The Men Who Trained Me (and some books) – Pt. 1

I thought I’d do something different for a change.  I seldom write anything about myself on this blog, but I had the idea of putting down a few words about the men who trained me and to whom, to one degree or another, I owe a debt.  None of them is responsible for how I turned out.  The monster was self-made. But I want to introduce you to these men:

The first man is David N. Myers M.Min., a knowledgeable Bible teacher who helped me principally by giving me good books to read.  He showed me the value of commentaries and introduced me to the six volumes of Explore the Book by J. Sidlow Baxter.  He also kindled my interest in manuscript evidence after an encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness demoralized me (when each time I tried to prove the deity of Christ from my NIV (1984), the JW just referred me to the footnotes which through the reading into question).  I borrowed from him Caspar Gregory’s Canon and Text of the New Testament, Dean Burgon’s The Revision Revised, F. W. Kenyon’s Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, F. F. Bruce’s The Books and the Parchments, and other works to help me understand what was going on.  Burgon in particular impressed me. He was very erudite, but could write clear prose.  His arguments for what he called “the Traditional Text” were more searchant (so it seemed to me) than the other scholars, who often parroted one another.  Anyway, Dave Myers was a great help in this and other areas.  Later I would read F. H. A. Scrivener’s massive Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the NT (2 vols), and the intriguing study by Harry Sturz called The Byzantine Text-type and NT Textual Criticism.  These served as balances to Bruce Metzger (whose hard to procure Chapters in the History of NT Textual Criticism is terrific), and Kurt Aland.

Unfortunately, I was also introduced to the work of controversial American Fundamentalist Peter Ruckman.  I say unfortunately, not because of his personal issues, but because for a while his sarcasm rubbed off on me.  While I still think Ruckman made some points which needed to be made, and he did make me laugh at a time I really needed to laugh, I’m afraid I came away from his books and tapes more negatively affected than edified.  Some years later I read Westcott’s Commentary on Hebrews and discovered what I had been missing.  When attending London Theological Seminary in the mid-1990’s I came across the Life of Westcott, which gave the lie to the nonsense then propagated by Gail Riplinger. She literally composed quotes from different parts of the book and cut and pasted them together to make new quotes!  Anyway, it was Dave Myers who drilled home to me the question, “what does it say?”  And in a circle of friends who looked upon non-dispensationalists with suspicion, it was he who, when I pointed to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, told me that he was a very godly man.  Funny what things stick with you.

Bernard Lambert was a former missionary to S. America and was a Baptist preacher who would fill pulpits in many Baptist churches in East Anglia, England.  For some reason Bernard, who was retired when I knew him, took a shine to me and we became friends.  Bernard was a dark-suited 5 point Calvinist bookworm with whom I spent many hours talking about books and churches.  Like me, he was a bit of a maverick who disliked the politics and brown-nosing rife within evangelicalism.  I remember him getting emotional about the ostentation he saw at a certain Reformed conference.  He thought monies gifted to an organization should not be spent that way.  Bernard is now with the Lord. I owe him much.  It was he who confronted me with the choice I had to make between remaining as a ladder-climbing Purchaser and going to Seminary.  Since I had felt the call of God to the ministry for years, I knew the road I should take.  This was confirmed when, despite all appearances, I was accepted at London Theological Seminary (who only accepted a handful of students per year).  One of my most cherished possessions is the set of The Works of John Murray (4 vols) which Bernard gave me when I was at a rather low ebb in my life.  The great thing I remember about Bernard was his belief that the people of God needed encouragement.  Through him God encouraged me.

Graham Harrison taught Systematic Theology at London Theological Seminary (LTS) when I was there in the mid 90’s.  He was a solid and rather two-dimensional Calvinist, and, having myself my own thoughts on that subject, he seemed a bit suspicious of me.  I recall him scrupulously avoiding answering my questions about New Evangelicalism; something I think is a rather important thing for a theologian to have opinions about.  Still, his erudition impressed me.

