The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook is such an attractive and beautiful book, I just had to try my hand at providing a video review. The book is as uThe Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook is such an attractive and beautiful book, I just had to try my hand at providing a video review. The book is as useful and informative as it is visually stunning. Unfortunately, my video review will not be of a high enough quality to do justice to the book. But please watch and let me know what you think. You can click to watch my review on Youtube or Vimeo.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Baker Books. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Dr. Hugh Ross, well known old-earth creationist and president of Reasons to Believe, has given us a gem of a book with "Hidden Treasures in the Book oDr. Hugh Ross, well known old-earth creationist and president of Reasons to Believe, has given us a gem of a book with "Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Baker Books, 2011). The subtitle of the book explains its purpose: "How the oldest book in the Bible answers today's scientific questions."
Dr. Ross is as well versed in the creation debate today as anyone, and he has devoted time and effort in combating godless, Darwinian evolution and countering the arguments of new atheists. With this book, he unpacks the myriad of ways the book of Job speaks to the question of origins and the meaning of life on earth.
Job 38 describes God's creative activity directly, and Ross focuses in on this chapter. Yet he also discusses whether leviathan was a dinosaur, and what Job has to say about the extent of the Flood. Suffering, death, unique attributes of humans, the soulish nature of animals, the order of creation-these topics and more are covered.
As Ross writes, he blends scientific insight (like just why Hurricanes are so beneficial to the climate of Earth), personal anecdotes and devotional thoughts from the book of Job in a fascinating and well-written way. The book is not so much an extended defense of Ross's scientific positions, but a manual filled with interesting tidbits that will get you thinking and encourage you to keep studying, and to mine the book of Job for treasures yourself.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Reasons to Believe. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
From the very first page, Brock Eastman’s new book "Taken", grips and pulls the reader into its fast-paced, adventure tale. "Taken" is the start of PFrom the very first page, Brock Eastman’s new book "Taken", grips and pulls the reader into its fast-paced, adventure tale. "Taken" is the start of P & R Publishing’s “The Quest for Truth” series, and focuses on a group of four children (Oliver – 17, Tiffany – 15, and the twins Mason and Austin – 11) whose parents (the Wikks) are archeologist-explorers. Their parents get captured by a secret society called the Ubel, and the children are forced to embark on their parents’ planned space voyage without them.
They soon discover that the world as they know it is not as it seems. Their parents have found an ancient book from Ursprung, the humans’ home planet which has been lost for centuries. And on the edge of the galaxy, they learn that the Federation may not merit their allegiance after all. With their world crumbling around them, the Wikk children resolve to take on their parents’ quest for truth, in hopes of finding and rescuing their parents.
The quest takes them to a forsaken planet on the edge of the galaxy where they meet their parents’ benefactor and try to outfit their ship. While on this planet, the twins stumble upon a mysterious blue people and are taken captive. I won’t give away too much more of the plot, except to say that by the end of this first book, you’ll be hooked. I can’t wait for the next installment of “The Quest for Truth”, to find out what happens to the Wikk children as their exciting quest continues.
The book is written for younger readers, upper elementary age through high school, but parents are sure to enjoy it as well. The siblings fight with one another and have to learn to trust each other, living for the common good, instead of their own desires. The plot is intricate and unexpected, and the world that is created is entirely believable and yet unlike anything else I’ve read. It is not a dark or evil story and is safe for all readers.
“The truth” which is sought has to do with “eternal life” and the book sounds a lot like the Bible, but this is no simplistic allegory or anything. It is a well-written adventure tale with a fascinating science fiction world that is sure to enthrall readers. I expect the series will ultimately have a moral lesson to be learned which can be drawn out by conscientious parents; but if you’re worried about the potential for a cheesy Christian production that overdoes the Christian themes to the detriment of the story, then I’m with you. And this book is nothing of the sort. I expect this series will draw a faithful following of readers who fall in love with the futuristic world that Brock Eastman has created. If you pick up this book, I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by P & R Publishing. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Only if Indiana Jones were to discover a lost book of the Bible, battle his way past Islamic terrorists and later sneak into the inner recesses of theOnly if Indiana Jones were to discover a lost book of the Bible, battle his way past Islamic terrorists and later sneak into the inner recesses of the Vatican — only then, would an adventure story compare favorably with those envisioned by Dr. Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University. Dr. Maier is famous for his academic work which includes accessible editions of Eusebius and Josephus. His fiction works, however, have sold millions of copies, and with A Skeleton in God’s Closet, he virtually created a new genre of fiction: the archeological/theological thriller.
