Book review: Only One Way?
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Only One Way? Reaffirming the Exclusive Truth Claims of Christianity Publisher: Crossway Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Rarely these days can one engage in an extended discussion of the Christian faith with an unbeliever without sooner or later encountering objections to the exclusivist claims of Christianity. “So you think that all those sincere, morally upright Buddhists are going to hell simply because they don’t follow Jesus? And you’re convinced that the Bible gives us objective truths about God? Come on! How could anyone seriously believe such things in this day and age?” In the face of such incredulous opposition, some Christians — even some self-described evangelicals — have been tempted to ‘reassess’ certain historic Christian doctrines, such as the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation. Given the resistance to these doctrines, might there be room for more flexibility about the uniqueness of Christ and the message of the gospel? The contributors to this book answer with a resounding ‘No’ — and make no apologies for doing so. The six chapters of the book began life as conference addresses to the 2005 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, an event sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals,…

Book review: Pursuing God
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Pursuing God A Seeker’s Guide Publisher: Christian Communicators Worldwide Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Pursuing God – A Seeker’s Guide is a book for those who are drawn to God and yearn to understand more about Him. Intended as a tool for evangelism, it is written in a warn and conversational style. Over sixty pages, author Jim Elliff, president of Christian Communicators Worldwide, leads the reader through the all-important questions and answers in what is a clear and biblical presentation of the gospel. I took me only a couple of pages to realize that I was going to like this book. On page seven Elliff asks, “What does God think of me?” So many Christians are afraid to address this question from a biblical perspective for fear of driving people away. But Elliff answers, “The answer to this question may surprise you – and disappoint you. But the disappointment is necessary. If you do not fully understand the awful predicament that sin puts you in, you may never appreciate Christ’s coming, death and resurrection enough to become a Christian.” Later he says, “Nobody was ever converted to Christ without knowing, and feeling deeply, the terribleness of…

Book review: The Expository Genius of John Calvin
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Expository Genius of John Calvin Publisher: Reformation Truth Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Steven Lawson’s series called A Long Line of Godly Men has made me awfully excited. I love Reformed theology and am thrilled to see the effort Lawson is expending in proving that this theology, seen as so new and so radical by such a large number of Christians, has been consistently taught by courageous and biblical Christians from the time of the writers of the Bible all the way to today. There truly is a long line of godly men testifying to God’s sovereignty in these doctrines of grace. And someday I look forward to having a long line of these books on my shelf. While the main series will encompass five volumes each measuring several hundred pages, there will also be a subseries known as "Long Line of Godly Men Profiles." These books will narrow in on some of the most important figures in church history, attempting to show how they held to these doctrines. It also wieghs and measures the impact of these individuals in one particular area. As I understand it, future volumes will cover Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards,…

Book review: My Beloved Russia
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

My Beloved Russia A Story of God’s Love for a Persecuted People Publisher: Christian Focus Publications Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I remember praying for the Christian men and women who lived in the Soviet Union. During the Cold War we knew that countless Christians lived on the far side of the Iron Curtain and that they suffered immeasurably for their faith. We knew they needed prayer that God would sustain them and allow the faith to spread despite vigorous persecution. I remember hearing Brother Andrew speak at a nearby church and rejoiced to hear the incredible stories he shared of God’s faithfulness in providing Scriptures for the Russian church. I remember lists of Russian believers known to be suffering in prisons for their faith. It is a stark reminder of what seems like a different world. God was good to answer the countless prayers of generations of Christians, for He preserved His church in Russia. Dmitry Mustafin is one of those answers to prayer and My Beloved Russia tells the story of his life. The son of a brilliant scientist, Mustafin followed in his father’s footsteps and pursued a career in science. This book describes…

Book review: Spiritual Birthline
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Spiritual Birthline Understanding How We Experience the New Birth Publisher: Crossway Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No One thing I love to think about is the gracious work of God in saving sinners like me.  It was perhaps for that reason that I was drawn to Stephen Smallman’s Spiritual Birthline: Understanding How We Experience the New Birth (Crossway, 2006).  The book is an attempt to discover how people experience the work of the Holy Spirit in spiritual birth; especially to show how the Spirit is at work in a person’s life before they actually exercise faith in Jesus (19). Clearly this is a topic that has not received a lot of attention in recent evangelicalism and I am glad Smallman has taken the initiative to write on it.  The author is an experienced pastor and the warmth of this experience is really evident on every page.  That is perhaps what I most enjoyed about the book.  Smallman is intent on showing us that there is no cookie-cutter process that God uses with each individual, rather each person is saved by the Lord through a massive variety of interventions, events, and such things.  One job of the faithful…

