Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sherman’s March and our Christian Walk

William Tecumseh Sherman is primarily famous for one thing – his amazing Civil War March to the Sea during the fall of 1864.  After conquering the southern city of Atlanta and essentially insuring President Lincoln’s re-election, on November 16, 1864, Sherman and his Army of the West left Atlanta behind.  Leaving a Confederate Army in his rear and untethering himself from communications and supply, Sherman set out to create a 50 mile wide swath of destruction through Georgia.  He accomplished this journey through the heart of the South, losing less than 1000 soldiers, freeing tens of thousands of slaves and bringing the reality of war to the rich Confederate planter class that pushed the South into the Civil War in the first place.  He arrived at the Atlantic Ocean near Savannah, Georgia with an army stronger and healthier than it was when he left Atlanta.

In his magnificent book, The Soul of Battle:  From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny, Victor Davis Hanson tells the story of William Sherman and his March to the Sea.  Until about a year into the Civil War, William Sherman’s life, by anyone’s reckoning - including his own - was an abject failure.  His time at the West Point Military Academy was relatively unremarkable. His army career was a series of dead end postings all over the United States.  His banking career failed miserably.  He spent years of his life running from one job to another, separated from family, just trying anything and everything to make ends meet.  He contemplated suicide more than once.  His only true success was founding a military academy in Louisiana, an effort that was dramatically aborted by the Civil War.

Even after the Civil War began, after successfully leading a brigade at the battle of Bull Run, Sherman struggled.  Promoted to command of all Union forces in Kentucky, he suffered a mental breakdown and was relieved of command.  Restored to command by his friend, Ulysses Grant, he was vital to the Union victory at Shiloh.  From that point on, his star rose.

In his analysis of Sherman’s life, Hanson makes the point that although Sherman appeared to fail at much, in reality he was gaining the experience and the understanding he would need to lead his army through Georgia to ultimate victory.  All his “failures” had prepared him for that day in November, 1864, when he and his army left Atlanta behind.  Hanson argues that there was no other leader in the armies of either the Union or Confederate states that had the breadth of knowledge and experience - from geography to an understanding of how much forage an army would need – than Sherman.  Sherman’s “failures” had been the very things that brought him to the point of success and victory.

The story of Sherman’s life, failures and success made me think of how his life parallels the life of every Christian.  While we are not William Sherman, like him we too experience failure.  Perhaps some of us might look at our lives and wonder if our whole life consists of one failure after another, one letdown after another.  That might even lead us to think as Sherman did – that this life may not be worth living.  In all that, we forget the God is sovereign.  We forget that He is wise enough and big enough and good enough and gracious enough to use our failures to shape us and mold us and perhaps even, like Sherman, prepare us for something that He has in our future. 

All that makes me see my failures in a completely different light.  While they are still painful to experience, they are not paralyzing.  I have seen God bring good out of failure in my own life.  In the midst of the pain and the embarrassment and the frustration, I need to remind myself that God is not done with me yet, and that if anyone can make something out of my failures and my fumbles, if anyone can use those things to prepare me for something in my future, it is the Sovereign God of the Universe, who is my Savior and my Lord.  I don’t know about you, but for me, there is great comfort and encouragement in that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review - Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas

Apologies in advance for this blog post – it is almost six months too late.  The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses was celebrated on October 31, 2017.  Unfortunately it took me until yesterday to finish Eric Metaxas’ magnificent biography of Martin Luther entitled Martin Luther:  The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.

Metaxas is well known for his biographies of Christian historical figures.  I heartily enjoyed his books on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as well as his collection of short biographies entitled 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness.  He brings the same eye to detail and witty writing style to bear on the life of Martin Luther.

Most people alive today have heard of Martin Luther, although in my experience they are much more likely to confuse him with Martin Luther King than to really know what Luther was about and what he achieved.  Metaxas sets out to paint a portrait of Luther, an honest portrait, one that displays both his fine features and his warts, one the seeks to clarify and rectify Luther legend and one that does not shy away from the difficult issues in Luther’s life.

The book is structured like many other biographies are.  Metaxas sets the scene by describing the world Martin Luther was born into.  It is a world where Catholicism ruled; a Catholicism that was still medieval in nature and had begun to rot from the inside.  He traces Luther’s life journey, how he became a monk, and more importantly how rediscovered the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ through his study of the Word of God.  Many stories are attached to these days, and Metaxas seeks to discern what is true and what is myth.

