David S. Steele’s “The White Flag”

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Rock Solid Biblical Advice For Church Leaders

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

It’s a rare occasion that I get to read and review a book by an author I know well. The author and I have been close friends since we were roommates in Bible college in the mid-eighties. I also feel honored and humbled that he would dedicate this book to me. David S. Steele is the man in my life that next to me dad, I admire more than any man I’ve ever known. He is the most disciplined godly man I know and I am delighted to recommend this book with the highest recommendation possible.

In this book Dr. Steele tackles the subjects of worldview, theology, biblical theology, heresy, and spiritual warfare with the skill of a top notch surgeon. There is no one I know that comes close to being as well-read, and a student who takes seriously the pursuit of godliness and the application of God’s Word as Pastor Steele. Where this book shines so brightly as an encouragement to leaders is in its depth. Dr. Steele is adept at brining the best of the Bible, Church History, Philosophy, and Theology in a way that brings tremendous depth, logic, and coherence to a Church Leader’s task.

The bottom line thesis of this book is that many pastors and church leaders in our culture have capitulated to the cultural relativism of our age. We have exchanged the great truths of the Bible for half-truths – which are really full-on lies. Too many pastors and leaders of churches are lazy with their minds, and thus not able to run the race before them. Steele brilliantly examines five key areas where the Church has compromised: (1) The dismantling of the biblical God; (2) The blatant disregard for biblical doctrine; (3) The denigrating of the person and work of Christ; (4) The disregarding of the unified attributes of God in salvation and judgment; and (5) The demolishing of a Christian mind.

What I love about this book most is that though the author does not minimize the problems we face, his emphasis is on biblical solutions that are immensely practical. The three most helpful chapters for leaders are the last five – which include a wonderful Epilogue and Appendix that are very encouraging. Steele offers a helpful strategy, offensive insights, and a plan of perseverance for leaders. This book will inspire you, re-invigorate your calling, and help you to fall in love again with your first Love. It is a call to worship the God of the Gospel. It is a resounding call to all church leaders to be what God has made us to be – His ambassadors who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!

Jonathan Edwards for Armchair Theologians by James P. Byrd

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Excellent Introduction To Edwards Life, Times, and Theology

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

The past three years have been a lot of fun for me as I’ve decided to saturate myself in the writings by, and on great Christians of history. Last year I picked C.S. Lewis, the year before that – Francis Schaeffer. This year I’m embarking upon the adventure of learning from and about Jonathan Edwards. He is considered by many Americans to be our greatest theologian and perhaps one of the top five theologians in history.

This book is a part of series of books entitled “For Armchair Theologians.” There are other books in this series on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley and several topics like Heretics, The Reformation, and Liberation Theology. I was so impressed with this book introduction to Edwards that I plan on reading all of the books in this series.

Byrd’s introduction consists of seven chapters and 174 pages before the final sections composed of notes, a helpful bibliography for further reading, and an excellent index. The chapters focus on seven areas: (1) Edwards youth – especially emphasizing his spiritual and scientific curiosity; (2) His experiences and accounts of revival in New England; (3) His ministry and eventual ousting from his church in Northampton; (4) An explanation and commentary on his theological masterpiece: “Freedom of the Will”; (5) An explanation and commentary on his work “Original Sin”; (6) An explanation and commentary on the two works: “The End For Which God Created the World” as well as his “The Nature of True Virtue”; (7) The book concludes with Edwards legacy and how he has impacted evangelicals since his time in at least three powerful ways: (a) “In their revival practice they hailed Edward’s legendary accomplishments and his scientific analysis of the effects of revival success; (b) In their personal piety they found in Edwards a model for humility and entire devotion to God; (c) And in the Life of David Brainerd, evangelicals embraced a narrative description of Edward’s theology that fit perfectly with their zeal for missions.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It has motivated me to read more biographies on Edwards, more works on his theology, but mostly it has inspired me to read the Works of Edwards and let him speak for himself. Byrd has written a concise, thorough, warm, insightful, and readable introduction that packs a punch with wit, style, and grace. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a starting point for anyone who is intimidated by beginning a study of the great works of America’s greatest Theologian.

“Jesus in The Present Tense” By Warren Wirsebe – Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

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How Jesus’ ‘I Am’ Sayings Make A Difference in Our Lives Today

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

Warren W. Wiersbe is one of my favorite Christian writers because he is biblical, encouraging, and practical. This offering is no different and especially offers much encouragement for the weary Christian. In this journey through the ‘I Am’ sayings of Jesus, and treatments of many other Scripture passages as well, Wiersbe articulates the amazing difference Jesus makes today in the lives of those who are followers of Him.

There is great encouragement to be found in the pages of this book for those who want to understand who Jesus is, why He came as God incarnate, and how He helps us today. I found this book to be a great reminder that Jesus is more than a historical person or a distant deity. He is alive and present in our lives and more than ready to help us bear fruit for that which will last for eternity. The ‘I Am’ sayings dealt with in this book are a wonderful picture of how Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and demonstrate how we get to be an integral part of these realities.

I highly recommend this book for understanding and applying the ‘I Am’ sayings of Jesus and the bonus chapters that also show how Jesus makes all the difference in having an abundant life through Him in the here and now.

Book Review on J.V. Fesko’s “Who Is Jesus?” by David P. Craig

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How The ‘I Am Statements’ of Jesus Connect The Old Testament and Now Testament Dots

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

J.V. Fesko does a wonderful job in this short book (93 pages) showing the Old Testament connections of Jesus’ New Testament claims in his eight ‘I Am’ sayings in the book of John.

Fesko elaborates on how in the Old Testament “Only Yahweh walks on the water, but Jesus walks on the water and tells the disciples not to fear because He is I Am” with reference to John 6:20 when Jesus says “Do not be afraid. I Am.”

When Jesus says He is the “Bread of Life” in John 6:35, 40 the author shows how “Jesus draws the crowd’s attention to the exodus, when God fed Israel with manna from heaven. Jesus tells the crowd that He too is from heaven and that God intends to feed them with His Son, the bread of life.”

Commenting on John 8:12 where Jesus says He is “the light of the world” Fesko states, “During the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus invokes the exodus , particularly the theme of the pillar of fire guiding Israel by night. Israel identified the pillar with Yahweh, but now Jesus tells the crowds that He is the light of the world, not just Israel.”

With each of the eight sayings the author does a thorough job of exploring the themes, types, shadows, and fore-shadowing of Jesus in the Old Testament and how He comes to reveal the incarnation and redemptive plans of God in the New Testament.

J.V. Fesko’s book is concise, thorough, and contains good food for thought and discussion. I recommend this book especially for small group study (7-8 weeks) – as each chapter concludes with 3-4 questions for discussion. I found the book helpful as I preached on the ‘I Am’ sayings of Christ in a recent 8 week series in my church.

Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s “Meeting Jesus”

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A Helpful Guide To Understanding The ‘I Am” Sayings of Jesus

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

The stated purpose of the Gospel of John is found in the second to the last chapter in verses 30-31 of chapter 20, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Before arriving at this conclusion John gives many proofs along the way of Jesus’ deity. Perhaps the most profound examples of Christ’s deity are His eight “I am” sayings in chapters 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, and 15.

In this short little book (77 pages), R.C. Sproul covers the 8 ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus in the following order: (1) The Bread of Life; (2) The Light of the World; (3) The Door; (4) The Good Shepherd; (5) The Resurrection and the Life; (6) The Way, the Truth and The Life; (7) The True Vine; and (8) Before Abraham Was, I Am.

In each chapter Sproul uses biblical theology to show how the types, shadows, and illustrations of the person and work of Jesus in the New Testament have been the total fulfillment of Israel’s expectations. Each chapter articulates how the person and work of Jesus demonstrates how the realities of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are essential for our salvation and abundant living in Christ in the hear and now.

The book is based on a series of lectures that R.C. Sproul gave available through Ligonier Ministries. I also found that the Study Guide available from Ligonier Ministries entitled  “Knowing Christ: The ‘I Am’ Sayings of Jesus” by Sproul was also very helpful for further study, discussion questions for small groups, and cross references related to each ‘I Am’ saying. I highly recommend the book, study guide, and lecture series by Sproul for anyone who wants to better understand the person and work of Christ.

 

Book Review on Costi W. Hinn’s “God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel by David P. Craig

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The Truth About The False Gospel

One of the first papers I wrote in Bible college in 1985 was a critique on the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” At the time, the big name prosperity preacher in America was Robert Schuller. As I compared his teaching with the Bible it was very clear that what’s been come to be known as the “prosperity gospel” is clearly a false or non-gospel. It’s not good news because it’s not the biblical gospel – it’s a mirage that is synonymous with the so-called “American Dream.”

As I did my research for my paper on Schuller, something really caught my attention. One, I realized that nobody in the Bible lived with total health, wealth, and prosperity. Pick just about anyone from the Old Testament or New Testament. What they all had in common wasn’t health, wealth, and prosperity, but suffering, pain, and ultimately death – many of them martyrs deaths for the sake of the real gospel. Compare the American dream with the life of Joseph, Job, Paul, Peter, and Jesus – and you have a clear bifurcation of the real and unreal gospel.

Another thing that stood out to me was how Schuller’s “Hour of Power” (his TV show watched by millions of people around the world) couldn’t get traction in communist Russia. I talked with a Russian evangelical pastor and he told me that Schuller couldn’t get traction in Russia because what he was teaching didn’t work in Russia. He wasn’t preaching the gospel because the gospel works everywhere: among the poor and rich, free and suppressed; educated and uneducated; every language; every ethnic group, etc. The gospel has never changed. The reality of the gospel is it works everywhere because it’s true and has the power of God behind it (Romans 1:16). If it can’t be preached everywhere and to everyone than its simply NOT the biblical gospel!

Unfortunately, the false gospel known as the “Prosperity-Gospel” continues to be propounded world-wide. Among the most famous proponents of this false gospel has been Benny Hinn – the uncle of the author, Costi W. Hinn. First of all, kudos to Costi for his courage in writing this book. Costi understands that people’s eternal lives and earthly lives are at stake as to how we understand and what we believe about the gospel. It’s essential that we get the gospel right.

Who should read this book? Everyone! I have been an evangelical pastor for over 30 years and it never ceases to amaze me how many church going people don’t read their Bibles, don’t understand the gospel, and are prone to believe in deceptive lies of the enemy that are proclaimed by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Costi does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the world view of prosperity gospel ministries. He gives an honest assessment of its strengths and weaknesses and testifies to how he was deceived growing up in this movement. He then goes on to compare prosperity theology with biblical theology. He compares false teaching and doctrine with biblical doctrine and teaching.

He has some very helpful sections in the book that help you biblically detect false teachers and false doctrines; shows how the prosperity gospel contradicts the real gospel; and gives a balanced view of healing, health, and wealth that is truly biblically based. He also has a great section on helps to reach those who are lost and caught up in false religions and cults.

By God’s grace Costi has been spared from a life apart from truth and the genuine gospel. Now he proclaims God’s grace and the genuine gospel as a pastor and writer. May our Lord use this book to help many flee from the darkness and run to the light of the gospel: That Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures, and that those who repent of their sins and trust in Him may have eternal life. May all those who are deceived have the blinders taken off and may God use this great book to help us in reaching those who were once like Costi – who was once dead spiritually and is now alive spiritually because of the mercy of God delineated by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 & Ephesians 2:1-10.

 

 

 

Book Review on David S. Steele’s “A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin”

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An Exhortation to God-Centered Living

By David P. Craig

It was such a joy and delight to read this new offering from my good friend David S. Steele. I highly recommend this book four five primary reasons:

  1. It’s brevity. It’s only 68 pages long. However, upon starting and completing the book in about an hour and a half – I was refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated in my passion for our Awesome God.
  2. It’s content. It’s a tour de force theologically. In it Steele brilliantly weaves the authority of the Scriptures, the gospel, and personal sanctification in a way that my heart, mind, and affections were stirred to continue to be faithful in my calling as a Christian Pastor.
  3. It’s snapshot of John Calvin. John Calvin – may be one of the least understood theologians in Church History; and yet perhaps the one theologian-pastor that should be most admired, studied, and emulated. Steele’s brief snippets from the life and pen of Calvin – will spur on the desire of those who read this book to go to the primary sources for more of Calvin – and that’s a good thing!
  4. It’s biblically saturated. Steele bleeds bibline. Every page “oosiates” Scripture. There is an authoritative ring of truth throughout the book. Therefore, one senses the presence of and the counsel of the Holy Spirit throughout the book.
  5. It’s convicting. The subject of the entire book is based on Isaiah 66:1-2. The themes of repentance, contrition, humility, and a love for God and His Word are hammered home throughout. As convicting as I was by the Spirit, I was also exhorted by the same Holy Spirit to be renewed in my joy in Christ and His gospel through repentance and faith in following the practical steps articulated in this excellent book to help me get back on track in my God-centered gaze.