Posted in Christianity, Reformed, Theology, Church, Book Review, Calvinism, RC Sproul, Protestants, ecclesiology, Ligoner Ministries on September 28, 2015 |
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R.C. Sproul. What is the Church? Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, October 7th, 2013. 82 pp.
I picked this book out to go over for a study for a small group since I wanted to review the basics of ecclesiology that was concise and Reformed. I was also hoping to glean from this book anything helpful as I was also preparing to preach for a retreat on the topic of the church. The author R.C Sproul is someone I esteem very highly and he is more than capable in writing on this topic. However I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with this particular book even though I found his other works in his Crucial Question Series to be quite helpful. This short book has nine chapter in which some of them could have been made into one. For instance I felt the first two chapters could have been combined together. Some of the chapters were so short that I was surprised to find I was done with them even though I was just getting started! There were some chapters that didn’t have a single Bible verse in support of the discussion. Sproul has a chapter on the servants of the Lord and I wished he could have addressed the topic of serving in the church more practically. Upon further reflection after completing the book I think the book as a whole could have been more practical. Sproul did have a helpful discussion in his final chapter about the marks of a true church. I agree with Sproul that a true church must preach the Gospel but I had a harder time with Sproul’s position that an essential element of a true church include the fact that it must practice church discipline. Now don’t get me wrong I believe in the importance of the local church carrying out discipline but I do think it is possible that a church struggle to implement church disciple and still remain a church. In the end I would still say this book is still worth getting despite the drawbacks I’ve mentioned although I would also encourage people to read other works on the church alongside this book. Given how Sproul has made this book and others like it in the Crucial Question series free on Kindle, what’s holding you back?
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Tim Chester. Delighting in the Trinity. Milwaukie, OR: The Good Book Company, November 1st, 2010. 192 pp.
According to the back cover this book aims to show how the Trinity is “fantastically good news.” The book is divided into three parts with part one looking at the Biblical foundation for the Trinity, part two focuses on the historical developments of the Trinity throughout church history and part three concentrate on the practical implications. The part of the book that I most enjoyed was part one in which the author Tim Chester presented the Biblical proof for the Trinity. The part of the book that I, and most likely most readers will learn the most from is the historical theology section. Here in part two of the book Chester divided the church’s historical development into three parts which is roughly divided between the second through fourth century AD, the fifth through sixteenth century AD and finally the 17th through 20th century AD. I found Chester informative. However I do question Chester’s point that the 17th-20th Century has been about putting the Trinity at the margins and then again at the center of theology. I think seeing the Church as a whole, the doctrine of the Trinity has been at the center for much of the early part of Church history as a whole (just look at all the church councils and creeds). Chester is right that in Western Europe there was a marginalization of the Trinity due to the Enlightenment which had a tendency towards rationalism and Unitarianism. But I don’t know if we can say the Trinity was marginalized by the rest of the Church or elsewhere in the world. The part of the book that I was most looking forward to was the practical implications. It seems that there have been a recent revival among Evangelicals to study the Trinity and draw out its implication for the Christian life and faith. I thought that Chester could have been more explicit at times in this section of the book. That is, he could have been more explicit about how the Trinity applies to the Christian life; there were times in the book in which I wondered where was the Trinitarian implication. Maybe this is more a stylistic issue; for instance I felt the discussion about the Trinity and salvation spent a long time talking about different views of the atonement which is good and I agree with penal substitutionary atonement but he could have done a better job tying the Trinity into the subject matter. I felt the same criticism applies to his chapter on the Trinity and revelation. His strongest chapter in this section was on the Trinity and humanity. There is an excellent discussion of the problem of one and the many and society pitting the battle between the individual and society and how when we look at the Trinity we see the perfect pattern that has implication for the unity of the church and other spheres of humanity. Very good, I was surprised that Chester didn’t footnote anything here from Van Til or Rushdoony! Do read this book but also read other works on the Trinity as well.
Purchase: Westminster | Amazon
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This review is part of our Worldview Dilemmas in Movies and Comics series.
Mike Richardson. 47 Ronin. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, March 4th, 2014. 152 pp.
This graphic novel tells the classic Japanese tale of forty seven Japanese Samurai who went out to defend their slain master’s honor. The author has spent years researching the history of the 47 Ronin and I love the picture of the author standing next to the grave site of the 47 Samurai towards the end of the book. The book is a well written story. It wasn’t just action but I love how the book gives us glimpses that the men in the story has family and the death of these warriors would be sacrificial for their wives and children as well. Unfortunately the sacrifices for the families of the 47 Ronin didn’t begin with their deaths but even as they went undercover and abandoned their families in order not to provoke the suspicions of the spies of their dead master’s enemy. They went on to abandon family and even act as drunks. I thought this part of the story was rather sad.
I love the drawing. It is beautiful and simple; sometime with graphic novels there is so much going on with the artwork that it’s hard to simply keep reading through the story. Towards the end of the book the author revealed that he picked an illustrator that really knew how to draw with an eye towards historical accuracy of Japanese feudal society. I really appreciated that.
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CS Lewis. Mere Christianity. New York, NY: MacMillian Publishing Company, April 16th, 1986. 175 pp.
