Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: A Reader's Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers

Daniel Wallace’s A Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers is not your every day devotional material. The crowd that this book will appeal to is those who long for a greater knowledge of the Biblical and apostolic languages. The lexicon covers a wide range of the Apostolic Father’s works (e.g., 1 and 2 Clement, the Didache, Letter to Barnabus, The Shepherd of Hermas, and the Traditions of the Elders). The lexicon covers any word that occurs less than 30 times in the New Testament. The book indicates how many times the words are used in the particular letter, but it also indicates how many times it is used within the Apostolic Fathers as a whole.
One thing that I love about this resource is that it provides aids to so many early church documents. There is no single resource that brings together this many writings with lexical aid. Next, although the number thirty is arbitrary addressing all the words that are used less than thirty times I found to be very helpful. The number is not too low where it is too difficult to translate, but not to high so that you actually do not have to put any work in. My only critique of the book is that it does not provide the texts within the book. I know that this is intention and that the book would be enormous if this were the case, but I still wish that they were together. Early Greek students will have to have a copy of the Greek text, BDAG, and this book in order to work through it. Overall, I absolutely loved the book. The book is definitely academic in nature, but it is written for young academics. I want to conclude with a great quote from Luther on the importance of learning the original languages. Luther in regards to learning the languages said,

“Let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored. . . . If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall . . . lose the gospel.”

Publisher: Kregel
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 256
Binding Type: Hardback
Book Grade: A

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Crossway Recognized One of My Reviews

Crossway recognized my review of the Gospel Transformation Bible.  Kind of exciting that a big name publisher caught eye of my work. BTW, even if they did not recognize my blog on their page, I would still highly recommend this resource.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: What is Biblical Theology? by Jim Hamilton

Let me begin my review with an encouraging preface. Anytime Hamilton publishes something new, I feel obligated to purchase it. I have never purchased one of his books that I later regretted buying. I would also be hard pressed to think of another person, who has had greater influence on the way that I read the bible other than Jim Hamilton. When I heard about the upcoming release of What is Biblical Theology I was very excited. I have already read Hamilton’s magna opus God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. I purchased this Intro to Biblical Theology with curiosity as to whether he would add additional insight to other passages that he may not have mentioned in his previous work. I was also curious if this would be a good book to read with a lay person.
Hamilton’s book is not your stereotypical introduction to biblical theology. Most intros spend the majority of their time explaining what Biblical Theology is and not. Usually you will find a long drawn out section which explains the difference between Biblical, Systematic, and historical theology. You do not experience that with Hamilton’s text. Next, the majority of Biblical theologies exhaust all possible literary genres without ever getting to a text. After reading one of these texts, I often feel like I just left an English comp class, rather than having just read a book that is suppose to help me to get further acquainted with scripture. Hamilton puts the bible and its metanarrative (i.e., Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration) at the forefront. Hamilton covers typology, symbolism, patterns, themes, and imagery. He teaches the reader about the literary types from the text itself. I love Hamilton’s approach because the reader sees the importance of language and genre, but never divorced from the text itself. The reader leaves knowing more about the Bible than he does about linguistics.
I would highly recommend this book to all. The lay person and the scholar alike can learn a great deal from this book. This would be a great intro for a Sunday school class, who may long for something weightier. The scholar will see many connections, themes, types, and images that he may never had seen before. Furthermore, the scholar will also see the why this book is important for the local church. The entire last section of this book is devoted to application within the local church. Hamilton is both a scholar and a lover of the church. Within the pages of this book, the reader will encounter both. This book is a goldmine waiting to be tapped.
Publisher: Crossway
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 128
Binding Type: Paperback
Book Grade: A

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate Creation

Some thoughts from the debate:

This debate made a big splash in the media world. I think that Ham was very helpful in many regards with his approach to the debate. First, Ham demonstrated, through video clips and citations that there are intellectuals that hold to creationism. All too often those who hold to creationism are caricatured as being unintellectual and clueless to the rest of the scientific world. Ham did a good job demonstrating that there are intellectuals, who do hold to this position. Next, Ham's ultimate purpose in debating Nye I believe was accomplished when he presented the gospel multiple times. As believers we need to remember that it is the gospel that saves and not our intellectual arguments. Apologetics is helpful and needed for defending the faith and removing barriers for a person, but it is the proclaimed gospel that saves. This debate was broadcast internationally and live-streamed on the BBC. The European countries, which are growing more and more naturalistic needed to hear the gospel which was presented. Third, Ham demonstrated that creationists do not deny evidence, but they interpret that evidence differently Ham was very clear that all people creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence. The dividing line between the two is the presuppositions or worldview through which people interpret the data. A creationists see the evidence and interpret it as "X" and a naturalist sees the evidence and interprets it as "Y". No one divorce themselves from their worldview while they are interpreting data. The big distinction between creationists and the naturalists is that the creationists admits that he is interpreting through the lens of his own worldview.

These are just some thoughts that I had from the debate. One thing that people need to keep in mind is that within the majority (maybe all) of debates, the people debating are not likely to switch positions as a result of the debate. Whether this be a result of arrogance or lack of persuasion, one needs to keep this in the purview while watching a public debate. I think more important than the two debating are the people listening. The people listening often come curious and with questions. An angry debater often turns away followers. Along the same lines when a debater sounds completely ignorant which facing someone of an opposing worldview that can also do a lot of damage. I think Ham did very in presenting his case. I left the debate being more appreciative of him and his ministry.

Below is a link to another helpful article on this particular debate.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll’s book A Call to Resurgence has not been lacking media attention. The book made its debut when Driscoll attended the “Strange Fire” conference and was asked to leave for dispersing his book to attendees. The book made its next big splash when Janet Mefferd confronted Driscoll on charges of plagiarism from the book. As a result of this Tyndale had to make a public response to the accusations of plagiarism. The actual issues addressed in the book have fallen into the shadows because of these two things.
The book begins by demonstrating that the Christianity of old is not the same Christianity that we are currently living in. The “Christian America” of old has been reduced to a minutia of what it once was. Christian America has been replaced by syncretism, atheism, and deism. Driscoll concludes his gloomy forecast with that Christian America is either headed for a funeral or a future. Driscoll argues that too many churches and people are debating and arguing over fickle things. The church is majoring on the minor, while neglecting to reach out to a world that is in desperate need of Christ. Driscoll stresses this idea when he says, “The church is dying, and no one is noticing because we’re wasting time criticizing rather than evangelizing.” I found chapter four of the book to be extremely helpful. Driscoll in this chapter demonstrates what the church needs to do in order to survive while still holding on to its core tenants. The last chapter of the book gives the indicatives of the book. If you want to see what Driscoll is saying and get around the stories and the lingo go straight for the final chapter of the book.
Even though the book is getting a lot of negative press, I found the book to be very helpful. The negative press the book is getting relates to the content, but is not because of the exact content (if that makes sense at all). Driscoll always finds a unique way of getting his message across. One thing about Driscoll and his writing is that I wish was not the case is that you will not find a fundamentalist or an older person reading his writing. Driscoll writes to a certain niche. Ironically Driscoll generally writes and diagnosis the very people who read his material. I would think that this would turn away the very readers that like him. If Driscoll desires to reach a broader audience he would need to remove some of his “twenty something lingo.” Overall I thought

Publisher: Tyndale
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 336
Binding Type: Hardback
Book Grade: B

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Monday, January 13, 2014

"Digital Doctrine" Published and Copyright with the Knoxville News Sentinel

Digital Doctrine

After the hymns have been sung, scripture has been read, and your minister steps behind the pulpit, you are likely to hear something that prior generations never heard, “Open your bible, tablet, iPhone, or bible app to the book of …” The shuffling of pages is slowly evolving into reflections of afterglow off the faces of those using e-readers around them. Doug Roberts, a pastor at Powell Church, estimates that around 50% of his congregation now uses tablets rather than a traditional paper copy during their weekly gathering. This number is likely to rise based on the recent results from a Barna Group survey. The Barna Group’s survey determined that from 2010 to 2012, pastors’ use of e-readers has tripled. Even though the survey was focused particularly on the clergy, it is evident that the same is true among the members as well.

