REVIEW | “Great Doctrines of the Bible”, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

9781433538797Since being introduced to systematic theology in my days as an undergraduate student in Bible school, when I come across a good volume in this field, I receive it with excitement and enthusiasm; and reference it quite frequently. By “systematic theology” meaning of course the orderly presentation, by topic, of what the whole Bible teaches on a given theological matter. And, off hand, I can think of a handful of standard systematics that I would recommend should a person inquire. Among that group, though, there is one that sticks out as unique. Where many systematics are quite predictable in the manner in which the material is presented, I have found one that communicates with a different style and tone, and is intensely practical. In that, this systematic is really simply a collection of recorded sermons on various topics within classic systematic theology. Simply, it is systematic theology preached.

From 1952 to 1955, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones presented a series of sermons/lectures on Friday evenings in one of the halls of Westminster Chapel in London. Addressing, by request of the people, various matters of doctrine, the good Doctor, would expound upon the topic in his classic engaging, reverent, and wonderfully practical manner of preaching. These talks became so well attended that they had to move into the main Chapel itself.

Lloyd-Jones is recorded as saying, “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” In Crossway Books’ republication of 3 classic Lloyd-Jones volumes in one, we find this sentiment demonstrated. Great Doctrines of the Bible is a recent reprint of God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; and The Church and the Last Things, in one bound paperback volume. Though lengthy, the content within is intensely edifying.

In terms of the book’s contents, the book retains its three-volume structure. Lloyd-Jones begins with matters of prolegomena. He deals with his method, and the perspective from which he views God’s Holy Word. He then moves through bibliology, theology proper, anthropology, angels and demons, soteriology, covenant and redemption, and Christology. The latter two volumes address exactly what their titles would suggest.

For me, this work gives some of the clearest exposition of the nature of God’s redemptive work, from a covenantal perspective, which I have ever read. Here we find that systematic theology is no way needs to be confined to the bookshelf, but can be passionately preached from the pulpit. As a teacher and preacher Lloyd-Jones work will not only serve to edify in personal study, but may also be a model of how these great doctrines may be clearly and concisely expounded.

Another advantage of this work is the Scripture index in the back of the book. After all, what is a work of theology without an index of Scripture?

Overall, what we have here is classic Lloyd-Jones. There are no surprises, only a solid, straightforward, passionate and reverent presentation of the truths of Scripture. It is a volume that will edify both the new Christian and the seasoned student of theology. It is a volume that will train the pastor and layperson in how to communicate systematic theological truth in a plain manner. I highly recommend it.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Book Details

928 Pages
Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN 10: 1433538792
ISBN 13: 9781433538797

Purchase at WTSBooks.com | $23.69 (32% off – $35.00)*

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REVIEW| The Gospel Call & True Conversion, by Paul Washer

Gospel_Call_04021.1371217419.1280.1280__97993.1372356176.1280.1280

When a particular work is accurate in the way it explains the truth, there is something refreshing, something sturdy, something even exhilarating about that particular work. Rather than attempting to win the ears of men through overworked “creativity”, a simple, straightforward, and crystal clear explanation of the gospel in all its weight and glory can edify the soul of a man quite unlike anything else. Without fear of overstatement, I can say that the aforementioned descriptions are true of Paul Washer’s “Recovering the Gospel” series, and in particular, his recent book The Gospel Call and True Conversion (Reformation Heritage Books, 2013).

Washer is a man who understands so well the urgency with which the gospel must be preached that he has no desire to waste his hearer’s time with that which would not further his proclamation of the Good News. In that proclamation, there shines through the heart of a man who is truly a pastor, truly a missionary. Washer has served as a missionary in some exceedingly hostile environments, knowing full well that his life is not his own and that he has been called to proclaim the gospel to the uttermost regions of the earth.

In terms of content, the passion with which Washer communicates rich grace and yet lovingly warns of the reality of false conversion and watered down truth cuts against the grain of many evangelists today. Washer, in his sermons now edited for publication, is concerned that his discourse may be used by God to produce real and lasting fruit, not simply a large following. In reading it, you will encounter a prophetic boldness that is uncommon of many writers today.

