Review: The Glorious History of Redemption

Review: The Glorious History of Redemption

The Glorious History of Redemption: A Compact Survey of the Old and New Testaments, is, as the name implies, a small book, only 128 pages. It’s not a difficult read, and has some good things to recommend it. The amazon description says “This is the perfect book to give to a new believer.” It’s pretty good, but I don’t think I’d go that far.

In essence, it’s a very compact summary of the entire Bible story. In general, the lessons from the Old Testament would be a great way for a new believer to learn the vast sweep of history covered and see how it all fits together. The New Testament lessons give historical and chronological context to the books of the New Testament.

For the mature believer who is familiar with the Bible, this book would prove to be a good refresher and would help connect the dots of how some things fit together. For a new believer, it could prove a valuable asset in understanding the Bible, which is a large, complicated book to master. But I think they’ll need to read it in tandem, the new believer with a more mature believer, to get the most out of it. Here’s why.

There are two lessons in the book, one in the Old Testament and one in the New, that I found rather odd and, I feel, warrant some explanation.

Natural or Glorious?

OT lesson #3, Egyptian Bondage and Deliverance, suffers from an attempt to naturalize the plagues and the exodus.

…the “plagues” can be shown to be largely natural to that land where they occurred. And the supreme event of the deliverance, the passage of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground, was due, according to the narrative itself, to a persistent wind, Ex. 14:21, such as often lays bare the shallows of a bay, only to release the waters again when its force is spent.[p.14]

Nevertheless, it is not possible to remove the “hand of God” from the account by thus pointing out some of the means God used to accomplish his special purposes. It was the time, in the way, and in the order, in which Moses announced to Pharaoh the arrival of the plagues, that they actually appeared. [p.14]

The author thus suggests that there was nothing really out of the ordinary with the exodus other than the order and timing of the events. Just consider the one event of the crossing of the Red Sea. He attributes it to the East wind, as something ordinary and rather commonplace, other than the timing of it happening just when they needed it. He even references scripture! But let’s read that with just a bit of context.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. [Exodus 14:21, 22]

Now I’ve never seen the East wind “lay bare the shallows of a bay”, but walls of water on the right and left doesn’t sound normal to me. And how shallow would the bay need to be, to be dried up in one night by a natural wind? Certainly not deep enough to drown the entire Egyptian army. So just using the text of the next verse after the one he referenced we’ve already run into trouble with his “natural” theory.

Who saw who when?

NT lesson #13, The Resurrection, includes an inexplicable error. The author presents the order of events and persons involved in the discovery of the empty tomb and risen Lord. He asserts,

Then the women arrived at the tomb, and found it empty. Matt 28:1, and parallels. One of them, Mary Magdalene, went back to tell Peter and John. John 20:2. The others remained at the tomb, and there saw two angels who announced to them that Jesus was risen from the dead. On their way back to the city Jesus himself met them, and they fell down, grasped his feet, and worshipped him. Matt 28:5-10, and parallels. [p.94]

However, you’ll notice the testimony of Luke and Mark is ignored while unfounded assumptions are made on the basis of John and Matthew. There is not enough information in John’s account to make the assumption that only Mary went. Luke 24:9, 10 says the women went together. Luke 24:4 says Mary was there when the two angels announced the resurrection. And Mark 16:9 says Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene”.

I truly find myself at a loss to explain this ignoring of Luke and Mark when assembling the chronology of the events. There is no apparent doctrinal or worldview basis for the misrepresentation of the biblical narratives. It could be a mistake resulting from a reliance on faulty memory when writing and no theological fact checking or proofreading.

Discussing the lessons

Each lesson ends with a handful of questions for discussion. The problem is, the discussion questions are largely reliant on a thorough reading, or familiarity, with the bible generally. They often ask things that could in no way be answered by use of the lesson alone. Yet, the lessons often, especially in the OT portion, cover such large portions of scripture that reading the biblical text would be unrealistic for a weekly class or study.

For this reason, I feel the book would best be read by two or three people, at least one a mature believer who can guide the discussion wisely.

The glorious history of redemption

The history of redemption is indeed glorious. This book may serve as a guide for a quick overview. It is not without its problems, but it is compact and, with the exception of the two lessons noted, is a faithful summary of the biblical narratives. It will prove very helpful in connecting the work of the prophets to the timeline of kings and nations in the Old Testament, and the letters of the New Testament with the timeline of the church.

For a believer who is already familiar with the biblical storyline and has read their bible but would like help connecting the dots, this book will prove useful and easy to read.

For the new believer, the book will still be a valuable asset, but I strongly suggest reading this with an older Christian who can help guide you through a discussion of what you’re reading and help answer any questions.


