Monday, December 29, 2014

God Has Spoken

God Has Spoken: A History of Christian TheologyGod Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology by Gerald L. Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are not many tools that are as neglected and as important as the historical survey of whichever discipline you seek to study.  Learning how established truths came to be established is almost as important as coming to grips with the fact that there have been others who are studying what we have and there are reasons why the understood/assumed aspects are often understood and assumed.

Theology is a discipline that is ripe with “personal truths”, “direct revelations” and “that’s always been”s.  Coupled with an unhealthy desire to remain virtually ignorant of 2000 years of development and distinctions, many people know what they believe, but not why they believe it(pretty sure I am ripping of R.C. Sproul on that one)  This survey will not help the average reader, at least not directly.  Due to its size and depth, this work will remain out of the hands of many.  That is disappointing for a couple of reasons.

Bray does a terrific job of writing this in a way that allows anyone willing to pick up and read to learn a great deal.  He is not overly technical and it is not dry.  The chapters are long….long.  The book is long….long.  I really believe that this could have been split into 3 volumes and the chapters broken up to make them much more accessible.  When your chapter has reached the 300 footnote level, you have exceeded my attention span by quite a few references.

Bray’s writing is approachable and enjoyable and he makes the topic he writes on just the same.  Many people would be challenged and encouraged, just as I was.  Bray referenced Allison’s Historical Theology early on and he made a point that, while covering the same topic, these are not the same book.  Allison’s order is systematic and very, very logical.  Bray presents the topics in their historical context.  I am still not sure which way I prefer.

Allison’s presents you with a very linear progression of specific beliefs but Bray has produced a work that gives you a sense of empathy for those going through the formalizing process.  This does a lot to limit chronological snobbery and made me put more than a few pre-labeled heretic stones back in my pocket.

I am not sure how to organize any deep thoughts on this work because it was often like drinking from a fire hose.  But, there were a few things that I really enjoyed.

*His treatment of Barth and those influenced by him was extensive and a fun read.  He also dealt pretty extensively with those who followed Barth and Process Theology.

*I enjoyed reading about how the doctrine of the Trinity developed, both in the Fathers and beyond.

*I felt his interaction with Schleirmacher was not as extensive as his legacy warrants.  But maybe I am overly influenced by Mike Horton who seemingly attributes everything negative from the 19th century on (including wars and crop failures) to Freddy S.  That might be a stretch.  Might be.  But I do think his influence was/is quite far reaching and would have enjoyed a bit more interaction with him.

*I really enjoyed reading about the Eastern Church and seeing its influence even after the Schism.  His section on the filloque has me thinking and studying about double procession and questioning what I have just assumed.

Much of what I remember is either towards the end of the book (did I mention it is long) or issues that I have been or will be studying more.  There is a ton of information to be found in this work and, although it is long, it is probably worth more than one trip through.  At the very least it will remain a good book to consult when studying different topics.

God Has Spoken is a great book.  It is an undertaking.  Reader be warned, it is 1200 pages and it is rich.  You are going to have to work through it, but you’ll find much that makes the effort worthwhile.

I received a review copy from Crossway.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

hand In Hand by Randy Alcorn

hand in Hand: The Beauty of God's Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choicehand in Hand: The Beauty of God's Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice by Randy Alcorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a tremendous and much needed book.  Alcorn sets out to make the case that,  rather than being pejoratives to sling about in flesh-driven theological mudfights,  "Calvinism" and "Arminianism" are labels for orthodox,  within-the-camp,  frameworks as to how we reconcile the (seemingly?) paradoxical nature of divine sovereignty and creaturely freedom.

Alcorn's tone throughout is irenic and he is charitable towards those with whom he disagrees.  Alcorn never stoops to the level of caricature and you will not find any strawmen gaining their existence from his words.  He knows the difference between an Arminian and a Pelagian,  a feat that seems to daunting to the point of impossibility for many Reformed writers.

The charts and diagrams are,  while limited due simply to the nature of this particular beast,  quite useful.   I do wish Alcorn had dealt more extensively and explicitly with Pelagian teaching.  It has been my experience that the more common foe to Reformed teaching has not been robust,  Evangelical Arminianism but rather Pelagian in nature.   Since one is orthodox and one is,  at best heterodox but more accurately,  heresy,  being able to distinguish between the two is of greatest importance.

