Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology

Everyone's a TheologianMany people, including Christians downplay the importance of theology in their lives. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear a Christian say, “I don’t have a theology”, or something of similar effect. This is not only untrue it’s dangerous. Doctrine comes from the Bible and the application of our doctrine is theology. Believing that theology is only for those who are in the ivory tower of academia who emphasize minute points of doctrine isn’t the point of theology. Everyone is a theologian—the question is whether they are a good one or a bad one. In Dr. Sproul’s new book Everyone’s a Theologian An Introduction to Systematic Theology he takes on many popular ideas of theology and seeks to help his reader understand not only what particular theological terms mean but also why they are significant to our lives. Written in his usual easy to read style, this book is a true blessing and treasure trove for the church.

The book has eight sections. Each section takes a major doctrine such as what is theology, Scripture, theology proper, anthropology and creation, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. As Dr. Sproul elaborates on these critical doctrines, he helps readers to understand, what the terms mean like any good teacher does. Then he moves to show where the teaching about the particular doctrine under consideration is in the Bible.

We live in an age where many Christians emphasize their feelings above the Word of God. Throughout the history of the Church men and women have valued the study of theology so highly that even non-academic people have dedicated their entire lives to the study. While we live in a changing age, we have an unchanging God. One area where theology can help us is in our daily lives such as in dealing with difficult people and difficult situations. This comes from a proper view of God who sees all and knows all—who reaches out to the broken hearted, redeems sinners, is sanctifying them, and will one day glorify them. Understanding the doctrine of God and the person and work of Christ is but one example of why theology is important today. To be “saved” from sin to Jesus is a doctrinal and theologically loaded concept that far too many Christians have sadly very little knowledge about. Yet understanding what we’ve been saved from, sin, and to the Lord Jesus Christ is to begin to grasp the critical doctrines of justification and definitive sanctification.

Whether you are a new or seasoned Christian, been to Bible college or seminary, this book has something for you. Everyone’s a Theologian will be a book I read and reference often in my various writing projects. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord uses it in the life of His Church in powerful ways to the glory of the Risen Savior—Jesus Christ.

Buy the book at Amazon or from WTS Books.

Title: Everyone’s a Theologian An Introduction to Systematic Theology

Author: R.C. Sproul

Publisher: Reformation Trust (2014)

I received this book for free from Reformation Trust for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life?

Becoming Worldly Saints Be in the world but not of the world. That is a statement anyone who has attended church for any amount of time has likely heard or read at least once. But what does it exactly mean and more importantly, how does the proper examination and understanding of such a statement impact our lives, both in service to God and in day to day life. Are we to shun all worldly pursuits for a more monastic lifestyle or is there a biblical balance God has in mind? These are the subjects Michael Wittmer explores in his helpful book Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life?.

The title of this book is certainly catchy. Becoming a worldly saint is an approach I would venture to say many would think rather untenable. After all, we are commanded to think on things above, to store up our treasure in heaven, and to be holy as God is holy right? Is not this earth a cesspool of iniquity, a place we are merely sojourning through as aliens and strangers? Not so fast suggests Wittmer and rightly so.

In order to explore what it means to live on this planet while at the same time seeking things above, Wittmer divides his thoughts into three sections. These three sections follow the overarching theme of Scripture, namely that of creation, fall, and redemption. He aptly notes most have fallen into the trap of either spiritualism or naturalism, commenting “Naturalism affirms our present existence, but robs it of any ultimate meaning. Spiritualism leaves room for the existence of God and a heavenly purpose, but it shortchanges who we are and why we’re here.”

It is that piece of why we are here that garners the most attention from Wittmer and where the strength of this book resides. There is an element of Greek philosophy that has crept into our theology over the years, namely that this earth is evil and thus humanity needs to escape the terror that is planet earth. Such an approach to life on earth is not contained in Scripture and Wittmer does a great job of outlining the errors contained in such a concept. We were created by God and placed by God on this planet to have dominion, to be fruitful and multiply, and to do those things to the glory of God. Sin marred the picture; however that ushers in not an escape from planet earth to the heavenlies (a Greek mindset), but rather the promise of redemption and a new heavens and new earth (biblical mindset).

As we live life in this era of sin and death, looking forward to that time when God once again will dwell with His people on that new heavens and new earth, we are to have a balance between the things of God and enjoying God’s creation to His glory. Wittmer outlines what this looks like, namely the need to love God, love others, subdue the earth, rest on the seventh day, and to do what God has called you to do with the gifts He has given to all of us.

I appreciated that Wittmer address the issue of Sabbath rest as this command of God seems to have been stricken from the 10 commandments in the minds of far too many believers. Wittmer aptly notes “Sabbath is a gift because it is a day of enjoyment.” Since the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, then it precedes anything “Jewish” or “Christian” for that matter and thus is given by God as a means to rest in Him and to remember He is creator and sustainer of all things. It was good to see Wittmer even address the topic of the Sabbath, a subject far too many seem to ignore these days and he rightly notes that our freedom in Christ is not an excuse to neglect a day God set aside long ago for His creation.

So are we to enjoy life? Absolutely. The key as Wittmer saliently speaks to is we must do all for the glory of God. We can tend to our backyard garden, we can enjoy our hobbies, and we can enjoy “worldly” pursuits provided of course they do not become idols that lead us away from God who made us to enjoy such things. When we enjoy God’s creation, we can keep in mind that one day all things will be made new and God will dwell with His people.

This is a book I highly recommend as it strikes a needed balance between calls to be mindful of spiritual things and calls to enjoy life. Both can be pursued by the believer as long as God is the continual focus. Wittmer does an excellent job of walking the reader through what that looks like in practice and his approach stirs one to action in this life while looking forward to an eternity spent with God in a redeemed creation.

This book is available for purchase from Amazon or from Zondervan Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Zondervan Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney

Posted by on Apr 25, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney

downloadJoe Rigney is definitely a disciple of John Piper. The renown pastor’s influence oozes forth from the pages of Rigney’s latest book The Things of Earth. Yet, The Things of Earth is not simply Desiring God 2.0. Within its pages, Rigney applies Piper’s Christian Hedonism theology to a new area of the Christian life, namely the things of earth. This is a highly creative work that helps readers to love God through loving the things of earth.

Rigney aims to help readers understand the relationship between their devotion to God and their life in this world. He states it succinctly, with Piper-esq language, saying:

[This book] was written for those who embrace a passion for the supremacy of God in all things but feel the tension between the supremacy of God and the “all things.” (20)

Much like Michael Wittmer’s Worldly Saints, Rigney recognizes the angst that many Christians have with their own love of “earthly things.” We love coffee, playing at the beach, good music, funny television shows, and a great pair of running shoes. Yet these are “less spiritual” things, and therefore we feel a sense of guilt for loving them as much as we do. Rigney, like Wittmer, identifies this as false guilt and aims to help us resolve the tension in our own minds and hearts.

Rigney believes that our enjoyment of earthly things, like pumpkin crunch cake, is actually an enjoyment of the glory of God in all his Trinitarian fullness. God communicates this Trinitarian fullness, and invites us into it, through the created world. His glory, then, is seen and experienced in the world He has made, in things like honey. Tasting the sweetness of honey can lead us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” He develops these arguments by means of highly creative theological work. Influenced by Piper and, naturally, by Jonathan Edwards he brings us to conclusions similar to Wittmer but by different means.

Unlike Wittmer, Rigney starts his theology of earthly joys in a strange place: the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact Rigney says, “Much of the content of this book might be viewed as an application of the Trinity to various aspects of practical theology and Christian living” (35). The connection to the book’s subject is seen in the relationship between God’s glory, the Trinitarian relationship of the Godhead (perichoresis), and created world. The glory of God, says, Rigney, is the “Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit knowing, loving, and rejoicing in each other from all eternity” (41). This love God has for himself pours forth ultimately in the creation of the world. So, Rigney writes:

God glorifies Himself by inviting us to participate in His Trinitarian fullness. Put another way, God glorifies Himself by extending His glory so that His divine life comes to exist in creaturely form. (41)