The book, divided into three sections, examines:

  • The Gospel Call
  • New Hearts and the Nature of True Conversion
  • New People and the Nature of True Conversion

In each section, and in fact on every page, the reader will find footnotes loaded with Scriptural references that have not been cited as mere prooftexts, but have carefully been selected because of the way in which they support each assertion after careful examination. I find in Washer a rare mix of rigorous textual study and the ability to communicate in profoundly clear terms.

Whether you are a new believer or someone who has walked with the Lord for many years, you will be discipled through the writings of Washer. You will be stirred with passion for the grace of God displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, you will be graciously convicted toward holiness to the praise of God’s glorious grace. That being said, I not only strongly recommend The Gospel Call and True Conversion, but all of Paul Washer’s work as well.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Purchase The Gospel Call & True Conversion | Amazon.com | Reformation Heritage Books

REVIEW| Judges for You, by Timothy Keller

9781908762900Surging interest in biblical theology, with a particular emphasis a Christ-centered hermeneutical approach to the Old Testament, has brought upon evangelicalism a wealth of excellent resources for personal study. Many of these resources are written with the goal of helping the student of Scripture understand the grand storyline of the Bible, how a particular book fits into that storyline, and how the gospel is communicated through that particular book. One such series that bears these characteristics is entitled, “…For You” by Timothy Keller, published by The Good Book Company (2013).

The series, and this volume in particular, seeks to accomplish 3 tasks for the reader:

Read: Pointing you to God’s greatest rescue.

Feed: Helping you to meditate on God’s Word day by day.

Lead: Equipping you to teach the Bible to others.

In Judges for You, Keller takes a somewhat familiar Old Testament book, at least by name, and unpacks it under the heading that there is one ultimate hero evident in the book of Judges, and that is God himself.  God’s faithfulness to Israel displayed in the time of the Judges points to his ultimate act of faithfulness in the sending of his Son to redeem his people.

In terms of familiar interpretative approaches, Keller does view the book in light of the commonly understood “cycles” pattern, which is helpfully illustrated, in one of the books appendices. In terms of appendices, Keller also includes a helpful response to the difficult issue of “holy war” and how one may effectively answer the erroneous charge that Judges, or the Old Testament in sum, advocates ethnic cleansing/holy war. I found this 5-page response to be very helpful. To note, Keller employs Meredith Kline’s “intrusion ethic” as a way of understanding the judgment that takes place upon the peoples who are driven out of the land.

The strength of the book lies in Keller’s incredibly clear writing style and his ability to understand the human condition and apply a well-exegeted text for the purpose of heart/life transformation. Because Keller is so easy to read, without sacrificing substantial content, the reader will thoroughly grow in their knowledge of this difficult book and how it fits into the rest of the story of redemptive history.

However, for those looking for a technical commentary on the book of Judges, this will fall short. That is not the purpose of this volume, though. For sure, this would be an excellent resource for those preaching through the book or a study group that seeks to have a guide that is heavily substantial and practical. Judges for You is exactly that: substantial and practical.

I will be consulting this book frequently in my study of Judges and wholeheartedly commend it to your reading and personal study.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Book Details

224 Pages (Click Here for Preview)
Publisher: Good Book Company
Publication Date: August 2013
ISBN 10: 190876290X
ISBN 13: 9781908762900

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REVIEW | Saving Eutychus, by Millar & Campbell

9781922206251When it comes to the task of preaching God’s Word, methodological perspectives are legion. From the overtly pragmatic and often distracting utilization of movie clips/themes and props, to the classroom-lecture-style reading-in-monotone of a manuscript verbatim, the methods abound. Even within that spectrum we encounter those who preach word-by-word/verse-by-verse, or those who seek to provide illustrations that, in their understanding, effectively illuminate the main point and application of a text. With such a wide variety of perspectives and opinions, it can be difficult to find well-written, clear, and useful instruction.

Pastors Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, in their book Saving Eutychus: How to preach God’s word and keep people awake, have given pastors a readable, reliable, and richly biblical guide for effective gospel preaching.

Based on the episode in Acts 20 where Paul preaches late into the night, the book seeks to help preachers grow in style and substance in such a way that their listeners would not end up like Eutychus, who, falling asleep, fell from a 3rd-story window and was killed (though he was later raised from the dead).

