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Great Book About the Story of Reality February 6, 2017

Posted by roberttalley in Apologetics, Book Reviews, Creation, Death of Christ, Evangelism, God the Father, Jesus, Resurrection, Uncategorized.
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Koukl, Gregory. The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

The length of the subtitle should not be scary. Koukl’s relating of the Story (capitalization his) of reality is a concise, but engaging presentation of the metanarrative of Christiantiy. This books serves as an apology for Christianity, an overview of basic theology, and a passionate evangelistic message. In just less than 200 pages the reader will find a clear and convincing telling of the Story.

The Story is in presented in five parts with an introduction. The idea of story is consistent throughout the book but it is not strictly delivered in a traditional story format. It is more accurate to say that the book is a discussion of the Story. In fact, the device of capitalizing “story” is effective in reminding the reader that even when Koukl dives into apologetic, theological, or philosophical issues, they are all related to the great Christian metanarrative, the Story.

In the “Introduction” the author begins by asking the question “What is Christianity?” He wants the reader to know from the beginning that he is discussing pictures of reality, that is, worldviews. For Koukl each worldview is like a puzzle that people attempt to fit into reality, the better the pieces fit both together and into reality, the more accurate the worldview picture is likely to be. Each worldview is like a map or story but can be misunderstood. Before presenting the Story (the map, the puzzle), Koukl warns that there is a problem that presents itself in the Story to both believers and unbelievers, the problem of evil. Because of that problem, many infer that an important aspect of the Story, God, must not exist, otherwise the problem would not exist.

The five parts of the story are clearly delineated: God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. Yet in the presentation of the first part of the Story (God) it becomes clear that there are competing stories: “matter-ism” and “mind-ism”. These two stories are, however, limited. In these two stories the problem of evil cannot exist, that is, there is no place for the existence of evil in the puzzle of reality. This section is an effective apologetic for the Christian worldview against these two competing worldviews for a world with which something is clearly wrong just does not fit into their story and yet everyone seems to recognize that something is clearly wrong with this world. These two stories, however, will not allow it.

When discussing man, Koukl keeps the fact that something is wrong with the world before the reader, but introduces two other ideas: (1) that there is something special about man and (2) that man is broken. Other stories have explanations for this but these explanations fall short. It is at this point that the Story begins to feel like a story rather than an adept apologetic argument. Koukl presents the Fall, though the story of the Fall itself brings up several objections for which another short but deft apologetic section is offered.

This the basic tactic of the book: reveal basic problems that must be addressed before telling some portion of the Story, tell the Story (Jesus, death, resurrection), and answer objections that are raised by the telling of the story. As he nears the end, he reminds his reader of the beginning of the journey to ensure that the reader has not forgotten important aspects of the Story or the answers to significant problems raised by the story that were previously addressed. Koukl weaves effectively what he has told before and how it relates to what he is telling at that moment.

After bringing the Story to a successful conclusion, Koukl tells the story once again through just a few pages in the “Epilogue”, but this time as a passionate evangelistic message. This evangelistic epilogue does an excellent job turning this an apologetic worldview book into an invitation to “accept your pardon now, while you can, and turn and follow Jesus” (page 177). For this reason, this reviewer highly recommends this book as an evangelistic tool though it would certainly be of profit for most Christians as well, especially those who do not understand the real world ramifications of the story. Notes with scripture references are in the back making the book less intimidating for those who might be put off by an “academic” look, however, even Koukl’s notes are often quite engaging. Additionally, his use of stories within the telling of the Story is inviting.

Readers (and users, hopefully) of his 2009 book Tactics will recognize his two part method of asking key questions and revealing false assumptions throughout this newer book. This newest book is highly recommended as a tool for both apologetic and evangelistic purposes.

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Mohler reviews Bible Story Books November 15, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Books, Religion.
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Here are some good Christmas ideas.

Reformation Day Symposium Entry October 31, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Martin Luther, Reformation, Religion.
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Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. 1950. Reprint, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1978.             

Roland Bainton, a specialist in Reformation history was the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale University. Among his various books on the Reformation, he leaves us with a portrait of one of the most central figures of the Reformation, Martin Luther.            

 In the reprint’s new preface entitled “Here I Stand – After a Quarter of a Century”, Bainton reveals two themes that consistently referred to in his book. The first, one that is not unexpected, is that Martin Luther would, as the author defines it, “…defy Church and State in the name of reason and of conscience” (xiii). The second theme, though involves Luther’s willingness “…after taking a stand… afterward to consider it again” (xiii). Based on these two themes, Bainton attempts to paint a fuller picture of the man, Martin Luther.            

