Book review: Rapture Fiction
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Rapture Fiction And the Evangelical Crisis Publisher: Evangelical Press/Emmaus Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Historian Crawford Gribben has joined the chorus of pastors and theologians who have sounded a warning about the evangelical crisis of our day. In the recent past a number of noteworthy books have been published addressing an array of issues troubling the church. From the charismatic extremes of televangelists such as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland, to the mega-church trends of Bill Hybels and Joel Osteen, evangelicalism has experienced enough bad theology to leave it in a state of crisis. One area in particular that has negatively shaped the church is that of the rapture novel. Many would be familiar with names such as Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye, but such authors are not new to Christian history. This genre of fiction has been on the market since the beginning of the last century and has long had an impact on those who read them. By evaluating the gospel content of such rapture fictions over the last number of years Gribben has added one more to the list of growing concerns. Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis is primarily a book about…

Book review: Revelation and Reason
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Revelation and Reason New Essays in Reformed Apologetics Publisher: P&R Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I remember when I discovered apologetics. I had arrived at university and quickly realized that not only did most of my peers not share my Christian beliefs, some of them were also eager to prove those beliefs to be foolish superstitions. The former attitude I had already experienced at high school; the latter I had not. So I invested in a number of popular books offering “many compelling evidences” for the Christian faith and eagerly devoured them. In truth, they weren’t much help in persuading my fellow students of their errors. But they reassured me — and for that I’m grateful. What’s more, they sparked an enduring passion for Christian apologetics. I also remember when I discovered that the Bible has more to say about apologetics than 1 Peter 3:15. I was browsing in a Christian bookstore and happened upon a book by John Frame called Apologetics to the Glory of God. The title immediately grabbed my attention. The idea that the purpose of apologetics is glorify God, rather than to save me from looking dumb and credulous in front…

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

Faith Alone The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification Publisher: Baker Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Precursor to Sproul’s 1999 Baker effort Getting the Gospel Right, which examines the second document released by the assortment of church leaders calling itself “Evangelicals and Catholics together,” Faith Alone takes issue with the first document circulated by that group, entitled “The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” Headlined by figures such as Charles Colson, Mark Noll, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, Bill Bright, Os Guinness, Pat Robertson, and J.I. Packer (with whom Sproul takes particular umbrage), in the first ECT document the group sought to find common ground on a host of issues, including the sacraments, the nature of the church, and the means of justification. It is compromise on the latter topic that Sproul identifies as perilous to the continuing doctrinal integrity of evangelicals. However, he does not see ECT as rotten to the core. He freely celebrates the group’s united defense against the “self-help moralism and shallow sentimentalism” so rampant in today’s churches. He gives credit to the group for ranging itself as a bulwark against liberalism and modernism. But he nevertheless devotes almost two hundred pages to…

Book review: Renewing Minds
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Renewing Minds Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education Publisher: Holman Academic Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes David Dockery is the president of my alma mater, Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Therefore, I have always taken great interest in keeping up with what Dockery says and does in the realm of Christian higher education. B&H publishing has done us all a favor by pulling together his ideas into a unified book with the theme – “Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education”. Dockery’s heart beats with the passion of a pastor, theologian, academic, and administrator. He sees the Christian university as a place in society where both mind and heart can renewed along biblical and gospel lines. It is difficult work in our day, but it is a necessary work. Dockery writes, “I believe that the integration of faith and learning is the essence of authentic Christian higher education and should be wholeheartedly implemented across the campus and across the curriculum.” And how is this accomplished? Dockery says, “We need more than just new ideas and enhanced programs, we need distinctively Christian thinking, the king of touch-minded thinking that results in culture-engaging living. …This…

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

The Person of Jesus Christ Publisher: T&T Clark Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Locating a Christology book that is both solidly doctrinal and warmly devotional is rare, but The Person of Jesus Christ by Hugh Ross Mackintosh rewards on both counts. It is at once an exposition of the figure of Christ as God and man, and a celebration of Christ himself. Originally delivered as a series of lectures at Christian student meetings in 1912, Mackintosh’s lectures give the impression of being more of a personal meditation on the person and work of Jesus Christ than a scholarly paper devoid of any emotion. This is an advantage, as it is doubtful a lesser work would have lasted in print these almost one hundred years since its first publication. An eminent scholar in his own right, in our time Mackintosh has been obscured by his considerably more famous pupil, Thomas F. Torrance. Fittingly, Torrance has written an introduction as a postscript appreciation for T&T Clark’s reissue of this worthy little work. In the introduction, Torrance iterates the value of Mackintosh’s book, explains how it came to be published, and briefly outlines the control center of Mackintosh’s theology,…