The book is structured in such a way that the authors take turns writing their respective chapters. Both are gifted in style and their instruction and tone are both clear and easily followed. The honesty with which the author’s admit their continued need for growth and where they struggle is refreshing and encouraging.

While the book does contain thoroughly helpful examples and instruction for preparation and evaluation, I found the most encouraging aspect to be the permeating conviction that God’s Word is inherently clear and powerful when it is simply and plainly expounded. The aim of the preacher, as they grow, should be to communicate, not more impressively, but more clearly. Thus the authors provide direction that will help preachers gain clarity in their understanding of the text so that they may, in turn, communicate their interpretation and application more accurately and responsibly (without being dull!).

"Delivery Sphere" (p. 104)

“Delivery Sphere” (p. 104)

In assessing the style of one’s delivery, the authors provide the preacher with a helpful diagram, called the “delivery sphere” which allows one to map the trajectory of their overall manner of delivery in terms of volume, pitch, and pace. This was a particularly helpful illustration, in light of the fact that many preachers (including myself) spend so much time considering what they are going to say that they often fail to consider how they are going to say it.

Overall, I consider Saving Eutychus to be an excellent resource for pastors who are looking for a quick read that is trustworthy and teeming with practical instruction. Rest assured that it is both of these without loosing a high view of Scripture and an aim at preaching the gospel from the entire counsel of God’s Word. I heartily recommend it.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS|

172 Pages
Publisher: Matthias Media USA
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN 10: 1922206253
ISBN 13: 9781922206251

BUY NOW at WTSbooks.com: $15.29 (10% off – Reg. $16.99)

REVIEW | “Prepared by Grace, For Grace” by Beeke and Smalley

9781601782342__69274.1369337565.1280.1280I appreciate books that seek to clarify misunderstanding and misconception. So often, in the biblical-theological world and otherwise, the proverbial pendulum is swung to the far right or left and a valuable topic and/or perspective is terribly misconstrued, or even lost, in the process. The matter of “preparatory grace” is no stranger to the aforementioned. In their new volume, Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Ordinary Way of Leading Sinners to Christ (Reformation Heritage Books, 2013), Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley offer a thorough look at this important subject among an array of Reformed and Puritan theologians.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: The Question of Preparationism

  1. Preparation and Modern Scholarship
  2. Precedents to Puritan Preparation: Augustine to Calvin
  3. Preparation and Early English Puritans: Perkins, Sibbes, and Preston
  4. Preparation for Conversion: William Ames
  5. Preparation in Early New England (I): Thomas Hooker
  6. Preparation in Early New England (II): Shepard and Pemble
  7. Preparation and the Antinomian Controversy: John Cotton
  8. Preparation at the Pinnacle of Puritanism: Westminster, Burroughs, and Guthrie
  9. Preparation under a Scholastic Lens: Norton
  10. Preparation and Later Puritan Critiques: Goodwin and Firmin
  11. Later Puritan Preparation: Flavel and Bunyan
  12. Jonathan Edwards and Seeking God
  13. Continental Reformed Perspectives: Zwingli to Witsius
  14. The Grace of Preparation for Faith

Appendix: William Ames’s Theological Disputation on Preparation

I must say at the outset that which is duly noted by Sinclair Ferguson in the foreword, that the authors examining the topic at hand may be characterized as both meticulous scholar and gifted pastor.  Thus their writing is not only academically thorough, but also readable and edifying.

In terms of the book’s content and structure, Beeke and Smalley begin with a chapter entitled “The Question of Preparation.” This chapter lays the groundwork of defining terms and paving the way for the remainder of the book. In their foundational chapter, the authors note that their study will be conducted from the perspective of those that believe firmly that “a righteous and holy God saves sinners “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8)” (p. 1). Thus, the book is designed to address the question of “how God ordinarily brings sinners to the point of trusting in Christ alone for salvation” (p. 1).  Being a work that examines God’s work in saving sinners, the authors are careful to avoid the terms of “preparationism” or “preparationist” so as to not confuse their subject with those that would argue for the notion that the human being prepares himself for God’s saving activity.