Philip Eveson was the Resident Tutor and taught Hebrew and exegesis at LTS.  He was a pious man, always cheerful and amusing. He had a pastor’s heart, and my chief impression of him was of his concern for the students.  He noticed me staying up till the early hours reading Joseph Hall’s works and old copies of the Westminster Theological Journal and asked if I would be student librarian of the D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones library.  I naturally said yes!  I kept finding Kit-Kat wrappers in the Doctor’s books.  Eveson informed me that it was sometimes hard to get the Doctor to eat anything, but that he would always eat a Kit-Kat. When I visited Mr Eveson a few years afterwards he told me that he thought I never quite understood the Five Points.  I rattled off to him a list of authors (e.g. Pink, Palmer, Gill, Warfield, Coles, Steele & Thomas, Berkhof, Owen, Boettner) and politely told him that he was mistaken, but that I believed (and still believe) that the formulation of TULIP was more deductive than inductive and that the doctrines needed reformulating. He wasn’t impressed.  But I remain convinced that the way these “doctrines of grace” are formulated is far too deductive.  So while I have Calvinistic leanings I feel little compulsion to be a card-carrying “Reformed” man. Continue reading “The Men Who Trained Me (and some books) – Pt. 1”

If You Don’t Have It Already…Some Book Selections for Christmas and After

Thought I would write a quick post on some of the books I think are important acquisitions for a Christian’s library.  If you don’t yet have them (and in some cases, if you can get them), you should try to acquire them.  The list is somewhat eclectic and does not pander to what’s new, although some new titles were deliberately included.

This is not a Top Ten list, but all the books are, in my opinion, must haves.

1. Systematic Theology by John Frame

Although Frame said (in Salvation Belongs to the Lord) that he probably wouldn’t write a full scale Systematics, this book lives up to its promise.  It does not bother to interact with the never-ending swell of scholars’ opinions.  Instead, Frame quotes whom he must and concentrates on theological exposition.  He does not argue his covenant theology, but simply assumes it.  Nevertheless, this is a great book.

2. Systematic Theology: The Beauty of Christ by Douglas F. Kelly

The second and much anticipated volume of Kelly’s magnum opus (I was starting to wonder if we would see this volume).  Kelly’s handling of the material and his catholic appreciation of Christianity, while remaining Reformed, is noteworthy.  So too is his use of patristic and classic resources.

3. The Works of Hugh Binning

From the age of the Puritans comes this terrific big book of Binning’s theological sermons and writings.  The style is analytical and precise but clear and spiritual.  They evince a maturity which men three times his age never achieved.  Just as well, since Binning died young.  I love these sermons!

4. The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires

This book certainly deserves to be called a classic.  It remains one of the best internal critiques of the way evangelical Christianity has sacrificed the place of the mind in its self-understanding (far better than Mark Noll).  He wrote two follow-ups: Recovering the Christian Mind and The Post-Christian Mind.  They are both worthy.  The latter one does a very good job of showing how words are disconnected from their meanings and misused nowadays (which is ironic in an age of deconstructionism).  Two other hard to find but fine works are The Secularist Heresy and The Will and the Way.

5. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer

A brilliant piece of exegetical and theological scholarship which has not been given the attention it deserves.  No easy ride, but worth the effort to get through.  His chapters on covenant and on Jesus in the OT are superb correctives to much of the misguided Biblical Theology being produced by evangelical scholars today.

6. Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer

Now with a chapter responding to his critics, this book and its excellent precursor, Signature in the Cell, inform us about the wonderful intricacies of life while clearly showing up the haplessness of evolutionary efforts to explain what is being discovered.  Another book worth mentioning is Cornelius Hunter’s very helpful Science’s Blind Spot.  The author shows how bad [natural] theology contributed to the push for methodological naturalism.

7. C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table ed. by James Como

A selection of pieces written by those who either knew or studied with Lewis, or else have been followers of his work.  This book really helps to set Lewis in his context as well as to show his patience and humility.  Only two chapters are disappointing.

8. Miracles by Craig Keener

Keener is one of the clearest scholarly writers around.  His (profuse} use of sources is a model for any writer.  This two volume book demonstrates the same careful balance as his previous and outstanding Historical Jesus of the Gospels, of which it is a kind of sequel.  Keener gives the reader exposure to lots of useful background on miracles in ancient sources.  He then shows how Hume’s arguments are in fact question-begging and how (he thinks) the tide is turning on the question.  His cumulative documenting of many cases of healings, etc. is difficult to ignore.  While not always convincing, this is a powerful resource which brings the question of miracles before us more than any other work.

9. Van Til’s Apologetic by Greg Bahnsen

Bahnsen’s knowledge of Van Til’s presuppositional method was encyclopedic.  His sympathy with Van Til and improvement of aspects of his thought make this the book on the subject.  Bahnsen’s Always Ready is still the best introduction to presuppositionalism.

