The Dawn of Christianity

One of my favorite subject areas in the realm of Christianity is history. So, when the possibility to review this volume arose, I quickly accepted. However, the book was not quite what I anticipated. Yet, at the same time, it was not disappointing.The Dawn of Christianity

Robert J. Hutchinson’s The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fishermen, Soldiers, and Prostitutes to Transform the World is definitely an interesting read. He is the author of six of books primarily concerning Christianity. He is a student of Hebrew and has a graduate degree in New Testament.

This volume has three primary areas of focus: Jesus’ Ministry, Jesus Resurrection and the Early Church. Thus, it begins with Jesus gathering those who would eventually carry on His mission and ends with the Jerusalem Council. Hutchinson fills in the details with his own narrative built on the biblical account.

What makes this book interesting is that it is more than just Hutchinson’s retelling of the story. Throughout the entire volume he weaves in archaeological, geographical and biographical information that assists the reader in developing a greater appreciation for what’s happening in the story line. Virtually every page has additional material for our cultural understanding.

The Dawn of Christianity also has extensive and beneficial end material to include a “Time Line,” a “Who’s Who,” extensive End Notes and a decent Bibliography.

This is not a scholarly work (nor was it intended to be so). Rather, it is well suited for a Bible study group or a Sunday School curriculum where discussion is encouraged. (It should require a Bible to be read side-by-side). With its wide-ranging background information, it is essential material for those who are skeptical of the Gospels and Acts.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Nelson Books of Harper Collins Christian Publishing for a fair and honest review.

Katharina and Martin Luther

I would propose an estimation that most Christians with a sense of Christian history or just history in general would know that 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther published his 95 Theses, thus sparking the Reformation. (Many believe he actually nailed them to the door of the church in Wittenberg.) With this 500th anniversary, of course, arrives a number of books on the event and the personalities involved. Almost all of these volume focus on Luther or the Reformation. Very few tell the story of the personal life of Luther, specifically his marriage to Katharina.

katarina-martin-lutherThat void has been masterfully filled by Michelle DeRusha with her latest volume Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk. It is a publication of Baker Books. She is also the author of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know.

As expressed in her Preface, DeRusha spent hours of painstaking and intense research to produce a factual account of the lives of the Luther’s. But this book is more than a collection of historical facts gathered together in chronological order; it is a love story. DeRusha has expertly told the story of how Martin and Katharina evolved a marriage of convenience into a marriage of love and respect.

She skillfully moves back and forth between the lives of Martin and Katharina until the two unite in marriage and then continues the narrative by demonstrating how Katharina efficiently ran the household while Martin was involved with theological battles. It’s a fascinating story and DeRusha’s style makes the reading move along at a brisk pace.

Here is my recommendation for this book: Read it as soon as you possibly can. It will greatly enhance your appreciation for the personalities involved in the Reformation especially the woman behind the man. Surely it will also motivate you to go further into the history of our faith.

Thanks, Michelle.

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

The SBC in the 21st Century

Does the title of this book arouse your curiosity? If you are a Southern Baptist, it should. If you are a Christian and follow the world of Christianity, it should. Serving as a Southern Baptist pastor, it sure piqued my interest. What’s this volume all about – projection, prediction, propaganda?

First, let’s get into the basics of the book. The formal title is The SBC in the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, & Recommitment. It is written by an all-star cast of Southern Baptists. You know – the likes of seminary presidents and professors, SBC presidents (former) and a few other SB luminaries. It was edited by Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and published by B&H Academic, a division of Lifeway.The SBC and the 21st Century

The volume is sectioned off into three distinct divisions with an Introduction and Conclusion (those written by the editor). The first section, “Southern Baptist Convention and Cooperation,” is historical both in prose and statistics. If you have a numerical interest in Southern Baptist history, Thom Rainer, currently in charge of Lifeway, contributed an essay analyzing the historical numbers of the SBC. It is highly informative.

Section two is “Southern Baptist Doctrine and Distinctives.” It is this section I found most appealing, particularly the essays by Christian George, “Downgrade: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Nineteenth-Century Baptists,” and Owen Strachan, “Steel-Toed Birkenstocks and Doctrine-Loving Christians: Southern Baptist Witness and Ethics in the New Sexual Age.” George is the curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern and make a compelling comparison between Spurgeon downgrade challenge and the present day. Strachan takes on the issue of sexuality in the church in today’s culture.

The third section is entitled “Southern Baptist Ministry and Mission.” In summary, it’s a “What’s Up” and a “What’s Going to be Up” series of essays. Pay attention to the entries by Jason Allen concerning the training of new Christian workers and by Tony Merida on Southern Baptist preaching in the 21st century.

I will admit I was pleasantly surprised that there were only hints of propaganda in the book. It is rich in history and how we as Southern Baptists can draw from that history to present the Gospel in the 21st century. The overall emphasis presents a challenge. If you are at all involved in ministry or leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, The SBC in the 21st Century is a volume that should must be read. If your pastor is unaware of the book, do him a favor and buy him a copy.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by B&H Academic for a fair and honest review.

