BOOK REVIEWS

Finding the Right Hills to Die On – Gavin Ortlund (2020)

Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die On (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 144 pp.

Too often, theological discussion generates more heat than light. Even doctrinal battles in churches that are theologically conservative rage, causing division and a general lack of unity. Such a concern led Gavin Ortlund to write Finding the Right Hills to Die On. The author is not only concerned with a lack of unity in the body of Christ; he is zealous to show Christians who disagree how to live in peace with one another.

The author contrasts doctrinal sectarianism with doctrinal minimalism and demonstrates how these extremes are not only damaging the church; they invite the watching world to look upon the bride of Christ with disdain. Ortlund writes, “When we notice the unhealthy symptoms of doctrinal sectarianism in our hearts, we need to return our deepest level of emotional loyalty to Jesus himself.” Such is the wisdom that is found in the pages of Ortlund’s book.

The writer’s approach helps level the playing field and shows how followers of Christ who disagree can live in harmony despite their differences. Finding the Right Hills to Die On is an invitation to unity and a admonition to live in a way that serves Christians and glorifies God in a simultaneous manner.

The great strength of Gavin Ortlund’s work is the promotion of humility. Readers familiar with Ortlund will confess that he is a theologically robust man who is intent on glorifying God in all things. The author adds, “The great impediment to theological triage is not a lack of theological skill or savvy but a lack of humility.” This is a man who has strong convictions about theology and is unashamed to proclaim it. Yet at the same time, he is eager to encourage Christians to pursue humility. This sentiment is found throughout the book and should be etched onto the hearts and minds of every reader.

Finding the Right Hills to Die On forges a gospel-centered path between commitment to the truth and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It strikes the biblical balance between truth and grace. It is a book that was deeply meaningful to me, personally. I trust it will have the same effect on many other people.

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

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 then 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

Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future – Gavin Ortlund (2019)

athoelGavin Ortlund, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future (Wheaton: Crossway, Books, 2019), 218 pp.

Interest among evangelicals in the Protestant Reformation has been on the rise for several years. With the recent quatercentenary commemoration of the Reformation, interest continues to blaze hotter than ever.

Gavin Ortlund, himself a student of the Reformation argues in his recent book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future that a modified approach is in order. The author observes that some evangelicals are growing restless. They yearn to understand what lies at the heart of their faith. And they lack a theological grounded that both informs and inspires.

Ortlund’s book is arranged in two parts. Part one sets forth the case for theological retrieval. Is it even possible for evangelicals to retrieve patristic and medieval theology? The author interacts with the various view of Warfield, Calvin, and Luther and argues that it is indeed possible to draw from the rich theological past. Such a retrieval, according to the author, serves like a map that serves the weary pilgrim. Various benefits of theological retrieval are proposed along with some of the pitfalls that may accompany such a pursuit.

Part two includes several case studies that reveal the various strengths of pursuing the theological retrieval that the author is proposing. The most interesting case study involves a detailed look at substitution as both satisfaction and recapitulation through the lenses of Athanasius, Irenaeus, and Anslem.

I found Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals both illuminating and informing. Ortlund’s insight and passion for church history is greatly appreciated and need in our myopic age. Too often, we are quick to throw the “theological baby” out with the bathwater. As a committed follower of Christ in the Protestant tradition, I also found parts of the book troubling. I understand the intent of the author but fear that some readers will put too much stock in Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox dogma and wind up on the wrong path at the end of the day. Overall, the book is worthy of careful study and consideration.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Systematic Theology – Robert Letham (2019)

lethamRobert Letham, Systematic Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 1005 pp.

Systematic Theology by Robert Letham is a solid work designed to fit within the framework of Reformed confessionalism. This volume is unique in that is begins with a treatment on the triune God. Dr. Letham begins by offered the dominant arguments for God’s existence and proceeds to show how the doctrine of the Trinity unfolding in church history and redemptive history, respectively.

The remaining sections appear as one might expect – the doctrine of the Word of God, the works of God, the image of God, the covenant of God, Christ, the Son of God, the Spirit of God and the People of God, and the Ultimate Purposes of God.

Letham draws on a wide range of evangelical writers as he articulates each doctrine – biblically, historical, and always in the conservative evangelical stream. This work is unusually objective. That is, while the author does not hide his doctrinal pre-commitments, he is eager to fairly represent his opponents.

