Book Reviews

This category contains 106 posts

Book Review: “Give Them Grace” by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick

gtg-tfGive Them Grace by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick is a book about Christian parenting. I emphasize the word “Christian” here because one of their primary theses is that Christian parenting should look distinctive when it is looked at alongside non-Christian parenting. Specifically, this should be reflected in the notion that parenting centers around grace rather than enforcing a works-based system.

The way this plays out throughout the book is through an emphasis not just on getting obedience but rather on raising children who are faithful and understand that Christianity is not about our works but about what God has done for us. The authors use several concrete examples of misbehavior or situations in which parental intervention might be required. These examples are then put through a filter of “giving grace,” often with lengthy example dialogues and advice on how to interact. How well does this seem to work out in the examples given? Well, it’s a bit uneven.

On the one hand, the example dialogues are solid ways to apply the notion that we should give our children “grace” rather than a constant stream of Law (and thus create little Pharisees). When one child says they hate another child, rather than shutting them down purely through application of discipline, the authors commend an approach which speaks to the love of Christ in the lives of children. Some may fear this means no discipline is given, but this is far from the case. The authors put forward a good balanced approach between correction and application of grace and thus also provide an example of how to avoid pure works-righteousness in the hearts and minds of our children. The system that is put forward is one in which management, nourishing, training, correction, and rehearsing of Gospel promises are all integrated into parenting.

On the other hand, there are some theological background beliefs which are distracting and sometimes even disturbing in this work. There is a constant refrain of wondering whether one’s child is “regenerated” or not. This lack of surety about the salvation of children not only is a bit terrifying for myself as a parent, but also unfortunately undermines the points the authors make at several points. As a Lutheran, I believe in infant baptism and trust in God to fulfill the promises our Lord made through baptism. I’m not trying to start a debate on that topic, but instead I say this to point out that from my perspective, this means large parts of the book are simply untenable.

Moreover, there is a frankly disturbing lack of trust in the faith of children despite the fact that Jesus Christ said to let the little children come to Him. For example, when discussing the prayers of children about faith: “Because we don’t know the state of our children’s souls and because they might simply want to please us by praying to be saved, we must continue to give them the law and encourage them to ask God for faith to believe that he is as good as he says he is” (Kindle location 814-815). This suggestion that we must essentially doubt the faith of a child, always wary as to whether they are trying to please us rather than being genuine in their calls for salvation is, I think, theologically deeply problematic.

Another difficulty with the book is a seemingly constant refrain of what mothers do, which is particularly off-putting in the discussion of how moms must always be praying for their kids. What about me as a father? It seems clear from the (pretty good!) chapter on prayer that fathers should be praying too, but then why all the emphasis on mothers in this and other regards? It makes it seem like mothers are viewed as more important, despite disavowals of that same notion.

Overall, Give Them Grace is a good but not great parenting book with lots of concrete examples that help to put forward a vision of parenting that is distinctively Christian.

The Good

+Focus on Christian parenting as distinctive
+Practical advice in many situations
+Questions which lead to more concrete applications
+Easy-to-read style which still captivates
+Fairly neutral about physical discipline with advice both to those who would like to engage in it and to those who would not [“fairly” because the authors do favor the former]

The Bad

-Doesn’t give enough credit to fathers
-Theological background beliefs about children’s salvation distracting and even disturbing
-Some advice hampered by said theological beliefs

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Links

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Source

Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Microview: “The Dominant Culture: Living in the Promised Land” by Martin Murphy

100_2744Martin Murphy’s The Dominant Culture is an introductory exposition of the book of Judges in the Bible. Judges is my favorite book of the Bible for a number of reasons, but mostly for the people. Samson was my most loved story when I was a child–it was like a real-life superhero. Deborah has grown to be a story of great importance for me as it demonstrates a woman in the role of leader and prophet over the people of Israel. Gideon is another exciting story with all sorts of action. The cycle of Judges also draws interest by being mirrored in our own lives as we experience sin, consequence, cry for help/repentance, and deliverance.

