All posts by Terry Delaney

To Flourish or Destruct by Christian Smith

Smith, Christian. To Flourish or Destruct: A Personalist Theory of Human Goods, Motivations, Failure, and Evil. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 342 pp. $45.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Christian Smith may not be known to many readers here at Christian Book Notes, but at least one of his key phrases he has developed is. If you have ever said or heard the phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism” then you are somewhat familiar with Christian Smith. This phrase, coined in 2005 was popularized in his work Soul searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. In 2010 he published another volume, What is a Person? that is the forerunner to To Flourish or Destruct. You can find all of his other books here.

Dr. Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. It is here that he directs the Center for the Study of Religion and Society. You can read more about his work on Critical Realism here.

Summary

Divided into 9 chapters over 278 pages with 56 pages of end notes, this is not going to be a Sunday afternoon leisurely read. After introducing the subject matter and reason for writing this book, Smith looks at the basics of what he calls Critical Realist Personalism. This is where I was introduced to his work on What is the Person? The second chapter lays a foundation for rethinking why we do what we do, or what are the motivating factors for the actions we take.

Chapter three is an argument against social situationism (relativism) and chapter four offers a historical look at the various theories of human nature and motivation that have found traction in sociological studies and understandings of the person.
In chapter five, Smith begins to unpack the paradigm shifting understanding of personalist theory and how and why we are motivated to action. This is contingent upon his understanding of human goods (which he finds six) and interests that exist across time and cultural boundaries. Chapter six, the shortest chapter, explains how and why we must be motivated toward flourishing as a person and consequently as a society. He spends the last chapter seeking to understand failure, destruction, and evil.

Review

First, please allow me to say that this review for this website will not do justice to the critical review that is necessary for a work of this magnitude.

Second, I am not going to get too technical in this review, but you must understand that this is very much a technical book. It is more a college level text book dealing with social theory.

I picked this book up to read along with a friend who wanted to understand Personalism. He explained to me that it was helping him to understand the importance of the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (see Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:39). As I read the first 35 pages or so, I could see hints of this.

I was not prepared, however, for the paradigm shifting view of the person versus the individual. He argues, “To be a person…is to exist and operate as a governing center of consciousness and action oriented toward pursuing certain purposes” (p. 42).

As he unpacks this definition, albeit briefly (which is why I purchased What is a Person?), he moves to what I believe is the linchpin of his entire argument. He explains why humans should never be called individuals because, “The individual is not what a human being is, but rather a construction of a misguided theoretical tradition, foisted upon humanity by intellectual visionaries and ideologues” (p. 48). I wrote in the margin that the individual is sovereign and independent and can be abstracted while the person is dependent and is an intimate reality.

This was a watershed moment for me in that I hadn’t realized how deeply influenced my way of thinking was as I wrestled with the Imago Dei. In other words, this theory of Personalism is the outworking of understanding what it means to be created in the image of God. Furthermore, as you read his brief historical overviews, you will quickly understand that we have all been impacted by the individual view of sociology because it is taught in every single high school and college introductory level class as it has been the prevailing view for over 150 years.

My greatest critique of the book is Christian Smith’s obstinate refusal to apply the Christian worldview as the foundation for this argument. I have talked with him and he assures me he offers his reasons in a couple debates, but at the time of my writing this review, I have not been able to read the abstracts of those debates.
All throughout the book I have struggled with the theological aspect of Personalism and, according to the end notes, seems to be largely rooted in the theology of Thomas Aquinas.

Personally, I find this theory to be rooted in Scripture. What has most amazed me is as I did my research I found that this view was held by many of the leaders in the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s as well as some mainstream Christian denominations and Roman Catholic theologians.

Regardless of this critique, Smith tackles the problem of evil as well as the solution of love even though most sociologists shy away from both discussions.

I will surely continue unpacking what I have read for a long time to come. It has already helped me to understand and see the world from a new perspective…one I thought I had but did not.

Recommendation

My point in writing this review is to bring attention of this view to a wider audience. I believe many conservative evangelicals, and I dare say many in the Reformed community, would do well to read this book. While it is not written from a theological perspective, Biblical Christian theology is inescapable. It has proven to be a paradigm shifting book for me and a book that I have told others has already been one of the most non-theological books I have ever read.

If you are a Christian who enjoys thinking hard, I highly commend this book to you. I have not found a better and more accessible treatment of the subject matter yet, but I am looking.

Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out by Alvin Reid

Reid, Alvin. Sharing Jesus {without freaking out} Evangelism the Way You Were Born to do it. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017. 144 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Alvin Reid holds the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism as well as serving as the senior professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. More than teaching on evangelism, Dr. Reid (Doc) also serves as pastor to young professionals at Richland Community Church in Wake Forest, NC. He is interactive on social media and is always willing to help and instruct any who might ask him. Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention he one proud grandpa to whom this book is dedicated. You can find out more and get bulk discounts at http://www.bhacademic.com/sharingjesus/.

Way back in 2009, I reviewed Doc’s textbook Introduction to Evangelism.

Summary

Divided into eight chapters, Doc sets out to explain how he has found great success in his evangelism ministry. The answer is quite simple just from looking at the chapter titles. Chapter one discusses the importance of spreading the word without overcomplicating the message. Chapter two explains the message of grace and mercy over and above the message of anger that so many preach today.

The third chapter begins to deconstruct the walls we have built to evangelism by looking at the need for conversations instead of the sales pitch presentation. Continuing the conversation explanation, Doc moves in chapter four to show how you are vital to the mission of God even though you cannot do this in your own power.

As he continues to build the conversational model of evangelism, he turns to conversation starters and transitions that will help you to engage anyone with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sixth chapter takes this even further by instructing the reader on how to let the other person help you. In other words, as you get to know them through a conversation, they will point you to their need of the gospel.

Once you begin to transition to the gospel, you will find that that you are able to talk more freely about the things of the Lord, but you will need to be careful as you must also talk with more than words. Chapter seven is devoted to showing the reader the importance of living out your faith in the context of sharing your faith.

The final chapter argues for making friends instead of making visits. Here, Doc wants you to have a plan of action before you go into any situation in order that you might effectively share the gospel more readily.

Review

BOOM!

This is just what the church needs! Yes, you can argue that we have the Bible and that we have many different methods of proclaiming the gospel, but the fact of the matter is, here in America, we are simply not doing what we have been commanded by our Lord and Savior. Doc Reid has been proclaiming the gospel for many years and, to be honest, has challenged me greatly in his success rate.
This is not to say that evangelism is all about success rates and models and strategies, but it is to say that Doc’s ministry is proof that the Word of God does not return void (Is. 55:11). As I been blessed to listen to Dr. Reid present a number of times in the state of Missouri where I live, I have learned much from his ministry. One area I find that has helped him to be more effective is the location of where he lives and ministers. His town of Wake Forest is larger than my county in Missouri.

That being said, as this book shows, it is not about the size of the community as much as it is about the size of the God who has commissioned you to this mission. Doc shows that the key to effective evangelism is having a strategy in place before you engage with the message. The key to evangelism is realizing you are engaging people not statistics.

In Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, Doc explains that our mission is evangelism for the sake of seeing souls saved and not for the sake of numbers and statistics and honor at state conventions. Doc shows how sharing the message of salvation in Christ alone is natural to the one who has been born again because the new creation in Christ has a message to proclaim. Doc simply equips the new creature to do what God has enabled him or her to do.

Recommendation

Christendom owes a great debt to Doc Reid for his humility and accessibility as an academic thinker on the topic of evangelism. More importantly than that, he has modeled for the Christian what consistent obedience to the Great Commission looks like in the local context of evangelism. As the evangelism team leader in my association, I have been looking for a resource that I could give to my pastors that they would want to read and implement in their own ministries. I have found that resource. I highly commend this book to everyone who calls on the name of Christ as their Lord and Savior and who wants to be a better soul winner in their own ministerial context.

ESV Pastor’s Bible

ESV Pastor’s Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 1,360 pp. $39.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for much less.

Introduction

It is no secret that I prefer the English Standard Translation of the Bible as evidenced by the number of reviews I have written on this particular translation. It is no secret that I am a study Bible junkie. This Bible, however, is not a study Bible per se.

Summary

From Crossway:

A pastor depends on the wisdom of Scripture for all aspects of ministry. What truths can be relied upon in seasons of celebration and in those of sorrow? What does the Bible have to say to us about marriage, sickness, and death? The ESV Pastor’s Bible was designed to help pastors draw wisdom from God’s Word for specific situations requiring pastoral care, such as baptisms, weddings, hospital visits, or funerals. In the front matter, back matter, and throughout the text, the Pastor’s Bible contains articles written by pastors offering practical help for crafting a sermon, planning a special service, leading congregational prayer, conducting premarital counseling, visiting the sick, and resolving conflict within the church. Compiled under the guidance of seasoned pastors R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell, this substantial but portable edition is a great all-in-one resource for the on-the-ground pastor.

