Book Review – Time in History

Time. It is something we never have enough of and something people of all cultures throughout history have struggled to fully understand. What is the nature of time? How does one calculate the passage of time? Is there even such a thing as time? Will time end at some point and for that matter, how did time begin? G. J. Whitrow, in his very interesting book Time in History: Views of Time From Pre-History to the Present Day, explores the various perspectives of time in cultures ranging from the ancient Near East to present day Western concepts of this all important topic.

As a believer, we understand the importance of time. Scripture places the creation of all things by YHWH within a span of defined time. We know time will come to an end at some point when the Messiah returns with the righteous enjoying eternal life with the Father and the wicked experience eternal damnation. Eternity is a construct of time, albeit one we cannot grasp at present.

In everyday life, we mark off time in second, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, etc. We look at historical events within a framework of time such as “in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation took place”. All in all, in today’s society, in large part, all things revolve around time.

Obsession with time is not the sole purview of today’s time conscience, fast-paced society. With that said, ancient societies and cultures throughout the centuries have devoted large amounts of their focus on matters related to time. As Whitrow saliently notes in this book, even the very construct of language has subsumed within it elements of addressing time. He cogently states, “Our idea of time is thus closely linked with the fact that our process of thinking consists of a linear sequence of discrete acts of attention. As a result, time is naturally associated by us with counting, which is the simplest of all rhythms.”

Whitrow first addresses concepts related to our awareness of time, then he proceeds to engage how time has been described through the centuries, and he spends the remainder of this work outlining how time was understood and applied from antiquity to the present day. All in all it is a riveting investigation of how cultures have dealt with time.

What interested me most and led me to read this book was to search out an understanding of the Hebraic understanding of time, something I knew Whitrow addressed in this book. On the timeline of history as it is treated in this book, the Hebraic perspective is included in the section that concentrates on classical antiquity. While the discussion of the ancient Israelite understanding of time only covers around 6 pages, it is nevertheless replete with valuable information that will serve the reader well in their understanding of the Hebraic view of time. Perhaps most importantly, the information shared in this book is not only helpful in establishing an overview of the Hebraic viewpoint, it will also help inform the reader on how to grasp time as understood and applied by the writers of Scripture.

For instance, Whitrow aptly states, “The outstanding feature that distinguishes Hebrew thought from Greek thought (particularly that of Aristotle) was the idea of the cosmos as a creation of God that actually had occurred in history. In Hebrew thought, unlike Greek, nature was not divine, and God transcended all phenomena. The sun, moon, and stars were all God’s creatures and served to show his handiwork.” Unraveling Greek Platonic thought from our understanding of theology in general and also from the perspective of how we understand time as revealed in Scripture. Whitrow does an especially excellent job of comparing and contrasting Hebraic versus Greek thought regarding matters of time, an issue all too often overlooked in literature on the subject.

I highly recommend this excellent book by G. J. Whitrow. I also recommend another similar work by him titled What is Time for which the review of that book is provided here. Both works provide the reader with an excellent understanding of time, how cultures have understood, related to, and applied time in their societies. As noted, Whitrow in Time in History in particular engages the Hebraic understanding and application of time, something I encourage all believers to become better versed in as it relates directly to an proper approach to matters of time as it relates to Scripture. Scholarly yet written in a way all can understand, this book is a valuable tool on time I will keep handy for years to come.

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Michael Boling – Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

When the term apocalyptic literature is used, most are likely drawn to thinking about books in Scripture such as Revelation or perhaps the ending chapters of Matthew where Jesus described the time of the end. While both are indeed apocalyptic, what is often forgotten is the plethora and rich literature of this genre found in the Old Testament. Dr. Richard Taylor in his book Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook takes a helpful look through Daniel, the OT Prophets, and extra-biblical texts, exploring the overall genre and providing the reader how to read, understand, and most importantly, apply these important texts.

Taylor saliently notes how the very term apocalyptic is somewhat difficult to define. Is it an actual genre or merely a term that can be used to described sections of Scripture that speak on issues of judgment and eternal matters? To help push through the fog of confusion regarding the term itself, Taylor works through the various terms associated with this type of literature such as apocalypse, apocalypticism, apocalyptic literature, apocalyptic eschatology, apocalyptic discourse, and proto-apocalyptic. I found Taylor’s efforts to define and set the stage for further discussion well-written and helpful for without this important foundation, actual engagement of the relevant texts would be difficult at best.

