I Shall Not Die, But Live by Douglas Taylor

Taylor, Douglas. I Shall Not Die, But Live: Facing Death with Gospel Hope. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016. 360 pp. $22.00. Purchase at Westminster for less.

Introduction

Douglas Taylor (1948-2014) is not a well-known name in Christendom. He did serve as Assistant Editor at the Banner of Truth Trust for 14 years. He began a blog on 7 June 2011 and wrote 651 posts with the last one published on 8 May 2014. The blog was entitled Works Worth Declaring and can still be accessed today.

Summary/Review

Douglas Taylor died 2 June 2014 from an inoperable liver cancer. From the time of his diagnosis in June 2011, he wanted to keep a regular blog giving glory to God for what He has accomplished. In so doing, Douglas left a treasury of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Holy Spirit-empowered testimony to dying well.

While the blog is still available, this book brings together roughly 250 of the 651 published posts and offers an excellent devotional reading for any Christian seeking to meditate on the reality of life and death.

Though you might not agree with the theology or even the general perspective of the author of this resource, the reader will be challenged to better understand what living a life, even at the end of life, looks like when it is lived to the glory of God. Taylor’s eternal perspective on death is one that ought to be emulated by all Christians because Taylor’s perspective is upheld by the holy God of Scriptures.

Recommendation

It is easy to say this book would be an excellent resource to offer someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and it is definitely that, but it is so much more. This book is an excellent resource to offer to anyone, especially those who are in their 20’s and 30’s to consider the realities of death and what dying well looks like.

My prayer for a resource like this is that Douglas Taylor’s death and testimony to God’s goodness would bring sinners to salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ and that his death would not have been in vain.

 

 

Worldview by Marvin Olasky

Olasky, Marvin. Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017. 200 pp. $17.99. Purchase for less at Westminster or for your Kindle.

Introduction

Marvin Olasky is the well-known editor-in-chief of World Magazine. He also holds the distinguished chair in journalism and public policy at Patrick Henry College and has authored more than 20 books. This particular work is a collection of essays penned by Olasky through the years.

Summary

Divided into five sections, Worldview offers a compilation of 25 years of columns written for World Magazine. Section one looks at Basic worldview formation while section two shows how we should engage the ever changing culture with an unchanging truth. Parts three and four offer insight into understanding various institutions and causes. The final section is simply entitled conclusions and offers a pointed perspective on the Who has the final word in history.

Review

Bringing a few (57) columns together into one book offers great insight into the thinking of one of today’s most trusted magazine editors. The short chapters, by design because they are after all columns for a print magazine reprinted in book form, makes for a quick reading in the morning or evening. It is amazing what reading one chapter a day will do to help you better engage the modern news reports that are flooding our social media feeds.

At the end of each chapter there is a year in parenthesis to help orient the reader with perhaps a better context of what was being said. This is valuable for those who were alive during the 25 years of these columns. I do think, however, the book would have become more timeless if greater information was provided regarding the context of each column. Nonetheless, an astute student of history should be able to piece together the clues from each article and understand what prompted the piece.

Perhaps an unintended consequence (or given Olasky’s profession, it was completely intended), was to draw younger readers into the field of investigative reporting.

Recommmendation

Whether you are wanting to study journalism or simply want to better understand how to view the culture through a biblical lens, this little book will equip you to biblically engage the news of the world. This would be an excellent resource for high school students as well as college students in a Christian worldview class.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture NT Vol. VIII: Romans 9-16

Reformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament Vol. VIII: Romans 9-16. Edited by Philip D.W. Krey and Peter D.S. Krey. General Editor, Timothy George, Associate General Editor, Scott M. Manetsch. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. 384 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster for less. You can purchase for Kindle.

Introduction/Summary

I have been blessed to review a number of these extraordinary commentaries. You can read those reviews here.

From the back of the book:

Writing to the early Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2 ESV).

