All posts by Terry Delaney

Software Review: Book Collector


Collectorz.com Book Collector

You have attended Dr. Whitney’s “seminar” on how to organize your books and you are thinking to yourself, “Man, I wish I had a secretary who can copy my title page and file my books for me the way Dr. Whitney showed me.  Well,” you go on, “I might as well start cataloguing my books as I go.  I might not have the time to get them as well organized as Dr. Whitney, but I can at least get started in that direction.”

That is the conversation I had with myself and others after Dr. Whitney took some of us into his office and showed us the wall-to-wall file cabinets full of files with book titles and news clippings in them organized by topic.  I loved how he had it set up and I loved that he had a running record of all the books in his library.  I also knew that I had over 2,000 books in my own personal library and that I was in seminary full time, working full time, fathering three children full time and being a husband full time.  In other words, this was not going to happen any time soon.  There was also the issue of getting my secretary wife to organize my books, though she has threatened to put them in Dewey decimal order!

Introduction

If you have had this thought and have been unable to get your library catalogued the way you wanted, then I have some excellent news!  Collectorz.com has a computer program that will catalogue your books quick, fast, and in a hurry as my drill sergeants used to say.  Book Collector is designed with ease and quickness in mind.  Continue reading Software Review: Book Collector

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Loveliness Of Christ BookThe Loveliness of Christ ($14.00)

This was originally going to be a book review on The Loveliness of Christ, the new soft, red-covered edition pictured to the left.  However, as I read this book, I realized that no review would do it justice.  After reading the first few pages of this book, I also realized that I already owned two other editions of this book in my personal library.  The Loveliness of Christ is simply a pocket-sized edition of choice quotes from The Letters of Samuel Rutherford.

The more I read this book, the more I could see the impact that these letters would have on the lives of every Christian and even more so the impact on the seminarian who is studying the things of God.  Therefore, this will not be a book review per se.  Rather, I would like to share a few of the choice quotes from The Loveliness of Christ.

Faith liveth and spendeth upon our Captain’s charges, who is able to pay for all.

The weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lieth upon your strong Saviour.

When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time – suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.

One of the nice features of The Loveliness of Christ is the inclusion of a dictionary for words like “bairn” (child), “rueth” (regrets) and “empawned” (laid down as a pledge).  Perhaps the only negative to this particular book is that Banner does not let you know there is a dictionary in the back of the book.  It is simply tucked back there waiting to be discovered.  Fortunately, I only had to look up two words before I discovered it.

Samuel RutherfordThe Letters of Samuel Rutherford – Abridged ($7.00)

The nice thing about The Loveliness of Christ is that it merely whets your appetite to learn more about the man Samuel Rutherford.  In the introduction to Loveliness, you are made aware that the quotes are extracted from a greater work known as The Letters of Samuel Rutherford.  After reading this book, it almost becomes necessary to read the quotes in context of the actual letters.

This abridged version does just that.  Here you are introduced to a selection of sixty-nine letters penned by Samuel Rutherford.  These present yet a deeper look at how Rutherford wrote and what he believed concerning the joy of knowing Christ.

At the end of this edition, Banner of Truth did us a great service by including brief biographical information about the letters.  They also included an outline of the life of Samuel Rutherford.  Both of these greatly enable the modern-day reader to become better acquainted with Samuel Rutherford.

However…

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford ($39.00)

Andrew Bonar put together a classic edition of The Letters (I am not sure when this was done) which included 365 letters.  What is of value in this edition is Bonar’s sketch of Rutherford along with a list of his works.

The edition I own (I believe it is a 1905 edition) has an appendix that gives information on the 30 different editions to date (in 1905) of the book.  It also includes a poem created from The Letters arranged by a Mrs. A. R. Cousin.  I am not sure if this is in the edition to the left, but it is in my edition.

Recommendation

Perhaps the best thing that can be done with these three books is to, at the very least, purchase The Loveliness of Christ.  I would highly recommend that you purchase the $39.00 edition that contains all 365 letters and use it as a devotional in 2009.  I will be writing about this again toward the end of the year in case anyone might be interested and forget.  I plan on using mine as a devotional next year and if Loveliness is any indication, I will be blessed beyond measure in so doing.

