Category Archives: resources

Seeing the Real World – What Is Biblical Theology by Dr. James Hamilton, a Review and Recommendation

hambkJames M. Hamilton, Jr., What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 128pp.  Paperback & Kindle editions available.

This book helped me understand the Bible better, and this book makes me want to read the Bible more.  I will explain why.

Dr. Jim Hamilton, associate professor of biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, has a blessedly infectious love for the Word of God.  Thankfully, his answer to the question of his title, What Is Biblical Theologyis not that it is some dry, academic enterprise that you must trudge through if you want to understand the Bible.  Rather, his answer reveals a gateway to a breathtaking, overwhelmingly glorious new world, that is, in fact, the reality of which the Bible speaks.  Biblical theology is “the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing” throughout the various types of literature that make up the Bible.  Hamilton’s definition stands in stark contrast to approaches to biblical theology that purport to analyze each biblical author or book on its own terms to show an evolution of thought, including the discarding or twisting of previous ideas.  The author is obviously immersed in the Scriptures, making a plethora of connections between texts.  What Is Biblical Theology? unashamedly affirms, with Jesus and the apostles, the unity of the entire Bible and each part of it as a piece of a bigger storyline of God redeeming His people by salvation through judgment, to the praise of His glory.

Summary

Hamilton easily grabs attention with captivating storytelling.  He shows the relevance of biblical theology in pointing to reality that we miss because we’re not saturated with Bible truth.  He tells a moving personal experience of a man on his death bed, a man for whom the reality of the unseen world was alive and compelling.  Biblical theology will prepare us to die well.  How many other topics for books can you recommend for that purpose?

The book draws from the Bible to give a framework helpful to read the Bible in order to motivate readers to eagerly do just that.  Hamilton helps us think through our approach to reading the Bible with his impassioned coverage of the Bible’s big story, its symbolism and patterns, and the God’s purpose for the church.

The author describes the setting of the biblical story as a “cosmic temple,” where the world God created is “a place in which God is known, served, present, and worshiped.”  God’s enemy, Satan, and his “seed,” seek destruction of God’s temple, but only succeed in defiling it.  God promises restoration and gives Israel a picture of it through the tabernacle, and later, the temple.  The hope of restoration is encapsulated in the prophecy that the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent, which is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and the Savior of all sinners who will turn to Him.  Through His death, He redeems, and, as a result, all things will one day be restored in the New Creation.

The book looks at the Bible’s symbolism, tracing the prolific usage of tree, flood, and temple imagery through the Bible.  These symbols remind us of things like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the catastrophic flood of God’s judgment, and the temple where God was to be approached, served, and worshiped.  They point forward to a tree where a Redeemer would die, a future worldwide judgment, and a time and place where the whole New Creation is God’s new temple.

Hamilton writes about typology in various people, events, and institutions in the Bible, but is careful to distance himself from the wild, unchecked allegorical interpretation often associated with that term.  Biblical typology has to be grounded in “historical correspondence and escalation.”  The Bible is historically accurate, and when it describes Noah and Moses and what they experienced, what the first Passover was like, and the regulations God established for the temple, it is telling the truth.  Yet in those people, events, and institutions, we can see patterns that God repeats in history, in a way that is both similar and escalated, in their fulfillment in Jesus.

For example, we see that

Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt; Jesus saved his people from their slavery to sin.  Moses led Israel into a shadow of the new Eden, the Land of Promise; Jesus will lead his people into the new and better Eden, the new heaven and earth.

The book culminates in an intense focus on the church and her relationship to Christ.  Those who have faith in Christ should see themselves as sheep of the Shepherd, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We see, not only in Christ, but also in the church, a fulfillment of God’s great story.

Just as God put Adam in the garden to extend its borders so that Yahweh’s glory would cover the dry lands as the waters cover the sea, God put Israel in the land to take up that same task, giving them a preview of what it would look like when he filled tabernacle and temple with his glory.  Jesus sent his disciples on the same errand to all nations:  as disciples are made, the temple grows, the place of God’s presence expands, and God’s glory spreads over the dry land.  In the age to come, these realities will be fully realized.  The earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of God.

Why You Should Read This Book

1. It will give you a helpful framework to read the Bible, a framework derived and distilled from the Bible itself.

2. This book will remind you that we’re in a different story that the world is telling, and that we need to know and live by the truth.

