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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Book Review: The Good Earth

The Good Earth  (House of Earth #1)The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only thing I knew about this book and author before reading it, was the extreme likelihood of one or both being featured in any sort of West Virginia history or trivia. I suppose Buck is the most famous author from West Virginia. Though she was born here, she grew up in China.

The book tells the story of the adult life of the fictional Wang Lung, a rural farmer in China. Farming in rural China a century ago is merely the setting, not what the book is about. The book is about the human condition and life on Earth. The story is gripping, though at times plodding, kind of like the life of a farmer.

Buck is an excellent story teller and I’m sure she paced her novel deliberately. She reminded me some of Jane Austen in how adeptly she sketched out character before the reader without having to tell us their character was good or bad. Wang Lung had his own moral code shown in the deference he paid his father and his scoundrel uncle, the chastising of his young son for stealing food, though they were nearly starving, and the way he worked, etc. She also deftly portrayed his pride as being the center of his morals. Even though he was poor, he would not steal. This was not because he thought of the act as wrong, per se, but rather the act was beneath him. He might have been poor, but he was not as low as a thief.

Buck also captured the nature of temptation and yielding, when he committed theft and that theft was what changed the course of his family life for material prosperity but also further moral degradation. His love for the land was his constant, and true religion. He never wavered in his faithfulness to his land. Though by the end of his life he was content with the peace he desperately wanted, I consider his arc to be more tragic than redemptive.

It’s a good story from a good writer.

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Book Review: The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English DictionaryThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is the history of the Oxford English Dictionary, focusing somewhat on the editor, James Murray, and focusing primarily on one of the major volunteer contributors, Dr. William Minor. The tale of Minor’s life is fascinating, tragic, sad, and highly disturbing. The author does not sensationalize, but the truth of Minor’s life is unsettling. I cannot recommend the book unqualified, but with a little investigation you can discern what you’re in for.

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Book Review: Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches About the Unseen World-And Why it Matters

Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World - And Why It MattersSupernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World – And Why It Matters by Michael S. Heiser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a shorter, more accessible version of the author’s book, The Unseen Realm, which I reviewed here. This book continues with some of the same problems I mentioned of the other book, particularly issues of God’s sovereignty, will, and human autonomy. Heiser sticks mostly to biblical references in this book, but his conclusions are also drawn from extra-biblical writings, which are more documented in the first book.

The subject matter is Heiser’s specialized field of academic scholarship and these books illustrate one of the weaknesses of narrow specialization–to the man with only a hammer, everything is a nail. I think some of the conclusions he comes to are a stretch, at least based on the Bible alone. However, I still think the work is valuable and, at least, he will provide commentary on some things in different passages that a lot of commentaries don’t deal with at all. Read it carefully.

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Book Review: No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It’s Harmful

No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It's HarmfulNo Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It’s Harmful by Andrew David Naselli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This excellent book is a clear, concise critique of higher life theology, or Keswick theology. You may have never heard of the Keswick conferences, which began in the 19th century. You may have never heard of higher life, deeper life, or victorious life theology, at least not openly under those names. You probably have heard the phrase, “Let go and let God.” But, if you’ve gone to church, listened to Christian radio or TV, or read any Christian books, then you have heard some of these erroneous teachings and you definitely should read this book.

To start with, the title is an appropriate nutshell of the pursuit of higher life, second blessing, or higher plane Christianity. It is the relentless pursuit of some experience or crisis whereby a believer is propelled to another level where they live above sin and with full Spirit power in their life. It that sense, it is seeking a quick fix. The title is also appropriate because emotionally high-charged atmospheres become an addiction where people are constantly seeking that high. Some think they experience it multiple and others think they must not have got it because it wears off and they need another fix. They try to create this weekly in services, in special meetings, and in special conferences or events. You can hear reports of consecrations, decisions, rededications, break throughs, deliverances, etc.

Naselli starts with the history of higher life theology. He traces some of the major proponents of the teaching and highlights some of their differences in approach to it. For instance, higher life theology is a form of perfectionism, but there have been different approaches and beliefs as to what that perfectionism is and how it works.

Naselli proceeds to objectively state what higher life theology is. As opposed to some forms of charismaticism, higher life theology bases its teaching on the Bible. Some other forms of charismatic teaching are nearly entirely experience based, with little thought or effort at reconciling the positions to Scripture. This makes the errors of higher life theology even more dangerous because it pretends to be based on Scripture, giving authority to the teaching.

The last part of the book lays out ten reasons why higher life theology is so dangerous. One of those reasons, obviously, being the misuse and misinterpretation of Scripture. The book ends with some recommendations for reading better books on the Christian life and sanctification.

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