Archives For Book Review

Transforming-Homosexuality_with-borderIn 2005, same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 of the United States. In ten short years all that changed. Two-thousand and fifteen might end up being known as the year of homosexual advancement. This past year witnessed the crashing of a moral wave that had been building for years when the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the 14th Amendment requires all 50 states to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples and recognize those marriages performed in other states.

Questions and confusion abound on the issue. How should biblically-thinking Christians respond? Can individuals change their sexual orientation? Should an individual change their sexual orientation? And for that matter, what is sexual orientation? Christ’s true church must take it upon themselves to become excellently equipped in the issue of homosexuality, homosexual orientation, and becoming instruments of change (Col. 4:5-6). In their recently-released book, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert provide needed equipping by tackling these questions and more.

Continue Reading…

October 6, 2015

The Simplified Guide

by Jesse Johnson

I recently came across two principles that, when put together, show the spiritual difficulty that we often have in dealing with Christian gray areas. Before I share the principles, let me tell you about where I read them:

David Hazelton is a well-regarded attorney in the DC area. He wrote a book, The Simplified Guide to Paul’s Letters to the Churches, that systematizes all of Paul’s instructions to local churches in his Epistles. What makes this book so fascinating to me is that it reads almost like a legal brief—and I mean that as a compliment. Over the past few years I’ve developed a hobby of reading briefs filed with the US Supreme Court. A good brief asks the right questions, then answers the questions by assimilating the conclusions from many different cases, and then presents the desired conclusion in light of all of the evidence.   Continue Reading…

Since there is so much confusion about Roman Catholicism, many faithful men have stood up and provided helpful tools to equip the Church in reaching Catholics. The more you understand Roman Catholicism the easier it will be to explain the Gospel with clarity. I have been helped by all these books and recommend them to you.

1 – Are we Together? – R.C. Sproul

“This book is not what you might assume: a rehearsal of slogans. Rather, it is an intelligent and engaging primer for Protestants and Roman Catholics alike about what Rome actually teaches and what are the profound issues that continue to separate confessional, evangelical Protestants from the Roman communion. This is a book that Protestants should give to their Roman Catholic neighbors and that Protestant pastors (after reading it) should give to their members. It is also a book that more than a few theologians and historians should read before the next round of ecumenical discussions and documents.” ~ R. Scott Clark

2 – Evangelicalism Divided – Iain Murray

Iain Murray’s historical overview of the fortunes and misfortunes of evangelical Christianity, especially in England, between 1950 and the century’s end-time, will stir up both an approving and a dissenting readership. But no one can contend that it ignores some of the most vital theological issues of the time and the conflicts surrounding them. The narrative is well documented, and it details not only conflicts of perspective but inconsistencies and alterations of views by some of the leading participants in the events of the day. The names best known to Americans – Billy Graham, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Packer, John Stott among them – are evaluated, commended and critiqued as contributory to the present-day evangelical outlook and predicament. – Carl F.H. Henry

Continue Reading…

September 10, 2015

Review: War Room

by Jesse Johnson

Christian movies can’t win. If they are overt about the gospel—such as Courageous or Fireproof—then they are criticized that they are too in-your-face. If they are more subtle—Chronicles of Narnia, for example—then they are criticized for not being Christian enough, whatever that is supposed to mean.

There are two new Christian movies that fill opposite ends of this dichotomy: War Room (in theaters now) and Captive (releasing next week). I saw them both back-to-back and was struck at how they each intentionally aim for different ends of that dichotomy. I’ll review War Room today, and Captive next week.   Continue Reading…

Pierced for Our TransgressionsIn Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach have blessed Christian scholarship with a thorough, scholarly, and accessible contribution on the subject of penal substitutionary atonement. The book is divided into two parts—the first making the positive case for penal substitution on biblical, theological, pastoral, and historical grounds, and the second outlining and answering objections that have arisen against the doctrine.

While the authors acknowledge that there have been critics of penal substitution throughout church history, many of those critics have self-confessed outside the boundaries of evangelicalism and have largely been relegated to the upper echelons of academia. However, recent critics of the doctrine not only regard themselves as evangelicals committed to the authority of Scripture, but are also finding their material published in more popular and mainstream Christian literature—not the least of which works has been Steve Chalke and Alan Mann’s The Lost Message of Jesus, which styles penal substitution as “cosmic child abuse.” Given that penal substitutionary atonement “stands at the very heart of the gospel” (21), such attacks have resulted in the “confusion and alarm among Christians” (25), which makes such a treatment necessary.

