Book Review: Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Before October, 2009, no one had ever heard of Abby Johnson. She was a happily married mom who happened to work as the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic. In September of that year, when she was asked to help in the exam room, life as she knew it came to an end. That day, she assisted in an ultrasound-guided abortion and was horrified by what she saw on the screen. Expecting to see non-reactive fetal tissue, as the cannulae came toward it, she instead saw the baby begin to kick “as if trying to move away from the probing invader.” (p. 5)

Witnessing this—and being a part of it—was too much for Johnson and was the end of her career at Planned Parenthood.

When the news broke a few weeks later, it wasn’t because she had left the organization—it was because she had crossed the line and joined the Coalition for Life, the pro-life group that prayed daily behind the fence at Johnson’s clinic.

Since then, Johnson has been at the center of a major court case, having been sued by her former employers, and become a sought-after speaker on the realities of abortion throughout America. In Unplanned, she shares her story of how she moved from advocate to opponent of Planned Parenthood, and in the process was confronted by the reality of God.

Recently my wife and I sat down to chat about her impressions of the book. Here’s our chat in all its YouTube-y glory:

(Feed readers, sorry, you’ll have to click-through to watch—and please forgive the awful screen cap!)

One of the things you might not expect in reading a book like this is just how even-handed Johnson is when describing the realities of life at Planned Parenthood. She tries hard to avoid sensationalism and is very careful not to demonize any of the people working there, as if they wake up in the morning, stretch and say, “Gosh, I can’t wait to abort some babies!” Because the truth is, they don’t. Many, like Johnson herself, became involved because they believed what they were told about the organization’s desire to protect and care for women’s reproductive health. But it’s interesting how even the most noble desires—including Johnson’s, which was to reduce the number of abortions being performed—can be lost or twisted into something else. [Read more...]

Book Review: Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

One in four. That’s the average of how many women in America have experienced some form of sexual assault.

One in six. That’s the average number of men have been sexually assaulted.

These are underestimates.

Sexual assault is a crime surrounded by misconceptions and confusion. Definitions are either too specific to sufficiently identify instances of assault or too vague to even be helpful. It’s a crime that robs victims of their dignity and their identity. And often, in our attempts to be helpful, we find ourselves at a loss; we don’t really know what to say or how to help victims of assault and abuse.

How can the stain of disgrace be removed?

Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb provide a compelling, thoughtful and hopeful answer in Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, as they apply the gospel to this horrendous crime.

Dividing the book into three sections, “Disgrace,” “Grace Applied,” and “Grace Accomplished,” the authors handle the subject matter with great care. It’s evident that they’re not working from a theoretical perspective, but that this is hands-on, practical knowledge. In part one, they begin by providing a proper definition of sexual assault. They define it as follows:

Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority. (p. 28)

“This definition,” they explain, “gets beyond our society’s narrow understanding of the issue and expands the spectrum of actions to be considered sexual assault.” (ibid) In fleshing out this definition, they also go to great pains to clear up a number of misconceptions:

  1. Sexual assault can be physical, verbal, or psychological
  2. Prior consent does not mean unlimited consent
  3. The perpetrators of sexual assault are more often than not educated, middle class, white men who know their victims
  4. While underreporting is a serious problem, false reporting is actually quite rare

Practically, this means that the myth of the mystery deviant jumping out of the bushes is just that: A myth. While things like this can happen, it’s more likely that a victim will be abused by a friend, family member, coworker or other acquaintance.

They also look to the effects of sexual assault. What was surprising to me was how varied the harmful emotional, psychological and physiological effects that can be. Some are: anxiety, OCD, panic attacks, eating disorders, gastrointestinal disturbance, hyper-arousal, various phobias, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, jumpiness… on and on the list goes (p. 39).

Further, the authors stress that it’s important to understand that acknowledgement does not equate or ensure automatic healing. Naming the sin committed is only the first step in healing.

In part two, “Grace Applied,” the Holcombs examine the implications of the gospel on the effects of sexual assault:
[Read more...]

Book Review: Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Title: Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
Author: Guy Kawasaki
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin

Working in marketing, I have the privilege of reading a fairly diverse set of books. It’s not all old dead guys and theology at the Armstrong house. (Just, y’know, mostly.)

