Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012. 416 pp. $21.99.
When I first became a Christian, the first thing I investigated was the historical validity of the Bible. As an atheist, I had always seen the Christian Bible (and the sacred texts of all religions, for that matter) as akin to a novel, or to Greek mythology – an anthology of fictional tales. But now, if the Bible was going to be the foundation of all my beliefs and the guide to all my actions, I needed to be convinced of its historical reliability. I don’t know how common my former view of the Bible is among atheists is, but what I do know is that many feel that the 66 books we currently have in our Bible was just chosen by a council of bishops in the 4th century to suite their own agenda; that through thousands of years of translation and transmission, what we have now is nothing like what was originally written down (akin to the game of “telephone”).
Christians and non-Christians alike have many questions about the Bible. A robust understanding of the supernatural inspiration and historical reliability of the Bible will strengthen the Christian’s own faith as well as help us answer the prevalent attacks against its credibility. From God to Us is an excellent resource for this endeavor. Comprising 21 chapters organized into four parts (inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation), this book provides a very comprehensive look at the Bible, addressing in one volume topics that are usually only addressed separately.
Much of the material in part 1 is usually covered in the doctrine of Scripture section of a systematic theology; the end starts getting into apologetics, and part 2 continues with information about the Bible in an apologetics book; the information in part 3 is usually not presented at a popular level and is a great introduction to textual criticism for the layman; and much of the material in Part 4 is not usually covered in popular-level books either (although there are many books that address modern English translations and helps one choose an English Bible). In other words, you typically have to read five books in order to get the breadth that this one book covers concerning the Bible.
There’s a bit of repetition amongst the chapters and quite a bit of summarizing. I personally did not enjoy this, but I can see how this might benefit some readers since it is a longer book that does get a bit technical. There were also a few places where I felt the authors made a leap in logic and a few minor points here and there where I was unconvinced by the arguments. But overall this is a very strong book. I think this is a book every Christian should own, especially if you’re passionate about apologetics and/or you want to know more about the Bible’s origin, history, and development. Some might struggle to read through the whole book cover-to-cover. But it is well worth it, because you will finish the book with a greater confidence in the Bible as the authoritative, inspired, historically credible Word of God. You won’t waver in the midst of the attacks on the credibility of the Bible, and you will be equipped to defend it. This book would probably also serve as a good reference book for those who do not wish to read it straight through.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
Posted by Jennifer Guo on March 8, 2014
I’ve never made a blog post just on books received before, but today’s was too good. While at work I knew that my order from Westminster Books had arrived, so I was excited about it all day. But when I got home, I discovered an additional surprise waiting for me. It felt like Christmas!
The title at the very top was kindly sent by Westminster John Knox for review. It’s a new book that I’ve been excited about for quite a few months. In From Jesus to the Church, Dr. Craig Evans focuses attention on a facet of early Christian history that has been neglected, namely, the clash between the family of high priest Annas and the family of Jesus of Nazareth. Dr. Evans’s goal is to “draw attention to the importance of this prophecy, what motivated it, and the effects it had on both the followers of Jesus and on the followers of Annas, his family, and allies” (2).
The title in the middle hardly needs introduction. Dr. Constantine Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ won last year’s Christianity Today book award in biblical studies. But I wanted it before it was cool It’s on clearance at Westminster Books for around $7 cheaper than Amazon. So if this book has been on your wish list, it’s time to snag it (click the link above). And while you’re at it,browse the rest of the clearance section. Shipping is free for purchases over $49.
The title on the bottom is also on clearance at Westminster Books – a whopping $14 cheaper than Amazon! I love the Pillar New Testament Commentary series; I also read anything by Leon Morris. I’d recommend this volume to anyone looking for a commentary on Matthew, but especially to laymen. This series is, in my opinion, the meatiest fare that’s lay-accessible. Click here to check it out.
This purchase was made possible by all of you – it was made with the first gift certificate I received as a WTS Books affiliate, so I didn’t spend a penny and I still have some money left over for next time. So, thanks for clicking and buying. Let me just say, though, that I would still recommend WTS Books even if I were not an affiliate. First of all, the prices are phenomenal. Normal prices are around the same as Amazon, and sale prices are, of course, cheaper. Perhaps more importantly, WTS Books serves Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside. Need I say more? WTS Books rocks because WTS rocks. Vos is boss. Beale is unreal. Gaffin has me laughin with nerdy delight. Ok, I’ll stop now.
Posted by Jennifer Guo on March 7, 2014
Posted by Jennifer Guo on March 7, 2014
Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw. Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic,2014. 208 pp. $12.99.
