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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Reviewing Navigating Genesis [6]

Noah’s Flood: Global or Local?

I come to my sixth review of Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis, and specifically to his study of Noah’s flood.

Ross spends four chapters, 15-18, laying out his apologetic for a local flood, while at the same time debunking the idea of a worldwide flood. It is imperative for him to demonstrate that the text of Genesis 6-8 is recording the history of a local flood because he must sustain his commitment to a deep time reading of the creation narrative. If the fossil record, along with all the major, geological formations found all over the earth, can be explained by a year long, worldwide flood as recorded in Genesis, that presents a severe problem to a ministry whose sole endeavor is to harmonize the Bible to the secular, evolutionary interpretative time frames of earth’s history.

Ross is insistent that the Bible requires us to believe that Genesis teaches a local flood. The whole point of Genesis 6-8, he suggests, is to give us a theological picture of the wickedness of man’s sin and God’s grace containing sin in one geographical area. God sent a localized flood thus preventing man from spreading his corruption to the whole globe.

His position hinges on what he believes are the limits of sin and the boundaries of God’s judgment [see chapter 15]. God only judges man’s sin and what it has defiled. Ross writes, “The extent of the Genesis flood, according to the principle laid out in Scripture, would have been determined by the spread of human sin,” [143]. In his view, ancient, antediluvian men never traveled outside the immediate vicinity of Mesopotamia. So, if for example man never reached Antarctica, there would be no need for God to send a flood there and no need for penguins to travel to Noah for preservation on the ark, [ibid].

In order to prove his local flood theory, Ross employees one chapter worth of strained and out of context grammatical exegesis that revises the plain meaning of the text. A second chapter is selected appeals to dated scientific research that he believes discounts the common, worldwide flood view.

I’ll spend the bulk of my review addressing the exegetical and theological arguments. The so-called scientific arguments he raises are many, and beyond what I can cover in one review article. They are dealt with in detail in such works by Andrew Snelling, Kurt Wise, Jonathan Sarfati, and John Whitmore, so I would refer readers to their material.

Two things disappointed me with Ross’s discussion of Noah’s flood. First, as I have already mentioned in previous reviews, he doesn’t bother engaging any dissenting works that would refute his views. That is also true in these sections on Noah’s flood. There is no real engagement with proponents of a worldwide flood. What passing references he does make with any detractor is shallow (no pun intended), never truly interacting with any published books or technical research that would answer his challenges.

Secondly, a number of his criticisms against a worldwide flood also come from the play books of atheists and amateur internet skeptics. In fact, there are times he sounds just like the nay-saying atheist critics attacking Answers in Genesis. For example, opening chapter 18 that discusses the passengers on the ark, Ross lays out four bullet points against the ark that swirl around in the fever swamps of online atheist forums. For example, “How could eight people possibly care for all the ark’s animals?” and “How could a wooden ship of the dimensions outlined in Genesis possibly be seaworthy?” One is left wondering if he actually wants to defend the testimony of Scripture or just ridicule young earth Creationists.

The Exegesis of Genesis 6-8

Ross devotes chapter 16 at attempting to explain away the biblical language affirming a global flood. In the opening paragraphs of this chapter, he writes that the wording of Genesis 6-8 describes how the flood impacted all humans, all animals, and all the mountains. Additionally, he notes, the words “all,” “every,” and “everything,” appear more than 40 times in the three chapters recording Noah’s flood, [145]. He then makes the astonishing comment, “On this basis, it seems no wonder belief in biblical truth demands belief in a global deluge,” [ibid]. In other words, I know the Bible clearly says the flood was global, but don’t believe your lying eyes!

The rest of the chapter is Ross redefining the clear, universal language employed by the text and reinterpreting Noah’s flood as regional, not global. I’ll consider just a few of his more prominent examples.

The use of universal language

As he noted in his introduction, the Genesis record of the flood uses a number of words that speak of the universality of the event. Such words as all, every, and everything. Ross presupposes, without any serious warrant, that modern readers need to frame the narrative in the mind of ancient man. Rather than thinking the whole earth, as in a spherical, blue globe, because our modern space age has taught us to think that way, ancient man thought of the whole earth as being what he could immediately see. From the mountains on the horizon to the visible boundary of the desert meeting the sky, that was the “whole earth” as far as ancient man was concerned.

Ross then provides some examples from Scripture when regional events like the famine in Egypt (Genesis 42:5-6) and Caesar Augustus’s taxation decree (Luke 2:1) were described as “worldwide” or the “entire earth,” [146-147]. We know from the facts of geography, he argues, that the famine was only Egypt and the surrounding nations and Rome’s world was the Mediterranean nations they conquered. Those events could hardly be called the whole world in the sense of the entire, global earth. Likewise when we understand the use of universal terms in Genesis 6-8.

There are some significant major flaws with his argument, however. One of the first questions I think Ross should consider is simply this: How exactly would the Bible convey the idea of a flood covering the entire globe if not for the use of universal terms? That is a question he seems to ignore.

More to the point, the Genesis record is emphatically clear with the use of repetitive universal terms that the flood was covering the entire world, not just a regional location. Genesis 7:19 specifically states that the flood waters increased upon the earth so that “all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered.” It is one thing to say all the high hills were covered, but to couple that phrase with “under the whole heaven” is exactly the language we would expect if God wants to convey the global extent of the flood.