Murphy’s book brings much of the book to life as he retells the stories with an eye for application in the present day. How do Israel’s stories point to truths in our own lives? The book proceeds effectively through the major stories of Judges, with a few comments on minor stories as well. The beauty of the way Murphy does this is that he doesn’t try to make a kind of direct correspondence between the nation of Israel as theocracy and our own world in a kind of one-to-one correspondence; rather, he draws from the stories of Judges to show how we live in a world in which each goes his/her own way, sin reigns, and we need repentance. These and other applications are drawn throughout the book with rather remarkable insight.

There are some downsides in the book, particularly with the marked reading of gender hierarchy into the narrative of Deborah. Here, it seems, Murphy goes off track of what is otherwise marvelous exegetical skill, as he must continually appeal to silence (by saying things like the Bible never says God approved of Deborah as a prophetess) rather than allowing the text itself to demonstrate that Deborah simply was a leader and prophet. The very fact that the author of Judges does not condemn a woman as a prophet and judge when they are quick to condemn other wicked practices (such as using the refrain of “everyone did as they pleased”) in fact seems to point in the opposite direction as that which Murphy goes regarding Deborah. This is, thankfully, just one unfortunate aberration of exegesis among what is otherwise a quite solid job navigating between the need to stay true to the text and draw out applications for today.

The Good

+Often shares insights that bring new light to familiar or unfamiliar texts
+Applicable interpretation rather than merely analytic
+Explains key terms in meaningful way

The Bad

-Unfortunate comments about Deborah and women in leadership

Conclusion

The Dominant Culture is a solid introduction that ties the book of Judges in to our own era. It does so remarkably well without falling into the possible errors of only going for current relevance or making direct 1-to-1 connections between Israel and a country like the United States. If one can get past a few specifics of doctrinal stances that take away from the general appeal of the work (in particular the discussion of Deborah and women in leadership), it provides a good introduction to and application of Judges.

I was provided with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated by the publisher to write any type of review whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews- There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Martin Murphy, The Dominant Culture.

Book Review: “Salvation Applied by the Spirit” by Robert Peterson

sbs-petersonRobert Peterson’s Salvation Applied by the Spirit is an exhaustive look at the notion that the work of the Holy Spirit is bringing about union with Christ.

The first part of the book is comprised of a comprehensive (to my knowledge) survey of texts related to the notion of being “in the Spirit.” Peterson goes across the whole of the biblical witness in order to draw several conclusions, including the notion that being “in Christ” simply is salvation and that this is brought about by union with Christ, which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

This first section brings up many intriguing points of inquiry alongside the central theme of union with Christ. Included among these are the meaning and application of the Sacraments (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism), the doctrine of justification and its application, and more.

The second part of the book draws broad theological conclusions from the exegetical work done in the first section. Broadly, Peterson uses this to explain the work of the Spirit in santification, justification, and salvation. Other primary theological topics that are necessary for understanding these concepts–such as the Incarnation–are also briefly discussed.

The exegetical portion of the book is fantastic and provides not only a solid understanding of the Bible’s understanding of the Spirit’s work in salvation (and particularly that of Paul), but also several insights of the applicability of these discussions to other areas.

The discussion of the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit’s work therein, along with the Incarnational perspective, was interesting and somewhat neutral. The notion that the indwelling of Christ may come through a Sacrament like the Lord’s Supper was wonderful to see (from my perspective as a Lutheran), though the somewhat dismissive language of “symbol” applied alongside this discussion gave it a sense of schizophrenia related to the Sacraments.

The theological threads of the second part of the book are interesting, as was the choice to spend some time covering topics like the Incarnation while spending lesser time on things like the specific view of justification of the author. The latter synthesis of both a covenantal perspective similar to N.T. Wright’s and the emphasis on imputation of righteousness was intriguing and deserving of deeper exploration.