Perhaps more than any other New Testament epistle, Paul’s letter to the Romans has been the focus of Christian reflection throughout the church’s history, transforming the minds and convicting the hearts of believers. Sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther reflected the church’s longstanding emphasis on this portion of the canon: “Let the Epistle to the Romans be the door and the key to holy Scripture for you; otherwise you will never enter into a proper understanding and comprehension of the Bible.”

In this volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Philip Krey and Peter Krey guide readers with care through a diversity of Reformation-era commentary on the second half of Paul’s letter to the Roman church. Among the difficult issues addressed by Paul and commented on by early modern exegetes were the predestination of God’s elect, the destiny of Israel, the role of Gentiles in salvation history, the ethical demands of the Christian life, and the Christian’s relationship to the state.

Here, readers will encounter familiar voices and discover lesser-known figures from a variety of theological traditions, including Lutherans, Reformed, Radicals, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics. The volume draws on a variety of resources, including commentaries, sermons, treatises, and confessions, much of which appears here for the first time in English. Gathering together these Reformation-era reflections, it provides resources for contemporary preachers, enables scholars to better understand the depth and breadth of Reformation biblical commentary and aids the ongoing transformation of the minds—and lives—of people today.

As with most commentaries, this volume looks at each pericope of Scripture found in Romans chapters 9-16. This particular series allows the Reformers to give us their thoughts on the various passages.

Review

Romans 9. What fun can be had in Romans 9. What debates many Christians have today because of Romans 9. Twenty percent of the actual text of the commentary found in this book is devoted to Romans 9 while the remaining eighty percent looks at the final seven chapters! In other words, the Krey’s ably show that the debate on Romans 9 is not new nor will it be decided this side of eternity. In the end, while we must strive to understand how we understand this most important chapter in all of Scripture, we must do so with all humility.

The Krey’s show how vehement the arguments were, but also where charity was granted. There is much to be learned in this historical commentary, but to be able to say that one view over another is more right because more people held to it at an important time in church history is nonsense.

I appreciate their willingness to include the views of non-protestants like the Spanish Catholic theologian Domingo de Soto. Of great value to the modern reader is the brief 40-page biographical sketches offered at the end of the book that will explain to us who the likes of Domingo de Soto is.

Recommendation

While the value of this series is the historical perspective offered at the time of the Reformation, the value of this particular volume is to instruct today’s Christians and theologians in the right and wrong ways to disagree. We must understand that none of us have it truly figured out on the secondary and tertiary issues of the faith. What better place to begin understanding this than by looking at those theological giants from the Reformation and see how they often times agreed to disagree.

Here I Stand by Roland Bainton

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: Meridian, 1995. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Note: This review was first published in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

On October 31, 1517 a monk named Martin Luther posted a paper to a church’s door, and transformed the world. Of course, like many world-transforming events, no one at the time could have known this would happen, including Luther himself. He posted his ninety-five theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany to start a theological debate, challenging the power of the pope to forgive sins and essentially sell salvation. Yet God used this man and this moment to spark a movement that led to what we now call the Protestant Reformation, the birth of Protestant denominations and churches throughout the world.

Even more significant for Christians today than Luther’s bold stand in Wittenberg were his doctrinal contributions that would soon follow. As the debate with the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church intensified, Luther’s study of Scripture led him to argue for the priority of Scripture over church tradition, the priesthood of all believers, and justification by faith alone. While these truths are all Scriptural and prevailed in the early church, by Luther’s time they had been largely forgotten and obscured by many church leaders. Luther’s insistence on these hallmarks of the biblical faith would lead to his break with Catholicism, the formation of Lutheranism, and numerous other cultural and church reforms that reverberate down to the present day.

