Book review: The Next Story
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Next Story Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion Publisher: Zondervan Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes While scrolling through an online bookseller’s current sales flyer today, I noted how many of the new Christian Living releases seem to be much of a muchness with other books published over the past decade. On the other hand, Tim Challies’ sophomore effort, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, is fresh and welcome reading material that ought to be the go-to resource on the topic of faith in the digital age. Granted, the score is Advantage: Challies when it comes to my interest in reading books about the intersection of faith and technology. The topic doesn’t naturally interest me overmuch, even if it really should, so the motivation to read the book was based squarely upon my friendship with Tim. There are another half-dozen Christian books on this topic that probably deserve to be read; I’m just not likely to. Friendship aside, I’m glad to have read this book. My ability to think about faith issues in the digital age has broadened and deepened, despite being disinclined to read most of the books that Challies…

Book review: Christology
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Christology A Guide for the Perplexed Publisher: T & T Clark Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Christology is a daunting subject ‘ its history and theology paint a complex picture. Thankfully, Alan Spence offers readers an able introduction. His work is a good contribution to the “Guide for the Perplexed” series. Spence, the author of a study of John Owen’s Christology, is well qualified to introduce his subject. He traces Christology from the church’s response to gnosticism, through Arianism, to the issues surrounding Chalcedon. He studies Owen’s unique understanding of the Spirit and Christ’s humanity, liberalism’s extended Socinianism and modern discussions by Barth and Pannenberg. There are, however, glaring omissions in Spence’s work. For instance, the towering figures of Augustine and Aquinas are absent. Nor is there mention of the “myth of God incarnate” debate of the late twentieth-century. Unfortunately, there are a number of typographical errors. In spite of such problems, Spence should be thanked for his treatment of Owen, whose Christology is often neglected. Christology will be useful for pastors, educated lay-people and undergraduate students. For this one should consult the work of Donald MacLeod and Oliver Crisp. Available on Amazon

Book review: The Whole Counsel of God, Volume 1
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Whole Counsel of God, Volume 1 God’s Mighty Acts in the Old Testament Publisher: P&R Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes The task of theologizing is massive and at times daunting. Categories of systematic, historical, biblical and practical theology confront the theologian. Each has its own subset of categories that make fusing them together into a coherent whole difficult. So often scholars will branch off into their own area of specialty and neglect other important fields of endeavour, as seen in the debates over the relationship between systematic and biblical theology. Enter Richard Gamble and the first volume of his projected three-part series on the whole counsel of God. Richard C. Gamble is currently Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA and is pastor of College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaver Falls, PA. This accounts for the melding of the theoretical and practical aspects of his work. He has taught at Westminster Seminary (PA), Calvin Seminary and Reformed Seminary (Orlando). A former director of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies and past president of the Calvin Studies Society, Dr. Gamble is a scholar’s scholar. One would think,…

Book review: Transforming Grace
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Transforming Grace Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love Publisher: NavPress Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes According to Jerry Bridges, most Christians agree that salvation is by grace, but “seem to believe success in the Christian life…is basically up to us…We give lip service to the attitude of the apostle Paul, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am’ (1 Cor. 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ ” This attitude is one that Bridges sets out to correct in his book Transforming Grace, which is a thorough examination of how God’s grace works in the life of a believer after salvation. Bridges begins, in his warm and pastoral style, by convincing readers that they can do nothing to warrant God’s favor. His blessings and rewards are not earned through “merits.” Nor are they forfeited through “demerits”: “Grace does not take into account merits or demerits at all. Rather, grace considers all men and woman as totally undeserving and unable to do anything to earn the blessing of God.” Realizing this, says the author, will free believers from living on a “performance treadmill,” where they feel by turns in…

Book review: Think
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Think The Life of the Mind and the Love of God Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Our chief role in life is to love and worship God. But we can’t love or worship Him if we don’t know Him. How do we know Him? He reveals Himself through His word and His world. But, in order for us to see and know what He wants us to see and know, we have to think. That’s the point of John Piper’s book, Think: “That thinking is essential in knowing God.” We cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to ‘love God with all you mind’ means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure him for all that he is worth. What does Piper mean when he says, “think”? What are we to think about? Is Piper calling us to unguided thinking about whatever pops into our mind? No. His appeal is for thinking that is guided by reading good books, particularly the Bible: “That is mainly what I have in…

Book review: The Gospel and the Mind
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Gospel and the Mind Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes In his philosophical new book, The Gospel and the Mind, Bradley G. Green argues two theses: “The Christian vision of God, man, and the world provides the necessary precondition for the recovery of any meaningful intellectual life,” and, “The Christian vision of God, man, and the world offers a particular, unique understanding of what the intellectual life might look like.” Green says that our thinking, without Christ and the cross, is clouded by sin. Without a telos, or goal (Christian eschatology, for instance), there is no meaning to knowledge or education. “True education requires an animating and inspiring vision, which is the very thing the gospel provides, and which is the very thing missing in most construals of education today.” Without a belief in creation, or a Sovereign Creator, there is no proper understanding of history or life. Even language becomes meaningless without belief in a created order and ultimate Truth. When our minds are separated from the gospel, we are intellectuals and philosophers with our heads in the clouds, not knowing where we’re going or where…

Book review: The Hospitality Commands
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Hospitality Commands Building Loving Christian Community, Building Bridges to Friends and Neighbors Publisher: Lewis & Roth Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes It goes without saying that the Western world rat-race has infected the church. Our perennial busyness militates against ministry of time and presence. The ancient Christian practice of hospitality has suffered as a result, to the detriment of Christian community in general. In his booklet The Hospitality Commands, Alexander Strauch estimates that each church may have only one or two couples known for hospitality, which he sees as a tragedy. Strauch’s lament is neither guilt-inducing nor shrill, however. Calling hospitality a “missing crown jewel” in the church, he grounds the necessity of hospitality in God’s command to the church to carry out His mission in the  world: As Bible believing Christians…We need to rediscover the New Testament’s dynamic teaching on hospitality. We need to awaken Christians to their scriptural duty to practice hospitality. We need to show the rich blessings that await all who practice hospitality. We need a fresh vision of hospitality’s potential for strengthening our churches and for reaching our neighbors and friends with the gospel. Hospitality engenders Christian community (Strauch uses…

Book review: Expository Listening
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Expository Listening A Practical Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word Publisher: Kress Biblical Resources Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Have you ever arrived at church on Sunday in a “less-than-ready” condition for worship? Maybe you were up too late the night before, argued with your spouse while getting ready, possibly snapped at the kids, or even kicked the dog on the way out the door. By the time you get to church, you’re truly not ready to listen to a sermon! But getting your mind and heart ready is exactly what expository preaching requires. Listening to a sermon, really listening’as in thinking, praying, following the argument, concentrating on the meaning and its application to your life’now that’s hard work! Merely hearing a sermon is easy; it requires a properly functioning auditory system, but it’s essentially a passive exercise. Actively listening to the preaching of God’s Word requires mental alertness, focused attention, and a spiritually receptive heart. That’s the kind of listening Solomon implored his own sons to do: My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if…