Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Volume 1 (Book Review)

There is a growing body of popular literature that seeks to restore respectability to the view of young-earth creationism (YEC).  After falling out of vogue in the scientific community, YEC made something of a comeback when Henry Morris published The Genesis Flood in 1961.  Since then YEC has grown from a Morris family cottage industry to a multi-national and multi-disciplinary voice crying in the wilderness outside the secular scientific establishment.  It’s been more than 50 years since Morris dropped his bombshell on geologists, and YEC practitioners have long recognized the need to update Morris’s seminal work for a new generation of scientists who look to the Bible as a truthful guide regarding its implications for geology.

Finally in 2009, creation scientist Andrew Snelling met the challenge by releasing his two-volume work Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood (ECP).  Published by Master Books, a ministry of Answers in Genesis, ECP is a noble attempt to provide a one-stop shop to investigate YEC.  Now in its third printing, ECP seems to have become THE BOOK that proponents and opponents must interact with if they want to understand and respond to the best arguments and evidence YEC has to offer.  An alternatively fitting subtitle might have been “The Cumulative Case for Young Earth Creationism.” Continue reading

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Christian, You Are a Prophet

I used to think my church was special. When I say “my church” I mean whatever congregation I happened to be with at that time. From my immature perspective, the College church had the cool music. The Bible church had the celebrity preacher. The Reformed church had the right doctrine. And the Charismatic church had the Holy Spirit. At every one of these stations of my Christian pilgrimage, I’ve noticed one thing in common. Every church thinks they’re basically better than the rest! And almost every Christian thinks the most loving way to treat people is to get you to be more like me. “IMITATE ME, as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Relational dynamics between Christians and in the church have a tendency to gravitate toward self-expression and self-benefit because in some ways we are, consistent with our fallen nature, immature in our faith. For example, Christians use their spiritual gifts to build up themselves (often without realizing what they’re doing) rather than to build up others. Thankfully we’re so spiritually mature that we don’t need instruction on how to use our gifts. Ha! That’s exactly what the very-gifted but childish Corinthian church thought. Before receiving God’s instructions, they were in fact making a mess of their worship, their ministry to each other, their evangelism, and their reputation in the community. What about us? Is it possible that you and I need a reminder, even a course correction, regarding how we use spiritual gifts?  A particular passage (1 Corinthians 14:1-25), tucked away in the NT, helps answer this question.  It turns out the Bible gives reasonable instructions why Christians, when they gather together, should speak edifying and intelligible words to each other rather than speaking with unfamiliar tongues (unless interpretation is provided). Thus Christians use their spiritual gifts to prophesy to believers and even inquiring outsiders.

Before looking at 1 Corinthians 14, recall how the Heidelberg Catechism 32 begins to unpack the identity and calling of the Christian. “Why are you called a Christian? Because I am a member of Christ by faith and thus share in His anointing, so that I may as prophet confess His Name, as priest present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him, and as king fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter reign with Him eternally over all creatures.” We’ve already considered how a Christian is a king. Now we will look at how a Christian is a prophet. Continue reading

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Good & Angry (Book Review)

A few years ago, biblical counselor, author, and speaker David Powlison published a book called Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness (hereafter G&A).  I received my copy in the mail shortly after its publication, but it sat unread on my shelf until recently.  To be honest, the red front cover intimidated me because I know one of my besetting sins is anger, and I know my anger is usually not the good kind.  For quite a while the mere sight of the book convicted me of a recent bout with anger, and set me back in the right direction toward repentance and humility.  But eventually, it came time to drag it off the shelf, like prescription pills from the medicine cabinet, and take my licks.  Not because I’m sadistic or a glutton for punishment.  But because I figured G&A would actually provide some help for me.  It’s just that my mindset needed to be right, and my heart prepared for soul food—not the junk but the healthy stuff that nobody really craves!

Even though G&A is a fine book, this will not be a glowingly positive review because it feels weird to praise a message right now that probably will slow-cook in my life for years to come.  And those years will no doubt prove whether the insights into anger found in this book prove fruitful.  Don’t believe anyone who struggles with anger when they try to pump the latest fad as THE ANSWER that cured all their ills.  That’s not the way the world works.  And it’s certainly not the way the Lord Jesus normally works to change people from the inside out.  Almost without fail, real and lasting change in the right direction happens over the long haul and is won through many hard-fought battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And when it comes to the big ones—sinful expressions of sex, greed, pride, and anger—well, those take a lifetime to conquer.

I remember the first time this insight came to me. Continue reading

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1 Samuel: Looking On The Heart (Book Review)

Recently I reviewed a study book by Tim Chester on the biblical book of 1 Samuel.  In this post I’d like to recommend another on the same book—this one by a faithful and expert expositor named Dale Ralph Davis.  His book, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart [1SLH], is the third volume in his series of commentaries on the historical books of pre-exilic Israel.  Preceding volumes are on Joshua and Judges, and subsequent volumes are on 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings.  Each of these are celebrated in the genre of expositional commentaries—published studies that feel more like beefed-up sermons than analytical essays.

Like Davis’s book on Judges, 1SLH achieves the balance of easy, enjoyable, accurate, illustrative, applicable, encouraging, convicting, and even humorous prose.  The reader gets the sense that the author would certainly be a great Bible teacher and preacher to sit under.  Perhaps a favorite!

And yet, I can envision that Davis’s style and tone might not be everyone’s favorite.  But regarding the kind of book he’s written, most would agree it’s a home run.  Recently I came across an unfair, mean-spirited, one-star negative Amazon review of 1SLH.

You pays your money and you takes your chances. But not any more, with this series of commentaries or anything by this publisher. First of all, the author is not as cute as he thinks. He is verbose. Verbose people usually, like this author, don’t have anything to say and don’t know what they are talking about. This book is poorly written. A real editor would have helped. Give me a pair of scissors and I’ll give you a better book, but still one not worth reading.  I read a lot of commentaries. Surprisingly, the best ones are old ones. Real old ones. These are the survivors, written by people who worked hard to give real insight. Spiritually, they stand head and shoulders above most commentators including the newly minted ones. Beware of any person who has written commentaries on all the books of the Bible. I know, I know, there are so-called “giants” who have done this. Beware, I say, beware.  If you liked this book, good for you. Maybe the mass of christians are so poorly read and so spiritually arrested that books like these are warranted.

To which I can only ask, did this reviewer read the same book I read? Continue reading

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1 Samuel For You (Book Review)

One of the most famous and fascinating books in the Bible is the book of Samuel.  In the Christian arrangement of Old Testament books, Samuel is divided into two parts: 1 Samuel (narrating the rise and fall of Israel’s first king Saul) and 2 Samuel (telling the story of the promise, rise, and tragedy of Israel’s second king David).  The book is named Samuel for the man who was Israel’s last leader during the historical period of the judges, who was also a prophet (i.e., known as a “seer” in those early days of Israel).

1 Samuel contains some of the best known and beloved stories in Scripture.  Almost everyone has heard something of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  Many are familiar with the friendship between David and Saul’s son Prince Jonathan (1 Samuel 18, 20), and the Lord’s gentle audible call of the boy Samuel to be his prophet (1 Samuel 3).  The book of 1 Samuel is literally chock full of ancient Israel’s history.  But more than this, 1 Samuel is a book first and foremost about the birth of the visible “king”-dom of God on earth, and as such contains all sorts of pointers, symbols, shadows, types, and predictions of the greatest king of Israel: the eternal Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Author and pastor Tim Chester has written an excellent and readable study of 1 Samuel called 1 Samuel For You (1SFY).  It’s in The Good Book Company’s “Read, Feed, Lead: God’s Word For You” series that continues to churn out wonderful studies of biblical books for individual devotion and group study.  Each book in the God’s Word For You series has an accompanying study guide booklet useful for digging a little deeper into a passage and reflecting on its meaning and application for today.  My Bible study group at church has used many books in the God’s Word For You series to study God’s Word together with great benefit.  Chester’s 1SFY proved to be on of our favorites. Continue reading

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In the Year of Our Lord (Book Review)

Over the last year and a half, the topic of creation/evolution, and specifically the age of the earth, took up a good bit of my study time.  I’m almost finished with that season, and hopefully I will eventually post a summary article of my findings.  It has been at times an interesting, enlightening, confirming, and frustrating topic to examine.

But this year I want to go in a different direction and delve deeply into church history.  Yeah, I can probably guess that you’re either yawning or groaning about now.  Maybe you had a history course in college that bored you to sleep.  I did.  It was the fall of 1992.  I was a naïve freshman at a large secular university, studying engineering, and still three months away from my 18th birthday.  That first semester I enrolled in a Western History class that met every Tuesday-Thursday at 8:00am.  (You can see where this is going!)  On the first day, the professor walked us through the syllabus, and when he came to the part explaining his exams, he really let us have it.

