Book review: The Edge of Evolution
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Edge of Evolution The Search for the Limits of Darwinism Publisher: Free Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes The concept of intelligent design has undeniable appeal. Forming a kind of middle ground between creationism and evolution, it claims to reconcile the claims of modern science with what seems so obvious to so many–that there is an intelligent force or being in the universe that has guided the design of this universe. Michael Behe is considered by some to be the father of the intelligent design movement. His first book, Darwin’s Black Box, was much maligned by scientists, yet intrigued and captivated many people, including many Christians. In that book, Behe claimed that at a biochemical level, many structures at the very foundation of life are irreducibly complex–they cannot have evolved by random chance but must, therefore, be the product of an intelligent designer. The scientific community largely criticized Behe’s efforts, suggesting that he was simply taking advantage of the ignorance of the general reader when it comes to issues such as biochemistry and genetics. They consider him little more than a creationist who attempts to maintain some level of scientific integrity. In the words of…

Book review: The Murder of Jesus
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Murder of Jesus Publisher: W Publisher Group Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes While I admire John MacArthur for his doctrinal orthodoxy and his willingness to stand for Biblical truth, however unpopular that may make him, what I most admire about him is his remarkable ability to teach from the Scriptures. I have found few people who are better able to carefully and accurately exposit God’s Word. Because of this ee has become one of my most trusted teachers. The Murder of Jesus showcases exactly what I most admire about MacArthur. The Murder of Jesus is a fascinating study of last hours of Jesus’ life, beginning with the Last Supper and concluding with his death. It is no coincidence that I decided to read this book around the time that The Passion of the Christ was released for it covers the same period of time, though in far greater detail and with superior accuracy. The book is filled with interesting insights concerning the plot to kill Jesus and the way the story unfolded. The author’s research leads us through all of the gospels, many of the prophecies concerning Jesus’ death and even into the writings of…

Book review: Evangelical Feminism
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Evangelical Feminism A New Path to Theological Liberalism? Publisher: Crossway Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Wayne Grudem has written a great deal about biblical manhood and womanhood. Besides articles in periodicals, he has written Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism which he co-authored with John Piper. He has written Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions and then two collections of essays he edited, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood and Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood. The latest addition to this list is Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?. Grudem describes this book as "an expression of deep concern about a widespread undermining of the authority of Scripture in the arguments that are frequently used to support feminism. It is also a way of posing a question: can a movement that espouses this many ways of undermining the authority of Scripture possible be right?" The book’s argument, then, is that evangelical feminism sets those who affirm it on a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to liberalism. It is important to define terms and Grudem, always a deliberate author, does just this. By theological…

Book review: Uprooting Anger
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Uprooting Anger Biblical Help for a Common Problem Publisher: P&R Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes There are some sins that torment only some of us, while there are others that are universal. Pride is a universal sin. So is anger. And, unfortunately, I’m good at both of these. I do love to be angry. It feels good to be angry at times, and especially when the anger is righteous, or is perceived to be righteous. But, if anger feels good during the moment, it can sure feel embarrassing and shameful when reason has been restored. Because it is so often sinful, anger needs to be overcome. Uprooting Anger, written by Robert Jones, offers biblical help for a common problem. A universal problem, even. "This book is written for the average reader who recognizes that anger is a too-frequent issue in his life and a too-prevalent problem in his family, work, and church relationships…Further, this book provides pastors, counselors, and other people-helpers with a practical Christ-centered resource to guide them in their ministries and to pass on to those they serve." Jones defines anger as "our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil."…

Book review: Living The Cross Centered Life
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Living The Cross Centered Life Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing Publisher: Multnomah Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes There may be no greater honor for a minister of the Word than this: his ministry has become nearly synonymous with the cross of Jesus Christ. His ministry has led people to the cross not just once, but time and again as they have come to reflect on the deeper meaning of Jesus’ death. They have been led to see that "the cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us." Such has been the case with C.J. Mahaney. When I post a reflection on the cross it is not unusual for people to tell me or to comment on this site that they are now going to go and re-read The Cross Centered Life or listen to some of the cross-focused songs on the album Songs for the Cross Centered Life. His ministry is marked by a passion for leading people near enough to the cross that its sparks can fall on us. I recently received an email…

