Book Review

Reason, Faith and the Struggle for Western Civilization: A Review

Image of Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization
by Samuel Gregg
Gateway Editions 2019
Hardcover 256

A month or two ago, I came across Samuel Gregg’s book while perusing items at Acton.org, and the title caught my eye. In my personal efforts to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), I’ve frequently felt that I don’t yet have an adequate understanding of the relationship between faith and reason, and by extension, the relationship between the sciences and Scripture.

The book didn’t take me where I hoped to go on that topic. It did, however, provide an interesting and enjoyable survey of the history of Western thought, and one of the better interpretations of the role of reason and Christianity in Western thought.

Samuel Gregg is the director of research at the Acton Institute and has degrees in philosophy from the University of Melbourne (MA) and Oxford (PhD). Though he has written a pile of books, mostly on economics, his focus in this volume is more history-focused than I expected. Though the hardcover edition has 256 pages, I also felt that it ended at just about the point where there should have been several more chapters on various views of the relationship between faith and reason and analysis of supporting arguments—as well as more consideration of potential strategies for preserving what remains of Western Civilization.

Chapters six and seven do address these topics, and they aren’t a bad start, but I was hoping for a deeper and more comprehensive exploration.

594 reads

8 Reasons to Reject Stanley’s Irresistible: Reasons 5 - 8

5. He posits that the Old Testament has been completely fulfilled.

Stanley is correct that the church has at times incorrectly understood the Old Testament and in some cases has used the Old Testament to subjugate and coerce others. Rather than discussing the hermeneutical mistakes and complexities that led to abuses, Stanley simply posits that the entire Old Testament is now fulfilled and should be detached from the New Testament.

He incorrectly argues that the mere appearance of fulfillment formula in the New Testament refers to complete, exhaustive fulfillment of all Old Testament promises and prophecies. He repeatedly cites the Abrahamic promises as being completely fulfilled, since Abraham was blessed by God and since Christ came through Abraham’s lineage. Stanley writes that Jesus uses the fulfillment formula as His way of saying “God’s conditional, temporary covenant with Israel was coming to an end, the intended-from-the-beginning end” (109). Meanwhile, Stanley ignores the unconditional land promises given to Abram and his descendants (Israel) that have not yet been fulfilled. He ignores all the future unfulfilled promises in the prophetic literature. And he discredits the Song of Solomon as well, since the writer had over 300 wives.

850 reads

8 Reasons to Reject Stanley’s Irresistible: Reasons 1 - 4

Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin © Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.

Andy Stanley is a master communicator, popular author, and prominent pastor. In his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed from the World, Stanley argues that the church with its modern version of faith is ineffective and too easily resisted. He conjectures that people resist the modern church and Christianity because the Old Testament is mixed into it. Consequently, when believers defend the Old Testament’s historicity and accuracy, they alienate what he refers to as “post-Christians.”

Irresistible is filled with clever phrases, including chapter titles such as “Temple Tantrum,” “Splittin’ Up,” “Homebodies,” “The Apoplectic Apostle,” “Trending Horizontal,” “Obsolet-r Than Ever.” Using wit, humor, satire, anecdotal comments, wordplay, and wordsmithing, Stanley presents his belief that the church must become “unhitched” and “unmixed” from the Old Testament. He uses his rhetorical skills to urge believers against integrating Old Testament truth into Christianity, thus dissuading believers from defending the historical reliability and believability of the Old Testament. His arguments, however, exemplify logical errors, simplistic exegesis (which is often eisegesis), errant theology, reductionism, and very serious hermeneutical errors. Consider these eight reasons to reject his thesis.

1095 reads

Review – Healing Together: A Guide To Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors

Image of Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors
by Anne Miller
Zondervan 2019
Paperback 208

Mark Aderholt. Several of you may recognize the name; his story was noted by SharperIron in 20181, as was the ensuing scandal as the Southern Baptist Convention’s IMB struggled to deal with the public outrage once the specific details of his crimes became more widely known, due in large part to Anne’s own bravery in disclosing her abuse and the ensuing public fallout.

With all of the turmoil in our churches regarding abuse, and the very public controversy that has swirled around the SBC, ABWE, and other Baptist entities, many men I know look at the issue and feel confident that they have the right procedures and policies in place to prevent abuse from happening within their sphere.

1348 reads

Review of ‘Can We Trust the Gospels?’ by Peter J. Williams

Image of Can We Trust the Gospels?
by Peter J. Williams
Crossway Books 2018
Paperback 153

This excellent little book by the English biblical scholar Peter J. Williams (not to be confused with the apologist Peter S. Williams) is a readable and informative introduction to some of the main questions people have about the four Gospels. In eight tightly argued but entertaining chapters Williams, who acts as principal of Tyndale House, Cambridge, dispels common myths and furnishes many enlightening facts about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, avoiding dogmatic overreach but still making a very solid case for their trustworthiness.

Williams’ first chapter surveys external sources such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Josephus to corroborate many features in the Evangelists. Tacitus reported on the “vast multitude” of Christians in Rome in AD 64, the year of the great fire (23). Since there is a distance of over 2,000 miles between Rome and Jerusalem, this testifies to the extent to which the new Faith had spread throughout the Roman Empire in Apostolic times. Incidentally, such witnesses as Tacitus seem to give the lie to the more conservative estimates for the extent of Christianity in the first centuries (cf. also 27). These non-Christian sources also confirm the execution of Jesus in the time of Pontius Pilate.

A real reature of this chapter, which continues throughout the book, is the way Williams appeals to common sense and reasonable expectations to make his points. For instance, on page 34 the author observes,

1074 reads

Review – Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture

A Clear and Present Word is the 21st volume in the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series which now extends to 45 volumes. This volume is dedicated to the doctrine of perspicuity (or the Bible’s clarity). From Eve’s wicked interlocutor in the garden to the present day, there has been a reechoing “Has God really said?”

In recent theological debates, it is clear that inerrancy is often the bibliological battleground. However, as this book endeavors to show, even if the accuracy of the words is granted, their power can just as easily be neutralized though obfuscation as through denial. Mr. Thompson (Principle of Moore Theological Seminary, Australia. Evangelical Anglican) labors to unfold the importance of Scripture’s clarity as well as to defend it.

Perspicuity has not seen the scholarly concentration of other doctrines of Bibliology and the book is a welcome resource for anyone who desires to better understand it. The series aims to relate important biblical/theological themes in a way that is both scholarly and accessible to the layperson. The author succeeds in presenting a book that can be beneficial both to the studious lay person as well as the pastor.

Chapter one takes up the question of whether Christians can even claim to have a clear word of God. After all, we live in the postmodern era when truth is considered at least obscure, and often unknowable. The chapter outlines the arguments against the clarity of the Bible, first from church history and then more recently the post-modern view of truth.

1530 reads

Audio Book Review: Nancy Pearcey’s Finding Truth

The rhythm of my life in recent years is such that I have little time for paper and ink reading but lots of time for listening. In 2018, I read about sixty books that way. Though nearly all of them edified me in one way or another, most would fall into the category of relatively frivolous fiction. My thinking was that listening, especially while driving, exercising, or doing chores, wouldn’t permit enough concentration to do any thoughtful non-fiction reading—so why bother?

I was wrong. Though the good is often the enemy of the best, the reverse is often true: passing up on the merely good in hopes of gaining the best often gains neither.

Last summer, a discussion here at SharperIron raised the topic of Nancy Pearcey’s Finding Truth, and we later posted Don Johnson’s Proclaim and Defend review of the book. I felt drawn to the book and decided to give it a whirl in audio. The audiobook amply rewarded the effort—enough to compel me to write my own review.

The Audible version of Finding Truth clocks in at 8:44:19 and is read by Pamela Klein. I normally listen at 1.10x or faster and found that Klein’s pace was about right for me at 1.10x. Klein’s reading is not at all robotic, as is sometimes the case with nonfiction audiobooks. Though Klein seems to lose Pearcy’s flow of thought at times, the reading is clear and alive enough to not be a distraction.

1755 reads

Review – The Making of a Battle Royal: The Rise of Liberalism in Northern Baptist Life

Image of The Making of a Battle Royal (Monographs in Baptist History)
by Jeffrey Paul Straub
Wipf and Stock 2018
Hardcover 416

This work by Jeff Straub, originally written as his doctoral dissertation, has finally been published as part of the “Monographs in Baptist History” series under the Pickwick Publications imprint. Written in a clear and compelling style, this book traces the rise of theological liberalism in Northern Baptist life, focusing especially on the seminaries. Straub’s main thesis is that liberalism was able to achieve such a “theological hegemony” in Northern Baptist life that “conscientious conservatives” had no choice but to separate if they wished to preserve an orthodox Baptist witness.

2245 reads

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