Anyway, marketing and leadership books are strange animals. Some are great and others make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork. Almost all, though, usually fall into one of two categories:

  1. How to develop a large and successful business; and
  2. Why all marketers are liars

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki is neither of these; instead, it’s a book about one thing:

Influence.

“How can I influence others without moral compromise?” is the question at the heart of Enchantment. And  it’s an important one. There are a number of easy cheats to convince people to follow your leadership (carrots and sticks) or to buy your product or join your cause (incentives), but eventually those things always fail.

Why? Because they’re disingenuous. They don’t tap into people’s passions. They don’t move the heart.

And without that happening, whatever impact you have is fleeting at best.

The “pillars of enchantment” Kawasaki puts forward ones you’d be hard pressed to disagree with:

  1. Be likeable
  2. Be trustworthy
  3. Have a great cause

In other words, be someone you’d actually want to spend time with and offer something that matters. These seem like concepts that should be met with a resounding, “well, I should hope so.” I mean, this seems to be common sense, doesn’t it? That’s thing about common sense, though. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, it’s not that common sense has been tried and found lacking, it’s that it’s been found difficult and left untried.

Unless you’re likeable, it’s extremely difficult to be found trustworthy. And unless you’re trustworthy, no one will rally around your cause, no matter how good it is.

Whether you’re in the for-profit or non-profit world, whether you’re in some form of vocational ministry or working for a huge conglomerate, who you are impacts everything you’re involved with. Our character can be the scent of life or the stench of death, and we would all do well to remember that. [Read more...]

The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask

People have a lot of hard questions for the Christian faith. But why is it that, while there are some that we certainly give it our all to answer, there are others that Christians don’t seem to want to answer?

Why is that?

It’s (hopefully) not that we don’t want to give the answers, but it’s most likely that we don’t have the answers themselves.

That’s where The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask comes in. Author Mark Mittelberg, along with his publisher and the Barna Research group polled one thousand Christians asking them what questions they hoped no one would ask. The results came down to ten questions:

  1. What makes you so sure that God exists at all—especially when you can’t see, hear, or touch him?
  2. Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and knowledge?
  3. Why trust the Bible, a book based on myths and full of contradictions and mistakes?
  4. Everyone knows that Jesus was a good man and a wise teacher—but why try to make him into the Son of God, too?
  5. How could a good God allow so much evil, pain, and suffering—or does he simply not care?
  6. Why is abortion such a line in the sand for Christians—why can’t I be left alone to make my own choices for my body?
  7. Why do you condemn homosexuality when it’s clear that God made gays and that he loves all people the same?
  8. How can I trust in Christianity when so many Christians are hypocrites?
  9. Why are Christians so judgmental toward everyone who doesn’t agree with them? [note: questions 8 & 9 are combined in one chapter]
  10. Why should I think that heaven really exists—and that God sends people to hell?

These are not questions with easy answers, and Mittelberg offers thoughtful responses to each, along with very helpful discussion aids and small group questions.

One of the things I appreciated about the book was the author’s ability to be speak plainly on some very complex subject matter. Particularly when speaking about subjects such as evolution, it can be very easy to get bogged down in language that is foreign to the average person. He also tries to be careful about letting his position on each answer be the only position. Again, using the example of evolution, he doesn’t simply provide one option, but several generally accepted Christian views. While I don’t know if I would agree his inclusion theistic evolution, Mittelberg keeps his eye on accessibility and that’s something that should be commended. [Read more...]

(Audio)Book Review: Justified by Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

Justified By Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

Title: Justified by Faith Alone
Author: R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Crossway Books/Christian Audio (2010 edition)

Martin Luther famously said that justification by faith alone is “the article by which the church stands or falls.” So certain of its importance to the Christian faith was Luther that it became the crucial dividing issue between the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Today, however, many evangelicals “know” that we are justified by faith alone but are not entirely sure what it means. And because of this uncertainty, we begin to ask—does it really make sense? And is it really that important?

In his (very) short book Justified by Faith Alone, R.C. Sproul answers that question with a resounding yes as he lays out the Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines of justification.

One of Dr. Sproul’s greatest gifts as a teacher is his ability to clearly and charitably examine positions with which he disagrees. In doing so, he manages to clear up a great number of misconceptions that Protestants have regarding Romanism.

