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Book Review - Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith

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No one sets out to be a Pharisee, well, almost no one. There was a time before and during the life of Christ where a certain group of religious leaders were actually called Pharisees—and they were proud of it. They thought they were doing God and all His people a spiritual service by making all kinds of extra biblical rules. They were making laws for God’s laws and they believed God loved them all the more because of it. They were zealous about their faith.

“Accidental Pharisees”

Fast forward to today. Being a Pharisee is not cool. One kind of wanders if it ever really was, but to the self-identified Pharisees it was for sure. Though we would never proudly identify ourselves as Pharisees, we can all be one at some time or another over one thing or another. This is what Larry Osborne calls being an “accidental Pharisee.” In his new book Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith, Osborne goes right for the gut in all of us. In a Carl Trueman sort of way, he goes after everyone for becoming Pharisees. Simply put, in a zealous attempt to live more scripturally, we judge everyone else’s faith according to ours and become the very thing no one wants to be—a Pharisee.  But we did it accidentally. Osborne identifies “accidental Pharisees” as:

People like you and me who, despite the best of intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving. (p. 17)

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Book Review - Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views

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Image of Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views
by Maurice Robinson, Darrell Bock, Keith Elliott, Daniel Wallace
B&H Academic 2008
Paperback 160

I am preaching through the Gospel of Mark. From the outset, I knew I had to decide how I was going to approach the last 12 verses. In the past, the question of when does Mark’s Gospel end would not have been a problem. Preaching from the King James to people reading the King James doesn’t necessitate an explanation. Other than that part about handling snakes I mean. And drinking poison (Mark 16:18). Besides, I could just camp on Mark 16:15 and be done with it. That was then. This is now. For a number of reasons I preach from the NASB. My folks carry a variety of translations. The NIV makes a clear distinction separating vs. 8 from vss. 9-20. Most of the others simply use brackets with a footnote. In preparation I read this book edited by David Alan Black, who also served as one of the contributors.

Let’s start with the issue at hand. “Since the two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20” (as per the NIV) are the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark authentic? Does Mark end his Gospel at verse 8, as all the modern translations seem to suggest or did he end at verse 20, the so-called long ending (LE), as the majority of manuscripts do? I assumed it was an either or question, who knew there were four possible views! This book did a very good job of differentiating between them. Read more about Book Review - Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views

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New Book, Good Book

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Regular Baptist Books has released a new volume, Dispensational Understandings of the New Covenant, edited by Mike Stallard of Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Titles need to be manageable in length, and this one labels the book nicely. It would have been more precise, however, if it had specified that the book contains traditional dispensational understandings of the New Covenant, and actually only some of them.

The limitation is deliberate. The book results from collaboration between traditional dispensationalists in the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics. This council, which meets annually for the exchange and examination of ideas related to dispensational theology, includes only traditional dispensationalists. From the time that it first met in 2008, one of the goals of the council was to foster the publication of current, traditionally-dispensational thinking. Dispensational Understandings of the New Covenant is its first major release.

The book is necessary because dispensationalists have never agreed about how the church is related to the New Covenant. Some think that the church has no legal relationship to the New Covenant. Others believe that the church is not a party to the covenant, but nevertheless stands in some relationship to it. Still others have believed in the existence of two New Covenants, one for Israel and another, different one for the church. Some have argued that the church is directly related to the New Covenant and has been brought in as a participant alongside Israel. Read more about New Book, Good Book

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Book Review - Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide

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Image of Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide
by Miles V. Van Pelt
Zondervan 2012
Paperback 224

I’m not sure why I chose to review this book. Perhaps it was because my grasp of biblical Hebrew is poor, and I felt like I needed help. Maybe it was because I thought I might fit the target audience – those who have had some Hebrew but need to review the basics. Perhaps it was because I am absolutely convinced of the need for exegesis from the original languages, while at the same time my little grey cells seem to be happier when chewing on theology, philosophy, or history than when studying languages. So let me be clear right up front. I don’t review this book as a Hebrew expert, a Hebrew teacher, or even as a good Hebrew reader. I review it as a pastor who stumbles and bumbles along in Hebrew with the assistance of A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible, and needs all the help I can get!

An overview of the book

What you see with Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide is exactly what you get. It is a condensation of Basics of Biblical Hebrew (2nd ed.) by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt. In a pocket-sized format, it packs in an overview of basic phonology, the nominal system, and the verbal system, as well as two appendices consisting of verbal paradigms, charts and a Hebrew-English lexicon.

It is admirably clear, both in layout and content. In fact, for those learning Hebrew, consulting this little work might provide refreshing re-orientation when the avalanche of details begins to feel overwhelming. It can be reassuring to realize that what you have to learn is not infinite; the basics can all fit between the covers of this little book. The text is clear and readable, not squished, and throughout the book, the examples and charts color-code the salient feature under discussion in red.

I believe this book will be most helpful for those who are actively studying the language, particularly second-year Hebrew students. Yet it can also serve as an aid to those of us whose formal language training is in the past but who have an ongoing desire or responsibility to teach the Word. Read more about Book Review - Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide

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Book Review - Come, Let Us Reason

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Image of Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics
by
B&H Academic 2012
Paperback 336

Since the first century, the church has been involved in one way or another in the ministry of apologetics. Within the last few decades, as atheists have seemed to ramp up their religious efforts to discredit and eradicate the belief in God and Christianity more specifically, Christians have ramped up their apologetical focus with matching intensity.

Among the many contemporary apologists Paul Copan, current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and William Lane Craig, perhaps the most well-known and active Christian apologist and debater, have teamed up to edit a series of books that seek to address many of the contemporary issues within Christian apologetics. Passionate Conviction: Contemporary Discourses on Christian Apologetics and Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors were the precursors to the third book in the series Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics. All three books are edited by Copan and Craig and include a host of different contributors.

As its subtitle indicates this book is a collection of a variety of essays (sixteen in all). The essays focus on the following five areas: 1) apologetics, culture, and the kingdom of God 2) the God question, 3) the historical Jesus and New Testament reliability, 4) Ancient Israel and other [ANE] religions, and 5) Christian uniqueness and other religions (such as Islam). Since there is no one theme that is developed throughout the book this review will provide some general thoughts on the book overall with some comments on specific chapters. Read more about Book Review - Come, Let Us Reason

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Book Review - Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything

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Image of Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything
by Anonymous Anonymous
B&H Books 2012
Paperback 224

I don’t remember the last time I saw a recently published book with the author’s name given as Anonymous. In Christian circles as much as in your average secular bookstore or website, nothing seems to be as prominent as the author’s name. The more well known the author, the larger space is devoted to his or her name on the book cover. But with a title like Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything, the absence of an author name seems appropriate. Still, I searched through the book looking for any hint of the author’s identity, half expecting it would be there somewhere. My search was in vain, as the author of this challenging book has embraced its controversial message heart and soul.

Aren’t we all special?

The back cover of the book encapsulates its message well with these words: “I hate to break it to you, but you’re not one in a million. In fact, you’re more like one in nearly seven billion. Just one. One life, lived in relative obscurity.” The next line is even more challenging: “Are you okay with that?” Everything about the American dream with its make-your-own-man, you-can-be-anything, do-it-yourself “gospel,” screams the opposite. You are special. One of a kind! And even Christian leaders and authors trumpet the self-esteem, “be your best self now” message. I imagine many who are reading this right now aren’t so sure Mr. Anonymous is making any sense. Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are all God’s special and unique creations? Read more about Book Review - Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything

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