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Job for Everyone: A Review

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).

I have looked at a couple of the books written by Goldingay in the For Everyone commentary series and this is easily one of the best ones. While the author does a good job making all of the books of the Bible understandable to the average person, this is one of the most insightful and least formulaic that he has written.

In Job for Everyone, John Goldingay regularly uses both personal experiences and familiar anecdotes to help his readers understand and see the significance of the topics that he explores. This installment is no different. What does seem different is that he doesn’t rely nearly so heavily on these experiences as he has in the past. Often these anecdotes made me think more of a Sunday morning sermon that a commentary. While Goldingay still maintains an easy, narrative voice, he delves far deeper into traditional analysis than he has prior to this book. This balance that he strikes makes this book engaging to readers of various levels.

My one qualm with reading commentaries for a review, verses a novel or non-fiction book, is that they are usually formulaic and repetitive in nature. It makes me harken back to seminary when we were required to read highly technical commentaries that were well over 1,000 pages long. Yikes, I still get shivers. The early versions of this commentary series had a bit of predictability to them, although nothing on par with the tediousness most commentaries. In this version however, I found myself sitting back and truly enjoying the feedback on each section. I felt more like I was attending a lecture with a relatable teacher rather than reading an encyclopedia cover-to-cover.

When I recommend this commentary series, as a whole, it is for its understandability, relatability, and approachability. With this volume however, it is for all those things and a depth and quality of writing that made this both an enjoyable read and an applicable source for study.

Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.

Desert Bible Institute, President

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit  Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Westminster John Knox Press through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to  provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.

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Pslams for Everyone Part 1: A Review

Title page of the irst edition of the Bay Psal...

Title page of the irst edition of the Bay Psalm Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).

It took me a little while to decide how I felt about John Goldingay’s book Pslams for Everyone: Part 1 due in part to the kinds of commentaries that I usually use to study. What I have become accustom to over the years is a verse-by-verse exposition on the individual psalms. If that is what you’re looking for, this isn’t the book for you. Goldingay, as the title suggests, has not written this book for a biblical scholar or an experienced pastor but the average person. One morning while I was having my coffee however I had an epiphany. I realized that this would be a great book for a morning devotional or a small group study for new believers. If that is what you’re looking for, keep reading, this might just be the book for you.

Goldingay is fond of using personal anecdotes to put a particular passage into context. He picks something from his, or someone close to his, life and touches on one of the predominate principles shared in the psalm. This is clearly done to make the passage accessible to the average reader. The poetic style of a psalm can make it seem unapproachable to a Western reader. It seems Goldingay is attempting to break through this wall in order to introduce his readers to the psalm.

Another common element is for Goldingay to choose a contemporary topic, issue, or trend and relate that same key idea to it. This has the added effect of taking an example from his life and applying it more broadly. It seems likely that through this he will make the topic being discussed seem more relevant to the reader. While the topic he chooses to focus on may or may not be at the heart of a given psalm, Goldingay undoubtedly puts his readers at ease and helps them understand that these Old Testament poems/songs relate to them in their daily lives.

Lastly, Goldingay picks some key words or phrases to explore in each psalm. Some of these are meant to introduce the reader to biblical terminology. Others are used to show the connotation or denotation of a particular word. On occasion, the word or phrase he chooses helps the reader understand the context of what is being said. All of these ideas are simple, brief, and straight-forward. Clearly, his point here is to simply introduce the book rather to dig in deep.

The book ends up being a very casual, largely narrative, examination of Psalms that will prove useful to those trying to understand it for the first time. It will likely prove useful in encouraging readers to study the book further getting a deeper and relevant understanding of the book as they grow in their biblical understanding.

Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Westminster John Knox Press through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to  provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.

Transforming Church Conflict: A Review

This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute http://www.desertbibleinstitute.com.

Deborah Van Deusen Hunsinger and Theresa F. Latini address an important issue in their book Transforming Church Conflict. They look at what it means to work with people and to deal with the predictable conflict that comes about on a daily basis. This book has a great number of useful points that readers should consider. For instance, church leaders should always attempt to transform conflict into something useful rather than transfer it onto someone else. Additionally, I agree with their position that we should try to understand another person’s position before attempting to correct the problem. They explain how to do this all with great sensitivity and compassion. That said, I think that this would be an excellent book for leaders of a women’s group, provided they weren’t operating in a church.

The book seems to rely heavily on modern psychotherapy principles (not to be confused with true psychological principles). There then seems to be a smattering of spiritualism, Eastern philosophy, and emerging church approaches that make this book suspect at best. While there is certainly the occasional verse thrown in giving the book a Christian feel, most of these references seem to be more thematic than illustrative in nature. Additionally, some of the examples seem to be, if not out of context, slanted to prove the point the authors are trying to make in that section of the book.

