SOUL TREKKING
WITH 

PASTOR STEVE

Reviews of some nonfiction Christian books and

what I think of them.

 
 
 


 

 

 

Page last updated 10-27-2008. 
See What's New for details.

 

 


 

Alphabetical Listing of Authors with links to Book Reviews:

Alcorn,Randy - The Grace And Truth Paradox

Anderson, Bernhard W. - The Unfolding Drama of the Bible 

Boyd,  Gregory A. - God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction To The Open View of God

Brouwer, Sigmund - The Unrandom Universe

Chesterton, G.K. - Saint Francis of Assisi

Downing, David C. - Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles

Frame, John M. - No Other God: A Response To Open Theism

Miller, Calvin - Miracles and Wonders: How God Changes His Natural Laws to Benefit You 

Ortland Jr., Raymond C. - When God Comes to Church

Piper, John - Brothers We Are NOT Professionals

Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth

Piper, John  - Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (2003 Edition) 

Kuyvenhoven, Andrew - The Day Of Christ's Return: 
What The Bible Teaches, What You Need To Know

Smedes, Lewis B. - My God And I: A Spiritual Memoir

Sproul, R.C. - The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work For Good?

Stott, Dr John R.W. - Stott on Stewardship: The Principles Of Christian Giving

Vos, Geerhardus, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. - The Eschatology of the Old Testament

Ware, Bruce R. - God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism


 
 
  
 

The Day Of Christ's Return: 
What The Bible Teaches, What You Need To Know
by Andrew Kuyvenhoven

 A clear, compelling, friendly, and convincing presentation of the common Reformed view of The End Times, this book by a retired Christian Reformed pastor and former editor of The Banner, receives my highest recommendation.  Among the topics covered are: the impossibility of predicting the time of The Second Coming by looking at world events; the errors of Dispensationalism; The Rapture as occurring at Jesus' Second Coming and the Final Judgment; the fact that there have been many Anti-Christs and likely will be many more; the non-importance of the physical nation of Israel since God's true Israel is made up of all who believe in Christ, and how the New Testament interprets the Old Testament's prophecies about the land, Jerusalem, and the temple as referring to the world, heaven, the new heavens and the new earth, and The Church.  If this summary sounds strange, or even heretical, maybe you are only familiar with one branch of Bible interpretation which has gained so much popularity.  And maybe you need to be challenged and enlightened by this book.  I needed to be and I was.  I received encouragement, too.  Christ reigns now!  The Millennium, which is a symbol of the Church Age, is now and NOTHING can stop the ultimate spread of the Gospel and carrying out of God's plan.


 

The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work For Good?
by R.C. Sproul

 The second-to-last sentence in Sproul's book about God's Sovereignty and Providence (his care and superintendence of our lives and our world) reads, "This book but scratches the surface of the mysteries that are hidden in His great providence."  That is an understatement.  Much of the book is long scripture quotes (so much so that I found myself thinking that it must be a commercial for the New King James Version) and then a stating of the obvious meanings of the verses or a re-telling of the biblical stories.  And some chapters are so rambling and "scatter shot" that it's hard to remember exactly what main point R.C. is trying to make.  For example, in the very short chapter on prayer, Sproul not only tries to explain how prayer relates to Providence, but also how to pray according to God's will, what effective and righteous prayer entails, and what the common elements of prayer are all in ten pages, one of which is taken up with a summary of a suspense novel.  Many of Sproul's personal experiences that he relates do not serve to make him seem like one of us, but paint him as being rather proud.  For instance, he was once persecuted because he had the courage to preach a sermon that made "every saint from the apostle Paul to the great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield, who were in heaven" rejoice!  And when he was in a train wreck he learned absolutely nothing theologically from the experience that he didn't already know.  In only a few chapters, such as those on the Problem of Evil and the different kinds of "good" there are, was he the brilliant and approachable Reformed scholar of old.  This is now the second book I've read recently by once-respected Christian authors that seemed to indicate that each writer is "losing it."  Still, I appreciated Sproul's biblical assertion that nothing bad in the ultimate sense can ever happen to a Christian and was challenged by his call to live life unafraid because of it.  I was also intrigued by Sproul's view that Satan can never work a real miracle.  I just wish he had explained it even further.  And Sproul brought up a question regarding the origin of evil that I have never though of before.  As if I didn't have enough headache inducing questions of my own!  (Just kidding!  I love headache inducing questions. I was a religion/philosophy major in college.)  Sproul's honesty when faced with the mysteries of God is refreshing, as well.  Maybe this book could serve as an introduction to the subject of God's control of all things for one starting to explore what the Bible says about the matter.  I just expected much more from R.C. Sproul.
 


