Book review: Putting Amazing Back Into Grace
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace Who Does What In Salvation? Publisher: Baker Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Putting Amazing Back Into Grace is the first book I have read by Michael Horton. It will certainly not be my last. On the cover of the book J.I. Packer declares the book “a breaktaking workout” and his praise is justified. This book points us back to the Reformation and ultimately to the Bible itself as the source of an amazing grace that much of modern Christianity seems to have lost. He presents timeless truths as being as relevant to us today as they were when they were first discovered. Horton redraws the standard TULIP acronym using modern terms. Total Depravity becomes Rebels Without A Cause, Unconditional Election becomes Grace Before Time, Limited Atonement becomes Mission Accomplished, Irresistible Grace becomes Intoxicating Grace and Perseverance of The Saints becomes No Lost Causes. While the terms may have changed, the truth behind each is defended and, perhaps best of all, made relevant to life. More than a theological treatise, this book contains an element of intense practicality where Horton shows how these doctrines are relevant to everyday life. Among the other…

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: Whatever Happened To The Gospel of Grace?
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Whatever Happened To The Gospel of Grace? Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes “Whatever Happened To The Gospel of Grace?” is exactly the sort of book you might expect a traditional, Reformed pastor and theologian to leave as his final message to the world, for before this book was published, James Boice, long-time pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia went to be with the Lord. This book stands as a call to the church to rediscover the principles upon which the Protestant church was built. It was Boice’s conviction that much of what passes as Christianity today is anything but. The church will only be able to be an effective witness for God when it returns to the foundation of the five solas that defined the Reformation (Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, glory to God alone). The book begins with a critical examination of the modern evangelical church. The author shows that where the evangelical church was once known for and defined by what it believed, today it is increasingly defined by its style. He is especially critical of the church growth movement,…

Book review: Now, That’s A Good Question
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Now, That’s A Good Question Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes There exists a surprisingly popular series of books entitled Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. These books are a compendium of quotes, short stories, trivia and jokes that are each just a few lines or paragraphs in length. The book was designed to appeal to the bathroom reader – one who likes to read whilst he is sitting upon the throne, so to speak. I affectionately call Now, That’s A Good Question, R.C.’s Big Bathroom Reader. The cover features R.C. sitting (thankfully) in an armchair and displays one of the worst jobs of removing the background from a photo I have ever seen. His hair is cut in almost straight lines and looks completely unnatural on the cream-colored background. Actually, the cover looks like it may have been someone’s high school project. But I digress. Now, That’s A Good Question is a wonderful book. The back cover poses the question, "If you had the opportunity to quiz one of today’s foremost theologians, what would you ask?" That is the thrust of this book. Through the 1980’s, R.C. hosted a radio program unimaginatively titled Ask…

Book review: Hard To Believe
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Hard To Believe The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes “Hard to Believe” is another hard-hitting, no-holds-barred strike against the modern church. Much as he did years ago in “Ashamed of the Gospel”, MacArthur takes aim at easy-believism and a watered-down, seeker-friendly gospel. In particular, he criticizes the influence of those who preach self-esteem, a health and wealth gospel and aim to be overly seeker-friendly. This book forceful – so much so that there were several places where the force of his words and his anger at the perversion of the gospel shocked me and stopped me short. MacArthur’s righteous indignation reminded me of Spurgeon who wrote many similar books and essays in his day. In case you are wondering more specifically who he is writing about, the only person he mentions by name is Robert Schuller and his infamously antibiblical book “Self Esteem: The New Reformation.” However, it is easy to see shades of many popular Bible teachers if one reads between the lines. While I have utmost respect for MacArthur and regard him as one of my most trusted Bible teachers, I often…

Book review: With Reverence And Awe
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