10. Do You Know Jesus? by Adolf Schlatter

Writing approximately between the end of the 19th century and the period just before WW2, Schlatter was one of the top NT scholars of his era.  These meditations are short but engage the mind as much as the heart.  They follow the career of Jesus.  As such they provide spiritual food for thought on the only human being who really matters.

Honorary mention: Critical Stages of Biblical Counseling by Jay Adams

This books concerns itself with the first session, the “turning point”, and the end session of counseling. The advice is mature and sage from the doyen of the Biblical Counseling movement (although some of them seem to have forgotten it).  A very helpful book.

A Review of Robert Chisholm’s Commentary on Judges & Ruth

Review of Robert B. Chisholm, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth, Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013, 697 pp., $39.99. 

In the past Judges and Ruth have not been particularly well served by commentators (Leon Wood’s Distressing Days of the Judges being one notable exception).  Many studies in the past were more homiletical than analytical.  The Book of Judges presents some unique problems for the Bible interpreter.  Such issues as the date of certain judges, the extent of their careers and influence, the numbers in the Book, not to mention the overall chronology of the period, offer challenges which can impact how one approaches the other historical books.

Thankfully that situation has changed in recent years with the publication of solid works by Butler, Block and Webb, supported by those by Younger and, to a lesser extent, Davis.  Thus, the gap has been filled.  How then does this new contribution from Robert B. Chisholm in Kregel’s Exegetical Library measure up?

Chisholm provides his readers with a long and detailed eighty-eight page introduction to Judges, which, by the way, includes a very useful selected annotated bibliography.  The author quickly orientates the reader to the major problems in the book and surveys the several attempts which have been made to solve them.  The chief problem has always been fitting the various localized activities in the central section, which add up to 410 years, within the framework of 1 Kings 6:1, and its 480 year time slot for all the events from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign.  This taxes all interpreters of Judges, but Chisholm’s careful analysis of the chronology is very well done.  He notes that the pan-Israeli perspective implicit in the narratives (for theological reasons pointing to the ideal unity of the nation, 30-31), do not encourage attempts to compress the chronological markers (37).

The author has worked out three proposals to address the problem of 1 Kings 6:1.  The first two are based on a fifteenth century dating for the Exodus, which is the standard evangelical dating, while the third works with a thirteenth century date.  Of the three options Chisholm himself opts for the second (44 n.47), which excludes Eli and Samuel as judges.

The commentary itself includes extended section outlines, a note on the literary structure, with expository sections.  Then there are separate notes on application, helpfully divided into thematic, theological, and homiletical subsections.  I really appreciated the way the translation has been arranged around the Hebrew clauses.  This feature is bound to be helpful for those who lack competence in Hebrew, but who want to get a feel for the original.  The author’s prose is a little academic but still very readable.  These features make the work both informative and manageable for the busy preacher or Bible teacher.

Chisholm has been given enough space to fully treat his material and he makes good use of it.  The reader will find lots of help from lexical, theological and background sources in each chapter.  If we take the episode concerning Jephthah’s vow as an example, we see Chisholm fully in command of his interpretive choices and well able to furnish a convincing piece of commentary.  Jephthah did indeed sacrifice his daughter (354-355), yet one must not interpret the silence of God in the matter as Divine approval of Jephthah’s actions (364).  While discussing whether an animal may have been in Jephthah’s mind as he made his rash vow, we are informed that “The construction of Iron Age houses would allow for an animal to come through the doors of a house” (353).  Nevertheless, a human being may also have been included in the vow.

In a long footnote he ably dispatches a feminist interpretation of Jephthah’s daughter which turns her into a “poster child for her fellow feminists!” (356-357 n.73).

The Commentary on Ruth covers a hundred and forty-eight pages (with a thirty-two page introduction).  Ruth certainly does not suffer from relative neglect in comparison to Judges, particularly in the exegetical department.  In his comments on the first chapter Chisholm discusses Daniel Block’s interpretation that the author of Ruth views the marriages of Naomi’s sons in a negative light, which is why they died early on in the story.  In effect, God struck them down (595ff.).  As this impacts the interpretation of chapter one quite heavily the lengthy cross-examination of Block’s thesis is profitable as an example of thinking through the text.  As with Judges, the author includes a helpful annotated bibliography of select commentaries on Ruth.  All in all, Chisholm’s work on Ruth is fully up to the high standard of his commentary on Judges.

One significant complaint I have is the inexcusable lack of indices in the book.  Although this would have added twenty plus pages to the book, it would have been worth it.  This decision of the publisher might bear some reconsideration.  Of less import to this reviewer is the way Chisholm handles the numbers in Judges (e.g. 110 n.2).  Notwithstanding this is a very good commentary and is right up there with the one by Daniel Block.

Finally, a word about the book as a product is in order.  As with Kregel’s excellent Psalms Commentary by Allen Ross, this book is well produced, with clear type, legible footnotes, and clear headings.  One can find their way around the commentary without much trouble.  The binding and cover look strong and durable.


This book was sent to me by the publisher.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Recommended Reading in Dispensationalism

Dan Phillips has asked me to come up with a guide to the reading of Dispensational Theology.  I hope this is what he expected.  Anyway, this is what I have come up with.  No “Progressive Dispensationalist” work is included because I do not consider that approach to be Dispensationalism proper (which does not mean dispensationalists can’t learn from them!).  Neither have I included ultra-dispensational works, nor indeed, those post-trib./pre-wrath books which deny imminence.  An asterisk indicates my recommendation of where money ought to go first.

No doubt I have let some vital resource run through the sieve that is my memory.  If readers want to prompt me to remembrance I shall add to the following list: 


*DispensationalismCharles C. Ryrie – Updated version of the author’s Dispensationalism Today, which should still be purchased.  This is a must read, even if it is soft on the covenants. Irenic in style.

*Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths – Michael Vlach – Short and punchy.  I don’t like his restriction of Dispensationalism to ecclesiology and eschatology.

Understanding End Times Prophecy (2nd ed.) – Paul Benware -A very good introduction to the subject.

The End – Mark Hitchcock – A large but still fairly introductory level text.  Helpful.

The Footsteps of the Messiah (2nd ed.)Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum –  Somewhat unique in its presentation of eschatology.  Contains some “Pemberisms” (abodes of Satan; pre-Adamic crystalline earth, etc), and strained interpretations (the 7 churches reflect Church history).

Major Bible Prophecies – John F. WalvoordA handy resource.

Biblical Theology:

*The Dawn of World Redemption – Erich Sauer – Perhaps the best study of God’s overall plan in the OT.  Some glitches, but the main argument is very sound.  Contains many ideas which deserve to be developed.  Includes many seed-thoughts and insights

*The Triumph of the CrucifiedErich Sauer – Coupled with the work above this is a must-have book.

From Eternity to EternityErich Sauer – Provides both an overview of God’s plan and responses to objections.  Recommended.

*The Greatness of the KingdomAlva J. McClain – An outstanding, mature study of the subject. One of the “must have” books.  The only volume of a proposed Systematic Theology (what might have been?).  This is the kind of work dispensationalists should have built on for the past 50 years and haven’t!

*He Will Reign Forever – Michael J. Vlach – An exemplary work which should be the first biblical theology one turns to.  Focus is on the Kingdom.  Manages to write a whole “Dispensational” biblical theology without mentioning dispensations!

A Dispensational Biblical Theology – Elliott Johnson – A large book containing some fine exposition, but marred somewhat by dubious views (Gap Theory) and lack of interaction with opposing positions.  One is left feeling much more needed to be said.

*The Theocratic Kingdom (3 Vols) – George N. H. Peters – Not “Dispensational” but in that ball-park.  An extraordinary book.  Notable for several reasons, not least because it is theocentric and so avoids treating eschatology in isolation.  Not perfect (e.g. holds to a partial rapture), but the work on the subject.  The person who masters Peters will be a formidable Bible teacher.

*Everlasting Dominion – Eugene Merrill – An excellent Old Testament Theology, though again, soft on covenants in Genesis 2-3. Merrill gives due stress to the clearly identifiable covenants.  This should be in everyone’s library.

A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament – Zuck/Merrill/Bock (eds.) – An often helpful treatment of the subject.

The Millennial KingdomJohn F. Walvoord – A solid contribution and critique of opposing positions.  Adopts the “two new covenants view.”  Has interesting, if not totally persuasive comments about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven.  Walvoord’s best work.

*Israelology – Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum – Massive and cumbersome, but thorough presentation and defense of the biblical data concerning Israel. An important study of millennial systems and Israel’s place in Theology.  Needs updating to be abreast of recent developments in covenant theology.  Ponderous and repetitive in style.