 

The Unrandom Universe
by Sigmund Brouwer

Brouwer sets out to show that if one takes both science and the Bible seriously and doesn't fudge with what one finds, one's faith is strengthened.  Dealing with advances in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, and physics, he demonstrates how even secular research has been pointing to an act of creation by an intelligent being outside of our universe of space/time/matter.

Brouwer has a gift for simply explaining complex theories and discoveries.  And the history behind those theories and discoveries that he relates is fascinating. 

Yet, I found some of his writing to be awkward, especially his transitions.  And portions of the book are a little too self-indulgent for my taste.

Still, I'm glad I read it and I recommend it to intelligent people looking for evidence of Intelligent Design in the cosmos.  I also recommend it to students who wonder if science and Christianity are incompatible enemies and if they have to put their minds away in order to accept the concept of God.

 


 
 
 

No Other God: A Response To Open Theism
by John M. Frame

 Not only is this book the most devastating critique of Open Theism (the belief that God doesn't know or pre-ordain the future) I have ever read, but it is also one of the most profound and joyous presentations of the Reformed doctrine of God's Sovereignty (His complete and total control over all things) that I have ever come across.  Frame's view of God, both transcending and yet being involved in time, alone is worth the price of the book.
 And, wonder of wonders, though Frame is a professor of systematic theology and philosophy, he writes in an interesting and highly readable way! (As a former religion/philosophy major, I know from firsthand experience that not all do.) This book is actually a page-turner!  This book carries my highest recommendation.


 

The Grace And Truth Paradox
by Randy Alcorn

 What does it mean to be Christlike?  Alcorn makes the case that following Jesus doesn't mean one always has to be nice.  Instead, one must speak the truth in a way that is gracious.  The temptation for Christians is to be either truthful without being gracious, or to be so gracious as to downplay or ignore truth.  Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have traditionally erred on the "truth" side, while liberals have erred on the "grace" side.  But in the person of Jesus, as Alcorn says, "mercy and truth have met together". (Psalm 85:10, NKJV) There is much to provoke thought and to call forth prayer in this small volume.


 
 

Stott on Stewardship: The Principles Of Christian Giving
by Dr John R.W. Stott

 This booklet by Reformed scholar and popular author Stott is and exposition of 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. The points Stott draws from scripture will definitely be finding their way into my preaching and worship services and a couple are surprising and even "radical".  For instance, "Christian giving can be stimulated by a little friendly competition" and "Christian giving contributes to equality" (or at least it should).


 
 

My God and I: A Spiritual Memoir
by Lewis B. Smedes

The late Lewis B. Smedes, retired professor of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, author of several best-selling books, and an editor of The Reformed Journal, penned this surprising spiritual autobiography.  I call it "surprising," because the completely honest Smedes comes across not as a great Giant of the Faith, but as a man who wrestled with God all of his life.

He wrestled with God over the discrepancies he saw between his life and the life of blessings promised believers in church.  And he wrestled with God over knowing intellectually that the Bible taught he was saved by grace and the crippling shame and guilt he often felt.  As I was reading, I was reminded of what a Lutheran friend said to me in seminary as I bemoaned my unworthiness and despised myself because of my weaknesses and perceived sins, "You Reformed guys all talk about your standing with God being based solely on grace, but you think, talk, and act like it's totally based on works.  Why is that?"  To this day, I don't know.

