BOOK REVIEWS

Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards – Owen Strachan (2018)

owenOwen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day By Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2018), 415 pp.

I don’t usually get too excited about devotional books. They are typically too short and far too shallow. Such books gain a wide readership, which only adds fuel to my frustration. But when I learned about Dr. Owen Strachan’s new book, Always in God’s Hands: Day By Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, I eagerly secured a copy to review.

The book contains a short devotional for each day of the year. Readers are greeted by a short citation by America’s greatest intellectual and pastor, Jonathan Edwards. Strachan follows with an insightful devotion which is laced with Bible-centered wisdom and practical lessons that apply to the Christian life. Topics include the doctrine of the Trinity, justification, sanctification, battling temptation and worldliness, work ethic, faith, biblical authority, and many more. Each devotion concludes with a short Scripture that relates to the daily content.

Observant readers will notice several things about Strachan’s work. First, it is not short and it is not shallow. These are meaty, soul-stirring devotionals that ignite the affections and draw the attention of readers to the triune God. For instance, listen to how the author describes the promise of a Redeemer:

“It was foretold that Jesus would come as a holy warrior to face down his foe. Genesis 3:15 charts what the New Testament Gospels show us. Christ, Jonathan Edwards says, ‘went before us.’ He suffered ‘execution,’ dying to honor the justice of God, represented so vividly as a ‘sword,’ a great and terrible weapon. But the way of Christ is not a way of defeat. In dying, the Son of God crushed the serpent’s head. He rose from the dead. For believers, ‘there is no sword now,’ and eternal life awaits. The conquering hero will one day welcome us home, a liberated nation and a set-apart people.”

Second, it is a stellar introduction to the Christ-saturated worldview of Jonathan Edwards (approximately 30,000 words from the pen of Edwards are presented in this volume). Too many people unfairly caricature Edwards as a fire-breathing preacher, preoccupied with judgment and damnation. Edwards does indeed warn people to flee from the wrath to come. But this is not his only focus. The Puritan divine is fixated on the glory of God. He is consumed with the supremacy of Christ. His writing is saturated with gospel-centered joy.

Third, it provides practical help for believers at different maturity levels. This volume is certainly a great encouragement to seasoned believers. But it will also help strengthen the faith of believers who are just getting started. After completing Always in His Hands, I ordered an additional copy for my sixteen-year-old son. Inscribed in the opening pages are these words – from a father to his son:

“Jonathan Edwards life and writing have deeply shaped my views of God, the gospel, and the Christian life. No other writer outside of sacred Scripture has influenced me more. When you get to know this man, you get better acquainted with his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And his Savior is our Savior!”

I’m looking forward to reading these short devotions together. Each is inspired by Jonathan Edwards but the real joy will be treasuring the Lord Jesus and finding our satisfaction in him. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.”

Always in His Hands: Day By Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards is a landmark book. It is a captivating introduction to America’s greatest thinker and invites readers to biblical spirituality that is truly unmatched. I highly recommend this work and trust that it will receive a wide reading in the evangelical world. Always in His Hands is among the best books of 2018!

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Mending the Achilles Heel: A Biblical Response to the Problem of Evil · Theology · VERITAS FELLOWSHIP

THE ENCHIRIDION – Aurelius Augustine (420 A.D.)

The Enchiridion (a book that contains key information on a particular subject), by Aurelius Augustine is a handbook of Christian doctrine that provides brief answers to Laurentius, one of Augustine’s friends.  The book is divided into three sections, the first of which is a brief exposition of the Apostles’ Creed.  The second part contains a basic exposition of the Lord’s Prayer.  The third part focuses on the Gospel.

Augustine begins by acknowledging the request of Laurentius, namely, a handbook with answers to the big questions of life.  The author articulates a few of these questions: “What ought to be man’s chief end in life; what he ought, in view of the various heresies, chiefly to avoid; to what extent religion is supported by reason; what there is in reason that lends no support to faith, when faith stands alone; what is the starting point, what the goal, of religion …”  Augustine maintains that his disciple can know the answers to all of the above questions, so long as he thoroughly knows the “proper objects of faith, hope, and love.”

