Saturday, March 23, 2013

Christ's Prophetic Plans - A Premillennial Primer


Christ's Prophetic Plans is an excellent introduction to Dispensationalism or as the authors also entitle it,
"Futuristic Premillennialism".  John Macarthur, Michael Vlach, Richard Mayhue, Nathan Busentiz and Mathew Waymeyer team up to defend the grammatical-historical hermeneutic in the interpretation of prophecy.  They start by removing misconceptions about Dispensationalism, such as the idea that Premillennialists believe that there are two-ways of salvation, and they define what Dispensationalism/Futuristic Premillennialism really is.   "… dispensationalism shapes one's eschatology and ecclesiology.  That is the extent of it.  Pure Dispensationalism has no ramifications for the doctrines of God, man, sin, or sanctification.  More significantly, true Dispensationalism makes no relevant contribution to soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation."

They then go through and show that their eschatology is exegetically derived from Scripture, and not from a misinterpretation of the texts.  They focus  particularly on Israel, as they point out that ""What distinguishes dispensationalists…is that they believe not only in the salvation of Israel but also in the restoration of Israel…'Restoration' involves the idea of Israel being reinstalled as a nation, in her land…In other words, in a literal, earthly kingdom - a millennium."   They defend God's right  to distinguish nations/races in His New Covenant plan and not just to distinguish individual people(such as men and women). 

Critiquing  Covenant Theology's imposition of a theological system on prophetic texts, they point out that the hermeneutic of Futuristic Premillennialists  is  not derived from their creeds or theology.  "If one's hermeneutic is one's theology, then one's theology determines one's hermeneutic…A theology is not a hermeneutic...For Futuristic Premillennialism, a consistent grammatical- historical hermeneutic to interpret all of Scripture is a presupposition, not a determined theology. "  Part of Macarthur's contribution is a reiteration of his  controversial , and in my opinion excellent, message, 'Why Every Self Respecting Calvinist Should Be A Premillennialist'. 

Though I don't agree with all of their views, such as Christ being the 'true Israel', or the statement that Reformed Theology is not related to any particular Eschatology, I think that the authors did a good job with this 'Primer' on Futuristic Premillennialism.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Thanks Moody Publishers!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Reasons For Belief - By Norman Geisler and Patty Tunnicliffe


"Every truth claim is narrow.  Why?  Because truth itself is narrow.  If you jump off a tall building with no ability to remain aloft, you will fall to the ground, yet no one would say belief in the law of gravity is being narrow-minded."    The authors of this book are very good at demonstrating the exclusiveness of truth, and our need to know the 'true-truth'.  Answering 10 questions about Christianity, the authors build their argument, 'closing in' on the truth as the book moves on.  Starting very basic, they demonstrate the logic of there being truth and that truth must be exclusive.  Then, after pointing out the obviousness of the existence of  a god, they narrow down to what god that is and if there is only one.   The rest of the book demonstrates that the God who exists is the God of the Old and New Testaments and upholds those Scriptures as the truth by answering questions about their composition and content.

This book includes several charts comparing the beliefs of world religions to Christianity, and critiques several of the major religions.   Here are some of the authors' statements on Pantheism:  "The Designer is not the design anymore than painter is the painting", "...pantheists believe we can become God.  But we had a beginning; God did not.   How can people who had a beginning become the One who never began?  Pantheists believe that they can (by enlightenment) become God.   But God has always known he is God.  Anyone who suddenly realizes "I am God," isn't God."   The content of the Bible is used as the ultimate proof of God being God and I love that much attention is paid to whether or not Jesus is God.  Lots of Scriptures are used to demonstrate that Jesus was God, and that you can't reject that reality without contradicting Him.  They show that belief in a god is not enough, belief in The God of the Bible and belief of what God says in His word is shown to be crucial for all people. 