The book then moves through Puritan history making mention of a handful of Puritans who both advocated and critiqued certain aspects of “preparatory grace”.  Notably, the authors deal with Augustine and Calvin who held a high view of God’s sovereignty in salvation and how they understood preparatory grace. Additionally, in terms of the Puritan figures who posited a sort of separation from sin via human effort, prior to salvation, the authors expose their errors.

For me, while this book is thoroughly readable, for many, much of the content may be quite tedious to work through. The highlights would be the chapters on Calvin/Augustine and particularly “Jonathan Edwards and Seeking God”.  The final chapter that summarizes the book’s findings is immensely helpful as well.  The authors note 8 ways in which the doctrine of Puritan preparation is helpful for the believer to consider:

1.) Puritan preparation assists the free offer of the gospel.

2.) Puritan preparation is thoroughly Reformed, not Roman Catholic or Arminian.

3.) Puritan preparation highlights the common work of the Holy Spirit.

4.) Puritan preparation engages sinners with the law but not legalism.

5.) Puritan preparation respects the mystery of regeneration in its timing.

6.) Puritan preparation honors God as Creator and Savior.

7.) Puritan preparation reveals the sufficiency of Christ.

8.) Puritan preparation is biblical.

In sum, the Puritans were those who sought to know the Lord with great fervor. Their desire to understand the way in which a holy God saves sinners was far from casual. Studying the way the Puritans understood God’s saving activity ought to lead the believer to a greater sense of God’s rich grace, a great humility, and a response of praise and worship for God’s immense kindness in revealing His Son to underserving sinners. Whenever I read a book by Joel Beeke, I come away with a greater desire to know God in Christ Jesus with the same depth, ardor and sincerity as the Puritans did. Encountering this book was no exception. I recommend it!

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

REVIEW | Bible Study: A Student’s Guide, by Jon Nielson

9781596386372

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My major in undergraduate school was “Youth Ministry”. Many of the books that I was assigned to read for class made me feel more like a junior high school student than a student in college. Maybe it was the fact that a majority of these textbooks were published in the late ‘90s, when clip art was mistakenly understood as both a cool and an essential visual aid? Sadly, I walked away from many of those books disappointed. Sure, there were certainly elements that could be positively received and applied. However, a majority of the content I was exposed to left me wanting more…and certain that “more” could be had. This desire for greater substance and clarity not only occurred in the books that served as my classroom texts, but also of the books that were written specifically for students as well.

In the years since my undergraduate days, I have still been hard-pressed to find a book, targeted at students, that was not primarily filled with “fluff” and a disproportionate amount of personal illustration (not to mention, clip art). That is, until now…

Bible Study: A Student’s Guide (P&R, 2013), by Jon Nielson, is a seriously practical book about Bible study for students who are serious about their faith. On a side, Jon presently serves as the college pastor at College Church, in Wheaton, Illinois. Before he became a pastor to college students, Jon served in both youth and sports ministry. Jon’s experience with students, along with his gift as both writer and teacher, and a sincere love for the Scriptures are unmistakable in this book.

As noted by the publisher, Bible Study: A Student’s Guide, “confirms that real, meaningful Bible study in not only possible for students, but important.” Students can read, study, interpret, and apply the Bible responsibly. And, I believe, when a student begins to do this regularly, their energy for personal study will be exponentially increased. So, how does Bible Study get a student moving in that direction? In order to set the student in motion, Neilson begins by addressing and explaining several core convictions about the Scriptures:

  • The Bible Is God Speaking
  • The Bible Is Powerful
  • The Bible Is Understandable
  • The Bible Is a Literary Work

From there, Nielson moves on to some key hermeneutical issues, including genre, the unity of the Bible’s story line, technique and approach, and he addresses several possible pitfalls along the way.

I can say, by far, that Bible Study: A Student’s Guide is the single best book (for students) that I have ever encountered, in terms of learning how to effectively study God’s Word. It communicates a high view of Scripture by clearly articulating, in terms a student can digest, the authority, inerrancy, and perspicuity of God’s Word. It takes an unashamed Christ-centered approach to all of Scripture. It handles the necessary discussion of biblical genre very well. Nielson, as well, provides a wonderful balance between a grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical hermeneutical approach. Even as one with a couple degrees in theology, I was energized as I read it because it was taking elements of Bible study that I hold dear and consider essential, and in turn instructing me on how I may articulate these things in terms that students can understand. Really, the remarkable thing about this book is that it would be an excellent primer for anyone, student-thru-adult, on responsible and intelligent Bible study.  Perhaps that’s why D.A. Carson noted, “If you are a high schooler, read this book carefully and thoughtfully, and then loan it to your parents.”

