THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES:

DEBATE & DIALOGUE – MULTIPLE VIEWS & PERSPECTIVES

Compiled by David P. Craig, August, 2021

AFTERLIFE – Death, Intermediate State, Heaven and Hell

  • William V. Crockett, ed. Four Views on Hell. Counterpoints first edition: John F. Walvoord defends the “Literal View”; William V. Crockett defends the “Metaphorical View”; Zachary J. Hays defends the “Purgatorial View”; and Clark H Pinnock defends the “Conditional View.”
  • Edward William Fudge. Two Views of Hell: A biblical Theological Dialogue. Edward Fudge gives the case for “Conditionalism” and Robert A. Person gives the case for “Traditionalism.”
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Peter Kreeft. Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College, who shares much in common with evangelicals. 
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Four Views on Hell (Second Edition with New Contributors: Denny Burk defends the Eternal Conscious Torment view; John G. Stackhouse defends the Terminal Punishment view; Robin A. Parry defends the Universalist view; Jerry L. Walls defends the Hell and Purgatory view).
  • Michael E. Wittmer, ed. Four Views On Heaven. Zondervan Counterpoints Series: John S. Feinberg, “The Traditional View”; J. Richard Middleton, “Platonic Earthly View”; Michael Allen, “Heavenly Earth View”; Peter Kreeft, “Roman Catholic Beatific Vision View”.

APOLOGETICS – Giving Good Evidence for the Truth of Christianity 

  • James K. Beilby. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics?; How has apologetics developed?; What are the basic apologetic approaches?; Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is a good place to start.
  • Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Ever since the apostle Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, relating the Christian worldview to a non-Christian world has been a challenge. And despite Peter’s charge to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), most Christian laypeople have left apologetics―the defense of the faith―to the ecclesiastical pros. Faith Has Its Reasons is a study of four different models of how apologetics should be done, an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and a proposal for integrating the best insights of each. Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman have assembled a wealth of information about what Christians believe and how to present that faith to an unbelieving world. Remarkable both in its depth of content and ease of accessibility, Faith Has Its Reasons gives Christian laypeople the tools to address such critical questions as: Why is belief in God rational despite the prevalence of evil in the world?; What facts support the church’s testimony that Jesus rose from the dead?; Can we be certain Christianity is true?; and How can our faith in Christ be based on something more secure than our own understanding without descending into an irrational emotionalism?
  • Scott R. Burson & Jerry L. Walls. C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time. In some ways, they could not be more different: the pipe-smoking, Anglican Oxford don and the blue-collar scion of conservative Presbyterianism. But C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, each in his unique way, fashioned Christian apologetics that influenced millions in their lifetimes. And the work of each continues to be read and studied today. In this book Scott Burson and Jerry Walls compare and contrast for the first time the thought of Lewis and Schaeffer. With great respect for the legacy of each man, but with critical insight as well, they suggest strengths and weaknesses of their apologetics. All the while they consider what Lewis and Schaeffer still have to offer in light of postmodernism and other cultural currents that, since their deaths, have changed the apologetic landscape. This incisive book stands as both an excellent introduction to the work of these two important figures and a fresh proposal for apologetics at the dawn of a new century.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). William Lane Craig presents the “Classical Method”; Gary R. Habermas presents the “Evidential Method”; Paul D. Feinberg presents the “Cumulative Case Method”; John Frame presents the “Presuppositional Method”; and Kelly James Clark presents the “Reformed Epistemological Method.”
  • William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist. The question of whether or not God exists is profoundly fascinating and important. Now two articulate spokesmen–one a Christian, the other an atheist–duel over God’s existence in an illuminating battle of ideas. In God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. Avoiding overly esoteric arguments, they directly address issues such as religious experience, the Bible, evil, eternity, the origin of the universe, design, and the supposed connection between morality and the existence of God. Employing sharp and humorous arguments, each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent’s case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God in order to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. By assuming a traditional concept of God in their discussion, the authors ensure that they are truly addressing each other’s viewpoints and engaging in a disagreement over a unified issue. The book is composed of six chapters that alternate between Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, so that each separate point can be discussed as it arises.
  • Gary R. Habermas, Antony G.N. Flew, & Terry L. Mieth. Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? The Resurrection Debate. This is the most important question regarding the claims of the Christian faith. Certainly no question in modern religious history demands more attention or interest, as witnessed by the vast body of literature dealing with the Resurrection. James I. Packer says it well in his response to this debate: ‘When Christians are asked to make good their claim that this scheme is truth, they point to Jesus’ resurrection. The Easter event, so they affirm, demonstrated Jesus’ deity; validated his teaching; attested to the completion of his work of atonement for sin; confirms his present cosmic dominion and coming reappearance as Judge; assures us that his personal pardon, presence, and power in people’s lives today is fact; and guarantees each believer’s own reembodiment by Resurrection in the world to come’ The Apostle Paul considered the Resurrection to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole structure, Christianity, collapses. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, ‘our preaching is useless and so is you faith’ More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [emphasis added]’ The Christian faith-and its claim to be Truth-exists only if Jesus rose from the dead. The heart of Christianity is a living Christ.
  • J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists. Is there a God? What is the evidence for belief in such a being? What is God like? Or, is God a figment of human inspiration? How do we know that such a being might not exist? Should belief or disbelief in God’s existence make a difference in our opinions and moral choices, in the way we see ourselves and relate to those around us? These are fundamental questions, and their answers have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. On March 24, 1988, at the University of Mississippi, J.P. Moreland, a leading Christian philosopher and ethicist, and Kai Nielsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, went head-to-head over these questions. Does God Exist? records their entire lively debate and includes questions from the audience, the debaters’ answers, and the responses of four recognized scholars – William Lane Craig, Antony Flew, Dallas Willard, and Keith Parsons. Noted author and philosopher Peter Kreeft has written an introduction, concluding chapter, and appendix – all designed to help readers decide for themselves whether God is fact or fantasy.
  • Armand M. Nicholi Jr. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Renowned psychiatrist and educator Armand Nicholi here presents a fascinating comparison of the beliefs of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. For all the variety of specific religious beliefs, there are fundamentally only two kinds of people: believers and nonbelievers. In the 20th century, no spokesman was more prominent for nonbelief than Sigmund Freud, and no one argued for belief more successfully than C. S. Lewis. From pain and suffering to love and sex, from God to morality, Lewis and Freud carefully argued opposing positions and even considered the chief objections to their positions. Based on Nicholi’s years of studying both men, including wide access to Freud’s letters, this debate on the greatest of subjects strikes at the deepest chords in our souls.

BAPTISM – One of two essential ordinances of the Christian Faith.

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life). What is the significance of water baptism? Who should be baptized? Is infant baptism scriptural? Which is the proper baptismal mode: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should people be rebaptized if they join a church that teaches a different form of baptism? Should baptism be required for church membership? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book. Four historic views on baptism are considered in depth: “Baptism of the professing regenerate by immersion: Baptist View” presented by Thomas J. Nettles; “Believers’ baptism on the occasion of regeneration by immersion: Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View” presented by Hohn D. Castelein;  “Infant baptism by sprinkling as a regenerative act: Lutheran View” presented by Robert Kolb; and “Infant baptism of children of the covenant: Reformed View” presented by Richard L. Pratt Jr. Each view is presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended in dialogue with the book’s other contributors. Here is an ideal setting in which you can consider the strengths and weaknesses of each stance and arrive at your own informed conclusion.
  • David F. Wright, ed. Baptism: Three Views. Bruce A. Ware presents the “Believers’ Baptism View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson presents the “Infant Baptism View”; Anthony N.S. Lane presents the “Dual-Practice View.”

BIBLIOLOGY – A Defense of the Bible and Controversies in the Bible, about the Bible, and its People and Books

  • Michael F. Bird, ed. Four Views On The Apostle Paul (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The apostle Paul was a vital force in the development of Christianity. Paul’s historical and religious context affects the theological interpretation of Paul’s writings, no small issue in the whole of Christian theology. Recent years have seen much controversy about the apostle Paul, his religious and social context, and its effects on his theology. In the helpful Counterpoints format, four leading scholars present their views on the best framework for describing Paul’s theological perspective, including his view of salvation, the significance of Christ, and his vision for the churches. Contributors and views include: “The Reformed View”:  presented by Thomas R. Schreiner; “The Catholic View”: presented by Luke Timothy Johnson; “The Post-New Perspective View”: presented by Douglas Campbell; and “The Jewish View”: presented by Mark D. Nanos. Like other titles in the Counterpoints: Bible and Theology collection, Four Views on the Apostle Paul gives theology students the tools they need to draw informed conclusions on debated issues. General editor and New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird covers foundational issues and provides helpful summaries in his introduction and conclusion.
  • David Alan Black, ed. Perspectives On The Ending of Mark: Four Views. Because it is conspicuously absent from more than one early Greek manuscript, the final section of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) that details Christ’s resurrection remains a constant source of debate among serious students of the New Testament. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark presents in counterpoint form the split opinions about this difficult passage with a goal of determining which is more likely. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black argue for the verses’ authenticity. Keith Elliott (University of Leeds) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) contend that they are not original to Mark’s gospel. Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary) responds to each view and summarizes the state of current research on the entire issue.
  • D.A. Carson. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. The author addresses laypeople and pastors with a concise explanation of the science of textual criticism and refutes the proposition that the King James Version is superior to contemporary translations.
  • Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture. In Defense of the Bible gathers exceptional articles by accomplished scholars (Paul Copan, William A. Dembski, Mary Jo Sharp, Darrell L. Bock, etc.), addressing and responding to all of the major contemporary challenges to the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. The book begins by looking at philosophical and methodological challenges to the Bible—questions about whether or not it is logically possible for God to communicate verbally with human beings; what it means to say the Bible is true in response to postmodern concerns about the nature of truth; defending the clarity of Scripture against historical skepticism and relativism. Contributors also explore textual and historical challenges—charges made by Muslims, Mormons, and skeptics that the Bible has been corrupted beyond repair; questions about the authorship of certain biblical books; allegations that the Bible borrows from pagan myths; the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments. Final chapters take on ethical, scientific, and theological challenges— demonstrating the Bible’s moral integrity regarding the topics of slavery and sexism; harmonizing exegetical and theological conclusions with the findings of science; addressing accusations that the Christian canon is the result of political and theological manipulation; ultimately defending the Bible as not simply historically reliable and consistent, but in fact the Word of God.
  • F. David Farnell and Norman L. Geisler, eds. Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate. The inerrancy of God’s Word has been attacked throughout church history. Today’s assaults are unique since neo-evangelicals now surrender to post-modernistic ideas of history and historical-critical ideologies that assault this vital doctrine. They seek to redefine the orthodox meaning of inerrancy. Since the signing of the Chicago Statements, troubling signs have once again appeared in recent years among many who either did not fight the battles for the inerrancy of Scripture as did the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, or who do not remember the troubling times that caused their development. The nature and definition of “inerrancy” are now being changed to include ideas of fallibility. History is forgotten. The need arises for sounding the alarm for Vital Issues in Inerrancy. Evangelical schools and churches that broke away earlier to defend inerrancy surrender now to academic prestige and scholarly fads instead of faithfulness to God’s inerrant Word. The contributors pray that the Lord will raise up a new generation with the spiritual fervency of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to uphold the inerrancy of God’s Word: Isaiah 40:8–“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
  • Scott M. Gibson and Matthew D. Kim. Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Scott Gibson and Matthew Kim, both experienced preachers and teachers, have brought together four preaching experts–Bryan Chapell, Kenneth Langley, Abraham Kuruvilla, and Paul Scott Wilson–to present and defend their approach to homiletics. Reflecting current streams of thought in homiletics, the book offers a robust discussion of theological and hermeneutical approaches to preaching and encourages pastors and ministry students to learn about preaching from other theological traditions. It also includes discussion questions for direct application to one’s preaching.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views On God and Canaanite Genicide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). A discussion of various contemporary evangelical views of genocide in the Old Testament. Christians are often shocked to read that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, commanded the total destruction―all men, women, and children―of the ethnic group know as the Canaanites. This seems to contradict Jesus’ command in the New Testament to love your enemies and do good to all people. How can Yahweh be the same God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? What does genocide in the Bible have to do with the politics of the 21st century? This book explores, in typical Counterpoints format, the Old Testament command of God to exterminate the Canaanite population and what that implies about continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The four points of view presented on the continuity of the Testaments are: “Strong Discontinuity” presented by C . S. Cowles; “Moderate Discontinuity” presented by Eugene H. Merrill; “Spiritual Continuity” presented by Tremper Longman III; and “Eschatological Continuity” presented by Daniel L. Gard.
  • Charles Halton, ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). James K. Hoffmeier writes about “Genesis 1-11 As History and Theology”; Gordon J. Wenham writes about “Genesis 1-11 As ProtoHistory”; and Kenton L. Sparks writes about “Genesis 1-11 As Ancient Hisoriography.”
  • Mark D. Janzen, ed. Five Views on the Exodus: Historicity, Chronology, and Theological Implications (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Five Views on the Exodus looks at competing views on the historicity, chronology, and theological implications of the exodus. The biblical account of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is one of the most enduring narratives ever told and is a foundational event for several world religions. It resonates across cultures with its timeless themes of redemption and deliverance. It is also the only explanation the Bible gives for Israel’s origin. Despite its unique legacy, many scholars regard the exodus as fictitious or a cultural memory that may not be a historical event. Even among those who believe the exodus happened, there is no consensus regarding its date. Five Views on the Exodus brings together experts in the fields of biblical studies, Egyptology, and archaeology to discuss and debate the most vexing questions about the exodus. Each offers their own view and offer constructive responses to other leading views on the exodus. The five views presented here include: “The Early Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Fifteenth Century BC” by Scott Stripling; “The Late Date: A Historical Exodus in the Thirteenth Century BC” by James K. Hoffmeier; “A Hyksos Levite Led Exodus in the Time of Ramesses II” by Peter Feinman; “The Alternative Late Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Twelfth Century BC” by Gary A. Rendsburg; and “The Exodus as Cultural Memory: A Transformation of Historical Events” by Ronald Hendel.
  • Scot McKnight and B.J. Oropeza, eds. Perspectives on Paul: Five Views. This five-views work brings together an all-star lineup of Pauline scholars to offer a constructive, interdenominational, up-to-date conversation on key issues of Pauline theology. The editors begin with an informative recent history of biblical tradition related to the perspectives on Paul. John M. G. Barclay, A. Andrew Das, James D. G. Dunn, Brant Pitre, and Magnus Zetterholm then discuss how to interpret Paul’s writings and theology, especially the apostle’s view of salvation. The book concludes with an assessment of the perspectives from a pastoral point of view by Dennis Edwards.
  • Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, eds. Romans: Four Perspectives. There are several top notch evangelical scholars that participate in this book that interact with various issues in dialogue: Stephen Westerholm writes about “Romans and the ‘Lutheran’ Paul”; Scot McKnight writes about “Romans and the New Perspective”; Douglas A. Campbell writes “Romans and the Apocalyptic Reading of Paul”; and Michael J. Gorman writes “Romans and the Participationist Perspective.” There are significant passages and issues in Romans dealt with by Michael F. Bird; Thomas R. Schreiner; Carl R. Trueman; James D.G. Dunn; and others.
  • J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett, eds. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following five views are presented: “When The Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does” by Peter Enns; “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside the USA” by Michael F. Bird; “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, And Literate Interpretation In the Economy of Biblical Doctrine” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible As Witness To Missional Plurality” by John R. Franke.
  • Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell, eds. Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views. Craig L. Blomberg presents the “Historical-Critical/Grammatical View”; F. Scott Spencer presents the “Literary/Postmodern View”; Merold Westphal presents the “Philosophical View”; Richard B. Gaffin Jr. presents the “Redemptive-Historical View”; and Robert W. Wall presents the “Canonical View.”
  • Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer. The Synoptic Problem: Four Views. The relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one of the most contested topics in Gospel studies. How do we account for the close similarities–and differences–in the Synoptic Gospels? In the last few decades, the standard answers to the typical questions regarding the Synoptic Problem have come under fire, while new approaches have surfaced. Following an overview of the issues, leading proponents of each view set forth their positions and respond to each of the other views. This up-to-date introduction articulates and debates the four major views: “The Two Source Hypothesis” presented by Craig A. Evans;  “The Farrer Hypothesis” presented by Mark Goodacre; “The Two Gospel Hypothesis” presented by David Barrett Peabody; and “Orality and Memory Hypothesis” presented by Rainer Riesner.  A concluding chapter summarizes the discussion and charts a direction for further study.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart D. Ehrman & Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue. Several renowned evangelical scholars tackle the many and varied objections of liberal scholar Bart D. Ehrman.
  • Robert L. Thomas. Three Views On The Origins of the Synoptic Gospels. While secular critics and liberal religious scholars have discounted the historicity and integrity of the first three Gospels, evangelicals maintain that the Synoptic Gospels fully support a high view of inspiration and historicity, despite varying views among evangelicals on Gospel origins. Four evangelical scholars join together in a presentation/response format to examine the three dominant views on Gospel origins. Grant Osborne and Matthew Williams present the “Two-Source or Markian Priority View”; John H. Niemelä presents the “Two Gospel or Matthewan Priority View”; and F. David Farnell presents the “Independence View”. Robert Thomas provides a helpful introduction to the issues and a final summary of the discussion.
  • James R. White. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity. A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is at the core of almost every form of opposition to the Christian faith today. Scripture Alone is written to instill a passionate love for and understanding of the Bible. In this defense of God’s inspired Word, readers will comprehend what “God’s Word” is, the nature of Scripture, the relationship of the Bible to tradition, how to apply Scripture to today’s issues, and much more. Included is a faith-inspiring study of the canon–what it is and where it came from.

CHRISTOLOGY – The Doctrine of Jesus – His Historicity, Person, and Nature

  • W. David Beck and Michael R. Licona, eds. Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Raised on the Third Day approaches these questions with critical and believing eyes. A variety of contributors―including J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Craig A. Evans, Beth M. Sheppard, and Sean McDowell―evaluate scriptural, historical, moral, and apologetic issues related to Christ’s death and resurrection. Readers will better appreciate how Gary Habermas has shaped the discussion and how scholarship can be moved forward. Study of Christ’s resurrection is far from exhausted. Gary R. Habermas is one of the most influential Christian philosophers and apologists of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His life’s work has focused on matters pertaining to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is widely agreed that Habermas is the foremost authority on the subject. This festschrift is a tribute to that work.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public’s attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. Beginning with a scene-setting historical introduction by the editors, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their views and respond to their fellow scholars. On the one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached the “vanishing point,” and on the other Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it takes us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. In between there are numerous avenues to explore, questions to be asked and “assured results” to be weighed. And John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson and James D. G. Dunn probe these issues with formidable knowledge and honed insight, filling out a further range of options. The Historical Jesus: Five Views offers a unique entry into the Jesus quest. For both the classroom and personal study, this is a book that fascinates, probes and engages.
  • Darrell L. Bock. Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods. Interest in the historical Jesus continues to occupy much of today’s discussion of the Bible. The vexing question is how the Jesus presented in the Gospels relates to the Jesus that actually walked this earth. Studying the Historical Jesus is an introductory guide to how one might go about answering that question by doing historical inquiry into the material found in the Gospels. Darrell Bock introduces the sources of our knowledge about Jesus, both biblical and extra-biblical. He then surveys the history and culture of the world of Jesus. The final chapters introduce some of the methods used to study the Gospels, including historical, redaction, and narrative criticisms. Bock, a well respected author, provides an informed evangelical alternative to radical projects like the Jesus Seminar. His audience, however, is not limited only to evangelicals. This book, written for college and seminary courses, offers an informed scholarly approach that takes the Gospels seriously as a source of historical information.
  • Paul Copan and Ronald K. Taccelli. Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann. Was the resurrection of Jesus a fact of history or a figment of imagination? Was it an event that entailed a raised and transformed body and an empty tomb? Or was it a subjective, visionary experience–a collective delusion? In the view of many, the truth of Christianity hangs on the answer to this question. Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? is a lively and provocative debate between Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and New Testament scholar and atheist Gerd LÜdemann. This published version of a debate originally set at Boston College is edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli, who invite the responses of four additional scholars. Robert Gundry, a New Testament scholar, and Stephen Davis, a philosopher, argue in support of a historical and actual resurrection. Michael Goulder and Roy Hoover, both New Testament scholars, offer their support for Gerd LÜdemann’s view that the “resurrection” was based on the guilt-induced visionary experience of the disciples. The book concludes with a final response from LÜdemann and Craig.
  • Paul Copan, ed. Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Offers readers a clarifying and insightful comparison and contrast between the Jesus Seminar (Crossan), on the one hand, and evangelical theologians (Craig), on the other.
  • John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue. Two of today’s most important and popular New Testament scholars–John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright–air their very different understandings of the many historical realities and theological meanings of Jesus’ Resurrection.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, and Robert B. Stewart. Can We Trust on the Historical Jesus? This book features a learned and fascinating debate between two great Bible scholars about the New Testament as a reliable source on the historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic New Testament scholar, debates Craig Evans, an evangelical New Testament scholar, about the historical Jesus and what constitutes “history.” Their interaction includes such compelling questions as: What are sound methods of historical investigation? What are reliable criteria for determining the authenticity of an ancient text? What roles do reason and inference play? And, of course, interpretation? Readers of this debate—regardless of their interpretive inclinations and biases—are sure to find some confirmation of their existing beliefs, but they will surely also find an honest and well-informed challenge to the way they think about the historical Jesus. The result? A more open, better informed, and questioning mind, which is better prepared for discovering both truth and contrivance. The debate between Ehrman and Evans along with Stewart’s introductory framework make this book an excellent primer to the study of the historical Jesus, and readers will come away with a deeper appreciation for the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
  • Peter Kreeft. Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ. What would happen if Socrates–yes, the Socrates of ancient Athens–suddenly showed up on the campus of a major university and enrolled in its divinity school?; What would he think of human progress since his day?; How would he react to our values?; To our culture?; And what would he think of Jesus? Peter Kreeft, A Catholic philosopher and longtime admirer of the historic Socrates, imagines the result. In this drama Socrates meets such fellow students as Bertha Broadmind, Thomas Keptic and Molly Mooney. Throughout, Kreeft weaves an intriguing web as he brings Socrates closer and closer to a meeting with Jesus. Here is a startling and provocative portrayal of reason in search of truth. In a new introduction to this revised edition, Kreeft also highlights the inspiration for this book and the key questions of truth and faith it addresses.
  • Michael R. Licona. Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection. Imagine if the Apostle Paul were alive to defend the truth of Jesus’s resurrection only to be countered by none other than the prophet Muhammad himself. In an approach as creative as any scholar has taken, Michael R. Licona describes an invention that can make historical figures appear alive and present. Imagining an audience of both Christians and Muslims, Licona crafts a lively debate between Paul and Muhammad, each speaking on and analyzing the validity of the Qur’an, the gospel accounts, and both Christian and Muslim doctrine.Intriguing and entertaining, Paul Meets Muhammad uniquely offers evangelism advice for Christians who want to speak the gospel to Muslim friends and neighbors. This fictional scenario presents a powerful, comprehensive defense of Jesus’s resurrection and of Christianity itself.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue. Several respected evangelical scholars interact with liberal scholars on issues related to the Historical Jesus.
  • Benjamin B. Warfield, Benjamin W. Bacon, Andrew C. Zenos, & Rush Rhees. The Supernatural Birth of Jesus: Four Perspectives on the Historicity and Meaning of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. In 1906 The American Journal of Theology commissioned four scholars to write on the question of the ‘Supernatural Birth of Jesus and whether belief in the same is essential for Christianity. These contributions have been reformatted to make it more readily accessible to readers using e-readers. This book reproduces their contributions. In it Benjamin W Bacon and Andrew C Zenos, respectively from Yale Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary address the question of whether the supernatural birth of Jesus can be historically established. Also contributing are Rush Rhees and Benjamin B Warfield, respectively from the University of Rochester and Princeton Theological Seminary address the theological question of whether the supernatural birth of Jesus is an essential doctrine of Christianity. 
  • Peter S. Williams. Resurrection: Faith or Fact?: A Scholars’ Debate Between a Skeptic and a Christian. Is there enough evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or must such a judgment be based only on faith? Can the resurrection story be considered a fact of history, or should it be viewed as an ahistorical account? Two renowned professors, atheist Carl Stecher and Christian Craig Blomberg, engage in a groundbreaking new debate on these very questions. Other experts on the resurrection, atheist Richard Carrier and Christian Peter S. Williams, comment on the outcome. Presenting new approaches to these centuries-old questions and taking into account the latest scholarly research, Resurrection: Faith or Fact? is a must-have not only for all those following the resurrection question—but also for those skeptics and Christians alike who are interested in determining for themselves the truth behind this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.

COMMUNION – Understanding, preparing for, and participating in the Lord’s Supper

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Counterpoints Church Life). Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? How frequently should we observe it? What does this meal mean? What happens when we eat the bread and drink from the cup? What do Christians disagree about and what do they hold in common? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book.This new volume in the Counterpoints: Church Life series allows four contributors to make a case for the following views: “The Baptist View: Memorialism” defended by Russell D. Moore; “The Reformed View: Spiritual Presence” defended by  I. John Hesselink; “The Lutheran View: Consubstantiation” defended by David P. Scaer; and Roman Catholic View: Transubstantiation” defended by Thomas A. Baima. All contributors use Scripture to present their views, and each responds to the others’ essays. This book helps readers arrive at their own conclusions. It includes resources such as a listing of statements on the Lord’s Supper from creeds and confessions, quotations from noted Christians, a resource listing of books on the Lord’s Supper, and discussion questions for each chapter to facilitate small group and classroom use.
  • Peter Kreeft. Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College.
  • Gordon T. Smith, ed. The Lord’s Supper: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Book). Lord’s Supper. Eucharist. Communion. Sacrament. Ordinance. While it’s the meal that should unite us as followers of Christ, it sometimes appears we can’t even agree on what to call it, let alone how we might share a common theological view of its significance. Even if we cannot reach full agreement, how can we better understand one another and this central observance of the Christian faith? Gordon Smith has invited five representatives of differing views within Christian tradition. Each holds his or her views with conviction and makes the case for that tradition. Each responds to the other views with charity, highlighting significant areas of agreement and disagreement. The views and contributors include: “The Roman Catholic View”–Brother Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., Professor of Church History, Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee; “The Lutheran View”–John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catherines, Ontario; “The Reformed View”–Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan; “The Baptist View”–Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas; “The Pentecostal View”–Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Here’s a book that offers more light than heat on an important topic.

CONFLICT and PEACEMAKING – How to interact with those you disagree with

  • Ronald H. Nash. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Great Divides addresses the following ten issues on which many Christians disagree: The Health and Wealth Gospel; The End Times; Divorce and Remarriage; Reconstructionism; Political Involvement; Lordship Salvation; Radical Feminism; Abortion; and Women in Church Leadership. By examining the major positions held by other Christians today, it will encourage you to articulate your own position, understand the positions of others, and act upon the issues faithfully.
  • Gavin Ortlund. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. In theology, just as in battle, some hills are worth dying on. But how do we know which ones? When should doctrine divide, and when should unity prevail? Pastor Gavin Ortlund makes the case that while all doctrines matter, some are more essential than others. He considers how and what to prioritize in doctrine and ministry, encouraging humility and grace along the way. Using four basic categories of doctrine in order of importance, this book helps new and seasoned church leaders alike wisely labor both to uphold doctrine and to preserve unity.

ECCLESIOLOGY  – The Study of the Church and It’s Nature and Practices

  • Paul A. Basden, ed. Exploring The Worship Spectrum: 6 Views ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Paul F.M. Zahl prescribes the “Formal-Liturgical  Worship View”; Harold M. Best prescribes the “Traditional Hymn-Based Worship View”; Joe Horness prescribes the “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship View”; Don Williams prescribes the “Charismatic Worship View”; Robert Webber prescribes the “Blended Worship View”; and Sally Morgenthaler articulates the “Emerging Worship View.”
  • James R. Beck, ed. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The views presented are as follows: “Women In Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective” by Linda L. Belleville; ““Women In Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective” by Craig L. Blomberg; “Women In Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective” by Craig S. Keener; and “Women In Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective” by Thomas R. Schreiner.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Church Governance: Five Views Of Church Polity. “The Single-Elder-Led Church: The Bible’s Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity View” is defended by Daniel L. Akin; “The Presbyterian-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government View” is defended by Robert L. Reymond; “The Congregation-Led Church: Congrgational Polity View” is defended by James Leo Garret, Jr.; “The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity View” is defended by Paul F.M. Zahl; and “The Plural-Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established—The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Governance View” is defended by James R. White.
  • Bonnidell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse, eds. Women in Ministry: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Should women teach men? Should they exercise authority over men? What about ordaining women? Even those who agree that Scripture must determine our answers do not agree on what it teaches. And too often differing sides have not been willing to listen to one another. Here in one volume are the views of four deeply committed evangelicals that focus the discussion on the issues. Robert Culver argues for what might be called the “traditional view” that women should not exercise authority over or teach men. Susan Foh suggests a “modified view” which would allow for women to teach but not to hold positions of authority. Walter Liefeld presents a case for “plural ministry” that questions ordination as a means of conferring authority. Alvera Mickelsen defends the “full equality of men and women in the church.” What makes this book especially helpful is that the writers all respond to the other essays, pointing out weaknesses and hidden assumptions.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Who Runs The Church? 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints Church Life). Churches have split and denominations have formed over the issue of church government. Yet while many Christians can explain their particular church’s form of rule and may staunchly uphold it, few have a truly biblical understanding of it. What model for governing the church does the Bible provide? Is there room for different methods? Or is just one way the right way? In Who Runs the Church? Four predominant approaches to church government are presented by respected proponents: “Episcopalianism” articulated by Peter Toon; “Presbyterianism articulated by L. Roy Taylor;  “Single-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Paige Patterson; and “Plural-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Samuel E. Waldron.
  • David A. Croteau, ed. Perspectives On Tithing: 4 Views. Was the tithe just for Israel, or is it also applicable to Christians? Must a tithe go only to your local church, or can it be received by any Christian organization? Do we tithe on the net or the gross amount? Perspectives on Tithing presents in point-counterpoint format the most common views about how Christians are to give of their financial resources, addressing the myriad of questions that surround the complex issue. Ken Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Eklund (Eklund Stewardship Ministries) contribute “The Foundations of Giving” while the book’s editor, David A. Croteau (Liberty University), writes “The Post-Tithing View: Giving in the New Covenant.” A chapter by Reggie Kidd (Reformed Theological Seminary) is called “Tithing in the New Covenant? ‘Yes’ as Principle, ‘No’ as Casuistry.” Finally, Gary North (Institute for Christian Economics) looks directly at “The Covenantal Tithe,” and Scott Preissler (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) provides the epilogue.
  • Christopher John Donato, ed. Perspectives on the Sabbath. Perspectives on the Sabbath presents in point-counterpoint form the four most common views of the Sabbath commandment that have arisen throughout church history, representing the major positions held among Christians today. Skip MacCarty (Andrews University) defends the Seventh-day view which argues the fourth commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians. Jospeh A Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view which reasons that ever since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is the first day of the week. Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view which says that since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers. Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given to Jews alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but not tied to a particular day.
  • Gary L. McIntosh, ed. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Gaining form and momentum over the second half of the 20th century, the Church Growth movement has become an enormous shaping force on the Western church today. You may love it, you may hate it, but you can’t deny its impact. But what exactly is Church Growth? In what ways has the movement actually brought growth to the church, and how effective has it been in doing so? What are its strengths and weaknesses? This timely book addresses such questions. After providing a richly informative history and overview, it explores—in a first-ever roundtable of their leading voices—five main perspectives, both pro and con, on the classic Church Growth movement: “Effective Evangelism View” presented by Elmer Towns; “The Gospel in Our Culture View” presented by Craig Van Gelder; “The Centrist View” presented by Charles Van Engen; “The Reformist View” presented by  Gailyn Van Rheenan; and “The Renewal View” presented by Howard Snyder.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Perspectives On Christian Worship: 5 Views. Perspectives on Christian Worship presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on Christian worship that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. The views presented are “Liturgical Worship” by Timothy C.J. Quin; “Traditional Evangelical Worship” by Ligon Duncan; “Contemporary Worship” by Dan Wilt; “Blended Worship” by Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever; and “Emerging Worship” by Dan Kimball.
  • Robert Saucy and Judith TenElshof, eds. Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. The role of women in the church is a debate that has raged within the church for much of the twentieth century. On one side are those who say there is no difference between men and women. On the other side are those who severely limit women who want to offer ministry to the church. Judith TenElshof and Robert Saucy take the middle approach. Believing that the modern views have denied the distinctions between men and women, the authors adopt a view called complementarianism. TenElshof and Saucy argue that while men and women are equal, God has given different roles to each and that these roles rely on each other to be fully effective.
  • Jason S. Sexton, ed. Four Views On The Church’s Mission ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). This book articulates various evangelical views regarding the church’s mission and provides a healthy, vigorous, and gracious debate on this controversial topic. In a helpful Counterpoints format, this volume demonstrates the unique theological frameworks, doctrinal convictions, and missiological conclusions that inform and distinguish the views: “Soteriological Mission”:  presented by Jonathan Leeman; “Participatory Mission”: presented by Christopher Wright; “Contextual Mission”: presented by John Franke; and “Ecumenical-Political Mission”: presented by Peter Leithart. Each of the four contributors is to answer the same key questions based on their biblical interpretations and theological convictions. What is your biblical-theological framework for mission? How does your definition of mission inform your understanding of the church’s mission? How does the Mission of God and Kingdom of God relate to the mission of the church? What is the gospel? How does your view on the gospel inform the mission of the church? How do verbal proclamation of the gospel, discipleship, corporate worship, caring for the poor, social justice, restoring shalom, developing culture, and international missions fit into the church’s mission? The interaction between the contributors will help readers get a clearer picture of where the differences lie and why different conclusions are drawn and provide a fresh starting point for discussion and debate of the church’s mission.
  • Robert Webber, ed. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. What are the beliefs of the new movement known as the emerging church? In thought-provoking debate, prominent emerging leaders John Burke, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward discuss their sometimes controversial views under the editorship of author and educator Robert Webber. Hear what they say about their views of Scripture, Christ, the atonement, other world religions, and other important doctrines, so you can come to your own conclusions about the emerging church.

EDUCATION – How To Best Make Disciples among children, youth & families

  • Michael J. Anthony, ed. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation: Four Views. Scott May argues for “The Contemplative-Reflective Model”; Gregory C. Carlson and John K. Crupper argues for “The Instructional-Analytic Model”; Trisha Graves argues for “The Pragmatic-Participatory Model”; and Tim Ellis, Bill Baumgart, and Greg Carper argue for “The Media-Driven Active-Engagement Model.”
  • Chap Clark, ed. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century (Youth, Family, and Culture): Five Views. Bestselling author Chap Clark is one of the leading voices in youth ministry today. In this multiview work, he brings together a diverse group of leaders to present major views on youth ministry. Chapters are written in essay/response fashion by Fernando Arzola Jr., Greg Stier, Ron Hunter Jr., Brian Cosby, and Chap Clark. As the contributors present their views and respond to each of the other views, they discuss their task and calling, giving readers the resources they need to develop their own approach to youth ministry. Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, this volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a topic with which every church wrestles.
  • Adam Harwood and Kevin E. Lawson. Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry. A congregation rejoices when a new child is added to its midst, yet the church often wrestles—in both theology and practice—with how to best receive and minister to infants and children entrusted to her care. Frequent questions arise like: How are infants and children impacted by sin?; How does God treat people who die in their infancy or childhood?; When and how are children considered members of the church?; and When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine? Infants and Children in the Church addresses these critical and sensitive questions from a variety of rich traditions, including Eastern Orthodox (jason Foster), Roman Catholic (David Liberto), Lutheran (David P. Scaer), Reformed (Gregg Strawbridge), and Baptist (Adam Harwood), so that Christians can make the most of every opportunity as they minister to children.
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views. Every church is called to some form of family ministry, but this calling requires far more than adding another program to an already-packed schedule. The most effective family ministries refocus every church process to engage parents in discipling their children and to draw family members together instead of pulling them apart. In this second edition, Jones expands the definition of family ministry, and broadens the book’s focus to address urban perspectives and family ministry in diverse settings. 
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: Four Views. In Perspectives on a Child’s Education, proponents of four very different learning options present their faith-based positions on how a parent should answer the question, “Where should I send my child to school?” Troy Temple (International Center for Youth Ministry) is convinced every Christian parent should consider public schooling. G. Tyler Fischer (Veritas Academy) believes open admission Christian schools are best for Christians and non-Christians alike. Mark Eckel (Mahseh Center) favors covenantal Christian schools that don’t enroll non-Christians. Michael Wilder (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) advocates homeschooling. For each contributor’s chapter, a counterpoint chapter from the other contributors follows with a goal of determining which view is most in line with what the Bible teaches.
  • Mark H. Senter III, ed. Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church: Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, and Strategic. Join the conversation as experts propose, defend, and explore Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. In a dialog that often gets downright feisty, four youth ministry academicians delineate their distinct philosophical and ecclesiological views regarding how youth ministry relates to the church at large–and leave a taste of what’s profound and what’s not in these four typologies: “Inclusive congregational” (Malan Nel). What happens when a church thoroughly integrates its adolescents, making them full partners in every aspect of congregational life? “Preparatory” (Wesley Black). Why and how should a church consider its teenagers as disciples-in-training and its youth ministry a school of preparation for future participation in church life? “Missional “ (Chap Clark). What does a church look like, whose youth ministry does not necessarily nurture “church kids” but is essentially evangelistic? Whose youths and youth workers are considered missionaries? “Strategic” (Mark Senter). How feasible is it for a youth ministry to become a new church on its own–the youth pastor becoming the pastor, and the new church planted with the blessing of the mother church? In Four View of Your Ministry and the Church, solid academic writing and an inviting tone and design create a compelling text for both in-the-field, practicing youth workers and undergraduates and graduate student

ESCHATOLOGY – The Study of Last Things

  • Darrell L. Bock, ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Craig A. Blaising defends the “Premillennial View;” Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Robert B. Strimple defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. Robert L. Raymond presents the “Traditional Covenantal View”; Robert L. Thomas presents the “Traditional Dispensational View”; Robert L. Saucy presents the “Progressive Dispensational View”; and Tom Pratt presents the “Progressive Covenantal View.”
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. George Eldon Ladd defends the “Historic Premillennialism View”; Herman A. Hoyt defends the “Dispensational Premillennial View”; Loraine Boettner defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Anthony A Hoekema defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Jared Compton, ed. Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11. Michael J. Vlach defends “A Non-Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Fred G. Zaspel and James M. Hamilton defend “A Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Benjamin L. Merkle defends “A Typological Non-Future Mass Conversion View.”
  • John S. Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. Evangelicals agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant word. But we sometimes differ on how to relate the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Without a basic understanding of this crucial matter, it is difficult to know how to use the Testaments to formulate either doctrine or practice. For example: Was Israel the OT Church—are OT promises to God’s national people fulfilled in the church today? Or, is Mosaic Law binding on believers now—are twentieth-century Christians to obey the Ten Commandments, including sabbath observance? In this book, thirteen noted evangelical theologians discuss, fairly but clearly, the continuity/discontinuity debate in regard to six basic categories: theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises. Covering much more than the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, this work of distinguished evangelical scholarship will fuel much profitable study and discussion.
  • Steve Gregg. Revelation: A Parallel Commentary Four Views(Revised and Updated). Gregg quotes from various sources representing the four primary ways that evangelicals interpret the book of Revelation: Historical, Idealist, Futurist, and Eclectic.
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Alan Hultberg, ed. Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulational, Prewrath, or Posttribulational. Craig Baising presents the “Pretribulational View”; Alan Hultberg presents the “Pre-Wrath View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate The Question. Thomas Ice defends the “Futuristic View,” and Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Preterist View.”
  • Timothy Paul Jones. Four Views of the End Times. A brief overview of the four main ways scholars interpret Eschatology – pros and cons of each view.
  • Robert M. McKenzie. Identifying the Seed: An Examination and Evaluation of the Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. This book has one goal in mind, to try and bring greater understanding between two dedicated groups of Christians. Dispensationalists and Reformed Christians have a very different understanding of how God has worked in this world as well as how God will continue to work. There is a theological divide that has developed after many years of discussion and stems from a mixture of ignorance; misunderstanding and actual disagreement. Robert McKenzie seeks to examine what each side believes, fleshing out the differences and misunderstandings. He takes a look at the history of each system as well as their theological developments. The author seeks to be faithful to each system pointing out their strengths and weaknesses all the while citing the Scriptures that are used to support each side’s belief. It is hoped that with greater understanding the two groups will be able to engage in conversation with a clearer view of why a doctrine is believed and how the different doctrines build into the system. Whether you are a Dispensationalist, believe in Covenant theology or you aren’t quite sure if you fall in either camp this book can be tremendously helpful.
  • Benjamin L. Merkle. Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Outstanding resource that involves the author interacting with all the key players in the debate over this important debate.
  • Brent E. Parker and Richard J. Lucas, eds. Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). With contributions by Michael Horton and Stephen Wellum (Covenantal perspectives) and Darrel Bock and Mark Snoeberger (Dispensational perspectives).
  • C. Marvin Pate, ed. Four Views on The Book of Revelation. Kenneth Gentry defends the “Preterist View”; Sam Hamster defends the “Idealist View”; C. Marvin Pate defends the “Progressive Dispensationist View”; and Robert L. Thomas defends the “Classical Dispensationalist View.”
  • Richard R. Reiter, ed. Three Views on the Rapture. Paul D. Feinberg presents the Pretribulational View”; Gleason L. Archer presents the “Midtribulational View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Ron Rhodes. The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy: Understanding the Ongoing Controversies. Thoroughly covers the following debates in eschatology: (1) Should Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically? (2) Are Israel and the Church Distinct in Bible Prophecy? (3) What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times? (4) Which View of the Rapture is Correct? (5) How Are We To Understand the Book of Revelation? (6) How Are We To Understand The Antichrist? (7) Which view of the Millennium is Correct? (8) Is it Okay to set prophetic dates?
  • Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker, eds. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Building on the foundation of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012), Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker have assembled a team of scholars who offer a fresh perspective regarding the interrelationship between the biblical covenants. Each chapter seeks to demonstrate how the covenants serve as the backbone to the grand narrative of Scripture. For example, New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner writes on the Sabbath command from the Old Testament and thinks through its applications to new covenant believers. Christopher Cowan wrestles with the warning passages of Scripture, texts which are often viewed by covenant theologians as evidence for a “mixed” view of the church. Jason DeRouchie provides a biblical theology of “seed” and demonstrates that the covenantal view is incorrect in some of its conclusions. Jason Meyer thinks through the role of law in both the old and new covenants. John Meade unpacks circumcision in the OT and how it is applied in the NT, providing further warrant to reject covenant theology’s link of circumcision with (infant) baptism. Oren Martin tackles the issue of Israel and land over against a dispensational reading, and Richard Lucas offers an exegetical analysis of Romans 9-11, arguing that it does not require a dispensational understanding. From issues of ecclesiology to the warning passages in Hebrews, this book carefully navigates a mediating path between the dominant theological systems of covenant theology and dispensationalism to offer the reader a better way to understand God’s one plan of redemption.

