Review: Flags Out Front

Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, 2018, 2016 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: a satirical novel mocking the worst of evangelicalism to show all things rest beneath Christ’s feet

This book brims with current and vital themes in the church: courage under fire; weaponized apologies; strong, chivalrous masculinity; talented, clever femininity; the leprous effects of spineless Christianity; vapid feminism; Islam and her fruit; theological liberalism.

Wilson packages all this in a funny little novel, sprinkles in some romance, rebukes us for our fear and urges us to fight! The Christian flag story is just a platform for Wilson to show that Christ should reign at home, at school, and in the public square.

Pros: Wilson picks the right people to be the heroes. Hollywood loves carrying Jezebel and Ahab away on their shoulders. Not Wilson. I want my sons to be like the college kid Trevor (tough, competitive, and engaged to be married) and my wife to stay like Maria (savvy, beautiful, manager extraordinaire). And I want to be like Dr. Tom: humble and courageous. Wilson knows who the good guys are. These are the ones we’re to imitate (1Cor. 11:1). Continue reading

Review: The New Pastor’s Handbook

Jason Helopoulos, 2015, Baker, 208 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: forty-eight brief chapters of warning and encouragement for new pastors

The genius of this book by Helopoulos (current pastor of University Reformed in Michigan) isn’t necessarily the insight or profundity but the short, direct, biblical, and practical chapters. One can imagine a busy pastor having a young pastor-to-be that needs mentoring. What resource could he turn to?

He grabs the Handbook along with the young intern, bows in prayer, reads the Scripture heading, and then studies the 2-4 page chapter together. Once the parson provides the necessary explanations and fillers on calling, leadership, sermon prep, candidating, hospital visits or whatever the topic may be, an hour and a half has flown by and the meeting is over. Continue reading

Review: Do More Better

Tim Challies, 2015, Cruciform Press, 120 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: a brief, contemporary, biblical, and practical guide to productivity

A couple years ago I reviewed a book on productivity by Kevin DeYoung. This paperback by Challies is about half the size, more practical and just as good. Tim Challies is a family man and pastor that writes a lot. He posts daily on one of the most well-known Christian blogs in the world. He gets a lot done. He writes here to give some tips.

Overview and Strengths: The book contains twelve concise and helpful chapters. Chapter one lays the foundation by giving the readers a six-question catechism on productivity. For example, “What is productivity? Answer: productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I like Challies’ format here. Chapter two describes three productivity thieves. I struggle most with the second.  Continue reading

Review: A Company of Heroes

Tim Keesee, Crossway, 2019, 288 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: poetic journal entries of known and unknown missionaries and their stories

Below is my endorsement of Tim Keesee’s excellent recent work:

“Peopling that great heavenly choir is among the missionary’s greatest motivations. Tim Keesee compels us to sit at the feet of this great cloud of witnesses by presenting a kaleidoscope of missionary lives. From mosques to Mormons―from first world to third―he urges us to lock shields with the great soldiers and choristers of the past and present. In A Company of Heroes, Keesee writes brilliantly as a reporter and lover of gospel advance.”

Keesee is the founder of Frontline Missions International, an organization which works to spread the gospel to the least reached places in the world. He also produces the missionary documentary series Dispatches from the Front. While traveling around the world, he doesn’t fly at tree top level. He lives and breathes with the people–retelling their stories of trial and triumph.

Keesee is not only a gifted writer but seems to put great value on friendship and building relationships. He esteems what the St. Andrews Seven called “earnest conversation.” Much of what he chronicles are intimate and lively conversations.

Company covers twenty different countries and explores missionaries both time-worn (Georgi Vins, William Carey ) and modern (JD Crowley), well-known (Amy Carmichael) and obscure (Mei Li). I was edified by each chapter, especially chapter 15 “The Broken Sword.” It covers missionaries in Indonesia and explores the nature of risk and the aspect of taking handicapped children to the mission field.

Review: Boyhood and Beyond

Bob Schultz, Great Expectations Book Co., 2004, 217 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Jane Austin wrote that surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.

Even more surprising than quoting Emma in a review on masculinity is the shock I received after reading Bob Schultz’s book on raising boys. He’s a carpenter by trade, so that’s promising. But he’s also the father of three girls and no boys. Still, Boyhood and Beyond is superb. I’ve reviewed books on father’s bringing up daughters as well as raising sons. Schultz is the best I’ve read on the latter.

