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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from January 2020 through March 2020)

 

What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading  (from January 2020 through March 2020)

 

Beeke, Joel & Rob Wynalda. Matthew: The 17:18 Series. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2014.

The 17:18 series is based upon Deuteronomy 17:18 which specified that the ling of Israel was to write out all the books of the law by hand. Reformation Heritage has created a journal for each book of the Bible that allows the participant to write the entirety of the text. There are also questions that help the writer to contemplate the meaning of the verses. I did the volume for Proverbs and found it an excellent exercise.  This was no different. The journaling allowed me to thoughtfully consider each verse. Some of the study questions are a bit misleading because they take a wrong interpretation, but overall I enjoyed learning from the Bible in this unique way.

 

Carson, D.A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (revised edition). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Instead of trying to review all the commentaries of Matthew when we complete our study, I will try to do so as I read each one. This volume was massive, as it contained a wealth of material. Few revival Carson on the New Testament. And this commentary is exemplary. The format is easy to follow verse by verse with an overview of each section. There is also a section for the Greek grammar after each passage that can be utilized by the advanced scholar or disregarded by those interested only in the comments. Of course, there are a couple of interpretations in which I disagree with Carson. But they are minor – especially in light of the overall work. For serious study, I doubt there is a better commentary on Matthew to date.

 

Chute, Anthony, Nathan A. Finn, & Michael A.G. Haykin. The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2015.

Teaching the Baptist History seminar in the Philippines allowed me to read this book as supplemental material for the class. I had been wanting to read it for some item. The book focuses distinctly on Baptists over their 400 year history. The book is chronological in its approach. And each author writes on their area of specialty. Haykin covers the period of 1600-1800. Finn covers 1800-1900 and Chute provides for the remainder. It provides an excellent timeline of Baptists for easy access. I particularly enjoyed the pictures and highlighted blurbs of source material. Of course, such an approach does not allow for assessment of many issues in Baptists' life as they have developed. The authors do try with a chapter on Baptist identity in the last chapter. And the one flaw is a lack of footnotes for further research (although a few titles are recommended at the end of each chapter). This text is suitable for an undergraduate class.

 

Jamieson, Bobby. Understanding the Lord’s Supper. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2016.

I read this last summer and forgot to review it. Which is a shame because it is a very good overview of the Lord’s Supper in Baptist life. Jamieson is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He covers the topic in three sections. He begins with the origins of the supper (in which there is a definite covenantal approach), followed by the understanding of the Supper in New Testament practice and concludes with how the supper should be conducted in the current church. There are a few bolder statements such as ‘the Passover defined the identity of Israel and therefore the membership of Israel’ that are an exaggeration (or at best an oversimplification). But Jamieson argues his point well. The book is short and concise (it is in the Church Basic Series) and will be of benefit to all who do not wish to get into the minutia of the subject (which is book Going Public covers well).   

 

Litfin, Bryan. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016.

I am surprised that I waited so long to read this book. It has been sitting on my shelf for two years. But as I am preparing notes for a church history class, I began to read this. It is outstanding! This is the best introduction to the Church Fathers that I have read. It features twelve members of the early church spanning four centuries. After a brief biography, Litfin provides a selection of resources to help the reader acquire more on the subject, followed by questions to stimulate thinking upon the person’s contribution and then a primary source reading in the words of the figure. This is the best way to help readers who are new to the subject to discover the wonder of the early church. I plan on using this in all my early church history classes. I highly recommend it. 

 

Fee, Gordon & Douglas Stewart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (3rd edition). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

I have just completed this book in a discipleship group of guys and realized I have never reviewed it. It is a volume that is well worth the time in giving an opinion. Fee & Steward are two scholars that I greatly admire and appreciate their work. But they are also scholars in which I disagree on occasion (Fee is an Assemblies of God pastor and Stewart is a strong egalitarian). That being said, I think they have done a great job in putting together a manual for beginner’s hermeneutics. I would say it is the best I have found on the popular level. It reads well and is easy to understand. While there are times I disagree with their conclusions, I do agree with their methodology in developing a proper hermeneutic. That being said, this volume should be read with some supervision lest you end up down rabbit trails you would prefer not to have traveled.

 

Noll, Mark. The Old Religion in a New World: The History of North American Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002.

This is an abbreviated version of Noll’s magnus opus, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (1992). I read the former in college and it cemented in my mind that Noll is one of the better contemporary historians. This version is meant to be used in the classroom in order to provide an outline of major events, developments and occurrences in American church history. It avoids some of the tedious material of the larger volume, while highlighting the most important interpretative issues of the period. As the title suggests, North America has produced a diversity in Christianity unlike that of it founders from Europe. I am rereading to teach an upcoming class. I am once again reminded of Noll’s concise observations of the development of this trend.

 

O’Brien, Brandon. Demanding Liberty: An Untold Story of American Religious FreedomDowners Grove: IVP Books, 2018.

Demanding Liberty is a popular level introduction of Isaac Backus (1724-1806) to the contemporary public. Backus was an eighteenth-century Baptist minister that championed the cause of religious liberty prior to the ratification of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. O’Brien finds in Backus an interesting case study of an early American that wrestled with ideas that were counter cultural to his day. The Baptist minister was converted through the Great Awakening, thus differentiating himself with the traditional Old Lights of the colonies. This caused Backus and those of like mind to separate from the mainline churches of Congregational New England. The study of the scriptures led Backus into adopting credo-Baptistism over the paedo-baptist position. This in turn further divided Backus and his congregation from the State supported Congregational church. Backus and others outside the state church found themselves enduring taxes that supported churches with which they disagreed, suffering fines and loss of property, and restrictive legislation impeding their ability to worship according to conscience. The Baptist minister became a prominent voice in speaking for religious liberty not just in New England but also what would become the greater United States.

