Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ category

Review: ESV Student Study Bible

September 19, 2011

My teenage and college years were the most formative years of my life as a Christian.  It was during those years that I learned to study the Bible and develop and appetite to know God.

Yet it seemed that a lot of what people would call normal means of grace was missing in my life.  The church in which I was a member was largely a-theological.  Ministry was program-driven.  Community was lacking. Disciple-making disciples were nonexistent (that’s what the program’s were for).  Look back, I realized now that I did not know what I was missing because I had never experienced it.

In spite of the glaring absence of such means, God was kind to keep me tethered to His Word with a deep desire to know Him.  It was not until college that I bought my first study Bible and learned to access tools that could assist me in my studies.  If there was one resource I wish I had available to me during those formative years, it would be an all-in-one toolbox for studying the Bible.  I’m glad to see that such a resource is available to students today with the new ESV Student Study Bible.

Over 100 evangelical scholars have combined their work to provide over 12,000 concise study notes, 900 helpful “did you know” facts, 120 Bible character profiles, 80 full-color maps and illustrations, and introductions and timelines for each Bible book.  To be clear, our primary source of study is the Bible alone.  But there are secondary sources that help us in the study of the Bible, such as concordance, atlas, commentary, dictionary, etc.  And what you have in the ESV Student Study Bible is all those helpful secondary sources combined in one toolbox that is easily accessible for all students wanting to take a serious plunge into the study of God’s Word.

Christian students, we are living in a day and time when we own a lot of Bibles, but the Bible does not own us.  My encouragement to you is to reject the culture Biblical illiteracy and don’t simply own another Bible.  Have the Bible own you.  Get the ESVSSB and wear it out.  Take this incredibly well-bound and aesthetically pleasing Bible and graffiti it with your sweat and tears.  Make your labors of mind and heart test the binding of this Bible and leave it with a strip of duct tape or two.  Yes, get it good.  Good enough to preoccupy your mind with thoughts of God, and you will never regrets the hours you spent listening to God as His Spirit makes His truths come alive in your soul.

Church Planter by Darrin Patrick (Review)

September 11, 2010

Last week, I took some time to review Darrin Patrick’s new book Church Planter.  Below is all three parts compiled in one place.

Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission by Darrin Patrick
(Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 238 pp. Buy: Amazon | WTS Bookstore
Reviewed by Tim Brister

The Man

One does not have to look far to discover the plethora of books in the world of church planting. However, the majority of these books focus on the pragmatics of church planting—systems, techniques, processes, etc. Wisdom has often been discovered not in those who have learned to give all the answers, but rather from those who have learned to ask the right questions. The burning question among most church planting books seems to be, “How to plant a church?” In his book, Church Planter, Darrin Patrick takes a completely different approach, starting with a different, and I would argue, more pertinent question. He begins by asking not how to plant a church but who should plant a church. The first section of his book seeks to answer this question with the end goal to find men who are “fit to carry the message of Jesus to the world” (103). Patrick’s focus and prayer is that there would be a resurgence of “godly men to serve the church by the power of God’s Spirit” (17). This theme runs throughout this section and in many ways lays out a template for discovering and assessing men according to God’s Word.

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Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

August 27, 2010

One of the most important books on church planting for my generation has just been released by Crossway.  Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission written by Darrin Patrick is a book not only for church planters but for anyone called to gospel ministry.  I will be explaining its importance and giving a lengthy review next week.  Over at PLNTD, I will review the book by sections: the Man (Monday), the Message (Wednesday), and the Mission (Friday), and we will be giving away copies of the book via Twitter.

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology (Review)

July 10, 2009

Today, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth–a man who towers over church history like few others.  Many of those I follow on Twitter are sharing their favorite quotes from Calvin’s writings, but as one rightly exhorted, get to know the man himself and not the caricature.  In the book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology you get just that–a great picture of Calvin as he was, not what some today are trying to make him out to be.

Below is a review for that book published in the Founders Journal.

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Parsons, Burk, ed. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2008), 257pp. $19.00.

In the providence of God, we are living in a time where the resurgence of Calvinism is welcoming the 500th year of John Calvin’s birth.  Unlike generations past, Calvinism is cool, even to the point that The New York Times are writing reports on the leaders of this new generation of Calvinists.  Molly Worthen, author of the New York Times’ article, made a striking conclusion about the Calvinism of this generation:

“[The] New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.“[1]

Whether Worthen’s assessment is a misperception or not can be argued as a litmus test for Calvinism according to John Calvin, for Calvin knew nothing of this kind of doctrine that resulted in pride rather not humility.  The book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology is intended to peel back the layers of modern-day half-truths and caricatures to show the true nature of the man and his message.  The editor, Burk Parsons, explains that “the purpose of this volume [is] that the people of God might more fully trust, invoke, praise, and love the Lord” (xix).

More than a focus on Calvin, this book, as Calvin would so desire, transcends to a deeper and truer knowledge of Calvin’s God.  If it is agreeable that “a true Calvinist is one who strives to think as Calvin thought and live as Calvin lived—insofar as Calvin thought and lived as our Lord Jesus Christ” (6), then it is incumbent upon all Calvinists, especially those brought up in this recent resurgence, to read this book.  Divided into two sections, the excellent list of contributors provides both breadth and depth into both Calvin’s life and thought in way that both the layman and scholar can richly benefit.  But more importantly, the tenor of the writings exhibit the humility of Calvin and cast his writings under the majesty of the God whose fear was always in his heart.

Calvin’s life-long prayer was, “I offer my heart to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely” (32), and what this book does is provide a panoramic picture—whether as disciple of Christ, churchman, preacher, Reformer, theologian, or statesman—of how that prayer produced a man who was “mastered by God” (7).

Of all the books that are available today in honor of Calvin, perhaps there is none other that can give you a glimpse into a man who gazed at God through the lens of His Word.  Given the popular misperception that Calvinists are not committed to evangelism, missions, or church planting, however, it would have been more fitting to highlight Calvin’s impact in turning Geneva as the greatest missionary sending city during the Reformation.

Should we glean from the teachings of Calvin, we would have as a tutor a man intimately acquainted with the greatest knowledge in the world—God Himself.

Should we follow the example of Calvin, we would have as a friend a man whose devotion was a touchstone of humility.  A closer look into the life of Calvin would garner a deeper love for God and His Word, which to no one’s surprise, reveals the enduring impact of the contribution he made, and continues to make, 500 years after his birth.

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[1] “What Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen The New York Times (January 6, 2009). Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11punk-t.html?_r=5&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all (accessed January 23, 2009).

Book Review: Communion with the Triune God

January 9, 2008

Owen, John. Communion With the Triune God, eds. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. 448 pages. $22.00

Reviewed by Jason Meyer

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This book represents a reprint of John Owen’s classic treatise on the Trinity, which was originally published in 1657. This edition, however, is much more than a reprint. It is chock full of extras designed to enhance Owen’s exposition by helping the reader navigate through Owen’s dense content and verbiage. The twenty-seven page introduction to Owen’s Trinitarian theology is an excellent synthesis of the book. The thirty page analytical outline is an amazing tool that makes Owen’s flow of thought more readily accessible to the reader, which is no small accomplishment. The four page glossary makes the transition from 17th century to the present day much less painful. It is like having a Puritan dictionary at one’s finger tips, which the reading of Owen requires even more than other Puritan authors. In other words, this edition is remarkable in that the reader has purchased both a classic theological work and a theological tour guide to ensure that Owen’s mind and heart will leave an indelible mark upon the reader’s mind and heart. Furthermore, the remarkable thing about Owen is that he is such a reliable tour guide in his own right who specializes in introducing readers to the Triune God’s mind and heart.

Upon learning what makes this edition of Owen’s book so laudatory, one may justifiably want to know what makes Owen’s material so valuable. In other words, in the light of so many books on the Trinity, why bother with John Owen? In a nutshell, Owen’s great accomplishment is as follows: he explains the distinct role of each member of the Trinity so that the reader can have a distinct relationship with each member of the Trinity. Furthermore, understanding the unique work of each person in the Godhead enables the Christian to give each person a distinct praise for that work. Owen calls to the reader to press onward and upward in order to plant their feet on higher ground where they will experience a deeper relationship with God and enjoy the exquisite pleasures to be found as the reader sees and treasures more of His beauty and majesty. Many rightly read the book as a theological treatise, but too few find it to be a manual for worship.

A few snippets will usefully demonstrate Owen’s masterful weaving of theology and doxology. Owen shows that lost humanity rests under the wrath of God. However, one must remember that it is the love of God that saves humanity from the wrath of God. Owen brings many Scriptures to the attention of the reader that highlight God the Father’s love (Ex 34:6-7; 1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Rom 9:11-12; Eph 1:4-5; 2 Thess 2:13-14, etc.). This love is most clearly revealed in the Father’s sending of His own Son.

This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of the Deity, is not known any other way but as full of wrath, anger, and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other thoughts of him (Rom. 1:18; Isa. 33:13-14; Hab.1:13; Ps. 5:4-6; Eph. 2:3)-here he is now revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us; the manifestation whereof is the peculiar work of the gospel (Titus 3:4) (107).

Owen also dismisses the all-too contemporary idea that Jesus is the loving member of the Trinity who saves us from the Father, the angry and stern member of the Trinity:

Christians walk oftentimes with exceedingly troubled hearts, concerning the thoughts of the Father toward them. They are well persuaded of the Lord Christ and his goodwill; the difficulty lies in what is their acceptance with the Father-what is his heart toward them? “Show us the Father, and it suffices us” (John 14:8). Now, this ought to be so far away, that his love ought to be looked on as the fountain from whence all other sweetnesses flow (110).

Furthermore, Owen clears up some common misconceptions about Jesus the Son. Some in the church today act as though they were only dating Jesus. Some act as though they need to impress Jesus and keep him interested in them by Christian obedience. This approach causes Christians to remain unsure of his eternal commitment to us. Christians are married to Christ, they are not dating him. Owen shows that Christ binds himself to us as an all-sufficient Savior and mediator who has purchased our redemption and thus never divorces his bride.

This is the first thing on the part of Christ-the free donation and bestowing of himself upon us to be our Christ, our Beloved, as to all the ends and purposes of love, mercy, grace, and glory; whereunto in his mediation he is designed, in a marriage covenant never to be broken. This is the sum of what is intended: The Lord Jesus Christ, fitted and prepared, by the accomplishment and furniture of his person as mediator, and the large purchase of grace and glory which he has made, to be a husband to his saints, his church, tenders himself in the promises of the gospel to them in all his desirableness; convinces them of his goodwill toward them, and his all-sufficiency for a supply of their wants; and upon their consent to accept of him-which is all he requires or expects at their hands-he engages himself in a marriage covenant to be theirs forever (156).

Kelly M. Kapic describes the essential difference in Owen’s thought between union and communion. Union with God is a unilateral and receptive. Union is a sovereign work of God in which the believer is receptive as an object of God’s grace. Communion with God is mutual and responsive as the believer responds to God’s grace in relationship with Him. Kapic then unpacks the practical implications of this distinction:

While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate. This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the biblical truth that we are saved by radical and free divine grace. Furthermore, this distinction also protects the biblical truth that the children of God have a relationship with their Lord, and that there are things they can do that either help or hinder it. When a believer grows comfortable with sin (whether sins of commission or sins of omission) this invariably affects the level of intimacy this person feels with God. It is not that the Father’s love grows and diminishes for his children in accordance with their actions, for his love is unflinching. It is not that God turns from us, but that we run from him. Sin tends to isolate the believer, making him feel distant from God. Then come the accusations-both from Satan and self-which can make the believer worry that he is under God’s wrath. In truth, however, saints stand not under wrath but in the safe shadow of the cross” (21).

