Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wesley on the Christian Life by Fred Sanders

Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in LoveWesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love by Fred Sanders
My rating: 3 of 5 stars



I wasn't sure on this book as Wesley was Arminian and I am a Calvinist. :-) But the book brings out that he was very big on the gospel and bringing people to faith - justification was by faith alone. He also seemed to work well with others, even if they didn't agree theologically. Overall, I had a hard time reading this book, which is why it is only 3 stars instead of 4. There were parts I enjoyed but other parts just didn't grab me.
John Wesley was a huge influence in the Great Awakening and revival of the 1700's. Though he remained an Anglican all his life, it appears he was influential in the Methodist denomination getting started. I did not know that his marriage was an unhappy one or that he never had children. He also was a theologian on the book of 1 John and taught that Christians should ever be striving onwards toward perfection. Yet he made a clear distinction between justification and sanctification.
For those who are interested in learning more about what John Wesley taught (and also some of his brother Charles' hymns), this would be a good book to give an overview of Wesley's teachings. I did not agree with all of what Wesley taught, but he was passionate about people getting saved.

Quotes:
"It is crucial to remember that Wesley took the doctrine of original sin and trumpeted it to an eighteenth century that preferred to believe in the essential goodness of humanity, the inevitable march of progress, and the bright future of decent people rightly governed. Wesley begged to differ. Even the otherwise sound churchmen of his day preached a message that was too weak and too soft, too much like a series of recommendations for how to behave better...The weakness of their preaching was rooted in their failure to understand how bad humanity really was."
"We are not basically good, with a few external failings. We are radically fallen...Wesley taught that original sin is 'the fundamental point which differences heathenism from Christianity.' In contrast to all forms of paganism, even the highest and noblest forms, Christianity alone has an accurate understanding of the depth and extent of human sin, of 'the entire depravation of the whole human nature...' The human predicament goes to the heart of man."
"If we were only a little bit sick, we would need only a little bit of salvation. But being desperately disordered and sick all the way to the heart, we stand in need of true religion, heart religion."

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Studying the Bible for Yourself: Application

And now we come to the step that most people try to jump to right away when reading and studying the Bible: application. This is where we take the interpretation we have found, the timeless principle from the passage, and apply it to our own lives for growth and transformation.
While interpreting a passage is focused on what the meaning is, application takes that meaning and puts it into action. Some questions to ask to determine application:
Who should I be?
How should I think?
What should I do?
Where should I go?
Whom should I teach?

Other questions that can be asked are:
Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a verse to memorize?
Is there a command to obey?
Is there a prayer to repeat?
Is there a condition to meet?
Is there a challenge to face?

To help with application, look at the timeless truth in the passage in the original situation. What are the key elements there - the people, the place, relationships and ideas? Then find the contemporary situation that would parallel the original: the key people, relationships and places. Take the timeless truth and relate it to the contemporary situation that would parallel the original.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is profitable for (1) doctrine, (2) reproof, (3) correction, and (4) instruction in righteousness. How does this timeless principle from this passage provide us with these areas: doctrine - what to believe, reproof - behavior or belief that is sinful, correction - what needs to change to be made right, and instruction - how to live in light of God's truth?

Application is meant to conform us to the Word of God and to make us more like Christ. How can the meaning of the passage - the timeless truth - do that in our lives? The best way to then learn the application and make it part of our lives is to teach it to others, helping them to learn and grow as well. Studying God's Word is best done in community, sharing with others so that we can learn together and keep each other on track with what the Bible is saying.

*Source material for this blog series came from a variety of sources.
Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
Credo House Bible Boot Camp video series (link is to the first session, there are 4 parts)
Secret Church: How to Study the Bible series
How to Read the Bible by A.J. Conyers (out of print, but seemingly available used)

Previous Posts in this series:
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Introduction
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Genre and Context
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Observation
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Interpretation

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Theology for the Church by Daniel Akin