What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Anyabwile, Thabiti M.  What is a Healthy Church Member.  Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 2008.  117 pp.  $12.99.

healthy church member book

I would consider this book to be the third book in an ongoing series about a healthy church from IX Marks ministry located in Washington, DC.  The first book was entitled 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and the second book was What is a Healthy Church. Thabiti (thu-bee-tee) Anyabwile (onya-bee-wee-l-a) seeks to answer the next logical question from these first two books in What is a Healthy Church Member.

Thabiti is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman Islands.  Before you might think that that is an awesome place to be called to pastor, I think you should know something.  I have heard from his own lips, at the Band of Bloggers Conference, that he does not like the beach!  It is amazing when God calls you to a place that you would never want to vacation at while everyone else in the known world would love to go there.  For the record, I am with Thabiti on this one…I am not fond of the beach, either!

Summary of What is a Healthy Church Member?

As I said above, this book offers insight into how a church member can best participate in the local church.  Through 10 chapters marks, Thabiti shows how the original 9 marks of the healthy church must be under-girded by the church member.  In his foreward, Mark Dever states that “living the Christian life is not something that we’re supposed to do alone.”  This would include each individual member of the church as well as the church staff and leadership.  Unfortunately, many of us build invisible walls so that no one may help us (or know when to help us) when we need it.

Mark one is expositional listening whereby the church member is encouraged to listen to God’s purpose in His word for that week.  Mark two exhorts the reader to understand biblical theology and its importance in protecting them from heretical beliefs.  The third mark is a challenge to live a life saturated with the gospel.  Marks four and five deal with evangelism and true conversion as integral to our understanding of who is and who is not a true believer in Christ.

Mark six offers an apologetic for making membership in the local church a very serious concern for all believers-especially new believers.  Corrective and formative discipline is the seventh mark while mark eight deals with the spiritual growth of all members.  Mark nine offers ways that the church member can support the staff and leadership of his or her local church.  Mark ten, as a bonus, is that every member should be prayerful.  All of these marks assume that the reader and/or church member is a born-again, regenerate believer.

Critique of What is a Healthy Church Member?

Perhaps the only negative critique of this book is that the author (as well as the series) assumes a particular church polity.  That is made somewhat obvious throughout this book.  However, that does not mean that these “marks” cannot be implemented in other churches that hold to a different church polity.  It may prove somewhat difficult in some cases, but they are all still doable.

The positives are plentiful in this book.  I would begin with the manner in which Thabiti writes the book.  You get the feeling as though you are in a church membership class or a theology of church membership class at a Bible College or seminary.  He anticipates any questions and offers answers to a few objections along the way.

He also offers quite a few suggestions for resources if you would like to read further into one of the marks.  By the way, I love that the chapters are not chapters.  Rather, they are called marks.  It helps to divide them for easier consumption.  This also aids in the studying of the book.  Thabiti included questions after the discussion of each mark entitled “Further Reflections.”  This book could easily be used for a new members class or even a youth group study to help teens understand what is to be expected from them as church members in the local church.

Conclusion

If you have read the previous two books, then this book is a must read.  If you are in the ministry at a local church, then this book is a must read.  I would have multiple copies as a pastor to give away to new members whether you have adopted the IX Marks approach or not.  If the members of the local church would even read snippets of this book and work to incorporate some of what they read, I believe the local church would look more like a body of Christ than what most of them do now.

Dangerous Journey by Oliver Hunkin

Dangerous Journey Book Pilgrims Progress For Kids

The Pilgrim’s Progress needs no introduction nor would any review do it any justice. However, this particular rendition of the classic-that word does not suffice for the second most sold book of all time behind God’s Holy Word, the Bible-is not a well know resource for children. With the help of illustrator Alan Parry, Oliver Hunkin set out to arrange the story of Pilgrim so that young children could meet with Everyman who journeys from this world to the next. Continue reading Dangerous Journey by Oliver Hunkin

The Life of John Newton by Josiah Bull

Bull, Josiah.  The Life of John Newton.  Edinburgh:  Banner of Truth Trust, reset edition 2007.  322pp. $14.00. Buy From Westminster Bookstore

As best I can tell, Josiah Bull only wrote this biography of John Newton and edited another book entitled The Letters of John Newton.  This biography was first published in 1868 under the title But Now I See.  It was first published by Banner of Truth in 1998 with the title But Now I See:  The Life of John Newton. This particular edition consists of a resetting of the typeset; i.e., the font was changed.

