Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Systematic Theology - A Review

Systematic Theology 

Robert Letham

A new comprehensive (1000+ pages) theology from an evangelical Presbyterian author should be well-received by the church at large.

At 1000 pages, the book is too large to read in its entirety before completing a review - it took three semesters in seminary to read through Augustus Strong’s Systematic Theology which is of similar length. What this review will attempt to do is examine three or four issues that may be of interest to a Wesleyan evangelical reader. The author of the review does not claim to be a theological scholar; but, rather, a pastor with an interest in theology.

The book begins, as a well-written theology must, with a discussion on the existence and nature of God. This includes an examination of the arguments often given for the existence of God. Letham points out these arguments are not likely to provide proof for the unbeliever, but they are “presented to believers to disclose the rationality of what they hold already by faith.” (p. 43). Letham looks at three of the most common arguments:

1. Anselm’s Proof for the Existence of God
                    (where he spends the most time)
2. The Cosmological Argument
3. The Teleological Argument
4. The Moral Argument

The author takes time to explore the strengths and weaknesses of such arguments as a whole. The discussion, as is the entire book, is well-documented with references to a variety of sources: Biblical, ancient, and modern.

After providing a detailed discussion of the Trinity, the author provides a full discussion on the attributes of God. From there the author moves into a discussion of the Word of God, quickly taking the reader to a discussion of inerrancy, starting with these comments: 


Inerrancy has been embraced throughout the ages. The claim that the Bible is without error on all it pronounces emerged prominently in the nineteenth century. Yet, as Warfield demonstrated, the church down through the centuries held this position, whether explicitly or implicitly. (p. 190)


The author, thus, has a high view of scripture - appreciated by this reviewer.

As can be expected from a Presbyterian author, this theology has a strong statement on the sovereignty of God’s grace and its “corollary”, the perseverance of the saints. However, only a single paragraph is spent discussing the issues Arminius and Wesley had with perseverance as viewed from a reformed perspective, though he later addresses the warning passages found in Hebrews 6 and 10 under the subtopic of the “the promises of God”. It should be noted that each chapter, including this one, ends with a few suggestions for further reading and a few study questions to guide the reader in a deeper study of the topics discussed.

The other issue that would be of interest to Wesleyan readers would be that of sanctification. “Justification and sanctification are inseparable, yet distinct. … Justification affects our legal status, while sanctification affects our moral condition.” (p. 736) Though the author spends a great deal of time discussing the meaning, timing, and means (“The same means that bring us into the covenant keep us there. There are no extraordinary sanctifying devices. (p. 738), he at no time addresses directly the Wesleyan distinctive of entire sanctification. He hints at this issue as he addresses the “erroneous” view of the Keswick doctrine of sanctification and challenges the modern church’s distinction between “between having Christ as one’s Savior and having him as Lord.” (p. 742). But that is as close as he gets to discussing entire sanctification.

The book ends with nearly 100 pages of reference material: 

  1. A limited glossary - which is missing many key terms one might expect in a “Christian” theology text and does not include references to where the material is discussed in the text.
  2. A bibliography - with no easy way to verify its completeness without reading the entire text or going through each individual footnote.
  3. A Name Index
  4. A Subject Index
  5. A Scripture Index
These last three indexes were not included in my review copy, leaving this reviewer with no way to evaluate their completeness or helpfulness.

The book is readable - by scholars, members of the clergy, or laymen. I expect that given the quantity of material available in this book, a digital copy of the book might be more helpful than a paper copy - sadly there is no sign of a digital copy (Kindle, LOGOS, ePub, etc.) being available in the foreseeable future. Though written primarily for a Reformed audience, the completeness of the material covered will make it of value to those coming from a variety of theological backgrounds. 

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

The Lost Pulse - A Review

The Lost Pulse 

J. K. Kelly

It is not often that I request a book that I feel less than satisfied reading.  This book, however, does fall into that category. Let me suggest three reasons that I find this book less than satisfying.  

First, though written as a political drama, it also is a work of science fiction. I do occasionally enjoy a science fiction title, but not often. This title fell short of catching my interests. When I discovered this, I was tempted to put the book down - though I continued to read.

Second, the author is a strong conservative and supporter of gun rights. Though I write my reviews as a conservative-evangelical Christian, I have a difficult time supporting the positions normally held by the NRA as this author appears to do. When I discovered this, I was tempted to put the book down - though I continued to read.

Finally, I found the book served more like a brick than as an inviting story. Though this issue would not prevent me from reading more, when combined with the two previous issues, it was at this point (one-third of the way through the book) that I decided to set the book aside and move onto other reading material.

I recognize that all three of these reasons for finding this book less enjoying than I hoped are very personal. The book does have a hint of Christian theology, though it is not intentionally written from that perspective. The characters do seem real and face real-life problems on a daily basis. There will be readers that would find the book satisfying. I have friends who will find this book more to their liking than this reader. They enjoy science fiction, they support (some strongly) the NRA, and they enjoy a deep story as much as I do.

This book may be for others, it was not for me.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Ghosts of Painting Past - A Review

Ghosts of Painting Past

Sybil Johnson

Ricky Zeppelin had finally come home. Ricky had left home twenty years earlier to surf the world’s great beaches. He had identified most of them in those final months before the end of high school, locating decals that he had plastered on his surfboard so others would know his planned destinations as he traveled the world. 