Bainton also reminds us that the context, both religious and otherwise, in which he first wrote this book in 1950 changed significantly. These changes have affected especially how Martin Luther was viewed by Catholics. Although Martin Luther is still a controversial figure, there is a more rational view of the man and his times in the United States due to the sociological and religious changes of the American landscape during the first three quarters of the twentieth century. In order to help one keep up with the new literature concerning Luther, Bainton includes references to the bibliographical literature concerning Luther that was current at the time. This is in addition to the original and extensive bibliography of English, German, and French works given at the end of the book.           

Occasionally during the book the author refers to misconceptions of fact or of opinion about Luther and his times but rarely points out from where these misconceptions come. When he does point this out, it is most often tied into the history of that time and how people of the Reformation time period viewed Luther or how the events may have played themselves out. The most striking example of this comes from the very title of Bainton’s book itself, “Here I Stand”. The well known ending sentence to Luther’s defense at the Edict of Worms, which begins with these three words, was added by the earliest printed version of that defense. Bainton sympathetically surmises, “The words, though not recorded on the spot, may nevertheless be genuine, because the listeners at the moment may have been too moved to write” (144).           

“Here I Stand” may be divided into two parts. Chapters 1-12 are generally chronological covering the events of Luther’s life from his birth until his return to Wittenberg after a year exile at Wartburg. Bainton points out, “Externally speaking, Luther had reached the turning point of his career” (166). The remaining chapters, chapters 13-22, deal with the time period after Wartburg. They are somewhat chronological but focus more on specific topics that are of importance in evaluating Luther’s effectiveness in “providing a new pattern of Church, state, and society, a new constitution for the Church, a new liturgy, and a new Scripture in the vernacular” (166).            

The first thirteen chapters supply the background for the following chapters. They introduce the times and culture of Germany and of the Catholic Church as well as the formation of Martin Luther as a reformer. Bainton begins with the various influences and events that caused Luther to make the vow that resulted in becoming an Augustinian monk. He then shows how that the various influences in his monastery and as university professor played a part in Luther’s evangelical experience. Chapters 4-12 are given to the four years from 1517-1521 beginning with the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses and ending with Luther’s return to Wittenberg in a Europe revolutionized by the events set in motion by his theses. These events include the Leipzig Debate over indulgences, the Papal Bull against Luther, the Diet and Edict of Worms, and the translation of the New Testament into Greek as well as other writings from Luther during this time period.           

While chapters 13-22 refer to various events in Luther’s life after 1521, the main emphasis is how Luther’s teachings and other activities shaped or, in some cases, did not shape the Lutheran, German, and Western landscape. This is presented not only through the ideas which Luther tried to implement (chapters 13-14) but also in comparison and contrast with other leading persons and groups contemporary with Luther (chapters 15-16). This section ends with a chapter on how Luther came to marry, his wife’s influence on him, and how his example of matrimony affected the society of Germany during the next centuries. According to Bainton, Luther “…did more than any other person to determine the tone of German domestic relations for the next four centuries” (233).           

The second section of Bainton’s book continues in chapters 18-20 with a summation of Luther’s later organizational, literary, and ministerial work activities and how these activities resulted in the formation of the Lutheran church. The final two chapters evaluate respectively Luther’s emotional and spiritual struggles which continued throughout his life and the several controversies which are most often used to bring Luther’s greatness into question. This greatness the author affirms to be shown in Luther’s influence on Germany and on organized Christianity, but above all in the outcome of Luther’s own personal spiritual struggles through his faith in Christ alone.           

One of the strengths of this book is the numerous extended quotations from Luther’s original works and letters as well as from those of his contemporaries, including his enemies. Almost no part of Luther’s life is left untouched. Along these same lines are a number of illustrations of contemporary woodcuts and cartoons from that era. These illustrations with explanation help to explain the various viewpoints of the era. Although Bainton certainly interprets Luther’s life and era in this book, his support for his interpretation comes from evidence from that era rather than from a review of how others have looked at that evidence.           

In addition to the strong support from Reformation era writings and illustrations, the author is candid in evaluating a life with which he is obviously sympathetic. He does not excuse Luther’s faults but does attempt to interpret Luther according to the times. He shows how that Luther’s tendency for hyperbole at times caused him unnecessary difficulties in debates and that his conservatism in carrying out his reforms at times limited how far he was able to reform the Church.            

Bainton admits that he had not always been sympathetic to Luther. “In the twenties I was outraged because [Luther] came, albeit slowly, to condone the death penalty for Anabaptists” (xiii). The author, however, came to identify Luther’s inner struggles for faith with his own and to admire his subject for his courage to stand for his principles.            

This book is helpful in giving a fuller understanding of Luther’s theology, the stages of development through which it went, and the influences upon that theology. Although Luther is perhaps best known for his doctrine of justification by faith alone, according to Bainton, this is only one part of the great theme of Luther’s life. “The God of Luther …. The All Terrible is the All Merciful too…. But how shall we know this? In Christ, only in Christ” (302). He traces this throughout Luther’s life from his early struggles in the monastery through his conversion experience into his later years when he again suffered periods of great depression. He also illustrates this passion of Luther’s theology through a discussion of Luther’s pulpit ministry, exemplified by excerpt from a sermon from Luther’s favorite sermon subject, the incarnation of Jesus Christ.           

In a pastoral ministry, the value of this book is in helping to evaluate one’s theology. There are many things that Luther taught or believed that are difficult to understand because the culture in which we live is much different than that of Luther. This book helps one to understand what he believed and how he came to believe those things and how he applied his beliefs to the various aspects of life. Whether one agrees with Luther or not, it is possible through the presentation in this book to take his developing and developed faith and fine tune our own theology following his example of dependence on the Scriptures and to his hard won single minded devotion to the crucified and risen Christ. For Luther this was more than theology but the light from God by which he guided his life.           

Practically, it is often that a preacher or writer desires to use an illustration from the life of a great person. There are many of these from Luther’s life that are highly usable and sometimes even overused. This book enables one to understand the context from which the illustrative ministry is drawn and enables the preacher to more accurately and more effectively use an illustration, understanding how it may best be applied.  

The greatest value of this book is the fuller understanding of the life of Luther. Much is known about him but as with many great figures in history, people tend to have a shadowy outline of the man or woman but not a true understanding of his life and times. In this way, Bainton has made a lasting contribution to our understanding of the facts. Although his work is over a half century old, those who study Luther, both detractors and sympathizers, will continue to be able to take Bainton’s biography and support their argument with facts.

One reason why Christianity is so weak today. October 18, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Evangelicalism, Personalities, Religion.
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A book review over the failures of evangelicalism during the past half century.

My Book Review at Sharper Iron September 6, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Preaching, Religion.
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It has been a while since I have had a review posted. Been pretty busy. This book, if it gets read, should be controversial. Here is my take on the book.

Jay at Worship Reflections also has three posts discussing this book.

One

Two

 Three

Links, some very serious, one lighthearted link for Floridians August 8, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Atheism, Book Reviews, Character, Depravity, Judgment Seat of Christ, Links, Religion, Satan, Sin, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.
2 comments

Pornography:  a very important and uncomfortable subject.

http://www.challies.com/archives/articles/new-york-magazine-recently-featured.php

Also a book review from Tim Challies. If challenging atheism is your cup of tea, then this book might make you real happy. http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/book-review-the-dawkins-delusion.php

http://pastorandpeople.wordpress.com/2007/08/03/a-pastor-before-the-judgment-seat-of-christ/

For our snowbirds:  http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2007/08/05/162-the-united-states-of-florida/ 

http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/08/03/can-satan-hear-our-thoughts/

Harry Potter links (not necessarily the views of this blogger but interesting) July 21, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews.
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http://www.sharperiron.org/2007/07/20/harry-potter-anything-of-value/#more-1901

http://abruisedreed.wordpress.com/2007/07/20/whatever-happened-to-harry-potter/

1 Humor and 2 History Links July 19, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham Lincoln, Book Reviews, Civil War, German, Humor, Teamwork.
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I am occasionally reminded that not everyone reads sermons. The following is for the rest of you.

Humor first!

http://www.fireandknowledge.org/archives/2007/07/17/teamwork-stupidity-abbey/

For the Civil War buffs:  http://www.discerningreader.com/review/manhunt/

A wonderful mix of German history and Russian geography: 

http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/149-the-volga-german-assr-1924-1941/

Lemuel Haynes, black pastor in West Rutland, Vermont July 12, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Church History, Personalities, Preaching, Vermont.
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This book review has one of its subjects an Afro-American preacher, Lemuel Haynes, who pastored an all white congregation in West Rutland, Vermont. (For readers who do not know, that is about eight miles from our church.)

 http://www.sharperiron.org/2007/07/05/book-review%e2%80%94the-faithful-preacher/#more-1836

This from the writer of the book, Thabiti Anyabwile.

 http://reformation21.org/Past_Issues/2006_Issues_1_16_/2006_Issues_1_16_Articles/Lemuel_Haynes/248/

More on Lemuel Haynes

 http://www.vtcucc.org/mission/DOM/URTF/lemuel_haynes.htm 

Until we get “Terrible Parable” back you’re gonna get “Links”. June 27, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Forgiveness, Links.
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I am still battling computer problems which means that the few “Terrible Parables” I have yet to put online are sitting in limbo in my hard drive. Until then, I’ve got a couple of links to some excellent articles. 

Tim Challies on Forgiveness

http://www.challies.com/archives/002639.php

More Tim Challies on the difference between print media and screen media

http://www.challies.com/archives/002646.php

A review by Chris Anderson. If the book is half as readable as the review, it’s a good read.

What I’m Reading: Flyboys