Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament - Book Review

I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch of the facts to say that most Christians have a better working knowledge of the New Testament as opposed to the Old Testament. Believers just naturally gravitate to the New Testament with its message of love and grace and mercy. And just as naturally they shy away from the Old Testament with its message of judgment and war. It’s not often that someone recommends to a new believer to begin reading in the minor prophets.

In Tough Questions, Dr. Walter C. Kaiser’s latest volume, he sets out to alleviate that disparity and demonstrate to believers how the two sections of Scripture are really complimentary. Kaiser is a longtime Old Testament scholar and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has produced a vast arena of writing on the Old Testament.

Kaiser digs into the messy part of the Old Testament with ten questions investigating the premise of whether or not God contradicts his character by his actions. He tackles supposed contradictions such as mercy vs. wrath, truth vs. deception, and evolution vs. creation. Each chapter concludes with a summary of the main points – Conclusion – and Questions for Discussion. These are beneficial, thought-provoking, but “heavy.”

The take on Tough Questions is this: It is probably not a book for spiritual (and linguistic) lightweights. Kaiser examines a multitude of technical and linguistic points of the Hebrew language. So much so that the more Hebrew one knows the more appreciative one would be of the discussion and the resulting conclusions. On the other hand it would certainly be beneficial for any believer to read this volume. At least one could ingest some knowledge and understanding of God’s overall working in the Old Testament.

If your curiosity has ever been stirred by the question The God Who Rules Satan or the God Who battles Satan? Then you will find this volume worthwhile.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Kregel Publications for a fair and honest review.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Philippians - Book Review

The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Philippians is the latest addition to this commentary series (EGGNT). Other volumes already completed are Colossians-Philemon, James, and 1 Peter. The remainder of the New Testament is scheduled for future dates.

This review is really quite easy to undertake. EGGNT:Philippians is a technical commentary with a detailed, verse-by-verse analysis and interpretation of the entire Greek text of Philippians. Naturally, in a commentary of this sort, Hellerman provides investigation of authorship, date and occasion as well as a comprehensive outline. Of additional benefit is a section on “Recommended Commentaries” which would be useful for any student of Philippians to consider.

The book tracks out to 279 pages of commentary and then includes an Exegetical Outline, Grammar Index and Scripture Index at the end. The body of the work is a phrase-by-phrase analysis of the Greek text and thus is all-inclusive.

Because of the nature of this volume, it is, therefore, not really suited for those with no knowledge of biblical Greek. However, I suppose, if one would take the time to learn a bit of basic Greek, this volume would greatly benefit one’s study of Philippians. It should definitely be on every pastor’s shelf because it contains two helpful suggestions at the end of each outline section. One is a “For Further Study” arranged by topic and the second contains “Homiletic Suggestions.”

Pastors: Secure this volume if you have Philippians on your preaching schedule.

This book was provided to me by B&H Publishing for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Understand Prophecy: A Biblical-Theological Approach

Okay, you may now ask the inevitable question, “What, another book on prophecy?” And, the answer is … “Yup, you betcha. A Bible student just can’t have enough books on prophecy.”

This newest addition is Understanding Prophecy: A Biblical-Theological Approach by Alan S. Bandy (PhD, SEBTS) and Benjamin L. Merkle (PhD, SBTS). Interestingly the authors are from opposite ends of the millennial spectrum – Bandy a premillennialist and Merkle a amillennialist. The volume is divided into three parts: Part 1: Introducing Biblical Prophecy; Part 2: Old Testament Prophecies; and Part 3: New Testament Prophecies.

As per the title, the authors want us to approach prophecy from a biblical-theological angle. So, in order to get a grasp on the focus of the book, you must have an understanding of how the authors define biblical theology. Bandy and Merkle explain that in Chapter 3. Therefore, I would suggest that you read that chapter initially. Then return to Chapter 1 and be prepared for a highly detailed analysis of prophecy encompassing the entire Bible.

Whenever I review a book, one of the foremost considerations is to whom will the words of the writer appeal. Can I stand in front of a Sunday School class and tell the folks, “I think you really should read this book. It will improve your understanding of _____.” Or must I be relegated to the declaration that this book is best suited for the ivory tower gang. Such is the dilemma with every volume.

