The Word

Keeping my “flock” encouraged (and law-abiding) and coordinating all the other usual pastor-y things from home continues to take up a lot of my time and creativity. However, I don’t want to fall completely behind on reviewing, so here are two short reviews of a couple short but excellent biblical studies books.

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by [Kevin DeYoung]Title: Taking God at His Word:
Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough and What That Means for You and Me
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Genre: Theology (Applied Bibliology)
Pages: 129 (plus indices, etc.)
Rating: 5 of 5

The subtitle pretty much covers what the book is about. This is an excellent little primer on a conservative Protestant (I would say Evangelical, but that title is freighted with so much political baggage anymore that I hesitate to use it) understanding of the Bible as God’s authoritative Word.

Kevin DeYoung’s passionate, occasionally humorous, pastoral style keeps this from being a dry systematic theology book. It sparkles with a love for God’s Word and contains practical wisdom on taking advantage of God’s gift of “everything needed for life and godliness.”

The book is directed primarily toward Christians who already accept the Bible as God’s self-revelation. However, I would also recommend it to those with other convictions as a means of getting a basic non-caricatured overview of what we believe.

Title: Can We Trust the Gospels?
Author: Peter J. Williams
Genre: Theology (Bibliology)
Pages: 140 (plus indices, etc.)
Rating: 5 of 5

The earliest written sources that we have on the life of Jesus Christ are the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Peter J. Williams argues from a variety of external sources and internal characteristics that it is reasonable to trust their veracity. Along the way he also looks (unfavorably) at the so called Gnostic Gospels.

The overall tone of the book is scholarly rather than pastoral, but it does not require prior knowledge of the topic or use unexplained academic jargon. The author provides a basic overview of the various lines of evidence and offers a wealth of scholarly resources for those who want to dig deeper. I appreciate that he is confident and articulate in his arguments, but humble and reasonable enough to know that he cannot conclusively prove his case. At a certain point it comes down to faith, but it is a reasonable faith.

I would highly recommend this book as a counterbalance to those in the “historical Jesus” field who treat the Gospels as distorted legends that developed over time.

Rigorous Bibliology

Title: Light in a Dark Place:
The Doctrine of Scripture
Author: John S. Feinberg
Genre: Theology (Bibliology)
Pages: 770
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Future Release Date: 4/30/18 (Thank you to the author and Crossway for providing an eARC through NetGalley!)

John S. Feinberg is one of my favorite theologians, but his books are not for the faint of heart. They could best be described as academically rigorous…which being interpreted is he absolutely beats his topic into the ground. He examines every facet with precision: interacting with other scholarly treatments of the topic, exploring every possible interpretation of potentially relevant Scripture passages, and pulling together all of the strands into precise, nuanced arguments & definitions. To be honest, it can become a bit tedious and repetitive at certain points, but it is worth it as you are left with a thorough understanding of the topic.

In this particular volume from the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series (of which Feinberg is the general editor), he explores the doctrine of the Bible. He thoroughly discusses such topics as its divine origin (revelation & inspiration), characteristics (inerrancy & authority), contents (canonicity), and usefulness (illumination, clarity, & sufficiency). His conclusions are solidly within the boundaries of evangelical Christianity, but are stated with more clarity and precision than you will find in many (most?) evangelical theology books. The section on illumination, the Holy Spirit’s ministry of helping people understand God’s Word, was particularly helpful to me (exactly what is meant by understand in this definition being a key point of discussion). Overall, despite being a bit of a slog at times, this was a helpful book that left me with a greater appreciation for God’s Word.