A key example is whether or not Roman Catholicism offers a works-based salvation. Sproul argues that it is, in fact, not accurate to make this claim. As he examines Roman Catholic teaching, he reveals that faith in Christ is essential to salvation… it’s just not all you need. The congregant’s works of penitence, his acts of contrition, are also required. In essence, the Roman Catholic position is that of faith in Christ plus works equal justification (Justification = Faith + Works).

The Protestant position, however, is that faith in Christ alone brings justification, and our works are our response to and the evidence of our right standing before God (Faith=Justification + Works).

Sproul is also quick to address the common complaint against the Protestant position, which is that it is Antinomianism. In this error, we are saved by faith in Christ alone (justification), and there need be no evidence of saving faith (Faith=Justification – Works). However, the Scriptures are clear that one who says that he has faith, but there is no evidence of it in his life is a liar (cf. James 2:14-26).

Moving from the content to the audio production, this is one place where I find that the book falls a bit flat. Sean Runnette is a wonderfully clear narrator and I’ve enjoyed his work on other productions, but in this instance, I found his reading to be a bit bland. His reading seemed to lack the passion that tends to come out in Sproul’s text (as well as in his speaking). This is only a minor criticism, but it was bothersome enough that I felt it warranted mentioning.

Justified by Faith Alone is an important book, one that I believe readers of all ages and stages would benefit greatly from. Read (or listen to) the book, and gain a greater understanding and appreciation for this crucial doctrine—and praise God that it is by faith in Christ alone that we are saved.

A complimentary download of this book was provided for review purposes by ChristianAudio.com

(Audio)Book Review: Jesus in the Present Tense by Warren W. Wiersbe

Title: Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ
Author: Warren W. Wiersbe
Publisher: David C. Cook/ChristianAudio (2011)

It’s easy for us to be caught up in the past—the mistakes we’ve made, the opportunities we’ve lost, the sins we’ve committed. When we spend all our time focusing on these things, it robs us of our joy. We don’t feel as connected to Christ, nor do we feel the freedom to serve and to give of ourselves fully. But this does not have to be our experience—and by examining the I AM statements of Christ in his latest book, Jesus in the Present Tense, author Warren W. Wiersbe offers readers (and listeners) the hope and freedom that comes from living our lives in the present tense with Christ.

The “I AM” statements of Jesus found in John’s gospel are some of the most poignant examples of Christ’s proclamation of His divinity—and understanding them is crucial to our growth in our love for Christ. After initially dealing with the “I AM” statements that are found throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Moses’ conversation with the Lord in the book of Exodus, Wiersbe addresses with the seven metaphorical “I AM” statements:

  1. I am the bread of life (John 6:35; John 6:48; John 6:51)
  2. I am the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5)
  3. I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7; John 10:9)
  4. I am the good shepherd (John 10:11; John 10:14)
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
  7. I am the true vine (John 15:1)

He also takes a couple of surprising turns in dealing with what are known as the absolute I AM statement of Christ (found in John 6:20; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; and John 18:5) and also what he calls the neglected I AM—Psalm 22:6: [Read more...]

Book Review: iFaith by Daniel Darling

Have you ever stopped to consider the pace of  your life?

Wake up, check your email, your Facebook, head out the door, meetings, work, phone calls, more email, more meetings, home again and collapse into bed.

If we had to be honest, this would probably be a fairly accurate picture of each of our lives, wouldn’t it? (I can’t possibly be the only one, can I?)

But, did you notice what’s missing? God.

Where is communion with Christ? Time for thoughtful Bible study? Prayer? Rest?

What is the hustle and bustle of our über-connected lifestyle doing to our relationship with our Savior?

That’s the question that motivated Daniel Darling, the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church, to write iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century. In this book, Darling examines place, posture and practice of prayer in a world so caught up in the urgent that it’s lost the ability to see the important.

iFaith was a much needed wake-up call for me as a reader. I’m far too guilty of frittering away time and getting so caught up in everything else that’s going on that I neglect my prayer life. But why is that? In large part because I hate waiting for an answer.

Darling writes, “Waiting is considered loathsome to a generation accustomed to having quick answers, fast results and instant gratification” (p. 28). Ouch.

