Book Review: Now, That’s a Good Question! By R. C. Sproul

Great Answers to God Questions

I love the format of this book: One of the finest theologians in America today, answering 300 questions from a radio audience off the cuff with answers to each of these individual questions in less than 4 minutes. The questions in this book are the original questions from the live call in audience, and the answers have been edited only insofar as missing assorted “uh’s” and “um’s.”

The questions are broken down Into 22 categories. R. C. Sproul is a reformed theologian and pastor, and his expertise is in the areas of theology, apologetics, philosophy, Bible exposition and interpretation. He is a brilliant communicator and has the ability to bring the cookies on the shelf for the layperson – no matter how complicated the issue. I have included all the categories listed below, along with two sample questions from the section.

1)    Knowing God (19 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Why does God remain invisible?” and “Why does God love us so much?”

2)    Who Is Jesus (9 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Was Christ capable of sinning?” and “Did Jesus ever laugh?”

3)    The Work of the Holy Spirit (10 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Does every human being have the potential to receive the Holy Spirit?” and “What was the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?”

4)    The Book of Books (17 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “How were the books of the Bible selected and compiled?” and “How do you know the Bible is true?”

5)    The Way of Salvation (23 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Why did God save me?” and “What do good deeds have to do with salvation?”

6)    Sin and the Sinner (13 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What is meant by the term original sin?” and “Are there gradations of sin?”

7)    Faith and Philosophy (14 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Doesn’t science disprove Christianity?” and “Is there a distinction between Christianity and religion?”

8)    The Power and Purpose of Payer (11 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “How can we, as Christians, have more power in our prayer lives?” and “Does God hear the prayers of the non-Christian?”

9)    The Growing Spiritual life (27 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What do you do in your daily devotions?” and “What concerns you most about today’s Christian?”

10) Understanding Satan (6 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Can the Devil read my mind?” and “Has Satan been given dominion over the earth until Jesus returns?”

11) Heaven and Hell (16 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Will we recognize each other in heaven?” and “What happens to animals when they die?”

12) Sharing the Faith (10 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What is faith?” and “Is the Christian faith really rational?”

13) Church Life (26 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What are the basics to church growth?” and “What is the most crucial issue confronting today’s church?”

14) Marriage and Family (22 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What should make Christian marriages distinctive?” and “Are there biblical grounds for divorce, and if so, what are they?”

15) Career Issues (9 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What is the biblical concept, if any, of retirement?” and “How can an employer show employees Christlike dignity?”

16) Money Matters (10 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What do you believe the Bible teaches about tithing as it relates to Christians today?” and “Is there a clear biblical position against lotteries and casino gambling?”

17) Life-and Death Issues (7 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Does the Bible say anything about euthanasia?” and “What should be the Christian stand on the death penalty?”

18) Suffering (12 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “What is the difference between God testing us and tempting us?” and “If God is all powerful, then why does he allow suffering?”

19) The End Times (12 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Are we living in the last days?” and “What does Scripture teach us about the future role of Israel?”

20) Lifestyle Ethics (17 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Should Christians impose their ethics on non-Christians?” and “Is it wrong for scientists to engage in genetic engineering?”

21) Christians and Government (13 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Are biblical solutions to world problems outdated?” and “Should Christians work to have Christian values in public policy?”

22) Puzzling Passages (19 Questions asked and answered) – for example, “Why in the Old Testament does God demand so much violence and war of the Jewish nation?” and “The Lord says in the Old Testament that he loved Jacob but he hated Esau, and in 1 John, John actually says that if we say we love God but hate our brothers, we’re wrong. How can we reconcile these two passages?”

I think this is a resource you will use for life – especially for Christian leaders, pastors, counselors, missionaries, and teachers – who deal with similar questions in their respective ministries on a regular basis. The index in the back of the book makes this a resource that you can use to find if a specific question you are struggling with, or have been asked is included. It is not exhaustive, but has a lot of the questions that most Christians struggle with and are asking. It also makes a great gift for someone who loves to study God’s Word.

