God’s Good World by Jonathan R. Wilson

Jonathan R. Wilson. God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. 283 pp. $26.00. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

When members of my church approach me about the doctrine of creation, their questions inevitably center on issues such as the age of the earth, whether or not God used some kind of evolutionary process to create, or how long the days really were in the creation week. These are not unimportant questions. They also reflect the broader conversation in the evangelical world, even among academics. Yet they are a small part of the doctrine of creation, and overemphasizing these issues has led to a neglect of the broader biblical themes of creation. This neglect has had consequences not only for life inside the church, but also for how the church has engaged culture and lived in this world.

Summary

Jonathan Wilson, Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology at Carey Theological College in Vancouver, aims to correct this neglect and recover a robust doctrine of creation. He builds his doctrine on two necessary truths: redemption and creation must always be kept together, and the doctrine of creation must be thoroughly Trinitarian. Ultimately the doctrine of creation is not about creation itself, but the God who creates. Wilson uses the phrase “the dialectic of the kingdom” to develop the idea that creation and redemption must be thought of and lived out together. The term “dialectic” refers to the inseparable nature of creation and redemption, while the term “kingdom” calls to mind God’s eternal plan of redeeming his creation. The reality of our Triune God also leads us to hold creation and redemption together, and Wilson emphasizes that we must have a “Trinitarian grammar of creation,” based on a Trinitarian grammar of redemption, to properly understand and live out the doctrine of creation.

God’s Good World is divided into three parts. Before developing his ideas concerning the dialectic of the kingdom or the Trinitarian grammar of creation in any depth, Wilson outlines the results of neglecting the doctrine of creation. He devotes a chapter apiece to the deficiencies he sees in the church, the academy, and society because of this neglect. These deficiencies are intertwined and include truncated theologies of salvation and the body, theological retreat, and a lack of proper creation care. Having demonstrated the need for a recovery of the doctrine of creation, Wilson then develops his main ideas, remaps the doctrine in light of those ideas, and demonstrates the Scriptural validity and foundation of his doctrine. In the last part of the book Wilson offers a series of short reflections on how the doctrine of creation should make a practical difference in our lives. His applications range from how we should worship to how we should understand science to how we should treat our bodies.

Review

The most important question to ask in evaluating a work of constructive theology such as this is: does it succeed? Does Wilson offer a biblically faithful, coherent, and relevant doctrine of creation that helps us understand and live out the doctrine in a deeper, more meaningful way? That answer is unequivocally yes. Wilson’s concepts of the dialectic of the kingdom and the Trinitarian grammar of creation are both worth careful attention. The inseparability of creation and redemption should form the foundation for how we understand creation, and without question this idea needs to be recovered and stressed in our churches. Wilson demonstrates the serious consequences of separating creation and redemption and allowing science to set the terms of how we should understand creation, instead of grounding our understanding in Christ and his Word. His practical applications of the doctrine are broad, but also contain much pastoral wisdom.

This does not mean that the book is without its flaws. Wilson takes a while before he explicitly grounds his understanding of creation in Scripture. He also avoids directly engaging some of the topics he wants to move beyond, such as creation and evolution or many of the ethical concerns associated with the doctrine of creation like sexuality, bioethics, or ecology. Wilson presents some questionable ideas without taking the time to defend them, such as claiming the Son of God would still have become incarnate even without sin, or that death existed before the Fall. He makes much of the distinction between the “world” and “creation” in order to help us understand the difference between the sin-cursed world we live in now and the redemptive aspects of God’s plan. He neglects, however, to ground this distinction exegetically, and it doesn’t quite fit with the way the Bible always uses these terms. When I checked on the website Wilson mentions in his introduction for further study and resources, I found it devoid of content.

Recommendation

None of these flaws should keep you from reading this book. As Christians we need a robust, biblical doctrine of creation in order to understand our salvation and live for God like we should. Pastors need the theological understanding to help their churches recover the fullness of the doctrine of creation and move beyond reducing it to creation vs. evolution and age of the earth debates. God’s Good World is a helpful guide.

 

 

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

Wilson, Jared C. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. 240 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster for less.

Introduction

Jared C. Wilson currently serves as the director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Consequently, he is also the managing editor of For The Church.  He has written numerous books and also blogs at The Gospel-Driven Church.

