Posts belonging to Category Book Reviews

Mentally stimulating + heart stirring

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian FaithThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

I was not expecting this book to pack the punch that it did. I suspected it would be a book solely about Mrs. Butterfield’s conversion, but it was so much more. She told about her struggles not only coming out of lesbianism, but her struggles in the faith and with other Christians. Her story is beautifully told (she’s an English Literature professor, after all), but the writing only enhanced the powerful story of what life is like when you trust God with everything. I needed to hear what she had to say at this particular point in my life, and I’m sure others do as well.

It’s impossible for a review to do this book justice. In less than 150 pages, she lays out what it means to trust the God who raises from the dead and demonstrates it by personal example. In addition, she raises excellent points about the failures of current conservative Christian culture. She doesn’t criticize as an outsider; she points out flaws as a sister in the Lord that we need to address and strengthen. You won’t agree with all she says, but even what you don’t agree with is edifying to read. Some books are mentally stimulating; others stir up your heart. This brief biographical account is both. If you are soldier in the culture war, you need to read this book.

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Why should we have multiple elders?

Biblical EldershipBiblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

This book is a great explanation of why multiple elders are the biblical model of the church. There are a few things the author is too adamant on that are more informed by tradition than Scripture, but on the whole it is a sound corrective to the out of control congregational polity many churches practice today.

The first portion is topical and informs you of the type of leadership Scripture calls for in an elder. The rest of the book is biblical exegesis of the New Testament passages that refer to elders. The writing is clear and to the point without being dry. If you want to know why churches should have multiple elders, read the book.

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Judging the wagon before you jump on it

Matthew Anderson recently published an interesting piece at Christianity Today that evaluates the radical movement.  For those unsure of what that is, Radical is a book published by David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, Alabama.  To summarize it, Platt and other authors (Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman, just to name a few) call for a new, full fledged commitment to Christ that goes beyond what most of us have engaged in up to now.  In response some families have sold their houses and moved to the inner cities; others have moved to the mission field.  On a more unknown note, many in Platt’s church (some of whom I know personally) have made smaller sacrifices to give money to missions.

Let it be said that I believe Christians should strive to do more than we currently do.  In fact, I believe many of us have made an idol out of wealth and we are living in bondage to it.  There are many who have resisted God’s call to give up everything out of fear.  Nevertheless, Anderson gives this rejoinder:

“The heroes of the radical movement are martyrs and missionaries whose stories truly inspire, along with families who make sacrifices to adopt children. Yet the radicals’ repeated portrait of faith underemphasizes the less spectacular, frequently boring, and overwhelmingly anonymous elements that make up much of the Christian life.”

Then he compares the radical movement to the Keswick movement(more…)

What does it mean to be a Baptist?

Restoring Integrity in Baptist ChurchesRestoring Integrity in Baptist Churches by John Hammett

This is a compilation of essays written by Southern Baptists about what it means to be a Baptist. There are sections on church membership, church government, baptism, communion, and one essay on the priesthood of the believer. It does a good job explaining what most Baptists, especially those from the nineteenth century until today, have believed.

The book is footnoted throughout, but some the historical scholarship is questionable due to the fact that some authors ignore examples from Baptist history that don’t support their respective points. Also some of the suggestions made for restoring Baptist churches should be ignored. An example from one author is to have church members sign a membership document every three years saying they want to continue as members and those who don’t sign it would be dropped from membership. This is not Scriptural. Nevertheless if one wants to know what what distinguishes Baptists from others, it is a valuable book.


For the Ayn Rand lovers

Thomas Flemming has an article about Ayn Rand that is, shall we say, less than flattering.  I’ve identified with some (read:  one or two) of her beliefs but in general she doesn’t seem very impressive.  I’ve struggled to read Atlas Shrugged, not because it was too hard but because it is poor writing and a bland plot.  I didn’t even try The Fountainhead.