In past mornings I’ve read this paperback (or the sequel) at family worship to my wife and six children. It’s good for my daughters too because it teaches them traits to look for in a husband. The whole family loves it. Here are three reasons why.

First, the book is manly. You picture Schultz sitting down in his shed with rolled up flannel sleeves, writing with pencil and paper. There’s not a Macbook Air in his zip code. He’s old school. He quotes from the KJV and bolsters his points with masculine illustrations you want your sons to hear: shooting turkeys, chopping firewood, tending the orchard and fixing the chicken coop.

Second, the book is well-rounded. There are thirty-one chapters covering topics like hard work, the value of an old man, perseverance, initiative, overcoming temptation, and personal responsibility. But it’s not just a book on standard character traits. Where will you find a man encouraging your sons to make inventions, think in analogies, write thank-you letters or have a pilgrim mindset? You will here.

Finally, the book is biblical. Though I must say the illustrations and stories were the delicious appetizer and dessert of every chapter, the main course is always rooted in Scripture. On each page he teaches in a way young and old can understand. I’ve even used it as a discipleship tool with the male teens and twenty-somethings in our African village.

“Developing in manhood is a process,” Schultz writes. In a world that has lost its way regarding gender roles, Boyhood and Beyond is a great tool in helping boys become men.

Review: Only a Prayer Meeting

Charles Spurgeon, Christian Heritage, 2010, 254 pages, 4 of 5 stars

What happened to the prayer meeting? First we changed the name to “mid-week service.” Now it’s gone altogether.

It is common these day for churches to abandon the Sunday PM gathering. The prayer meeting is even less popular. Surgeon grabs us by the lapels and urges the reader never to abandon this sacred task. “I would have you vow that the prayer meeting shall never be given up while you live” (137).

This book is a series of studies on prayer meetings and prayer meeting addresses. Most people would yawn and close the book at this point, but Spurgeon is so full of verve, insight, color and illustration, the pages turn quickly. Continue reading

Review: The Scripture Cannot Be Broken

ed. John MacArthur, Crossway, 2015, 336 pages, 4 of 5 stars

The Bible is without error, transmitted perfectly with the exact message God gave to mankind.

But the doctrine of inerrancy is under attack today like never before. Those in today’s religious (and evangelical) circles with a low view of Scripture are strangling the church, holding back from her the life-giving oxygen of an inerrant text.

From Spurgeon’s Down Grade Controversy, to German Liberalism, to Emergent Theology, the core argument remains the same: the human penman who transmitted Scripture must bring with them errors in biblical teaching.

The Scripture Cannot Be Broken champions a high view of Scripture. It compiles 14 of the greatest essays on inerrancy of the past 70 years, including authors like B.B. Warfield, J.I. Packer, and John Frame. It recounts the many ways people attack inerrancy, like nuancing inerrancy and infallibility, embracing pragmatic philosophy in the church, and promoting extra-biblical revelation. Often, this comes from the insatiable thirst for approval from academic elites.

The book also addresses a host of common objections to inerrancy, such as circular reasoning, human penman, presuppositionalism, the ambiguity of theópneustos, and the absence of the original autographs.

Conclusion: This book is applicable not only for Scriptural pessimists but biblical conservatives. Beware those in the latter camp. Rarely does one move from liberalism to orthodoxy. As Harold Lindsell said, it is often a one way street in the wrong direction (27).

I found the lists of what inerrancy is not in chapters 10 and 11 very helpful. The best chapter was “The Meaning of Inerrancy” by Paul Feinberg, with a close second going to author Robert Preus.

Excerpts:

  1. “It is impossible to avoid circularity of a sort when one is arguing on behalf of an ultimate criterion. One may not argue for one ultimate criterion by appealing to another.” (114)
  2. “One of the best ways to attack something is to demonstrate that it is unimportant.” (170)
  3. “In any realm of activity the supreme authority must be self-authenticating. It is impossible to get endorsement or confirmation of such utterances by appeal to some greater authority.” (207)
  4. “Although it is indeed a large and heavy burden to have to defend the Bible on all points, it is nevertheless necessary!” (269)
  5. “In Christ you have both the human and the divine without sin. In the Bible you have both the human and the divine without error.” (271)
  6. [By an honest critic of inerrancy] “The opposite of inerrancy is not errancy but the total infallibility of the Bible in matters of faith and practice [alone].” (282)