Important Studies:

The Great Prophecies Concerning the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church – G. H. Pember – The author was known for his ”Pemberisms” (Gap theory; Pre-Adamic fall; Partial rapture) but there is little evidence of them here.  A good study, elegantly written.

Israel in Prophecy – John F. Walvoord – Brief and full of insight.

*Things to Come – J. Dwight Pentecost – One of the finest texts on eschatology ever published.  The style is “scholastic” and it needs updating.

*Thy Kingdom ComeJ. Dwight Pentecost – Thorough study of the biblical data.  Good use of dispensations and covenants.  Notable is the use of Scripture alone.

*Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate –  Matthew Wahmeyer – The best study of this vital passage.  Undermines the whole foundation of amillennialism.

*Amillennialism and the Age to Come – Matthew Wahmeyer – Great critique of the “two-age” model (i.e. no intervening millennium).  This is the sort of work Dispensationalists ought to be doing.

How Firm A Foundation – Hal Harless – A fine study of covenants and the Bible, even if he does teach covenants in Genesis 2-3.

*Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant – (ed.) Michael Stallard – Chapters from a symposium on the subject seeking to answer the question of the Church’s involvement (or non-involvement) in the New Covenant.  Our position that Christ is the New Covenant and all who are saved must be saved by Him/it is not represented.

*Continuity and Discontinuity – (ed.) John Feinberg – Top of the line articles by dispensationalists and covenant theologians (and one or two ‘inbetweenies’) about the relationship between the Testaments.

Specific Issues:

The Interpretation of Prophecy Paul Lee Tan – A very useful guide.

*The Messianic Hope– Michael Rydelnik – A slim but impressive study of the Messiah in the OT.  Important.

Jerusalem in Prophecy – J. Randall Price – Price is one of the best contemporary writers on Israel in prophecy.

*The Temple and Bible Prophecy – J. Randall Price – An expanded edition of The Coming Last Days Temple.  This is a definitive work.

Premillennialism and Amillennialism – C. L. Feinberg – Very competent analysis of these two systems.

*Future Israel – Barry Horner – A recent study which shows, among other things, the latent Anti-Israelism of evangelicals who believe the Church is the “New Israel.”  The editing could have been better.

*Jews, Gentiles and the Church – David L. Larsen – An important study of historical and biblical matters pertaining to the subject.

The Rapture QuestionJohn F. Walvoord – A well written apology for the pretrib position

Maranatha!? Our Lord ComeRenald Showers – A newer treatment which interacts with contemporary views.

The Greatness of the Rapture– David Olander – A thought-provoking work.

*Kept From The HourGerald Stanton – Still the best book on the subject of the Rapture

Messianic ChristologyArnold Fruchtenbaum –A handy set of expository studies, some more persuasive than others.  Some people treat the author as if he had an aura around him.  I am sure he is uncomfortable with it.

There Really Is A Difference  – Renald Showers – Plain but solid comparison of Dispensational and Covenant theologies.  Not a replacement for reading CT for oneself.

*Has the Church Replaced Israel? – Michael Vlach – Perhaps the best treatment on the subject.  Vlach is nuanced which makes him more valuable.

*The Company of HopeDavid L. Larsen – A valuable historical study of eschatology.  Poorly edited. Lauds Lindsey and LaHaye.  

Collected Essays:

Walvoord: A Tribute – (ed.) D. K. Campbell – This book contains several excellent articles.

Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost – (eds.) S. Toussaint & C. Dyer – Similar quality articles to above.

Issues in Dispensationalism(eds.) J. Master & W. Willis – Some good explorations of in-house ideas can be found here.

*Dispensationalism: Tomorrow and Beyond – (ed.) Christopher Cone – A good if rather dislocated series of essays in celebration of Charles Ryrie.

Vital Prophetic Issues(ed.) Roy B. ZuckReprints of fine articles from BibSac.  A little overly reliant on Walvoord’s contributions.

*Dictionary of Premillennial Theology – (ed.) Mal O. Couch– An important if imperfect contribution.  Contains some terrific articles, some not so good.  Poorly indexed.

The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy – (eds.) T. LaHaye & E. Hindson – Many fine articles on issues to do with Israel in prophecy.  The one on “Dispensations” ties them too closely to the covenants.