Smedes is one of us "Reformed guys."  He labels himself a Calvinist and joined the Christian Reformed church.  Yet he flirted with Roman Catholicism and universalism (the belief that absolutely everyone will be saved).  He questioned whether God really micro-manages the world and has no use for the idea that God elects some to be reprobate.  He engaged in those flirtations, entertained that question, and rejected some beliefs because he took the Bible, the entire Body of Christ, and his experiences and observations of the world around him very seriously.  I came away from the book with a renewed sense that God's ways of interacting with us are very mysterious indeed and that God and his world are too complex to be adequately contained in doctrinal statements, even those I believe and cherish.

Smedes is the kind of guy who believes in divine healing, yet wonders why God seemingly cares more about a person with a case of bursitis in a charismatic prayer meeting than the 45,000 bruised and battered children who are lost annually in the Los Angeles County Welfare Department, and thanks God sincerely for his daily 20 milligram capsule of Prozac.  He is a man of faith, yes, but also a realist and a questioner.  And he knows that he has faith because God held on to him, and not he to God.  The Lord seldom ever talked to Smedes the way God supposedly talked to other people and Smedes had a hard time talking to God in long, sustained periods of prayer.  In short, I found that Smedes was a person I could relate to.  Maybe you can, too.  If so, pick up the book and be prepared to challenge the author and be challenged by him.  Be prepared to cry, yet also to praise and to examine your own life, your own beliefs, and your own God.


 
 

The Unfolding Drama of the Bible
by Bernhard W. Anderson

I doubt that this little volume, published in 1957 by the National Board of Young Men's Christian Associations, is still in print, but I enjoyed Anderson's quick survey of the Bible, and the way it reminded me of something I've known since seminary - that there are gradations within theological liberalism.  Some liberals, like the homosexual Episcopalian bishop, state that the Bible isn't really all that important in forming their beliefs.  But others, like Anderson, may have problems with some of the miraculous stories in the Bible and see more symbolism and analogy than conservatives would, but still believe that God has acted in history, revealed his mind in the Bible, and is reconciling the world to himself through Jesus Christ.  Anderson also reminded me that God has a purpose in history and that all things are moving toward the fulfillment of God's plans.  Some of the discussion questions in the book, written during the Cold War, are dated, but others are pretty deep and universal.  I didn't always agree with everything Anderson said, but it was good for me to read and contemplate even those parts I disagreed with.
 


 

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (2003 Edition) by John Piper

    I'm still wrestling over some aspects of this book full of vigorous, muscular, challenging Calvinism, but that's okay.  I need to wrestle with myself, the author, and God over what I found there and I know I will be healthier as a result of the struggle.

    Piper's main premise is that the Westminster divines almost had it right.  The chief end of man is not to glorify God and enjoy him forever, but instead to glorify God by enjoying him forever.  God created us to be like him in that we are beings who seek our own pleasure, just as he seeks his own pleasure.  And God is most glorified when we find our highest pleasure in him.  According to Piper, when we speak of doing our Christian duty or of sacrificing to do The Right Thing simply because it is the moral thing to do, we are missing the boat.  Serving God should be a delight for us and we don't really sacrifice, in the fullest sense of the word, anything at all.  Instead, we are setting aside lesser pleasures in order to obtain greater ones, even if we suffer pain in the process.

    The book sets out to prove its premise and to demonstrate that God is infinitely and ultimately desirable.  Then Piper relates the concept of delighting in God to aspects of the Christian life such as conversion, worship, prayer, money, missions, trials, and tribulations.  The sections on Jonathan Edward's views of The Trinity and The Problem of Evil are eye-opening and possibly life-transforming, as is the discussion of George Muller's way to pray and make his "soul happy in the Lord."