After providing the aforementioned foundation, Taylor then begins exploring the major themes found in apocalyptic literature, specifically those located in the book of Daniel, the OT Prophets, and Extra-Biblical Jewish Apocalyptic texts. The latter source of material may seem out of place; however, studying the extra-bibical writings of the period should not be ignored and thankfully Taylor has taken the time to look through, albeit rather briefly, texts such as the book of Enoch and Jubilees. While not part of the canon, those books nevertheless are important reads as after all, canonical books such as Jude make reference to them in relation to matters of apocalyptic importance.

Before one can actually engage these texts, it is necessary to be fully prepared for what you will find and the type of language used such as similes, metaphors, metonomy, hypocatastasis, and synecdoche. While some of these are certainly what can be labeled as million dollar theological terms, Taylor does an excellent job of explaining and providing examples of how they work in context. Without a proper grasp of how and why such types of language are used in apocalyptic literature, one can fall prey to the dangerous ground of faulty interpretations and wild speculations that unfortunately so often surround efforts geared at understanding this genre.

To help the reader, Taylor provides a great list of resources on matters such as understanding biblical languages, bible study software, lexical and grammatical guides, and primary source material. To be honest, many of these resources should not be found solely in the libraries of those in seminary. Even the average laymen should take note and use these tools, especially when studying apocalyptic literature.

Finally, after properly preparing the reader with outstanding foundational information, he engages how to interpret this genre and importantly, how to proclaim the gospel message found within its pages. It is one thing to study and absorb what God has revealed in the apocalyptic genre. It is quite another thing to take that message, properly understand it, and then proclaim its message to a world that will be impacted by the events its describes. Taylor does an excellent job of showing ways to weave the message of this genre into our gospel proclamation.

Confused and frustrated by the apocalyptic genre? Are the books of Daniel and Revelation something that frighten you? Are you more apt to let someone else tell you what to think about this genre rather than investigating it for yourself? If any of those or other issues have kept you from studying this topic, I highly encourage you to read Dr. Taylor’s book. It is scholarly yet accessible and it will go a long way to helping the mystery of the apocalyptic genre become more understandable.

This book is available for purchase from Kregel Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Kregel Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michael Boling – Book Review: The Earliest Christologies

It has been some time since I dug into a good “nerdy” theological style text. Over the past few months, I had tried to give my brain a bit of a break after another breakneck pace of reading last year. The kind folks at IVP Academic sent my direction a book which at first glance looked like something I might really enjoy and my initial hunch was correct.

The Earliest Christologies: Five Images of Christ in the Post-Apostolic Age by Dr. James Papandrea is a short yet effective journey through five popular concepts of Christology in vogue in the formative years of the church, in particular the Post-Apostolic age. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of this period of church history is aware there were a great many systems of belief being promoted. Some were attempts to work through some rather difficult elements of theology while others were quite frankly a product of heretical doctrines such as Gnosticism.

Because our understanding of who Messiah is truly resides at the center of theology, it is of course essential to root oneself in a correct Christology. Furthermore, having a historical perspective such as provided by Papandrea in his helpful book will greatly assist in sorting truth from error as well as enabling one to understand where the errant doctrines derived from and why they are incorrect from a biblical perspective.
Sometimes discussions on topics such as Christology can become very dry and mired in a plethora of theological terminology that leaves the reader with a lot of facts yet not a clear understanding of the issue at hand. Papandrea avoids such an approach, instead focusing on walking the reader via short yet insightful chapters that outline the five arguably most popular and influential Christologies of the period.

Ultimately, and correct I might add, Papandrea reveals and outlines the Scriptural validity of Logos Christology and how it is firmly rooted in the two natures of the Messiah. Perhaps what I appreciated most was the engagement of the deleterious beliefs found in Gnosticism, an insidious system of belief that continues to rear its ugly head in far too many doctrines some hold to even today. Papandrea does an excellent job of exposing the lies and theological fallacies of Gnosticism, in particular when it comes to developing a biblical Christology.

I highly recommend this book. The author presents the material in a manner that will be easily understood by those who may not be fully familiar with the theological details of Christology while at the same time providing those who have a bit more insight into this issue with a good deal of excellent information upon which to ruminate upon and study. All in all, I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the debate that took place during this period and why the important of a biblical Christology is so crucial.

