Tag Archives: IVP Academic

Reformation Commentary on Scripture OT Vol. V: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles Edited by Cooper and Lohrmann

OT 5Reformation Commentary on Scripture Old Testament Vol. V: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles. Edited by Derek Cooper and Martin J. Lohrmann. General Editor, Timothy George, Associate General Editor, Scott M. Manetsch. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. 799 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster for less. You can purchase for Kindle for much less.

Introduction

I have reviewed a number of the commentaries in this series already. You can read those here.

The editors seek to introduce readers to the depth and richness of the minds of the Reformation era.  The four goals are, 1) enrichment of contemporary biblical interpretation through exposure to Reformation-era biblical exegesis, 2) a renewal of contemporary preaching and 3) a renewal of biblical interpretation through exposure to Reformation-era exegesis, and finally 4) a deeper understanding of the Reformation itself.

Summary

This particular volume looks at the historical books of the Old Testament that detail the prophetic reign of Samuel to the fall of Jerusalem. Herein we find many of the beloved stories of the Old Testament as found in children’s Bibles the world over.

The commentators, too numerous to list individually, offer their thoughts and insights on Scripture during an era of church history that is noted for having been rigorous in Biblical study and application.

Review

In lumping six of the largest historical books in the Old Testament canon, this particular commentary is quite large at 800 pages. This may be too much for some or too little for others.

For example, only 6 1/2 pages are exhausted with comments on 2 Samuel 7 – arguably one of the most critical chapters in these 6 books of Scripture and perhaps all of the Bible. There are only 5 pages for the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 18).

Perhaps the one of the best features, that I have yet to discuss in my reviews, is the general introduction found in every volume that offers a brief introduction to the many traditions of the Reformation. For example, the Anabaptists, the Zurich Reformers, the Genevan Reformers, and even the historical context (very important!) in which these men wrote. This all helps to give today’s reader a bit more of an understanding of what influenced their interpretations and applications of Scripture.

Most of the time these Reformers simply stuck to the Scriptures. Sometimes, however, they would make a point about how the Catholic Church violated Scripture. Still other times, their own framework for learning, a humanism that is not what it is today, would bleed through and lead them on a somewhat errant path…by today’s understanding and application.

Regardless, their is a treasure trove of insight in these pages.

Recommendation

The historical books are fertile ground for sermon illustrations and even applications to sermons not to mention numerous sermon series. This commentary is an excellent resource to add to your personal library as it will undoubtedly aid you in your understanding of historical Christianity and the applications for these texts to our lives even today.

 

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.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture VII Psalms 1-72 Edited by Herman J. Selderhuis

RCS Psalms 1-72Reformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament III – Luke. Edited by Beth Kreitzer. General Editor, Timothy George, Associate General Editor, Scott M. Manetsch. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. 566 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few other commentaries in this series. You can find those reviews here.

Herman J. Selderhuis is professor of church history and church polity at the Theological University Apeldoorn (Netherlands) and director of Refo500, the international platform for knowledge, expertise and ideas related to the sixteenth-century Reformation. He has written John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life and Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms.

Summary

The best way to summarize a commentary (more than simply saying this is a commentary on the first seventy-two Psalms) is to quote the summary on the back:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)

The book of Psalms has been the subject of daily and nightly meditation throughout the history of the church, and has been a significant resource for Christian belief and practice, often serving as the church’s prayer book and hymnal. Like generations of Christians before them, the Protestant Reformers turned often to the book of Psalms, but they did so during a time of significant spiritual renewal, theological debate and ecclesiological reform.

In the Psalms the Reformers found comfort, guidance and wisdom from God that applied to their context as much as it did to David’s. As John Calvin explained, the Psalms demonstrate every emotion that people have experienced: “The Holy Spirit has presented in a living image all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the emotions with which human minds are often disturbed.” Moreover, as Martin Luther proclaimed, the Reformers also heard in the Psalms a resounding affirmation of the good news of Jesus Christ: “The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book because it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly.”

In this volume, Herman Selderhuis guides readers through the diversity of Reformation commentary on the first half of the Psalter. Here are both familiar voices and lesser-known figures from a variety of theological traditions, including Lutherans, Reformed, Radicals, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, many of whose comments appear here for the first time in English. By drawing on a variety of resources—including commentaries, sermons, treatises and confessions—this volume will enable scholars to better understand the depth and breadth of Reformation commentary, provide resources for contemporary preachers, and aid all those who seek to meditate upon God’s Word day and night.