In sum, I have no question that, in terms of student ministry, this will be my “go-to” book to use, recommend, and give away on the topic of Bible study. It will be my starting point for training and setting a foundation for thoughtful and substantive Bible study in student ministry small groups. And, it will be a resource I consult often as a guide to explaining, in profoundly clear terms, the theological and methodological necessities of Christ-exalting Bible study.

Coming away from this text, students (and, perhaps, parents!) will no longer be stuck in the ambiguous world of “What does this passage mean to me…?”, and will now be energized by the ability to approach God’s Word asking and answering the more important question, “What does this passage mean?” From there, the heart-transforming truth of the Scriptures may be effectively applied.

I enthusiastically recommend this book!

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS:

224 Pages
Publisher: P and R Publishing Company
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN 10: 1596386371
ISBN 13: 9781596386372

BUY NOW at WTSBOOKS.COM – $6.00 (54% 0ff) or $5.00 when you buy 5 or more copies.*

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REVIEW: Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (CCEF)

I can say, without a doubt, that some of the most potent, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered biblical counsel I have encountered has come through the speaking and writing of the faculty at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF).  These men and women are not interested in quick-fix, self-help, moralistic nonsense.  They are unswervingly committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are of the conviction that real, Spirit-wrought power for the changing of the human heart occurs as we dive more deeply into the gospel, applying it to the myriad of circumstances and situations of our daily lives.

The writings and resources of the CCEF are incredibly extensive.  Effectively working through all of them, though undoubtedly worthwhile, would take years to accomplish.  That’s why I was immensely excited when I was introduced to Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (New Growth Press, 2012),ed. by Nancy B. Winter.  This daily devotional is a collection of some of the most powerful excerpts from the writings of those on staff at CCEF.  The authors include, but are not limited to, Paul David Tripp, Edward T. Welch, David Powlison, and Timothy S. Lane. Organized by the calendar year and paired with a daily reading from the Scriptures, these vignettes are sincere, to the point, and clearly hopeful in the power of God to change hearts through the gospel of Christ.  While deeply steeped in the grace believers have received from God in Christ, each devotion then includes questions for personal reflection and application.  As I mentioned, these devotions are not designed to give the reader 5-steps to personal change/fulfillment, but rather are written to make the reader aware of the sovereignty of God, the grace presently available in the gospel, and hope that real Sprit-wrought change is possible.

Two things that make this resource particularly helpful are the Source Index and Scripture Index included at the conclusion of the volume.  This will be of great assistance to readers who, when particularly impacted by a given devotional, desire to know the resource from which the excerpt came.  Additionally, the Scripture Index allows the reader to use the devotional as a companion when studying a specific book of the Bible.

In a day and age where so many “Christian” devotionals are filled with mere fluff, Heart of the Matter is a distinctly different resource that will assuredly encourage believers to reflect more seriously upon the gospel and be used by God to powerfully change hearts and lives to the praise of his glorious grace.  I wholeheartedly commend it to you!

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: New Growth Press
Author: CCEF Faculty
ISBN-13: 9781936768653
Cover Type: Hardcover
List Price: $19.99
Pre-Order at Westminster Bookstore$17.99 – 10% Off

You may also pre-order the volume for $17.59 from the New Growth Press webstore: Available Here.

REVIEW: Jonathan Edwards and Justification, ed. by Josh Moody

It’s no secret that there has been, in recent years, a great resurgence of interest in the theology of Jonathan Edwards.  Both academic tomes and largely accessible works abound about the man, his ministry, and his theology.  This is good news, in light of the fact that Edwards is arguably the greatest North American theologian in history, and perhaps the greatest overall thinker as well.

Continuing to push Edwardsian scholarship forward and refine both scholarly and popular understanding of the theology of Jonathan Edwards, Josh Moody, pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL, and Edwards scholar, has edited the recent Crossway Books release, Jonathan Edwards and Justification.

