Tag Archives: IVP Academic

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.

How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman III

Longman III, Tremper, How to Read the Psalms. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1988. 168 pp. $16.00.  Purchase at Westminster for $10.72.

Introduction

Dr. Tremper Longman III attained his M. Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. at Yale University.  He serves as the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College.  He has authored or co-authored numerous works on the Old Testament including Immanuel in Our Place from The Gospel in the Old Testament Series as well as being one of the general editors for the massive Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

In this particular work, Dr. Longman seeks to provide his readers with a guide to better read the Psalms based upon their historical context and literary genre.  His goal is to better equip today’s Christian to read the Psalms in light of the difficulties faced in the world today.  In other words, while the Psalms were composed thousands of years ago, they were not composed in a vacuum and therefore, as the Word of God, are meant to be for the believer yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Summary

Divided into three parts over eleven chapters, Dr. Longman looks deep into the heart of the Psalms; thus, looking deep into the heart and mind of God who, through the Holy Spirit, inspired the various writers of the individual Psalms and the general editor who compiled them into what we now know as the Book of Psalms.  The three divisions of the Book look at the Psalms Then and Now, the Art of the Psalms, and finally, a Melody of Psalms.

Part one, the Psalms Then and Now, looks at the many different genres of Psalms.  Perhaps, the most important chapter in this first part is the second chapter where Longman discusses how they originated, how they were developed and finally how they were used in Hebrew worship.

Another helpful chapter from the first part is A Christian Reading of the Psalms.  Here, Dr. Longman explains how a believer in Christ today can read the Psalms, though Christ is explicitly absent from them, as a Christian book of prayer.  This has been a subject of great debate throughout the history of the Church and while this chapter does not completely resolve the issues, it goes a long way in helping to determine the plausibility of reading and praying them as a Christian prayer book.

The part concludes with a chapter explaining what John Calvin made popular—the Psalms are indeed a mirror of the soul.  Again, we are implored to read and pray and sing the Psalms as the Old Testament saints did before Christ came.  We are, however, privileged to be able to do so post Christ’s first coming.

The second part looks at the Art of the Psalms.  Here the reader is taught about Old Testament poetry as well as ancient extra-biblical poetry as the author makes the case that the book of Psalms is meant to be more than just read.  He then spends a couple chapters dealing with and explaining in detail the use of parallelism and imagery in the Psalms.  This is integral for our understanding of the authorial intent and how it truly draws us closer to the Lord when reading, praying and/or singing the Psalms.

The third part of this work offers insight into how to study individual Psalms.  Here, the author dissects three Psalms – Psalm 98, 69, and 30.  It is here where Longman teaches how to understand the imprecatory Psalms in light of the forgiveness demanded of us as believers and followers of Christ.  By the time you read these three chapters, you will be able to understand how to study the individual Psalms in such a way that they will become alive to you and draw you nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Critical Evaluation

To begin with, I found the work as a whole to be very accessible and well written so that a layperson would be able to understand what is taking place and how to better read the Psalms.  Longman’s approach of looking at the book as a whole and then narrowing it down to specific genres and even specific Psalms was a great aid.  It showed that the 150 Psalms as a whole can be divided into a biblical theology where we see the acts of God from Creation through to the post-exilic period anticipating the coming Messiah.

On the other hand, the Psalms can be sorted into a systematic theology though not with precision.  As Longman aptly notes from John Calvin, the Book of Psalms is a mirror to the soul.  From every emotion a human can perceive, feel, or express, the Psalmist writes.  The author does an excellent job of providing an overview of the forest so to speak and then equipping the reader to inspect each tree individually.  His goal of making the book “readable for the college student [and] studied by adult Sunday-school classes as well as interested individuals” (p. 9), was successful.

Furthermore, Longman led his readers to the true heart of the Book of Psalms.  That is, their element of worship.  All throughout the book, the reader will be challenged to worship the Lord.  Sometimes, this will happen spontaneously as the reader is introduced to so many varying dynamics of the Psalms.  Each layer that is peeled back from the Psalm shows the reader just how much more there is to study and learn.  While not a Psalm, the line from the hymn Amazing Grace is very appropriate here, “When we’ve been here ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing your praise…”  The book of Psalms shows us this very truth and what a blessed truth it is.

The critical, while not overtly incorrect, is minimal at best.  For example, on p. 43, Longman states that the “Five books [found in the Psalms] were intentionally created to parallel the five books of Moses.”  First, this is not necessarily the case as we really are not sure who edited these one hundred fifty Psalms for inclusion in what we now call the Old Testament.  Let alone their thinking behind the manner in which they were compiled.