 

Perkins, John M. Dream With Me: Race, Love and the Struggle We Must Win. Grand Rapids, 2017.

I am often asked as a game, if you could have a dinner party and invite anyone who has lived or is living who would you ask. Always at the top of my list would be John M. Perkins. I read Dream With Me in honor of Black History Month. Perkins was a leader during the civil rights movement in Mississippi. He learned the power of love and forgiveness and has been a champion for racial reconciliation for over 6 decades. I have only had the opportunity to hear him speak once and immediately I wanted to know more about this man. I reviewed his biography, Let Justice Roll a few years ago. This book picks up where that one left off. In this installment, we learn more about Perkins, his family, and his dreams for empowering the poor through Christ and racial reconciliation. The man has had more than his fair share of struggles. I learned in this volume of the death of his adult son. Yet Perkins is still able to claim the faithfulness of his God. There will be some ideas that will confront the reader no matter what political affiliation. But that is the point- Perkins continues to commend talking to one another until solutions emerge. This a convicting and encouraging book.

 

Raju, Deepak. Pornography: Fighting for Purity, 31-Day Devotionals for Life. Phillipisburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2018.

This is the third 31 day devotional published by the Biblical Counseling Coalition that I have read. The first two were uncommonly good (their topics were habitual addictions and the approval of others). I can not sing their praises enough. However, this one fell short of the previous devotions. The problem was more of emphasis than anything that was incorrect. There was too much emphasis on our efforts and not enough on the person of God. Ultimately, a daily devotion in this area should lift our eyes more toward who God is and what he is doing in us rather than on what we can do. The advice and the reflections at the end of each devotional were helpful. And the devotional does aim broadly to be helpful for men and women. But I would see this more as supplemental material to solid counseling than as a guide toward ending one’s addiction to porn. One plus, is that within an appendix, Raju does address the topic of masturbation which is a subject that most avoid. On this particular topic, I still recommend David White’s book, Sexual Sanity for Men.

 

Sanders, J. Oswald. A Love of Reading: Developing an Appetite for Books That Point to Jesus. Leyland: 10Publishing, 2017.

This is a little booklet published by the Christian book distribution company, 10 of Those. The text is taken from a chapter of J. Oswald Sanders book, Spiritual Leadership. Its point is well made. Christians should read and they need to read books that are worthy of thinking greater thoughts that point us to Christ. It is short and brief and does inspire one to read even if the reader might dispute some of the choices that Sanders admired (I would not commend Finney’s Lectures on Revival as a life changer for example). That may be the one piece that is lacking. There are few solid recommendations of titles that one should begin to read. Perhaps my top ten books of the year might be a list you would want to consult.

 

Schreiner, Thomas R. Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2018.

Tom Schreiner has my utmost respect as a New Testament scholar. I was looking forward to understanding his perspective on the spiritual gifts, particularly as he sees abuses within the charismatic movement. For the first five chapters, the author outlines the spiritual gifts and explains their purpose from the New Testament. Then he devotes a full chapter to the more controversial gifts of prophecy and tongues. And in the final chapters of the book, he defends his position as a ‘nuanced cessationist’. In brief, Schreiner believes the gifts related to revelation have ceased because the offices of apostle and prophet have ceased based upon his understanding of Ephesians 2:20. He is not as concerned with the other gifts such as miracles and healings as they do not threaten the authority of scripture. So he is open on the remaining gifts still being practiced. Sadly, the book left me unsatisfied in the questions I wanted answered. He did not make a convincing argument against Wayne Grudem’s understanding of prophecy. Nor did he provide an adequate explanation for the gifts of discerning spirits, faith and knowledge (which he strangely advocates that this the latter is actually ‘teaching’). And while briefly mentioning (in a single sentence) of Junia being an ‘apostle’ (Romans 16:7) he doesn’t explain how she relates to authority in the church. There are some issues that Schriener makes clear. The gifts are for the edification of the church, not the individual and that what the vast majority of charismatics practice in the church today is not biblical. But I was hoping for a more confident exposition on the subject.

 

Watts, John D. (ed). How I Changed My Mind: Essays by Retired Professors of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville: Review & Expositor, 1993.

While I was working on my Baptist history class, I narrowed in on the conservative resurgence issues of the SBC. I realized, I knew little about what was happening on the ‘other side’ of the argument and I wanted to ‘hear’ their voices. This book was a pretty good primer on the topic. The Review & Expositor (a theological journal) asked the retired and some of the fired members of the faculty to write essays about how their views have changed while teaching at the seminary. I am assuming the essays would convince SBC laymen that these professors were in step with within convention beliefs. But not surprising, most were out of step. For example, R. Inman Johnson denied the virgin birth. Wayne Oates believed in adoptionism when it came to his Christology. Frank Stagg believed in an ‘openness’ in God (especially when it came to Salvation). Willis Bennet believed that there could be multiple interpretations of the same passage of scripture. The essays confirmed, in my humble opinion that these men were not teaching according to the Seminary’s abstract. And while I can sympathize with Dale Moody’s desire to preserve academic integrity and stand upon that principle (he seems to be one who leaned conservative despite his hostility to Calvinism), it was not desirable that significant portions of students graduated lacking confidence in their Bibles. One positive theme, however, should be highlighted. Many of the professors were right to be concerned about the civil movement. They were able to see how racism was a stain on the SBC (even if their choice of words revealed inherent prejudice). For that, I applaud them for bucking the trend.