Pastor's Library

Truths We Confess (a Layman's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith)- Volume I

R. C. Sproul, P&R Publishing, 2006, ISBN 159638039X, 279 pages, $22.00, hardcover.

Prolific author R. C. Sproul has written a three-volume commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith. This volume covers Chapters 1-8 of the Confession. The author's commentary covers eight subjects: Holy Scripture; God and the Trinity; God's decrees; creation; providence; the Fall, sin and punishment; God's covenant with man; and Christ the mediator.

Sproul takes a strong stand for conservative theology. He holds a high view of the revealed written Word and states, "Scripture alone is the final supreme arbiter of all theological controversies, all disputes among Christians" (p. 29). And in a long discourse the author defends the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

One of the most thought provoking sections of the Confession concerns the decrees of God. The subsection on predestination has provoked many arguments. Scripture affirms, Sproul believes, that God has predetermined the destiny of every person. Some He has chosen to extend His grace to unto eternal life; others He has chosen to withhold His grace from.

Concerning creation the Confession states, "In the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good" (pp. 119-120). Sproul discusses the four views of biblical creation: 1) the gap theory, popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible; 2) the day-age theory, in which each of the "days" stands for a long period of time; 3) the framework hypothesis; and 4) the literal six-day statement of Scripture. He finds weaknesses in the first three. Of the fourth he states, " I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four hour periods. One must do a great deal of hermeneutical gymnastics to escape the plain meaning of Genesis 1-2" (pp.127-128).

Glen H. Jones

Target: All
Type: Apologetics
Take: Highly Recommended


Living by the Book

Howard G. Hendricks & William D. Hendricks, Moody Publishers, 2007, ISBN 0802408168, 392 pages, $16.99, softcover.

Howard and William Hendricks, father and son, have revised their popular 1991 Bible study handbook. New Christians, and seasoned ones as well, will find help in this volume. The authors give us extended instruction on three basic steps of understanding Scripture: observation, interpretation, and application.

When one reads Scripture, he/she must approach it thoughtfully and prayerfully. One should pay attention to each word in the text. Verbs, nouns, and adjectives often unlock the meaning of the selection. Rereading a text may be necessary to gain the needed insight. And the often-used Ws of news reporting-who, what, where, when, and why-offer a useful tool to gauge one's understanding of the selection.

After looking at what the text says, one should then ask, "What does it mean?" Bible handbooks, dictionaries, commentaries, and atlases are useful study helps. With a bit of experience the reader will be able to decide if the text is narrative, biography, poetry, or prophecy. The categories sometimes overlap. The context usually will determine if the selection should be interpreted literally or figuratively.

One should know what a text says (observation) and what it means (interpretation). Equally important in Bible study is the question, "What does it mean for me (application)?" The authors caution us to avoid stopping at interpretation. We must be open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit to apply the teaching to our lives. Bible study, rightfully followed, will result in new beliefs, values, behaviors, habits, and outlooks. It may lead us to a new job or new relationships.

Glen H. Jones

Target: All
Type: Bible Study Methods
Take: Highly Recommended


Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

John Piper and Justin Taylor, 2006, Crossway, ISBN 1581348096, 253 pages, $15.99, softcover

This is a compilation from several authors, though Piper and Taylor, the editors, contributed to it. They address the difficult problem of suffering from the perspective of those who have suffered. A chapter co-written by David Powlison and John Piper, entitled "Don't Waste Your Cancer," was actually written when both were prostate cancer patients.

The book looks squarely at unspeakable affliction and defends God when He allows such things to happen. It puts the suffering of Christ on the cross for human sin in the center of that question, where it belongs.

While this subject is prone in other hands to glibness and pat answers, these authors are guilty of neither. Appropriate Scriptures abound, but are not by themselves the book's strength-which is how it articulates the power of faith and the presence of joy, hope, and glory in the midst of suffering.

We read Bible stories to remind us of God's presence in suffering. They inspire hope. In the same way Joni Eareckson Tada's contribution makes this book's message authentic. Nearly forty years a quadriplegic, her testimony cannot be ignored. She clearly understands hope.

People acquainted with God's presence in the midst of anguish will relate to this book; those who have not experienced such misery will get a foretaste of how God uses suffering to enlarge our capacity for love. This book is a standout, the best I have read in years.

Howard Glass

Target: All
Type: Encouragement
Take: Highly Recommended


Galatians: Breakaway to Freedom (a Scriptural Guide for Today's Woman)

Sarah L. Howell, AMG Publishers, 2006, ISBN 0899571042, 162 pages, $12.99, softcover.

The author utilizes Galatians and Ephesians to encourage women to walk worthily of the Lord. She uses a workbook style of questions to elicit the student's response. Those who are musically inclined may download the suggested music to their ipod or computer. The music selections tie in with the scriptural lesson.

Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to warn believers not to become entangled with legalism. The freedom we have in Christ by His grace releases us from the shackles of self-works and a slavish legalism.

This study is intended to last for six weeks. Each week features a "breakaway": 1) from others' opinions, 2) from the ordinary, 3) from doubt, 4) from legalism, 5) to freedom, and 6) to love.

Guest reviewer Diane Karr comments: "I enjoyed the Bible study. It's not necessary to listen to the songs. What makes it a good study is Mrs. Howell's writing. She writes with humility, simplicity, and honesty. She shows us that God wants us to break away from legalism and religion and walk with Christ because only He can set us free."

Glen H. Jones

Target: Women
Type: Bible Study
Take: Recommended

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad