Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Long Before Luther - By Nathan Busneitz



Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz is book that examines history to demonstrate that the concepts of Salvation by faith alone, through grace alone…etc. were not invented by people like Martin Luther and John Calvin in the 16th Century, as some have claimed.  Rather these concepts are very old, coming from the Scriptures themselves. As the subtitle of this book indicates, this book traces "the heart of the Gospel from Christ to the Reformation".

The book is divided into four parts, part one is, "The Reformers and Justification", which examines what the Reformers believed and where they discovered those beliefs in the Bible.  

Part Two deals with the "Church Before Augustine". "The Reformers looked primarily to Scripture to establish their understanding of justification by grace through faith alone, yet they also claimed secondary affirmation for their position from the writings of Christian leaders throughout church history."  This section examines the beliefs of the early church (I don't feel comfortable/Biblical calling them "Fathers") in regard to justification by grace through faith apart from works, the forensic nature of justification, distinction between justification and sanctification and the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

Part Three, "Augustine and Justification". This gives a close look at Augustine's beliefs regarding salvation.  There is a whole section devoted to this because "The Reformers looked to Augustine more than any other church father in their defense of the doctrine of salvation by grace."

Part 4 "The Church After Augustine" examines the beliefs of Christians who came in between Augustine and Luther.  

Though I think this is a very useful and well written work, I think that there is a more pressing issue in the church today, and that is an elevating the 'Reformers' too much.  Actually, when I first decided to review this book, I was hoping that it was a critique of the near worshipful attitude of the reformers that many, in the church, particularly those who call themselves 'reformed', seem to possess.  It's no wonder that people think the Reformation was the starting point for the 'doctrines of Grace', many professing Christian act as though the 'fullness of time' climaxed at the Reformation, that the faith we hold to originated at that time.  And I critique myself when I say this.  When I was younger I loved learning about the 'Reformers', tended to 'hero-worship' them, and what they taught, and collected quotes from them.  At one point I ended up in a debate with an 'Arminian', over salvation/election,  and he wanted me to stop using quotations by Luther, Calvin and other Christians and just debate by using the Scriptures themselves. I think that that was really helpful to me. And, in thinking back on it, it's rather embarrassing to think how I must have looked, appealing to the writings of many Christians to support my point, rather than primarily using the Bible as the sole authority. Rather than pointing people to the Reformation we should point back to the Formation.  I'm not against the reformers and still admire God's work in and through them, but I think we really should start watching ourselves and make sure that we deal with any 1 Corinthians 3 scenarios. 

But I still like this book. Busenitz does an excellent job in giving written proofs that the 'doctrines of grace' were not invented by the Reformers.  If anyone is struggling with an idea like that I would recommend this book. It's not very long, but it is quite a solid defense of the unoriginality of the Reformers.  When it comes to salvation we don't want to be original, we want to be right in our belief - our eternal souls are at stake!


Many thanks to the folks at MP Newsroom for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable).

My Rating 5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and Christianbook.com 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Tunnels - By Greg Mitchell (Paperback Version)




The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell is a book about escape tunnels that were built under the Berlin wall during the Cold War.  Though many tunnels and tunnel escapes are looked at, the focus of the book is on one particular tunnel that was funded by NBC in exchange for filming the construction of the tunnel and any escapes that would happen by means of the tunnel.

I first picked this book to review simply because I thought that it sounded rather interesting, I didn't realize how absolutely riveting it would be.  I started reading it to myself, got a little way into it and then started reading it out loud to one of my sisters. By, probably the middle of the book, several of my siblings were listening in with fixed attention. 

I have read this book before, the hardcover version, and this is the paperback, which of course isn't really different except for the cover.  But the content is as riveting as ever

This book is very well written, Mitchell really seems to give one the perspective of the people involved in these escapes so that you feel along with them as they attempt their dangerous work.  We all got pretty tense with every tunnel escape attempt, and also with fears that their work would be discovered by the clever West Berlin spies.  It was very intriguing to find out how they made these tunnels, starting them from West Berlin (the good side) they would pick a building on the other side to aim for (sometimes without those who owned the building being in the 'know') where they would then break through into a cellar or even a living room.  I found it amazing that they were able to aim SO well.  They would work long periods of time, sometimes staying in the same building for a month or more without coming out just to have more secrecy while digging  the tunnel.  Then you have to wait and hope with the tunnelers that there are no Stasi agents waiting for them when they break through, and hope that all of the East Berliners who want to escape make it to the tunnel without being caught.  At times there are Stasi agents waiting and you then hope that no one comes to the tunnel to escape and get caught. 

I learned a lot about the Cold war and the Berlin Wall.  I found it fascinating that some of the government officials in the U.S. were (amazingly) actually in favor of the Berlin wall being built(to the East Berlin government's delight), thinking that it would calm things down…which of course it didn't.

 The book switches back and forth from different perspective of various characters in this history,  you will meet Harry Seidel, an East Berliner who has already escaped to the West but who wants to get his mother out of the East and therefore works on various tunnels, including the "NBC Tunnel";  Piers Anderton of NBC is another player in this history who really wants this documentary on the "NBC Tunnel" to be a success (and also for it to actually be allowed to be shown on tv);  Siegfried Uhse is an East Berlin informant who is working under cover with some of those who are organizing escapes to West Berlin for desperate East Berliners, he is attempting to get information about various tunnels so that he can pass it on to his superiors and be the means of foiling any escape attempts;  JFK is also a player in these events, he is nervous that any open U.S. support of escape attempts will be the means of provoking an invasion of West Berlin by the Russians, and so he is very wary of any American news documentaries filming and aiding any escapes.
These are only a few of the people involved in this account of this tense time in history. 

I just wish that the author would have dealt with Ronald Reagan's part in pressuring Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall, I don't remember that being mentioned at all (though I may have just for gotten it).  Also There were some topics that were rather uncomfortable to read, such as the immoral lives of some of the people discussed and some pretty bad language  and expressions that some people used.  I scribbled out a bunch of those things.  

But all in all, this was a very interesting historical account. It's amazing to think that these things actually happened,  I thought that Mitchell did a great job of impressing upon the reader the reality of these events and people. 

I received this book from the Blogging For Books book review program (My review did not have to be favorable)


This book may be purchased at Amazon.com