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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 Bryan A. Follis’ “Truth and Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer.”

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Evangelistic Help for the 21st Century

Book Reviewed by David P. Craig

One wouldn’t think that a person who ministered and died in the mid to late 20th century would be one of the most helpful models for apologetics and evangelism in the 21st century, but in this book Follis makes a compelling case for Francis Schaeffer being an excellent model for us in these key areas of living out the Christian life.

Though Francis Schaeffer has been both lauded and attacked as a Theologian, Philosopher, and Apologist. He never claimed to be a proponent of any of these monikers. Schaeffer did not consider himself an academic or even an intellectual. When Schaeffer was frequently asked what he was he would say repeatedly (according to James Sire and others who knew him well) that he was not in “academic apologetics but his interest was in evangelism.”

When you read the works of Schaeffer, in particular what he classified as his Trilogy:  The God Who Is There; Escape From Reason; and He Us There, And He Is Not Silent” you would think he is actually an outstanding Theologian, Philosopher, and Apologist. However, all of Schaeffer’s writing (beginning at the age of 56) was really from his ministry of listening to, teaching, and counseling of a wide variety of humanity (from disillusioned Viet Nam veterans to hippies, from blue collar workers to white collar intellectuals. Schaeffer was primarily interested in the Lordship of Christ and that he would make a compelling case with others of how a relationship with Jesus was the center of everything.

The center of anyone’s life – if it is not filled with Christ – is ultimately a meaningless or empty center. Therefore, in this book Bryan Follis demonstrates how the writing, speaking, ministry, and lifestyle of Francis and Edith Schaeffer was so impactful because it was full of genuine love for humanity (as made in God’s image – and thus extremely valuable) and wrapped in objective truth in propositions and principles that emanated from the Bible.

In the final analysis what the Schaeffer’s modeled was a ministry that was balanced powerfully with a leaning into the supernatural reality of the Holy Spirit that resulted in genuine love and compelling truth. Christians that emphasize either truth without love, or love without truth will have a hard time in apologetics or evangelism. The Schaeffer’s are a wonderful model for all Christians for all time. They showed tangibly how to love God with all ones mind, heart, soul, and strength and in the process loved many “neighbors” as themselves into the Kingdom of God.

Follis has provided an excellent overview and guide into lessons that we may glean so that we too may be effective evangelists for Christ in the 21st century and beyond.

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Book Review on Francis Schaeffer’s “True Spirituality”

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Spirituality for The Real World

Reviewed By David P. Craig

In the introduction to this book on sanctification (how to live the Christian life) Francis Schaeffer says that it should have been his first book. In most of his books he is primarily concerned with engaging the mind, but this is a book that is primarily concerned with engaging the heart. He didn’t write this book until 1971, but wrestled with its contents mainly in 1953 and 1954 while on furlough from his ministry in Switzerland. Much of the material in this book came from Schaeffer’s wrestling with the reality of Christianity. He was wrestling with whether or not Christianity was true, and whether or not this truth in application really worked in the real world.

Here’s what Schaeffer discovered as God brought him out of his crises of faith:

(1) He found a solid foundation for how own faith and life. He became convinced again that the Bible answers the most basic questions that all humans can ask. This gave him delight in the biblical message as the source of the only true explanation of our existence.

(2) He developed a confidence in the Scriptures as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God. This confidence in the Scriptures would in God’s providence, be of enormous help to him in the work the Lord was preparing for him to accomplish.

(3) In the same way, he was being prepared to deal with the great barrage of questions, doubts, and hurts that would come at him from Christians who were struggling with their faith, for in the years to come many of these people would come to his home at L’Abri for answers.

(4) Prayer became more real to him and the supernatural realities of God’s working in his life and the lives of those he ministered to became paramount to the success of L’Abri. He would often say, “How many churches and ministries would not even notice and would carry on in exactly the same manner as usual, even though every reference to dependence on the Holy Spirit and to prayer were suddenly to disappear from the pages of the New Testament!”

5) He discovered that the central, unfolding theme of God’s revelation is the love shown by God to us, and the trusting and dependent love that we are called to show Him in return.

Early in the book Schaeffer distinguishes the difference of  justification by faith (the beginning of the Christian’s life) and sanctification by faith (the rest of the Christian’s life). He says, “The important thing after being born spiritually is to live. There is new birth, and then there is the Christian life to be lived. This is the area of sanctification, from the time of the new birth through this present life, until Jesus comes or until we die.”

In thirteen chapters Schaeffer does a masterful job of showing that that Christian life involves the head, heart, and hands and biblically, theologically, and practically develops the following four themes:

(1) The true Christian life, true spirituality, does not just mean that we have been born again. It must begin there, but it means much more than that. It does not mean only that we are going to be in heaven. It does mean that, but it means much more than that. The true Christian life, true spirituality in the present life, means more than being justified and knowing that I am going to heaven.

