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

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

Reforming Joy – Tim Chester (2018)

chesterTim Chester, Reforming Joy (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2018), 103 pp.

Reforming Joy: A Conversation Between Paul, the Reformers, and the Church Today invites readers on a journey through the book of Galatians. Tim Chester uses the context of the Protestant Reformation as a springboard to unpack two primary themes, namely, faith in Christ and life in the Spirit. These realities provide the necessary fuel that erupts into a mighty reformation of joy.

“The Reformation,” writes Chester “was a rediscovery of joy.” As such, the author sets out to rediscover and also be reformed by the joy which is brimming in the book of Galatians.

The book is brief in length and is organized in five chapters which are summarized below:

  1. How to Hear God’s Voice: The Reforming Joy of Scripture Alone (Galatians 1)
  2. How to Know God’s Approval: The Reforming Joy of Faith Alone in Christ Alone (Galatians 2)
  3. How to Recognize God’s People: The Reforming Joy of Mother Church (Galatians 3-4)
  4. How to Enjoy God’s Love: The Reforming Joy of Adoption (Galatians 4)
  5. How to Do God’s Will: The Reforming Joy of Life in the Spirit (Galatians 5)

Each chapter interacts with Scripture and alerts readers to the pivotal principles of joy. The solas of the Reformation are clearly taught and celebrated. And the gospel is seen throughout. The conclusion of each chapter contains a summary and snapshot of a specific Reformer along with a pertinent citation, which helps bolster and support the given theme.

Reforming Joy accomplishes what it sets out to do. This short volume is packed with truth and life-changing theology that is certain to encourage and equip the people of God.

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

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

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes – Mark Dever (2018)

sibesMark Dever, The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018, 198 pp. $16.00

The Long Line of Godly Men Profiles is a series published by Reformation Trust that has been educating and inspiring Christians for over ten years. Steven Lawson serves as the series editor and oversees this important project. This excellent series introduces readers to pastors and theologians from different generations – men like Calvin, Edwards, Luther, Tyndale, and Spurgeon. Each book stands alone and each one offers a treasure chest of biblical resources – historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral. The latest offering is no exception as Dr. Mark Dever introduces the life, ministry, and theology of Richard Sibbes.

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes is a short biographical sketch of the influential pastor. In Dever’s words, Sibbes was “the quintessential Puritan.” The aim of the author is to present Sibbes in a clear light and provide historical and theological clues along the way that will portray him in a proper light. In a final sense, Dever’s goal in this work is to “recover Sibbes as a historical and theological whole.”

Dever traces the ministerial career of Richard Sibbes and alerts readers to some of the high points of his ministry and makes reference to some of the controversies that emerge, along the way. One of the dominant themes is the tension which existed in the 17th-century Elizabethan era between the conformists and the non-conformists.

Three specific pastoral matters that occupied the attention of Sibbes was the centrality of the heart, assurance of salvation, and the role of the conscience. Dever introduces each subject and highlights the various points, which were emphasized by Sibbes.

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes has a more academic feel than most of the other books in the Long Line of Godly Men Series. Students interested in the Puritan era and 17th century England will find Dever’s observations interesting and illuminating. Dever’s fine work should be welcomed and applauded.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Moment of Truth – Steven J. Lawson

the momentSteven J. Lawson, The Moment of Truth. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018, 227 pp $17.16

Nothing is more important than contemplating the truth. Each person has a specific way of approaching the truth. For example, the Sophists did not believe in absolute truth – they were relativists. Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things.” Socrates believed that everyone could find the truth by looking within. “Know thyself,” was his mantra. Plato struggled in his quest for the truth is reported to have said, “It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Word (λόγος) who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain. In our day, many people influenced by postmodern thought reject the very notion of absolute truth: “Nothing is certain, nothing is absolute,” they reason, failing to realize the built-in contradiction they suppose.

Jesus Christ was born to bear witness to the truth. “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice“ (John 18:37). Even though Pilate stood face-to-face with the Truth, he willingly suppressed the truth (Rom. 1:18). He exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). And he refused to listen to the truth (John 8:43, 47).

Steven Lawson unveils the importance of this vital subject in his new book, The Moment of Truth. Lawson invites readers to examine Pilate’s repudiation of the truth and contrasts his hostility with the crisis of truth in our generation. “The downward spiral always begins with the rejection of the truth,” writes Lawson. He continues, “This all-out refusal to recognize truth is hitting our society like a tsunami, and its breakers have submerged the majority of modern minds.” So the stage is set for what will prove to be a very important book.