Review

I was beyond thrilled to receive this particular commentary for review. As a pastor, I am always looking for solid commentaries, especially in the Old Testament. After recently being completely disappointed in the NICOT Commentary on the Book of Psalms, I was a bit hesitant to even open this commentary. I’m glad I did eventually scan through this volume.

To be able to read the thoughts of those men who instigated and fought for the Reformation on what amounts to the greatest prayer book ever written is a gift to the church. I appreciated the pastoral reflections of Martin Bucer as well as the devotional style of Matthew Henry.

Perhaps the one negative is the wide availability of the likes of Calvin and Henry free online might steer the reader to the Internet. I personally own both Calvin and Henry in print and digital format and yet I find this style of the commentary to be extremely helpful. To be able to see their thoughts on various passages and the wide variety of applications one can draw from their perspectives is worth the cost of the book. This helps the one studying to not become so myopic in their study and application. It also opens up their imagination to the infinite applications that an infinite God has given us through His inspired Word.

(Thanks to Ethan, see comment below, for correcting an error on my part. Matthew Henry was not involved in the Reformation.)

Recommendation

If you enjoy Reformation history and theology or you are one who will use a commentary set, I highly recommend this series. It is both accessible and theologically rich. Particularly, this commentary on Psalms is of immense value as the Book of Psalms may be the most wide read book of the entire Bible.

Philosophy in Seven Sentences by Douglas Groothuis

Philosophy in 7 SentencesGroothuis, Douglas. Philosophy in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic. Downers Grove, 2016. 160 pp. $16.00. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for much less.

Introduction

I have reviewed one other book by Dr. Douglas Groothuis here at Christian Book Notes. It was what I consider his magnum opus work on Christian Apologetics. It is such a large, sweeping resource that I reviewed it in two parts. You can read the first part here (there is a link to the second part there as well). Dr. Groothuis continues to serve as professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary.

Summary

Appropriately, the book is divided into seven chapters with an introduction and conclusion. Each chapter looks at a particular philosopher from history. The chapters, and the accompanying sentences are:

  • Protagoras – Man is the measure of all things.
  • Socrates – The unexamined life is not worth living.
  • Aristotle – All men by nature desire to know.
  • Augustine – You have made us for yourself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you.
  • Descartes – I think, therefore I am.
  • Pascal – The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.
  • Kierkegaard – The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all.

Review

This work is obviously written from a Christian perspective which is to be greatly commended. For many today believe that Christian theology and philosophy are diametrically opposed to one another. Once again, Dr. Groothuis sounds the bell of clear thinking for the modern Christian wrestling with the world as it is. His biblical worldview is fully on display in this short little work.

When I first read of this project, I recall thinking it an impossible task. I mean, how can you offer a succinct overview of philosophy in a mere seven sentences?! What really makes this book invaluable is his willingness to delve deep but not too deep. Hence, the subtitle “a small introduction to a vast topic.”

One may call this book an open door to a new universe. Each chapter can serve as an introduction to a lifetime of study on one particular philosopher. Groothuis shows how they all relate to one another and, whether intentional or not, how they all influenced one another and influence us today.

Recommendation

I was impressed with Dr. Groothuis’ ability to keep it short and simple. He has done a great service (once again) to the Christian philosophical community with the publication of Philosophy in Seven Sentences. I heartily commend this book to all Christians – especially those studying philosophy either at an introductory level or even as a discipline.

 

Faith on the Road by Joerg Rieger

Faith on the RoadRieger, Joerg. Faith on the Road: A Short Theology of Travel & Justice. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. 144 pp. $18.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Joerg Rieger (PhD, Duke University) is Wendland-Cook Professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. An internationally recognized scholar and activist, he has engaged in questions of liberation, theology and economics for over two decades, addressing the relation of theology to public life. Rieger is the author of many books. He has lectured throughout the U.S. as well as internationally, including presentations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and China. In the Dallas area, he is active in the religion and labor movement as a member of the steering committee of Jobs with Justice and a co-founder of the Workers’ Rights Board.

Summary

Divided into only five chapters, Joerg looks at the Judeo-Christian theology of travel. He offers experiences and challenges from the road as well as the importance of short-term missions. His concluding chapter looks at travel as an act of justice.

From the back of the book:

Millions of people travel every day, for what seem like millions of reasons. Some travel for pleasure, others travel for work and education, and many more travel to find a new job and a better life. In the United States, even those who don’t travel far still frequently find themselves on the move.