    The appendices on "The Goal of God in Redemptive History" and "Is the Bible a Reliable Guide to Lasting Joy?" are helpful apologetical overviews.  The appendix on fighting for joy - in other words, how can one find and maintain joy and pleasure in knowing God - is, surprisingly, the weakest section of the book, and even Piper recognizes that he needs to write more on the subject at a later date to adequately cover the "how to" aspect of his theology.  It's in this area of personal application that I am doing the most wrestling.

    Other aspects of the subject of Christian Hedonism that give me pause are the place of Common Grace in finding pleasure in God, and the primacy that Piper gives to "Frontier Missions."  While Piper uses visiting an art museum and going to the ball game as illustrations of people finding pleasure, the bulk of the book seems to be saying that instead of wasting time on such pursuits, people should spend every waking moment reading specifically Christian books, praying, and consciously meditating on God.  I think Harry Wendt's (creator of Crossways materials) view is more sane and biblical - God gives us good things that help us recoup our energy in order to serve him and we can thank him for them.  It's not that we live for leisure, but that our gracious God gives us needed leisure as a gift.  And isn't the glory of God revealed in a beautiful painting or in a touching and creative movie?  When it comes to the importance of missionaries taking the Gospel where it has never gone before, I'm surprised that Piper the Calvinist doesn't do more to acknowledge the sovereignty and action of God in the other occupations in life.  How could the "Frontier Missionaries" go to the frontier unless people who held down nine-to-five jobs were supporting them financially?  How would missionaries have the training in Bible, linguistics, sociology, etc. necessary for their task unless people were running and teaching at schools for them?  How would they be able to take medicine, new kinds of seed, heartier animals, and helpful technology to the needy if some of them didn't "stay behind" and become researchers and engineers?  Yet, Piper, by the amount of space and attention he gives to the glories of being on the field and spending oneself for evangelism to unreached peoples, can easily give the impression that if you ain't a cross-cultural missionary, you ain't much.

    Still, my struggles and quibbles aside, I highly recommend this book.  When I first tried to read an earlier edition back in the 1980's, I found that I could hardly pick it up.  Now, I found that I almost couldn't put it down.  I have experienced more of life, God, and a knowledge of myself and the world since the 80's.  I was ready for this book.  I NEEDED this book.  Maybe you do, too.
 


 

The Eschatology of the Old Testament
by Geerhardus Vos, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr.

I read a book by Vos for the same reason I would undergo an uncomfortable medical procedure, not because I enjoy it, but because it's good for me.  Vos' works are heavy and one has to slog through them.  But this book made me appreciate again how rich the Bible is and reminded me of my preference for Biblical Theology over Systematic Theology.  (Over-simplified definitions: Biblical Theology studies what the revelations in the Bible meant to those who originally received them and how mankind's understanding of God and his ways grew as more revelation was given over time.  Systematic Theology draws doctrines from the Bible as a whole, almost as if all theological concepts came to us fully formed.  There's a place for both types of theological study in the Christian Church.)  Here, Vos tries to show that the ideal, spiritualized, fulfillments of such concepts as the nation of Israel, the king of Israel, and the Son of David that are found in the New Testament are at least hinted at, pointed toward, and somewhat longed for in the Old.  He also explores the Old Testament's view of a person's ultimate fate and the idea of The Day Of The Lord.  Israel looked to God to bring about "crisis events" which would change their world and their status quo.  This expectation led to the God-inspired belief in a Final Apocalypse.  This book is definitely not for most people, but pastors and theologians can be enriched by exploring its truths and then find ways to bring them to their congregations and students.  (Ex. Are we looking for God to intervene in our histories?  Why or why not?)


 

Saint Francis of Assisi
by G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton admits that this isn't really a biography of Saint Francis, but is sort of an introduction to the study of St. Francis.  And he's right.  The book often makes references to people and events in Francis' life without explaining them.  However, if one is familiar with the details of the story of St. Francis, one will enjoy this essentially book-long essay which explores such questions as: "Why are there no Francises in the world today?"  "How does the modern world deal with such a man and is it even able to?"  "Was Francis insane, or the only truly sane man, next to Jesus Christ, who ever lived?"  "How much of Francis' life and ministry was unique to Francis and how much should we strive to imitate?"  "Why do the purest religious movements quickly become so corrupted and mired in squabbles and politics?"  Very thought-provoking.  The book, copywritten 1924, is written in an older style which may put off some readers, but is worth wading through.


