BOOK REVIEWS

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls – Matthew Barrett , Ed.

docMatthew Barrett, Ed. The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 912 pp.

Martin Luther boldly declared, “Justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls.” John Calvin argued that justification is the “hinge on which religion turns.” In the sixteenth century, scores of people found these arguments both biblical and compelling. The Roman Catholic Church deemed Luther and Calvin as heretics.

Fast forward to the current generation. While much has changed over the past five hundred years, the biblical wisdom of Luther and Calvin still stands. Many in the church trumpet the grand reality of justification by faith alone. But some continue to deny or discount this critical doctrine. Tragically, some of the dissenters are preaching in Protestant churches. At stake is more than a mere doctrine, important as that is – what is at stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is edited by Matthew Barrett. Dr. Barrett comes with impeccable academic credentials and is supported by a cast of world-class scholars and theologians. This book both a theological tome and a treasure chest. It is not for the faint-hearted. And it is certainly not designed for the armchair theologian.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is arranged in four parts:

  1. Justification in Biblical Perspective
  2. Justification in Theological Perspective
  3. Justification in Church History
  4. Justification in Pastoral Practice

This book leaves no stone unturned. The team that Barrett has assembled has examined every theological, biblical, and historical angle that pertains to the doctrine of justification. The fundamental standing of position before a holy God is addressed with depth, breadth, integrity, and God-centered wisdom. The combined efforts have yielded a work that should be used for generations to come and will be of great service to pastors, professors, and followers of Christ.

Those who discounted Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth-century did so at their own peril. Of greater importance is the repudiation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. To discount this cardinal doctrine is not only dangerous; it is tantamount to theological treason.

I commend The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls and trust that it will receive a wide readership.

Highly recommended

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness – Allen Nelson IV

allenA.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” While he uttered those words almost sixty years ago, Tozer could sense the rapid decline and deterioration in the church. He sensed a lack of reverence; almost an antipathy for God. Tragically, things have not improved. The decline only continues.

Allen Nelson IV, picking up where Tozer left off, writes with the same sense of resolve and urgency in his recent book, Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness. These reflections are firmly anchored to Isaiah 6:1-7 and Revelation 4:10-11. Nelson argues that there is a great need to recover the biblical view of God – a transcendent and majestic vision of the triune God.

The author’s focus, however, is on the holiness of God. He makes a three-fold argument for gaining a clear understanding and appreciation of God’s holiness:

  • If we get God wrong, we get everything wrong.
  • God’s holiness is misunderstood, misapplied, and underemphasized.
  • We are commanded to be holy as God is holy.

The book is comprised of twelve chapters, all of which are designed to alert, guide, instruct, challenge, and admonish followers of Christ. These chapters are like different facets of a stunning diamond. They draw the attention of readers and lead them to worship God in his resplendent holiness.

Many churches have succumbed to the spirit of the age. Some have subtly softened the attributes of God; others have brazenly sought to remove Him from His throne. Open theism, Pelagianism, and Pluralism are not only accepted; they are celebrated. Large numbers of people who profess to be Christians are failing to exercise biblical discernment. The warnings in Scripture to steer clear from false teachers is either neglected or ignored. It is in this context that Before the Throne is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Indeed, this book is a bold challenge and a biblical antidote to the apostasy that engulfs us the postmodern generation.

Allen Nelson’s Before the Throne is a labor of love that should be read and digested by Christians everywhere. The result will be hearts and minds which are consumed with knowing and worshiping the LORD, who is holy, holy, holy. May worshipers find themselves before the throne in the proper posture of humility, with hearts of contrition, and trembling at His Word (Isa. 66:2).

Dr. David Steele is senior pastor at Christ Fellowship in Everson, Washington. He is the author of Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther and A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin

BOOK REVIEWS

Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime – Jeff Robinson, Ed.

faithfulCollin Hansen & Jeff Robinson Sr. Ed, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 146 pp.

Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime is a call to pastors to remain true to their call and cross the finish line with God-centered resolve.

Faithful Endurance is edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robison. The editors gathered a group of seasoned pastors; men who have served for decades in the church. These men not only understand the essence of faithful endurance; they have endured battles and have the scars to prove it.

Each chapter contains a letter from a fictional pastor who seeks advice from one of the veteran leaders mentioned above. While the letters are not real, the scenarios that the letters convey are realities that pastors around the world face on a regular basis. Each letter receives a response that offers godly counsel and wisdom. Such counsel is desperately needed for pastors who face various “minefields” on the battlefield of ministry.

Topics include suffering, dealing with criticism, doubt, depression, finances, Sabbath rest, and many more.

The chapter on Sabbath rest caught me completely off-guard. Instead of the usual, legalistic handwringing that is accompanied by essays on the Sabbath, Mark McCullough reminded me that such a day is a “remembrance of the garden, where we feasted with God in the cool of the day, and a rehearsal of new creation, where we will feast with him in the new world.”

As one who has endured a bitter season of Providence in pastoral ministry, Faithful Endurance was deeply moving and a deep encouragement to me personally. This little book is soul-warming, heart-convicting, and life-changing. My hope is that many pastors will be greatly served as a result of reading these fine essays. May each man who studies these pages endure and be found faithful.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Grace Defined and Defended – Kevin DeYoung

calKevin DeYoung, Grace Defined and Defended (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 130.

Whenever Kevin DeYoung pens a book, I devour it – quickly. DeYoung writes with biblical precision. He writes with clarity. And his writing exalts the Lord Jesus Christ. His latest book, Grace Defined & Defended is no exception.

This short book is a summary and exposition of the Canons of Dort. The Synod convened from 1618-1619 and crystallized the Reformed position concerning soteriology.

DeYoung reproduces the historical Canon of Dort and provides a short commentary that explains and defends the content. Misconceptions are erased and the doctrinal ore is successfully mined and served up in a readable and devotional manner.

The selling-point of Grace Defined & Defended is its ability to drive readers to the Canons of Dort – a document that most contemporary believers have never heard about, let alone read.

DeYoung’s ability to unpack and explain this 400-year old confession is unparalleled and should be devoured by followers of Jesus. Readers who affirm historic Calvinistic orthodoxy will be edified and encouraged. Fence-sitters and Arminians will be challenged and convinced. And all readers, in the final analysis, will exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo gloria!

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

BOOK REVIEWS

An Introduction to the Greek New Testament – Dirk Jongkind

greekDirk Jongkind, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 115 pp.

An Introduction to the Greek New Testament by Dirk Jongkind paints a vivid portrait of the work and scholarship behind The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House. “The aim of this book,” writes the author, “is to help you read Tyndale’s House Edition without any nagging and distracting questions about the text or the edition.”

Jongkind accomplishes his objective in this short book as he unpacks how interpretive decisions are made and also includes a helpful section on the Byzantine Text and the Texts Receptus.

Greek students and Seminarians will be fascinated by this introductory work and will give them the necessary details behind The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House. A disclaimer: The material is designed for people who have a background in Koine Greek.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Our Ancient Foe: The History, Activity, and Demise of the Devil – Ronald L. Kohl, Ed

foeRonald L. Kohl, Our Ancient Foe: Satan’s History, Activity, and Ultimate Demise (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2019), 151 pp.

Our Ancient Foe is edited by Ronald L. Kohl. The subtitle of the book is a fitting description of the contents, namely – Satan’s History, Activity, and Ultimate Demise. Kohl has assembled a team of scholars and expository preachers to unveil the diabolical devices of the devil. The likes of Tom Nettles, Derek Thomas, Joel Beeke, Kent Hughes, and Sinclair Ferguson make solid contributions that help readers understand how the enemy of our souls operates.

Each essay is deeply grounded in Scripture as the activity of the evil one is explored. The contributors explore Satan’s character, his schemes, and how believers are delivered from him.

The final chapter proves especially helpful. Sinclair Ferguson writes about the consummation of all things in a chapter entitled, All Things New. The writing is basic enough for new believers but also challenges readers who have been walking with Christ for some time.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Between Life and Death – Kathryn Butler

deathKathryn Butler, Between Life and Death (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 214 pp.

These are perilous times. Our day is marked by pragmatism and situational ethics. The current milieu, for the most part, is not informed or undergirded by biblical principles.

As our loved ones reach the end of their days, it is important that we refuse to allow culture to dictate our medical and ethical decisions. Between Life and Death by Kathryn Butler helps navigate the bumpy path which ends in death. Butler is a trained physician and trauma surgeon who recently left her medical practice to homeschool her children. She brings a wealth of biblical wisdom to light and offers guidance which is a reflection of the counsel of the holy.

Personally, Between Life and Death was a difficult book for me. No one likes to think about the implications of death but Dr. Butler forces the issue with truth and grace. Each chapter is laced with take-home points which apply the truths of a given chapter.

The strength in this book is the author’s commitment to biblical authority and its emphasis on people made in the image of God. These image-bearers have great worth and dignity in the sight of God. As a result, each person must be treated with kindness and respect.

When the life of an image-bearer hangs in the balance, each person must “determine whether treatment promises recovery or only prolongation of suffering and death,” writes Butler.

Another helpful feature in Butler’s book is the example of a Sample Directive. This helpful tool may be used as a sort of template that readers can apply to their own unique situation.

Overall, Between Life and Death is a helpful book, one that is sure to educate people and guide them on a biblical path that glorifies the Lord.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Grace Defined and Defended – Kevin DeYoung

calKevin DeYoung, Grace Defined and Defended (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 130.

Whenever Kevin DeYoung pens a book, I devour it – quickly. DeYoung writes with biblical precision. He writes with clarity. And his writing exalts the Lord Jesus Christ. His latest book, Grace Defined & Defended is no exception.

This short book is a summary and exposition of the Canons of Dort. The Synod convened from 1618-1619 and crystallized the Reformed position concerning soteriology.

DeYoung reproduces the historical Canon of Dort and provides a short commentary that explains and defends the content. Misconceptions are erased and the doctrinal ore is successfully mined and served up in a readable and devotional manner.

The selling-point of Grace Defined & Defended is its ability to drive readers to the Canons of Dort – a document that most contemporary believers have never heard about, let alone read.

DeYoung’s ability to unpack and explain this 400-year old confession is unparalleled and should be devoured by followers of Jesus. Readers who affirm historic Calvinistic orthodoxy will be edified and encouraged. Fence-sitters and Arminians will be challenged and convinced. And all readers, in the final analysis, will exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo gloria!

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Passions of the Heart – John D. Street

street

John D. Street, Passions of the Heart (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2019), 308 pp.

We find ourselves in the midst of a culture that is awash in sexual sin. Yet ironically, there are very few resources available to help people deal with this vexing problem. Some books minimize sexual sin and even ignore its pernicious effects on the lives of people. Other books address the subject aggressively but fail to subject it to the weight of biblical revelation. Instead of approaching sexual sin through the lens of the gospel, it is dealt with psychologically, which in the final analysis is unhelpful.

John D. Street offers a different approach; one that is biblical, timely, and practical. The book is arranged in three parts.

Part One: The Nature of the Heart and Its Passions

Dr. Street sets the stage by helping readers understand the complex nature of the human heart. If the human heart is an “idol factory,” as Calvin says, this section shines the spotlight on the idols that are produced daily in hearts and lives around the world.

The author’s aim is to highlight the deception nature of the heart. Such a view runs counter to conventional wisdom that says lays claim to the autonomous heart. I need, “Trusting your feelings and allowing them to dictate your choices is the dogma of the day.”

Ultimately, trusting one’s heart will lead to catastrophe and ultimately, damnation. True repentance is evidenced by the pursuit of purity, righteous indignation, pursuing holy fear, deep desire for God, zeal for truth, and a desire for justice.

The author shows how “heart idolatry” manifests itself and how the end result is enslavement, in this case, sexual sin.

Part Two: The Motivations of Sexual Idolatry

The author digs deeper into the heart of sexual sin by revealing its hidden motivations. Various desires such as self-pity, discontentment, anger, and fear are exposed as sinful motivations that undergird sexual sin.

A helpful diagnostic test is offered that helps clarify heart motivations. Honest interaction is sure to lead to spiritual benefits, including a conscience which is cleansed and freedom from sin’s guilt.

Part Three: The Characteristics of a Pure Heart

The final section proves to be the most helpful as Dr. Street sets forth the criteria for lasting heart change, which is found exclusively in the gospel: “The gospel is intended to be not only a message of salvation to the unbeliever but also an ongoing message of change for the believer.” In my mind, this observation is missing in many churches. As a result, it is neglected in many Christian lives.

The gospel reveals sin and applying the truth of the gospel brings death to the flesh. Street adds, “The heart ruled by sexual lust must be ministered to in such a faithful and determined way that the Holy Spirit may use the gospel to transform the enslaved person by the power of God. This is the beginning of lasting change from stubborn and enslaving sexual sin.”

Summary

Passions of the Heart: Biblical Counsel for Stubborn Sexual Sins contains a wealth of biblical resources that will both equip biblical counselors and challenge sexual sinners to turn from their sin and cast all their hope upon their Savior, banking on his redemptive benefits found in the gospel.

Highly recommended.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy – Mark Vroegop

darkMark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 211 pp.

Life is a series of events that is filled with moments of intense joy and seasons of pain and suffering. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop is concerned with the later. The author is acutely aware that people who live in a fallen world will inevitably face what William Cowper refers to as the “dark clouds of Providence.”

There have been a few notable contributions in recent days that address the subject of suffering. Tim Keller’s, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering and Paul David Tripp’s, Suffering are two examples of books that tackle the subject of suffering that are faithful to Scripture and offer readers a glimpse of hope through the prism of Scripture. Like the aforementioned books, Vroegrop wrestles with subject. But Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is unique in that is focuses on the subject of lament.

“The aim of this book,” writes Vroegrop, “is to help you discover the grace of lament – to encourage you to find deep mercy in the dark clouds.” His mission is accomplished in three parts:

Part 1: Learning to Lament/Psalms of Lament

Part 2: Learning from Lament: Lamentations

Part 3: Living with Lament: Personal and Community Applications

The author defines lament as “a prayer that leads to trust.” Such a prayer leads to two crucial questions:

  • “Where are you, God?”
  • “If you love me, why is this happening?”

Lament, then, is “the transition between pain and promise.”

With this solid foundation, the author shows how Christians are both commended and commanded to make lament to God.

Ultimately, painful seasons of life can be “platforms for worship.” These seasons lead the people of God to trust him fully and deeply. “Trust,” writes Vroegop, “is believing what you know to be true even though the facts of suffering might call that belief into question. Lament keeps us turning toward trust by giving us language to step into the wilderness between our painful reality and our hopeful longings.”

I found Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy to be an immensely helpful and practical book. This book gives believers permission to grieve – even wail and mourn. But after grief comes another day, which leads to worship.

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is intimately tied to the Word of God and directs the people of God to the pathway that leads to him. Indeed, as the author notes, “Lament is the language of those stumbling in their journey to find mercy in dark clouds.”

Five takeaways are offered as a means of encouragement:

  • “Lament is how we tunnel our way to truth.”
  • “Lament is how we experience grace no matter what we face.”
  • “Lament gives us hope because it gives us a glimpse of truth.”
  • “Lament vocalizes a desire for justice that is unfulfilled.”
  • “In dark clouds, there is deep mercy as we discover the grace of lament.”

Readers will truly discover how to apply the grace of God in this well-written and deeply God-honoring book.

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