The Beauty and Glory of the Father by Joel R. Beeke

The Beauty and Glory of the FatherBeeke, Joel R., ed. The Beauty and Glory of God the Father. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2013. 156 pp. $25.00. Purchase at Westminster Books and for the Kindle for less.

Despite the prominence of God’s fatherhood in Scripture, few books explicitly concentrate on the beauty and glory of God as Father, or what it means to experientially know God as Father. Yet these are the twin themes running throughout The Beauty and Glory of God the Father. The purpose of the book is to not only explore the theme of God’s fatherhood Scripturally, but to move the reader to worship and delight in God as Father. Each essay in the book, focusing on a distinct aspect or implication of God’s fatherhood, accomplishes this purpose.

The first two chapters of the book lead us to see God the Father’s glory in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The opening essay is an exposition of John 3:35, which tells us that the Father loves the Son. Bartel Elshout demonstrates how all theology flows from this wonderful truth, from creation to redemption, and how we must continually examine ourselves to see if we love the Son as the Father does. This love of the Son brings the Father glory, and causes him to set his love upon us (John 14:21). The second chapter, by Jerry Bilkes, draws out several aspects of God’s Fatherhood from the original Exodus and then from the decisive Exodus in Christ. As in the first chapter, powerful application calling for a response to the Father’s call in Christ closes this chapter.

The next three chapters focus on three attributes of God the Father. In chapter three Derek Thomas describes God the Father’s holiness based on Isaiah 6, which he argues is as much about the Father as it is the Son. William VanDoodewaard meditates on the Father’s mercy from 1 Peter 1:3-5 in chapter four, and in chapter five Paul Smalley describes how Richard Sibbes understood the mercy and faithfulness of the Father. Smalley’s essay is a departure from the first four in that it is more a work of historical theology rather than an exposition of Scripture, but it is just as practically oriented.

The third section of the book contains two chapters highlighting God the Father’s role in salvation. Chapter six, also written by Derek Thomas, describes how we see the Father in the face of Jesus. I found this essay to be the most profound in my walk with Christ, particularly in its emphasis on the Christ-likeness of the Father and how the closer we are to Jesus, the closer we are to the Father and his glory. Chapter seven, by Joel Beeke, is the longest essay in the book and presents the Puritans’ teaching on the doctrine of adoption. Beeke clearly demonstrates with an abundance of quotations how the commonly accepted notion that the Puritans did not say much about adoption is simply not true. For all of its value historically, however, Beeke is careful to maintain a practical tone that fits with the rest of the book. The Puritans’ understanding of adoption is not explored for its own sake, but to move the reader to see the transforming power, blessings, and responsibilities of this amazing doctrine, that in Christ we are children of God.

The fourth and final section has three chapters that mean to lead the reader to trust the Father. VanDoodewaard’s second essay in chapter eight presents Jesus’ teaching about God the Father from the Sermon on the Mount. David Murray looks at the impact of God’s fatherhood on biblical counseling in chapter nine and surveys several specific counseling problems, explaining how God’s fatherhood impacts each one of them. This survey, including situations like abuse, single parenthood, assurance, anxiety, and bitterness, would serve as an excellent reference for the counselor or pastor helping people through those circumstances. Burk Parsons exposits Hebrews 12:1-13 in chapter ten and explains how we can see and experience the glory of God the Father even through his chastisement. A concluding chapter by Ryan McGraw explains the need to approach God with a purposeful, Trinitarian piety.

The Beauty and Glory of God the Father comes after The Beauty and Glory of Christ (2011) and The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit (2012, both of which are also edited by Joel Beeke. Each of these books is based on a yearly conference at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand, Rapids, MI (2010-12). As the third book exploring this Trinitarian theme, The Beauty and Glory of God the Father is most profitably read along with these other two books (though it doesn’t have to be), which consistently move the reader to worship God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in light of his overwhelming beauty and glory. Readers should be aware that all of the essays are written from a confessional, Reformed perspective, which is not argued for or defended, but assumed throughout the book.

Though the book is a solid biblical and theological work, its purpose is primarily doxological. The historical treatments in particular are academically rigorous, but readers looking for an academic treatment of God’s fatherhood will be disappointed. Pastors especially will find material to help in sermon or worship preparation, and students of Trinitarian theology or Puritan history will also especially benefit from the book. All readers looking to grow in their love of God through an appreciation of an underemphasized aspect of God’s person will find much in these essays to help them glory in the Father’s person and work.