Book review: Mother Teresa, the Final Verdict
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Mother Teresa, the Final Verdict Publisher: Meteor Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Of the many biographies of Mother Teresa available to us, to my knowledge only two of them are largely critical in nature. The first, provacatively titled The Missionary Position examines Mother Teresa’s faith and practice. Written by Christopher Hitchens, the book received a fair amount of recognition and formed the basis for a television documentary. The book is quite short and contains very little in the way of footnotes and documentation. The other critical biography is entitled Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict and is written by Aroup Chatterjee. This title is several hundred pages longer than Hitchens’ book and contains extensive documentation. Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict claims to reveal "the REAL Teresa (from the back cover)." Like Hitchens, Chatterjee is an atheist and his dislike of Mother Teresa has little to do with a religious bias. Like Hitchens, he has found that the reality of the woman and her work is a far cry from the legend. However, unlike Hitchens, he is a native of Calcutta, the city where Mother Teresa did her work, and the very city which will forever be linked…

Book review: Christ Our Mediator
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Christ Our Mediator Finding Passion at the Cross Publisher: Multnomah Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Having written The Cross Centered Life, in which he exhorted believers to keep the gospel the main thing – the central focus of the Christian life – C.J. Mahaney now stops to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. Christ Our Mediator follows hard on the heels of many similar books timed to coincide with the popularity of The Passion of the Christ. Mahaney begins the book by asserting (correctly, it seems) that a visual presentation of Christ’s crucifixion simply is not enough – we must also be told about the content of the story of the gospel. "The gospel message isn’t visual; it’s truth. It is truth to be believed, not simply a collection of images to be viewed" (page 10). Knowing that many people have seen the how of Christ’s death, Mahaney sets out to bring sense to the why of it. To explain the cross, Mahaney presents a handful of reflections or meditations on Christ’s suffering and death. Drawing on Scripture and the teachings of great Christians of our day and days past, he presents the gospel in all its…

Book review: A Journey in Grace
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

A Journey in Grace A Theological Novel Publisher: Crowne Publications Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes A Journey in Grace, by Richard Belcher, is billed as being "A Theological Novel." So intrigued was I at the prospect of reading a theological novel that I left this book sitting on my shelf for seven years before I ever thought to read it. And now I can’t help but wish I had read it sooner. I believe the order of the words in "theological novel" is important. This book is definitely better theology than fiction. In fact, as fiction goes, it is quite poor. But as theology it is exceptional. I chose to read and examine it as theology rather than fiction, since that is clearly its primary purpose. A Journey in Grace tells the story of Ira Pointer, a young man who is studying for the ministry in a fictitious Bible college. While being interviewed for the position of pastor at a nearby church he is asked the question, "Young man, are you a Calvinist." The story then unfolds around Ira trying to define and understand Calvinism. Being the methodical sort, he examines Calvinist beliefs point-by-point, holding them…

Book review: Christian Handbook
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Christian Handbook A Straightforward Guide to the Bible, Church History & Christian Doctrine Publisher: Bryntirion Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Christian Handbook is subtitled “A straightforward guide to the Bible, church history and Christian doctrine.” Written by Peter Jeffery (a pastor in the United Kingdom) the book presents a wonderful introduction to the foundations and teachings of Reformed Christianity. The book begins with an examination of the Bible. It first examines how the Bible was written and compiled and then moves to a short overview of each of the Testaments with their settings and teachings. Almost every page contains a quote by a great Christian teacher of the past. The second section of the book examines the church, dedicating a chapter to the first 450 years, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Eighteenth-century revivals and finally the nineteenth and twentieth-century revivals. The bulk of the book is contained in the third section which examines the Christian faith. It is a layman’s introduction to systematic theology, beginning with who God is and ending with the end times. There is a Reformed flavor throughout and the author quotes heavily from many Reformed pastors and theologians. Weighing in…

Book review: John Adams
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

John Adams Publisher: Simon & Schuster Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I am a little bit late to the party with this book. Released in hardcover in 2001 and paperback in 2002, John Adams is regarded as one of David McCullough’s greatest achievements. This is no little praise for a man who had previously won a Pulitzer prize (for his biography of Harry Truman)—a reward he was to receive again for John Adams. The precursor to 2005’s 1776, this is a stirring biography and one of the best I’ve ever read. Like McCullough’s other titles, this book is not hard to read and never bogs down in detail. Instead it is fast-moving and gripping, reading almost like a novel. I am no scholar and am unequipped to comment on the accuracy of McCullough’s portrait of Adams. I will leave that to the historians. So rather than provide a blow-by-blow account of Adams’s life, let me simply suggest a few of the lessons and observations I drew from this book. John Adams loved life and sought to truly enjoy it. Even in his final days, when he was ill and suffering from fading eyesight, he continued to…