Rescuing the Gospel

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every Christian should have a sense of urgency to learn about his spiritual heritage. Learning the history of our faith is a motivational factor to live the life Christ expects from us. If you are a believer and have but a rudimentary knowledge of the faith – in particular the Reformation – Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation by Erwin W. Lutzer should move to the top of your reading list.Rescuing the Gospel

Lutzer is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago for thirty-six years. When he writes about the Reformation, it is with familiarity of the historical places for he has traveled there extensively. This is an author well familiar with his subject matter.

It seems unnecessary to say that Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation is all about the Reformation. That’s what it is. But it is more than that. It is not a routine retelling of dry, historical facts. Lutzer interweaves thoughtful analysis of both the Catholic Church and Luther. As you might expect the majority of the volume centers on Martin Luther – the catalyst of the Reformation. Ten of the seventeen  chapters focus on Luther. There are also chapters on John Wycliffe, Huldrych Zwingli and, of course, John Calvin.

To help us understand Luther, the man, Lutzer also includes chapters on Luther and his view of the Bible and Luther as a family man. We get the realization that Luther was not a perfect man. Lutzer masterfully presents Luther as a man with faults despite the great spiritual revolution that he began.

The book, which is also presented as “An Illustrated History of the Reformation,” includes forty-six images which helps the text come alive.

While this is not a thorough examination of the Reformation, Rescuing the Gospel is a must read for every Christian, a book that must be fully examined sooner rather than later. It will whet your appetite for more study in the history of our faith. Once again, move this volume to the top of your summer reading list.

Disclaimer: The book was provided to me by BakerBooks for a fair and honest review.

Illustrated Life of Paul

Illustrated Life of PaulThere are, as you might expect, a vast array of books on the life of Paul the Apostle. That number includes volumes at every level of education and scholarship. Therefore, you have a massive literary collection from which to choose.

If you’re just starting out on your journey with Paul, I would highly recommend the one we are reviewing here – the Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles L. Quarles. Quarles possesses a Ph.D. and is a professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Quarles has intricately and expertly woven together all of the information on Paul from the book of Acts plus information from all of his letters into a chronological biography of the Apostle. It is, if you will, a harmony of the life of Paul. As we follow Paul’s tracks on his three missionary journeys and his trip to Rome, Quarles inserts appropriate material from all of Paul’s letters to add detail to the story.

Another interesting feature of this book is the immense amount of background material used by Quarles. The supplementary material on geography, topography, cities, culture, etc., all add to the interest of reading about Paul’s life. You get a breathtaking appreciation of the trials and travails endured by Paul to spread the gospel.

A third element, obviously indicated by the title, is a wide collection of pictures, maps and illustrations that are presented throughout the book. As I read through the three separate chapters on each missionary journey, I found myself constantly flipping forward or backward to the appropriate individual map just to develop an assessment of where Paul was at any given time.

With that in mind I would highly recommend that as you read this volume you keep a copy of the Bible right beside you. Quarles makes constant reference to Scripture so you’ll want to see from where he is drawing his information. You’ll find a Bible at the ready to be most helpful.

The Illustrated Life of Paul is a perfect volume for all pastors, teachers and dedicated students of the Bible. It is not written by a scholar to scholars.  It is written to all who wish to increase their understanding of the Bible and the Apostle Paul in particular. I would say it’s a must read and a studious one at that.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by B&H Academic Publishing for a fair and honest review.

A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey

A History of ChristianityEvery Christian, absolutely every Christian, should have some basic knowledge of the history of his faith. He does not need to be a historical scholar, but rather an informed believer. The question becomes from where does one draw that knowledge?

You could scour the internet and peruse a countless number of websites trying to piece together a cognitive history of the faith. But that would be time consuming and surely a bit frustrating. Not to mention who would you trust?

Or you could get into your possession this book: A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey by Joseph Early Jr. Dr. Early is associate professor of religion in the School of Theology at Campbellsville University. He has a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has dedicated his scholarly research to the field of Christian history.

Dr. Early has provided a concise (if you consider 504 pages concise) history of the Christian faith that includes, within the 504 pages, endnotes, an invaluable bibliography for further research, a name index and a subject index. It is all a believer needs to get a grasp on the history of his faith.

A History of Christianity is a time travel experience from the time Jesus was born right up to the 21st century. Early begins with a chapter entitled “Jesus and the World into Which He Was Born” that starts us off at day one. He then guides us to the Reformation providing insight into how the Catholic Church gradually distorted the true faith. Three chapters then direct us through the development of the Reformation focusing on the major personalities. Dr. Early steers us through the next 500 plus years right to the 21st century.

This book serves two primary purposes. First it provides the believer with the basics of Christian history and second it should certainly whet the appetite of the historically inclined to do further reading on the subject.

The volume is a masterpiece of succinct history and should be in the library of every Christian. It is a must read for every Christian.

 Disclosure: This book was provided to me by B&H Academic Publishing for a fair and honest review.