I am now writing exclusively over at the Christians In Context blog. Click on this banner to be taken there!

Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
Looking for a church in the Omaha area? Come check out ours on Sunday mornings at 11!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review: We Become What We Worship by G.K. Beale

I've had We Become What We Worship in my wish list for months now, so when the opportunity came to review it for free, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, there have not been many books that I was so predisposed to like that have been such a struggle for me to finish. Not because of poor writing or a disagreement with the author, but rather in part due to my own expectations, as the author's intent was to write "a biblical theology of idolatry". This is a well-written and thorough treatment of idolatry that is quite academic in nature.

This book grew out of a message G.K. Beale delivered entitled "What You Revere You Resemble, Either For Ruin or Restoration" and he has certainly done his research. The hangup of the book for the average reader is that he takes us step by step along the same journey of study with him which turns the book into a monster of biblical exegesis . Of course, the average reader was not Beale's audience to begin with, and the academic community stands only benefit from this biblical exegesis on idolatry (which, again, was his expressed intent).

I basically agreed with his premise two pages into the first chapter, but he spent a chapter each on building his case from the Old Testament, Gospels, Epistles, Revelation, and even the intertestamental/apocryphal books. Beale first began to formulate his thesis during an extensive study of Isaiah 6, thus his first chapter focuses solely there for his opening argument. The first 250 pages are spent building a textual argument for his ideas before finally getting to a very good (but all too short) 60 pages of application and conclusion.

While this book was well-researched and written, it will be too in-depth for the average reader and is best suited for pastors preaching on idolatry and the academic community. But if they ever come out with a Clif Notes version, I want to be at the top of the list.

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press Academic.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Federal Trade Commission Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission recently revised their guidelines that affect testimonial advertisements, bloggers and celebrity endorsements. "The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service." In the interest of full disclosure and in compliance with the new FTC guidelines, I feel compelled to share the following:
  1. All of the books prior to this post that I have reviewed have been given to me free of charge by the publishers for the sole purpose of a review. No expectation of a positive bias was communicated or implied by any of the publishers. In fact, a cursory reading of some of my reviews will show I don't shirk from a negative review.
  2. No payment or compensation has ever been made to me from the publishers beyond free review materials.

There, I feel better.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Book Review: Hidden Worldviews by Wilkens and Sanford

Hidden Worldviews is not your average book addressing worldviews. There are no chapters on nihilism, existentialism, or Eastern monism (though a nod is made to The Universe Next Door, and James Sire even writes a blurb for the back of the book, calling Hidden Worldviews "an excellent compliment" to his own standard work).

Unlike most other writers addressing worldviews, authors Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford deal with what they call "lived worldviews". These lived worldviews include such ideas as individualism, consumerism, nationalism, moral relativism and salvation by therapy. They are so called because "we are more likely to absorb them through cultural contact than adopt them through a rational evaluation of competing theories. These lived worldviews are popular philosophies of life that have few intellectual proponents but vast numbers of practitioners".

Because of the subtle nature of these ideas, Wilkens and Sanford suggest that there is a greater risk of such ideas being smuggled into and blended with Christianity almost unknowingly. Indeed, to the extent that the traditional worldviews pose a challenge externally to Christianity, these worldviews seem to be a challenge within Christianity as well as without.

Every chapter deals with a specific lived worldview and details both the truth or good as well as potential problems of each worldview before drawing a conclusion. In this manner, the authors present a very even-handed treatment of each idea without sounding alarmist or too "Chicken Little".

If I have had one frustration that keeps popping up during this first year of setting a significant reading goal for myself, it has been that, as the writer of Ecclesiastes would say, "there is nothing new under the sun". However, this book was an exception, a very refreshing read and quite unique in it's approach and subject matter. Overall, it was a very readable and enjoyable book, and one of my top ten for the year!

This book was a free review copy given by InterVarsity Press Academic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review: Respectables Sins by Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges wrote one of the best books I've ever read on Christian sanctification in Pursuit of Holiness. But if Pursuit of Holiness is Sanctification 101, then Respectable Sins is Sanctification 301. While the former book focused on the broader subject of sanctification and dealt with the more common besetting sins, the latter focuses on the more subtle sins that often go unaddressed.

Before dealing with specific areas of sin, the opening chapters of Respectable Sins set the necessary foundation by addressing sin in general and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome it. In this way, the first few chapters read like a concise summary of Pursuit of Holiness. The remainder of the book addresses issues like anxiety, unthankfulness, selfishness, and judgmentalism. Each of these chapters follows a similar formula, defining and exposing the sin before giving the reader practical steps of action against it.

The reader must be careful to read this book without any legalism/judgmentalism. Most readers will either be tempted as they read to think "This guy is nuts and completely overboard" or "Ooooh, I can think of some people that need to read this". I confess both thoughts while I read. As my pastor has said, each Christian has areas they struggle with where they need to be legalistic with themselves (meaning there are certain things an individual Christian cannot let themselves do that others may do). So there are points when Bridges shares his own personal areas of legalism, but we must understand it in a context of wisdom for him.

This book is not for everyone. A non-Christian may read it and think Christians are all hyper-paranoid moralists. A legalist may read it and project all their judgments on the Christians around them. But for the Christian using this book with sensitivity and wisdom, this is a wonderful book on many of Christianity's blind spots when it comes to pursuing Christ-likeness.