Posts in Book Reviews
Guest Post by Gregg Allison: Roman Catholic Theology and Practice

By Gregg R. Allison, professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This material is adapted from his recently released Crossway book, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment. He is also the author of Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Zondervan, 2011) and Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Crossway, 2012).


Recently a visitor at our church asked me about a proper approach to engaging in conversation with his Roman Catholic friends and colleagues. Should he focus on communicating the gospel, or should he target the differences between Catholic theology and Evangelical theology and show how Catholic doctrines like justification, Church tradition, and the Eucharist are wrong?

I encouraged him to focus on the gospel, as that is the ultimate need not only of Catholics, but of all people. However, presenting the gospel to Catholics in a clear and convincing way is aided by an understanding of Catholic theology and practice, which is quite different from the faith that we Evangelicals embrace and live.

Importantly, Catholic theology is an overarching system, rather than a mere series of different doctrines and practices haphazardly thrown together. This fact means that Evangelicals cannot just pick out a few key Catholic beliefs like salvation, purgatory, and penance and attack them as separate errors, expecting that when a sufficient number of these “bricks” are demonstrated to be wrong, the Catholic theological “wall” will come tumbling down.

A proper approach begins instead with the recognition that Catholicism is an all-encompassing structure, and for the gospel to be ultimately and wholly effective, it must address and penetrate the entire system. *This comprehensive system is grounded on two foundational principles: the nature-grace interdependence, and the Christ-Church interconnection.


As for the first major tenet, nature and grace were designed by God to operate in reliance upon one another. Indeed, nature is to be a channel of grace, and grace is to perfect nature. To give some illustrations, water (in the realm of nature) is capable of receiving and becoming a vehicle of grace when, consecrated by the Catholic Church, it is used for the sacrament of baptism, which confers grace upon its recipients. The same is true of oil (in the realm of nature) that, when consecrated, conveys grace on priests who are ordained by the sacrament of Holy Orders. In the same way bread and wine (in the realm of nature) are capable of being transubstantiated, or changed, into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, thus nourishing the Catholic faithful through grace when they participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

This key principle of the nature-grace interdependence helps Evangelicals understand why the sacraments of the Catholic Church are considered to be necessary for salvation: Grace must always be communicated through these concrete means of nature. It also demonstrates how different the gospel of the grace of God as communicated by Evangelicals is from Catholic theology.

The second foundational principle is the Christ-Church interconnection. Grace meets nature, and nature receives grace, through the tangible and concrete Catholic Church, which is nothing other than the prolongation, or extension, of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Beginning two thousand years ago, the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ, mediated grace to nature, as he came to save sinful human beings. As a continuation of the incarnation of Christ, the Catholic Church mediates grace to nature; indeed, the Church acts as another person of Christ, standing between the world (the realm of nature) and God (the realm of grace). This is so because the whole Christ—in the totality of his divine and human natures, together with his body, the Church—is currently present as and in the Catholic Church.

Again, this key principle of the Christ-Church interconnection helps Evangelicals understand why the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation, and why the Catholic faithful focus on the Church much more than the gospel, the Word of God, justification by faith alone, and other points so cherished by Evangelicals.

Because Catholic theology and practice is an overarching system, and because its system is grounded on the nature-grace interdependence and the Christ-Church interconnection, all Catholic doctrines and practices flow from these two foundational principles. To give a few examples:

Doctrine of salvation: Catholic theology views the process by which God rescues fallen human beings as being synergistic, that is, a cooperative venture between divine grace and human effort (the realm of nature), aided by grace, to work so as to merit eternal life. Moreover, it considers the operation of salvation to be an infusion of divine grace into people, by which their very nature is transformed. This point dovetails with Catholic theology’s understanding of the goal of salvation as deification, or the process by which human nature, through grace, becomes more and more like God. If this process is interrupted through engaging in mortal sin, it can be restarted through the sacrament of penance by which grace is conveyed again for the perfection of human nature. Finally, if this process is not completed in this earthly lifetime—that is, if grace has not fully elevated human nature to perfection before death—existence after death in purgatory promises to finish the purification procedure.

