Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Sex, Romance, & The Glory of God

May 10, 2008

Mahaney, C. J. Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. 139 pp.

Husbands often forsake or ignore the delightful duty of romance God has ordained for them to share often and well with their wives. As far as intimacy goes, sex is often the primary concern of many husbands to the neglect of both the romance God has designed her to receive and perhaps even the celebration God has intended it to be for his glory. In Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God, C. J. Mahaney, president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, promotes a biblical understanding of not only the intimacy shared in the bedroom (glorious as God has created it), but also the romance that ought always and persistently to precede it. As he susinctly repeats throughout the book, “Before you touch her [your wife’s] body, touch her heart and mind.”

Mahaney begins with a biblical understanding of sex, being sure to highlight that it is part of God’s good creation and a result of his wise design for the marriage relationship. For this reason, it ought to be celebrated to his glory and used often to both serve and strengthen the marriage relationship. With repeated reference to the Song of Songs, and explanations accompanied by good Christian scholarship, he shows how this book both aides in and grants hope for the fruitfulness of biblical intimacy in the husband’s relationship to his wife.

Before Mahaney tackles the “sex chapter”, however, he first emphasizes the role and responsibility of the husband in learning, leading, and loving his wife. To put it plainly, great sex is the result of a healthy, intimate, covenant relationship that is cultivated long before a married couple enter the bedroom. With some of the most godly wisdom, practical suggestions, and humble exhortations, Mahaney devotes several chapters to ensure husbands are aware of their responsibilities in studying their wife (i.e. deliberately being interested in, knowing, and understanding all aspects of their physical and spiritual well-being), leading her in a godly marriage relationship (e.g. in theological knowledge, with spirtual disciplines, and toward closer levels of intimacy), and loving her with biblical affections (e.g. by kindling romance or winning her with “carefully composed words”).

His book concludes with an exhortation for husbands to “let the unifying, unquenchable power of covenant love continually strengthen your marriage in every way, that you and your wife mighty testify to the world and to one another the goodness of God” (104). An added bonus for the wife is also included at the end. This short chapter is titled, “A Word to Wives from Carolyn Mahaney” (which is also called “The Purity of Pleasure”, chapter 5 in her book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother).

Overall, Mahaney’s work is well worth every Christian husband’s read. It is biblical, thoughtful, and practical. It is also a fairly quick read, one well worth repeated readings throughout the marriage (I just finished my second.). It supplies husbands with a biblical understanding of sex, romance, and their design to glorify God in marriage intimacy, and provides excellent advice/ideas that will cotinually strengthen the relationship.

Interpreting the Historical Books

January 20, 2008

An Exegetical Handbook (Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis) 

Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook. Handbooks for Old Testament. Edited by David M. Howard, Jr. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006. 231 pp. $19.99.

One of my assigned readings this weekend for my “Hebrew Exegesis of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth” class was Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook, by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. His chief goal is to help students of the “Historical Books” of the Old Testament (Josh, Judg, Ruth, 1-2 Sam, 1-2 Kgs, 1-2 Chr, Ezr, Neh, Est) comprehend the nature of their narrative literature, derive theological conclusions from such discourse by using various interpretive tools, and apply the books’ authoritative truth to the contemporary covenant community.

He divides his book into six chapters each of which build upon the other. Chapter one answers the question, “What is narrative literature?” Here, he discusses how the narrative genre works in communicating God’s redemptive purposes through his people, Israel. Steps for the interpreter include (1) analyzing the basic elements of the story such as setting, characters, and plot; (2) identifying the text’s discourse and dramatic structures; (3) paying attention to the kind of discourse and the varying speech function(s) within each; (4) respecting the narrator’s authoritative interpretation of the events; (5) observing each story within its larger canonical “macroplot”; and (6) being sensitive to matters of meaningful intertextuality.