Review

Obviously, this Bible is not going to be one every Christian will want to purchase for themselves as it is designed to be a resource for the pastor.

Unlike many Bibles today, there are a few pages in the front to keep record of marriages, births/adoptions, and deaths. The contents include the 2016 text edition of the ESV Bible in addition to a number of articles and guidelines for various services that a pastor may be asked to officiate.

One of the lead articles is from Kent Hughes, one of the two editors of this Bible along with Douglas Sean O’Donnel, about the disciplines of a godly pastor. This was adapted from his seminal work, 10 Disciplines of a Godly Man. This article is definitely worth the consideration of the man of God who has been called and set apart to shepherd the people of God.

Between the two testaments, the editors have included some 40 pages worth of outlines for various services like weddings and funerals as well as elements of the usual worship service like invocations, communion, benedictions, baptisms (both infant and believer’s), and benedictions.

All of the articles interspersed throughout the text of the Bible are drawn from previously written material from the likes of Charles Spurgon and John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson and J.C. Ryle. These all serve as excellent reminders and great resources of encouragement for the pastor.

Recommendation

If you are a pastor, especially, a young pastor, I would highly recommend you consider this particular Bible whether you use the ESV translation or not. If you know someone who will be ordained, this would make a perfect gift for his ordination. The Smyth-Sewn binding makes this a Bible that will stand the test of time.

Voices from the Past, Vol. 2 Edited by Richard Rushing

Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings, Volume 2. Edited by Richard Rushing. Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016. 432 pp. $28.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

Introduction

The first volume was released back in 2010 and was well received by many. Richard Rushing, who served as the editor for both volumes, also edited the Pocket Puritan of Thomas Case’s When Christians Suffer released in 2009.

Summary

As with the first volume, this second volume is a daily devotional of Puritanical writings from over 25 different Puritan writers. There are 366 daily readings that are meant to be read day by day. Also, in one of the three indices there is a topical guide that will take you to a particular area of interest for the reader in the event that they have a specific need on any given day.

Review

While it is always difficult to review a disjointed work such as a daily devotional, it is easy to tell another person why they ought to read a particular devotion. In the case of Voices from the Past Volume 2, I would say that the depth, even in one page of text that the Rushing has selected for each day will hardly be surpassed by any modern day devotional.

Yes, there is a language barrier of sorts as the Puritans wrote in a form of English hardly used today, but these are so short of readings that this should pose no problem for the modern reader. In fact, the reader, in my estimation, will find that they are able to understand far more than they realize in a shorter amount of time than they anticipated.

One more reason I believe you should consider this daily devotional is the manner in which the Puritans handled the Word of God. Again, compared to modern day writing and preaching (most of the books by the Puritans were sermons adapted into books) the Puritans say more in one paragraph than many pastors and writers say in one sermon. Rushing has selected the choicest of sentences and combined them into one daily devotional. Regardless, the Puritans are known for their depth and should be modeled today.

Recommendation

I obviously highly recommend this resource. My hope is that this devotional, like its first volume, would be an introduction to the larger body of Puritanical works. From there, as you are introduced to the great depth of biblical exposition, I believe the foundation for a genuine revival will be laid and a sincerity of faith will begin to take hold within Christendom that has not been seen in over a century.

 

The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, Volume 1 edited by Christian T. George

The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 1. His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854. Edited by Christian George. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2016. 560 pp. $59.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed one other book, way back in 2009, by Christian George entitled GodologySince that time, George has become a renowned Spurgeon scholar and serves as the curator of The Spurgeon Library as well as assistant professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. You can read more at Spurgeon.org.

Summary

Divided into 2 parts over 560 pages, the first part offers an introduction to the book as well as the larger proposed 10-volume series. Here, the reader learns that though the sermons were never lost to history, they were lost to publishing history. In essence, George has set out to see the completion of what Spurgeon himself desired to accomplish though he had to abandon that attempt for reasons explained in his autobiography.

