Mailbox Review: NIV Integrated Study Bible (2/5)

NIV Integrated Study Bible
ed. John R. Kohlenberger III (Zondervan 2014)

Rating: 2/5  (3.5/5 for effort)

The NIV Integrated Study Bible is designed around an intriguing (and probably much wished-for) organizational principle: the sixty-six books of the Bible are reorganized and presented in chronological order to allow the reading of biblical events in the order that they occurred. This is a novel departure from the traditional organization of theNIVISB English Bible, which is arranged largely by subject (i.e. history books, law, wisdom books, prophetic books, gospels, epistles, etc.), and it opens up interesting possibilities for biblical study.

For all the promise of the concept, though, the NIVISB is an imperfect achievement. Continue reading

Mailbox Review: Future Grace (2.5/5)

Future Grace (Revised Edition)
John Piper (Multnomah, 2012)

Rating: 2.5/5

When one considers that it is, in many cases, uncharitable to criticize a theologian’s (though, perhaps, “pastoral writer” is a more apt term in this case) past writings as Future Grace covernecessarily representing their current thoughts and beliefs, one will recognize the courage of John Piper to bring a seventeen-year-old work back to publication with the unabashed declaration that in the intervening years he has continually consulted it as “my war manual…my coach and my critic.” Whether such courage is more boldness than brashness is harder Continue reading

Mailbox Review: Chivalry (2.5/5)

Chivalry: The Quest for a Personal Code of Honor in an Unjust World
Zach Hunter (Tyndale, 2013)

Rating: 2.5/5

Zach Hunter’s book, Chivalry, is not, in fact, an attempt to recover classical chivalric ideals and apply them to contemporary life, but his project is nevertheless an admirable and well-meaning one. Using the language of older chivalric codes to stand for more general moral principles, Hunter has put together a book aimed at forming virtue in adolescent generations that may have never been taught to think in virtue categories at all. While Hunter himself does seem to present the project as a modern application of medieval honor codes, his “ten principles” come across as ahistorical and thinly researched. Nevertheless, this inconsistency does not hinder him from going ahead toward his goal of instructing young readers in the arts of doing justice in their communities.

This mission, praiseworthy as it is, leads Hunter onto slippery ground in some places. Continue reading

Mailbox Review: Death By Living (4/5)

Death By Living
N.D. Wilson (Thomas Nelson, 2013)NDWilson
Rating: 4/5

The Wilsons love stories. To know them is, in an important way, to know their stories. They trade in family stories. They are one of those families that take down the heirlooms from the mantel to entertain their guests and friends, but in the Wilson household the most treasured heirlooms are oral histories. Death By Living is, in part, an invitation to be Nate’s guest and friend, a hospitable initiation into the Wilson family stories. And this collection of stories (the explosive near-deaths of grandparents, insane and unwieldy family vacations, and more) is, as the title suggests, all about living life right up to the hilt.

The Swedish theologian, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, is best known for his development of a concept he calls “the cross of reality,” The Christian exists, he explains, at the center of the cross, and is pulled outward along the four arms; the demands of reality are constantly pulling us in four directions: backward into the memory and traditions of the past, forward into the hopes and concerns for the future, downward into ourselves, and upward/outward into interaction with others and with God. The pull is enough to tear a person apart, and life becomes a continual process of dying and being remade at the foot of the cross. Death By Living is Rosenstock-Huessy’s thesis given moving narrative embodiment

As a rationale for this self-consuming, meteor-through-upper-atmosphere way of living, Wilson offers a kind of reversed lex talionis: “I owe my Benefactor big. I owe Him my feet, hands, teeth, and eyes. I owe Him my life.” He makes reference to the golden rule and asks the pregnant question, “And if they have done you nothing but good?” The answer, when one is dealing with the God of the cosmos, is to love what He has given so fervently that one is all but used up, exhausted in the act. The truest gratitude will prompt one to stretch their arms wide in love for God’s gifts, assuming the posture of the cross, to be pulled apart and remade after a life well lived.

The whole prospect may be an intimidating or a terrifying one. “Like a kindergartener shoved out from behind the curtain during his first play, you might not know which scene you are in or what comes next, but God is far less patronizing than we are. You are His art, and He has no trouble stooping. You can even ask Him for your lines.”

 

I received a copy of N. D. Wilson’s Death By Living gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Mailbox Review: Unveiling Grace (3.5/5)

I received a copy of Lynn Wilder’s Unveiling Grace gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Here are my thoughts on the book.

Lynn Wilder’s Unveiling Grace is a mother’s memoir of success and influence inside the Mormon church and Christ’s calling of her family out of it. Wilder, a one-time professor at Lynn Wilder The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon ChurchBrigham Young University, and her husband spent more than thirty years inside Mormonism, having and raising children, converting their relatives, and working inside of super-secretive Mormon temples. Working their way toward holiness and eventual Godhood, the Wilders were relatively comfortable with their lives and were convinced that Joseph Smith was a true prophet…until their son, thousands of miles away on a Mormon mission, called home to say that Jesus now had too great a claim on his life for him to continue believing and following the Mormon church. The story leading up to and following that pivotal moment is an eye-opening look into the everyday culture of the largest pseudo-religion in the country, and an encouraging account of how Jesus Christ saved one family from it a member at a time.

Vastly informative about Mormon life and culture, Unveiling Grace has the distinction of being a great deal more than a handbook for debunking Mormonism—those typical texts with lists of doctrinal weakness cross-listed against effective techniques for shutting their mouths before you shut your door. It is the personal and personable account of what real Mormons think, feel, and do—the hopes that motivate them, the lies they are told, and the experiences that finally lead them to question their way of life. This is the type of work that fuels real evangelism, rather than the argumentative pugilism of mere apologetics.

Unfortunately, the book’s strength (its personal and personable tone) is also a significant weakness. The book reads like a memoir, but more than that it reads like the memoir of an Evangelical wife and mother, with a very feminine perception, idiom, and tone. These elements, though not faulty in their own right, make the work less engaging to female readers of different temperaments and to male readers general, unintentionally narrowing its ideal audience. Nevertheless, the appendices comparing basic Christian beliefs to those of Mormonism, and defining commonly used theological terms as Mormons understand and use them were add significant value to the book. All in all, though, the book is a rare and important look at the inner workings of a secretive group through the eyes of people with extensive access, and a message of hope to those praying and laboring for the salvation of their Mormon neighbors.