A Theology for the ChurchA Theology for the Church by Daniel L. Akin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the revised edition that was originally published in 2007. Designed primarily to be used as a textbook or for pastors' reference, it is a large, comprehensive volume. As such, I will likely be reading this over the course of the next year. As a reference book, it doesn't need to be read straight-through.
The introduction is extensive and lays out the methodology and reason for the importance of theology in the life of the church and thus the Christian. The premise of the book is that Scripture determines theology, for Scripture reveals who God is, which is the basis of our theology.
Natural and special revelation are discussed, including how the Bible portrays general revelation (for example, creation of the world by God in Genesis 1). Special revelation deals with Scripture and its authority and includes the different views of inspiration.
Covering the following areas of systematic theology - the study of God, humanity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church and last things, each chapter asks the questions: What does the Bible say on this topic? What has the church believed on this topic?  How does all of it fit together? and How does this topic (doctrine) impact the church today? The chapters are written by different authors.
The writing is good and this makes for a great reference work on theology - coming at it from the 4 questions mentioned above. It also makes for a great textbook on the subject of theology. A recommended resource for studying theology, for it starts with what the Bible says about a particular doctrine, then brings the history of the church to bear on the subject and concludes with how that doctrine impacts the church of today.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher B&H Academic in exchange for my review.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the WorldBonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World by Stephen J. Nichols
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I couldn't get into this book. The writing didn't really grab me and didn't seem to flow. I tried flipping through it to look at different sections but nothing jumped out at me to pull me back into the book. It seems to be a good overview of what Bonhoeffer taught and believed. Starting off with his christology and then going into his views on living in community, which many know of because of his book Life Together. It then breaks down the different disciplines of the Christian life: the Word, prayer, and confession.
Some other topics are covered for the rest of the book. For those interested in Bonhoeffer, they may find this a good overview. The end of the book gives the books that he wrote and also books that were written about him. I wanted to like this book but just couldn't get into it.

*I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ESV Women's Devotional Bible

I love the ESV Bible translation (and I love Bibles!) so when I heard that Crossway was publishing a Women's Devotional Bible in the ESV, I was eager to get one.  When one was sent to me for review, I fully expected a copy of the hardcover version, but was very pleasantly surprised to receive one of the Trutone versions. It is a beautiful Bible!
ESV Women's Devotional Bible

The size is perfect for carrying to church and yet the type is not too small but is easily readable (something I'm starting to look for in Bibles as I get older :-).
Throughout the Bible are placed short devotional articles to bring out a particular passage. The devotionals are written by a variety of authors, both men and women. In the back of the Bible, there are a few articles on different topics in the Bible as well, such as How to Make the Most of Your Bible Study and Why Is Doctrine Important. There are also articles on issues particularly of interest to women, such as dealing with eating disorders, and women at risk.
Each book of the Bible has a short introduction with background and key themes. Also throughout the Bible are short profiles on different Bible characters such as Moses, Naomi, and Isaiah. There is also a dictionary of key terms in the back of the Bible for reference.
All in all, this is a great Bible for women to have for reading and reflection. The complete Bible text is there and the devotionals and articles supplement the reading. I would recommend this Bible for those looking for a devotional Bible particularly geared to women. The size is also great to use for carrying to church or studies.

*I received a copy of this Bible free from the publisher Crossway.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Introduction to Global Missions by Zane Pratt, M. David Sills, Jeff K. Walters

Introduction to Global MissionsIntroduction to Global Missions by Zane Pratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book spans the breadth of the Biblical basis for missions, theological implications, history of missions, as well as what missionaries face in cross-cultural situations and mission strategies for reaching the world. While primarily being a great textbook for missions classes, it is also a great read for churches to go through to understand what missions is and why it should be part of every believer's life. Jesus left us with the command to go and make disciples, teaching them His commands. This involves not only evangelism and the spread of the gospel but discipling new believers to then go out and evangelize and disciple others.
The book begins with what the missionary call is and the importance of knowing God and His Word. It then goes on to show the Biblical foundation for missions. In order to properly "do" missions, one must start with what the Bible says about it and this book goes through the overview of Scripture and how missions is evident throughout the Bible, from God's choosing of one man to become a nation that would proclaim Him and spread His name to the gift of His own Son as the sacrifice that would make a true relationship with Him possible. It then discusses the importance of theology in missions, knowing who God is, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, etc.
An overview of the history of missions, how it expanded from the early church after Jesus' ascension to modern day missions, is given in the next section of the book. Then the cultural implications of missions, dealing with different worldviews and cultures, as well as the various world religions that one encounters, is discussed. Next, mission strategies are discussed such as the need for making disciples, as well as church-planting. What a missionary faces in changing cultures and what to expect from culture shock is also given to help potential missionaries be better prepared for the experiences they will face. The need for the local church to be involved in missions and the ever-changing state of global missions is looked at in the final chapters.
An excellent overview of what missions is, the Biblical, theological and cultural implications, as well as a brief history of missions, this book makes for a highly recommended resource for those preparing for missions and the churches that support them.

