Saturday, June 22, 2013

Counterfeit Gospels - Treven Wax


"Don't confuse the gospel with the effects of the Gospel." writes Trevin Wax. Elsewhere he notes that, "…Christianity is not a scheme of morality, nor a plan for social and political change, and organizations which propose improvements along such lines are only 'tinkering with the problems.  We may be made better men, but before we can face God we must be new men."  So many churches today don't believe that the Gospel, as given in God's Word, is right for today. They think that it needs to be updated to fit our culture.  Wax does a good job of analyzing the various counterfeit gospels of our day: the Therapeutic Gospel, the Activist Gospel, the Churchless Gospel…etc. he shows how many of these take one fact of the Gospel and preach it, mostly disembodied from the other essential truths that make up the Gospel.  These people are, 'missing the mark' of the complete Gospel', which description, ironically, is one of the definitions of sin.   

"Christians and non-Christians are often drawn to counterfeit gospels.  Even those of us who have walked with the Lord for many years may be inclined to accept cheap imitations of the truth.  Why?  Because they are easy. They cost us less."  And one might add, "they build up our church attendance".  A small section, in the chapter on the "Churchless Gospel", caught my interest in particular.  Discussed is the idea of some Christians who think that we should model ourselves on the practices of the early churches as the early churches would have obviously been more pure, more godly than ours.  To these people Wax poses the question, "Which early church do you want to be like?  Corinth?  The church took pride in a man's incestuous relationship.  Meanwhile, the worship gatherings were not being done decently and in order.  Galatia?  Paul was shocked to see that his church so quickly abandoned the gospel…" 

I didn't like the reformed/amillennial bent of the book, the sacraments, true Israel…etc. are brought up.  This is also evident where Christ is talked about, speaking of evangelizing, "Just talk about Jesus!......Jesus is not merely a means to an end, such as 'heaven,' 'a purposeful life,' or 'peace through trials.'  Jesus is the end."  What about God the Father?  Christ has reconciled us to the Father, we have "access by one Sprit unto the Father, " - Ephesians 2:16-19, "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a anew and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil…"( Hebrews 10:19-22 NASB)See also, "Heb. 7:25, 2:10.  Also, I did not particularly care for all of the movie references in the book, they seemed out of place, quite unnecessary.   

But I do like the book overall.  It is an interesting overview and critique of the futile attempts to improve the perfect Gospel revealed in God's Word. And now, to wrap this up, as usual, I'll end with one last quote from the book,  "We must make clear that grace accepts us where we are, but that it never leaves us there." 

Thanks to MoodyPublishers for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Basics of Biblical Greek - By William Mounce


I took Spanish in high school (a correspondence course) and I must say that I wish that the textbook and workbooks for that class were produced in the same format as this Greek Grammar. Mounce  teaches in a compare/contrast style.  Throughout the book he teaches, or reminds you of, English grammar and then gives you the Greek grammar.  It is at times quite different  from the English equivalent but the contrast actually helps one understand it more.  He will also give you examples of things you will learn later on in the book and tell you not to try to learn them yet since, "They are given just to expose you to the concepts."  I like that as repetition helps things stick in my mind. 

Mounce has a little character called 'the professor' who appears throughout the book giving you fun facts about what you are learning, summaries of what you have just learned and more information as well.  Though a bit weird, it proves to be quite helpful and interesting.  I love the incentives given for studying each chapter by means of written examples by preachers and teachers showing the importance of each grammatical point for exegetical study.   For instance, at the beginning of his chapter about infinitives, Mounce has an exegetical insight from Darrell Bock demonstrating how infinitives often "complete important ideas".   He uses the example of 1 Corinthians 15:25 which reads, "For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet." (ASV)  The tense of the  word for 'reign',βασιλευειν,is  an infinitive in the present tense, describing a continuous action.  "this present infinitive explains what is necessary about what God is in the process of doing through Jesus…Paul stresses that Jesus is in the process of ruling until the job of subjecting everything under his feet is complete." So, in order to properly interpret passages like this, one needs to understand Greek infinitives.

Mounce has come up with many ways, including what I have mentioned above, to encourage your persevering in learning Greek. At the end of some chapters he has 'exegesis' sections that show you how what you have learned is used in exegesis.  And at the end of every chapter he has a section showing you the percentage of what you have learned of the total words in the New Testament.  By the time you finish chapter 6 you'll have learned 36.79%of the total word count in the New Testament.  And before I forget, I must also mention that Mounce has many free resources online that compliment this grammar, including a program called "FlashWorks" which exercises  your memory of the Greek words you have been learning.  You may tell it what chapter you are on and it will drill you accordingly.

I highly recommend this Grammar, it is deliberately geared towards keeping you focused on the many benefits of learning Greek because of its great value as a tool in the proper exegesis of the Word of God.

Many thanks to Zondervan for sending me a free review copy of this book!(my review did not have to be favorable)


This book may also be purchased  at Amazon.com

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Interpreting the Pauline Letters - John Harvey


Focusing on Paul's letters, but not on any one of his letters in particular, this book is basically a resource for studying Biblical letters. Harvey delves into proper methods of researching the text, its variants, and the historical background of the time of Paul.  He also gives recommended steps in studying the original Greek and advise as to how it can be presented.

I particularly liked Harvey's summary/overview of Paul's teachings throughout his letters.  When dealing with Paul's speaking of the change that takes place at salvation, quoting 2Cor. 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come' he explains, "That statement points to something far greater than a minor shift in belief or behavior; it describes nothing less than a total transfer from one sphere of existence to another."   I also liked his overview of the backgrounds of each place to which Paul wrote his letters.  

What I didn't like was that Harvey didn't seem like a big advocate for verse-by-verse/book-by-book preaching.  Not that he was absolutely against it, but he seemed to be advocating focusing on people's needs and applying the scripture to those, which might bring about more of a selective approach to the Scriptures.  Don't we discover our needs from God's Word? Not our felt needs necessarily, but our true needs, whether we feel a need for them or not. Perhaps I would add the word duties, and not merely "needs" but 'must-knows'(which isn't really a word), so how about 'imperatives'?  These things may be what Mr. Harvey meant, but isn't a verse-by-verse/book-by-book approach the best way to discover all of our needs and duties, in the correct order we're supposed to deal with them and all of the instruction pertaining to them?
But overall, I think that this is a good 'handbook'.  It gives a good amount of background information and summaries.   Also, the chapters on translating and interpreting the passages from the Greek are handy.  I think that it is a good overview of Paul's letters.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)