R.C. Sproul’s “The Intimate Marriage”

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Wisdom For Building a Great Marriage

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

A book is always so much more powerful when the one who writes the book practices what he or she preaches. R.C. Sproul and his wife Vesta had a great marriage for forty seven years before he went to be in the Lord’s presence in December of 2017. In this very practical book of 163 pages Sproul practically covers six subjects with biblical insight, practical wisdom, and wry humor: (1) Communication between the husband and his wife; (2) The Role of the Man and the Woman in marriage; (3) Problems in Marriage; (4) What the Bible says about Divorce; (5) Communication and Sex; (6) The Institution and Sanctity of Marriage.

This book is by no means an exhaustive resource on Christian marriage, but it is very instructive, has strong biblical wisdom for its points, and Sproul’s inimitable ability to take deep theological truths and make them very practical. This book has something for everyone: Singles considering marriage, young engaged couples; couples with a good marriage who want it better; and those who are in trouble in their marriage. You will definitely find wisdom and encouragement to help you in whatever state you find yourself in your current relationship.

I think the greatest area of strength in this book to help you is in the area of communication. Since two of the six chapters primarily focus on communication it is particularly helpful for men – who typically have a greater struggle with communicating intimately than their female counterparts. Sproul gives numerous illustrations, and helpful ways to communicate the truth in love with your spouse. The author is a master communicator. If you have ever heard Dr. Sproul teach, preach, or read another of his many books you will be impressed with his unique ability to communicate effectively.

Since a huge problem in marriage for many couples is the inability to communicate – who better to learn from than a master communicator. I highly recommend this book to help you communicate more clearly and effectively in your marriage. Great communication is a wonderful goal to have whether you are single or married and this book is a deep well full of apples of gold to help you become a better communicator.

 

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.

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 L.G. Parkhurst’s “Francis & Edith Schaeffer

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An Outstanding Synthesis of The Thought and Ministry of the Schaeffer’s

Book Review by David P. Craig

It is immediately obvious that the author knew the Schaeffer’s personally and studied their writings with passion in the pursuit of truth. The first part of this book (Chapters 1-11) is a very good summary of the life and ministry of the Schaeffer’s. In Chapters 12-25 Parkhurst gives an excellent summary of the thought and teachings of Francis Schaeffer. My favorite part of this book was how he wraps it up by giving 10 Lessons From Their Lives. He expounds upon the following 10 Lessons gleaned from Francis and Edith:

(1) Teach the truth in love – Ephesians 4:5-16.

(2) There is Only One Reason to be a Christian – because it’s objectively true – 1 John 5:19-20. “There is one and only one reason, and not two reasons, to be a Christian, and that is because Christianity is true.” ~ Edith Schaeffer quoting her husband.

(3) The Bible is True in All that it Affirms – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

(4) Go First to Establish a Bible-belieivng Church and Second a Denominational Church – Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:38-40. The priority of a biblical church is to daily “Serve God and others, let us Know, Love, and Follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit according to the Scriptures.”

(5) A Church Without Discipline or the Ability to Discipline Ceases to be a Church – Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20.

(6) God is Not Mechanical, but Personal. God is the Infinite/Personal God – John 17:1-3.

(7) No One Becomes a Christian Apart From the Work of the Holy Spirit – John 15:26-27; John 16:7-11; 1 John 5:6-12.

(8) Pray for the People of the Lord’s Choice to Come, Pray for Him to Keep Others Away. Pray for the Lord to Meet Your Needs Without Asking for Money – Matthew 9:36-38.

(9) If Your Choice is Between Perfection and Nothing, You Will Always Have Nothing. Do Not Expect a Perfect Church, Pastor, Elder, People, Thing, or Situation in This Fallen World in Which We Live – Matthew 5:48.

(10) “God Calls Some to Leave (In Liberal Denominations), and Some to Stay, and I Am Not The Holy Spirit.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s account of the Schaeffer’s, and his distillation of their teaching and how they modeled their teaching through their ministry in Switzerland, and in the United States. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to better understand the gospel, how to use apologetics in pre-evangelism, and how prayer and life-style evangelism are essentials in reaching people in the 21st Century. The Schaeffer’s are just as relevant today as when they lived in the mid to late 20th century.

Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s: The Prayer of the LORD

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Great Insights and Principles On Prayer – Reviewed By David P. Craig

There are some great books that hone in on the specificities of what has commonly become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” – particularly it’s exposition from Matthew 6:9-13. This week I will be completing a preaching series on the “Lord’s Prayer” which began in January and will be ending in May of 2018. I read seven books specifically as expositions or sermons based on the Lord’s Prayer of which this was one of those seven. I also consulted various commentaries on the passage as well.

Of all the resources I consulted on the Lord’s Prayer that I enjoyed Sproul’s the most. This book not only breaks down the specific petitions in the prayer but also contains helpful chapters on the following: “How Not to Pray”; “Questions and Answers” on Prayer from various passages of Scripture; and a whole chapter devoted to the question: “If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?”

If I were only going to get only one book specifically on “The Lord’s Prayer” this is the one I would recommend. Sproul is a master communicator and does an excellent job providing insights, principles, and pointed applications that help you to be more God-centered, God-focused, and God-glorifying in your prayer life. As I have been taking in Sproul’s insights I have found myself growing in my intimacy with Christ, and helping others to do the same.

 

My 10 Favorite R.C. Sproul Books by David P. Craig

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Since R.C. Sproul’s promotion into the presence of Christ’s glory on December 14, 2017 I have had mixed emotions. No single person has had a greater influence on my understanding of the Triune Nature of God, the Gospel, the Bible, Reformed Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, teaching, and preaching than R.C. Sproul. There have been a lot of great tributes to R.C. in recent days, but I have been out of sorts since his passing. I have sorrowed as if I lost a blood brother and comrade in the ministry. He was the mentor who has most influenced me by far – especially intellectually – helping me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. The way I am going to pay tribute to R.C. is by writing about the books he wrote that influenced me the most. I have read over 60 of his books.

At one time I could keep up with his writing and let him know at a book signing table at a Ligonier Conference (early 90’s) that I had read all his books and he said to me, “I bet you haven’t read Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Fetschrift for John Gerstner; a book I edited for my Mentor in 1976.” He was right, I hadn’t read this book. I’ve since read his chapter in that book entitled “Double-Predestination.” But I was never able to keep up with his writing while he was alive. Since his death I have been re-reading some of his books, articles, watching videos, and listening to his audio recordings. I am so grateful that Ligonier Ministries has such a plethora of his resources available so that maybe before I die I can catch up on all the great writing, teaching, and preaching of this amazing Theologian and friend in Christ.

I never thought I would be so sad at someone’s death that I only met a few times “live”. I attended four Ligonier Conferences and was able to say hello to him each time and thank him for his ministry in Fullerton, and Pasadena in CA; and Orlando twice. I also got to spend some time in a smaller group setting with him at WTS in Escondido while working on my D.Min. there. Dr. Sproul was always humble, gracious, and kind. He treated me with dignity and respect and modeled what he taught. As others have made great tributes to him, I’d like to give my “two-cents” with the hope that maybe I can influence others to read, or listen to him. I can honestly say that I love R.C. and can’t wait to see him on the other side. I am grateful beyond words for what he has meant and will continue to mean to me and has tremendously deepened my relationship with Jesus.

I will write a little blurb on each of the 10 books he wrote that have impacted me the most:

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(1) Apart from the Bible itself – no other book has made a greater impact on me than The Holiness of God. At the time (summer of 1986) I had never heard of R.C. Sproul. I was a second year student my sophomore year at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was working at a church near my home as an intern that summer working with college students. On my day off I went first thing in the morning to read a book at my favorite spot in a cove in Corona Del Mar near my home in Huntington Beach. On the way to the beach I stopped by the bookstore (Pilgrim’s Progress Bookstore – long since out of business, unfortunately) and R.C.”s book caught my eye. I was fascinated by the topic and decided that I would read it at the beach.

I don’t know how long it took me to read the book, but by sunset I was reading the last words at the beach and found myself literally on my knees weeping over my sin in repentance before this Holy God of which Sproul knew so well. I realized that though I had been a follower of Christ from the age of six; I was in practice full of unconfessed sin; a great idolater; and desperately needed to elevate my view of God and His character and attributes.

Since 1986 I’ve probably read this book a dozen times. It’s my go to book when I need to re-charge my spiritual batteries. It’s also set the tone for my personal life; relational life, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Reading this book helped me strive to place God at the center of all of life and seek to live “Coram Deo” – before the face of God and for His glory.
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(2) A close second to R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God in impact is his classic Chosen By God. Like many young college or seminary students I wrestled with the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, free will, faith, election, and how all these work together. I was definitely (though I’d never heard the term before) a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian before reading this book. R.C. brilliantly and cogently helped me see that I was dead in my sin and that I needed nothing short of the miracle of God’s electing grace to save me from a destiny banished from Him – had He not sovereignly  graciously and mercifully intervened. I’ve given at least 100 copies of this book away over the years and it’s my go to book to recommend to anyone who wrestles with how God saves His chosen ones. If anyone wants to understand the biblical doctrine of predestination – this book is an outstanding introduction.

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(3) Shortly after reading Chosen by God while in Bible college I read a book called the Psychology of Atheism by R.C. Sproul which I found in the school library. The book has been re-published under the title: If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? This book peaked my curiosity because at the time I had an ongoing ministry with philosophy students at a college department across town called Reed College. There was a period of time where I would drive over to Reed College once a week and wait outside the Philosophy Department to talk with Philosophy students (most of whom adhered to Atheism or Agnosticism). R.C. Sproul’s book is essentially a practical exposition of Romans 1. It makes a great case for the fact that people are atheists not because of the evidence of atheism, but because they want to live in sin. I found this to be the case then; and I still find this to be the case. In our secular culture I consider this book “must” reading for believers who take evangelism and apologetics seriously. It gives one a deep understanding of the psychological makeup of those who are in rebellion against God.

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(4) Another book that has helped me tremendously in the area of apologetics and evangelism is Reason to Believe. I read this book when it was titled Objections Answered when I was doing a lot of evangelism with professing Agnostics and Atheists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I still think this is the best book available to give to lay-people to help them answer the 10 biggest objections to the Christian faith. R.C. is famous for making the complex simple via his use of language, illustrations, and biblical theology and exegesis. I have used his arguments in this book hundreds of times over the years in evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.

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(5) Pleasing God. I can’t remember the first time I read Pleasing God, but it’s a book I’ve read and used in counseling, teaching, and preaching many times over the years as a great introduction to the biblical doctrine of sanctification. In this book Sproul tackles the greatest enemies in the battle of our seeking to please Christ: the battle with the flesh; the world; and Satan. Laced throughout this book is the reality of God’s grace and practical ways to please God. I still think this is the best introduction available on the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

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(6) I have read this book on the Attributes of God as it has transformed into three different titles over the years: One Holy Passion; Discovering the God Who Is; and most recently Enjoying God. There simply is no better introduction on the character, nature, and attributes of God than this book. R.C. does a wonderful job of explaining the major concepts of how God is different than us and worthy of our worship and passion.

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(7) The best introduction to how to read and study the Bible is still Knowing Scripture. In this short book R.C. gives a plethora of helpful information for anyone who wants to know how to read, interpret, and apply the Scriptures.

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(8) One of the most comforting and practical doctrines for Christians to understand is the providence of God. R.C. has helped thousands of believers around the world be comforted through his teaching on the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign working to bring about His ends for our good and God’s glory in all things in his classic The Invisible Hand of God.

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(9) The least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. In The Mystery of the Holy Spirit R.C. handles the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit with great clarity and makes the complex and controversial issues related to the Spirit understandable and practical. I know of no other better introduction to the Holy Spirit than this great work by Dr. Sproul.

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(10) In 2012 I had a brutal bout with cancer. I read several books while undergoing treatment and wrestling with pain, unemployment, and even death. I have read a lot of books on suffering over the years, but this is still my first choice to give caregivers, people in pain, and those helping people understand the biblical purposes and practical ramifications of suffering.

I feel sort of bad because I’ve left out a lot of great books by Dr. Sproul. Even though many books of R.C. are introductory in nature. They are all deep, profound, cogent, and full of helpful theological truth that are practical, weighty, and lead one to becoming more and more like Jesus each day. It seems that almost every book R.C. Sproul wrote was well written, thorough, and yet he never said too much. I have given away more of his books as gifts than any other author by far. I’ve also recommend his books more than any other author. He was so omnicompetent it’s just hard for any modern writer or theologian to match him on just about any subject. I will continue to read Sproul’s books, listen to his teaching, and watch his videos. He had a unique style, was always interesting, and always taught me something new about the glory and grandeur of God. I can’t wait to see him in heaven and listen to him chatting it up with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and the many he influenced along the way – like me.