Augustine boils down a piece of essential knowledge that is required for all who follow Christ, namely, that the goodness of the Creator created all things.  It is refreshing to hear the simplicity of Augustine’s message regarding origins; a message that comes almost 1,500 years before the scandalous musings of Charles Darwin: “It is enough for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God; and that nothing exists but Himself that does not derive its existence from Him; and that He is the Trinity – to wit, the Father, and the Son begotten of the Father, and the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the same Father, but one and the same Spirit of Father and Son.”

Augustine wrestles with the problem of evil and holds that evil is the absence of good.  In other words, it is possible for evil to exist in a universe that was originally created as good.  Or to put it another way, evil is dependent upon goodness.  He writes, “There can be no evil where there is no good; and an evil man is an evil good.”

Augustine maintains the God, who is omnipotent is a good God, even when he permits evil: “Although, therefore, evil, in so far as it is evil as good exists, is a good.  For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent Good, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish.”

The author addresses the nature of free grace and responds to the Pelagianism that was corrupting the church in the fifth century (and continues to poison many contemporary churches): “Men are not saved by good works, nor by the free determination of their own will, but by the grace of God through faith … So when man by his own free will sinned, then sin being victorious over him, the freedom of his will was lost.”

Thoughtful readers will graciously pass by Augustine’s erroneous promotion of paedo-baptism; they will refuse to “throw the baby out with the bathwater!”  Draining the bathwater would preclude the reader from profiting from Augustine’s theological insight.  These insights include but are not limited to:

1) The importance of building a strong and biblical doctrinal foundation.

2) The importance of exercising discernment with professors of Christianity.

3) The importance of personal discipleship.

4) The importance of developing a Christian worldview, especially in regards to the Creator-creature distinction.

5) The folly of free will apart from grace and the liberty that new creatures receive in Christ.

6) The sinfulness of sin, the bondage and slavery of unregenerate man, and the necessity of a Redeemer.

Read the thermometer in our postmodern climate.  It nearly always reads, “trivial,” “banal,”  “superficial,” or “amusement.”  Augustine’s Enchiridion provides a much needed shot of meaty mercury! Read it with an open Bible and a pen in hand.

Tolle Lege!

BOOK REVIEWS

Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student’s Guide – Michael Wilkins & Erik Thoennes

wilkinsMichael J. Wilkins & Erik Thoennes, Biblical and Theological Studies (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 127 pp.

Almost thirty-five years ago, I sat in my first undergraduate Bible course. It was a steep uphill climb that involved a whole new vocabulary. Those days were both exciting and daunting. One of the missing pieces of my education was a clear big picture. Michael Wilkins and Erik Thoennnes offer exactly what I needed in the early years of my theological education in their book, Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student Guide.

At the heart of this work is a deep and passionate desire to equip the next generation of Christian leaders. This goal is achieved in a short book that delivers a powerful message. The authors provide an overview of what constitutes a solid and substantial Christian education. Two primary aspects are presented, namely, biblical and theological studies. Six attitudes are commended for anyone who truly desires to grow theologically:

  1. We should study the Bible with fear and worship of God.
  2. We should study the Bible with growing humility about ourselves.
  3. We should study with prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  4. We should study the Bible with eager expectation to learn much but also expecting to find great mystery and challenges to our thinking.
  5. We should study the Bible with humble obedience.
  6. We should study the Bible with heartfelt gratitude and joy.

These attitudes are the necessary prerequisites for anyone who is truly seeking God and desires a theological education that is transformational. To jettison these attitudes is not an act of foolishness; it is a sign that pride has taken root, which ultimately leads to ruinous results.

Moving forward with the proper foundation, Wilkens and Thoennes guide readers through the theological forest. Along the way, they explain the differences between biblical theology and systematic theology. The journey includes each of the necessary steps that will ultimately lead willing students to the Celestial City.

