John Knox and the Reformation – Iain Murray and Martyn Lloyd Jones

knoxMartin Lloyd-Jones and Iain Murray, John Knox and the Reformation Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2011, 130 pp. $11.00

“The fact is that you simply cannot understand the history of Scotland unless you know something about the Protestant Reformation. It is the key to the understanding of the history of your great country in the last four hundred years.” So said, Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his short work, John Knox and the Reformation.

Lloyd-Jones and Iain Murray combine forces to commend the life and ministry of John Knox in a book that should be read by young and old alike.

Lloyd-Jones sets the context for the Protestant Reformation and alerts readers to the cultural and theological landscape that God sovereignly placed John Knox. Lloyd-Jones considers Knox to be the founder of Puritanism and makes a cogent case for this thesis.

Knox is painted as a man of ability, energy, and shrewdness. He was a godly man; an original thinker; a man filled with courage. These combined qualities helped propel him onto a stage in world history that shaped a nation for the glory of God.

Murray’s contribution to this volume is more specific in nature as he discusses how God prepared Knox to serve in the Scottish Reformation. Murray maintains:

  1. Knox became a man of prayer.
  2. Knox’s long exile made him an international Christian.
  3. It was during Knox’s exile, and especially in the final years in Geneva, that the master principles which governed his thought on Reformation came to maturity.

Life lessons are drawn from the example of John Knox making this a fascinating and encouraging read. I commend this little work to students of church history and Christ-followers who battle timidity. Surely the example of John Knox will embolden the most fearful saint.

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality

pNancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018, 337 pp. $15.31

The publication of Nancy Pearcey’s book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity sent shockwaves throughout the evangelical world and help equip a new generation of apologists. Total Truth confronted the notion that scientific knowledge and moral knowledge are separated into two domains. The lower story includes objective truths that are public and valid for all people. This is the realm of empirical science. These truths are true and verifiable. The upper story includes the realm of moral knowledge which is private, relative, and subjective. Hence, the so-called unified concept of truth was obliterated and separated into two domains.

Pearcey’s subsequent works, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning and Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes have also left an indelible mark on the church and culture at large. The impact of these books on me personally, cannot be overstated. My suspicion is that many people would concur.

Nancy Pearcey’s newest offering, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality pick up where the other titles left off. The overarching goal of Love Thy Body is to “uncover the worldview that drives the secular ethic.” Ultimately, the book is designed to “show that a secular morality doesn’t fit the real universe.”

Readers familiar with Pearcey will quickly see the influence of Francis Schaeffer on her thought. It was Schaeffer who originally exposed the so-called “fact/value” split which has created a fracture epistemology that continues to be propagated today.

Pearcey shows the practical outgrowth of this fragmented worldview (or the two-story worldview) by pointing to several contemporary culture matters including abortion, euthanasia, “same-sex marriage,” and transgenderism. She helps readers understand how these various worldviews have been smuggled into our culture and links each of them to the two-story dichotomy.

Readers will be encouraged and challenged to walk through the argument of Love Thy Body and will be better equipped to not only contend with culture but also reach out to people who have been deceived by a pagan worldview.

Readers will discover that Pearcey’s argument is not combative. Rather, her heart cries for people who have been co-opted by this deviant worldview. She pleads with readers to reach out and love people with Christ-centered love: “Christians must present biblical morality in a way that reveals the beauty of the biblical view of the human person so that people actually want it to be true.”

Love Thy Body is a book that is filled with description and prescription. Facts and figures run through the book but the author is not content to leave her readers with data alone. She sets forth a workable prescription which is set on helping people and healing them at the deepest level. Therefore, “We must work to educate and persuade on a worldview level,” writes Pearcey. Such an approach is imperative if Christ-followers have any hope of reaching a lost world with the saving message of the gospel. Running through the book is a mindset that Pearcey, no doubt, learned from Schaeffer, namely, sharing the gospel with a tear in one’s eye.

Love Thy Body is riveting, challenging, educational, a shot to the heart, a challenge for the mind, and bold push for the feet. It will spark controversy in some venues and may even precipitate debate in the local church. Surely, this kind of debate is necessary as Christians seek to influence culture for God’s glory.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Life and Theology of Paul – Guy Prentiss Waters

paulGuy Prentiss Waters, The Life and Theology of Paul Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2018, 132 pp. $15.00

It was one of the most dramatic conversion experiences in redemptive history. The apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus was miraculously transformed into a man who found his delight in God. Guy Prentiss Waters tells the story of Paul’s conversion in his latest book. The Life and Theology of Paul not only unpacks some basic biographical details about the apostle Paul – it explores the basics of Pauline theology.

