Review: Michael Reeves’ Rejoicing in Christ (IVP Academic)

About half way through in the margins of my copy of Rejoicing in Christ, I write “punchy, down to earth, and full of merriment.” That’s my review. Reeves surprises (meant in the most positive fashion) with equal parts verve and gladness. He’s not afraid to turn a phrase or punch you in the nose with an arresting metaphor. I found myself lost many times in worship as I read. That is rare and to be praised. Reeves has done it again.

What’s odd about Rejoicing in Christ is that Reeves admits it’s run-of-the-mill:

Once upon a time a book like this would have utterly run-of-the-mill. Among the old Puritans, for example, you can scarcely find a writer who did not write—or a preacher who did not preach—something called The Searchable Riches of Christ, Christ Set Forth, The Glory of Christ or the like. Yet today, what sells? What puts the smile on the booksellers face? The book that is about the reader. (9)

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Review: Joshua Ryan Butler’s The Skeletons in God’s Closet (Thomas Nelson)

One of the most perennially difficult questions concerning God is related to His goodness: How can He be good when suffering and evil exist? Isn't God a sadistic, egomaniacal monster for sending countless people to the torture chamber of hell for refusing to worship Him? How could He command the Israelites to slaughter the Caananites in the Old Testament? These are not only some of the biggest objections non-Christians have to the Christian faith, but they are issues Christians struggle and wrestle with as well. In The Skeletons in God's Closet, Joshua Ryan Butler offers a fresh approach to answering these questions by confronting the popular caricatures of hell, judgment, and holy war and demonstrating that in the actual photographs God is good. While we tend to think that hell, judgment, and holy war are the skeletons in God's closet, Butler shows us that when properly understood, these difficult topics show that God is good to His very bones.

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Review: William Boekestein’s Bitesize Biographies Ulrich Zwingli (Evangelical Press)

Whenever I’m offered one of these Bitesize Biographies I jump at the opportunity. They are light reading but enjoyable. I find them a restful interlude between reading thicker books. All of that doesn’t mean they are not quality reading though. I’ve been out of seminary many years, so they help dust the cobwebs off my church figures and history. William Boekestein’s Zwingli biography hit all the notes for why I enjoy this series.

Zwingli is an interesting figure in the Reformation. You don’t hear much about him except his views on the Lord’s Supper and he doesn’t have as large a follow as say a Calvin or a Luther. With that said, I found the section discussing his relationship with Luther most interesting. Some of the same arguments against him made by Luther then I hear now from Lutherans still and often in a similar tone. It also saddens me because the two men who as Boekestein said had much common ground in Christ couldn’t extend grace enough to call the other a brother in Christ.

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Review: Thomas C. Oden’s A Change of Heart (IVP)

The title A Change of Heart gets at two main threads through out this book. First, Oden changes heart on issues of politics and theology—moving from a liberal socialists to a classical Christian rooted in the truths of the early Church Fathers. He contrasts these times of his life well when he says in the first part of life he was mainly concerned with novelty in his theology but after his change of heart he committed to writing nothing new (144). “To be orthodox is to be grounded in the earliest consensual classic Christian teaching” (161). Second, God actually changes Oden’s heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. This change comes through many ordinary means and through friendships with those who he loved but disagreed with.

Prior to reading this memoir, I knew very little of Oden. I knew he had moved from liberal to more conservative on the authority of Scripture and I knew he was Arminian. After reading this memoir, I’ve realized I must read more of Oden. As I mentioned, he relentlessly pursues mere Christianity in the theology of the Church Fathers. I’ve read many memoirs by mostly young millennial and have come to pretty much loath this genre. Partly because most of these memoirs drip with faux humility and usually show how their mind changed by taking some road trip or going to college or some other “major climax” to their story (“In college days I was wary of the temptation to focus any serious religious arguments tied to my own personal experience” 177). I’m always left wondering, “Will this matter in 40 years.” Oden gets why I think I feel this way

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