Gary L. Shultz Jr. (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary. He writes a monthly book review column for The Pathway and is the author of A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement (Wipf & Stock).

Beyond Smells and Bells by Mark Galli

Mark Galli. Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy. Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2008. 148 pp. $16.95. Purchase at Amazon or for Kindle for much less.

Note: This review is written by Dr. Gary Shultz.

As a Southern Baptist pastor I am as far away as I could be from Mark Galli’s intended audience, those in or exploring Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches. I have never been a member of a church that worshipped through the liturgy or followed the liturgical calendar. Yet I benefitted from this book in a number of ways. While it did not convince me to embrace liturgical worship, it did lead me to a deeper appreciation for why so many Christians do practice liturgical worship. I was encouraged by its emphasis on the biblical basis of worship and how each element of the liturgy contributes to a robust understanding of the gospel. I even found myself considering how my Baptist church could incorporate some of these high-church prayers and emphasize the different times on the liturgical calendar so that our weekly and yearly worship would not only be more explicitly gospel-centered, but more in tune with the church of which we are all apart in Christ.

Mark Galli, currently a senior managing editor of Christianity Today and member of an Anglican congregation in the greater Chicago area, formerly an Anglican pastor, writes to explain how the liturgy shapes us to be like Christ, with the goal of leading people to participate in liturgical worship. Over fourteen chapters he explains the basic outline of the liturgy, the purpose of the liturgical calendar, and the counter-cultural relevance of the liturgy. Weaving together Scripture, personal illustrations, and a few quotes from theological and liturgical works, Galli makes the case that sustained participation in the liturgy helps us meet God, learn the core doctrines of our faith, and experience community together. Above all, Galli stresses the transforming power of the liturgy, including chapters on how the liturgy changes our sense of time, our sense of place, our imaginations, and how we keep one foot in this world while awaiting the fullness of the kingdom. He closes the book with three appendices aimed at people wholly new to the liturgy, explaining terms and dates and charting some of the differences and similarities across traditions.

Beyond Smells and Bells is an introductory work, and Galli succeeds with a non-technical and engaging style. He touches on important doctrines related to liturgy, Word, and Sacrament, but he doesn’t delve deeply enough to scare anyone unfamiliar with those doctrines. Galli is also persuasive. Readers unfamiliar with the liturgy, or newly introduced to it, will find a compelling argument for why liturgical worship is important and worthwhile. However, much of what Galli says about liturgy is true of worship in general. As a pastor of a non-liturgical church I couldn’t help but think again and again that what I just read applied to any gospel-centered worship service. All true worship begins with the triune God as he has revealed himself to us in his word, and all true worship leads us to focus on his transforming grace. All true worship draws us out of ourselves and our culture and leads us to true community before God. All true worship brings order our lives and makes sense of our time, place, and vocation. All true worship engages us body and soul, teaches us the faith, and inculcates an authentic sense of mystery and transcendence. Galli emphasizes the importance of repetition in the liturgy and the historical precedent for it, and he also comments on the drawbacks of many contemporary churches seeking to be “relevant” in their worship, but he never makes an explicit case for why liturgical worship should be preferred and practiced over non-liturgical worship. This is not necessarily a failing of the book. Galli is clear about his intended audience, and I was left with a clearer sense of the biblical and practical nature of the liturgy. Yet I was never convinced that liturgy is the only way, or even the best way, to worship.

I would recommend Beyond Smells and Bells as a resource that pastors in liturgical traditions could give to their congregants or visitors. Those who read it in that context would most likely have a deeper grounding and appreciation for liturgy after reading this book. I would also recommend it for non-liturgical pastors and students who want an introduction to a tradition with which they are unfamiliar. I believe those who read it with a spirit of charity, whether liturgical or not, will be encouraged to worship our triune God.

Gary L. Shultz Jr. (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary. He writes a monthly book review column for The Pathway and is the author of A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement (Wipf & Stock).

Second Take: Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney

Praying the BibleWhitney, Donald S. Praying the Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 112 pages. $13.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or on Kindle.

