Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quick Summaries for November 2015: Theology and Prayer

Farrel, Bill. 7 Simple Skills for Every Man: Success in Relationships, Work , and Your Walk with God. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2014. Paper. $10.99. (LHPN)

Aageson, Julie K., John Borelli, John Klassen, Derek Nelson, Martha Storz, Jessica Wrobleski. One Hope: Re-Membering the Body of Christ. Minneapolis and Collegeville: Augsburg Fortress and Liturgical Press, 2015. Paper. $12.00. (LHP)

Rigney, Joe. Foreword by John Piper. The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 271 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (LHP)

 Wolterstorff, Nicholas The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015. 180 Pages. Paper. $20.00. (LHPN).

Wayne, Israel. Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2015. 186 Pages. $12.99. (N QS)

Thorn, Joe. Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 140 Pages. Paper. $10.99. (LHP)

Philip, William. Foreward by Alistair Begg. Why We Pray. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 109 Pages. Paper. $11.99. (LHP)

 Rigney, Joe. Foreword by John Piper. The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 271 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (LHP)

Olson, Oliver K. Introduction by Mark C. Mattes. Reclaiming Lutheran Confirmation (Blue Papers Two). Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, 2015. 65 Pages. Paper. (PN)

DeYoung, Kevin. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 160 Pages. Paper. $12.99. (LHP)

Quick Summaries are pithy paragraph-long reviews
of releases that cross our desk.

These are reviews for when you don't have all day 

to decide whether a resource is worth
your time, money, storage space, or trouble.


+/ Farrel is a prolific author. That's not always a good thing. Personally, I prefer quality over quantity. That said, Farrel's new title could provide ample, encouraging, and positive discussion topics for men already in relationship with one another, and could help bridge the gap between acquaintances or those new to a men's Bible class group. Decision Theology (16) must be rejected based on the complete context of Joshua 24, John 15:16 in context, and Romans' description of human nature. I can appreciate the point of the joke on 58ff, but it becomes a distraction away from the point of planning. Readers could benefit from this title. Consider alternatives from Concordia and Lutheran Hour Ministries.

- - An unsolicited title, One Hope failed to give me hope in the current incarnation of the ecumenical movement. Co-published by Liturgical Press and Augsburg Fortress, I find the title Biblically, theologically, practically, and confessionally inadequate for use by a Confessional Lutheran. Even signers of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (5) will be dissatisfied at the lack of depth, naive expectations of joint prayer (and possible sharing of the Sacrament of the Altar), childish discussions of prayer, and content that is disrespectful of the Lutheran Reformation and the Council of Trent. To paraphrase Luther himself, "Even a seven-year-old child" could tell you this title is not worth your time nor the paper it is printed on. I am personally embarrassed for both publishers given the good I have seen from both historically.

/ Also unsolicited, Wolterstorff's The God We Worship: an exploration of liturgical theology will encourage confessional Lutherans to persist in faithfully using our evangelically-edited received version of the historic western Christian liturgies for Divine Service and the Daily Office. "No liturgy has ever been composed from scratch." He will help readers to mine the truth of his simple sentence. Readers will be challenged by references to liberal theologians (2), and will have their patience tested with a Webster definition for worship (23) instead of better ones from Scripture, and talk of Eucharist as memorial (147ff). This title deserves a second read from this reviewer and will receive one in the near future. Look for more from me on this title "After Further Review..."

 /+ We previously reviewed another title by author Israel Wayne in Quick Summaries ( Our previous experience guided our expectations with this title to be as modest. We commend the author's encouragement toward proper priorities (43ff), yet we will always reject any act of the human will toward accepting Christ (47) as unacceptable and contrary to the Biblical teaching of conversion (see Acts 2). Discussions about healing (51) and demons (73) are too brief and ambiguous to be truly helpful. The author shines in a brief overview of proper vs. improper Bible interpretation (116ff) and in positively quoting Dr. Luther (132). Law and Gospel need to be more carefully distinguished throughout, especially on 171-2.

+ Joe Thorn's Crossway title, Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God, was one of the better titles we read for this QS. The introductory comments (19) on the depth of our sinfulness in the light of Scripture could have been much stronger and clearer. The forgiveness of sins in Christ alone is central and clear to this 140-page paperback as well as the doctrine of the Trinity. Thorn succeeds in making a book about the attributes/qualities of God interesting, catechetically helpful and comprehensible. The Father and Son are primarily identified by Who each Person is and what each Person does. The Holy Spirit is primarily described by active verbs. Insightful, concise, and helpful.

+ We pray because the Lord commands us to pray. That's law. We also pray because Jesus invites us to pray. We address Our Father as dear children address their dear father. William Philip's treatise on prayer "focuses us on four blessing-filled reasons that will help us want to pray" (back cover, emphasis original). We pray because 1) God Is a Speaking God; 2) We are Sons of God; 3) God Is a Sovereign God; 4) We Have the Spirit of God. Writing from Glasgow, Scotland, Lutherans will note Calvinist terminology in #3. The insights of this title, noted by Foreword author Alistair Begg, are worth the read. I will share Philip's critique of unbiblical ideas about prayer by Christians with my Sunday morning Bible class.

 + Luther spoke of the "things of earth" as good First-Article-of-the-Apostles'-Creed gifts. Rigney, influenced by John Piper, has as his goal to remind Christians that every good and perfect gift comes from heaven above. Jump to page 26. I reacted negatively to "Christian Hedonism" when I was at the university. I believe this terminology may be too-easily misunderstood. I'm also a Lutheran, not a Calvinist reader/reviewer (cf. 27). The core of the book is "The Gospel Solution to Idolatry," (95-115). The solution of Scripture and the author is to not confuse Creator with His gifts of creation. Ultimately, I read this as a book of vocation. Christians should embrace who they are in Christ and should keep all of the created gifts of God in use according to their intended vocations. 

 +/ A necessary book, Oliver Olson's Reclaiming Lutheran Confirmation is a worthy second Blue Paper following Reclaiming the Lutheran Liturgical Heritage ( Like other reviewers, I found much of value for LCMS Lutherans to contemplate. I did, however, feel at times that I was not the original intended audience for this publication, that I was listening in to the latest episode in a generations-long conversation among Lutherans of the ELCA, its predecessor bodies, and its "successor" bodies. It helped me better understand a grown woman who is a member of my congregation who asked for a "Catechism Class." She had received a "Confirmation Class" back in her youth, but learned little about Luther's Small Catechism and nothing of his Large Catechism. Our class will conclude by Christmas. "Christians must be taught." Luther knew this when he wrote the 95 Theses and provided the tools to future generations in his catechisms.

++ If your budget allows for only one of the brief titles reviewed here, make What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung the title you buy. Last summer, on the Sunday after the revolutionary Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex so-called "marriage" in the United States, I made extensive use of Appendix 3 in my sermon. The main question of the book is this: Is homosexual activity a sin that must be repented of, forsaken, and forgiven, or, given the right context and commitment, can we consider same-sex sexual intimacy a blessing worth celebrating and solemnizing. The author answers based on Scripture, not political correctness. A final pithy sentence: ""The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves as much as anyone that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant" (143). The Crossway website will provide you with a free study guide for the book.

Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, District Education Chairman and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. He is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.

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