The book is a collection of essays by contemporary Edwards scholars seeking to correct some of the popular misunderstandings of Edwards’s doctrine of justification, as well as demonstrate how Edwards’s writing on justification contributes to the modern justification discussion and debate.  The Edwards scholars, their particular contributions, and brief statements of their purpose are as follows:

Introduction by Josh Moody

-A brief introduction to the matter at hand, along with introductory remarks concerning the scholarly contributions and the desired end of the volume.

“Edwards and Justification Today” by Josh Moody

-Moody argues for the importance of the contemporary study of Edwards’s doctrine of justification because it adds to and supports the Protestant Reformation understanding of the doctrine in creative terminology.

“By Word and Spirit: Jonathan Edwards on Redemption, Justification, and Regeneration” by Kyle Strobel

-Strobel relates Edwards’s doctrine of justification to his overall theology of redemption.  He gives special attention to the concepts of faith, imputation, union with Christ, and the Spirit’s presence in the work of redemption.

“The Gospel of Justification and Edwards’s Social Vision” by Rhys Bezzant

-Bezzant speaks about Edwards’s preaching as both designed to “revive and reform.”  He seeks to show the social impact of Edwards’s doctrine of justification when rightfully understood and embraced.

“Justification and Evangelical Obedience” by Samuel T. Logan, Jr.

-Logan here ties the discussion to the process of sanctification.

“Justification by Faith Alone? A Fuller Picture of Edwards’s Doctrine” by Douglas A. Sweeney   

-Sweeney engages some of Edwards’s lesser studied writings to demonstrate the full picture of Edwards’s doctrine of justification, with special attention given to his “stoutly anti-Catholic” position.

Overall, the book is likely to be of greater use to those more acquainted with Edwards’s writings.  Undoubtedly, many may benefit from the essays therein.  However, most of the discussions (as well as the footnotes) are written more toward the scholar-pastor and less toward the person simply generally interested in Edwards.  To the benefit of the scholar there is a great deal of interaction with both historical and contemporary Edwardsian scholarship for such a brief volume.

All said, I would strongly suggest this volume to any student or scholar of Edwards.  I would especially suggest it to those who have been led to believe, through certain scholarly efforts, that Edwards’s theology was closer to Catholicism than Calvinism.  The authors do an exemplary job explaining Edwards’s use of terminology and provide the larger context of many of Edwards’s oft misunderstood writings.  This is a needed and welcomed volume.  I certainly recommend it.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Book Details

Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Author: Moody, Josh (Editor); Bezzant, Rhys; Logan Jr., Samuel T.; Strobel, Kyle; Sweeney, Douglas A.
ISBN-10: 143353293X | ISBN-13: 9781433532931
Cover Type: Paperback
List Price: $17.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore$11.21 – 38% Off

REVIEW: Old Story New, by Marty Machowski

Family devotions…  Followers of Christ, whose families are growing, likely have the desire to do devotions as a family, but often are at a standstill when it comes to actually setting out to do so.  Whether it is time, organization, lack of content, or a bit of anxiety, the reasons abound for not getting into the rhythm of regular family devotions.

As a husband and a parent (of a quickly growing 10-month old), with both a full-time job and a part-time position in vocational ministry, I often struggle to establish regular, substantive times of devotions with my wife.  I know that what my wife and I establish now will be the foundation upon which we build our times of family devotions when our children are at an age of understanding.  In light of that, it is important to me that I find resources that will assist our family in establishing quality times of family devotion and worship.  And these cannot be  resources that merely market themselves as a “family devotional”.  They must be doctrinally sound, gospel-centered, graciously honest, accessible and applicable to a range of ages, and those that we can utilize well within our busy schedules yet remains substantive.  Though that may sound like quite the list of criteria to meet for a family devotional, I am excited to say that one in particular thoroughly passes this test!

In Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (New Testament) (New Growth Press, 2012), family pastor Marty Machowski provides a guide to lead your family through the New Testament in 78 weeks.  As the next offering in Machowski’s Gospel Story for Kids series, Old Story New remains true to the distinctives which set this series apart.  Here we have a resource that is keenly aware of the Bible’s grand story, rich in biblical theology, hermeneutically sound, and responsible in application that connects the reader’s point of need with the grace of the gospel at every pass.