The events of Luther’s life and the results of his study lead him to post 95 Theses or articles for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.  Luther had no desire at first to start his own church or split from the Catholic Church.  Rather, he saw some issues in the church, especially with regards to indulgences (the purchasing of forgiveness and freedom from purgatory), that did not line up with his study of the Word of God.  Luther’s simple act of protest against these practices set the Protestant Reformation in motion.

Metaxas does a wonderful job of portraying Luther’s struggle at the beginning of the Reformation.  He gives light to the pressures and troubles that assailed him, both spiritual as well as the very earthy ones.  (It is a rare biography that has a section on the subject’s struggles with constipation….)  His chapters on Luther’s debate in Leipzig, the Diet of Worms and his time ensconced at Wartburg castle were especially well done.  I also thought his discussion of Luther’s view of marriage, how it changed and the joy he found with his wife and family were also excellently researched and written.  Metaxas does not shy away from the difficult – he even discusses Luther’s virulent writing against the Jews in the final years of his life.  While he does not have an answer for this curious and in many ways out of character pamphlet, I give the author credit for not avoiding the topic.

The book ends with a wonderful reminder of the impact Luther still continues to have in our day.   His writings strongly influenced the democracy we enjoy today.  Congregational singing and lay involvement in church, even in the Catholic Church, happened because of Luther.  Most of all, Luther opened the door to plurality – of ideas and even expression of faith.  While in our modern world, plurality has become a god unto itself in some cases, the fact that we can worship in freedom and embrace truth that is not forced upon us is a result of the legacy of the man Martin Luther.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Best Books of 2017 - Fiction

This is part three of my annual survey of the best books I read in the past year.  And yes, as this list is evidence, I do read for reasons other than to expand my knowledge or improve my ministry skills.  This list is typical of other years, lots of good sci-fi/fantasy with a few thrillers and mysteries thrown in.  Of course, the best book I read last year is not on the list, because I have not finished yet.  That will be for next year…

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan. (Legends of the First Empire, vol. 1)  Sullivan had written a number of great books set in the Riyria universe.  This is the first of a new series which is set centuries before his previous books.  Great stuff – I am waiting for my son to read volume 2 so he can lend it to me.

The Aeronauts Windlass by Jim Butcher (Cinder Spires, vol. 1)  I started reading Jim Butcher’s books last year.  The Aeronauts Windlass is the first in a new series featuring an intriguing story, lots of action and cool steam-punk type technology.

The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington (Licanius Trilogy, vol. 1)  This must be the year for starting new series and then waiting (patiently…) for book number 2 to appear.  Islington is a new author who had created an interesting and unique world.  Volume 1 ends leaving you hanging and waiting for volume 2.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (Last King of Osten Ard, vol. 1)  Tad Williams’ series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is among my top 5 favorite epic fantasy series of all time.  This new series picks up where the last one left off, but decades later.  The heroes from the previous series have aged or passed and a whole new crop of heroes have emerged.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin.  This is a wonderful historical mystery set in the Middle Ages England.  The author’s writing style is a bit difficult to get into at first, but it is well worth it to those who persevere.  Franklin blends a great historical setting with a unique character – a female, medieval coroner – to build a wonderful story.

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson.  Edgedancer is a novella set in world of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive.  Written to fill a few plot holes and provide a transition from one major novel to the next, it stars Lift, one of Sanderson’s best (and funniest) characters yet.  Recommended for anyone who enjoys Sanderson’s books.

2nd Tier books – good but not quite great:
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, vol. 1)
Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, vol. 2)
The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, vol. 2)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, vol. 3)

3rd Tier books – okay, but somewhat lacking:
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Red Queen’s War, book 1)

Ugh – I cannot believe I finished it.  Not recommended.
Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton (a shell of a book, horrible)
The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston (I kept waiting for it to get better…it never did.)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Best Books of 2017 - History/Biography

This is part 2 of my annual list of the best books that I read in 2017.  As those of you who know me are aware, I love a good history book.  I read a lot of good ones this year, so many it was a bit difficult to choose which ones stood head and shoulders above the rest.  All my favorite topics are here – a good dose of military history, Canadian history and Arctic exploration, among other topics.

Abraham Lincoln:  Redeemer President by Allen C. Guelzo.  I read Guelzo’s book on Gettysburg last year and was so impressed I ordered his biography of Lincoln.  This is a spiritual biography, which focuses in on his intellectual and religious life.  Guelzo makes no claims that Lincoln was an evangelical Christian as we might understand it, but he makes a strong case that Lincoln’s understanding of God developed and flourished and came to affect many of the decision he made as president.
The Darkest Days of the War:  The Battles of Iuka and Corinth by Peter Cozzens.  Cozzens is one of the best American Civil War historians.  This book portrays two relatively unknown battles that were pivotal in the Union’s attempt to occupy northern Mississippi.  Cozzens moves easily between strategic decisions to the average soldier’s experience and back again, giving the reader a powerful picture of these hard fought battles.