In the end, the book comes across as well-meaning and gentle-spirited, but its theology, and therefore its basis, seems either convoluted or manipulated. The writers are clearly literate and well-educated women that have an honest and heart-felt concern for the women around them, but this book needs a little less C.G. Jung and Siddhartha and a lot more C.S. Lewis and Saul of Tarsus. In a world where the popular theory is to just “coexist”, this book is a solid example of social “tolerance” and compromise; but then again, we saw what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thought about compromise.

Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Westminster John Knox Press through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to  provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.

 

I Am Not Afraid: A Review

demon

demon (Photo credit: sarsifa)

This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).

To be frank, I started I Am Not Afraid, by Robert H. Bennett, with a certain degree of dubiousness. My experience with exorcism as an American pastor and biblical scholar has been largely relegated to the sensationalized propaganda that Hollywood produces. I braced myself for an overly dramatic, highly emotional rollercoaster ride; that’s not what a got.

Regardless of your position on the topic, the reader quickly realizes that Bennett has organized his book in a logical, scholarly fashion. He includes primary source facts, examples, statistics, and interviews to support what he is saying. He uses an effective, organized pattern to present his information and is in no way dramatic or unbelievable. He explains the animistic belief system in Madagascar (as well as other countries) wherein spirits are invited (even begged) to enter a person to endow them with powers of prophecy, fortune-telling, and even healing. In that light, the plausibility of possession seems much more likely; moreover, what is disconcerting is the growing interest throughout the West in spiritualism, séances, Ouija boards, and other forms of spirit communication.

The second half of his book is perhaps the most convincing. In it Bennett talks about the church and how the Western worldview varies radically from how Christianity is understood and practiced in most other parts of the world. He specifically talks about the Gospels and how the topic of exorcism is dealt with there. Bennett takes a provocative stance in looking at this part of scripture. Was possession unique to that time period? Were Jesus and the disciplines just too unsophisticated to understand what was going on? Or perhaps, have we (in our arrogance) dismissed this element of the Bible as being either anachronistic or archaic? This is an interesting point since we see how society in general (and the Enemy specifically) like to use this tool to divide, confuse, and dilute the church.

At the end of the book, I was not soundly convinced of Bennett’s observations; however, neither was I smugly dismissive. I was left with the feeling that I want to see for myself. I want to walk those same streets he did and look into the eyes of these people and let the Spirit discern in me what the truth is. Ultimately, I think that was Bennett’s hope: to make us think, to make us question, and to make us want to know the truth.

Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Concordia Publishing House through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to  provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.

Ready, Set, Grow!: A Review

Ready, Set, Grow is a thoughtful, well-structured book about how to not only to help increase the size of your church, but more importantly about how to create interconnectivity among your church leaders. The book has a number of strengths to it: its narrative style, the layout of the book, and the additional resources provided both in and after the book proper.

Too many books on leadership read either like and instruction manual on how to assemble your son’s new bicycle or like one of those endless, droning sermons that you keep checking your watch to see how much there is left. Scott Wilson largely avoids this problem by presenting information that he found useful in developing his church in a story format rather than a process paper or a moral lesson. One added benefit to this format is that it develops a sense of suspense. As readers get to know the people involved in Wilson’s 3-year journey, they want to know how the various trials and confrontations worked out. You find yourself cheering for the person that you connect with and frustrated with the one that just cannot get with the program. Another advantage to the narrative structure is that it made the reading of the text smooth. Rather than the start-and-stop feel that is common to type of book, Wilson is able to maintain coherence through his use of this alternative genre.

The structure to this book was also unique. While Wilson does maintain a narrative style, he frequently has recursive chapters where he goes back and looks at how certain events turned out or examines them from a different perspective. While this adds a strong element of clarity to his writing, it also made a few parts a little repetitive. This was not an overwhelming issue, but it could be a mild point of frustration for the reader. The upside to it was that the reader is extraordinarily clear on Wilson’s main points. Usually after one of these recursive chapters, he had a short input for one of his team members in which they offered their take on what Wilson had just talked about. After these short interludes, they offered a few reflective questions for readers to think about. These short breaks are refreshing and help refocus the reader on the topic at had while at the same time reviewing the previous couple of chapters.

Something this book has, that other less scholarly books often seem to leave out, is references to the books and materials that the team found useful. Wilson actually finishes the book not only with a list of first-rate materials but also a link to a website filled with information that could be used by a team wanting to use the model he purposes. While the book is good and offers a number of strategies and approaches that would be beneficial to any church wanting to improve their leadership, it is this list of resources and plans that will be most useful to the pastor that plans to move forward with this strategy.

Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.

Desert Bible Institute, President

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by My Healthy Church. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to  provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI or the publisher.

What is Biblical Theology: A Review

Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

What Is Biblical Theology is an excellent book not only for an introduction into biblical theology, but also for understanding the literary elements of the Bible. A combination of James Hamilton’s writing style, his examination of symbolism, and clear application of literary devices makes this book easily accessible and immediately applicable to those people wanting to start to have a greater understanding of the Bible.

Hamilton has a smooth, natural voice to his writing that is easy to understand. While he does use some technical language, he clarifies and explains all of the terms he uses. He also provides both general and biblical examples to help the reader follow along with what he is saying. Hamilton regularly cites specific biblical examples that not only support but also clarify his points. While his ideas are extraordinarily well written, his overall organization can be a bit confusing. Readers should focus on the points that he is making in individual sections rather than trying to tie them together as chapters or (moreover) as a book as a whole. This is the only real failing of the book however, and it can be easily overcome if the reader is aware of it in advance.

It is refreshing to read a work that speaks so intelligently on symbolism and typology in the Bible. There has been a movement over the last several years to be hyper-literal in the analysis of the Bible. Indeed, some people are resistant to see symbol, metaphor, or simile in the Bible even when Christ himself states that they are such. (See Matt. 11:6, 13:31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52, and 20:1) Hamilton does an excellent job of showing these forms of figurative language and giving the basic principles for interpreting them. He treats these topics respectfully and accurately so that Christians can get the most out of their Bibles.

Hamilton does not limit himself to just these few elements however. During the course of his book, he talks about narrative structure, plot line, conflict, theme, patterns and much more. He then ties all of these ideas together to help his readers understand and analyze a few, select areas of the Bible. These are effective practice sessions before the readers goes out and applies the principles that they have learned in earnest. Across the board, What Is Biblical Theology is a good book that would be a helpful tool for the beginning seminary student or for the person wishing to enrich their understand of the Word.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Crossway through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to  provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.

Question Everything by Tyler Ellis: A Review

At first blush, my reaction to this book was that it would make a good primer for youth pastors to use or perhaps for new believers. My reasoning for this is that each verse has a simple question that could easily be answered by simply reading the verse closely. No reach or reflection is really required to answer the question; anyone can answer them. This is a very useful teaching technique. We have all read a story or a newspaper article and at its conclusion we realize we don’t really know what we just read. What Ellis’s technique causes readers to do is to actively read Scripture. By causing readers to pause, engage, and interact with the Word he makes us think about it in a new, fresh way that makes it meaningful to us.

As I thought about this book more careful, I realized that it can be just as valuable to the experienced scholar as it is the new Christian. Scholars often look for those ever deeper analyses of Scripture in a hope to be enlightened and thus brought closer to God. These are people who can recite the Word from memory, people who know the New Testament, but perhaps that know it too well. We can get so comfortable with Scripture that our knowledge becomes rote. We recite it back on autopilot like we would the Pledge of Allegiance. If these more knowledgeable readers add one or two questions to each of Ellis’s, they will come back to a deeper understanding of the words we know but may not really own. By adding questions like, “So why is that important?” or “What does that mean to me?” or even “Where else did I see that I the Bible?” we start to engage in recursive learning. By doing this process, readers come back to verses that they have read again and again to apply questions to find personal relevance, deeper connections, and interconnectivity within the Bible. The irony is that we are always looking for deeper relevance and more profound teachers. This simple approach allows you to access the source of the greatest relevance in your life, yourself. It exposes you to the most profound of all teachers, the Holy Spirit.

An example of this is happens when I look at 2 Timothy 3:16. The ESV reads “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” What Ellis asks about this verse is “What specifically are the Scriptures useful for?” This simple question forces the reader to isolate the purposes of Scripture: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Then I ask a simple application question of “Why is this important?” The first thing that stands out to me is there are two purposes: not only teaching and training people in the Word, but also reproving and correcting those who do not. “What does that mean to me?” That when people tell me that I can’t “judge them” that the Bible tells me the opposite. It is just as important according to this verse to correct behavior as it is to teach the Word. I could even go so far as noticing that since “reproof” and “correction” are at the center of the 4 purposes of Scripture. I might therefore even take from that, that correction is at the core of teaching and training. “Where else did I see this in the Bible?” After all I can misinterpret something once. It might an anomaly. So where else do I see this idea of reproof? How about 2 Tim 4:2; Pr. 6:23, 15:10, 31; John 3:20; Ep. 5:11–13; or He. 11:1? Wow! A whole sermon with one question and I honestly choose that verse randomly.

What Ellis shows us is that questions are powerful. He gives us a chance to actively read passages that we have struggled with for years or are seeing for the first time. He encourages to go back and look at, really look at, the Word of God.