Machowski begins with an altogether helpful introduction that sets families up to utilize the devotional to its fullest extent.  Beginning with a note on the sovereignty of God in salvation, Machowski explains what responsibility the parents have in training their children while trusting God for their child’s salvation in Christ.  He moves forward to explain the benefit of using the devotional in cooperation with its Old Testament/Hebrew Bible counterpart Long Story Short and the Gospel Story Bible.  As one acquainted with both of the aforementioned resources, I can honestly say I know of no other family devotional series that handles the entirety of Scripture so well.  If you choose to work through the Scriptures with the complete series, your family will be well equipped with a thoroughly Christ-centered understanding of the Bible’s grand story of the redemptive work of God from Genesis to Revelation.

For parents struggling to connect with children who may vary quite significantly in age, Machowski concludes the introductory chapter with extremely practical suggestions and insights as to how to connect each study with your children at various stages in their development.  Far from quick generalities, these suggestions are evidence of the years of experience Machowski has as a parent and pastor.

Moving into the devotional, each week’s devotional is clearly connected to a specific story in the Gospel Story Bible.  Though you do not need to own the Gospel Story Bible to benefit from or follow the week’s devotions, it does provide a helpful rendering of each story for a wide range of children.  The text of Scripture to be read with each devotional is clearly listed.  Each week’s story is then divided up into five days:

Day 1 – “Picture It” – This section helps your family understand the context, setting, and subject of the story.  It is then followed by a reading of the text, questions concerning the interpretation and application of the text, and a time of family prayer.

Day 2 – “Remember It” – This section helps your family recall and retain what they encountered on Day 1.  It is a time of open discussion as your family reviews the story and its significance.  Again, It is then followed by a reading of the text, questions concerning the interpretation and application of the text, and a time of family singing/prayer.

Day 3 – “Connect It to the Gospel” – Perhaps my favorite feature of Machowski’s devotional series, this section encourages your family to think about how the story either points forward to or back at the gospel.  A wonderfully helpful section that helps your family steer away from mere moralism and move toward an understanding of the Scriptures insofar as they tell the grand story of God’s redemptive work in Messiah Jesus.

Day 4 – “Remember It” – Having discussed a particular story for 3 days, this section helps get your family talking about the impact the story has had on their lives this week.

Day 5 – “Discover It” – Yet another unique feature of Old Story New, Machowski helps your family connect the New Testament story with its Old Testament roots (specifically the Psalms and Prophets).  This will give your family an increased awareness of the unity of the Scriptures and the grand story they tell.  Additionally, it may serve to awaken an interest in the Old Testament Scriptures among your children, as much of the OT, in some churches, is often left aside while a majority of time is focused on the NT.

Overall, I cannot say strongly enough how effective the structure and substance of this series is for developing quality times of worshipful, devotional study as a family.  God has given families a gracious gift in the resources and ministry of Marty Machowski, and I recommend Old Story New and the entire Gospel Story for Kids series with enthusiastic acclaim.

*As a part of the Old Story New Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Old Story New Giveaway & Interview

Want to win a copy of Old Story New for your family?! CLICK HERE to check out the giveaway and my interview with Marty Machowski.

REVIEW: Slaves, Women, and the Gender Debate, by Benjamin Reaoch

Cultures vary in times and places.  Certain practices that are culturally acceptable in one part of the world may not be in another.  Practices/behaviors that were, at one time, culturally acceptable in a particular culture may no longer be acceptable in that same culture as the years have passed or vice versa.  In light of a world comprised of ever-changing cultures, the question arises as to how we are to apply the pan-culturally authoritative and unchanging truth of God’s Word to the oft-changing cultural practices and expectations of our day.

In terms of biblical interpretation, one hermeneutical approach that has developed over that last 50 years which attempts to deal with reading and applying the Scriptures in a world of changing cultures, has come to be known as the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” or the “trajectory hermeneutic”.  Those who advocate the use of this interpretative method believe that “there are indications in the Bible that move us beyond the specific instructions of the Bible and toward an ultimate ethic” (emphasis original).[1]  For example, such an approach seeks to answer the question of why slavery, while mentioned in the Scriptures, is never expressly condemned.  Taking the approach a step further, proponents seek to utilize a redemptive-movement hermeneutic to “go beyond” what the Bible proposes in terms of the role distinctions between men and women, thus abolishing any Scripturally prescribed distinctions (i.e., Egalitarianism).  Though many scholars/authors advocating such an approach do not arrive at the following conclusion, some are using a trajectory hermeneutic to go even further, thereby condoning the practice of homosexuality.