Perhaps the greatest downside to the book is an amorphous sense of audience. It is written at a level which laity will find understandable, but its length will likely be off-putting. Similarly, those looking for a technical discussion will be edified by the quantity of exegetical insights, but perhaps disappointed by the lack of depth. It seems a book a bit caught in the middle between wanting to convey information to the general audience while also appealing to readers with academic interest. Unfortunately, it ultimately doesn’t quite hit its stride with either.

Overall, this is a good book looking at an interesting topic. It would just benefit from being either more or less technical. It will benefit greatly readers interested in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Robert Peterson, Salvation Applied by the Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2014).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Mere Existentialism: A Primer” by Max Malikow

100_1270-2Max Malikow’s Mere Existentialism: A Primer is an excellent introduction to existential thought.

This brief work offers brief (less than 10 pages a piece) introductions to Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Karl Jaspers, Heidegger, Viktor Frankl, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Irvin Yalom. These are exactly what they should be for being a primer on existential thought and encourage further reading.

At the end of the book is a brief single-question summary of the thought of each of these major existential thinkers. These are thought-provoking and fairly accurate (at least for those with whom I was already familiar).

The benefit of a book like this is that it allows readers to dive in and learn about major aspects of existential thought without a major time commitment. It is best seen as a way to introduce these thinkers rather than as a comprehensive look at existentialism.

There are a few typos in the work, with perhaps the most noticeable being that Simone de Beauvoir is referred to as “Simon” in the table of contents and the chapter title (though it is correct elsewhere).

Mere Existentialism would best be used as a way to briefly look at existential thought, whether for one’s own edification or in a classroom. It is a good read for an afternoon, provided the reader wants to sit back and think of their own place in the universe for a while afterwards.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from Theocentric Publishing. I was not obligated to provide any kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews- There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Max Malikow, Mere Existentialism: A Primer (Chipley, FL: Theocentric Publishing Group, 2014).

The Image in this post was a picture I took in the Rocky Mountains and shall not be used without expressed consent. 

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Microview: “Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views” edited by James Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy

usw-beilbyeddyUnderstanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views is one of the most diverse presentations of views on a topic in a book of this sort I have read. I went into reading this pretty much blind to what positions existed, so take this as perspective from someone with some theological training, but no specific background in this area.

The work starts with an introduction that does a great job introducing questions of primary importance in discussions of spiritual warfare. Walter Wink’s (alongside Gareth Higgins and Michael Hardin) view is presented first and might best be summarized as: Satan is equal to (and reducible to) human institutions of evil and suffering; he is neither personal nor is he the enemy of God but rather God’s servant–showing people their evil. We fight Satan by fighting institutionalized evil.

David Powlison’s “Classical” view is that spiritual warfare is essentially living like Christ and fighting temptation and sin. Satan is a real person and tempts us. Evils are combated through prayer and a call to repentance. Gregory Boyd’s “Ground-Level Deliverance model” argues for both a Christlike life but also for active warfare against demonic powers and Satan (who are personal and ontologically extant) on an individual level. C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood’s “Strategic Level Deliverance model” is committed to finding and rooting out demonic activity in local and even national levels, including making “spiritual maps” to find where areas of demonic activity might be found and trying to identify the specific demons behind various activity.

From the above, it may seem like these views are radically diverse. You’d be correct to think so. James Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy did a fantastic job putting together this volume with such diverse views. Questions of orthodoxy at times arise (particularly in regard to Wink’s perspective), but this makes it clear how much divergence there is related to this specific issue. The responses to the different views are each insightful and provide more material of interest to pursue.

It’s rare that I’ve had a book be this interesting and engaging throughout. I highly recommend this volume for anyone with even a remote interest in the topic of spiritual warfare.

The Good

+Excellent diversity of views never feels like you’re reading rehashed material
+Clearly defines several key terms
+Superb introductory material prepares readers to understand some key questions on issue
+Author responses insightful and given just enough space to make serious points
+Cool cover
+Excellent indices

The Bad

-Could have given even more space to responses
-Not enough interaction on exegetical questions
-No rejoinders for authors to responses

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews- There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

James Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, eds., Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012).