Think about it for a second though. When you pray, how long do you persist? How long do you continue on in prayer before you give up and decide that God must not be saying “yes” to this one? Darling continues, “But we must surrender our hearts to the sovereignty of God who slows us down, because waiting is not wasted time at all. Waiting is the essence of a faith that pleases Him” (ibid). [Read more...]

Did the Resurrection Happen… Really? By McDowell and Sterrett

In the first two books of their Coffee House Chronicles series, authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced us to a group of students (and a couple of instructors) who, together,  go on a journey through the evidence surrounding the reliability of the Bible and the truth of Jesus Christ’s identity.

At the end of book two, Who Was Jesus… Really?, Nick’s friend Andrea had placed her trust in Christ has Lord and Savior—as did Dr. Peterson, Nick’s professor who had spent much of his life and career casting doubt upon the reliability of the New Testament accounts and the person and work of Jesus Christ. So powerfully convinced was he that he held a lecture recanting of his former positions against Christ and detailing the evidence for His existence and the truth of His divinity.

The final book of the series starts off with a bang (literally) as, in the wake of Dr. Peterson’s lecture on the deity of Christ, tension on campus is at an all time high. Dr. Peterson and Jamal Washington began receiving death threats, but ultimately believed it to be nothing more than someone blowing smoke—until one day, when Brett (a pre-med student and member of the school’s atheist club) travels to Dr. Peterson’s office to talk more about Jesus.

As he approaches the building, he sees students begin to run out in a panic. A young woman collapses on the lawn, her shirt covered in blood. Someone had opened fire on the Religious Studies building. In the end, nine people were killed, including Jamal Washington, Nick Ridley (two primary characters in the first two books) and the shooter himself.

In the wake of this tragedy, Dr. Peterson, Mina, Andrea and Jessica begin a series of conversations with Brett, Lauren and Scott about one of the most central issues of the Christian faith:

Did the Resurrection Happen . . . Really?

It’s fair to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the issue upon which the entire Christian faith stands or falls. “[I]f Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins,” wrote the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:17. Because Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, His literal, physical resurrection is a sign of God’s vindication of Him (for the Jews believed that one who was crucified was cursed of God). As the authors put it, “Without the resurrection, Christianity doesn’t work” (p. 27). [Read more...]

Book Review: Who is Jesus…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Who is Jesus . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

In the first book of the Coffee House Chronicles series, Is the Bible True… Really?, co-authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced readers to Nick, a freshman student at a State school in Texas who’s faith is put to the test when confronted with the hard questions about the reliability of the Bible.

In book two of the series, Who is Jesus . . . Really?, we find Nick has gone on to lead a student Bible Study that meets in a local coffee house and things are great—until the school’s atheist club arrives with a series of hostile questions about the identity of Jesus Christ. Among the group’s members is Nick’s friend Andrea, who had followed him along the journey of discovering the truth about the Bible, but rejected God after the death of a close cousin.

Nick and friends Jamal, Jessica and Mina begin a series of conversations with Andrea and her friends Brett, Scott and Lauren to discover if the claims of Christianity about Jesus are reliable. Along the way, they learn that:

1. If one trusts the historical evidence for the existence of Socrates, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, one must also accept the evidence for the existence of Christ. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that there is more evidence for Christ’s existence than of any of these men. Likewise, His existence is verified through multiple sources, not only Christian, but Greek, Roman and Jewish. Each source confirms the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent worshipping of Him as God by His followers. [Read more...]

Book Review: Is the Bible True…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Is the Bible True . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

Meet Nick. Nick grew up going to church, believed the Bible, and was generally a pretty good kid.

Then he went to college and met Dr. Peterson, his Religious Studies professor, a critical scholar of the New Testament who rocked his confidence in what he (Nick) had been taught about the Scriptures.

Is the Bible reliable? How can we really know that what we have today is really what was originally written? What do we do with all the variances in the manuscripts that exist?

Is the Bible true… really?

These are the questions that Nick was left facing. And they’re the same ones faced by all Christians today, especially those heading off to college where their faith will be severely tested. Without good answers to these questions—and many others—their faith will not stand.

That’s what inspired Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett to write Is the Bible True . . . Really? In this book, the first in their Coffee House Chronicles series, the authors seek to equip and encourage readers as they follow Nick on his quest for the answers to the questions surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

By late January of his freshman year, Nick was a professing agnostic who put a lot of stock in the ideas popularized by the Zeitgeist movie that’s been making the rounds on YouTube for the last couple years and in books by Dan Brown and Bart Erhman.

So convinced is he that he decides to write a twenty-one page paper entitled The Plagiarism of the Bible: How the Bible Stole from Pagan Mythology. Hoping to get his teacher’s input, he instead meets Jamal Washington, Dr. Peterson’s new teaching assistant, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (and former college football star). As he begins a friendship with Jamal, he finds his new-found agnosticism shattered as Jamal details the real facts surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

So what does Nick (and readers along with him) learn? [Read more...]

(Audio)Book Review: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Title: Found: God’s Will (Find the Direction and Purpose God Wants for Your Life)
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: David C. Cook (Revised Edition: 1998)

“What is God’s will?” So many of us ask this question at various points in our lives. Searching for a new job. Considering marriage. Ministry opportunities. College.

But can we know for certain what is God’s will for our lives, specifically? Yes, says John MacArthur in Found: God’s Will. In fact, the answer will seem so shocking that you might need to “jump up out of your seat and shout!”

So what is God’s will for our lives? In this very short book, MacArthur carefully examines the Scriptures and reveals that God has made His will quite clear.

God’s will for us is that we are to be:

  1. Saved. God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9);
  2. Spirit-Filled. Our lives will be guided by the Holy Spirit as we are careful to study and listen to God’s Word and persist in prayer (see Acts 4:8, 13:9; Eph 5:18);
  3. Sanctified. God’s will for our lives is that we grow holiness, putting sin to death and growing in Christlike character (Romans 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3);
  4. Submissive. God’s will is that we obey the authorities He has placed over us, whether godly or ungodly. This is crucial to our witness as Christians in the world. The only time when we may disobey is when those authorities command us to do what God forbids, or to not do what God commands (see Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Acts 4:19); and
  5. Suffering. God’s will for our lives is that as we follow Christ in this world we will suffer for Christ. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” said Jesus in John 15:18.

These five principles are crucial elements to God’s will for our lives. MacArthur handles the Scriptures with great care (as is to be expected). What impressed me though was MacArthur’s brevity. Found: God’s Will clocks in at a mere 64 pages. This is impressive on two fronts.

The first is that there are no wasted words. MacArthur stays on point and makes every illustration relevant. The second I’ll get to in a moment. [Read more...]

Book Review: Reclaiming Adoption by Dan Cruver

What comes to mind when you hear the word “adoption”?

If you’re like me, your mind first goes to adopting a child. Giving a safe home and a loving family is one of the greatest gifts that one can give to a child. Yet, if we read the Scriptures, it’s clear that this term “adoption” carries with it so much more than the (very important) gift of a family to an orphaned child.

That’s because adoption is not only horizontal, but also vertical. Interestingly, though, we’ve not spent a great deal of time articulating the theology behind it. Indeed, over the course of the first 1900 years of Christian history, there are “only six creeds that contain a section on theological adoption” (p. 8).

That’s what inspired Dan Cruver to write Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father. In this book, Cruver (along with contributors John Piper, Scotty Smith, Richard D. Phillips and Jason Kovacs) explains what it means to be adopted by God the Father, its implications for orphan care and how it transforms our witness in the world.

Reclaiming Adoption packs a convicting punch. As Cruver unpacks the importance of the doctrine of adoption over his four chapters, he shows readers just how much it impacts everything. To understand the love of God for His people—those He chose to adopt before He even created the universe—completely transforms how we think, live, feel and act. Cruver writes,

Christians who doubt God’s love for them will not mobilize for mission. Unless we know the Father delights in us even as he delights in Jesus, we will lack the emotional capital necessary to resist complacency and actively engage in missional living. The only people who can truly turn their eyes outward in mission are those who knowingly live within and enjoy the loving gaze of their heavenly Father. . . . If we are not confident of his love, our eyes will turn inward, and our primary concerns will be our needs, our lack, our disappointment, rather than the needs of those around us. (p. 18)

Cruver proceeds to illustrate this truth by showing how the doctrine of adoption is tied to the Trinity, the incarnation and our union with Christ. [Read more...]