Biblical and Theological Studies is a basic book. It is also an essential book that should be carefully devoured by undergraduates who have their minds and hearts set on a solid theological education.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Biblical Theology – Nick Roark and Robert Cline (2018)

bibNick Roark & Robert Cline, Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 160 pp. $12.48

One of the critical components of the Christian life involves understanding Scripture and applying it to our lives. This unavoidable goal is at the heart of Nick Roark and Robert Cline’s book, Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. The authors join forces and present one of the shortest and most profound treatments of biblical theology on the market today.

Biblical theology provides an accurate framework for understanding the Bible. “It is,” as the authors write, “the scriptural roadmap that leads to Jesus … Biblical theology is for the church, begins with the Bible, and ends with King Jesus and his church.”

Unfortunately, the discipline of biblical theology tends to get overlooked or underemphasized in some churches and theological academies. Many are being taught to examine the finer details of Scripture, yet they miss the overarching meta-narrative. In the final analysis, they miss the “forest for the trees.” Roark and Cline make it clear that Jesus Christ is the Hero of the Bible. Their excellent work beautifully articulates the plot line of Scripture and draws readers to the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

Biblical Theology is a breath of fresh theological air that will help encourage and edify the church and lead her down the proper path and greatly glorify God. Highly recommended!

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

Schaeffer Sympossium · VERITAS FELLOWSHIP

Why Francis Schaefer Matters: The Line of Despair – Part 3

francis_schaeffer-1



The Loss of Antithesis

The loss of antithesis in American culture led to what Dr. Schaeffer coined the “line of despair” or giving up all hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life.  Schaeffer outlines what he believes are the various steps below this line of despair.  He begins with the German philosopher, Georg William Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) who became the first man to open the door into the line of despair.  Hegel taught  what we really have is a thesis, and an opposite antithesis, with the answer of their relationship not a horizontal movement of cause and effect, but a synthesis, or dialectical thinking.  In the end result, Hegel’s philosophy produced a synthesis as opposed to antithesis which could be arrived at by reason.

Schaeffer believes that while Hegel opened the door to the line of despair the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard was the first one to go below the line.    Kierkegaard concluded that one could not arrive at synthesis by reason alone.  Rather, one achieves everything of real importance by taking a “leap of faith.”  Schaeffer, therefore, maintains that Kierkegaard’s conclusions gradually led to the absolute separation of the rational and logical from faith.

The Leap of Faith and the Line of Despair

What is this leap and what does it involve?  Schaeffer teaches that Kierkegaard’s leap put away the hope of any unity.  Schaeffer writes, “The leap is common to every sphere of modern man’s thought.  Man is forced to the despair of such a leap because he cannot live merely as a machine . . . If below the line man is dead, above the line, after the non-rational leap, man is left without categories.  There are no categories because categories are related to rationality and logic.  There is therefore no truth and no nontruth in antithesis, no right or wrong – you are adrift.” (Escape From Reason, 241, 256).

Schaeffer continues to chronicle the subsequent philosophers who followed Kierkegaard’s thought including the atheistic existentialism of Karl Jaspers, Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger.  These men reasoned below the line of despair and gave up hope of a rational answer to the questions of life.  The end result: they are left with only the anti-rational.

Schaeffer proceeds to explain what he considers the further steps under the line of despair.  The first as noted above began with philosophy.  The second step was art.  The third – music.  The fourth – culture, and the fifth step was the new theology which was opened by Karl Barth.  While most refer to this brand of theology as “liberal” or “neo-orthodox,” and rightly so, the issue at hand runs deeper than labels.  Indeed, liberal theology rejects the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture and the New Testament miracles.  The new theology knows nothing of man being created in the image of God.  But Schaeffer adds further clarity to the issue:  “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of contentful communication.  You can bear ‘witness’ to it, but you cannot discuss it.  Rationality and faith are out of contact with each other” (The God Who Is There, 64).