3. It demonstrates that one can be blown away by the breathtaking vistas in the Bible and its overarching story and still trust it in the details.  While seeing a cosmic temple setting, Hamilton also dismisses evolution as a “creation myth” incompatible with the Bible and as part of the world’s story, in contrast to reality, which is what the Bible presents.  Hamilton sees no false dichotomy between seeing the Bible as beautiful and varied in its genres, and as trustworthy for all its assertions.

4. This book will show you who you are.  If you’re not in Christ, you’re on the losing side, and there is no hope.  But if you will trust in Christ, you will find acceptance, assurance, confidence, victory, and a transformed life that delights in God’s glory and God’s story.

5. The book is a good on-ramp into reading the Bible.  The most remarkable thing about this book is that it points away from itself.  Even though the author lists some recommended reading at the end, the focus of the book is on getting the reader to personally encounter and engage the text of Scripture.  You will be directed in mind and affections right into the Bible with Hamilton’s brevity (128 pages) as well as the excitement and urgency that permeate the book.  Hamilton writes, “The best way to learn biblical theology, the best way to get yourself out of the world’s way of thinking and into the Bible’s is to study the Bible itself.  Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.  Read the Bible.  A lot.”

I want to go back and revisit What Is Biblical Theology? sometime, but the reason I wish to do so is that it will help me return to the Bible with a fresh, big picture perspective that keeps the main themes of the forest of Scripture on my radar so I don’t get lost in the trees.  This book promotes a love for Bible reading and Bible study, and I highly recommend it.  Get it, and read the Bible with a new wonder, appreciation, and anticipation to understand the unfolding of God’s story for His beloved.

Crossway provided a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page program, in exchange for an honest review.

On a side note, if you are as intrigued as I was by the cover art for the book, see the author’s explanation here.

If you are interested in a fuller treatment of themes explored in this book, Hamilton’s full-length look at each book of the Bible will serve you well:  God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment.

Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven (which looks at what the Bible does and doesn’t teach, not at unverifiable human interest accounts), is on sale for 99 cents for Kindle. The place I saw this deal said this could be for part of the day, so if you’re interested, act now. 

Book Review: Knowable Word by Peter Krol

kwPeter Krol, Knowable Word (Cruciform Press, 2014) available for Kindle and in paperback, 120 pp.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

When I was a child, I had an unusual fixation with instruction manuals.  I actually enjoyed reading about how to use a toy, game, or electronic device.  There was just something about reading a description of how something was supposed to work, and figuring out how to understand the description, comparing  it to what I was doing, and seeing if I could apply what I just read that I found satisfying, especially if I got a better result than what I had previously achieved.

I can’t think of any higher compliment about Knowable Word than that it is a good instruction manual that is enjoyable to read and easy to use.  Three attributes that distinguish Peter Krol’s book from other books on hermeneutics, or how to interpret and study the Bible, are its brevity, clarity, and practicality.

Knowable Word is a brief, quick on-ramp into the world of Bible study.  There are plenty of tomes on Biblical interpretation.  There are books about an abundance of introductory matters about Bible study that never actually get one into the Bible study.  Some of these books are hundreds of pages, but Krol’s is only 120.  Its length makes it possible to read in a couple of hours.  Reading it in a single sitting can help the reader more easily get the whole picture of what the author is saying, and get to work putting the book into practice.

Knowable Word is a clear book.  Its clarity is achieved by its focused vision to present a method of Bible study that is faithful to Scripture, easy to remember, and easy to apply.  The three step method?  Observe.  Interpret.  Apply.  Krol grounds this traditional “OIA” method in Scripture, showing how Jesus used this methodology to point out things to His hearers (Matt. 21:42-44).  He also shows how it works in normal human communication, as we see something, consider its meaning, and then choose a response based on what we have seen and interpreted.  Krol also gives an overarching vision of the Bible as a book that points us to Christ.  He takes us to Luke 24 to show us how Jesus viewed Scripture as pointing to Himself, and challenges us to look for themes that relate to the suffering and death of the Messiah, the need for repentance and forgiveness of sin, and the proclamation of the good news to all nations (Luke 24:46-47).

Krol’s writing style is direct and straightforward.  He does not get bogged down with a myriad of alternative views of scholarly theories, but focuses on explaining the OIA method in a simple manner.

The author primarily limits his examples of Bible study methods to Genesis 1, which he takes on its own terms, rather than importing ideas foreign to the text to shape his interpretation  This approach remains consistent throughout the book.  We do not have to constantly change gears to other types of literature as we are learning the method.