Catholic Priesthood: For the Catholic system, grace must be concretely expressed in nature, and the highest tangible expression of grace (after Jesus Christ himself) is the Catholic Church. This aspect is especially seen in the Church’s association of the forgiveness of sins with its priesthood. Indeed, by the sacrament of Holy Orders, men (the realm of nature) are consecrated so as to be able to administer the sacraments (the realm of grace). Because the Church is the extension of the incarnation, it is Christ who through the Church baptizes, teaches, ordains, etc. The priest, then, acts in the person of Christ the head when he engages in the service of the Church. For example, when Catholics commit a mortal sin, they lose justifying grace and, hence, salvation. This grace can be obtained again, however, through the sacrament of penance. By confession of their mortal sin(s) to a priest, who absolves them and stipulates concrete acts of penance for reparation for their sin(s), Catholics receive infused grace that once again transforms their character.

Doctrine of Mary: Mary, and the doctrines associated with her, demonstrates the nature-grace interdependence. Mary, as a fully human being, is in the realm of nature; however, due to her immaculate conception, her human nature is not fallen and, through her cooperation with grace, it remains unfallen throughout her life. Accordingly, in Mary’s nature, grace finds complete openness and full capacity for cooperation, leading to the incarnation of the Son of God and her meritorious sufferings at the foot of the cross. Moreover, because she never once sinned (attested to by the fact of her perpetual virginity), at the end of her days, her body was assumed (taken up) into heaven. Additionally, the Church elevates Mary to a particular mediatorial role in the distribution of grace, naming her as Mediatrix alongside her son, the Mediator.

Scripture: The Catholic Church claims to be the determiner of the canon of Scripture, which is longer than the canon of Scripture in Protestant Bibles. The Catholic Old Testament contains the apocryphal writings, or Apocrypha for short, which are additional books (e.g., Tobit, Judith) and additional sections to books appearing in the Protestant Bibles (Esther is longer, as is Daniel). But none of these apocryphal writings were ever included in the Hebrew Bible (which was the Bible of Jesus and the apostles), and the earliest lists of Old Testament books that were included in the early church’s Bible did not include them. Also, according to the Catholic Church, divine revelation comes through both written Scripture and unwritten Tradition, which is the oral teaching of Jesus Christ communicated to his apostles, who in turn communicated that teaching orally to their successors, the bishops, and which continues to be nourished in the Catholic Church through its Magisterium, or teaching office, consisting of the pope and the bishops.

The only true church: Because the Catholic Church is the prolongation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, it understands itself as the only true church, meaning that evangelical gatherings are only ecclesial communities, not actual churches. Moreover, for the Catholic system, the universal church is identified with the visible Catholic Church on earth. The Church is both Mother and Teacher and, as the mediator of grace to the realm of nature, the Church is necessary for salvation.

Evangelical theology finds two grounds for critique of these Roman Catholic doctrines and practices: (1) they depend on either the nature-grace interdependence, the Christ-Church interconnection, or both—and both of these foundational principles are seriously wrong; (2) they conflict with Scripture and thus are seriously wrong. For example, though Scripture itself emphasizes that each and every person is sinful, Catholic theology insists that Mary is sinless. This is a clear example of Tradition trumping, or exercising greater authority, than Scripture.

Jesus or Nothing: A Conversation With Dan DeWitt

9781433540462A few months ago I had the privilege of getting my hands on a pre-release of Dan DeWitt’s latest book, Jesus or Nothing (Crossway, 2014). You can read my review here. Recently, I had the opportunity to converse with Dan, dean of Boyce College, on the ins and outs of his book Jesus or Nothing. David: Dan, you wrote Jesus or Nothing as a part of a collaborative project with five time Dove Award nominee, three time Stellar Award nominee, and GRAMMY nominee, FLAME. What was the thought behind doing a collaborative project?

