I try to read a lot and it seems I am always looking for short punchy reviews of books that I may read. So at the end of every month I will write a blog reviewing the books I have read in the past month so that people can be informed of what I think are worthwhile books to read and books to avoid.

With that in mind here is April’s selection

A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story. By Diana Butler Bass

Butler Bass seems to be the wonder woman to Tony Jones’ Emergent superman. I say that because just like Jones Butler Bass writes very engagingly and polemically from within the emergent/neo liberal stream. In A People’s History of Christianity, Butler Bass writes a self confessedly selective book on church history where she “sidesteps issues of orthodoxy and instead focus on the moments when Christian people really acted like Christians, when they took seriously the call of Jesus to love God and love their neighbours as themselves”(15)[1]. For the rest of the book Butler Bass narrates church history with a bias towards reporting on instances of women in leadership, social justice ministries and people banding together in monastic communities. A few important insights are gleaned from these narratives, namely, that Christians all throughout the ages have seen Social Justice as a significant outworking of the gospel. But the bias that is inherent in this book I found distorted history instead of illuminating it. For example, Origen (42-45) is praised for his reading of his serious reading of the biblical text which does not collapse into literalism. But there is no mention of him being deemed a heretic for his teaching of apokatastasis (universalism) which had him condemned as a heretic in the 6th century. Peter Aberlard (112-117) is praised for using doubt as a “tool to find faith” (113). Butler Bass ends the account of the changing views that Luther and other Reformers had towards marriage and sex (188-192) with “When it comes to sexuality and family, Protestants are always willing to change the rules.” This neglects that fact that the Reformers changed their views on sexuality and marriage to come more into line with the Bible not the culture and so would not be willing to change their views on sexuality to be more in line with Butler Bass’ Episcopal Church. This is a book which is a fun and yet extremely frustrating read and because of its liberal bias it is not a book I would recommend for anyone looking for an overview on the last two thousand years of church history. That book would be Turning Points by Mark Noll

The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by G.K Beale

Inerrancy is such a hot button issue nowadays. Professors in America are being fired for denying it, people are confused on what inerrancy really is and the list of people that are arguing against it seems to grow faster the list of people who can’t stand Kyle Sandilands! With this in mind I was really looking forward to reading The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by G.K Beale. I thought it would be a theological and exegetical defence of inerrancy but it wasn’t. It was Beale writing on a selection of issues that impinge on inerrancy not the stout defence of inerrancy that is needed. His first two chapters deal with Peter Enns and his view of myth, story and the inspiration of the Old Testament. These are great chapters if you have read books that say there are myths in the Old Testament but the Bible is still inspired or you are at university or a theological college and you are getting fed this kind of junk from an Old Testament lecturer. The next chapter on Isaiah is helpful for showing how, as evangelicals, we must hold to one author of Isaiah who wrote the entire book if we are going to argue for the authority of the Bible. The next two Chapters on Old Testament cosmology were good in showing how the Old Testament temple  reflects biblical cosmology and therefore when the biblical authors are talking about cosmology they talk about it in ways that show the cosmos to be a temple and so their point is theological not scientific. The first appendix deals with with postmodern interpretation of the Bible especially in relation to the Old Testament in the New; the second is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  The third is a series of quote from Barth about what he believed about the Bible which shows how dangerous he really is!

This book has a bunch of great things in it especially for the theological student. These are issued that deal with inerrancy but the book itself is not a thorough defence of inerrancy.

He is Not Silent by Albert Mohler

If you are a preacher you should buy this book! In typical brash and straight up style Mohler delivers a theological exposition and defence of expository preaching in a postmodern world. He is very engaging and challenging all the while being extremely encouraging! If you haven’t read a book on preaching in a while or you are discouraged in your pulpit ministry then this is the book you need to buy and read!

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Trust agents is a book about using the web to build influence and trust amongst those you are trying to reach with your product or message. It is a New York Times best seller and is well written and chock full of useful information about how to use the web to make yourself and your product known. This is one of the best books I have read on social media. If you want to find out about utilising social media to your advantage buy this book and read it!

Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics

This is the best book on Paul and the Law! As many of you know Paul, the law and Justification have been hot topics for quite a while. There have been many good books on the topic but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest for a few reasons:

  1. Westerholm is unbelievably fair when he summarizes those who he disagrees with. He argues their case so well that sometimes you are left thinking “that guy has got it all together”.
  2. His third section where he takes on the New Perspective is gold. He brilliantly shows what the Paul meant by righteousness, justification and the like in an easy, clear and compelling way.
  3. His humour is superb! A lot of the times academic books are dry, dull and lifeless. This book is anything but that and that is because Westerholm occasionally writes little humorous turns of phrase or sentences that will have you at least chuckling along with him even if you don’t agree with him on the point he is making!

In summary buy this book!

[1] Numbers in parentheses are page numbers of the books in review


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