The Gathering Storm – (ed.) Mal Couch – This is a very helpful book full of interesting essays.

When the Trumpet Sounds – (eds.) T. Ice & T. Demy – Overall excellent essays.

Israel in the Spotlight(ed.) C. L. Feinberg – Hard to procure but with some fine contributions.  Somewhat dated.

*Christ’s Prophetic Plans(eds.) R. Mayhue, J. MacArthur, et al – Informative essays by fine prophetic scholars.

*Israel: The Land and the People(ed.) H. Wayne House – A very solid and informative work.

An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics – Mal Couch (ed.) – Some excellent chapters on correct interpretive issues.

The Return of Christ – David Allen & Steve Lemke (eds.) – An uneven but helpful survey of Premillennialism

Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism – (ed.) Herbert W. Bateman – Dispensationalists and “Progressives” discuss three important matters.  I found the Progressives rather confusing to read, particularly on the distinction between Israel and the Church, where the writer seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth, but the questions raised are important.  The book is not as good as it should have been. Continue reading “Recommended Reading in Dispensationalism”

Ten Books To Read Before Seminary

Years ago, before I attended London Theological Seminary I was given a list of books to acquire and read prior to starting my courses.  I can’t remember all of the titles on the list (there were ten I believe), but I do recall plowing my way through Calvin’s Institutes, Machen’s New Testament Introduction, Hendriksen’s Survey of the Bible, Merrill’s Kingdom of Priests.

Along with the Bible, which should have been read once through at least (!) before even contemplating going to Seminary, here is a list of books which I would strongly recommend a young preacher to read prior taking the leap:

1. Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne by A. A. Bonar, or Memoirs of Thomas Boston edited by George Morrison

The M’Cheyne biography is short but leaves an impression of a sold-out life.  Boston’s Memoirs are longer and a tad more difficult, but they portray a pastor’s heart in a small village surroundings.  Another great work would be J.C. Ryle’s Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century.

2. Lectures to my Students by C.H. Spurgeon, or Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Spurgeon for practical advice delivered with humor; MLJ for focus on what a preacher should (and should not) be.

3. History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker, or (if Walker is too much), Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns

Walker is the best single volume church history in my opinion.  Like most church historians, he has his biases.

4. The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, or Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks

This assumes one has read Pilgrim’s Progress.  Flavel is a bit easier than Brooks, mainly because Brooks is the archetypal Puritan who breaks every point down into 14 separate heads.  

5. Handbook of Evangelical Theology by Robert Lightner

A very good basic introduction to Theology.

6. Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Bad title (it’s more about spiritual mindedness), but a terrific example of exposition and application.

7. Arminian Theology: Myths & Realities by Roger Olson

I include this because Arminianism is apt to be caricatured more than Calvinism.

8. Evangelical Hermeneutics: The Old and the New by Robert L. Thomas

Contemporary evangelical hermeneutics is in a self-satisfied tailspin.  This book helps illustrate the dangers and reintroduces some common sense.

9. The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Jason Lisle

Lisle manages to introduce the reader to presuppositonal apologetics, logic, and young-earth creationism all at once.

10. The Promise-Plan of God by Walter Kaiser

I don’t agree with Kaiser all the time, and I think he pushes the promise – fulfillment thing too far (like most evangelicals!).  but this is a very good overview of biblical theology.


A Backwards Glance: 2011

My chosen title shouldn’t alert you to my reflections on News stories of the last year   Albert Mohler is a good place to go for that.  Neither should you come here expecting to read about the controverted topics in the smaller world of Evangelicalism (e.g. the overdone saga of Rob Bell’s book – after all W.G. Scroggie, J. Wenham, J. Stott had issues with Hell too).  These have their place, but I often find them somewhat boring.  And anyway, why should anyone be interested in my opinions about such things?

No, I’m just going to write something about books and things.


I start with fiction.  I don’t read a lot of it.  But over the past three years or so I have found in it a nice diversion.  Beginning early in 2011 I started reading John Buchan.  Buchan was a very popular Scottish writer in the first part of the 20th Century, but by the last third of it was looked upon as a representative of old hat “stiff upper lip” British-ness.  He is best known as the author of The 39 Steps;  a cracking cloak and dagger which careers all over England and Scotland as its main protagonist, Richard Hannay, seeks to disembroil himself from a false murder charge.  The book has spawned several movies, the best being Hitchcock’s 1935 classic starring Robert Donat.  None of the movies sticks faithfully to the book.  If you haven’t read it I recommend you do.

