Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson, Amazon Digital, 1886. 82 pages. Five of Five stars

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 4.12.51 PMIn 1885 and at the age of 36, Robert Louis Stevenson published his third and most popular larger novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is a dark and complex tale about corrupt human nature.

In real life, Stevenson experienced a grim story of his own. Always tormented by poor health, Stevenson dropped out of his law profession, married a divorcée against his parent’s wishes and died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 44.

The protagonist is Dr. Jekyll, an elderly scientist who has discovered how to change himself into the grotesque form of Mr. Hyde. It began as an innocent experiment by which Hyde could indulge in carnal delight by night and Jekyll could maintain his high social standard by day. It was the perfect life of two identities.

The doctor made systematic provisions for his evil nature, including his own quarters, wardrobe and bank account. Though Jekyll was confident that he could control Hyde, he soon found that his evil nature was gaining strength.

If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure…

But Hyde had energy and the will to be alive. One morning, Jekyll awoke to discover that he had transformed into Hyde without taking the potion. “My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring.” He then realized that a choice had to be made between the two. Continue reading

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Review: The Five Points of Calvinism

The Five Points of Calvinism is a concise and convenient description of the doctrines of grace. First published in 1963, the second edition was published in honor of its fortieth anniversary. Although the new edition is three times larger and offers a plethora of new insight, the body is essentially the same.

The subtitle of the book is also the outline: “defined, defended and documented”. The first 15 pages explain the history of Calvinism. The bulk of this section pairs off the five points of Calvinism against the five points of Arminianism in order to demonstrate their differences.

In the second section, the authors use 55 pages to defend the five points. One by one, the authors present the points, defined and defended by scores of Scripture texts. For instance, just in the section on “irresistible grace” alone, the authors use 103 Scripture verses.

Finally, the book concludes with several appendices, of which I found McGuire’s “A Kinder, Gentler Calvinism”, Spurgeon’s “A Defense of Calvinism” and Daniel’s “The Practical Applications of Calvinism” to be very helpful.

The final section of the body (also the largest—60 pages) presents recommended reading. Three hundred and twenty-eight sources (compared to 104 in the first edition) are documented in annotated bibliography form, which was compiled by Quinn and proofed by Curt Daniel. I found this extremely helpful.

Because the authors contend that there are “thousands and thousands” of works on Calvinism, a condensed summary was helpful. I narrowed the list even more to twenty.

  1. Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin—Ford Battles (421 pages). Battles would take his students through this analytical study of Calvin’s magnum opus in one semester.
  2. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination—Loraine Boettner (435 pages). “Best overall treatment of the subject…one of those rare books that is profitable for both the beginner and the more advanced student.”
  3. The History and Theology of Calvinism—Curt Daniel (521 pages). “One of the most helpful and readable treatments of Calvinism in print. Worth its weight in gold!” Only available through Reformed Bible Church in Springfield, Illinois. Find MP3s here.
  4. The Deeper Faith—Gordon Girod (135 pages). “One of the clearest and most convincing statements of the distinguishing doctrines of the Reformed Faith that can be found anywhere.”
  5. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views—Dave Hunt and James White (427 pages). “Grew out of …White’s response to…What Love Is This? This book has a debate format and could well go down as the most lopsided debate in church history.”
  6. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God—J.I. Packer (126 pages). Because of its high quality, this book has remained in print for over forty years.”
  7. Sermons on Sovereignty—Charles Spurgeon (256 pages). Includes a brief sketch of Spurgeon’s life and a selection of 18 sermons dealing with some aspect of Calvinism or the sovereignty of God.
  8. Reformed Theology in America—David Wells (287 pages). “This is an outstanding book with a wealth of information and background on the shapers of Reformed theology in America.”

Continue reading

Review: Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 2.39.29 PMAs Francis Bacon said, “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested.” Hoehner’s commentary on Ephesians fits the latter category.