The Constantine Codex, released by Tyndale House just this May, is the third book in the “Skeleton” series. It continues the story of archeologist and Christian scholar Jonathan Weber and his escapades. The tale begins with the discovery of a few leaves from the lost works on early church history written by Hegesippus, on whom Eusebius leaned in part for his monumental work on the early church. The contents of those leaves hint at a previously unknown book from the pen of Luke, the author of a Gospel (bearing his name), and the book of Acts — both of which are in the Christian New Testament. Fascinated by the implications, Jonathan Weber and his wife Shannon (who unearthed the missing leaves) plan to embark on a mission of discovery — searching for authentication of their discovery, and the cooperation of the librarians of many of the greatest treasures of ancient Biblical manuscripts. Before they can leave, a world-wide commotion erupts over the Arabic translation of Weber’s influential textbook on the New Testament, and Weber ends up on the receiving end of a fatwa (a death warrant given by a Muslim ayatollah). With the CIA fearing for their safety, the Webers push on and embark on their trip in pursuit of a lost chapter of church history. What they eventually find will change their lives, and the history of Christianity, forever.
This fast-paced tale takes the Webers from the Roman tomb of St. Paul, to a dark subterranean chamber reserved for manuscripts in disrepair, and leads to a world-class debate with a leading Muslim intellectual in no less a venue than the Hagia Sophia. And all of this pales in comparison to the incredible discovery of lost portions of the New Testament and the challenge this presents to Weber and his foundation of leading Christian scholars of multiple disciplines.
As Maier weaves this tale he includes equal potions of intrigue and suspense, with wonder and raw emotion. His technical discussion of the authentication of manuscript finds and ancient scribal practices is spot on, and his ability to describe and draw you into the scene is superb. Archeology, theology, textual criticism, church history and intra-church politics — all of these disciplines and more are tapped as Maier expertly crafts this story. The result is a tale which is intellectually satisfying, experientially rich and a fantastic read to boot.
Maier is a master writer, and The Constantine Codex stands testimony to that. Having not read Maier before, I was pleased to find that this did not detract from following the storyline of this book at all. If you’re looking for a great adventure tale, and especially if you are fascinated by archeology, theology or textual studies, you will want to read this book.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers via Glass Road Public Relations. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Gloomy. That’s the general outlook that the vast majority of Americans seem to have when it comes to our future. Whether it’s political wrangling, ecoGloomy. That’s the general outlook that the vast majority of Americans seem to have when it comes to our future. Whether it’s political wrangling, economic turmoil, pandemics or education — the present is bleak and the future is downright scary. It’s not just Al Gore predicting global devastation caused by global warming, nor is it simply the war-mongers who see a jihadist behind every bush, it’s Christians too, who seem to enjoy pointing out how bad things are (and are getting).
Bradley Wright, in his new book published by Bethany House asks, “What if the Doomsayers have it all wrong?” A Christian sociologist, in "Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World Wright" explores why it is that so many of us can’t get enough bad news, and why we all think that things are continually getting worse. The reality, however, is a far cry from the perception! And Wright proves his point by the end of the book.
Reading "Upside", was like inhaling a deep breath of fresh air. On so many fronts, there has been remarkable progress in the world. Life expectancy, health and disease, poverty and access to clean water, air pollution, crime, financial well-being, literacy — all these areas and more have seen astounding improvement in the last 200 years.
For some examples: Life expectancy has doubled around the world in the last 100 years, as vaccines, hygiene improvements, medicine and general safety measures have become widely available. Did you know that in the 1820s, the world average of life expectancy was only 26, now it’s 66 and rising. Literacy rates have soared from 25% to over 80% worldwide in the last 100 years, and extreme poverty has been cut in half just since the 1980s, in developing countries. Financially, the world income rates have increased 1300% since 1820 — 300% per capita income increase just since 1955. We are able to feed more people for less money than ever, and more people are healthy than ever. And they’re living longer, fuller lives. Things have dramatically changed since the early 1800s.