This is a treasure and will help many.  But,  to quote Alcorn,  "if you aren't open to adjusting your position when it doesn't align with Scripture,  then this book is not for you. "

For that reason,  I hope and pray that this book is for all of us.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Soccer FAQ

Soccer FAQ: All That's Left to Know about the Clubs, the Players, and the RivalriesSoccer FAQ: All That's Left to Know about the Clubs, the Players, and the Rivalries by Dave Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that covers everything soccer...including the origins of the word "soccer".  I learned so much and was greatly entertained in the process.  Soccer FAQ is a collection of anecdotes spanning the history of this game, the greatest of games.

I was surprised by how much coverage was given to the history of Soccer in the U.S. and was also surprised by the breadth of this work.  Pele's World Cup exploits, United's air disaster, list's of top players and managers, and more were included(as you would expect) but there were stories from all over the globe.  Stories from India, Africa, Japan, lower divisions, mob football, Gibraltar, and more filled these pages with tons of information and hours of entertainment.

This is a great work that any Football/Soccer fan will greatly enjoy.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Not a Chance: Rebuking the Hubris of Empiricism

Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt Against ReasonNot a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt Against Reason by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Empirical science has staked its claim to Alpha status in the world of truth.  However,  not all disciplines are quite ready to bow down to the god of the senses.  RC Sproul and Keith Mathison do a brilliant job in refuting empirical science's claim to supremacy and show why philosophy is not DOA in regards to interpreting general revelation.

I highlight that this is a book dealing with general revelation because both authors are known as theologians.  This is not a book on theology and does not engage the topic with Scripture.  Also,  Not a Chance is not a diatribe against science.

What this book is is a much-needed affirmation/defense of the laws of causality and non-contradiction while at the same time being a refutation of the causal power of Chance.  Sproul and Mathison present a polemic that is forceful,  cordial,  and clear.  It is supremely readable and will benefit all who invest time with it.

The world of philosophy(be it theist, deist, atheist, or agnostic) is not ready to ride peacefully into the night while those bearing lab coats and telescopes tell everyone what is really real.  I am thankful for Not a Chance and the needed pushback it so timely provides.

I received a review copy of this book.  

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

John 1

John 1 (ESV)
The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
The Testimony of John the Baptist
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Please consider giving

Please consider giving whatever you can.  We cannot all give alot, but even a little from many makes a huge difference.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Literature Booklet Review

Literature:  Faithful LearningLiterature:  Faithful Learning by Clifford Foreman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Faithful Learning series is a blessing and this newest volume, Literature, is no different.  Clifford Foreman encourages the believer to take up great literature as a means to worship God.  By enjoying art we see creation better and learn how to read the Scriptures better.

Foreman writes in a manner that makes you feel like you are sitting in a English-Lit class chatting about great works of literature.  That makes this booklet quite enjoyable and really encourages the reader to dive deeper into the world of writing and stories.  Enthusiasm is often contagious and it is easy to catch Foreman's excitement about the beauty and benefit of great literature.

Whether he is writing about Whitman, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or writers I have never heard of, Foreman presents their work in a way that makes you want to read them.  I even hunted down a book of poetry to read.  Me.  Poetry.  Foreman is a convincing writer and this booklet is a great encouragement to become a better reader.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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From the Publisher

Do you like to read? If you find books irresistible, feel the allure of losing yourself in another world, or have a taste for mystery, romance, or adventure, you might sometimes wonder if you’re wrong to get lost in books other than the Bible. But a Christian student can read—and even study—The Screwtape LettersThe Great Gatsby, and other novels, poems, and short stories with confidence!
Clifford Foreman provides a sneak peek into the joy of studying literature, giving you every reason to further refine your appetite for great prose and poetry. Find out how literary forms communicate ideas, artfully use language, and draw us to the greatest Storyteller of all.
The Faithful Learning series invites Christian students to dive deeper into a modern academic discipline. The authors, scholars in their fields, believe that academic disciplines are good gifts from God that, when understood rightly, will give students the potential to cultivate a deeper love for God and neighbor.