Prayer is talking with God, and as Christians we have the unimaginable privilege of talking with God whenever we want to because Jesus Christ has granted us access to the Father. The Holy Spirit continually moves us to pray and grants us the assurance that our Heavenly Father wants to hear from us. As those in Christ we get to experience the joy, peace, and glory that come with prayer. We get to experience the grace of answered prayer and the wonder of seeing God work in us and around us as we communicate with him.

Yet almost every Christian struggles to consistently pray. We don’t always feel like praying, and even when we do it’s easy to bore ourselves after a few minutes, to find our mind wandering, or just not know what to say after awhile. Then we get discouraged about feeling this way, begin to wonder if God really wants to hear from us, and start to think there must be something wrong in our relationship with God. Don Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote Praying the Bible to help Christians overcome this struggle and the guilt that comes with it.

Whitney maintains that the reason so many Christians get bored or discouraged when they pray is not because there is something wrong with them, but because there is something wrong with their method. We tend to pray the most about the most important things in our lives, such as our families, future, finances, work, Christians concerns such as our church or ministry involvement, and current crises in our lives. According to Whitney that is normal and good, we are called to pray about our lives, and our lives are made up of those things. The problem is not that we pray for the same old things, but that we pray for the same old things in the same old way. We pray the same things over and over, leaving us bored, frustrated, and feeling like there is something wrong.

The solution to praying the same prayers over and over is to instead pray through the Bible. You choose a passage of Scripture and “simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text” (33). If you don’t understand a particular verse, or nothing comes to mind when you read it, you simply move on to the next one. As you read the Word, you talk to God about everything and anything that comes to mind. Whitney explains that this works particularly well with the Psalms, which were designed to be prayed, but can work with any passage of Scripture.

The most helpful thing about Praying Through the Bible is that it doesn’t just explain and defend this method of prayer, but actually helps you do it. Chapter Seven is entitled “The Most Important Part of This Book.” In this chapter Whitney tells you to stop reading the book, pick up a Bible, and pray through a psalm, because this book won’t be of any help unless you actually apply its teachings to your life. The next chapter then helps you to evaluate your experience once you have actually done it. The book even ends with an appendix that explains how this method can be practiced in a group or at church.

As we begin a new year and commit to improving our lives, it’s an appropriate time to consider how we can pray better. Whitney’s method will help you do that. To anyone looking to strengthen his or her relationship with God, I recommend giving it a serious try.

Gary L. Shultz Jr. (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary. He writes a monthly book review column for The Pathway and is the author of A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement (Wipf & Stock).

Onward by Russell Moore

OnwardMoore, Russell. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel. Nashville: B&H. 224 pages. $24.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less. Or, you can purchase for Kindle for more than half off.

Note: This review is written by Dr. Gary Shultz. Read previous reviews of Russell Moore’s books.

We live in a time when fewer and fewer Americans are self-identifying as Christians, and more and more Americans are explicitly rejecting Christian values. Christian understandings of sexuality, marriage, the sanctity of life, gender, and religious liberty are increasingly seen as outdated, if not dangerous. Younger people especially are rejecting religion in general and Christianity in particular as lifestyles of intolerance and even oppression. The idea of America as a Christian nation, or even a nation committed to Christian principles, is no longer tenable.

This current cultural situation has left many churches struggling to respond. Some have jettisoned or downplayed certain aspects of biblical morality in an attempt to stay relevant, while others have adopted siege mentalities and walled themselves off from the culture at large. Still others seem to have given up the fight, preaching the gospel as a private experience separate from life in the secular realm. However, the Bible doesn’t call us to compromise or privatize our faith in order to be engaged citizens, and it doesn’t call us to wholly separate ourselves from society in order to be faithful Christians. Instead God calls us to embrace the truth and implications of the gospel and to engage the culture from the perspective of the gospel.

Explaining this biblical vision of Christian cultural engagement is the point of Russell Moore’s book, Onward. Moore, who currently serves as the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, understands that American culture no longer assumes that Christianity is a social good. He doesn’t see this situation as a threat or a call to change what we believe, but instead as an opportunity. For too long Christians have assumed that our culture shared our understandings of faith, family, and morality, when at best this has been a superficial agreement. We now have the chance to clearly articulate what we believe and why, not as a majority standing up for American values, but as a minority pointing toward the kingdom of God.