Some would counter and say, well what about pollution and global warming. Wright shows that both air and water pollution have dramatically improved since the 1970s when the issue was first trumpeted and environmental controls started being written into law. Even deforestation is beginning to level out with some gains being made in some regions of the world. There are still improvements to be made, don’t get me wrong, but the direction has turned.
Others would say crime is on the rise. But statistically it is not. Even as the population has soared, the homicide and burglary rates have dropped significantly since the 1980s. This drop correlates with a dramatic rise in the incarceration rate. In the US, we have 1 in 100 adults behind bars, and including probation and parolees, that number rises to an astounding 1 in 33 adults!
Certainly, most Christians would think the family is weaker and morality is far worse than it has been in America’s past. But for three generations, levels of premarital sex, for instance, have been fairly consistent, with a slight rise in today’s numbers versus the previous generation. Divorce rates have actually fallen since the 1980s, as have abortion rates. For marriages and families, the reality is certainly a mixed bag, but the immoral culture of America has been on a trajectory away from the JudeoChristian ethic for the last 75 years or more.
Now, with all the good news, why is there still so much pessimism? Much of the pessimism, Wright claims, can be traced to advocates not wanting good news to cause people to relax when it comes to supporting their cause. Environmentalists, for example, don’t want you to know that the environment is getting better, otherwise they may lose financial support. It can also stem from the fact that bad news sells, and a steady diet of bad news breeds an expectation of more bad news. The problem with all this is that unwarranted pessimism can obscure our focus on areas where we really should be pessimistic. Wright explains: “Pessimism, if accurate, can serve us well, and ignoring real problems has its own costs. Accurate perceptions of the world both in the ways that it’s getting better and worse, is the ideal.” (pg. 31)
Wright’s findings aren’t all positive. He started his book “with the simple question of whether life is getting better”, and his answer is “mostly yes.” He goes on: “Think of it this way: Is there any other period in history when people were better off than now? I don’t see one.” (pg. 205) In his conclusion he challenges his readers to to be aware of all the good news, and thank God for the state of our world: “While we hear people thank God for their food, their healthy children, or their job, when was the last time you heard someone thank God for the declining national crime rate? Or the rise in literacy around the world? Or the amazing decrease in poverty over the past generation? Aren’t these things worth being thankful for?” (pg. 217)
Wright has an important point, which is why I think it is so important to read this book. It’s not just a book full of dry statistics, nor is it written with a preachy tone. Interspersed throughout his analysis of the state of our world are personal anecdotes, witty observations and off-the-wall interesting stats. The following quote, illustrates Wright’s knack at keeping his discussion of numbers fun: “On average, a passenger would have to take a commercial airline flight every day for 20,000 years before they died in a crash. By then, death might be a welcome escape from peanuts and pretzels.” (pg. 111)
There are not many books out there like "Upside". I recommend you purchase a copy for some needed relief from the deafening drone of constant bad news. Read it and rejoice in what God has done for this world in the last 200 years. Then tell someone else that things aren’t all as bad as they might seem!
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Bethany House publishers. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Today’s Church has been beset with numerous challenges. Few have been so distressing as the problem of depression. Good people are weighed down with tToday’s Church has been beset with numerous challenges. Few have been so distressing as the problem of depression. Good people are weighed down with their own depression or perplexed about that of friends and family members. In some sectors of the Church, this is complicated by a stigma associated with depression. Sin ultimately causes depression, it is assumed. And the conclusion follows that good Christians don’t get depressed.
To counter these notions about depression, David P. Murray has written an incredibly helpful book entitled, "Christians Get Depressed Too". Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, has encountered depression in ministry and personal contexts enough to be both well versed on the topic and sensitive to the need for sound resources. The book he has written is intentionally short: since “depressed people cannot read hundreds of pages.” (pg. xi). It serves as a resource for caregivers as well as a source of hope for the depressed who consciously decide they want to get better.
Murray explains what depression is and what it signifies. He counters the approach which assumes as a default that behind most bouts of depression lie hidden sin problems. The picture is much more complex than that, he claims. He exposes the faulty thinking patterns which often contribute to depression, and finds examples of such thinking, and even the depression which results, in the lives of people in Scripture. In defense of the physiological nature of much of depression, Murray appeals to Puritans such as Richard Baxter.