Man, therefore, is left in a state of despair which “arises from the abandonment of the hope of a unified answer for knowledge and life.  Modern man continues to hang on to his rationalism and his autonomous revolt even though to do so he has had to abandon any rational hope of a unified answer” (Escape From Reason, 235-236).

The Consequences of Despair

The consequences and despair of modern man can be found in three areas.  alling prey to nihilism or embracing a worldview that offers no hope.

The second is  found in the fact that he accepts a false dichotomy (what Schaeffer calls an “absolute dichotomy”) between nature and grace.  However, the modern scheme is presently a dichotomy between contentless faith (no rationality) and rationality (no meaning).  “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of contentful communication.  Rationality and faith are out of contact with each other” (The God Who Is There, 64).

Third, since there is no integration point between rationality and faith man engages in acts of desperation in order to find meaning, namely, he accepts a mysticism which gives an illusion of unity to the whole.  Hence we understand why the influx of eastern religion such as Hinduism, i.e. the New Age Movement has gained such a popular foothold in America today.  If there is no hope of a unified field of knowledge one must cling to a mystical world-view that has no rational base but promises hope for the present and the future.

Schaeffer enhances his discussion by contrasting the Christian faith with modern man’s faith which has turned inward.  In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed.  So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time.  This makes the Christian faith open to discussion and verification (The God Who Is There, 65).

Schaeffer Sympossium · VERITAS FELLOWSHIP

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: The Turning Point in Truth – Part 2

sch 2

The Truth Crisis

Francis Schaeffer sets the tone for his apologetical procedure by explaining the crisis of truth in America:  “We are fundamentally affected by a new way of looking at truth.  This change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem facing America today” (The God Who Is There, 6).  He believes a paradigm shift occurred around 1935 when the American attitude toward truth changed.  Prior to this time, American’s were devoted to thinking about presuppositions, namely, the existence of absolutes, particularly in the areas of morals (ethics) and knowledge (epistemology).  But the average American took it for granted that if a certain idea was true, it’s opposite was false.  In other words, “absolutes imply antithesis.”  The working antithesis is that God exists objectively (in antithesis) to his not existing.

Schaeffer believes that presuppositional apologetics would have stopped the decay.  Incidentally, he maintains that the use of classical apologetics was effective prior to the shift because non-Christians were functioning on the surface with the same presuppositions, even though they did not have an adequate base for them.

The Role of Thomas Aquinas

Dr. Schaeffer maintains that Aquinas opened the way for the discussion of what is usually called the “nature and grace” controversy (Escape From Reason, 209). He contends that Aquinas set up a dichotomy of grace versus nature.

Aquinas taught that the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not.  The net result, according to Schaeffer, is that man’s intellect is seen as autonomous.  Schaeffer maintains that the teaching of Aquinas led to the development of the so-called Natural Theology where theology could be pursued independent of the Scriptures.  The vital principle to understand according to Schaeffer is that “as nature was made autonomous, nature began to ‘eat up’ grace” (Escape From Reason, 212).

Anthropology

Schaeffer militates against this so-called  “grace/nature” dichotomy and insists that Christ is equally Lord in both areas.  He suggests that God made the whole man and is consequently interested in the whole man.  When the historic space-time Fall took place, it affected the whole man, not merely the will as Aquinas taught.  Thus, Schaeffer taught that the whole man is saved and the whole man will eventually be glorified and perfectly redeemed.

Since God made man in His own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism:  “The Christian position is that since man is made in the image of God and even though he is a sinner, he can do those things that are tremendous – he can influence history for this life and the life to come, for himself and others” (Death In The City, 258).

Schaeffer argues that Evangelicals have such a strong tendency to combat humanism that they end up making man a “zero.”  He adds, “Man is indeed lost but that does not mean he is nothing . . . From the biblical viewpoint, man is lost, but great” (Death In The City, 258-259).  Therefore, Schaeffer’s anthropological position is that man is sinful, yet he is significant because he is made in the image of God.  And regenerate man is, as the Reformers emphasized, simul iustus et peccator – simultaneously righteous and sinful.