Dr. Hoehner has served as professor of NT studies for over 30 years at Dallas Theological Seminary. Though he took nearly 20 years to compile this commentary, it was well worth the wait. The formatting is excellent and the research superb. The Greek text of Ephesians contains 2,422 words, which means that Hoehner’s 900+ page volume covers about 2 1⁄2 words per page. The strengths below will show why this is significant.

One of Hoehner’s strengths is that he approaches Ephesians from a dispensational viewpoint. I agree with his conclusions on Israel in chapters 2 and 3. More importantly, Hoehner is Calvinistic in his soteriology. And most importantly, this commentary is the quintessential example in how to do word studies.

I learned how to do word studies the old-fashioned way. With hundreds of examples, Hoehner meticulously details the root, function and usage (classical, LXX, NT, Paul, Ephesians).

In conclusion, Hoehner surpassed Garland’s First Corinthians as my favorite commentary. People generally refer to—not read—commentaries. But I digested Hoehner from cover to cover nearly twice. Bravo!

Review: Darwin on Trial

Philip Johnson, IVP, 1993, 220 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 2.15.50 PMNo statement serves as a clearer harbinger than the title of Johnson’s fifth chapter: “The Fact of Evolution”. While Johnson deftly illustrates that evolutionists do not know how large-scale evolution could have occurred, it is still considered fact in most scholarly circles.

Johnson’s goal is to show that Darwinian evolution has no evidence to prove that biological innovations took place; this was most clearly proven in the first several chapters, which deal with the theoretical (natural selection), experimental (mutations), and historical (fossil record) difficulties that Darwinism faces.

Johnson’s thorough critique on the Darwinian/evolutionary system unearths the clandestine presuppositions of modern-day evolutionists by debunking their faulty logic and showing evidence contrary to the evolutionary system.

Weaknesses

Early on, Johnson tips his hand that he is not a “Biblical fundamentalist” (later defined as a literal, young earth creationist) nor is he sympathetic towards them. Still, he admits that he is a Christian, though his particular slant is that of theistic evolution. He says, “whether animals evolved more than once remains an open question as far as fossils are concerned” (79) and assumes that there were “transitional steps between apes and humans” (85).

Johnson also concedes far too much. After examining some Darwinian evidence, he admits, “birds did somehow develop from dinosaur predecessors” (81). He even appears to soften the Darwinist’s motives by implying that their theory is not presented with “the intent to deceive” (118).

Strengths

First, I enjoyed a critique on the Darwinian theory as seen through a lawyer’s eyes. Lawyers know how slippery language in debates work (e.g. Darwin used the double negative “not immutable” to describe species). Johnson deftly analyzed the motives, presuppositions, and evidences behind every claim of the Darwinists.

Second, I enjoyed the plethora of logical errors that were exposed on the part of the Darwinists (e.g. 34).

Things I learned

First and foremost, Darwinist’s have a religious motive. Man has no value because there is no God to place value upon him. Even if the evolutionary theory is filled with holes, it is believed because the only other alternative is intelligent design, something unthinkable to the Darwinist.

I also learned that evolutionists are militant. Those who do not accept their theory are called stupid, insane, and ignorant. “Theories” with no evidence (like the Piltdown man) are presented as fact as long as possible until it is finally debunked (e.g. Chapter 11 and the graphic account of zealous Darwinists).

“Natural selection” is the Darwinist’s replacement of God. To use the words of Richard Dawkins, it is the “blind watchmaker” that is capable of producing new kinds of organs and organisms. In order for natural selection to take place, however, two things are needed: massive amounts of time and some kind of intelligent force behind it.

Finally, the deathblow to the Darwinian theory is the historical fossil record. According to Johnson, historically, it is this record, not clergymen and preachers, which was the most formidable opponent to Darwinism. Darwin called the fossil problem “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory” (47).

In sum, Johnson logically and scientifically exposes the myriad of problems behind the Darwinian theory. I would highly recommend this book.