One way to make this determination is by an examination of the vocabulary and terminology that is employed by the writer. A book with extensive theological jargon is quite ill placed in the hands of a Sunday School class.

With this criteria in mind I would recommend this book first to scholars and seminary professors. Second would be pastors who desire to do an exhaustive examination of prophecy. Christians who are prophecy fanatics would also enjoy this volume. However, it would rule it out for Christians who are not into the nuances of theology and prophecy.


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by KregelPublications for a fair, honest and balanced review.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Urban Legends of the New Testament - Book Review

Some books are a whole lot easier (and fun) to read and review than others. They’re a pleasure to read and the review just flows from the keyboard. Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40Common Misconceptions by David A. Croteau is a case in point. Croteau is a professor of New Testament and Greek in the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University. With this volume he brings his Greek scholarship to fore.

Urban Legends … When you read that title applied to a volume relating to the Bible you might expect contents reflecting myths, fables and fantasies found in the Good Book. Well, for Urban Legends you would be tending in the right direction with a hermeneutical focus in mind.

We all have certain expectations and presuppositions that we anticipate for particular passages in the Bible. We just assume they will be interpreted and preached in a certain interpretive fashion. For instance, how many times have you heard a sermon or sat in a Sunday School class with the subject matter focused on the fact that Paul was a tentmaker? The passage was clearly explained and you had no issue with accepting that Paul was not only a great missionary and ambassador for God but a hardworking man as well plying his trade as a tentmaker as he spread the Gospel. But, whoa; not so fast. Perhaps Paul’s trade was more than just tentmaker. What if the Greek word and the interpreters of history ascribe more to Paul? What if Paul was also a … ?

Croteau’s volume contains 40 bite-sized encounters to the conventional wisdom (urban legends) of interpretation. There are sixteen from the Gospels and twenty-four from the remainder of the New Testament. Each one is short, about 4-6 pages, but well explains Croteau’s reasoning for challenging the urban legend.

The wonderful aspect of Urban Legends is that it is a suitable read for every Christian. You don’t have to be an ivory tower, Greek scholar to read, understand and appreciate Croteau’s hermeneutics. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but you will be challenged.

The bottom line: Invest in this volume and stretch your Christian thinking.


This book was provided to me by B&H Academic for a fair, honest and impartial review.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper - Book Review

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are celebrated in virtually every Christian denomination, Protestant and Catholic. But they are observed differently in virtually every Christian denomination, Protestant and Catholic. 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper attempts to dissect, breakdown and unpack the why’s and the how’s as a whole and within each denomination. It accomplishes that goal very well.

This volume is written by two professors from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John S. Hammett, Ph.D. and Benjamin L. Merkle, Ph.D. But don’t assume that because of their Southern Baptist affiliation that their assessment is slanted. Hammett and Merkle are eminently fair and balanced in their evaluation concerning how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are celebrated within other denominations.

This book is part of a series likewise titled “40 Questions About …” Thus far there are volumes such as The Historical Jesus, Creation and Evolution, The End Times, and Interpreting the Bible. You can find the full list at Kregel Publications.

There are three separate sections to 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Part 1, the shortest of the three, engages both ordinances answering such questions as “Are They Sacraments or Ordinances?’ Parts 2 and 3 cover each ordinance separately with Introductory Questions, Denominational Views, Theological Issues and Practical Aspects.

All questions are dealt with thoroughly and impartially. While you won’t be an expert scholar on the subject upon completion, you will have a complete understanding of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper regardless of your theological relationship.

In a short summary the book is 40 questions you thought you might like to ask or never thought to ask about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All Christians at one time or another are involved in these ordinances/sacraments, but few ever grasp the history and meaning. This volume will equip you with that knowledge.

If you have never done a study of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, this is a must have book. If you are a pastor, this is definitely a reference work you want to have available to answer the inevitable questions that will arise on these subjects. It’s a volume every Christian should have in his library.


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Publications for a fair, honest and balanced review.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mormonism 101 - Book Review

We are commanded by Scripture to be ready to give an answer. We are compelled to defend our faith. This, of course, involves both offense and defense, sometimes both at the same time. One of the battle fronts that concerns both offense and defense involves the cults. At times it seems like we cannot do enough to defend the faith especially against those forces that tend to look and smell Christian.

