Thursday, February 16, 2012

Four Books, Four Quick Reviews

Despite my busy work schedule, I've managed to do to little reading over the past few months. I'd like to share some brief thoughts with you about four books:

I love short books. They usually get right to the point, don't add fluff, and remain focused. This is the case with Jon Zens' Christ Minimized? A Response to Rob Bell's LOVE WINS. In only about 60 pages, Zens thoughtfully counters Bell's unbiblical, vague, and illogical arguments. Zens also shows that despite what Bell claims, Bell is in fact a universalist. Additionally, Zens is gracious in his approach; he doesn't bash Bell while rebuffing his ideas. Because Bell is influential in this culture, I recommend this book. As a bonus, it is inexpensive.

I admit to reading this book in part because it has caused some controversy. Tullian Tchividjian's primary thesis in Jesus + Nothing = Everything is that Jesus is everything. We'd all agree with that. The controversy, I think, is that Tchividjian believes that our main duty in the process of sanctification is focusing on what Jesus has done for us. He almost implies that what is required is a thought process (about our justification) as opposed to striving for holiness and obedience. If asked, I doubt the author would state it in quite those terms, but that's the idea that comes through the pages of the book. Despite this, I enjoyed this text because Tchividjian spends a good amount of time discussing Colossians, one of my favorite books of the bible. The author simply glories in the gospel. This book is worth the time.

I normally enjoy Frank Viola's books a great deal. His Pagan Christianity? and Reimagining Church have had a great impact on me. Because of that, I was surprised by Revise Us Again. Frankly, it seemed a little dull. In this book, Viola questions various aspects of living the church life. He challenges the reader to think outside the traditional church box. In that respect, it might be good for someone to read who has always ingested traditional American evangelicalism without question. This book would also benefit new Christians. However, if you have already asked hard questions of yourself and sought biblical answers, then don't bother with Revise Us Again.

Sometimes books are simply disappointments. That's the case with Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura. The main problem with this text is that the author shows little objectivity. He seems to set out from the beginning to show that the Reformed idea of church is the most biblical. The book could more accurately be entitled, "A History of Sola Scriptura from a Reformed Perspective." Mathison criticizes Roman Catholicism for depending too much on tradition, but then criticizes Anabaptists for discarding tradition. The author tries to show that it is Reformed churches that are most in line with the early Christian creeds; he does not make a convincing case. Mathison portrays all Anabaptists as being the same. This is simply not the case. Anabaptists were a diverse group. Finally, the book is too long (over 350 pages). If you are interested in the doctrine of sola scriptura, buy a different book.

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