Song of Wrath:  The Peloponnesian War Begins by J. E. Lendon.  The Peloponnesian War was fought in between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century B.C.  Analyzing the first 10 years of the war, Lendon gives us a picture of the origins, history and strategy of this violent conflict, a conflict from which we can still learn lessons today.

Race to the Polar Sea:  The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane by Ken McGoogan.  I love Ken McGoogan’s books.  While not as good as Fatal Passage, Race to the Polar Sea is a fascinating account of forgotten American hero Elisha Kent Kane and his will to endure and explore the Canadian Arctic.

The Rise of Germany: 1939-41 by James Holland.  The Rise of Germany is part one of a 3 part series on the story of World War 2 in the west.  (Part 2 is also out, entitled The Allies Strike Back.)  Although I knew much of the history before reading this volume, Holland’s analysis of supply and manufacturing on both sides of the conflict was especially enlightening.

Red Famine:  Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum.  This a chilling book about what happens when a paranoid dictator chooses to exercise unlimited power.  Stalin’s policy of collective farming was the direct cause of a massive famine in the Ukraine in which millions died.  This book was especially personal because my grandparents were exiled from the Ukraine just before the famine hit.

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise:  Muslims, Christians and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Dario Fernandez-Morera.  Just about any modern American history book on the European Middle Ages will argue that Muslim Spain was a bastion of tolerance where Islam, Christianity and Judaism flourished side by side.  Fernandez-Morera’s meticulous scholarship exposes the lie to that assumption, clearly showing that Muslim-ruled Spain was a place of intolerance, slavery and brutal treatment of all who did not bow the knee to Allah.

2nd Tier reads – still very good, highly recommended.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Hero of the Empire:  The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard
John A. , The Man who Made Us:  The Life and Times of John A. McDonald, vol. 1 by Richard Gwyn
Nationmaker:  Sir John A. MacDonald, His Life, Our Times, vol. 2 by Richard Gwyn
Armies of Heaven:  The First Crusade and the Quest for the Apocalypse by Jay Rubenstein
Fields of Fire:  The Canadians in Normandy by Terry Copp
Emperor of the North:  Sir George Simpson and the Remarkable Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company by James Raffan
Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen
To War with Wellington:  From the Peninsula to Waterloo by Peter Snow
The Burma Road:  The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War 2 by Donovan Webster
The General vs. the President:  MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H. W. Brands
Shackleton:  By Endurance We Conquer by Michael Smith
Clouds of Glory:  The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee by Michael Korda
Frozen in Time:  the Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Geiger
Operation Nemesis:  The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide by Eric Bogosian
Churchill and Orwell:  The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
Hue 1968:  A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare:  The Mavericks who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton
Three Days in January:  Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier
Nathaniel’s Nutmeg:  Now One Man’s Courage Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton
Pubic Enemies:  America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough
Italy’s Sorrow:  A Year of War, 1944-1945 by James Holland
Catastrophe 1914:  Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings
The Allies Strike Back, 1941-43 by James Holland
Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
The Templars:  The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones

3rd Tier reads – good, but somewhat disappointing.
Napoleon’s Wars:  An International History by Charles Esdaile
Marco Polo:  From Venice to Xanadu by Laurence Bergreen

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Best Books of 2017: Christian Life and Ministry

As I have done for the past few years, just after the New Year I take stock of the books I have had the privilege of reading in the past year.  My reading generally falls in three board categories:  history and biography, fiction and Christian books for my life and ministry.  What follows is a brief description of the best Christian books I read this year, as well as a listing of the other books that did not quite make the “best” list.

Good and Angry:  Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness by David Powlinson.  I have had struggles with anger and irritation as long I can remember.  Powlinson’s book, written from the perspective of a biblical counselor, does a great job analyzing the problem of anger.  Filled with Scripture, he breaks down what anger is, why we struggle with it, what is good about it and most importantly, how our anger can be redeemed and transformed.

Prayer:  Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller.  Prayer is something many, perhaps all, Christians find difficult at times.  In this book, Keller explores what prayer is and why it is so important.  The book is filled with great insights and ideas that can be put into practice to deepen anyone’s life of prayer.