Moore calls the church to what he calls “engaged alienation,” which means staying faithful to the distinctiveness of the gospel while also staying faithful to our callings as neighbors, friends, and citizens. The biblical basis of engaged alienation is our understanding of the kingdom of God. In Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom, and we are called to live as citizens of God’s kingdom even as we look forward to the fullness of the kingdom to come. This means seeking God’s righteousness and justice as we seek the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). It means embracing our status as strangers and pilgrims (1 Peter 2:9-11) while also staying on mission to bring people to Christ and make a kingdom difference in the culture (e.g., James 1:27). In our culture today it also means paying particular attention to human dignity, religious liberty, and family stability, all with the conviction kindness that flows from the gospel.

In this season of primaries, polls, and presidential candidates, we as Christians are once again faced with the question of how we will choose to engage our culture with our faith. Onward gives us a clear biblical picture of where we need to go and how we can get there. As Moore concludes his book, “It’s our turn to march into the future. And we do so not as a moral majority or a righteous remnant but as crucified sinners, with nothing to offer the world but a broken body and spilled blood and unceasing witness” (222). So in Christ’s name, let us go and let us make a difference.

Gary L. Shultz Jr. (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary. He writes a monthly book review column for The Pathway and is the author of A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement (Wipf & Stock).

Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash

Zeal Without BurnoutAsh, Christopher. Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice. Purcellville VA: The Good Book Company, 2016. 128 pages. $12.99. Purchase at Westminster books for less. Or, you can purchase on Kindle.

Note: This review is by Dr. Gary Shultz 

God calls every Christian into ministry. Every believer in Christ is called and equipped to serve their local church. God calls some to serve in vocational ministry as a way to make a living, but he calls most to serve him in addition to working at a job. Our entire lives are meant to be lives of ministry; our specific responsibilities or locations might change, but our calling to please God as “living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1) never does. God expects us to serve him in ways that only we can from the moment we are saved until the moment he calls us home.

We all know that it is possible for Christians to neglect this calling. Some Christians refuse to serve at all, while others only serve if and when it suits them, never making ministry a priority. While there are several reasons for this, one of the most pressing reasons is burnout. Many Christians who start off strong in their spiritual lives, zealous for God and the things of God, have gotten to a point where they no longer want to serve or feel capable of serving. Some wear themselves out so completely they are unable to serve. Ministry is never-ending, serving others can be hard, and balancing different responsibilities at church, work, and home can be stressful. Unfortunately, serving God is often the first thing to go when this happens.

Christopher Ash, who has served as a pastor and ministry administrator, believes there is a sustainable path for believers that “combines passionate zeal for Jesus with plodding faithfully on year after year” (14). Ash is not unsympathetic or unfamiliar with burnout, and throughout the book he shares his own personal experience as well as the stories of several other faithful believers who “hit the wall” in their ministries. More than that, however, he goes to the Bible to share a neglected truth as well as several keys to avoiding burnout while continuing to live a life of sacrificial service.

The foundational truth for avoiding burnout that we too often neglect as followers of Christ is that we are embodied creatures. God made us out of dust (Gen 2:7), and one day he will turn us back into dust (Ps 90:3). Even in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the body is still dead because of sin (Rom 8:10). We must be diligent not to separate our spiritual lives from what is happening to our bodies. Even when healthy, we are no more than a few particles of dust into which God has breathed the breath of life.

This truth has several implications. Ash explores four of these: we need sleep, we need Sabbaths (or days off from work), we need friends, and we need inward renewal. God needs none of these things. We must intentionally make time for sufficient sleep, regular days off, relationships, and the hobbies and habits that renew us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. These things do not keep us from ministry (and should never replace ministry), but are necessary for sustainable ministry.

Ash closes with a warning, an encouragement, and a delight. We must beware ministering for celebrity or notoriety, remember that serving God is always worth it, and delight above all in God’s grace in Christ and not our gifts. A chapter on burnout from a medical perspective, written by a doctor, concludes the book. No matter where we are in our walk with God, serving faithfully or struggling to serve at all, we need to “take heed, lest we fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Burnout is a possibility, but God’s grace can and does sustain us, even for a lifetime, when we depend on him and not our own strength.