Summary of The Life of John Newton

Bull breaks down Newton’s life into three parts:  Early life and residence at Liverpool, Curate of Olney, and Rector of St. Mary of Woolnoth.  In 20 pages, we move from his birth in 1725 to his marriage to Miss Mary Catlett on 12 February 1750.  Glossing over some of the finer details of his life, we learn that he went to sea with his dad when he was only 11.  His dad passed away and he later transferred to a slave ship where he was abused by the commander.  He was rescued and became commander of his own ship.  His conversion took place on 10 May 1748, a day he would celebrate for the rest of his life.  He “quitted the sea” in 1754 where he had served as a slave trader due in large part to a serious illness.

By 1757 he was struggling with a call to the ministry upon which he answered that call in 1764 when he became the Curate of Olney.  Josiah shares with us how Newton sympathized with the likes of Whitefield and Wesley and how he longed to be a part of spiritual awakening that was taking place.

Newton suffered much for his faith during this time.  For example, he lost all of his property, his wife became very ill, he became extremely ill, he watched as his friends began to pass away from various illnesses, and he faced charges of meddling with politics (see Wilberforce).  In 1779, he accepted a call to become the rector of St. Mary Woolnoth.  Of special note to most readers is that it was during this time at Olney that Newton wrote Amazing Grace.

He continued his work for the final 27 years of his life at S. Mary Woolnoth where he died a gradual death in 1807.  During his life, John Newton “ran with the big dogs” if I may use that phrase.  He became friends with the likes of William Cowper, William Wilberforce, William Carey (a lot of William’s!), George Whitefield (who became a mentor of sorts to Newton), John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards though he really didn’t get to know Edwards as much as the rest.  It was almost as if John Newton was a “Forrest Gump” type because he never sought to be what he became.  John simply wanted to see the grace of God explode among the nations during the awakening that was happening during his life.  The aim of his regenerated life was to share the gospel and give all glory and honor to God.

While Newton is most known today for his being a slave trader saved by grace and then writing the ultimate song about grace, there is so much more to the man that must be understood to better appreciate his works (especially his hymns).

Critical Evaluation of The Life of John Newton

Can one begin to be critical of a work such as this?  I was unable to find anything that would pose a negative to the reading of this book.  I am intentionally sketchy on the summary because there is so much in the book that I did not know that would be of interest to the modern reader that a simple summary would not suffice.  It is my prayer that you would pick up a copy of this book to read.

Banner of Truth has done us the favor of keeping the original language from 1868.  This helps us to “feel” the life of John Newton even if it may be difficult at times to read.  By the time this book was written in1868 there were already a handful of biographies of John Newton.  Josiah Bull felt it was necessary to write this one because a diary that was unknown to previous biographers had been found.   Another element that Bull added was an oral history handed down by friends and family that the other biographers did not have access to.  For these reasons, and the test of time, this biography of John Newton stands, in my humble opinion, over all the rest.

Conclusion

For fourteen dollars, this is a must own biography of one of the giants in the faith.  It is important that the modern Christian understand that John Newton was more than a slave trader who wrote a great song.  By reading this biography, they will quickly see what drove the man to do such great things.  John Newton can be called as David was, “A Man after God’s own heart.”  His entire regenerated life had the aroma of a living sacrifice as per Romans 12:1.  To be able to peer into the life of John Newton is amazing grace indeed.

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life

Duriez, Colin.  Francis Schaeffer:  An Authentic Life.  Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 2008.  221pp.  $24.99. Buy From Westminster Bookstore

Introduction

Colin Duriez was fortunate enough to not only have studied under Schaeffer when he was younger, but he was also able to interview him about his life when Schaeffer was near the end of his time here on earth.  In this authoritative biography of one the great philosophical minds of the 20th century, Duriez writes from much oral history from many around the world who knew Francis Schaeffer.  He also used the archives found in the Presbyterian Church of America as well as the many other writings by Francis Schaeffer and other family members.  Needless to say, the subject of this book was studied and researched exhaustively before pen was put to paper.

Colin Duriez has written numerous other books ranging from literary works (six books) to biographies (three if you include this one) and a history book entitled AD 33:  The Year that Changed the World. When Duriez writes a biography, you get the feeling that he attempted his best to walk a mile in that man’s shoes.