Book Review: New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer Jr.

The author – Gleason L. Archer Jr., (1916-2004 – B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University; B.D., Princeton Theological Seminary; L.L.B., Suffolk Law School) was a biblical scholar, theologian, educator, and author. He served as an assistant pastor of Park Street Church in Boston from 1945 to 1948. He was a Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary for 16 years, teaching New Testament, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. From 1965 to 1986 he served as a Professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. He became an emeritus faculty member in 1989. He also served for many years as a minister of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The remainder of his life was spent researching, writing, and lecturing.

Legend has it, (I have not been able to verify whether this is 100% true or not) that he was so gifted in languages that for fun (and as a challenge) he would study the Bible in a different language every year to continue to grow and develop mentally.

Archer served as one of the 50 original translators of the NASB published in 1971. He also worked on the team which translated the NIV Bible published in 1978. I give this introduction, because many people are not familiar with Archer (unfortunately), but he was a brilliant Christian scholar who could have excelled as a lawyer (his father was the founder and president of Suffolk Law School), and chose to use his exceptional gifts to defend the inerrancy and integrity of the Scriptures over the span of his entire adult life. I would say that along with Bruce Waltke and Walter Kaiser Jr., he was one of the most elite and influential Old Testament Evangelical Scholars at the end of the Twentieth Century.

As for this book – it’s simply outstanding. It covers all the thorny issues from Genesis to Revelation in biblical order, and considers questions from the cultural, linguistic, and authorial intent of each passage considered. Of all the books I have on questions, and Bible answers, this is the one I turn to the most. It is extremely thorough and will increase anyone’s’ belief in the supernatural authorship of the sixty-six books in the Protestant Canon. It is definitely a “must have” for any interpreter/student/teacher of the Bible, or an apologist for the Christian faith.

Booklet Review: Jesus The One and Only by Greg Koukl

This little booklet by Greg Koukl is outstanding. He categorizes over 100 Scriptures demonstrating how and why Jesus is the only means of salvation that God has provided by which all mankind must be saved. He gives the following nine reasons and then substantiates each reason with various Scriptures.

 Reason #1: Jesus Is the Only Source of Salvation for the World

Reason #2: Jesus Is The Father’s Choice

Reason #3: Rejection of Jesus is Rejection of the Father

Reason #4: Rejection of Jesus Brings Judgment and Wrath; Belief in Jesus Rescues from Wrath

Reason #5: Jesus Is the One Who Provides Forgiveness from Sin

Reason #6: Many Imposters Will Claim to Provide Other Ways of Salvation

Reason #7: There Are No Other Alternatives for Salvation

Reason #8: All Nations Are to Be Given the Gospel

Reason #9: Jesus Will Be Man’s Judge on the Final Day

I would recommend this booklet be purchased to give away to both Christians and non-Christians. It is an excellent tool for both evangelism and apologetics. Greg Koukl lets the Scriptures speak fro themselves – and you would be hard-pressed to read all these Scriptures without falling more in love with Jesus, or letting others know how and why they need Jesus to save them from their sins and God’s wrath; and instead be gracious recipients of His abundant mercy and love forever.

Book Review: Reason to Believe by R. C. Sproul

This excellent apologetics and faith building resource was formerly titled “Objections Answered.” It is my understanding that eminent theologian, Dr. R.C. Sproul was asked by D. James Kennedy (then pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale) to answer the 10 biggest objections that non-believers had in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to the Christian faith. This book is the result of R. C. Sproul answering the questions submitted to him by Dr. Kennedy. Even though we find ourselves with increasing skepticism, and postmodernism in the 21st Century – I still believe this is one of the finest primer’s available for Christian’s to answer these objections in today’s climate.

Here are the ten objections Sproul tackles in this book (according to Evangelism Explosion – these were the 10 most popular objections to the Christian Faith in the early 1980’s):

1)    “The Bible Contradicts itself. It’s Just a Fairy Tale.”

2)    “All Religions are Good. It doesn’t matter what you Believe.”

