50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith

Let’s face it, dealing with Doctrine and Theology can be a tricky and often complicated matter. It’s easy to inadvertently step into the theological quicksand and quickly sink up to one’s neck. So, when Gregg R. Allison’s volume arrived for review I was anxious to examine how 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology compared to other volumes on the same topic.50 Core Truths

The answer: wonderfully – and the subtitle provides an explanation of the difference. Allison does not try to compete with Grudem’s Systematic Theology or MacArthur and Mayhue’s Biblical Doctrine. Both of these are detailed examinations of theology and doctrine. Rather, he presents the material in bit-sized doctrinal pieces designed specifically for the Sunday School teacher or the pastor desiring to educate the flock on doctrine.

The title may be a bit misleading in that Allison, a professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, does not deal with 50 major doctrines. Rather, he engages eight major doctrinal subject areas – Word of God, God, God’s Creatures, Christ, Holy Spirit, Salvation, Church and Future Things – and divides them into 50 chapters. For instance, Part 1 deals with the “Doctrine of the Word of God.” Allison includes seven chapters comprising such subjects as Inspiration, Inerrancy, Authority, and four other subject areas.

Each of the fifty chapters is structured exactly the same. And this is where the usefulness of this volume comes in. At the end of each chapter Allison has included a Teaching Outline that will guide the instructor in presenting the material. The outlines follow the arrangement and subheadings of each chapter.

Bear in mind that this is a conservative theological volume so if your theological leanings are liberal you will not find justification for them in this publication. However, with that premise in mind, anyone teaching the essential doctrines of the faith to a Sunday School or Small Group should have this book as a resource. You will find it invaluable.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this volume by Baker Books for a fair and honest review.


Interpreting the Wisdom Books

Interpreting the Wisdom Books: An Exegetical Handbook is now the latest in Kregel Publications’ series Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis edited by David M. Howard Jr. This volume is written by Edward M. Curtis, professor of biblical and theological studies at Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. It is the seventh in a planned eight-volume series. (My review of Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature can be found here.)Interpreting the Wisdom Books

Each volume follows an identical structure and each is designed as a textbook for seminary students or pastors preparing to preach within a given Old Testament genre. Therefore, a working knowledge of Hebrew is most advantageous when one engages with this or any of the volumes. That is not to say that they will be foreign to those without, however, one will not be able to take full advantage of the author’s expertise.

In Interpreting the Wisdom Books Curtis takes the reader through the various steps of exegeting, interpreting and proclaiming (preaching) Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. I doubt there are few who do not have an interest in learning more about the ins and outs of these four books.

Curtis does an excellent job of explaining the details and even includes a highly useful Glossary that defines various terms encountered throughout the book. (Each of the Glossary entries in highlighted throughout the text.) The book does get bogged down in Chapter 3, “Preparing for Interpretation,” with discussions of how Ancient Near Eastern Background affects the interpretation of the wisdom books. One wonders how much time a pastor would have to do the extensive research that Curtis recommends. Nevertheless, a glance through this chapter may be worthwhile.

I found the most beneficial entries were on the book of Proverbs especially in those areas of interpreting and proclaiming Proverbs. Curtis provides many helpful suggestions for preaching a series on Proverbs. If you’re going to preach or teach Proverbs, digging out the information and suggestions would be beneficial.

The summary is this: Interpreting the Wisdom Books is worthwhile especially if one is preparing to engage these books. You may want to skim some areas and pick out the nuggets that Curtis provides.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Kregel Academic for a fair and honest review.

CSB Apologetics Study Bible

The first book review of 2018 is … another Study Bible. This time it’s the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Apologetics Study Bible.CSB Apologetics Study Bible

This one is a gem. To begin, it is an upgraded and expanded version of the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible. It is upgraded in the sense that the text utilized is the CSB published in early 2017. The CSB is a modern English translation that employs a philosophy of translation that combines the best of Formal Equivalence and Functional Equivalence. This results in a translation that the Holman Bible Publishers term as Optimal Equivalence. (We’ll leave it to the reader to go through the four page “Introduction to the CSB” to get all the details.) The end product is a highly readable modern English translation but perhaps not ideal for in-depth study.