Book Review: “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” by Gregg R. Allison

rctp-allisonGregg Allison’s work, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment, provides a point-by-point look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church along with commentary and critique throughout from an evangelical perspective. The book thus provides an enormous number of avenues exploration, so we’ll focus on just a few topics here.

Evangelicalism in Dialogue

One issue that some may see rising from Allison’s approach is the notion of “evangelical thought” or perspective. Allison himself notes how difficult it would be to pin down one specific approach. He does, however, do a good job of approaching the various aspects of Roman Catholic theology in a way that allows for different evangelical voices to get a say. For example, in his discussion of the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/etc., he critiques Roman Catholic teaching from a number of different evangelical positions. That said, Allison is Reformed and focuses much of the space for critique on offering a specifically Reformed criticism. This means that at some points those outside of the Reformed tradition may feel they have differing criticisms to offer that are not fully covered.

One can hardly fault Allison for this approach, however, because the space needed simply to cover the Catechism and offer a critique is large.

Roman Catholicism Outlined and Critiqued

The value of the book for many will be found in the fact that it does present Roman Catholic teaching as found in their official Catechism. Allison does a great job simply presenting what the Catechism teaches in each section before he offers a critique.

Allison’s critique often focuses on either the Church-Christ identification or the nature-grace interdependence in Roman Catholic theology. It is the latter which is the most prominent critique offered. Roman Catholicism sees human nature and grace working together whereas evangelicalism sees human nature as corrupted through the fall and not working together with grace. Allison does an excellent job showing numerous difficulties with the Roman Catholic view on this topic and then showing how many doctrines of Roman Catholicism are dependent upon this faulty premise.

Allison’s critique of specific doctrines is also helpful. His criticisms of papal and magisterial infallibility are on-point, concise, and decisive. His outline and critique of Mariology, justification, etc. are each valuable and insightful. Again, however, readers may be left hoping there was more space to dedicate to each individual topic.

Some other issues

One issue that happens a few times is that Allison seems to inadequately ground his critique. This is particularly the case in a number of places in which the criticism amounts to “evangelicalism dismisses x.” Such a “dismissal” happens frequently through the book on minor topics, but it leaves the reader wondering on what grounds such ideas are dismissed. Often, the only grounds provided is something like not having sufficient biblical warrant or because of its reliance on one of the above mentioned overarching themes (Church/Christ or nature/grace).

Another issue is that Allison sometimes offers critiques that do not seem very convincing or are products of his theological presuppositions. For example, his discussion of baptism and his denial that Jesus is speaking of baptism in John 3:5ff seems confused, to say the least. Indeed, he confirms that the discussion of “water and the spirit” are being used in such a way as to refer to the same thing. However, no real alternative to baptism is given of this water- and spirit-filled notion. It is simply asserted that it cannot be baptism because that would mean an anachronistic notion (baptism) was in the text. But of course John the Baptist was around before Jesus, and he baptized with water… and the spirit. Now, I am Lutheran, so my perspective on baptism certainly differs from that of Allison’s, but his treatment of this passage seemed exegetically impossible.

Conclusion

Gregg Allison’s interaction with Roman Catholicism is enormously helpful in that it walks readers through the beliefs of Roman Catholics from their own Catechism. The strength of the work is its broadness, which is also its weakness as individual topics are sometimes skimmed over too briefly. That said, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment is a simply fantastic book for those looking to learn more about Roman Catholicism and the issues that divide it from evangelical theology. Allison has done a service to the church with this book that provides both a reference and a critical perspective when dealing with Roman Catholic theology.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Gregg Allison, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2014).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response” by Kevin Diller

ted-dillerKevin Diller’s Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response is a work that seeks to offer a unified approach from Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga to a major difficulty in Christian doctrine: reconciling the necessity of having theological knowledge with the notion that our cognitive capacities are somehow faulty due to sin. But the book is much more than that, for throughout the book Diller gives major, applicable insight into the thought of both Plantinga and Barth.

Diller first goes deeper into the epistemological problem, then analyzes Barth’s view of revelation and his theological epistemology, and wraps up the first part of the book with a deep look at Plantinga’s concept of warrant and how it may impact the question of theological epistemology. He puts forward a consistent interpretation that allows for a unified perspective of Barth’s and Plantinga’s thought. The second part focuses on this unified perspective and puts it forward in analysis of natural theology, human knowledge of God, and Scripture.

Such a brief summary of contents does not do justice to the broad scale of the book, which touches upon many different topics of importance, while always remaining centered on the question of knowledge in theology. Diller has thoughtfully brought forth key aspects of the thoughts of both Barth and Plantinga in such a way as to demand reflection from both philosophers and theologians.

Some of the most interesting insights come from Diller’s integration of Barth’s concept of revelation with Plantinga’s concept of warrant. By focusing on God as self-revealing and self-attesting (Barth), believers are able to maintain warrant in their knowledge of theology (Plantinga).

Another area of profound interest is the way that both Barth and Plantinga approach natural theology–they largely argue that it cannot succeed in its end goal–to demonstrate the existence of God. Barth’s thought reflects this because God will necessarily be hidden from unaided human reason, while Plantinga argues that the arguments of natural theology are part of but do not ground warrant for belief in God. This latter section has much to reflect upon for one who, like me, thinks natural theology can be largely successful.

Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma is a superb, worthwhile read for anyone with interest in the questions of how we may have knowledge within the worldview of Christianity. I highly commend it to my readers.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Kevin Diller, Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” by John Owen

ost-owenBe killing sin, or it will be killing you. – John Owen

John Owen was a Puritan minister who lived in the 1600s. In Overcoming Sin and Temptation, we are presented with a collection of three of his works–“Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers,” “Of Temptation, the Nature and Power of It,” and “Indwelling Sin”–which are aimed at leading believers to an awareness of their own sin and the overcoming of it.

If I had to sum up this volume with one word, I would say: “Convicting.” John Owen throughout does a fantastic job calling believers to the awareness of their own sin and the various ways in which we deny our sin and try to pretend it isn’t there. There were many times I found myself nodding along, realizing that Owen had laid bare yet another way I had been trying to ignore sin in my own life. It is a powerful work of law.

Owen points out how we often rely upon grace in the face of temptation–surely we will be forgiven this sin!–rather than putting the temptation to death; he notes how we often try to ignore sin through various means like the weariness of our body (we’re too tired to avoid this sin); he exhaustively draws out the many ways we deceive ourselves through our sin and persist in sin. It’s almost tiring because we realize how often our sins have been covered up in our minds through rationalizing it away.

But Owen does not end with the conviction of our hearts for our sin. Instead, as the title of this book suggests, he puts forward ways in which we may overcome sin and temptation. Primarily, they involve watchfulness and prayer. We are called by Owen to an active assault on sin rather than passive resistance. We must always be looking out for the ways sin penetrates our lives and close those gaps. Some concrete things Owen suggests are focusing upon Christ’s work and how our sin adds to Christ’s suffering; thinking upon the grace and love of God and how we wound the great God who made us when we sin; considering God’s sovereignty and asking, with Joseph in Genesis, “How can I sin against my God?” These are only a few of the ways Owen suggests we put sin to death in our lives.

This edition of the works is made especially helpful by extensive notes explaining hard-to-understand words. Various explanatory words are sometimes added into the text (always bracketed so readers know they have been added) to continue Owen’s train of thought. Each work has a brief but information-packed introduction, and there are lengthy and detailed outlines of the works at the end of the book.

I do wish the editors had also decided to make the language throughout the text gender-inclusive. It is jarring to have to continually process: “Oh yeah, he’s using ‘men’ to reference ‘people.” It may seem like a small thing, but if this is so clearly what Owen means when he says “he” or “man” or “men,” etc., then why not just say it through the editorial process? This is a minor strike against an otherwise excellent work.

I recommend that every Christian obtain a volume of Overcoming Sin and Temptation, read it prayerfully, and integrate it into their lives. We must be killing sin lest it kill us.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Source

John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2006).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Pascal’s Wager” by Jeff Jordan

pw-jj

For some time, I’d been wanting to put some effort into studying Pascal’s Wager. I picked up Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God by Jeff Jordan in order to familiarize myself more with the philosophical grounding behind the argument. Jordan approaches the Wager through a lens of analytic philosophy and, I think, demonstrates that the argument has some force to it.

Jordan’s work has great scope. Several aspects of the Wager are brought to light.  He analyzes several different formulations of the argument, while also noting where the argument has been changed or modernized. For example, the notion that Pascal’s Wager was infinite bad vs. infinite good is a more recent innovation than Pascal’s original argument.

He studies the argument contextually to determine whether the Wager was intended as a generalized theistic proof or an argument for Christianity. Numerous objections from leading critics of the Wager are put to the test. Ultimately, a version of the Wager developed by William James is put forward as an argument that passes the philosophical muster. Jordan analyzes this argument from many angles, ultimately demonstrating that it overcomes the challenge of the “many gods” objection and provides grounds for Christian faith.

The value of Pascal’s Wager may is increased by the fact that many aspects of Jordan’s work are applicable to other arguments or areas of interest for philosophers of religion and apologists. For example, Jordan raises significant challenges to the notion that philosopher’s fictional deities may actually be counted as evidence for a “many gods” objection (75-76; 80-81). Another example is a rather interesting argument he derives from the work of James Beattie (1735-1803- Jordan notes Beattie is at times rightly accused of misrepresenting Hume’s arguments) about whether attempts to deconvert might bring about pragmatic wrongs (190-194). These and other tantalizing topics command even more interest than the book might otherwise have had.

Simply put, Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God is a phenomenal thought-provoking work that will have readers rethinking their evaluation not only of the (in)famous Wager but also of a number of related topics. Even at its steep price tag, the book is a bargain.

Links

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Pascal’s Wager: The Utility Argument Examined- I outline and defend one of the versions of Pascal’s Wager which Jordan brings up in this work. I find it to be a very interesting argument and a great addition to the apologist’s toolkit.

Source

Jeff Jordan, Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God (New York: Oxford, 2006).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Wheel of Time”: A Christian reflection on Books 1-5 of Robert Jordan’s epic saga

FIRESThe Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow… Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Wheel of Time is nothing short of mammoth in size. The series spans 14 books, the shortest of which is about 680 pages. It is a fantasy series encompassing the fulfillment of a number of prophecies which foretold of an Age to come that would once more “break” the world: a man called the Dragon would simultaneously bring salvation and destruction. Here, we’ll explore many of the themes found in the first five books of the series–The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, and The Fires of Heaven. We’ll explore the series from a worldview perspective by seeking out the overarching themes found in the books related to the real world.

There will, of course be SPOILERS in what follows. If you’re leaving a comment, do try to limit your discussion to books 1-5. I will be posting on the following books in the series in the upcoming months, so if you want to comment on later parts of the series, please wait for the appropriate post.

Prophecy

It is clear that prophecy is a central theme throughout the books. Everyone, from beggar on the street to king or queen, is aware of the prophecies concerning the Dragon. Bards and entertainers recite the prophecies, using language to tell the stories in different forms. The fulfillment of prophecy is taken to be essentially guaranteed by everyone encountered.

Prophecy is not, however, always fulfilled in the ways expected by the main characters. Rand, for example, is often surprised by how the prophecies about the Dragon are fulfilled in him. Frankly, this makes me think about the way some prophecies of Christ were fulfilled. For example, the statement “Out of Egypt I called my son” is clearly a statement about the nation of Israel, but it is later applied to Christ. Moreover, many expected the Messiah to be a conqueror, but Jesus came to save through his own sacrifice. 

The fact that the expectation existed, but the interpretation of the prophecies was diverse, is itself an interesting parallel to Christ as the fulfillment of prophecy. It will be interesting to see how the theme of fulfilled prophecy continues going forward.

Messiah and The Pattern

Interestingly, Rand may be understood as a kind of Messiah figure, but a bit of the inversion of Jesus Christ. Jesus came not to build an earthly kingdom; Rand’s kingdom must be ushered in through war and conquest. However, the destruction Rand is supposed to usher in in some ways seem to mirror prophecies about the end times in the book of Revelation. Moreover, one might wonder at this stage in the series where Rand is headed. Perhaps he will end up giving himself to save the world. But Rand is not himself incarnate Lord ushering in salvation through sacrifice; instead, he is driven by the Pattern–the force of the Wheel of Time which “weaves” strands–people’s lives, the activities of nations, and all things.

The Pattern is said to be woven around certain people who are part of its plan for continuing the revolution of ages. The system seems to imply an eternal universe with a repetition of time and places and reincarnation, but in these books, it seems that Rand may be breaking that pattern. It is unclear as to whether the series is developing in a direction which implies the repetition will continue, but it will be interesting to see where it leads.

Reincarnation is fairly explicit in the book, as Rand, the Dragon, is a reborn Lews Therin–one who was prophesied to return as the Dragon. He has to fight with the thoughts that are in his head from Lews Therin in order to control his own destiny. Again, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will Jordan continue to affirm reincarnation as an aspect of reality with a continually repeating “Wheel of Time” or will Rand manage to break the Pattern and turn time into a line rather than a Wheel?

It seems clear that the notions of reincarnation or a continually repeating pattern of time are no part of the Christian worldview. As interesting as these themes are in the books, it is clear they are fiction. The notion that time is constantly repeating is, in fact, false. The universe has a beginning and it is heading towards an end. As fiction, it is entertaining, but it should remain clear that it is fiction.

Rand as Messiah is an interesting way to view the series. The connections to the notion of prophesied salvation are interesting. But in Jordan’s world, the savior comes not only to save, but to ruin. It will be interesting to see where he takes it.

Men and Women

The characters each have their own ideas of how men and women should operate. Jordan seems to satirize the expectations as much as he flaunts them. Women are just as capable as men in the series, though of interest is the different cultural expectations and how men and women are expected to fulfill them in the different nations throughout the books. The Aiel, for example, a people group who live in a desert reason, have extremely different views of men and women than one encounters in other nations. They have societies of warriors, including ones for women, and both men and women are expected to comply with the unwritten laws of honor. Other nations operate with fairly patriarchal views which are reflective of the medieval setting of the work. The complexity of male-female interaction is continually interesting.

In the last of the books we’re exploring, The Fires of Heaven, some characters begin to interact sexually. As with the general views of the roles of men and women, the cultural expectations regarding marriage and sexual union are shown to be diverse across the differing cultures. The acts themselves are not explicit, but nudity is at times referenced and it is clear what has happened.

These sections demonstrate that the characters are not perfect but rather succumb to their various desires, not unlike real people. However, the fact that they are often interwoven with the different cultural expectations regarding marriage may spur discussion among Christians, who are often challenged to defend traditional views of marriage. It seems clear to me that the mere existence of culturally diverse ways of defining marriage does not undermine the notion that there is an ideal form of marriage which was established “in the beginning.”

Conclusion

“The Wheel of Time” starts off strong. It’s a powerful fantasy saga with quite a few themes which resonate with the Christian worldview. There are other themes which are contrary to truth as well. The series may spur discussion about various aspects of reality, from prophecy to views of men and women. So far, I have greatly enjoyed it. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing how I might use it to interact with others regarding the Christian worldview.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

The art is the official galley art for the cover of The Fires of Heaven. I make no claims to ownership and give all credit to the artist, Darrell Sweet, and copyright holders.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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