BOOK REVIEWS

The White Flag Unfurled

wfThese are troubling times. We live in a day which is marked by theological error and apostasy. Leaders are falling, truth is routinely maligned, and compromise is celebrated. A glance across the cultural milieu reveals an unfurled white flag. The white flag has been hoisted high and a diabolical deal has been struck. This flag reveals a horrifying reality which must be addressed, namely – final surrender in the church.

The White Flag: When Compromise Cripples the Church diagnoses our current condition and offers biblical action steps for marching forward in a way that glorifies God. It is call to faithfulness in age that is characterized by weak knees, passivity, and capitulation. It instills courage in weary Christ-followers who toil in a post-Christian era.

“Here is a passionate call from a pastor’s heart, from a man widely read, who sees with great clarity the difficult situation the church now faces, with opposition without and weakness and compromise within, who believes the battle will be won by the faithful believing and by the courageous teaching and proclaiming of the Word of God.”

  • DR. PETER JONES, Director, TruthXchange; author of The Other Worldview, Escondido, CA

Pick up a copy for a reduced price today at Amazon.com http://the white flag

BOOK REVIEWS

Emblems of the Infinite King – J. Ryan Lister (2019)

eemJ. Ryan Lister, Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 181 pp.

From time to time, I enjoy a good children’s book. There’s something about taking a break from my usual theologically robust reading schedule and immersing myself into a book designed to inspire and educate kids. J. Ryan Lister’s book is targeted to pre-teens and teens but I won’t be shelving this book with other notable children’s books by C.S. Lewis and Douglas Bond. Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God will be strategically placed in my section devoted to biblical theology. Lister’s book will stand proudly next to works of biblical theology penned by Thomas Schreiner, Patrick Schreiner, Peter Gentry, Stephen Wellum, George Eldon Ladd, and James Hamilton.

Emblems of the Infinite King invites young readers into God’s redemptive drama and presents the definitive pillars of the Christian worldview – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation in a compelling story. The introduction sets the necessary tone as readers are presented with a series of life-changing keys:

“His strong and wise command cut through the empty silence as he reached out of the shadows to offer an ancient key … Those who turn this key will never be the same.”

“It will show your deepest guilt and display your darkest shame.”

“You’ll see who you were made to be and what you’ve really become.”

“ … The way ahead is the path that leads into the throne room of the Son, this one they call the Death Killer, who gives his life to pay your ransom.”

A brief note about the underlying story that undergirds the book. One reviewer questioned the validity of the imaginative elements of Emblems of the Infinite King. This critique is perplexing, especially in light of the stunning efforts of C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings). And who can argue with the effectiveness of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the best-selling books of all time? One of the great needs in the church is a Christ-saturated imagination which is theologically robust and Reformed, one that captures the heart and makes the human spirit soar. Tragically, much theological writing is aimed squarely at the mind but bypasses the heart altogether. Emblems of the Infinite King strikes a biblical balance that celebrates orthodoxy but also warms the heart with imaginative prose and a compelling story.

Each chapter describes a particular key that explains a doctrinal reality that ultimately leads to the throne of God. Dr. Lister presents each branch of systematic theology in the framework of the story and guides pilgrims on a journey that glorifies the King, the Death Killer – the central figure of the redemptive drama.

Make no mistake – this is a serious book. And serious books have life-changing implications. The author writes clearly and creatively. But even more important, he writes with biblical precision. It is obvious that Lister has thought through each turn in the story and has a passion to either introduce readers to the King or help strengthen their relationship with him.

I must add that this is a beautiful book. Frankly, it is stunning. First, the cover is majestic and begs prospective readers to turn to the first page. The book is illustrated by Anthony M. Benedetto. Young people will be instantly drawn to his breathtaking illustrations that add so much to this volume.

2019 has been a great year for Christian publishing. Of the 170 books that I’ve read this year, Emblems of the Infinite King is among the best of them! Emblems of the Infinite King is a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress that is sure to encourage many young people and will be a strategic tool for parents and grandparents to help disciple children for God’s glory.

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

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

The Preacher’s Catechism – Lewis Allen (2018)

allen

Allen Lewis, The Preacher’s Catechism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 216 pp.

I am a big fan of catechisms. So when I learned about The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen, I was intrigued. Actually, I jumped at the chance to read and review this book. Little did I know that this powerful little book would break me and convict me. It would mold and challenge me. It would encourage and edify me. The Preacher’s Catechism is remarkable in a myriad of ways, a few of which I will briefly describe below.

The Preacher’s Catechism is a book targeted to preachers. While some may consider this narrow target audience as ill-conceived, this strategy works well and helps accomplish the ultimate ends of the author.