The second part which comprises the overwhelming majority of the text shares the sermons from notebook 1. This notebook contained some 77 sermons ranging from 85 words to 571 words. These were not the complete sermons as much as they were the outlines for the sermons preached between 1851-1854.

Review

These notes and outlines are heavily annotated with remarks by Christian George that offer insight and explanations into what he was saying or why he corrected a text. Each sermon shows a facsimile on the facing page that shows precisely what Spurgeon wrote in his own hand with his own dip pen. George has done the reader the service of transcribing (and in some cases translating!) what Spurgeon wrote.

A definite modern adaptation to this resource is found on pages 34-45 offering pie charts and graphs and word clouds that break down all of the information found within the 77 sermons. From word counts to percentages of sermons found in various testaments and books of the Bible to the distances Spurgeon would travel in order to preach.

All of this adds another layer to those interested in the Prince of Preachers. My one contention is the use of the glossy paper as it makes writing your own notes nearly impossible (and certainly impossible with a dip or a fountain pen of which Spurgeon would be appalled 🙂 ).

Recommendation

My hope is this new publication, and the yet to be published remaining 9 volumes will introduce a new generation to the power of the preached word through one of the greatest pastors of any generation. This first volume deserves a wide readership and a prominent place in any pastor’s library. My prayer is that the Lord would use this series to raise up a new generation of preachers passionate for God’s glory as revealed in His Word specifically through the proclamation of it in the local pulpit.

Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 5

Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 550 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 3 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 many of Richard Sibbes’ books in the past. This is now the fifth of seven volumes in his collection of Works produced by The Banner of Truth Trust. It has taken me almost a year to get this far for a myriad of reasons, but one thing I know is that this set of works has been invaluable to my personal walk with the Lord.

Summary

At over 540 pages, volume 5 contains the rest of everything Sibbes wrote regarding his exposition of the epistles of Paul save 1 & 2 Corinthians (Volumes 3 & 4). Also included in this particular volume is The Art of Divine Contentment and Salvation Applied.

Review

Personally, The Art of Contentment is one of those sermons of yesteryear that needs to be printed and distributed widely today. In our day and age of transient life and consumerism, there are many who struggle with contentment. Sibbes, surgeon as he is with the scalpel of the Word, cuts right to the heart of the matter and offers sound biblical argumentation as to how and why we are to be content in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each of these expositions (the individual sermons will be dealt with in volume 7) takes the reader deeper into the Word of God than most pastors are either willing or able to go in their own preaching. Though dated in language and cultural context, many of the applications remain timeless and offer the modern reader much food for thought in how we are to apply the Word of God to all of life.

Recommendation

The reason to purchase volume 5 as a stand alone is due in large part to the 20 pages of The Art of Contentment also known as The Art of Divine Contentment. This set has proven to be hugely beneficial to my soul and to my walk. Pastors, you would do well to read this book and be filled with practical applications from arguably one of the greatest expositors to have ever preached the Word. Christian, read and be fed.

This Life I Live by Rory Feek

Feek, Rory. This Life I Live – One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed it Forever. Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2017. 240 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

Rory Feek is one of Nashville’s premiere songwriters. He has written two of my favorite songs: Some Beach performed by Blake Shelton (this my “Delaney’s Law” song!) and Someone You Used to Know by Collin Raye. He and his wife recorded an album of her favorite hymns.

You can find out more at This Life I Live.

Summary

Joey and Rory Feek were enjoying a steadily growing fan base in country music when Joey was diagnosed unexpectedly with a rapidly spreading cancer. This vibrant and beautiful young woman would soon be on a unique journey for which no one is ever fully prepared. Her husband, Rory, and children, Heidi, Hopie, and Indiana, were beside her each step of the way. Rory, a prolific songwriter, entrepreneur, farmer, and overall tender man, has seen God bless his life in countless unexpected ways and had started a blog, thislifeilive.com, not really knowing its purpose other than he needed to write. That purpose soon became clearer when Joey’s cancer battle hit.

By inviting so many into the final months of Joey’s life, this astounding couple captured the hearts of millions with their powerful love story, the manner in which they were handling the diagnosis, and the inspiring simple way they had chosen to live their lives.

In this vulnerable book, Rory takes us into his own challenging life story and shows what can happen when God brings both his presence and the right companion into our lives. He also gives never-before-revealed details on what he calls “the long goodbye,” the blessing of being able to know that life is going to end and taking advantage of it. Feek shows how we all are actually there already and how we can learn to live that way every day. He then goes into detail toward the end of the book on what it’s like to try to move on with your life once you’ve “had it all.”