Many, many years ago, just months after I became a Christian, I took a Christian Origins and New Testament course at my undergraduate institution, Case Western Reserve University. I was ecstatic that my secular university was offering a course related to my newfound faith; little did I know that what awaited me was going to attack everything I was just starting to believe in. As I reflected on this years later, I was profoundly grateful to the Lord for preserving my faith, for veterans in the faith had abandoned biblical Christianity as a result of this course. The Lord is truly amazing, for not only did He preserve my faith through that course, but He also used it to stir within me a great appetite and hunger for academic study of the Bible and theology.
Anyway, one of the texts we used in that course was a book by Bart Ehrman – New Testament professor, New York Times bestselling author, and one of the most influential voices attacking the Christian faith and the veracity of its foundational truth claims. Just how influential is Bart Ehrman? Well, at the inaugural Cross Conference this past December I got to see just how staggering his influence among Christian college students is. I attended a “Deck” session on apologetics issues with the legendary Darrell Bock, who started the session with a little survey. The result: all of the students who had taken a course related to the New Testament or Christian origins at a secular university used a book by Ehrman in the course.
Prior to that session it had been announced that the first 300 to arrive would receive a free advanced copy of a forthcoming book by Darrell Bock, Andreas Kostenberger, and Josh Chatraw called Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World. Kostenberger is one of my favorite New Testament scholars and Darrell Bock ranks pretty high on my list as well, so I sprinted to that session and got myself the free book.
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Posted by Jennifer Guo on March 3, 2014
Thabiti M. Anyabwile. Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 100 pp. $10.00.
Christians all over the world take the season of Lent to focus on the Lord in a more concerted way the usual, sometimes by fasting or giving something up, sometimes by spending more time in the Word and prayer, and often by a combination of two. I know some Protestants oppose the observation of Lent, but I don’t want to get into that here. I think believers should always be God-centered and Cross-centered; because we’re easily distracted, I think it’s good to have seasons in which we consciously focus more on the person and work of Christ.
I love reading about the cross and resurrection all throughout the year, but I do intentionally read at least one book in this area during every Lent season to help me mediate more deeply on the glorious gospel. With Lent this year beginning in three days (on this Wednesday), there are a few new book releases that are perfect for the season. One of these is Captivated by Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman. Comprised of five short chapters adapted from five sermons preached leading up to Easter, this book was written out of a conviction that the Scriptures exhort us to take long looks at God and to contemplate His ways, especially in connection to the cross and resurrection of Christ – to “look beneath the surface to find more of the never-ending treasures of Christ,” to “stare at Jesus and be captivated by Him.”
Chapter 1 looks at a question inspired by the agony Christ expressed in the garden of Gesthemane – “Is there no other way?” – and expounds upon why this was the only way and why the Cross was necessary. Chapter 2 looks at the cry that Christ uttered from the Cross – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” – and unveils the mystery of the nature of the Father’s abandonment of the Son on the Cross. Chapter 3 considers how in the death of Christ death itself has died, and how believers in Christ can now have victory over death. Chapter 4 looks at the resurrection, specifically the angels’ question in Luke 24:5: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” The book concludes with a chapter on epistemology in relation to Jesus and the resurrection.
Because this is a short book based on a series of sermons, it’s good for devotional use. Each chapter ends with a set of questions for further meditation and reflection. This book is saturated with Scripture and Anyabwile is a faithful and skilled expositor of the Word; I can recommend the book without reservation in terms of biblical faithfulness and orthodoxy. However, it’s just not extremely meaty and the one who has read a lot on the cross will not likely learn anything new. This would be a great book on the cross and resurrection for newer believers or those who haven’t read much in this area. Just shy of 100 pages and written at a popular level, it’s a quick and accessible read.
Official Book Trailer:
Interview on Confessing Baptist Podcast
Purchase: Westminster | Amazon
*I received a free copy from the publisher via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an unbiased review.
Posted by Jennifer Guo on March 2, 2014
- Romans 1-7 for You – Tim Keller. The latest release from the “God’s Word for You” series from The Good Book Company, this book follows its predecessors in being an excellent guide to the biblical text it handles. It’s full of rich exegesis that helps you see deeper into the biblical texts as well as application oriented questions that expose your heart. I only wish the volume on the rest of Romans could be released next, but it’s scheduled for release next spring. Full review here.
- Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus Is Great – David Robertson. This book began as a response to Christopher Hitchens’s book God is Not Great and is structured in the format of 10 letters to a hypothetical seeker. Those who prefer conversation to proposition would enjoy this book more than a typical apologetics book. But others might not enjoy this format so much. As an evangelistic tool, this book opens the way for conversation since addresses many of the most common objections to Christianity. But it’s a small book, and a seeker reading it would probably not be sufficiently convinced on any topic. So in my opinion the best way to use this book would be to meet regularly with the seeker for conversation as he is reading it so that you can answer the questions and objections that came to his mind as he reads the book. Full review here.
- Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies - R. Michael Allen. This book looks at the recent justification debates from a fresh perspective. Allen he situates justification within the context of Christian theology as a whole, analyzes the issues through the lens of dogmatic theology, and theological interpretation of Scripture. While affirming the importance of justification sola fide, Allen shows that the doctrine doesn’t answer all pertinent questions and can’t, without qualification, be referred to as the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae. Full review here.
- The Theology of the Heidelberg Catechism - Lyle Berma. This book is probably not what you’re expecting from the title. It looks at the major doctrines of the HC from the perspective of its historical context and sources, showing how it is an interweaving of both Lutheran and Reformed traditions – that it is, contrary to what many think, an ecumenical catechism. Full review here.
- Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions – Tim Keller. The first five chapters look at encounters individuals had with Jesus in the Gospel of John and answer foundational worldview issues. The latter five chapters look at other Scriptures to show what Christ has accomplished in the main events of His life and how we can encounter Him. This book was previously released as 10 ebooks bearing the names of the chapter titles of this book. Full review at Grace for Sinners.
- Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World – Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw. This is a book written for young people (youth, early college students) that addresses some of the ideas popularized by Bart Ehrman. Whether or not you have heard of him, you most likely have or will encounter his attacks against foundational truth claims of Christianity. His ideas are especially present in the college context, because many secular universities use his books in their classes related to New Testament and Christian origins/early Christianity. This book specifically address the college context and the challenges a Christian college student will face in a secular university, making it very relevant for that audience. Full review here.
Posted by Jennifer Guo on March 1, 2014
Posted by Jennifer Guo on February 28, 2014
Lyle D. Bierma. The Theology of the Heidelberg Catechism. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013. 266 pp. $30.00.
I’ve never been a member of a confessional church, but for a while now I’ve been thinking about studying through and memorizing a catechism. I just haven’t been able to choose between the Westminster and the Heidelberg. Since I’m interested in both, I was eager to read this new book published in the 450th anniversary year of the Heidelberg Catechism (HC). From my very brief and often second-hand encounters, it always seemed to me that the Westminster Catechism is more explicitly Reformed and more “heady” and the Heidelberg is more general (i.e. broadly evangelical with a wider appeal) and devotional.
However, despite the fact that the Heidelberg is perhaps the most ecumenical catechism to come out of the Reformation period, Bierma believes that in the past fifty or so years its ecumenical nature and potential has not been discussed much. He states that the major barrier to the HC being viewed as an ecumenical document lies in the fact that for most of its history, it has been identified almost exclusively with the Reformed branch of Protestantism. Furthermore, “[t]his Reformed ecclesiastical identity of the HC has been buttressed over the past 150 years by a body of scholarship that finds in the catechism a distinctly Reformed theological character as well” (2). Many scholars asserted that the HC is not Lutheran, Melanchthonian, Zwinglian, Bullingerian, nor Bucerian, but distinctly and thoroughly Calvinistic and Reformed.
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Posted by Jennifer Guo on February 22, 2014
Michael Bird is a phenomenal and accomplished scholar. He is also hilarious.
For more Bird humor, see here. For my review of his latest book Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction, click here. Interviews and sneak peeks into ET here. Detailed review of soteriology section here. And be on the lookout for How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature-A Response to Bart D. Ehrman releasing March 25. A dream team of Jesus scholars (Bird along with Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Chris Tilling, and Charles Hill) are taking on Ehrman’s newest book, set to release that very same day. Feathers will fly! And Bird et al. will emerge victorious.
Posted by Jennifer Guo on February 21, 2014
R. Michael Allen. Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013. 208 pp. $21.99.
Is justification by faith alone the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae? For as long as I can remember as a Christian, I’ve passionately espoused this classic Protestant affirmation. Yet it is one that seems to be increasingly unpopular, both in the academy and in the pew. Not only is the centrality of justification being contested, but the very definition of the doctrine itself is being (and has been for the past few decades) hotly debated and sometimes revised.
Alongside works reframing/revising the doctrine of justification, responses to these renderings abound. Most responses maintain their respective dichotomies (e.g. arguing for justification as opposed to participation, pistis Christou as referring to faith in Christ rather than faith of Christ, anthropological approach to Paul’s theology as opposed to Christological, etc.). Furthermore, ecumenists and exegetes have dominated the debates, with systematic theologians playing a marginal role. In Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies, R. Michael Allen offers a fresh, alternative approach to the topic of justification sola fide.
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Posted by Jennifer Guo on February 16, 2014