This book is available for purchase from IVP Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from IVP Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament

I thoroughly enjoy resources that enable me to dig deeper into Scripture. Of particular note is the ability to explore and understand the biblical languages. While there is certainly nothing wrong with simply reading Scripture via the numerous quality translations available to us today, it is vitally important in my humble opinion to grasp what the words, concepts, and ideas found in Scripture mean in their original tongue. Sometimes to be quite frank, the English translations just do not cut it.

A helpful tool for engaging the original languages, specifically Greek is Charles Irons’ A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament published by Kregel Academic.

While I have a passion for digging into the biblical languages, by no means can I consider myself a reader of the Greek New Testament in the manner of reading straight through in the Greek. I am more of a look at the meaning of a word and how is used in similar or different manners in other contexts type student. With that said, I do have a desire to learn how to read both Hebrew and Greek or at least to begin to develop the ability to recognize words in the original language.

As Irons notes in the introduction to this book, “This Syntax Guide is intended to assist readers of the Greek New Testament by providing brief explanations of intermediate and advanced syntactical features of the Greek text. It also provides suggested translations to help the reader make sense of unusual phrases and difficult sentences.” The format of the book is such that Irons walks the reader through the New Testament, focusing on terms and phrases in each book that fall under the aforementioned umbrella of intermediate and advanced syntactical features of note.

One might wonder, especially the more novice reader of Greek (such as myself) or the non-reader of Greek what use such a book might be for them. How would this help me in my study of Scripture? While this book is certainly focused on those with a more developed understanding of Greek, I submit it is also worthwhile to the novice and laymen reader of Greek as well. If one uses this as a reference tool, by sheer repetition they will begin to notice patterns of language if nothing else. Furthermore, they will also take note of parts of speech that greatly impact successful exegesis of the text.

This is a tool I highly recommend for both the experienced reader of Greek and the laymen. While both ends of that spectrum will use a book such as this in different ways, in the end, it is a helpful means to dig into the pages of Scripture, a task given to all believers. A resource that is impactful for understanding what the original languages have to reveal to the reader is a resource I am all for using. Irons’ A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament is such a resource for those willing to do the work it takes to use it properly and to take the time we all should take when it comes to studying Scripture.

This book is available for purchase from Kregel Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Kregel Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures

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It is not that much of a stretch to declare the Word of God has been under attack since the Garden of Eden when the Serpent questioned God’s command to Adam up until the present day when Scripture continues to be questioned on seemingly all fronts. The desire for man to do what is right in our own eyes and the temptation even from those called to declare God’s Word in the capacity of preachers, teachers, and authors to question whether Scripture is completely true in all aspects is an unfortunate reality. If we cannot depend on God’s Word to be the source of truth in an age where truth is up for grabs, then we are left with quite frankly a foundation build on sand. Thus, it is absolutely vital to outline why God’s Word can be trusted from the first page to the last page and everything in between.

Entering in the discussion is a book released earlier this year titled The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures. This massive tome is edited by noted biblical scholar D. A. Carson and contains contributions from a number of also notable biblical scholars, some arguably more familiar to come than others. When I say massive, I am not speaking in hyperbole. This is a 1200+ page book that covers a wide range of important topics when it comes to matters of the authority of Scripture.

Carson sets the stage for the overall discussion by providing a thorough overview of the current discussion on biblical authority to include some interaction with relevant books on this topic that have been penned in recent years. He also provides a helpful definition of what is meant by inerrancy, an often hotly debated topic as well. Carson concludes his introductory comments by noting some important epistemological, philosophical, and theological issues of importance. He aptly notes in the final paragraphs of his introduction that “only the closest and most faithful reading of Scripture will have the temerity to construct an alternative world, a Christian world, that is deeply ground in, and permeated by, Holy Scripture.” The alternative world is in contrast to the increasingly secular world that rejects the very notion of truth as defined in Scripture.

A point of suggestion is to not approach this book as something you can start with the first essay and then read through to the end. If you go that route, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material to wade through. This is not to say one cannot work their way through this work in that manner. With that said, it is intended to be a collection of essays that while discussing an overarching topic, can be read individually on their own merit. In fact, I would encourage the reader to engage this book in that manner or perhaps to study each section and its respective essays.

Given the wide range of topics and the plethora of authors, the first thing I did when receiving this book is to scan the list of essays to see if anything quickly caught my eye. While I do enjoy matters of church history, an essay on Wesleyan Theology, while certainly an important piece to the overall puzzle, was not something I immediately was drawn towards. The two essays I picked up on based on their titles were written by Bruce Waltke and Kirsten Birkett, namely Myth, History, and the Bible and Science and Scripture respectively.

