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Bible basics


Bible basics

Trusting the Bible, and applying it 

Joel Beeke in Reformed Preaching (Crossway, 2018) shows how to preach to both minds and hearts, and illustrates his contentions with good analysis of preaching from the Reformation to Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Beeke criticizes sermons filled with subjective storytelling divorced from Biblical truth: Ideally, they should explain “how a sinner must be stripped of his self-righteousness, driven to Christ alone for salvation, and led to the joy of simple reliance on Christ.”

A Legacy of Preaching (Zondervan, 2018, two volumes), edited by Benjamin Forrest and three others, casts a wider net and hauls in five dozen preachers, including Basil of Caesarea, Gregory the Great, Girolamo Savonarola, Balthasar Hubmaier, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, E.V. Hill, and Jerry Falwell.

Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter Williams (Crossway, 2018) succinctly conveys the great amount of evidence for the trustworthiness of the Gospels: He shows the authors were accurate, the histories support each other, the transmission had been faithful, and the discrepancies are minor. At greater length, Introduction to Bibliology by Jefrey Breshears (Wipf & Stock, 2017) clearly conveys basics about Bible origins, composition, canonicity, and transmission.

Is the Bible at Fault? by Jerry Pattengale (Worthy, 2018) gives examples of misusing the Bible to justify evil, suffering, and bizarre behavior. He succeeds with chapters on self-mutilation, snake handling, sex scandals, apocalyptic messages, and Ku Klux Klan propagandizing. Michael Heiser’s Angels: What the Bible Really Says About God’s Heavenly Host (Lexham, 2018) includes detailed analysis.

The title of Stephen Patterson’s The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle Against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism (Oxford, 2018) is misleading. I thought it might be a useful correction to those who equate Christianity with bad stuff—but Patterson downgrades Colossians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, and Titus, arguing that “every beginning student of the Bible learns that these letters are pseudonymous, forgeries. Paul did not write them.” Oh really? He takes seriously much later cultist texts like the Acts of Judas Thomas. Result: a useless mess.

Paula Fredriksen’s When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation (Yale, 2018) also suffers from theological liberalism. Clay Routledge’s Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World (Oxford, 2018) has a promising title but a naturalistic bias that makes it less interesting than the cover suggests. At least Routledge sees how everyone believes in something that science usually cannot prove or disprove.

Turning to better books: Sinclair Ferguson’s In the Year of Our Lord (Reformation Trust, 2018) is a fast-moving and well-written overview of 20 centuries of church history in 210 pages. What Is Man? Adam, Alien, or Ape? by Edgar Andrews (HarperCollins, 2018) gives the Biblical answer. Gary Smith’s The AI Delusion (Oxford, 2018) suggests that many would now give a fourth choice: Man as an almost-outmoded machine. Smith, though, supplies an excellent, brief antidote to triumphalism about artificial intelligence becoming our future monarchs. He also fights technophobic hysteria about jobs disappearing.

Kate Bowler’s Blessed (Oxford, 2018 paperback) explains the prosperity gospel’s Pentecostal roots. Always Be Ready by Hugh Ross with Kathy Ross (RTB, 2018) is the memoir of the astronomer and pastor who counters depression and anxiety by presenting evidence for God’s handiwork. John Wyatt’s Dying Well (IVP, 2018) is a good introduction to how to die Christianly.

Beautiful books

The Oxford Atlas of the World, 25th edition (Oxford, 2018), is a gorgeous book perfect to dive into and to decorate a coffee table. Its 448 large pages include color maps, images of the earth as seen from above, maps of cities, a “gazetteer of nations” with succinct information about each, and a copious index. Warning: It could awaken a child’s interest in traveling to far places and perhaps moving far away from parents, but that’s a risk worth taking.

Also beautiful: The Jewish Publication Society edition of The Commentators’ Bible translation of Genesis, with exegesis by Jewish sages such as Rashi, Nahmanides, Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, and others (JPS, 2018). —M.O.