Krol gives clarity by way of contrast.  He argues that familiarity is our biggest enemy to observing what Scripture actually says, since we are not as active to observe that which we believe we already know.  Presuming that we understand something is an obstacle to discovering the right interpretation.  The inertia in our lives makes it difficult to want to budge and dig into the hard work of application, which leads to change.

Knowable Word is a practical book.  Krol quickly and clearly shows us how to put our Bible study into practice.  He focuses both on our internal beliefs and character as well as our outward actions toward others.  Examples from his own life, as he applies his study of Genesis 1 to his own aversion to home improvement projects, are illuminating and give good suggestions for us to think about when applying the Scripture.  The book also provides exercises and access to printable worksheets for working through the phases of observation, interpretation, and application, with suggestions of the things we need to look for and consider.

Krol’s book is a great instruction manual for reading the Bible.  It doesn’t go on forever, but gives you the basics so you can jump right in and start studying.  It doesn’t over-complicate things, but is clear in its instruction.  It’s practical, and you can immediately see the usefulness of the method Krol explains.  Knowable Word is thorough and clear enough that you can read it once and remember its gist as you put its principles to work.  Yet, it is a good reference to go back to when needing to remind yourself how you can dig deeper.

Knowable Word is a helpful resource that can introduce readers to basic Bible study methods they can learn “in five minutes” and master “over a lifetime,” as Krol states in chapter 1.  I plan to use this book to help others of all ages learn how to study the Bible for themselves, in hopes that they will better know Jesus and pass this method on to others as well.

The book also has a website with resources here.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free eBook of this title from Cruciform Press in exchange for an honest review.

The book is available for $5.99 for Kindle and $8.99 for paperback.

This view was originally posted at my personal blog.

DEAL ALERT: Free AiG Video Download “Stop Trusting Man’s Word”

stmwI highly recommend this video.  It’s available for free as a digital download that will play on computers and mobile devices.  Here’s the info, from Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis:

You can download this video free until Sunday night. (It’s normally $12.99 on DVD.) Share this with your friends and encourage them to download and view “Stop Trusting Man’s Word” too! Simply go to the Answers in Genesis online store and download it now. I think you’ll find a whole new level of confidence in the truth of the Bible!

The special code to use for the free download is: TRUSTING. We can’t afford to do this sort of thing too often, but right now you can download it free.

Updates, Links, and Deals for 5/11/2014

Updates Links and Deals

Interview with Pastor Kevin DeYoung about taking God at His Word (Hoping to post a full review of this book in the next few weeks)

Interview with Dr. Alex Chediak on preparing your teens for college

Top Ten Christian Books (Plus One) For Graduates (in case you missed it last week)

Three on the Trinity:

How Does the Trinity Apply Practically to My Life

Trinity as Foundational for Family Ministry

How Does the Trinity Apply Practically to Your Life Today

“Ultimate Proof of Creation” – a good overview of apologetics by Dr. Jason Lisle:

Deals:  The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is FREE in multiple electronic formats this month, from Ligonier Ministries.

10 Awesome and Free eBooks online

My book Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is FREE each Sunday in May for Kindle.  I wrote this in hopes that it will help students and graduates of Christian colleges that do not hold firmly to the truth.  It’s also just 99 cents the rest of the time if you buy the print version from Amazon.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans – FREE for Logos this month

Top Ten Christian Books (Plus One) for Graduates & College Students

macartTaking-God-Word-3D-880x1024spurdiscbunyan1-1God'spassionChristianityandliberalismultimateproofwhy27Thriving-at-College-cover-198x300christianhistory-cover

It’s that time of the year… graduations are rapidly approaching.  What do you give to
congratulate the graduate?  Here are a few suggestions, if you’re considering a Christian book.  I have compiled this list as a combination of books that helped me and books I would have benefited from if I’d had access to them during college.

macart1. The MacArthur Study Bible  (or click here for Kindle version) – the single most helpful study Bible I know. Clear, uncompromising notes on Genesis. Excellent background and analysis of passages; helpful articles about Scripture and doctrine as well. Covenant theologians may disapprove the extent to which MacArthur is dispensational, but even they should find most of the notes to be models of clarity, substance, and edification.