Waltke’s essay was interesting to me because I have recently read a few works by Mircea Eliade, specifically his book The Myth of the Eternal Return. I found Waltke’s insights and comments on Eliade’s work to be helpful, in particular the criticism from Walktke that Eliade and the Myth and Ritual School do a bit too far in trying to holistically connect the beliefs of the early Israelites with that of their Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) neighbors. While there are similarities in regards to history happening in a cyclical manner and the important element of a return to creation (in the case of Scripture the matter of the redemption of all things and a “return to the Garden” if you will), at times, Eliade and others take their approach a bit too far.

I also found Waltke’s discussion of the differences and similarities between the ANE Gilgamesh Epic and the biblical account of Noah’s flood to be informative. He rightly notes, “The biblical flood narrative stands head and shoulders above the others in wisdom and theology, lifting the audience to heavenly heights of virtue and praise.” Thus, the account of Noah’s flood stands in contradistinction to the ANE myths of the gods fighting it out with some interesting actions such as “breaking wind” in each other’s face. It is important to grasp the vast difference between the pagan cosmology presented in works such as the Enuma Elish and the biblical narrative. Waltke saliently concludes his essay by averring “Israel’s sovereign God created matter out of nothing, is transcendent in his rule over all of his creation, conflicts with cosmic and volitional evil to produce virtue and bring rightful praise to him, and created the cosmos as the first of his saving acts in a trajectory ending with his kingdom irrupting into the world through his magnolia Dei and word and an eternal stae in which he finally eliminates all hostility.” So we have Waltke seemingly making a rather strong and clear declaration that Scripture, especially when it comes to matters of ancient myth, is historical and factual in its description of something such as Noah’s flood.

When it comes to the essay provided by Kirsten Birkett, we find a far different approach to Scripture. I will state I am unequivocally a proponent of approaching the creation account found in Genesis as a literal outline of how God created the heavens and the earth (i.e. all things). If we can affirm that Noah’s flood is not ancient myth and is instead a historical account of the God of the Bible interacting with the affairs of man in keeping with His divine plan, it would seem to go without saying that the account of creation found in Scripture should be approached in the same manner, namely as real history. More specifically, we should then affirm God created all things in six literal days as He so clearly declares in Genesis and elsewhere in Exodus 20 and again in Exodus 31 and referred to in passages such as Hebrews 4.

Birkett rightly notes that at points in church history, the days of Genesis has been a debated topic. She discusses the beliefs of writers such as Philo, Origen, and Augustine and their understanding of the days of Genesis. She then interacts with several other authors and their respective interpretations. This was an interesting and admittedly a helpful journey through history although not authoritative given Scripture is the ultimate guide for truth on matters such as this. Birkett next pivots to a clear effort to suggest that the “rise of creationism was spurred by the atheistic contention that the Bible and evolution could not both be true. Those who accepted this, repelled by evolutionist arrogance, took up creationism.” In other words, biblical creationism and its rise was nothing more than an effort to deal with evolution. Furthermore, Birkett declares, “People reacted against science to determine their view of the Bible; and those views became increasingly inflexible as the decades went on.”

I found the subheading of “The Rise of Creationism: Scripture against Science” to be misleading. For starters, it presents the idea that those who affirm biblical creationism are anti-science, something that is a falsehood. Also of concern was the idea presented that evolution can come alongside Scripture as compatible and associated ideologies. She references the writings of evolutionary biologist Denis Alexander as apparently helpful in this regard. It is somewhat strange to as holistic proof of why biblical creationists are anti-science. Interestingly, Birkett completely failed to interact with studies from young-earth creation scientists on matters of science proper or when it comes to important issues such as death and suffering or whether one affirms Genesis as literal history or merely a mythical account that is nothing but symbolism. All in all, this was a very disappointing essay and goes against the very grain of the point of this work as a whole, namely affirming and demonstrating the authority of Scripture. If the days of creation are not literal days, then Birkett failed to interact with why God related the work week to His creative acts if nothing else. Outside the “debate” on yom (Hebrew for day), if God did not create in six literal days, then a cursory examination of why God declared to His people to work six days and to rest on the seventh was such a big deal to our Creator. Birkett seemed more interested in finding loopholes in order to allow evolution to find a place at the table with Scripture.