Dan: Marcus (aka. Flame) and I are good friends. I shared with him about the book one time while we were at Starbucks and we kicked around the idea of a song or something based on the book. In time it grew into a full album, and I really could not be more excited or honored about the way it turned out.

David: They say that those who cannot do, teach. But as I read your book, I got the feeling that this was birthed in genuine dialogue with non-believers and not on a legal pad. What prompted you to write this book?

Dan: Before becoming dean of Boyce College, I served as the lead pastor for a campus of Highview Baptist Church, which met on the campus of the University of Louisville. The Lord blessed our ministry in an interesting way by giving us a lot of favor with secular students. We even co-sponsored different events with the Society for Secular Students. This book really was born out of sincere conversations with skeptics. That opportunity more than any other has shaped my approach to the dialogue between Christianity and atheism.

David: You’re a father of four, you’ve served as a church planting pastor, and you’re a dean of a college. Which voice did you use most in writing this book, and is that indicative of the area of your greatest concern (e.g. families, churches, or the academy)?

Dan: That’s a great question that is really hard to answer. It is probably, in its present tense, more of a pastoral concern. With my oldest children being seven (twin boys), the challenges of the secular university campus are still a long way off. But I’m sure this element is still present, though perhaps more in the background at this point of my life.

David: Oftentimes, it feels as though Christians are on the witness stand being directly examined in the trial of God. But, as I briefly commented in my review, you turned the table and put the plaintiff on the stand, so to speak. It was as if you were a doctor who already knew the diagnosis, yet you continued to ask the patient symptomatic questions in hopes that they would arrive at their own prognosis. In regards to evangelistic conversations, then, is the best offense a good defense, or would you say it is good to prod?

Dan: Your question reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s God in the Dock where he reminds us that God is not on trial with humans as the judge and jury, it’s the other way around. I think sometimes Christians witness to the gospel in a reactive way due to a sincere intimidation they feel from those outside the faith. But the gospel is not intimidated nor overshadowed by any rival truth claim. I don’t think I would ever want to say any single approach is a silver bullet, or should be used exclusively. But I do think there is an appropriate time to turn things around and begin asking the skeptic some tough questions. And I think, at least for me, this has proven to be an effective way to move into meaningful dialogue.

David: In chapter seven, 'The Never-Ending Story,’ (my favorite chapter) you focused on Paul's missionary aid, Demas. After describing Demas' apostasy (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:9-11), you said that we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss him, and that there is a genuine appeal to Nothing. Then you said, "It's ironic, but it seems that Nothing people and gospel people face a similar struggle." (loc 893). What did you mean by that?

Dan: Life is not a southern Gospel song. It’s not all smiles and thoughts of Heaven. It is rough. To deny this is to reject reality. Too often we act as though the gospel makes life easy and we live all our days temptation free. Deep down we understand the atheist's attraction to the Nothing.

We know what it is like to want to reserve a spot, just big enough for a compact car, to shelter a little moral autonomy. Christians understand cognitively and experientially the pull of the Nothing. This is not to say they love it, they cannot love it, but they do understand it.

But on the other hand, unbelievers cannot deny the pull of hope, purpose, and grace. These things are not keeping with their fundamental worldview commitments, and yet there they are living every day as if they are real. They want them to be real, and they live as if they are. That’s why there is not such thing as a fully orbed nihilist; hope has a way of sneaking in. But only the gospel can reconcile human optimism with reality.

That’s what I mean by the common struggle. Because of common grace, God’s law being written on human hearts, and the Imago Dei (Image of God), all people feel the push and pull of purpose. Because of depravity, however, even the believer’s best day is still tainted by sin.

Christians and skeptics can understand a little more of each other’s challenges than they may be willing to admit. Everyday presents us with the dilemma of which we will live for: Jesus or Nothing.


Dan's book, Jesus or Nothing, is available now on Amazon and most major bookstores. You can also keep up with Dan's musings on his website: theolatte, or follow him on twitter: @DanDeWitt.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Jesus or Nothing by Dan DeWitt

9781433540462 Book Details:

Dan DeWitt, Jesus or Nothing. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 144 pp. Paperback, $8.18.