Gary L. Shultz Jr. (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary. He writes a monthly book review column for The Pathway and is the author of A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement (Wipf & Stock).

 

Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 2

Sibbes 2Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 550 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 2 at The Banner of Truth for $24.30. You can purchase the complete set of 7 volumes for $162.00 at Westminster Books or for a mere $10.00 on Kindle.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few other titles by Richard Sibbes (read those here and am currently working through the 7-volume set of the Works of Richard Sibbes.

Sibbes was appointed a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. Later, through the influence of friends, he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray’s Inn, London, and he remained there until 1626. In that year he returned to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine’s Hall, and later returned to Holy Trinity, this time as its vicar. He was granted a Doctorate in Divinity in 1627, and was thereafter frequently referred to as ‘the heavenly Doctor Sibbes’. He continued to exercise his ministry at Gray’s Inn, London, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, until his death on 6 July 1635 at the age of 58.

Summary

There are only five books included in this particular volume. They are Bowels Opened (Sermons on the Song of Solomon 4-6), The Spouse’s Earnest Desire After Christ, A Breathing After God, The Returning Backslider (a commentary on Hosea 14) and the Glorious Feast of the Gospel.

Review

As with most writers and pastors of the Puritan age, I believe they go to far with their allegorical understanding of the Song of Solomon, but the practical aspects and conclusions are extremely helpful. Specifically due to the modern-day relaxing of the view of the church.

For most Puritans, the Song of Solomon was meant to be read as a description of Christ and His relationship with the church. While that may be true today, it certainly was not the authorial intent of Solomon when he wrote it. Regardless, Sibbes makes some most comforting claims for the comfort of the believer throughout his sermons on these four chapters of Scripture. For example, God makes us good and stirs up within us holy desires.

His second book in this volume is a short look at the second verse of the first chapter of Song of Solomon and offers a treatise on the Christian’s need to earnestly desire after Christ.

The third book is an exposition on Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Being the great surgeon he is, Sibbes offers an in depth look at how our every living moment ought to be consumed with Christ. He states that Christ is the object of the Christian’s desire and that we ought to be continually in prayer if we are to persevere in our desires.

In a poignant, and perhaps much needed look at Hosea 14, Sibbes looks at the way in which a backslider should return to the faith and also how we, as believers, ought to receive them. Perhaps Sibbes offers us a different perspective on Hosea, but one thing I  know, is that this particular book of the Bible is a bomb waiting to go off in many churches and Christian lives due to its portrayal of radical grace.

The final book in this second volume looks at the Gospel and is an exposition of Isaiah 25:6-9.  Of all of the books I have stated that the church needs today, it may be this book in this volume that is most needed. To understand just what a feast this gospel message truly is cannot be overstated. In just under 100 pages, Sibbes draws the reader into the beauty of the gospel and helps us to see how we have been starving ourselves with the modern gospel presentations and offering we regularly serve up to others.

Recommendation

In all honesty, I approached this volume as being one of the weaker volumes in the whole set. Turned out, I could not have been more wrong. Though I disagree with his understanding of Song of Solomon, I found his application to be appropriate. His look at Hosea 14 is a sweet balm for those weary souls looking to return to Christ. Christian, you should read that in order to be better equipped to minister to those who are hurting.

The final book, however, is  most needed. We need to know what the gospel is (ALERT! Most Christians can’t articulate it!) and know that it is the greatest offering we can give to anyone in the world today.

I do recommend this volume by itself if you are struggling with your affections for Christ or need to meditate on the necessity of the gospel. Ultimately, Richard Sibbes has never failed to offer me help and hope through his exposition of the Word of God.

New Dictionary of Theology – Historical and Systematic Edited by Martin Davie, et al

New Dictionary of Theology – Historical and Systematic. Edited by Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T.A. Noble. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. 1,200 pp. $60.00. Purchase at Amazon for $40.94.
*Price subject to change.

Introduction

The first edition of the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, published in 1988 and edited by Sinclair Ferguson and David F. Wright was monumental at the time and remains the standard single reference work in systematic and historical theology.

Here in 2016, this standard has been substantially expanded from 738 pages to 1,200 pages and now focuses on a wider variety of theological themes, movements, and even those who are responsible for the past and current trends of theological thought. The name of this resource has been altered to show this expansion. It is now entitled The New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (NDTHS).