What can we learn from these different forms of travel? And what can people of faith learn from the Christian and Jewish traditions that took shape on the road? From the exile from Eden to the wanderings of Jesus and his disciples, the story of Scripture is a dynamic narrative of ceaseless movement. Those who let themselves be inspired by this movement, and are willing to learn from others and from mistakes made in the process, are well positioned to make a difference in the world, not only at home but also around the globe.

In this revised edition of the author’s book Traveling, Joerg Rieger reflects on how Christian faith reorients the way we think about and make journeys in our lives .

Review

To be honest, I was a little skeptical reading this book given some of the names that endorsed it (Brian McLaren stands out the most). Therefore, I approached this book with a bit more of a critical eye than normal for this website.

While I will disagree with some of the political and social-justice theology espoused by the author, I found this short little book to be extremely thought provoking. Unfortunately for many Christians today, we hear the phrase “social justice” and the thought immediately turns to theological  liberalism. This is truly unfortunate as there is much to learn from those who seek social justice.

As I read Faith on the Road I did find myself confronted with my lack of theological thinking on redeeming my travels. Granted, I understood everything that was being stated (especially how travel will change the way we think), but I am not sure I had considered it as explicitly as Rieger does.

In the end, you will not agree with everything he writes, but you will not be able to say that he does not get you to think in a more Christocentric manner. For that, we are indebted as a church.

Recommendation

While I must caution against some of the underlying theology (because I disagree and not because it is heresy), I do recommend this resource for the thinking Christian looking to live all of life on mission.

Covenant and Commandment by Bradley G. Green

Covenant and CommandmentGreen, Bradley G. Series Editor, D. A. Carson. Covenant and Commandment: Works, Obedience, and Faithfulness in the Christian Life. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014. 208 pp. $22.00. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

New Studies in Biblical Theology is a series of books addressing key issues in the church today. Bradley Green is Associate Professor of Christian Studies at Union University. He has written a number of other books dealing with theology.

Summary

Divided into seven chapters with numerous subsections in each chapter, Bradley dives straight into the discussion of grace and works. His first chapter looks at the reality and necessity of works, obedience and faithfulness as found in the NT.

The second chapter offers a look at the bridge between the Old and New Testaments while chapter three offers the umbrella of the covenant keeping God throughout all of the Bible. Chapter four takes us to the cross and moves us to union with Christ in chapter five. The final two chapters look at justification and judgment and the conclusion that works, obedience, and faithfulness are necessary for every Christian.

Review

One might be surprised at the necessity of this conversation today, but it seems as though grace is being misapplied all over the evangelical spectrum. From full acceptance of same-sex marriage as being gracious in liberal churches to antinomianism (lawlessness) in some Reformed circles, the truth is, this conversation is happening and we need a biblically balanced understanding of what is expected of the Christian.

Bradley does so in a theologically astute yet very easy to read way. Sure, he is discussing some deep theology, but he does so in a way that anyone can understand what he is saying if they have a rudimentary understanding of their Bibles as well as the doctrines of the church.

He is saturated with Scripture as well as others throughout the history of the church. Men like Geerhardus Vos and Jonathan Edwards and N.T. Wright and John Owen. In other words, he shows that he is not writing anything necessarily new. Rather, he is bringing together a general consensus of orthodoxy for a new generation.

Recommendation

 

Covenant and Commandment is a great introduction to any Christian wanting to understand the importance of obeying the law by the grace of God. I commend this resource to you whether you are a pastor or layman. Today’s church needs this resource.

 

Reformation Commentary on Scripture III Luke Edited by Beth Kreitzer

LukeReformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament III – Luke. Edited by Beth Kreitzer. General Editor, Timothy George, Associate General Editor, Scott M. Manetsch. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. 629 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster books for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Dr. Kreitzer is the director of the program in Liberal Studies at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. This commentary series is a 28-volume commentary “bringing the insights of the Reformation to the contemporary church.” I have reviewed two previous volumes in this series. Those reviews can be found here.

Summary

Obviously, this is a commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Therefore, the reader would treat it as a resource rather than reading it straight through. That being stated, as the student of the Bible proceeds through the text, a short, few word synopsis of how a particular Reformer understood the biblical text is to be found. For example, in Luke 3:15-18, you have the heading “John is not the Coming Messiah” followed by “John’s Sacrament Does Not Give the Spirit” in small caps followed by the name Huldrych Zwingli.