As a whole, I found this work to be enlightening and a very good read. Outside of some essays that are to be honest not my cup of tea topic wise and the aforementioned disappointment of Birkett’s clear rejection of Genesis as representing a literal historical account of creation, I will submit this tome was worth my time. I might even take a look at those essays that I did not find that interesting at this point in my studies at a later time. Who knows, studying Wesleyan theology might have an appeal. I do recommend this study except as noted earlier for Birkett’s essay.

This book is available for purchase from Eerdmans by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Eerdmans and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old and New Testament

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I have owned or own numerous single volume or collected sets of introductions to the Bible. Some have been quite helpful in my studies, personal or academic, and others have been shall we say a bit lackluster and somewhat disappointing. Given the plethora of biblical introduction style commentaries that have made their way in and out of the market, I am always interested to see what a new addition has to offer, if anything, to the discussion.

Recently, two such additions made their way to the new release offerings and I figured why not take a look. These new releases are A Biblical-Theological Introduction the Old Testament and A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament edited by Miles Van Pelt and Michael Kruger respectively with contributions from numerous heavyweights in Old and New Testament scholarship. With an admitted bit of skepticism which I typically have with books of this type, I dug into the material. Let me just say my original attitude of skepticism was very quickly replaced with appreciation for the excellent work provided by the contributors.

For starters, these are not minor contributions to the biblical introduction category of study. At over 1200 pages combined, they contain serious scholarship. Now mind you mere size does not determine the quality of scholarship as an author or editor can include a lot of fluff, big words, and concepts that are of no use or that are quite frankly wholly incorrect. One will not find useless fluff and incorrect biblical theology in these efforts. This is serious, quality, purposeful, and important biblical scholarship.

Additionally, these are gospel focused texts. I realize the term “gospel-(insert word)” is a popular title these days and is often just that, namely just a set of words that carries little if any meaning. When I state these texts are gospel focused, it means they actually use as a start and end point the message of the gospel as expressed in the front and back halves of Scripture.

An example of the focus on the gospel found in these helpful biblical introductions and more specifically the reality that the core message of Scripture is the promise, coming, and future return of or Redeemer can be observed in the introduction of the Old Testament volume:
“Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. This means that the person and work of Jesus as presented in the New Testament (including his birth, life, teachings, death, resurrection, ascension, and return) constitute the singular reality that unifies and explains everything that appears in the Old Testament.”

Far too often the Old Testament is skimmed over in an effort to skip right to the Gospels or writings of Paul. Without establishing the foundation found in the front of Scripture and recognizing the connectedness of the whole of Scripture as it relays the message of redemption, understanding Scripture’s coherent and unified message will be difficult if not impossible. The contributors do not fall prey to the temptation to spit apart as unrelated the Old and New Testament texts. Conversely, they aptly outline for the reader a sound biblical, gospel-centric approach.

Each book of the Bible is engaged with the all-important elements of background information, authorship, literary analysis, structure and outline, message and theology, with any relevant major themes of each book receiving in-depth discussion. Something I am always appreciative of are helpful bibliographies. Okay….call me a book nerd, but I am a stickler for authors both referencing the work of other scholars and providing helpful tools for further study. At the end of each book of the Bible that is engaged in these volumes the reader will find a great list of resources. Also provided are some very interesting appendices that discuss anything from Daniel’s 70 weeks to New Testament Textual Criticism.

To put it simply, these are excellent works that I encourage not just seminary students and pastors to consider purchasing. It would be a shame if these books only found their way to the shelves of the academic minded individuals. They are truly useful for the average laymen as well in their study of Scripture. In fact, I recommend splurging a little and purchasing both volumes as a set. You will not be disappointed and I submit you will greatly appreciate the amount of sound scholarship provided and more importantly, I am confident you will grow in your knowledge of Scripture and in your relationship with God as a result using these helpful tools as part of your Bible study repertoire.

These books are available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here and here.

I received these books for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness

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“Be angry and do not sin.” This proclamation by the Apostle Paul seems a bit far-fetched at times. At least in my own life, anger seems to be directly associated with sinful behavior on my part. I certainly am a pro at getting angry or at the least, a bit miffed when someone has rubbed me the wrong way. Additionally, there is plenty going on in the world to be angry about, most notably man’s constant inhumanity to their fellow man. So what does this being angry and not sinning think look like in practice? Is it even possible? It must be given what Paul has told us.
In his excellent book Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness Dr. David Powlison explores the issue of anger, digging deep in a very biblical and practical manner on the issue of anger.

