Books I Heard or Read in 2017

My annual book review list for the year 2017.

Books I Heard

In The Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette – Hampton Sides

A wonderfully written narrative detailing the first attempt to cross the Arctic Sea. At the time, it was believed that the Arctic was a vast ocean surrounded by ice. Once a ship punches through the ice, the crew could sail across the North Pole, punch through the ice again, and emerge on the other side of the world. That of course was a wildly disastrous theory that led to the Jeannette and its crew trapped in the Polar Ice Cap for two years. They were eventually forced to abandon ship as it was crushed to pieces.

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime – Val McDermid

A history of forensic science and how it has helped solve crimes. A bit ghoulish with some details, but this was one of the better books I heard this year.

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace – H.W. Brands

As a southerner, I was born believing that U.S. Grant was an awful man who took state rights away from the South. Brands’s biography dispelled that myth for me. I finished this book loving the guy and actually thankful for his presidency after the Civil War. The first two-thirds of the book recounting Grant’s early life and military career during the war was riveting. Once he became president, the narrative got a bit boring at spots, but the author moved the story along at a good pace. He exposed me to a lot of forgotten history that was rarely covered in school. We can only wish we had more men like Grant today. I also look forward to exploring more of Brands’s history. He was an excellent writer.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign – Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Out of all the books I heard this year, Shattered was the most delightful. Primarily because I knew the ending and it would be an emotionally thrilling one. The two authors interviewed many individuals involved behind the scenes at Hillary’s campaign. They provide a month by month narrative moving us through Hillary’s announcement to run for president in 2015 to her meltdown on election day, 2016. They also border on turning the book into a hagiography as they gloss over Hillary’s corruption and criminal activities, and paint her opponents, particularly Trump, as sinister and conniving men wishing to deny this wonderful woman her rightful place as president. What was really revealing was the flagrant elitism of Hillary and her cronies who believed they deserved to win this election and that Americans were merely tricked by fake news and Russian meddling to vote for Trump. It is symphonic levels of delusions of grandeur.

Christianity and Liberalism – J. Gresham Machen

This is Machen’s classic, undeniable work demonstrating that Liberal Christianity is a false religion that has manufactured a god of their own making and has nothing whatsoever to do with biblical Christianity.

Why The Reformation Still Matters Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

Just finished this a week before Christmas. A well-written overview of the key men who ignited the Reformation. The authors cover what the five solas were all about and why they still very much matter for us some 500 years after the Reformation.

Books I read

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – JD Vance

The autobiography of a young man raised in Kentucky and Ohio among a white trash, hillbilly culture. Spurred on to accomplish greater things by his crass grandmother who was one of the only stable persons in his life, Vance moved forward by joining the Marines, attending Ohio State, and eventually graduating from Harvard law school. The book hit close to home for me, because every dysfunctional family member and neighbor he describes mirrors pretty much a number of folks I knew in my rural, Arkansas town.

Do not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion – Justin Peters

Justin’s short book explores why manipulating young children to be baptized at a young age is ultimately disastrous. My longer review of the book can be found HERE.

What About Freewill? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty – Scott Christensen

As I have been telling people for a while now, this is probably the best book on the topic of freewill currently in print. Easy to read, well written, and addressing all of the necessary topics related to the subject. A lengthier review can be found HERE.

Wesley and the People Called Methodists  – Richard Heitzenrater

A friend of mine — who is the only high, supralapsarian Calvinist I know who graduated from a Wesleyan college — recommended this book to me. It is written from a Wesley-friendly perspective. The author is also more honest with his evaluation of Wesley’s troubling personal and theological foibles. It provides a fuller picture of the man than what is usually found among other evangelical historians attempting to make him an admirable counterpart to Whitefield.

The Doctrine of the Word of God – John Frame

Frame’s marvelous doctrinal study on Scripture. All of his works were on sale for 25 bucks at ShepCon this past year. If they are again this year, I’m picking up his Doctrine on the Christian Life to complete my set.

The Life and Times of Cotton Mather – Kenneth Silverman

Phil Johnson and Mike Abendroth recommended this older biography on Mather. I was able to secure a used hardback copy in excellent condition. Silverman, to my knowledge, is not a Christian, but he handles Mather with respect. At the same time, he does not gloss over Mather’s eccentricities. The section detailing the Salem witch trials and Mather’s continuationist sympathies is alone worth the price of the book.

The Benedict Arnold Option – J.D. Hall

I understand that J.D. is a polarizing figure; but that aside, he has written a necessary critique of Rod Dreher’s retreatist philosophy that has taken root among the evangelical intellectuals. The Benedict Option philosophy is to academy elitists what they think Trumpism is to blue collar, red state evangelicals.

Navigating Genesis – Hugh Ross

This is Hugh Ross’s classic manifesto presenting old earth, progressive creationism. If one wishes to know the basic apologetic approach of Ross and his supporters, it is the book where one should begin. I wrote a series of critiques that can be found HERE.

Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys: 7 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey, host of Family Life Today, has put together a small, helpful book addressing the need for parents to direct teenage boys in assessing the character of young ladies. He draws his material from the book of Proverbs as he answers important questions in discipling young men.

I am currently working my way through Michael Kruger’s newest book on second century Christianity entitled, Christianity at the Crossroads. I plan a fuller review later after I finish it. As always, Kruger has written a needful work. Also, I am thoroughly enjoying Michael Vlach’s book, And He Shall Reign Forever, that is a study on the kingdom of God. It is an excellent entry on the topic of God’s sovereignty and His eternal kingdom.

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Clashing Theologies over Israel and the Church

I had the opportunity recently to participate in a nearly three hour discussion on the distinctions and similarities between Israel and the Church.

Participants were various individuals from the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, that included Andrew Rappaport and myself defending more of a Dispensational perspective, Paul Kaiser and Joey Jaco from the Conversations from the Porch podcast defending the NCT perspective, and Vincent Lancon representing the CT perspective.

The discussion was informal, rather than a serious debate. I appreciated that because we weren’t required to remain anchored to a rigid format. A number of listeners may find the informality annoying because it allowed us to hop around on a lot of rabbit trails. Additionally, the NCT and CT perspectives were virtually identical, at least this time.

The one observation I would make reflecting back upon the discussion is that our main disagreement hinges on how we interpret the Bible. (Duh).

The Dispensational detractors, especially the NCT guys, insist that the apostles read the Old Tesatment differently than the prophets because the coming of Jesus supposedly changed the rules of hermeneutics. While I would certainly agree that God was progressively revealing His redemptive purposes over time so that certain aspects of His purposes were veiled for a time, to suggest that the basic rules of interpretation shifted dramatically with the coming of Christ so that the OT is entirely reoriented in the light of the NT opens up major fissures in our basic theology.

For example, that view would create what I would consider competing canons of authority with the OT conveying a revelatory message in one way and the NT conveying an entirely different message. Moreover, proponents of that interpretive view would have us believe God intentionally misled with the revelation He gave. In other words, when the patriarchs heard the reiterated covenant promises of a geopolitical kingdom in their land that lasts forever, they took God at His word. If He really meant something entirely different, that being a typological heavenly land, such would be deception on God’s part. The OT is replete with prophetic promises that clearly state how Israel will be planted in their land forever, never to be removed. The land is further understood as the physical territory known as Israel, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 27, Isaiah 59:20-21, Jeremiah 16:14-16, Jeremiah 32:36-40, Hosea 1:10, Hosea 2:21-23, and Zechariah 12-14, just to mention a smattering of important passages.

Abner Chou has actually offered some excellent critiques of what is called the Christocentric hermeneutic. I would direct readers to these resources,

A Evaluation of the Christocentric Hermeneutic (Word doc)

Inerrancy in Light of the NT Writer’s use of the OT (ShepCon Inerrancy Summit message)

The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28 (TMS journal article from Matt Waymeyer)

Anyhow, the discussion is currently available on YouTube, and will be made available eventually as a podcast on BTWN. Check it out.

Israel and the Church | the Clash of Theologies

Discussing the Benedict Option

I recently had an hour and a half podcast discussion with Len Pettis on the creeping Romanism that is the Benedict option. One of the more baffling things I have watched the last few months is evangelicals rushing to praise Rod Dreher for his alarmist proclamation that American culture is dead and Christians need to retreat into spiritual safe spaces of what really amounts to M. Night Shyamalan’s, The Village.

We discuss pros and cons, examine the main arguments for the thesis, and offer what I believe to be a more biblical way of thinking through the demise of Western society.

Check out the link here, The Benedict Option.

Talking Halloween and Christians

booAndy Olson of Echo Zoe radio contacted me last week and wondered if I would be willing to visit with him for his monthly podcast. I said, “sure, would love to,” and when we got to exchanging messages about a particular topic, the subject of Halloween came up. We quickly discovered we had similar experiences growing up as Fundy Christians and being told Halloween was satanic and will steal your soul (if you weren’t murdered first in a ritual killing).

So this being October, and knowing Christian parents are probably struggling in their hearts about whether or not they should do something Trick or Treaty with the kids (and at the great risk of receiving a severe wedgie from some of my discernment blogging acquaintances), we landed on that subject. We spent about an hour discussing our take on Halloween. We talk about the Jack Chick Halloween menace worldview, the fact that Halloween marks the beginning of the Reformation, and how folks can actually benefit spiritually from Halloween without losing their soul to the roving covens of black hooded warlocks seeking out blonde virgins to sacrifice.

Give it a listen; and like I always so, listen at 1.5x speed because we sound much more smarterer.

