January 29, 2012

30-Second Book Reviews

As I plow through these books on the hit list, several of them have left me without too much to say about them, or in some cases so much to say that I just can’t bring myself to take the time to write about them. These aren’t necessarily bad, but I’m going to give my 30-second take on them rather than a full review.

  Jesus Christ: The Prince of preachers – Learning from the teaching ministry of Jesus by Mike Abendroth

This is an attempt to extrapolate principles from the teaching ministry of Jesus that can guide us in how we preach and listen to sermons. Each chapter contains a section explaining what Jesus did, a section applying it to preachers and teachers, and a section applying it to the listeners of sermon. Overall, the principles laid out were good and sound as far as they go, but the book read a little more like an outline than anything else. There were a lot of bullet points, with a short amount of  discussion on each one. The sections on application to the listener were the most uniquely helpful, in my opinion. While there are many excellent books on preaching biblically, there is much less discussion of the responsibilities that the Bible lays on the hearers of the Word and this helps fill that gap.

  What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe

The idea for this book takes a page out of It’s A Wonderful Life, asking what would the world be like if Christ had never been born. A book that actually pursued that line of reasoning would be quite intriguing itself. Based on the content of this book, I’d suggest a better title would be Is Christianity Good for the World?, since that is essentially what’s being argued. I think the book successfully identifies influences in several areas of life that we (generally) take for granted as good but often fail to realize that they were a product of a distinctly Christian view of the world. For that reason alone, it may be beneficial for Christians to read and reflect on. However, due to the limited space afforded, each of the discussions lacks a certain amount of depth and an interaction with dissenting views or alternate theories. The other thing that’s not always clear is the distinction between something that is a direct product of Christian belief, something that was accomplished by Christians, and something that arose out of a Judeo-Christian society but may not be directly attributable to Christianity. Perhaps a good survey, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for a more rigorous analysis and defense.

  Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of "Progressive Creationism" (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross by Jonathan Sarfati

The goal of this book is to refute the old-earth creationist views put forward by Hugh Ross, et al., and to defend in their place young-earth creationism. The two avenues of attack are biblical interpretation and scientific data. I don’t have enough knowledge of the science to analyze the arguments he makes, though there have been several Christians who have challenged the validity of the scientific analysis in this book. Probably the strongest part of the book is the defense of the idea that the six days of Genesis 1 are intended to mean six days. However, Sarfati does not seem to acknowledge the presence of other old earth views which do accept a plain language interpretation of Genesis 1 but do not have a problem with a very old earth. An example of this would be the phenomenological view as explained by Edgar Andrews in the last chapter of Who Made God?, or the Historical Creationism of Sailhamer, or others with similar approaches. All things considered, saying that anything other than young-earth creationism is a capitulation to godless science and a compromise of faithful exegesis is ungracious at best. It ignores the large number of biblical scholars who are committed to inerrancy and letting the Bible declare its own position, yet who do not agree with the position advocated by Sarfati.

Reading this book and some of the scientific criticisms it received reminded me of this quote (and warning) by Augustine:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although 'they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.'”

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