Let me begin by stating this book came across my desk at a very opportune time. I have been struggling with being angry over recent months for a variety of reasons. Not raging Incredible Hulk type anger. More so the constantly miffed about something going on at work, home, or the world in general. Dealing with what I know to be an incorrect approach to anger has been difficult. It is so easy to fly off the handle or to harbor bitterness in your heart towards someone. Furthermore, it is not always that easy to grasp how to appropriately be angry while leaving the sinful part of anger at the door.

Dr. Powlison quite frankly does a marvelous job of unpacking what righteous anger is all about. What I found most helpful throughout this book is how he focuses the correct approach to dealing with others and the nature of being angry in a righteous manner upon the framework of looking to God. You see God gets angry. I know that might be a shock to some people’s perspective of God and His nature, but throughout Scripture, we see God dealing with man and God is described as being angry. Yet we know God is without sin meaning He got angry for a reason that was fully and utterly holy and perfect.

Powlison reminds the reader that as people made in the image of God, we too can and should get angry. We are hard-wired if you will to have that emotion. If we watch the evening news and see a terrorist attack against innocent people and nothing is stirred up in our hearts in reaction to that horrific event, we had best check our physical and emotional pulse. Righteous anger is part of life and part of becoming more like God. Jesus got angry. Remember him tossing around tables and cracking the whip. He was displeased with what the people were doing and he let them know quite demonstratively his feelings on the matter.

It is first important to understand anger. Powlison walks the reader through a bit of a self-assessment in order to recognize that anger comes in many forms. Some explode while others stew. He then assesses exactly what anger is all about. This is the real meat and potatoes of the book and the section to really dig into. Using some personal examples (good and bad) as well as continually looking at how Scripture describes God’s righteous anger, Powlison provides a foundation for why anger is good, but also how it should be rooted in a spirit of mercy and forgiveness while at the same time not ignoring that a wrong was committed. This is not easy to do and Powlison makes no bones about that reality. Despite its difficulty, being angry in a spirit of forgiveness and mercy is an absolute must.

Finally, Powlison provides some practical guidelines on how to implement a paradigm shift in our approach to anger, the movement from letting anger control us in a sinful way to being angry yet not sinning. He utilizes some helpful case studies using real life scenarios we can all connect with to help walk through the manner in which anger can be redeemed.

As I noted earlier, this book arrived at my desk at the most appropriate time. I needed to read this book and I am quite sure you need to read it as well. Anger is a tricky thing. One wrong move and we can explode and lash out at others in a way that will damage relationships and accomplish nothing positive. I submit we all have a lot of work to do when it comes to the issue of redeeming anger. Good & Angry by Dr. Powlison was a godsend of a book for me. I fully plan on re-reading and re-reading this book for years to come as I work in my life through the help of the Holy Spirit to be angry and not sin.

This book is available for purchase from New Growth Press by clicking here.

I received this book for free from New Growth Press via Cross Focused Reviews and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – The Lordship of Christ

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Jesus is Lord. This is a common proclamation by believers. However, do we truly understand what Jesus as Lord means in our life? If he is Lord, what does that look like on a practical level and how does it impact everything we do? Or does it? We certainly claim it does by declaring Jesus is Lord. In his excellent new book The Lordship of Christ: Serving Our Savior all of the Time, in all of Life, with all our Heart , author and theologian Vern Poythress outlines just what Jesus being Lord means and why we should care.

I am a big fan of Vern Poythress so let me get that out in the open at the outset of this review. What I appreciate most about his writings revolves around the depth by which he engages topics. Admittedly there have been times when his perspicuity on a subject leaves my head spinning just a bit, especially when it comes to matters of math and science. With that said, this book is supremely practical and I found myself yelling a silent (and sometimes verbal) yes as I read it. Let me explain why.

Poythress divides this book into four parts, each engaging an important element of how we are to understand and apply what this whole Lordship of Christ thing is all about. When we discuss Jesus, especially his Lordship over our lives, it is quite tempting to race straight to the cross or the writings of Paul. While there is nothing wrong with such an approach, I think Poythress rightly starts his discussion in a more proper location, namely identifying why Jesus is Lord, what he came to do, and how that is the foundation of the entire biblical drama.

