BOOK REVIEW Spiritual Gifts: What They Are And Why They Are Important

 

 

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The question of whether or not the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit have continued on or have ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture is an issue still being debated today. The former is known as “continuationism” and the latter being known as “cessationism.” The book that I will be reviewing by Thomas R. Schreiner Spiritual Gifts: What They Are & Why They Matter will be a defense of the cessationist position.

First, it is important to point out that Schreiner gives credit where credit is due to his fellow continuationists of which he was formally one of them, “To Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Sam Storms. Beloved friends and coworkers in the gospel of Christ.” Schreiner is not writing as someone who has an ax to grind against continuationism. Rather, he is speaking respectfully to friends as a friend and working through the text of scripture explaining why it is that one might see a case for cessationism in the New Testament.

At the beginning of the book, Schreiner does a number of notable things. He begins by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the charismatic movement showing that there are areas where charismatic churches can provide a reasonable challenge to non-charismatic Churches. Moreover, there are areas of opportunity where charismatic churches can likewise learn from non-charismatic churches.

In the following chapters, Schreiner lays our 10 observations about spiritual gifts. Such observations like, they fall under the Lordship of Christ, we are to be reasonable in considering these gifts, it is God who is the distributor of gifts, there is no place for attitudes of superiority and inferiority as it pertains to the spiritual gifts, without love these gifts are useless, etc. What begins to emerge from these observations are foundational teachings or a theology of spiritual gifts.

Chapter six, I have to admit, is the chapter I found most interesting. It is here that Schreiner discusses the gift of prophecy. For Schreiner the gift of prophecy is not necessarily what I had always believed it was. Schreiner defines prophecy as a message from God given to an individual used to edify or warn God’s people. This is different with the common understanding of prophecy as the teaching of the Scriptures, the view that I was given. According to Schreiner a prophecy is a revelation not generally accessible.

Here is where this discussion gets interesting (to me at least). If prophecy carries with it a significant amount of weight because after all, it is the word from God then what is its roll in the church today? Taking from Paul’s teaching in Ephesians the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. Therefore if prophecy still exists today how are we to understand Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:20. Are we to say that the Apostle and Prophets are still on the task of building the foundation of the church? So if prophecy has ended then what are continuationists doing when the claim to be prophesying? To this Schreiner says they are sharing impressions.

Next, he takes up the issue of “tongues”. He looks to the Pentecost event for a definition of what tongues is. Schreiner sees tongues as a language not known by the speaker but understood by others. From this, he concludes that those who claim to speak in Biblical tongues (as in Pentecost) are not speaking a language as in the type of language that can be understood by others, but instead are making ecstatic utterances.

Schreiner offers some common arguments for cessationism and gives some candid criticism of them. His main argument for cessationism follows from the purpose of the apostle and prophet in laying the foundation of the church. It seems to make sense if the foundation of the church has been laid and recorded then what more is needed?

I have to admit, prior to reading this book I tended to stay away from the discussion because there are so many genuine believers on either side. I’ve have been encouraged through this book to continue to pursue truth in the Pauline context of love. Schreiner’s book provides a broad perspective of the various arguments that have been given with a clear defense of the cessationist viewpoint. However, I still see this as an outstanding read regardless of your position or lack thereof.

My personal rating 5 out of 5 stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quote of the Day: Colin Gunton

…I believe that it is only through an understanding of the kind of being that God is that we can come to learn what kind of beings we are and what kind of world we inhabit. pg.xi

 

…the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial to ontology – to any ontology that would hold together creation and redemption – although its implications in this field are rarely explored. pg.xi

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Book Review: Middle Knowledge by John D Laing

“One of the most widely held doctrines of Christianity is that of meticulous divine providence. The doctrine of providence refers to God’s governance and preservation of the world-his ongoing activity in the creation-and it is “meticulous,” because it refers to the smallest details of all events”(13).

So begins John D. Laing’s book on Middle Knowledge (MK): Human Freedom In Divine Soveriegnty. He is correct in highlighting God’s providence over the affairs of His creation. As believers, you can imagine how important such a belief would be. Difficulties begin to arise when our belief in God’s providence leads to other questions that any thinking person would like to know. Questions such as “how exactly does God provide for His creation?” opens a myriad of responses addressing the relationship between God’s providence and human freedom. In MK Laing want’s to make the argument that it is through MK that we find the best explanation for God’s providence.

Laing does a very good job at covering many facets of MK. He begins the first chapter by providing some background information as well as an explanation of MK. From there he offers the reader some of the objections that have been given against MK. Following the objections, Laing explains certain implications of MK discussing divine foreknowledge/freewill,  soteriology, theodicy, Scripture, science/theology, the Biblical case for MK, and the existential outlook of MK. For being an introduction to the topic of MK Laing has managed to cover a broad range of subjects.

In a nutshell (as if MK can be explained in a nutshell) MK comes from a place between two different types of divine knowledge. In the first place, there is a divine “natural knowledge” not to be confused with creaturely natural knowledge. According to Laing, “Natural knowledge refers to the truths God knows by his nature”(p.48). What this means is that God knows His creation by knowing Himself. He knows the possibilities in His creation by knowing what He can or cannot do. Some refer to this knowledge as the knowledge of “simple intelligence” or “necessary knowledge.” Secondly, Laing also speaks of divine free knowledge. Here he explains that “Free knowledge refers to the truths God knows by knowing his own will”(p.49).  To put this simply, God knows what takes place in creation by knowing His plan for it.

