The Reformed Reader
1 - Book Review: NT Wright's A Case for the Psalms
2 - Book Review of Bible's Big Story
3 - Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage
4 - Book Review: The Explicit Gospel
5 - Review of the Gospel Transformation Bible
Nt Wright has a unique ability to write on many levels. Wright is able to write to the academic and the lay person alike. Wright’s specialty is within the New Testament, so I was curious as to how he would approach a subject like the Psalms. Even though the book has six chapters, I believe it can be divided into three parts: a case for the use of the Psalms in the church and in one’s daily life, the purpose of the psalms, and Wright’s personal experience with the Psalms. Wright begins and ends the book in similar fashion explaining how if one were to ask him to think about how the Psalms or which Psalm has most deeply impacted his life is like asking him about a time when he was breathing. A person cannot recall a particular time he was breathing, but he is certain that he is always doing so. Wright then explains how he can recall particular Psalms which played an important role in his life. The most significant thing which I took away from the book was Wright’s explanation of how the Psalms bring the church into God’s space and God’s time. I am going to spend the rest of my review explaining this crucial concept and what exactly it means. To understand this idea, it is helpful to begin by looking at Moses at Mount Sinai. When Moses went up to the mountain, God spoke the Law to him. At this event we see God’s space invading man’s space. One may think of Mount Sinai as God’s universe or God’s kingdom invading our kingdom. For a brief period of time the two universes intersect. This may seem more like a Fringe event, than what a person is used to when reading scripture, but Wright makes a good case for such a reading. When we pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” this is the very thing in which we are praying for. We are in essence praying for God to invade our space with His sovereign/all powerful presence. Wright then applies this concept to Psalms. In the Psalms God’s space invades man’s space. The temple, where God lives, draws people into the presence of God. When the church sings or reads these Psalms they are taken into the presence of the One who is restoring all things to himself. Next, Wright discusses God’s time invading our time. To best understand the concept of God’s time invading our time, it is helpful to look at the Exodus. During the Exodus God provided food from a future land to His people while they were wandering through the wilderness. When we partake in the Lord’s Supper we are eating a meal from a future kingdom. At the Lord’s Supper we are participating in a foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. In the Psalms God time and man’s time likewise intersect. When the church sings the Psalms, she joins the church of old in singing of a certain future hope. What God has declared true in His time is becoming reality in our time. Wright offers a different approach to reading the Psalms. While most commentators approach the Psalms by explaining the different types (e.g., Lament, Psalm of Thanksgiving, hymn), making arguments for the structure, or by offering historic background for individual Psalms, Wright examines the Psalms eschatologically, through the lens of the coming kingdom. The book is a short, but offers a major punch within only a few pages. As always Wright leaves the reader with something to go and further research. I left this book longing to spend more time in the Psalms. Based on everything mentioned above, I believe that this book is definitely worth its value.
Publication Date: 2013
Binding Type: Hardback
Book Grade: A+
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I was overjoyed when I found out that Dr. Hamilton was writing a children's book. The reason for my delight was that I knew that my children would be able to be impacted by an author and professor that had deeply impacted my own life. In The Bible's Big Story: Salvation History for Kids, Hamilton goes through significant events and key figures in scripture. Hamilton connects Old Testament and New through poetic rhyme. One nice aspect of the way that the book is setup up is that it can be read all the way through in one sitting or broken down by individual story. Each page has a further reading section, which allows for further explanation of the event or person spoken of on the page. One thing that I would recommend for parents would be to try to have their children memorize the lines from the book. If over time your children memorize this rhyme, he/she will inevitable know the bible's overall narrative. This book is easy to read and filled with great pictures. The price of the book alone is worth purchasing it. I would highly this to parents and teachers who may teach young children's classes.
"Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it"
Publication Date: 2013
Binding Type: Paperback
Book Grade: A+
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Take a walk down the aisles of your local bookstore and you will likely see a large section devoted to marriage. You may ask yourself, “Why are there so many books written on marriage?” There are problems either within marriages or society’s perception of marriage. Divorce rates are at an all-time high. Marriage counselors are never hurting for jobs. Single-parent families are becoming the norm. With the rise of situations like these and many others, there doesn't seem to be enough ink to discuss all the problems; not only do people see the problems, everyone believes they have a solution.
One would think Timothy and Kathy Keller’s newest book, The Meaning of Marriage, would just be another book to add to the bookend of the marriage shelf, but upon closer examination, you will quickly realize it is much more.
The Kellers begin their book by determining the root of the problem. The common tendency among books within this genre is to address the symptoms of the problem, rather than finding the true problem. Sometimes authors will argue that lack of time spent together is the issue; at other times, authors will say fighting (or having times of intense fellowship) with your spouse is the problem. But Tim and Kathy Keller make the argument that problems in marriage can to be traced back to the Garden of Eden.