CULTURE · Theology

The Eclipse of the Gospel and the School of Hard Knox

A Powerful Man

I stood in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. Clouds gathered overhead and people walked curiously through the front doors. Here, the famous reformer, John Knox faithfully tended the flock until his death in 1572.

Once inside this massive cathedral, I was transfixed by the sheer beauty of this place. I was overwhelmed by the architecture – the awe-inspiring flying buttresses that point worshippers to the transcendence of God. A single elevated pulpit is located in the center of the sanctuary. It stands strategically above the worshippers, which symbolically places God’s Word above sinful creatures.

John Knox brought reform to Scotland and re-energized a nation that had all but forgotten God. Knox helped awaken a nation that neglected God’s truth which led to a virtual eclipse of the gospel. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes Knox as a man who preached “with the fire of God in his bones and in his belly!  He preached as they all preached, with fire and power, alarming sermons, convicting sermons, humbling sermons, converting sermons, and the face of Scotland was changed …” Simply put, the faithful preaching of Knox brought much needed reform to the Scottish landscape and renewed evangelical fervor to the church.

John Knox courageously raised the banner of the gospel and defended the truths of the Protestant Reformation. He was unashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and fearlessly proclaimed the Word of God. He stood boldly and with Peter and the apostles, obeyed God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Indeed, Knox is a true exemplar of faithfulness in the face of adversity.

A Personal Lesson

As I made my way out of St. Giles, my mind was filled with stories surrounding the life and ministry of John Knox. As I turned to gaze again at the rising fortress where Knox served the Lord, a thought occurred to me. It was not a new thought. Rather, it was a lesson that has moved me for many years now but in this moment, the lesson was magnified as I scanned the edifice of St. Giles. The lesson is this: church history matters.

It seems like such a simple lesson. But it is a lesson that many contemporary Christians are unfamiliar with. Even as a young Bible College student, I failed to understand the importance of church history. The buildings seemed so old and the names were so hard to pronounce. It is a sentiment that is not unique to me. I hear it all the time. I hear the cruel remarks about John Calvin and the caricatures that biased people have cooked up about Jonathan Edwards. But when we move past all the petty talk and face reality, we realize that church history truly does matter.

A Pivotal Mindset

First, Church history matters because when we forget the past, we fail to learn valuable lessons that impact our lives. George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So Christians who minimize the importance of church history are vulnerable to the theological error that plagued the church in the past. Additionally, they repeat the sins committed by our forefathers.

For example, Arius committed a fatal theological error by teaching that Christ was the first created being. This theological controversy which erupted in 318 A.D. led to a series of erroneous Arian propositions:

  1. The Son was created by the Father.
  2. The Son owed his existence to the will of the Father.
  3. The Son was not eternal, that is, there was a time when he was not.

Such teaching stood diametrically opposed to Scripture and was outside the bounds of orthodoxy. In the end, Arius rejected the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Second, Church history matters because it strengthens our faith. Scripture instructs, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7, ESV) The term remember is a present imperative verb that means, “keep thinking about,” or “call to mind.”

Remembering godly leaders in church history is not optional; it is a command in sacred Scripture. The author of Hebrews does not limit the scope of these “leaders” to men like Moses, Abraham, Paul or Peter. He instructs us to remember leaders “who spoke to you the word of God.” So remembering leaders like Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Spurgeon is an important part of the Christian pilgrimage. We do well to follow in their paths by boldly proclaiming the truth and living faithfully before the Lord, even when our detractors heap insults on us for faithfully remembering these heroes of the faith.

Third, Church history matters because God ordained specific events that lead to the worldwide spread of his glory. Church history truly is “his story.” Whenever we discount history, we subtly stand in judgment over God and claim to know a better way. Whenever we disparage church history and subtly place ourselves in a position that was never ours to enjoy. Indeed, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3, ESV).

