Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy by Jerry Bridges. NavPress. 160 pages. 2006
*** ½

I recently read and discussed this book with a few friends. God brought this older book by a trusted author along at just the right time, as a few of us were dealing with significant adversity in our lives.
Bridges tells us that the book is written for the average person who has not necessarily experienced major catastrophe, but who does frequently encounter the typical adversities and heartaches of life. The purpose of the book is twofold: First, he desires to glorify God by acknowledging His sovereignty and His goodness. And second, he desires to encourage God’s people by demonstrating from Scripture that God is in control of their lives, that He does indeed love them, and that He works out all the circumstances of their lives for their ultimate good.
The author tells us that in the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God-truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity. They are:

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Saved from What? by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 120 pages. 2021
****

I read this book when it was first published in 2002, and again recently when it was republished. As he did in all of his teaching, in this book Dr. Sproul takes difficult theological topics and presents them in a manner in which the average person in the pew can understand.
He tells us that the Bible uses the term salvation in many ways. The common thread that is found in the many uses is that, at root, salvation means rescue or deliverance from some calamity or catastrophe. The ultimate salvation that any human being can ever experience is rescue from the wrath that is to come. He goes on to say that he believes that the greatest point of unbelief in our culture and in our church today is an unbelief in the wrath of God and in His certain promise of judgment for the human race. What every human being needs to be saved from is God, and Jesus is the Savior who saves us from the wrath that

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How Can I Live by Faith? (Crucial Questions) by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 71 pages. 2020
*** ½

This is one of the newest books in R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series, all of which are free in the digital edition. Here is a list of all of the books in the Crucial Questions series. These books/booklets offer clear answers to the most common and difficult questions about the Christian faith.
Dr. Sproul tells us that trust in God, faith in Christ alone for salvation, is at the center of the Christian religion, and it is a key part of the Christian life to learn how to live out that trust in a life of faith. He writes that our God is utterly trustworthy, and to not believe Him is irrational.
Sproul writes that the cardinal doctrine of the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Through justification, God can be both just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are justified by a righteousness that is not our own. It is an alien righteousness. It is the righteousness of Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness becomes the basis for our justification. Sproul writes that if we are to be justified, we must both get rid of our unjustness and acquire justice. These two things must happen, and the gospel says that both are provided by Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for our sins, to pay the punishment for our wickedness. At the moment we place our trust in Jesus, His righteousness is transferred to our account before God. Jesus takes our unrighteousness and gives us His righteousness in the sight of God. This double transfer can take place only through trusting in Christ. We are justified by Christ and by Christ alone. Sproul tells us that is a summary of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.

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The Grace & Truth Study Bible (NIV) edited by Albert Mohler. Zondervan. 2144 pages. 2021
****

I enjoy using Study Bibles, including the Reformation Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible, ESV Study Bible and the Spurgeon Study Bible. The new Grace & Truth Study Bible, which uses the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, with Albert Mohler serving as General Editor, is intended to help Christians read God’s Word, understand it, and develop a constant hunger to know more and more biblical truth. Mohler tells us that every note, every explanation, is intended to help the reader understand the Word of God. The study Bible will benefit new believers who are looking to understand the Christian faith for the first time, and it will help maturing Christians who are eager to dig deeper into biblical truth. Mohler writes that the entire project, and each of the writers and editors involved, is committed to the complete truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible. This project is graciously evangelical, Reformed, and complementarian.
In addition to Mohler as General Editor, James M. Hamilton, Jr. serves as Associate Editor: Old Testament, and Benjamin L. Merkle is Associate Editor: New Testament. The Managing Editor is Mitchell L. Chase. The impressive list of contributors includes Derek Thomas (Ezra–Nehemiah), Ray Ortlund (Ecclesiastes) and Mohler (Hebrews).
The Grace & Truth Study Bible is available in a variety of different options, such as leather, hardcover, personal size, large print and Kindle, which is the edition I am reading. The Bible includes a concordance and full color maps.
Although my preferred version of the Bible is the English Standard Version (ESV), I look forward to using this new study Bible.
Here is a short video in which Mohler introduces the Grace & Truth Study Bible.


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What Is Biblical Wisdom? (Crucial Questions) by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 54 pages. 2020
****

This is one of the newest books in R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series, all of which are free in the digital edition. Here is the complete list of books in the Crucial Questions series. These books/booklets offer clear answers to the most common and difficult questions about the Christian faith.
Dr. Sproul tells us that when we speak of the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, we’re referring to the group of books that includes Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Job. He writes that Wisdom Literature teaches that we can possess knowledge yet never have wisdom. However, the reverse is not the case—we cannot have wisdom without knowledge.
Sproul tells us that there can be no real human wisdom until we first know the character of God. How can we know how to live in a way that pleases God if we don’t know the God we’re trying to please? Wisdom Literature is given to instruct us in living lives that are pleasing to God.