With that in mind the more resources we have available for our reference the bettered armed we will be  for the fight. Of course, some weapons are bigger and better than others. Mormonism 101 is one of those that is a very good sized weapon.

The book is written by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson and is an update of their 2000 volume.

This is a detailed account of the Mormon beliefs covering virtually every area of the religion. The authors provide detailed quotes from Mormon literature and documents as well as quotes from LDS leaders' speeches. They then follow up with documentation from Christian theology. You get to make the comparison. Mormonism 101 is not a rehash of other cult books with a rearrangement of the material. If you are familiar with books like Kingdom of the Cults, you will be pleasantly surprised to get a different approach to the defense. We are also provided an extensive bibliography for further reference and study.

I think there are three ways to approach this book. First, you could just read through it to get an understanding of the history and beliefs of the Mormon faith. Certainly this would be a good approach and it would certainly get you through the 400+ page book in reasonable time. You would have a sound overview of Mormonism.

Second, you could engage this book by doing a detailed study of this volume chapter by chapter. This would afford you the opportunity to develop the skill to defend your faith vigorously in the face of false teachers.

Or, you might consider combining this volume with other research material in an effort to become an expert in cult apologetics.

Whatever way you go, you will not be disappointed with Mormonism 101. It will provide you with invaluable information on a cult many criticize but few know why.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book by Baker Books for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Transformational Discipleship - Book Review

There seems to be a definite proclivity for a number of Christian authors to title their books with multisyllabic adjectival words. I’m not sure of the motive or origin of such verbosity, but it sure does catch one’s eye.

Such is the case of Transformational Discipleship: how people really grow.

The book is a product of three authors who work minister for LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley and Philip Nation all have had varied ministry backgrounds so there is no question concerning their credentials. It is also the product of an extensive research project by LifeWay Research. Thus there are some references and statistics included, however, the authors do a good job to keep this to a minimum.

(Transformational Discipleship follows on the heels of Transformational Church (2010) by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer also of LifeWay.)

TD is aimed primarily at pastors and church leaders who desire to stimulate Christians to become transformed and committed believers who live to serve Christ as opposed to uninspired believers who pay their one hour per week dues every Sunday. The goal and motivation of TD is admirable. Unfortunately much of the material is not new or unique; it is repackaged inside of a different verbal format.

A couple of thoughts struck me as I read this volume.

1.    Chapter 1, “Deficient Discipleship,” and Chapter 2, “Disciple to Win,” read like sermons. If they were not originally, they would be excellent. (Perhaps even Chapter 3 also.)

2.    This volume is motivational in content with limited practical advice. Like I mentioned, a lot of it reads like a previously preached sermon.

With that being said, there are spiritual golf nuggets to be found in the mine. I found Chapter 6, “The Discipline Lens,” to contain some pointed practical information concerning spiritual discipline which is key to producing transformed disciples.

The final word is this: If you’re a new pastor or just stepping into  a leadership role in the church, TD will serve you well. You’ll gain some motivation insight and practical application.


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by B&H Publishing Group for a fair and forthright review.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A History of Christianity - Book Review

Every Christian, absolutely every Christian, should have some basic knowledge of the history of his faith. He does not need to be a historical scholar, but rather an informed believer. The question becomes from where does one draw that knowledge?

You could scour the internet and peruse a countless number of websites trying to piece together a cognitive history of the faith. But that would be time consuming and surely a bit frustrating. Not to mention who would you trust?

Or you could get into your possession this book: A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey by Joseph Early Jr. Dr. Early is associate professor of religion in the School of Theology at Campbellsville University. He has a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has dedicated his scholarly research to the field of Christian history.

Dr. Early has provided a concise (if you consider 504 pages concise) history of the Christian faith that includes, within the 504 pages, endnotes, an invaluable bibliography for further research, a name index and a subject index. It is all a believer needs to get a grasp on the history of his faith.

