Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr., ed. The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013. 288 pp. $26.99.
The Psalms are probably the most read and most cherished section of Scripture. They contain, as the title of this new book from Moody Publishers suggests, “language for all seasons of the soul.” Whether one’s soul is bursting forth in praise or languishing in the depths of lament, in the Psalms we find inspired and beautiful language expressing what our souls long to cry out – to our own souls and to our God.”The Psalms are expressive of the whole gamut of human emotions and reveal the creative gifts of human, inspired authors” (46). They are “replete with the spiritually transcendent and the mundanely common matters of human existence” (51).
Perhaps because of its accessibility and its nature as poetry and prayer, it is all too easy to study the Psalter poorly or not study it at all, employing these Scriptures solely as devotional material and not dedicating to them the rigor of study and exegesis that we devote to the rest of Holy Writ. Therefore, this collection of essays is a great resource for both the pastor and informed layman as an aid in study of the Psalms. This book includes all the papers presented in the first three years of the “Psalms and Hebrew Poetry Consultation” (now ‘Section’) of the Evangelical Theological Society, which was formed in 2009. Four sermons preached to local congregations round out the volume.
The book’s purpose is fourfold (quoted directly from pp. 15-16):
- to celebrate the enormous impact the Psalter has had and continues to have in Christian faith;
- to highlight the insights and work of present-day scholars who have studied the Psalms and understand both its tradition and current trends.
- to weave together some primary theological, literary, and canonical themes of the Psalter; and
- to offer a book that both trained pastors and professors of the Psalms can use as a tool.
Jeremy Walker. The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment. Darlington: EP Books, 2013. 128 pp. $10.99.
TULIP. DG. GTY. CHBC. SBTS. TGC. T4G. SGM. CBMW. If you know what all these acronyms mean and in different degrees cherish and appreciate what they stand for, you might be a “new Calvinist.” For the rest, the “new Calvinism” is the name given to an encouraging trend that emerged in recent years across the American evangelical landscape – young people in pockets across the country were discovering the doctrines of grace (more commonly referred to as the five points of Calvinism) and being awakened to a majestic view of God, His glory, and His sovereignty. They were reading meaty theology by contemporary theologians as well as Puritan divines. They were eschewing the moralistic therapeutic deism that shrouds much of contemporary American evangelicalism and becoming increasingly captivated by the biblical gospel. And people started to notice. In 2006 Collin Hansen published an article in Christianity Today documenting observations about this phenomenon entitled “Young Restless, Reformed,” and two years later it was published into a book bearing the same name. Then, in 2009, Time Magazine placed “The New Calvinism” third in its list of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”
A hilarious illustration of how analogies of the Trinity often illustrate Trinitarian heresies.
Trevin Wax. Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2011. 240 pp. $13.99.
Despite the numerous attacks on the church from without, Trevin Wax believes that the greatest threat comes from within. “Could it be that we are unwittingly participating in ‘printing’ the counterfeit gospel? What if we are manufacturing counterfeit currency by the way we think and speak about the gospel?” (13). In Counterfeit Gospels, Wax presents the church with a highly accessible and enjoyable book that both teaches us about the marks of the true gospel and reveals to us the marks of various counterfeits so that we can identify and counter the counterfeits.
Non-Christians and Christians alike (and even very “seasoned” Christians) are often drawn to counterfeit gospels because they are easy, less costly, and make us popular. But in the end, counterfeit gospels will always leave our souls impoverished. Wax identifies a threefold crisis in the church that makes a renewal by the biblical gospel difficult: 1) a lack of gospel confidence (we have lost faith in the power of the gospel for salvation, often acting as if the power is in the presentation); 2) a lack of gospel clarity (some are convinced we need to tweak the gospel message itself; there is confusion as to what the gospel actually is); and 3) a lack of gospel community (because of the first two lacks, our churches look for other things to unite around, such as social activism).
Wax then introduces his proposal of seeing the gospel like a three-legged stool, which forms the framework for the rest of the book. One leg is the gospel story – the overarching grand narrative found in the Scriptures that takes us from creation to new creation. The second leg is the gospel announcement, which centers upon Christ and what He has done to reconcile us to God. Third is the gospel community - the church which God has commissioned to be the embodiment of the message of the gospel. “Each leg of the stool is important because each relates to the other two. The gospel story provides the biblical narrative necessary for us to understand the nature of the gospel announcement. Likewise, the gospel announcement births the gospel community that centers its common life upon the transformative truth of Jesus Christ” (17, emphases original). Cut off any one of these three legs, and the stool tips over.