In a very Edwardsian, and Piper-esq, fashion, Rigney explains that God’s love for God leads Him to create the world, and in this creation God reveals himself. This becomes foundation for Rigney’s development of both our glorifying God and our enjoyment of the created world. He states it succinctly, saying:

God created the world as a fitting overflow of His own love for and delight in the fellowship he enjoys within the Godhead. This fact must not be overlooked, as it’s one of the fundamental arguments of this book. God’s love for God led Him to create the world from nothing. Therefore, our love for God, if it is to be an accurate reflection of God’s love, must also lead us to a deep and profound and fitting love for creation. God’s love for God pushes him into creation. So should ours. (62)

This leads Rigney to conclude that creation is a means of communicating the divine, and as we enjoy the world we can enjoy God.

In addition to developing an encouraging look at the spiritual joys of created and cultured life on earth, Rigney also responds to important criticisms. He explores the issues of idolatry and suffering, and addresses the priority of loving God. He leaves no stones unturned in this 235-page work.

There’s much to love about this book. It develops a very full theology of earthly joy. If Wittmer’s book is more accessible, Rigney’s is more foundational. He provides lots of solid footing for the development of this theology. Even while I don’t agree with Edwards’ explanation of the Trinity, a major lens through which the author explores both the Trinity and God’s relation to the world, I still found much worthwhile in this creative work. He interacts with a lot of voices and ideas, and offers some particularly insightful nuances to common arguments from Piper and C.S. Lewis. This is a highly creative work with a great deal of depth and imagination. I highly recommend The Things of Earth. In conjunction with Michael Wittmer’s Worldly Saints, readers will gain great relief to false guilt and great encouragement to enjoy earthly things for God’s glory.

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Slogging Along In The Paths Of Righteousness Psalm 13-24

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Slogging Along In The Paths Of Righteousness Psalm 13-24

51bMqTn6gyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Book of Psalms has a long history in the life of the Church. Whenever I’m super down in the dumps I turn to the Psalms to find comfort and help. I love the cries of the Psalmist for God to help him in the midst of difficulty. The Psalms are raw honest and emotional appeals to the Lord God. Many people struggle with a vocabulary to deal with difficult situations. The Psalms provide the vocabulary for those struggling to articulate how they feel. This is why when I read Dale Ralph Davis book Slogging Along In the Paths of Righteousness I was deeply blessed and helped.

The book considers Psalm 13-24 Psalms that speak to a wide range of issues from anguish, assurance, worship, prayer, and of course, one of the most famous chapters in the Bible Psalm 23. The author engages in sound, helpful, and thoughtful exegesis. As he writes, he helps readers to have language to articulate what the Lord is doing in their lives. Often times in my experience people struggle to articulate what the Lord is doing in their lives when asked. While often times I myself have that problem as well when asked, the more I read the Psalms, the more I see David transparency and honesty. Not that there is anything wrong with saying you don’t know with what the Lord is doing in one’s life. At various times as I noted when asked that question I will say I don’t know. Sometimes this happens when I get discouraged and one of my close friends will ask me what’s going on. I simply tell them I don’t know because I may not know at that time. With that said as I’ve noted already the Psalms give Christians a God-given vocabulary to help have language to use when speaking about God’s work in our lives.

Whether you’re struggling to articulate what the Lord is doing in your life or you’re interested in studying Psalm 13-24 this book has something for you. This excellent book will help you to understand the Psalms better and what they mean for your own life. I highly recommend this commentary on the Psalms and believe it will help every Christian at every stage of their growth in grace to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God.

Title: Slogging Along In The Paths Of Righteousness Psalm 13-24

Author: Dale Ralph Davis

Publisher: Christian Focus (2014)

I received this book for free from Christian Focus for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Teaching True Love to a Sex at 13 Generation

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Teaching True Love to a Sex at 13 Generation

Teaching True Love Houston, we have a problem. Ours is a world consumed with sex, in particular, matters of sexuality far from the manner in which God desires for such things to take place. This all consuming passion is not just taking place in secular society. Whether parents realize it or whether they care to admit it, even within our churches and the supposed safe environs of church youth groups, kids are obsessed with, confused about, and participating in sexually related activities that are not God-honoring. This self-centered approach is damaging to them as young people, damaging to society as a whole, and it does nothing to lead to godly marriages. The dating model is absolutely flawed. Eric and Leslie Ludy address this important issue in their excellent book titled Teaching True Love to a Sex at 13 Generation.

