The Gospel According to God – John MacArthur (2018)

macJohn MacArthur, The Gospel According to God,  Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 206 pp. $17.38

C.H. Spurgeon calls the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah “a Bible in miniature … the condensed essence of the gospel.” John MacArthur agrees refers to Isaiah 53 as “the most remarkable chapter in the Old Testament.” This is the grand theme of Dr. MacArthur’s most recent book, The Gospel According to God.

Part One: The Suffering Servant

The first part of the book, which also comprises the majority of the book includes the key doctrinal distinctives of Isaiah chapter 53. The author explores the identity of the suffering servant, his humiliation, his suffering, and his exaltation. The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is presented, both biblically and polemically. MacArthur rightly notes, “Isaiah is describing a purposeful act of penal substitution carried out by the sovereign will of his Father.”

Part Two: The Life and Times of Isaiah the Prophet

The remainder of the book focusses on the prophet, Isaiah. The historical setting is set forth in vivid detail, including the demise of Judah. Readers are warned to steer clear from apostasy and serve Christ with unfettered devotion.

Summary

The Gospel According to God is a faithful exposition of a crucial section of Scripture that informs and inspires followers of Jesus Christ. The combination of rich doctrine and practical application make this book an important piece of a growing believer’s theological library. The gospel-centered truths that MacArthur presents are important reminders to remain faithful in a day marked by unbelief and apostasy.

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

A History of Western Philosophy and Theology – John Frame (2015)

frameThe Word of God is emphatic about our role as we enter the marketplace of ideas. The apostle Paul sounds the warning in Colossians 2:8 – “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Scripture instructs Christ-followers, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ …” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5, ESV).

John Frame maintains and promotes such a mindset in his latest offering, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (HWPT). The discipline of philosophy, which is defined as “the disciplined attempt to articulate and defend a worldview,” is broken down into three subdivisions including metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory. Readers familiar with Frame’s work will immediately recognize his commitment to perspectivalism, a powerful grid for thinking which includes three perspectives: normative, situational, and existential. This commitment has been clearly articulated and defended in his Lordship series, a series of books which are essential tools in every pastor’s library.

HWPT is dedicated to Dr. Cornelius Van Til, whose influence is evident throughout the book. Readers who are entrenched in Van Til’s methodology will quickly recognize themes such as the Creator-creature distinction and the charge that non-Christian thought lapses into the intellectual bankruptcies of rationalism and irrationalism.

On a large-scale, HWPT leads readers on a fascinating journey that educates, contextualizes, and warns.

Education

Frame has a reputation for educating not only his Seminary students but a rather broad reading audience. HWPT is no exception. The author gives readers an up-close look at the history of western thought. Unlike the typical tour of philosophy and theology, Dr. Frame provides readers with the proper lens with which to view such ideas. The book is built on the immutable, authoritative, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Readers are alerted in advance that the author carries certain presuppositions, above all – an allegiance to sacred Scripture. The author clearly reveals the presuppositions which guide his writing and inform his worldview:

“As a Christian, I am committed to a worldview that comes from the Bible: God the Creator, the world as his creation, man made in his image, sin and its consequences as our predicament, Christ’s atonement as our salvation, his return as the consummation of all things.”

Such an admission is rare in the world of philosophy. Frame’s candor should be respected and greatly appreciated by believer and non-believer alike.

Context

HWPT stands alone by contextualizing the various philosophic movements and the thinkers who represent those movements. The author helps readers understand how various philosophers influence future generations and worldviews. Such an approach is greatly needed, especially among undergraduate students who often see philosophy in bits and pieces instead of a unified whole.

Warning

The most helpful aspect of HWPT is the warning extended by Dr. Frame, a warning that takes Colossians 2:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 to heart. The author demonstrates how various philosophers have influenced generations and have contributed to the erosion of the Christian mind. These thinkers, most of whom continue to rule from the grave are exposed and for their futile thinking, which generally follows Van Til’s charge of being rationalistic and irrational at the same time.

I commend HWPT to pastors, Bible College students, Seminary students and Christ-followers who have a passion to see the picture in the world of philosophy and theology. HWPT is a serious book for serious Bible students. It is a book that I will return to again and again. May God use John Frame’s latest work to glorify the great God of the universe and encourage a new generation of Christian theologians, philosophers, pastors, and leaders.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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

Kiss the Wave – Dave Furman

waveDave Furman, Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 159 pp $14.99

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages,” said the British preacher, C.H. Spurgeon. Embracing trials in a God-honoring way is the theme of Dave Furman’s new book, Kiss the Wave.