The Author

Clifford W. Foreman

Clifford W. Foreman

Clifford W. Foreman (MA, PhD, Boston University) is professor of English and moderator of the faculty at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, where he has taught since 1986.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wrestling for My Life

Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE SuperstarWrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shawn Michaels is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and when he became a Christian that finally validated my faith.  Okay, not really.  Like, not at all.  But that is how I used to think about things like this and how we often find ourselves operating.  We want God to choose the exalted people of the world because their salvation will really make a difference and, bonus!, we can know that our decision to follow Christ was worth it. “Hey, if (insert favorite celebrity here) thinks the Gospel is alright, then so do I…and so will so many!!”

Ridiculous, right?  But we do it.   And then, when someone in a public position is made alive by the Spirit of God, we put them under the greatest scrutiny we can muster.  Every word.  Every decision.  Every turn.  Every thought.   If you are a Christian and you blow it, don’t worry about the world coming after you.  We have blogs, message boards, youtube comments, emails, passing jabs, etc.  We exhibit an unhealthy love of breaking bruised reeds.  We are spiritual Darwinists who devour our weak out of some twisted desire to purify the spiritual gene pool.

These reasons combined, the borderline idolatry of celebrities and the excessive scrutiny of having a public faith, make a project like this book tricky to critique (and, I would assume, of even greater difficulty to put together in a God-honoring way).  I do not want to be a fan-boy simply because I am excited that a celebrity, one that has brought me hours of entertainment, has embraced the Christian faith.  I also do not want to be overly critical based on criteria I have created in regards to what a celebrity believer should be and what his memoir should look like.  Hopefully this review avoids both of those extremes.

Shawn is a wrestling personality.  This book is a wrestling book.  And it is a good one.  I enjoyed the back stories because, and it was skillful how it was done, Shawn did a terrific job weaving his faith throughout the stories.  He did not turn it into one object lesson after another, but he made a great effort to show how his faith affected his new life just as his lack of faith affected it before.

Shawn is not a pastor.  He is a, relatively, new believer.  He has obviously made great strides in his faith but he is not a scholar. He is not seminary trained.  And his book shows it.  That is not a dig.  It is refreshing to hear from this brother who simply loves the Lord and spends time in God’s word and under the ministry of his church.  The way he says things sometimes is unrefined and lacks the precision that would be necessary in pastoral counseling or in the ministry of the Word.  But the tone is not sermon.  It is more discipleship-over-coffee.  And it is nice.

Shawn is a believer who wants to use every opportunity he has to make much of the Lord.  That is the lens through which he views his role in the WWF(take that wildlife-lovers).  That is the lens through which he views his outdoor show, his marriage, his life.  And that is a trait that is worthy of emulation.  Follow Shawn as he follows the Lord in this way.  His book is, to him, another means of bringing honor and glory to the Lord.  That knowledge in itself makes this a work worth reading and enjoying.

Shawn is affiliated with a church that I have strong disagreements with; a church that has some teachings that greatly undermine the Gospel.  I was pleasantly surprised to find virtually none of those sorts of teachings find their way to his book.  In fact, I found Shawn to be wise beyond his spiritual years and I was greatly encouraged on numerous occasions.  He is transparent about his sin without ever glorying in it.  He is humble and God-honoring.  He offers some immensely practical ideas for spiritual growth and does so in a way that his “this worked for me” never comes across as “this is law for you.”  Many pulpits would benefit from this ability to lay out advice without undermining it with burden.

Where I was disappointed was in the fact that the Gospel was never explicitly discussed.  The need for it was mentioned.  Praying the “sinner’s prayer” was discussed.  Many of the benefits and struggles of the Christian life were discussed.  But the Gospel message of God’s redemption through the life, death, and resurrection of his sinless son was simply assumed.  The fact that the Gospel could be alluded to, referenced, and praised, but never be verbalized in a book by a vocal Christian and published by a Christian publisher is disappointing.   This aspect is a definite shortcoming and hopefully this will be made right before the final printing.

Overall this is a good book that many Shawn Michaels fans will greatly enjoy.  It has its ups and a few downs but is worth the time and money to read and enjoy.  A celebrity embracing the Christian faith does not validate it.  But it is nice to see a brother with a far-reaching voice so willing to use his opportunities to speak the truth of God into people’s lives.

* I received an ARC from the publisher for an honest review.

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