Having explained the function of narrative literature in chapter one, Chisholm then provides a thematic and theological overview of each Historical Book and their own contribution to the macroplot of the Old Testament in chapter two. Chapter three attempts to set the Historical Books within their proper historical situation in the Ancient Near East, while also giving direction to the exegete in difficult matters of textual criticism. On the latter, Chisholm offers two basic principles: (1) “One should not automatically assume that the traditional Masoretic text preserves the original text;” and (2) “One should base text critical decisions primarily on internal considerations” (146-48). Scattered throughout chapter three is also a helpful selected bibliography for the interpretation of each Historical Book.

Chapter four addresses the question of whether interpretation of the Historical Books should be more diachronic (i.e. focused on the origins, sources, and development of the text [167]) or synchronic (i.e. focused on the meaning of the text in its final canonical form [178]). His conclusion seems fair: “We propose an interpretive method that is essentially synchronic, but that is also sensitive to the historical and cultural background of the text and respectful of the narrator’s authority. …we prefer to focus on the text in the form in which we have it and to assume an editorial unity.” (184). For the most part, Chisholm encourages interpretation that is sensitive to macroplot and canonical context.

Included in his synchronic approach is also the identification of the “implied readers”, that is, the audience the author envisioned to be impacted by his books’ message (181). Since the Historical Books span the pre- and post-Exilic periods, and the corpus eventually was considered in its final canonical form, Chisholm concludes that both communities are in mind. Such a conclusion allows him to make an easy jump in chapter five to how one should handle proclaiming the narrative texts to the community of faith. In his words, “The text is Scripture and has meaning and relevance beyond its original context” (187, emphasis mine). Communicating the truth of the Scripture’s historical narratives in a contemporary setting, therefore, means allowing the text to establish the interpreter’s theological foundation, upon which he or she must make “homiletical trajectories” that will provide personal application. Chisholm himself then provides two examples of such a task in chapter six, one from 2 Kings and another from Ruth.

Chisholm’s book is helpful overall because it provides the exegete of the Historical Books with the right questions to ask in interpreting a narrative, at least initially. He does a good job summarizing the themes of the Historical Books, and better enables one to understand the Books’ theological relevance to the covenant community, both then and now. Chisholm does offer an interpretation of the Historical Books that ultimately points us to Christ through his understanding of the promise to David’s throne and the testimony of the entire canon. I would have liked to see how more of this Christological (yes, Christological) emphasis played out in his exegesis, especially within his discussion of the implied readers/covenant community, but this would be hard to elaborate much more in so few pages. In the end, I have found much of Chisholm’s interpretive method very useful and would recommend it as a guide to those in the beginning stages of exegesis and interpretation of Old Testament narrative.

Paul: Follower of Jesus Or Founder of Christianity?

October 24, 2007

Recently, I just finished reading another great book for my New Testament Theology class by David Wenham. I highly recommend reading it. Wenham does a wonderful job showing Paul’s own familiarity with Jesus’ teachings, so that we see Paul’s epistles as the continuation and interpretation of Jesus’ theology found in the Gospel traditions. It is not a difficult read, but an extremely important one for New Testament studies and the contemporary problems of various church leaders who are rather bitter with Paul, as if he taught something contrary to Jesus. The following is a brief on Wenham’s book [and by the way, I would also commend to you a shorter book he wrote with the same goal, but presented from a little different angle: Paul and Jesus: The True Story (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 195 pp.].

Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?

Wenham, David. Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. 452 pp.

