christian perspective. The author’s do several things really well in this book:

(1) They give a good overview of the history of the interplay between science and biblical interpretation with a very interesting analysis of The Copernican Conflict; The Advent of Darwinian Evolution;  The Scopes Trial and its results; and the more recent controversy over the age of the earth.

(2) They present a consistent hermeneutic learned from Galileo that assumes biblical inerrancy, not inerrant interpretation and the objective truth that nature and and biblical revelation cannot be in conflict/disagree. There must be a striving for both theologians and scientists to pursue truth in special (biblical revelation) and nature (general revelation).

(3) They give a very interesting discussion of evolution and how it was received by both scientists and theologians within a short time following his completing his Origin of the Species. They discuss some of the main issues of conflict brought on by the acceptance of Darwin’s theory from its inauguration until modern times between theologians and scientists of note.

(4) They demonstrate that the resulting world view of Darwinian Evolution has resulted in many liberal theologians and scientists buying into “metaphysical naturalism, that everything interesting about the world reveals there is no God;” as well as how, “human experience rather than the Bible has become the ground of Christian knowledge.”

(5) Throughout the book the author’s give a helpful analysis of the three main views among Theologians and Scientists today as exemplified by Young Earth Creationists (as propounded by Henry Morris, Ken Ham, and Andrew Snelling) and their largest organization: Answers In Genesis; by Old Earth Creationists (as propounded in particular by Hugh Ross and those in his ilk), and its primary organization; Reasons To Believe; and lastly, the most recent organization that sings the praises of Evolution: BioLogos – with its influential proponents like C. Francis Collins.

(6) There is a fascinating discussion of flood theories, fossils, and dating mechanisms in dating the earth – pro and con for both old and young.

(7) One of the most helpful aspects of this book is its discussion of first, second, and third level doctrines that are essential to Christianity. The author’s refer to Albert Mohler’s “Theological Triage of three levels to ascertain theological urgencies.” For example, first level or essential doctrines to Christianity would include “doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.” Second order or level doctrines would include issues that often separate congregations and denominations like the mode and method of baptism and whether women can serve as pastors. Third level doctrines would include the eschatological unfolding of the plan of God (e.g. pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, a-millennialism) and issues like the one the authors are addressing. The authors apply the principle of theological triage to the three main views today with reference to science and theology. It is a very interesting and enlightening discussion of the relative unimportance of “age” with reference to the essentials related to the gospel and what makes one a Christian.

Cabal and Rasor have written a very civil book on the interplay of the various issues and views in regard to scientific and biblical interpretation. I think they have written a book that helps lay people like me understand the complexity of the issues and yet puts the “cookies on the shelf” so that one can see that though these issues are important – they are not essential to the gospel, but are nevertheless important and demand that extremists be balanced and listen to one another as everyone seeks to interpret all of God’s revelation (the written Word and the natural world) in a gracious manner that is always and ever in pursuit of God’s truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review on Donald S. Whitney’s Praying The Bible

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A Simple Guide To Learning How To Pray The Scriptures

Reviewed By Dr. David P. Craig

I have completed several books by Donald Whitney over the years and always appreciate the fact that he is doctrinally sound and extremely practical. This little book is no exception. Whitney’s goal in this book is to help the reader overcome the “boring routine of saying the same old things about the same old things” by teaching the reader the variety, freshness, and excitement of praying through the Bible.

Perhaps the most helpful chapter in the book is the section on “Praying the Psalms.” He quotes Ben Patterson, “By praying the Psalms back to God, we learn to pray in tune with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” In learning to pray through the Psalms it helps the one praying to be (a) Balanced in prayer – as the Psalms convey every doctrine in the Bible; (b) Emotionally healthy – as the Psalms deal with every human emotion: joy, anger, fear, anxiety, discouragement, loneliness, etc.; (c) God centered – usually we have a tendency to be self-absorbed – the Psalms get our focus back on God; (d) Accurate – Whitney writes, “God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God. No other book of the Bible was inspired for this express purpose.”

Whitney, also has a helpful guide to praying through the 150 Psalms in the back of the book. Praying through this plan insures direction and guidance for prayer as well as momentum for prayer. The author gives great examples of how to pray other Scriptures and various genres and even tackles some thorny questions related to prayer. I have been tremendously helped in my own prayer life by this terrific book and I’m convinced that it will help anyone grow in their excitement and communication with the Lord in prayer.

 

 

 

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Book Review of Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”

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The Missing Element Of Biblical Discipleship

By Dr. David P. Craig

The two ministry points that I’m most passionate about are biblical preaching and making multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. I have been discipling men for over thirty years and I have found that the missing element in most discipleship curriculum and workbooks is the whole area of emotional health. Peter Scazzero’s books (he’s also written  The Emotionally Healthy Church and The Emotionally Healthy Leader) are like Biblical Discipleship 201, 301, and 401. It is essential to know how to study the Bible, pray, share one’s faith, etc. However, the emotional health of Christians is often ignored, neglected, and never addressed. Along with other discipleship oriented books – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality will help make a Christian disciple truly whole and holy.

As a pastor for the past thirty years In four different churches I have seen many elderly people who have been Christians for many years, but instead of being mature emotionally, many of these people have simply plateaued at the age of 10, 20, or 30 and have lived stuck in their immaturity emotionally for years. Instead of being Christians for sixty years it’s more like they have lived for sixty years as a ten-year-old Christian.

In this book Scazzero addresses the emotional make-up of people using a plethora of biblical and practical applications. He also draws on historical figures that have much to say about biblical emotions. He also addresses the ramifications of generational sin, familial dysfunctions, and cultural distractions that get between us and our walk with God.

The first seven chapters primarily deal with the problems associated with emotionally unhealthy spirituality and the last three chapters give hope through solutions. Using a variety of spiritual disciplines and personal examples Scazzero helps the Christian identify emotional unhealthiness and easy cures based on the Scriptures. For anyone who is passionate about transformation, liberation from bondage, and following in the steps of Christ this book is a must read. It’s extremely beneficial to read this book in a small group along with the workbook and DVD that are based on this book. I have taken five groups of men through this book and several of the men have described this book as “revolutionary,” “paradigm-shifting,” and “life-transforming.”

I highly recommend Scazzero’s books be read along with their workbooks in small groups (men with men; and women with women) for maximum transparency, accountability, and transformation into the likeness and image of Christ.

 

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