Who is the author, to whom is he writing, and what does he hope to accomplish?

In his latest release, Jesus or Nothing (Crossway, 2014), Dan DeWitt sets out to “encourage believers in their love of the gospel, challenge skeptics in their rejection of it, and assist Christian parents and leaders as they contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).”[1] As the Dean of Boyce College and former college pastor, Dan is in the ideal position to get an accurate beat on the spiritual pulse of that generation. Truthfully, this read was refreshing. Dan actively avoided dabbling into the crockpot of  straw man arguments and polarizing characterizations of the evil atheists who are secretly miserable and wish they were Christians just to make a point. There was a genuine heart behind this book that bled over into every chapter: There is a God. He’s real. Indifference is rejection. Here are your options: Jesus or Nothing.

What this book is not:

This book is not an exhaustive defense for the faith. No tips on how to trap Jehovah’s Witnesses. No list of five things every Muslim doesn’t want you to know about the Qur’an. He doesn’t explain the Kalam cosmological argument. Neither does he work through Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God.

What this book is: 

To sum up the book in a phrase: Jesus or Nothing is an earnest attempt to probe genuine doubt with gospel questions in hopes that it will bring about gospel results.

We know that the Scriptures tell us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 3:15). Knowing that this assumes we will likely be asked questions, I think a lot of us posture ourselves for a strong defense. Dan, however, turns the table and asks non-believers a lot of questions; thought provoking questions. But unlike most books in this genre, Dan concedes that there is a bona fide appeal to high philosophy. He showcases the allure of “Nothingness” with Demas, Paul’s co-laborer in the gospel (Col. 4:14), who later fell “in love with this present world” (2 Tim. 4:9-11).

The tenor of this book is centered around the legitimacy of Pascal’s Wager, and it is with that voice that DeWitt ends this short book:

Don’t let the wager fool you. This is no game. And you should not bet lightly. All of humanity stands at a cosmic crossroad facing the consequential choice between two stories: Jesus or Nothing.

Choose Wisely.[3]

Recommendation:

Dan writes well. He clearly stated whom he was writing for and what he hoped to accomplish and I think he did just that. If you are a believer and want to be encouraged in your faith, a true skeptic who has a genuine desire to examine and keep searching, or a Christian parent or leader who would like to learn to have evangelistic encounters with love and reasonableness, then this book is for you.

As always, I am grateful to Crossway for giving me the opportunity to review these quality books and look forward to posting an interview I did with Dan about Jesus or Nothing.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

 

[1]Dan DeWitt, Jesus or Nothing, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), Kindle Location 120 of 1215.

[2] Ibid., 202 of 1215.

[3] Ibid., 1066 of 1215.

Book Review: What Is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton Jr.

9781433537714Book Details: James M. Hamilton Jr., What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 128 pp. Paperback, $12.99.

Review:

It stands to reason that when one sets out to write a book entitled What is Biblical Theology? the thrust of the book would aim to define, explain, and elaborate on the uses of the term. In his latest publication, Jim Hamilton not only accomplishes this feat, masterfully I might add, but winsomely conveys the benefits and necessity of adopting this perspective.

Biblical theology is described numerous times throughout the course of this book. My favorite definition (preferentially and not qualitatively), however, comes from the Epilogue: “Biblical Theology is an attempt to get out of this world and into another.”[1] The world of which Hamilton speaks is the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors.