The School of Hard Knox

John Knox was a faithful man who led a gospel-centered life, according to the grace that was given him by his Savior. His relentless preaching helped drive away the darkness and restore the light of the gospel to his land. Almost five hundred years later, St. Giles still stands but the truth has fallen on hard times. Once again, the gospel is being eclipsed by man-made philosophy and foolishness.

As Christ-followers, we must learn well the lessons that church history teaches us. When we forget the past we falter in our faith and fail to exalt the sovereign purposes of our Savior. When we forget the past, we become comfortable stumbling around in the dark and begin to glory in our ignorance.

Let us become educated in the School of Hard Knox. And may the gospel shine brightly again. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV). And may we recover our love of truth and our passion for the gospel.

BOOK REVIEWS

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.

BOOK REVIEWS

The City of God and the Goal of Creation – T. Desmond Alexander (2018)

cityT. Desmond Alexander, The City of God and the Goal of Creation. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 190 pp,  $15.99

“God’s purpose in creating this world is to establish a resplendent metropolis that will fill the earth, where God will reside in harmony with humans,” says T. Desmond Alexander. The author’s latest work, entitled The City of God and the Goal of Creation is a book that tackles the important subject of biblical theology. Alexander’s book is the latest offering in Crossway’s Biblical Series which is sure to please readers accustomed to solid scholarship.

The aim of the book is to present the biblical reality which concerns the city of God, which stands at the heart of God’s redemptive purposes. The author begins in the garden of Eden which “anticipates God and humanity dwelling together in harmony.” Sin short-circuits the hope of a temple-city but God is committed to his original plan.

Alexander carefully guides readers through the various minefields that surface in Scripture, all of which are a part of God’s sovereign plan. The trajectory which anticipates the city of God is a theme that runs through the entirety of the book and finds its culmination in the New Jerusalem which will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

The City of God and the Goal of Creation is short but packed with theological nuggets that should attract readers drawn to eschatology and beyond. This is a dense work that invites careful study and contemplation and promises some special challenges for readers with a commitment to Dispensational theology. This work is a true feast that will cause students to dig deeper into God’s Word and greatly anticipate the goal of creation, the city of God.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World – Thomas Schreiner (2017)

covenantThomas R. Schreiner, Covenant and God’s Purpose For the World, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 136 pp. $9.97

Biblical theology is the discipline that reveals the storyline of Scripture. It looks at the big picture, which begins at creation and culminates with the new earth, where God makes all things new. “The purpose of biblical theology,” according to James Hamilton “is to sharpen our understanding of the theology contained in the Bible itself through an inductive, salvation-historical examination of the Bible’s themes and the relationships between those themes in their canonical context and literary form.”1

Thomas Schreiner makes a significant contribution to the field of biblical theology with his latest work, Covenant and God’s Purposes For the World. This volume, which is part of Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology Series is not as extensive as Hamilton’s work noted above or Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum’s, excellent volume, Kingdom Through Covenant. But the brevity of Schreiner’s short book is a real strength, as we shall see.

Dr. Schreiner’s book unpacks the various covenants that unfold in Redemptive history including the covenant with creation, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the new covenant. “The covenants,” writes Schreiner, “help us, then, to see the harmony and unity of the biblical message.” Ultimately, the author achieves this goal as he alerts readers to the apex of God’s saving work: “The promises of Abraham are fulfilled in the new covenant that Jesus brings, for he is the true offspring of Abraham, and all those who belong to him are the children of Abraham. The land promise is fulfilled in an inaugural way in his resurrection and then in a consummate way in the new creation.”

Covenant and God’s Purposes For the World demolishes the “cookie cutter” approach to hermeneutics that Dispensationalism offers. In its place, is a clear portrait of God’s redemptive plans for his people – a plan that promises “a new world of peace and righteousness is coming in which God the Lamb will reign … The promise that David won’t lack a man on the throne is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He reigns now from heaven at God’s right hand as the son of David, as and Lord and Christ.”

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

  1. James Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 47.