Summary

Divided into ten chapters over 240 pages, this book is written with the modern reader in mind. In true Jared Wilson form, the book is centered on the importance of the gospel in your every day life. Each chapter begins with the phrase, “My gospel.” Doing so helps the reader to understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is your gospel if you have been born again. It is your gospel to use and abide by and run to when you fail. The opening chapter considers the importance of soul maintenance while chapter two hits close to home in discussing how the gospel is good news for losers.

He proceeds through eight more chapters that shows how the gospel impacts and speaks directly into your life.

Review

Wilson’s writing style is very much influenced by social media. He is full of quips and one-liners that keep the reader engaged in such a way that the pages seemingly turn themselves. Some of his one-liners are set apart in one-sentence paragraphs that scream to be shared on social media. This is not necessarily a negative but was extremely evident to me as a reader and reviewer.

The content of this book is what drives its readability, however. Wilson is able to dig in below the surface of superficiality and unearth the matters of the heart. Chapter six, “The Revolution will not be Instagrammed” should be must reading for any believer who attends worship services and has joined, or is looking to join, a local church. Chapter nine needs to be read by anyone considering the good news of the gospel to be out of their grasp.

Ultimately, Jared Wilson offers a wonderful work on the importance and messiness of discipleship in the context of real life. He confesses that we mess it up (more often than we want to admit!) but that only means that the gospel is that much more important to our daily lives.

Recommendation

There are many books on discipleship that have been used greatly in the lives of numerous Christians. The Imperfect Disciple will undoubtedly takes it rightful place on many book shelves. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with living out their Christianity in the context of everyday life. While it is a quick read, its truths are profound and will impact any reader for years to come.

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

Groothuis, Douglas. Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness – A Philosopher’s Lament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017. 176 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon or Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed a couple of Dr. Groothuis’ works in the past including Philosophy in Seven Sentences and Christian Apologetics. He is a well-known philosophy professor at Denver Seminary as well as a Christian apologist. This particular book is a diversion from his normal writing genre and is more autobiographical in nature.

Summary

Divided into 19 chapters with 9 interludes, this work is organized somewhat chronologically though it is more free-flowing than that. While each chapter could readily stand alone, there is a richness in reading it cover to cover understanding that there will be moments of rich theological reflection mixed with human wrestling with the One who has deemed this the path of choice for the Groothuis family.

You will get to know, Becky, Dr. Groothuis’ loving wife as well as Sunny, their loving Goldendoodle dog. More importantly, you will see faith in action.

Review

Sometimes you pick up a book expecting it to challenge you and sometimes it meets those expectations. Often times it does not. Walking Through Twilight was both. This book did more than meet my expectations. It far exceeded any expectation I might have had. Having journeyed digitally with Dr. Groothuis via Facebook as he wrestles with God and the sweet hand of bitter providence in the life of his beloved Becky, I figured I would be treated to something profound. I was not prepared for what I read.

I picked this book up at 9:30 on a Friday evening. I finished it by 9:30 Saturday evening. I would have finished it by midnight Friday but sleep overtook me and the responsibilities of Saturday kept me from reading until later in the evening. Regardless, all I could think about was getting back to this book. It is raw and gutsy. Dr. Groothuis shows what it is like to have a deep-rooted faith in a loving God while still wrestling with Him.

Doug’s willingness to model biblical lament both incorrectly and as biblically informed is commendable and praiseworthy. Many Christians today do not know how to lament properly. Doug points out that he is still learning what it means to lament, but that is part of the process of sanctification and it is ok. He recognizes that God is still present and active and has not left him or forsaken him, but he also admits that he often feels at a loss to comprehend everything in light of what he knows to be true.

While there are certainly going to be theological points that Dr. Groothuis touches on in this book that you very well may disagree with, here is not the time or the place to engage those disagreements. Rather, now is the time to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). In this instance, we weep at the trials and tribulations and rejoice at the hope found in Christ all the while learning what it means to lament with hope.

Recommendation

Rarely have I picked up a book and not been able to put it down. Walking Through Twilight is one of those books that you will read through quickly only to find yourself wanting to go back and read again slowly. This book should be must reading for all hospice and in-home workers as well as pastors and anyone who is wrestling with long-term care of a loved one with dementia. As I said above, this book is raw and gutsy. It represents what I believe to be Dr. Groothuis’ greatest contribution to Christendom because of its practicality rooted in deep faith that has been on public display for decades.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine

Eswine, Zack. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression. Geanies House, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2014. 144 pages. $9.99. Purchase at Westminster for less or for Kindle.