With Reverence And Awe Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship Publisher: P&R Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Christians are increasingly divided over how they ought to worship God. For many Reformed believers, this is an issue of great urgency. D.G. Hart and John R. Muether wrote With Reverence And Awe (Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship) to address this topic. They call the book a primer on worship, "a brief overview of how Reformed theology informs the way we think about, put together, and participate in the worship service. Our aim is to help church officers and members gather corporately for worship and do so in ways appropriate to the God who has revealed himself in Christ Jesus" (page 13). The authors believe that good theology must produce good worship, while poor theology necessarily produces poor worship. This is something the church has understood in the past, but has lost sight of in recent years. Reformed worship, because of its distinctiveness, will worship God in ways that are distinct from other theological traditions. The first topic the authors address is the relationship of the church to the world. This is a logical place…

Book review: Ashamed of the Gospel
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Ashamed of the Gospel When The Church Becomes Like The World Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes It was just over one hundred years ago that the great preacher Charles Spurgeon began the long battle that would ultimately cost him his life. He saw in the church of that era a trend away from the preaching of the gospel and towards entertainment. The church began to focus on pleasing people rather than preaching the gospel in all its offense and power. The battle Spurgeon waged became known as The Downgrade Controversy. Now, a full century later, John MacArthur is sounding the alarm to warn discerning believers that the crisis the church faced in the late 19th century has come to the modern-day church. The church is, once again, on the downgrade. While Spurgeon fought against the influence of liberalism in the church, today we need to fight against the influx of pragmatism. Believing that those who ignore history are dooming themselves to repeat it, he has written Ashamed of the Gospel to show that the alarms Spurgeon sounded are equally relevant in the 21st century church. To prove this point he precedes each chapter…

Book review: Scripture Alone
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Scripture Alone Exploring The Bible’s Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity Publisher: Bethany House Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes James White is a Reformed apologist who specializes in defending the faith against the doctrines of Roman Catholics and Mormons – two groups which deny the doctrine of sola scriptura or Scripture Alone. He is uniquely qualified to write such a book as he is intimately familiar with the arguments against the Bible’s sufficiency. The book comes at a time when much of Protestantism has lost sight of this doctrine and has been slowly denying it. White defines this doctrine as "Scripture alone as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church." Thus he teaches that Scripture has been given to govern and guide what we believe and why we believe it and is the only guide that can do so infallibly. He has written this book to "lay a foundation for all Christians who desire a deeper understanding of biblical sufficiency" (from the back cover). The book is targeted not at theologians and apologists, but at laypeople who are interested in being able to defend their faith and have firm convictions regarding the Scriptures. The book…

Book review: Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce Publisher: Crossway (2007) Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes This little biography emerged as the dual fruit of the 2002 Bethlehem conference for pastors and the 2006 big screen release Amazing Grace. John Piper’s goal from the outset was to lift up William Wilberforce first as a Christian, second as an author, and third as a politician. Without the first two the third would have never had the effect it had on British law and morality, namely the abolition of both the slave trade, and eventually slavery in the British Empire. Piper first hones in on Wilberforce’s identity as a Christian. Rather than engage in detailed minutiae of Wilberforce’s life, Piper simply mentions the major touchstones of Wilberforce’s Christian journey. After experiencing the influence John Welsey, George Whitefield and John Newton at an early age, his mother later placed him in a school where his religion would stagnate. Later, as a dissolute playboy, on a lark he ran for parliament and was elected. There he spent many years in self-promotion and self-amusement. In God’s providence he was reacquainted with two figures from his childhood, his old schoolteacher Isaac Milner,…

Book review: Don’t Waste Your Life
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Don’t Waste Your Life Publisher: Crossway (2003) Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I admire John Piper and have grown tremendously through his ministry. He is a gifted teacher and one I deeply respect. Yet for some strange reason I do not enjoy his books. I have tried reading several of his books several times and have never enjoyed doing so. I don’t know why this is, but I suspect it may be his style of writing. He employs many short sentences and writes in flowery prose I usually find only in the writing of Victorian authors. Maybe there is another reason that is hidden to me. What I do know is that, as tragic as this may be, it will probably be a long time before I read one of his books again. I feel guilty about this, especially when I read other reviews where people praise this as being one of their favorite books and one that has done so much for their spiritual formation. Perhaps I will pick one up and try again next year. Now despite my difficulty in reading this book, there is much of value within it. Piper has many good…