- By Faith, Not By Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation – Richard B. Gaffin Jr. This is the second edition of a book that had gone out of print. Written at an intermediate reading level that requires a little bit of background knowledge, this is a masterful summary of Pauline soteriology and ordo salutis that is rooted in Reformation tradition and the Vos-Ridderbos tradition of biblical theology. My full review is here.
- Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors – Voddie Baucham Jr. Written at a popular/general level, this is a great exposition of the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 from a redemptive-historic perspective. Contra the popular moralistic interpretation of the story, Baucham helps us to see and exult in God’s work of redemption at every turn. Full review here.
- Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? – Mark Jones. There are popular teachings in our day that are subtly influenced by antinomianism. This intermediate-level book largely geared toward pastors and thoughtful laypersons is a great resource for understanding the complexities of the historic debates and differences between Reformed orthodoxy and antinomianism. Full review here.
- Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith – K. Scott Oliphint. A product of decades of thought and teaching on Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics, this is a remarkable contribution to Reformed apologetics that brings Van Til to the masses. Less technical and more practical than Van Til, this is a great introduction to presuppositional apologetics (or, covenantal apologetics, the new label that Oliphint argues for). Full review here.
- One to One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian – David Helm. This is a very short and readable book, and is a great field manual for discipling Christians to evangelize and make disciples through one-on-one Bible reading. Full review here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: The above books were received for free from the publishers for review. I was not obligated to provide favorable reviews, and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
David Helm. One to One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian. Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2011. 103 pp. $7.99.
[F]or generations we have been conditioned to think of spiritual growth mainly in terms of an event to go to, a program to register for or a class to take. The church often puts its creative energy into initiating events, programs and classes specially designed to win people to Christ and help them grow in the faith. And yet, as successful as some of these plans have been, we might still be missing out on something more dynamic – something more straightforward and right for this day and age – that returns gospel growth to the everyday fabric of personal relationship, rather than relying on church-run programs (8-9, emphases original).
In One to One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian,
David Helm encourages believers to engage in intentional, regular one-on-one Bible reading with non-Christians, new Christians, and mature Christians. In this way, the church would reap the benefits of salvation of the lost, sanctification and strengthening of believers in the faith, and training of believers for ministry.
K. Scott Oliphint. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. 288 pp. $19.99
I’ve been an apologist for almost as long as I’ve been a Christian (informally, of course; and unknowingly at first). You see, I had been an atheist my entire life up until March 30, 2005 when the Lord sovereignly saved me and transformed me into a “Jesus freak” through one encounter. I almost immediately began to search and read and think arduously about the foundational truth claims of theism in general and Christianity in particular; my mind needed a lot of convincing and renewing. In the process, I found that my personal research sometimes proved very helpful in evangelism. Of course, there were also times when I grew increasingly frustrated when the non-Christian remained unconvinced and the conversation seemingly went nowhere.
Fast forward a few years, and I had become a card-carrying Calvinist (that’s another story for another time); and you can’t be Reformed for long without encountering Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics. And that was when I realized that I hadn’t been “doing apologetics”, but that I had been doing classical and evidential apologetics. So, of course, I got a book on presuppositional apologetics; but I was left unconvinced. The method to me seemed circular in theory and untenable in practice, and so I continued in my classical/evidential apologetic ways. But the issue kept gnawing at me; I felt like a “bad Calvinist” for not being presuppositional (because I started to realize that, contra the other methods, this is the one in line with Reformed theology), and so I had it in the back of my mind to give it another chance. And that was when K. Scott Oliphint‘s Covenantal Apologetics arrived on the scene.
In this book Oliphint lays out a presuppositional approach to apologetics with language, terms, and concepts that are more accessible and translates “much of what is meant in Van Til’s own writings from their often philosophical and technical contexts to a more basic biblical and theological context” (26, emphasis original). He makes the case for replacing the label “presuppositional” with “covenantal” and also moves beyond principle to practice by providing many sample dialogues and explaining the principles in action.
Some humor for language and literature enthusiasts