And now he had returned home. At least his bones did.

Home for Ricky and the other characters in Sybil Johnson’s newest book is a seaside town in Los Angeles County, California. The discovery of Ricky’s bones raised questions - when did he die, where did he die, how did he die? And did any of the current residents know more than they were saying? Aurora (Rory) Anderson lived across the street from where the bones were discovered. She, her family, her friends, and her neighbors, would soon find themselves in the midst of the decades-old mystery that could and did have deadly consequences.

The story did not stall - moving from one piece of evidence to another. Rory is an independent IT consultant, working from her home, though the events in this book would seem to leave her little time to work at her computer. I expect most contractors would be disappointed in the amount of effort she gives to her primary career. Of course, if Rory spent more time at her keyboard, the events of that Christmas season would not have been nearly as exciting. Though not crucial or distracting from the story, readers should be aware that the story is LBGT friendly.

A well-written cozy mystery that reflects much of 21st-century culture for those living in Southern California. For those looking for a Christmas themed cozy mystery centered on the warm shores of the Pacific Ocean, Ghosts of Painting Past is worth reading this holiday season.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Crafter Quilts A Crime - A Review

A Crafter Quilts A Crime 

Holly Quinn

My first reaction was that this book was more “cozy” than “mystery”. I was wrong.

All small towns in Wisconsin are alike - for example, they each have their annual festivals. Oh, they may come at different seasons of the year, but they do occur. Heartford, Wisconsin’s “Fire and Ice” event took place in winter in the first weeks of January. It was scheduled to end with the bonfire late in the evening where the town would burn its collection of well-used Christmas Trees from the previous year’s advent celebration. Scheduled, but for some “Fire and Ice” would end hours earlier with the unexpected death of Wanda.

And with Wanda’s passing, the S.H.E.s (a group of two sisters and a cousin, Sammy, Heide, and Ellie) began gathering evidence; evidence which would eventually lead to a kidnapping. Much of the action centers around Sammy’s craft shop located across the street from Liquid Joy, the local coffee shop. But we also spend time on the rural farms and in the homes of local citizens impacted by Wanda’s demise.

Having spent six years living in a small town in southern Wisconsin, this reader felt right at home - though murder was not part of my personal experience, car theft was. For the reader looking for a book focusing on the Winter months with an interesting cast of characters, Holly Quinn’s latest work may be a worthwhile choice. Bundle up and open the book and find your newest vacation spot - including the quilt trail maps that define most of the region. After reading, you may want to schedule a spring or summer visit.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Always Look Twice - A Review

Always Look Twice 


Elizabeth Goddard

Harper Reynolds was a forensic photographer - but too much exposure to the horrific scenes she had snapped over the years required that she take a break. As her break was coming to an end she found herself in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, south of Yellowstone National Park. As she was photographing the grizzly bear on the banks of the Grayback River something caught her eye. It was a hunter. But he was not hunting deer or bear, he was hunting that woman. And Harper watched as she was murdered in the moments that followed. Thus begins Elizabeth Goddard’s latest book. 

In a story that takes the reader from Missouri to Wyoming to Texas, we are presented with a life and death drama that involves first responders from the national government and from multiple states and agencies. It is a gripping tale that holds the reader’s attention from the first chapter to the last - this reader’s heart could not stop pounding. The author does a wonderful job of describing the wildness that is found in the National Forest - whether seen on horseback or on foot. She is less successful in describing the downtown Dallas theater where the story finds its resolution, this reader’s only disappointment in reading the book.

A faith-based novel, Elizabeth Goddard book will find a willing home in the church library. But given its exciting and riveting story, it also belongs on the public library shelf. For the reader looking for a good fall story from a colorful writer, Always Look Twice may just fill the bill. 

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Dark Ambitions - A Review

Dark Ambitions 

Irene Hannon

The hired gun had missed his target! He had found him, but he had not killed him - now he had until the end of the week to do so. And he promised results, even if he had to do it his own way.

On the other hand, Rick Jordan was also looking for Boomer -- not to kill him but to save him. He had not seen him, but Rick knew he had been there. He had seen the blood, he found the items that only Boomer would have left, and he had made a promise as well.  And he would keep it.

Thus begins Irene Hannon’s newest thriller. Set in rural Missouri, the search for Boomer and his hunter would press Rick to his limits and would involve the team of private investigators from Phoenix, Inc. in an increasingly dark case. The book held this reader’s attention from page one - actually before page one, if one counts the prologue.  

Hannon’s faith-based thriller will provide a great winter read for those who enjoy the genre. The book will easily fit into the church library collection as well as that of many public libraries. For the reader looking for the perfect book to read this winter, Dark Ambitions may fill the bill.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Deadly Intentions - A Review

Deadly Intentions 

Lisa Harris

Three suspicious deaths, one company, one project; and he did not believe in coincidences. Josh Solomon had not seen the problem, but his wife’s colleague, Caitlyn Lindsey did and together they would need to pull together the evidence to demonstrate the very real, not theoretical, issue of bioterrorism in Houston, Texas.

Lisa Harris has written a faith-based, romantic, thriller, that this reader could not put down. The mix of science, mystery, and bioterrorism, make the author’s latest book one of her best.

Whether one is looking for a great fall read, a book to add to the church or local public library, or as a gift for an avid reader, Deadly Intentions may just fill the bill
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.