John Calvin referred to the Word of God as the spectacles by which we can rightly see the world around us. Developing a right understanding of  biblical theology, then, is like determining the original author's prescription so that we may process our interpretation through their lenses; the result is clear vision. It's one thing to have glasses, it's another thing to have the right prescription and clean lenses.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one taps into the grand storyline of the Bible. Part two explores the different uses of symbolism, imagery, typology, patterns, and themes which are woven throughout the metanarrative, and explains how the biblical authors used these symbols to encapsulate and describe the overarching “Big Story” of the Bible. Part three spells out the role of the church in this story, as well as the practical ecclesiological significance and benefits that a biblical theology provides for the church. It is the opinion of this reviewer that God’s story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration can be best understood by understanding these aforementioned parts of Hamilton’s book, which he puts into three words: story, symbol, and church.[2]

While I understand the stated purpose of this book is to introduce the reader to the interpretive perspective of biblical theology, it can just as easily be used as an evangelistic tool. In chapter three, Hamilton rehearses the gripping gospel story, from Genesis (creation) to Revelation (restoration), in a way that made me shout, "That! If we would just start sharing the gospel like that!”

On a personal note, what a wonderful blessing it is to study at an institute of higher learning such as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I have the opportunity to learn under men like Jim Hamilton. Men who not only push for academic rigor, but also prize true biblical gospel-depth for the purpose of personal enrichment and the betterment of the church.

I was sitting at the local coffee shop finishing up this book when two elderly men sat down to chat at a table adjacent to mine. Enthralled with my reading, I paid them little mind. Without intending to, however, I heard bits and pieces of their conversation. The elder of the two informed his friend that he had brain cancer and did not expect to live past January. As he began to sob, his friend sat there stunned, unsure of what to say. I couldn’t help but set my book down, just for a second. The silent friend had my full attention, and I was very curious and concerned as to what he would say. Then, the silence was broken, and the man, attempting to console his dying friend said this, “The universe is blind to justice. We are all going to die, it’s just a matter of when. I guess now’s your time.” The crying man, who later lamented that he would likely not live to see his seventieth birthday, replied, “I know. We live such short lives. We are born, then we die, and that’s it. Just a few laughs and some pain in-between.”

I would like to end this brief review with an invitation from the author found toward the end of the book:

We are not neglected. We are the sheep of the good shepherd.

We are not forsaken. We are the beloved of the bridegroom.

We are not alone. We are embers of his body.

We are not strangers. We are adopted into God’s family.

If you’re not a believer in Jesus, who looks after you? Who will come for you? To whom are you joined? Do you have a family? If you will repent of your sin and trust in Jesus, you can be part of the family of God.[3]

I cannot recommend this book enough, and would likely chart it as one of the top five books I have read in 2013. You can (and ought to) buy this book here: What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

[1] James M. Hamilton Jr., What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, Kindle ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), Kindle Location 914 of 965.

[2] Ibid., location 117 of 965

[3] Ibid., 813 of 965

Book Review: Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint

oliphant_covenantal_apologetics Book Details:

K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our FaithWheaton: Crossway, 2013. 288 pp. Paperback, $19.99.

Review:

In his latest book, Covenantal Apologetics, K. Scott Oliphint seeks to translate Van Till’s Reformed apologetic to accommodate modern readers. He does this by making Van Till’s presuppositional arguments more accessible by transposing them from their original technical and philosophical backdrop to a more “basic biblical and theological context.”[1]

“Christian apologetics,” Oliphint writes, “is the application of biblical truth to unbelief.”[2]_ This biblical truth is the effect of the fall on the mind. In Genesis 3:14-15 God puts enmity between Satan and mankind. This pronouncement marked the beginning of an all-encompassing spiritual battle. Now, every person is defined by their relationship to one of two covenant heads. We are either united with Adam–actively rebelling against God–or with Christ–adopted heirs of eternal life. Those who are united with Christ are called to fight with and for their King. One way to do this, Oliphint suggests, is to engage in defending the faith (apologetics).[3]

The question still remains: What is covenantal apologetics? A covenantal apologetic is “a transcendental approach [that] looks for the (so-called) preconditions for knowledge and life.”[4] Said differently, a covenantal apologetic is simply Van Tillian Presuppositioninalism (as opposed to classical or evidential apologetics) rebranded with a new Reformed buzzword. This method of defense is predicated on the fact that every person has a knowledge of God, and although they are aware that they owe their allegiance to God and should respond in worship, they actively suppress the truth (cf. Romans 1:18-24). Because of this, a covenantal apologist is one who understands that “The problem is not with the evidence, but with the “receptacle,” (i.e., the sinful person) to which the evidence constantly (through creation) comes.”[5] Oliphint refers to this as the sensus (from Calvin’s ‘sense of the divine’)/suppression dynamic.

