Pocket History of Evangelical Theology
Roger E. Olson, InterVarsity Press, 2007, ISBN 0830827064, 151 pages, $7.00, softcover.
This pocket-sized book of about 150 pages is packed with the historical roots of evangelical theology. Olson gives us a snapshot of the major movements of evangelical teaching from Pietism in the sixteenth century to post-conservative evangelical theology of the present day.
Olson examines the evangelical contributions of the Puritans, the Wesleys, the Great Awakening, Old Princeton Theology, Holiness-Pentecostalism, and Fundamental theology. The author continues his examination of the post-fundamental evangelical theology of Carl F. H. Henry, E. J. Carnell, and Bernard Ramm.
Modern evangelical theology had its beginnings in Germany among those who were later called Moravians. This movement spread to England, and there under the Wesleys and George Whitefield, authentic Christianity mushroomed among the common people. Puritans, especially Jonathan Edwards, fostered personal holiness. This spiritual emphasis eventually produced The Great Awakening, with the help of Charles G. Finney.
In the twentieth century, evangelicals (fundamentalist conservatives) fought hard against the erosion of Christianity by liberalism. James Orr, Benjamin Warfield, and W. B. Riley joined ranks in the World's Fundamentals Association to offset the effects of liberalism.
Many theologians believe current evangelical thought can be described as post-conservative theology. This trend, led by Clark Pinnock, has moved away from the strictly biblical conservative theology. Some would describe this drift to the left as a return to liberalism.
Target: History Buffs
Type: Church History
Dispensationalism, Revised and Expanded
Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, 2007, ISBN 080242189X, 265 pages, $14.99, softcover.
What is Classic Dispensationalism, and why is it attacked? Charles Ryrie, in this revision of Dispensationalism Today, first issued in 1966, indicates the answer to both questions lies chiefly in the doctrine's commitment to literal (or normal or plain) interpretation of the Bible.
Plain interpretation (i.e., treating the text as words are normally treated, as opposed to seeking hidden allegorical meanings) is one of three fundamental doctrines of Dispensationalism-the other two being keeping Israel and the church distinct and understanding the glory of God being our Creator's over-arching purpose in the world.
Ryrie notes that practically all conservative readers of the Bible believe it contains some dispensations (as few as one each for the Old Testament and New Testament, or as many as eight). This includes followers of Covenant Theology and Progressive Dispensationalism, the leading opposition to Classic Dispensationalism. Liberals, Ryrie indicates, largely look on in disdain, since they feel free in varying degrees to disregard texts they don't like.
The Sermon on the Mount is the basis of a major attack on Dispensationalism, with opponents claiming that dispensationalists "tear it out of the Bible," as not applying to Christians. Not so, Ryrie answers-though his interpretive view is that the Sermon was directed chiefly to Jews, whom Jesus charged with disobeying the Law of Moses. In application, however, the Sermon conveys great teachings for Christians to live by, he says.
Readers of every stripe will find Ryrie worthy of full consideration, as he follows a format of first listing each charge against Classic Dispensationalism and then "setting the record straight."
Target: Students of the Bible
Take: Highly Recommended
God, I Don't Understand
Kenneth Boa, Victor Books, 2007, ISBN 0781444233, 237 pages, $16.99, hardcover
First written in 1975, God, I Don't Understand, has been updated to reflect the questions that a new generation of skeptics has raised. This book discusses doctrine, but its primary purpose concerns apologetics-the defense of the Christian faith. Honest doubters may find answers to their troubling thoughts about the difficult things of life and Scripture.
Boa writes about the truth and mistruth of the deity of Christ, the Trinity, divine sovereignty, human responsibility, creation, the resurrection, and the inspiration of Scripture. The author avoids pat answers; he uses the evidence of history, human experience, and Scripture to make his points. Boa encourages the skeptic to consider the reasonableness of the evidence.
In his discussion of the Trinity, Boa uses three charts to explain the mystery of the three-fold God in one. He states that the Father is not the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father, but all are equally God. He charts the attributes and works of God, and lists Scripture to show that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit equally possess divine characteristics.
The author's discussion of the resurrection demonstrates that our glorified bodies will be designed to fit us to live in a new creation, free from sin and suffering. Our resurrected bodies will meet our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs. They will be perfect bodies that will never die; and they will equip us to worship and serve the One and Only God.
Take: Highly Recommended
May I Walk You Home?
Melody Rossi, Bethany House, 2007, ISBN 076420355X, 174 pages, $11.99, softcover.
Many Christians shy away from those who are seriously ill. Melody Rossi, however, has a special gift for ministering to those who may not live much longer. Her compassion for the dying grew out of her own extended recovery from a surgical error that almost cost her life.
Rossi believes that Christians clothed with the love of Christ should minister to the physical and spiritual needs of those God places in one's path. She recounts the gentle way she ministered to her dying parents who for years had resisted the gospel. She wrote, "Over time God used these acts (running errands, making meals, etc.) to disarm the lifetime of arguments my parents had built against Him" (p. 13).
If one is to minister to others, she/he must also take care of herself/himself, the author says. The believer must not become so busy helping others that she neglects her own physical and spiritual needs. Getting proper nutrition and rest is essential to good health.
When the time to die comes, someone must take care of the essentials. The Christian caregiver may be called on to arrange the funeral: flowers, minister, notify relatives, provide for out-of-towners, furnish obituary information, and file legal documents.
Caring for the terminally ill may be a frightening task. But one does not have to learn everything at once. Start where you are, do what you can, and ask God for wisdom to increase your ministry.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Personal Ministry
Take: Highly Recommended