Book review: The Power in Prayer
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Power in Prayer Publisher: Whitaker House Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Pause here, Spurgeon purist. This volume is edited and updated. Proceed at your own risk. While this may sound lighthearted, there is a significant bastion of Spurgeon devotees who defend the original renderings of Spurgeon’s sermons and attack editing or updating of any kind. They would rather Spurgeon’s language remain obscure, with its thees and thous and Victorian sentence construction, than be altered slightly for the readability of modern audiences. In my humble opinion, Whitaker House has done the Christian community a favor in updating Spurgeon. As near as I can tell, without subjecting this volume to a side-by-side comparative study with the original sermons, none of the meaning has been lost. In the first chapter, entitled “Guaranteed to Succeed,” Spurgeon roots prayer in the supremacy of God. Our Father in heaven is not simply powerful enough, but is supremely powerful and omnipotent, and therefore infinitely competent to manage the prayer requests of all humanity. This chapter also deals easily with the oft-vexing question of predestined prayer. Unfortunately, Spurgeon engages in hermeneutical acrobatics later in the chapter. Referring to the “ask, seek and knock”…

Book review: God’s Problem
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

God’s Problem How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer Publisher: HarperOne Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No Bart Ehrman is a New Testament scholar who chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has both an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary where he studied under the renowned scholar Bruce Metzger. Though he formerly considered himself a Christian and even pastored a church, he is now an avowed agnostic. Much of Ehrman’s career has been dedicated to attempting to prove that history has been incorrect in suggesting that it was heretics such as Marcion who were responsible for tampering with the original texts of the Bible. He suggests and attempts to prove that it was those who professed faith in Christ who sought to change the Scripture to force it to adapt to their beliefs. In the past decade he was written extensively, though the bulk of his work has been directed at the academy, as shown by such intimidating titles as The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. But in recent…

Book review: Evangelical Is Not Enough
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Evangelical Is Not Enough Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament Publisher: Ignatius Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes 1984 was a very good year for North American evangelicalism, by any stretch. A Republican, Ronald Reagan, had recaptured the White House, and a conservative, Brian Mulroney, had ended the Liberal Party’s stranglehold on the Canadian prime ministerial office. But there was a blot on the landscape; Thomas Howard, perhaps better known to evangelicals as Elisabeth Eliot’s brother, had defected to the Roman Catholic Church. Questions swirled: How could he? Was he really a Christian? And so on and so forth. In Howard’s mind, as attested in Evangelical Is Not Enough, he had not departed from the Christian faith but had instead added historical ballast to his already deep-rooted evangelical faith. Truth be told, this book functions as much as an homage to Howard’s formative Protestantism as it does to his then-newfound Catholicism. Like his friend David Wells in the recent book The Courage to Be Protestant, Howard first investigates whether the term ‘evangelical’ is too rickety and semantically varied to continue bearing fruit. Intriguingly, David Wells numbers amongst Howard’s many dedicatees, whom Howard honors for his…

Book review: The Screwtape Letters
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Screwtape Letters Publisher: HarperOne Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes The Screwtape Letters arguably occupies second-from-the-top spot in the C.S. Lewis canon, following the unmatched and unparalleled epic collection The Chronicles of Narnia. To offer a critical review of either work might seem to be overreaching myself, except that I am assured by Leland Ryken in Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective, that it is a grievous misreading to regard the classics as beyond criticism (‘criticism’ used in the broad sense of the term, not the narrow, negative sense). “The classics are worthy of our admiration and should make us feel humble,” says Ryken, “but we should not venerate them as something sacred.” He later exposes another way of misreading classics, that of assuming the classics are relics of the past. And so, I feel doubly assured that offering up a few humble comments about The Screwtape Letters is not some exercise in arrogance, nor treading on sacred ground. The setting of The Screwtape Letters is certainly not sacred ground; quite the opposite. The action of the main story (devilish letter-writing) is confined to hell, which Lewis never really describes, except to identify a…

Book review: God’s Righteous Kingdom
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

God’s Righteous Kingdom The Law’s Connection with the Gospel Publisher: Banner of Truth Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes The relation of the Old Testament to the New Covenant Gospel is a topic fraught with conflict, and shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Back in 1980, to answer this thorny theological issue and to shore up Reformed opposition against dispensationalism (the teaching that God treats both His people and the world differently at different points in history) and reconstructionism/dominionism (the teaching that all social, moral, and ceremonial Old Testament laws should apply to the nations), Walter Chantry wrote this deceptively small volume containing a mother lode of quality biblical teaching. By and large, Chantry is encouraged about the direction the Reformed wing of the Church is taking. He sees an influx of multitudes returning to “Biblical religion” throughout the world, who are finding in “experimental Calvinism…God-exalting and man-humbling truth.” At the same time he warns against the draws of legalistic and antinomian tendencies in those who have discovered the doctrines of grace. To combat these extremes, Chantry maintains we must have a biblical apprehension of the kingdom of God, of which he offers this stirring definition:…