Anyone interested in Christianity should become familiar with Martin Luther. While there have been hundreds of biographies published on Luther, Here I Stand, originally published in 1950, continues to be one of the best. Bainton combines a scholar’s accuracy and rigor with a novelist’s readability. The book contains dozens of illustrations, hundreds of direct quotes from Luther, and an extensive bibliography, but avoids footnotes and overly academic prose. Luther and his actions are continually placed in historical and cultural context for clearer understanding. The book offers many theological and historical insights without requiring a seminary degree to understand them.

Bainton begins his book with Luther’s vow to become a monk, emphasizing that the man who would one day reject monasticism and irrevocably change the Roman Catholic Church intended to spend his life as a servant of that Church. From there he works back into Luther’s childhood and then forward into his gospel experience, when he felt his heart “strangely warmed” upon reading Romans 1:16-17. This salvation experience was the decisive moment of Luther’s life. His fidelity to the Word of God and the gospel is what led him to post his ninety-five theses. His convictions led him to declare “here I stand” at the Diet of Worms in 1922, where he was condemned as a heretic for putting the Bible’s authority ahead of the church’s. Luther’s bold stand on the truth of the gospel also led him to translate the Bible into German so the average person could read it, and to write the theology, hymns (including “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”), and catechisms that would become the foundation of Protestantism.

The book details the primary years of Luther’s ministry and then broadens to consider Luther’s impact on several areas such as politics, economics, and the church. It ends with a summary of Luther’s later years and an even-handed evaluation of his influence and legacy.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and one of the ways we can appreciate what this pivotal moment in history has done for us today is by learning about Luther’s life, theology, and rediscovery of the gospel.

Commentary on Romans by David G. Peterson

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation – Commentary on Romans. David G. Peterson. General Editors, T. Desmond Alexander, Andreas J. Kostenberger, and Thomas R. Schreiner. Nashville, B&H Academic, 2017. 616 pp. $39.99. Purchase from Amazon for less or for Kindle for under $10.

Introduction/Summary

As they are released, I am reviewing The Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series and continue to find the series extremely valuable.

According to bhacademicblog.com:

The major contribution of each volume, however, is a thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole. This format allows each contributor to ground Biblical Theology, as is proper, in an appropriate appraisal of the relevant historical and literary features of a particular book in Scripture while at the same time focusing on its major theological contribution to the entire Christian canon in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture. Within this overall format, there will be room for each individual contributor to explore the major themes of his or her particular corpus in the way he or she sees most appropriate for the material under consideration.

Thus, the summary is simply a commentary on the book of Romans seeking to place the book in its historical and cultural context. Specific to the series, however, the authors and editors strive to place the book in the theology of the Bible as a whole.

Review

Romans is an enigmatic book for many as it was used largely of the Lord to launch what later became known as the Protestant Reformation when Luther sought to understand the importance of “the righteous shall live by faith,” a quote from Habakkuk 2:4. It is also enigmatic in the current debate concerning Calvinism and Arminianism (I am using terms loosely that most will understand though there is much baggage for each).

Peterson’s even-handed approach allows the Book of Romans to speak for itself as he wrestles with the Greek text while relying on the Christian Standard Bible recently published by B&H for his English translation. He offers explanations that help the student of Scripture to peel away the layers of Scripture in order to dig down deep and plumb the depths of Paul’s most magnificent writing on the Christian faith.

Perhaps of more assistance to today’s reader is Peterson avoids the thorny conversations throughout history that have bogged Christians down. For example, He merely deals with the text in Romans 7 without entering into the debate of whether Paul is talking about himself as a Christian or before he was a Christian. He merely allows the text to speak for itself in all of its intricate details. And for that, I find that this commentary on Romans is a breath of fresh air.

Recommendation

This series continues to impress. This particular volume on Romans is, in my estimation, now the best commentary to begin one’s deeper study on this book as it seeks to wrestle with the text instead of also offering historical understandings. (Not that those are not important!) I highly commend this series, but of the three volumes published to date, I believe this volume on Romans stands above them all.

Good & Angry by David Powlinson

Powlinson, David. Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness. Greensboro, NC: New Growth, 2016. 26 pp. $19.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or on Kindle.

Note: This review first appeared in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Every one of us knows what it’s like to have our anger go bad. We get irritated and begin complaining, we pass judgment on people who don’t meet our standards, we seethe inside at some wrong we’ve experienced or blow up in a rage. We also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of anger gone wrong, to be judged, yelled at, or ignored in a passive-aggressive fit. We live in a sin-cursed world where we get angry at others, angry at ourselves, and angry at God.

For as common as anger is, however, we understand very little about it. We have a hard time understanding the difference between sinful anger and righteous anger, or even agreeing if there is such a thing as righteous anger. We struggle to understand what it means to say that God is angry, or whether we’re ever justified in getting angry at him. Despite the proliferation of self-help and therapeutic techniques, we don’t know how to solve our anger issues or become less angry.

David Powlinson’s goal in Good and Angry is to help us deal with our anger issues, to help us increasingly express the right kind of anger in the right way. Few books so helpfully mix biblical truth and practical application. It’s the kind of book you need to read with a pen in your hand and a prayer on your lips. Each chapter ends with questions that drive truth deep into your own heart, helping to facilitate conviction, repentance, and grace.

The book is divided into four sections, and the first section begins by helping us to understand our own particular experiences of anger. We all experience and express anger in unique ways. Sometimes our anger is justified, but oftentimes it is not. We all need to recognize our anger and how we express anger if we hope to experience redemption from it.

The second section explores the nature of anger, and might be the most biblical and most helpful reading I’ve ever done on the subject. Powlinson explains how anger at its core is a good thing, that it is possible to be good and angry. Anger is an active stance that opposes something that is both important and wrong, something important enough to care about. In this way anger is related to justice, to love for the needy, to overcoming sin. When the Bible describes God as angry, it means for us to understand that God actively and lovingly opposes all that is wrong and sinful. The problem for us as fallen human beings is that we often substitute our desires for God’s desires, our will for God’s will, and our anger goes bad. This is why it is so hard to understand anger, because it is so often a mix of good and bad. Jesus Christ, particularly through his death on the cross, shows us the way to overcome anger, and that we best express anger in this fallen world through mercy.

The third and fourth sections build upon this understanding by leading us through an understanding of how to change, to go from sinfully expressed anger to mercy. The fourth section explores how we can grow and change in especially hard cases, such as situations like abuse or when we’re angry specifically at God. Powlinson doesn’t offer any quick fixes, but does use Scripture to help us understand how we can move beyond our sinful anger and be good and angry when anger is called for. Jesus can redeem us from our anger, he can change us, and this book can help us experience his grace.

Biblical Doctrine – Edited by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue

Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Biblical Truth. MacArthur, John and Richard Mayhue, General Editors. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 1026 pp. $60.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for the Kindle.

Introduction

John MacArthur needs no introduction to anyone who has been a Christian for very long. He is world renown for his ministry Grace to You and his expositional style of preaching. I have reviewed a number of his works in the past.

Richard Mayhue served in numerous roles at the Master’s Seminary from 1989-2016. He has written or edited more than 30 books. You can find a few of them here.

Summary

As with most systematic theologies, they begin with an introduction to the importance of theology and the benefit of systematizing one’s theology into distinct topics in order to better understand what the Bible says on any given subject. The second chapter introduces the Bible as the source for all information about God and Christian theology. Chapter three begins to look at theology proper and starts with God the Father, and then God the Son (chapter 4), and God the Holy Spirit (chapter 5).

After laying the foundation of who the Triune God is, they move on to man and sin in chapter 6. From man and sin they move to the need for salvation. Chapter eight begins to look at other subject matter like angels and then the church (chapter 9) and concludes with the final chapter (10) on the future.

Each lengthy chapter concludes with prayer and a bibliography that proves to be extremely beneficial for those looking for further study specifically from other theological perspectives.

Review

As far as systematics go, this is a standard resource. As far as who wrote it and why they wrote it and the experience and wisdom behind it makes this systematic worth reading. Knowing that this is an edited systematic theology, the reader is not going to get one man’s perspective throughout. Yes, you will get an overarching theological perspective (more Reformed and more dispensational) but that is balanced by the multiplicity of contributors and even-handedness in Biblical application and understanding. In other words, they still allow the Bible to speak for itself and allow room for disagreement on the non-essentials.

Another element that sets this systematic apart is the intentional and explicit treatment of modern controversies. For example, in dealing with man and sin, they use four pages dealing with gender issues – a subject that has not truly had to be dealt with before the last decade or so. Also, they look intentionally at the matter of personhood. Specifically, when is the beginning of personhood.

Again, this is a matter brought to light due to the abortion debate.
What clearly stands out about this particular systematic theology is that it is meant to be a helpful resource for the pastor and student of Scripture. Yes, all systematics will help the student, but I don’t believe all are written with the pastor in mind. MacArthur, a pastor for over 50 years, obviously wanted this to be a resource that will benefit the local pastor. As you read through this resource there are key exegetical insights and contemporary applications sprinkled throughout.

Recommendation

While I personally own over a dozen systematic theologies, I have already found this one to be of great use pastorally. My greatest problem is a lack of familiarity with the contents and the location of everything. That being said, I highly commend this systematic theology to all Christians, and to pastors. Even if you have a systematic theology, you would do well to pick up a copy of Biblical Doctrine.

ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

ESV Systematic Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 1904 pp. $39.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

 

 

Summary

Theology should, first and foremost, be rooted in God’s Word. The goal of the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is to demonstrate how all Christian doctrines arise from the pages of the Bible. Created to help readers understand how Scripture forms the basis for our understanding of God, humanity, sin, salvation, and eternity, this study Bible features over 300 short in-text doctrinal summaries connecting Christian beliefs to specific Bible passages, 25 longer articles explaining important theological topics in greater depth, and introductions to each book of the Bible that highlight the unique ways each book contributes to the whole of Christian theology. Created by an outstanding team of contributors, this resource was designed to help Christians better connect what they believe about God with the very words of Scripture.

Features

  • Double-column, paragraph format
  • Footnotes
  • Book intros
  • Topical index of sidebars
  • Cross-references
  • 300+ doctrinal summaries explaining core doctrines and connecting them to specific Bible passages
  • 25+ longer articles on key theological topics
  • Smyth-sewn binding

Contributors

  • Gregg Allison
  • Bruce Ashford
  • Gerald Bray
  • Bryan Chapell
  • Graham Cole
  • David Dockery
  • John Frame
  • Michael Horton
  • Kelly Kapic
  • Michael Kruger
  • Robert Letham
  • Donald Macleod
  • Chris Morgan
  • Stephen Nichols
  • J. I. Packer
  • Michael Reeves
  • Fred Sanders
  • Sam Storms
  • Scott Swain
  • Stephen Wellum
  • David Wells

Review

Each book of the Bible has a standard introduction along with the theological message of that book.

What makes this particular study Bible valuable are the many articles interspersed throughout the text that look at various theological doctrines. For example, Ezra 3:1-13 has an article on the Christian Life: Worship. It is a very quick explanation of what is taking place as regards worship in Ezra. There is a question for the reader’s consideration at the end of the article along with various passages of Scripture that discuss worship. These articles serve as introductions meant to drive you further into the text of the Bible to better understand what the Word of God says about a particular topic.

The gold is found in the twenty-eight articles written at the back of the Bible. These look at the importance of doctrine, apologetics, and why we should read the Bible theologically. In addition, there are articles on God, creation, grace, election, the gospel, and eschatology. Again, these serve as introductions to the topic, but by following the various texts referenced in them, the student of Scripture will begin building a robust theology rooted in the Bible.