Marriage was created perfectly in the Garden of Eden. Up until the fall, marriage was only experienced as “harmony” and “fellowship.” Once sin entered into the world, the perfect harmony that existed within the marriage was disrupted. The Kellers point out all problems within marriage can be traced back to sin entering into the world. Divorce, fighting, anger, bitterness, fornication and adultery all have their root in sin's entrance into the world. But not only do the Kellers trace out the root of the problem, they also offer a sound solution.
The solution to the sin problem in marriage can only be resolved by understanding the purpose of marriage. The purpose of marriage can only be fulfilled when the fellowship and harmony that were lost in the garden are restored to the marriage. This restoration is only possible because of the finished work Christ. For the Christian, the purpose of marriage is conformity to the likeness of Christ. From this point, Keller discusses a common notion within society that a long-lasting marriage is the result of both parties within the marriage being willing to accept each other as they are. Keller demonstrates how this idea is at enmity with the purpose of marriage. You should not accept your mate as they are; both parties within the marriage should be constantly working and longing for change within both themselves and their spouse. The person you married several years ago should not be the same person you are married to today. If you or your spouse is the same person now as when you married, neither of you have fulfilled the purpose of marriage.
Next, the Kellers critique the idea that love should come naturally within a marriage. Love is the fulfillment of the law. The only possibility of obedience to the law is through the enablement of the Holy Spirit. Keller shows the difficulty and pain of love by comparing it to a professional athlete. A professional athlete does not become one naturally or without practice. Professional sports take practice, and with practice comes endless pain and exhaustion. Likewise, love is not natural. Love is something that promises pain and difficulty. Jesus describes the greatest love as one that is willing to lay down its life for another. Love is not something that comes naturally but something that must be constantly worked at.
The Kellers almost seem prophetic in their diagnosis of America’s understanding of marriage. As a surgeon with a steady scalpel, the Kellers cut away all the hidden cancer that plagues our understanding of marriage. The Meaning of Marriage ranks among the best books that I have read on the subject of marriage. The Kellers accurately diagnose the problem and offer a biblical solution, placing the Christian understanding of marriage against a secular society’s understanding of marriage. It is not a self-help, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps approach but a Christ-centered, others-focused approach to marriage. The Christian view of marriage is not a contract that forces us to stay together but a covenant that calls us to lovingly sacrifice our lives for the sake of the other.
Published by Relevant Magazine
"One thing is for certain: If my T-shirt doesn’t convert those I encounter in a store, my bumper sticker will get them on my way out."
As silly as this may sound, our actions often reflect this to be a reality. We live in a day where many believers hold to what Matt Chandler and Jared Wilson, in their new book The Explicit Gospel, call a “bumper sticker” or “T-shirt theology”—looking on the surface rather than preaching deep truth. Chandler and Wilson address common misunderstandings of the Gospel and set out to clarify what the Gospel is and its implications. The majority of those who profess to be Christian claim to know and trust the Gospel, but the sad reality is, most do not even know it at all.
The book is divided into three parts: the Gospel on the Ground, the Gospel in the Air and Implications and Applications. Chandler first examines what he calls “the Gospel on the Ground.” This is the Gospel on the micro-level. The Gospel on the ground addresses God’s holiness, mankind’s fall, Christ’s life and death and man’s required response. It deals with how man is reconciled to God through the finished work of Christ. Most presentations of the Gospel in our day begin and end here.
But Chandler argues that the Gospel message is much bigger than this—that it extends to all creation. So in section 2, Chandler discusses the Gospel on the macro-level, or what he calls “the Gospel in the Air.” He explains the Gospel on this macro-level in saying:
The gospel in the air gives us this conception of the scope and the ambit and the greatness of the gospel. If the Bible gives us a wider context than personal good news for personal sin requiring personal response, let’s be faithful to it. At the end of the Biblical story, the gospel’s star figure says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). If his word is true, we must take his reference to “all things” seriously. As Lloyd-Jones says, “The whole universe is involved."(p. 90)
Chandler shows the Gospel is not simply justification but also includes redemption and restoration of all creation. The book of James is very clear in that the one who truly understands and is transformed by the Gospel is the one who helps the poor, the orphan and the hungry. One whom the Gospel has done a work in is one who takes part in this ministry of restoration. When a person embraces the Gospel, he embraces God’s heart to restore what has been tainted and destroyed by sin.
Finding the right balance between the "Gospel on the ground" and the "Gospel in the air" is crucial. In section 3, Chandler shows the danger of over- and under-emphasizing either aspect of the Gospel.