In some ways, this work is a mini-systematic theology. While the author does not cover every branch of theology, he does present Paul’s hamartiology, soteriology, and the ecclesiology. Also, included is a brief discussion of personal eschatology.

Each chapter concludes with a section of practical application. Here, the author presents real-life principles that readers should wrestle with and apply to their lives.

The Life and Theology of Paul is accessible to a wide range of readers and is a faithful treatment of Reformed theology that will provide deep encouragement for many people. It is my privilege to commend this new volume and trust that it will receive a wide reading.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Tunnels – Greg Mitchell

tunGreg Mitchell, The Tunnels New York: Broadway Books, 2016, 381 pp. $7.38

The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell is a captivating book that captures the drama surrounding the Berlin Wall. Researched with meticulous detail, the author presents real-life stories of escape, heroism, betrayal, and courage.

History buffs will be fascinated by the story that unfolds that involves the Kennedy administration. The combination of political and personal history makes for good reading that will unquestionably keep readers up and begging for more.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Are People Basically Good? – R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul, Are People Basically Good? Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2016

Whenever a friend purchases a Kindle or e-reader, I always make an important recommendation – Pick up The Crucial Questions Series by R.C. Sproul. Ligonier Ministries has graciously made this 25 book series available, free for the asking. Subjects explore basic matters of the Christian life and provide encouragement for Christians at different stages of maturity.

The most recent offering, Are People Basically Good? helps readers wrestle with a vital question. Most people in post-modern culture affirm that people are in fact, basically good. Indeed, this is the premise of secular psychology. Such a premise is flawed from the start, as it ignores the biblical doctrine of original sin.

Dr. Sproul answers the proposed question with Bible-saturated wisdom and guides his readers through this thorny matter that not only addresses original sin; he also presents broader anthropological matters such as the image of God and the constitution of man.

The concluding three chapters go to the heart of the matter as the author explains the reality of sin, the depth of sin, and the extent of our sin. Readers will learn about the clash between Pelagius and Augustine and will see how this debate has shaped the thoughts of many, both for good and evil.

Are People Basically Good is introductory material. It is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of original sin or the Pelagian/Augustinian controversy. But make no mistake – this is a solid offering, one that is worthy of careful study, especially for new believers.

Some Pastors and Teachers – Sinclair Ferguson

fergSinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2017, 802 pp. $45.00

The day that Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, Some Pastors and Teachers arrived, I was like a kid in a candy store; a monkey in a banana factory; a shark in blood-infested waters. Gazing at the table of contents caused my heart to race, which is a testimony of my deep love for the church, theology, and pastoral ministry.

It was immediately apparent that Dr. Ferguson was attaching a high degree of importance to the past by acknowledging some of the great pastor-teachers in church history – men like John Calvin, John Owen, John Murray, and the Puritans.

Some Pastors and Teachers is a mixture of biography, systematic and biblical theology, and pastoral theology. Ferguson writes with theological precision and pastoral compassion and experience. He writes with a gravitas that is both weighty and inspirational.

While each of the thirty-nine chapters are commendable in their own right, chapter thirty-seven, was especially meaningful to me. Ferguson argues with great force that “all truly biblical preaching is preaching to the heart.” This kind of preaching is marked by several characteristics:

  1. A right use of the Bible which must first be directed to the mind. Ferguson adds, “When we preach to the heart, the mind is not so much the terminus of our preaching, but the channel through which we appeal to the whole person, leading to the transformation of the whole life.
  2. Nourishment of the whole person. Ferguson makes it clear that spiritual nourishment must be carefully defined: “There is a difference between a well-instructed congregation and a well-nourished one.”
  3. An understanding of the condition of hearers.
  4. The use of the imagination.
  5. Grace in Christ.

This behemoth of a book is filled with rich material that promises deep pastoral encouragement, comfort, and instruction. This “doxological Calvinism” is the best of all worlds. Such a theological framework strengthens minds, nourishes hearts, and ultimately equips pastors to feed, lead, love, and protect the flock – all for God’s glory.

Top Books of 2017

2017 was another great year for books.  Here are my top 10 in order.  Be sure to click on the titles to read a more detailed review.

Number 1: Steal Away Home – Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey

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Number 2: Covenant and God’s Purpose For the World – Thomas Schreiner

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Number 3: Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth – John MacArthur

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Number 4: The Story of Reality – Greg Koukl

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Number 5: The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together – Jered Wilson

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Number 6: God the Son Incarnate  – Stephen Wellum

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Number 7: A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards – Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble

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Number 8: The Gospel According to Paul – John MacArthur

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Number 9: Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation – Nate Pickowicz

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Number 10: Long Before Luther – Nathan Busentiz

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Honorable Mention: House of Spies – Daniel Silva (no review)

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