Part One: The Reality of Truth

The first section contains foundational aspects of truth including eight distinguishing marks of truth:

  1. Truth is divine
  2. Truth is absolute
  3. Truth is objective
  4. Truth is singular
  5. Truth is immutable
  6. Truth is authoritative
  7. Truth is powerful
  8. Truth is determinative

The author underscores the reality of truth in the inerrant Word, which builds the confidence of people and demands total submission to a truth-telling God. Aspects of biblical revelation are explored and readers are drawn into an important discussion to focuses on the reliability and historicity of Scripture and the important dimensions of the cross.

Part Two: The Rejection of the Truth

The second section is a sobering look at the widespread repudiation of the truth, beginning with Adam and Eve. Lawson also reveals how truth is rejected by atheists and compromised by the church.

In what proves to be one of the most helpful chapters is a discussion on how truth is marginalized. Lawson writes, “Any disobedience to the truth of God’s Word must be treated as a serious encroachment against His holy name.” But in an unexpected turn, the author focusses on seemingly unimportant sins that prove to be devastating, in the final analysis. The sin of discontentment, impatience, envy, and the sin of the tongue are presented and readers are urged to mortify these sins by the power of the Spirit.

Part Three: The Reign of Truth

In the final section, Dr. Lawson presents four powerful expressions of truth – preaching the truth, living the truth, truth in worship, and the reign of truth in the final judgment. Each of these chapters are packed with God-centeredness as the truth of God’s Word comes to light. Readers will walk away humbled and encouraged as they are affirmed in the truth.

Summary and Commendation

The Moment of Truth is an explosive book that will encourage Christians from all walks of life and backgrounds. Pastors who have been beaten down and discouraged will walk away from this book with new resolve and energy. Teachers of God’s Word will be motivated to remain faithful. Compromisers will be encouraged to repent. And unbelievers will come face-to-face with the truth of God’s Word. Like Pilate, each reader will be forced to rejoice in the truth or reject Him. My prayer is that every reader will choose the former; that many will be compelled to live the truth, proclaim the truth, and defend the truth.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Spurgeon on the Christian Life – Michael Reeves (2018)

spurMichael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 181 pp. 192 $14.95

Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves is the latest installment in the Crossway Series, Theologians on the Christian Life. This excellent book covers some basic biographical information on the Prince of Preachers. He is rightly described as a man who “went at all of life full-on.” Spurgeon was a man of “deep affections.” Reeves is quick to characterize Spurgeon as a man of deep joy and God-centered wisdom.

Spurgeon was a man who possessed a strong reverence for Christ and his Word. A fair amount of space is devoted to showing how Spurgeon made Christ central in his life and his pastoral ministry: “You cannot taste the sweetness of any doctrine till you have remembered Christ’s connection with it,” writes Spurgeon. He was a man who was gripped by the Bible which is evident to anyone who reads his sermons.

Spurgeon was cut from the cloth of the Puritans. This man was a Calvinist through and through. Reeves adds, “Spurgeon was a Puritan and a Calvinist not through adherence to any theological system or tradition as such but because he believed such theology most glorifies Christ.” But Spurgeon never got boxed in by his theological systems. Above all, he was a Christian: “We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard those five points as being barbed shafts which we are to thrust between the ribs of our fellow-Christians. We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross; or, rather five great emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified.”

Reeves labors to explore the essence of Spurgeon’s preaching. The general purpose of his preaching is explored and his exegetical habits are examined. Spurgeon’s first aim in the pulpit was to clearly and faithfully preach Christ crucified. The author remarks, “If he is to be preached faithfully, the Christ who is the light and glory of God must be preaching by clearly and beautifully.” This is the kind of preaching that marked the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon.

Spurgeon’s passion for doctrine appears through this work with an emphasis on regeneration, conversion, human inability, sanctification, and the cross of Christ. “The cross,” writes Spurgeon, “that deepest revelation of the glory of God – is the great weapon that breaks down the heart’s defenses.”

Dr. Reeves presents an honest appraisal of Spurgeon. He was a man of prayer. But he was also a man who battled most of his adult life with despondency and depression. This leads to what may very well be the most important feature of the book, namely, the emphasis on fighting for joy. In one sentence, Reeves articulates Spurgeon’s heart on this matter with deep insightfulness: “Christians must, then, fight for joy, and fight for that intimacy with God that fosters joy. Such is the warp and woof of the Christian life that Spurgeon lived so well.

One may wonder how such a book could make any significant contribution, especially in light of some very good recent publications that survey the life and ministry of Spurgeon. Books like Living By Revealed Truth by Tom Nettles, The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray, Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zach Eswine, and most recently, Steal Away Home by Matter Carter and Aaron Ivey have uncovered a wealth of information about the Prince of Preachers. But Spurgeon on the Christian Life is a helpful addition, indeed. This very readable book presents Spurgeon in an honest light which glorifies the great God of the universe. Readers would be remiss to ignore this precious treasure!

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