But what makes this Study Bible so highly beneficial is that it is enlarged from the HCSB version, itself an excellent Study Bible. It is expanded in two primary categories. The first is the “Annotated Bibliography for Apologetics,” which has increased from ten to thirteen pages. This provides a valuable resource for doing further work and research in the field of Apologetics. The second falls under the category of “Additional Features.” Many new articles dealing with various aspects in the apologetics field have been added to this new version. For example, an article focusing on Genesis 14 entitled “Did Those Places Really Exist?”, provides some valuable archaeological insight. There are over 125 separate articles placed in proper apologetic positions throughout the Bible – an extremely significant storehouse of information.

Additionally, setting the apologetics aspect aside, this is a mini Study Bible. The study notes are not extensive or highly detailed but do provide useful information on the text. You will have to go to a more complete Study Bible or commentary to get more comprehensive information on the text.

My estimation is that 85% of the material in the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible has been repeated in the CSB version. For instance, the Concordance, Maps & Charts and Study Notes are all from the HCSB. But that should not prevent one from adding this valuable volume his library. There will be many positive hours of reading and studying with it.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Holman Bible Publishers for a fair and honest review.

NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible

Before the year closes, one more review – naturally concerning another Study Bible. This is the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson with material supplied by Kairos Journal.NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible

According to their website Kairos Journal “seeks to embolden, educate, equip, and support pastors and church leaders as they strive to transform the moral conscience of the culture and restore the prophetic voice of the Church.” Their doctrinal statement is orthodox and conservative, however, I would have preferred the word “inerrant” also be included in part c. concerning the Bible. In short, Kairos Journal is a parachurch ministry.

The overall structure of this Study Bible is traditional. Each book of the Bible has introductory information – Introduction, Background, Content, Insight and Outline. Unique to this volume are eight topical categories – Church, Corruption, Economics, Education, Family, Government, Sanctity of Life and Virtue. It is around these eight categories that the “study” portion of this Bible is based. Throughout the text there are articles attending to the categories as appropriate.

For instance, as one begins Genesis, there is an article under the category of Education with the subtitle “Evolution and Intelligent Design.” This is immediately followed by an article on Family: Homosexuality and Transgenderism and then an article on Government: Environmentalism. For sure, the Unapologetic Study Bible makes no apologies for tackling the difficult and controversial subjects.

I found the Unapologetic Study Bible to be a cultural gem. Its unique approach makes it an excellent reference volume whether or not one agrees with the point of view. If one thinks the Bible is a dusty, musty piece of literature from ages past with no relevance for today, this Study Bible will get you thinking. True to their goal, Kairos Journal has produced a Bible that should be on the shelf of every pastor and teacher. Finally, I would highly recommend the Unapologetic Study Bible to anyone who believes or doubts that the Bible is relevant to the twenty-first century culture.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this volume by Thomas Nelson for a fair and honest revie

The Spurgeon Study Bible

It can be safely assumed that 99.44% of the people reading this review know the reputation of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. One could well argue that he was the most prolific preacher and writer in the history of the Christian faith. So it was inevitable that eventually a publisher would produce a “Spurgeon Study Bible.”The Spurgeon Study Bible

Voila! Holman Bible Publishers has taken that step. And it is a classy production! In a publishing world awash in “Study Bibles” (We have another “Study Bible” waiting in line for our next review), this one is a unmistakable standout. And to add to its exclusivity, Alistair Begg was employed as the editor. Begg is the Senior Pastor of Parkside Church not far from Cleveland, OH and the progenitor of Truth For Life.

The Spurgeon Study Bible is done in the newly minted (2017) Christian Standard Bible (CSB) also published by Holman. Format wise it is virtually identical to other Study Bibles – book introductions (which include a section concerning Spurgeon’s thoughts on the book), maps, concordance, and notes at the bottom of the pages. But it is this last which makes this so special. All of the notes are from Spurgeon’s writings making it a goldmine of reference material. If you want to know what Spurgeon though about Genesis 1 and 2, go there and the notes are before you. And, of course, excerpts from the “Treasury of David” are waiting for you in the Psalms.

