Rob Bell is back, and the critiques of his latest work are coming in. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to read What We Talk About When We Talk About God, but I’m starting to peruse the reviews. Having read and taught concerning his previous work, I know that Bell’s claims about Christianity must be taken seriously and answered seriously. It is precisely that fact which causes me to cringe a bit regarding the reviews of his most recent work. So far, they seem to follow the typical pattern of analysis and refutation, which is well and good. But, similar to the last batch of critiques, they contain an element which subtly but substantially undermines the otherwise helpful work within them. Read more
Posts from the ‘Book Reviews’ Category
The Puritans are derided as legalistic killjoys whose meticulous writings tend to parse the life out of true piety. Even a quick overview of their work will reveal their ability to write exhaustively on a topic and to exhaust the reader in the process! However, the careful, charitable reader of Puritan works will spy in them a faith of studied simplicity, one from which we could benefit in the midst of current battles among believers. Read more
Gentle Reformation had every intention of featuring our friend Rosaria Butterfield and promoting the wonderful story of her spiritual journey to Christ in the book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. We even began arranging an interview with her and Pastor Ken Smith, who was the earthen vessel the Lord used to make Christ known to her. However, we are still working on our technology here and were unable to conduct the audio interview we wanted. We think some friends will be doing that interview soon, and we will make that known when it becomes available.
Rosaria’s story is an amazing one. The simple one-sentence summary is that a tenured English professor at a large university who was lecturing and writing on Queer Theory is now a Reformed Presbyterian preacher’s wife. Only by the grace of our Lord Jesus! Her book tells this amazing journey, with her abilities to write with clarity, humor, gut-wrenching honesty – all the while avoiding sensationalism – on full display. I especially believe the church needs to stand before the mirror of this book in self-evaluation by hearing her penetrating insights on ministering to the lost of our day. Read more
For all those who enjoy or are learning to enjoy (like myself) reading ebooks, you should know that Crossway is having quite a sale. From now until January 15, all ebooks at Crossway will be priced at $5.99 or less. That includes all their “Preaching the Word” series commentaries that can be anywhere from $30-40 each in hardback. Simply go here to see the books on sale.
Rebecca VanDoodewaard is the the author of the new book Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians. She is the wife of Bill, Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and mother of three. Bill and Rebecca blog together at The Christian Pundit.
Uprooted is loaded with practical, spiritual advice on how to handle moving and the life changes it brings. Rebecca was gracious to answer the following questions to introduce you to the book. My wife and I have been encouraged by the book as we prepare to be uprooted ourselves next year, so I wanted to draw it to others’ attention. But beyond that, as part of Bill & Rebecca’s journey led them to worship and live near us for three years, they are dear friends and I can attest to the reality in their lives of the godly faith encouraged in this book.
You explain in the opening pages of the book the life factors that caused you to have to deal with homesickness and led to the writing of Uprooted. Could you share with our readers here a few of those?
My own homesickness drove me to dig into Scripture and the lives of saints from history who have dealt with homesickness. The actual writing started when the Girltalk blog once asked something like, “What inconvenience are you experiencing in your life? How is it changing what you think about God and/or Heaven?” Well, few things are more inconvenient than putting everything you own into boxes, driving the boxes to a new place, and changing your address with 101 government agencies. But the more I thought about it, the more the spiritual realities became clear. So I started a growing “note to self” about things to do, not do, etc., for the next move. That list, along with bits from e-mails that I sent to relocating friends and quotes about homesickness from Christians in history, morphed into the book manuscript, which my husband sent to the publisher without telling me. Read more
From Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books…
Modern discourse is not really comfortable with the word “soul,” and in my opinion the loss of the word has been disabling, not only to religion but to literature and political thought and to every humane pursuit. In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered some set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it. So the soul, the masterpiece of creation, is more or less reduced to a token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with that miraculous thing, the felt experience of life, except insofar as life offers distractions or temptations. (p. 8, from the essay “Freedom of Thought”)
According to Robinson, the human soul isn’t simply heaven-bound or hell-bound (though that remains true). The human soul is also an important thing here and now. Something to be studied, delighted in and cherished far more than it is. If anyone can do this, surely the church can.
[Aside: Robinson is one of my favorite authors, especially because of the striking beauty of Gilead. I hope to post some more thoughts from When I Was a Child soon.]
Okay… so this isn’t my book review… it belongs to Irene Huizing: lover of Christ, elder’s wife, editor extraordinare, servant of the church. Sometimes I put Irene up to things… like writing book reviews. Here is a short book review of Lady Jane Grey, a book that you should buy for your children, children’s children, and all that are afar off. I really appreciate what reformed authors such as Simonetta Carr are doing to bring vibrant church history to our children. Have a look…
Queen For a Day: A Review of Lady Jane Grey
Reviewer: Irene Huizing Read more
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).
I commend to you today a new blog published by a group of young people who are seeking to take this command seriously. Selah, or the Selah Psalm Blog, is edited by Jonathan Kim and Cameron Adams, young men I had the privilege of pastoring during most of their high school years.
