Category Archives: Book Reviews

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.

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.

Thumbprint in the Clay by Luci Shaw

Shaw, Luci. Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2016. 205 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Luci Shaw is writer in residence at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. She is a poet, essayist, and lecturer. She has written a number of volumes of poetry as well as many other books. You can find many of them here. You can read much more about Luci at her website, LuciShaw.com.

Summary

From the back of the book:

“The thumbprint . . . is for me a singular clue to human identity. . . . Just as each human thumbprint is unique, its pattern inscribed on the work of our hands and minds, the Creator’s is even more so―the original thumbprints on the universe,” declares poet Luci Shaw. We worship an endlessly creative God whose thumbprints are reflected everywhere we look―in sunsets, mountains, ocean waves―and in the invisible rhythms that shape our lives, such as the movement of planets around the sun. And this creative and ever-creating God has also left indelible thumbprints on us. We reflect God’s imprint most clearly, perhaps, in our own creating and appreciation for beauty. A longing for beauty is inherent to being human. We don’t create things that are purely practical; we desire them to be aesthetically pleasing as well. Beauty is also powerful, in its redemptiveness, generosity, inspiration. In reflecting on the role of beauty in our lives, Luci Shaw writes, “Beauty is Love taking form in human lives and the works of their hands.”

Review

I have honestly never heard of Luci Shaw until I received this book to review. I was interested in the concept of seeing “divine marks of beauty, order, and grace” in the mundane and normal every day objects and experiences of life.  I was hooked after the first chapter entitled “Coffee Mugs” as Luci helped to develop a meditative attitude on something as simple as the various coffee mugs from which we drink.

Chapter after chapter, Luci offers a  unique perspective as only a poet can offer on the many different evidences of God’s beauty and creativity. She draws from a wide array of experiences in her own life and points us back to the Scriptures in ways that we might not have ever considered. What is more, she does not offer these views from an ivory tower. Rather, she wrestles with the hardships of life and leads the reader to understand that God indeed does use everything in our life to reveal Himself as more and more glorious.

Reading Thumbprint in the Clay can be as quick or as slow as you make it. To plow through it, however, is to do a disservice to the intent of the author to stop and smell the roses and begin to see afresh the glories of God. Without even realizing it, you will begin to see more of God and less of yourself and this fallen world after having experienced the writings of Luci Shaw.

This is not because she is a gifted expositor or even Biblical studies professor. This is because she is a woman with a gift for words and a love for her Savior. She is much like Jeremiah in their is a fire in her bones and she must speak of what she has seen and knows.

Recommendation

This was a surprisingly enjoyable read for me. I am often timid to pick up a new author I have never heard of, let alone one who is known for poetry. In this instance, I am grateful Thumbprint in the Clay came across my desk. I recommend this to all Christians who look for new and biblical ways in which to see the glories of God in everyday life.

Evangelpreneur by Josh Tolley

EvangelpreneurTolley, Josh. Evangelpreneur: How Biblical Free Enterprise can Empower Your Faith, Family, and Freedom. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2015. 352 pp. $16.95. Available on Amazon and for the Kindle for less.

Introduction

Josh Tolley is a nationally syndicated talk-show host with listeners in all 50 states, as well as 160 nations. He is listed as one of the Top 100 business trainers in the world and is regularly on national and international television bringing his expertise to topics which include business, religion, relationships, and politics.

You can read more about Josh and even check out his syndicated call in show at his website, JoshTolley.com.

Summary

Divided into five parts, Josh first seeks to answer the question, Why be an Evangelpreneur. These first six chapters lay his foundation for the rest of the book. The second part consists of five chapters that attempts to show the reader five lies we believe from the devil when it comes to money and business.

The third part offers five steps for how to do business. The fourth part looks at how we are to do life and concludes with a chapter on spreading the gospel. The fifth, and final, part looks at how we are to “do church.”

Review

There is much business insight that can be gleaned from the pages of this work. There is sound wisdom rooted primarily in Scripture and, at the very least, faith in God that is driving pretty much everything Josh Tolley states. Keep in mind that he has written this book to help churches reverse the trend of foreclosures and bankruptcies that are now taking place at an alarming rate.

There is, however, some cause for concern. For example, his first chapter in part 2 looks at a lie from the devil that we are to get rich slowly. In other words, Josh is stating that we must strive to get rich quick albeit through sound and shrewd business decisions and not by cheating others out of their money.

He does look at Matthew 25:14:30, the parable of the talents, to make his point. He moves quickly on to a calculation of how long it would take to become a billionaire if you earned $250,000 a year and how it is obvious that 4,000 years is not a practical time table for one to become “rich.”

My concern comes from his overlooking of quintessential passages on wealth building like Proverbs 13:11, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” or Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My point is not to pile on, but to show that while everyone goes into business to make money and earn a living, there is nothing in the Bible that demands we must strive to be rich. On the contrary, there are numerous passages warning against striving to be rich (1 Tim. 6:10, Hebrews 13:5, etc).

That being said, Josh Tolley does not espouse any kind of idolatry, though I guess we all do at some point or another. Rather, he is passionate about helping others grow their business. Does he take some things to far and misapply Scripture at times? I would argue that he does. After all, he is a businessman first and foremost and his faith, at least in my estimation of how he presents himself, tags along. He certainly is influenced by his faith, but a theologian he is not.

His stated purpose of reversing trends in the local church is met as far as laying a groundwork for reversing the trend. I fear, however, he may have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.

Recommendation

Understand that when you pick up Evangelpreneur you are picking up a book on how to build a better business and live a better life based on sound financial strategies that is rooted in biblical principles. You are not picking up a theological treatise on how to run a business. That being said, I can recommend this book to all who have the dream of owning their own business. I would qualify that recommendation with be sure you know that there are some concerns to be found theologically and that, as with all books, you must be discerning.