There are several dangers of the Gospel being "on the ground” too long. When a person stresses the Gospel on the ground, the Gospel becomes nothing more than an individual salvation call. Often, even men who desire to be faithful in preaching the Gospel will fall into this trap. The major problem with this is that it divorces salvation from community and the Bible’s overarching theme of restoration. Salvation then becomes a personal relationship with Jesus but divorced from the Church, community and God’s plan of restoration. The believer is saved but not saved into a new life. The Gospel becomes a message about man’s reconciliation to God without any mention of God creating a new humanity called to act as a vice-regent for the risen Christ.
Likewise, there is equal danger of the Gospel being "in the air” too long. When one focuses on the Gospel in the air, that leads to a Christ-less Christianity, or a social gospel. There are many organizations that guise themselves as Christian relief organizations but may never directly present the Gospel. When things such as helping the poor, fighting injustice and participating in acts of mercy are divorced from Christ and His purpose to reconcile sinners to God, you have no Gospel at all. Chandler critiques Saint Francis of Assisi’s idea that we should preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words. Chandler instead argues that words are essential in the Gospel message. He explains the Gospel beautifully with his illustration of intrinsic circles. There are three aspects, or circles, of the Gospel that need to be understood: the first circle addresses how God is reconciling man to Himself through Christ; the second circle addresses how man is reconciled to man in covenant community; and the third circle addresses how reconciliation takes place between God and creation. All three of these aspects must be explained or present if one is to be faithful to the Gospel message.
Both Chandler and Wilson are two of the funniest Christianspeakers/writers alive, both having a unique ability to balance theological precision with humor and illustration. Expect the unexpected while reading this book. But know that Chandler and Wilson are also writing on an issue of great importance to our day. The Explicit Gospel brings extraordinary clarity and creativity to what all assume is understood—but quickly realize has been forgotten.
Published Through Relevant Magazine.
If you frequent your local Christian bookstore you have probably seen about a hundred different study bibles shuffle on and off the shelves. Generally speaking there are two types of study bibles that make it onto the shelves. Both types of study bibles have good aspects and bad aspects to them. Not all study bibles are created equal. First, there are study bibles that focus mainly on explanation. These SB are extremely helpful when a person comes to a difficult passage and is seeking clarification of the meaning of the passage. These study bibles often bring up points regarding 1st century culture that may not be clear with a surface reading of the text or to the person who is not that acquainted with bible history. There are a couple problems that can occur with this type of study bible. First, when the reader is reading notes from the Old Testament, the commentator will often never bridge the gap to Christ. The commentator is being faithful to his job of explaining the meaning of the text, but he/she often neglects to explain it through ht he lens of the rest of scripture. This will result in a Christ-less reading of the text. Although the writer may be doing a great job of explaining the context and meaning, he may miss the purpose of the text (i.e., what does this Old Testament passage teach me about Jesus). The second problem with this type of study Bible is that it often lacks application. When the purpose of the SB is explanation, it can fail into the trap of never explaining, “what does this text mean to the reader?” The second type relates directly to this. The second type of SB is one which is devoted to application of the text.
The second type of SB often will even carry a title which emphasizes its focus on application (e.g., The Life Application Study Bible, Spirit Filled Life Study Bible, Life in the Spirit Study Bible, Life’s Essentials Study Bible, Mission of God Study Bible, etc.). Application SBs like Explanation SBs have benefits and problems also. The clear benefit to them is that they bridge the gap from 1stcentury to the 21st century and answer the question, “what does this text mean to me?” One problem with application SB is that they will often overstress the application to the neglect of the explanation of the text. A second problem with Application SBs is that they will stress the moral implications of the text to the absence of Christ. The result of this sort of application is a moralism that is void of the gospel. I say all this as a preface to why I LOVE the Gospel Transformation Bible.
The Gospel Transformation Bible is a very unique study bible. First this SB offers a great balance between application and explanation. I do not believe that there is a SB that compares in the realm of scholars explaining the text apart from the ESV Study Bible. The thing that I believe places this above this ESV Study Bible is that it bridges the gap to Christ, when explaining the Old Testament. The ESV Study Bible is an incredible resource, especially when it comes to offering clarification for difficult passages. The Gospel Transformation Bible offers explanation, but also explains how the text points to Christ. Next, the GTB is filled with gospel centered application. The GTB does call the reads to do more or be more and Jesus will be happy with you. The GTB tells the reader, “in light of what Christ has done for us in the gospel, we should….”. I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of this study bible for awhile. This SB has pulled together some incredible scholars from our day (e.g., Michael Horton, Graeme Goldsworthy, Jim Hamilton, Bryan Chapell, Bruce Ware, Ray Ortland Jr., and Daniel Doriani). This SB pulls together the “whose, who” in Christo-centric writers and preachers. Please go and purchase this book.
Publication Date: 2011
Binding Type: Hardback
Book Grade: A+