Finally, the indices will serve a greater purpose than most given the nature of this study Bible. For example, there is a canonical index of the sidebar articles but also an index of sidebar themes organized in alphabetical order. To complete the invaluable index section is a fairly lenghty concordance.

Recommendation

If you are a student of Scripture, then you have undoubtedly heard of systematic theology (as opposed to biblical theology). If you have not been to Bible college or seminary, then you may very well have never been introduced to systematic theology. The ESV Systematic Study Bible will do more than introduce you to this very important aspect of theology. If one were to use this study Bible and trace the various texts to their logical conclusions, he will discover that the Bible is concise, congruent, and consistent in its message of God and man.

I recommend this study Bible to those Christians who are serious students of Scripture or those who want to be more serious.

Hidden Agenda by Steve Brown

Brown, Steve. Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2016. 224 pp. $19.99. Purchase for less at Amazon or on Kindle.

Introduction

Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster with shows like Key Life and Steve Brown, Etc. He is also the founder of Key Life Network.  He currently sits on the board of Harvest USA.

Summary

Divided into 14 chapters over 200 pages of text, Hidden Agenda offers a frank look at how we all have hidden agendas that prevent us from genuine relationships. Often times we hide our true motives with masks, what the Bible calls a hypocrite, to the point that we no longer can identify the real us.

Each chapter concludes with discussion questions designed to get “behind the mask.”

Review

In this day of Internet personalities and the ability to make yourself into someone you are not, this book comes as a breath of fresh air. Steve does not pull any punches in helping the reader to remove the layers of masks we have created. He offers gospel hope to the reader by pointing to God’s grace and mercy that is freely offered to all sinners.

Designed to be read alone or in a small group study, Brown will help the reader engage with the Scripture in order to be made more like Christ. Furthermore, in a group study, students will learn what it means to be in genuine fellowship where the “stained-glass masquerade” falls by the wayside and the real person is unveiled.

Recommendation

Hidden Agendas makes for a great group study as well as a resource to be read by anyone looking to better understand what genuine fellowship looks like with genuine people who can’t help but be real with one another because they know that God has begun, and will complete, a marvelous work in their lives.

The CSB Spurgeon Study Bible

The Spurgeon Study Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017. 1,824 pp. $49.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

I have reviewed a number of Study Bibles in the past. While I am not a “fan” of the Christian Standard Bible in that I prefer to preach and read from the English Standard Version, this is a study Bible I am grateful to be able to review. You can learn more at CSBSpurgeonStudyBible.com.

Summary

This three and a half minute video featuring Alistair Begg will help to introduce this Study Bible to you better than I could.

Review

This study Bible is pure gold for the student of the Scriptures. The notes come straight from Spurgeon’s sermons, which comprise the largest single collection of writing from one author in the history of the world. Each book is introduced by Spurgeon’s thoughts accumulated from his own writings.

Spurgeon was known for his illustrations. Many of these have been interspersed throughout the text as well in order to bring to your mind the gist of the text. Also included are a collection of lost sermons (20) as well as a short biography of Spurgeon and many of his own quotes. This study Bible does a masterful job of introducing Spurgeon, the greatest preacher of the 19th century to Christians in the 21st.

Understand that this Study Bible is about Charles Spurgeon and while that might upset some people, if you spend any time at all reading what he wrote, you will quickly understand that Spurgeon was all about Christ. This Study Bible is an excellent resource not only to introduce Christians to Spurgeon, but to also show them what a Christ-exalting, Christ-meditating life really looks like.

Recommendation

If you have learned from Spurgeon or enjoyed his sermons at all, this Study Bible needs to be in your library. It brings together so much information and becomes a launching point not just for information on Spurgeon, but of the salvation and lordship found in Jesus Christ of whom he loved and cherished more than anything else in his lifetime. With the Kindle version less than $10, you really should purchase this Study Bible today.

 

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books