Oliphint’s covenantal apologetic is built on the foundation of ten theological tenets.

  1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who, as God, condescends to create and to redeem.
  2. God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
  3. It is the truth of God’s revelation, together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
  4. Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
  5. All people know the true God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
  6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see truth for what it is.
  7. There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
  8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute. Thus every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true, Christian context.
  9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy, allows for persuasion in apologetics.
  10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.[6]

By using what Oliphint dubs the Quicksand Quotient, believers are to challenge the foundation of opposing world-views. Since they are not grounded in the objective truth of our triune God, alternate world-views sink in the sand on which they are built.[7] After utilizing the quicksand quotient, the field is proverbially cleared and ready for planting. At this point, Oliphint encourages believers to work the theological tenets into the dialogue, which are the building blocks of the gospel.

Oliphint maintains that in this process, the covenantal apologist is implementing premeditated evangelism. Because of this, he believes that the line between apologetics and preaching should be drawn lightly, since “whether preaching, evangelism, or apologetics, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that has to be our focus.”[8]

To accomplish his goal of translating Van Till’s presuppositional apologetic into a more accessible and less philosophical approach, Oliphint takes his covenantal apologetic and applies it to four common objections/challenges to the Christian faith: logic, problem of evil, naturalism, and Islam. He acknowledges that these are not exhaustive treatments of such arguments, but are case studies on how one might respond to such an objection from the covenantal trajectory.

While I did greatly enjoy this book, at certain points, Oliphint’s excessive use of “covenant” and its derivatives gets to be a bit vexatious (e.g. covenant creatures, covenant sinfulness, covenantal condescension, covenant context, covenant interaction, covenantal language, covenantal meaning, covenantal character, covenantal categories, covenantal connection, etc.). Additionally, I found Oliphint’s treatment of the Epicurean paradox to be shallow. He tried to do too much in just one chapter. He attempts to take on the prevailing arguments from an “Atheistic Objector” on the incompatibility of God’s character and the evil that exists, while simultaneously distancing himself from Plantinga’s Molinism in the footnotes. I would treat his straw man analysis of Molinism, but in so doing would repeat the very same mistake, straying from the intended path. The things I liked, however, far out weighed any minor qualms I had with the book.

Although this passage came early on in the book, one section that I felt had the greatest impact was Oliphint's brief treatment of the believer’s response to suffering in the world. He wrote

[W]hen we see suffering, we should remember that God himself, in the person of his Son, did exactly that so that suffering and sin would one day cease. Suffering is clear evidence that Christ is Lord; it is not a testimony against truth. The suffering that is the cross of Christ–the very thing that, on the face of it, might lead us to believe there is no God–is, as a matter of fact, the deepest expression of his sovereign character as Lord.[9]

In his theodicy, Oliphint takes the charging bull by the horns and uses its momentum to sling it at the foot of the cross. His response to suffering in the world is the gospel: Christ died so suffering would cease.

In summation, Oliphint’s book is a timely work, as pluralism and apathetic agnosticism (under the guise of tolerance) spread like wildfire. At the forefront of each conversation, we ought to remember that every person has a sense of the divine, which comes from God’s image implanted within them and engraved in their minds. Our aim, then, is to engage that sense of God by graciously and boldly utilizing the trivium of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Oliphint’s concern is pastoral. His pedagogical method is scholarly. His tone is accessible. His rhetoric is sound. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any person who is interested in learning how to better express their beliefs with confidence and theological finesse.

You can buy this book here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

[1] K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 26.

[2] Ibid., 29.

[3] Ibid., 32.

[4] Ibid., 46.

[5] Ibid., 44, emphasis his.