Additionally, in Genesis 7:20ff. we find the same use of all to describe the extent of the destruction killing all life on the earth. Everything that breathed, man, woman, child, animals, swarming things, etc. Only Noah, his family, and everything on the ark was left alive. How else is one to understand such concise language? Even Ross acknowledges that, “the text would appear” to have universal extent [149], but of course he rejects that appearance.

One final note. The Apostle Peter uses the flood as an illustration of the coming judgment on the earth when Christ returns. In fact, Peter employs the word kataklusmos in 2 Peter 3, which translates the Hebrew word mabbul in Genesis 6:17. If the flood was a local, regional flood, does that mean Christ’s judgment is limited to Israel and the surrounding nations where the climatic battle of Armageddon takes place before His return? It would be an odd illustration if the flood only covered one small portion of the world, whereas the final judgment is the whole world.

The permanence of dry land

Ross claims that Psalm 104, along with a number of other passages, like Job 38 and Proverbs 8, teach that God declared during the creation of the land that it will never be covered in water again. In other words, when God brought dry land out of the waters, He Himself precluded the notion of a worldwide, earth destroying flood. The oceans had a set boundary and their waters will never cross over on to dry land, [147].

The problem, however, is that none of the passages he cites supporting his notion teach what he claims. All of them are either recounting God’s general care for His creation with really no mention of the permanence of dry land. Psalm 104:6-9 comes the closest, but those verses speak to the certainty of God’s post flood promise not to flood the earth again. Psalm 104:6-9, in fact, parallels the flood narrative: Genesis 7:19,20 (Psalm 104:6), Genesis 8:1, 3, (Psalm 104:7), Genesis 8:5 (Psalm 104:8), and Genesis 9:11 (Psalm 104:9).

The failure of mankind

One of Ross’s major presuppositions for his view of the local flood is the idea that mankind never dispersed upon the earth. As I noted above, Ross teaches that the flood was sent to judge man’s sin and everything he defiled. Because man never spread out from the Mesopotamian valley, there was no need to flood the entire world. He bases that presupposition upon God’s command to Adam to multiply and fill the earth, and then His command to Noah to multiply and fill the earth after the flood. By the time we come to Genesis 11, man is still disobeying God’s command, and so God confuses the languages at Babel, and only then did man disperse like he was supposed to.

There are some significant problems with his assumption. First, is Ross limiting God’s command to “fill the earth” to only Mesopotamia? Or does he believe God meant the whole earth, as in the entire world? Put another way, is the phrase “fill the earth” universal in scope? If that is the case, then why isn’t the universal description of earth in God’s command the same as with God flooding the earth? Distinguishing between a universal use of fill the earth to mean a global dispersion, with a supposed local flood that is described as covering all the earth, makes Ross’s view wildly inconsistent with itself.

Second, he assumes that man didn’t disperse when God initially commanded them to do so. Ross is suggesting that Adam’s progeny remained in the Mesopotamia region from the time of creation to the time of the flood. According to Ross’s own calculations, Adam and Eve lived anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 years ago, and Noah’s flood was some 40,000 years ago, [75]. That is at least 60 to 20 thousand years between Adam’s creation and God’s command to fill the earth and the flood of Noah. Ross would have us believe that mankind only remained in Mesopotamia for that length of time. Considering the spread and advancement of culture just from the time of Egypt to our present day, roughly four to five thousand years, insisting that all of mankind remained in one small location on earth for at least 20 thousand years, is rather incredible.

One last problem. Secular anthropologists date several cultures older than Ross’s date for Noah’s flood at 40,000 years ago. For instance, the Aboriginal culture is considered the oldest, dated at 50,000 years ago. Some even date them older than that.

The key, theological component to Ross’s local flood view is that man did not disperse beyond the boundaries of Mesopotamia from the time of Adam’s creation to Noah. God judges man’s sin and what it was he defiled with his sin, and so the flood could not be global because man had not yet defiled other parts of the earth with his sin. If the flood of Noah happened 40,000 years ago according to Ross’s calculations, where exactly do the Aboriginal peoples fit in? Are they sinless? They obviously pre-date Noah’s flood according to secular anthropologists.

Here is another clear example of how Ross’s dependence upon the claims of secularists severely conflict with Scripture. God’s “truth” revealed in the 67th book of nature, as Ross affirms, creates a massive problem with God’s truth as revealed in Scripture. Regrettably, the truth of Scripture gives way to the so-called “truth” of the 67th book of nature in Ross’s apologetic.

Book Review – Do Not Hinder Them

I had the opportunity to review Justin Peters new book addressing childhood conversions, Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion.

The book is brief, only 100 plus pages or so, but it is a concise, withering analysis as to why youth are leaving church and drifting away from the Christian faith.

The so-called youth experts on social media want us to believe it is because Christian kids lack the training in the basic apologetics to answer skeptics they will encounter at college. Or perhaps they don’t feel connected to church. In reality, as Peters’s explains, it is because kids have been led to pray a prayer of confession at an early age, and then rushed through the waters of baptism. Often times, the baptism of kids is for the purpose of bolstering numbers for the local church so they in turn can report those figures to the denominational headquarters.

The result is a kid who never really understood the Gospel message, who then prays a rehearsed prayer of confession given to him by his parents and youth pastor, and him becoming essentially a false convert. When he leaves home, he leaves the Christian faith because he never had genuine faith to begin with.

I would highly recommend parents, youth directors, and pastors to read this book and ponder the study Peters provides within it’s pages. My full review can be found over at the Bible Thumping Wingnut page,

Do Not Hinder Them – A Review