Taking-God-Word-3D-880x10242. Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word  (Kindle version here) – a new book, and the best single volume on the Bible that I’ve seen.  Clear, engaging, fun to read.  Reinvigorates a love for God’s Word and uncompromisingly opposes views that regard the Bible as having error, being unclear, or being insufficient.

spurdisc3. Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  (Kindle version here) – helpful guide to the practices that bring us closer to God.  The basics of the Christian life are here in a well-written, practical book that should be read and re-read from time to time because it brings us right back to the God of the Bible.

bunyan1-14. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress  (click here for Kindle version – lots of options on this title) – the best work of fiction for spiritual growth.  This allegory gives the journey of the Christian life from before conversion to glory, with many warnings of the pitfalls along the way.  It’s also a classic of English literature that’s not as well known as it once was.

God'spassion5. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (with The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards) (Kindle version here) – This book dispelled a dangerous false notion I once had — that God made us because He was lonely.  The book is a bit of a hybrid.  Piper distills Edwards in one half; in the other half, Edwards speaks and Piper gives helpful footnotes.  Not an easy read, but very worthwhile.  The takeaway?  You should come away from reading this book convinced, from Scripture, that God made everything for His glory, and He is glorified in us when we delight in Him. (Free PDF at Desiring God website)

Christianityandliberalism6. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism  (Kindle version here) – The author clearly demonstrates that biblical Christianity and theological liberalism are not two varieties of the same thing; liberalism is naturalism dressed in fake clothing, and is another type of religion altogether.

ultimateproof7. Jason Lisle, Ultimate Proof of Creation  (Kindle version here) – great book full of help for apologetics and logic.

why278. Brian Edwards, Why 27? – One of the most accessible books on the canon of Scripture.  Why do we accept the books in the New Testament as from God, and not any others for the New Testament?

Thriving-at-College-cover-198x300
9. Alex Chediak, Thriving at College  (Kindle version here) – Very practical and readable guide for the college student who doesn’t want to waste his or her college experience.  I’m sure I could have learned some of this stuff if I’d paid more attention in our “strategies for success” class my freshman year; but there’s more than basic strategies for navigating academic and social life here – Chediak integrates the spiritual aspect as well.

christianhistory-cover10. Timothy Paul Jones, Church History Made Easy  (Kindle version here) – Jones masterfully boils down church history to the essentials in a readable, engaging format.  This will give a great overview of the church throughout her existence, and introduce readers to names, movements, and issues that were key then and that resurface through history and to our own day as well.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEI wrote How to Keep the Faith in a Christian College, in part, as a short introduction to books like these.  (It is free for Kindle each Sunday in May; for more info about the book, which is also available in paperback, click here.)

Are there any books you would put on a “must-read” list for new, current, or former college students?

Note: Dr. David Murray’s blog gave me the idea for a top ten list of this sort.  He’s got more top-ten lists of books on other topics here.  And I’ve a feeling he’ll have one for graduates soon.  (UPDATE: He posted his list here.)

Updates Links and Deals How to Make Sure Your Marriage Ends in Divorce – The title of this series should get our attention; the content in the series can change our lives and marriages for the better (to avoid drifting apart!).  I highly commend all five parts to your reading; if you are married or counsel those who are, this is well worth your time: Part 1       Part 2      Part 3       Part 4       Part 5

Children’s Bible Reading plan – This plan is very flexible, adaptable and brief.  It gives a good jumpstart without overwhelming.  We now have three children who have been engaging with God’s Word daily, which is good for mom’s and dad’s accountability as well.

Is Genesis 1-11 a Derivation from Ancient Myths?

4 Practical Ways to Welcome Autism into Your Church

Have you heard of Brian McLaren?  Beware if you hear of him or his influence.  Tim Challies tells us about the danger of McLaren’s false teaching.

Deals: My book Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is FREE each Sunday in May for Kindle.  I wrote this in hopes that it will help students and graduates of Christian colleges that do not hold firmly to the truth.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans – FREE for Logos this month

Keeping the Faith in a Christian College Now Available for Kindle!

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEKeeping the Faith in a Christian College is now available on Amazon Kindle.  As a bonus to celebrate graduation season, it is FREE for today.  Please share the news!  I am hoping many people may be helped by this book, especially students, graduates, and incoming freshmen.  One helpful feature of this eBook is that it has “live” links to website and articles referenced in the book.

I would be grateful for anyone who can take about an hour to read the book and leave an honest review at Amazon.

A print version of the book should be available for direct order from Amazon within the next few days.  I will post when it is available.

For more updates, please like the official Facebook page here.  You may also subscribe to this blog.

Here is the book description and some endorsements:

A Christian school, of all places, should be a setting where Christian students should not have their faith attacked. Yet year by year, students enter classrooms where the teachings of the Bible and its trustworthiness will be denied by professors who call themselves Christians. Many students have their guard down, not expecting such opposition in such a place. This book seeks to give simple and straightforward warning, counsel, and encouragement to such students to trust Christ and His Word and keep the faith in their studies at a Christian college, university, or seminary. 

ENDORSEMENTS OF KEEPING THE FAITH IN A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE

“Many of the ‘baby boomer’ generation did not attend college. With the increase in availability and opportunity, they have encouraged their children to go to college. Those parents from an Evangelical Christian background viewed a ‘Christian’ college as a bonus and sent many of their children there. Unfortunately, some of these college students quickly learned that what they knew as ‘Christian’ and what the school called ‘Christian’ were two different ideas. In this book, Doug Smith equips students and parents to enter college, especially ‘Christian’ colleges, with both eyes wide open. He writes from first-hand experience to guard future college students against the snares he encountered. I would highly recommend this resource to all parents and high school students who are considering a Christian college.”

– Josh Davis, Youth and Assistant Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Bristol, Virginia 

“You head excitedly to a ‘Christian’ college as a young ministerial student to learn more about the Bible in hopes of getting better trained to preach and teach God’s Word. But the sacred Book you’ve grown up believing and loving often becomes the target of attack – question marks being placed in the Bible by professors where God’s Spirit had already put a period. Such was my experience, and I found myself starting to ‘doubt’ and even ‘disbelieve’ what I had been RIGHTLY taught about the Bible growing up. Only by God’s grace and the mentoring of godly pastors in my life was I guarded from ‘erring from thy statutes’ (Psalm 119:118). How needful is such a book and how helpful it will be in keeping students who are Christians ‘grounded’ and ‘growing’ in ‘the faith once delivered unto the saints!’”

– Scott Price, Senior Pastor, Fellowship Chapel, Bristol, Virginia 

“The season of college preparation is a busy one but the addition of reading Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is a wise addition to that busy season. In a concise and straightforward manner, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College will equip you to evaluate the colleges you are considering and to ‘keep the faith’ once you arrive on campus.”

– Beth Osborne Skinner, Attorney at Law, Bristol, Virginia 

“Having worked with Doug for the past three years, I have seen his love for the students and his passion for the authority of the Scriptures. He understands the Biblical worldview issues. Preparing students to enter the world ready to give a reason for the hope they have is a calling in his life. This guide will be an invaluable resource to help students and parents in selecting a college whose mission is first and foremost to glorify the Lord.”

– Dr. Clay Brinson, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Head of School, Cornerstone Christian Academy, Abingdon, Virginia 

Updates Links and Deals

Please make time to listen to this message from Kevin DeYoung: “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism, and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible”  For professing Christians who claim that the Bible isn’t historically accurate…. well, JESUS disagrees with them. Faith-strengthening, encouraging — praise be to God for giving us His trustworthy Word!  DeYoung has a book, just released, on this topic, Taking God at His Word.  I just read it and I cannot recommend it highly enough (here’s the link for Amazon).

Sermon Description:  In this sermon, primarily from the Gospel of John, Kevin DeYoung argues that Scripture’s inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency provides a foundation for both the truth of the gospel and our confidence in evangelism. Christians believe this not because of a modern, man-made ideal of “inerrancy,” but because Jesus himself thought and taught this way. As DeYoung said, “It’s impossible to uphold the Bible more than Jesus did.”

I am working on the final touches of a book addressed to students at Christian colleges, particularly about the compromise some may face in the classroom.  Lord willing, it will be released on Amazon Kindle this week.

I’ve also read a bit in The Diary of Alvin York, the World War I hero.  Fascinating first-hand account.

Tim Challies says that in our preaching we may be shortchanging folks of the most important thing we can share with them.

Deals:

The following deals are good through April 30:

John MacArthur’s books on prayer and worry are 99 cents.  (Alone with God: Discovering the Passion and Power of Prayer and Anxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul.)

R. C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross is free this month as an MP3 audio download.

The following deals are good through May 11:

J. I. Packer, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (99 cents)

Andreas J. Köstenberger & Justin Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus:  The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived  (99 cents)

James N. Anderson, What’s Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (99 cents)

John MacArthur, The Silent Shepherd (book on the Holy Spirit) (99 cents)

And…

Mark Dever’s book, The Church: the Gospel Made Visible is 99 cents for Kindle.  Gospel eBooks doesn’t say how long this deal is good, but the print list price is $12.99.