[6] Ibid., 55.

[7] Ibid., 115.

[8] Ibid., 89.

[9] Ibid., 34.

Book Review: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

5_crazy-busy-cover_mediumIf you have never read anything by Kevin DeYoung, you ought to. His conversational writing style and biblically rational realism combine to form a symposium of humor, conviction, encouragement, and edification. Kevin DeYoung is the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI. He is married with five children, an active member of The Gospel Coalition, blogger, speaker, author, and a doctoral student.

So what makes him qualified to write this book? That’s just it, he’s not. Honestly, that’s the beauty of it, he doesn’t claim to be. DeYoung confesses that he isn’t writing this book because he holds some special gnosis about this topic, nor has he mastered it. He writes this book because he is in the midst of this battle and by God’s grace he is in the midst of coming out of it. From the outset DeYoung is clear: this book is not a quick fix for your busy life. He says, “I want to understand what’s going on in the world and in my heart to make me feel the way I do. And I want to understand how to change–even just a little. Both tasks require theology.”[1]

Unlike most productivity and self-help books I have read, DeYoung is concerned with the heart of the matter (pun intended). “For most of us,” he writes, “it isn’t heresy or rank apostasy that will derail our profession of faith. It’s all the worries of life...Busyness kills more Christians than bullets.”[2]

He lists three dangers that likely plague a busy person:

  1. Busyness can ruin our joy.
  2. Busyness can rob our hearts.
  3. Busyness can cover up the rot in our souls.

(For more on that, click here).

DeYoung spends the next seven chapters offering diagnoses to consider. He concludes his book with the only solution to our busyness: Jesus. I know what you’re thinking, How does looking to Jesus help me deal with all of my busyness? Great question! DeYoung makes the observation that Mark’s (the Gospel author) favorite word is “immediately.” Each sequential event in Mark’s Gospel “immediately” proceeds the other. Using this observation, DeYoung brings attention to a pretty obvious, yet often neglected truth: “Jesus was a very busy man.”[3]

He goes on to say:

“Don’t think Jesus can’t sympathize with your busyness. You have bills that need to be paid? Jesus had lepers who wanted to be healed. You have kids screaming for you? Jesus had demons calling him by name. You have stress in your life? Jesus taught large crowds all over Judea and Galilee with people constantly trying to touch him, trick him, and kill him.”[4]

How, then, does Jesus deal with all this busyness? DeYoung writes, “Jesus knew the difference between urgent and important. He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do.”[5]

This book motivated me to prod the root of my busyness– for me, it was pride. We are all busy. Even our kids our busy. But you really should try to carve out time to read this mercifully short book. I would recommend this book to: college and graduate students, young singles and old singles, young couples and old couples, young parents and old parents, business men and business women. People, if you don’t get the gist yet, if you have a pulse, I would recommend this book to you.

The free study guide, which includes a brief synopsis of each chapter and discussion questions, makes this book especially perfect for a small group setting.

You can buy this book here: Crazy Busy.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

[1] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2013),17.

[2] Ibid., 29-30.

[3] Ibid., 54.

[4] Ibid., 55.

[5] Ibid., emphasis his.
Eight Things You May Not Know About Busyness in America

I will be posting my review of Kevin DeYoung's new book Crazy Busy, tomorrow. Until then, ruminate on this infographic and begin to take an inventory of your own busyness. Crazy-Busy-Infographic-1

Book Review: The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce Ware

91hvGGnBfuL._SL1500_Ware discloses his motivation in writing this book is that he senses evangelicals have a better understanding of Christ’s deity than they do His humanity. I think he is right. Ware argues the nature of the kenosis (self-emptying) of the eternal Son, as described in Philippians 2: 5-8, means that Christ emptied Himself by taking on humanity. In so doing, “Christ lived his life fundamentally (not exclusively) out of his human nature...”[1] How could this be? How could Christ, in His human nature, possess such a knowledge of the Word, endure immense temptations, do miracles, and live a sinless life? He does all that His Father commands Him by relying wholly on the anointing of the Spirit and the Spirit’s work in and through Him.