Note: The review first appeared in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Many Christians know what it is like to go through dark times of the soul, whether because of circumstances, disposition, or dryness in one’s relationship with God. Many other Christians know what it is like to watch those they love go through those dark times, wondering how they can help or what they can say. Sometimes those dark times persist, becoming so overwhelming that all of life seems to be a burden and a struggle. Unfortunately, Christians are not immune from depression.

Yet for many in the church, depression is a taboo subject. Some Christians assume that depression is always a result of sin, is really just a bad attitude with another name, or that Christians are immune from depression because of the promises of Jesus Christ. These false assumptions have hurt many people struggling to see how God can help them through their long bouts of grief and anxiety. This is where a book like Spurgeon’s Sorrows is so helpful. Zack Eswine, a pastor in the St. Louis area, uses the experience and preaching of Charles Spurgeon, a well-respected and beloved pastor from the past, to help us understand what depression is and how Jesus Christ offers grace and hope even in the midst of the darkest times.

Charles Spurgeon was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, a Baptist church in London, for 38 years in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As pastor of one of the earliest megachurches, Spurgeon regularly preached to thousands of people. Early in his ministry, at age 22, Spurgeon was preaching when someone falsely yelled, “Fire!” The panic that resulted left seven people dead and 28 seriously injured. Married for less than a year, with newborn twins, Spurgeon was blamed by many for the disaster. All of this stress had a profound effect on Spurgeon’s disposition, and left him struggling with depression not only in the aftermath, but for the rest of his life. Depression was a subject he returned to in his preaching again and again.

The book is divided into three sections: understanding depression, learning to help those with depression, and learning daily helps to cope with depression. Eswine uses Spurgeon’s experience to help us understand that even the most faithful Christians can battle depression. Sometimes depression results from painful circumstances or spiritual crises, but sometimes depression is a result of a person’s physical chemistry or disposition from birth. Spurgeon believed this about himself, and often encouraged those in his congregation suffering from depression to seek out not only spiritual causes and remedies, but physical ones as well, using preventive supplements like cissus quadrangularis to keep healthy joints and overall health is important for anyone, even for people who have diseases as hyperthyroidism who make them over sweat, so they go for solutions as the iontophoresis machines so they can control it. Yet no matter the cause or the depth of the depression, there is help in Jesus Christ.

So learning how to help those who suffer from depression or working to overcome our own depression means acknowledging that depression does happen, even to Christians, and that there is no one-size-fits-all cure. Coming to see ourselves in Christ, and that his grace is deeper than our sorrow no matter the cause or the depths of our despair, is what brings genuine hope. Jesus Christ himself suffered with us and for us as the “man of sorrows,” and comes to us in our own unique pain and circumstances. Eswine helps us remember that as we strive to remember and pray Jesus’ promises, take advantage of the natural helps he gives us in creation, and choose life over death, we experience his grace. We might even come to a time where we being to see what God is doing in our lives through our suffering.

Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 7

Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 7. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 604 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 7 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 sixth 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

Volume 7 contains 30+ sermons of Richard Sibbes from throughout his ministry as well as a number of his extant “other writings.” Also included is a bibliographical list of all of his known writings as well as a glossary showing where particular words were used. The indices, however, prove to be invaluable for those who are doing research on the specific texts he preached as well as the many topics on which he wrote.

Review

While this final volume in the 7-Volume Works of Richard Sibbes is comprised of the indices and glossaries and end of work materials, do not be fooled. There are a number of sermons that today’s believer would do well to read and become familiar with. Most of these sermons are under 20 pages in length with quite a few under 15 pages, this volume makes for a great devotional of sorts.

One sermon on 1 John 3:3, The Pattern of Purity, offers excellent advice on how to live in an age where lust seems to rule the day. Then you recall that this sermon was preached in the 1600’s and you realize that Satan’s methods have not changed.

The 7-volume series as a whole provides an excellent snapshot of what a puritanical ministry looked like over the course of a minister’s life. The cumulative effect is to show that the Word of God was and is powerful and to show that the Word of God applies to all people at all times in all cultures. In other words, the message of God’s holiness and our need of salvation never changes.

Recommendation

Chances are you have either already purchased the entire set in which case buying volume 7 by itself makes no sense. If, however, you are looking for a lengthy introduction to the ministry of the Puritans, specifically, Richard Sibbes, you would do well to purchase this volume as it offers a number of lesser-known sermons with a wide array of subject matter.

Who Moved My Pulpit? by Thom S. Rainer

Rainer, Thom S. Who Moved My Pulpit: Leading Change in the Church. Nashville: B&H, 2016. 143 pp. $12.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Note: This review was first published in The Pathway.