Review

This book is a behind the scenes look so to speak at a public portrayal of one couple’s battle with an aggressive, and ultimately, terminal cancer. Joey entered in the presence of her Lord and Savior on 4 March 2016. There was a Facebook page in which Joey and Rory shared quite a bit of detail with those who were interested. This led to much attention and consequently allowed them to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world watching and hoping.

As we all do, they traversed the unknown with courage and shared many pitfalls and concerns with their “fans.” This book, This Life I Live, takes a step back less than a year later and offers a different more personal perspective.

It reads more like a private journal and a stream of conscience thought project. In other words, it can be quite raw in some areas which adds to the allure of the book. Far from perfectly edited, it shows the reader that the social media persona was not a facade.

What comes through on most every page is their faith in Christ and the hope that even though the cancer was going to take Joey’s life, it would not destroy her spirit.

Recommendation

If you are into love stories, feel-good stories, or stories of faith, I recommend this book. It will keep you up at night wanting to know more (even though you know how it ended!) and bring tears and laughter sometimes in a matter of two pages. Readers will enjoy the raw look and learn that even the “famous songwriters” put their jeans on one leg at a time.

Counseling the Hard Cases edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert

Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2012. 332 pp. $32.99. Purchase at Westminster for less. Or, you can purchase for the Kindle for $9.99.

Note: This was adapted from a review of a book for a seminary class.

Introduction

There has been an erosion of the inerrancy of Scripture in many churches in the latter half of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. This is witnessed in the varying perspectives of the authority of the Bible when it comes to counseling members of the church. Often, the pastor will delegate the counseling to the “professionals” who have been trained instead of seeking to tackle the problems himself using the Bible. Fortunately, Counseling the Hard Cases offers an apologetic for the continuation and revival of a biblically-based approach to counseling.

Each contributor has served extensively in the field of biblical counseling. Many of them are teachers and a majority of them have doctorates of varying degrees. In other words, these men and women are experts in their fields and while we may not attain their level of expertise as pastors or lay leaders, we do have the same Bible as our source material and can have the confidence that the Word of God will greatly aid us during our counseling.

Summary

Divided over eleven chapters with a lengthy introduction (chapter 1) and a few concluding reflections, editors Lambert and Scott offer ten different counseling situations that most pastors would not typically engage for the simple fact that the Bible does not necessarily speak to these issues. Chapter two is the first case and it comes out swinging as Laura Hendrickson looks at sexual abuse. Steve Viars deals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in chapter three while Heath Lambert offers counsel on Postpartum Depression.

Chapters five and six look at paralyzing fear and anorexia – both seemingly difficult topics to counsel solely from the Scriptures. Chapters seven and eight deal with how to counsel two recently popular disorder diagnoses: Bipolar and Dissociative Identity. Kevin Carson looks at how to counsel those wrestling with homosexuality while Robert Jones counsels addictions and adultery. Jon Babler shows the reader that not every case is going to be a hard case even though it seems to be from the start.

Critical Evaluation

I must confess that I was already in the “nouthetic camp” when I began reading this book. I was genuinely excited to see how the various counselors interacted with the counselees through the many different subjects. In that regard, each contributor, and therefore the entire book was successful in showing that the Bible is sufficient to counsel believers in most every area of life (there are some times where medical treatment must be sought and that should, of necessity, be out of the hands of the pastor or counselor).

I will be honest, there were many times I would find myself weeping while reading this book because of the sins that were committed by or against the counselees. Specifically, the sexual assault and the anorexia had me in tears. But as I would read the chapters, I would find myself “cheering” for the outcome to be the Lord’s grace and mercy shown to each counselee through His Word applied in their lives.

The chapter on counseling those wrestling with homosexuality hit close to home for me personally. I had a joint counseling situation where the counselee professed to be gay and Christian. The other counselor and I did not handle it very well and made some of the errors Kevin Carson warns against in his chapter. Needless to say, this chapter stuck out as evidence of one of the greater failures in my ministry.

Perhaps one of the key components of this particular resource is being able to “sit in” on the counseling sessions from beginning to end. It helps to see that the counseling is a process and it takes much time. Sometimes, the counseling will last longer than a year while other times it will last a few weeks. Most of the time, it seems that counseling individuals and couples will take a minimum of 3-4 months. This is a huge help as far as expectations are concerned for the pastor and for the counselor.