ETHICS – How Should I live Morally as a Christian?

  • Paul Chamberlain. Can We Be Good Without God? A Conversation about Truth, Morality, Culture & a Few Other Things That Matter. In Paul Chamberlain’s intriguing, inventive book, the pivotal questions of ethics and morality are explored by a cast of five: a Christian joins an atheist, a moral relativist, an evolutionist, and a secular humanist.
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. War: Four Christian Views. Have you ever wondered….. Should Christians ever go to war? If so, under what conditions? Here are four modern expressions of four classical views. Dr. Herman Hoyt explains the Biblical Nonresistance view. Christian Pacificism is discussed by Myron S. Augsburger. Arthur F. Holmes explains the Just War view. Preventive War is explained by Harold O.J. Brown.
  • Steven B. Cowan. Problems in Value Theory: An Introduction to Contemporary Debates. Problems in Value Theory takes a pro and con approach to central topics in aesthetics, ethics and political theory. Each chapter begins with a question: What Makes Actions Right or Wrong? Does Morality Depend on God? Do We Need Government? Contemporary philosophers with opposing viewpoints are then paired together to argue their position and raise problems with conflicting standpoints. Alongside an up-to-date introduction to a core philosophical stance, each contributor provides a critical response to their opponent and clear explanation of their view. Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter to guide further discussion. With chapters ranging from why the government should never wage war to what is art and does morality depend on God, this introduction covers questions lying at the heart of debates about what does and does not have value.
  • Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King, eds. Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media—often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for—and even a threat to—ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • H. Wayne House, ed. Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Divorce. No one likes it, but it doesn’t go away. Even among Christians, the divorce rate continues to climb. How should Christians approach this issue? May Christians ever legitimately divorce? If they divorce legitimately, may they remarry? Not everyone who appeals to Scripture agrees on how we should understand what it says about divorce and remarriage. In this book, four authors present their distinct perspectives. Carl Laney argues that the Bible indicates that marriages are always intended to be permanent, that there is never a need for divorce and that remarriage is never permissible after divorce. William Heth contends that while there are legitimate biblical grounds for divorce, there are no legitimate grounds for remarriage after divorce. Thomas Edgar defends the position that Scripture allows for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery or desertion. Larry Richards holds that Scripture, while decrying divorce and the pain it causes, points to a God of grace who will not condemn those who divorce and remarry. Such a sensitive debate cannot remain abstract, so a case study accompanies each position, followed by critical responses from each essayist. The result is a thoughtful, helpful resource for all who wish to think biblically about a crucial issue confronting the church.
  • Douglas S. Huffman, ed. How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making. The three-views approach is an effective and succinct means of introducing theological subjects to readers of all levels. How Then Should We Choose? applies this proven format to the vital topic of decision making and the Christian’s search for the will of God. Garry Friesen of Multnomah Bible College, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International, and Gordon T. Smith of Regent College each contribute summaries of their perspectives on God’s will and their approaches to decision making. Friesen discusses the “wisdom” view, Henry and Richard Blackaby delineate the “specific will” view, and Smith champions the “relationship” view of God’s will. In an effort to make this discussion reader friendly, the contributors have applied their beliefs regarding God’s will and decision making to three practical, concrete topics: career, relationships, and stewardship. Using three hypothetical stories, the authors illustrate how their respective views would influence decisions in these common areas of concern.
  • Adam Lloyd Johnson, ed. A Debate on God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties? In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: “God and Morality: What is the best account of objective moral values and duties?” Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. This book includes the full debate, as well as endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate – J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations. 
  • Nathan L. King and Robert K. Garcia. Is Goodness without God Good Enough?: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media―often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for―and even a threat to―ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • Peter Kreeft. A Refutation Of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist. No issue is more fateful for civilization than moral relativism. History knows not one example of a successful society which repudiated moral absolutes. Yet most attacks on relativism have been either pragmatic (looking at its social consequences) or exhorting (preaching rather than proving), and philosophers’ arguments against it have been specialized, technical, and scholarly. In his typical unique writing style, Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a “Muslim fundamentalist” absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In an engaging series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the “sassy  feminist” reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth the Good Life. What are the best things in life? Questions like that may boggle your mind. But they don’t boggle Socrates. The indomitable old Greek brings his unending questions to Desperate State University. With him come the same mind-opening and spirit-stretching challenge that disrupted ancient Athens. What is the purpose of education?; Why do we make love?; What good is money? Can computers think like people?; Is there a difference between Capitalism and Communism?; What is the greatest good?; Is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?In twelve short, Socratic dialogues Peter Kreeft explodes contemporary values like success, power and pleasure. And he bursts the modern bubbles of agnosticism and subjectivism. He leaves you richer, wiser and more able to discern what the best things in life actually are. A supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Unaborted Socrates: A dramatic debate on the issues surrounding abortion. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • R. Keith Loftin, ed. God & Morality: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Is morality dependent upon belief in God? Is there more than one way for Christians to understand the nature of morality? Is there any agreement between Christians and atheists or agnostics on this heated issue? In God and Morality: Four Views four distinguished voices in moral philosophy ariticulate and defend their place in the current debate between naturalism and theism. Christian philosophers Keith Yandell and Mark Linville and two self-identified atheist/agnostics, Evan Fales and Michael Ruse, clearly and honestly represent their differing views on the nature of morality. Important differences as well as areas of overlap emerge as each contributor states their case, receives criticism from the others and responds. Of particular value for use as an academic text, these four essays and responses, covering the naturalist moral non-realist, naturalist moral realist, moral essentialist and moral particularist views, will foster critical thinking and contribute to the development of a well-informed position on this very important issue.
  • Mark L. Strauss, ed. Remarriage After Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views (Counterpoint: Church Life). A biblical and practical case for three main evangelical views on remarriage after divorce among born-again Christians, 27 percent have experienced divorce as compared to 24 percent in the general population. Yet no consensus exists among evangelicals on their views of remarriage, leaving many Christians confused. This single volume summarizes and explores three main evangelical views: “No Remarriage After Divorce”, presented by William A. Heth; “Remarriage After Adultery or Desertion”, presented by Gordon J. Wenham; and “Remarriage for a Variety of Reasons” presented by Craig S. Keener.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed.Christian Ethics: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Brad J. Kallenberg presents, “Virtue Ethics”; John Hare presents, “Divine Command Ethics”; Claire Peterson presents, “Natural Law Ethics”; and Peter Heltzel presents, “Prophetic Ethics.”

HAMARTIOLOGY – The Study of Sin

  • W. Paul Franks, ed. Explaining Evil: Four Views. In Explaining Evil four prominent philosophers, two theists and two non-theists, present their arguments for why evil exists. Taking a “position and response” format, in which one philosopher offers an account of evil and three others respond, this book guides readers through the advantages and limitations of various philosophical positions on evil, making it ideal for classroom use as well as individual study. Divided into four chapters, Explaining Evil covers Theistic Libertarianism (Richard Brian Davis), Theistic Compatibilism (Paul Helm), Atheistic Moral Realism (Michael Ruse) and Atheistic Moral Non-realism (Eric J. Wielenberg). It features topics including free will, theism, atheism, goodness, Calvinism, evolutionary ethics, and pain, and demonstrates some of the dominant models of thinking within contemporary philosophy of religion and ethics. Written in accessible prose and with an approachable structure, this book provides a clear and useful overview of the central issues of the philosophy of evil.
  • Chad Meister, ed. God and The Problem of Evil: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Evil abounds. And so do the attempts to understand God in the face of such evil. The problem of evil is a constant challenge to faith in God. How can we believe in a loving and powerful God given the existence of so much suffering in the world? Philosophers and theologians have addressed this problem countless times over the centuries. New explanations have been proposed in recent decades drawing on resources in Scripture, theology, philosophy, and science. God and the Problem of Evil stages a dialogue between the five key positions in the current debate: Phillip Cary: “A Classic View”; William Lane Craig: “A Molinist View”; William Hasker: “An Open Theist View”; Thomas Jay Oord: “An Essential Kenosis View”; and Stephen Wykstra: “A Skeptical Theism View.” According to the classic position, associated especially with the Augustinian tradition, God permits evil and suffering as part of the grand narrative of divine providence to bring about the redemption of creation. Molinism modifies the classic view by adding God’s middle knowledge to the picture, in which God has knowledge of what creatures would do in all possible worlds. Open theism rejects the determinism of the classic view in favor of an account of God as a risk-taker who does not know for sure what the future holds. Essential kenosis goes further in providing a comprehensive theodicy by arguing that God cannot control creatures and thus cannot unilaterally prevent evil. Skeptical theism rejects the attempt to provide a theodicy and instead argues that, if God exists, we should not expect to understand God’s purposes. Edited and with an introduction by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., God and the Problem of Evil hosts a generous and informative conversation on one of the most pressing issues in the Christian life.
  • J.B. Stump, ed. Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “What is this that you have done?” Throughout the church’s history, Christians have largely agreed that God’s good creation of humanity was marred by humanity’s sinful rebellion, resulting in our separation from God and requiring divine intervention in the saving work of Christ. But Christians have disagreed over many particular questions surrounding humanity’s fall, including the extent of original sin, the nature of the fall, the question of guilt, how to interpret the narratives from Genesis, and how these questions relate to our understanding of human origins and modern science. Views and Contributors: “An Augustinian-Reformed View” by Hans Madueme, Covenant College; “A Moderate Reformed View” by Oliver Crisp, The University of St. Andrews; “A Wesleyan View” by Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary; “An Eastern Orthodox View” by Andrew Louth, Durham University; and “A Reconceived View” by Tatha Wiley, University of St. Thomas.
  • Terry L. Wilder, ed. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin presents in point-counterpoint form three differing views of a Christian’s relationship with the law, flesh, and spirit as illustrated through Paul’s often-debated words in Romans 7. Stephen Chester (North Park Theological Seminary) writes “The Retrospective View of Romans 7: Paul’s Past in Present Perspective,” suggesting the apostle’s description of his struggle speaks more to his pre-Christian self. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offers “The Flesh Without the Spirit: Romans 7 and Christian Experience,” perceiving Romans 7 as an accurate representation of what believers go through even after their conversion. Mark Seifrid (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), in “The Voice of the Law, the Cry of Lament, and the Shout of Thanksgiving,” asserts that Paul is not speaking of his past or his present Christian experience in Romans 7, but more fundamentally and simply about “the human being confronted with the Law.”Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes a conclusion on the theological and pastoral implications of Romans 7.

HOMOSEXUALITY & LBGTQ & SEX – What Does The Bible Teach?

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views. One of the most pressing issues facing the evangelical church today involves dramatic shifts in our culture’s perceptions regarding human sexuality. While homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been at the forefront, there is a new cultural awareness of sexual diversity and gender dysphoria. The transgender phenomenon has become a high-profile battleground issue in the culture wars. This book offers a full-scale dialogue on transgender identities from across the Christian theological spectrum. It brings together contributors with expertise and platforms in the study of transgender identities to articulate and defend differing perspectives on this contested topic. After an introductory chapter surveys key historical moments and current issues, four views are presented by Owen Strachan, “Transition or Transformation? A Moral-Theological Exploration of Christianity and Gender Dysphoria”; Mark A. Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky, “The Complexities of Gender Identity: Toward a More Nuanced Response to the Transgender Experience”; Megan K. DeFranza, “Good News for Gender Minorities” and Justin Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creation: God’s Intention for Gender Diversity.” The authors respond to one another’s views in a respectful manner, modeling thoughtful dialogue around a controversial theological issue. The book helps readers understand the spectrum of views among Christians and enables Christian communities to establish a context where conversations can safely be held.
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Two Views On Homosexuality, The Bible, and The Church (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). No issue is more divisive or more pressing for the church today than homosexuality. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church brings a fresh perspective to a well-worn debate. While Christian debates about homosexuality are most often dominated by biblical exegesis, this book seeks to give much-needed attention to the rich history of received Christian tradition, bringing the Bible into conversation with historical and systematic theology. To that end, both theologians and biblical scholars—well accomplished in their fields and conversant in issues of sexuality and gender—articulate and defend each of the two views: “Affirming View”: William Loader and Megan K. DeFranza; and the “Traditional View”: articulated by Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes. Unique among most debates on homosexuality, this book presents a constructive dialogue between people who disagree on significant ethical and theological matters, and yet maintain a respectful and humanizing posture toward one another. Even as these scholars articulate pointed arguments for their position with academic rigor and depth, they do so cordially, clearly, and compassionately, without demeaning the other. The main essays are followed by exceptionally insightful responses and rejoinders that interact with their fellow essayists with convicted civility. Holding to a high view of Scripture, a commitment to the gospel and the church, and a love for people—especially those most affected by this topic—the contributors wrestle deeply with the Bible and theology, especially the prohibition texts, the role of procreation, gender complementarity, and pastoral accommodation. The book concludes with general editor Preston Sprinkle’s reflections on the future of discussions on faith and sexuality.
  • Dan O. Via and Robert J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Few recent issues have sparked such debate in the churches as homosexuality, same-sex unions, and ordination of gays and lesbians. A key point of contention is the meaning and authority of the biblical witness. In this brief book, two New Testament scholars discuss the relevant biblical texts on the subject of homosexual behavior and orientation. Discussing both Old Testament and New Testament texts, each author also raises important interpretive and moral questions and then offers a response to the other’s main assertions. Chief questions examined by each include what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and homosexual behavior, the meaning of those texts in their cultural contexts, and the larger hermeneutical dilemma of what kind of authority the Bible’s teaching, if recoverable, has for Christians today. A thoughtful and irenic dialogue, this volume can facilitate reflection and discussion among church members on a vital and contentious issue in American church life.

MIRACLES – A Miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself

  • Wayne Grudem, ed. Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views. (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Robert B. Gaffin Jr. defends the “Cessationist View”; Robert L. Saucy defends the “Open But Cautious View”; C. Samuel Storms defends the “Third Wave View”; and Douglas A. Oss defends the “Pentecostal/Charismatic View.”

PHILOSOPHY – The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, & existence

  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Problems in Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Contemporary Debates. Problems in Epistemology and Metaphysics takes a pro and con approach to two central philosophical topics. Each chapter begins with a question: Can We Have Knowledge? How are Beliefs Justified? What is the mind? Contemporary philosophers with opposing viewpoints are then paired together to argue their position and raise problems with conflicting standpoints. Alongside an up-to-date introduction to a core philosophical stance, each contributor provides a critical response to their opponent and clear explanation of their view. Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter to guide further discussion. With chapters covering core questions surrounding religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, truth, being and reality, this is a comprehensive introduction to debates lying at the heart of what we know, how we know it and the nature of the world we live in.
  • Paul M. Gould, ed. Four Views On Christianity and Philosophy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Philosophy and Christianity make truth claims about many of the same things. They both claim to provide answers to the deep questions of life. But how are they related to one another? Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy introduces readers to four predominant views on the relationship between philosophy and the Christian faith and their implications for life. Each author identifies the propositional relation between philosophy and Christianity along with a section devoted to the implications for living a life devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. The contributors and views include: Graham Oppy—“Conflict: Philosophy Trumps Christianity”; K. Scott Oliphint—“Covenant: Christianity Trumps Philosophy”; Timothy McGrew—“Convergence: Philosophy Confirms Christianity”; and Paul Moser—“Conformation: Philosophy Reconceived Under Christianity.” General editors Paul M. Gould and Richard Davis explain the background to the discussion and provide some historical background in the introduction, as well as helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion.
  • Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Honored in 2006 as a “Year’s Best Book for Preachers” by Preaching magazine. Why a search for the soul? Many Christians assume that it is biblically faithful and theologically noncontroversial to speak of humans having a soul. Yet a wide range of biblical scholars are questioning whether we have correctly understood what the Bible means when it speaks of the “soul.” And contemporary neuroscience is laying more and more questions at the doorstep of the church, asking whether our human sense of self is intelligible on the basis of soul. But for thoughtful Christians, following science on this point looks like caving in to reductionism, while denying science gives off the odor of obscurantism. In Search of the Soul provides a rare opportunity to listen in as four Christian philosophers set forth their best arguments for their distinct views and then respond to each other. While each of these views calls for careful framing and patient exposition, they are labeled as follows: “Substance Dualism (Stewart Goetz); “Emergent Dualism” (William Hasker); “Nonreductive Physicalism” (Nancey Murphy); and “Constitution View of Persons” (Kevin Corcoran). Editors Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer introduce the debate by laying out the critical issues at stake, and wrap it up by considering the implications for the Christian life, particularly hospitality and forgiveness. This is a book of timely interest to philosophers, theologians, psychologists and pastors. Whatever conclusions readers may draw, they will find here an instructive and engaging discussion of a controversy that will not go away any time soon.
  • Anthony C. Thiselton. Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An introduction to key thinkers, concepts, methods and debates. The book opens with an engaging history of the subject, mapping the major landmarks and outlining the main issues of current debate. The rest of the book falls into three parts: Part 1: Approaches. Descriptions of the main approaches developed by scholars to study the subject, with lively case histories and working examples showing the approaches in action, and assessing their lasting value. Part 2: Concepts and Issues. Brief introductions to their origins and evolution, highlighting their significance in the work of major thinkers. Part 3 Key Terms. Concise explanations of all the words and phrases that readers need to know in order to fully grasp the subject.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed. Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). In Faith and Reason, Steve Wilkens edits a debate between three different understandings of the relationship between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy. The first viewpoint, “Faith and Philosophy in Tension,” articulated by Carl A. Raschke proposes faith and reason as hostile, exclusive opposites, each dangerous to the integrity of the other. The second, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” articulated by Alan G. Padget suggests that faithful Christians are called to make full use of their rational faculties to aid in the understanding and interpretation of what they believe by faith. In the third stance, “Thomistic Synthesis,” articulated by Craig A. Boyd natural reason acts as a handmaiden to theology by actively pointing people toward salvation and deeper knowledge of spiritual truths. Bringing together multiple views on the relationship between faith, philosophy and reason, this introduction to a timeless quandary will help you navigate, with rigor and joy, one of the most significant discussions of the Christian community. Steve Wilkins concludes the book with a helpful essay on how we can disagree Christianly.

POLITICS  – How A Christian Should Respond To and Be Involved in Society

  • Amy E. Black, ed. Five Views On The Church and Politics (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Thomas W. Heilke defends the “Anabaptist Separationist View”; Robert Benne defends the “Lutheran Paradoxical View”; Bruce L. Fields defends the “Black Church Prophetic View”; James K. A. Smith defends the “Reformed Transformationist View”; and Brian Benestad defends the “Catholic Synthetic View.”
  • P.C. Kemneny, ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Abortion. Physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriages. Embryonic stem-cell research. Poverty. Crime. What is a faithful Christian response? The God of the Bible is unquestionably a God of justice. Yet Christians have had their differences as to how human government and the church should bring about a just social order. Although Christians share many deep and significant theological convictions, differences that threaten to divide them have often surrounded the matter of how the church collectively and Christians individually ought to engage the public square. What is the mission of the church? What is the purpose of human government? How ought they to be related to each other? How should social injustice be redressed? The five noted contributors to this volume answer these questions from within their distinctive Christian theological traditions, as well as responding to the other four positions. Through the presentations and ensuing dialogue we come to see more clearly what the differences are, where their positions overlap and why they diverge. The contributors and the positions taken include Clarke E. Cochran: “A Catholic Perspective”; Derek H. Davis: “A Classical Separation Perspective”; Ronald J. Sider: “An Anabaptist Perspective”; Corwin F. Smidt: “A Principled Pluralist Perspective”; and J. Philip Wogaman: “A Social Justice Perspective.”

PSYCHOLOGY – How To Counsel People From a Christian Perspective

  • Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore, eds. Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches (Christian Association for Psychological Studies). What does authentic Christian counseling look like in practice? This volume explores how five major perspectives on the interface of Christianity and psychology would each actually be applied in a clinical setting. Respected experts associated with each of the perspectives depict how to assess, conceptualize, counsel and offer aftercare to Jake, a hypothetical client with a variety of complex issues. In each case the contributors seek to explain how theory can translate into real-life counseling scenarios. This book builds on the framework of Eric L. Johnson’s Psychology Christianity: Five Views. These include the Levels-of-Explanation Approach, the Integration Approach, the Christian Psychology Approach, the Transformational Approach and the Biblical Counseling Approach. While Counseling and Christianity can be used independently of Johnson’s volume, the two can also function as useful companions. Christians who counsel, both those in practice and those still in training, will be served by this volume as it strengthens the connections between theory and practice in relating our faith to the mental health disciplines. They will finally get an answer to their persistent but unanswered question: “What would that counseling view look like behind closed doors?”
  • Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How are Christians to understand and undertake the discipline of psychology? This question has been of keen interest (and sometimes concern) to Christians because of the importance we place on a correct understanding of human nature. Psychology can sometimes seem disconnected from, if not antithetical to, Christian perspectives on life. How are we to understand our Christian beliefs about persons in relation to secular psychological beliefs? This revised edition of a widely appreciated text now presents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity. All the essays and responses have been reworked and updated with some new contributors including the addition of a new perspective, the transformative view from John Coe and Todd Hall (Biola University). Also found here is David Powlison (Westminster Theological Seminary) who offers the biblical counseling model. The levels-of-explanation model is advanced by David G. Myers (Hope College), while Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) offers an entirely new chapter presenting the integration model. The Christian psychology model is put forth by Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University) now joined by Paul J. Watson (University of Tennesee, Chattanooga). Each of the contributors responds to the other essayists, noting points of agreement as well as problems they see. Eric L. Johnson provides a revised introduction that describes the history of Christians and psychology, as well as a conclusion that considers what might unite the five views and how a reader might evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of each view. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views has become a standard introductory textbook for students and professors of Christian psychology. This revision promises to keep it so.

SANCTIFICATION – How does one grow as a Christian?

  • Donald Alexander, ed. Christian Spirituality: Five Views On Christian Sanctification (Spectrum Multiview Series). How can we grow closer to God? Is there a secret to spiritual life? Do we need a second blessing? Is sanctification God’s work or ours? Is it instantaneous or is it a process? The nature of Christian spirituality has been widely debated throughout the history of the church. The doctrine of sanctification was one of the main fissures separating Luther from the Catholic Church. Even today different groups of Protestants disagree on how we draw closer to God. What distinguishes the different positions and what exactly is at stake in these recurring debates? To answer these questions Donald L. Alexander, professor of biblical theology at Bethel College, has brought together five scholars that represent each of the main historical Protestant traditions: Gerhard O. Forde on the “Lutheran View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson on the “Reformed View”; Laurence W. Wood on the “Wesleyan View”; Russell P. Spittler on the “Pentecostal View”; and E. Glenn Hinson on the “Contemplative View.” With an introduction by Alexander and responses to each of the main essays by the other contributors, this book provides a helpful and stimulating introduction to an important doctrine Christianity.
  • Chad Owen Brand, ed. Perspectives On Spirit Baptism: 5 Views. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism presents in counterpoint form the basic common beliefs on spirit baptism which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition—with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
  • Bruce A. Demarest, ed. Four Views on Christian Spirituality (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The Views articulated in this book are as followed: “Orthodox Spirituality: A Quest For Transfigured Humanity” by Bradley Nassie; “Come To The Father: The Fact At The Foundation of Catholic Spirituality” by Scott Hahn; “The Progressive Face of Mainlain Protestant Spirituality” by Joseph Driskill; and “Evangelical Spirituality” by Evan Howard. The views presented are as following: “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father: A Reformed Perspective” by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.; “Spirit Baptism: A Pentecostal Perspective” by Stanley M. Horton; “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective” by Larry Hart; “A Wesleyan Perspective on Spirit Baptism” by H. Ray Dunning; and “Spirit Baptism: Catholic Perspective” by Ralph Del Colle.
  • Stanley N Gundry, ed. Five Views on Sanctification (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Christians generally recognize the need to live a holy, or sanctified, life. But they differ on what sanctification is and how it is achieved. Five Views on Sanctification brings together in one easy-to-understand volume five major Protestant views on sanctification. Writing from a solid evangelical stance, each author describes and defends his own understanding of the doctrine, and responds as well to the views of the other authors. This book addresses such practical questions as: How does one achieve sanctification in this life? How much success in sanctification is possible? Is a crisis experience following one’s conversion normal―or necessary? If so, what kind of experience, and how is it verified?  The following views are presented and defended: “The Wesleyan View” by Melvin E. Dieter; “The Reformed View” by Anthony A. Hoekema; “The Pentecostal View” by Stanley M. Horton; “The Keswick View” by J. Roberson McQuilkin; and “The Augustinian-Dispensational View” by John F. Walvoord.
  • Alan P. Stanley, ed. Four Views on The Role of Works at the Final Judgement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).Views Presented: “Christians Will Be Judged According To Their Works At The Rewards Judgement, But Not The Final Judgement” by Robert N. Wilkin; “Justification Apart From And By Works: At The Final Judgment Works Will Confirm Justification” by Thomas R. Schreiner; “If Paul Could Believe Both In Justification By Faith And Judgment According To Works, Why Should That Be A Problem For Us?” by James D.G. Dunn; and “A Catholic Perspective: Our Works Are Meritorious At The Final Judgment Because Of Our Union With Christ By Grace” by Michael P. Barber.

SCIENCE – Science and the Bible

  • Michael J. Behe and T.D. Singh. God, Intelligent Design and Fine-Tuning: A Dialogue between T. D. Singh and Michael J. Behe. Is God no longer necessary in a world that is increasingly influenced by a scientific temper? Or, on the contrary, have the findings of modern sciences forced us to approach the question of the existence of God in new ways? The scientific enterprise has gifted us the ability to examine and contemplate deeply the mysterious and beautiful order behind nature. Over the past four decades modern biochemistry has uncovered the secrets of cells and has revealed us the marvelous design even at the molecular level. Advancements in science have also shown us some of the precise laws and unique fundamental constants in the universe. All these facts and observations point to a fine-tuned and specially designed universe with a purpose by a Supreme Being or God. As one journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos and life discussed in this volume, one will be compelled to reexamine his opinion concerning the origins, evolution and essence of this wonderful world in which we live.
  • Ardel B. Caneday, ed. Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Denis O. Lamoureus articulates the “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View”; John H. Walton articulates “A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View”; C. John Collins articulates “A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View”; and William D. Barrick articulates “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View.”
  • Richard F. Carlson, ed. Science & Christianity: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Wayne Frair and Gary D. Patterson argue for “Creationism: An Inerrant Bible and Effective Science View”; Jean Pond argues for ”Independence: Mutual Humility in the Relationship Between Science and Christian Theology View”; Stephen C. Meyer argues for a “Qualified Agreement: Modern Science and the Return of the God Hypothesis View”; and Howard J. Van Till articulates the view called “Partnership: Science and Theology As Partners.”
  • Paul Copan and Christopher L. Reese, eds. Three Views on Christianity and Science. (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Michael Ruse writes the “Independence View”; Alister McGrath writes the “Dialogue View”; and Bruce Gordon writes the “Constrained Integration View.”
  • William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. In this book, first published in 2004, William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins – a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been ‘design’. Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: Darwinism, self-organization, theistic evolution, and intelligent design. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate.
  • David G. Hagopian, ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall argue for “The 24-Hour View”; Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer argue for the “Day-Age View”; and Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline argue for “The Framework View.”
  • Preston Jones, ed. Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism Christianity. Greg Graffin is frontman, singer and songwriter for the punk band Bad Religion. He also happens to have a Ph.D. in zoology and wrote his dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. Preston Jones is a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion’s music. One day, on a whim, Preston sent Greg an appreciative e-mail. That was the start of an extraordinary correspondence. For several months, Preston and Greg sent e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Preston believes in God; Greg sees insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do you make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter? In this engaging book, Preston and Greg’s actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can’t both be right. So which worldview is more plausible? You decide.
  • Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump and Joe Aguirre, eds. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins With Reason To Believe and Biologos. Various issues are addressed from several scholars belonging to the Two Largest Old Earth organizations: Reason to Believe (Hugh Ross, founder) and Biologos (Francis Collins, founder). Note: there is very little discussion of a “Young Earth” position in this book.
  • J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Thirty-One chapters by top Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians who critique the primary sources and articulators of Theistic Evolution in the 20th-21st Century – a landmark book – approximately 1000 pages of material!
  • Alister McGrath, John Wilson, et. al. The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials). For centuries, Christians have argued exactly what God did “in the beginning.” If this were only a question of science, it would not be so contentious. But theology and science shape one another, and there are few easy answers. This key collection of essays presents the current state of the debate, showing how faithful evangelicals have come to their respective views, and what is at stake for the church. Contents: Chapter 1: The Search for the Historical Adam – Richard N. Ostling; Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Scientists: A Young-Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationist – Tim Stafford; Chapter 3: Augustine’s Origin of Species: How the Great Theologian Might Weigh In on the Darwin Debate – Alister McGrath; Chapter 4: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Furor Over Intelligent Design – Nancy Pearcey; Chapter 5: God by the Numbers: Math and the Theology of Origins – Charles Edward White; Chapter 6: What Good is Stardust?: The Remarkably Equipped Universe – Howard J. Van Till; Chapter 7: Your Darwin Is Too Large: Evolution’s Exaggerated Significance for Theology – John Wilson; Chapter 8: Living with the Darwin Fish: Another ‘Missing Link’ Won’t Destroy My Faith – Stan Guthrie; Chapter 9: The Evolution of Darwin: The Scientist’s Problem with God – Dinesh D’Souza; and Chapter 10: Science in Wonderland: Perspective (250 Million Years’ Worth) on the Evolution Controversy – John Wilson 
  • J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds. Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds defend the view of “Young Earth Creationism”; Robert C. Newman defends the view of  “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”; and Howard J. Van Till defends the view called “Theistic Evolution.”
  • Gerald Rau. Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning. The debate over evolution and creation has raged for decades and shows no signs of letting up. Many promote one view as the only reasonable solution. But what are the main viewpoints, and just why do they disagree? In the midst of an increasingly intense dispute, Gerald Rau answers the important questions with level-headed clarity and evenhanded analysis. Rau lays out six models of origins, ranging from naturalistic evolution to young-earth creation. He shows how each model presupposes an underlying philosophy that adherents take on faith. With the sensitivity of a seasoned educator, Rau demonstrates how each model assesses the scientific evidence in relation to four different kinds of origins: the universe, life, species and humans. In an age of specialists, Rau sees the big picture. Mapping the Origins Debate cuts through the cacophony and the complexity to provide a lucid and charitable contribution to the conversation.
  • James Stump, ed. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design  (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Ken Ham’s view is “Young Earth Creationism”; Hugh Ross gives the “Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism View”; Deborah B. Haarsma articulates the “Evolutionary Creation View”; and Stephen C. Meyer presents the “intelligent Design View.”
  • Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk. The Fool and the Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue About Creation and Evolution. The Fool and the Heretic is a deeply personal story told by two respected scientists who hold opposing views on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. To some in the church, anyone who accepts the theory of evolution has rejected biblical teaching and is therefore thought of as a heretic. To many outside the church, as well as a growing number of evangelicals, anyone who accepts the view that God created the Earth in six days a few thousand years ago must be poorly educated and ignorant – a fool. Todd Wood and Darrel Falk know what it’s like to be thought of, respectively, as a fool and a heretic. This audiobook shares their pain in wearing those labels, but more important, provides a model for how faithful Christians can hold opposing views on deeply divisive issues yet grow deeper in their relationship to each other and to God.

SOTERIOLOGY – The Study of Salvation in the Bible

  • David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds. Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). If God is in control, are people really free? This question has bothered Christians for centuries. And answers have covered a wide spectrum. Today Christians still disagree. Those who emphasize human freedom view it as a reflection of God’s self-limited power. Others look at human freedom in the order of God’s overall control. David and Randall Basinger have put this age-old question to four scholars trained in theology and philosophy. John Feinberg of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary focus on God’s specific sovereignty. Bruce Reichenbach of Augsburg College and Clark Pinnock of McMaster Divinity College insist that God must limit his control to ensure our freedom. Each writer argues for his perspective and applies his theory to two practical case studies. Then the other writers respond to each of the major essays, exposing what they see as fallacies and hidden assumptions.
  • Herbert W. Bateman IV., ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. Using the popular four-views format, this volume explores the meaning of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews to both the original readers and us today. Each of the four New Testament scholars present and defend their view and critique the view of their interlocutors. This unique volume will help readers better understand some of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. Contributors include Grant R. Osborne, Buist M. Fanning, Gareth L. Cockerill, and Randall C. Gleason.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Gregory A. Boyd defends the view called “Open-Theism”; David Hunt defends “The Simple Foreknowledge View”; William Land Craig defends “The Middle-Knowledge View”; and Paul Helm defends the “Augustinian-Calvinist View.”
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Justification: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). When Paul wrote these words he seemed confident he had made himself clear. But for centuries the Pauline doctrine of justification has been a classic point of interpretation and debate in Christian exegesis and theology. And while in recent decades there have been moments of hopeful convergence among the various traditions of the Western church, the fine print often reveals more facets and distinctions than ever before. This volume focuses on five views of justification and calls on representative proponents to set forth their case and then respond to each other. The five views are: “Traditional Reformed” defended by Michael S. Horton;  “Progressive Reformed” by Michael F. Bird; “The New Perspective” by James D. G. Dunn;  “Deification, or Theosis” by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen; and  “Roman Catholic” by Gerald O. Collins and Oliver Rafferty. In addition, editors James Beilby, Paul R. Eddy and Steven E. Enderlein provide an extensive introduction to the issues informing this important debate. This distinguished forum of biblical interpreters and theologians offers a lively and informative engagement with the biblical, historical and contemporary understandings of justification. Justification: Five Views is not only a fascinating probe into Paul?s meaning, it is also a case book in theological method.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). A long history of biblical exegesis and theological reflection has shaped our understanding of the atonement today. The more prominent highlights of this history have acquired familiar names for the household of faith: Christus Victor, penal substitutionary, subjective, and governmental. Recently the penal substitutionary view, and particularly its misappropriations, has been critiqued, and a lively debate has taken hold within evangelicalism. This book offers a “panel” discussion of four views of atonement maintained by four evangelical scholars. The proponents and their views are: Gregory A. Boyd: “Christus Victor View”; Joel B. Green: “Kaleidescopic View”; Bruce R. Reichenbach: “Healing View”; and Thomas R. Schreiner: “Penal Substitutionary View.” Following an introduction written by the editors, each participant first puts forth the case for their view. Each view is followed by responses from the other three participants, noting points of agreement as well as disagreement. This is a book that will help Christians understand the issues, grasp the differences and proceed toward a clearer articulation of their understanding of the atonement.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Election: Five Views. Perspectives on Election presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on the doctrine of spiritual election (for example, predestination) that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. Despite the focus upon a topic that divides many people, editor Chad Brand says, “The goal of this book is to add clarity to the discussion and to further the discussion, insofar as it is possible, in an amiable manner.” Contributors and their views are the following: “Divine Election to Salvation” presented by Bruce A. Ware; “The Classical Arminian View of Election” by Jack W. Cottrell; “A Consistent Supralapsarian Perspective on Election” presented by RobertL. Reymond; “Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive Nature of Election” presented by Thomas B. Talbot; and “Divine Election as Corporate, Open, and Vocational” by Clark Pinnock.
  • Gabriel J. Fackre, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?  Three Views on The Destiny of the Unevangelized (Spectrum Multiview Series). What is the fate of those who die never hearing the gospel? Do Hindus, Jews, agnostics and others who do not profess faith in Christ really suffer damnation after death? These and similar questions have long been contemplated by people from every religious persuasion and every walk of life. But in a culture of increasing diversity and growing doubt in the existence of “objective truth,” it seems ever more pressing. In this book three scholars present the span of evangelical conviction on the destiny of the unevangelized. Ronald Nash argues the restrictivist position, that receptive knowledge of Jesus Christ in this life is necessary to salvation. Gabriel Fackre advocates divine perseverance, with the expectation that those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. And John Sanders sets forth the inclusivist case–asserting that though God saves people only through the work of Jesus Christ, some may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. As each scholar presents his own case and responds to strengths and weaknesses of differing positions, readers are treated to a lively and informative debate. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? is a truly helpful book on one of today’s–and every day’s–most crucial questions.
  • Dave Hunt and James White. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. A centuries-old belief system is put to the test as two prominent authors examine and debate the subject of Calvinism from opposing viewpoints. James White, author of The Potter’s Freedom, takes the Calvinist position. Dave Hunt, author of What Love Is This, opposes him. The exchange is lively and at times intense as these two articulate men wrestle over what the Scriptures tell us about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. This thought-provoking, challenging book provides potent responses to the most frequently asked questions about Calvinism.
  • Adam J. Johnson, ed. Five Views on the Extent of the Atonement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). For whom did Christ die? Who may be saved? are questions of perennial interest and importance for the Christian faith. In a familiar Counterpoints format, this book explores the question of the extent of Christ’s atonement, going beyond simple Reformed vs. non-Reformed understandings. This volume elevates the conversation to a broader plane, including contributors who represent the breadth of Christian tradition: “Eastern Orthodox”: expounded by Andrew Louth; “Roman Catholic”: expounded by Matthew Levering; “Traditional Reformed”: expounded by Michael Horton; “Wesleyan”: expounded by Fred Sanders; and “Barthian Universalism”: expounded by Tom Greggs.
  • R.T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen. The Christian and the Pharisee: Two Outspoken Religious Leaders Debate the Road to Heaven. The book reproduces a candid exchange of letters between two leading religious figures: an evangelical preacher and a senior Jewish rabbi. This groundbreaking publication is a rare opportunity to read the heartfelt correspondence of two prolific and acclaimed theologians, as they both seek to vigorously defend their own beliefs and allow themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other. As the discussion continues we see mutual respect grow and a strong friendship forged before the relationship is inevitably tested as they encounter points of seemingly irreconcilable differences. Though there are issues and beliefs which separate the two theological camps, this book shows how they share enough to not only get along, but form strong alliances.
  • John D. Laing, Kirk R. MacGregor, Greg Welty, et al. Calvinism and Middle Knowledge: A Conversation. Calvinism and Middle Knowledge is an anthology of essays that moves the discussion of Molinism/middle knowledge out of the philosophical arena, where it has almost exclusively remained, and into the broader theological community. In particular, it sparks a conversation between Calvinists and Molinists regarding the fruitfulness or deficiencies of middle knowledge and the feasibility or infeasibility of Calvinist use of middle knowledge without acceptance of libertarian human freedom. To this end, nine distinguished experts address such topics as the history of the doctrine of middle knowledge, the potential role of Molinism in discussions of evolution and intelligent design, Calvinist concerns with Molinism, and Calvinist appropriation of middle knowledge. This book empowers theologians, historians, biblical scholars, and pastors to join the ongoing conversation and to judge for themselves what explanatory role middle knowledge may or may not play in accounts of providence and practical theology.
  • Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views On Salvation In A Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). John Hick proposes the “Pluralist View”; Clark Pinnock proposes the “Inclusivist View”; Alister McGrath proposes “A Particularist View: A Post-Enlightenment Approach”; and R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips present “A Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach.”
  • Kirk R. MacGregor and Kevaughn Mattis, eds. Perspectives on Eternal Security: Biblical, Historical, and Philosophical Perspectives. Eternal security, or personal assurance of final salvation, constitutes the single most important matter of practical theology in the Christian tradition. For the past twenty centuries, no other doctrine has exerted such a direct impact on the lives of lay Christians, driving their daily actions, guiding their permanent choices, and shaping their psychology. From the New Testament period onward, a diversity of views on biblical interpretation, anthropology, and divine sovereignty have produced numerous models of eternal security. However, due to the early modern fracturing of Protestant thought along Reformed and Arminian lines, today most evangelicals equate eternal security with Calvin’s perseverance of the saints. In an ecumenical vein, this collection of essays aims to remedy the knowledge gap by bringing a breadth of biblical, historical, and philosophical perspectives to bear on the question of eternal security. These essays comprise the first print anthology from the online theological journal Testamentum Imperium, an international forum founded and edited by Kevaughn Mattis featuring scores of first-rate articles from Christian thinkers worldwide on the topic of eternal security. This book therefore analyzes Calvin’s model of perseverance alongside views on eternal security ranging historically from Clement of Rome to contemporary developments in philosophical theology and process theology. Furthermore, this book explores and strengthens the biblical roots of eternal security through an illuminating host of thematic studies on whole books and exegetical studies on particular passages. Hence this volume will profit all who are interested in the scriptural foundations and historical outworkings of eternal security.
  • Andrew David Naselli and Mark A. Snoeberger, eds. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement presents a point-counterpoint exchange concerning God’s intention in sending Christ to die on the cross. All three contributors recognize a substitutionary element in the atoning work of Christ, but disagree over the nature and objects of that substitution. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work secured the redemption of his elect alone. While infinite in value, Christ’s death was intended for and applied strictly to those whom the Father had elected unconditionally in eternity past. John Hammett (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work had multiple intentions. Of these intentions two rise to the fore: (1) the intention to accomplish atonement for God’s elect and (2) the intention to provide atonement for all mankind. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) argues that Christ’s atoning work provided atonement generally for all mankind. The application of that atoning work is conditioned, however, on each person’s willingness to receive it.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Four Views On Eternal Security (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Does the Bible support the concept of “once saved, always saved,” or can a person lose his or her salvation? How do the Scriptures portray the complex interplay between grace and free will? These and related questions are explored from different angles in this thought-provoking Counterpoints volume. The contributors each state their case for one of four prominent views on eternal security: “Classical Calvinist” (Michael Horton), “Moderate Calvinist” (Norman L. Geisler), “Reformed Arminian” (Stephen M. Ashby),  and “Wesleyan Arminian” (Steve Harper). In keeping with the forum approach of the Counterpoints series, each view is first presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended. This fair and respectful approach allows you to weigh for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of the different doctrinal stances. By furnishing you with scholarly and thoughtful perspectives on the topic of eternal security, this book helps you sift through opposing views to arrive at your own informed conclusions. 
  • James R. White. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. Norman L. Geisler’s Chosen but Free sparked a firestorm of controversy when he labeled Calvinism “theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” White steps into the breach with his cogent response. His systematic refutation of Geisler’s argument will help you understand what the Reformed faith really teaches about divine election and how Reformed thought conforms to the gospel.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE – How to Practically Do Battle with the Enemy 

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, editors. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Walter Wink, “The World Systems Model”; David Powlison, “The Classical Model”; Greg Boyd, “The Ground-Level Deliverance Model”; C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood, “The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model.”

THEOLOGICAL METHOD – How to Do Theology and Communal Expressions of It

  • Paul L. Allen. Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed). Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed is a book that introduces the reader to the practice of doing theology. It provides a historical survey of key figures and concepts that bear on an understanding of difficult methodological issues in Christian theology. Beginning with a description of philosophical themes that affect the way theology is done today, it summarizes the various theological methods deployed by theologians and churches over two millennia of Christian thought. The book uncovers patterns in the theological task of relating biblical texts with beliefs and doctrines, according to historically conditioned theological and cultural priorities. The book’s highlights include a discussion of Augustine’s epoch-making De doctrina Christiana. Also receiving close attention is the relationship between philosophy and theology during the Middle Ages, the meaning of sola scriptura for the Protestant Reformers, the methods of key interpreters of doctrine in the nineteenth century and the theological priorities of the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ movement.
  • Kenneth Berding, ed. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Walter C. Kaiser defends the view: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents”; Darrel L. Bock defends the view: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents”; and Peter Enns defends the view: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal. 
  • Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Across The Spectrum: Understanding Issues In Evangelical Theology (Second Edition). This new edition of a popular text presents an accessible yet comprehensive primer that helps readers understand the breadth of viewpoints on major issues in evangelical theology, with chapters using the popular three- or four-views book format. The authors carefully examine thirty-four positions taken by evangelical scholars on seventeen seminal issues. They lay out the biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments for each position in point-counterpoint fashion and discuss possible objections. The second edition retains the helpful features of the first edition–end-of-chapter “For Further Reading” sections and an extensive glossary–and adds an appendix that addresses thirteen peripheral issues in contemporary evangelicalism.
  • Ronnie Campbell, ed. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views (Counterpoints Theology and Life).During a time of global conflict, the theological question of whether Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God carries political baggage. Is the God of ISIS the same as the God of Israel? Do Sunni Muslims and Protestant Christians pray to the same Creator and Sustainer of the universe? In this Counterpoints volume, edited by Ronnie P. Campbell, Jr., and Christopher Gnanakan, five leading scholars present the main religious perspectives on this question, demonstrating how to think carefully about an issue where opinions differ and confusion abounds. They examine related subtopics such as the difference between God being referentially the same and essentially the same, what “the same” means when referring to God, the significance of the Trinity in this discussion, whether religious inclusivism is inferred by certain understandings of God’s sameness, and the appropriateness of interfaith worship.The four main views, along with the scholars presenting them, are: “All Worship the Same God: Religious Pluralist View” presented by Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb, Jr.; “All Worship the Same God: Referring to the Same God View” presented by Francis J. Beckwith; “Jews and Christians Worship the Same God: Shared Revelation View” presented by  Gerald R. McDermott; and “None Worship the Same God: Different Conceptions View” presented by Jerry L. Walls) Additionally, essays by Joseph Cumming and David W. Shenk explore the implications of this question specifically for Christians wanting to minister among and build relationships with Muslims. Cumming stresses that finding common ground is key, while Shenk advocates for a respectful focus on differences.
  • John Jefferson Davis. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine & Theology. This volume provides the complete text of key Scripture passages that form the basis for theological study. The text used is the highly readable and modern New International Version. The verses listed are grouped by the classical categories of systematic theology (e.g., God, Christ, Salvation); on disputed points, verses from which the major theological views derive are given. Footnotes provide clarification and brief commentary on verses as appropriate. This work is intended to assist the theological student who might not take the time to look up the verses cited in systematic theologies, but it will also be useful to anyone seeking to better understand the major themes of Scripture.
  • Louis Goldberg, ed. How Jewish Is Christianity? 2 Views On The Messianic Movement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Diverse perspectives about the messianic movement ― from six contributors. Are Messianic congregations necessary or should Jewish believers be incorporated into the Gentile church? This is the topic of the latest volume in the Counterpoints series. The question of how Christian Jews relate their Jewish practices and customs to the church has been an issue within Christianity since the first century. Contemporary contributors who have lived and wrestled with this issue present informed arguments and counter-arguments. The book concludes with a chapter on the future for Messianic Jews and a directory of messianic movement organizations. Contributors include: John Fischer (ThD, California Graduate School of Theology, PhD, University of South Florida) is a rabbi of Congregation Ohr Chadash and Chairman of Judaic Studies at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum (ThM, PhD, New York University) has served with the Chosen People Ministries and Christian Jew Foundation in the past and is now the founder and director of Ariel Ministries. Gershon Nerel (PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) has served as “Israel Secretary” for the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and has also been a member of the executive committee for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel. David Stern (PhD, MDiv) is the translator of the Jewish New Testament from Greek to English to express its Jewishness; his version of the Tanak is the Complete Jewish Bible. Will Varner (EdD, Temple University) servers as professor of biblical studies at the Master’s College, CA, and the director of the Israel Bible Extension campus of this college in Israel.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Five Views On Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). “The Non-Theonomic View” is presented by Willem A. VanGemeren; “The Theonomic Reformed View” is presented by Greg L. Bahnsen; “The Law As God’s Gracious Guidance For The Promotion of Holiness View” is presented by Walter C. Kaiser; “A Dispensational View” is presented by Wayne G. Strickland; and “A Modified Lutheran View” is presented by Douglas J. Moo.
  • Collin Hansen and Andrew David Naselli, eds. Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following views are presented in this dialogue: “Fundamentalism” by Kevin T. Bauder; “Confessional Evangelicalism” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Generic Evangelicalism” by John G. Stackhuse Jr.; and “Postconservative Evangelicalism” by Roger E. Olson.
  • Glenn R. Kreider and Michael J. Svigel. A Practical Primer on Theological Method: Table Manners for Discussing God, His Works, and His Ways. Around a table sit men and women with distinct roles: the interpreter, the theologian, the virtuous, the philosopher, the scientist, the artist, the minister, and the historian. Each is ready to engage in a passionate discussion centered on God, his works, and his ways. Regardless of which role you play at the same table, you’re invited. You simply need to pull up a chair and join the conversation. But how? What do you say when you take your seat? Where do you start? What are the “rules” of the dialogue? A Practical Primer on Theological Method will help you answer these questions. This primer is not only a “how-to” manual for doing theology, but a handbook of etiquette for doctrinal discussions with other believers. This popular-level introductory text presents the proper manner, mode, and means of engaging fruitfully in theology.
  • Gordon R. Lewis. Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook. The great Christian doctrines are worth thinking through for ourselves. That’s why Gordon Lewis has provided this concise and complete survey of the major truths of the Christian faith. But rather than just telling us what he has discovered in Scripture, he offers a theological workbook that helps us explore the evidence itself and to draw our own conclusions. He has organized the material around the main themes of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humanity, creation, the church, and the end times. This unique text has been used by students of the Bible over the last three decades in the classroom, in the home and in the church. Its enduring quality continues to make it a valuable tool for all who want to develop a systematic theology for themselves.
  • Erwin W. Lutzer. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historical Doctrines That Separate Christians. Lutzer examines various controversies that exist within the broad spectrum of Christianity, presenting the historical background of the issue and the biblical understanding of the doctrine. Chapters include “Predestination or Free Will?”; “Why Can’t We Agree about Baptism”?; and “Justification by Faith.”
  • Gary T, Meadors, ed. Four Views on Moving Beyond The Bible To Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following models of methods are proposed: “A Principlizing Model” by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.; “A Redemptive-Historical Model” by Daniel M. Doriani; “A Drama of Redemption Model” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “A Redemptive-Movement Model” by William J. Webb.
  • Stanley E. Porter, ed. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How should one approach the task of theology? The question of methodology is increasingly one of interest among theologians, who recognize that the very manner in which we approach theology informs both the questions we ask and the conclusions we reach. This volume in IVP’s Spectrum Multiview series brings together five evangelical theologians with distinctly different approaches to the theological task. After presenting the approaches―which include appeals to Scripture, context, missions, interdisciplinary studies, and dogmatics―each contributor responds to the other views. Emerging from this theological conversation is an awareness of our methodological commitments and the benefits that each approach can bring to the theological task. Contributors:Sung Wook Chung, “Bible Doctines Conservative Theology: Codifying God’s Word”;  John R. Franke, “Missional Theology: Living God’s Love”; Telford C. Work, “An Interdisciplinary Theology Response”; Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo, “A Contextual Theology Response”; and Paul Louis Metzger, “A Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology Response.”
  • James Stamoolis, ed. Three Views On Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Bradley Nassif answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Yes”; Michael Horton answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; Vladimir Berzonsky answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; George Hancock-Stefan answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe”; And Edward Rommen answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe.”
  • Mary M. Veeneman. Introducing Theological Method: A Survey of Contemporary Theologians and Approaches. Sound theological method is a necessary prerequisite for good theological work. This accessible introduction surveys contemporary theological methodology by presenting leading thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries as models. The book presents the strengths and weaknesses in each of the major options. Rather than favoring one specific position, it helps students of theology think critically so they can understand and develop their own theological method.

THEOLOGY PROPER – The Study of God: 

The Trinity, His Nature, Character & Activity in Our World 

  • John M. DePoe and Tyler Dalton McNabb. Debating Christian Religious Epistemology: An Introduction to Five Views on the Knowledge of God. Debating Christian Religious Epistemology introduces core questions in the philosophy of religion by bringing five competing viewpoints on the knowledge of God into critical dialogue with one another. Each chapter introduces an epistemic viewpoint, providing an overview of its main arguments and explaining why it justifies belief. The validity of that viewpoint is then explored and tested in a critical response from an expert in an opposing tradition. Featuring a wide range of different philosophical positions, traditions and methods, this introduction: Covers classical evidentialism, phenomenal conservatism, proper functionalism, covenantal epistemology and traditions-based perspectivalism; Draws on MacIntyre’s account of rationality and ideas from the Analytic and Conservatism traditions; Addresses issues in social epistemology; and Considers the role of religious experience and religious texts. Packed with lively debates, this is an ideal starting point for anyone interested in understanding the major positions in contemporary religious epistemology and how religious concepts and practices relate to belief and knowledge.
  • Dennis Jowers, ed. Four Views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Kjoss Helseth propounds the view that “God Causes All Things”; William Lane Craig propounds the view that “God Directs All Things”; Ron Highfield propounds the view that “God Controls By Liberating”; and Gregory A. Boyd propounds that “God Limits Control.”
  • Gregory E. Ganssle, ed. God & Time: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Paul Helm proclaims the “Divine Timeless Eternity View”; Alan G. Padgett proclaims the “Eternity As Relative Timelessness View”; William Lane Craig proclaims the “Timelessness & Omnitemporality View”; and Nicholas Wolterstorff proclaims the “Unqualified Divine Temporality View.”
  • Stephen R. Holmes, ed. Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The doctrine of the Trinity stands front and center of the Christian faith and its articulation. After a sustained drought of trinitarian engagement, the doctrine of the Trinity has increasingly resurged to the forefront of Evangelical confession. The second half of the twentieth century, however, saw a different kind of trinitarian theology developing, giving way to what has commonly been referred to as the “social Trinity.” Social—or better, relational—trinitarianism has garnered a steady reaction from those holding to a classical doctrine of the Trinity, prompting a more careful and thorough re-reading of sources and bringing about not only a much more coherent view of early trinitarian development but also a strong critique of relational trinitarian offerings. Yet confusion remains. As Evangelicals get better at articulating the doctrine of the Trinity, and as the current and next generation of believers in various Christian traditions seek to be more trinitarian, the way forward for trinitarian theology has to choose between the relational and classical model, both being legitimate options.In this volume, leading contributors—one evangelical and one mainline/catholic representing each view—establish their models and approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity, each highlighting the strengths of his view in order to argue how it best reflects the orthodox perspective. In order to facilitate a genuine debate and to make sure that the key issues are teased out, each contributor addresses the same questions regarding their trinitarian methodology, doctrine, and its implications. Contributors include: Stephen R. Holmes; Paul D. Molnar; Thomas H. McCall; and Paul S. Fiddes.
  • John W. Loftus and Randal Rauser. God or Godless? One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. In this unique book, atheist John Loftus and theist Randal Rauser engage in twenty short debates that consider Christianity, the existence of God, and unbelief from a variety of angles. Each concise debate centers on a proposition to be resolved, with either John or Randal arguing in the affirmative and the opponent the negative, and can be read in short bits or big bites. This is the perfect book for Christians and their atheist or agnostic friends to read together, and encourages honest, open, and candid debate on the most important issues of life and faith.
  • Robert J. Matz, ed. Divine Impassability: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering (Spectrum Multiview Series). Does God suffer? Does God experience emotions? Does God change? How should we interpret passages of Scripture that seem to support one view or the other? And where does the incarnation and Christ’s suffering on the cross fit into this? The lively but irenic discussion that takes place in this conversation demonstrates not only the diversity of opinion among Christians on this theological conundrum but also its ongoing relevance for today. Views and Contributors: “Strong Impassibility” by James E. Dolezal, assistant professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University; “Qualified Impassibility” by Daniel Castelo, professor of dogmatic and constructive theology at Seattle Pacific University; “Qualified Passibility” by John C. Peckham, professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University; and “Strong Passibility” by Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University.
  • J.P. Moreland, Khaldoun A. Sweis, and Chad V. Meister, eds. Debating Christian Theism. Comprising groundbreaking dialogues by many of the most prominent scholars in Christian apologetics and the philosophy of religion, this volume offers a definitive treatment of central questions of Christian faith. The essays are ecumenical and broadly Christian, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and feature lucid and up-to-date material designed to engage readers in contemporary theistic and Christian issues. Beginning with dialogues about God’s existence and the coherence of theism and then moving beyond generic theism to address significant debates over such specifically Christian doctrines as the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus, Debating Christian Theism provides an ideal starting point for anyone seeking to understand the current debates in Christian theology.
  • Anthony C. Thiselton. Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates. From the opening pages of the Bible, we learn of God as one who communicates with humankind―offering us first steps toward knowledge of the divine, the very foothold of theology. On this basis, Approaching the Study of Theology presents an engaging introduction to the breadth and depth of the study of theology, mapping the significant landmarks as well as the main areas of debate. The book is divided into three parts: Part I (Approaches) describes the major approaches to theology that have emerged and developed over time. Part II (Concepts and Issues) explains the major concepts and issues, identifying theologians associated with each. Part III (Key Terms) provides a helpful glossary of all the key terms that readers need to understand in order to better understand theology. Written by the eminent theologian Anthony Thiselton, here is an accessible resource for both those in the midst of a theological course or program as well as those contemplating the field.
  • Bruce A. Ware, ed. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God presents in counterpoint form four basic common beliefs on the doctrine of God that have developed over the course of church history with a goal of determining which view is most faithful to Scripture. Contributors to this fifth book in the PERSPECTIVES series are Regent College J.I. Packer chair in Theology and Philosophy Paul Helm (Classical Calvinist perspective), editor Bruce Ware (Modified Calvinist perspective), Baylor University professor of Theology Roger Olson (Classical Arminian perspective), and Hendrix College assistant professor of Religion John Sanders (Open Theist perspective).

WORLDVIEW – A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world

  • Ronnie P. Campbell Jr. Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach. How does the Christian response to the problem of evil contrast with that of other worldviews? Most attempts at answering the problem of evil either present a straightforward account of the truth claims of Christianity or defend a minimalist concept of God. This book is different. Inside, you’ll examine four worldviews’ responses to the problem of evil. Then, you’ll hear the author’s argument that Christian theism makes better sense of the phenomenon of evil in the world equipping you to reach an informed conclusion. This book’s unique approach integrating worldviews with apologetics with theology will give you a better understanding of the debate surrounding the problem of evil, in both philosophy and theology. Learn to think cogently and theologically about the problem of evil and Christianity’s ability to answer its challenges with Worldviews and the Problem of Evil as your guide.
  • Myron B. Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Six Views). R. Douglas Geivett, writes, “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology”; R. Scott Smith writes, “Christian Postmodernism and the Linguistic Turn”; Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes, “Pilgrim’s Digress: Christian Thinking on and about the Post Modern Way”; John R. Franke writes, “Christian Faith and Postmodern Theory: Theology and the Nonfoundationalist Turn”; James K. A. Smith writes, “A Little Story about Metanarratives: Lyotard, Religion, and Postmodernism Revisited.” 

THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES: DEBATE & DIALOGUE – MULTIPLE VIEWS & PERSPECTIVES

Compiled by David P. Craig, August, 2021

AFTERLIFE – Death, Intermediate State, Heaven and Hell

  • William V. Crockett, ed. Four Views on Hell. Counterpoints first edition: John F. Walvoord defends the “Literal View”; William V. Crockett defends the “Metaphorical View”; Zachary J. Hays defends the “Purgatorial View”; and Clark H Pinnock defends the “Conditional View.”
  • Edward William Fudge. Two Views of Hell: A biblical Theological Dialogue. Edward Fudge gives the case for “Conditionalism” and Robert A. Person gives the case for “Traditionalism.”
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Peter Kreeft. Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College, who shares much in common with evangelicals. 
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Four Views on Hell (Second Edition with New Contributors: Denny Burk defends the Eternal Conscious Torment view; John G. Stackhouse defends the Terminal Punishment view; Robin A. Parry defends the Universalist view; Jerry L. Walls defends the Hell and Purgatory view).
  • Michael E. Wittmer, ed. Four Views On Heaven. Zondervan Counterpoints Series: John S. Feinberg, “The Traditional View”; J. Richard Middleton, “Platonic Earthly View”; Michael Allen, “Heavenly Earth View”; Peter Kreeft, “Roman Catholic Beatific Vision View”.

APOLOGETICS – Giving Good Evidence for the Truth of Christianity 

  • James K. Beilby. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics?; How has apologetics developed?; What are the basic apologetic approaches?; Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is a good place to start.
  • Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Ever since the apostle Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, relating the Christian worldview to a non-Christian world has been a challenge. And despite Peter’s charge to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), most Christian laypeople have left apologetics―the defense of the faith―to the ecclesiastical pros. Faith Has Its Reasons is a study of four different models of how apologetics should be done, an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and a proposal for integrating the best insights of each. Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman have assembled a wealth of information about what Christians believe and how to present that faith to an unbelieving world. Remarkable both in its depth of content and ease of accessibility, Faith Has Its Reasons gives Christian laypeople the tools to address such critical questions as: Why is belief in God rational despite the prevalence of evil in the world?; What facts support the church’s testimony that Jesus rose from the dead?; Can we be certain Christianity is true?; and How can our faith in Christ be based on something more secure than our own understanding without descending into an irrational emotionalism?
  • Scott R. Burson & Jerry L. Walls. C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time. In some ways, they could not be more different: the pipe-smoking, Anglican Oxford don and the blue-collar scion of conservative Presbyterianism. But C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, each in his unique way, fashioned Christian apologetics that influenced millions in their lifetimes. And the work of each continues to be read and studied today. In this book Scott Burson and Jerry Walls compare and contrast for the first time the thought of Lewis and Schaeffer. With great respect for the legacy of each man, but with critical insight as well, they suggest strengths and weaknesses of their apologetics. All the while they consider what Lewis and Schaeffer still have to offer in light of postmodernism and other cultural currents that, since their deaths, have changed the apologetic landscape. This incisive book stands as both an excellent introduction to the work of these two important figures and a fresh proposal for apologetics at the dawn of a new century.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). William Lane Craig presents the “Classical Method”; Gary R. Habermas presents the “Evidential Method”; Paul D. Feinberg presents the “Cumulative Case Method”; John Frame presents the “Presuppositional Method”; and Kelly James Clark presents the “Reformed Epistemological Method.”
  • William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist. The question of whether or not God exists is profoundly fascinating and important. Now two articulate spokesmen–one a Christian, the other an atheist–duel over God’s existence in an illuminating battle of ideas. In God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. Avoiding overly esoteric arguments, they directly address issues such as religious experience, the Bible, evil, eternity, the origin of the universe, design, and the supposed connection between morality and the existence of God. Employing sharp and humorous arguments, each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent’s case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God in order to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. By assuming a traditional concept of God in their discussion, the authors ensure that they are truly addressing each other’s viewpoints and engaging in a disagreement over a unified issue. The book is composed of six chapters that alternate between Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, so that each separate point can be discussed as it arises.
  • Gary R. Habermas, Antony G.N. Flew, & Terry L. Mieth. Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? The Resurrection Debate. This is the most important question regarding the claims of the Christian faith. Certainly no question in modern religious history demands more attention or interest, as witnessed by the vast body of literature dealing with the Resurrection. James I. Packer says it well in his response to this debate: ‘When Christians are asked to make good their claim that this scheme is truth, they point to Jesus’ resurrection. The Easter event, so they affirm, demonstrated Jesus’ deity; validated his teaching; attested to the completion of his work of atonement for sin; confirms his present cosmic dominion and coming reappearance as Judge; assures us that his personal pardon, presence, and power in people’s lives today is fact; and guarantees each believer’s own reembodiment by Resurrection in the world to come’ The Apostle Paul considered the Resurrection to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole structure, Christianity, collapses. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, ‘our preaching is useless and so is you faith’ More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [emphasis added]’ The Christian faith-and its claim to be Truth-exists only if Jesus rose from the dead. The heart of Christianity is a living Christ.
  • J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists. Is there a God? What is the evidence for belief in such a being? What is God like? Or, is God a figment of human inspiration? How do we know that such a being might not exist? Should belief or disbelief in God’s existence make a difference in our opinions and moral choices, in the way we see ourselves and relate to those around us? These are fundamental questions, and their answers have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. On March 24, 1988, at the University of Mississippi, J.P. Moreland, a leading Christian philosopher and ethicist, and Kai Nielsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, went head-to-head over these questions. Does God Exist? records their entire lively debate and includes questions from the audience, the debaters’ answers, and the responses of four recognized scholars – William Lane Craig, Antony Flew, Dallas Willard, and Keith Parsons. Noted author and philosopher Peter Kreeft has written an introduction, concluding chapter, and appendix – all designed to help readers decide for themselves whether God is fact or fantasy.
  • Armand M. Nicholi Jr. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Renowned psychiatrist and educator Armand Nicholi here presents a fascinating comparison of the beliefs of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. For all the variety of specific religious beliefs, there are fundamentally only two kinds of people: believers and nonbelievers. In the 20th century, no spokesman was more prominent for nonbelief than Sigmund Freud, and no one argued for belief more successfully than C. S. Lewis. From pain and suffering to love and sex, from God to morality, Lewis and Freud carefully argued opposing positions and even considered the chief objections to their positions. Based on Nicholi’s years of studying both men, including wide access to Freud’s letters, this debate on the greatest of subjects strikes at the deepest chords in our souls.

BAPTISM – One of two essential ordinances of the Christian Faith.

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life). What is the significance of water baptism? Who should be baptized? Is infant baptism scriptural? Which is the proper baptismal mode: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should people be rebaptized if they join a church that teaches a different form of baptism? Should baptism be required for church membership? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book. Four historic views on baptism are considered in depth: “Baptism of the professing regenerate by immersion: Baptist View” presented by Thomas J. Nettles; “Believers’ baptism on the occasion of regeneration by immersion: Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View” presented by Hohn D. Castelein;  “Infant baptism by sprinkling as a regenerative act: Lutheran View” presented by Robert Kolb; and “Infant baptism of children of the covenant: Reformed View” presented by Richard L. Pratt Jr. Each view is presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended in dialogue with the book’s other contributors. Here is an ideal setting in which you can consider the strengths and weaknesses of each stance and arrive at your own informed conclusion.
  • David F. Wright, ed. Baptism: Three Views. Bruce A. Ware presents the “Believers’ Baptism View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson presents the “Infant Baptism View”; Anthony N.S. Lane presents the “Dual-Practice View.”

BIBLIOLOGY – A Defense of the Bible and Controversies in the Bible, about the Bible, and its People and Books

  • Michael F. Bird, ed. Four Views On The Apostle Paul (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The apostle Paul was a vital force in the development of Christianity. Paul’s historical and religious context affects the theological interpretation of Paul’s writings, no small issue in the whole of Christian theology. Recent years have seen much controversy about the apostle Paul, his religious and social context, and its effects on his theology. In the helpful Counterpoints format, four leading scholars present their views on the best framework for describing Paul’s theological perspective, including his view of salvation, the significance of Christ, and his vision for the churches. Contributors and views include: “The Reformed View”:  presented by Thomas R. Schreiner; “The Catholic View”: presented by Luke Timothy Johnson; “The Post-New Perspective View”: presented by Douglas Campbell; and “The Jewish View”: presented by Mark D. Nanos. Like other titles in the Counterpoints: Bible and Theology collection, Four Views on the Apostle Paul gives theology students the tools they need to draw informed conclusions on debated issues. General editor and New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird covers foundational issues and provides helpful summaries in his introduction and conclusion.
  • David Alan Black, ed. Perspectives On The Ending of Mark: Four Views. Because it is conspicuously absent from more than one early Greek manuscript, the final section of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) that details Christ’s resurrection remains a constant source of debate among serious students of the New Testament. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark presents in counterpoint form the split opinions about this difficult passage with a goal of determining which is more likely. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black argue for the verses’ authenticity. Keith Elliott (University of Leeds) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) contend that they are not original to Mark’s gospel. Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary) responds to each view and summarizes the state of current research on the entire issue.
  • D.A. Carson. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. The author addresses laypeople and pastors with a concise explanation of the science of textual criticism and refutes the proposition that the King James Version is superior to contemporary translations.
  • Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture. In Defense of the Bible gathers exceptional articles by accomplished scholars (Paul Copan, William A. Dembski, Mary Jo Sharp, Darrell L. Bock, etc.), addressing and responding to all of the major contemporary challenges to the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. The book begins by looking at philosophical and methodological challenges to the Bible—questions about whether or not it is logically possible for God to communicate verbally with human beings; what it means to say the Bible is true in response to postmodern concerns about the nature of truth; defending the clarity of Scripture against historical skepticism and relativism. Contributors also explore textual and historical challenges—charges made by Muslims, Mormons, and skeptics that the Bible has been corrupted beyond repair; questions about the authorship of certain biblical books; allegations that the Bible borrows from pagan myths; the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments. Final chapters take on ethical, scientific, and theological challenges— demonstrating the Bible’s moral integrity regarding the topics of slavery and sexism; harmonizing exegetical and theological conclusions with the findings of science; addressing accusations that the Christian canon is the result of political and theological manipulation; ultimately defending the Bible as not simply historically reliable and consistent, but in fact the Word of God.
  • F. David Farnell and Norman L. Geisler, eds. Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate. The inerrancy of God’s Word has been attacked throughout church history. Today’s assaults are unique since neo-evangelicals now surrender to post-modernistic ideas of history and historical-critical ideologies that assault this vital doctrine. They seek to redefine the orthodox meaning of inerrancy. Since the signing of the Chicago Statements, troubling signs have once again appeared in recent years among many who either did not fight the battles for the inerrancy of Scripture as did the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, or who do not remember the troubling times that caused their development. The nature and definition of “inerrancy” are now being changed to include ideas of fallibility. History is forgotten. The need arises for sounding the alarm for Vital Issues in Inerrancy. Evangelical schools and churches that broke away earlier to defend inerrancy surrender now to academic prestige and scholarly fads instead of faithfulness to God’s inerrant Word. The contributors pray that the Lord will raise up a new generation with the spiritual fervency of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to uphold the inerrancy of God’s Word: Isaiah 40:8–“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
  • Scott M. Gibson and Matthew D. Kim. Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Scott Gibson and Matthew Kim, both experienced preachers and teachers, have brought together four preaching experts–Bryan Chapell, Kenneth Langley, Abraham Kuruvilla, and Paul Scott Wilson–to present and defend their approach to homiletics. Reflecting current streams of thought in homiletics, the book offers a robust discussion of theological and hermeneutical approaches to preaching and encourages pastors and ministry students to learn about preaching from other theological traditions. It also includes discussion questions for direct application to one’s preaching.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views On God and Canaanite Genicide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). A discussion of various contemporary evangelical views of genocide in the Old Testament. Christians are often shocked to read that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, commanded the total destruction―all men, women, and children―of the ethnic group know as the Canaanites. This seems to contradict Jesus’ command in the New Testament to love your enemies and do good to all people. How can Yahweh be the same God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? What does genocide in the Bible have to do with the politics of the 21st century? This book explores, in typical Counterpoints format, the Old Testament command of God to exterminate the Canaanite population and what that implies about continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The four points of view presented on the continuity of the Testaments are: “Strong Discontinuity” presented by C . S. Cowles; “Moderate Discontinuity” presented by Eugene H. Merrill; “Spiritual Continuity” presented by Tremper Longman III; and “Eschatological Continuity” presented by Daniel L. Gard.
  • Charles Halton, ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). James K. Hoffmeier writes about “Genesis 1-11 As History and Theology”; Gordon J. Wenham writes about “Genesis 1-11 As ProtoHistory”; and Kenton L. Sparks writes about “Genesis 1-11 As Ancient Hisoriography.”
  • Mark D. Janzen, ed. Five Views on the Exodus: Historicity, Chronology, and Theological Implications (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Five Views on the Exodus looks at competing views on the historicity, chronology, and theological implications of the exodus. The biblical account of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is one of the most enduring narratives ever told and is a foundational event for several world religions. It resonates across cultures with its timeless themes of redemption and deliverance. It is also the only explanation the Bible gives for Israel’s origin. Despite its unique legacy, many scholars regard the exodus as fictitious or a cultural memory that may not be a historical event. Even among those who believe the exodus happened, there is no consensus regarding its date. Five Views on the Exodus brings together experts in the fields of biblical studies, Egyptology, and archaeology to discuss and debate the most vexing questions about the exodus. Each offers their own view and offer constructive responses to other leading views on the exodus. The five views presented here include: “The Early Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Fifteenth Century BC” by Scott Stripling; “The Late Date: A Historical Exodus in the Thirteenth Century BC” by James K. Hoffmeier; “A Hyksos Levite Led Exodus in the Time of Ramesses II” by Peter Feinman; “The Alternative Late Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Twelfth Century BC” by Gary A. Rendsburg; and “The Exodus as Cultural Memory: A Transformation of Historical Events” by Ronald Hendel.
  • Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, eds. Romans: Four Perspectives. There are several top notch evangelical scholars that participate in this book that interact with various issues in dialogue: Stephen Westerholm writes about “Romans and the ‘Lutheran’ Paul”; Scot McKnight writes about “Romans and the New Perspective”; Douglas A. Campbell writes “Romans and the Apocalyptic Reading of Paul”; and Michael J. Gorman writes “Romans and the Participationist Perspective.” There are significant passages and issues in Romans dealt with by Michael F. Bird; Thomas R. Schreiner; Carl R. Trueman; James D.G. Dunn; and others.
  • J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett, eds. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following five views are presented: “When The Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does” by Peter Enns; “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside the USA” by Michael F. Bird; “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, And Literate Interpretation In the Economy of Biblical Doctrine” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible As Witness To Missional Plurality” by John R. Franke.
  • Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell, eds. Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views. Craig L. Blomberg presents the “Historical-Critical/Grammatical View”; F. Scott Spencer presents the “Literary/Postmodern View”; Merold Westphal presents the “Philosophical View”; Richard B. Gaffin Jr. presents the “Redemptive-Historical View”; and Robert W. Wall presents the “Canonical View.”
  • Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer. The Synoptic Problem: Four Views. The relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one of the most contested topics in Gospel studies. How do we account for the close similarities–and differences–in the Synoptic Gospels? In the last few decades, the standard answers to the typical questions regarding the Synoptic Problem have come under fire, while new approaches have surfaced. Following an overview of the issues, leading proponents of each view set forth their positions and respond to each of the other views. This up-to-date introduction articulates and debates the four major views: “The Two Source Hypothesis” presented by Craig A. Evans;  “The Farrer Hypothesis” presented by Mark Goodacre; “The Two Gospel Hypothesis” presented by David Barrett Peabody; and “Orality and Memory Hypothesis” presented by Rainer Riesner.  A concluding chapter summarizes the discussion and charts a direction for further study.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart D. Ehrman & Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue. Several renowned evangelical scholars tackle the many and varied objections of liberal scholar Bart D. Ehrman.
  • Robert L. Thomas. Three Views On The Origins of the Synoptic Gospels. While secular critics and liberal religious scholars have discounted the historicity and integrity of the first three Gospels, evangelicals maintain that the Synoptic Gospels fully support a high view of inspiration and historicity, despite varying views among evangelicals on Gospel origins. Four evangelical scholars join together in a presentation/response format to examine the three dominant views on Gospel origins. Grant Osborne and Matthew Williams present the “Two-Source or Markian Priority View”; John H. Niemelä presents the “Two Gospel or Matthewan Priority View”; and F. David Farnell presents the “Independence View”. Robert Thomas provides a helpful introduction to the issues and a final summary of the discussion.
  • James R. White. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity. A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is at the core of almost every form of opposition to the Christian faith today. Scripture Alone is written to instill a passionate love for and understanding of the Bible. In this defense of God’s inspired Word, readers will comprehend what “God’s Word” is, the nature of Scripture, the relationship of the Bible to tradition, how to apply Scripture to today’s issues, and much more. Included is a faith-inspiring study of the canon–what it is and where it came from.

CHRISTOLOGY – The Doctrine of Jesus – His Historicity, Person, and Nature

  • W. David Beck and Michael R. Licona, eds. Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Raised on the Third Day approaches these questions with critical and believing eyes. A variety of contributors―including J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Craig A. Evans, Beth M. Sheppard, and Sean McDowell―evaluate scriptural, historical, moral, and apologetic issues related to Christ’s death and resurrection. Readers will better appreciate how Gary Habermas has shaped the discussion and how scholarship can be moved forward. Study of Christ’s resurrection is far from exhausted. Gary R. Habermas is one of the most influential Christian philosophers and apologists of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His life’s work has focused on matters pertaining to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is widely agreed that Habermas is the foremost authority on the subject. This festschrift is a tribute to that work.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public’s attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. Beginning with a scene-setting historical introduction by the editors, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their views and respond to their fellow scholars. On the one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached the “vanishing point,” and on the other Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it takes us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. In between there are numerous avenues to explore, questions to be asked and “assured results” to be weighed. And John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson and James D. G. Dunn probe these issues with formidable knowledge and honed insight, filling out a further range of options. The Historical Jesus: Five Views offers a unique entry into the Jesus quest. For both the classroom and personal study, this is a book that fascinates, probes and engages.
  • Paul Copan and Ronald K. Taccelli. Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann. Was the resurrection of Jesus a fact of history or a figment of imagination? Was it an event that entailed a raised and transformed body and an empty tomb? Or was it a subjective, visionary experience–a collective delusion? In the view of many, the truth of Christianity hangs on the answer to this question. Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? is a lively and provocative debate between Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and New Testament scholar and atheist Gerd LÜdemann. This published version of a debate originally set at Boston College is edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli, who invite the responses of four additional scholars. Robert Gundry, a New Testament scholar, and Stephen Davis, a philosopher, argue in support of a historical and actual resurrection. Michael Goulder and Roy Hoover, both New Testament scholars, offer their support for Gerd LÜdemann’s view that the “resurrection” was based on the guilt-induced visionary experience of the disciples. The book concludes with a final response from LÜdemann and Craig.
  • Paul Copan, ed. Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Offers readers a clarifying and insightful comparison and contrast between the Jesus Seminar (Crossan), on the one hand, and evangelical theologians (Craig), on the other.
  • John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue. Two of today’s most important and popular New Testament scholars–John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright–air their very different understandings of the many historical realities and theological meanings of Jesus’ Resurrection.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, and Robert B. Stewart. Can We Trust on the Historical Jesus? This book features a learned and fascinating debate between two great Bible scholars about the New Testament as a reliable source on the historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic New Testament scholar, debates Craig Evans, an evangelical New Testament scholar, about the historical Jesus and what constitutes “history.” Their interaction includes such compelling questions as: What are sound methods of historical investigation? What are reliable criteria for determining the authenticity of an ancient text? What roles do reason and inference play? And, of course, interpretation? Readers of this debate—regardless of their interpretive inclinations and biases—are sure to find some confirmation of their existing beliefs, but they will surely also find an honest and well-informed challenge to the way they think about the historical Jesus. The result? A more open, better informed, and questioning mind, which is better prepared for discovering both truth and contrivance. The debate between Ehrman and Evans along with Stewart’s introductory framework make this book an excellent primer to the study of the historical Jesus, and readers will come away with a deeper appreciation for the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
  • Peter Kreeft. Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ. What would happen if Socrates–yes, the Socrates of ancient Athens–suddenly showed up on the campus of a major university and enrolled in its divinity school?; What would he think of human progress since his day?; How would he react to our values?; To our culture?; And what would he think of Jesus? Peter Kreeft, A Catholic philosopher and longtime admirer of the historic Socrates, imagines the result. In this drama Socrates meets such fellow students as Bertha Broadmind, Thomas Keptic and Molly Mooney. Throughout, Kreeft weaves an intriguing web as he brings Socrates closer and closer to a meeting with Jesus. Here is a startling and provocative portrayal of reason in search of truth. In a new introduction to this revised edition, Kreeft also highlights the inspiration for this book and the key questions of truth and faith it addresses.
  • Michael R. Licona. Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection. Imagine if the Apostle Paul were alive to defend the truth of Jesus’s resurrection only to be countered by none other than the prophet Muhammad himself. In an approach as creative as any scholar has taken, Michael R. Licona describes an invention that can make historical figures appear alive and present. Imagining an audience of both Christians and Muslims, Licona crafts a lively debate between Paul and Muhammad, each speaking on and analyzing the validity of the Qur’an, the gospel accounts, and both Christian and Muslim doctrine.Intriguing and entertaining, Paul Meets Muhammad uniquely offers evangelism advice for Christians who want to speak the gospel to Muslim friends and neighbors. This fictional scenario presents a powerful, comprehensive defense of Jesus’s resurrection and of Christianity itself.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue. Several respected evangelical scholars interact with liberal scholars on issues related to the Historical Jesus.
  • Peter S. Williams. Resurrection: Faith or Fact?: A Scholars’ Debate Between a Skeptic and a Christian. Is there enough evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or must such a judgment be based only on faith? Can the resurrection story be considered a fact of history, or should it be viewed as an ahistorical account? Two renowned professors, atheist Carl Stecher and Christian Craig Blomberg, engage in a groundbreaking new debate on these very questions. Other experts on the resurrection, atheist Richard Carrier and Christian Peter S. Williams, comment on the outcome. Presenting new approaches to these centuries-old questions and taking into account the latest scholarly research, Resurrection: Faith or Fact? is a must-have not only for all those following the resurrection question—but also for those skeptics and Christians alike who are interested in determining for themselves the truth behind this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.

COMMUNION – Understanding, preparing for, and participating in the Lord’s Supper

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Counterpoints Church Life). Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? How frequently should we observe it? What does this meal mean? What happens when we eat the bread and drink from the cup? What do Christians disagree about and what do they hold in common? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book.This new volume in the Counterpoints: Church Life series allows four contributors to make a case for the following views: “The Baptist View: Memorialism” defended by Russell D. Moore; “The Reformed View: Spiritual Presence” defended by  I. John Hesselink; “The Lutheran View: Consubstantiation” defended by David P. Scaer; and Roman Catholic View: Transubstantiation” defended by Thomas A. Baima. All contributors use Scripture to present their views, and each responds to the others’ essays. This book helps readers arrive at their own conclusions. It includes resources such as a listing of statements on the Lord’s Supper from creeds and confessions, quotations from noted Christians, a resource listing of books on the Lord’s Supper, and discussion questions for each chapter to facilitate small group and classroom use.
  • Peter Kreeft. Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College.
  • Gordon T. Smith, ed. The Lord’s Supper: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Book). Lord’s Supper. Eucharist. Communion. Sacrament. Ordinance. While it’s the meal that should unite us as followers of Christ, it sometimes appears we can’t even agree on what to call it, let alone how we might share a common theological view of its significance. Even if we cannot reach full agreement, how can we better understand one another and this central observance of the Christian faith? Gordon Smith has invited five representatives of differing views within Christian tradition. Each holds his or her views with conviction and makes the case for that tradition. Each responds to the other views with charity, highlighting significant areas of agreement and disagreement. The views and contributors include: “The Roman Catholic View”–Brother Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., Professor of Church History, Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee; “The Lutheran View”–John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catherines, Ontario; “The Reformed View”–Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan; “The Baptist View”–Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas; “The Pentecostal View”–Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Here’s a book that offers more light than heat on an important topic.

CONFLICT and PEACEMAKING – How to interact with those you disagree with

  • Ronald H. Nash. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Great Divides addresses the following ten issues on which many Christians disagree: The Health and Wealth Gospel; The End Times; Divorce and Remarriage; Reconstructionism; Political Involvement; Lordship Salvation; Radical Feminism; Abortion; and Women in Church Leadership. By examining the major positions held by other Christians today, it will encourage you to articulate your own position, understand the positions of others, and act upon the issues faithfully.
  • Gavin Ortlund. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. In theology, just as in battle, some hills are worth dying on. But how do we know which ones? When should doctrine divide, and when should unity prevail? Pastor Gavin Ortlund makes the case that while all doctrines matter, some are more essential than others. He considers how and what to prioritize in doctrine and ministry, encouraging humility and grace along the way. Using four basic categories of doctrine in order of importance, this book helps new and seasoned church leaders alike wisely labor both to uphold doctrine and to preserve unity.

ECCLESIOLOGY  – The Study of the Church and It’s Nature and Practices

  • Paul A. Basden, ed. Exploring The Worship Spectrum: 6 Views ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Paul F.M. Zahl prescribes the “Formal-Liturgical  Worship View”; Harold M. Best prescribes the “Traditional Hymn-Based Worship View”; Joe Horness prescribes the “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship View”; Don Williams prescribes the “Charismatic Worship View”; Robert Webber prescribes the “Blended Worship View”; and Sally Morgenthaler articulates the “Emerging Worship View.”
  • James R. Beck, ed. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The views presented are as follows: “Women In Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective” by Linda L. Belleville; ““Women In Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective” by Craig L. Blomberg; “Women In Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective” by Craig S. Keener; and “Women In Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective” by Thomas R. Schreiner.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Church Governance: Five Views Of Church Polity. “The Single-Elder-Led Church: The Bible’s Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity View” is defended by Daniel L. Akin; “The Presbyterian-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government View” is defended by Robert L. Reymond; “The Congregation-Led Church: Congrgational Polity View” is defended by James Leo Garret, Jr.; “The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity View” is defended by Paul F.M. Zahl; and “The Plural-Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established—The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Governance View” is defended by James R. White.
  • Bonnidell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse, eds. Women in Ministry: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Should women teach men? Should they exercise authority over men? What about ordaining women? Even those who agree that Scripture must determine our answers do not agree on what it teaches. And too often differing sides have not been willing to listen to one another. Here in one volume are the views of four deeply committed evangelicals that focus the discussion on the issues. Robert Culver argues for what might be called the “traditional view” that women should not exercise authority over or teach men. Susan Foh suggests a “modified view” which would allow for women to teach but not to hold positions of authority. Walter Liefeld presents a case for “plural ministry” that questions ordination as a means of conferring authority. Alvera Mickelsen defends the “full equality of men and women in the church.” What makes this book especially helpful is that the writers all respond to the other essays, pointing out weaknesses and hidden assumptions.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Who Runs The Church? 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints Church Life). Churches have split and denominations have formed over the issue of church government. Yet while many Christians can explain their particular church’s form of rule and may staunchly uphold it, few have a truly biblical understanding of it. What model for governing the church does the Bible provide? Is there room for different methods? Or is just one way the right way? In Who Runs the Church? Four predominant approaches to church government are presented by respected proponents: “Episcopalianism” articulated by Peter Toon; “Presbyterianism articulated by L. Roy Taylor;  “Single-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Paige Patterson; and “Plural-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Samuel E. Waldron.
  • David A. Croteau, ed. Perspectives On Tithing: 4 Views. Was the tithe just for Israel, or is it also applicable to Christians? Must a tithe go only to your local church, or can it be received by any Christian organization? Do we tithe on the net or the gross amount? Perspectives on Tithing presents in point-counterpoint format the most common views about how Christians are to give of their financial resources, addressing the myriad of questions that surround the complex issue. Ken Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Eklund (Eklund Stewardship Ministries) contribute “The Foundations of Giving” while the book’s editor, David A. Croteau (Liberty University), writes “The Post-Tithing View: Giving in the New Covenant.” A chapter by Reggie Kidd (Reformed Theological Seminary) is called “Tithing in the New Covenant? ‘Yes’ as Principle, ‘No’ as Casuistry.” Finally, Gary North (Institute for Christian Economics) looks directly at “The Covenantal Tithe,” and Scott Preissler (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) provides the epilogue.
  • Christopher John Donato, ed. Perspectives on the Sabbath. Perspectives on the Sabbath presents in point-counterpoint form the four most common views of the Sabbath commandment that have arisen throughout church history, representing the major positions held among Christians today. Skip MacCarty (Andrews University) defends the Seventh-day view which argues the fourth commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians. Jospeh A Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view which reasons that ever since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is the first day of the week. Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view which says that since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers. Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given to Jews alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but not tied to a particular day.
  • Gary L. McIntosh, ed. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Gaining form and momentum over the second half of the 20th century, the Church Growth movement has become an enormous shaping force on the Western church today. You may love it, you may hate it, but you can’t deny its impact. But what exactly is Church Growth? In what ways has the movement actually brought growth to the church, and how effective has it been in doing so? What are its strengths and weaknesses? This timely book addresses such questions. After providing a richly informative history and overview, it explores—in a first-ever roundtable of their leading voices—five main perspectives, both pro and con, on the classic Church Growth movement: “Effective Evangelism View” presented by Elmer Towns; “The Gospel in Our Culture View” presented by Craig Van Gelder; “The Centrist View” presented by Charles Van Engen; “The Reformist View” presented by  Gailyn Van Rheenan; and “The Renewal View” presented by Howard Snyder.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Perspectives On Christian Worship: 5 Views. Perspectives on Christian Worship presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on Christian worship that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. The views presented are “Liturgical Worship” by Timothy C.J. Quin; “Traditional Evangelical Worship” by Ligon Duncan; “Contemporary Worship” by Dan Wilt; “Blended Worship” by Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever; and “Emerging Worship” by Dan Kimball.
  • Robert Saucy and Judith TenElshof, eds. Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. The role of women in the church is a debate that has raged within the church for much of the twentieth century. On one side are those who say there is no difference between men and women. On the other side are those who severely limit women who want to offer ministry to the church. Judith TenElshof and Robert Saucy take the middle approach. Believing that the modern views have denied the distinctions between men and women, the authors adopt a view called complementarianism. TenElshof and Saucy argue that while men and women are equal, God has given different roles to each and that these roles rely on each other to be fully effective.
  • Jason S. Sexton, ed. Four Views On The Church’s Mission ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). This book articulates various evangelical views regarding the church’s mission and provides a healthy, vigorous, and gracious debate on this controversial topic. In a helpful Counterpoints format, this volume demonstrates the unique theological frameworks, doctrinal convictions, and missiological conclusions that inform and distinguish the views: “Soteriological Mission”:  presented by Jonathan Leeman; “Participatory Mission”: presented by Christopher Wright; “Contextual Mission”: presented by John Franke; and “Ecumenical-Political Mission”: presented by Peter Leithart. Each of the four contributors is to answer the same key questions based on their biblical interpretations and theological convictions. What is your biblical-theological framework for mission? How does your definition of mission inform your understanding of the church’s mission? How does the Mission of God and Kingdom of God relate to the mission of the church? What is the gospel? How does your view on the gospel inform the mission of the church? How do verbal proclamation of the gospel, discipleship, corporate worship, caring for the poor, social justice, restoring shalom, developing culture, and international missions fit into the church’s mission? The interaction between the contributors will help readers get a clearer picture of where the differences lie and why different conclusions are drawn and provide a fresh starting point for discussion and debate of the church’s mission.
  • Robert Webber, ed. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. What are the beliefs of the new movement known as the emerging church? In thought-provoking debate, prominent emerging leaders John Burke, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward discuss their sometimes controversial views under the editorship of author and educator Robert Webber. Hear what they say about their views of Scripture, Christ, the atonement, other world religions, and other important doctrines, so you can come to your own conclusions about the emerging church.

EDUCATION – How To Best Make Disciples among children, youth & families

  • Michael J. Anthony, ed. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation: Four Views. Scott May argues for “The Contemplative-Reflective Model”; Gregory C. Carlson and John K. Crupper argues for “The Instructional-Analytic Model”; Trisha Graves argues for “The Pragmatic-Participatory Model”; and Tim Ellis, Bill Baumgart, and Greg Carper argue for “The Media-Driven Active-Engagement Model.”
  • Chap Clark, ed. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century (Youth, Family, and Culture): Five Views. Bestselling author Chap Clark is one of the leading voices in youth ministry today. In this multiview work, he brings together a diverse group of leaders to present major views on youth ministry. Chapters are written in essay/response fashion by Fernando Arzola Jr., Greg Stier, Ron Hunter Jr., Brian Cosby, and Chap Clark. As the contributors present their views and respond to each of the other views, they discuss their task and calling, giving readers the resources they need to develop their own approach to youth ministry. Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, this volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a topic with which every church wrestles.
  • Adam Harwood and Kevin E. Lawson. Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry. A congregation rejoices when a new child is added to its midst, yet the church often wrestles—in both theology and practice—with how to best receive and minister to infants and children entrusted to her care. Frequent questions arise like: How are infants and children impacted by sin?; How does God treat people who die in their infancy or childhood?; When and how are children considered members of the church?; and When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine? Infants and Children in the Church addresses these critical and sensitive questions from a variety of rich traditions, including Eastern Orthodox (jason Foster), Roman Catholic (David Liberto), Lutheran (David P. Scaer), Reformed (Gregg Strawbridge), and Baptist (Adam Harwood), so that Christians can make the most of every opportunity as they minister to children.
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views. Every church is called to some form of family ministry, but this calling requires far more than adding another program to an already-packed schedule. The most effective family ministries refocus every church process to engage parents in discipling their children and to draw family members together instead of pulling them apart. In this second edition, Jones expands the definition of family ministry, and broadens the book’s focus to address urban perspectives and family ministry in diverse settings. 
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: Four Views. In Perspectives on a Child’s Education, proponents of four very different learning options present their faith-based positions on how a parent should answer the question, “Where should I send my child to school?” Troy Temple (International Center for Youth Ministry) is convinced every Christian parent should consider public schooling. G. Tyler Fischer (Veritas Academy) believes open admission Christian schools are best for Christians and non-Christians alike. Mark Eckel (Mahseh Center) favors covenantal Christian schools that don’t enroll non-Christians. Michael Wilder (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) advocates homeschooling. For each contributor’s chapter, a counterpoint chapter from the other contributors follows with a goal of determining which view is most in line with what the Bible teaches.
  • Mark H. Senter III, ed. Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church: Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, and Strategic. Join the conversation as experts propose, defend, and explore Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. In a dialog that often gets downright feisty, four youth ministry academicians delineate their distinct philosophical and ecclesiological views regarding how youth ministry relates to the church at large–and leave a taste of what’s profound and what’s not in these four typologies: “Inclusive congregational” (Malan Nel). What happens when a church thoroughly integrates its adolescents, making them full partners in every aspect of congregational life? “Preparatory” (Wesley Black). Why and how should a church consider its teenagers as disciples-in-training and its youth ministry a school of preparation for future participation in church life? “Missional “ (Chap Clark). What does a church look like, whose youth ministry does not necessarily nurture “church kids” but is essentially evangelistic? Whose youths and youth workers are considered missionaries? “Strategic” (Mark Senter). How feasible is it for a youth ministry to become a new church on its own–the youth pastor becoming the pastor, and the new church planted with the blessing of the mother church? In Four View of Your Ministry and the Church, solid academic writing and an inviting tone and design create a compelling text for both in-the-field, practicing youth workers and undergraduates and graduate student

ESCHATOLOGY – The Study of Last Things

  • Darrell L. Bock, ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Craig A. Blaising defends the “Premillennial View;” Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Robert B. Strimple defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. Robert L. Raymond presents the “Traditional Covenantal View”; Robert L. Thomas presents the “Traditional Dispensational View”; Robert L. Saucy presents the “Progressive Dispensational View”; and Tom Pratt presents the “Progressive Covenantal View.”
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. George Eldon Ladd defends the “Historic Premillennialism View”; Herman A. Hoyt defends the “Dispensational Premillennial View”; Loraine Boettner defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Anthony A Hoekema defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Jared Compton, ed. Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11. Michael J. Vlach defends “A Non-Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Fred G. Zaspel and James M. Hamilton defend “A Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Benjamin L. Merkle defends “A Typological Non-Future Mass Conversion View.”
  • John S. Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. Evangelicals agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant word. But we sometimes differ on how to relate the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Without a basic understanding of this crucial matter, it is difficult to know how to use the Testaments to formulate either doctrine or practice. For example: Was Israel the OT Church—are OT promises to God’s national people fulfilled in the church today? Or, is Mosaic Law binding on believers now—are twentieth-century Christians to obey the Ten Commandments, including sabbath observance? In this book, thirteen noted evangelical theologians discuss, fairly but clearly, the continuity/discontinuity debate in regard to six basic categories: theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises. Covering much more than the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, this work of distinguished evangelical scholarship will fuel much profitable study and discussion.
  • Steve Gregg. Revelation: A Parallel Commentary Four Views(Revised and Updated). Gregg quotes from various sources representing the four primary ways that evangelicals interpret the book of Revelation: Historical, Idealist, Futurist, and Eclectic.
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Alan Hultberg, ed. Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulational, Prewrath, or Posttribulational. Craig Baising presents the “Pretribulational View”; Alan Hultberg presents the “Pre-Wrath View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate The Question. Thomas Ice defends the “Futuristic View,” and Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Preterist View.”
  • Timothy Paul Jones. Four Views of the End Times. A brief overview of the four main ways scholars interpret Eschatology – pros and cons of each view.
  • Robert M. McKenzie. Identifying the Seed: An Examination and Evaluation of the Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. This book has one goal in mind, to try and bring greater understanding between two dedicated groups of Christians. Dispensationalists and Reformed Christians have a very different understanding of how God has worked in this world as well as how God will continue to work. There is a theological divide that has developed after many years of discussion and stems from a mixture of ignorance; misunderstanding and actual disagreement. Robert McKenzie seeks to examine what each side believes, fleshing out the differences and misunderstandings. He takes a look at the history of each system as well as their theological developments. The author seeks to be faithful to each system pointing out their strengths and weaknesses all the while citing the Scriptures that are used to support each side’s belief. It is hoped that with greater understanding the two groups will be able to engage in conversation with a clearer view of why a doctrine is believed and how the different doctrines build into the system. Whether you are a Dispensationalist, believe in Covenant theology or you aren’t quite sure if you fall in either camp this book can be tremendously helpful.
  • Benjamin L. Merkle. Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Outstanding resource that involves the author interacting with all the key players in the debate over this important debate.
  • Brent E. Parker and Richard J. Lucas, eds. Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). With contributions by Michael Horton and Stephen Wellum (Covenantal perspectives) and Darrel Bock and Mark Snoeberger (Dispensational perspectives).
  • C. Marvin Pate, ed. Four Views on The Book of Revelation. Kenneth Gentry defends the “Preterist View”; Sam Hamster defends the “Idealist View”; C. Marvin Pate defends the “Progressive Dispensationist View”; and Robert L. Thomas defends the “Classical Dispensationalist View.”
  • Richard R. Reiter, ed. Three Views on the Rapture. Paul D. Feinberg presents the Pretribulational View”; Gleason L. Archer presents the “Midtribulational View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Ron Rhodes. The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy: Understanding the Ongoing Controversies. Thoroughly covers the following debates in eschatology: (1) Should Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically? (2) Are Israel and the Church Distinct in Bible Prophecy? (3) What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times? (4) Which View of the Rapture is Correct? (5) How Are We To Understand the Book of Revelation? (6) How Are We To Understand The Antichrist? (7) Which view of the Millennium is Correct? (8) Is it Okay to set prophetic dates?
  • Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker, eds. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Building on the foundation of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012), Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker have assembled a team of scholars who offer a fresh perspective regarding the interrelationship between the biblical covenants. Each chapter seeks to demonstrate how the covenants serve as the backbone to the grand narrative of Scripture. For example, New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner writes on the Sabbath command from the Old Testament and thinks through its applications to new covenant believers. Christopher Cowan wrestles with the warning passages of Scripture, texts which are often viewed by covenant theologians as evidence for a “mixed” view of the church. Jason DeRouchie provides a biblical theology of “seed” and demonstrates that the covenantal view is incorrect in some of its conclusions. Jason Meyer thinks through the role of law in both the old and new covenants. John Meade unpacks circumcision in the OT and how it is applied in the NT, providing further warrant to reject covenant theology’s link of circumcision with (infant) baptism. Oren Martin tackles the issue of Israel and land over against a dispensational reading, and Richard Lucas offers an exegetical analysis of Romans 9-11, arguing that it does not require a dispensational understanding. From issues of ecclesiology to the warning passages in Hebrews, this book carefully navigates a mediating path between the dominant theological systems of covenant theology and dispensationalism to offer the reader a better way to understand God’s one plan of redemption.

ETHICS – How Should I live Morally as a Christian?

  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. War: Four Christian Views. Have you ever wondered….. Should Christians ever go to war? If so, under what conditions? Here are four modern expressions of four classical views. Dr. Herman Hoyt explains the Biblical Nonresistance view. Christian Pacificism is discussed by Myron S. Augsburger. Arthur F. Holmes explains the Just War view. Preventive War is explained by Harold O.J. Brown.
  • Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King, eds. Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media—often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for—and even a threat to—ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • H. Wayne House, ed. Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Divorce. No one likes it, but it doesn’t go away. Even among Christians, the divorce rate continues to climb. How should Christians approach this issue? May Christians ever legitimately divorce? If they divorce legitimately, may they remarry? Not everyone who appeals to Scripture agrees on how we should understand what it says about divorce and remarriage. In this book, four authors present their distinct perspectives. Carl Laney argues that the Bible indicates that marriages are always intended to be permanent, that there is never a need for divorce and that remarriage is never permissible after divorce. William Heth contends that while there are legitimate biblical grounds for divorce, there are no legitimate grounds for remarriage after divorce. Thomas Edgar defends the position that Scripture allows for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery or desertion. Larry Richards holds that Scripture, while decrying divorce and the pain it causes, points to a God of grace who will not condemn those who divorce and remarry. Such a sensitive debate cannot remain abstract, so a case study accompanies each position, followed by critical responses from each essayist. The result is a thoughtful, helpful resource for all who wish to think biblically about a crucial issue confronting the church.
  • Douglas S. Huffman, ed. How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making. The three-views approach is an effective and succinct means of introducing theological subjects to readers of all levels. How Then Should We Choose? applies this proven format to the vital topic of decision making and the Christian’s search for the will of God. Garry Friesen of Multnomah Bible College, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International, and Gordon T. Smith of Regent College each contribute summaries of their perspectives on God’s will and their approaches to decision making. Friesen discusses the “wisdom” view, Henry and Richard Blackaby delineate the “specific will” view, and Smith champions the “relationship” view of God’s will. In an effort to make this discussion reader friendly, the contributors have applied their beliefs regarding God’s will and decision making to three practical, concrete topics: career, relationships, and stewardship. Using three hypothetical stories, the authors illustrate how their respective views would influence decisions in these common areas of concern.
  • Adam Lloyd Johnson, ed. A Debate on God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties? In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: “God and Morality: What is the best account of objective moral values and duties?” Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. This book includes the full debate, as well as endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate – J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations. 
  • Nathan L. King and Robert K. Garcia. Is Goodness without God Good Enough?: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media―often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for―and even a threat to―ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • Peter Kreeft. A Refutation Of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist. No issue is more fateful for civilization than moral relativism. History knows not one example of a successful society which repudiated moral absolutes. Yet most attacks on relativism have been either pragmatic (looking at its social consequences) or exhorting (preaching rather than proving), and philosophers’ arguments against it have been specialized, technical, and scholarly. In his typical unique writing style, Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a “Muslim fundamentalist” absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In an engaging series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the “sassy  feminist” reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth the Good Life. What are the best things in life? Questions like that may boggle your mind. But they don’t boggle Socrates. The indomitable old Greek brings his unending questions to Desperate State University. With him come the same mind-opening and spirit-stretching challenge that disrupted ancient Athens. What is the purpose of education?; Why do we make love?; What good is money? Can computers think like people?; Is there a difference between Capitalism and Communism?; What is the greatest good?; Is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?In twelve short, Socratic dialogues Peter Kreeft explodes contemporary values like success, power and pleasure. And he bursts the modern bubbles of agnosticism and subjectivism. He leaves you richer, wiser and more able to discern what the best things in life actually are. A supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Unaborted Socrates: A dramatic debate on the issues surrounding abortion. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • R. Keith Loftin, ed. God & Morality: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Is morality dependent upon belief in God? Is there more than one way for Christians to understand the nature of morality? Is there any agreement between Christians and atheists or agnostics on this heated issue? In God and Morality: Four Views four distinguished voices in moral philosophy ariticulate and defend their place in the current debate between naturalism and theism. Christian philosophers Keith Yandell and Mark Linville and two self-identified atheist/agnostics, Evan Fales and Michael Ruse, clearly and honestly represent their differing views on the nature of morality. Important differences as well as areas of overlap emerge as each contributor states their case, receives criticism from the others and responds. Of particular value for use as an academic text, these four essays and responses, covering the naturalist moral non-realist, naturalist moral realist, moral essentialist and moral particularist views, will foster critical thinking and contribute to the development of a well-informed position on this very important issue.
  • Mark L. Strauss, ed. Remarriage After Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views (Counterpoint: Church Life). A biblical and practical case for three main evangelical views on remarriage after divorce among born-again Christians, 27 percent have experienced divorce as compared to 24 percent in the general population. Yet no consensus exists among evangelicals on their views of remarriage, leaving many Christians confused. This single volume summarizes and explores three main evangelical views: “No Remarriage After Divorce”, presented by William A. Heth; “Remarriage After Adultery or Desertion”, presented by Gordon J. Wenham; and “Remarriage for a Variety of Reasons” presented by Craig S. Keener.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed.Christian Ethics: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Brad J. Kallenberg presents, “Virtue Ethics”; John Hare presents, “Divine Command Ethics”; Claire Peterson presents, “Natural Law Ethics”; and Peter Heltzel presents, “Prophetic Ethics.”

HAMARTIOLOGY – The Study of Sin

  • W. Paul Franks, ed. Explaining Evil: Four Views. In Explaining Evil four prominent philosophers, two theists and two non-theists, present their arguments for why evil exists. Taking a “position and response” format, in which one philosopher offers an account of evil and three others respond, this book guides readers through the advantages and limitations of various philosophical positions on evil, making it ideal for classroom use as well as individual study. Divided into four chapters, Explaining Evil covers Theistic Libertarianism (Richard Brian Davis), Theistic Compatibilism (Paul Helm), Atheistic Moral Realism (Michael Ruse) and Atheistic Moral Non-realism (Eric J. Wielenberg). It features topics including free will, theism, atheism, goodness, Calvinism, evolutionary ethics, and pain, and demonstrates some of the dominant models of thinking within contemporary philosophy of religion and ethics. Written in accessible prose and with an approachable structure, this book provides a clear and useful overview of the central issues of the philosophy of evil.
  • Chad Meister, ed. God and The Problem of Evil: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Evil abounds. And so do the attempts to understand God in the face of such evil. The problem of evil is a constant challenge to faith in God. How can we believe in a loving and powerful God given the existence of so much suffering in the world? Philosophers and theologians have addressed this problem countless times over the centuries. New explanations have been proposed in recent decades drawing on resources in Scripture, theology, philosophy, and science. God and the Problem of Evil stages a dialogue between the five key positions in the current debate: Phillip Cary: “A Classic View”; William Lane Craig: “A Molinist View”; William Hasker: “An Open Theist View”; Thomas Jay Oord: “An Essential Kenosis View”; and Stephen Wykstra: “A Skeptical Theism View.” According to the classic position, associated especially with the Augustinian tradition, God permits evil and suffering as part of the grand narrative of divine providence to bring about the redemption of creation. Molinism modifies the classic view by adding God’s middle knowledge to the picture, in which God has knowledge of what creatures would do in all possible worlds. Open theism rejects the determinism of the classic view in favor of an account of God as a risk-taker who does not know for sure what the future holds. Essential kenosis goes further in providing a comprehensive theodicy by arguing that God cannot control creatures and thus cannot unilaterally prevent evil. Skeptical theism rejects the attempt to provide a theodicy and instead argues that, if God exists, we should not expect to understand God’s purposes. Edited and with an introduction by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., God and the Problem of Evil hosts a generous and informative conversation on one of the most pressing issues in the Christian life.
  • J.B. Stump, ed. Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “What is this that you have done?” Throughout the church’s history, Christians have largely agreed that God’s good creation of humanity was marred by humanity’s sinful rebellion, resulting in our separation from God and requiring divine intervention in the saving work of Christ. But Christians have disagreed over many particular questions surrounding humanity’s fall, including the extent of original sin, the nature of the fall, the question of guilt, how to interpret the narratives from Genesis, and how these questions relate to our understanding of human origins and modern science. Views and Contributors: “An Augustinian-Reformed View” by Hans Madueme, Covenant College; “A Moderate Reformed View” by Oliver Crisp, The University of St. Andrews; “A Wesleyan View” by Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary; “An Eastern Orthodox View” by Andrew Louth, Durham University; and “A Reconceived View” by Tatha Wiley, University of St. Thomas.
  • Terry L. Wilder, ed. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin presents in point-counterpoint form three differing views of a Christian’s relationship with the law, flesh, and spirit as illustrated through Paul’s often-debated words in Romans 7. Stephen Chester (North Park Theological Seminary) writes “The Retrospective View of Romans 7: Paul’s Past in Present Perspective,” suggesting the apostle’s description of his struggle speaks more to his pre-Christian self. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offers “The Flesh Without the Spirit: Romans 7 and Christian Experience,” perceiving Romans 7 as an accurate representation of what believers go through even after their conversion. Mark Seifrid (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), in “The Voice of the Law, the Cry of Lament, and the Shout of Thanksgiving,” asserts that Paul is not speaking of his past or his present Christian experience in Romans 7, but more fundamentally and simply about “the human being confronted with the Law.”Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes a conclusion on the theological and pastoral implications of Romans 7.

HOMOSEXUALITY & LBGTQ & SEX – What Does The Bible Teach?

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views. One of the most pressing issues facing the evangelical church today involves dramatic shifts in our culture’s perceptions regarding human sexuality. While homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been at the forefront, there is a new cultural awareness of sexual diversity and gender dysphoria. The transgender phenomenon has become a high-profile battleground issue in the culture wars. This book offers a full-scale dialogue on transgender identities from across the Christian theological spectrum. It brings together contributors with expertise and platforms in the study of transgender identities to articulate and defend differing perspectives on this contested topic. After an introductory chapter surveys key historical moments and current issues, four views are presented by Owen Strachan, “Transition or Transformation? A Moral-Theological Exploration of Christianity and Gender Dysphoria”; Mark A. Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky, “The Complexities of Gender Identity: Toward a More Nuanced Response to the Transgender Experience”; Megan K. DeFranza, “Good News for Gender Minorities” and Justin Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creation: God’s Intention for Gender Diversity.” The authors respond to one another’s views in a respectful manner, modeling thoughtful dialogue around a controversial theological issue. The book helps readers understand the spectrum of views among Christians and enables Christian communities to establish a context where conversations can safely be held.
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Two Views On Homosexuality, The Bible, and The Church (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). No issue is more divisive or more pressing for the church today than homosexuality. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church brings a fresh perspective to a well-worn debate. While Christian debates about homosexuality are most often dominated by biblical exegesis, this book seeks to give much-needed attention to the rich history of received Christian tradition, bringing the Bible into conversation with historical and systematic theology. To that end, both theologians and biblical scholars—well accomplished in their fields and conversant in issues of sexuality and gender—articulate and defend each of the two views: “Affirming View”: William Loader and Megan K. DeFranza; and the “Traditional View”: articulated by Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes. Unique among most debates on homosexuality, this book presents a constructive dialogue between people who disagree on significant ethical and theological matters, and yet maintain a respectful and humanizing posture toward one another. Even as these scholars articulate pointed arguments for their position with academic rigor and depth, they do so cordially, clearly, and compassionately, without demeaning the other. The main essays are followed by exceptionally insightful responses and rejoinders that interact with their fellow essayists with convicted civility. Holding to a high view of Scripture, a commitment to the gospel and the church, and a love for people—especially those most affected by this topic—the contributors wrestle deeply with the Bible and theology, especially the prohibition texts, the role of procreation, gender complementarity, and pastoral accommodation. The book concludes with general editor Preston Sprinkle’s reflections on the future of discussions on faith and sexuality.
  • Dan O. Via and Robert J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Few recent issues have sparked such debate in the churches as homosexuality, same-sex unions, and ordination of gays and lesbians. A key point of contention is the meaning and authority of the biblical witness. In this brief book, two New Testament scholars discuss the relevant biblical texts on the subject of homosexual behavior and orientation. Discussing both Old Testament and New Testament texts, each author also raises important interpretive and moral questions and then offers a response to the other’s main assertions. Chief questions examined by each include what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and homosexual behavior, the meaning of those texts in their cultural contexts, and the larger hermeneutical dilemma of what kind of authority the Bible’s teaching, if recoverable, has for Christians today. A thoughtful and irenic dialogue, this volume can facilitate reflection and discussion among church members on a vital and contentious issue in American church life.

MIRACLES – A Miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself

  • Wayne Grudem, ed. Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views. (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Robert B. Gaffin Jr. defends the “Cessationist View”; Robert L. Saucy defends the “Open But Cautious View”; C. Samuel Storms defends the “Third Wave View”; and Douglas A. Oss defends the “Pentecostal/Charismatic View.”

PHILOSOPHY – The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, & existence

  • Paul M. Gould, ed. Four Views On Christianity and Philosophy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Philosophy and Christianity make truth claims about many of the same things. They both claim to provide answers to the deep questions of life. But how are they related to one another? Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy introduces readers to four predominant views on the relationship between philosophy and the Christian faith and their implications for life. Each author identifies the propositional relation between philosophy and Christianity along with a section devoted to the implications for living a life devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. The contributors and views include: Graham Oppy—“Conflict: Philosophy Trumps Christianity”; K. Scott Oliphint—“Covenant: Christianity Trumps Philosophy”; Timothy McGrew—“Convergence: Philosophy Confirms Christianity”; and Paul Moser—“Conformation: Philosophy Reconceived Under Christianity.” General editors Paul M. Gould and Richard Davis explain the background to the discussion and provide some historical background in the introduction, as well as helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion.
  • Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Honored in 2006 as a “Year’s Best Book for Preachers” by Preaching magazine. Why a search for the soul? Many Christians assume that it is biblically faithful and theologically noncontroversial to speak of humans having a soul. Yet a wide range of biblical scholars are questioning whether we have correctly understood what the Bible means when it speaks of the “soul.” And contemporary neuroscience is laying more and more questions at the doorstep of the church, asking whether our human sense of self is intelligible on the basis of soul. But for thoughtful Christians, following science on this point looks like caving in to reductionism, while denying science gives off the odor of obscurantism. In Search of the Soul provides a rare opportunity to listen in as four Christian philosophers set forth their best arguments for their distinct views and then respond to each other. While each of these views calls for careful framing and patient exposition, they are labeled as follows: “Substance Dualism (Stewart Goetz); “Emergent Dualism” (William Hasker); “Nonreductive Physicalism” (Nancey Murphy); and “Constitution View of Persons” (Kevin Corcoran). Editors Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer introduce the debate by laying out the critical issues at stake, and wrap it up by considering the implications for the Christian life, particularly hospitality and forgiveness. This is a book of timely interest to philosophers, theologians, psychologists and pastors. Whatever conclusions readers may draw, they will find here an instructive and engaging discussion of a controversy that will not go away any time soon.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed. Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). In Faith and Reason, Steve Wilkens edits a debate between three different understandings of the relationship between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy. The first viewpoint, “Faith and Philosophy in Tension,” articulated by Carl A. Raschke proposes faith and reason as hostile, exclusive opposites, each dangerous to the integrity of the other. The second, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” articulated by Alan G. Padget suggests that faithful Christians are called to make full use of their rational faculties to aid in the understanding and interpretation of what they believe by faith. In the third stance, “Thomistic Synthesis,” articulated by Craig A. Boyd natural reason acts as a handmaiden to theology by actively pointing people toward salvation and deeper knowledge of spiritual truths. Bringing together multiple views on the relationship between faith, philosophy and reason, this introduction to a timeless quandary will help you navigate, with rigor and joy, one of the most significant discussions of the Christian community. Steve Wilkins concludes the book with a helpful essay on how we can disagree Christianly.

POLITICS  – How A Christian Should Respond To and Be Involved in Society

  • Amy E. Black, ed. Five Views On The Church and Politics (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Thomas W. Heilke defends the “Anabaptist Separationist View”; Robert Benne defends the “Lutheran Paradoxical View”; Bruce L. Fields defends the “Black Church Prophetic View”; James K. A. Smith defends the “Reformed Transformationist View”; and Brian Benestad defends the “Catholic Synthetic View.”
  • P.C. Kemneny, ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Abortion. Physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriages. Embryonic stem-cell research. Poverty. Crime. What is a faithful Christian response? The God of the Bible is unquestionably a God of justice. Yet Christians have had their differences as to how human government and the church should bring about a just social order. Although Christians share many deep and significant theological convictions, differences that threaten to divide them have often surrounded the matter of how the church collectively and Christians individually ought to engage the public square. What is the mission of the church? What is the purpose of human government? How ought they to be related to each other? How should social injustice be redressed? The five noted contributors to this volume answer these questions from within their distinctive Christian theological traditions, as well as responding to the other four positions. Through the presentations and ensuing dialogue we come to see more clearly what the differences are, where their positions overlap and why they diverge. The contributors and the positions taken include Clarke E. Cochran: “A Catholic Perspective”; Derek H. Davis: “A Classical Separation Perspective”; Ronald J. Sider: “An Anabaptist Perspective”; Corwin F. Smidt: “A Principled Pluralist Perspective”; and J. Philip Wogaman: “A Social Justice Perspective.”

PSYCHOLOGY – How To Counsel People From a Christian Perspective

  • Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore, eds. Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches (Christian Association for Psychological Studies). What does authentic Christian counseling look like in practice? This volume explores how five major perspectives on the interface of Christianity and psychology would each actually be applied in a clinical setting. Respected experts associated with each of the perspectives depict how to assess, conceptualize, counsel and offer aftercare to Jake, a hypothetical client with a variety of complex issues. In each case the contributors seek to explain how theory can translate into real-life counseling scenarios. This book builds on the framework of Eric L. Johnson’s Psychology Christianity: Five Views. These include the Levels-of-Explanation Approach, the Integration Approach, the Christian Psychology Approach, the Transformational Approach and the Biblical Counseling Approach. While Counseling and Christianity can be used independently of Johnson’s volume, the two can also function as useful companions. Christians who counsel, both those in practice and those still in training, will be served by this volume as it strengthens the connections between theory and practice in relating our faith to the mental health disciplines. They will finally get an answer to their persistent but unanswered question: “What would that counseling view look like behind closed doors?”
  • Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How are Christians to understand and undertake the discipline of psychology? This question has been of keen interest (and sometimes concern) to Christians because of the importance we place on a correct understanding of human nature. Psychology can sometimes seem disconnected from, if not antithetical to, Christian perspectives on life. How are we to understand our Christian beliefs about persons in relation to secular psychological beliefs? This revised edition of a widely appreciated text now presents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity. All the essays and responses have been reworked and updated with some new contributors including the addition of a new perspective, the transformative view from John Coe and Todd Hall (Biola University). Also found here is David Powlison (Westminster Theological Seminary) who offers the biblical counseling model. The levels-of-explanation model is advanced by David G. Myers (Hope College), while Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) offers an entirely new chapter presenting the integration model. The Christian psychology model is put forth by Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University) now joined by Paul J. Watson (University of Tennesee, Chattanooga). Each of the contributors responds to the other essayists, noting points of agreement as well as problems they see. Eric L. Johnson provides a revised introduction that describes the history of Christians and psychology, as well as a conclusion that considers what might unite the five views and how a reader might evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of each view. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views has become a standard introductory textbook for students and professors of Christian psychology. This revision promises to keep it so.

SANCTIFICATION – How does one grow as a Christian?

  • Donald Alexander, ed. Christian Spirituality: Five Views On Christian Sanctification (Spectrum Multiview Series). How can we grow closer to God? Is there a secret to spiritual life? Do we need a second blessing? Is sanctification God’s work or ours? Is it instantaneous or is it a process? The nature of Christian spirituality has been widely debated throughout the history of the church. The doctrine of sanctification was one of the main fissures separating Luther from the Catholic Church. Even today different groups of Protestants disagree on how we draw closer to God. What distinguishes the different positions and what exactly is at stake in these recurring debates? To answer these questions Donald L. Alexander, professor of biblical theology at Bethel College, has brought together five scholars that represent each of the main historical Protestant traditions: Gerhard O. Forde on the “Lutheran View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson on the “Reformed View”; Laurence W. Wood on the “Wesleyan View”; Russell P. Spittler on the “Pentecostal View”; and E. Glenn Hinson on the “Contemplative View.” With an introduction by Alexander and responses to each of the main essays by the other contributors, this book provides a helpful and stimulating introduction to an important doctrine Christianity.
  • Chad Owen Brand, ed. Perspectives On Spirit Baptism: 5 Views. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism presents in counterpoint form the basic common beliefs on spirit baptism which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition—with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
  • Bruce A. Demarest, ed. Four Views on Christian Spirituality (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The Views articulated in this book are as followed: “Orthodox Spirituality: A Quest For Transfigured Humanity” by Bradley Nassie; “Come To The Father: The Fact At The Foundation of Catholic Spirituality” by Scott Hahn; “The Progressive Face of Mainlain Protestant Spirituality” by Joseph Driskill; and “Evangelical Spirituality” by Evan Howard. The views presented are as following: “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father: A Reformed Perspective” by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.; “Spirit Baptism: A Pentecostal Perspective” by Stanley M. Horton; “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective” by Larry Hart; “A Wesleyan Perspective on Spirit Baptism” by H. Ray Dunning; and “Spirit Baptism: Catholic Perspective” by Ralph Del Colle.
  • Stanley N Gundry, ed. Five Views on Sanctification (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Christians generally recognize the need to live a holy, or sanctified, life. But they differ on what sanctification is and how it is achieved. Five Views on Sanctification brings together in one easy-to-understand volume five major Protestant views on sanctification. Writing from a solid evangelical stance, each author describes and defends his own understanding of the doctrine, and responds as well to the views of the other authors. This book addresses such practical questions as: How does one achieve sanctification in this life? How much success in sanctification is possible? Is a crisis experience following one’s conversion normal―or necessary? If so, what kind of experience, and how is it verified?  The following views are presented and defended: “The Wesleyan View” by Melvin E. Dieter; “The Reformed View” by Anthony A. Hoekema; “The Pentecostal View” by Stanley M. Horton; “The Keswick View” by J. Roberson McQuilkin; and “The Augustinian-Dispensational View” by John F. Walvoord.
  • Alan P. Stanley, ed. Four Views on The Role of Works at the Final Judgement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).Views Presented: “Christians Will Be Judged According To Their Works At The Rewards Judgement, But Not The Final Judgement” by Robert N. Wilkin; “Justification Apart From And By Works: At The Final Judgment Works Will Confirm Justification” by Thomas R. Schreiner; “If Paul Could Believe Both In Justification By Faith And Judgment According To Works, Why Should That Be A Problem For Us?” by James D.G. Dunn; and “A Catholic Perspective: Our Works Are Meritorious At The Final Judgment Because Of Our Union With Christ By Grace” by Michael P. Barber.

SCIENCE – Science and the Bible

  • Michael J. Behe and T.D. Singh. God, Intelligent Design and Fine-Tuning: A Dialogue between T. D. Singh and Michael J. Behe. Is God no longer necessary in a world that is increasingly influenced by a scientific temper? Or, on the contrary, have the findings of modern sciences forced us to approach the question of the existence of God in new ways? The scientific enterprise has gifted us the ability to examine and contemplate deeply the mysterious and beautiful order behind nature. Over the past four decades modern biochemistry has uncovered the secrets of cells and has revealed us the marvelous design even at the molecular level. Advancements in science have also shown us some of the precise laws and unique fundamental constants in the universe. All these facts and observations point to a fine-tuned and specially designed universe with a purpose by a Supreme Being or God. As one journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos and life discussed in this volume, one will be compelled to reexamine his opinion concerning the origins, evolution and essence of this wonderful world in which we live.
  • Ardel B. Caneday, ed. Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Denis O. Lamoureus articulates the “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View”; John H. Walton articulates “A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View”; C. John Collins articulates “A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View”; and William D. Barrick articulates “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View.”
  • Richard F. Carlson, ed. Science & Christianity: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Wayne Frair and Gary D. Patterson argue for “Creationism: An Inerrant Bible and Effective Science View”; Jean Pond argues for ”Independence: Mutual Humility in the Relationship Between Science and Christian Theology View”; Stephen C. Meyer argues for a “Qualified Agreement: Modern Science and the Return of the God Hypothesis View”; and Howard J. Van Till articulates the view called “Partnership: Science and Theology As Partners.”
  • Paul Copan and Christopher L. Reese, eds. Three Views on Christianity and Science. (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Michael Ruse writes the “Independence View”; Alister McGrath writes the “Dialogue View”; and Bruce Gordon writes the “Constrained Integration View.”
  • William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. In this book, first published in 2004, William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins – a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been ‘design’. Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: Darwinism, self-organization, theistic evolution, and intelligent design. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate.
  • David G. Hagopian, ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall argue for “The 24-Hour View”; Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer argue for the “Day-Age View”; and Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline argue for “The Framework View.”
  • Preston Jones, ed. Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism Christianity. Greg Graffin is frontman, singer and songwriter for the punk band Bad Religion. He also happens to have a Ph.D. in zoology and wrote his dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. Preston Jones is a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion’s music. One day, on a whim, Preston sent Greg an appreciative e-mail. That was the start of an extraordinary correspondence. For several months, Preston and Greg sent e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Preston believes in God; Greg sees insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do you make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter? In this engaging book, Preston and Greg’s actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can’t both be right. So which worldview is more plausible? You decide.
  • Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump and Joe Aguirre, eds. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins With Reason To Believe and Biologos. Various issues are addressed from several scholars belonging to the Two Largest Old Earth organizations: Reason to Believe (Hugh Ross, founder) and Biologos (Francis Collins, founder). Note: there is very little discussion of a “Young Earth” position in this book.
  • J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Thirty-One chapters by top Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians who critique the primary sources and articulators of Theistic Evolution in the 20th-21st Century – a landmark book – approximately 1000 pages of material!
  • Alister McGrath, John Wilson, et. al. The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials). For centuries, Christians have argued exactly what God did “in the beginning.” If this were only a question of science, it would not be so contentious. But theology and science shape one another, and there are few easy answers. This key collection of essays presents the current state of the debate, showing how faithful evangelicals have come to their respective views, and what is at stake for the church. Contents: Chapter 1: The Search for the Historical Adam – Richard N. Ostling; Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Scientists: A Young-Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationist – Tim Stafford; Chapter 3: Augustine’s Origin of Species: How the Great Theologian Might Weigh In on the Darwin Debate – Alister McGrath; Chapter 4: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Furor Over Intelligent Design – Nancy Pearcey; Chapter 5: God by the Numbers: Math and the Theology of Origins – Charles Edward White; Chapter 6: What Good is Stardust?: The Remarkably Equipped Universe – Howard J. Van Till; Chapter 7: Your Darwin Is Too Large: Evolution’s Exaggerated Significance for Theology – John Wilson; Chapter 8: Living with the Darwin Fish: Another ‘Missing Link’ Won’t Destroy My Faith – Stan Guthrie; Chapter 9: The Evolution of Darwin: The Scientist’s Problem with God – Dinesh D’Souza; and Chapter 10: Science in Wonderland: Perspective (250 Million Years’ Worth) on the Evolution Controversy – John Wilson 
  • J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds. Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds defend the view of “Young Earth Creationism”; Robert C. Newman defends the view of  “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”; and Howard J. Van Till defends the view called “Theistic Evolution.”
  • Gerald Rau. Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning. The debate over evolution and creation has raged for decades and shows no signs of letting up. Many promote one view as the only reasonable solution. But what are the main viewpoints, and just why do they disagree? In the midst of an increasingly intense dispute, Gerald Rau answers the important questions with level-headed clarity and evenhanded analysis. Rau lays out six models of origins, ranging from naturalistic evolution to young-earth creation. He shows how each model presupposes an underlying philosophy that adherents take on faith. With the sensitivity of a seasoned educator, Rau demonstrates how each model assesses the scientific evidence in relation to four different kinds of origins: the universe, life, species and humans. In an age of specialists, Rau sees the big picture. Mapping the Origins Debate cuts through the cacophony and the complexity to provide a lucid and charitable contribution to the conversation.
  • James Stump, ed. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design  (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Ken Ham’s view is “Young Earth Creationism”; Hugh Ross gives the “Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism View”; Deborah B. Haarsma articulates the “Evolutionary Creation View”; and Stephen C. Meyer presents the “intelligent Design View.”
  • Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk. The Fool and the Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue About Creation and Evolution. The Fool and the Heretic is a deeply personal story told by two respected scientists who hold opposing views on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. To some in the church, anyone who accepts the theory of evolution has rejected biblical teaching and is therefore thought of as a heretic. To many outside the church, as well as a growing number of evangelicals, anyone who accepts the view that God created the Earth in six days a few thousand years ago must be poorly educated and ignorant – a fool. Todd Wood and Darrel Falk know what it’s like to be thought of, respectively, as a fool and a heretic. This audiobook shares their pain in wearing those labels, but more important, provides a model for how faithful Christians can hold opposing views on deeply divisive issues yet grow deeper in their relationship to each other and to God.

SOTERIOLOGY – The Study of Salvation in the Bible

  • David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds. Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). If God is in control, are people really free? This question has bothered Christians for centuries. And answers have covered a wide spectrum. Today Christians still disagree. Those who emphasize human freedom view it as a reflection of God’s self-limited power. Others look at human freedom in the order of God’s overall control. David and Randall Basinger have put this age-old question to four scholars trained in theology and philosophy. John Feinberg of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary focus on God’s specific sovereignty. Bruce Reichenbach of Augsburg College and Clark Pinnock of McMaster Divinity College insist that God must limit his control to ensure our freedom. Each writer argues for his perspective and applies his theory to two practical case studies. Then the other writers respond to each of the major essays, exposing what they see as fallacies and hidden assumptions.
  • Herbert W. Bateman IV., ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. Using the popular four-views format, this volume explores the meaning of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews to both the original readers and us today. Each of the four New Testament scholars present and defend their view and critique the view of their interlocutors. This unique volume will help readers better understand some of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. Contributors include Grant R. Osborne, Buist M. Fanning, Gareth L. Cockerill, and Randall C. Gleason.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Gregory A. Boyd defends the view called “Open-Theism”; David Hunt defends “The Simple Foreknowledge View”; William Land Craig defends “The Middle-Knowledge View”; and Paul Helm defends the “Augustinian-Calvinist View.”
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Justification: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). When Paul wrote these words he seemed confident he had made himself clear. But for centuries the Pauline doctrine of justification has been a classic point of interpretation and debate in Christian exegesis and theology. And while in recent decades there have been moments of hopeful convergence among the various traditions of the Western church, the fine print often reveals more facets and distinctions than ever before. This volume focuses on five views of justification and calls on representative proponents to set forth their case and then respond to each other. The five views are: “Traditional Reformed” defended by Michael S. Horton;  “Progressive Reformed” by Michael F. Bird; “The New Perspective” by James D. G. Dunn;  “Deification, or Theosis” by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen; and  “Roman Catholic” by Gerald O. Collins and Oliver Rafferty. In addition, editors James Beilby, Paul R. Eddy and Steven E. Enderlein provide an extensive introduction to the issues informing this important debate. This distinguished forum of biblical interpreters and theologians offers a lively and informative engagement with the biblical, historical and contemporary understandings of justification. Justification: Five Views is not only a fascinating probe into Paul?s meaning, it is also a case book in theological method.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). A long history of biblical exegesis and theological reflection has shaped our understanding of the atonement today. The more prominent highlights of this history have acquired familiar names for the household of faith: Christus Victor, penal substitutionary, subjective, and governmental. Recently the penal substitutionary view, and particularly its misappropriations, has been critiqued, and a lively debate has taken hold within evangelicalism. This book offers a “panel” discussion of four views of atonement maintained by four evangelical scholars. The proponents and their views are: Gregory A. Boyd: “Christus Victor View”; Joel B. Green: “Kaleidescopic View”; Bruce R. Reichenbach: “Healing View”; and Thomas R. Schreiner: “Penal Substitutionary View.” Following an introduction written by the editors, each participant first puts forth the case for their view. Each view is followed by responses from the other three participants, noting points of agreement as well as disagreement. This is a book that will help Christians understand the issues, grasp the differences and proceed toward a clearer articulation of their understanding of the atonement.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Election: Five Views. Perspectives on Election presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on the doctrine of spiritual election (for example, predestination) that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. Despite the focus upon a topic that divides many people, editor Chad Brand says, “The goal of this book is to add clarity to the discussion and to further the discussion, insofar as it is possible, in an amiable manner.” Contributors and their views are the following: “Divine Election to Salvation” presented by Bruce A. Ware; “The Classical Arminian View of Election” by Jack W. Cottrell; “A Consistent Supralapsarian Perspective on Election” presented by RobertL. Reymond; “Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive Nature of Election” presented by Thomas B. Talbot; and “Divine Election as Corporate, Open, and Vocational” by Clark Pinnock.
  • Gabriel J. Fackre, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?  Three Views on The Destiny of the Unevangelized (Spectrum Multiview Series). What is the fate of those who die never hearing the gospel? Do Hindus, Jews, agnostics and others who do not profess faith in Christ really suffer damnation after death? These and similar questions have long been contemplated by people from every religious persuasion and every walk of life. But in a culture of increasing diversity and growing doubt in the existence of “objective truth,” it seems ever more pressing. In this book three scholars present the span of evangelical conviction on the destiny of the unevangelized. Ronald Nash argues the restrictivist position, that receptive knowledge of Jesus Christ in this life is necessary to salvation. Gabriel Fackre advocates divine perseverance, with the expectation that those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. And John Sanders sets forth the inclusivist case–asserting that though God saves people only through the work of Jesus Christ, some may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. As each scholar presents his own case and responds to strengths and weaknesses of differing positions, readers are treated to a lively and informative debate. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? is a truly helpful book on one of today’s–and every day’s–most crucial questions.
  • Dave Hunt and James White. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. A centuries-old belief system is put to the test as two prominent authors examine and debate the subject of Calvinism from opposing viewpoints. James White, author of The Potter’s Freedom, takes the Calvinist position. Dave Hunt, author of What Love Is This, opposes him. The exchange is lively and at times intense as these two articulate men wrestle over what the Scriptures tell us about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. This thought-provoking, challenging book provides potent responses to the most frequently asked questions about Calvinism.
  • Adam J. Johnson, ed. Five Views on the Extent of the Atonement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). For whom did Christ die? Who may be saved? are questions of perennial interest and importance for the Christian faith. In a familiar Counterpoints format, this book explores the question of the extent of Christ’s atonement, going beyond simple Reformed vs. non-Reformed understandings. This volume elevates the conversation to a broader plane, including contributors who represent the breadth of Christian tradition: “Eastern Orthodox”: expounded by Andrew Louth; “Roman Catholic”: expounded by Matthew Levering; “Traditional Reformed”: expounded by Michael Horton; “Wesleyan”: expounded by Fred Sanders; and “Barthian Universalism”: expounded by Tom Greggs.
  • R.T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen. The Christian and the Pharisee: Two Outspoken Religious Leaders Debate the Road to Heaven. The book reproduces a candid exchange of letters between two leading religious figures: an evangelical preacher and a senior Jewish rabbi. This groundbreaking publication is a rare opportunity to read the heartfelt correspondence of two prolific and acclaimed theologians, as they both seek to vigorously defend their own beliefs and allow themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other. As the discussion continues we see mutual respect grow and a strong friendship forged before the relationship is inevitably tested as they encounter points of seemingly irreconcilable differences. Though there are issues and beliefs which separate the two theological camps, this book shows how they share enough to not only get along, but form strong alliances.
  • Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views On Salvation In A Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). John Hick proposes the “Pluralist View”; Clark Pinnock proposes the “Inclusivist View”; Alister McGrath proposes “A Particularist View: A Post-Enlightenment Approach”; and R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips present “A Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach.”
  • Andrew David Naselli and Mark A. Snoeberger, eds. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement presents a point-counterpoint exchange concerning God’s intention in sending Christ to die on the cross. All three contributors recognize a substitutionary element in the atoning work of Christ, but disagree over the nature and objects of that substitution. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work secured the redemption of his elect alone. While infinite in value, Christ’s death was intended for and applied strictly to those whom the Father had elected unconditionally in eternity past. John Hammett (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work had multiple intentions. Of these intentions two rise to the fore: (1) the intention to accomplish atonement for God’s elect and (2) the intention to provide atonement for all mankind. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) argues that Christ’s atoning work provided atonement generally for all mankind. The application of that atoning work is conditioned, however, on each person’s willingness to receive it.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Four Views On Eternal Security (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Does the Bible support the concept of “once saved, always saved,” or can a person lose his or her salvation? How do the Scriptures portray the complex interplay between grace and free will? These and related questions are explored from different angles in this thought-provoking Counterpoints volume. The contributors each state their case for one of four prominent views on eternal security: “Classical Calvinist” (Michael Horton), “Moderate Calvinist” (Norman L. Geisler), “Reformed Arminian” (Stephen M. Ashby),  and “Wesleyan Arminian” (Steve Harper). In keeping with the forum approach of the Counterpoints series, each view is first presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended. This fair and respectful approach allows you to weigh for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of the different doctrinal stances. By furnishing you with scholarly and thoughtful perspectives on the topic of eternal security, this book helps you sift through opposing views to arrive at your own informed conclusions. 
  • James R. White. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. Norman L. Geisler’s Chosen but Free sparked a firestorm of controversy when he labeled Calvinism “theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” White steps into the breach with his cogent response. His systematic refutation of Geisler’s argument will help you understand what the Reformed faith really teaches about divine election and how Reformed thought conforms to the gospel.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE – How to Practically Do Battle with the Enemy 

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, editors. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Walter Wink, “The World Systems Model”; David Powlison, “The Classical Model”; Greg Boyd, “The Ground-Level Deliverance Model”; C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood, “The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model.”

THEOLOGICAL METHOD – How to Do Theology and Communal Expressions of It

  • Kenneth Berding, ed. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Walter C. Kaiser defends the view: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents”; Darrel L. Bock defends the view: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents”; and Peter Enns defends the view: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal. 
  • Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Across The Spectrum: Understanding Issues In Evangelical Theology (Second Edition). This new edition of a popular text presents an accessible yet comprehensive primer that helps readers understand the breadth of viewpoints on major issues in evangelical theology, with chapters using the popular three- or four-views book format. The authors carefully examine thirty-four positions taken by evangelical scholars on seventeen seminal issues. They lay out the biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments for each position in point-counterpoint fashion and discuss possible objections. The second edition retains the helpful features of the first edition–end-of-chapter “For Further Reading” sections and an extensive glossary–and adds an appendix that addresses thirteen peripheral issues in contemporary evangelicalism.
  • Ronnie Campbell, ed. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views (Counterpoints Theology and Life).During a time of global conflict, the theological question of whether Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God carries political baggage. Is the God of ISIS the same as the God of Israel? Do Sunni Muslims and Protestant Christians pray to the same Creator and Sustainer of the universe? In this Counterpoints volume, edited by Ronnie P. Campbell, Jr., and Christopher Gnanakan, five leading scholars present the main religious perspectives on this question, demonstrating how to think carefully about an issue where opinions differ and confusion abounds. They examine related subtopics such as the difference between God being referentially the same and essentially the same, what “the same” means when referring to God, the significance of the Trinity in this discussion, whether religious inclusivism is inferred by certain understandings of God’s sameness, and the appropriateness of interfaith worship.The four main views, along with the scholars presenting them, are: “All Worship the Same God: Religious Pluralist View” presented by Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb, Jr.; “All Worship the Same God: Referring to the Same God View” presented by Francis J. Beckwith; “Jews and Christians Worship the Same God: Shared Revelation View” presented by  Gerald R. McDermott; and “None Worship the Same God: Different Conceptions View” presented by Jerry L. Walls) Additionally, essays by Joseph Cumming and David W. Shenk explore the implications of this question specifically for Christians wanting to minister among and build relationships with Muslims. Cumming stresses that finding common ground is key, while Shenk advocates for a respectful focus on differences.
  • John Jefferson Davis. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine & Theology. This volume provides the complete text of key Scripture passages that form the basis for theological study. The text used is the highly readable and modern New International Version. The verses listed are grouped by the classical categories of systematic theology (e.g., God, Christ, Salvation); on disputed points, verses from which the major theological views derive are given. Footnotes provide clarification and brief commentary on verses as appropriate. This work is intended to assist the theological student who might not take the time to look up the verses cited in systematic theologies, but it will also be useful to anyone seeking to better understand the major themes of Scripture.
  • Louis Goldberg, ed. How Jewish Is Christianity? 2 Views On The Messianic Movement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Diverse perspectives about the messianic movement ― from six contributors. Are Messianic congregations necessary or should Jewish believers be incorporated into the Gentile church? This is the topic of the latest volume in the Counterpoints series. The question of how Christian Jews relate their Jewish practices and customs to the church has been an issue within Christianity since the first century. Contemporary contributors who have lived and wrestled with this issue present informed arguments and counter-arguments. The book concludes with a chapter on the future for Messianic Jews and a directory of messianic movement organizations. Contributors include: John Fischer (ThD, California Graduate School of Theology, PhD, University of South Florida) is a rabbi of Congregation Ohr Chadash and Chairman of Judaic Studies at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum (ThM, PhD, New York University) has served with the Chosen People Ministries and Christian Jew Foundation in the past and is now the founder and director of Ariel Ministries. Gershon Nerel (PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) has served as “Israel Secretary” for the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and has also been a member of the executive committee for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel. David Stern (PhD, MDiv) is the translator of the Jewish New Testament from Greek to English to express its Jewishness; his version of the Tanak is the Complete Jewish Bible. Will Varner (EdD, Temple University) servers as professor of biblical studies at the Master’s College, CA, and the director of the Israel Bible Extension campus of this college in Israel.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Five Views On Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). “The Non-Theonomic View” is presented by Willem A. VanGemeren; “The Theonomic Reformed View” is presented by Greg L. Bahnsen; “The Law As God’s Gracious Guidance For The Promotion of Holiness View” is presented by Walter C. Kaiser; “A Dispensational View” is presented by Wayne G. Strickland; and “A Modified Lutheran View” is presented by Douglas J. Moo.
  • Collin Hansen and Andrew David Naselli, eds. Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following views are presented in this dialogue: “Fundamentalism” by Kevin T. Bauder; “Confessional Evangelicalism” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Generic Evangelicalism” by John G. Stackhuse Jr.; and “Postconservative Evangelicalism” by Roger E. Olson.
  • Gordon R. Lewis. Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook. The great Christian doctrines are worth thinking through for ourselves. That’s why Gordon Lewis has provided this concise and complete survey of the major truths of the Christian faith. But rather than just telling us what he has discovered in Scripture, he offers a theological workbook that helps us explore the evidence itself and to draw our own conclusions. He has organized the material around the main themes of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humanity, creation, the church, and the end times. This unique text has been used by students of the Bible over the last three decades in the classroom, in the home and in the church. Its enduring quality continues to make it a valuable tool for all who want to develop a systematic theology for themselves.
  • Erwin W. Lutzer. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historical Doctrines That Separate Christians. Lutzer examines various controversies that exist within the broad spectrum of Christianity, presenting the historical background of the issue and the biblical understanding of the doctrine. Chapters include “Predestination or Free Will?”; “Why Can’t We Agree about Baptism”?; and “Justification by Faith.”
  • Gary T, Meadors, ed. Four Views on Moving Beyond The Bible To Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following models of methods are proposed: “A Principlizing Model” by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.; “A Redemptive-Historical Model” by Daniel M. Doriani; “A Drama of Redemption Model” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “A Redemptive-Movement Model” by William J. Webb.
  • Stanley E. Porter, ed. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How should one approach the task of theology? The question of methodology is increasingly one of interest among theologians, who recognize that the very manner in which we approach theology informs both the questions we ask and the conclusions we reach. This volume in IVP’s Spectrum Multiview series brings together five evangelical theologians with distinctly different approaches to the theological task. After presenting the approaches―which include appeals to Scripture, context, missions, interdisciplinary studies, and dogmatics―each contributor responds to the other views. Emerging from this theological conversation is an awareness of our methodological commitments and the benefits that each approach can bring to the theological task. Contributors:Sung Wook Chung, “Bible Doctines Conservative Theology: Codifying God’s Word”;  John R. Franke, “Missional Theology: Living God’s Love”; Telford C. Work, “An Interdisciplinary Theology Response”; Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo, “A Contextual Theology Response”; and Paul Louis Metzger, “A Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology Response.”
  • James Stamoolis, ed. Three Views On Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Bradley Nassif answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Yes”; Michael Horton answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; Vladimir Berzonsky answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; George Hancock-Stefan answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe”; And Edward Rommen answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe.”

THEOLOGY PROPER – The Study of God: 

The Trinity, His Nature, Character & Activity in Our World 

  • Dennis Jowers, ed. Four Views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Kjoss Helseth propounds the view that “God Causes All Things”; William Lane Craig propounds the view that “God Directs All Things”; Ron Highfield propounds the view that “God Controls By Liberating”; and Gregory A. Boyd propounds that “God Limits Control.”
  • Gregory E. Ganssle, ed. God & Time: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Paul Helm proclaims the “Divine Timeless Eternity View”; Alan G. Padgett proclaims the “Eternity As Relative Timelessness View”; William Lane Craig proclaims the “Timelessness & Omnitemporality View”; and Nicholas Wolterstorff proclaims the “Unqualified Divine Temporality View.”
  • Stephen R. Holmes, ed. Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The doctrine of the Trinity stands front and center of the Christian faith and its articulation. After a sustained drought of trinitarian engagement, the doctrine of the Trinity has increasingly resurged to the forefront of Evangelical confession. The second half of the twentieth century, however, saw a different kind of trinitarian theology developing, giving way to what has commonly been referred to as the “social Trinity.” Social—or better, relational—trinitarianism has garnered a steady reaction from those holding to a classical doctrine of the Trinity, prompting a more careful and thorough re-reading of sources and bringing about not only a much more coherent view of early trinitarian development but also a strong critique of relational trinitarian offerings. Yet confusion remains. As Evangelicals get better at articulating the doctrine of the Trinity, and as the current and next generation of believers in various Christian traditions seek to be more trinitarian, the way forward for trinitarian theology has to choose between the relational and classical model, both being legitimate options.In this volume, leading contributors—one evangelical and one mainline/catholic representing each view—establish their models and approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity, each highlighting the strengths of his view in order to argue how it best reflects the orthodox perspective. In order to facilitate a genuine debate and to make sure that the key issues are teased out, each contributor addresses the same questions regarding their trinitarian methodology, doctrine, and its implications. Contributors include: Stephen R. Holmes; Paul D. Molnar; Thomas H. McCall; and Paul S. Fiddes.
  • Robert J. Matz, ed. Divine Impassability: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering (Spectrum Multiview Series). Does God suffer? Does God experience emotions? Does God change? How should we interpret passages of Scripture that seem to support one view or the other? And where does the incarnation and Christ’s suffering on the cross fit into this? The lively but irenic discussion that takes place in this conversation demonstrates not only the diversity of opinion among Christians on this theological conundrum but also its ongoing relevance for today. Views and Contributors: “Strong Impassibility” by James E. Dolezal, assistant professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University; “Qualified Impassibility” by Daniel Castelo, professor of dogmatic and constructive theology at Seattle Pacific University; “Qualified Passibility” by John C. Peckham, professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University; and “Strong Passibility” by Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University.
  • Bruce A. Ware, ed. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God presents in counterpoint form four basic common beliefs on the doctrine of God that have developed over the course of church history with a goal of determining which view is most faithful to Scripture. Contributors to this fifth book in the PERSPECTIVES series are Regent College J.I. Packer chair in Theology and Philosophy Paul Helm (Classical Calvinist perspective), editor Bruce Ware (Modified Calvinist perspective), Baylor University professor of Theology Roger Olson (Classical Arminian perspective), and Hendrix College assistant professor of Religion John Sanders (Open Theist perspective).

WORLDVIEW – A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world

  • Ronnie P. Campbell Jr. Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach. How does the Christian response to the problem of evil contrast with that of other worldviews? Most attempts at answering the problem of evil either present a straightforward account of the truth claims of Christianity or defend a minimalist concept of God. This book is different. Inside, you’ll examine four worldviews’ responses to the problem of evil. Then, you’ll hear the author’s argument that Christian theism makes better sense of the phenomenon of evil in the world equipping you to reach an informed conclusion. This book’s unique approach integrating worldviews with apologetics with theology will give you a better understanding of the debate surrounding the problem of evil, in both philosophy and theology. Learn to think cogently and theologically about the problem of evil and Christianity’s ability to answer its challenges with Worldviews and the Problem of Evil as your guide.
  • Myron B. Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Six Views). R. Douglas Geivett, writes, “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology”; R. Scott Smith writes, “Christian Postmodernism and the Linguistic Turn”; Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes, “Pilgrim’s Digress: Christian Thinking on and about the Post Modern Way”; John R. Franke writes, “Christian Faith and Postmodern Theory: Theology and the Nonfoundationalist Turn”; James K. A. Smith writes, “A Little Story about Metanarratives: Lyotard, Religion, and Postmodernism Revisited.” 

Book Review of Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure by Robert W. Kellemen

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Learning From The Apostle Paul in Overcoming Anxiety

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

This is a short and helpful booklet (43 pages) that helps you to understand and apply the Apostle Paul’s exhortation from Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 

Some of the helpful gold nuggets Kellemen shares are as follows:

“in anxiety, we turn to self instead of turning to God. Anxiety is fear without faith. It is vigilance run amok. We scan the horizon constantly, fearfully, but without ever taking action or responsibility and without clinging to God.”

“in vigilance, we turn to God. Through faith, we face the reality of our neediness by trusting in the unseen reality of a God who cares and controls.”

“We experience the power of life and death in two gardens: the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemene. If we live by the power of the flesh, then we live a fear-based, self-centered life that follows the model of the first Adam. If we live by the power of the Spirit, then we live a faith-based, Christ-centered life that follows the model of the second Adam.”

“In anxiety, we choose a crippling focus on our circumstances. In worshipful prayer, we choose a healing focus on God’s character.” 

The greater part of this booklet is an examination, exhortation, evaluation, and application from Philippians 4. Kellemen gives a wonderful and practical exhortation based on the following seven insights: (1) Guard Your Relationship with God, Your Guard: Faith in Your Father; (2) Commit to Mature Relationships with God’s People: It Takes a Congregation; (3) Cling to Your Identity in Christ: Wholeness in Christ; (4) Put on the Mind of Christ: The Weapons of Your Warfare; (5) Practice What You Preach; Living and Loving with Courage; (6) Soothe Your Soul in Your Savior: Emotional Maturity 101; (7) Live Wisely in a Fallen World: Jars of Clay.

At the end of each brief exhortation Kellemen has several helpful questions to help you apply the Gospel in your daily life. I highly recommend this booklet – it’s brevity is a positive – especially if you want quick help in dealing with your anxieties from our all wise God.

Book Review of R.C. Sproul’s Surprised by Suffering

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Biblically Based Reasons for Suffering

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

It’s difficult for Christians in the United States to grasp that a huge part of our lives entails suffering – probably due to the influence of the so-called “American Dream” and the onslaught of prosperity preachers in our midst. However, it’s really impossible to read Genesis through Revelation at face value without realizing that part of our vocation in a fallen world is that tests, trials, tribulations, and persecutions, are not only possible, but inevitable for those who follow Christ.

Sproul states early in the book: “The promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight than we want to carry. The promise of God is that He will never put more on us than we can bear…What is difficult to bear without Christ is made far more bearable with Christ. What is a heavy burden to carry alone becomes a far lighter burden to carry with his help.” He emphasizes how and why God uses suffering in Christian’s lives so that we can become more like Jesus – spiritually mature and useful to others.

Here are some of the strengths of this book:

(1) The amount of references used to show that suffering is a huge part of Christian growth and the development of our character.

(2) The stories of biblical characters that suffered and what we learn from their suffering: Joseph, Elijah, Job, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and Jesus.

(3) The hope that our sufferings aren’t worthy to be compared with the glories to be revealed in the new heaven and earth.

(4) He writes about how to prepare for, endure, and be victorious over trials and triumph in Christ.

I highly recommend this book to prepare you for suffering well, and with purpose, for the glory of God, and the glories that await us in Heaven.

Charles Stanley on 10 Benefits of Giving Thanks

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Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

Reading the Bible isn’t always Easy

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude Impacts Every Area of our Lives

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by. Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy. There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29-31). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:5-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What Will You Choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

About Charles F. Stanley: Dr. Charles F. Stanley is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of numerous books, including How To Handle Adversity, Eternal Security, Blessings of Brokenness and many others. His popular radio and TV program In Touch is heard and seen worldwide.

“Affliction, Friend or Foe?” A Sermon by Albert N. Martin

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One of the common experiences of all the people of God is this matter of affliction. In this study we will look at Second Corinthians 1: 3– 11 under the general theme of affliction, friend or foe?

2nd Corinthians 1:1-11

(1) Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in the whole of Achaia: (2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; (4) Who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (5) For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also abounds through Christ. (6) But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which works in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: (7) and our hope for you is steadfast; knowing that, as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also are you of the comfort. (8) For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: (9) yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead: (10) Who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver: on Whom we have set our hope that He will also still deliver us; (11) you also helping together on our behalf by your supplication; that, for the gift bestowed upon us by means of many, thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf.

It is obvious that the theme of this passage is the subject of affliction. For the very thing which triggers this eulogy, this blessing of God the Father, is that the Apostle and his companion, Timothy, have experienced a peculiar measure of the consolation and comfort of God in the midst of affliction. So the Apostle begins with those words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Father of mercies, The God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction.” It opens up the whole subject of affliction in which there are given to us some very helpful perspectives concerning the experience of all the people of God.

Introduction

In introducing our study of the passage, it is necessary to understand several things about affliction.

First of all, the meaning of the word affliction, as it is found here in the passage before us. The word itself literally means, that which is pressing or pressure. Hence it is come to speak of oppression, affliction or tribulation. It refers to distress brought upon men and women, particularly by outward circumstances which in turn create this inward distress. It’s translated numerous ways in the New Testament. In some places it’s translated tribulation, in others, as it is here, affliction; sometimes persecution; other times trouble; but it is that which God reveals is the portion of all of His people. This pressure, this oppression, this tribulation, this inward distress brought about by outward circumstances, our Lord says, will be the portion of all of His people. 

John 16:33 “In the world you shall have [and this is the same word in the original] affliction. You shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” One of the very elementary messages that the Apostles used to give on their missionary follow up tours, concern the whole subject of affliction. 

We read in Acts 14:21-22, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations [afflictions same word in the original] we must enter into the kingdom of God.”

AFFLICTION IS ONE OF THE COMMON DENOMINATOR’S OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD

The Apostles were very, very concerned that believers understand, early in their Christian lives, that affliction and tribulation were part and parcel of normal Christian experience. It is for this reason that our Lord in His parting words spoke the words previously quoted, in the world you shall have tribulation. He had given them some tremendously encouraging promises about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Some promises concerning His ministry of comfort and consolation and illumination; and the impartation of gifts and graces in power, but less they misunderstand this, to think that they would come to some level of experience in the Holy Spirit that would either immunize them from, or totally lift them out of the realm of tribulation and affliction, our Lord says, toward the conclusion of those wonderful words of John 14, 15, and 16, In the world you shall have tribulation. 

John was so confident that tribulation was as much a part of the Christian life as faith in Christ, that when he addresses the believers of Asia Minor in Revelation 1 this is how he addresses them: Revelation 1:9 “I John your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus.” He looks upon all believers as fellow partakers, not only of the kingdom and the steadfastness that are in Christ, but also of the tribulation, the affliction, the persecution, that are in Christ. So it is not surprising that our Lord tells us in the parable of the sower that some apparent converts are caused to wither in their profession, when they come into contact with their first real affliction. In Matthew 13:21 Jesus said, when tribulation, and persecution, when affliction and persecution arise because of the Word, they stumble. It was affliction that caused the consternation of the Psalmist in Psalm 73. He was afflicted and he saw the people of God afflicted, and it didn’t make sense to him, because the people who were not committed to the worship of Jehovah and to the law of God seem to be wonderfully insulated from affliction, and this he could not understand.

And so in the light of the fact that the Scripture teaches, that affliction is one of the common denominator’s of the people of God, and that affliction can be the occasion of stumbling and consternation, it is necessary for every Christian, to learn how to confront affliction.

One of the great problems that we face, as in many other areas, we carry over into the Christian life worldly, carnal views of affliction. You see the unbeliever looks upon affliction as his or her greatest enemy. Every affliction that comes into their life is a roadblock in the pursuit of their carnal and temporal goals, and therefore affliction is always their enemy. They can never hug affliction to themselves and say welcome, my God-sent friend. He looks upon affliction says, “Who are you? My enemy!” They do all within their power to get affliction, out of the way. The unbeliever looks upon it as enemy, all enemy, and nothing but enemy and yet sad to say, many children of God, to some degree or another, have absorbed that mentality and do not understand the purpose of God in affliction. But now, for the child of God, there should be a totally different perspective concerning the subject of affliction.

In this study as we consider this passage in second Corinthians we will seek to layout THE DIVINE PURPOSE OF GOD IN AFFLICTION which, when understood by the child of God, will help them to embrace their afflictions rather than to run from them as an unwanted enemy.

ILLUSTRATION

Let me illustrate the difference that this perspective will make. Try to picture a little child who’s been involved in a serious accident. He’s been knocked unconscious and has a compound fracture. He’s got a bone sticking right through the skin which will demand not only the setting of the bone, but also some sutures, and the first time that he awakes out of his unconsciousness he looks up, and there is a man with a mask on his face, and a skullcap on his head, a big needle in his hand and a scalpel in his other hand, and the poor child coming to consciousness thinks he’s awaken in the midst of a horror movie. He’s scared and he screams out and begins to fight to get himself off that table until he is quieted down. His mom or dad, with a nurse or the doctor, explains to him that the person standing there with the needle is going to put the needle in so that he won’t feel any pain when he takes the scalpel and begins to patch him up and put the arm back in place. Once the child understands, that which in his first reflex looked so foreboding, something to be resisted, then he will welcome that which upon first sight he utterly rejected. In the same way, the child of God many times –when they wake up as it were and see afflictions standing before them with his long needle and with his scalpel– their reaction is one of wanting to run. It’s at that point that they need to be still and to understand what God is saying, “This is the purpose that I have in this affliction for you.” Then the heart of the child of God is stilled to submit to that affliction.

FIVE DIVINE PURPOSES IN AFFLICTION

What then, according to 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 11 is the divine purpose in affliction?

I would suggest that the Apostle indicates that there are at least five divine purposes in affliction, and we’re limiting our observations just to this passage. We could range far and wide in many other portions of Scripture, but we want to stick with this portion and lay out these aspects of the divine purpose in affliction. Our purpose is that you, as a child of God, may recognize this, so that when affliction comes, and it will come, you may be able to confront it biblically, and not look upon affliction as your foe, but as your friend.

What is the first purpose of God in affliction? It’s set before us in verse 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort;” As the Apostle Paul breaks out in praise to God, he praises God with specific reference to the revelation of God’s character that has come to him in the context of affliction, therefore:

(1) THE FIRST PURPOSE OF GOD IN AFFLICTION IS TO GIVE US A FULLER REVELATION OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD.

In this text God is called three things: first, He is called the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, secondly, the Father of mercies and thirdly, He is called the God of all comfort.

When the Apostle addresses Him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is indicating that God has been revealed to him in the saving revelation made, in and through, Jesus Christ the Lord.

In other words, when the Apostle thinks of God, he not only thinks of Him as the God of creation, not only as the God of Providence, but he thinks of Him particularly, as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He thinks of Him as the God Who has revealed Himself and His way of salvation in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, whatever follows in this text, whatever other revelation is made of God, it’s made in the context of that fundamental revelation of God as a saving God, in Jesus Christ, the Lord. That’s the starting point. If you do not stand in a saving relationship to God, through the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, this message is not for you. This is God’s Word to believers who know God as 

(i) The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostle further says in verse five, as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us even, even so our comfort abounds through Christ. All of the consolation of God to His suffering saints is in terms of their vital union with Jesus Christ. But now notice, the Apostle not only knows Him as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, but he calls Him, in this place, and it’s the only place that I know of in the New Testament where God is addressed in these terms, the Father of mercies, or literally the Father of the mercies, or the compassions and the God of all comforting. Let’s look at those two ascriptions of God for a moment.

(ii) The Father of all compassions or mercies. The word mercy, means pity to those who are in distress. Remember in the life of our Lord and in His ministry needy people would encounter Him and cry out, ‘Son of David, have mercy upon me. Look upon me with Pity.’ In Psalm 103:13, like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those that fear Him. The Psalmist addresses God in terms of God’s inward disposition in the face of the afflictions of His people. 

When God beholds the afflictions of His people, ordered by His own divine providence, how does He behold them? He doesn’t behold them with a stoical indifference saying, ‘Well I’ve decreed it, and it’s for their good. Let them work it out.’ No. In all their afflictions, the Scripture says, He was afflicted. He is not only the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who’s revealed a way of forgiveness and acceptance through the Lord Jesus, but He’s the God Who, having brought us into His family and given us the Spirit of adoption, is to us the Father of mercies and the God of all comforting. Where the reference to mercy focuses upon the disposition of God’s heart, the reference to comforting points out the activity of God. He not only has an attitude of pity and compassion, but He puts forth that attitude in positive comfort of His people. In the midst of the pressure of their distress, He is the God Who comforts them.

How did the Apostle Paul come to know God as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? That revelation was made to him in the way that it’s made to all sinful people. He must first of all be brought to a sight of his sin. He must be brought to a sight of the mercy that God extends in the Lord Jesus. You can see that in Romans 7. I had not known sin unless the law said you shall not covet and he details how God dealt with him to show him that in spite of all his external morality and religiosity, he was lost and undone. Then he came to know God as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

You see, just as no one knows God as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, apart from the experimental knowledge of sin and of grace [inward moral transformation] so you cannot really know God as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, unless you are in the experimental crucible of affliction. You don’t have pity upon those who are well off. You don’t need to extend comfort to those who are completely at ease. Pity, is for the afflicted. Comfort, is for the distressed, and the Apostle tells us in this passage, that the first purpose of God in affliction, with reference to His children, is to give them this further unfolding of His Own character. To bring them into an experimental awareness, of the God that He is, and so if you pray as a Christian, ‘O God, help me to know You better.’ Perhaps you find yourself praying in the words of Philippians 3, ‘that I may know Him’. Would you have further revelation of the character of God? Not in the abstract, but in the real stuff of human experience? Then child of God don’t look upon affliction as your enemy. It’s in the context of affliction that you will come to know Him as the God of all mercies and the God of all comfort, and if you’re going to be so self-sparing that you say, God, don’t touch me with affliction what you’re saying is, I want no further revelation, experimentally, of the depth and the breath, the height and the length of Your Infinite Character. So the first purpose of God in affliction is to give us a fuller revelation of His Character.

The second purpose is laid out in verses four through seven of 2nd Corinthians. 1:4 “Who comforts us in all our affliction, that [here’s the purpose] we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also abounds through Christ. 6 But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which works in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: 7 and our hope for you is stedfast; knowing that, as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also are you of the comfort.” The Apostle is saying that:

(2) THE SECOND DIVINE PURPOSE IN AFFLICTION, FOR THE CHILD OF GOD, IS TO EQUIP US FOR A MORE USEFUL MINISTRY TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

Notice that thread of thought, God comforts us, that we may be able to comfort others. Sufferings abound in us, comfort abounds through us. If we are afflicted for your sake, if we are comforted for your sake, and you can reduce the basic thought of verses four through seven to this simple equation, all that happens to us happens for your sakes. All that comes to us, issues in blessing to you. In the context, the primary reference to this is to the Apostle and his companion Timothy. 

Whatever particular trials they were passing through by virtue of the problems at the church at Corinth and in the light of their overall ministry, the Apostle wants the Corinthians to know that what is happening to them is for their sake, but in the light of passages like Romans 15:14, in which the Apostle speaks in such broad terms of the ministry that believers have one to another, we cannot give this an exclusive reference to the Apostle. He said, Romans 15:14 “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” 

He says of the Romans, I’m confident that as brethren, you’ve come to sufficient experimental knowledge, that you are able to admonish one another, and so we see the second aspect of the divine purpose in affliction. How is God going to equip you for a more useful ministry to others? I’ll tell you what He is going to do. He’s going to put you into the fires of affliction that in those fires of affliction, as you experimentally become acquainted with the comfort of God, you in turn, may be an instrument of consolation and comfort to others. 

We do not exist in the body of Christ for our own sake. God has placed us in the body of Christ that we might be an instrument of maturity and development in the lives of the other members of that body. 1 Corinthians 12 deals with this very clearly. When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. When one member is comforted all are comforted with it. Ephesians 4, the body is built up by that which every joint supplies. It makes increase of itself in love. How are we going to be made more useful in our ministry to others? It’s going to be in the midst of affliction. If affliction is the common experience of all the people of God, in all ages, then one of the great needs that they have, is for people to be able to console them and comfort them in their affliction. Who is going to be able to do it? Those who themselves have proven the consolation of God in the midst of affliction. Those who have experimentally learned how to face the needle and the scalpel, and instead of screaming and ranting and raving to get off the operating table, say instead, Lord, put in the needle and do your work with the scalpel. 

May I prove you to be the God of all comfort, the Father of all mercies, to the end that I may have a more useful ministry unto others. There are few things which reveal the depth of our selfhood more clearly than the quickness with which we reject affliction. We complain, ‘Lord, this is doing this, and that, and the other to me.’ 

Instead of just saying, ‘O God, if this is the price that I must pay to be an instrument in Your hands, to be a blessing to others, I am willing to submit to anything that I might be an instrument of consolation to my fellow believers.’ Isn’t that the true mark of divine love? Love seeks not her own. Isn’t that our big problem? The moment affliction comes all we think about is what it’s doing to me, to my name, my comforts, my plans. The Apostle Paul didn’t look upon it this way. When afflictions came tumbling in upon him he said, ‘Well hallelujah, there’s a lot more people out there that are going to be helped!’ As the afflictions abound so the consolations abound and he welcomed affliction knowing that it was going to equip him for a more useful ministry to the people of God. 

So let me encourage you, Child of God, some who may, this very instant, be in the midst of an unusual discipline of affliction and tribulation, and you found it so difficult, you’ve cried out, ‘Lord is there something in me? Is it some chastisement? Is it some sin?’ You’ve been open and honest before God and you’ve drawn a blank. Perhaps this is the perspective that you need to bring into the total picture, ‘Lord there are no accidents with you. You know every single person to whom I must be an instrument and means of grace all along the way from here to glory. Lord I embrace all of your disciplines to me that I might be a source of blessing to others.’

The Apostle goes on to give us a third purpose in affliction that helped him to look upon affliction, not as a foe, but as a friend. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, “For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead:” What was the third divine purpose in affliction according to the Apostle?

(3) THE THIRD DIVINE PURPOSE IN AFFLICTION IS TO SHUT US UP MORE FULLY TO THE POWER OF GOD.

Notice his words; ‘I don’t want you to be ignorant, you Corinthians, concerning this tremendous affliction which came to us in Asia.’ What he’s referring to nobody knows for certain. The commentators all make their guesses and most of them disagree, but whatever it was, it’s not important what the trial was, but what the purpose of God was. Notice, he says here what was God’s purpose. We had this affliction come upon us that brought us to the place where we despaired even of life. He said yes, we had the very sentence of death within ourselves. We were as good as dead. To what purpose? That we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead. In other words, the Apostle Paul says, we were brought to a place, where the only way out of that circumstance of affliction was a manifestation of divine power equal to the power that raises dead men to life. In any other kind of exercise of divine power there may be great divine assistance, but there may be already something there to work with. If a lame man came to the Lord Jesus, He straightened out a leg that was already there. If a blind man came, the Lord gave sight to eyes that were already there. But when the Lord Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb there was nothing there. There was a direct intrusion of life from without, and Paul said we were brought to the place where our confidence was in an exertion of divine power that was equal to the power that raises men from the dead. Therefore, he says, this affliction was not our foe, but our friend, because it shut us up more fully than ever to confidence in the mighty power of the living God.

We can have a very romantic view of the Apostle Paul as though he didn’t have to wrestle with indwelling sin and corruption, yet Romans 7 is an eloquent testimony to the fact that this was not true. Look at 2 Corinthians 12. Paul had a tendency to be proud and God, seeing that tendency to be proud, said lest you be puffed up beyond measure because the revelations given to you I’m going to allow this messenger of Satan to buffet you. And Paul says, ‘Lord, I can’t complete my ministry with this thing. It hinders me, it cripples me, it weakens me.’ The Lord said, ‘No. If I take it away your pride would weaken and cripple you, therefore, I’m going to allow this affliction so that in the midst of your physical weakness you’ll be conscious of where your dependence is; and in the midst of your weakness the power of Christ will be manifested.’ So the Apostle needed, as we do, to be constantly pushed away from the subtle temptation of self-confidence and to look more upon God’s work as the work of Him assisting us in the exercise of our own cleverness and our own abilities; so when this affliction came, Paul said this was the divine purpose: that we should not trust in ourselves but in God.

If the Apostle Paul needed affliction to shut him up more fully to confidence in the power of God, who are you and who am I to think that we will be shut up by any lesser means? That which God brings upon us that makes us consciously embrace our weakness and comes like scissors to cut the cords and the nerves of creature confidence and carnal confidence, these things, the Apostle says, are the divine purpose in affliction.

Sometimes the Lord has to do it with regards to monetary things. It is pretty hard for some of us to pray ‘Lord give us this day our daily bread’ and really mean it. We’ve collected our check week in and week out, month in month out, until suddenly we are laid off. Affliction comes. And then we begin to know what it is, as we never knew before, to look to God to supply our daily bread. Suddenly those words are no longer pretty words in a prayer that you memorized as a child; they become the experimental petition of our own hearts. ‘Loving Father, look down upon us and our family in our need; give us this day our daily bread.’ And what happens with that affliction? It shuts you up to the power of God and the intervention of God.

Sometimes it comes with health. Some of us know weeks and months and years of getting out of bed with two sound feet and a sound mind and a body that can carry us to our work. Though we halfheartedly say, ‘Lord give me strength for this day’ and at the end of the day thank the Lord, it really doesn’t come from the heart. We pretty well think we can get along on our own steam until God allows that strength to be shriveled. Then we know what it is to lay there on a bed of weakness or sickness and say, ‘Oh God, if I’m to even get through half this day, You must sustain me. You must strengthen me.’ Then we are shut up to the exercise of divine power for our daily strength in a way that we never were before. How did this come about? Affliction was Gods means to shut us up more fully to His power.

So it is with the matter of wisdom or with the matter of patience. God puts us in situations where all of our natural resources are utterly depleted and we say-–as far as that duty is concerned and what I must have to perform it–-I’m as good as a dead man. The sentence of death is upon me. And God says, ‘It’s about time that you understand what I’ve said. All along, without Me, you can do nothing, but you didn’t believe Me. I told you right along, cursed be he that trust in man and makes flesh his arm but you didn’t believe Me.’ Now affliction has come and what has been its effect? To shut us up to the exercise of divine power. Christian, don’t look upon affliction as your enemy. That which shuts you up more fully to the exercise of divine power is your friend.

The fourth divine purpose of affliction is found in 2 Corinthians 1:10. Having spoken of this trust in God Who raises the dead, he goes on to say, 1:10 “Who delivered us out of so great a death, and [now he makes a prophecy] will deliver: on Whom we have set our hope that He will also still deliver us.” Do you see what Paul is doing? He’s left the realm of testimony and now he’s making an affirmation of faith. Looking back upon this circumstance, whatever it was, that shut him up to the exercise of divine power, he says:

(4) THE FOURTH FUNCTION OF AFFLICTION WAS TO INCREASE HIS FAITH IN THE PROMISES OF GOD.

Way back when God called the Apostle Paul, He made a promise to him and we read that promise in Acts 26:16 “Arise and stand on your feet for to this end have I appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness, both of the things wherein you have seen Me and of the things wherein I will appear unto you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles unto whom I send you, to open their eyes…” Here was the promise of God: ‘Paul I’m commissioning you with this gospel commission, and in the accomplishment of it I will deliver you from every opposition until my purpose for you is accomplished.’ And again and again the Apostle Paul was brought into circumstances where it seemed his life was going to be snuffed out. One time he was stoned, other times plots were laid to take his life, but again and again when these afflictions came and God fulfilled His promise, what did it do? It increased his faith in the promises of God, for faith is strengthened in two ways: 

1st – IT’S STRENGTHENED BY LOOKING TO THE GREATNESS OF THE GOD WHO MADE THE PROMISE, and

2nd – IT’S STRENGTHENED BY EXPERIENCING THE REALITY OF THE FULFILLMENT OF THAT PROMISE.

Faith is strengthened in those two ways. Beholding the God Who makes the promise. That’s the emphasis of Paul in Romans 4. Abraham waxed strong in faith. How? Being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able to perform. As he conceived in his mind the character and might and power of God, he could look at his own body that was as good as a dead body and say, this body will yet father a child because the God Who made the promise (in Isaac shall your seed be called). God is able to father a child through the dead body of Abraham. And He’s able to do something with Abraham’s body to make it able to father a child.

But the Apostle in this passage is focusing upon the second way in which faith is strengthened. Faith is also strengthened by the experiencing of the reality and the fulfillment of those promises. So the Apostle says, ‘When we had the sentence of death in ourselves, we despaired of living unless God put forth the mighty arm of resurrection power.’ Once He did, Paul said, ‘We have confidence that the God Who has delivered, will still deliver, and continue to deliver, until His purposes for us are accomplished.’ Notice how that faith became even stronger when, as he’s about to lay down his life in 2 Timothy 4, he makes a similar reference to the delivering power of God. 2 Timothy 4:16-18, “At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom: to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul said, ‘This past deliverance strengthens my faith to believe the Lord will yet deliver me from every evil work and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom to Whom be glory forever and forever.’ Your faith is not strengthened by pulling your promises out of a promise box. Your faith is strengthened when that promise in the promised box goes with you into the fires of affliction. That’s when your faith is strengthened. You prove God in terms of His promise in the midst of affliction. Then you’re able to come forth with that ringing affirmation, the Lord has delivered, He will deliver, He shall deliver from every evil work. It’s quite easy to pray, ‘Lord increase my faith.’ Then when God begins to put you in the context of affliction you say, ‘Lord this doesn’t have anything to do with my prayer.’ But that’s the very answer to your prayer. It’s by affliction that our faith in the promises of God and the God of the promises is strengthened.

The fifth divine purpose in affliction is found in 2 Corinthians 1:11, “You also helping together on our behalf by your supplication; that, for the gift bestowed upon us by means of many, thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf.” Now, whether the Apostle is referring to the past prayers of the people of God [the grammar in the original is uncertain] or whether he is saying, ‘In the light of what I’ve told you, you will now have a renewed prayer involvement with Timothy and myself in our ministries’–- whether he’s looking to a past deliverance or thinking of future deliverances in which their prayers will have a part–-the end result will be this: Thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf. In other words, as Paul is delivered from affliction, preserved in the midst of affliction:

(5) THE 5TH DIVINE PURPOSE OF AFFLICTION IS TO PROVOKE CORPORATE PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING TO GOD FOR THE DELIVERANCE WROUGHT FOR HIS SERVANTS.

One of the great delights of being a child of God and scripturally identifying oneself with a visible community of God’s people (the visible church) is that when we enter that affliction we do not enter it alone. We have not only the presence of our Lord Jesus by the Spirit, but we have the presence of the Lord Jesus in the members of His body and Christ and His union with His body is not a mere theological concept. That union is so vital that Paul says, if you sin against the weak brother, you sin against Christ. The weak brother is a member of His body like a finger is a member, and Christ is saying, ‘If you touch My finger you touch Me. That’s a part of Me. When you hammered that finger, you hammered Me.’ The Lord Jesus said, to Saul, ‘Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ when Saul was persecuting the church. When he touched the church he was touching the Lord. The concept of this organic life union between Christ and His people was so real in the mind of the Apostle Paul that he says, when we are afflicted and in answer to our prayers deliverance is wrought and we are preserved, then the end result will be corporate praise to God for the comfort and consolation ministered unto us.

The testimony of the people of God who have entered into unusual periods of affliction is almost always at the top of the list. They’ve said this: The concept, the biblical principle of the unity of the body of Christ, has become precious to me in my affliction in a way I’ve never experienced it before that affliction came.

With a couple who lost their little girl, this concept came through so clearly, the sense that when they passed through this trial of their faith, this affliction, they did not pass through alone. There was not only the Lord Jesus ministering His own grace directly by the Spirit to their heart, but there was the Lord Jesus ministering through His body that supportive role of love and intercession and sympathy and understanding. There’s a realization that the body of Christ is not just a theological term. It’s not just that we meet under the same roof to hear the same sermons and sing the same hymns. There is a bond of identification of love and compassion which when God is pleased to undertake, results not just in the person who was afflicted and has received comfort rendering praise to God, but as the whole body of God’s people entered into that affliction, by their supplications. So, now they enter into praise and rejoicing and God is magnified not by just the one, but by the many. Notice how that is the clear emphasis of the text, “You helping together on our behalf by your supplications to this end, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf.” This scripture says, ‘Whosoever offers praise glorifies Me, and if God is glorified by the praise of one of His people, He’s glorified more intensely by the whole body of His saints rendering praise onto Him.’

So we learn from this passage that there are at least five distinct divine purposes in our afflictions. In light of these, can that which gives you a fuller revelation of the character of God be your enemy? or is it your friend? Can that which equips you for a more useful ministry to God’s people, can that be your enemy? or is that your friend? Can that which shuts you up more fully to the power of God be your enemy? or your friend? Can that which increases your faith in the promises of God ever be conceived of as your enemy? or your friend? Can that which provokes corporate praise and thanksgiving to God be your enemy? or is it your friend?

Child of God, be done with carnal views of affliction, looking upon affliction as a dreaded enemy. Look beyond the temporal, beyond the immediate and oft times flesh weathering disciplines of affliction, and realize that through affliction you will come to know God experimentally in a way that you could not otherwise know Him. That through affliction you will be made a more fit instrument of blessing to God’s people. That through affliction your faith will be strengthened by your sense of the certainty of the promises of God. Then your involvement with the people of God in praise will be increased. This is the divine purpose in affliction. So, if you are presently in the midst of affliction, may God help you to view that affliction scripturally. If you aren’t presently in the midst of it, don’t breathe too easy, for in the world you shall have affliction that through many afflictions we must enter the kingdom of God. If you’re a child of God, as sure as you sit here, you’re going to pass through affliction. May God help you and may God help me to view our afflictions in the light of divine revelation.

To those who do not know God as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then you cannot know Him as the God of comfort. You cannot know Him as the Father of mercies. It will not do in the next affliction to go whimpering to God and say, ‘Oh God, Whoever you are, wherever you are, comfort me!’ No. If you’re indifferent to God’s demands with reference to your sin, to repent and believe the gospel, that you acknowledge yourself to be undone and standing in need of His mercy; if you live in impenitence and unbelief and despise the gospel, do not think you can come crying to God and somehow snatch to yourself the comfort that He has pledged to His children. No. If you would know Him as the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort, I entreat you first of all, to know Him as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Repent of your sin. Believe the gospel. Embrace His gracious promise, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

But thank God if, in grace, He has brought us to know Him as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God of all mercies and the Father of all comfort to us. May we prove Him to be that in our experience and all of the theory that we have of these things God will make real to us in the crucible of affection.

When we begin to scream and holler and jump off the table when we see the syringe and the knife, may God help us to quiet one another down and remind one another of the principles of this passage, the divine purposes in affliction that we might know that affliction is not our foe, but our friend in the purpose of Almighty God.

Whether it is the death of a loved one, having an unsaved child, marital issues, loss of a job, etc. It’s all made to increase our awareness of the frailty of life and press us further into Him so that when these same things hit others we can understand and help them through with a real compassion and understanding.

About Albert Martin: Pastor Albert N. Martin concluded 46 years of ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey, in June 2008, and he and his second wife Dorothy relocated to Michigan (he lost his first wife Marilyn in 2004 after 48 years of marriage and a six-year battle with cancer). A recognized evangelist, counsellor, pastor and preacher, Al Martin had his first experience of street preaching before the age of eighteen, under the guidance of elders at the Mission Hall he attended. He taught all the courses in Pastoral Theology in the Trinity Ministerial Academy for 20 years until it closed in 1998. He went to be with the Lord in 2017. Al Martin is the author of four booklets published by the Banner of Truth Trust – A Life of Principled Obedience, Living the Christian Life, The Practical Implications of Calvinism, and What’s Wrong with Preaching Today? He has also written several helpful books: The Forgotten Fear: Where Have All the God-Fearers Gone?; You Lift Me Up: Overcoming Ministry Challenges; Preaching in the Holy Spirit; Grieving, Hope and Solace: When a Loved One Dies; and Two Volumes on Pastoral Theology entitled: Vol. 1: The Man of God: His Calling and Godly Life & Vol. 2: The Man of God: His Preaching and Teaching Labors. In a labor of love Pastor Brian Borgman wrote a book on Albert Martin’s Theology of Preaching called: My Heart For Thy Cause.

How To Be Victorious Over Fear

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SERIES: Encouragement for Difficult Days

By *Warren W. Wiersbe

A lady once approached D. L. Moody and told him she had found a wonderful promise in the Bible that helped her overcome fear. Her verse was Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Mr. Moody replied, “Why I have a better promise than that!” And he quoted Isaiah 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.” Mr. Moody did have a greater promise.

These words from Isaiah 12:2 are worth knowing in these days when it is so easy to become frightened. Jesus told us that in the end times men’s hearts will fail them for fear of the things about to happen; and I believe we are seeing some of this take place today. Psychologists are writing books and magazine articles about overcoming fear.

There are some kinds of fear that are good for us. We warn our children not to go near the busy streets, and we put within them a healthy fear of being struck by a car. Eventually, of course, that infantile fear will be replaced by mature common sense; but until that happens, we dare not take any chances. In fact, the fear of punishment is one basis for discipline. It may not be the highest motive for doing good, but at least it helps us to get started.

The Bible often talks about the fear of the Lord. It tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and that “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.” This fear, of course, is a proper respect and reverence for God. It is not the cringing fear of a slave before a brutal master, but the proper respect of a son before a loving Father. It is the kind of fear that opens the way to abundant life in Christ. The kind of fear Isaiah 12:2 is talking about is the fear that paralyzes people-the fear that gets into the heart and mind and creates tension and worry, and that keeps a person from enjoying life and doing his best. I meet people every week who are afraid of life, afraid of death, afraid of the past, afraid of the future-in fact, people whose lives are being enslaved by fear.

Jesus Christ never meant for us to be the slaves of fear. It is exciting to read the Bible and discover how many times God says “Fear not” to people. When the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, their first words were, “Fear not.” When Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and asked Jesus to depart from him because Peter felt he was a sinful man, Jesus said, “Fear not, Peter.” When Jairus received the bad news that his daughter had just died, Jesus said to Jairus, “Fear not, only believe….” Jesus Christ wants us to conquer fear; and He is able to help us win the battle. What causes fear in our lives? Sometimes fear is caused by a guilty conscience. When Adam and Eve sinned, they felt guilty and became afraid; and they tried to hide from God. Shakespeare was right when he said, “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.” Whenever we disobey God, we lose our close fellowship with Him, and that spiritual loneliness creates fear. We wonder if anybody knows what we have done. We worry about being found out and hope no tragic consequences come from our sins. The solution to that problem, of course, is to seek God’s forgiveness. God promises to cleanse our sins if we will but confess them and forsake them.

Often fear is caused by ignorance. Children are afraid in the night because the shadows look like giants and bears and ghosts. But even adults can get frightened when they really don’t know what is going on. Anxiety about the future, either for ourselves or for our loved ones, can sometimes create fear. Another cause is our own feeling of weakness. We are so accustomed to managing things ourselves that when an unmanageable crisis comes along, we feel helpless and afraid.

Sometimes fear comes, not before the battle or even in the midst of the battle, but after we have won the victory. Often there is an emotional letdown, and fear rushes in. Abraham had this experience in Genesis 15 after he had waged war against four powerful kings and won the victory. That night as he lay down to sleep, Abraham wondered if those kings would return and challenge him again, and perhaps bring back superior forces. It was then that God appeared to Abraham and said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). But when we study all the cases and try to understand the root cause of fear, one truth stands out clearly: the real cause of fear is unbelief. After stilling a storm that had frightened His disciples out of their wits, Jesus said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Fear and faith can never be friends; and if we are afraid, it is a sign that we have no faith. This is why Isaiah 12:2 says, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.”

The secret of victory over fear is faith in God. There is no problem too great for God to solve, no burden too heavy for God to carry, no battle too overwhelming for God to fight and win. God is big enough to conquer the enemies that rob us of our peace and leave paralyzing fears behind. Isaiah 12:2 doesn’t say, “When I am afraid, I will trust”; it says, “I will trust, and not be afraid.” Faith is not simply medicine to kill the disease; faith is spiritual power to keep us from being infected in the first place.

Notice what the prophet puts first: “Behold, God is my salvation.” If you want to overcome fear, get your eyes off yourself and your feelings, and off the problems that have upset you, and get your eyes on God. The Jewish spies in the Old Testament became frightened when they investigated the Promised Land, because they saw giants and high walls and felt like grasshoppers in comparison. The enemy soldiers were big, and the walls were high, but God was far above all of them. Had the spies lifted their eyes just a bit higher and seen God, they would not have been afraid. 

(1) So the first step in overcoming fear is to look by faith at God. Worship God, get a fresh glimpse of His greatness and glory, and realize that He is still on the throne. 

(2) The second step is to lay hold of God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. When you read the Bible, you find your faith growing. You discover that God has always been adequate for the needs of His people.

(3) The third step is to pray and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Tell God about your fears-tell Him that your fears are really evidences of unbelief-and like that concerned man in the Gospel story, ask God to help your unbelief. Surrender yourself to the Holy Spirit of God, because the Spirit can work in you to take away fear and give you peace. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The Holy Spirit within you can give you power for your weakness; He can generate love; He can give order and discipline to your mind. The Holy Spirit is God’s psychologist, so turn yourself over to Him.

One of the ministries of the Spirit of God is making Jesus Christ real to us. As you pray and read the Word, the Spirit will give you a spiritual understanding of Jesus Christ, and He will become very real to you. Even in the midst of storms and trials, Jesus Christ comes with peace and courage for you.

There is no reason for you to be afraid. Fear will only rob you and buffet you and paralyze you. Jesus Christ can take away your fear and give you peace. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.”

About the Author: Warren W. Wiersbe was the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, and is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” Interestingly, Warren’s earliest works had nothing to do with scriptural interpretation. His interest was in magic, and his first published title was Action with Cards (1944).

“It was sort of imbecilic for a fifteen-year-old amateur magician to have the audacity to write a book and send it to one of the nation’s leading magic houses,” Warren says. But having a total of three books published by the L.L. Ireland Magic Company—before the age of 20—gave him a surge of confidence. In later years, he applied his confidence and writing talent to the Youth for Christ (YFC) ministry.

Warren wrote many articles and guidebooks for YFC over a three-year period, but not all his manuscripts were seen by the public eye. One effort in particular, The Life I Now Live, based on Galatians 2:20, was never published. The reason, Warren explains with his characteristic humor, is simple: it was “a terrible book…Whenever I want to aggravate my wife, all I have to say is, ‘I think I’ll get out that Galatians 2:20 manuscript and work on it.’” Fortunately, Warren’s good manuscripts far outnumbered the “terrible” ones, and he was eventually hired by Moody Press to write three books.

The much-sought-after author then moved on to writing books for Calvary Baptist Church. It was during his ten years at Calvary that Expository Outlines on the New Testament and Expository Outlines on the Old Testament took shape. These two works later became the foundation of Warren’s widely popular Bible studies known as the Be series, featuring such titles as Be Loyal (a study on Matthew) and Be Delivered (a study on Exodus). Several of these books have been translated into Spanish.

His next avenue of ministry was Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church, where he served for seven years. He wrote nearly 20 books at Moody before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he and his wife, Betty, now live. Prior to relocating, he had been the senior pastor of Moody Church, a teacher at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a producer of the Back to the Bible radio program.

During all these years of ministry, Warren held many more posts and took part in other projects too numerous to mention. His accomplishments are extensive, and his catalog of biblical works is indeed impressive and far-reaching (many of his books have been translated into other languages). But Warren has no intention of slowing down any time soon, as he readily explains: “I don’t like it when people ask me how I’m enjoying my ‘retirement,’ because I’m still a very busy person who is not yet living on Social Security or a pension. Since my leaving Back to the Bible, at least a dozen books have been published, and the Lord willing, more are on the way.”

Wiersbe’s recent books include Your Next Miracle, The 20 Essential Qualities of a Child of GodClassic Sermons on the Fruit of the SpiritClassic Sermons on Jesus the ShepherdKey Words of the Christian LifeLonely PeopleA Gallery of GraceReal Peace: Freedom and Conscience in the Christian Life, and On Being a Leader for God.

*The article above was adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe’s classic encouraging devotional: The Bumps Are What You Climb On: Encouragement For Difficult Days. Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1996.

Lessons from the Book of Job on Faith in the Midst of Suffering

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*Mystery and Faith in the Book of Job

By D.A. Carson

Struggle as we may with various facets of the problem of evil and suffering, there are times when particularly virulent evil or horribly inequitable suffering strikes us as staggeringly irrational, unfair. Quite frequently this impression is driven home when we cannot see how to escape the lack of proportion between the massive suffering and the relative inoffensiveness of the afflicted party.

I know a woman who served as a productive missionary for some years in a Latin American country. She returned home to marry a graduate of a Bible college, a man she had known for some years who promised to return to the mission field with her. She had not been married to him for more than a few hours before she suspected she had married a monster. Although couching himself in pious language, he turned out to be psychologically brutal. He was an insecure little runt who publicly maintained a veneer of religious respectability, but who in the intimacy of his own home could live with himself only by savagely demeaning everything his wife did, said, and stood for.

The mission board caught on pretty quickly, and refused to send them out. Years passed, and the abuse worsened. The woman tried talking to friends and counselors; some of them simply sided with her husband and told her to try harder. Eventually she turned to drink; a couple of years later, she was a confirmed alcoholic, herself brutal with her two children. She hated herself, she hated her husband, and she hated God. Why had she gone through so much? She was, after all, simply trying to serve the Lord—fallibly, no doubt, but sincerely.

Of course, it would have been theologically correct to tell her that, whatever her husband was or did, she was still responsible for her own conduct. But she knew that, and hated herself because she found she could not cope. And in any case, this sort of reproach did not answer her question; it merely compounded her sense of guilt.

The Book of Job has been interpreted in several quite different ways. This short chapter is not the place to go into the variations. But virtually all sides agree that this book’s special contribution to the canon, and to the topic of evil and suffering, is its treatment of what most of us would call irrational evil, incoherent suffering. Such evil and suffering do not easily fit into any glib “solutions.” We may remember lessons learned elsewhere in the Bible, but when we try to apply them here there are too many loose ends. The physical suffering, as bad as it is, is compounded in Job’s mind because it does not make any sense. Consequently, it threatens to destroy his understanding of God and the world, and is therefore not only massively painful in its own right, but disorienting and confusing.

Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reactions (Job 1-3)

The prologue of the book, as the first two chapters are usually called, pictures a man called Job, living in the land of Uz (1:1), possibly ancient Edom. Three times he is called “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8; cf. 1:2; 2:3). He is the father of seven sons and three daughters, and enormously wealthy to boot. At a time when wealth was measured by livestock, he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred donkeys: he was “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (1:3).

Not only so, he was unquestionably godly, even to the point of offering preemptive sacrifices on behalf of his children: “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts,” he reasoned (1:5). This, we are told, was no passing fancy, no faddish piety; this “was Job’s regular custom” (1:5).

Behind the scenes, unknown to Job, Satan enters into a wager with God. God has presented Job as the prime example of a human being who truly loves God and his ways: “he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). Satan remains unconvinced. He charges that God has so protected Job, so made him prosper, that Job’s “piety” is no more than knowing what side his bread is buttered on. Piety so surrounded by security can’t prove much: “stretch out your hand and strike everything he has,” Satan taunts God, “and he will surely curse you to your face” (1:11).

God takes up the wager, with only one restriction: Job himself is not to be harmed. Satisfied, Satan leaves and so operates behind the scenes that the Sabeans carry off the oxen and donkeys and murder the servants; a raging fire devours the sheep and their shepherds; the Chaldeans form raiding parties and carry off the camels, killing the herders; and a storm destroys the house where his children are having a party, killing all ten of them.

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong- doing” (1:20-22).

Satan is still not convinced. When the Lord points out that Job has still retained his integrity, Satan replies, “Skin for skin! …A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face” (2:4-5). God takes up this challenge as well, but lays down one restriction: Job’s life must be spared.

Not knowing what has gone on in the courts of heaven, Job finds himself afflicted with painful sores from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. In complete degradation, he sits in the ash pit and scratches his scabs with a piece of broken pottery. To make his misery infinitely worse, his wife, whose suffering must be not much less than Job’s, throws in the towel: “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9). But Job rebukes her, and reasons, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

The writer concludes: “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (2:10).

The prologue concludes by introducing Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who hear of his suffering and agree “to go and sympathize with him and comfort him” (2:11). In the custom of the day, they display their distress by crying loudly, tearing their robes, and sprinkling dust on their heads. And then they do the wisest thing they could have done, certainly much wiser than all the speeches they will shortly deliver: for seven days and seven nights, they keep silence, awed by the depths of Job’s misery.

That is the substance of the prologue.

But the picture of Job in these two chapters, it is sometimes argued, is so much at variance with the picture of Job in the bulk of the book that it must have come from a different author. Perhaps someone added the great speeches to a fairly simple morality story; or perhaps someone added the morality story to the great flights of oratory recorded in the speeches. But such theories solve nothing, for someone put together the speeches with the prologue and epilogue, and if that person did not detect an insuperable difficulty, then why should we think that an original writer would find an insuperable difficulty? Such source theories, even if right, do not solve the theological problem: the book as we have it stands or falls as a literary whole, for that is the only form in which it has come down to us.

A more subtle explanation of the prologue has recently been advanced by Athalya Brenner (“Job the Pious? The Characterization of Job in the Narrative Framework of the Book,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 43 [1989] 37-52). She argues that both the prologue and the epilogue (42:7-17) are written with self-conscious irony. Although formally they uphold the assumption that good men should be healthy and wealthy, that righteousness “pays” even in this world, and that the final proof is in the closing verses where Job turns out to be better off than he was before he began his ordeal, in fact the writer is so extravagant in his presentation that one has to believe he has his tongue firmly jammed in his cheek. 

The stylized numbers—seven sons, three daughters, seven thousand sheep, and so forth—plus the repeated emphasis on Job’s goodness (1:1, 8; 2:3), even the preemptive sacrifices, all attest that Job is so extravagantly good as to be unbelievable. It is far easier, Brenner argues, to see the prologue and epilogue as exercises in irony. The author is quietly mocking the standard approaches to obedience and blessing, disobedience and punishment. It turns out, therefore, that the prologue and epilogue are not in any tension with the bulk of the book: the author raises questions about unjust suffering, and leaves plenty of room for mystery—whether in the speeches of Job and his friends, including God’s response, or in the profoundly ironic prologue and epilogue.

I confess I am thoroughly unconvinced by this creative interpretation. For a start, it guts the Book of Job, robbing it of any punch. Unless Job really is a very good man and singularly blessed in every realm, the problem of unjust suffering is not made to stand out very acutely. Why blessings are poured out on Job in the end, instead of ending the story at 42:6 with Job’s repentance but with no restoration to health and prosperity, I shall discuss at the end of this article.

Above all, Brenner finds evidence for irony in various stylized forms of expression. But stylized forms of expression can function in other ways than to signal irony. There is a sense in which the entire book is stylized, whether the prologue and epilogue, which are written in prose, or the speeches, written in poetry. The material is presented as a drama; the stylizations are part of the technique to heighten the tension and to present the case in the strongest possible form.

Indeed, as we shall see, the main themes of the prologue and the epilogue, taken at face value, enhance the significance of the book. But before summarizing some of these themes, it is important to pause at chapter 3.

Chapter 3 is the record of Job’s first “speech” (the term sounds terribly formal and pompous for what is, in fact, a lament; but I shall use “speech” to refer to all the lengthy interchanges that run to the end of the chap. 41). It is something of a transition. Like the rest of the speeches, it is written in poetry. Nevertheless, Job does not reply to the charges of his friends, nor does he yet challenge God to explain himself. Chapter 3 is Job’s lament: like Jeremiah (20:14-18), he wishes he had never been born. “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it” (3:3-4).

Job’s lament turns to the unanswerable “whys,” but still more as lament than as angry indignation: “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter soul, to those who long for death that does not come…?” (3:20-21). “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (3:23). Then follows a somewhat astonishing admission: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (3:25-26).

The stage is thus set for the interchanges between Job and his three friends. But before surveying them, it will prove useful to summarize some of the points the book has made so far.

(1) The Book of Job frankly insists that suffering falls within the sweep of God’s sovereignty. The reader understands, as Job does not, that Job’s afflictions owe everything to the exchange between God and Satan. Satan himself recognizes his limitations: he has to secure permission to afflict Job. He charges God with “putting a hedge” around Job to protect him. Only when God grants permission can Satan lash out at Job’s family and livelihood. Even then he must secure separate permission to strike Job’s body.

Intuitively, Job recognizes that nothing of the sort could have happened to him without God’s sanction. He feels trapped, “hedged in”; but he sees that it is God who has hedged him in (3:23). All the while he has enjoyed a hedge around him, protecting him; now that it is gone, he feels hedged in. Even so, he does not rush to the conclusion that an enemy has done this outside God’s sanction. Job asks, rhetorically, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10).

In short, all forms of dualism are radically rejected. Job will not resort to easy comfort about this not really being the will of God: it must be the work of Satan. Of course, it was the work of Satan. But in God’s universe, even Satan’s work cannot step outside the outermost boundaries of God sovereignty. While that is what raises the problem, it is also what promises hope.

(2) The emphasis on Job’s goodness is meant to highlight the fact that there is such a thing as innocent suffering. This means more than that not all suffering is directly related to a specific sin; it means that some suffering in this world is not directly related to any sin. Undoubtedly one can posit indirect connections by appealing to other Scriptures about the fall and the universality of sin. But they do not rob the Book of Job of the point being strongly emphasized: the link between suffering and retribution found in, say, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Romans, is never so mathematically rigid, so sym- metrically precise, as to rule out the kind of suffering this book considers.

Intuitively, we know it is so. When a father rapes his six-year-old daughter, in what conceivable sense is the daughter “responsible”? Of course, her suffering is the result of sin—someone else’s sin. But that is exactly what makes her the innocent victim. 

Doubtless she is not innocent on any absolute scale. Six-year-old girls cannot possibly be innocent on any absolute scale: they take after their parents. But what sin has the girl committed that makes her incestuous rape an appropriate “retribution”?

The losses Job faced were, on the natural plane, the result of a mixture of human malice (the Sabeans, the Chaldeans) and of natural disasters (the fire, the wind). But behind them stood Satan; and behind Satan stood God himself. In a theistic universe, it could scarcely be otherwise, if God is the God described in the Bible. Undoubtedly there were public renegades and socially revolting sinners who, we might have thought, deserved the reverses Job suffered. But they happened to Job, whom God himself puts forward as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Although the Bible insists that all sinners will (eventually) suffer, it does not insist that each instance of suffering is retribution of sin. Doubtless if this were not a fallen world, there would be no suffering; but just because it is a fallen world, it does not follow that there is no innocent suffering.

The Book of Job will not let us off the hook: there is such a thing as innocent suffering.

(3) The degree to which we struggle with this question is likely to be related to the extent of our own sufferings. That Job can say, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (3:25) is not a sign that he did not really trust God, and therefore he got what he deserved: that would subvert the purpose of the entire book—in the third chapter, at that! The purpose of these words, rather, is to show that Job had already thought about these matters. He was no amateur in the things of God. He had thought enough about them to know that, from his own observation, from his own knowledge of God, he could not consider himself exempt from the possibility of disastrous loss. Such loss was what he feared. To that extent, he was prepared for it; probably that prepared mind was also one of the reasons why his initial responses are so entirely noble.

But thinking through the theology of suffering, and resolving in advance how you will respond, however praiseworthy the exercise, cannot completely prepare you for the shock of suffering itself. It is like jumping into a bitterly cold lake: you can brace yourself for the experience all day, but when you actually jump in, the shock to your system will still snatch your breath away.

(4) God does not blame us if in our suffering we frankly vent our despair and confess our loss of hope, our sense of futility, our lamentations about life itself. One cannot read chapter 3 without recalling that God will later excoriate the miserable comforters, but insist that Job himself said right things (42:7).

Of course, it is possible in grief and misery to say the wrong things, to say blasphemous things. Job’s wife is not praised for her counsel: “Curse God and die!” (2:9). But within certain boundaries, yet to be explored, it is far better to be frank about our grief, candid in our despair, honest with our questions, than to suppress them and wear a public front of puffy piety. God knows our thoughts in any case. Whatever “resolution” the Book of Job provides turns on Job’s questions and God’s responses. Without the questions, there would have been no responses.

(5) Already the theme of mystery has intruded. Neither at the beginning of the affliction nor at the end does God tell Job about Satan’s challenge and his own response. Indeed, had he done so, the purpose of the affliction would have been subverted. God’s intent, (the readers know) is to show that a human being can love God, fear God, and pursue righteousness without receiving any prompt reward. This pursuit of God is therefore independent of material comfort; it may be in defiance of material comfort. Satan’s thesis, that all religious interest is ultimately grounded in self-interest, or worse, in mercenary commitment, is thus shown to be false. But Job himself is not permit- ted to see this dimension to his suffering. As far as he is concerned, he faces inscrutable mystery.

(6) That is why Job’s initial lament, and his later questions, must be placed within the right framework. At no point does Job abandon faith in God; at no point does he follow his wife’s advice to curse God. It is precisely because he knows God to be there, and to be loving and just, that he has such a hard time understanding such injustice. Job wrestles with God, he is indignant with God, he challenges God to come before him and provide some answers; but all his struggles are the struggles of a believer. That is why Job can be praised, by God himself, for saying the right things: at least he spoke within the right framework. His miserable friends did not. We shall have occasion to return to this point in the next section, to learn what it tells us today.

Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters (Job 4-31)

Job’s lament is all the encouragement his three friends need to break their silence. The way the drama is set out, each of them—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—have a go at Job, trying to correct his theology and lead him to repentance. After each speaks, Job himself replies. Then the entire cycle is repeated, and starts to be repeated yet again. The third cycle sputters out with a short contribution from Bildad (25:1-6); Zophar never does contribute to the third round. By this time, Job is really indignant, and makes a lengthy speech (chaps. 26-31) that silences his interlocutors without convincing them.

Job and his friends represent deeply entrenched and opposed positions on the questions surrounding Job’s sufferings. To simplify a bit, we may summarize their positions.

(1) Job’s friends offer glib answers and a condemning spirit. The heart of their theo- logical position is summed up by Eliphaz’s question: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (4:7-8).

(2) Job responds with self-justification and hard questions. He is guilty of nothing that can justify such suffering. The readers know this to be true: Job is suffering because God is demonstrating his servant’s spiritual integrity to Satan, not because Job is being punished.

But to feel the weight of their arguments, we need to follow the line of some of their speeches. Eliphaz begins with a sly swipe at Job’s distress. After all, Job has offered advice and help to many others who have suffered. “But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed” (4:5). The charge is more than mere inconsistency, as the next verse shows: there is an ironic suggestion that Job is guilty of rank hypocrisy. “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?” (4:6). By itself, the question could be taken as a form of encouragement, a gentle compliment. But the next verses, already cited, show it is all a trap: “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” And so the question itself becomes rather nasty sarcasm.

Reason alone is not enough for Eliphaz. He claims he learned the truths he enunciates in a vision of the night. The form that appeared to him asked, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (4:17). In itself, of course, the question points to something important: we need to exercise humility when we approach God on these difficult questions. But Eliphaz applies it more strongly. Fools and reprobates are destroyed by God: he is so holy that he devours them while they scramble around in futility. “But if it were I,” suffering as you are, Job, “I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him” (5:8). I would recognize him as the One who is also capable of restoring his people. I would shut my mouth, confess my sin, and plead for his deliverance. “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so doe not despise the discipline of the almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you” (5:17-19). In other words, Job, if you confess your sin, and plead God’s goodness, you will find yourself restored to your former comforts. “We have examined this, and it is true,” Eliphaz rather grandly proclaims. “So hear it and apply it to yourself” (5:27).

But Job will not be put off so easily. For a start, he resents his friends’ lack of com- passion, their winking condescension. “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow” (6:14-15). Job can see through his friends’ unexpressed fears: if the universe is not as ordered as they would like to think it is, then they themselves cannot count on security: “Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid” (6:21). 

His plea is emotional, and pitiable: “But now be so kind as to look at me. Would I lie to your face [i.e., by hiding sins]? Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake” (6:28-29).

Job reviews his sufferings again. All he wants is to die before he is tempted to deny the words of the Holy One (6:10). Eventually, he turns to God and begs for pity: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again” (7:7). But he is not willing to concede that what he is suffering is only fair: “I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (7:11). He begs God to back off, to let him die; his days have no meaning. Why pick on me? he asks, in effect. Why pick on any man in this way (7:17-19)?

Job does not claim sinless perfection. He simply argues that any conceivable sin he may have committed does not justify being made a target of the Almighty. “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (7:20).

All this is too much for Bildad. He cannot rise to the sly poetry of Eliphaz, nor claim any midnight vision in which to ground the authority of his opinion. He simply reiterates, forcefully, the traditional answers. “How long will you say such things?” he asks Job. “Your words are a blustering wind. Does God pervert justice?” (8:2-3).

That is the nub of the problem. Job is so sure he has suffered undeservedly that he is only a whisker from charging God with injustice. It must be, rather, that God is just, and his justice prevails. If you suffer, it is because you deserve it; on the other hand, Bildad assures Job, “if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place” (8:6). Any fool can see the implication: that God has not restored Job to his rightful place proves that Job must be impure, unrighteous. The only alternative is that God is unjust; and that is unthinkable.

With Bildad’s fundamental assumption—that God is just—Job has no quarrel. “Indeed, I know that this is true” (9:2), he protests; he has never denied it. “But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” In its context, this question does not ask how a mortal can be pure or holy before God, but how a mortal can be vindicated before God. Take it as a given that God is just, Job says. But my problem is that in this case I too am just; I am suffering unfairly. But how can I prove it to God? How can I be vindicated before him? “Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?” (9:3-4).

Job’s problem is not that God is simply too distant, but that Job could not win— even though he is quite certain he is suffering innocently. (And again, his readers know he is right on the latter score!) Job himself surveys some of the evidence that attests God’s greatness and concludes:

“How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy” (9:14-15). Indeed, all the references to God’s power can be read another way, Job argues. “Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing. He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason. He would not let me regain my breath but would overwhelm me with misery. If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty? And if it is a matter of justice, who will summon him?” (9:16-19). The evidence of Job’s misery suggests that God is sovereign, all right—and cruel. God is so sovereign that even Job’s speech would be constrained in any trial: “Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me; if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty” (9:20).

Job is not denying that God is sovereign; far from it. “When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,” Job argues, it is God himself who “blindfolds its judges. If it is not he, then who is it?” (9:24). Not for Job some glib theodicy about God simply letting nature take its course, about God not being strong enough or farseeing enough or powerful enough to bring about the good. God is so sovereign that he brings about the bad as well as the good. And that is just the problem: if I also believe that God is just, how can I answer him? “It is all the same; that is why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked’” (9:22).

So Job returns some of the vitriol to his friends. No matter how pure he is, his friends would find him impure: their position demands it. “Even if I washed myself with soap and my hands with washing soda, you would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me” (9:30-31).

Again Job turns from his friends to address God, speaking out in the bitterness of his soul (10:1). “Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?” (10:3), he asks. “Are your days like those of a mortal of your years like those of a man, that you must search out my faults and probe after my sin— though you know that I am not guilty and that no one can rescue me from your hand?” (10:5-7). The truth of the matter, Job insists, is that God gave him life, showed him kindness, and providentially watched over him (10:12), only to set him up for this tragedy. Why bring Job to birth in the first place if God knew he was to end up this way? “Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me” (10:18).

Zophar weighs in. He paints a picture of God in grandiose and transcendent terms. Job’s talk, in his view, is appalling. How dare any mortal tell God, “My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight” (11:4)? Job has been begging God to speak, to provide an explanation. “Oh, how I wish that God would speak,” Zophar agrees, “that he would open his lips against you” (11:5). God is so holy and transcendent, and Job so flawed and sinful, that Job’s suffering is in fact much less than the measure of his guilt. Job’s sin is so great God has forgotten some of it. Can’t Job concede that this unfathomably great God cannot be duped or tricked? “Surely he recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?” (11:11).

Job replies with scorn: “Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” (12:2). He sees through them: “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping” (12:5). “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom” (13:5). If they are going to rabbit on with such rubbish, they should return to the only wisdom they have displayed so far, the wisdom of the first seven days: they should shut up.

Job reiterates several points. None can escape this God; there is plenty of evidence for suffering that has nothing to do with punishment (“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble,” 14:1); Job himself is innocent, and is certain that in a fair trial he would be vindicated (13:18).

The second cycle of speeches begins, and then the third. There is not space here to survey them, not to detail Job’s responses to his “miserable comforters” (16:2). But several things must be said in summary.

(1) Job’s friends have a tight theology with no loose ends. Suffering is understood exclusively in terms of punishment or chastening. There is no category for innocent suffering: in their understand- ing, such a suggestion besmirches the integrity of the Almighty.

(2) Although they are quick to defend God and say many wonderful things about him, their arguments are cast in tones so condescending to Job that one begins to lose patience with them. There is very little hint of compassion, empathy, honest grief. The defense of God can be unbearably hard.

(3) Job’s arguments must not be confused with the atheism of Bertrand Russell, the challenge of David Hume, the theological double-talk of Don Cupitt, or the poetic defiance: “I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my soul!” Job’s speeches are the anguish of a man who knows God, who wants to know him better, who never once doubts the existence of God, who remains convinced, at bottom, of the justice of God—but who cannot make sense of these entrenched beliefs in the light of his own experience.

That is why, in the midst of his confusion and self-justification, Job utters some remarkably assured statements of faith. He is so sure of his case that he wishes he could find someone to arbitrate between himself and God (9:33-35). Of course, this is God’s universe, so he can’t; but the Christian cannot read these words without thinking of the mediatorial role of Jesus. Nor does Job become apostate: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (13:15-16). He is so sure of ultimate vindication that he can say, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10). However difficult the verses in 19:25-27 be translated,3 the least they affirm is that Job is absolutely confident in his final vindication—by God himself.

(4) The final lengthy speech of Job (26:1- 31:40) reiterates many of the themes already developed, but it reaches a new intensity of bitterness. Now Job is not satisfied with hints: he openly charges God with injustice, and he almost savagely defends his integrity: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live” (27:2-6). 

Chapters 29-31 are a moving recital of all the godly things that made up Job’s life in the days before he was afflicted. They bear the most careful reading: would to God I could claim half so much. Job has been honest, generous, disciplined; he rescued the poor, helped the blind, comforted those who mourned; he made a covenant with his eyes “not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1); he was host to countless strangers; he made sure he never rejoiced over the misfortune of another; he never trusted in his own wealth. He frankly feared God (31:23). And he is utterly determined to maintain that his own integrity totally precludes the possibility that his sufferings constitute punishment for sin. As far as he is concerned, confession of sin that he has not committed, just to satisfy his friends and perhaps win some sort of reprieve, would itself be sinful. His integrity is too important to him for that.

(5) Job is therefore not looking for a merely intellectual answer, a merely theological argument. He wants personal vindication by God himself. He wants God to appear and give an account of what He is doing. The drama does not concern an agnostic professor of philosophy; it concerns a man who knows God, who loves and fears God, and whose utter assurance of his own integrity drives him to long for a personal encounter with God that will not merely provide “answers” but will also vindicate the sufferer.

(6) It is important to glance ahead a little. The “three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). They were at an impasse: they could make sense of his suffering only by insisting on his guilt, and he kept insisting on his innocence. But God, after disclosing himself to Job, says to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). Indeed, Job must offer sacrifice and pray for them.

This is remarkable. The three miserable comforters thought they were defending God, and he charges them with saying the wrong things about him. Job defends his own integrity so virulently that he steps over the line now and then and actually charges God with injustice, yet God insists that his servant Job has spoken what is right. Of course, this does not mean that Job’s speeches have been entirely without fault. As we shall see, God charges Job with darkening His counsel “with words without knowledge” (38:2). In the last section of this chapter I shall explore more fully in which ways Job is right and his three friends are wrong. But under any reading of God’s vindication of Job’s discourses, room is made for innocent suffering; a simple theory of retributive justice—punishment proportionate to sin—is inadequate to explain some of the hard cases.

Job and Elihu (Job 32-37)

Chapters 32-37 are among the most interesting, and the most difficult, in the book. They start off by raising our expectations. Elihu, not mentioned until this point, has kept his peace throughout the debate, because the other participants are older than he: custom demanded that age take precedence. But now they fall silent, and Elihu, whose wrath has been stoked by the debate, declares himself angry with both Job and his three friends. He is angry with the three friends, “because they had found no way to refute Job “for justifying himself rather than God” (32:2). And so his lengthy contribution begins.

The remarkable thing about Elihu’s speech is that at the end of the book it is neither praised nor condemned. Some think it adds little, that it simply reiterates the sentiments of the three miserable comforters (e.g., 34:11), and therefore that he ought to be condemned if they are. Some conclude that these chapters must therefore have been added by a later editor.

But a more sympathetic reading of Elihu teases out his contribution, and shows how this young man avoids the opposing pitfalls into which both Job and his comforters have fallen. Perhaps one of the reasons why Elihu does not get a very sympathetic reading in some circles is that he is patently an arrogant and pretentious young man. Probably he is a great wise man in the making, but still far too full of himself and too certain of his opinions. Nevertheless, his main themes prepare the way for the central thrusts of the answer that God himself ultimately gives. If he is not praised, it is because his contribution is eclipsed by what God himself says; if he is not criticized, it is because he says nothing amiss.

We may summarize his argument this way:

(1) Elihu begins with a rather lengthy apology for speaking to his seniors (32:6-22). Among the factors that compel him to speak is his conviction (as he says to Job’s three friends), that “not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments” (32:12). This does not mean he thinks Job is entirely right, as we shall see; but Elihu has carefully distanced himself from the theology of the “miserable comforters.”

(2) When Elihu turns to Job, he first rebukes him for impugning God’s justice (33:8ff.). Job may be innocent (Elihu will come to that in due course), but that does not give him the right to charge God with injustice. There is a sense in which Job himself has been snookered by a simplistic doctrine of mathematically precise retribution. The major difference between Job and his three friends is not their underlying views of retribution, but their views of Job’s guilt or innocence. Because Job is convinced he is innocent, he is pre- pared to skirt the view that God himself is guilty. Elihu will not have it: “But I tell you, in this you are not right” (33:12).

The first reason why Job is not right is that “God is greater than man” (33:12). By this Elihu does not mean to say that greatness provides an excuse for wrongdoing, but that God may well have some purposes and perspectives in mind of which Job knows nothing. However much Job insists he is innocent, he must therefore put a guard on his tongue and refrain from making God guilty.

(3) The second thing Elihu says to Job is that God speaks more often and in more ways than Job acknowledges. “Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?” (33:13). The truth of the matter, Elihu insists, is that “God does speak—now one way, now another— though man may not perceive it” (33:14). He speaks in revelation: in dreams and visions (33:15-18). But God may also speak in the language of pain (33:19ff.). This is an advance on the argument between Job and his friends. Here is a chastening use of suffering that may be independent of some particular sin. Its purpose may be preventative: it can stop a person from slithering down the slope to destruction.

(4) In chapter 34, Elihu is so concerned to defend the justice of God that his rhetoric becomes a little overheated. On the positive side, Elihu is determined to stop Job from charging God with injustice. The proper response to suffering is to accept it: God cannot possibly do wrong. By speaking the way he has, Job has added rebellion to his sin (34:37); “scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”

If Elihu is at times dangerously close to siding with the three miserable comforters, it is here. Certainly he has not empathetically entered into Job’s suffering, or tried to fathom the anguish that leads Job to defend his integrity in such extravagant terms. But Elihu is right to defend the justice of God, and he has advanced the discussion by suggesting that Job’s greatest sin may not be something he said or did before the suffering started, but the rebellion he is displaying in the suffering. Even so, that does not explain the genesis of the suffering. It may, however, prepare Job to be a little more attentive to listen to God when God finally does speak.

In chapter 35, Elihu expressly disavows that Job is innocent. But unlike Eliphaz (22:5-9), he does not compose a list of sins Job must have committed, but challenges Job’s fundamental presumption. To take but one example: Job assumes that when people are oppressed they cry to God for help, and charges that God does not answer. Not so, insists Elihu: one is far more likely to find people crying out “under a load of oppression” and vaguely pleading “for relief from the arm of the powerful” (35:9), but still not praying. They want relief, but do not turn to God and pray. They cry for freedom, “[but] no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker … ?’” (35:10). God does not listen to such empty pleas (35:13). What makes Job think, then, that God will answer him when the assumption underlying his entire approach to God is that God owes him an answer, and may well be guilty of injustice (35:14-16)?

(5) In the last two chapters devoted to Elihu (chaps. 36-37), several themes come together, and Elihu begins to appear in more compassionate guise. The burden of the passage is this: whatever else may be said about the problem of evil and suffering, the justice of God must be the “given”: “I will ascribe justice to my Maker,” Elihu pledges (36:3). But God is not malicious. He does care for his people. Therefore the proper response to suffering we cannot fathom is faith and perseverance; the response to avoid bitterness (for it is the godless who harbor resentment, 36:13). Job is in danger here: “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction” (36:21)—that is, Job must not turn to evil as a way of alleviating his suffering. Be patient, Elihu is saying, “those who suffer [God] delivers in [lit. through] their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food” (36:15-16). Be patient; it is better to be a chastened saint than a carefree sinner.

Job and God (Job 38:1-42:6)

Finally God himself speaks, answering Job out of the storm (chaps. 38-41). “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2-3). There follows question after question, each designed to remind Job of the kinds of thing he cannot do, and that only God can. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (38:4). “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place … ?” (38:12). “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?” (38:22-23). “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” (38:31-32). “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (38:39-41). God then goes on to describe some of the more spectacular features of the mountain goat, the wild donkey, the ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, the eagle. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (40:2).

Job had wanted an interview with the Almighty. He had, as it were, sworn an affidavit demanding that the Almighty appear and put his indictment in writing (31:35). But God’s defense wasn’t quite what Job had in mind. At the first pause, Job answers, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (40:4-5).

But God hasn’t finished yet. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). Then come the most blistering questions: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you” (40:8-14).

It is important to recognize that God does not here charge Job with sins that have brought on his suffering. He does not respond to the “whys” of Job’s suffering, nor does he challenge Job’s defense of his own integrity. The reason he calls Job on the carpet is not because of Job’s justification of himself, but because of Job’s willingness to condemn God in order to justify himself. In other words, God does not here “answer” Job’s questions about the problem of evil and suffering, but he makes it unambiguously clear what answers are not acceptable in God’s universe.

The rest of chapter 40 and all of chapter 41 find God asking more rhetorical questions. Can Job capture and subdue the behemoth (40:15ff.) and leviathan (41:1ff.)? These two beasts may be the hippopotamus and the crocodile, respectively, but they probably also represent primordial cosmic powers that sometimes break out against God. The argument, then, is that if Job is to charge God with injustice, he must do so from the secure stance of his own superior justice; and if he cannot subdue these beasts, let alone the cosmic forces they represent, he does not enjoy such a stance, and is therefore displaying extraordinary arrogance to call God’s justice into question.

Job’s response must be quoted in full (42:2-6), along with two or three explanatory asides: “I know that you can do all things,” Job tells God, “no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowl- edge?’ [38:2]. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me’ [38:3; 40:7]. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you [i.e., Job has come to have a far clearer understanding of God than he had before]. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

What shall we make of this exchange between God and Job? 

Many doubtful interpretations have been put forward by various writers. Because God refers to so many natural phenomena, one writer argues that a major purpose of God’s speech is to tell Job that the beauty of the world must become for him an anodyne to human suffering, a kind of aesthetic aspirin. When one basks in the world’s beauty, one’s problems become petty, “because they dissolve within the larger plan” of the harmony of the universe (For adequate discussion of the difficulties, see John E. Hartley, The Book of Job, NICOT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988] 292-97). But to someone suffering intensely, the beauty of the world can just as easily become a brutal contrast that actually intensifies the suffering. Worse, it does not dissolve pain; rather, it is in danger of “dissolving” the sufferer in some kind of pantheistic sense of the fitness of things. This is surely a massive misunderstanding of God’s response. Not once does God minimize the reality of Job’s suffering.

Others, such as George Bernard Shaw, simply mock God’s answer. Job wants an answer as to why he is suffering, and the best that God can do is brag about making snowflakes and crocodiles. A contemporary author like Elie Wiesel, writing in the aftermath of the Holocaust, holds that Job should have pressed God further. Doubtless Job needed to repent of his attitude, but he still should have pressed God for an answer: Why do the righteous suffer?

Both of these approaches misunderstand the book rather badly. They have this in common: they assume that every- thing that takes place in God’s universe ought to be explained to us. They assume that God owes us an explanation, that there cannot possibly be any good reason for God not to tell us everything we want to know immediately. They assume that God Almighty should be more interested in giving us explanations than in being worshiped and trusted.

The burden of God’s response to Job is twofold. The first emphasis we have already noted: Job has “darkened God’s counsel” by trying to justify himself at the expense of condemning God; and Job is in no position to do that. “God’s speeches show Job that his lowly station point was not the appropriate place from which to judge whether cosmic orders were sufficiently askew to justify the declaration ‘let there be darkness.’” (Stuart Lasine, “Bird’s-eye and Worm’s- eye Views of Justice in the Book of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 42 [1988] 344).

The second emphasis is implicit: if there are so many things that Job does not understand, why should he so petulantly and persistently demand that he understand his own suffering? There are some things you will not understand, for you are not God.

That is why Job’s answer is so appropriate. He does not say, “Ah, at last I understand!” but rather, “I repent.” He does not repent of sins that have allegedly brought on the suffering; he repents of his arrogance in impugning God’s justice, he repents of his attitude whereby he simply demands an answer, as if such were owed him. He repents of not having known God better: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore … I repent” (42:5-6).

To those who do not know God, to those who insist on being God, this out- come will never suffice. Those who do not know God come in time to recognize that it is better to know God and to trust God than to claim the rights of God.

Job teaches us that, at least in this world, there will always remain some mysteries to suffering. He also teaches us to exercise faith—not blind, thoughtless submission to an impersonal status quo, but faith in the God who has graciously revealed himself to us.

Job’s Happy Ending (Job 42:7-16)

These verses may be divided into two parts. The first, which we have already glanced at, reports God’s wrath with Eliphaz and his two friends for not speaking of God what was right, as Job did (42:7-8). They are required to offer sacrifice to God, and Job, whom they have despised and abused, must pray for them, for God will accept his prayers for them (and, by implication, not their own!).

In the second part (vv. 10-17), after Job prays for his friends, the Lord makes him prosperous again. His siblings and acquaintances gather around him and provide gifts, presumably to help him start up again. He sires another family, seven more sons and three more daughters, and gains herds twice the size of what he had before. No women were more beautiful than his daughters, and Job left them an inheritance along with their brothers—further evidence of Job’s com- passionate and enlightened treatment of those traditionally squeezed to the periphery of life (cf. chap. 31). He lived to a ripe old age, seeing his children and their children to the fourth generation. Eventually he died, “old and full of years”—an epitaph reserved for the choicest or most favored of God’s servants (Abraham [Gen 25:8], Isaac [Gen 35:29], David [1 Chron 29:28], and Jehoiada the priest [2 Chron 24:15]).

If some critics are displeased with God’s answer to Job out of the storm, even more are incensed by this “happy ending.” The story, they argue should have ended with Job’s repentance. Whether he was restored is irrelevant; in any case it is untrue to the experience of many, who suffer at length without reprieve. To end the story this way makes the doctrine of retribution basically right after all. The conclusion is therefore anticlimactic at best, contradictory at worst.

This is, I think, a shallow reading of the text. Perhaps the following reflections will help unpack the purpose of this conclusion a little:

(1) We must beware of our own biases. One of the reasons why many people are dissatisfied with this ending is because in the contemporary literary world ambiguity in moral questions is universally revered, while moral certainty is almost as universally despised. The modern mood enjoys novels and plays where the rights and wrongs get confused, where every decision is a mixture of right and wrong, truth and error, where heroes and antiheroes reverse their roles.

Why this infatuation with ambiguity? It is regarded as more mature. Clear-cut answers are written off as immature. The pluralism of our age delights in moral ambiguity—but only as long as it costs nothing. Devotion to contemporary moral ambiguity is extraordinarily self-centered. It demands freedom from God so that it can do whatever it wants. But when the suffering starts the same self-centered focus on my world and my interests, rather ironically, wants God to provide answers of sparkling clarity. 

(2) Throughout his excruciating suffering, Job has demonstrated that he serves the Lord out of a pure heart. True, he has said some stupid things and has been rebuked; but at no point does he simply curse God and turn his back on Him. Even his demand that God present himself be- fore Job and give an answer is the cry of the believer seeking to find out what on earth God is doing. Even while sitting in the ash pit, Job trusts God enough to express extraordinary confidence in him, and for no ulterior motive.

In that sense, God has won his wager with the devil. Job may utter words that darken God’s counsel, but he does not lose his integrity or abandon his God. Is it there- fore surprising that there should be full reconciliation between God and Job? And if the wager has been won, is there any reason for Job’s afflictions to continue?

(3) No matter how happy the ending, nothing can remove the suffering itself. The losses Job faced would always be with him. A happy ending is better than a miserable one, but it does not transform the suffering he endured into something less than suffering. A survivor of the Holocaust has not suffered less because he ultimately settles into a comfortable life in Los Angeles.

(4) The Book of Job has no interest in praising mystery without restraint. All biblical writers insist that to fear the Lord ultimately leads to abundant life. If this were not so, to fear the Lord would be stupid and masochistic. The book does not disown all forms of retribution; rather, it disowns simplistic, mathematically precise, and instant application of the doctrine of retribution. It categorically rejects any formula that affirms that the righteous always prosper and the wicked are always destroyed. There may be other reasons for suffering; rewards (of blessing or of destruction) may be long delayed; knowledge of God is its own reward.

Job still does not have all the answers; he still knows nothing about the wager between God and Satan. He must simply trust God that something far greater was at stake than his own personal happiness. But he has stopped hinting that God is unjust; he has come to know God better; and he enjoys the Lord’s favor in rich abundance once again.

(5) The blessings that Job experiences at the end are not cast as rewards that he has earned by his faithfulness under suffering. The epilogue simply describes the blessings as the Lord’s free gift. The Lord is not nasty or capricious. He may for various reasons withdraw his favor, but his love endures forever.

In that sense, the epilogue is the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. God is just, and will be seen to be just. This does not smuggle mathematical retribution in through the back door. Rather, it is to return, in another form, to the conclusion of chapter 8 of this book.

(6) Although I have repeatedly spoken of God entering into a wager with Satan, or winning his wager with Satan, I have done so to try to capture the scene in the first chapter. But there is a danger in such language: it may sound as if God is capricious. He plays with the lives of his creatures so that he can win a bet.

Clearly that is not true. The challenge to Satan is not a game; nor is the outcome, in God’s mind, obscure. Nothing in the book tells us why God did this. The solemnity and majesty of God’s response to Job not only mask God’s purposes in mystery, but presuppose they are serious and deep, not flighty or frivolous. Nevertheless, the wager with Satan is in certain ways congruent with other biblical themes. God’s concern for the salvation of men and women is part of a larger, cosmic struggle between God and Satan, in which the outcome is certain while the struggle is horrible. This is one way of placing the human dimensions of redemption and judgment in a much larger framework than what we usually perceive.

(7) We are perhaps better situated now to understand precisely why God says that his servant Job spoke of him “what was right,” while the three miserable comforters did not. True, Job is rebuked for darkening the Lord’s counsel: he became guilty of an arrogance that dared to demand that God give an account of his actions. But Job has been genuinely groping for the truth, and has not allowed glib answers to deter him. He denies neither God’s sovereignty nor (at least in most of his statements!) God’s justice. Above all, so far as the wager between God and Satan is concerned, Job passes with flying colors; he never turns his back on God.

Contrast the three friends. Although they are trying to defend God, their reductionistic theology ends up offering Job a temptation: to confess sins that weren’t there, in order to try to retrieve his prosperity. If Job had succumbed, it would have meant that Job cared more for prosperity than for his integrity or for the Lord himself; and the Lord would have lost his wager. Their counsel, if followed, would have actually led Job away from the Lord; Job would have been reduced to being yet one more person interested in seeking God for merely personal gain.

This is, at the end of the day, the ultimate test of our knowledge of God. Is it robust enough that, when faced with excruciating adversity, it may prompt us to lash out with hard questions, but will never permit us to turn away from God? But perhaps it is better to put the matter the other way round: the God who put Job through this wringer is also the God of whom it is said that, with respect to his own people, “he will not let [them] be tempted beyond what [they] can bear. But when [they] are tempted, he will also pro- vide a way out so that [they] can stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13). God could not trust me with as much suffering as Job endured; I could not take it. But we must not think that there was any doubt in God’s mind as to whether he would win his wager with Satan over Job!

When we suffer, there will sometimes be mystery. Will there also be faith?

*Article adapted from Chapter 9 of the outstanding book: How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil by Dr. D.A. Carson. Grand Rapids: MI., Baker, 2006.

About the Author: D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in Canada and the United Kingdom. Carson received the Bachelor of Science in chemistry from McGill University, the Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto, and the Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament from the University of Cambridge. Carson is an active guest lecturer in academic and church settings around the world. He has written or edited about sixty books. He is a founding member and currently president of The Gospel Coalition.

A Lesson on Suffering From the Book of Job

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The Problem of Suffering in the Book of Job

By *Dr. R.K. Harrison

It is almost a truism to state that one of the most urgent problems of this day and age which confronts the social responsibilities of Christianity is that of disease and suffering, and that there is an immediate need for a re-interpretation and greater understanding of that age-old problem, and of its spiritual implications. Nevertheless, it still remains true that there is probably nothing which has quite so telling and far-reaching an effect on the religious convictions of an individual than the incidence of personal suffering, whether as a result of disease or not. The annals of history teem with persons of otherwise mature action who have discarded their religious convictions because after what seems to them sincere and honest efforts to evaluate the situation, they have been unable to reconcile the depth, extent and apparent injustice of suffering in the world generally, and in particular as they themselves have been affected.

Against this, however, it is necessary to set the multitudes who have plumbed the depths of human suffering, and who have emerged from that experience with a vastly wider conception of the scheme of things, enriched and ennobled by the dominant spiritual tone which has supplied for them a means of probing the mystery. To arrive at such a frame of mind posits an experience which calls for some explanation, and which will be considered subsequently in this paper. At this stage it is enough to point out that the problem is one of immense proportions, and that it occupies an important place in human life.

Our own generation has witnessed the attack on the problem by a vast concentration of scientific forces, spurred on by the urgency of discovering timely and practicable solutions to the issues involved. Neither money nor material has been lacking, and the question of suffering, particularly that aspect of it which is exhibited in the development and dissemination of disease, has challenged the best efforts of highly skilled men and women. For that reason it is vitally important that we should be able to offer to humanity an interpretation of the situation in terms of Christian experience which is fully cognizant of and sympathetic towards the scientific movement.

This is of particular significance for the clergy, since it is clear that a pastor who has not faced up realistically to the implications of the whole problem of suffering and disease is hardly likely to be able to meet the needs of his people. The sober fact is that in so many cases the incapacity of the minister in this direction produces in his people a conviction that the problem is completely beyond his powers of attack and solution, and in despair they turn elsewhere for advice which should have been his prerogative to give. If they are exploited in the process, the problem is only deepened as far as they are concerned.

We must make clear at this point that in a discussion of the problem of suffering we are not dealing with something which is of passing moment, or which is an isolated concern. We can never come to any understanding of the spiritual significance of the issue of suffering unless we are clear regarding our views of the nature of God, the purpose of life, and the relation between them. So many of the wrong conclusions presented for our consideration from time to time are the result of muddled thinking based on untrue or only partially correct premises.

Because the problem is at once age-old and deeply theological, we can perhaps most conveniently consider it in relation to its profoundest Biblical expression in the Book of Job, where the human and divine aspects of the issue are clearly set forth. That this book is no casual exposition of family fortunes in antiquity, but rather a statement of timeless significance regarding the entire issue, has been recognized by commentators for centuries. What is not always made clear, however, is the precise and apposite manner in which the book deals with a problem which has perplexed man from earliest times, and which we shall endeavor to expound.

We are introduced in the book to a patriarch in the land of Uz, a prosperous landowner with a large, happy family. His performance of those religious duties which are his portion through the call of duty and the prompting of conscience is punctilious and exact. His relationships with his family and friends exhibit marks of love and respect of an order rare in our own day. Life for him is very pleasant, and his righteousness, of which he is very conscious, has indeed been acknowledged by God.

But then we are given a glimpse behind the scenes of this drama, where the adversary is in conference with the Almighty, and where the depth and the sincerity of Job is called into question by being equated with decency and respectability which in reality is designed to further his own ends in life. The prose introduction with which the book opens, depicts God as allowing the adversary to test Job by affliction and suffering without his person being harmed. When all this takes place it is borne with exemplary courage and fortitude, and it makes no appreciable impact upon the faith of Job. So far, it appears, the adversary has failed in his testing. He avows that the “success” of Job was due to the fact that the suffering has not affected his own person, and is granted permission by God to send upon Job acute personal plagues.

Exactly what the affliction was which troubled Job is not clear. The word for “boil” (shĕchin) is elsewhere rendered by “sore” or (inflamed) ulcer, as in the Egyptian plagues which “broke forth with blains upon man and upon beasts”. It may have been the “botch of Egypt”, where the same Hebrew word is used to describe a swelling or eruptive discoloration of the skin, and this may have been similar to the cutaneous symptoms of elephantiasis or “black leprosy”.

At all events we see the formerly happy and successful man oppressed by a series of misfortunes, culminating in personal affliction and intense suffering, happening without any apparent reason and completely beyond human control. As we well realize, this pattern of events is constantly being re-enacted, and this factor gives the book its timeless nature and appeal. One very significant point for our later discussion is that we see clearly depicted in the book the fact that even worse to Job than the incidence of physical agony was the mental distress which he underwent, his agonized grappling with the problem of the rationale of things―why this should happen to him of all people. In the ensuing speeches made by Job and his friends, Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz, we see the essence of the message which the book has for us regarding the problem of suffering and disease.

The friends whose observations occupy a considerable proportion of the book came in traditional Oriental manner to sit with him and to comfort him in his affliction and loss. As the discourses unfold, they are represented as being sympathetic towards Job, but it becomes increasingly clear that they are concerned primarily in maintaining their own religious position. For them the matter is so simple that it makes further discussion superfluous. Job is a sinner, and as a result is being punished by God for his iniquity. This standpoint is stated with such obvious sincerity by Job’s friends that their remarks smack of self-satisfaction and naive smugness.

Even the opening speech of Eliphaz, which is not particularly controversial, and which presents his views in a mild and generalized manner, seems to indicate that for him also there is no real problem. There is no real “giving” of the self to the situation, no proper appreciation of the tragedy which has beset Job, no real sympathy for the man himself. It is clear that the weight, the mystery and the intensity of the problem escapes them completely. At best they can only assert that the way of the transgressor is hard, and when Job has at last convinced them by voluble protest and reasoned assurance that he is completely innocent of any fault of which he is aware that may have resulted in the suffering and affliction, his friends are hurt and shocked.

The reason for this latter state of mind is not hard to find. The assertions which Job makes evidently threaten the security of their implied confidence and full understanding of the problem which has arisen. The debate becomes more and more heated, which only goes to prove that the real concern of the friends was to alleviate the emotional shock and upset which they themselves had sustained, rather than to help Job in his troubles. For his part, Job speaks in a direct and vivid manner, but there is no direct arraignment of God, even when he is tempted to do so by his wife. In actual fact this standpoint is probably the crux of the entire position which we are studying.

At this juncture a new figure comes on the scene in the person of Elihu. He gives deference to the opinions of the three friends, but rebukes them for their shallowness and lack of feeling. He points out that afflictions are designed for the good of the sufferer, even though they may not be the direct result of transgression. Job is reproved for trying to justify himself rather than God, and the divine character is vindicated. In particular, Job is criticized for his lack of faith and inability to comprehend the nature of the spiritual forces at work in this situation. This is the essence of Elihu’s discourse.

It is followed by a theophany, the judgment of Jehovah on the matter under consideration. Job is upbraided for his preoccupation with his own afflictions and his lack of appreciation of the greatness and magnificence of Jehovah by contrast with the insignificance of men. The comforters, too, come in for their share of criticism because they have exhibited shallowness of thought on the one hand, and yet on the other they have been so presumptuous as to convey the impression that they had final and detailed knowledge concerning the deeper things of God and of human life.

Job acknowledges his shortcomings and intercedes for his friends, who are thereby themselves saved from punishment. It is clear that he has entered into a new and deeper spiritual relationship with God, manifesting itself in a more comprehensive vision of life. The book closes with a note concerning the restoration of the original state of prosperity, with further material blessings added.

From this outline of the contents it is possible for us to draw some inferences which are basic to a discussion of the problems involved. In the first place we must recognize that the book is not merely a tale of human fortitude under affliction, which is the most that some commentators have seen in it. The book in fact constitutes a theodicy, a justification of the ways of God with men. But if the Deity is taken as the dominating figure in the drama, the meaning tends to become obscured. It would appear that the book is more concerned with the intrinsic nature of man than in revealing the inner workings of the divine plan, which it is not usually given to man to know. It is enough for him that the sequences of life should help to shape a true, loyal and submissive spirituality. In short, suffering was shown to be a necessary factor in the development of spiritual maturity, and it has remained so to this day.

It is important for us to realize that the problem which the book presents is depicted as deep and profound, with an obvious element of the mysterious coloring the entire proceedings. For that reason, if for none other, it cannot be effectively dismissed by a smart answer or a knowing wink. It goes to the very bottom of the cauldron of strivings, conflicts and desires which have so profound a part to play in the expression of the human personality. The arguments of the three friends of Job are characteristic of the shallow thought of much contemporary spirituality, and inadequate for the very good reason that they are not based on a discernment of the force of the problem and its implications for humanity.

The basic teaching, then, is quite evident. The suffering inflicted upon Job was in no sense a punishment for sin. God is not whimsical, vindictive or capricious, but acts according to an ordered sequence. The effect of the suffering in this case was a transformation of the entire mental outlook of Job, a new knowledge of God, a new perspective on life, influenced and directed by the realization of the insignificance of man as compared with the greatness and majesty of the Almighty. We might in fact say that the spiritual benefits which accrued to him were nothing less than a complete readjustment of his sense of eternal values, a conversion in the best sense, a profound deepening of his spiritual life.

One of the lessons which we learn from the Book of Job is startlingly modern in its implications. It is evident that there is practically no suffering which can be called exclusively physical, and similarly there is very little which can be designated as specifically mental or spiritual. We are living today in times which are witnessing the exodus of what had been called “machine-age medicine”, in which the affected organ was treated, frequently without reference to the patient as a person, with the obvious tendency of isolating disorders with reference to a particular organ, and then applying either symptomatic treatment or radical surgical procedures, all of which carefully excluded the sense of “wholeness” or unity which the individual manifests in the ordinary way.

In place of this outmoded therapy we see the progress of the psychosomatic concept, the view that there is an intimate connection between emotional conflict and physical illness. Modern psychological and psychiatric investigation has revealed that there is a close link between emotional conflict or derangement and physical illness, and this discovery only serves to reinforce the conclusions reached long ago in Scripture that man is a personality rather than a mere body. It follows that when emotional conflicts exist within the personality, their expression is often in terms of what has been styled “organ language”, that is to say, a particular organ begins to display indications of a pathological condition when at first no somatic pathology is present. Hence the psychogenic factor is a matter of immediate and pressing concern in the vast majority of illnesses, bringing the physical and mental aspects of the affliction into close association.

As a general rule, mental suffering results from the conflict of conscious and unconscious forces, and often this is heightened and brought into clear focus by the lack of integration or wholeness in the personality. It is a startling fact that many disease-syndromes have their genesis in part or in whole within this lack of personal integration. Through organ-language the conflicts of the emotions and the personality may be consciously alleviated, though this development cannot be considered in any sense as an advance, since one form of bad health is merely replacing another one.

Space does not permit us to examine in detail at this point the significance of the above comments for the problem of suffering. Suffice it to say, however, that modern scientific investigation clearly supports the assertion that mental, emotional and often spiritual factors are frequently basic in disease. The clinical demonstration of the unconscious mind and its manifestations by Sigmund Freud has paved the way for extensions of scientific knowledge in this regard, and has thrown new light on the very problem with which we are concerned. The existence of conflict in the individual nature as described by modern investigators is very reminiscent of the Pauline introspection which confessed that “it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me… the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans vii. 17 ff.). The conflict here could easily be interpreted as having physical manifestations.

It will be seen from the above that the manner in which spiritual and emotional elements were compounded in the suffering of Job has its counterpart in more recent times. Let us go a step further. The healing of the “disturbance” in the personality of Job and the creation of his new relationship to God, issuing in a more profound state of spiritual mastery, made the reintegration of his personality as a whole possible. Such a step is a necessary prerequisite for successful therapy of much of modern disease which is rooted in conflict and disturbance of the personality.

With this background we may attempt to examine the goal of our efforts with respect to this awesome problem of suffering. Here one must say immediately that such suggestions must be of a tentative nature, since we are very far from proper possession of even some of the facts, let alone of them all. A glib answer one way or the other satisfies neither the sufferer nor the one who is endeavoring to bring treatment to bear upon him, and the problem must be faced up to honestly and sincerely for the best results to be obtained. But if suffering has mental, emotional and spiritual implications along with the characteristic physical manifestations, and if the re-integration of the

personality is the most effective attack upon the problem, we must be careful to draw up the very best method or technique for this renewal of a consciousness of “wholeness”.

In the case of Job, the re-integration took the form of an improvement in his relationships with God through his re-assimilation and consequent revision of the truths of the divine nature as experienced in relationship to the nature of man. This could never have been achieved through a sustained attempt to instruct the intellect alone, as is evident in the failure of his friends’ logic to make the desired impress. For integration to be realized it was necessary for a total redirection of the personality to take place.

Surely this significant fact throws a good deal of light on our modern problem of suffering. Is it not just as true to-day as in the time of Job that this re-integration is necessary? Do not the people of our own day stand in desperate need of a consciously realized power and love which is able to cast out not merely fear―which plays a large part in all mental conflict―but also the repressions, maladjustments of personality, phobias and psychoses which are so common at the present? Though our answer to all these questions may well be an avowed affirmative, there must accompany it the realization that we are not thereby proposing any simple solution to the issue, nor are we by that means dissipating in any way whatever the force, depth and the unpredictable nature of suffering itself. The advantage of this standpoint is that we are presented with a pattern for our efforts at reaching the goal, and we have now arrived at the point where we may conveniently consider the techniques by which this re- integration may be best achieved.

Let us for the first time introduce into our discussion the term “maturity” as being for our purposes an improvement on the term “integration”. Maturity, as we all recognize, refers to the ability of an individual to accept himself for what he is, in full recognition of his own limitations and deficiencies in various areas of life. In a spiritual sense it implies the possession of realistic goals for living, having regard to the fact that man is a child of God, and that the spiritual content of human nature posits a certain amount of reciprocity between man and God. There are a number of other commonly accepted criteria for maturity, but the above general delineation is adequate for the purposes of this article.

Now in order to reach this stage of maturity, the experience of some pattern of suffering is generally necessary. The mental mechanisms of defense which we employ in painful or unpleasant situations must be exposed, and in order to do this some form of suffering, often physical as well as mental, is frequently necessary. Nor is this question of maturity merely personal in its implications. Because man is a social organism, it is necessary for the familial relationships to be examined carefully in order to avoid a lack of clarity between familial and divine allegiances.

On the alleviation of mental suffering, we may observe that the conflict which exists within the individual may be disentangled carefully by a skilled and sympathetic therapist, who will probably employ one or other of the modern counseling techniques to this end. But we must also remark that the very same result can be achieved by the spontaneous sympathy of a warm-hearted untrained friend. If the approach of the sufferer to God is to be mature, this type of thing is usually all that is necessary for a redirection of the personality, and its opening to the healing and consoling forces of God. The majority of ministers who undertake this latter role cannot claim such training as is the lot of the psychiatrist, nor indeed would such be desirable. What is important is the possession of a sympathetic appreciation of the situation, and of the issues involved in the individual personality alone, to say nothing of extraneous factors which are not infrequently concomitants of suffering.

The final consideration is that this maturity or integration must be achieved through a conscious deepening of the relationship with God, and at this point the therapeutic power of the Christian Gospel is very much in evidence. Integration other than on this basis is not really integration at all, and whilst the ills of the personality may be palliated by other means, it still remains true that the climax of maturity must come, as it did for Job, in the deepening of the spiritual life, for which the Gospel of the Risen Christ is the only specific. Upon this step the value and permanence of the whole sequence depends, and it is at this point that the minister can bring his own experience of Christ to bear upon the situation so that a realistic conversion results, thereby opening the way for progressive deepening of the spiritual life in “after-care”. The act of faith or complete reliance upon God is the mark of integration, and prayer will also play a significant part in the entire process.

We have seen something of the vastness of the problem of suffering, the relation which the Book of Job has to it, and the manner in which the basic principles exemplified in that book may be related to modern knowledge and its more practical application to suffering. That this application is of special importance will probably be agreed by all, and it is certainly a challenge to the ministry of the Christian Church to perform more of those works without which its faith is dead.

About the author: R. K.Harrison (1920-1993) studied at the University of London (B.D., 1943; M.Th., 1947, Ph.D., 1952) and taught at Clifton College, Bristol from 1947 to 1949, before his appointment as Hellmuth Professor of Old Testament Studies at Huron College, University of Western Ontario. In 1960 he became Professor of Old Testament Studies at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, where he stayed until his retirement in 1986.

Harrison was best known for his Introduction to the Old Testament (1969) but wrote many other books, including commentaries on Leviticus (ISBN 184474258X) and Jeremiah and Lamentations (ISBN 0830842217). He was on the Executive Review Committee of the New King James Version, and translated several of the Minor Prophets in the New International Version. Together with Merrill Unger, he edited The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.

In 1988, a Festschrift was published in his honor, Israel’s apostasy and restoration: essays in honor of Roland K Harrison (ISBN 0801038308). Edited by Avraham Gileadi, it included contributions by Clarence Hassell Bullock, Eugene Merrill and Bruce Waltke.

*The article above has been adapted from R.K. Harrison, “The Problem of Suffering and the Book of Job,” The Evangelical Quarterly 25.1 (1953): 18-27. See also: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/

Is God Responsible for Natural Disasters?

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Why let the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes. ~ Psalm 115:2-3

BY *DR. ERWIN LUTZER

I’m told that after an earthquake in California a group of ministers met for a prayer breakfast. As they discussed impassable expressways and ruined buildings, they agreed that God had very little to do with the disaster. They concluded that since the earth is under the Curse from Creation, earthquakes and other natural disasters simply happen according to laws of nature. But even after they made that conclusion, one of the ministers closed in prayer, thanking God for the timing of the earthquake that came at five o’clock in the morning when there were fewer people out on the roads.

So did God have anything to do with that earthquake or didn’t He? How can a person conclude that God is not involved and then thank Him for His involvement? It can’t be both ways.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes. Our earth is not immune to disasters. So how does God fit in? Intuitively, people know God is in charge. When tragedy strikes, people call out to Him. We know that when something is outside of our control, we need to call upon a higher power for help. But if people intuitively know that God is in charge, how do we explain the heart-wrenching suffering that accompanies such disasters?

Who Is Responsible?

There’s no doubt about it—natural disasters aren’t very good for God’s reputation. As a result, many Christians try to absolve Him of any and all responsibility for these horrific events. They want to “get Him off the hook” in order to help Him maintain His loving image. Some do this by saying that God is weak—He can’t really stop these disasters from happening, but He will work really hard to bring something good out of them. Others try to give the devil all the blame, saying God is not involved at all in any of the bad things that happen—He’s just a bystander.

Is God Weak?

Let’s begin with people who try to protect God’s reputation by claiming that He is unable to prevent our planet from getting pounded by one calamity after another. These folks fear that if we say God is responsible for natural disasters or that He allows them because of a higher purpose, we will drive people away from the Christian faith. “Why would people want to come to a God who would do such horrible things?” they ask. When we glibly say that “God will bring good out of it” or that “in the end we win,” it does little to comfort those who have lost loved ones or possessions in a disaster.

I agree that glib statements about suffering being part of God’s plan will not immediately comfort the grieving. In fact, it probably is true that giving such answers without any compassion or understanding could indeed drive people away from God rather than toward Him. As Christians, we do need to be very careful what we say to those who are grieving from great loss. Sometimes it is best to remain silent, not pretending that we have the right to speak on God’s behalf, but to act benevolently on His behalf instead. I will talk more about this later in this chapter.

To take the approach that God is weak, unable to handle the forces of nature, is to believe that God is finite. If it is true that God is not all-powerful and must deal with natural disasters as best as He can after they happen, how can a God like that be trusted? If God is helpless in the face of a hurricane, how confident can we be that He can one day subdue all evil? To believe that God is finite might get Him off the hook for natural disasters, but it also puts end-time victories in jeopardy. The Bible does not describe a weak God, however. In fact, just the opposite. God is omnipotent—all-powerful. Consider just a sampling of Scripture that focuses on God’s power over His creation:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:1

“You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength. You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations.” ~ Psalm 65:6-7

“The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours; everything in the world is yours—you created it all. You created north and south. Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon praise your name. Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.” ~ Psalm 89:11-13

“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” ~ Isaiah 40:26

[Jesus] got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.” ~ Matthew 8:26

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” ~ Romans 1:20

It would be strange indeed if the God who created the world were unable to control it. To describe God as too weak to handle natural disasters doesn’t help God’s reputation, it doesn’t get Him off the hook, and it isn’t biblical. The answer to the question, “Is God weak?” is a resounding no! God is all-powerful and completely able to control nature.

 Are Disasters the Devil’s Fault?

The second way some Christians try to exempt God from involvement in natural disasters is to simply blame everything on the devil. God is not responsible for what happens, they say. He created the world and lets it run; nature is fallen, and Satan, who is the god of this world, wreaks havoc with the natural order.

Scripture clearly tells us that nature is under a curse just as people are: “The ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it” (Genesis 3:17). It follows, then, that Satan might indeed be involved in natural disasters. We have an example of this in the book of Job, when God gave Satan the power to destroy Job’s children. Acting under God’s direction and within certain set limitations, Satan used lightning to kill the sheep and the servants and a powerful wind to kill all ten of Job’s children (Job 1). Clearly the devil takes great pleasure in causing havoc and destruction. Take a moment to look at the wretched life of the demon-possessed man before Jesus commanded the legion of demons to leave him. The Gospel of Luke describes him as homeless and naked, living in a cemetery, shrieking, breaking chains and shackles, completely alone, and without hope (Luke 8:26-29). This is a snapshot of Satan’s ultimate goal for living things. Here is proof, if proof is needed, that satanic powers might indeed be connected to the natural disasters that afflict our planet.

So if the devil is involved, does this mean that God is removed from Does He really have a “hands-off policy” when it comes to disasters? Does this absolve God of responsibility? Is it all the devil’s fault? Clearly the answer to all of these questions is no. God has not relegated calamities to His hapless archrival the devil without maintaining strict supervision and ultimate control of nature. No earthquake comes, no tornado rages, and no tsunami washes villages away but that God signs off on it.

But that conclusion creates its own set of questions…

So What Does It Mean That God Is in Control?

If God isn’t too weak to deal with His creation, and if we cannot put all the blame on Satan, then where does that leave us? It leaves us with the fact that God is all-powerful and in control—and that applies to natural disasters. We must think carefully at this point.

We must distinguish between the secondary cause of disastrous events and their ultimate cause. The secondary cause of the lightning and the wind that killed Job’s children was the power of Satan. But follow carefully: it was God who gave Satan the power to wreak the havoc. It was God who set the limits of what Satan could or could not do. In effect, God said, “Satan, you can go this far, no further. I’m setting the boundaries here.” That’s why Job, quite rightly, did not say that the death of his children was the devil’s doing. Instead, Job said, “The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21).

Scientifically speaking, we know that the secondary cause of an earthquake is due to a fault beneath the earth’s crust; the top of the earth’s crust moves in one direction while the levels under the earth’s crust gradually move in the opposite direction. The secondary causes of a tornado are unstable atmospheric conditions combined with warm, moist air. The secondary cause of a hurricane is a large air mass heated and fueled by the warmth of the ocean. All of these weather patterns might or might not receive their momentum from Satan, yet we can be sure that the ultimate cause of these events is God. He rules through intermediate causes and at times by direct intervention, but either way, He is in charge. After all, He is the Creator, the Sustainer, of all things. We sing with Isaac Watts,

There’s not a plant or flower below,

But makes Thy glories known;

And clouds arise, and tempests blow,

By order from Thy throne.

So what does it mean for us that God is in control, even when natural disasters occur? How do we begin to process this?

First, many theologians who agree that God is in charge of nature emphasize that God does not decree natural disasters but only permits them to happen. Understanding the difference between these words is helpful, especially since in the book of Job God permitted Satan to bring about disasters to test Job. However, keep in mind that the God who permits natural disasters to happen could choose to not permit them to happen. In the very act of allowing them, He demonstrates that they fall within the boundaries of His providence and will. The devil is not allowed to act beyond the boundaries God sets.

Second—and this is important—God is sometimes pictured as being in control of nature even without secondary or natural causes. When the disciples were at their wits’ end, expecting to drown in a stormy sea, Christ woke up from a nap and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” The effect was immediate: “Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). Christ could have spoken similar words to the tidal wave in Papua New Guinea or the rain that triggered the mudslides in Venezuela, and they would have obeyed Him. At the word of Christ, the tsunami in Southeast Asia would have ended before it hit the coastlines. Notice how the Scriptures credit tidal waves and tsunamis to God: “The LORD’s home reaches up to the heavens, while its foundation is on the earth. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The LORD is his name!” (Amos 9:6).

Third, if the heavens declare the glory of God, if it is true that the Lord reveals His character through the positive side of nature, doesn’t it make sense that the calamities of nature also reveal something about Him too? If nature is to give us a balanced picture of God, we must see His judgment, too. “The LORD does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths. He causes the clouds to rise over the whole earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:6-7).

God’s Signature

After the tsunami in Southeast Asia, a supposed Christian cleric was asked whether God had anything to do with the disaster. “No,” he replied. “The question as to why it happened demands a geological answer, not a theological answer.” Is he reading the same Bible I am? Or has he read the Bible and simply chosen not to believe it?

Who sent the Flood during the time of Noah? God said, “I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die” (Genesis 6:17). God determined the timing, the duration, and the intensity of the rain. And it happened according to His word. It would have been difficult to convince Noah that God had nothing to do with the weather, that all He could do was weep when the Flood came.

Who sent the plagues on Egypt? Who caused the sun to stand still so that Joshua could win a battle? Who first sealed the heavens and then brought rain in response to Elijah’s prayer? Who sent the earthquake when the sons of Korah rebelled against Moses? This event recorded in the Bible is of special interest:

[Moses] had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed the men, along with their households and all their followers who were standing with them, and everything they owned. So they went down alive into the grave, along with all their belongings. The earth closed over them, and they all vanished from among the people of Israel (Numbers 16:31-33).

Can anyone say that God is not the ultimate cause of these disasters? In the story of Jonah, the biblical writer leaves no doubt as to who caused the storm that forced the sailors to throw the stowaway overboard. “The LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart” (Jonah 1:4, italics added). The sailors agonized about unloading their unwanted cargo, but we read that they “picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!” (Jonah 1:15). It appears that the Bible is not as concerned about God’s reputation as some theologians are. It puts God clearly in charge of the wind, the rain, and the calamities of the earth.

What do all these stories have in common? Notice that God is meticulously involved. Whether an earthquake, a raging wind, or a rainstorm, the events came and left according to God’s word. In addition, many of these calamities were acts of judgment by which God expressed how much He hated disobedience. In Old Testament times, these judgments generally separated godly people from wicked people (this is not the case today, as we shall see in the next chapter). However, even back then, sometimes the godly were also victims of these judgments. Job’s children were killed not because they were wicked, but because God wanted to test their father.

On the other hand, we should also note that in both the Old and New Testaments God sometimes sent a natural disaster to help His people. During a battle when Saul’s son Jonathan killed a Philistine, we read, “Then panic struck the whole [enemy] army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God” (1 Samuel 14:15, NIV, italics added). And in the New Testament, an earthquake delivered Paul and Silas from prison: “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” (Acts 16:25-26). Both of these earthquakes had God’s signature on them. God uses nature to do His bidding. Directly or indirectly, He can cause an earthquake to happen at five in the morning. God does as He wills.

Is Our God Really Good?

If God is the ultimate cause of all things and if He does as He wills on this earth—including with nature and natural disasters—can we put the blame on Him for the evil and suffering that these disasters cause? How can God be good when He permits (or does) things that seem so destructive and hurtful to human beings? Surely if we had the power to prevent an earthquake, if we could have stopped the tsunami, we would have done so.

Natural disasters are not “evil” in the usual sense of the word. If a tsunami took place in the middle of the ocean and did not affect any people, we would not think of it as evil. It’s when humans are affected, and when death and suffering occur, that such disasters become “evil.”

In light of what I’ve said, should God be blamed for such destructive disasters that create unfathomable human suffering? The word blame implies wrongdoing, and I don’t believe such a word should ever be applied to God. But even asking if God is responsible for natural disasters also might not be best, since the word responsibility usually implies accountability, and God is accountable to no one: “Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes” (Psalm 115:3).

Let’s begin by agreeing that God plays by a different set of rules. If you were standing beside a swimming pool and watched a toddler fall in and did nothing to help, you could be facing a lawsuit for negligence. Yet God watches children drown—or, for that matter, starve—every day and does not intervene. He sends drought to countries in Africa, creating scarcity of food; He sends tsunamis, wiping out homes and crops.

We are obligated to keep people alive as long as possible, but if God were held to that standard, no one would ever die. Death is a part of the Curse: “You were made from dust, and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). What for us would be criminal is an everyday occurrence for God.

Why the difference? God is the Creator; we are the creatures. Because God is the giver of life, He also has the right to take life. He has a long-term agenda that is much more complex than keeping people alive as long as possible. Death and destruction are a part of His plan. “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote that natural disasters prove that God cannot be both good and all-powerful. If He were, suffering and happiness would be carefully meted out to all people, each person getting exactly what he or she deserved. Since natural disasters appear to be random, affecting both good and evil people, God therefore cannot be both good and all-powerful. Mill forgets, however, that we don’t receive our final rewards and punishments in this life. Indeed, the Scriptures teach that the godly often endure the most fearful calamities. God always acts from the standpoint of eternity rather than time; His decisions are made with an infinite perspective. Therefore, it comes down to this: we believe that God has a good and all-wise purpose for the heartrending tragedies disasters bring.

Speaking of the earthquake in Turkey that took thousands of lives, pastor and author John Piper says, “[God] has hundreds of thousands of purposes, most of which will remain hidden to us until we are able to grasp them at the end of the age” (John Piper, “Whence and Why?” World Magazine, September 4, 1993, 33). God has a purpose for each individual. For some, His purpose is that their days on earth end when disaster strikes; for the survivors there are other opportunities to rearrange priorities and focus on what really matters. The woman who said she lost everything but God during Hurricane Katrina probably spoke for thousands of people who turned to Him in their utter despair. God does not delight in the suffering of humanity. He cares about the world and its people: “But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). God does not delight in the death of the wicked but is pleased when they turn from their wicked ways (Ezekiel 18:23). We finite beings cannot judge our infinite God. He is not obligated to tell us everything He is up to. As Paul described it, the clay has no right to tell the potter what to do (Romans 9:19-21). It is not necessary for us to know God’s purposes before we bow to His authority. And the fact that we trust God even though He has not revealed the details is exactly the kind of faith that delights His heart. “It is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:6). In chapter 5 we shall see that this sovereign God has given us reasons to trust Him. Faith will always be necessary, but our faith has strong supports. We do not believe clever fables but rather a credible account of God’s will, God’s power, and God’s dealings with us in the Bible.

Responding to the Hurting with Compassion

The God who created the laws of nature and allows them to “take their course” is the very same God who commands us to fight against these natural forces. Before the Fall, God gave Adam and Eve the mandate to rule over nature. After the Fall, the mandate continued even though the ground would yield thorns and thistles and childbearing would mean struggling with pain. The desire to live would become the fight to live.

We’ve seen it over and over—the relentless compassion of people reaching out to help others who have been faced with calamity. People offer money, goods, services, and their time and labor to bring aid where it is most needed. Charitable giving to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief set a record for mobile-generated donations, raising seven million dollars in twenty-four hours when Red Cross allowed people to send ten-dollar donations by text messages (Doug Gross, “Digital Fundraising Still Pushing Haiti Relief,” CNN, January 15, 2010, http://articles.cnn.com/2010-01-15/tech/online.donations.haiti_1_earthquake-haiti-haiti-relief-twitter-andfacebook?_s=PM:TECH). This is when God’s glory shines through even in the darkest times.

God uses nature both to bless and challenge us, to feed and instruct us. He wants us to fight against the devastation of natural disasters, even as we fight against the devil, so that we might become overcomers in this fallen world. Although nature is under God’s supervision, we are invited to fight disease and plagues.

We can and should strive for better medical care and clean water and food for the starving in Third World countries. We should be willing to help those who are in distress—even at great personal risk.

Martin Luther, when asked whether Christians should help the sick and dying when the plague came to Wittenberg, said that each individual would have to answer the question for himself. He believed that the epidemic was spread by evil spirits, but added, “Nevertheless, this is God’s decree and punishment to which we must patiently to which we must patiently submit and serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner John the apostle teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’” (1 John 3:16 and for more on Martin Luther see Timothy Lull, ed., Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1989, 744).

In recent years, the news media have carried stories of virulent flu viruses that have infected humans in epidemic proportions. Some Christians might wonder if they should help those who are sick, risking their own lives for the sake of others. Disasters such as these make Luther’s comments about Wittenberg plague relevant. Martin Luther continued:

If it be God’s will that evil come upon us, none of our precautions will help us. Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; they will be done. I am thy lowly creature. Thou canst kill me or preserve me in the pestilence in the same way if I were in fire, water, drought or any other danger”  (Ibid, 742).

Yes the plague was “God’s decree,” but we also must do what we can to save the lives of the sick and minister to the dying, We should thank God when He gives us the opportunity to rescue the wounded when a disaster strikes. Tragedies give us the opportunity to serve the living and comfort the dying all around us. Through the tragedies of others, we have the opportunity to leave our comfortable lifestyles and enter the suffering of the world.

Historically, the church has always responded to tragedies with sacrifice and courage. During the third century, the writer Tertullian recorded that when plagues deserted their nearest relatives in the plague, Christians stayed and ministered to the sick.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, churches rose to the occasion to help the victims. Church members prepared tens of thousands of meals for people left homeless and scattered in shelters. One church would help another begin the painful process of relocation and reconstruction. Even the secular press had to admit that governmental red tape did not stop the churches from sacrificially helping in time of need. What the government and the Red Cross could not do, the people of God did. This is how it should be. This is how we become Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.

In the days after the 2011 Joplin tornado, one pastor’s wife wrote to a friend, “It [the tornado and its aftermath] has certainly stretched us. All the things that pastors deal with on a day-today basis—marriages in crisis, pettiness, misunderstandings, sins of all varieties—do not go away when the storms come. They do get put on the back burner. They catch fire. Other things that pastors deal with on a day-today basis—tireless, selfless, tenderhearted servants who are constantly seeking to please God and serve His church—do not go away either. They catch fire. I am amazed at these people.”

Jesus was touched by the plight that the curse of sin brought to this world. We see Him weep at the tomb of Lazarus, and we hear His groans. “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance” (John 11:38). After the stone was removed, Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43) and the dead man came to life in the presence of the astonished onlookers. The Jesus who stayed away for a few extra days so Lazarus would die is the very same Jesus who raised him from the dead.

Like Jesus, we mourn for the horrendous pain people experience on this planet. Like the weeping prophet Jeremiah, we find ourselves saying, “Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer, pleading for your children, for in every street they are faint with hunger” (Lamentations 2:19).

Although modern medicine and technology allow us to stave off death as long as possible, eventually we will all be overcome by its power. Yet in the end, we sin! Christ has conquered death.

Responding to God in Faith

If there is still some doubt in your mind that ultimately God has control of nature, let me ask you: Have you ever prayed for beautiful weather for a wedding? Have you ever prayed for rain at a time of drought? Have you ever asked God to protect you during a severe storm? Many people who claim God has no control over the weather change their minds when a funnel cloud comes toward them. The moment we call out to Him in desperate prayer, we are admitting that He is in charge.

It is also vital to understand that if nature is out of God’s hands, then we are also out of God’s hands. We should be nothing more than victims of nature and thus die apart from His will. Jesus, however, assures His children that He will take care of us. “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). The God who cares for the tiny sparrows and counts the hairs on our heads is in charge of nature.

The ministers in California were right in thanking God that the earthquake came early in the morning when there was little traffic on the expressways. They were wrong, however, for saying that God was not in charge of the tragedy. Of course He was—both biblically and logically.

There is, perhaps, no greater mystery than human suffering, so let us humbly admit that we can’t determine God’s ways.

The eighteenth-century English poet William Cowper put the mysteries of God in perspective:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessing on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain (William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” Cowper’s Poems, ed. Hugh I’Anson Fausset. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1966, 188-189).

“Grieve not because thou understand not life’s mystery,” wrote a wise man. “Behind the veil is concealed many a delight” (Quoted in Charles Swindoll, The Mystery of God’s Will. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999, 115).

The trusting believer knows this is so.

*Article/Sermon above adapted from the excellent book by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, An Act of God?, Chapter 2.