 

When God Comes To Church: A Biblical Model For Revival Today by Raymond C. Ortland, Jr.

This book isn't really a road map to revival because, as Ortland points out, none of us can predict what the Sovereign Lord will do, but it is an excellent exposition of Old Testament passages that talk about God's ability to renew his people, God's great, unfathomable love for us, and how believers can seek the Lord for renewal and can repent of their sins.  The book reminded me of my love for the Old Testament and made me sad that so many Christians today never delve into it.  Their knowledge of the God they profess and the Christian life they want to live is impoverished because of that.  The book also drew me close to the Lord and strengthened my faith.  It does have weaknesses, though.  It gets a bit repetitive in spots and when Ortland tries to make specific practical applications to his reader's lives and churches he is less effective than when he explains the meaning of the Bible verses and makes suggestions to lead us to our own personal conclusions.  I can argue with some of his applications and/or say they really don't apply to me.  But I can't argue with the scriptural and theological truths found in the book.  The Appendix by Francis Schaeffe,r encouraging us to hang on even when revival doesn't come, is superb.


 
 

Miracles and Wonders: 
How God Changes His Natural Laws to Benefit You
by Calvin Miller

Respected Christian author Calvin Miller shows signs in this book that he's either losing it, or needs a better editor.  Sections of the book just ramble on about miracles and all things even vaguely related to them (and some things that aren't) in a slap-dash fashion.  At times, Miller takes the trouble to explain to us the background behind the names he's dropping and the incidents he's referring to, and at other times, he seems to just assume that his readers are inside his head and will automatically know who or what he's talking about and will care.  The book never quite decides what it wants to do and, at its end, Miller confesses that he probably hasn't changed anybody's minds about anything.  How right he is!

The book is full of contradictions, as well.  Miller asserts that the God of love is totally absent from the Red Cross sending relief packages to nations.  That action entails no divine action or miracle at all.  Yet, later in the book, a man buying day-old bread and nightly distributing it to the poor IS a miracle!  The Bible is the authoritative source for all things spiritual and true, yet Miller relies on Hinduism for a classification of the various types of demons in the world.  To Miller, Catholic Tradition and ancient accounts of the supernatural are either full of superstition and ridiculous, or his main justification for maintaining that Luther and Calvin were wrong in asserting that miracles generally ended with the Apostles.  Likewise, appearances of The Blessed Virgin are either the products of overheated minds or messages from God.  And, faith healers are either dangerous, delusional, show-boating egomaniacs, or authentic servants of The Lord.  It depends which chapter, paragraph, or even sentence of this book you are reading.  According to Miller, we desperately need to see miracles in our lives today because they are sure and necessary signs that God really loves us, but, of course, if you don't experience any, don't worry because God really loves you anyway.  Miracles and wonders are defined by Miller as God breaking natural laws, yet so many of the "miracles" reported in the book have nothing to do with violations of natural law - a motel room coming available when it was needed, a cancer patient being released from pain by finally dying (?!?!?), people deciding to take a little longer on their trip and thereby missing an accident, volunteers working for charitable organizations.  Miller says we MUST BELIEVE that God still multiplies loaves and fishes, raises the dead, makes the lame walk, and parts the waters in our Western world today, and that we need to see these things happening, even though he admits that most of the miracles reported in our modern world can't stand up to scrutiny, and most of the "miracles" of today he reports himself are decidedly NOT of the spectacular "My Lord and my God!" variety, and most of his corroborating evidence for the existence of miracles comes from stories of people long ago and far away.