Second, this is not necessarily an agreed upon understanding of the divisions.  While there is an obvious division of five books (or movements given that this is a hymnal) with each concluding with a doxology (see Ps. 41, 72, 89, 106, and 150), there is no consensus as to why a division of five books.  The use of the five books of Moses seems a very easy explanation since the Pentateuch was the foundation for the Hebrews (as well as for Christianity).  Nonetheless, to state that they were intentionally created to parallel the five books of Moses is a bit dogmatic.

Perhaps the only other criticism for How to Read the Psalms is the section regarding the Psalms as a covenant book.  Here, Longman painstakingly makes the case that the Psalms are in keeping with the covenant made between God and man.  This covenant, we all agree, ultimately finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  The issue I have here is the allusion to the Presbyterian understanding of covenant as to the baptistic understanding of covenant.

Let it be known, however, that this is an implied argument in my estimation and not one that is stated explicitly in the work.  I take this implication based upon the reference to O. Palmer Robertson’s great treatise, The Christ of the Covenants in which Robertson argues for a covenantal view of paedobaptism as replacing that of circumcision.

Again, this is an implication I drew from the work and not one that is stated explicitly.  That being said, the resources mentioned in this particular chapter all deal with the covenantal understanding of baptism embraced by Reformed Presbyterians and other denominations who hold to a baptism of infants.  Regardless, this does not detract from the greater quality of the work.

Recommendation

What is left to be said about How to Read the Psalms?  This work will lead the reader to a deeper understanding of one of the most read and misunderstood books in the entire Bible.  Longman’s writing was both clear and concise.  It is easily accessible to even the High School student wanting to learn more.  I would like to conclude this review with a quote from the book that has stuck out among all the rest I have underlined.  It is found on page 57, “When we enter the sanctuary of the Psalms, we know that we are in the presence of God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reformation Commentary on Scripture XII Exekiel, Daniel Ed. by Carl L. Beckwith

Reformation Commentary on Scripture – Old Testament XII – Ezekiel, Daniel.  Edited by Carl L. Beckwith.  General Editor, Timothy George.  Downers Grove:  IVP Academic, 2012.  $50.00.  Purchase for much less at Amazon.

Introduction

This volume on Ezekiel and Daniel in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series is the second of a proposed twenty-eight volume commentary.  The “commentators” are adapted from the sermons and writings of 16th century preachers, scholars, and reformers.

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

In essence, this is a commentary on the Books of Ezekiel and Daniel found in the Old Testament as understood in the 16th century. From the back of the book, we find which Reformers “contributed” to this volume.

This volume collects the comments of the monumental figures like Luther, Calvin and Melancthon, alongside many lesser known and read thinkers, such as Heinrich Bullinger, Hans Denck, Giovanni Diodati, Johann Gerhard, John Mayer, Matthew Mead, Johann Oecolampadius, Jakob Raupius, Johann Wigand and Andrew Willet. Several beloved English Puritans are included as well: Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Thomas Manton and John Owen.

The work is like any other commentary in that it follows the basic pericopes of the books while offering the voices of the Reformers independent of one another. I.e., they are not having a “discussion” so to speak.

Review

I would first caution against purchasing this series for the sole purpose of Scripture study and sermon preparation.  Instead, the value of this series, in my estimation, is going to be found in the fourth goal of the editors: that the modern reader will attain a deeper understanding of the Reformation itself.  Just because their thoughts are older and perhaps deeper than much of ours today, does not set them apart as infallible.  We must always search the Scriptures and allow the Bible to interpret itself first.

That being said, I do believe that having the thoughts of some great men who disagreed during the time of the Reformation…arguably, the most important event since the inception of the church in the first century…is invaluable.  It is nice to have the various thoughts side by side and to see where they not only disagreed but also to see where they agreed.  What is more, it is interesting to read how far they took some of their thoughts in reaction to the Catholic Church as well.

Oddly enough, this commentary can be read cover to cover or as a resource.  Either way, the reader will be enlightened and challenged to further plumb the depths of God’s Word.

Recommendation

At $50 per book, yes, you can get them cheaper at Amazon, the price may be a bit steep for some.  If, however, you enjoy church history and want to peer behind the curtain of some of the formative minds of Protestantism as the movement was taking place, then this series will be an excellent one-stop shop for all your needs.  I do recommend it though I caution that not everyone will want to get this set.  I also caution against taking the thoughts of these men and letting them be the end all explanation to the Scriptures today.  There are quite a few places where you will disagree and that is alright.

Christian Apologetics by Douglas Groothuis Pt. 2

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011. 752 pp. $40.00. Purchase at Amazon for much less.

Introduction

Dr. Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and also teaches the same subject at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He has written some ten works involving a Christian philosophy, apologetic, and worldview. Two of his works that have impacted me are Truth Decay and On Jesus. This particular work is what could be considered his magnum opus.