 A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Health Lambert.  I am somewhat surprised to say this, but Lambert’s book is probably the best book I read this past year.  When I cracked it open, I was anticipating slogging through it in preparation for a conference where he would be the keynote speaker.  What I discovered was a treasure of wisdom and theological insight, providing a firm foundation for anyone who seeks to counsel biblically.

Gospel Fluency:  Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt.  Vanderstelt’s books were recommended to me by a friend.  I read his first book, Saturate, and found it good but somewhat smug in tone.  Gospel Fluency is a much more humble read, a book that seeks to help us to be fluent in our gospel understanding so that its truths inhabit everything we do and say.

To the Golden Shore:  The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson.  Although it was a bit hard to get into a first due to the writer’s style, this biography is an incredible portrait of Judson and his radical commitment to the Lord and the people of Burma/Myanmar. 

God’s Word Alone:  The Authority of Scripture by Matthew Barrett.  Probably the second best Christian book I read this year, God’s Word Alone is part of a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation.  Barrett does a masterful job surveying his topic and his chapters on the authority, clarity, inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture were especially good.
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life:  Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre.  Another biblical counseling book, The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life analyzes how our human hearts respond to the various challenges and circumstances of life.  The end of the book is filled with much practical wisdom on how to address the heart of a person in the midst of their circumstances.

2000 Years of Christ’s Power, vol. 1, The Age of the Early Church Fathers by Nick Needham.  Needham’s book is the first volume of a 5 volume set on the history of the church.  It is well-written, easy to read and does a great job explaining some of the technical, theological arguments of the day.  Probably my favorite part was his insertion of excerpts from the writings of various church fathers following each chapter.

2nd Tier Reads (very good books I would recommend, but just did not make the “best” list:
A Christian Leader’s Guide to Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch
The Enemy Within:  Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin by Kris Lundgaard
The Contemplative Pastor:  Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson
The Book that made your World:  How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi
When People are Big and God is Small:  Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch
4 Chair Discipling:  Growing a Movement of Disciple-Makers by Dann Spader
Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer
Engaging with God:  A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson
George Whitefield:  America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd
Intended for Evil:  A Survivor's Story of Love, Faith and Courage in the Cambodian Killing Fields by Les Sillars
1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris (Word Biblical Themes)
Saturate:  Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt
Transforming Your Prayer Life by Bob Beltz
When You Pray:  Making the Lord’s Prayer Your Own by Philip Graham Ryken
Praying the Lord’s Prayer by J. I. Packer
Spirit-Empowered Mission by Arturo Azurdia III
The Imperfect Disciple:  Grace for People who Can’t Get their Act Together by Jared Wilson
You are What You Love:  The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith

3rd Tier Reads – good but somewhat disappointing
On Earth as it is in Heaven by Warren Wiersbe

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Story of Faith and Fortitude

I recently began reading Anne Applebaum’s book Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.  It is the story of how Stalin, the premier of Communist Russia, used a famine caused by his own policies of collectivization to destroy the leadership of ethnic Ukraine and prevent any threat of its future independence.  Applebaum is an excellent historian, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  Her books are powerful, but also chilling.  Whether she writes about Communist Russia’s prison camps, the spread of the Iron Curtain over Europe or a deadly famine in the Ukraine, her stories are a dire warning about the power of government unrestrained by law and constitution.  They are also a reminder to us of the evils of Communism, especially in our day when Communism is becoming more and more attractive to the millennial generation.

But as I was reading Red Famine, something else hit me.  Although I did not realize it when I bought the book, my grandparents lived through the events Applebaum was narrating.  And in the midst of this turmoil and tumult, they kept their faith in Jesus Christ and passed down a legacy of endurance in the midst of difficulty to their descendants.

As some of you may know, my ancestry is Mennonite.  Both sides of my family originated from Mennonites who found themselves in the Ukraine in the days of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great.  My mother’s side of the family immigrated to Canada in the late 19th century and settled in southern Manitoba.  My father’s side of the family stayed in the Ukraine and lived through many of the events in Applebaum’s book.

The story that I was told when I was younger was that during the Communist Revolution in Russia, when my grandmother was about 12, my great-grandmother’s house was invaded by soldiers and she was shot before my grandmother’s eyes.  I had always assumed that the perpetrators were Russian soldiers, but according to Red Famine, they could have been members of any number of roving bands of soldiers and bandits that plagued the land at the time.  Applebaum tells stories of whole villages of Mennonites slaughtered during this upheaval.  My ancestors were at the mercy of whatever roving band was passing by.