If the title of the book startles you, it should. The statistics the Ludy’s share are shocking. Kids, even kids in our churches, are walking a razor thin wire regarding matters of sex with many completely giving in to all manner of temptation. Those who toe the line, while maintaining their “technical virginity”, are nevertheless giving away a little piece of themselves each time they move from relationship to relationship.

In this book, Eric and Leslie Ludy share sound biblical advice to parents who have a desire to train up their children in a way that will yield great dividends down the road. I am big fan of the ministry of Eric and Leslie Ludy as their approach rejects the modern dating model with its “follow your heart” mentality in favor or urging parents to be parents in the life of their children. I also appreciated the urging of youth to allow God, the author of love, to write their love story. This is hard stuff, especially in an age where selfishness in relationships is the norm and when fitting into the world’s mold is such a pervasive allure in the lives of young people.

What makes Teaching True Love such a powerful tool for parents is the practical nature by which the Ludy’s approach this subject matter. They do not just share a bunch of relevant and helpful stories (which they do) nor do they spout off a bunch of Bible verses (which they do). What makes this book so helpful is the stories demonstrate that teaching your children the ways of God when it comes to relationships is doable and necessary. Furthermore, by rooting their discussion in God’s way, the mess that is the world’s way becomes ever more visible.

As a parent of a 13-year-old, I am keenly aware of the sexual morass that is all around us. I am aware of what takes place in schools and when kids get together. For that matter, I was a teenager once and the pressures of life to conform to the world’s standards were quite high 30 years ago and those intense pressures have only increased over the years. The Ludy’s do an excellent job of encouraging parents to be godly parents, to take up the mantle of responsibility in teaching their children God’s ways when it comes to sex, relationships, and marriage.

They provide wonderfully practical tools in each chapter to implement the concepts they discuss. The various challenges they present are followed by an answer and an action plan consisting of two or three recommendations for a variety of situations. Helping your son or daughter understand the importance of purity is a challenge in our day and age. With that said, it is absolutely vital to teach our sons and daughters to focus on God first and foremost and to live a life of purity not just for themselves or because the rules say that is the godly thing to do. As the Ludy’s stress over and over in this book, we should be training out sons and daughters to stay pure for the future husband or wife God has for them and to rest in the sovereignty of God in this area of their life.

Sorry, folks. The Russian roulette that is the modern dating model is not the answer for finding a mate. The trial and error method, while it has some measure of success, is not what can be labeled as a biblical approach to relationships or to finding our way to the marriage altar. The pattern we find in Scripture and the message driven home by the Ludy’s in this book is the need for parents to teach, for kids to be pure, and for the constant focus to be on God. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (including your future spouse) will be added to you. I am thankful for the Ludy’s writing this book and I highly recommend it to all parents to not just read themselves, but to also read with their children, starting at an age that is appropriate for their child. If you are the parent of an older child, the time is now to implement the principles presented in this book. While the truths noted in this book may seem old-fashioned, that is simply because the world has gone so far off course, namely the course of godly relationship building provided in God’s Word.

This book is available for purchase from Thomas Nelson by clicking here.

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Kept For Jesus: What The New Testament Really teaches About Assurance Of Salvation And Eternal Security

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured

Kept For Jesus: What The New Testament Really teaches About Assurance Of Salvation And Eternal Security

51-q9U8YQlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Many Christians greatly struggle with the issue of assurance. For such Christians hearing the warning passages in Hebrews or other passages in the Bible should be a great encouragement since they are designed to help us examine where we’re at in the Christian life. Furthermore, the warning passages give us increasing confidence after examining our lives to see if we’re walking the straight and narrow in our walk with God. Yet, for others the issue of assurance is a settled matter. They don’t struggle with unbelief, doubt, or other issues. To address both groups, Dr. Sam Storms wrote Kept For Jesus: What The New Testament Really teaches About Assurance Of Salvation And Eternal Security.