Dr. Alan Price, Pastor of Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Halls, is one of the pastors who have made the switch from preaching from the traditional paper copy of the bible to preaching from a tablet. Price explained his reasoning for the transition by saying, “The lighting [i.e., from the iPad] helps me to see my notes better.” Even though Price preaches from a tablet, he concedes that he cannot move away from studying with a traditional paper copy. Price explained his reasoning for not fully making the crossover saying, “I do not think I will ever move away from studying with a hard copy. I just think there is something about seeing a copy of God's Word open before you that gives it authority. It also allows you to flip back and forth comparing passages with one another.” Dr. Price finds both the paper copy and the e-reader beneficial for his ministry.

There are several churches in the area that have found other unique ways to use tablets and smart phones within their weekly gatherings. One of those churches that has found unique ways to use media is Foothills Church in Maryville. Greg Gibson, author of the book ofReformational Manhood and a pastor at Foothills Church in Maryville, explained how his church has used multimedia in a number of areas to benefit its members. Foothills Church has their own app that can be downloaded from the App Store. From their church’s app anyone can have quick access to notes for the sermon. Foothills church has also used a text messaging system for their youth. This messaging system makes it so that the youth can use their smart phones to text in questions that they want to be answered after the sermon. Even though Gibson and his congregation use multimedia in many different fashions, he too still prefers to read from a paper copy. Gibson explained his logic for this by saying,

I always prefer a paper bible to an app in the same way I prefer a real book to an e-book. For me, diving into God's Word in book form brings an experience that holding a tablet does not. Though I know e-books are on the rise in the same way mp3's are, there is a 'realness' to the experience when the book is right in front me, affording me the opportunity to underline and make notes in the margin.”

The unifying theme from these pastors is that, even though technology brings with it new benefits, the paper form of the Bible holds a special place in each one of their lives and ministries. As technology advances, it seems as if the paper form of the bible will act as a unifier tying the church of old to the tech savvy millennials. With this rapid transition one may ask, “Is God going digital?” Time can only tell."

Published in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Saturday,January 11th 2014.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

I am slowly beginning to wonder if Tim Keller will ever produce a book that I think is “meh” or boring. I cannot think of a time that I have heard him preach or a book that I have read by him that has not caused me to re-examine my thoughts on a particular issue. In Keller’s new book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering he continues on with his motif. Keller has a unique ability to address the secular culture and demonstrate to it that the Christian worldview is the only worldview which can provide hope and a rationale for whatever symptom he is analyzing. The symptom or issue in which Keller is addressing within this title is the topic of “pain” and “suffering.”

Keller demonstrates how the secular culture or a deist/atheist worldview looks at pain as something to avoid or overcome. The Christian worldview sees pain and suffering as an integral part of the Christian life. Keller goes as far as to say that pain and suffering are “the heart of the Christian message.” Pain and suffering remind the Christian of the reality of sin. Although Christ has defeated sin, its effects are still present. Suffering also plays a vital role in the sanctification of believers. The book of James discusses how a believer is made complete through suffering. Without pain and suffering a believer cannot experience this completeness. Where the secular culture sees pain and suffering as something to avoid and something that hinders progress, the Christian sees it as essential. The nonbeliever sees these things as pointless or as serving no end-purpose.

Keller through Penguin-Dutton press has produced several incredible titles (e.g., Reasons for God, Redefining Marriage, Prodigal God, and now Walking with God through Pain and Sufferiing) which are evangelistic, apologetic, and spiritually challenging. Generally when an author writes a book that is evangelistic, it lacks in depth and can at times seem irrelevant to the believer. Keller’s book is chalked full of nuggets. The reader, if not careful, will find himself underlining almost every page. One thing that I love about Keller is that he addresses moral issues through the lens of Christ. More often than not writers will fall into moralism in their writing. If you are writing a book from the Christian perspective it should never be devoid of Christ and the gospel. If by the end of your book, a Jew can say "amen" to it, you are doing it wrong. Keller keeps Christ at the center of suffering and demonstrates how the Christian should view it through the lens of Christ. Keller does this masterfully when he said, ““The best people often have terrible lives. Job is one example, and Jesus—the ultimate ‘Job,’ the only truly, fully innocent sufferer — is another.” I would highly recommend this title. If you know someone going through a tough time in life, this is the book for them. I would even highly recommend this book as an evangelistic tool for educated nonbelievers. Although the nonbeliever may read this for help during a difficult time, in the end he will find himself confronted with the gospel the only true hope while suffering.

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 288
Binding Type: Hardback
Book Grade: A+

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