The author does not write in an ivory tower. Nor does he write as a mere spectator. Rather, Furman writes as one who has been tormented by depression and pummeled by physical adversity. Inspired by the godly example of Spurgeon, Pastor Furman speaks candidly about the hurts, trials, persecutions, and ailments that Christians face in a fallen world. His biography is a fitting backdrop to the finer arguments that emerge in the pages of this book.

Furman writes as a seasoned pastor. His counsel, encouragement, and admonition is laced with grace and sensitivity and offers hope to people who are walking through a season of bitter providence.

A few outstanding features of the book will attract a host of readers and invite many more to study these pages and walk away encouraged.

First, this is a personal book. Furman is candid about his battle with a debilitating nerve ailment and the corresponding depression that goes along with it. Frankly, he admits some struggles that most pastors would never dream of sharing. This makes Kiss the Wave deeply enduring and helpful.

Second, this is a practical book. Nothing is theoretical or cliche. Furman offers real help and encouragement for soldiers trapped in the “foxhole.”

Third, this book is propelled by the gospel. Readers looking for a quick fix or self-help solutions should look elsewhere. Here, we find the exaltation of the gospel which delivers sinners from the penalty of sin and power of sin. The promises of God shine in Kiss the Wave and beckon readers to cling to Christ.

Finally, this book offers a much-need perspective. Dave Furman admonishes readers who are plodding on a nomadic journey to the Celestial City: “This land is not our home. As Christians, we are all expatriates, passing through this earth, holding a passport and citizenship to another place. Be encouraged to take the long view in your suffering. This life is a blip on the radar of eternity. It’s a small knot in an infinitely long rope.” Such is the perspective of a God-centered author. And such is the perspective of a reader who is captivated by the Savior and strengthened by his gospel.

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

The Preciousness of Time – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

Time is a precious commodity that must be treasured.  Such is the argument in jonathan-edwardsJonathan Edward’s piece entitled, The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.

The subject of time was no stranger to Edwards.  He thought about the “improvement” of time often.  Even in his famous 70 resolutions, he addressed the matter of time.

Resolution # 5

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most

profitable way I possibly can.

It would serve us well, then, to consider the precious matter of time from Jonathan Edwards’ perspective.

Section 1: Why Time is Precious

Jonathan Edwards states four reasons why time is precious.

  1. Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it.
  2. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious.
  3. Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance.
  4. Time is very precious, because when it is past, it cannot be recovered.

Edwards argues in respect to to time, “…When once that [time] is gone, it is gone for ever; no pains; no cost will recover it.”  So typical is this eternal perspective that flows so freely from the pen of the Northampton preacher.  Tragically, many Christ-followers are not following the counsel of this godly man as they squander their time with worldly pursuits.  He reminds us, “Eternity depends on the improvement of time; but when once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it or another space in which to prepare for eternity.”

Section 2: Reflections of Time Past

In section 2, Edwards encourages believers to reflect on time which has been granted in order to prepare for eternity.  Indeed, the argument goes, “Your future eternity depends on the improvement of time.”  He challenges readers, “How have you let the precious golden sands of your glass run?”

Section 3: Who Are Chiefly Deserving of Reproof From the Subject of the Preciousness of Time

Edwards begins section three with a discussion of how people waste their time: “There is nothing more precious, and yet nothing of which men are more prodigal.”  He demonstrates the kinds of people are who reproved for their negligence in this area.

  1. Those who spend a great part of their time in idleness.
  2. They are reproved by this doctrine who spend their time in wickedness, who do not merely spend their time in doing nothing to any good purpose but spend it to ill purposes.
  3. Those are reproved by this doctrine, who spend their time only in worldly pursuits, neglecting their souls.

Section 4: An Exhortation to Improve Time

“Time is money.”  So goes the conventional wisdom of the day.  Edwards essentially agrees as he argues, “If you have a right conception of these things, you will be more choice of your time than of the most fine gold.”  He exhorts readers with four  bold propositions:

  1. You are accountable to God for your time.
  2. Consider how much time you have lost already.
  3. Consider how time is sometimes valued by those who are come near to the end of it.
  4. Consider what a value we may conclude is set upon time by those who are past the end of it.

Section 5: Advice Respecting the Improvement of Time

Edwards concludes his piece by offering three encouragements with respect to time.