God created everything, the sin of Adam messed everything up, thus the need for a Redeemer to fix this mess. We certainly know that bit of theology, but we perhaps forget how it factors into Jesus being Lord. As Poythress so aptly notes, “We are obliged to accept the authority of Christ because he is God and is Lord of all.” Furthermore, “If Christ is our Master and we are his servants, we must obey him.” This Lordship/obedience combination is an absolute must to grasp and Poythress does an excellent job of using this as the all-important springboard for the rest of his discussion.

Since Jesus is Lord and as his people/servants/bride/children of God, we are to be an obedient people to the commands outlined in Scripture that speak of how we are to love God and others. Poythress unpacks a number of helpful resources, both current and historical for understanding how to serve Jesus, ways in which we can serve, and traps we must avoid as we engage in service to the King.

Since Jesus is Lord, his Lordship impacts everything we do from the minute we get up in the morning to the time when we close our eyes for sleep. Poythress helps the reader in a very practical manner grasp what the Lordship of Jesus looks like in daily life. For instance, when we are at work, we are representatives of our King. No matter what our vocation is or how much money we earn, we are to do it all to the glory of God.

In life there comes temptations and pitfalls placed in our path by the enemy to distract us. A practical book on the Lordship of Christ necessarily should have a discussion of how to deal with these issues and Poythress does not disappoint in that area. Going back to the example of serving Jesus as Lord in our vocation, I know from personal experience work can bring its share of despair and the temptation to do work hastily and haphazard is tremendous. Poythress provides some helpful and practical ways to avoid such traps.

I love how Poythress concludes this book. He wraps up all of the excellent biblically rooted wisdom he has shared thus far with the reminder and declaration that “Christ is our glorious Savior and Lord, who is worthy all our allegiance.” Notice the use of the word all in that statement. He is not just Lord during a worship service. He is not just Lord when it is convenient. He is Lord at all times and this in turn must have a defined impact on our lives. The walk of the believer is not an easy road. The straight and narrow path is that way for a reason. We serve a Savior who is worthy of all praise and furthermore in recognition of Jesus as Lord, we must each and every day serve him with all we have.

The Lordship of Christ by Very Poythress is a must read primer on what this means in our lives. I highly recommend it for the new believer trying to understand what this Jesus being Lord thing is about and I firmly believe even the most seasoned believer will receive a needed reminder of what faithfulness to Jesus as Lord means in their life. I know I often need a gentle and even a firm reminder of that truth. If you are like me and I venture to say you are, give this book a read.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review: Atlantis: Fact or Fiction

Atlantis

Atlantis is one of those stories that seems to perpetually captivate the imagination. From movies made by Disney to books that attempt to find support for civilization actually existing, say the word Atlantis and all manner of ideas come to mind. But did Atlantis really exist in some for or fashion or was it merely the imagination of Plato? Can any valid support, specifically historical or geological, be presented that proves such a place existed? In the interesting book Atlantis: Fact or Fiction edited by Edwin Ramage, six scholars contribute their perspective from the approach of literature, mythological studies, history, and geology.

The overarching belief by the contributors to this book is Atlantis is nothing more than the imagination of Plato. Little if any proof can be discovered in their estimation to support Atlantis as being real. Despite the efforts of authors such as Ignatius Donnelly and others to carry on the fascination with Atlantis, the contributors to this particular work reject outright Atlantis as being real. If anything, it is nothing more than an attempt by Plato to describe the state of affairs in his lifetime.

I have long found the idea of Atlantis to be fascinating. Could Atlantis have been a place that existed for instance before the Noahic flood? Given the catastrophic events described by Plato that led to the demise of this supposedly advanced civilization, could there be some method to connect the global deluge described in Scripture with the destruction of Atlantis? I went into reading this book hoping such an approach would be alluded to with some level of series thought given to that idea. While the biblical flood narrative was mentioned by contributor S. Casey Fredericks, it was in the context of Noah’s flood being just another in a long line of ancient flood legends. In fact, Fredericks clearly states his belief that the story of Atlantis as told by Plato is rooted in same foundation as all the other mythological flood stories in the various Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultures. The biblical account is simply just another ANE story or perhaps a legend.