Summary of Francis Schaeffer:  An Authentic Life

The book is a bit different in that it approaches the earlier life and “career” of Francis Schaeffer with much more detail than most other biographies.  The chapters are broken down chronologically into eight sections.  The first six sections comprise the first forty-eight years of his life (before L’Abri) while the final two chapters blitz one through the last twenty-four years of his pilgrimage.

Colin spends a chapter detailing his childhood leading up to Schaeffer’s role as a pastor and denominationalist in what would later come to be known as the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America).  Of interest to some readers may be learning how much J. Gresham Machen influenced the young Schaeffer in his ministry.  During this time in his life, he resided in St. Louis, Missouri.

The middle chapters detail the travels of the Schaeffer family from Holland to Switzerland and stops in between.  By the end of the book, we wind up in L’Abri where Schaeffer set up a school of sorts to teach people how to wrestle with the culture and to look at situations from another’s point of view.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the book is at the very end where Duriez shares his interview with Schaeffer from 10 September 1980.  In this interview, Schaeffer takes a very introspective look back at his life.  This conversation is an interesting peek into the person we know as Francis Schaeffer.  What is most amazing is to see how Schaeffer lived what he believed and how what he believed impacted his worldview thus changing his life forever.

Critique of Francis Schaeffer:  An Authentic Life

I thought Duriez did a wonderful job of showing the early life of Francis Schaeffer to an audience that may not be aware of how the man came to be the man we know.  What I would have liked to have seen is a bit more detail on the final twenty-four years of his life.  I realize there is quite a bit of writings regarding this time frame in Schaeffer’s life, but I believe we all would have been blessed all the more to have read it from the detailed mind of Colin Duriez.

The writing style was extremely engaging.  I could tell that much of what was written down came through oral history and conversation.  Rarely was there a dry paragraph in the book.  What I mean by “dry” is that most biographers feel the need to quote extensively from the works of the person about whom they are writing.  While Duriez does quote extensively from Schaeffer, he does so strategically and with great care.

Conclusion

This is a must read for anyone who wants to know what made this prophet of the 20th century tick.  Not only is this book a quick read, but it could easily serve as a devotional of sorts.  Many Christian college students would do themselves a favor if they were to pick this book up and read it from cover to cover and plumb the depths of one of the greatest minds (not limited to just Christianity) in the 20th century.

Francis Schaeffer still helps people understand what they believe and why they believe it even 25 years after his death.  We would all do well to sit at his feet and learn how God used this man to reach so many people.

The Cure: The Divine Rx for the Body of Christ – Life-Changing Love

The Cure BookKraus, Harry MD.  The Cure:  The Divine Rx for the Body of Christ-Life-Changing Love. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008.  187 pp.  $14.99. Buy From Amazon.com

 

Harry Kraus, MD, is a general surgeon who practices his discipline with the African Inland Mission in Kenya a the Kijabe Hospital.  He has written a total of eleven books to date, including this one.  He is married with three sons.

Summary of The Cure

Using Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 as a spring board, Dr. Kraus explains how the church is best able to fulfill the mandate of love found in 1 Corinthians 13.  His biggest charge against the church is that we have forgotten that love is the most important quality of a Christian.

We are awash with conferences and filled to the brim with discussions about methods for effective evangelism, contextualization, cell churches, culture-appropriate dress, and techniques for language acquisitions…Don’t misunderstand.  There are other important components of effective ministry…But it’s still not the main thing…What am I talking about?  Agape.  Love?  Yes, love…It’s the most important component of effective evangelism (p. 12-13).

In part one, Dr. Kraus explains that what sustains the Great Commission mandate given to us by Christ is nothing less than agape love.  He uses wonderful life experiences that we can all relate to and shows how we all crave that love that can only be filled by Christ and can only be shown by one who has been born again in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Part two shows how the church, comprised of individual bodies, must maintain a proper balance of health and nutrition if she is to remain viable.  With chapter titles like Anorexia and Spiritual Insomnia, Dr. Kraus shows how we must intake food (the Bible), maintain proper rest, hydration (soul-thirst), and oxygen (breathing grace).

Whenever we skip a meal, our stomach lets us know in short order.  A lack of rest over a period of time takes a toll on the health of the entire body.  If we go without water for three days, we will die and if we do breathe in oxygen in a few minutes, we will cause major damage and ultimately death.  Using these analogies, Dr. Kraus implores us to maintain a healthy “diet” in our spiritual life so that we may survive as a church and be more able to help those who are in need.