Quotes:
"It is absolutely critical that everyone who engages in Christian mission understand how fundamentally theocentric that mission must be. God himself issues the marching orders. He defines the task. He prescribes the means. He provides the resources and the power to accomplish it. He gets all the glory. A healthy obsession with the glory of God safeguards his people from the idolatry of thinking they are primary, and it also purifies their methodology because if the end is his glory, then the means must glorify him as well. Because he is sovereign, missionaries will not be tempted to engage in manipulative means, and they will not despair in the face of opposition. Furthermore, the mission of the people of God is not some minor addendum to the life of the church but God's assigned task to them that connects them to God's design for all of human history. Because it is fundamentally God's mission, it is not an option."

"The fundamental problem facing every human being is sin: guilt before a holy God and corruption in every aspect of our nature. Even the most educated, healthy, well-fed unbelievers on earth still face eternity under the wrath of God for their sin. Such people have many needs, and all of them should elicit compassion from Christians, but their greatest need is salvation in Jesus Christ."

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher B&H Academic in exchange for my review.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Studying the Bible for Yourself: Interpretation

Interpretation - determining the meaning of a passage - comes after much observation and asking questions. The more observations, the more accurate the interpretation. An important rule to keep in mind during the process of interpretation is that the text cannot mean what it never meant. We need to determine what it originally meant to the original audience in order to determine what it means for us today. Once we have learned what the text originally meant, we look for the timeless truth, that principle which remains regardless of time or place and is for all people throughout all ages.
In interpreting a passage, remember that context rules. We are not to take a passage to make it say what we want it to say. We must keep in mind the full context of Scripture. We compare Scripture with Scripture. It won't contradict itself. If a passage seems to contradict another passage of Scripture, then we are not grasping the meaning of one of them.
We need to interpret Scripture plainly, but at the same time realizing what type of speech it is or the genre of what we are studying. Some principles from the Credo House Bible Boot Camp (see link below):
"Use the literal sense unless there is some good reason not to.
Use the figurative sense when the passage tells you to do so.
Use the figurative sense if the expression is an obvious figure of speech.
Use the figurative sense if a literal interpretation goes contrary to the context of the passage, the context of the book, or the purpose of the author.
Use the figurative sense if a literal interpretation involves a contradiction of other Scripture.
Use the figurative sense if a literal meaning is impossible, absurd, or
immoral."

As we look at our observations, we determine what the text meant to the original audience. Once that meaning is determined, we can extract the theological principle that is timeless and for all people of all time. That's the goal of interpretation - finding the timeless truth - for after that we can determine how to apply the passage. But first we determine what the text meant to the original audience in order to determine what it means for us today. As a way to determine the interpretation, writing out what the author intended to say in the passage helps to clarify the meaning for us. We compare Scripture with Scripture using cross-references to see if our interpretation matches up with the rest of Scripture. Once we have reached our conclusions on the passage, then we can look at other resources to see if our interpretation matches what others have concluded. Only after we have reached the meaning for ourselves do we then look at commentaries to compare meaning and see whether we have reached similar conclusions as others in the church throughout the ages.
Some of the factors that affect interpretation that we need to be mindful of:
Presuppositions/Pre-conceived notions - we all come to the text with our own worldview and framework for how we view the world. We need to be mindful of these, though often these are unconscious notions.
Agenda - what we want the text to say
Familiarity - a familiar passage is easy to jump immediately to a conclusion on the meaning instead of taking the time to ask questions and observe the text as though we've never seen it before
Our Culture - language, customs, politics, geography, family, values, ethnicity, gender, stories, religion, arts, economics, images: these will vary by person as well
We need to be cognizant of these factors and try to minimize the subjectivity that comes with them as we examine the text.

Once we have interpreted the passage and determined its meaning, then we move on to Application, which we'll look at in our next post.


*Source material for this blog series came from a variety of sources.
Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
Credo House Bible Boot Camp video series (link is to the first session, there are 4 parts)
Secret Church: How to Study the Bible series
How to Read the Bible by A.J. Conyers (out of print, but seemingly available used)

Previous Posts in this series:
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Introduction
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Genre and Context
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Observation