This book has already become an indispensable resource in my library and has given me great hope as a pastor whenever I find myself tackling these tough cases. I highly commend it to every Christian if for no other reason than it shows that the Bible is sufficient for life’s problems when properly applied.

Durable ESV New Testament

Durable ESV New Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 256 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for $14.99.

Summary/Review

The Bible needs no introduction or summary. It is the Word of God and it will change your life. This particular edition of the New Testament is durable for a reason. It is meant to be used in the harshest ministerial conditions.

It is both water proof and tear-proof because it is made of synthetic paper. Interestingly enough, you can still write in it and highlight though you want to be careful with the ink you use as it could bleed and smear on the page if it were to get wet. Even though it is tear proof, you can cut a page with a knife or scissors and destroy the integrity of that page which may lead to tears. But, you cannot tear the pages just by ripping them.

The binding is a bit of overkill in order to keep everything together and to maintain structural integrity while using this New Testament in harsh conditions. They not only bound it with adhesives, but they also used a waterproof thread that will hold up to the rain and such.

I had intended on taking a second Durable New Testament and putting it through a test by leaving it out in the rain and such, but, too be honest, I could not bring myself to do it!

It is probably the heaviest New Testament you will own weighing in at 10 oz. In all honesty, it feels heavier than that and whenever anyone picks it up for the first time, they comment on the weight.

It must be noted that this New Testament is not indestructible. It can be torn if cut. It could get so water-logged that it is virtually unreadable. It can’t take a bullet, but it can change your life and the lives of whom you share the message of hope found in Christ with.

Recommendation

If you are an avid traveler or missionary who uses an English Bible, I highly recommend the ESV Durable New Testament. It makes a great addition as an everyday carry Bible in a briefcase or backpack and will stand up to the rigors of travel and being thrown about. Keep in mind, however, this is not for everyone as not everyone will have a need for a New Testament that needs to withstand many elements.

 

Calling on the Name of the Lord by J. Gary Millar

Millar, J. Gary. Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. 264 pp. $24.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less than $15.

Introduction

Gary Millar is Principal of Queensland Theological College in Australia. He has written a second book in the NSBT series entitled Now Choose Life as well as co-authoring Saving Eutychus.

This volume, the thirty-eighth in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series looks specifically at a biblical theology of prayer.

Summary

Divided into nine chapters and an afterward over 250 pages, Dr. Millar offers a canonical study on the prayers in the Bible. Beginning with Genesis 4:26, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” he looks at when prayer began and then explains the foundation for prayer as noted in the Pentateuch.

Next, he looks at the prayers in the history of Israel and the prophets. Of course, these two chapters comprise the largest section of the book. He then looks at the prayers for the new covenant in books like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles as he continues through more of a chronological timeline in the Old Testament.

Before moving into the New Testament, he explains the importance of prayer as found in the Psalms and how the psalter contributes greatly to a biblical understanding of prayer.

The New Testament looks at Jesus’s prayers as found in the gospels, prayer in the book of Acts and Paul’s prayers as a church planter. He finally concludes with a look at the writer of Hebrews, James, Peter, Jude, and John and how their prayers comprise the end of prayer.

Review

As one who has studied prayer quite a bit (and always feels a burden to pray more!!!), I found this book to be very enlightening. It is not necessarily a “how-to” pray book. Rather, it offers a theological foundation for why we should pray.

Rooted in Genesis 4:25, Millar offers an in depth, though still an introductory look, at the importance of prayer being a “calling upon the name of the Lord.” Christ changes our focus of prayer such that we no longer necessarily call upon the name of the Lord. Instead, we pray in Jesus’ name.

In the end, he offers a number of ways in which we can, and should, recalibrate our prayer life as we understand a deeper theology of who God is. I appreciate his frankness throughout the book letting the reader know that prayer is the hardest thing you will do if it is done correctly.

Recommendation

Many books abound on how we should pray and why we should pray. There are few books that offer a deep, yet accessible, theology of prayer. Dr. Millar has written a book that every Christian would do well to include in their library as an invaluable resource. More than that, every Christian would do even better if they read Calling Upon the Name of the Lord. If you apply the theological foundation to your understanding of prayer, your prayer life is bound to increase and be enriched like never before.

I highly recommend this resource.