One of the most helpful sections of Owen’s book was his section on worshiping the Holy Spirit. I grew up singing songs of praise to the Father and the Son, but I was always a little unsure in how to worship the Spirit. Owen shows us how to worship the Holy Spirit by faith as the distinct object of our worship:

Let the saints learn to act faith distinctly on the Holy Ghost, as the immediate efficient cause of all the good things mentioned-faith, I say, to believe in him; and faith in all things to believe him and to yield obedience to him; faith, not imagination. The distinction of the persons in the Trinity is not to be fancied, but believed. So, then, the Scripture so fully, frequently, clearly, distinctly ascribing the things we have been speaking of to the immediate efficiency of the Holy Ghost, faith closes with him in the truth revealed, and peculiarly regards him, worships him, serves him, waits for him, prays to him, praises him-all these things, I say, the saints do in faith. The person of the Holy Ghost, revealing itself in these operations and effects, is the peculiar object of our worship (421).

Owen also gives practical guidance for recognizing the acts of the Spirit that we may adore Him for each distinct act:

Let us, then, lay weight on every effect of the Holy Ghost in any of the particulars before mentioned, on this account, that they are acts of his love and power toward us. This faith will do, that takes notice of his kindness in all things. Frequently he performs, in sundry particulars, the office of a comforter toward us, and we are not thoroughly comforted-we take no notice at all of what he does. Then is he grieved. Of those who do receive and own the consolation he tenders and administers, how few are there that consider him as the comforter, and rejoice in him as they ought! Upon every work of consolation that the believer receives, this ought his faith to resolve upon-“This is from the Holy Ghost; he is the Comforter, the God of all consolation; I know there is no joy, peace, hope, nor comfort, but what he works, gives, and bestows; and that he might give me this consolation, he has willingly condescended to this office of a comforter (422).

In a nutshell, then, I heartily recommend this new edition of Owen’s work on two fronts. First, Owen’s book itself is an absolute masterpiece of theology proper. No work on the doctrine of God gives the reader so much light matched with so much heat. Second, Kapic and Taylor have made this masterpiece more useful and accessible for future generations. John Owen is a gift to the church and the editors have ensured that this gift will be one that keeps on giving.

New in 08: Book Reviews by Jason Meyer

January 6, 2008

Last year, I decided to make a greater investment in highlighting upcoming book releases with the purpose of directing interested readers to resources they could benefit from reading. The book alerts (previews) are not critical reviews but rather overviews and summaries intended to provide people with additional information about a book that deserves greater exposure and accessibility. I have for some time wanted to start posting critical book reviews; however, due to my already busy schedule, I have not been able to work them into the P&P programming. That is until this year.

Last week I discussed with a dear brother and personal mentor about joining me here at P&P. His name is Jason Meyer, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary and assistant professor of religion at Louisiana College. I personally know him best as a man of prayer with incredible devotion to the Scripture, a godly husband intensely committed to his wife and two girls, and formerly a third-shift co-laborer in the harvest field called UPS (I have written elsewhere about Jason here and here). God has uniquely gifted Jason with one of the sharpest minds and hottest hearts I have ever encountered, and he is a pastor-theologian whom I want to commend to you (two messages you can download or listen online are “What Is the Church?” and “Dealing with Grief and Pain” (sermon begins at 22:00 mark). Academically speaking, Jason is a graduate of Oklahoma Wesleyan (B.S.) and Southern Seminary (M.Div. and Ph.D) as well as one among the first class of students at The Bethlehem Institute, the education and training wing of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is also a contributing author to a forthcoming NT Intro/Survey to be published by Broadman & Holman.

I am delighted to have Jason posting book reviews (and perhaps more) here at P&P and hope they will be profitable to you. His first review is slated to go up later this week, so be looking for it!