  1. Improve the present time without any delay.
  2. Be especially careful to improve those parts of time which are most precious.
  3. Improve well your time of leisure from worldly business.

The notion of “improving” time is seen throughout the writings of Jonathan Edwards.  He gave a great deal of thought to it and chose to live wisely in light of his discoveries.  Indeed, Jonathan Edwards sought to “live with all his might unto the Lord.”  By God’s grace he accomplished resolution # 5: Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

“Therefore, spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God.  Waste them not away wholly in unprofitable visits, or useless diversions or amusements.”

– Jonathan Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love – John Crotts (2018)

graceJohn Crotts, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, 137 pp. $14.00

The matter of truth is of utmost importance for the follower of Jesus Christ. However, sometimes a person with a passion for the truth has a tendency to “steamroll” the unsuspecting – the one who has either never learned the truth or the one who has chosen to reject “unreasonable aspects” of the truth. Loving the truth is both necessary and commendable. However, when the truth is eclipsed by arrogance or pride, the beautiful truth ends up looking ugly and fails to serve people well.

John Crotts has observed this problem directly and addresses the matter in his book, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love. While truth is never minimized or marginalized in the book, the author challenges readers to tell the truth with grace and urges them to “temper truth with love.”

Description

The book begins with some basic biblical instruction concerning the art of graciousness. “God cares about more than just the words you say,” writes Crotts. “He also cares about how you say those words. It is not enough always to say the truth; you must also say the truth in love.”

Cross surveys the subject of graciousness in Scripture. The depth and breadth of graciousness is explored and practical suggestions are offered. Specific examples of graciousness from the life of Jesus and Paul are commended. And biblical examples are cited that point out the propensity for people in the church to be ungracious. Of course, the subject matter is practical in our generation as much as it was in the first-century church.

With a solid biblical foundation in place, the author moves forward with a biblical prescription for cultivating habits of graciousness.

Prescription

Three specific angles are broached including the cultivation of graciousness in the heart, through actions, and in the community. Once again, the Bible guides the thoughts of the author as he presents practical ways to build graciousness as a habit into the fabric of one’s life.

The final chapter, The Gospel and Graciousness is a powerful closing word that will push readers in the right direction as they submit to the Holy Spirit and surrender to his promptings. “A gracious church will impact a community,” writes Crotts. So tempering truth with love is the proper balance that believers should strive for. John Crotts’ excellent work is a first step in the right direction.

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

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith – Gregg Allison (2018)

alGregg R. Allison, 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018, 426 pp. $19.36

I have been teaching theology for over twenty-five years. During that time span, I have been privileged to use some of the finest theological resources available. Contemporary books like Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine or John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief have been a never-ending source of theological wisdom, and have instructed and encouraged my soul. Books geared to laymen like J.I. Packer’s, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs and R.C. Sproul’s, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith have also proven themselves to be faithful friends.

But despite the wealth of resources for pastors and teachers, very few provide insight for actually teaching theology. For this reason, Gregg Allison’s new book will be a welcome addition to many personal libraries. 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology is part systematic theology and part pedagogy. Indeed, it is a tool to be reckoned with.

A brief look at the table of contents reveals what initially looks like a traditional systematic theology text. Eight branches of systematic theology are arranged from the doctrine of the Word of God (Bibliology) to the doctrine of future things (Eschatology), respectively. Each branch is subsequently arranged into bite-sized pieces which are designed to be easily digested by the reader.

Each of the fifty chapters contains a one-page snapshot of the content, which includes a summary, main themes, and key Scriptures. Three main sections may also be found in each chapter including:

  1. Understanding Doctrine – Major affirmations, biblical support, and major errors associated with a particular doctrine.
  2. Enacting Doctrine – The case for teaching the stakes for minimizing, marginalizing, or repudiating a particular doctrine.
  3. Teaching the Doctrine – Practical pointers and help with teaching a particular doctrine.

“Christian doctrine is Christian belief based on Scripture,” writes Greg Allison. “The church bears the primary responsibility for constructing and transmitting good theology, with an essential assist from the theological wisdom of the ages. The sound doctrine is believed, practiced, confessed, and taught.”

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology succeeds in carrying out the aims of the author. It is a treasure chest of biblical wisdom that will encourage and educate. Many pastors, teachers, and professors will benefit from this well-sharpened tool which will lead to the edification of the saints and glorify the Triune God!

Highly recommended.

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