After the first Hannay adventure I was hooked and have enjoyed following Hannay’s exploits in Greenmantle and Mr Standfast, both high caliber yarns set during the Great War.  I’m going to read The Three Hostages as soon as I can.

I have also been reading Margery Allingham’s “Albert Campion” mysteries.  These are set in the England in the late 20’s to early 50’s and are uniformly good.  Campion first appears as a side character in The Crime at Black Dudley where he basically takes over the book.  He is a fascinating amateur sleuth, clearly from the upper crust, although Allingham only drops hints about his real identity throughout her books.  I haven’t been careful enough to read the novels in order, though I did next pick up the first Campion mystery proper, the excellent Mystery Mile.  Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Danger, Police at the Funeral, and Tiger in the Smoke.  What makes Campion interesting is the way the author makes him out to be deliberately somewhat idiotic.  It’s as if he hides himself behind his large horn-rimmed specs.  He is acquainted with much that is evil, even being recognized as an expert in many matters by Scotland Yard, yet he comes across as a bit of a fool.  Great stuff.  The old BBC series with Peter Davison does a good job of transferring the character to the screen.

Christian Books

Most of my reading time is spent either with the Bible or with more academic books.  Albeit I have managed to peruse one or two lightweights like David Platt’s Radical, which I may summon the courage to review here soon (that’s right, I’m not that impressed).  Beyond that I have been impressed by P. T. O’Brien’s new Pillar Commentary on Hebrews, and have been using Robert Gundry’s Commentary on the New Testament with real profit.  Douglas McGready’s work on the preexistence of Christ called He Came Down From Heaven has been very worthwhile, as has Craig Keener’s study The Historical Jesus of the Gospels and N. T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God.  I was hoping to be on the third installment of Wright opus by now but got diverted onto other things.  I am eager to explore his fully worked out views on Paul’s theology when that book finally arrives sometime in 2012.  I know I shall have many disagreements, but I want to see what he has to say all the same.

Back with Jesus studies I have been very much helped by Paul R. Eddy & Greg Boyd’s The Jesus Legend, although I have not yet finished it.  On the more apologetic front A. Kostenberger & M. Kruger’s The Heresy of Orthodoxy is the best argued defense against the lucrative hypothesizing of Bart Ehrmann I have seen.  Erhmann is just warmed over Bauer, but people have forgotten about Bauer so it all appears new.  Not so good an apologetics book in my opinion is God is Great, God is Good edited by W. L. Craig & Chad Meister.  Evidential/Classical apologetics seems to give away as much as it takes.  It is a fairly short step to Nancey Pearcey’s good but rather gloomy Saving Leonardo.

Turning to theology I must confess to having not completed many books.  Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God makes the case that Christians intuitively adopt a Trinitarian outlook even though they might not be able to articulate it.  Kenneth Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty presents a well thought out Molinist approach to the issue which deserves attention.  I shall be using it alongside of Bruce Ware’s God’s Greater Good in future in my course “The Doctrine of God (2) – Creation & Providence” at Veritas.  Among the unfinished volumes are Roland McCune’s Systematic Theology (1), and Greg Nichols’ Covenant Theology, the second of which, though well written, has been painful to read on account of the author’s seeming unawareness of his own assumptions.

Karl Barth has loomed in the background all year.  I am midway through Volume 4.1 of his Church Dogmatics.  I enjoy the challenge of Barth, and he really helps me to think through my own presuppositions.  The man can play on one string for longer than any person I know.  But some of what he plays is downright brilliant, whether one can completely sign off on it or not.  Of one thing I am convinced.  Barth was more God-fearing than many of his modern devotees.

Finally, in Biblical Studies I am looking forward to finishing Larry Helyer’s The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John.  Like all Helyer’s books, this one will teach you even when you find yourself parting company with him here and there.  Helyer deserves more attention than he gets.

Vying for my time in the New Year is G. K. Beale’s new tome A New Testament Biblical Theology.  A kind student bought it for me for Christmas and I am already a hundred pages through it.  I may try a series of blog posts through the book but I haven’t decided that yet.  Beale is brilliant and I shall learn a great deal from him, but so far he has built too much conjecture into his argument for the storyline of the OT.  Last but not least, John H. Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch, with all its editorial peccadilloes, has made an indelible impact on me.  I still can’t understand how covenant theologians could hail this book in such glowing terms as they have.  It contains one of the most sustained arguments against covenant theology I know of!

That’s it.  Better late than never!  It remains for me to thank everyone who has bothered to read my blog.  May God bless you and yours.  Even so, come Lord Jesus in 2012!

Your brother,

Paul H.

Fred Butler has written a nice post on his reading which is worth a read.


Personal Thoughts About Commentaries (6): Ephesians

It’s about time I returned to this series recommending commentaries.  There are also lists on John, Romans, Matthew, and Genesis, plus my Introduction.  

1. Harold Hoehner – A massive book with an impressive argument for Pauline authorship and extremely detailed in the exegesis department.  There is room for him to survey all the options and argue for his choices.  One of the best commentaries on any Book.

2. Clinton Arnold (ZECNT)– A very good commentary, pitched just below the technical but with real attention to the text.  Arnold is well known for his book Ephesians: Power & Magic, which is a superb background study of how pagans in Ephesus understood the concept of spirits and power, including using magical papyri and amulets.

3. F.F. Bruce (NINCNT) – Paired with Colossians & Philemon, this work gives the pith and substance of Paul’s letter.

4. Markus Barth (Anchor) – Huge treatment, hard to read, but very suggestive.  Two volumes with impressive theological reflection based on minute exegesis.  Surprisingly for a German he argues for Paul as the author.

5. A. T. Lincoln (Word) – Lincoln sometimes reads like an evangelical; sometimes like a liberal.  He rejects Pauline authorship (for no good reason that I can see).  I like this work because one gets the sense of the forward-looking strain in the epistles.  Shame he doesn’t write on Philippians!. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts About Commentaries (6): Ephesians”

Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (5): GENESIS

Commentaries on the Book of Genesis are ten-a-penny.  But some of them are too concerned with ANE parallels that they forget to teach the Book itself.  Some are over speculative, while others too critical and unbelieving.  The pastor who wants to get at the meat without spitting out too many bones might do worse than study the following:

1.  Kenneth A. Mathews (NAC) – These two volumes are the best thing I have read on the text of Genesis.  They are up to date, readable, and conservative.  The writer pays attention to the NT uses and deals fairly with the literature.  The book has a refreshing quality about it that makes it interesting to read.

2. Gordon J. Wenham (WBC) – This is the one most commentary lists will put first for Genesis, and with good reason.  It is written by an expert, and it is clear that he is at home in the details.  The style is terse and clear.  Some critical stances bring this two volume work down a notch to second spot.

3. Victor Hamilton (NICOT) – Another two volume work at about the same level as Mathews and Wenham.  I like Mathews better on the first chapters, but this is an excellent commentary.  It provides a lot of background and linguistic material. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (5): GENESIS”

Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (4): MATTHEW

Here are my personal picks for the most profitable commentaries on Matthew.  I favor a modified ‘Dispensational’ approach to the book which takes seriously the way Matthew provides lines of continuity and discontinuity with the Old Testament.  But I have little problem with including studies which do not handle eschatological issues as satisfactorily as I would like.  There is, after all, more to Matthew than eschatology:

1. Donald A. Hagner (WBC) – This was a hard choice as I don’t hold to ‘Q’.  But there is so much great exegetical, historical, and practical material in these two volumes that I cannot think of being without it.  Eat the meat and spit out the critical bones!

2. Grant Osborne (ZECNT) – A top drawer commentary by a seasoned scholar at his best.

3. D. A. Carson (EBC) – I rarely find Carson as helpful or as clear as Hagner, but this is a first-rate work.  More tentative on ‘Q’s’ influence than Hagner though.  The revised work in this set is sure to keep Carson at or near the top of everyone’s list. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (4): MATTHEW”

Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (3): ROMANS

The Best Commentaries on Romans:

Remember, this list has preachers primarily in mind:

1. Douglas Moo (NICNT) – Somewhat dense, which may hinder readers somewhat, but interaction with the text and the literature is very impressive.  Deals well with the ‘new perspective’, and even manages some applications (but see Moo’s contribution to the NIVAC series).  His Introduction is on the short side, but there are numerous excurses.  Not all will like his treatment of Chapter 7.

2. Thomas Schreiner (BECNT) – I might have put this first because of its accuracy and usability.  Still a big book, but not as intimidating as Moo.  Pastors should purchase both works. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (3): ROMANS”