A few great links about reading:
N. D. Wilson on The Hunger Games (thanks to Trevin Wax):
One final thought: never read or watch a story like a passive recipient, enjoying something in a visceral way and then retroactively trying to project deeper value or meaning onto the story you’ve already ingested. Such projections have been making authors and directors seem more intelligent than they are for decades. As you watch, as you read, shoulder your way into the creator’s chair. Don’t take the final product for granted, analyze the creator’s choices and cheerfully push them in new and different directions. As we do this, the clarity of our criticism will grow immensely. Which is to say, we’ll be suckered far less often than we currently are.
For anyone who’s read the books (and for parents!), the whole essay is truly worthwhile reading.
Tim Challies’ interview with Russell Moore about reading fiction & literature is enlightening and helpful.
Fiction can sometimes, like Nathan the prophet’s story of the ewe lamb, awaken parts of us that we have calloused over, due to ignorance or laziness or inattention or sin…Fiction helps the Christian to learn to speak in ways that can navigate between the boring abstract and the irrelevant mundane.
I recently read this review of Alan Jacobs’ latest book and can’t wait to read it. Anyone want to join me?
Wedding season is upon us; the season of love. That means your chance of hearing 1 Corinthians 13 read publicly increases exponentially. One sometimes wonders on these occasions if the hearers really understand what is being read.
A few years ago, while preaching in Acts 25, I noticed that only verse 19 references God directly in Acts 25. I wondered if there are any other chapters in the New Testament with fewer references to God by name, title, or pronoun. My quick search surprised me. First Corinthians 13 is the only “God-less” chapter in the New Testament. No name of God is mentioned, no title, not even a pronoun referring to God. I suppose that is partly why this passage is so commonly read at weddings, even of unbelievers. People read it in isolation from the rest of the letter and the rest of Scripture, and they impose their own idea of love on the passage.
Phil Ryken’s new book: Loving the Way Jesus Loves (Crossway, 2012) clearly teaches the meaning of 1 Corinthians 13 as applied to all of life. It will help the newly married, but it is written for everyone. The friend who gave it to me was blessed through it to remember her need to grow in love even as she diligently seeks doctrinal truth. Read more
Last summer in a post called “The Gay Mirage,” I witnessed to the frustration of the homosexual lifestyle. The thirsty lust of this sin will never be satisfied, for its promises of happiness are illusory. Those trapped in it need to be called to the real waters that Jesus provides.
At the time I promised to make known at first opportunity an important work that some brothers were doing on this topic, most notably our fellow blogger Dr. Michael LeFebvre who served as editor and authored much of this work. The book, entitled The Gospel & Sexual Orientation, is now available to be pre-ordered at Crown & Covenant Publications. Here is their review: Read more
What’s your “January book”? Do you have one?
When I began seminary a number of years ago, my pastor told me that he reads Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones every January. This was done for the purpose of helping to redefine his ministry, refresh his understanding of the role of preaching, and reinvigorate him to the task that lay ahead in the new year.
I have also taken on the task of reading Preaching and Preachers as my “January book.” It began as a way to remind me of the task that I would, upon graduation, take up as a Gospel minister; but it has become so much more. Preaching and Preachers has become something more than just a reminder of the role of the preacher. It has become a book that should transform my life and transform my ministry. It has become my “January book.” A few of my theological students have also chosen this book as a January book. At least three generations of preachers reading for greater conformity and definition! Read more
There are some resources those committed to Biblical evangelism and discipleship simply have to have. A few copies of Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow ought to be knocking around your office (if it’s messy like mine) or filed neatly on your “Reformed Bookshelf” if you are organized and tidy like my mother.
This little book by Dr. R. C. Sproul has proven a useful Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated tool in my humble efforts to pass along the truth of God to others. Time after time as I’ve given this small book to a friend (or simply read it aloud with them over lunch), the Lord has used his Word to pierce hearts with the Biblical truth of God’s love and shepherdly guidance.
Bill VanDoodewaard serves as Associate Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Recently Bill’s doctoral work was published by Reformation Heritage Books under the title The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition. As he served as a pastoral intern in our congregation for two years while he completed his thesis, I have been greatly blessed by Bill and his work. I thought you might like to find out more about it. Bill graciously responded with the following interview. Read more
Wilhelmus a` Brakel (1635-1711), a Dutch pastor and theologian, wrote a devotionally-focused systematic theology for his congregation. The Christian’s Reasonable Service was first published in 1700, but was only translated into English in 1992. For all of last year and the first part of this year, I read a portion of his work each day in conjunction with my personal devotions as I worked through the four volume set. This work lifted my soul day-by-day, and I highly recommend it to you for daily reading as well. For Christians who know they should be reading more and better books but struggle to read, this is a great place to start.
Here’s a sampling of the chapter on Spiritual Joy (Vol. 2, pp. 445-467) where we are exhorted to use the means God has given to attain joy: