April 21, 2021

Review: The Heidelberg Catechism


The Heidelberg CatechismThe Heidelberg Catechism by Zacharias Ursinus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful little catechism. Scriptural, devotional. Much warmer than other catechisms I’ve read. I’m not Reformed with the capital R, so I have some quibbles on the definition of the church and one of the questions on baptism, but I would heartily recommend this for devotional reading and study.

The Puritan paperback edition by Banner of Truth is very nicely put together, and easily slipped in and out of my cargo pocket while I was sitting in a tree stand.

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April 14, 2021

Review: The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan


The Pilgrim's ProgressThe Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had started to read this several years ago and put it down. I always had in my mind the idea that this was a simple, perhaps over-simple, book. As I listened to the audio book over the past couple of days and was struck both by Bunyan's quite complex and nuanced view of the Christian life-or pilgrimage, as it were-and by the beauty of his language. Highly recommended.

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April 12, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "If a preacher will not--or cannot--think himself clear so that he says what he means, he has no business in the pulpit."

Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching, pg 39

April 07, 2021

Review: Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer


Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our StrengthWeakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength by J.I. Packer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was not what I anticipated; I was anticipating a more extended meditation upon the topic of weakness, whereas this book is actually a meditation upon Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, with particular application to weakness. Which is probably what I needed.

Packer is always lucid, incisive, and to the point, and this book is no different.

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April 05, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Change a church's structure and you change the moral shape of the church."

Jonathan Leeman, One Assembly, pg 21

March 31, 2021

Review: Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice by Scott David Allen


Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social CrisisWhy Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis by Scott David Allen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read this book on the recommendation of a friend. I was severely underwhelmed.

Let me begin by saying that I have a lot of sympathy with his basic premise that social justice ideology as a totalizing worldview is incoherent, dangerous, and not what we want governing our society. As Christians we should want justice, and want it defined on God's terms, not the world's.

Having said that, this book doesn't have a lot to recommend it. The explanation of Biblical justice is very thin, and basically came to a classical liberal idea of negative rights without addressing the biblical concepts of corporate responsibility and the positive responsibility of the who have to those who don't. On the flip side, I don't think he did a great job of articulating the very Social Justice mindset he was seeking to critique. I wouldn't feel comfortable handing this book to someone and suggesting that they would understand this worldview-far better to just hand them to the link to vox.com and tell them to read a half dozen articles. They'll have a better grip on what's going on.

I also was frustrated by his distortion of historical events, for example, portraying the American and English revolutions as somehow unrelated to the French revolution. The tone through the middle/latter parts of the book was pop-level apology for America/the West rather than a Biblical interaction with the prevailing cultural ideology of our day.

In all, I just don't see enough substance here to warrant your time reading it.

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March 29, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "God wonderfully delivers his church from death by death."

John Calvin, Commentary on the Catholic Epistles, pg 22

March 24, 2021

Review: The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb by Goggin and Strobel


The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned ItThe Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a 5 star concept with 2.8-3 stars worth of execution. The essential premise is this: we can either embrace power from below (the way of the dragon), or we can embrace the power from Above (the way of the Lamb). Goggin and Strobel write from the conviction that not only has our culture embraced the way from below (which we should expect), but that the church has as well. We have swallowed the lies of the world concerning the true nature of power and promoted a form of leadership that has little resemblance to the Jesus who emptied himself and took the form of a servant.

And the way they go about exploring this idea, interacting with Scripture and by interviewing older believers whose lives exemplify this way from above, is super useful. The concept of simply sitting with and listening to wiser older believers is something so lost on many young Christians (including those of us in positions of leadership!) that sitting through a whole book where that is what the authors are doing is a useful corrective. So I wholeheartedly endorse the message of this book. I was challenged by it, and profoundly helped. I foresee drawing on it in he future.

My critiques lie mainly in the editing process. The constant cutting back and forth between "I (Kyle)" and "I (Jamin)" was distracting. I assume it was to make the book feel more personal but it made for a clunky reading experience. Some of the practical "how do we expose ourselves to God's formation?" advice toward the end was good-insofar as it went. It could have been developed more. As it was, I don't think the book would have lost much by simply cutting 20 pages or so. The practical help was so thin as to not really advance the usefulness of the book beyond the thought-provoking questions and challenges that had already been raised. I'd rather have no help and just be left with questions. But that could be a personal issue more than a reflection on the book itself-every book review is as much a review of the reviewer, I suppose.

All in all, I'll probably give this as a gift to a few of my friends in ministry. The issues raised by this book are incredibly important.

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March 22, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "To make hearers into doers, we need to appeal not only to the intellect but also to the imagination."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers & Doers, pg 70

March 17, 2021

Review: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger


Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I could give it 3.5, or 3.75. The prose is 4, sometimes five. The story is a solid four, though the plot becomes pretty predictable and I saw the end coming with 12 chapters still to go. There were portions that I found wholly unnecessary. But there were enough interesting subplots to keep me interested.

Probably the most gripping thing about this book was the way he circled around this idea of the awful grace of God. It only receives brief mentions directly, but the concept pervades the feel of the book, and I found it...I'm struggling for how to explain the way I felt about it. Helpful isn't the right word, but neither is enjoyable. Moving conjures the wrong image. It'll stick with me.

A grace we can't understand. A grace beyond comprehension. A grace that penetrates the ordinary.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).