Three convictions govern this book, which are set forth in the opening pages:

  1. The church needs preachers who last and thrive.
  2. Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their souls work.
  3. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heart needs of every preacher.

With the governing convictions in place, Allen Lewis determines to utilize the pattern of the Westminster Shorter Catechism by targeting specific questions and answers to preachers. The book is arranged in four parts:

Part 1: The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching

Part 2: Jesus for Preachers

Part 3: Loving the Word

Part 4: Preaching with Conviction

Summarizing the essence of The Preacher’s Catechism is an impossible task. But at its very heart is a series of gospel-centered challenges and soul-stirring encouragements. This work is like a theological battering ram that is designed to crush pride, self-sufficiency, false motives and deeds of the flesh. But make no mistake. The author does not intend to merely convict preachers; his ultimate aim is to encourage them. Once the feeble scaffolding of the flesh is sufficiently toppled, the author winsomely directs the attention of preachers to the cross. “Listeners need to know that the preacher is contented in his God and rejoicing in his Savior,” writes Allen. He continues, “When our lives as preachers are filled with a sense of amazement about the grace that is ours in Christ, others start asking questions about that grace and seeking it for themselves.”

To call The Preacher’s Catechism a success would be a profound understatement. For this book captures what is truly important about pastoral ministry. It is a vivid reminder to keep the main thing the main thing. It serves preachers by admonishing them and encouraging them. But in the final analysis, it leads preachers back to the cross. It graciously beckons them to not only preach Christ crucified but to cherish the old rugged cross and lay claim to the saving benefits that Christ wrought for his elect.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Preacher’s Catechism – Lewis Allen (2018)

allenAllen Lewis, The Preacher’s Catechism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 216 pp.

I am a big fan of catechisms. So when I learned about The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen, I was intrigued. Actually, I jumped at the chance to read and review this book. Little did I know that this powerful little book would break me and convict me. It would mold and challenge me. It would encourage and edify me. The Preacher’s Catechism is remarkable in a myriad of ways, a few of which I will briefly describe below.

The Preacher’s Catechism is a book targeted to preachers. While some may consider this narrow target audience as ill-conceived, this strategy works well and helps accomplish the ultimate ends of the author.

Three convictions govern this book, which are set forth in the opening pages:

  1. The church needs preachers who last and thrive.
  2. Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their souls work.
  3. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heart needs of every preacher.

With the governing convictions in place, Allen Lewis determines to utilize the pattern of the Westminster Shorter Catechism by targeting specific questions and answers to preachers. The book is arranged in four parts:

Part 1: The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching

Part 2: Jesus for Preachers

Part 3: Loving the Word

Part 4: Preaching with Conviction

Summarizing the essence of The Preacher’s Catechism is an impossible task. But at its very heart is a series of gospel-centered challenges and soul-stirring encouragements. This work is like a theological battering ram that is designed to crush pride, self-sufficiency, false motives and deeds of the flesh. But make no mistake. The author does not intend to merely convict preachers; his ultimate aim is to encourage them. Once the feeble scaffolding of the flesh is sufficiently toppled, the author winsomely directs the attention of preachers to the cross. “Listeners need to know that the preacher is contented in his God and rejoicing in his Savior,” writes Allen. He continues, “When our lives as preachers are filled with a sense of amazement about the grace that is ours in Christ, others start asking questions about that grace and seeking it for themselves.”

To call The Preacher’s Catechism a success would be a profound understatement. For this book captures what is truly important about pastoral ministry. It is a vivid reminder to keep the main thing the main thing. It serves preachers by admonishing them and encouraging them. But in the final analysis, it leads preachers back to the cross. It graciously beckons them to not only preach Christ crucified but to cherish the old rugged cross and lay claim to the saving benefits that Christ wrought for his elect.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Expository Exultation – John Piper

pipJohn Piper, Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2018) 328 pp.

Expository Exaltation by John Piper is the final installment of a three-part series. Piper launched the series with A Peculiar Glory, which addressed the truthfulness of Scripture. Reading the Bible Supernaturally focussed on reading the Bible for the ultimate purpose of worshipping God. Expository Exaltation not only completes the trilogy – it satisfies the thirst of preachers around the world who have eagerly anticipated a new book on preaching by Dr. Piper:

“This God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-sustained worship – expressed in worship services, daily sacrifices of love, and eternal perfection – is the goal of Expository Exaltation.”

These words encapsulate the intentions and goals of the author and alert readers to the treasure chest that lies ahead. But before he gets started, the author makes sure that readers understand the purpose of preaching:

“The purpose is that God’s infinite worth and beauty be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.”

In a word, Expository Exultation is enthralling. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this book, which may, in the final analysis, turn out to be one of the most important books that John Piper has penned to date. Piper captures the essence of the preaching task and marshalls an army of resources to support his claims.