Gary Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Nine out of ten churches in North America are either declining or growing more slowly than their communities. As Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources, states near the end of this book, “We are reaching fewer people. Our back doors are open widely. Church conflict is normative. Pastors and church staff are wounded. Many have given up altogether” (124). Yes, there are exceptions to this reality, but they are exceptions. Most churches need to do things differently. Most churches need to change.

The title of this book is drawn from a true story. An established pastor of 23 years, with eight of those at his current church, begins altering his preaching style in an attempt to reach younger adults in the community. He makes the changes incrementally, leading his congregation to understand why he is changing his style and giving them time to adjust to it. The changes go well, resulting in growth, and eventually the church embraces the new style.

Then the pastor decides that the church’s current pulpit did not fit with his new preaching style, so he replaces it. Unfortunately, he does it without telling anyone, assuming that people would understand or at least not care all that much about such a minor issue. But the church does care, and without exception people voice their opposition, even going so far as to replace the new pulpit with the old one without informing the pastor. While he is still at the church, the pastor believes they lost about two years of ministry momentum from dealing with the fallout over that seemingly minor change.

The purpose of this book is to help pastors and church members lead their churches to change, and to do it well. The above story illustrates why change in established churches can be so difficult. First, leaders don’t always lead change well. Though usually well-intentioned, sometimes leaders act before praying, don’t think through unintended consequences, fail to communicate, don’t deal with people issues, and react poorly when their attempts at change are rejected. Second, church members often refuse to accept any changes in the church. According to Rainer’s research, only 25% of a typical established church is open to change. The rest fall into one of five kinds of church members: those who deny the need to change, those who feel entitled to doing church their way, those who blame everyone but themselves for the church’s problems, those who lodge complaints at any hint of change, and those who are confused about what needs to be changed.

Change is possible, however. The heart of the book is a roadmap for leading change. There are eight steps, with a chapter devoted to each one: stop and pray, confront and communicate a sense of urgency, build an eager coalition of people open to change, become a voice of vision and hope, deal with people issues, move from an inward to an outward focus, pick low-hanging fruit that allows your church to see immediate successes, and continue to implement and consolidate change, because the process never ends.

We need more change-agents in the church. We need people who love God, love their churches, and love people outside the church enough to do what is necessary to try and reach them with the gospel. We need leaders with courage, commitment, and vision. Rainer is clear that his roadmap is not just another program or a quick-fix solution, but a biblical approach to helping churches move toward health and obedience to the Great Commission. There are all kinds of wrong ways to lead change, but there is a right way.

The New City Catechism Edited by The Gospel Coalition

The New City Catechism: 52 Questions & Answers for Our Hearts & Minds. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 128 pp. $7.99. Purchase at Amazon.

Introduction

Catechisms are making a comeback and The Gospel Coalition is helping in this endeavor. You can find out much more at newcitycatechism.com.

Summary/Review

Divided into three parts and 52 questions, this catechism is a simple as ask a question and give the answer. Part 1 looks at God, Creation & Fall, Law. Part 2 is dedicated to Christ, Redemption, Grace. Part 3 looks to the Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace. Each part has its own dedicated color: red, blue, and green respectively.

This little book is meant for family or personal devotions and can be used by any believing Christian regardless of denominational affiliation. Personally, I find the flow of the catechism to be well thought out as the writers assume unbelief of the reader and progresses toward belief and growing in Christ. Very simple in design, the questions are on the left page while the answers and biblical support are on the right page.

Also, they offer memorization tips (hint: consistent repetition) as well as some reasons as to why catechizing your children (and maybe yourself) will benefit them over the course of their lives. Overall, this little catechism is well designed and will easily slip into your Bible case or on your coffee table for ready access.

Recommendation

We have used other catechisms with our children which have proven extremely helpful. The New City Catechism offers an excellent family devotional resource. Its simple design makes this resource an excellent addition to any Christian family’s library and family worship time.

God at Work by Gene Edward Vieth, Jr.

Vieth, Jr., Gene Edward. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002. 176 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Note: This review first appeared in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Work is hard. Although God originally created us to live with him in a perfect world, fulfilling our tasks in flawless harmony with him, one another, and the creation, we now live in a sin-cursed world where we make our ways by the sweat of our brows, with thorns and thistles frustrating our harvests. Work is often monotonous, boring, and thankless, something to endure rather than a blessing to celebrate. Even jobs that make a real difference in peoples’ lives, that come with high pay and an enhanced reputation, wear people down. Despite the amount of time we all spend working, whether paid or not, we often struggle to see the purpose of our work, or how we can possibly do our work to the glory of God.