But my main problem with the book is Miller's theology of natural law.  In a sentence or two, here and there in the book, he almost grudgingly admits that a loving God gave us the natural laws to make life possible on our planet.  However, for the majority of the book he hammers home the idea that the natural laws are a constricting and restricting box that we are forced to live within.  They are like a prison from which we need to be liberated.  So a loving God will, of course, keep breaking us out of that terrible prison.  My Reformed theology teaches me, though, that the only reason the natural laws are functioning today is that God wants them to.  The sun came up this morning because God willed it and not a hair on my head can fall except by the will of my Lord.  Miller is almost a deist in believing that God just set up the laws and then steps aside while they operate on their own.  My God works through natural laws so that the Red Cross IS a sign of his love, the medicine that cures my sinus infection is one of his good gifts, and the fact that I can find time for a refreshing nap during a hectic week or that my flight isn't canceled and I can make it to a speaking engagement on time are answers to prayer and signs of God's involvement in my life, even though they aren't "miracles."  In short, I see God everywhere.  Miller waits for him to raise the dead and send fire from heaven. 

My faith in God doesn't depend on what I do or don't perceive him to be doing in my life and world today, but in the revealed truth found in the Bible.  After reading this book, I'd say that Miller's does, too.  He just forgets or ignores that every once in a while.
 


 

Brothers We Are NOT Professionals
by John Piper

Mostly a collection of columns addressing pastors that Piper wrote for his denomination's magazine, this book has the "hit or miss" and scattershot qualities of all such collections.  Some of the chapters really hit home, others are weak, and some don't necessarily have much to do with the chapters that come before and after them.  Piper is at his best when he is relating "Christian Hedonism" to the ministry, reminding us that we're here to glorify God, and renewing our appreciation for the Bible.  This book has helped fire me up for preaching.  But he's at his worst when he essentially says that we all must read what he reads, do what he and his congregation do, and share all of his passions.  Ditto when he brings up and briefly tries to defend his particular theological positions and denominational distinctives.  So, about half to two-thirds of the book's contents is inspiring, while the rest may be frustrating or irrelevant to you.


 
 

God of the Possible: 
A Biblical Introduction To The Open View of God
by Gregory A. Boyd

"Does God ever change his mind?" this book's cover asks.  And the book's contents answer, "Yes!"  According to the author and other proponents of "Open Theism," God doesn't, and can't, know the future because the future doesn't exist yet.  So God can be taken by surprise by what his creatures do and have to adjust his plans accordingly.  But he is powerful enough and wise enough to be able to hit whatever curve balls we throw at him and to make his cause triumph in the end.  This, Boyd and his peers assert, gives real significance to our actions, decisions, and prayers.  We aren't just following a pre-ordained script. We are actually shaping the future with God.

While the book is very readable and can certainly gain a hearing for Open Theism with the general Christian public, certain points about Boyd's presentation and conclusions disturb me:

1. Boyd commendably wants to take scriptures seriously and at face value, yet he breezes past and/or doesn't mention many scriptures where the serious, "face value" would lead one to conclusions opposite to those of Open Theism.  As for those texts troublesome to his position that he does deal with, he finds ways to explain why their apparent meanings cannot possibly be correct.  Yet when traditional theologians do this same thing to texts that seem to teach Open Theism, Boyd criticizes them for trying to explain away the obvious meanings!

2. Open Theists have an unwillingness to live with mystery.  Their view seems to be, "If I can't understand something, it can't possibly be true."  In contrast, I've come to realize that it's logical that I won't understand some things about God and his ways given that his being, intellect, and viewpoints are all vastly different than mine.  Boyd admits that God is "incomprehensibly wise."  Then why can't he live with the free will/election tension that runs throughout the whole Bible and just say, "God's ways are incomprehensible to us?"

3. Open Theism elevates the self.  See point #2 above.  Another tenant of Open Theism is that the individual's freedom and free will are just about the most important things in the universe and that God will adjust his plans so that my autonomy will be preserved.  Funny, but I thought the Bible's main message is that it's God's will, not mine, that matters.