3)    “What About the Poor Native Who Never Heard of Christ?”

4)    “Christianity is a Crutch for Weak People.”

5)    “The Church is Full of Hypocrites.”

6)    “I Don’t Need Religion.”

7)    “There is No God.”

8)    “If There is a God Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?”

9)    “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”

10) “When You’re Dead You’re Dead! There Is No More!”

Dr. Sproul handles these ten questions by beginning with his own personal testimony of how he came to have a personal relationship with Christ, and then proceeds to handle these objections with great skills in logic, Biblical exegesis, an understanding of popular culture, helpful illustrations, and concludes each chapter with a helpful summary of how to handle each objection. I highly recommend this book as educational, encouraging, and helpful in equipping Christians to share their faith with confidence because we have excellent reasons for why we believe what we do about the Christian faith.

Why Is God So Narrow-MInded?

Why Is God So Narrow-Minded?

Reason to Believe image

By R.C. Sproul (Reason to Believe, pp. 41-43)

We remember the words of Jesus when he said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few( Matthew 7:13-14).”

What kind of a God would have such a narrow gate? The question implies a serious accusation; that God has not done enough to provide redemption for mankind. Let us examine the accusation from a hypothetical perspective. Let us suppose that there is a God who is altogether holy and righteous. Suppose that God freely creates mankind and gives to mankind the gift of life.

Suppose He sets His creatures in an ideal setting and gives them the freedom to participate in all of the glories of the created order with freedom. Suppose, however, that God imposes one small restriction upon them, warning them that if they violate that restriction, they will die. Would such a God have the right to impose such a restriction with the penalty of forfeiture of the gift of life if His authority is violated?

Suppose that for no just cause the ungrateful creatures disobeyed the restriction the moment God’s back was turned. Suppose when He discovered their violation instead of killing them, He redeemed them. Suppose the descendents of the first transgressors broadly and widely increased their disobedience and hostility toward their creator to the point that the whole world became rebellious to God, and each person in it, “did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).

Suppose God still determined to redeem these people and freely gave special gifts to one nation of people in order that, through them, the whole world would be blessed. Suppose God delivered this people from poverty and enslavement to a ruthless Egyptian Pharoah. Suppose this privileged nation, as soon as it was liberated, rose up in further rebellion against their God and their liberator. Suppose they took His law and violated it consistently.

Suppose that God, still intent upon redemption, sent specially endowed messengers or prophets to plead with His people to return to Him. Suppose the people killed the divine messengers and mocked their message. Suppose the people then began to worship idols of stone and things fashioned by their own hands. Suppose these people invented religions that were contrary to the real God and worshiped creatures rather than the Creator.

Suppose in an ultimate act of redemption God Himself became incarnate in the person of His Son. Suppose this Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem the world. But suppose this Son of God were rejected, slandered, mocked, tortured, and murdered. Yet, suppose that God accepted the murder of His own Son as punishment for the sins of the very persons who murdered Him.

Suppose this God offered to His Son’s murderers total amnesty, complete forgiveness, transcendent peace that comes with the cleansing of all guilt, victory over death and an eternal life of complete felicity.

Suppose God gave these people as a free gift the promise of a future life that would be without pain, without sickness, without death, and without tears. Suppose that God said to these people, “There is one thing that I demand. I demand that you honor my only-begotten Son and that you worship and serve Him alone.” Suppose God did all of that, would you be willing to say to Him, “God, that’s not fair, you haven’t done enough”?

If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all? I know of no way of answering that question.

Book Review: Historical Theology by Gregg R. Allison

*Dr. Gregg R. Allison has made a very useful and practical contribution to the study of historical theology – especially for those familiar with Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” Gregg writes clearly and cogently for those of us who desire to go deeper into the historical foundations, development, and significance of each major doctrine of the Bible.

 Allison gives us eight solid reasons for studying Historical Theology:

1)    “helping [those who study it to] distinguish orthodoxy from heresy.”

2)    “it provides sound biblical interpretations and theological formulations.”

3)    “it presents stellar examples of faith, love, courage, hope, obedience, and mercy.”