Summary

It is extremely difficult to summarize an encyclopedia. I will use what the publisher has on the back of the dust jacket.

From African Christian Theology to Zionism, this volume of historical and systematic theology offers a wealth of information and insight for students, pastors and all thoughtful Christians.

Over half of the more than eight hundred articles are new or rewritten with hundreds more thoroughly revised. Fully one-third larger than its predecessor, this volume focusing on systematic and historical theology has added entries and material on theological writers and themes in North America and around the world. Helpful bibliographies have also been updated throughout.

Over three hundred contributors form an international team of renowned scholars including Marcella Altaus-Reid, Richard Bauckham, David Bebbington, Kwame Bediako, Todd Billings, Oliver Crisp, Samuel Escobar, John Goldingay, Tremper Longman III, John McGuckin, Jennifer McNutt, Michael J. Nasir-Ali, Bradley Nassif, Mark Noll, Anthony Thiselton, John Webster and N. T. Wright.

This new edition combines excellence in scholarship with a high standard of clarity and profound insight into current theological issues. Yet it avoids being unduly technical. Now an even more indispensable reference, this volume is a valuable primer and introduction to the grand spectrum of theology.

Review

Not only has the book expanded by 33% of pages, the number of editors tripled from two to six. Originally, Sinclair Ferguson and David F. Wright were the editors. Now, we have Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T.A. Noble serving as editors. This is notable as the original two editors are noted as men of Reformed theology while these current six editors are noted more for their collective conservative theology. This immediately shows that the NDTHS is meant for a much wider audience than ever.

With over 300 contributors, this edition of the NDTHS is a resource for every Christian theologian whether they are liberal, Reformed, mainline, conservative, or whatever qualifier they choose. The work is simply a massive resource that will inform the pastor, teachers, student, or “mere” Christian on just about any subject found in historical and systematic theology.

Some of the additions have made this a greater global resource as they have added articles on African and Asian Christian Theology as well as Arab and Japanese Christian Thought. Given the ever shrinking world thanks to the Internet and air travel, this resource can be used to help prepare a missionary or even a pastor wanting to focus on a particular area of missions work.

New articles include a look at gender, post liberalism, analytic theology, and other issues that were not even on the theological radar in 1988. Again, this will help the Christian thinker to wade through countless articles, books, and blog posts by solid biblical thinkers and guide you to the most important documents and people through the bibliography after every article.

Further, by having so many contributors, the editors were able to pick and choose who wrote on which topic. This is key as you now have noted scholars writing on their specific areas of expertise. For example, noted church historian writes on the entry simply marked “history” while Mark Noll writes on B.B. Warfield.

I have mentioned already the bibliography at the end of each entry, but I would like to express how helpful this is for the reader. If you are beginning to build a theological library or you need to write a paper for Bible School or seminary level training, this can easily be your one-stop shop for figuring out what resources you need to aid in the writing of your paper.

Furthermore, the editors saw fit to include three tremendously helpful indices at the end. The first index is a list of the names mentioned in the encyclopedia. The second index is simply the various subjects covered. The third index is for the articles. These three indices combined will help you to find whatever it is you are looking for in this resource. If you cannot find it here, it is just not going to be found in the encyclopedia.

Recommendation

At $60, this is obviously a pricey resource. Given the quality of the contributors and the time-tested usability of the first edition, however, I do not see how any serious student, scholar, pastor, or Christian wanting to study theology more in depth can do without it. For many, they will prefer a digital option as the book does weigh 4 ½ pounds! Regardless, this will be $60 well spent as it continues the quality of reference works for which IVP Academic is most noted. If you have the first edition, give it to someone just beginning to build a theological library and purchase this second edition as it is truthfully that much better than the first.

ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV Family Devotional Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016. 1,408 pp. $29.99. Purchase at:
Westminster Books for $19.49.
Amazon for $21.97.
*Prices are subject to change.

Introduction

ESV continues its growing tradition of quality niche Bibles. While I understand some argue against this concept, I have found that they are extremely helpful for various seasons in life. I have reviewed a number of ESV Bibles. You can read those reviews here.