2016 Reading Challenge August Update

2016 Reading Challenge August Update

The Valley of VisionThis year I have been participating in Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge. Particular books are not specified, but rather, categories. I’m enjoying the challenge. It has pushed me outside my comfort zone to read things I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, yet it’s flexible enough that I have been able to find a way to fit in books I really wanted to read.

I set my goal at 42 books. I’m now 8 months into it and I’ve finished 29 so far. I decided not to follow the list straight through, but to pick from all over as things interested me and I was able to find a category for them.

So far, 18 of my 29 books have been non-fiction, all but 2 of them theological works. 10 of the books I’ve read so far are novels (11 if you count the Shakespeare play), several (the Narnia and Andrew Peterson books) are one’s I’ve read aloud to the girls.

What follows are the books I completed in August and the reading challenge category they fulfill. I’ve listed them in the order in which I completed them.

#25 On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness [ affiliate link] by Andrew Peterson (A novel set in a country that is not your own). I’m pushing the category with this one. But technically it fits. This book is one I read aloud to my kids. They loved it. I enjoyed it too. In the same vein as Narnia or Lord of the Rings, but written with a younger audience in mind, this book is entertaining and funny, full of adventure and great creatures.

#26 Macbeth [ affiliate link] by William Shakespeare (A play by William Shakespeare) One of the Bard’s tragedies. There is intrigue, murder, and war, but there is also a lot of insight into the fallen nature of man, and the inner workings of conscience. A good read that has me looking for another Shakespeare work before the year is out.

#27 Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established [ affiliate link to the paperback edition, the kindle edition is free or you can download an iBooks version for free here] (That’s quite a title!) by John William Burgon (A book written by an Anglican). This book was recommended to me as I had an interest in the subject of the authenticity of this passage. It gets a bit technical in places and a working knowledge of Biblical Greek will serve you well, but even without knowing any Greek, there is still some good information here that will be useful even to the layman who is interested in the different textual traditions that result in differences between translations.

#28 The Four Loves [ affiliate link] by C.S. Lewis (A play by William Shakespeare). This one by Lewis is good but not great, which is how I would characterize most of his non-fiction writing. He does have some good insights into sinful man’s motivations behind our acts of “love”. The chapter on friendship is probably the best, though it is still weighed down by some of Lewis’ less than biblical assumptions about the origins of man. I also found his discussion of eros interesting, in that he distinguishes eros (an act of the soul) from venus (an act of the body), which I found to be a helpful and needed distinction.

#29 The Valley of Vision [ affiliate link] by Arthur Bennett (A book published by The Banner of Truth). This book has, without a doubt, done more for my prayer life than any book I’ve ever read, other than the Bible itself. It is a collection of prayers drawn from the writings of the Puritans and edited together into a deeply theological, enjoyably poetic format. Using these prayers as part of your daily spiritual disciplines is like learning to pray by example, from the Puritans themselves.

The following is the complete list of categories, with completed categories marked and the book for that category in parenthesis.

Read More Read More

2016 Reading Challenge July Update

2016 Reading Challenge July Update

This year I have been participating in Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge. It’s been fun so far. It has pushed me outside my comfort zone to read things I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, yet it’s flexible enough that I have been able to find a way to fit in books I really wanted to read.

I set my goal at 42 books. I’m one month past the halfway mark and I’ve finished 24 so far. I decided not to follow the list straight through, but to pick from all over as things interested me and I was able to find a category for them.

So far, 15 of my 24 books have been non-fiction, all but 2 of them theological works. 9 of the books I’ve read so far are novels, several (the Narnia books) are one’s I’ve read aloud to the girls. I’m happy with that balance, especially considering several of the theology books I’ve read so far are large works.

What follows are the books I completed in July and the reading challenge category they fulfill. I’ve listed them in the order in which I completed them.

#18 Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (A classic novel). An excellent classic novel that I recommend strongly, especially for men. Read my review at the link. [link to my review]

#19 The Puritan Family by Edmund S. Morgan (A book written in the twentieth century). [link to]

#20 The Rover Boys At College by Edward Stratemeyer (A mystery or detective novel). A novel from the early 20th century. My copy belonged to my Grandfather. It’s not a great novel, but it’s an easy read and kind of fun. [link to]

#21 The Masculine Mandate by Richard D. Phillips (A book by a Presbyterian). I highly recommend this book to all men. It explores God’s calling on men to “work and keep”, applying these two tasks to marriage, parenting, friendships, and the church. [link to my review]

#22 The Life of Adoniram Judson by Edward Judson (A book by or about a missionary). A biography of my favorite missionary. It long, and not easy to find in print (I read an original, first edition printing from 1883), but worth the effort. Though maybe not the first book I would recommend about this amazing man, who was the first American missionary.

#23 The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (A novel longer than 400 pages). Not a bad novel, but not a great one either. Most of the plot elements are lifted from Lord of the Rings, but the names have been changed, it’s a sword made by the good guys, not a ring made by the bad guys, Other than that, it’s pretty much a rehash of the Lord of the Rings, but it was fun and quick. [link to]

#24 Church History 101 by Sinclaire Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin (A book about church history). This small book is a very easy and enjoyable read. Each short chapter covers one century of church history beginning with the 1st and ending with the 20th. The book is small, physically and in terms of content, and that’s a good thing. It will easily fit in your pocket or lunch box so you can take with you anywhere. Brance’s rule #7 is “Never go anywhere without a book”, and this book makes that easy. I’ll be giving this book away to those who ask for a primer on church history. [link to]

What follows is the complete list of categories, with completed categories marked and the book for that category in parenthesis.

Read More Read More

How to be a Christian man

How to be a Christian man

The Masculine Mandate: how to be a Christian manI recently reviewed the book Manliness. It was a good book, but it left me wanting more. It left me wanting a sequel that would explain how to be a Christian man, how to be manly in the ordinary day-to-day of being a husband and daddy, a friend, employee, or employer. I said I wanted a book that would explain “the manliness required to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.”

The Masculine Mandate is exactly the book I was looking for.

Understanding your mandate as a Christian man

Pastor Richard Phillips spends the first five chapters explaining the masculine mandate, God’s calling to men. He begins with God’s creation of man in the garden, before the fall, explaining the command to work and keep. In doing so, he faces a best-selling fallacy head on.

The problem is that the basic approach to masculinity presented in Wild at Heart is almost precisely opposite from what is really taught in the Bible.

Many Christian men have read Wild at Heart and been led to believe that they were meant for the wild and not the garden, but Genesis says that God made man for the garden, not the wilderness.

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. [Genesis 2:15]

Phillips makes the argument that the garden, as the setting for this mandate, is a “world of covenantal relationships and duties” in which the Christian man operates.

The mandate defined

And here is The Masculine Mandate, God’s calling to men: work and keep. He spends the rest of the book seeking to,

specify, clarify, elaborate, and apply these to verbs to the glorious, God-given, lifelong project of masculine living. [p. 8]

He starts by defining each of these verbs.

Work. To work is to labor to make things grow.

Keep. To keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved. [p. 8]

Over the next several chapters Phillips goes on to explain what this means. The Christian man is called to work and tend those things placed in his charge, his wife, children, friendships, church family, vocation, etc. We are to work and tend these so that they grow, and then to keep them safe.

Read More Read More

Custom Fountain Pen

Custom Fountain Pen

Turkish Walnut Custom Fountain PenThose of you who know me, know that I’m a bit old school. I still prefer paper books and I enjoy writing with a fountain pen. It will be no surprise that I’m now using a custom fountain pen as my main writing instrument.

For a couple of years now I’ve written with a Sheaffer Intensity. It’s a good pen, slender, but a bit heavy, especially if you cap it when writing (which I don’t because of the weight).

This year, as my birthday and Father’s Day present, I got a new pen. This one is custom-made from Turkish Walnut with an extra-fine iridium nib.

The pen was made by a former band mate of mine. Being made of wood, it’s much lighter than my Sheaffer, which is a good thing. The lighter weight of the wood allows your hand to relax when writing, which improves penmanship and reduces muscle strain. Speaking of wood, the Turkish Walnut is beautiful, as you can see. It has a nice deep color in the marbled grain, along with a few highlights.

This pen has a magnetic cap, rather than the standard screw on cap you normally find on fountain pens. It’s unique and fun, but not as secure as the screw on type cap. I’d be reluctant to carry this pen in my bag on a daily basis, but since I plan to use it at my desk, that’s not a problem.

After a tune-up at my favorite pen shop, the pen writes smoothly with just the right amount of ink flow, and produces a beautiful line. The nib has just the right amount of flex to produce a beautiful script, at least as beautiful as my handwriting can be.

Mark has set up an Etsy store where you can pick up one of his pens or contact him to have one custom-made from the material of your choice.

If you’re already a fountain pen user and looking to add a custom fountain pen to your collection, then I suggest you check out Mark’s work.

If you’re not a yet a fountain pen user, I urge you to do yourself, and your penmanship, a favor and pick up the ultimate writing instrument. What better place to start than with a custom fountain pen?