After reading Zwingli’s commentary on the passage, you would read Easumus’ take in that “John acknowledges that his baptism cannot convey the Spirit Without Christ.” Next, you would read Calvin’s thoughts under the heading “Christ Wields the Winnowing Fork of the Gospel.”

As can be seen, this work is full of snippet of information on how the text was understood at an important time in the history of the church.

Review

Given the recent plethora of digital writings from the Reformation, this commentary helps to bring together major streams of thoughts concerning the interpretation and application of Scripture both then and now.

Also, the biographical sketches of the men and their works at the end of this volume is extremely invaluable for the modern reader. What sets this commentary apart from others is that it offers a wide swath of views. We quickly see how the Reformers agreed on the essentials of the Christian faith yet often disagreed on the non-essentials. This is an important lesson for us to learn today as many want to elevate the non-essentials to essentials.

Another element to this commentary that is extremely helpful is the overview of the general thought of the Reformers concerning the larger sections. This helps the reader trace the thinking of the forest so to speak to better understand the individual trees.

I was a bit surprised at how relatively small this commentary was compared to those of say Darrell Bock and Philip Ryken, which like many others, are multiple volume commentaries on Luke. Regardless, there is plenty of information included that will be an aid to the student.

Recommendation

If you are a Protestant and a serious student of the Bible, I highly recommend this series of commentaries. Luke is one of the richest gospels, especially concerning detailed accounts of the life of Christ. Beth Kreitzer has greatly aided modern evangelicalism’s understanding of this gospel with her work on bringing together the thoughts of the Reformers.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament IV – John 1-12 edited by Craig S. Farmer

RCS Vol. IVReformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament IV – John 1-12.  Timothy George, General Editor Farmer.  Craig S. Farmer, Editor.  Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014. 599 pp.  $50.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed another commentary in this series – Ezekiel and Daniel – and found it to be extremely informational.  Craig S. Farmer is associate professor of history and humanities and Joe O. and Mabel Stephens Chair of the Bible at Milligan College near Elizabethton, TN.

Summary

The “commentators” are adapted from the sermons and writings of 16th century preachers, scholars, and reformers.  They come from across all denominational stripes and seek to show the modern reader the rich heritage and the foundation from which

The editors seek to introduce readers to the depth and richness of the minds of the Reformation era. The four goals are, 1) enrichment of contemporary biblical interpretation through exposure to Reformation-era biblical exegesis, 2) a renewal of contemporary preaching and 3) a renewal of biblical interpretation through exposure to Reformation-era exegesis, and finally 4) a deeper understanding of the Reformation itself.

Review

This work is a treasure trove of information.  For example, John 3:16 has subheadings like “A Pledge of God’s Mercy to Those Who Fear God’s Wrath” by Caspar Cruciger, “Justification Originates in God’s Love” by Johannes Brenz, “God’s Universal and Particular Love” by Wolfgang Musculus and “No Greater Love” by Menno Simons.  In other words, one of the most oft-quoted verses today is shown to be understood quite a bit differently at the time of the Reformation.  Not that we are wrong to use it, but the application has not always been what it is now.

Further, this commentary is more than a commentary.  It includes biographical sketches of the people and their works during the time period.  It even includes a timeline of the Reformation which is invaluable as you seek to understand the context of when these sermons were preached or the books were written.  The timeline extends from 1337 to 1649 and includes the Reformers and the Puritans who continued the fight for the faith after the Reformers.

By reading this commentary, it can be read devotionally, the reader will glean much more insight into the thought processes of the Reformers and their adherents.  Farmer did a great job wading through the countless sermons found in the gospel of John and compiling an excellent representation of the thinking of the time.  In offering such a wide variety of authors, he introduces many new names to the plethora of common names from the time to today’s readers.

Recommendation

As I stated in the other review, $50 per book is a bit steep for most.  If, however, you seek to be a serious student of the history of the interpretation and application of the Word of God, especially as Protestants, this is an invaluable resource.  For pastors, I highly recommend this series as it will offer insight into your own understanding of the Word of God as you seek apply the timeless truths of God’s Word to your congregation today.

Exploring Christian Doctrine by Tony Lane

Exploring Christian DoctrineLane, Tony.  Exploring Christian Doctrine – A Guide to What Christians Believe.  Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.  308 pp.  $30.00.  Purchase for less at Amazon.

Introduction

Tony Lane serves as professor of historical theology at the London School of Theology.  He has written a number of quality books (you can find many of them here) including A Concise History of Christian Thought and Justification by Faith in Catholic – Protestant Dialogue.  He is also a renown scholar on John Calvin.