A History of Christianity is a time travel experience from the time Jesus was born right up to the 21st century. Early begins with a chapter entitled “Jesus and the World into Which He Was Born” that starts us off at day one. He then guides us to the Reformation providing insight into how the Catholic Church gradually distorted the true faith. Three chapters then direct us through the development of the Reformation focusing on the major personalities. Dr. Early steers us through the next 500 plus years right to the 21st century.

This book serves two primary purposes. First it provides the believer with the basics of Christian history and second it should certainly whet the appetite of the historically inclined to do further reading on the subject.

The volume is a masterpiece of succinct history and should be in the library of every Christian. It is a must read for every Christian.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by B&H Academic Publishing for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

W.L. Craig Says 50% of Evangelical Pastors are an Embarrassment

I discovered a video recently from January 26, 2014 in which esteemed apologist and intellectual thinker Dr. William H. Craig states that over 50% of evangelical pastors believe in a young earth and are an embarrassment to Christianity. You can go here to listen to the insult.
Well, here’s a quick FYI for you, Dr. Craig. I do not apologize for being one of those pastors. Just as you have your scientific reasons for believing in an aged earth, I have my Biblical reasons for believing in a young earth. The debate will go on until the New Heavens and the New Earth.
But what is more important, and indeed quite disturbing, is your lack of tact and a pointed effort to create disunity in the Body of Christ. With this single statement you have become within the Body of Christ what you accuse over 50% of being – an embarrassment.
For the future here’s a couple of suggestions:
§  If you decide to insult over 50% of the pastors in the evangelical word, think twice and then keep your mouth shut.

§  Since the name of your ministry is Reasonable Faith I would suggest that you begin to place more emphasis on the first word – be reasonable.

§  Try to step down once in a while from your ivory tower and your world of endless debates and get your hands dirty.
The majority of evangelical pastors would be most grateful.

Monday, April 6, 2015

God of the Big Bang - Book Review

Let’s face it almost everyone would like an answer to the question of how we got here. An elementary answer would state either creation or evolution. An answer with a little bit more stickiness to it would say “a little bit of both.”

God of the Big Bang: HowModern Science Affirms the Creator took me a bit by surprise. I expected a treatise on creation ex nihilo from a conservative point of view. I received the ex nihilo but not the conservative.

God of the Big Bang written by Leslie Wickman, Ph.D. is a further affirmation that faith and science are not at odds. Dr. Wickman, a former Lockheed Martin corporate astronaut, certainly has her hand on science. She is literally a rocket scientist, but more importantly she is a Christian. With this in mind she should be able to provide us with a unique perspective on faith and science.

God of the Big Bang is filled with science so if you’re the science type, you will enjoy this volume. And if you’re the faith type, you will probably enjoy it also.

But here’s the cautionary note: My deduction is that Dr. Wickman is not a literal creationist. Rather she fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes that she presents in Chapter 6: “Genesis and Origins: A Spectrum of Views.” On one end of the spectrum are the strict evolutionists spurred on by Charles Darwin and at the other end are Christian apologists like Dr. Henry Morris (Institute for Creation Research). Thus, the truth falls somewhere in the middle.

So, here’s my recommendation: If you’re interested in a definitive answer to the Big Bang you won’t find it here. If you’re interested in a little research into the compatibility of faith and science, read this volume. If you’re not sure what you believe, you will probably be swayed to some position involving theistic evolution. If you are already a literal creationist, you will most likely not be impressed.

Disclaimer: I was provided this book by Worthy Publishing for purposes of an honest review.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Freedom of Religion Challenged

The name of this blog is “Eye on Christianity.” And while we usually like to keep a close eye on events that are happening within the born-again believer world, we also feel it necessary to observe those events happening outside of Christianity that can or could affect how believers walk in the world. The following is one of those.

If you care about freedom of religion and the right to live out your faith in the market place, you should put this on-going situation at the top of your reading list and then the top of your prayer list. It’s all about a grandmother who is being persecuted by the state of Washington.

You can also get a Southern Baptist perspective on the state of affairs at this link.
The most disturbing element is the statement made by the judge. The Seattle Times reported that Judge Ekstrom determined that “while religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected.”
These two previous links are the background to this sad, ongoing  saga. You can go here to get an update and view an interview from The Kelly File:
This situation is truly disturbing. It should genuinely upsetting regardless of one’s religious or political affiliation. This is the slippery slope that will erode religious freedom in the United States.