The third part is the prescriptions for the church.  You go to the doctor because you recognize certain symptoms as being wrong and unhealthy (part one).  He then begins asking questions to see what may be the root cause of those symptoms (part two).  Finally, the doctor prescribes whatever is needed to get you back onto the road to health (part three).

In one chapter, he discusses the approaches to cancer.  We have allowed many various cancers into the church today.  The only way we can get rid of a cancer is through treatment or surgery if it does not respond to treatment.  The most radical procedures include cutting the cancer out of the body.  In so doing, usually there is some healthy material cut away as well.  This is to assure that the cancer is completely removed with nothing left behind upon its removal.  We must be aggressive in dealing with these cancers before they deal with us!

In perhaps the most important chapter, Dr. Kraus deals with loving our enemies.  We usually define our enemies as those people whom we do not like.  However, that is not true.  An enemy is someone who hates us-sometimes for no reason at all.  We are called to love that person.  Unfortunately, the church does not have that reputation today.  His prescription is that we must strive to get love back as our identity.

Conclusion

This book is cross-centered in that Dr. Kraus says over and over that we are unable to love without Christ.  He points us to the cross in each chapter and explains that that is where we are to find the source of our love so that we may love.  His view of the human body is heavily rooted in the design of God.  Nowhere does he stray from the fact that God designed the body.  He explains that because we were designed, God has given us a manual on how to make the best use of our body-the Bible.  Our biggest problem is that most of us do not use our manuals.

At the end of each chapter, there are discussion questions that are great for small group study.  His engaging style of writing is quite honestly amazing to me.  He discusses some pretty heavy medical jargon but then explains it in such a way that even I can understand it.  I would recommend this book to anyone (I have already to quite a few of my friends).  I think this book would serve as a great tool for those thinking about missions work as well as those contemplating church planting.  The cry for love in this world is perhaps the loudest cry that is most often ignored.  If you do purchase a copy of this book, please buy one for Kevin as well.

Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig 3rd Edition

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 407pp. $26.00 Buy From Amazon.com

Reasonable Faith Book

Many have come to know of William Lane Craig when trying to find an apologetic against the accusations of a false Christianity.  Reasonable Faith has become Dr. Craig’s signature book and has just been re-released in a third edition.  The book was released at about the same time as the launching of a website (www.reasonablefaith.org) which is their web-based ministry where much supplementary material may be found for your benefit.

Fortunately, there were no retractions from the previous two editions.  What you will find is that the chapter on the existence of God has been split into two chapters and the chapter on the historicity of the New Testament has been removed.

The book is separated into five parts:  De Fide, De Homine (life), De Deo, De Creatione, and De Christo. This book is not for the faint of heart as it is over 400 pages of “thick” philosophical talk.  However, it would be a great addition to any thinker’s library since it discusses in detail both the arguments for and against God as well as the author offering his own argument.

You can download a study guide from the website above along with a “practical application” for each chapter from the same page.  While this may be a thick book, I would highly recommend it for those wanting to have a philosophic answer for the questions you get while in college or the work place.

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper

Piper, John. Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007. 76 pp. $7.99. Purchase at Westminster books for $5.99.

Introduction and Background

John Piper, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has become a noted biographer in recent years because of his 4-volume Swan Series books where he takes a quick look at the lives of some of the saints that have gone before us as well as his more in depth looks at the life of Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller just to name a couple. This book on the life of William Wilberforce is along the lines of the others. It is short and full of information. In no way does John Piper pretend that this is an exhaustive sketch of the life of Wilberforce.

Summary of Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

Piper introduces this biography by asking the question, “What made him tick?” The answer, “was a profound biblical allegiance to what he called the ‘peculiar doctrines’ of Christianity” (p.20). These peculiar doctrines were so important to Wilberforce that he wrote a book entitled, A Practical View of Christianity, that set forth the necessity of these doctrines for the Christian believer. He then spent the rest of his life and career seeking to establish these as a way in which one should live their life at all times.

Wilberforce’s early life was a bit troubling. He was orphaned at age nine and sent to live with his aunt and uncle. It turned out that God was in this, as Wilberforce would later acknowledge, because one of the family friends wound up being a man they called “Old Newton.” This was none other than John Newton.

