Tag Archives: InterVarsity Press

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

Guinness, Os. Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015. 272 pages. $22.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Note: This review first appeared in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be a witness of his life, death, and resurrection. Yet we live in an age when fewer and fewer people in our culture are interested in the truth of the gospel, and more and more people are resistant or even hostile to it. In response, many Christians and churches have simply given up on evangelism, hoping their lifestyle or commitment to social justice will be enough to influence their neighbors toward Christ. Others, resisting the pressure of our culture to stop sharing the gospel, continue to witness as if most people were interested in what Christians have to say. Even if they do end up getting a hearing, a reliance on cookie-cutter approaches to evangelism often obscures the message and keeps them from connecting to others.

If we are to be effective witnesses of the gospel today, we need to recover the art of persuasion, of presenting the gospel to people who don’t agree with us or care about our message. This is the purpose of Os Guinness’s latest book, Fool’s Talk. According to Guinness there are three kinds of fools in the Bible. The first fool, the one we are most familiar with, is the fool who refuses to acknowledge God. The second type of fool is very different: the person who is not actually a fool at all but who is prepared to be treated as a fool for Christ’s sake (1 Cor 4:10). The third type of fool in the Bible goes a step farther, and is prepared to be treated as a fool for Christ’s sake so that he can speak truth to power, shaming and subverting the wisdom of the world. This of course is what God did on the cross through the death of Christ (1 Cor 1:18-31).

The way of the third fool is the way to recover the art of persuasion in our Christian witness. This way means embracing a personalized, gospel-centered witness rather than a specific technique in presenting the gospel. Guinness is adamant that when it comes to our witness, there is no single method that will reach every person. Jesus never spoke to anyone the same way, and neither should we. Gospel-centered witness means embracing the heart and the mind, using stories and/or rational arguments depending on the person. It means getting to know a person, loving them in the same way that God loves them. We are not called to share our faith out of guilt or a desire to compete for cultural influence, but out of love for God and others. We must reconnect apologetics and evangelism, making sure our best arguments for the gospel are in the service of leading people to Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Fool’s Talk, and the biggest reason you should read it, is that Guinness doesn’t just explain the need for recovering the art of persuasion or what it means, but takes the time to walk through how to do it. He presents several broad responses we can employ as we talk to people about Jesus, encouraging the use of humor, creativity, imagination, and compassion. He includes chapters on how to respond to questions we can’t answer, how we should react to the charge of hypocrisy, and on engaging people wherever they are on their spiritual journeys. Relentlessly biblical and well-aware of our contemporary culture, this book encourages and equips us to be the gospel witnesses God calls us to be.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

I highly recommend this resource.

God Dwells Among Us by G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim

GDAUBeale, G.K. and Mitchell Kim. God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 217 pp. $17.00. Purchase for less at Westminster Books or on Kindle.


Mitchell Kim is founding and lead pastor at Living Water Alliance Church in Chicago area. G.K. Beale holds the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He has written or contributed to a number of books including many commentaries.


Divided into 11 chapters, the authors take the reader on a biblical theology of the temple from Eden to the Tabernacle to the Temple to Christ to the Church and to the New Heaven and the New Earth. Along the way, they explain how God commanded Adam to “multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This verse, actually, verses 26-28, serve as the framework for the theology of the book.

The final two chapters offer an apologetic on why this has not been noticed before now and what it means regarding our call to missions.


Too be honest I was extremely interested in this book primarily because I was doing a little bit of study on the Tabernacle instructions and the importance of it to the nation of Israel while in the wilderness. I was not prepared to have my mind blown the way I did. To read how Eden pointed to the tabernacle which pointed to the temple which pointed to Christ who inaugurated the church which looked back on the temple and forward to the new heaven and the new earth and how it is all summed up in Genesis 1:26-28 was enough to make my brain hurt.

Genesis 1:26-28 states

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

I share this verse because it is the foundational commandment that has never been rescinded though it has been reiterated (see, Genesis 9:1, 7 and Matthew 28:18-20 as examples). This is their “controlling paradigm” throughout the entire study and was what drove them to understand the importance of Eden lost and Eden restored.

The authors treat this biblical theology with great care and do not shy away from challenges though I felt they attempted to sweep away any criticism with a few paragraphs in the second to last chapter. In the end, their motivation is a clarion call to fulfill the original command to fill the earth which is now accomplished through missions and evangelism.

I believe they succeeded.