Summary

In addition to the full text of the ESV Bible (2011 text edition), The ESV Family Devotional Bible also features 130 retellings of particular Bible stories that are not only illustrated with full-color pictures, they are gospel-centered in such a way that the one leading the devotional need only read the story and the questions. Also, the maps were formatted in such a way that they are extremely child-friendly.

Review

While the text of the Bible is of the utmost importance, children do not always understand what is being said. Even though parents may read the text and strive to explain the story to their children, the kids still give you that deer in the headlights look. This is where the retelling of key Bible stories comes into play. I have included an example below to show you what I am talking about.

esv fdb back coverAs you can readily see, the retelling is faithful to the Biblical account and is done in such a way that the parent or leader need only read it. Next, you simply follow up with the questions provided. If you want to be more prepared, you can read the story a few times before and then provide different voices for the characters or even possibly act out some of the more familiar stories form Scripture.

If you only use the questions provided, you will do well. Typically, however, what will happen is the child will have more questions. Next thing you know, 30 minutes have passed and your family just talked about the things of God.

Finally, the “Key Verse” feature can be used in any number of ways. Some families may want to memorize these. Other families may want to make a list for future study. Still others may find them as an invaluable cross-reference (the Bible itself does not have any cross-references) to answering some of the children’s questions.

Quite frankly that is all there is to this particular niche Bible except for the kid-friendly maps of which I could not find a decent available image.

Recommendation

I am often asked if we need another niche Bible. In all honesty, I have waffled on this particular question. As my children have grown, we have taken turns reading the Bible out loud. We have used many resources to aid in family worship through the years. Unfortunately, our schedule is so crazy right now that we honestly struggle to carve out time for nightly family worship. We do say prayers together but we are not always in the Word together. As their father, this is my fault. Fortunately, the ESV Family Devotional Bible makes family worship extremely easy. With over 130 faithful retellings of familiar (and no so familiar) Bible stories, there is enough to kick-start a family in the direction of family worship.

If you are looking for a solid resource centered on Scripture for family worship, then I highly recommend the ESV Family Devotional Bible. The importance of having the full text of the Bible right there in your hands as you seek to raise your children in the Lord cannot be overstated.

Update and Changes

First, if you are reading this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have no idea how many people actually read this website as I chose to remove the statistics of the website because I found myself making an idol of those numbers. I also know that others in the “book review industry” have intentionally sabotaged me – they even told me so because they “thought my platform was amazing and wanted to take it to the next level.” I keep plugging away at this minimalistic website because I love to read and enjoy being able to share with others what I am reading.

Second, I have not been able to write a review since the end of March due to the recent season of life. There have been personal family matters that have needed to be dealt with as well as ministry situations in the congregation I pastor and a research paper I had to write for my seminary class. None of this was earth-shattering or necessarily negative. When my schedule gets hectic like that, as it is prone to do, I do not have second thoughts about not writing for Christian Book Notes. That being said, this is most definitely a labor of love and I want to continue writing.

Third, I have been reviewing books for nearly ten years. I made a conscious decision back in 2009 to not be the guy who makes a name for himself criticizing authors and theologians except in those rare cases where there is blatant misinformation or plain heresy. For the most part, I have been extremely positive in my reviews. I have tried to be the platform for the independent publisher and self-published authors which has allowed me to single-handedly review over 1,000 books through this modest website. Though I am not in it for money, and I really don’t make any money except some Amazon gift card money used to purchase books for my children, both of these decisions have proven somewhat costly.

As a matter of fact, I started reviewing books on a whim and then it became a way in which I could acquire resources for my personal library. As a pastor of a rural congregation the past three plus years, this has proven extremely helpful for me personally. But, the times they are a changing.

While I am aware that many book reviewers are going to podcasts or adding extra material to their websites in addition to their book reviews, I have continued to write introductory book reviews and articles dealing with books. I did try to post some pastoral thoughts, but have relegated those to a tab above and have only written a couple. Needless to say, this website is for book reviews and will remain a source for book reviews. That does, however, lead me to share with you some changes I feel I need to make.