On Halloween

BTWN: The Home School Vs. Public School Episode

homeschoolersI had the privilege once again to join the BTWN fellas to kick around a few topics. First, we discussed what church growth should look like for a congregation. Then we turned to Christian potheads, man. And then we spent the remainder of our time in a spirited discussion about whether or not Christian parents can send their kids to public school. Tim and I took the affirmative, Len the negative.

BTWN: Episode 174

Just to summarize my position regarding the great homeschooling/public school debate if I were not clear enough on the podcast:

– My wife and I currently home school all five of our children. In fact I have written about our views HERE and HERE.

– I do not believe God forbids Christian parents from sending their kids to secular, public schools. There is not a Bible verse anywhere in Scripture that says a parent has to home school.

– The exhortations to train your kids in godliness and so forth, found in Deuteronomy and other similar passages that homeschooling advocates often appeal to for their anti-PS convictions, are not addressing a general education a child would receive in either a public school or at home.

– Instead, passages in Scripture exhorting the teaching of God’s Word to children and raising them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord are speaking specifically to the parents role in raising their children to fear God and to obey His law. Parents can do that while still sending their kids to public school.

– That said, I do share many of the concerns of anti-PS homeschooling advocates. I understand that secular educators and education can have an agenda. Christians must not be naive regarding that fact.

– However, public schools differ from community to community. Some will be more liberal than others, while some extremely conservative than others. My family happens to live in a conservative oriented school district in LA county. Parents need to use discernment and discretion when choosing how they will educate their kids.

– It is grossly inaccurate and a ridiculous exaggeration on the part of anti-PS homeschooling onlyists to automatically charge all public schools and their teachers/administrators everywhere across America as attempting to steal the heart of children from Jesus and to turn them against God.

– Parents who do send their children to public school need to be extra vigilant in what it is their children are learning, who their friends are, who their teachers are, what are the influences, etc.

– The more the parents are involved with their kids education with such things as helping with homework, reviewing assignments and lessons, and even giving of their time at their local school, the more they will be equipped to address issues that may confront their kids and interact with educators and administration.

– Homeschooling is absolutely no guarantee that your children will be safe from worldliness and anti-theistic philosophies, or even that they will be saved. I know a number of loving, God-fearing parents who home schooled their children who never once darkened a PS door, who are now hellions and/or hostile toward their parents and the Christian faith. Anti-homeschooling blogs exist for a reason.

The Prophets of Doom

doomThe last month or so, I have been introduced to the Hardcore History podcast hosted by Dan Carlin.

Now, I am guessing, that originally, these history talks/lessons started out as a general podcast, but as they were produced, Carlin had such an amazingly awesome way of presenting the material, that Amazon’s Audible picked it up and began charging for it. There are only a few that are downloadable for free at this point.

The one I wanted to direct my readers toward is his 4 hour overview of the Munster rebellion in 1534-1535.

The Prophets of Doom

If you recall that incident during the birth of the Reformation, a group of Anabaptist seized the town of Munster, Germany, believing it would be the center of Christ’s return to earth and establishment of his kingdom. That belief was disastrous, and led to the city turning into an ISIS like cultism that saw many of the inhabitants slaughtered by either the hands of the militant fanatic Anabaptist or the armies besieging the city.

Carlin is not a Christian, at least to my knowledge, so he isn’t filtering it through a Reformed theology like a lot of us like with the books of Iain Murray, for instance. However, he does present the history well, explaining the background of the events that formed around the enthusiasm for the general principles of Reformation. That in turn led to Anabaptists gaining power on the town council in Munster, and their eventual take over of the entire city for a year.

I think folks will greatly benefit from his retelling of that bizarre, tragic chapter in the history of the Reformation and the Anabaptist movement. Interestingly, the Munster Anabaptists were continuationists who believed in divine prophecy and other “manifestations of the Spirit” that present day charismatics insist demonstrate the filling of the Holy Spirit.

I would also recommend downloading his other talks. Carlin just has a fantastic ability with walking you through the history of the various events he covers. I understand his lessons on WW1 are excellent.

BTWN Hangout: “I used to be an atheist”

pasta1I recently had the privilege of participating in a Bible Thumping Wingnut Google hangout. There were a variety of topics, but our overarching theme was the knowledge men have of God, apologetic methodology, my recent articles on that topic, and atheism. Larry Herzog gave his testimony about how God saved him from atheism.

We spent the last 30 minutes of the time going Mystery Science Theater on an atheist talk by The Thinking Atheist.

“I used to be an atheist” [You tube version] 

Podcast Discussion on Apologetic Methodology

I had an enjoyable discussion this afternoon with Adam Tucker and Devin Pellew on the subject of apologetic methodology. We discussed a number of topics related to the distinctions between Classic Apologetics and Presuppositionalism.

There were some good exchanges that took place, many of them worthy of independent comment in a blog article or two, which will be forthcoming.

It’s a little theologically geeky, but worth the time listening. Maybe play it at 1.5X speed so we sound really, really smart.

A Dialog on Apologetic Methodologies