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The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown. Hazelden Publishing. 156 pages. 2010
***

This self-help book by Brené Brown, a research professor, is outside of my normal genre of reading. It was highly recommended by a few family members, so my wife Tammy and I decided to read and discuss the book.
The book is comprised of ten short chapters, each one covering a “Guide Post” toward living a wholehearted life. Each chapter ends with a “DIG Deep” section, including suggestions on how to “Get Deliberate”, “Get Inspired” and “Get Going”.
Brown writes that wholehearted living is not a onetime choice. It is a process, and she believes that it’s the journey of a lifetime. Cultivating a wholehearted life is not like trying to reach a destination. Brown writes that it is like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction. She tells us that at the heart of wholeheartedness is worthy now. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Courage, compassion, and connection are the tools that we need to work our way through our journey.
The book covers a wide variety of subjects, such as vulnerability, belonging, shame, fear, courage, authenticity, perfectionism, resilience, spirituality, gratitude, creativity, play, work and laughter. Although the book is not written from a specifically Christian perspective, there is much to consider and ponder in the book. Being a perfectionist, that particular section was eye-opening for me.

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Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World by Alistair Begg. The Good Book Company. 98 pages. 2021
****

Pastor and author Alistair Begg tells us that secularism pushes back again and again against what the Bible says about sexual ethics, about salvation, about education, about the role and reach of the state, and about matters of public welfare. Public opinion has turned against Christians in America. Christians are suddenly a minority group within an increasingly secularized nation. We are finding out how it feels to be outsiders, and we don’t like it.
He tells us that the message of the book of Daniel is incredibly relevant for us in our generation. The message of Daniel is this: don’t be discouraged. You have not reached home. This isn’t it. And Jesus shall reign.
Begg uses the familiar first seven chapters of the book of Daniel to teach American Christians what it looks like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live. He writes that we will be able to navigate our present moment to the extent that we realize that the God of the exiles in the sixth century BC has not changed in the intervening two and a half millennia. God is powerful, and God is sovereign, and even in the face of circumstances that appear to be prevailing against his people, we may trust him entirely.

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Knowing God and Ourselves: Reading Calvin’s Institutes Devotionally by David B. Calhoun. Banner of Truth. 360 pages. 2016
****
I enjoyed two wonderful church history classes with Dr. Calhoun, who recently went home to be with the Lord, at the beginning of my time at Covenant Seminary.  For twenty-five years he taught a course on Calvin’s Institutes at Covenant Seminary. The Institutes of the Christian Religion is a manual, a book of basic instruction in the Christian religion. It is a book about Christian piety, about Christian discipleship, about loving and serving God.
The goal of the book is to help students, especially beginning students of Calvin’s Institutes to better understand what they are reading and to encourage them to persist in working through that important, but challenging book. Overall, Dr. Calhoun’s goal is to help the reader understand Calvin. Each chapter begins with the pages in the Institutes to read, a scripture text, a notable quote and a prayer. Each chapter ends “Knowing God and Ourselves”, a short application and meditation on Calvin’s content. Dr. Calhoun tells us that reading the Institutes devotionally is not merely one way of reading Calvin’s book, it is the only way to read it. Calvin intended his book to be a guide and a theological companion to the Bible.

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Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham. Salem Books. 271 pages. 2021
****

This book about Critical Social Justice (CSJ), by a respected pastor, is a book that I recommend all Christians read. Better yet, read and discuss it with others as I did. It’s the most important, and one of the best, books I’ve read so far this year.
Baucham begins by defining some of the important subjects of the book. He tells us that Critical Theory is not just an analytical tool, as some have suggested; it is a philosophy, a worldview. Critical Race Theory (CRT), is a subject that is in the news a lot lately, as we see parents at school board meetings, angry that their children are being taught CRT. CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. Intersectionality is about the multiple layers of oppression minorities suffer.
Baucham tells us that a fault line has been quietly forming underneath our feet for a long time around the area of social justice, and the Church must be awake and aware of what it means and where it comes from. Otherwise, we will fall victim to it—as many leading Christian voices – many (individuals and organizations) which he names in the book – already have. He chose the fault line metaphor because he believes it not only describes the catastrophe, but also the aftermath. He tells us that the current moment is akin to two people standing on either side of a major fault line just before it shifts. When the shift comes, the ground will open up, a divide that was once invisible will become visible, and the two will find themselves on opposite sides of it. That is what is happening in our day. He wrote the book to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely. He would like to say that the book is meant to help us avoid the impending catastrophe, but it is not. He believes the catastrophe is unavoidable. The ground is already shaking. Relationships are being ruined, reputations are being tarnished, careers are being destroyed, and entire denominations are in danger of being derailed. He writes that if we are to survive this catastrophe however, we must understand it. We must understand what the fault lines are. We must also know where they lie.

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Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller. Viking. 256 pages. 2010
****

I’ve gone through this book twice, once as an audiobook and once as a participant in a book club. Though written in 2010, the book is perhaps even more relevant now than it was when first published.
Keller tells us that the book is both for believers who find the Bible a trustworthy guide, and for those who wonder if Christianity is a positive influence in the world. He also wants to challenge those who do not believe in Christianity to see the Bible not as a repressive text, but as the basis for the modern understanding of human rights.
Keller begins each chapter with a call to justice taken directly from the Bible to show how those words can become the foundation of a just, generous human community. His aim is to introduce many to a new way of thinking about the Bible, justice, and grace.
Keller writes that our society is deeply divided over the very definition of justice. It is not only Bible-believing people who care about justice or are willing to sacrifice in order to bring it about. Nearly everyone thinks they are on justice’s side. He writes that no current political framework can fully convey the comprehensive Biblical vision of justice, and that Christians should never identify too closely with a particular political party or philosophy.

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