Ultimately, it seems clear, at least from the perspective of the various scholars who contributed to this book, that the story of Atlantis belongs squarely in the realm of myth. I found it interesting; however, that the basis for that belief to some degree is founded on the rejection of a global catastrophe as being valid. One contributor in particular discussed the lack of geological evidence for the destruction of Atlantis. She referenced the slow and methodical movement of continents with another contributor noting the millions of years of the geologic scale. The millions of years statement of course is in keeping with the theory of evolution which rejects any sort of perspective taken from a source such as the Bible and more specifically, the notion of a global catastrophic flood as being a major factor for consideration.

It would be interesting to read what a creation scientist might have to say about the geological factors that might have an impact on the validity of the Atlantean myth. In the end, the story of Atlantis might be just that, a fun story told by Plato that has no verifiable historical roots. The contributors to Atlantis: Fact or Fiction definitely sit on the side of Atlantis being fiction. The evidence they presented is compelling and thus I would consider this a worthwhile read if you are interested in the veracity of Plato’s story of Atlantis. If nothing else, it will provide you with some food for thought and it might, as it has done for me, drive you to study this topic a bit further to see if there is a possibility of connection the global catastrophe of Noah’s flood to something such as the destruction of Atlantis. It may be just rabbit hole, but sometimes rabbit holes are a fun journey to take.

Outside of the rejection of the biblical account of Noah’s flood as mere myth and the embracing of evolution’s millions of years mantra to discussion matters of geology, I found this book to be quite interesting. It does not fully solve for me the mystery of Atlantis nor do the arguments presented create a full doubt in my mind of the existence of Atlantis, but after reading this book, I definitely am more informed of the various pro and con arguments, and I realize even more the need to support the biblical account of something like Noah’s flood as being actual history even when engaging what may prove to be the story of Atlantis being just a story/myth.

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Book Review – Theologians You Should Know

Theologians You Should Know

As self-titled book nerd and Seminary survivor, I can humbly state there are many, many theologians for which I have at least a passing familiarity. It seems everyone gravitates towards certain scholars/theologians for a variety of reasons ranging from the subject matter that formed the locus of the author’s writings, to perhaps the way the theologian framed their points. Given the wide range of individuals one can rightly claim had a lasting influence and thus should be paid attention to, it is somewhat difficult to narrow down the list to a select few. Michael Reeves takes a stab at doing just that in his informative book Theologians You Should Know.

Over the course of thirteen chapters, Reeves explores the lives and thought of some top notch and very influential theologians. He begins his investigation by looking at the Apostolic Fathers. For those not familiar with who the Apostolic Fathers are, they are the individuals that immediately followed the Apostles and who wrote and ministered from the end of the first century to the middle of the second century A.D. Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John is arguably one of the more well-known figures in this period.

Next on the list is Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, two men who lived, wrote, and ministered during the tumultuous period of the latter half of the second century A.D. Reeves aptly notes the various heresies these men battled against during this period, perhaps most notably Gnosticism. I appreciated the fact Reeves shares some free tools by which to engage the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus as well as providing some other helpful resources such as the venerable Ante-Nicene series as well as some other works by authors who specialize in areas of these men’s works.

Reeves also explores the life and writings of men such as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and well-known theologians such as Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, Barth, and J. I. Packer. I would submit that outside of Athanasius, Anselm, and perhaps Barth, most are at least somewhat familiar with this group of men. One person whom Reeves discusses I believe many are not familiar with and who had a noted influence is Friedrich Schleiermacher, a man often known as the father of theological liberalism.

Schleiermacher was a well-written theological, penning works on the writings of Plato, preaching numerous sermons, writing New Testament studies and various texts on hermeneutics to name just a few of his achievements. Reeves rightly notes that many have a hard time trying to figure out Schleiermacher and after reading the chapter on him, I can see why there is so much difficulty understanding exactly where he stood on many theological topics. I am not sure I will make the effort to dig into the works of Schleiermacher in the near future, but if I do, I will definitely start with the primer Reeves has provided as otherwise, I would be quite lost on the basics of Schleiermacher’s positions on Scripture.

If you have a desire to obtain a quick yet helpful grasp of where some of the great theological minds from the first century A.D. to present stood and the period in which they lived, wrote, and ministered, then I highly recommend Theologians You Should Know by Michael Reeves. Once can certainly argue their case that others could or should have been included, but I think Reeves did a great job with his selections. This book is informative, is full of valuable information, provides helpful timelines and suggestions for further study, and thus is a book I know I will return to in the future should I need some tidbits of information on these men. Check it out. I think you will enjoy learning about these particular theologians and this book might just whet your appetite for further study on one or all of these important figures of theology.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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