Book review: Humility
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Humility True Greatness Publisher: Multnomah Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I’ve often wondered how I missed out on C.J. Mahaney’s books for so long. While I’ve now read several of them, I did not read the first until earlier this year. And now I’m hooked. I love Mahaney’s style of writing in which he blends sound, biblical teaching with humility and just the right amount of humor. I’ve found his books to be practical, yet not legislative, as if we needed him to dictate every aspect of the reader’s life. I was excited, then, to review Humility: True Greatness. There is a certain irony in the pursuit of humility. We see a glimpse of that in the title of this book, Humility: True Greatness. Humility is true greatness. The pursuit of humility and the pursuit of greatness are one and the same, provided that we seek greatness as defined by the Creator. I have never met C.J. Mahaney (though hope to some day), but from all accounts he is well-qualified to write a book on such a difficult subject. And this is a difficult topic. After all, how can a person write a book on humility…

Book review: Blink
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Blink Publisher: Westbow Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: If I am going to continue to read Christian fiction (and it seems that I can’t escape reading at least some of it) I am going to have to learn how to properly review the genre. How do I say enough about the book to provide the flavor without giving away the integral parts of the plot? And of more concern, how important is it that fiction be doctrinally strong? Do we want to learn from a novel, or do we view it merely as escapism – a few hours of amusement in which we are removed from the real world and are transported into the world of characters whose lives are far more interesting than ours? I’ll work through those issues in due time, I suppose. In the meantime, let me tell you about Blink. My introduction to the writing of Ted Dekker came in the form of his novel Three which I read a couple of weeks ago. I found it an engaging read and saw that there was a subtle spiritual theme throughout which really didn’t make sense until the last few pages. The book…

Book review: Captivating
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Captivating Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul Publisher: Nelson Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No When I read and review a book I attempt to do so as objectively as possible. After all, each book should be taken on its own merits. It is not entirely fair to cast presuppositions gained from previous books onto an author’s later works. It is not unusual for an author to come to better or worse understandings as his life progresses. A person whose theology once seemed rock-solid, could, unfortunately, write a book later in life that seemed to be anything but orthodox. I say this to preface my review to John Eldredge’s latest book, Captivating. I attempted to be as objective as possible when reading the book, but found it to be nearly impossible. The book was clearly designed to ride the wave of Eldredge’s previous success, and most notably his best-seller Wild at Heart. Wild at Heart is mentioned on the front cover ("Best-Selling Author of Wild at Heart") and the back ("What Wild at Heart did for men Captivating will do for you"). It was mentioned again in the second sentence of the introduction and was…

Book review: Stealing Sheep
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Stealing Sheep The Church’s Hidden Problems of Transfer Growth Publisher: InterVarsity Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I did not know what to expect from Stealing Sheep. The book was recommended to me and I purchased it sight-unseen. All I knew of its content was the subtitle: "The Church’s Hidden Problems with Transfer Growth." I assumed this was a book written by an author opposed to the church growth movement who would be offering one more proof as to why this movement was unbiblical. William Chadwick is no opponent of the church growth movement. Instead, he is one of its many advocates and one who proudly admits that he has studied "under the likes of C. Peter Wagner, Lyle Schaller, John Wimber, Rick Warren, Charles Kraft, Eddie Gibbs, Roberta Hestenes and Bill Hybels" (page 9). He writes, "In my pastoral career I have successfully implemented the tools of church growth to help churches grow significantly, and I have been involved with the church growth movement since the late 1970" (page 9). He writes glowingly about Donald McGavran and the other founders of the church growth movement, showing that he has read them in depth and has…

Book review: Who’s Driving the Purpose Driven Church?
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Who’s Driving the Purpose Driven Church? Publisher: Bible Belt Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes While much has been written about the church growth movement and Purpose Driven principles, I believe that Who’s Driving The Purpose Driven Church is the first book-length treatment dealing specifically with this topic. The title is slightly deceptive, as this book deals particularly with Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life which has sold nearly 20 million copies in just two years. The book purports to be a “documentary on the teachings of Rick Warren.” Because of the overlap between The Purpose Driven Church (targeted at pastors and church officials) and The Purpose Driven Life (targeted at the wider church body as well as unbelievers), Who’s Driving is relevant to people who have concerns about either book. I would like to thank James Sundquist for providing me access to the manuscript before the book was published. I asked him about his motivation for writing the book and he replied that he was not directly thinking of an intended audience but simply went through The Purpose Driven Life line by line, precept upon precept and compared each to Scripture. “My hope…