Book Review: Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age

Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional AgeBaptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age by Mark Dever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collation of chapters from various contributors primarily centering around church polity. The book makes a strong argument for congregationalist polity. Some parts of the book are better than others and some parts I sharply disagreed with. Overall, I think it is a useful read and could help to think about some of these issues from different perspectives.

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Book Review: The Marks of a Spiritual Leader

The Marks of a Spiritual LeaderThe Marks of a Spiritual Leader by John Piper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This booklet has some gold in it. Piper breaks it into two parts–inner and outer. The inner has to do with the self-watch of the spiritual leader and the outer has more to do with the leadership of others. I like the focus from the start that spiritual leadership is to help people glorify God.

The second part is particularly useful as Piper lists 18 marks of a spiritual leader. These are principles drawn from Scripture and helpful in at least two ways. First, a man who is in leadership or is wrestling with his calling into leadership can be helped by thinking through these marks with honest self-examination of whether he has these or not. Second, the marks are useful in identifying others in the church who may potentially be leaders. Perhaps a third use would be the congregation being equipped in what to look for and expect from spiritual leaders.

As with anything from Piper, there are odd statements here and there. Nevertheless, this is a useful little book.

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Book Review: The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still MattersThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair B. Ferguson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard of the Marrow Controversy, though knew little about it before reading this book. Ferguson acknowledges that an eighteenth century controversy that arose among Scottish Presbyterians in an obscure village in rural Scotland hardly seems to arrest our attention today. He is right about that and he is also right about the fact this controversy should get our attention. He deals with some of the historical issues and persons involved, which was interesting and informative. However, he focus on the issues at stake in the controversy since the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation are such issues as are common to all men.

Ferguson’s insights into the root of both legalism and antinomianism are keen. Both at root are a separating of Jesus Christ in the fullness of his person from the benefits received by faith in him. The point may seem subtle, but the issues are enormous. Failure to grasp them leads us into one or the other of the two errors mentioned, which ultimately obscure the person of Christ and, at best, hinder the Gospel of God’s free grace. We are often flippant in our thinking of both legalism and antinomianism, and consequently fail to grasp core issues and fail to see how they negatively affect the ministry of the word.

This book needs to be read carefully and thought through. Some of the history may fail to grip and there are also some issues of intramural Presbyterianism and covenant theology debates that weren’t unexpected. I think every Christian should read this book, though I know they won’t. I don’t say this often, but I believe every pastor, preacher, and teacher must read this book and grapple with the issues raised. If you are ministering the Word, then you have already dealt with these issues to some degree. Ferguson will help clarify and get to the root of the issues. I would also recommend reading The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur and God is the Gospel by John Piper. Those two books deal more explicitly with the Gospel issues of separating Christ from his benefits.

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Book Review: The Holiness of God

The Holiness of GodThe Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good book. From the start, Sproul captured some of the difficulty in comprehending God’s holiness. I wish more time had been spent in dealing with the subject proper. It seems a lot of space was devoted to human interaction and reaction to God’s holiness rather than more fully treating of God’s holiness. Nearly a whole chapter was given to Martin Luther, which was interesting, but could have been better used in exposition of Scripture. The strongest parts of the book were those that dealt directly with Scripture passages.

It is definitely worth reading and presents a much higher view of God than the typical evangelical theology today.

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Book Review: Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons

Finding Faithful Elders and DeaconsFinding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a practical treatment and resource on elders and deacons. Anyabwile’s writing is accessible, plain, and not overbearing. We often do not think of our responsibility in “finding” such men as candidates for elders and deacons. We suppose they will just appear or be brought to us ready to go, even though Paul instructed Timothy differently. How do we go about identifying and preparing men for these vital roles in the congregation? This book is written to answer that question and does so ably and practically.

The book is also useful for those already in these roles. As the author works through the various issues and qualities required of a man in these offices, you will be convicted and challenged. You will recognize places where you fall short, and, if you’re like me, feel it painfully. The practical nature of the book and the advice given helps give a roadmap for identifying weaknesses and moving toward growth and faithfulness.

Pastors, deacons, and church members can all be benefited from reading this book. Men who are wrestling with these offices and calls to service will also be benefited from reading this book.

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