The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them)

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while has probably noticed I do a lot of book reviews, typically one per week. Recently I was asked about how I do book reviews—do I have a general guideline or process, or is approach different every time?

I tried to give a short, 140 character response, but realized that it wasn’t enough, because, frankly, “yes” is an insufficient answer.

So, for better or for worse, here’s a look into my reviewing process:

General Precepts

1. Read with the intention of reviewing. This might seem like a “duh,” but I read a lot material for a variety of purposes, and it’s not always about reviewing. Knowing I’m going to review it forces me to make sure I’m paying careful attention to what is written.

2. The “who” is less important than the “what.” Whenever I’m reading an author I genuinely enjoy, it’s easy to simply just say “I like it,” without necessarily considering what’s been written. Whether it’s MacArthur, Driscoll, Piper, Sproul, Chan or whoever is the cat’s meow, it’s important to not let preference for the person dictate approval (or disapproval) of the content. (Side note, brownie points to the person who can tell me if I used the correct form of “whoever/whomever.” :))

3. Don’t fill-in-the-blanks. When someone writes a very…ambiguous book, it’s tempting to start filling-in-the-blanks with my own theological presuppositions. A lot of books that don’t stand up against even the most rudimentary understanding of Scripture have been embraced by many evangelicals. This is why.

4. Acknowledge my biases. Similarly, I need to be aware (as best as I’m able) of my own biases and predispositions. This will reflect how I approach books by authors I don’t enjoy or who I know hold to a different theological position than I do.

5. Try to be humble. Everybody goofs sometimes. Not everyone who says something stupid is a heretic. And not everything I think is wrong actually is. Something I am continually to do (with varying degrees of success) is acknowledge that I can make mistakes and when I do, I need to be corrected. This, incidentally, is why comments can be helpful.

Guiding Questions

1. What is the main idea the author is trying to convey? Can I figure out what the big idea of the book is and articulate it in one or two sentences?

2. How does the author support his/her idea(s)? Scripture, tradition, history, illustrations from real life examples… every point made needs to be backed up with something. If it’s nothing more than “I think,” chances are, it’s wrong.

3. How does the author handle Scripture (if reading a Christian book)? How an author approaches Scripture is an indicator of their trustworthiness.

4. Do I agree with the author’s main idea? Why or why not?  Can I support my position with appropriate Scripture? In the same way that an author’s assertions must be tested against Scripture , so too must my assessments. If my position cannot be supported by Scripture, it must be rejected.

5. What difference does it make? While there are always some things that you read for which you don’t have an immediate practical application, the question of “what difference does it make in my life” is essential for why determining whether or not to recommend a book.

So that pretty much covers it. I’m sure I could come back to this later today and add a few other items. But if you’re interested in the process of reviewing books (or at least how I do it), I hope today’s post has been helpful!

Book Review: By Grace Alone by Sinclair B. Ferguson

Title: By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
Author: Sinclair Ferguson
Publisher: Reformation Trust (2010)

Does the grace of God amaze you?

Does the salvation that comes through faith in Christ overwhelm you with excitement and joy?

It did Emmanuel T. Sibomana, inspiring him to write they hymn, “Umbuntu Bg Imana,” translated into English as, “O How the Grace of God Amazes Me.” Sibomana’s hymn is a beautiful and powerful exposition of the story of salvation and the grace of God.

It’s also the inspiration for Sinclair Ferguson’s latest book, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Following the structure of Sibomana’s hymn, Ferguson reflects on God’s grace from seven angles and shows us why the grace of God should amaze us.

A question that may come to mind when considering this book is, “Why do we need (another) book on grace?”

“Being amazed by God’s grace is a sign of spiritual vitality. . .  Yet we frequently take the grace of God for granted. . . . We have lost the joy and energy that are experienced when grace seems truly amazing,” writes Ferguson (Introduction, p. xiv).

In other words, if our amazement at God’s grace is a sign of our spiritual wellbeing, to take it for granted is an indicator that, spiritually speaking, we’re desperately sick. To regain our health, we must regain a sense of wonder when considering His grace.

So what does grace do, exactly?

Ferguson breaks it down quite effectively. Grace… [Read more...]