Looking at these two types of divine knowledge we quickly notice there is no room for human autonomy. MK is something like the go-between of divine natural knowledge and divine free knowledge. MK is described as God’s pre-volitional (p.50) knowledge of counterfactual states of affairs within creation. Thus MK is divine knowledge of events under various conditions. Moreover, MK is not based on God’s nature or upon His free knowledge, but on the free decisions of created beings. Thus MK is based on God’s knowledge of autonomous decisions people will make. So if God possesses MK His providence is unaffected by creaturely freedom.

The book itself is well written and very informative. Laing succeeded in condensing a complex topic into a very readable, instructive, and concise volume. While I do find fault in the argument (mostly because it presupposes human autonomy) I find this particular volume to be very informative and worth the read whether you are a proponent of MK or not. Some would think this book should only be for the academy. I think it is written for anyone who wants a better understanding of God’s providence. Well worth the read.

My personal rating 5 out of 5 stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Preaching By The Book

Like many, I too sit in the pew and think about what makes for good sermon preaching. Preaching By The Book by R. Scott Pace offers those who are tasked with the sacred privilege of preaching a helpful guide that is practical as it offers fundamental guidance in the preparation process.

Preaching By The Book discusses a basic format of The Foundation, The Framework, and Finishing Touches. Foundationally, Pace argues for inspiration and investigation. Because preaching is so grounded in our theology, Pace starts by offering a really good theology of preaching. He writes, “The theological nature of preaching begins with our convictions about God and his divine self-disclosure” (5). This divine self-disclosure prompts us to investigate His Word. For this, Pace outlines a seven-step process for surveying the truth.

After laying out the foundation, Pace goes on to talk about the framework for preaching which he explains is interpretation and implementation. Here he discusses sound exegesis, textual interpretation, theological understanding, and relevant implications of the text.  In short, this is what Pace sees as interpretation. Once the text has been interpreted it should be explained how it applies to our daily lives. This is what Pace refers to as implementation. Pace explains, “Our exegetical study can provide a wealth of textual and theological insights, but information without application leads to frustration” (50). For Pace, the application is what provides people with guidance “to experience Christ’s victory in their lives” (50). Pace then ends the process by discussing the Finishing Touches. These topics include introductions, illustrations, and invitations.

From my perspective Preaching By The Book is a good resource for the new as well as for the seasoned preacher. It provides a very practical process for sermon preparation and still retains helpful reminders of the eternal importance and significance of sermon preparation. If I had to critique the book I would only have one, and that would be the section on the application. As a member of the laity, I have seen this done well and not so well. In short, I would like to see the application follow consistently with what Jesus or His disciples taught. Applications that spring out of thin air leave many of us in the pew’s wondering exactly where that came from. I would have liked to have seen this addressed in more detail.

My personal rating is 4 out of 5 stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review: the CSB World View Study Bible

I have had the CSB World View Study Bible for about a month and have come to truly enj9781433604348_CSB_WorldviewStudyBible_NAVY_LIDoy it. Beginning with the cover, it comes in 3 different options: grey and black cloth over board, genuine brown leather, and imitation leather in navy blue. It is a study Bible so there is some bulk to it, but it’s still compact enough to tote around.    When you open the Bible you will notice a readable size font, commentary at the bottom of the page and scripture references down the middle of the page. Each book begins with an introduction providing background information, a very helpful timeline, and worldview elements covering teachings about God, teachings about humanity, and teachings about salvation. In the back of the Bible, there is a very nice concordance and of course the maps.

What I found that makes this Bible even more useful are the worldview articles. The articles are specifically Christian worldview and are written by some of the most prominent Christian writers today. I read somewhere that there were over 130 articles written by over 120 authors. These articles range in topics from An Introduction To A Christian World View by Trevin Wax, to A History of Christianity’s Impact on Governments by Carl R. Trueman, Christians and Suffering by Christy Hill, A New Atheism by Al Moler, Ethics Of Personal Evangelism Thom S. Rainer, The Incarnation of Jesus Christ Daniel Akin the list goes on. One of my favorites so far was Timothy George on the Holy Trinity. I can’t say enough about the variety of topics and the quality of the writing.

My personal rating is 5 out of 5 stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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BOOK REVIEW God’s Book of Proverbs: Biblical Wisdom Arranged by Topic

GodsbookofprovThe book of Proverbs in the Bible is enjoyed by many for its “practical wisdom.”  Proverbs, as you may already know, is a series of truth claims like “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” Notice how insightful the statement is as it acknowledges man’s lack of understanding and encourages man’s trust in the Lord. Fan’s of the book of Proverbs are in good company since King Solomon (usually attributed with the authorship of Proverbs) was known as an avid proverbialist since his “… wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt…He also spoke 3,000 proverbs.” That’s a lot.

We are all edified by the wisdom found in Proverbs and that is why I truly enjoyed reading God’s Book of Proverbs: Biblical Wisdom Arranged by Topic (GBP). GBP consists of the entire book of Proverbs which you would find in your Bible organized by topic. For example, if you are looking for a proverb having to do with friendship. You would first go to the index and look up “Friendship” which would direct you to page 41 where you would find the passages in Proverbs dealing with friendship. There is also a table of contents that gives you a more general list of categories. I found this to be helpful when just reading topically and not looking for something specific. As the subtitle reads this is truly Biblical wisdom arranged by topic.

GBP is an attractive hardcover volume. The publisher has chosen to use the Christian Standard Bible translation giving this volume the Optimal Equivalence between the original language and common everyday English. It is compact in size and can easily fit in a backpack or purse. My personal rating is 5 out of 5 Stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

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The Reformation Piggy Backers

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