“Over the last few years my exams, which I designed to test a student’s overall grasp of the significant and important material, have been shared as “koofers” against our school’s honor code.”  As most students were using my old exams gained from upper classmen as cheat sheets, I’ve had to change my philosophy of exams.  Beginning this year, I will begin rewriting my exams to focus on the minutiae and insignificant facts.  This is the only way we can ensure that you’ll actually learn any history.”

Collective gasps erupted from the back of the room.  “What did we do to deserve this?!?”

“You pledged a fraternity.  That’s where my old exams are shared.”  Seriously.  He said that.

So for the rest of the semester, when I actually woke up on time and dragged my lazy, unmotivated, defeated self to class, my classmates and I were subjected to the absolutely worst way to learn history.  I swore that never again I would cram gobs of useless dates and names into my over-caffeinated brain.  That torture chamber of Western History indelibly imprinted on my mind the birth and death dates of every pope and monarch in Europe from Gregory the Great to John Paul II.  And I don’t remember anything else.  For a long time, that class was my lone experience of church history.

Thankfully in seminary I got a different taste of what the study of church history can be.  Not just dates and names, but stories—family stories—that explain why the directions of history shifted and why things are today what they are.  Church history learned well tells the tale of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, orthodoxy and heresy, and those little “accidents” that turn the tide of history and usher in new eras and possibilities.  Recounting and celebrating this kind—the exciting kind—of church history is the goal of pastor, teacher, international speaker, and prolific author Sinclair Ferguson’s book In the Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History (IYOL).  In the span of 20 brief chapters, Ferguson serves snippets of the historical highlights from every century of the church. Continue reading

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God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life (Book Review)

When it comes to books of the Bible, Proverbs is a funny book.  No, not ha-ha funny.  Funny like unusual.  There is nothing quite like Proverbs for distilling wisdom into short sayings that encapsulate a certain perspective on what life is like and how to live it.

Perhaps you have one of those pocket New Testaments that also contain in the back the books of Psalms and Proverbs.  Christians who get bogged down in the length of the Old Testament and so prefer to stay in the NT, still can’t seem to give up the book of praises (Psalms) and the book of wisdom (Proverbs).  Why?  Because the proverbs are not just thought-provoking and insightful.  They are also profoundly useful and practical.  If Psalms are the ABCs of worship and prayer, then Proverbs are certainly the ABCs of wise living.  While it is true that many people don’t agree with the Bible’s wisdom for living as collected in Proverbs, but nearly everyone desires to live wisely.  Even reckless rebels against God and society’s laws act the way they do because, at bottom, they believe they can get away with flaunting the way the world generally works.  They think their preferred way is wise for them because the rules of life don’t apply to them.  So at a fundamental level, almost everyone pursues wise living.  Which leave unanswered the question: “What is the best (wisest) way to live in this world?”  What wisdom, if believed and followed, will bring me the most success, happiness, health, and joy of spirit?  Proverbs is the book that nominates itself to wisdom seekers as the best way to live.

But for modern readers, the organization of material in Proverbs doesn’t lend itself to easy reading.  Not that a single proverb (or a chapter of them) is supposed to be simple to digest.  On the contrary, the nature of proverbs requires sustained contemplation, reflection, and comparison with life experience.  Even so, commentaries on Proverbs often give a good-faith effort to arrange the book’s teachings on various subjects in some sort of topical thematic order.  Such an approach to Proverbs is not a better arrangement per se, but it readers to use the book as a sort of “reference handbook” for life.  “Where can I find the Bible’s wisdom on money?  On family and parenting?  On work and labor?  On sex and marriage?  On power and justice?  On…whatever?”  That is the value of looking at Proverbs subject by subject.  A wealth of condensed wisdom is just waiting to be arranged for easy access.

Enter author and former pastor Tim Keller.  Along with his wife (who is sometimes his co-author) Kathy, Keller has penned what is likely to become a devotional classic on the Proverbs.  Arranged in topical fashion, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life (GWNL) examines and meditates on a selection of proverbs (and other relevant Bible verses) in a daily single-page format.  Without looking at every last verse in Proverbs, GWNL is a thorough journey through God’s wisdom encapsulated in the book of Proverbs. Continue reading

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