Continue Reading…

In honor of the Comrades Marathon, the world’s premier ultra-marathon (that made church impossible yesterday!) I have posted this excerpt from Holding the Rope: Short-Term Missions Long-Term Impact.comrades route closed

Spiritual Carbo-loading

The short-term missions (STM) trip is such a potent shot of spiritual adrenalin that the testimonies of those returning often sound like an over-zealous infomercial for how life-changing the trip will be. This may lead those you are waning in their zeal for the work of the Lord to think that going on this type of life-changing trip will make them more godly. Perhaps your spiritual walk with the Lord has slowed to a lethargic amble, or maybe your quiet time feels like a car that is puttering along haltingly in need of a tune-up. You see the STM trip as the spiritual recharging station.

In many cases the trip might be an event that escalates the seriousness about your faith like a quickened pulse, but that is not the reason we go on STM trips. I always told our STMers that the trip is not the time to get godly but to be godly. All STM trips are fraught with trip-wires to your godliness. You need to be on the alert, prepared for every temptation that might entangle you and trip up the ministry. If you find yourself cruising blithely on a plateau of apathy, the solution is to prepare your heart for the trip. You could memorize verses about dying to self and serving others. You should be in prayer for your own soul as well as for the other team members and those you will encounter in the field.

The church I serve in sits precisely on the route of the world’s most prestigious ultramarathon, the Comrades Marathon. Several members of our congregation have successfully completed the ninety-two-km race within the eleven-hour time limit [increased to twelve hours in 2003]. Besides the gruesome details they share with me about how the race affects the body (loss of toenails is the first one that comes to mind), they also share their secrets of preparation for going the distance. Any endurance athlete knows the importance of “carbo-loading.”

Continue Reading…

VGTH coverThis is a snippet from my book A Visitor’s Guide to Hell. The book is meant to help unbelievers understand (or believers explain) why Christians believe in Hell, and what the Bible teaches about it. Here’a snippet, followed by a link to a video clip promo of the book (comments about my mongrelised accent will be deleted!!)


A History of Hell

As far back as recorded history takes us, in any and every culture that bothered to write down their beliefs, Hell has haunted mankind. It is not my intention to give a history of how the doctrine developed in literature, art, and religious belief systems. Others have done a fine job of that.

But frankly, learning about what different religions believed as well as how and when those doctrines evolved is not as fascinating to me as the fact that they all hold certain aspects in common. Here is a brief sample of some recognizable religions conceive as Hell. See if you can spot similarities.

Continue Reading…

Historically, churches have not had what we call today “counseling pastors” (or for that matter, youth pastors, assimilation pastors, etc.). But today many larger churches have pastors that specialize in counseling. Why? What historical trends brought about the ecclesiological necessity for pastors specifically trained in counseling?

David Powlison’s 2010 book, The Biblical Counseling Movement—History and Context answers that question. In what was actually his PhD dissertation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, and New Growth Press has updated it to include more modern developments, as well as to make it readable for a broader audience.   Continue Reading…

Now that Presidents’ Day is behind us we can be sure of one thing: “Fifty Shades of Grey” brought in a whole lot of green. According to box office analysts, the carnally erotic full length motion picture brought in $94.4 million over the extended Valentine’s Day weekend.Thanks to mass marketing visionaries, it seems as if the bedroom of society has been transformed overnight into a chamber of bondage. It seems as if the American culture has finally learned to normalize darkness.

But there is also one more thing that we can be sure of with the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey:” the black and white clarity of the Bible has strangely turned grey in the lives of many in the church. Perhaps the most visible example of this has been Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who hasn’t allowed his professed Christianity to stop him from “enjoying” the film. But he is only an example of a much larger problem within cultural Christianity. Somehow, someway, those who claim Christ have rationalized perversion as being normal. How does that happen? Through the slow and indiscernible process of cultural assimilation.

Continue Reading…

Today’s post is a book review written by my wife, Deidre, for our church’s women’s ministry newsletter (here it is on pdf). I too recommend the book, and hope this post spurs more people to read it. You can order it from Amazon or Westminster Books (its the same price both places).

The Discipline of Spiritual DiscernmentA successful counterfeiter needs to overcome two obstacles. First, he needs to design a forgery that looks plausible. Second, he needs to figure out how to get the counterfeit into circulation.

Tim Challies uses the dynamic of counterfeiting money to illustrate the necessity of the biblical mandate for discernment. His book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, argues that true wisdom is contained in Scripture. Yet the world is filled with false wisdom, cheap counterfeits that only barely look like the real thing. The goal of this false wisdom, Challies writes, is to get passed off into the church so that it is accepted by Christians.   Continue Reading…