This is important because Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan referred to her positively in 2005.  It doesn’t really bother me that he learned some things from her book.  I did enjoy the response it elicited from Flemming.  Nothing better than a conservative scholar taking poor literature (and a poor author) to task.

Quotes from when Sam and Frodo visited the Democratic National Convention

“All right, all right!’ said Sam. ‘That’s quite enough.  I don’t want to hear no more.  No welcome, no beer, no smoke, and a lot of rules and orc-talk instead…’

What’s all this?’ said Frodo, feeling inclined to laugh.  ‘This is what it is, Mr. Baggins,’ said the leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit:  ‘You’re arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food.’   ‘And what else?’ said Frodo.  ‘That’ll do to go on with,’ said the Shirriff-leader…

“If I hear not allowed much oftener,’ said Sam, ‘I’m going to get angry.”  –J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Books for parents – 2

A second book that I’ve greatly benefited from as a growing parent is Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  It builds on the same foundation as Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith, but goes further in describing what parents are up against as they strive to train up their children in the way they should go.

It is broken up into two sections: foundations for childrearing and shepherding through the stages of childhood.  Each section contains multiple chapters.  The first section was to me the most important.  Whereas Baucham explains the importance of training your children in the ways of the Lord, Tripp explores what it means to shepherd a child.  It doesn’t start with the methods but in developing a God-saturated focus in parenting rather than selfish focus (and the latter is not as easy to distinguish as you might think).  This section contains chapters on developing a godly orientation in your child, discussion of parental authority, developing godly goals for parenting, biblical communication, and discipline.  Overall this section helps parents develop a godly view of their task and requires investigation of one’s heart and motives for doing what we do as parents. (more…)

Ebook on bitterness

Some have asked about Jim Wilson’s book on bitterness.  You can buy it here, and can find the free PDF version here.

Family Driven Faith

The first book that Amanda and I read on childrearing was probably the most important, Family Driven Faith, by Voddie Baucham. Baucham is a Calvinistic Southern Baptist pastor who is leading the way in inter-generational worship and family discipleship. He is also an excellent apologist to boot.

This book lays the foundation for godly child-training. It is an overview of why and how to train your children in righteousness. (more…)

A word about parenting books

As my wife and I are in the process of raising our two small children, we know there’s a lot more we must learn about raising them. Most of our learning has (and will) come from experience. There’s only so much you can learn from a book. Even so there are several books that have been instrumental already in forming the foundation of our child-training, in addition to the ultimate book, God’s word.

Most of you either have children, will have children, or know someone who does. If you have children and don’t have a plan for how you will raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, you’re overdue to develop one. Books aren’t the final answer, but they are tools to help you in developing your plan.

If you want to have children in the future, you too need a plan and you have more time to develop it. These books will help you slowly gain the plan you need. I was reading these type of books when I was single and in my early twenties. However a note of warning: don’t judge others for not following what you’ve only read about. It’s a lot easier to know what should be done than actually doing it. When you see someone who isn’t following what you think should be done, pray that God will give you humility to be sympathetic to them as well as the grace to put the godly principles you’ve learned into practice.

The last category is those who know someone who is raising children. I’m thinking mostly of pastors and church leaders who want to offer good resources to the families in their churches. This could also be for those who want to give soon-to-be parents a gift that will help them in the future.

That being said, I must repeat something said earlier, and this is especially for parents. Reading books doesn’t replace reliance on God. You can read the Bible, and every great book on parenting there is and it will not make a difference if you think you can handle it on your own. The parents who provoke their children to wrath have usually read a lot of good parenting books. They sacrifice their children on the altar of abstract parenting principles and grace is nowhere to be found. Those parents end of boiling the kid in his mother’s milk, otherwise known as taking what God intended for good and making it something deadly. There is no replacement for trust in God, daily prayer for wisdom, humility, and reliance on His grace.

Now as to the books themselves…those will have to wait for another blog post.