On the role of medicine, Murray finds two unhelpful extremes: too much dependence on medicine, and the aversion of any use of it at all. Along these lines, he says:
"Treating a depressed person with medication is often no different from giving my eight-year-old daughter one of her many daily injections of insulin for diabetes. I am not merely alleviating symptoms, but addressing the cause–depleted insulin due to dying or dead cells in her pancreas. And if she is lethargic, weepy, or irrational due to low sugar levels, I do not ask her what commandments she has broken or what “issues of meaning and relationship” she has in her life. I pity her, weep for her, and thank God for His gracious provision of medicine for her." (pg. 64-65).
This is not to say, Murray merely refers Christians suffering from depression to their local psychiatrist. Rather, he offers an abundance of help from the Scriptures on how to correct thinking patterns and learn to receive even depression as a gift from God’s very hand. He points to a little remembered passage where Scripture says, “God left” Hezekiah, “that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chron. 32:31). Murray elaborates:
"This is not an objective leaving, but a subjective leaving. God withdrew Himself from Hezekiah’s spiritual feelings so that he lost his sense of God’s presence, protection, and favor… But God had a wise and loving purpose in this…. Sometimes… [God] may wisely, temporarily, and proportionately withdraw the sense of His favor and presence to remind us of our state without Him and to lead us to greater thankfulness and appreciation for Him. He may do this… by lovingly afflicting our brain, disrupting it’s chemistry and electricity, just as He does when He lovingly afflicts one of His dear children with epilepsy, or any other disease." (pg. 65).
This small book of 120 or so small-sized pages, will prove an immense help to both caregivers and those suffering from depression. It is a primer on depression and in it, Murray offers a careful list of recommended resources, for those looking to continue their study of this topic. The book’s attractive cover, and handy, almost “pocket” size, make it an ideal book to giveaway to friends dealing with this issue. I’ve already loaned or given out copies of this inexpensive book, and plan on using this as a resource for years to come. ...more
The new atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, are ever in the public spotlight these days, or so it seems. The idea that brilliant physiThe new atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, are ever in the public spotlight these days, or so it seems. The idea that brilliant physicists and scientists can make sense of this world without a God appeals to many. Certainly the conclusions reached in books such as Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design — that there is no God and no ultimate point to the universe — are conclusions many atheists and secularists are all too eager to affirm. Since everything does fit so nicely together, however, should we wonder if the case made is really as air tight as claimed? If the conclusions are made to order, we might have warrant to carefully scrutinize the claims of these New Atheist authors.
John Lennox, author of God’s Undertaker, and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford in his own right, takes on Stephen Hawking’s arguments in a forthcoming book published by Lion Books and distributed in the US by Kregel Publications (available July 15). In God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway?, Lennox exposes the circular reasoing and non sequitors that abound in Hawking’s The Grand Design. Lennox begins by framing the scope of what science can really address as it attempts to examine metaphysical questions. He then points out both Hawking’s dismissal of philosophy and his misunderstanding of Christian theism. God is not merely a “god of the gaps”, an explanation for the world as we know it. The Christian understanding of God has Him outside the boundaries of creation as Lord over all of it, not some explanation for unknown phenomena. As for philosophy, after rejecting it as “dead”, Hawking jumps in and tries his own hand at several metaphysical questions that philosophy has long addressed. Hawking’s attempt at doing philosophy is all the poorer for his outright rejection of it.
Lennox then takes Hawking to task for claiming that the theory of gravity, or scientific laws in general, can operate as a “creator” in a sense, and be the ultimate cause for our universe. He clarifies what a law or rule of nature really “is”, and illustrates how Hawking makes more of such laws than can really be claimed. He then goes on to show how Hawking’s “M” theory of the “Multiverse” conveniently sidesteps objections by positing the existence of infinite universes. Still the question remains, why are there any universes instead of no universe? Lennox reveals that other major physicists have their own doubts as to the ability that M theory really has for being an explanation of everything.
Lennox also addresses head on the claim that miracles cannot happen because the laws of science would be invalidated. He pries open the layers from this question and shows the irrationality of claiming that science strictly forbids the existence of exceptions or miracles.