This review is the second part of a two part review.  You can read the first review that covers Parts one and three of the work here.  This review will cover the more extensive part two that deals with the nuts and bolts arguments for the Christian faith.

Summary

Part two of Christian Apologetics is a fourteen chapter, 450-page section that states the case for Christian Theism.  Each chapter gives a sound introduction to a particular philosophical argument for or against Christianity.  The first chapter is a treatise seeking to defend theistic argumentation in general.  Chapters ten and eleven discuss the ontological and cosmological arguments for the existence of God.

Chapters 12-14 can be set aside as one major discussion on the origin of everything.  Chapter 12 is the design argument while chapter 13 brings Darwinism into the discussion with chapter 14 offering the evidence for intelligent design.  Chapter fifteen transitions the reader to the moral argument while chapter sixteen looks at the tough argument from religious experience.

Chapters seventeen and eighteen take a closer look at the humanity arguments while chapter 19 is a slight detour with Craig Blomberg adding an article on how historians can know Jesus Christ and why that matters.  With this chapter, Groothuis now transitions the reader into a discussion centered squarely on the Man, Jesus Christ.

Review

Each chapter can be studied in and of itself and, I am pretty sure, never be exhausted in material.  That goes to show that Groothuis undertakes a monumental task in writing a “comprehensive case for biblical faith.”  There is so much to be digested in each chapter that it would do the reader well to read and reread each chapter.  You will need a pen and/or a highlighter as you take many notes and want to look many other things up for further study.

It is important to note, as I do with most works of apologetics, you cannot argue someone into heaven or salvation.  What you can do, however, is equip yourself to better engage unbelievers and those who are antagonistic toward the Christian faith.  Each chapter in Christian Apologetics will help you to take steps toward being better equipped to do just that.  There is so much to master in this work that I highly doubt you would ever exhaust your need for this book even if you become familiar with all of its contents.

The footnotes also aid the reader in understanding both sides of the debate and will also be of greater use to the student looking to learn more.  Groothuis does a masterful job of interweaving academic work and discussion in everyday language.  He defines his terms and explains most of the technical wording such that most readers will find the material easy to understand.

In the end, I am thoroughly impressed with the accomplishment of Dr. Douglas Groothuis in the publication of Christian Apologetics.

Recommendation

The breadth and depth of this work is a sight to behold.  The ability for Groothuis to articulate each argument at a clear and concise manner and then philosophically argue for at both an academic and lay-level is an achievement unmatched by  other Christian apologists.  Perhaps another title (or subtitle) for this work that may show what exactly has been attained could be Christian Apologetics for Dummies.  Unfortunately, there are to many…um…dummies out there that would rip that out of context just as they do so many arguments against Christian Theism.  Purchase a copy of Christian Apologetics and keep it handy.  You will need find that it is a most helpful resource.

Christian Apologetics by Douglas Groothuis

Groothuis, Douglas.  Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith.  Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011.  752 pp.  $40.00.  Purchase at Amazon for much less.

Introduction

Dr. Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and also teaches the same subject at Metropolitan State College of Denver.  He has written some ten works involving a Christian philosophy, apologetic, and worldview.  Two of his works that have impacted me are Truth Decay and On Jesus.  This particular work is what could be considered his magnum opus.

This review is the first of a two part review (you can read the second part here).  Because the work is so large, I have decided to offer two reviews.  The first review is going to look at parts one and three while the second review will look at the primary section of the book found in part two.

Summary

The entire book is divided into three parts with two appendices.  Part one is an eight-chapter look at the preliminaries of Christian apologetics.  Dr. Groothuis offers the biblical basis for apologetics before engaging in the discussion of the importance of worldviews.  He argues for absolute truth (a very important and sadly very necessary conversation today) in chapter six and explains in chapter seven why truth matters.  Chapter eight concludes the preliminary discussions on apologetics by arguing for the rationality of the Christian faith.

Part two will be discussed here.

Part three engages the reader in a discussion some major objections to Christian Theism.  Chapter twenty-three looks at religious pluralism – the concept that all religions are equally valid and true.  Chapter twenty-four is very important chapter in this day and age as it seeks to show arguments against Islamic Theism.  Finally, chapter twenty-five deals with the problem of evil.  He concludes part three with an exhortation to take the knowledge and information gleaned from reading this resource and use it in your conversations.

Review

Definitely written to be  a textbook, Christian Apologetics is a well-written resource that will most definitely equip the reader to be more ready to defend his or her faith in every day life.  Groothuis writes with the academician in view, but the lay person in mind.  In other words, you do not need a degree or need to be pursuing a degree in philosophy or apologetics in order to read or study this work.

The chapters are well structured and organized so that the reader does not get lost in what amounts to be some pretty heady conversation.  His footnotes (thank you for using footnotes instead of endnotes!!!) are a ready source for further information on each topic and will help the serious student to delve further into the various conversations.  The bibliography is more than 50 pages long!

The scripture index at the back of the book is a great resource for those looking to defend a particular issue brought up in conversation.  You can look it up here and quickly turn to the page where it is mentioned or discussed and then see if what is said and if anything is quoted, you can quickly see what resource that is and do some further study rather quickly.

I do wish there was a section in each chapter that would provide key themes, ideas, arguments and some questions to ask that would help the reader to engage the material a bit more in depth within the context of this work itself.  Outside of that, I was very impressed with the quality of the work by one man.

Recommendation

If you are serious about Christian apologetics in general, then Christian Apologetics by Dr. Douglas Groothuis is an indispensable resource.  It is well-written, well-researched, and well-indexed.  While there are many well done works of apologetics, this resource is the most comprehensive (yes, it is part of the title for a reason) I have read introducing the subject matter of Christian Apologetics.  It most assuredly will be a resource you will find yourself using over and over making the price of the book well worth it.

The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John H. Sailhamer

Sailhamer, John H. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009.  638 pp.  $40.00.  Purchase at Westminster books for $26.00.

Introduction

The Meaning of the Pentateuch is the culmination of a lifetime of study of by John H. Sailhamer–professor of Old Testament at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  His book, Introduction to Old Testament Theology was very formative to my understanding of preaching the text of Scripture versus preaching the historical events described in Scripture.

Summary

This mammoth 638 page tome is a tribute to more than 30 years of scholarly study by Dr. John H. Sailhamer.  I will attempt to summarize this book in an extremely short manner though I could easily write pages upon pages just in summary alone!

The book is divided into three parts.  The first section deals with our approach to the Pentateuch as the revelation of God.  Here, Sailhamer introduces what Old Testament Theology is and how we are to understand what the writers of the Old Testament, specifically, the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) is trying to tell us.  He next explains the importance of verbal meaning–what the author actually wrote and then compares that to the historical meaning–having a historical-grammatical method to interpreting Scripture.  He argues that we ought to return to the original intent of this method as opposed to our current understanding.

The second section concerns itself with the rediscovering of how the Pentateuch was originally composed.  Here, as I will discuss in a moment, I respectfully disagree with Sailhamer.  In this section, he looks at the Tanak, the Hebrew name for our Old Testament–it was divided into three parts–Law, Prophets, and Writings as opposed to our Law, History, Wisdom Lit., Prophets subdivisions.

The key chapter to the second chapter is the chapter entitled The Composition of the Pentateuch.  It  is here that Sailhamer argues for an author other than Moses for the Pentateuch.  Regardless of who you think wrote the Pentateuch, this section on the composition of these first five books is very interesting and formative.

The final section is the application of Sailhamer’s lifetime of study.  Here, we learn how to interperet the theology of the Pentateuch.  Ultimately, without the Pentateuch, there is no reason for Christ to come and save mankind from sin.  Through the Pentateuch we learn to be obedient to God and to live by faith that He alone can save us if we respond to Him in faith.

Review

As I said above, I disagree with his understanding of who wrote the Pentateuch.  He basically takes a source theory as to the Pentateuch.  In other words, Moses did not write the entire Pentateuch as so many believe.  He argues that the Pentateuch was compiled from various sources at various times and was not completed as we know it until sometime in the 1st century BC.  Without going into much detail, I respectfully disagree.  Simply stated, Jesus Christ explicitly states that Moses wrote the Law (Mark 12:26, Luke 2:22; 16:29, etc.).  He refers over and over to the assumption that was understood by the Jews that Moses wrote the Law.

This disagreement notwithstanding, I found The Meaning of the Pentateuch to be an excellent though challenging read.  It takes some time (it took me 6+ months to wade through it) to read and even then, you will be amazed at what you missed.  I appreciated his willingness to fight for the historical-grammatical method for interpreting Scripture as well as tracing where his logic and prusuppositions lead him.

Recommendation

Sailhamer’s magnum opus ought to be read by all pastor’s and seminary students.  It will change the way you read the first five books of the Bible–regardless of the presuppositions you bring to the table.  The Pentateuch is ultimately the foundation of the Bible.  Without it, we have no need for Christ.  Apart from it, we do not understand Christ fully.  This is to our shame.

This book is not for everyone.  It was written for the serious student of Scripture.  Many, my wife among them, are not as interested in understanding these nuances on the scholarly side of theology.  Regardless, as a pastor, you owe it to your congregation and those you lead to be familiar with what is being said about the Bible.  At $26.00 from Westminster, this book is well worth the price to add to your library.