The story of how he met his wife is impressive to read because of how fast it happened. He had been a believer for about 12 years when he met a woman named Barbara on 15 April 1797. “He fell immediately in love. Within eight days he proposed to her, and on May 30 they were married, about six weeks after they met” (p.28). They stayed married until William passed away. “In the first eight years of their marriage they had four sons and two daughters” (p.28).

His conversion came about during a time of travel with a friend, Isaac Milner, in 1784. It was at this time that Wilberforce reached a biblical view of man, God and Jesus at an intellectual level. However, his intellectual assent slowly became deep conviction. He later referred to this move from intellectual assent to deep conviction as “the Great Change.” After his conversion, Wilberforce struggled with whether or not he should leave politics altogether and go into the ministry.

A visit to “Old Newton” helped him to see that he was better able to serve God in politics than if he were to leave politics. Through this meeting, Wilberforce began the process of the abolition of slavery in Britain. Though this is what he is most noted for, Wilberforce was involved in much, much more. He was active at one point in his career in sixty-nine different initiatives. He also sought to evangelize his fellow politicians with the gospel.

Getting back to the abolition of slavery, Wilberforce began his quest in 1787. After numerous defeats, he witnessed the abolition of slave trade in 1807. He was able to see a complete abolition of slavery in 1833 just before his death in the British colonies. Thus, William Wilberforce was allowed, by the grace of God, to begin and see the completion of the total abolition of slavery in Britain.

Critique of Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

Though this short biography was very informational, I did note two areas that I thought detracted from the book as a whole. First, there is a discrepancy in terms of the timing of the complete abolition of slavery and the death of Wilberforce. Jonathan Aitken, who writes the foreward says that Wilberforce died three months after slavery was outlawed (p. 15). John Piper says that his death took place three days after the abolition of slavery (p. 19).

I do not believe this would have been noticed had it not been for the mere four pages between the two statements. However, since it occurs so close to the beginning of the biography, it can cause a little bit of concern as to the historicity of all the facts presented. This is especially true because Aitken is Wilberforce’s biographer and Piper has become known for his biographies. I was unable to find much resolution as to the date of the abolition of slavery in relation to Wilberforce’s death, but am not too concerned because they all have the same year (1833).

I offer the second critique with the qualifier that I completely agree with the doctrine of Calvinism that John Piper discusses in the context of his biography. However, I do not see why he believed this to be necessary to insert into the biography-especially in the context that he did. In discussing what other people thought about William Wilberforce, John Piper says the following:

Hannah More, his wealthy friend and a co-worker in many of his schemes for doing good, said to him, ‘I declare I think you are serving God by being yourself agreeable…to worldly but well-disposed people, who would never be attracted to religion by grave and severe divines, even if such fell in their way’ (p.61).

Piper continues,

In fact, I think one of the reasons Wilberforce did not like to use the word “Calvinist,” is although the faith and doctrines he expresses seem to line up with the Calvinism of Whitefield and Newton, was this very thing: Calvinists had the reputation of being joyless (p. 61-62).

Piper gives a lengthy footnote as to the use of the word Calvinist as well as to the friends Wilberforce kept. The last sentence of footnote 17 found on page 62 says, “As I completed his book, A Practical View of Christianity, I could not recall a single sentence that a Calvinist like John Newton or George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon could not agree with” (p. 62).

As I said, I am in complete agreement with these doctrines myself; however, I do not see how this is important to the context of the life of William Wilberforce given that this is only a 76 page introductory biography. It gives an appearance that John Piper wants Wilberforce to be a Calvinist even though he never came out and said as such.

Conclusion

As a short biography of one of the great Christian men in the history of the world, I would recommend this book. It is extremely readable and can be read in one sitting perhaps during an evening. I also think it would serve in a school situation where a student is learning about slavery and/or a history of Britain.

This book has whet my appetite personally to learn more about William Wilberforce and to read his book A Practical View of Christianity. This short biography can also interest the reader into wanting to know more about great men (and women) of the faith throughout history. Piper’s writing style is just conversational enough and full of just enough historical information that you feel as though you are dialoguing with a historian.

Tell Me About Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Heaven For Kids Randy Alcorn BookAlcorn, Randy. Tell Me About Heaven. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007. 59pp. $19.99. Purchase at Amazon

Introduction

Randy Alcorn was a pastor before founding Eternal Perspective Ministries in 1990. His ministry is dedicated to teaching Biblical truths. According to their website, www.epm.org, the ministry exists “to meet the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled and unsupported people around the world.” Randy has and his wife, Nanci, are the parents to two grown daughters, Karina and Angela. They have four grandsons, Jake, Matthew, Ty, and Jack.