4. Open Theists believe that their view of God will aid in the counseling of grieving and questioning people.  "God didn't ordain that you would be in a troubled marriage.  It just happened.  But he's willing to help you survive it."  This way God will never be blamed for bad things that occur and a person can always feel that God is on his or her side.  But does this logically follow?  In order to keep their high view of scripture and prophecy, Open Theists must maintain that there are some cases in which God simply overrides everything and makes people and events turn exactly and precisely out the ways he wanted them to.  Okay, fair enough, but if that is the case, then counselors will have to say to people, "God could have intervened and led you to fall in love with someone who would be better for you, or he could have made it so that your current spouse would have turned out differently, but God didn't choose to do those things for some reason known only to himself."  So how is this ultimately that much different from what counselors with more traditional theologies would say?

In short, Open Theism is initially intriguing, but when one investigates its claims further, they fall apart like a house of cards.  My concern is that most people won't investigate further after reading this, admittedly initially compelling book, so they will wind up with a God in their minds who can be surprised by the traffic accident that takes the life of a loved one, or who honestly doesn't know what our nation and its enemies will do next, nor whether at the end of your days you'll be saved from Hell or not.


 
 

God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism
by Bruce R. Ware

Ware's book is a good place to start if one is looking for a critique of Open Theism.  He outlines what Open Theists believe and what benefits their view supposedly brings them.  He then tackles some of the scriptures that Open Theists use to support their position, offering alternative meanings, interpretations, and ways to view the Bible as a whole.  Chapter Five is a "Scriptural Affirmation of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge."  Then the book points out how Open Theism diminishes God and can bring despair and confusion to the Christian's daily life.  While I believe that most of the book will be accessible and understandable to lay people, some parts aren't very "reader friendly" and, at times, Ware is repetitious.  Still, I recommend it.


 
 

Beyond the Bounds: 
Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity
edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth

Piper, Taylor, and Helseth have done Christianity a real service by assembling this collection of essays which critique Open Theism from various angles, such as whether The Church was influenced overly much by Greek philosophy in coming to its view of a God who knows the future, how to deal with anthropomorphisms in scripture (and the point is made that scripture itself is an anthropomorphism), how open theism was itself influenced by, and flourishes in, our culture, and what is truly at stake in the debate over Open Theism.  As to the latter angle, convincing cases are made that, by embracing Open Theism, one is undermining the trustworthiness of the Bible itself, our hope for the future, and the very gospel of Jesus Christ.  Not all parts of the book are accessible to lay people and non-religion/theology majors, but I encourage you to wade your way through it and get what good you can glean out of it.  For pastors, professors, and students, it is a must read!  Piper's chapter summarizing his concerns about Open Theism is worth its weight in gold.


 
 
 

Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles by David C. Downing (Jossey-Boss, 2005)

This excellent book explores the chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, and answers the question, "Where did the ideas in the Narnia stories come from?"  We all know that Lewis' Christian faith and theology influenced him as he wrote his children's novels, but David C. Downing shows us that Lewis' life, his knowledge of and love for classical and medieval literature, his views on fantasy and "faerie" and children's stories, his experiences with children, his moral philosophy, his Britishness, his opinions on the modern world, his love of names and wordplay, and his determination to remain childlike also played their parts.

 But this book is more than just a fascinating look at the creative process and a source for great Narnian trivia.  (I found myself exclaiming, "so that's what that name means!")  It also helps the reader to get to know C.S. Lewis and he's definitely worth knowing.  And in outlining and summarizing Lewis' views, Downing also subtly challenges the readers to examine their hearts and minds.  The book is a fun, fast read, but make no mistake about it, there is meat to be found here.  Like the Chronicles themselves, Downing presents intriguing concepts in highly palatable ways.

I heartily recommend this book for fans of Lewis and/or Narnia, for non-fans who are curious about Lewis and/or Narnia, for anyone who has an artistic or creative bone in his or her body, and for anyone who wishes to grow.

I can't wait to read Downing's other books on Lewis and his writings.


 
 
 

 

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