Historically, the doctrine of vocation was meant to address these concerns. While we typically use the term “vocation” today as just a fancy word for “job,” the term comes from the Latin word for “calling,” and originally meant much more than just a “job.” We are called to salvation through the word of the gospel (2 Thess 2:14), we are called to a particular act of service in the church (1 Cor 1:1-2), and we are called to be married or single (1 Cor 7:15-20). The doctrine of vocation helps us understand that our careers, along with our callings in the family, the church, and the community, are God-given. It also gives us insight into why God has us work and how we are supposed to work.

Gene Vieth’s purpose behind God At Work is to help us recover the doctrine of vocation and the practical difference it makes in living for God. He begins by exploring the purpose of vocations, discovering your vocations, and how God works in and through vocations. He then examines the various vocations to which every person is called, and finishes the book by addressing some common questions and problems with the doctrine.

All people, believers and unbelievers, have multiple callings. Every person is called to live as a citizen of a particular community and country, with the attendant responsibilities that entails (Rom 13:1-7). Every person is called to serve other people with their unique gifts and abilities, whether in the home or in the workplace. All people are called to be in families, and might even have several vocations in their families, such as father, son, and husband. There is one key vocational difference between believers and unbelievers, however, as believers are called through the gospel unto salvation and then called to live and serve in the church, the people of God (1 Pet 2:9-10).

God’s purpose in our vocations is for us to honor him by fulfilling our callings among the people he has put in our lives. I am supposed to serve others through my vocations, and you are supposed to serve others through your vocations. When this is happening as it should, everyone is constantly giving and receiving. Concerning work, I didn’t harvest the grain that went into my biscuit for breakfast, and I didn’t bake it either; others did this on my behalf through their vocations of farmer and baker, even if they didn’t do so consciously. In exchange, I pastor, preach, teach and write. Behind all of this is God, who works through both believers and unbelievers. The difference for us as believers is that we are to live out our vocations by faith, as followers of Jesus Christ. God calls us to work, in all the areas of our lives, in order to bless us and bless others through us, for his glory and for our good.

Commentary on 1-2 Timothy & Titus by Andreas J. Kostenberger

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation – Commentary on 1-2 Timothy & Titus. Andreas J. Kostenberger. General Editors, T. Desmond Alexander, Andreas J. Kostenberger, and Thomas R. Schreiner. Nashville, B&H Academic, 2017. 612 pp. $39.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

I reviewed the first volume to be published, Hebrews, back in 2015. Dr. Kostenberger is senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also is the founder of Biblical Foundations.

The Commentary Series

The Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation Commentary series explores the theology of the Bible in considerable depth, spanning both Testaments. Authors come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, though all affirm the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. United in their high view of Scripture, and in their belief in the underlying unity of Scripture, which is ultimately grounded in the unity of God himself, each author explores the contribution of a given book or group of books to the theology of Scripture as a whole. While conceived as stand-alone volumes, each volume thus also makes a contribution to the larger whole. All volumes provide a discussion of introductory matters, including the historical setting and the literary structure of a given book of Scripture. Also included is an exegetical treatment of all the relevant passages in succinct commentary-style format. The biblical theology approach of the series will also inform and play a role in the commentary proper. The commentator permits a discussion between the commentary proper and the biblical theology that it reflects by a series of cross-references.

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

This format, in itself, would already be a valuable contribution to Biblical Theology. But there are other series that try to accomplish a survey of the Bible’s theology as well. What distinguishes the present series is its orientation toward Christian proclamation. This is the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series! As a result, the ultimate purpose of this set of volumes is not exclusively, or even primarily, academic. Rather, we seek to relate Biblical Theology to our own lives and to the life of the church. Our desire is to equip those in Christian ministry who are called by God to preach and teach the precious truths of Scripture to their congregations, both in North America and in a global context.

It is our hope and our prayer that the 40 volumes of this series, once completed, will bear witness to the unity in diversity of the canon of Scripture as they probe the individual contributions of each of its 66 books. The authors and editors are united in their desire that in so doing the series will magnify the name of Christ and bring glory to the triune God who revealed himself in Scripture so that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved—to the glory of God the Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and for the good of his church. To God alone be the glory: soli Deo gloria.