This is my second reading of Mere Christianity. I first read it when I was a teenager and I was prompted to read it again since I was curious to see what I would think of Lewis’ famous work now that I’m a bit older. After all these years I still think the book’s presentation of the moral argument for God is a classic and one of the tope presentation out there. Of course I would add the caveat that I would utilize the moral argument as a form of the transcendental argument for God’s existence but nevertheless I think Presuppositionalists can profit from reading this book.
What is Good:
There were many instances in the book that I found CS Lewis to be tremendously insightful. His command of the English language is beautiful in a way that one expect from a Cambridge literary professor (which he was). I am jealous of his keen ability of making observation and illustrations. Lewis talked about how only those who resist sin can truly know the power of sin versus those who always give in to temptation; he illustrates this point by raising the question of who knows more the power of the enemy, one who surrenders or one who fight against them. I also thought his illustration about faith and reason was very helpful in showing how they are not necessarily against each other. He talks about how someone can intellectually know a medical fact but when one is undergoing a medical procedure sometimes it takes continued faith in the facts despite one’s hesitation and fear and in such an instance it is a virtue.
What is Bad:
CS Lewis aims to defend a “mere Christianity” and not a particular denomination or specific Christian creed but I don’t know if he succeeded in arriving at a minimalistic “mere Christianity.” He wants to defend and discuss a Christianity which all Christians have in common but there’s instances where that’s not possible. For example, he talks about the means of accessing God’s grace through faith, baptism and Lord’s supper but this “mere Christianity” is not that of Evangelicals who would say we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone apart from works.
Lewis does have a universalistic streak when it comes to salvation. This is probably due to the influence of George MacDonald, a writer and Christian minister who was instrumental in Lewis’ conversion. One find in the book that Lewis mentioned at least twice that some who are not professing Christians might be closer to God than they realize or professes.
Purchase: Westminster | Amazon
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This is part of series on Worldview Dilemmas in the Movies and Comics Series.
Paul Jenkins. Wolverine: Origin. New York, NY: Marvel Publishing Incorporated, October, 18th, 2006. 200 pp.
Among the X-Men, the Wolverine fascinates me the most. There’s something about that character that intrigues me. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of Wolverine written by Paul Jenkins. He has written a good storyline of Wolverine’s origin. The graphic novel actually pulls you to the character. There is some suspense in the beginning of the book as you don’t know which one of the character is going to grow up to be the Wolverine. I thought it was neat to see how the story was told from a third story perspective of a girl who was a nanny. This adds a personal touch while still allowing Wolverine to be the elusive figure that one can’t fully control which I think would be destroyed if it was told in the first person.
The author and illustrator did a good job with the historical details of the Canadian setting in the 1800s. The colors of the painting in this book is beautifully done—especially the sunlight that makes you feel like you are in the Canadian frontiers. I have read other X-Men comics recently and I thought that this book was really well done in comparison to others. In the beginning of my recent reading of comics and graphic novels I thought there was not much difference but this work is an example of a graphic novel.
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Thomas Cahill. Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World. New York: Doubleday, October 29th, 2013. 368 pp.
This is the sixth installment of a series on history books called Hinges of History by Thomas Cahill, a former editor of religious literature for Double Day. The series is focused on different groups of people and historical period which have made their contributions felt today. This particular work focused on the Protestant Reformation and the Italian Renaissance in which the author tries to argue that the Reformation and Renaissance has made its contribution towards the modern concept of self. It is a fascinating thesis but in the end I felt the author wasn’t as concern about arguing his case as rigorously as possible as he was more excited to give us his biographical sketches of various individuals from the Renaissance and the Reformation.
I don’t think any serious reader would fault the book as a dry historical textbook since the author writes in a journalistic fashion with an upbeat tempo. The author’s humor is evident through his writing. There were times when the book reads like a gossip column. The book was not only able to capture my attention but left me wanting to read up more concerning the Reformation and the Renaissance.
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Duane A. Garrett. A Commentary on Exodus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, November, 1st, 2014. 741 pp.
I must begin with a bit of a personal note. Many years ago when I was a young Christian I had used the author’s commentary on Hosea and Joel that was my first real exposure to an exegetical commentary. I was blown away. I was likewise blown away with Duane Garrett’s recent commentary on Exodus. Of course this time around I am much older and I felt I was able to benefit more from Garrett exegetical insights than when I was a young college student reading through Hosea and Joel. Garrett has done an excellent job with his Exodus commentary.
The Introduction was well over a hundred page. I appreciated Garrett’s point that many commentators on Exodus have neglected the important contribution of Egyptology and one sees Garrett’s tremendous effort in bringing up-to-date scholarship from Egyptology to bear concerning Introductory matters of the book of Exodus. In particular I thought his discussion of anything chronological stood out, especially with the dating of the events of Exodus. It is incredibly detailed: He considers the difficulties of Egyptian method of counting how many days are to be in a year, when various Pharaohs ruled and archaeological findings in the area of Canaan as he weighs the pros and cons of various arguments for the late or early dating of the book. I think it is worth getting the book for the Introduction alone. While he does not come to a fixed conclusion of when the events of Exodus takes place nevertheless his interaction of the arguments of the various views is a good summary of the various views.
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