Does the Bible indicate the validity of the redemptive-movement/trajectory hermeneutic (RMH, moving forward)?  Should we move beyond the prescriptions of the Holy Scriptures toward an “ultimate ethic”?  The ultimate resulting question is, as with slavery, how do we reconcile certain prescriptive and/or restrictive areas of Scripture when it appears there are also elements present that would appear to point toward a fully liberating ethic?

In his new book, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic (P & R, 2012), Benjamin Reaoch (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) engages the arguments of RMH proponents (most thoroughly, Kevin Giles and William Webb), and provides a soundly exegetical and hermeneutical complementarian engagement and response.  Reaoch states his thesis as follows:

The significant differences between the New Testament instructions to slaves and to women seriously undermine the conclusions made by the redemptive-movement hermeneutic.  The fact that the New Testament “points beyond” the institution of slavery does not indicate that it likewise points beyond God’s design for gender roles.[2]

After a helpful introduction, which serves as a very accessible primer to the issues at large, Reaoch handles his engagement in 6 chapters, along with helpful concluding chapter and a chapter which examines the continuing discussions within the RMH debate.  Beginning with a chapter entitled, “The Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic”, Reaoch surveys the surfacing and development of RMH through the writings of Stendahl, France, Longenecker, Thompson,  Webb, Giles, and Marshall.  Through brief profiles, he notes each author/scholars contributions to the RMH in terms of books, articles, and significant conclusions.  Reaoch then summarizes the complementarian responses offered by Grudem, Schreiner, and Yarbrough.  Utilizing these responses, he moves into what serves as an introduction to his study of slavery and women’s roles in particular.

Chapters 2 and 3, respectively, address slavery and women’s roles according to the Scriptures.  Reaoch includes a helpful section addressing the manner and place of slavery in the ancient world.  He then moves forward to engage the aforementioned scholars’ arguments and conclusions which he intersperses throughout his analysis, in which he structures by addressing the passages concerning each issue, the grounds for obedience in terms of slaves and women, and then the purposes for obedience.  Reaoch’s organization provides for a very accessible survey and understanding of the issues at hand in light of the biblical data.

Chapter 4, entitled “Comparing the Data” assessed the Scriptural data that was presented in chs. 2 & 3, but focuses mainly on the differences between the passages concerning slavery and women’s roles.  Ultimately, Reaoch draws the similarities from common purposes of obedience while the grounds for obedience show marked differences.

Chapter 5, “Heremenutical Considerations: Part 1”, critically engages William Webb’s work Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.  Reaoch examines Webb’s idea of “theological analogy” and several aspects of Webb’s guiding criteria.  Chapter 6, “Hermeneutical Considerations: Part 2” continues to critique Webb’s work with particular attention given to the arguments that Webb gives to bind the slavery and women’s roles arguments together.

As Reaoch concludes, he summarizes the issues and avoids mere academia by demonstrating what is at stake in the debate as it relates to his role as a pastor, husband and father.  Reaoch notes, “This study has not been an abstract, academic endeavor for me.  As a pastor, I am zealous to teach and preach and lead in such a way that individuals are inspired and instructed to glorify God in every aspect of their lives, not least of which is the area of manhood and womanhood.

In sum, Reaoch provides a thorough and largely accessible summary, critique, interaction and response to the issues of trajectory hermeneutics from a complimentarian perspective.  His writing is fluid, and his organization is clear.  For those who have interacted with proponents of the redemptive-movement hermeneutic in general, or specifically, William Webb’s work in particular, this is a first-rate response that is both scholarly and pastoral.  I recommend it!

*A secure, digital copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: P and R Publishing Company
Author: Reaoch, Benjamin
ISBN-10: 1596384018 | ISBN-13: 9781596384019
Cover Type: Paperback
List Price: $25.00
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore$16.25 – 35% Off

[1] Benjamin Reaoch, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2012), xvii.

[2] Ibid., xix.