Summary

As with any commentary, there is an in depth introduction of each book looking at the author and date as well as its historical context. Also, there is a literary analysis and a look at the structure which offers a discussion of the genre and vocabulary used throughout.

After all of the introductory material, the author offers the occasion and purpose of each book as well as whom the opponents were. From there, the book offers commentary in such a manner that the reader will understand how the book fits into the larger scope of the overall context that surrounds the passage as well as how it fits into the overall flow of Scripture.

Review

As a pastor, I use a number of commentaries. Most of them are simply broke down by pericope and then verse. This series not only does that, but offers much greater detail and breaks down the passage into further subheadings. For example, each section includes a bridge which shows explicitly how the passage applies to a modern day context.

Regardless, the ultimate use of this commentary will be to help the student of Scripture orient himself (or herself) to the larger theme of the Bible. This is a great aid for so many who think that these three epistles do not apply to anyone except pastors. Kostenberger does an excellent job of exegeting the Scriptures and allowing each passage to be understood by the rest of Scripture. Sometimes this will present a challenge for the pastor and exegete but it shows that the authority of Scripture reigns in the mind of the author. Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that the series is based on an understanding of inerrancy as basic foundational approach to the Bible.

Recommendation

As a pastor, I cannot wait for the rest of this series to be published. As a Christian, I appreciate the accessibility and readability of the commentary such that anyone who wants to study the Word deeper can. I highly commend this resource to any thinking Christian or any pastor who wants to take his study to another level.

 

The SBC and the 21st Century edited by Jason K. Allen

Allen, Jason K., ed. The SBC and the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, Recommitment. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016. 269 pages. $29.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Note: This review was first published in The Pathway.

Gary Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

What does the future look like for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)? The SBC is one of the largest denominations in the world, with over 15 million members and over 40,000 churches in the United States alone, but both membership and baptism numbers have been slowly declining for several years. For Southern Baptists, this decline raises questions about our methods of reaching people for Christ, our faithfulness to what we say we believe, and our attitude toward our culture. How should we minister and witness going forward in a rapidly changing world?

In September of 2015 Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MWBTS) in Kansas City, MO hosted a symposium to consider these issues. This book, edited by Jason Allen, the President of MWBTS, is a collection of those presentations along with several other essays addressing the SBC’s future. Divided into three sections, these essays address three important questions. Will the SBC grow more unified around its convictions and mission or fragment over secondary doctrinal differences? Will the SBC continue to maintain its Baptist identity while engaging and partnering with other evangelical churches? Finally, will the SBC be willing to think through its structures, programs, and efforts to most effectively reach this world for Christ or will it continue to do the same things it has always done?

The heart of the SBC is collaborative ministry, exemplified by the Cooperative Program, through which SBC churches together fund missions, education, and other denominational institutions at both the state and the national level. Yet a host of issues threaten this collaboration, including differences of opinion on how to cooperate, doctrinal disagreements, and methodological preferences. Including essays by denominational leaders such as Frank Page, Thom Rainer, and the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Executive Director John Yeats, the first section addresses questions of how Southern Baptists should continue to cooperate. These essays highlight the importance of the Cooperative Program, state conventions, and engagement with the broader evangelical community in helping the SBC accomplish its mission, but also stress that they are means to that end, not the end in and of themselves.

While the heart of the SBC is collaborative ministry, the identity of the SBC is found in its doctrine. At this point in its history, the SBC has united around the truths expressed by the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. However, the rapid changes in our culture continue to challenge our theological foundations. The second section, including contributions from Albert Mohler, David Dockery, and several professors from MWBTS, highlights the need for solid convictions on doctrines such as regenerate church membership, human sexuality and gender, and the nature of the church.

As necessary as cooperation and doctrine are, they are meant to keep us on mission for our Savior. The third group of essays, with chapters from denominational leaders such as David Platt, Ronnie Floyd, Jason Allen, and Paige Patterson, speak to the future of the SBC’s missions institutions as well as the continuing relevance of preaching, prayer, and theological education. Ultimately, doctrine, mission, and ministry complement one another, and the SBC must continue to stay strong in each area in order to effectively reach the coming generations for Christ.

After I finished reading this book my main takeaway was hope. God in his grace has used the SBC to reach millions of people for Christ. As we continue to unify around our mission, stand boldly on our doctrine, and commit ourselves to gospel witness and ministry, I believe that God will continue to use the SBC for his glory. These essays will encourage and equip you and your church as we look towards a future of fulfilling the Great Commission together.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books