Book review: From Silence to Song
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

From Silence to Song The Davidic Liturgical Revolution Publisher: Canon Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Completing this book is a double triumph for this reviewer: not only have I actually finished a Peter Leithart book and am personally satisfied with my grasp of its material, but I have discovered in From Silence to Song: the Davidic Liturgical Revolution a book on worship that explores its topic in redemptive-historical terms. C.S. Lewis might have said that this book avoids the chronological snobbery of many modern handbooks on worship. It should be read alongside any and all modern books on worship, in my humble opinion. The evangelical “worship revolution” of the 1980s and 1990s saw much use of the Old Testament tabernacle in both worship songs and books about worship. But even at that time there was something missing. While these songs and authors were somewhat successful in getting at the possibilities of how tabernacle worship might inform New Covenant worship, they seemed to fall short of addressing the theological foundations of why the tabernacle not just could, but should inform Christian worship. Without coming across as legalistic or overly enamored with Hebrew worship forms, Leithart sets…

Book review: Burning Down ‘The Shack’
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Burning Down ‘The Shack’ How the ‘Christian’ Bestseller is Deceiving Millions Publisher: WND Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes If ever there was a book destined to see a lot of negative reviews it has to be Burning Down ‘The Shack‘. Written by James De Young, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, this book takes on the bestselling novel The Shack, telling, according to the subtitle, how “The ‘Christian’ Bestseller is Deceiving Millions.” The Shack has a huge community of devoted fans and many of them will be distressed to see this book, and especially so if it begins to sell well and gain some kind of prominence. It seems that I should begin this review by revisiting the facts of The Shack. But surely you know them already. The Shack has sold millions and millions of copies, has been translated into a host of languages and has remained on the besteller lists for over 100 weeks; it was self-published by an unknown author and an unknown publishing company and had an initial marketing budget of just a few hundred dollars; it is largely a word-of-mouth success that has seen…

Book review: Dying to Live
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Dying to Live Abandoning Yourself to God’s Bold Paradox Publisher: Harvest House Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Traveling evangelists are quietly disappearing. I’ve listed some reasons for the decline, but I believe there may still be a future for vocational evangelism. Clayton King is the type of evangelist I hope we see more of in the coming years. His evangelistic ministry is church-based and Christ-centered. Though he is young, he is already mentoring those coming up behind him. What I like most about Clayton is that his style of evangelism does not negate (in fact, it highlights) the paradoxical nature of Christian discipleship. The call to discipleship is not just a call to making heavenly accommodations upon your death. It’s the call to pick up one’s cross. Clayton’s book, Dying to Live: Abandoning Yourself to God’s Bold Paradox, emphasizes the cost of dying to oneself in order to live to Christ. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but hear echoes of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. How might Bonhoeffer engage in evangelism in our context today? I’m certain he would focus our attention on the cross and expect the cross-centered life to color everything…

Book review: Handel’s Messiah
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Handel’s Messiah Comfort for God’s People Publisher: Eerdmans Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I always feel like a bit of a poser when I say this, but I absolutely love Handel’s Messiah. Though I appreciate small amounts of classical music (to use the term in a broad sense) I am largely a rock’n’roll type. Yet there is something about Messiah that grips me. I find myself listening to it throughout the year, again and again, year after year. I’ve listened to recordings hundreds of times and make it a habit to attend a live performance every Christmas season. I can’t get enough. I was rather excited to see a new book releasing this Fall entitled Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People. Written by Calvin Stapert, professor emeritus of music at Calvin College, the book serves as a guide to Handel’s great masterpiece. As the publisher says in the one-sentence pitch, “If you want to enjoy and appreciate Handel’s beloved Messiah more deeply, this informed yet accessible guide is the book to read.” I’m inclined to agree. While I love Messiah I have often struggled with the knowledge that I do not really understand it very well….

Book review: Surviving Toxic Leaders
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Surviving Toxic Leaders How to Work for Flawed People in Churches, Schools, and Christian Organizations Publisher: Wipf & Stock Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes In her book Finding Our Way: Leadership For an Uncertain Time, organizational thinker Margaret J. Wheatley laments that “in the past few years, ever since uncertainty became our insistent twenty-first-century [sic] companion, leadership strategies have taken a great leap backward to the familiar territory of command and control.’ As Wheatley goes on to comment, recent recession and global conflict causes widespread and heightened anxiety. In this environment, toxic leaders can more easily gain ascendancy, whether they are intentionally toxic or not. It is about these leaders that Christian leadership guru Kenneth O. Gangel wrote his final book, Surviving Toxic Leaders. Gangel perceived the need for a book of this sort upon reading Jean Lipman-Blumen’s 2004 book The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians – and How We Can Survive Them. In Gangel’s slim volume he does what Lipman-Blumen did not, and probably could not, do: incorporate biblical examples of both godly and toxic leadership. He begins where you might expect, by identifying and defining many different…

