Meet Generation Z (2017)

zJames Emery White, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 219 pp. $10.11

Most people are familiar with the respective generations which are generally designated as the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Older Millennials (born 1981-1989), and the Younger Millennials (born 1990-1996). But a new group of people is emerging: Meet Generation Z. Born after 1996, this fascinating people group is the first truly post-Christian tribe. And as the author ofMeet Generation Z says, they “will be the most influential religious force int he West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the Christian church.”

James Emery White is the author of Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. The author alerts readers to the growing secularization of culture. Built within this unique secular culture lies the “squishy center,” which includes people who are shapable but bear little in the area of convictions. These people have a propensity to move in the direction of the prevailing culture winds, which creates a special challenge to Christ-followers who long to make an impact on this generation.

James Emery White writes with urgency and passion. But he also writes with a sober-minded concern. His chief concern is that the church is missing an opportunity to reach Generation Z: ”But this is about more than losing an ideological bridge. We are also losing a relational bridge – one we can walk across to reach the largest generation in American history.”

The book is divided into two parts. Part One explores the New Realityand captures the pertinent demographic data that concerns Generation Z. The author introduces readers to the nones, that is, people are have little to no religious affiliation. This growing group represents one of of every five Americans. The nones are characterized by their commitment to secularism. They have been influenced by an age pummeled by economic recession. They are linked to computers and Wi-Fi. They tend to be multi-racial and sexually fluid. That is, they offer strong support to social causes such as transgender rights and “gay marriage.” They are, for the most part, biblically illiterate, that is, they fail to understand the redemptive themes in the Bible, let alone the basic stories in the Bible. And the nones, as described above, are radically post-Christian.

Part Two explores A New Approach. The author reexamines ways of reaching Generation Z and encourages pastors and Christian workers to think outside the box. He cites Ron Dreher approvingly: “Christians must pioneer new ways to bind ourselves to Scripture, to our traditions, and to each other – not for mere survival, but so that the church can be the authentic light of Christ to a world lost in darkness.” Our task, then is to be truly Christ-centered by modeling the gospel to a lost generation.

There is a plea here for “finding our voice,” something that appears to be increasingly difficult for many evangelicals: “There is a thin line between maintaining an earned voice through which to speak to culture and compromising the very message we long to share.” Ultimately, our task is to communicate the gospel in an uncompromising way to a generation that does not understand the Bible. The problem is that many people are compromising. The author notes, “If we harden ourselves against revelation’s voice, then again, like clay, we can only crumble in response to its touch.”

Finally, there is a challenge to rethink apologetics and evangelism directed to the Generation X generation. James Emery White offers these wise words: “At the most basic level, the goal is to hold both grace and truth together. Truth without grace is just judgment. Grace without truth is license. Only authentic Christianity brings together both truth and grace … The only kind of voice that will arrest the attention of the world will be convictional in nature, clear in its message, substantive in its content, and bold in its challenge.”

Meet Generation X is a much-needed book, especially in light of the challenges we face in the days ahead. For me personally, there are some things in the book that could be discarded. But to throw out the baby with the bathwater would be a huge overstep. Much of the wisdom here is sound and biblical. I commend this book to a new generation of pastors and Christian workers who have a heart for building a bridge to the next generation, namely, Generation X.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (2017)

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John F. MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 1,024 pp. $41.43

A theological tour de force. A magnum opus. A breath-taking panorama that leaves the reader in awe. These are only a few descriptions of Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue.

The book is arranged as one might expect, according to the various branches of systematic theology:

  1. Prolegomena
  2. God’s Word: Bibliology
  3. God the Father: Theology Proper
  4. God the Son: Christology
  5. God the Holy Spirit: Pneumatology
  6. Man and Sin: Anthropology and Hamartiology
  7. Salvation: Soteriology
  8. Angels: Angelology
  9. The Church: Ecclesiology
  10. The Future: Eschatology

A comprehensive glossary is included which helps beginning students with cumbersome theological language. Also included is an excellent topical and Scriptural index for instant access to this treasure trove.

Each branch of theology is carefully explained and biblically defended. Opposing views are highlighted and refuted with grace and tact. MacArthur and Mayhue never leave the reader guessing. As such, there is never a hint of ambiguity here.

Several terms characterize Biblical Doctrine. These terms will either attract or repel readers, but will nonetheless provide a helpful template for evaluating the prospect of plopping down almost $50.00 for a book!

  1. Biblical – This book is literally drowning in Scripture. Anyone familiar with MacArthur’s writing, in particular, will not be surprised to find a dogmatic edge. But dogmatism undergirded by humility and informed by Scripture is surely a path worth tracing out.
  2. Evangelical – This book is guided by a commitment to the gospel. Look elsewhere for a pragmatic approach. Readers will be blessed by the relentless pursuit of Jesus and his resplendent glory.
  3. Orthodox – This book is committed to historic orthodoxy, which is grounded by a literal, grammatical hermeneutic. Liberalism is soundly defeated and relegated to the ash heap.
  4. Reformed– This book is informed by the infrastructure of the Reformers of the sixteenth century. Weaving throughout this volume is a commitment to grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory.

John MacArthur helpfully sums up the essence of the Reformed faith:

“It is the marvel of marvels that the King of kings, whose glory is exalted above the heavens, should lift a finger to rescue even one of such vile traitors as the sons of Adam.  Then to learn that this infinitely worthy King has purposed to redeem not one but countless multitudes at the cost of the life of his own dear Son bows the sinner’s heart in humble wonder.”

I cannot recommend Biblical Doctrine highly enough. It is an outstanding addition to the growing number of books committed to teaching systematic theology. Students will be challenged and stretched; spiritual growth will no doubt occur as they pour over the many pages of this tome. But most significantly, their hearts and minds will be drawn to worship and glorify the Triune God. Soli Deo Gloria!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Katharina & Martin (2017)

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Michelle DeRusha, Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 314 pp. $14.79

When Baker Publishing gave me an opportunity to read and review Katharina & Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha, I hesitated. For almost twenty-five years, I have studied the life of Luther and researched the finer points of the Protestant Reformation. In 2015, I began a period of research and writing which led to the publication of my book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel Centered Convictions of Martin Luther. So my original hesitation had nothing to do with a lack of interest. Indeed, my interest in Luther has never waned. My only question was this: Would this book add any new insight or reveal aspects of Luther’s life that were previously unknown to me?

Thankfully, I decided to read the book. After only a few pages, I knew that my decision to devour this new book about Luther’s life would pay rich dividends.

First, Michelle DeRusha is an excellent writer. Her writing is clearly linked to the historical data concerning Luther’s life and is informed by a wealth of scholarship that she is quick to utilize.

Second, Katharina and Martin Luther is not your standard fare history book. The book reads like a novel but never sacrifices any of the historical content that readers expect. DeRusha has a gift for making history come alive and draws the reader into the setting she seeks to expose. I often found myself mysteriously transported to the Wittenberg landscape, smelling the fragrance of the countryside, or experiencing the unique tension of the Reformation. The author nicely captures the zeitgeist of the 16th century and strategically guides readers through its hallowed halls.

Finally, DeRusha skillfully presents the blossoming relationship between Martin Luther and Katharina. Despite the many challenges that this family encountered, one thing remains certain: “The Protestant Reformation would have happened without the marriage of Luther and Katharine. But Luther would not have been the same Reformer without Katharina.”

Katharina and Martin is thoroughly researched and presented in a winsome way that will no doubt attract a wide range of readers. Highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

ON FIRE FOR CHRIST: Remembering John Rogers (February 4, 1555)

The smell of burning flesh hung in the air.  The villagers turned their heads and gasped.  Stray dogs fled.  The man’s wife wept bitterly.  His children watched inThe_Burning_of_Master_John_Rogers horror and the smell burned their nostrils.  The stench was a vivid reminder of who sat on the throne.  Mary Tudor ruled with ironclad authority.  Her subjects were obligated to obey.  Any dissenters would pay the ultimate price.  The world would remember her as “Bloody Mary.”

The day was February 4, 1555.  The man roped to the pyre was known well in the British village – a man of humble origins.  A man with bold ambitions and simple obedience to match.  A man who dared to challenge the throne with two simple acts – preaching the Word of God and printing the Matthews-Tyndale Bible.  His name was John Rogers.  Pastor, father, martyr.  He was the first Christ-follower to pay the ultimate price of death during Mary’s bloody reign of terror.  He was the first of hundreds who would die at the hands of this blood-thirst tyrant.

John Rogers stands in a long parade of God-centered men; men who preached the truth, confronted sin, lived uncompromising lives, and finished strong.  Like Rogers, some were martyred.  Others died of old age or were tormented with disease.  Those who participate in this Christ-exalting parade still have something to say.  Their courage emboldens us.  Their lives inspire us.  Their theology instructs us.  Their devotion moves us to action.2014-02-03 08.41.07

February 4, 2017 marks the anniversary of Roger’s brave march to the pyre.  Over 460 years later, the world is a very different place.  Yet the persecution of Christ-followers has not decreased.  It has increased.  As people committed to the sovereign reign of Jesus stand for truth,  righteousness, and justice – the persecution will grow steadily.  As Christians take a stand against homosexual marriage, abortion, human trafficking, and pornography – the persecution will escalate.  Tolerance is the popular buzzword, yet fidelity to God’s Word will not be tolerated by many in this world.  John Rogers is a reminder to stand firm in the face of adversity.  His picture is glued to the flyleaf of my preaching Bible and beckons me to boldly declare the truth of God’s Word – unashamed, unhindered, and resolute – on fire for Christ!

Semper Reformanda!

A Harvest of Thorns (2017)

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Corban Addison, A Harvest of Thorns, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017, 368 pp. $18.32

I have been reading Corban Addison from the beginning. Even though titles like A Walk Across the Son and The Garden of Burning Sand are difficult to read, he has become one of my favorite authors. To be clear, the writing is not difficult. His writing is impeccable. But the content in each book is challenging and heart-wrenching. Each of his books contain ethical storylines that beg readers to wrestle with matters of justice, morality, destiny, and freedom.

A Harvest of Thorns is no exception. The author presents a narrative that explores the underbelly of the fashion industry. No stone is left unturned. Addison urges readers to seriously contemplate the reality of sweatshops, forced labor, and abuse in the workplace.

The heart of the story involves a lawyer, Cameron Alexander, who battles his own ethical demons and a journalist, Josh Griswold who attempts to do the right thing but struggles with deep inner turmoil in his own life, which includes infidelity.

Addison beautifully weaves a chilling tale that will horrify readers and force them to face reality, even though much of what takes place is in a far away place – in this case, the nation of Bangladesh. While pain, suffering, and injustice stare the reader in the face, the author brings the story full circle and makes room for justice and redemption.

One concern is worth noting, however.  And the concern has more to do with the publisher than the author.  Thomas Nelson Publishing House which is affiliated with HarperCollins Christian Publishing sets forth a decisive mission that is clearly stated on the company website.  The mission says, “We inspire the world by meeting the needs of people with content that promotes biblical principles and honors Jesus Christ.”  Corban Addison chooses to use profanity in his novel, which is a judgment call on his part.  Some will no doubt come to Addison’s defense by arguing that people in the world use such vulgar language.  However, Christian authors like Randy Singer, Joel Rosenberg, and Ted Dekker have shown in a persuasive way that good writing, even in the thriller genre can work well without profanity.  In this case, the publisher does a disservice to its reading audience by allowing such language to pass the final editing process.

Notwithstanding the concerns above,  A Harvest of Thorns is another literary slam dunk. No one who reads this excellent work will walk away without being changed in some way.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

The Story of Reality (2017)

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Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017, 198 pp. $9.31

Reality is a subject that every person should be interested in. Reality stares us in the face each day and reminds us of the bare facts. Perhaps the most important reality to come to grips with is the Christian worldview. Gregory Koukl presents the major components of the Christian worldview in his newest work, The Story of Reality.

Every worldview has four important ingredients: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Koukl adds, “Every worldview means to tell a story like this one, a story of reality. It means to make sense of the way the world actually is – the world as we find it – not simply the world as we wish it to be.”

After Koukl orients the mind readers to the importance of reality, he weaves five critical subjects into the fabric of the Christian worldview described above. These subjects include God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection. Each topic is explained in detailed and opposing worldviews are challenged along the way.

At the center of Koukl’s argument is the Story:

That is the Story about how the world began, how the world ends, and everything deeply important that happens in between: the beginning filled with goodness, the rebellion, the brokenness, the rescue, the trade, the mercy, the final justice, the end of evil, the ultimate restoration to perfect goodness, and – for those who trust the Rescuer – the unending friendship with a Father who, finally, satisfies the deepest longings of their hearts.

The author challenges readers to participate in this Story – for each person is an active participant whether they realize it or not. Each person will either find unending friendship with God through the completed work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Those who repudiate the offer of eternal salvation will bear the weight of their own sin – or as Koukl writes, “You can reject the gift, stand alone at the judgment, and pay for your own crimes against God, such as they are.”

The Story of Reality is a very important book. This book should be devoured again and again by Christian people. And this book should be gifted to people who have not yet embraced the Story. Koukl writes with an engaging style. He steers clear from philosophical buzzwords but never dumbs down the content. This is a Story that needed to be told. Readers who take the time to digest this excellent material will be blessed beyond measure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk

Eric C. Reymond, Bill Curtis, and Ken Fentress, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus ahabin Jonah, Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2016, 224 pp. $14.99

The Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary is a welcome addition to the growing number of resources which help explain the biblical text and apply the truth of God’s Word to readers. This volume which that focuses on four minor prophets beautifully captures the essence of each book and ultimately points to the central figure in Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ.

A predictable pattern occurs throughout this work as the authors present the main idea of the book under consideration. A brief outline is presented to give readers an overview of the biblical text. The major points are explained and highlighted. Finally, an application is presented which is linked to our current generation. Discussion questions are included for the benefit of readers at the end of each chapter.

I cannot speak more highly about the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary. A solid Reformed framework fuels this theological engine. Indeed, the gospel, in keeping with Scripture runs throughout, all for the benefit of the reader, and ultimately for the glory of God. These volumes are accessible to a wide range of readers and will no doubt encourage a deeper study of the biblical text.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.