Friday, February 20, 2015

The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs & Symbols - Book Review

In a world of Biblical literature that is overflowing with reference books, you would think it would be a monumental task to produce a volume that is unique, informative, practical and just plain fun to hold in your hands and peruse. But not so with The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs & Symbols; Understanding their Meaning and Significance by Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor and published by Baker Books.

Wilson and Taylor have endeavored to catalogue and explain 131 signs and symbols found within the sixty-six books of the Bible. All 131 are arranged alphabetically for ease of access. (Thus the lack of need for an index.) The book is printed on glossy paper with illustrations included for every entry.

Entries range from Altar to Zion/Jerusalem with items like Fire, Light and Salt sprinkled in between. Each entry also contains a short practical application/devotional just to get you thinking. There are even several “numbers” – forty, one, seven – that are included.

Sure they may have omitted one or two of your favorites but they do not claim the list to be exhaustive. This volume is not written for an ivory tower inhabitant who dabbles in the minutia of this fascinating topic, but rather for the busy pastor or the die-hard Bible student who seeks to glean all he or she can out of scripture.

And a note about format: You’ll want to get this is the paperback style. Baker Books is very adept at producing glossy books with great illustrations – Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary/Dictionary/Handbook. This one you’ll want to hold in your hands to more easily enjoy the layout of the book and the illustrations.

The end of the matter is this: if you are at all serious about Bible study, this book will enrich your endeavors.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What's Worse?

Here’s the What’s Worse question for today based on some news from yesterday.

Here are your two “What’s Worse” choices:

Christian bakers have been determined to be in violation of discriminatory laws in Oregon after they refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple. That, according to an Oregon administrative judge, is blatant discrimination based on sexual orientation. You can read about the legal goings-on at this link - baker faker.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams admitted yesterday that the story he’s been telling about being shot down in a helicopter is a fabrication – alright, it’s a bold-face lie. Williams finally fessed up when America’s true heroes confronted him on his recollection of the facts. Be aware that Williams provides so much crap in his excuse that you’ll probably have to read the piece with hip boots on. Here’s a link for some more info on the story - news faker.
So now you choose.
Who are we going to put into the stocks in the village square a then pelt with rotten fruit?
A. Will it be the Christian bakers in Oregon who were simply standing up for their religious beliefs or
B. Will it be the famous newsman with the foggy memory who lied in the face of our heroes and nation?

Think hard. Pray Hard. It’s a tough choice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Real Reason for Global Warming

I’m not a trained scientist. Well, not trained in the sense that I have a multitude of degrees from prestigious institutions of higher learning. My training lies elsewhere. Yeah, there’s framed parchment on my walls with unpronounceable scientific words but none of it from an MIT-type institution. Nevertheless, despite this shortcoming, I do like to think that I’m a logical scientist. A logical scientist takes the following approach: if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck and, most importantly, smells like a duck, guess what? It’s a duck regardless of evolution.
With that in mind I have successfully come to the conclusion that global warming is a definitive fact. I guess that’s good news and bad news depending on which side of the scientific fence you are on.
Actually coming to this conclusion was relatively easy. (No, it had nothing to do with the Theory of Relativity although the article I read which spawned this conclusion did mention Einstein.) (One more confession: I didn’t read the entire article. It’s way to scientific, technical and thus too confusing for me.)

Back to the application of logical science.

In the portion of the article that I did read, it stated that the universe is expanding. I would assume that’s correct; scientists have said so. If, then, the universe is expanding, there must be friction. Friction usually produces a certain amount of heat. You know how that works. If you’re stuck in the woods on a cold, rainy day with no matches or lighter, rub a couple of sticks together or a couple of rocks and you get friction which produces heat which produces fire which you can use to warm yourself up.
So, when we deal with the universe and its expansion we will get a certain amount of friction probably just a microscopic amount since it is not expanding at a rapid rate. This friction would most naturally cause heat in the universe which we would feel as global warming.

Voila, there’s the reason for global warming. It was right in front of Al Gore’s nose all the time.