As with any work of systematic theology, readers will likely not agree with everything. Some readers, like me, will need to look elsewhere on matters that pertain to baptism and eschatology.

Nonetheless, Systematic Theology makes a noteworthy contribution to a growing list of solid offerings. I will turn to this volume often and use it as a solid resource for theological study and reflection.

Dr. Letham is director of research and senior lecturer in Systematic Theology and historical theology at Wales Evangelical School of Theology.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind – Owen Strachan (2019)

owenOwen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind (Geanies House: Christian Focus Publications, 2019), 418 pp.

I was recently asked by a parishioner to evaluate a professing Christian author. My response was tenuous as the author under consideration is notoriously difficult to nail down. Is he a Calvinist or an Arminian? A Complementarian or an Egalitarian? Does he affirm the authority, inherency, and infallibility of Scripture? One may never know. Frankly, it would be easier to nail jello to a wall than decipher the theological commitment of the author in question!

One of the many reasons, I appreciate Owen Strachan so much is that he is the polar opposite of the author above. Agree or disagree, readers always know where Dr. Strachan stands. His latest book is no exception.

Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind is a book that is desperately needed by the church in our day. Many in the church have lost their bearings (some appear to have lost their minds). The journey to the Celestial City has been sidetracked by compromise, theological error, and political correctness. Instead of sailing to our heavenly home with biblical fidelity, scores of people have surrendered their oars and are dog-paddling in a different direction. Rather than affirming what the Scripture affirms about mankind, they embrace the ideology of the zeitgeist. Instead of tethering their view of mankind to Christ, they cling to the flimsy and flawed view of culture.

A Theological Antidote to Compromise

Reenchanting Humanity is a theological antidote to the rampant compromise which is currently polluting the church and corroding the pillars of the Christian mind. But Reenchanting Humanity is more than an antidote. It is more than a defensive reaction to the godless ideology that infects the church. Rather, it is an offensive biblical bombshell that destroys error and bolsters the Christian worldview.

The lofty aim of Reenchanting Humanity is “to give future pastors of Christ’s church great confidence in the doctrine of man.” Strachan’s hope is that “those facing many challenges to this doctrine from inside and outside the church, will gain strength from or rigorously biblical and theological study of theocentric anthropology.”

Rooted in the Imago Dei

Dr. Strachan’s goal is achieved in the space of 418 pages. He anchors this tour in anthropology by demonstrating that creatures are made in the imago Dei. In other words, we have been created by God – for his glory. As such we have intrinsic value. He rightly notes, “Mankind is not an accident; mankind is the special creation of almighty God. By recapturing the biblical account of human origins, we recapture human dignity, human worth, and our own identities.”

But the Bible clearly describes how creatures sinned and fell far from God. Strachan skillfully shows readers the many consequences of the fall and helps them decipher where work, sexuality, race and ethnicity, technology, and justice fit in a fallen world.

The chapter entitled, Contingency is thought-provoking, challenging, and illuminating. The author writes, “Humanity was, is, and will be contingent. We are wholly dependent on God, wholly under divine control, and wholly and unalterably beings made by God.” He continues, “We need God. We depend on him for existence, but just as significantly, we depend on him for purpose, meaning, and the discovery of hope. Take away the Lord, and all is futile.” And so the fact of contingency weighs heavily on creatures. Tragically, however, many either refuse to acknowledge their contingent status or give up entirely. But Strachan reminds us, “The biblical portrait of man’s temporality drives us not to despair but to worship God. Once reconciled to the reality of our finitude on the earth, we may reverse our natural instincts and adopt a mind-set of savoring all the wonder, mystery, beauty, pain, promise, challenge, and purposefulness of our God-given days.”

Consistent, Compelling, and Countercultural

Reenchanting Humanity is clear, consistent, compelling, comprehensive, and countercultural. These important attributes will likely make the book vulnerable to criticism and mark out the book as a target for detractors. But readers who maintain their allegiance to Scripture will appreciate Strachan’s approach, which is relentlessly biblical and faithful to the truth.

Quite frankly, I found Reenchangting Humanity enthralling. Strachan never backs away from controversy and he is unafraid of telling the truth about the condition of mankind. But the book concludes with a majestic crescendo as the author guides readers to the Lord Jesus Christ and the story of the second Adam: “Truly, he is the new humanity, and he is leading a new exodus to the new heavens and the new earth. He is the salvation and ontological restoration we so desperately need; his new covenant blood washes us clean, makes us new creations, and gives us new names.”

Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind is not only highly recommended; it is one of the best books of 2019!

BOOK REVIEWS

Not Home Yet – Ian K. Smith

not homeIan K. Smith, Not Home Yet (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 167 pp.

One of the recent encouraging developments in the church is an interest in biblical theology. 2 Peter 3:13 says, “According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This grand promise is the theme of Ian K. Smith’s recent book, Not Home Yet.

Dr. Smith argues, “Home is where we belong.” Therefore, he urges readers to set their sights and affections on their heavenly home. But some will be surprised to learn that “Jesus’s return to this earth is the focus of the Christian’s hope, and this return will not just be for a visit, to pick us up and take us home to heaven. He is coming to stay. The new Jerusalem will descend to earth, and we will be at home, with Jesus, on earth.”

“The aim of this book,” writes Ian Smith “is to reawaken (resurrect even), a biblical understanding of the earth and God’s mission to it.” The author skillfully guides readers along the biblical plot line that leads them to their heavenly home on the new earth, where they will reside for all of eternity.

Smith’s work is a rich combination of scholarship, yet he never isolates those who have not enjoyed the benefit of a theological education. His writing is clear, straight to the point, a biblical from start to finish. In the end, he accomplishes his objective by re-engaging readers and helping them understand God salvific plan and redemptive purposes for his people.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Story of His Glory – Brian Hedges (2019)

Brian Hedges, The Story of His Glory (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 54 pp.

We live in an age of confusion and uncertainty. As a result, our culture is untethered from truth and disconnected from reality. Christian readers are renewed and refreshed, then, when an author courageously asserts what God has plainly revealed in a winsome and compelling way. Such is the case in The Story of His Glory, the new publication from the pen of Brian Hedges.

One of the great strengths of this work is the author’s posture of humble certainty. His certainty is not found in his own abilities or his intellectual acumen. Rather, his certitude is wholly depended upon the written Word of God.

The author invites readers on a journey through the Bible that begins in Genesis 1:1 and ends in the closing verses of Revelation 22. What takes place in between is the greatest story ever told; a story that has both personal and cosmic implications.

The story begins with the Creator God who made all things for his glory. As such, he exercises comprehensive authority over his creation. Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden which subsequently affected all humanity, leaving us under the wrath of God for our sin.

Hedges guides readers from creation and Fall to the redemption where God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the fulfillment of the promise that God made with Abraham. Jesus lives the life that none of us could live and dies a death we all deserve to die. “Jesus was our representative,” writes Hedges, “whose sinless life and perfect obedience would bring life and salvation.” Jesus bears the sin of every person who would ever believe. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit …” (1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus was crucified, buried, resurrected on the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where makes intercession for his people.

The author stresses the need for creatures to recognize their accountability to God. Each person is not only invited to come to Jesus for salvation; each person is commanded to come. When a person receives the free gift of salvation, everything must be reorganized around the lordship of Jesus Christ. Hedges writes, “The cosmic regeneration will be nothing less than the reordering of the entire universe under the lordship of Jesus Christ and God his Father.” In other words, as stated above, the implications of the gospel are both personal and cosmic. Each follower of Christ is commissioned, then, to share this timeless story to the nations!

There is much to commend in The Story of His Glory. The writing is clear and exalts the triune God. The author sets forth a basic biblical theology that is both understandable and engaging. He introduces the high points of God’s historical redemptive purposes. Other books that present a strong case for biblical theology include God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by James Hamilton, Kingdom Through Covenant by Peter Gentry and Steven Wellum, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross by Patrick Schreiner, Biblical Theology by Nick Roark and Robert Cline, and What is Biblical Theology? by James Hamilton. Each of these books is valuable in its own right. Hedge’s book is the shortest of them all. However, it is also the most likely to be read because of its readable format.

This work is so valuable that each incoming member of the church where I serve as senior pastor will receive a copy. It is also a fitting gift for unbelievers. Such a gift will undoubtedly spark discussion and open doors for conversation about the gospel.

The Story of His Glory may possibly be the shortest book you’ll read all year. But it will surely be among the most powerful.

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

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.