Book review: Relationships
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Relationships A Mess Worth Making Publisher: New Growth Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes A quick search of the terms “must read” and “must-read” on this review site reveals that we have assiduously endeavored to avoid applying this superlative quality to too many books, and even when we have done so, it has always been applied to a certain segment of the church, i.e., pastors or preachers. This run ends today. In Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp, I can confidently say it is a book that every Christian should read on the threefold basis of theology, applicability, and accessibility. THEOLOGY We all need to hold and seek out sound, biblical theology. While it’s true that the term “biblical” has been bandied about to an unhealthy and unhelpful degree in the contemporary Western Church, at times even employed as a weapon, it is equally unhealthy and unhelpful to dismiss the term because its true meaning is glorious: adherence to the “norming norms” of Holy Scripture in matters of faith and practice. Relationships is such a book. Lane and Tripp begin by conducting a half-dozen chapters of theological cartography, defining and…

Book review: Amusing Ourselves to Death
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Amusing Ourselves to Death Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Publisher: Penguin Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes It seems unlikely that a book labeled "Current Affairs" could have a shelf life of more than a few years. It seems preposterous that a book dealing with television and referring to Dallas and Dynasty could have anything to see twenty two years after being published. Yet Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, now in it’s "20th Anniversary Edition" continues to be read and studied and to hold influence. Even today it is used as required reading in many high school and college level courses. Though written by a man who made no claim to Christianity, few modern books written by an unbeliever have been more widely read and quoted by Christians. It truly is a remarkable little book. Postman had that rarely quality of being able to see behind a fad, behind what was late and great. He saw the significance of the rise of the image and the fall of the word, the rise of amusement and the decline of discourse. He saw that television would soon saturate every area of our lives and taint…

Book review: Wild at Heart
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Wild at Heart Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No A few months ago I mentioned on this site that I was reading John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart and intended to write a review of it. After reading the book I elected not to write a review at that time. The book was so full of error and absolutely ridiculous nonsense that I just didn’t have the heart to document it all. Honestly, I was frustrated and discouraged to see that a book like Wild at Heart could make it to the top of the Christian best-seller’s lists. Garry Gilley of Southern View Chapel and Think on These Things Ministries has released a two-part review of it and does an excellent job of writing about the multitude of errors. Looking back on the copious notes I took during my reading I am glad to say that he and I picked up on many of the same things. I am going to discuss some of the more glaring errors in the book. Some of the greatest concerns are: Open Theism – Though Eldredge denies he is an…

Book review: An Inconvenient Truth
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

An Inconvenient Truth Publisher: Rodale Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No There is a great deal of controversy surrounding global warming. Some insist that it is a terrifying and imminent concern that portends worldwide disaster. Others scoff at the notion, accusing those who spread such dire predictions of using global warming as part of a larger, sinister agenda. Al Gore considers global warming to be an inconvenient truth and a pending planetary emergency. In his political career he was an advocate of measures to deal with this and other environmental crises, and in his post-political career he has accelerated these warnings. An Inconvenient Truth, an immediate New York Times bestseller, and the film that was released at around the same time, are his attempt to take this message to the masses. An Inconvenient Truth is an oversize paperback book which contains predominantly photographs. "It was Tipper who first suggested that I put together a new kind of book with pictures and graphics to make the whole message easier to follow, combining many elements of all the new original material I have compiled over the last few years… My hope is that those who read the book…

Book review: Mere Humanity
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Mere Humanity G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, And J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition Publisher: Broadman and Holman Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes In the past few years, the fictional writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have been turned into blockbuster movies.  Riding the wave of enthusiasm over these 20th century literary giants, Christian publishers have poured forth a steady stream of books that examine these men. Who were they and what do we make of their theology?  Donald T. Williams new book Mere Humanity is one such book, but it truly stands out from the crowd.  Mere Humanity examines the doctrine of anthropology (the study of humanity), as set forth in the writings of Lewis, Tolkien, and G.K. Chesterton. Williams is the director of the School of Arts and Sciences at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. He wrote Mere Humanity to help answer two basic questions – What is man? What is the purpose of this life on earth?  He admits that his book does not provide a complete systematic theological treatment of the subject. However, it does aid us in recovering biblical anthropology from the enemies at hand. And who…