Being hard-working farmers, my grandparents and their families were likely labelled as “kulaks” by Stalin and his followers.  A kulak originally denoted an individual who was wealthy, but as time passed the definition included anyone who opposed the effort to create collective farms or clung to ideas that were opposite to Communist ideals, such as faith in Jesus Christ.  Kulaks were killed, sent to the gulags in Siberia and exiled out of Russia.  Kulaks of German descent, like my family, were especially targeted.  The story my father told me was that his parents, now married, were sent to Moscow in about 1931.  They were told to board one of the two trains at the station.  The train they boarded exiled them from Russia, and paradoxically to freedom in the West.  The other train’s passengers were sent to Siberia.

My grandparents at my parent's wedding.
Their exile from Russia in 1931 spared them from the worst of the Ukrainian famine detailed in Applebaum’s book.  But it did not spare them from hardship.  Unable to immigrate to Canada because of health, they settled among other Mennonites in Paraguay. There they started with nothing, breaking virgin land, living in poverty and having 12 children, 9 of whom lived past infancy.  Their life was far from easy, and even after they immigrated to Canada in 1956 with their six youngest children (my father being the oldest of those six), they still did not have much.  But what they did have was a deep faith in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes I look at my life and I catch myself worrying about this and that, but in light of my grandparent’s story, my stuff seems so trivial.  I am sometimes concerned about finances, but in reality I have to admit I have more now than my grandparents ever did their whole entire lives.  I get concerned about the state of our country and its rejection of the Christian faith, but I do not have to face outright persecution and murder like they did.  I get concerned about health, but I have never been banned from immigrating to freedom because of it.  I get concerned about my kids, but I have not had three of them die in infancy.  My life is easy compared to the life of my grandparents.  And through all of that hardship and poverty, their enduring faith in Jesus Christ shines through.  In those times when I get concerned and struggle to trust God, I need to remember their faith amidst trials.  I am truly thankful for godly grandparents and the legacy of faith they passed down to their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Review - God's Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture

As many know, this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  5 centuries ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses against indulgences on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  What he thought was an invitation to theological discussion kicked off a movement that has changed the world.

Many books have been written in the past year to honor this event.  For example, I am reading one biography of Luther presently and have another in my too-read pile.  Other books have dealt with the theological issues of the reformation and have even asked the question of whether the reformation is still important.  Some of the best of these books can be found in the 5 Solas series, a set of 5 books exploring the 5 Solas of the Reformation – sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone) solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).

I recently had the pleasure of reading one of these volumes, Matthew Barrett’s book on sola Scriptura entitled God’s Word Alone:  The Authority of Scripture.  The discussion around the doctrine of Scripture – especially issues like inerrancy – never really ends.  The authority of God’s Word is being continually challenged, whether in lofty academic arguments or in day to day pastoral counseling situations where the counselee is not interested in submitting to what the Scripture commands.  Barrett’s book is excellent for anyone to read in order to bolster their confidence in the Scriptures and their understanding of the doctrine of the Word of God.

The book has three main sections.  The first is a historical survey of how people have understood the authority of God’s Word from the time of the Reformation to the present.  Barrett dives into the Roman Catholic view of authority that Martin Luther dealt with, the rise of liberalism and its denial of the Bible’s authority, and today’s postmodern world and its view of the Scriptures.  It is a very helpful survey and a good reminder of how over the centuries, people have challenged the authority of God’s Word in various ways, a pattern which continues today.

The second section of the book is journey through redemptive history.  Barrett explores the necessity of a Word from God, how God revealed his Word through the covenant relationships He established and finally how those covenants were fulfilled in God’s Word made flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The final portion of the book is a theological survey of four of the vital components of the doctrine of Scripture – inspiration, inerrancy, clarity and sufficiency.  In each of these chapters, Barrett does a great job explaining the importance of these ideas, showing how Scripture itself supports them, and then briefly tackling how these ideas are under fire today, both from outside the church and also from people inside the church who carry the label “evangelical.”  This was the most valuable section of the book for me – it reminded me how rich and how vital each of these ideas are for life and ministry.

God’s Word Alone does not answer all of one’s questions about the Bible – few books attempt that.  But it is a great survey of Biblical truth, a rich source of well-reasoned argument and will be encouraging and challenging for the reader.  I highly recommend it for anyone who has questions or is just looking to solidify their understanding of or faith in of the authority of Scripture.  I have already begun another volume in the series, Faith Alone:  The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner, and look forward to completing the series in the coming year.