4)    “to protect against the individualism that is rampant today among Christians.”

5)    “it not only helps the church understand the historical development of its beliefs, but enables it to express those beliefs in contemporary form.”

6)    “it encourages the church to focus on the essentials, that is, to major on those areas that have been emphasized repeatedly throughout the history of the church.”

7)    “it gives the church hope by providing assurance that Jesus is fulfilling his promise to his people.”

8)    “finally, as beneficiaries of the heritage of doctrinal development sovereignly overseen by Jesus Christ, the church of today is privileged to enjoy a sense of belonging to the church of the past.”

This book is simply a marvelous plethora of useful information on the development of theology gathered in one place, synthesized masterfully by Allison for those who want to know how theology has come to us by the greatest theological minds in history. The author follows the same outline of Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology,” (also available from Zondervan), and thus it makes this resource an excellent companion of Grudem’s outstanding work. I highly recommend both of these resources to be used together for anyone who desires to know what we believe and how the greatest God-centered theologians of history have developed the sound theology needed to transform lives and culture today in the 21st century.

 

*Dr. Greg Allison in his own words: I am Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where, in addition to teaching the three core theology courses, I teach electives on the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of humanity (with a focus on human embodiment), the doctrine of the church, historical theology, and Roman Catholic theology. I do occasional teaching for the Institute of Biblical Studies and Re:train. I am also secretary for the Evangelical Theological Society and serve on the editorial committee as book review editor (in the areas of theology, history, philosophy, etc.) and referee (for articles).

I was born and raised in Chicago, which means I am a Bears fan, Bulls fan, Blackhawks fan, and Cubs fan (and hate the White Sox). I have a B.S. in biology, a M.Div., and the Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. Beside teaching and writing, I enjoy reading, sports, music, and the outdoors. I swim a mile five times a week to keep healthy.

My wife Nora and I were married in 1976 and have three grown children: Lauren is married to Troy, lives in the Seattle area, and has two kids (Caleb and Alia) with another on the way; Hanell is married to Mike, lives in Louisville, and has two kids (Annelie and Hudson); Luke is a senior at Union University majoring in math and secondary education with a minor in Church history.

Some unusual tidbits about me: while in high school I designed the offical seal of my city (Riverdale, Ill.); my wife and I had a private audience with Pope John Paul II (along with 9,998 other invited guests); we lived in Rome and the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland for a total of seven years.

Book Review: Max on Life by Max Lucado

In this resource, popular pastor and writer, Max Lucado responds to some of the letters he has received from people pursuing answers to some of life’s more important questions. Max answers close to two hundred practical questions based on these letters. The questions along with his subsequent answers – supported by the Scriptures – are handled in the following categories:

 1) Hope: God, Grace, and “Why am I here?” – pages 1-36.

2) Hurt: Conflicts, Calamities, and “Why me?” – pages 37-74.

3) Help: Prayer, Scripture, and “Why church?” – pages 75-118.

4) Him/Her: Sex, Romance, and “Any chance of a second chance?” – pages 119-150.

5) Home: Diapers, Disagreements, and “Any hope for prodigals?” – pages 151-176.

6) Haves/Have-Nots: Work, Money, and “Where’s the lifeline?”  – pages 177-196.

7) Hereafter: Cemeteries, Heaven, Hell, and “Who goes where?” – pages 197-230.

8) Addendum: The Write Suff – helpful and brief advice on: how to write, when to write, who can publish, who can edit. – pages 231-235.

9) Notes – pages 236-238.

10) Topical Index – a helpful index for quick access to the topics addressed in the book beginning with “abortion” and ending with “worship.” – pages 239-245.

Overall, the answers to the questions are gracious, practical, clear, and concise. I’m sure I will consult his answers again as they come up in my own ministries of counseling and life coaching. I think his book is definitely worth having and consulting – especially for new believers in Christ.