Expository Exultation should be read by rookie and veteran preachers alike. It should be read and re-read. Every Bible College and Seminary professor should immediately add this work to their list of required reading for preaching courses.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

New Calvinism: New Reformation or Theological Fad? – Josh Buice, Ed.

calvinJosh Buice, Ed. The New Calvinism, Christian Focus, 2017, 127 pp. $14.99

“Calvinism is back,” writes David Van Biema, in a Time Magazine article, entitled ‘The New Calvinism.’ The featured article, which was written in 2009 was included in a list of “Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” That’s quite a claim for a secular magazine to make, yet the article tapped into a trend that has been and continues to shake up the evangelical world. The New Calvinism, edited by Josh Buice attempts to evaluate the so-called ‘new Calvinism’ and sets out to determine whether we are on the brink of a new reformation or if this popular doctrinal movement is only a theological fad.

To be fair, it would be important to note that the authors of The New Calvinism are committed to biblical Calvinism. Each contributor, including Josh Buice, Paul Washer, Steven Lawson, Conrad MBewe, and Tim Challies are convinced about the great realities that were recovered by the sixteenth-century Reformers, namely, that sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, on the Word of God alone, for the glory of God alone.

Each contributor speaks favorably about the new Calvinism, but each brings a set of concerns as well. Opponents of Reformed theology will not likely be convinced by the convictions of these essays. But those who are committed Calvinists will be challenged by the warnings in this powerful little book.

The topics include Sola Scriptura, the doctrine of the church, sanctification, spiritual power, and discernment. The contributors rightly challenge some of the abuses which have surfaced in some churches. After challenging these pitfalls, the authors provide biblical correctives, which will insure a path forward that honors God.

This volume honors the best of historic Calvinism and treasures a biblical tradition that was recovered during the Reformation and is being rediscovered in our times. The authors are charitable and level-headed in their critiques – but most importantly, each one clings to the Sola Scriptura principle. Indeed, “Calvinism is back.” Our responsibility is to guard the truth and to and remain faithful to the timeless principles of God’s Word.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Theology

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? – James Boice

boiceJames Boice. Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?  Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001. 224 pp. $14.76

James Boice was the well-known pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He held that post for thirty years, faithfully executing his duties with a primary emphasis on expository preaching.

Dr. Boice loved the doctrines of grace. His sermons were consistently saturated by the biblical doctrines which were rediscovered during the days of the Protestant Reformation. But as Boice argues, these precious doctrines are quickly fading from prominence. Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace sets out to answer this important question?

Part One: Our Dying Culture

The first section diagnoses the church in America. The author is especially concerned with the pragmatism which continues to exert an unhealthy influence on Christendom. The author writes, “What has hit me like a thunderbolt in recent years is the discovery that what I had been saying about the liberal churches at the end of the 1960’s and in the ’70’s now needs to be said about the evangelical churches too.” Boice maintains that the church is worldly. He laments a church that has discarded “transcendent authority” and replaced it with pragmatism and relativism.

He continues by demonstrating that the current church has caved in to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:1) and has slid unwittingly into a secular worldview. Additionally, the church has subtly embraced tenets of humanism, relativism, and materialism – worldviews which clearly militate against the historic Christian faith.

Instead of influencing the world for God’s glory, the church has given up her high standards. And she has, in the final analysis compromised the great doctrines of Scripture.

Part Two: Doctrines That Shook the World

Dr. Boice argues that the church needs a new reformation. Such a reformation will no doubt includes the revival of the five solas – grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory.

Boice carefully introduces readers to each historic doctrine, making an appeal to their biblical warrant and admonishing believers to restore these precious doctrines to the forefront of the church and the Christian life. He makes it clear that these doctrines complement one another. Indeed, to surrender one of these gems would be to discard them all!

Part Three: The Shape of Renewal

The final section discusses the path forward. What would the church look like if she recovered the solas of the Protestant Reformation? First, our worship would be reformed. Boice adds, “The first and most important thing to be said about true worship is that it is to honor God. If what we call worship is not God-centered and God-honoring, it is not worship.” The author laments the current state of “worship” and contrasts this condition with the biblical standard.

Second, our lives would be reformed. Such reformation would involve recovering an awareness of God, especially his holiness, sovereignty, transcendence, immanence, and wisdom.

Another aspect of reformed lives would entail biblical repentance. This kind of repentance would involve a new attitude toward self and a new attitude toward God.

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace is a superb book. Written by one of the most influential Reformed theologians and pastors of our generation, it is a wake-up all to the church. It is filled with practical wisdom and strong challenges. I commend it highly!