I highly recommend this resource to any Christian what want to think a bit deeper and be challenged to see something they may have never seen before now. You will, however, have to read this book twice. The first time you read it will leave you in awe and wonder of the greatness of God. The second time will enable you to begin to understand the magnitude of what is being expressed.

Forgotten Girls by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Ricket

Forgotten GirlsStrom, Kay Marshall and Michele Ricket. Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage (Expanded Edition). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 188 pp. $16.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.


Kay is a professional writer based in Eugene. OR. She has written more than thirty books and now speaks with her husband, Danile Kline on a variety of topics.

Michele Rickett is found and president of She is Safe, an international ministry seeking to equip women against poverty, oppression, exploitation, and spiritual darkness.


From the back of the book:

Think of the little girls you know: your daughter, a niece, a friend’s child. Then think about this: little girls are tossed away every day.

All over the world, women and girls face troubles such as starvation, displacement, illiteracy, sexual exploitation and abuse. In fact, statistics show that the world’s most oppressed people are overwhelmingly female.

Moved by the plight of these neglected girls, advocates Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett took a trip across continents to interview girls and to partner with ministries working to help females in some of the most difficult places in the world.

These pages hold those girls’ stories: stories of deep pain and suffering, inspiring courage, and incredible hope. They are the stories of girls who have discovered their value in God’s eyes, in the midst of cultures that have rejected them. They are stories of rescue and redemption by God working through compassionate people—people like you.


This is one of those books that you cannot “unread.” It is divided into five parts that look at the needs of physical, educational, sexual protection, freedom and spiritual lives in women across the globe. Most of these women are from Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist cultures. All of these women are stories of suffering.

The goal of the authors to give these “forgotten girls” a voice succeeds in a way that will change anyone who reads this work.  The stories are true to life and will break any illusion of comfort we may have in our lives (if you are reading this review, I would think it is safe to assume that your life is one of comparative comfort). Furthermore, what these girls endure will bring sadness to your mind while helping you to understand the hope that we can offer.

While not everyone will be able to necessarily “go,” everyone can certainly begin to raise awareness in their local contexts. This work has the potential to do just that.


I highly recommend this resource to all. Specifically, a women’s study group or a female youth small group would do well to read and consider the lives of these forgotten girls.

Living into the Life of Jesus by Klaus Issler

Living into the Life of JesusIssler, Klaus.  Living into the Life of Jesus: The Formation of Christian Character.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012.  240 pp.  $16.00.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.


Dr. Issler is professor of Christian education and theology in the doctoral program in educational studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.  He also wrote Wasting Time With God.


Divided into three parts with eight chapters, Dr. Issler offers a basic primer on spiritual formation.  In part one he looks at how the formation of Christian character is more a life-long process than a one and one phenomenon.  His first chapter offers a much needed foundation repair to so much of the spiritual-formation thinking prevalent today.  Here he explains how we must look at our heart rather then seeking to change our own behaviors.

The second part offers three divine resources for formation.  Those are love, the Holy Spirit, and Scripture.  The final part looks at how we can follow Jesus in our own lives. Each chapter concludes with key points and a few reflection questions.


Dr. Issler’s work centers on the importance of recognizing the gaps in our spiritual walk.  These include the disconnected gap (not regularly abiding in Christ), the distressed gap, the dismissive gap (resistance to truths that seem impossible), the discrepancy gap, and the distracted gap.  The value of this book will depend on your understanding and view of chapter two.  If, as I struggled with, these gaps seem to be more man-centered and an excuse, then you will struggle with the applications of this book.  If, on the other hand, his gap-theory (sorry, I had to!) resonates with you, then you will do well to heed much of the advice in this book.

I struggled with this resource only because of the seeming hat tip to the necessity of heart change while centering on what we can do to change the heart.  It is like the evangelistic resource that rails against all methods of evangelism and then, in the end, offers you yet another method of evangelism.  At any rate, I share this only as a personal bias I have when reading resources like this.

That being said, there is much in the way of practical application found in these pages that will leave you more the wiser than before you read it.  At first glance, I was wary of love being one of the divine resources of formation grace…until I read the chapter.  In the end, his points are worthwhile and ought to be understood in the context of our sinful thoughts about God.

In the end, each chapter is saturated with our need of the Holy Spirit as we seek to walk closer with Christ.  The important point is that spiritual formation is neither devoid of the Holy Spirit nor is a “Let go and let God” mentality.  We must always keep the balance that God is sovereign and we are to act.  I think Dr. Issler does a fine job of walking that narrow line.