By the end of this short book (it’s only 100 pages long), Lennox has made a convincing case for theism and demonstrated that reasonable scientists continue to affirm the divine. Lennox’s book is accessible and clear, even as it interacts with quite complicated elements from Hawking’s writing. The book doesn’t own the six-day, young earth Creationist view, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Lennox argues that often the new atheists assume that to believe in God is to believe in a young earth view, and he shows this is not true. Lennox marshals arguments from science (the very idea of the big bang supports the Bible’s claim that the world has a beginning – something science has only admitted in the last hundred years), philosophy, history and the realm of human experience. The resulting case is convincing and should serve to bolster the faith of any troubled by the new atheism. At the least, it offers avenues of further exploration available in grappling with these issues.
Before closing my review, I should excerpt a small section from this book which captures some of Lennox’s craft in action. This excerpt will illustrate his style and the way he can cut to the heart of an issue with incisive logic.
"Suppose, to make matters clearer, we replace the universe by a jet engine and then are asked to explain it. Shall we account for it by mentioning the personal agency of its inventor, Sir Frank Whittle? Or shall we follow Hawking: dismiss personal agency, and explain the jet engine by saying that it arose naturally from physical law…. It is not a question of either/or. It is self-evident that we need both levels of explanation in order to give a complete description. It is also obvious that the scientific explanation neither conflicts nor competes with the agent explanation: they complement one another. It is the same with explanations of the universe: god does not conflict or compete with the laws of physics as an explanation. God is actually the ground of all explanation, in the sense that he is the cause in the first place of there being a world for the laws of physics to describe."
To this I add my “amen”. I encourage you to pick up this little book as it offers an excellent primer on how to deal with the claims of the new atheism. Even if you differ with Lennox on a point or two, his clear style and succinct arguments will equip you in thinking through these issues on your own.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Publications via Litfuse Publicity Group. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Structure: The "Cornerstone Biblical Commentary" brings together a wealth of scholarship in a clearly presented and highly accessible format. Each largStructure: The "Cornerstone Biblical Commentary" brings together a wealth of scholarship in a clearly presented and highly accessible format. Each larger section of text gets its own introductory section. Then each textual unit, usually of a chapter or two in length, gets its own separate treatment. The full text from the New Living Translation opens the section, then footnotes to the text, and detailed notes follow. The commentary section is next and covers sources used by the Chronicler, the structure and content of the section - which is where the primary exegesis happens, and then a concluding section titled "significance" where the author brings home the main themes from the text.
Features: A detailed introduction to the books of Chronicles opens the work, and enumerates the setting, author, date, and audience. The canonicity and textual history of Chronicles are detailed, and literary and theological concerns are addressed. Space is also devoted to the major themes of the books of Chronicles, of which the author finds covenant relationship, an emphasis on renewing the present through remembering the past, and the prophetic office as key. And while the Chronicler emphasizes Judah's history, he repeatedly refers to "all Israel," Boda sees in this a concern for the fulfillment of a truly united Israel "comprised of inhabitants from both north and south united around the Temple, King, and Jerusalem" (p. 18). And intriguingly, he argues that "The omission of the history of the northern kingdom throughout the account is not intended as a slight against these tribes, but rather is used to play down the schism and to include them in `all Israel'" (p. 18). The introduction also includes a detailed outline of the books of Chronicles.
Other features of the commentary include a proprietary numbering system from Tyndale for the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words - similar to Strong's numbers, but coded to other reference works from Tyndale. Some numbers are also provided that key to Zondervan resources as well. A detailed list is also provided of key textual witnesses to 1 and 2 Chronicles, and the Old and New Testaments as a whole. Also included is an extensive explanation of the transliteration and numbering system employed in the commentary. Throughout the volume, charts, maps, chiastic structures, and timelines are provided, but all in black and white. The commentary makes thorough use of end notes after every section and introduction, as well. This allows it to remain highly technical but also more accessible to the average reader.
Evaluation: This commentary over and again proves faithful to a high view of Scripture. Yet it is also extremely helpful in sorting out the techincal details in the text and catching the underlying theological vision of the Chronicler. Some of my readers may not be aware of how very different the books of Chronicles are from the books of Kings, and this commentary helps underscore and interpret these differences as being loaded with theological import rather than evidence against the divine ispiration of both groups of books. The books of Chronicles are full of lists and genealogies, and the technical bent of this commentary proves helpful in catpuring what is being communicated theologically by the Chronicler. The material is presented in a clear way and remains accessible to a wide variety of readers. I recommend this book for anyone who desires to study the books of Chronicles. I'm confident that it will prove helpful and steer you right.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review. ...more