Since the days of F. C. Baur (1792-1860), who argued that significant variations existed between Paul’s theology and the beliefs of the Jerusalem church, NT scholarship has been rather suspicious of any affirmations of continuity in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle to the Gentiles. Scholars arguing along the same lines as William Wrede (1859-1906) have insisted that Paul’s “innovative” ideas, theological commitments, and pioneering mission work wrecked the original intentions Jesus had for his followers. Consequently, today’s Christianity would be better off without Paul’s emphases. In his Paul, Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?, David Wenham finds such claims about Paul’s dissimilarity to Jesus unwarranted. On the contrary, he argues that Paul was not so much an innovator of Christianity as he was a follower of the Christ, who died and rose again on his behalf. Although his epistles make few explicit references to Jesus’ life and ministry, Paul provides plenty of theological connections that bear witness to his own awareness and embrace of the historical traditions of Jesus (11). For Wenham, “Paul is much better described as ‘follower of Jesus’ than as ‘founder of Christianity'” (33). (more…)

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: A Brief

September 25, 2007

Yes, this blog has been fairly lifeless lately with hardly any new posts. This, of course, is because the Fall semester has started off with quite a rush of work and assignments. Reading about 4-500 pages a week, learning and translating German, researching for papers, working two jobs, and preparing for a Sunday School lesson will cause a blog to become quickly not a top priority. I did just finish Richard Bauckham’s book entitled, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. I would highly recommend reading this book if you are interested in learning about the nature of the Four Gospels. He writes well, explains the situation at hand in New Testament scholarship, and presents his case very clearly. Scholars and pastors both would benefit from reading this book. Though I do not agree with everything he argues for, I commend his overall approach to you. I have provided you with a brief (not a book review) on his significant contribution below.

The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006. 508 pp.

The post-Enlightenment embrace of the historical critical method triggered decades of NT scholarship that presupposed the Gospels portray the historical Jesus inaccurately, since the Jesus of the Christian faith as represented by the four Gospel traditions, cloaks him in the theological agendas attributed to anonymous communities separated from the eyewitness accounts by an extensive period of time. Consequently, scholars still find the Gospel writers’ theological message about Jesus antithetical to their historical preservation of him. In his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham finds these assumptions misguided. He argues that the Gospels represent trustworthy historiography based on the authoritative testimony of real eyewitnesses that remained the primary sources for each Gospel writer’s account. Long periods of time filled with the succession of oral traditions did not delay the Gospels’ composition. Instead, their final form is “much closer to the form in which the eyewitnesses” testified, hence, Bauckham’s subtitle: the Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (6). Accepted and studied on this appropriate and more natural basis, the Gospels not only provide reliable history concerning Jesus, but also grant theological access to the meaning of his life and mission. (more…)

God’s Greater Glory

May 26, 2007

 The Exalted God Of Scripture And The Christian Faith

Ware, Bruce A. God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004. 254 pp. $17.99.

In a day when the works of many theologians are polluted with a self-preserving hermeneutic and misinterpretation of God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures, resulting in an aim to preserve human autonomy over God’s, Bruce Ware’s God’s Greater Glory is a breath of fresh evangelical air. Through dealing with several weighty matters concerning the nature of God and his human creatures, Ware presents his readers with a thorough and well-organized explanation of God’s governing providence and its relationship to responsible personal creatures. (more…)

The Minister as Shepherd

May 26, 2007

The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership 

Jefferson, Charles. The Minister as Shepherd: The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership. Fort Washington: CLC Publications, 2006. 141 pp. $8.99.

Christian views on pastoral ministry are often informed, not by the Scriptures, but by the corporate elitism of the secular business world. Though many evangelical pastors do not themselves pursue this kind of leadership deliberately, they cannot help but breathe the man-centered, big-business air of the American culture. In order to cultivate a healthy attitude and a winsome fervor for pastoral leadership, men should consider the instruction and the life of the great shepherd, Jesus Christ. Charles Jefferson attempts to provide a helpful discussion concerning the nature of the minister’s role in relation to the NT’s testimony of the shepherd model in his book titled, The Minister as Shepherd: The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership. (more…)

Created In God’s Image

May 26, 2007

 Created in God's Image

Hoekema, Anthony A. Created in God’s Image. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986. 264 pp. $22.00.