  • More selective. I can no longer simply take any book to review. While I will strive to remain a platform for independent authors and publishers, I need to be more selective in what I offer to review. This is due in large part to my schedule with a family of seven, the demands of pastoring a rural congregation, and a continuing pursuit of a seminary degree. My hope is this will allow the content to be of greater quality than the simple introductory reviews I have published in the past.
  • Less published. In order to improve upon the quality, and in addition to being more selective, I will need to scale my reviews back to one or two reviews a week as opposed to the five a week I originally published and the three a week I had been publishing. The format I have used for seven or eight years will remain the same, but I intend to have more content in the “review” section than what I have had the time to publish recently.
  • More authors. At this point, I have been the sole author of Christian Book Notes. I have toyed with the idea in the past of bringing on other writers, but I didn’t want to become an editor in that sense. I believe now is the time for me to bring on another author or two. I will hand-select these next authors and will begin to intersperse their reviews into the steady stream of reviews published here at Christian Book Notes. This will obviously change the voice of the website, but I believe that will be for the better.
  • Continued Trusted Reviews. My prayer is that this next phase of Christian Book Notes will continue to serve the Christian reader with trusted reviews. Though they might not be as short as they once were, it is my hope they will be more informational.

I began this note thanking those of you who read this website. I cannot tell you how much of an honor it is to serve you in this manner. It is a stewardship I do not take lightly. I pray these changes will be such that I am able to continue to serve you for the next 1,000 book reviews and on.

Your servant in Christ,

Terry Delaney

The Reformation in England by J.H. Merle d’Aubigne

The Reformation in Englandd’Aubigné, J.H. Merle. The Reformation in England in Two Volumes. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016. 1,064 pp. $65.00. Purchase for less at Amazon. You can also get the e-book for free though the formatting is not that great.

Introduction

From a short biography found at Banneroftruth.org

Jean Henri Merle d’Aubigné (1794–1872) was arguably the most popular church historian of the nineteenth century. In July 1817, d’Aubigné was ordained a minister of the established church in Geneva, but he did not then enter the pastorate, choosing rather to travel widely through the German-speaking lands before continuing his studies in the University of Berlin.

In June 1818, d’Aubigné assumed the pastorate of the French Reformed Church in Hamburg which had been established by French Huguenots fleeing from their homeland during the persecution under Louis XIV. He remained in this pastorate until 1823.

In 1835 the first volume of The History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century was published in French. The five-volume work was completed in 1853. This was followed by The History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin in eight volumes, published in French between 1863 and 1878, the last three volumes appearing posthumously.

For more about this great historian, you can read about him at The Banner of Truth’s website.

Summary

In the first volume, d’Aubigné covers from the second century to the year 1528. Obviously, the majority of this first volume will comprise the years 1516-1530 with the first chapter covering 100-1516 in some 125 pages!

The second volume looks at the years 1529-1547 and centers more on the rift between England and the church of Rome. It is not until the third book of the second volume (1536-1547) that we get to the events of the actual Reformation in England.

Review

I somehow came to possess the original 1962 Banner publication of this magnificent two-volume set. While nothing has changed from the edition to this edition regarding the content, the quality of the printing and binding (paperback to cloth-bound) is a testimony to the quality of books published by The Banner.

The content of this two-volume set, however, is what you are most interested in. J.H. Merle d’Aubigné writes a detailed account of what took place in England in the 16th century. He writes with great care and accuracy the events leading up to and involving the Reformation in England. It is easy to see why he is called the greatest historian of the 18th century.

His writing is copious as evidenced by the thirteen total volumes of history of the Christian church. This particular two-volume set is indispensable to the modern church’s understanding of where we came from regarding the Reformation that started in Geneva and found its way to England.

Perhaps what sets d’Aubigné apart in his approach to the history of the church with an emphasis on the Reformation in England is his pastoral care in showing how it impacts the church at large as well as the individual Christian. In reading this these two books, Christians today will be introduced to a whole new level of understanding of what took place and why it had to take place. Furthermore, we will understand how we have benefited greatly from that great cloud of saints that have gone before us.

I believe the reprinting of The Reformation in England is timely for the church as we are once again being forced to take a stand for the faith delivered once for all to the saints in an age that is seemingly more opposed to Christianity than ever. This resource will show the modern read that “baby, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Recommendation

For many Christians in the United States, and obviously in England, the Reformation that took place in England in the 1530’s led directly to what we today call the Protestant Church.  I realize the cost is pretty steep for many, but the benefits will far outweigh the price of the books as you read and begin to grasp the importance of clinging to Christ and the Scriptures.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books