I admittedly come from a Puritanical and Reformed stream of thinking when it comes to spiritual formation.  I did find, however, that Dr. Issler’s work was very well written and offers some legitimate advice in the realm of spiritual formation.  Again, read with discernment while being willing to put into action what the Spirit is laying on your heart.

A Violent Grace by Michael Card

A Violent GraceCard, Michael.  A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013.  192 pp.  $15.00.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.


Michael Card is an award-winning musician, performing artist, and writer.  You can find many of his works here.  You can also find more about Michael and his ministry at his website, MichaelCard.com.


Divided into 21 chapters, Michael Card takes the reader on a journey that looks longer and harder at the cross of Christ.  Each chapter begins with a pencil sketch that tells the story of the chapter and concludes with a basic prayer that centers the reader on his or her need of meditating on the cross in their own life.  In between the reader is treated to descriptive language and meditations from Scripture that are geared to enable one’s thoughts to be squarely centered on Christ.  Each chapter is fairly short and would make for a great devotional in the morning or evening.


This work was certainly as cross-centered as I have read.  It was done with an artistic flare that very few can accomplish.  Michael Card was able to accomplish this and was able to do so that did not draw attention to himself and his ability but gave glory to God for what He accomplished through Christ on the Cross.  The pictures truly spoke a 1,000 words and aided the chapters to spring to life in a way that helps the reader to fully meditate with mind and body and soul engaged in one thought – what Christ did for His enemies on the cross.

Each and every page is full of grace and mercy.  Each and every picture is full of hurt and love.  We are indebted to Michael Card for his contribution to the resources and books available to help Christians understand the importance of the Cross of the Christ.


I recommend this book to all Christians as well as any who want to know more about what the Christian believes concerning Christ on Calvary.  You may want to purchase some extra copies to give away.  This book was both visually stimulating and thought provoking.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 318 pp. $18.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for $9.53.  Purchase the audiobook at christianaudio for $14.98.


Knowing God is one of those books I have no business writing a review on, but alas, I have been asked to do so via the new audiobook release. J.I. Packer’s Knowing God hardly needs an introduction, but for those who have never read the book, it is a classic with over one million copies sold. The reader will learn “the glory and the joy of knowing God.”


Divided into three sections among twenty-two chapters, the reader will be introduced to who God is according to the Bible. The first section, Know the Lord, looks at the importance of studying God. Chapter four, The Only True God, always humbles me and convicts me. This chapter alone is worth the book in its entirety.

The second section is a study on the attributes of God. Aptly titled Behold Your God, you will learn about God’s majesty, wisdom, love, grace, and wrath among other attributes. Here, you will be introduced to the depths of the God you say you serve. After reading this section, you will seek to learn more all the while realizing that you cannot possibly exhaust your understanding of even one attribute though this fact will not deter you from trying to do so.
The third section offers the joy of knowing that If God be for Us… You will find yourself led to worship in this section (as if you haven’t been led to do just that already!). What is more, you will find yourself wanting to share the joy you are discovering with anyone who will listen.


I have nothing but positives regarding Packer’s Knowing God. As mentioned above, the chapter on idol worship (ch. 4) is worth the rest of the book by itself. I first read this book a couple years after becoming a believer and was deeply impacted by it. If you are to know God at all, you need to quickly realize that you cannot know Him. Rather, He, God, allows Himself to be known by you. Furthermore, you will learn that it was not you who sought God, but He who sought you. These are glorious truths that will bless and comfort the child of God.

The audiobook, read by Simon Vance, was done so with the gravity that each chapter, sentence, and word carries inherently with it. One need not listen long to know that what you are hearing is profound. At times, the chapters got long, and I would not suggest listening to for longer than a chapter or two. Doing this will keep your mind fresh and focused on the deep truths you are encountering. This is even truer if this is the first time you have stumbled upon this book.


If you have never read Knowing God and you enjoy reading, pick this book up. It made the list of the 5 books every Christian must own and read for a reason. It has impacted my walk with Christ as well as my understanding (or knowledge of my lack) of God in ways that I am sure I don’t quite get as of yet. This is a book that you will want to periodically read over and over for the rest of your life. In the six years since I first read this book, I have read it four times and each time I do, I discover something new or find myself saying, “So that’s where that conviction originated.” Drink deeply from the pen of J.I. Packer—you can hardly find a living author with more depth.