Other features include a brief biography of Spurgeon written by Begg and twenty of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon (ten from the OT and ten from the NT). These are well presented with Spurgeon’s original handwriting and a clean transcription appearing on facing pages. Preachers will find it interesting how Spurgeon’s mind worked.

Also included is an introduction to the CSB providing the translation philosophy for the CSB. It’s worth the read.

This is a Study Bible for all believers. Everyone will be blessed and enriched by this volume. If you love the writings of Spurgeon, this is a must for your desk. My copy is sitting within an arm’s reach.

Disclaimer: This Bible was provided to me by Holman Bible Publishers for a fair and honest review.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict

Do you remember 1972? If you do, there’s an excellent chance you are in possession of an AARP Card. I don’t remember what the publishing world in general was up to, but in Christian circles it was Evidence That Demands a Verdict – a volume that eventually became a classic and the go-to volume for Christian apologetics. Over the past forty-five years it has been added to, updated, expanded and improved.Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Now in 2017 Thomas Nelson has published the latest. This time it is billed as “The Completely Updated and Expanded Classic.” The official title is Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World. This new version is authored by the original author Josh McDowell and his son Sean McDowell, PhD.

And updated and expanded it is! This version is completely redone. After some lengthy front matter (Be sure to read Josh McDowell’s testimony “He Changed My Life.”), the volume is arranged in four parts: Part I: Evidence for the Bible, Part II: Evidence for Jesus, Part III: Evidence for the Old Testament, and Part IV: Evidence for Truth. Parts I and II contain much of the former material with some additions. However, it is Part III that contains a great deal of new material. There are thirteen chapters dealing with the validity of the Old Testament. Part IV is philosophical yet forms the basis for any apologetic undertaking.

The major structural “update” you’ll find is the format. Gone is the “ heavy” outline format in favor of a more “moderate” one. A distinct change in that it allows the reader to consume paragraphs under a particular subject heading. In short, it is just more readable.

This is a must volume for any believer with even the slightest interest in the soundness of the Christian faith. If you have volumes 1 & 2 and are familiar with referring to them, I would recommend keeping them right beside this one. This would make the ideal Christmas gift for a pastor or seminary student (about $20 on Amazon). Get this into your library!

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Thomas Nelson Publishers for a fair and honest review.

A Place Called Heaven

A Place Called HeavenAmidst a heavenly sea of celebrity and pseudo-celebrity authors producing books on what exactly heaven will be like, we have another. Many are without substance, tipping more to the devotional side (see here). But this one has some measure of meat to sink your spiritual teeth into albeit much of the information has been presented previously.

If you have ever wondered about your heavenly home, Dr. Robert Jeffress has written an informative book entitled A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths About Your Eternal Home which beautifully addresses the subject.

Jeffress uses a perfect balance of Scripture as well as insight from many acknowledged wise men of faith such as D.L. Moody, Howard Hendricks and Randy Alcorn to support his beliefs and validate any issues that might be raised. He also uses timely illustrations to drive home the answer to pertinent questions such as “What will heaven be like?”; “Will I still be “me” in heaven?”;  “Won’t I be bored?” and “Who and what will we do there?” These and six other questions are dealt with in separate chapters making the book topical and easy to digest.

One of the relevant chapters for current inquirers of heaven focuses on near death experiences. Using Scripture and apologetic reasoning, Jeffress educates the reader how to recognize and address these questionable issues in a discerning manner. This chapter is worth a serious study in view of the slew of books and movies on this subject during the last several years.

This is an easy-to-read and comprehend 250-page volume and is well-suited for both the new believer and those of the faith who long to know more about their future home. The volume is not targeted to theologians and scholars. With that thought the major criticism is the price tag of $19.99. A book written and targeted toward inquiring or potential Christians should be less pricey and thus more affordable for the everyday Believer.

The end of the matter is this: excellent for new believers and the non-believer; can serve well as a basis for Sunday School or small group study.

NOTE: A portion of this book review was provided by Ellie Marrandette, New Creations Ministries. https://newcreationsministries.wordpress.com/

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Baker Books for a fair and honest review.