Book Review of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

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“Insightful Thoughts From a Beautiful Follower of Jesus”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (what a beautiful name) has written a delightful book highlighting her conversion to Christ and instruction on many topics that are thought provoking and insightful. Among the variety of topics covered in this book are evangelism; hospitality; education; homosexuality; church planting; male and female roles in complementarity; hermeneutics; dating; marriage; parenting; foster care; adoption; and worship.

The author writes in an entertaining way, and yet shares insights with tremendous depth and cogent logic. My wife and I have both enjoyed discussing the variety of topics brought forth by Butterfield and are grateful for her wisdom and biblical insight. Though we don’t agree with all of Butterfield’s conclusions we especially appreciated her honesty; critique of Christian legalism; and insights into reaching out to those who identify themselves in any way other than “Christian.”

As a pastor in a very secular community I was given many illustrations that will help me become better at reaching out to those who are “outsiders” of our church community. I am grateful that Rosaria has shared her “secret thoughts” publicly. As a result I think that my wife and I have been equipped to be “salt and light” in our community and will be more effective in our outreach to those who desperately need Christ (as do we) in our community.

Rosaria is to be commended for her service to our Lord as a Christian wife, mother, educator, evangelist, and disciple maker. Any follower of Christ would be encouraged in their pursuit of Christlikeness and better reflect His inner and outer beauty as a result of reading and practicing the wisdom articulated in this delightful book.

Book Review on Stu Weber’s “Four Pillars Of A Man’s Heart”

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“Required Reading For Every Man”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I’m one of those guys who is always about ten to twenty years behind on the latest books, television shows and movies. Stu Weber’s book came out many years ago (In the 1990’s) but as I prepared for a men’s retreat I’ll be leading in a few weeks I think this book stood out more than all the others I read as a book I would whole-heartedly recommend to any man. I missed it when it first came out, but I’m sure glad I read it. I would argue that this book is more relevant today than when Weber first penned it.

Many Christian men are clueless today about what it means to be a man. If men take their cues from our culture they are in serious trouble. However, if they look to the Scriptures for guidance they will find exactly what they need to know about biblical manhood. Stu Weber provides an essential guide to biblical manhood in this book. He identifies what he calls the “Four Pillars of Biblical Manhood.” These pillars when functioning in balance make for a man who is strong and balanced in the way that God designed him to be.

The four pillars (all found in Genesis 2:15-18) in a man’s heart are that he is to be a provider (King); protector (Warrior); teacher (Mentor); and a connector (Friend). If he is out of balance in any of these areas it will lead to chaos. However, if he is balanced in these areas of his life with his relationships; work; and ministry it will result in a tremendous impact on his marriage; family; church; and community/nation.

Weber has written a book that is biblical; full of illustrations and applications; and that is theologically sound. He defines, identifies, and explains clearly God’s design for men in a way that is logical and practical. This is a book that any man of any age will find encouragement, hope, and motivation to be all that he was designed to be for the purposes of God as a man in his brief time on earth.

Book Review Of Stu Weber’s “Tender Warrior”

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“God’s Design For Biblical Manhood”

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

I can hardly believe the speed with which God’s design for biblical manhood and womanhood has been decaying in American culture. I am so grateful for the legacy that my own parents have left behind for their four children, and multiple grand, and great grand children. My parents weren’t perfect by any means, but they were godly and strove to be biblical in every aspect of life which nowadays is saying a ton. In a culture where idolatry, selfishness, and any semblance of character and integrity are woefully lacking – this book offers much needed help for men who take God, marriage, parenting,, and friendship seriously.

Using personal examples, biblical examples, and principles based on God’s design for biblical manhood exemplified in Jesus, Stu Weber has written a very good biblical manual for men to help them think and act in accordance with God’s design for manhood. In a day where confusion reigns in regard to God’s purpose for men and women this book gives clarity and practical teaching on the purpose, calling, meaning, and design for manhood. I highly recommend Weber’s book as a helpful guide for men of any age.