In an ailing age when postmodern minds no longer aim to observe human nature on a universal basis, but a subjective one, resulting in a radical individualism freed from being defined on the Creator’s terms, Anthony A. Hoekema’s Created in God’s Image is a nourishing evangelical treat. Through dealing biblically and historically with several fundamental issues concerning the nature of man, Hoekema presents his readers with a systematic Christian understanding of man.    (more…)

Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond

May 26, 2007

Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond

Bock, Darrell L., ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999. 330 pp. $17.99.

Christian views on the end times are often informed, not by the Scriptures, but by the fictional books crowding the shelves of local Christian bookstores. Though one’s eschatological convictions might be considered a third order matter of doctrine, such convictions do effect one’s biblical hermeneutic. In order to cultivate a healthy attitude for the interpretation of the Bible, pastors and teachers should consider informing the flock of God about various views on the millennium. Editor Darrel L. Bock provides a helpful discussion concerning the nature of Christ’s kingdom in relation to his second coming and reign in his book entitled, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. (more…)

True Sexual Morality

May 22, 2007

Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis 

Heimbach, Daniel. True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004. 528 pp. $25.00.

For Daniel Heimbach, “The greatest single moral-spiritual threat to truth in our culture these days is a rising fascination with paganism that defines morality as anything spiritual and then reduces it to anything sexual” (38). While modernism encouraged people to deny spiritual life, “arguing that morality is a matter of private taste and therefore biblical standards on sex have to be kept from influencing public life,” “…postmodernism affirms [spiritual life]” (41, 42). Heimbach argues, however, that the spirituality postmodernists affirm is pagan, not Christian (42). “It approaches spirituality in a way that views it, not as something beyond but rather as something under human control, and this makes sexual morality even more radically permissive” (42, author’s emphasis).

In the footsteps of Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and Carl F. H. Henry, Heimbach is on a campaign calling all genuine evangelicals to stand firm against the growing tide of sexual paganism. In observing the works published by militant feminists, unrepentant homosexuals, liberal theologians, and apostate Christian leaders (even those disguising themselves as “evangelical”), Heimbach unveils the destructive paganism infiltrating American mainline denominations, even some evangelical assemblies and institutions. This book covers all aspects of their rebellion: the re-institution of goddess worship and the sacramental practices of child sacrifice (otherwise, and sadly, known as abortion); the slander of Jesus Christ as a sadomasochist and his cross-death as a form of divine child abuse; the veneration of Jezebel and the feminization of Yahweh; the glad acceptation of pornography as expression and the utter rejection of the imago Dei; the unfaithful escape of divorce and the forfeiture of biblical manhood and womanhood. Thoroughly, thoughtfully, and compassionately, Heimbach unpacks these devastating facts in order to quicken the church to be aggressive in their love for sinners who fail to see the glory of God in Christ.

Moreover, Heimbach unpacks the solution for such problems, namely, a return to a God-centered worldview based upon the Scriptures. He upholds biblical holiness, moral purity, godly principles, spiritual joy, and divine beauty so as to squelch any destructive sparks of paganism. Heimbach grounds sexual morality in the holiness of God and equips the church with the sword of the Spirit, that she might fight the good fight against the old, now revived paganism. Without doubt, Heimbach has issued a clarion call for the genuine evangelical community to stand firm upon the “goodness of God with true sexual morality,” so that people are not “led astray by counterfeits” (359). Scholars, Pastors, and Laymen, this book is well worth your time.

The Nature of the Atonement

March 12, 2007

Four Views

Beilby, James and Paul R. E ddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006. 208 pp. $20.00.

Many churches are embracing the postmodern agenda of the ‘Emerging Church’ leaders, who slanderously consider the historic-evangelical doctrine of the atoning work of Christ to be teaching nothing more than divine child abuse. In order to protect the church from such cross-diminishing literature and erroneous exegesis, pastors and teachers should be well prepared to handle various views on the nature of the atonement. Editors James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy provide a helpful discussion concerning the nature of Christ’s atonement in their book entitled, The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. (more…)