Tell Me About Heaven is a children’s book by Randy Alcorn and illustrated throughout with the paintings of Ron DiCianni. This book can be read to your children or can be read by your children. It is designed to explain the doctrine of heaven in such a way that even the smallest of minds will be able to capture the grandeur and awe of God’s home.

Summary of Tell Me About Heaven

Jake’s Grammy has recently passed away and now he is on his way to spend two weeks with his Papa like he does every summer. This time, though, it will be different because Grammy will not be there. Immediately, we see Jake struggling with what happened to Grammy as well as how this particular visit is going to go with Grammy not around.

Over the course of the two week visit to Papa’s house, Jake asks a lot of questions about heaven and Grammy. Jake begins with hesitation as he first states that he doesn’t think he would like heaven. However, as Papa explains from the Bible what heaven is all about, Jake begins to understand that life in heaven is going to be so much better than life here on earth.

The book concludes with Jake confessing to Papa that he does not want him to ever die, but is now looking forward to learning more about heaven and can’t wait until his whole family is reunited there-Grammy and Papa and everyone.

Critique of Tell Me About Heaven

I must confess that I was skeptical about a children’s book that would attempt to explain what heaven is like. Given all the recent discussions of how much a kid can learn and should know about Jesus, his crucifixion, and other biblical truths, I was afraid that this book was going to be a disappointment even though it is authored by Randy Alcorn. I was extremely impressed with what I read in the pages of Tell Me About Heaven.

In this children’s book, the reader (or hearer) is introduced to the doctrine of inherited sin, the Incarnation, Penal Substitution, Hell, resurrected bodies, and more. The central theme of the book is that heaven and earth will pass away and God will replace them with a New Heaven and New Earth. Papa quotes scripture heavily (especially Rev. 21 and 22) in explaining what heaven is like to his grandson, Jake.

The story is very believable and at one point, I began wondering if this was a rehearsal for Randy Alcorn as he may have this discussion with his grandsons. The story line is pretty forthright and does not dance around the issues. Nowhere does Papa state something as truth if it is not based in the Bible. At one point, he corrects Jake and says that he is to always pray to Jesus and not Grammy. It is subtle, but significant in that many young children are told to pray to their loved one. However, that is not in the Bible and therefore, Papa (Alcorn) explicitly says that this should not happen.

The greatest aspect of this book is that the gospel message is presented clearly and concisely in the story itself. However, at the end of the book is a page devoted to the Roman Road along with a brief explanation of the gospel. It is very clear that the goal of this book is to be used as a tool for evangelizing children (and perhaps the adult reading to the child) as well as explaining what awaits them in the life to come.

If there is a negative to be found in this book, it is of no significant value. There are some assumptions made that I do not personally agree with, but nothing that causes any concern. For example, in a discussion about pets and animals in heaven, Papa tells Jake that he thought Moses (the dog) would be in heaven because animals were in Eden. I don’t see that as biblical precedent, but I also do not see that as a bad thing. On page 32 of the book it is said, “It’s always about God, isn’t it?” That is perhaps the best way in which to explain the book: It is always about God, isn’t it.

Conclusion

In asking my pastor and some other men in the church I attend about how much their children know about heaven, they said not much. I admit that I have not told my son much about heaven, either. That is, until now. I have already told a these men I talked with to pick up this book and am telling you that if you have children or are involved in children’s ministry, this book is a must own. It explains the doctrine of heaven in a way that a child can understand and a parent can be interested in. The book is solidly rooted in the Scriptures.

Also, throughout the book, there are hints (I say ‘hints’ because certain phrases like “penal substitution” and “inherited sin” do not appear) of other doctrines as mentioned above that will help to lay a foundation for biblical doctrine to be learned as the child grows. As a seminary student, I appreciated Alcorn’s ability to break down systematic theology into easily understood doctrines that do not require a degree to understand.

The conversational tone makes for a good story time book to be read at night, as part of family worship, or during story hour at church or a daycare. I would also highly recommend this book for a young child grieving the loss of a grandparent or parent. It would be a great resource for those who council children after the death of a loved one. This book is worth owning multiple copies of to give away during these times.