(2) It is not just a desire to get rid of taboos in order to live an easier and a looser life. Our desire must be for a deeper life. And when I begin to think about this, the Bible presents to me the whole of the Ten Commandments and the whole of the Law of Love.

(3) True spirituality, the true Christian life, is not just outward, but it is inward–it is not to covet against God and mankind.

(4) The Christian life is positive–positive in inward reality, and then positive in outward results. The inward thing is to be positive and not just negative, and then sweeping out of the inward positive reality, there is to be a positive manifestation externally. It is not just that we are dead to certain things, but we are to love God, we are to be alive to Him, we are to be in communion with Him, in this present moment of history. And we are to love men, to be alive to men as men, and to be in communication on a true personal level with men, in this present moment of history.

Schaeffer does a wonderful job of addressing the world, the flesh, and the devil; as well as helping you find freedom from the bondage of sin. He also shows the antithesis of Christian living in comparing the reality of Christianity with the unreality of other religions and world-views.  I highly recommend this book in helping you understand the wonderful and exhilierating doctrine of sanctification.

 

Book Review on L.G. Parkhurst’s “Francis & Edith Schaeffer

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An Outstanding Synthesis of The Thought and Ministry of the Schaeffer’s

Book Review by David P. Craig

It is immediately obvious that the author knew the Schaeffer’s personally and studied their writings with passion in the pursuit of truth. The first part of this book (Chapters 1-11) is a very good summary of the life and ministry of the Schaeffer’s. In Chapters 12-25 Parkhurst gives an excellent summary of the thought and teachings of Francis Schaeffer. My favorite part of this book was how he wraps it up by giving 10 Lessons From Their Lives. He expounds upon the following 10 Lessons gleaned from Francis and Edith:

(1) Teach the truth in love – Ephesians 4:5-16.

(2) There is Only One Reason to be a Christian – because it’s objectively true – 1 John 5:19-20. “There is one and only one reason, and not two reasons, to be a Christian, and that is because Christianity is true.” ~ Edith Schaeffer quoting her husband.

(3) The Bible is True in All that it Affirms – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

(4) Go First to Establish a Bible-belieivng Church and Second a Denominational Church – Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:38-40. The priority of a biblical church is to daily “Serve God and others, let us Know, Love, and Follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit according to the Scriptures.”

(5) A Church Without Discipline or the Ability to Discipline Ceases to be a Church – Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20.

(6) God is Not Mechanical, but Personal. God is the Infinite/Personal God – John 17:1-3.

(7) No One Becomes a Christian Apart From the Work of the Holy Spirit – John 15:26-27; John 16:7-11; 1 John 5:6-12.

(8) Pray for the People of the Lord’s Choice to Come, Pray for Him to Keep Others Away. Pray for the Lord to Meet Your Needs Without Asking for Money – Matthew 9:36-38.

(9) If Your Choice is Between Perfection and Nothing, You Will Always Have Nothing. Do Not Expect a Perfect Church, Pastor, Elder, People, Thing, or Situation in This Fallen World in Which We Live – Matthew 5:48.

(10) “God Calls Some to Leave (In Liberal Denominations), and Some to Stay, and I Am Not The Holy Spirit.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s account of the Schaeffer’s, and his distillation of their teaching and how they modeled their teaching through their ministry in Switzerland, and in the United States. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to better understand the gospel, how to use apologetics in pre-evangelism, and how prayer and life-style evangelism are essentials in reaching people in the 21st Century. The Schaeffer’s are just as relevant today as when they lived in the mid to late 20th century.

 

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Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s: The Prayer of the LORD

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Great Insights and Principles On Prayer – Reviewed By David P. Craig

There are some great books that hone in on the specificities of what has commonly become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” – particularly it’s exposition from Matthew 6:9-13. This week I will be completing a preaching series on the “Lord’s Prayer” which began in January and will be ending in May of 2018. I read seven books specifically as expositions or sermons based on the Lord’s Prayer of which this was one of those seven. I also consulted various commentaries on the passage as well.

Of all the resources I consulted on the Lord’s Prayer that I enjoyed Sproul’s the most. This book not only breaks down the specific petitions in the prayer but also contains helpful chapters on the following: “How Not to Pray”; “Questions and Answers” on Prayer from various passages of Scripture; and a whole chapter devoted to the question: “If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?”

If I were only going to get only one book specifically on “The Lord’s Prayer” this is the one I would recommend. Sproul is a master communicator and does an excellent job providing insights, principles, and pointed applications that help you to be more God-centered, God-focused, and God-glorifying in your prayer life. As I have been taking in Sproul’s insights I have found myself growing in my intimacy with Christ, and helping others to do the same.

 

 

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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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