I only gave this book four stars because I have found that the authors are apparently 'Old-earth Creationists'.  Using statements like, "If the universe had expanded faster than it did, no planets could have formed.  If no planets could form, there would be no earth."  Its not too explicit, they don't go into how much time the word 'day' is describing is in Genesis one, but it is implied that a day is a LOT longer than a day.  Later on, when they are talking about the existence of miracles, they state that "A genuine miracle happens instantly - not over a period of time."  So when God said, "Let there be light", was there light?  Or when God spoke the sun and the moon and the stars into existence, was it so? Or did it take a long period of time, longer than an evening and a morning, one day(Genesis 1: 19)?  This is why I don't know that I would recommend the book to non-Christians, as this might encourage them to not take the Beginning literally and so they may not take other narrative accounts in the Bible literally.   

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for my review(which does not have to be favorable)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Expository Genius of John Calvin - By Steven Lawson

What is the best remedy for the issues in the Church today?  What will be the best means to focus Christians upon what really matters and who they really are?  Do we have grand, 1 hour period of inspiring music and  then a 30 minute exposition of the Bible? What is the best way to worship God in our Church 'services'?  How can we get a new reformation started?   As Lawson says, "there are no new remedies for old problems.  We must come back to old paths.  We must capture the centrality and pungency of biblical preaching once again." In this book, Lawson uses Calvin as an example of the right way to edify, grow, and convict Christians, by his preaching of the complete Word of God.  He puts forth Calvin's book-by-book, verse-by-verse method of preaching as the best way to exposit the Scriptures and to teach Christians.  "This verse by verse style - lectio continua, the 'continuous expositions' - guaranteed that Calvin would preach the full counsel of God.  Difficult and controversial subjects were unavoidable.  Hard sayings could not be skipped.   Difficult doctrines could not be overlooked.  The full counsel of God could be heard."  This is also what my dad(a pastor) has pointed out:  By preaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible,  you will cover all kinds of doctrines/topics without having to do topical sermons.  You will hit Theology, Sanctification, Christology, Angelology, Soteriology and Harmatology throughout several books of the New Testament,  and deal with things like relationships, brotherly love, how to Evangelize, prayer, the end times…etc.  These things will come up, and in the order the Apostles deal with them in their letters and with whatever emphasis they give them.

Lawson delves into Calvin's method of explaining the texts, the way he did introductions, whether or not he used quotes from other pastors, whether or not he used notes...  He points out that it took Calvin a long time(at least from our society's perspective), generally years, to finish preaching through a book of the Bible.   In his overview of Calvin's life, the author tells us that when Calvin first came to Geneva he started preaching through a book of the Bible(the book isn't given), while preaching through this book, he was kicked out of Geneva for three years.  When he came back, he started right where he had left off preaching, going right to the next verse. 

My problem with this book is that Lawson praises and extols Calvin too much.  He lauds Calvin throughout the book and quotes other people praising Calvin, such as Warfield, "No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction."  How does he know that?  What if an obscure Pastor had a more profound 'sense of God' than Calvin?  And this quote by Charles Spurgeon:  "Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin; no age before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival." All I can really say is, Wow!  So what about the Apostle Paul? Peter?  Quotes and statements like this by Lawson bothered me.  It seems almost like hero worship, to me it seemed that Calvin was put forth in an obnoxious manner.  Even the title I don't quite care for, I didn't see that Calvin was a genius, just smart in seeking the best way to teach Scripture.

But if you can look past Calvin and look to God's usage of him, this book is quite good.  Lawson encourages us to get back to Biblical preaching, verse-by-verse.  This last excerpt by Lawson is my favorite quote from this book, "Calvin believed that biblical preaching must occupy the chief place in the worship service.  What God has to say to man is infinitely more important than what man has to say to God.  If the congregation is to worship properly, if believers are to be edified, if the lost are to be converted, God's Word must be exposited.  Nothing must crowd the Scriptures out of the chief place in the public gathering."

Thanks to Ligonier Ministries who will be sending me a copy of this book in return for my review of the free pdf copy they sent me(the review does not have to be a favorable one). 

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com