When it comes to considering the natures of Christ, I would guess the majority of evangelicals think in two dimensions. This book helps the reader to take on a three dimensional Christology; one that begins to contemplate Christ’s humanity and His deity simultaneously. Such an understanding can help work through questions like, how is it that in His divine nature Jesus is omniscient, but in His human nature He is said to have grown in wisdom (Luke 2:52)? To this, Ware posits, “[A]lthough he came as one who was both fully God and fully man, he also lived his life as one indwelt with and empowered by the Spirit of God.”[2] This empowering of the Spirit, which the Father poured out on the Son, granted Him insight and increased understanding of God’s Word as He grew.

Ware’s intention in writing this book is not simply theology for the sake of theology. To divorce theology from spirituality is to take a brain out of the body. The brain is made to think, the body to carry out the actions dictated by the brain. For this reason I am especially grateful that Ware includes an application section at the end of every chapter. Additionally, each chapter also contains five discussion questions, making this book conducive for Sunday school or small group settings.

We cannot say, “God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can bear. Therefore, we will experience little to no suffering in this lifetime.” Look at Jesus, God did not allow Him to be tempted more than He could bear, yet He died on a cross for our sins. If you thought, “Yeah, but He was God,” then this book is for you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

[1] Bruce Ware, The Man Christ Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 60.

[2] Ibid., 33.

Book Review: Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer

16228965Let me start by saying, after watching this video, it was likely that nothing short of a masterpiece could have lived up to my expectations of this book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seBsfKi-v2w

See what I mean...

If you’ve never experienced a Packer book before and are considering this as your first read, might I suggest you pick up a different work– maybe Knowing God or Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. If you have read Packer before, then it’s likely that you too have been impacted by his heart, mind, and his clarity in teaching difficult doctrines of truth. This book will be a refreshing reminder of why you love and appreciate this man of God.

In a sentence,Weakness is the Way is a conversational exposition on 2 Corinthians 5:6-6:2.

If you’ll allow me to review this book with an analogy: it was as if I was sitting on a cozy rug listening to Grandpa Packer teach me a passage of Scripture, as he rocked in his favorite chair. Like all grandfathers, he stopped from time to time to interject a personal story and a Peanuts or Winnie the Pooh reference (no kidding). But overall, it was nice to spend some time with him- as we’re not sure how much longer he’ll be with us- and edifying, because, even in his old age, he is still careful and clear in his exposition of God’s Word.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”
Book Review: The Gift
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51TdHJOX6-L

It has proven to be a daunting task to write a book review for the second book in a series. Without revealing much of the plot, I would like to hit the highlights of The Gift, the second installment in the Chiveisian Trilogy, authored by Bryan Litfin, professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute and author of Getting To Know The Church Fathers. Clearly Litfin’s aptitude for writing has developed in many ways since the first book, yet still suffers from some of his same plaguing faults. The story is rich with action, adventure, and strong theological undertones to boot. Additionally, the characters seem to be well thought out and almost familiar, as the thick plot unfolds one saga after the next. My largest complaint against Litfin’s work is that sometimes he overplays the drama; as soon as one conflict seems to be resolved, it crescendos again.

Throughout the first two books the main characters discover and translate a Bible they find in an abandoned church. The New Testament, however, is completely water-logged causing it to be illegible. As they study the Scriptures they see it culminating and begin to grow desperate to discover to what these trajectories are pointing. They are perplexed by the prophecies concerning a Coming King who would reign for all of eternity, and a Suffering Servant who would take away the iniquity all people. What affected me most from this series was the characters' great appreciation for the treasure that is God’s word (as it has been suppressed in Chiveis for the last two-hundred years).

If you enjoy fiction, I would strongly encourage you to read the Chiveis Trilogy with this caveat, Litfin is a professor of Theology who has committed himself to the study of church history, therefore his fictional writing flair is still evolving; be patient.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Crossway Publishing for this review. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”