Summary

The book is divided into seven major doctrinal categories.  They are: Method (Bible and speaking of God), Creation, Sin and Evil, Redemption: God and His Work, Redemption: Personal, Redemption: Corporate, and Future Glory (Eschatology).  In a very real sense, Tony follows a logical order akin to most systematic theologies.  Each chapter includes a set of questions that are meant to be introduced (though not necessarily resolved) in the specific chapter.  He also includes a particular question that is meant to be used as a catalyst to get the reader to think critically about the chapter and then he offers his answer though he is careful not to call it “the answer.”

Another key feature is his engagement of those who disagree.  These may be nonbelievers who disagree or even Christians who may disagree with his take.  He offers his reasons as to why he believes his perspective is correct (or at least more correct).  Yet another fun component is his extracts from various historic creedal statements and any errors we must seek to avoid when wrestling through a particular doctrine.  Also, in the same vain, he does not shy away from the tensions inherent within Christianity.

Finally, to drive home the personal implication of the importance of the doctrine, he sometimes offers his own personal speculations on the subject.  The final two elements of each chapter are arguably the most important. He gives an extract from a hymn, worship song or even a liturgy and then offers a prayer from a source like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

Review

First and foremost, I want to commend Tony Lane for the tone of humility that is evident throughout the book.  He is writing to inform and instruct but he does so with simplicity, respect, and gentleness.  He never comes across condescending to those who may disagree nor does he come across as haughty or arrogant.  Rather, he merely lays out the historical facts and makes no apology for what has been historically accepted…good or bad.

His style and formatting is extremely engaging for the reader and helps the reader to feel as though she or he is carrying on a dialog with the author rather than the author teaching via monologue.  There are a number of resources that have been cited that will enable the reader who wants to know more about a particular doctrine do so with relative ease.

Furthermore, he introduces so many different doctrinal topics that one does feel as though they are drinking from a fire hydrant.  That fire hydrant, however, is controlled by 1) the author – he does not give too much information so as to hurt the brain and 2) the reader – you can simply put the book down and pick it back up when you are ready.  The truth of the matter is, this resource is very much an introduction to Christian doctrine.

Recommendation

There are a number of Systematic Theologies available today.  Yes, many of those are excellent and worth your time and money.  Tony Lane’s work is a bit different in that it is a genuine introduction and is meant to be a “tool-box” book that opens the door to many different areas of theological understanding.  I highly recommend Tony Lane’s Exploring Christian Doctrine to every Christian who wants to know more about the historic faith but does not know where to begin.

The Gospel of Christmas by Patty Kirk

The Gospel of ChristmasKirk, Patty.  The Gospel of Christmas: Reflections for Advent.  Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012.  169 pp.  $15.00.  Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Patty Kirk serves as a writer-in-residence and as associate professor of English at John Brown University.  She has written a few other books all of which have her raw and real perspective.  They can be found here.

Summary

Patty has written a number of essays she keeps in a file marked “Advent.”  Thirteen of these essays have found their way into this book.  They come from many different aspects of the Advent season but all of them point to Christ.

From the back of the book:

A child yearns as at no other time in the days leading up to Christmas. That yearning doesn’t entirely go away as we grow older. It still lingers in the backs of our minds. We imagine that Christmas is mainly for children and our adult lives don’t stop in the way that children’s lives stop on Christmas morning, so we don’t give ourselves time to notice the yearning. But it’s there–hope mingled with anxiety about what lies ahead. In The Gospel of Christmas, Patty Kirk helps us get in touch with our muted hopes and fears and reminds us that they are met and given their resolution in the coming of Christ, which Christmas celebrates and Advent anticipates, and all our lives prepare us for.

Review

The beauty of this book of reflections is that it is Patty’s personal thoughts.  She does not claim to be a theologian only a Christian who enjoys writing and wants to write about the many and various things that prompts her to meditate on Christ and her (relatively) new faith in Him.  She doesn’t write for a specific audience.  Rather, she writes as one who is pouring her heart before the Lord.  This gives her an authenticity that many writers wish they had.

Are you going to agree with everything she says?  Probably not.  I didn’t.  That is not the point of this book, however.  Patty simply writes down her thoughts and has decided to share them with you, the reader.  Regardless, The Gospel of Christmas will help you to meditate on the importance of the season.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a conversation starter for the Advent season, Patty Kirk has written it.  If you are looking for something to help you meditate, this resource is for you.