I think Max does an adequate job in his answers to these questions, but Max represents what I would deem a “Generic Christianity.” I would prefer to see the questions answered within the framework of a robust Biblical Theology with Christ at the center. I would love to see Tim Keller or D.A. Carson write a book answering the same questions. For those who would prefer a more Theological approach (considering Biblical and Systematic Theology) to frequently asked questions I would recommend R.C. Sproul’s, “Now That’s a Good Question” as a much better resource with more depth of insight into the Christo-centric emphasis of the Scriptures and their connection to life in the 21st century.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: The Fight Of Our Lives by William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn

The Big Elephant in Our Country

William Bennett and Seth Leibsohn bravely tackle the big elephant in our country that most people brush aside, are ignorant of, and simply refuse to talk about. The subtitle of the book is “Knowing the Enemy, Speaking the Truth & Choosing to Win the War Against Radical Islam.” This book provides a myriad of facts from history, the Koran and the Bible, and recent events to show the danger that radical Islam poses to our country and the world.

In a balanced and objective manner the author’s do an excellent job of presenting a lot of helpful information in showing that we can’t just stand back and do nothing while Islam presents itself as a “peaceful religion” when it’s own teachings, history, and current events show otherwise. Many of the spokesmen for Islam employ doublespeak with reference to the dark realities of Islam. The authors alert us to the methods they employ and that we need to call evil – evil when we read it, hear it, or see it.

If I could make every American read this book I would. I wish we didn’t have to deal with radical Islam, but we do. We need to remember 9/11 and do our homework and be smart in preventing something much worse. I didn’t enjoy the book – or the subject matter. However, I learned a lot more than I knew about Islam, and how to be proactive and informed in preventing the downfall of our great nation – at least to the advancement of Islam anyway! It all starts with being educated and informed about the truth. We need to know the truth if we are going to respond to the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

On Apologetics

“Our priority in apologetics is not to make the nonbeliever listen to us, but to help the person be ready to listen to God and be taught by him.”

– Joe Boot in Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend

Book Review of Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God”

Tim Keller (Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, N.Y.) is a very gifted thinker and communicator. His book “The Prodigal God” is one I have read 3 times in the last year. The book is based on perhaps the most famous story that Jesus told in the New Testament (Luke 15) – often referred to as the the parable of the “prodigal son.”I have been a Christian for 39 years now (24 of those years in the pastorate), and I have never read a better presentation of the gospel than he presents in this book. Dr. Keller helped me to fall in love with the God of the gospel again. He helped me to realize that the gospel isn’t just about forgiveness for what I’ve done in the past, or for the promise of Christ’s return and the hope of Heaven for the future, but that the gospel is essential for living today. God’s grace through a relationship with Christ is what we need to be reminded of every day in order to basque in the pleasure, peace, and presence of a wonderful God – who loves us despite our tendencies to rebel, or revel in our own righteousness – either way – our sins of thinking we are too bad, or too good keep us at a distance from knowing God the Father through His perfect Son – Our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Out of 5 stars – I would give it a 10. The principles in this book are invaluable and I sum up what I learned from this book here:

1) I am a bigger sinner than I thought I was – I have a tendency to be like the “older brother” in Luke 15 – who sees himself as more righteous than he really is.

2) God is more gracious than I thought He was – He provides forgiveness for both the rebel (the younger brother) and the older brother – who is lost because it is his supposed righteousness that keeps him from having a relationship with his father – he is an idolater becasue he loves his father’s “things” more than the father himself.

3) It has helped me to understand the gospel and explain it better. Religions have a tendency to lead to idolatry – we think we are good – because we follow rules, or do “good works,” but these good works are self serving and make us look down on others.

4) Ultimately, I owe my salvation solely and totally to the goodness, patience, mercy, grace, and provision of God through Christ. He sought me while yet a sinner. He gave me His righteousness in exchange for my sin. He forgave me despite my rebellion and pride, and revealed His love for me in that He sent His one and only sin to die for me on the cross – Romans 5:8.

5) The Prodigal God wants me to go after all people with the good news that He has made provision for their salvation – no matter what separates them from Him. What a mighty and wonderful God we serve!