Sam’s book has eleven chapters and considers topics such as the love of the Father, fickle faith, the logic of love, inseparability, perseverance, testing ourselves to see if we are in the faith, what God starts He finishes, two parts on the warning passages and apostasy, and finally the question, “Can a Christian commit the sin unto death?”

Kept For Jesus is an excellent book. This book is biblical, pastoral, and practical. The best books combine these three traits and help readers consider the topic. This book handles the relevant biblical passages with clarity and precision which will help the reader understand the biblical text. Also, Storms deals with this topic in a pastoral manner which will help readers to address issues related to assurance in their lives.

The Reformed doctrine of perseverance is that a regenerate soul will persevere through the trials of life and continue to believe and repent. He will slip and fall, develop bad habits, wrestle with doubt, but through it all he/she will keep on going even as he/she began. All believers slip and fall into sin, but no true believer stays down. Just as God gave him faith and repentance unto initial conversion, so He supplies him with faith and repentance all along the way to heaven (Canons of Dort, Head V, Art. 7).

Believers who have come to Christ by grace remain wedded to Christ, knowing they are in Him by grace. Perseverance and assurance are the two sides of grace. The believer cannot persevere in grace without growing in assurance, and they cannot grow in assurance of faith without perseverance.

The doctrine of perseverance is not just a pretty ribbon that completes the package of Calvinist soteriology. Perseverance involves intense Christian watchfulness and discipleship. It requires pilgrim warfare in a world that aims to distract the mind and rip open the heart. It embraces major issues of life and death, including the believer’s eternal security in glory. Frances Roberts says, “Perseverance is the rope that ties the soul to the doorpost of heaven.” John Blanchard concludes: “Glory for the Christian is more certain than the grave. God has never torn up a Christian’s birth certificate. It is possible to fall in grace, but not to fall from grace. The Christian can be as certain of arriving in heaven as he is that Christ has already ascended there.”

Because the believer’s perseverance depends on the One who does the work of salvation, namely, the triune God, every believer is a jewel of Christ and can never be lost. Malachi 3:17, “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. “ Thomas Brooks adds, “Earthly jewels sometimes get separated from their own, Christ’s jewels, never. Earthly jewels are sometimes lost, Christ’s jewels never. Earthly jewels are sometimes stolen, Christ’s jewels, never!”

“In the final analysis, the hope of true believers resides not in our feeble hold of God but in his powerful grasp of us,” Bruce Demarest writes. “The stability and constancy of our spiritual lives rests not in our human powers but in God’s eternal purpose and infinite resources.” God’s purposes, God’s promises, God’s powers, God’s provision, God’s protection- what comfort that gives.

Perseverance is ultimately the result of the work of the Spirit in believer’s hearts. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, coming down to believers from the Reformation must be preserved at all costs. Believers must neither abandon it nor compromise with those who wish to do so.

Perseverance opens the way for assurance. Rooted in God’s grace, objective perseverance makes possible subjective assurance, which is rooted in the believer’s conscience. If a Christian does not believe in the perseverance of the saints, he/she cannot be sure he/she is going to Heaven. He/she may know he/she is in a state of grace, but he/she has no way of knowing whether he/she will continue in that state. Assurance is wedded to the doctrine of perseverance. Perseverance increases assurance. Those who persist in works that spring from faith will attain high levels of assurance, which is why believers must persevere to the end in faith, holiness and obedience.

Perseverance encourages the believer to live in hope. As believers persevere, they become increasingly confident of victory in Christ and their future with him in glory (Rom. 5:1-11). This book will help believers to understand the Reformed view of the perseverance of the saints and how to have assurance of salvation. This book addresses all the issues in a winsome, thoughtful, and helpful way. I highly recommend Kept For Jesus and believe it will help every Christian to understand what the New Testament teaches on this subject. This book would also be good for pastors, pastors in training, Sunday school teachers, and anyone in a teaching role of any kind in the church. Go pick up Kept For Jesus, for in doing so you’ll be blessed as I was in reading it, and gain further insight and knowledge on this vital doctrine.

Buy the book at Amazon or from WTS books.

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