Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adam in the New Testament

Mere Teaching Model or First Historical Man?
by J. P. Versteeg 
(translated by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.)
P&R Publishing, 2012

This short book shows that those who question the historical reality of Adam have a lot more than the first few chapters of Genesis to contend with. J.P. Versteeg goes through New Testament passages that refer to Adam, including Roman 5:12-21, Luke 3:38, 1 Cor. 15:22, 1 Cor. 15:45, 1 Timothy 2:13-14 and Jude 14, and shows that the Adam mentioned in these passages is understood as a real actual person.

Versteeg also outlines the consequences of denying the historical reality of the first Adam – if we want to treat him as something else, then we undercut the meaning of these texts. In the Creation/Evolution debate Christians in the Evolution camp will make the plea that we should agree to disagree because it isn't a foundational doctrine. But Versteeg makes the case that the very Gospel is at stake!

This is a translated work, first appearing as a chapter in a larger Dutch volume some 40 years ago. But in 21012 a wonderfully translated version (by Richard Gaffin Jr.) was published on its own. This is a scholarly work, but also only 100 pages, so anyone interested in the topic matter will find this easy enough to work through, and will be well-rewarded for their efforts. Adam in the New Testament: Mere Teaching Model or First Historical Man? is a very timely work for our churches at this time, and a volume that every minister and elder must read.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lady Jane Grey

by Simonetta Carr
Reformation Heritage Books, 2012, 60 pages

Four hundred and sixty years ago, Lady Jane Grey was made Queen of England, but she lasted in that position for less than two weeks. She never wanted the job, but was pressed into the service of her country after the Protestant King Edward died, leaving his Roman Catholic older stepsister, princess Mary, as the only other potential successor. So Jane accepted the crown. But only days afterward Mary seized power and imprisoned Jane. A little over six months later Jane was executed, but not before gaining fame for her unwavering faith and love for the Lord. Though she reigned just days, her example of faithfulness has impacted generations.

Simonetta Carr has authored a half dozen “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” so far and I’ve found each of the 4 I’ve read to be of an impressively high quality, from pictures, to production values, to prose. They are intended for kids, probably Grade 3 and up, but adults will enjoy them too. That said, Lady Jane Grey was slower paced than the others, probably because there is a lot less action in her life and short reign, so if you have the other titles this will make a great addition, but if you are only going to buy one or two start with Augustine or John Calvin instead.

You can pick it up at Amazon.com here or Amazon.ca here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

John S. Goodall - a wordless wonder!

John Goodall's books are unique, unlike any other wordless books I've seen. Most wordless or near wordless books seem to be intended for the pre-reading set. My two-year-old daughter was quite thrilled the very first time she came across one of these books, T. T. Khing's Where is the Cake?, and could "read" a story to her dad!

But Goodall's books seemed to be aimed at an older age groups with most of his wordless books (he has written quite a few). He has a series of The Story of... titles that tackle "an English Village," "the Seashore" and "a Castle," and in each the lack of words leaves readers, or rather viewers lingering over each picture. So it isn't wordless to make it accessible to the very young - its wordless to bring the focus to the pictures, and the impressions left by them.

For exampled, In The Story of a English Village Goodall starts us with a picture of 13th century castle under construction on a large hill, and then in the following two-page spread he shows us this same setting in one hundred year leaps, until we arrive near our modern day. These are picture to linger over, then flip back to, to compare the next century with the last.Goodall also makes creative use of single half page stuck between each two page spread. This is a bit hard to describe, and apparently was unique to Goodall - he may have invented this technique - so let me try to explain a little better: image a book with a picture spanning both pages, and right in the middle there is a half page - it spans the height of the book, but is only half as wide as the other pages - and when this page is flipped from the left side of the page to the right, we get an entirely new version of events in the middle of the spread. If you didn't follow that let's just say, it is pretty cool, and you should track down one of these books in your local library to check it out.

Though the books have 40-50 pages, they are very short reads, so even though they are brilliant they aren't books to return to again and again. That makes them less than ideal for home libraries, but very good choices to get out of your local library, or to purchase for a school library. The four titles shown here would be great for any teacher involved in English history.

Most of Goodall's books seem worth checking out, the exception being his "Naughty Nancy" series about a an obnoxious little girl mouse. It was his attempt at making a wordless book for the very young, but Nancy is more nasty than naughty, and I have no idea why a parent would want to introduce this character to their children.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Prodigal God

by Timothy Keller
176 pages, 2011

My pastor recently concluded a series of sermons on a single 21-verse passage of Scripture. I was delighted to discover just how much God has to tell us in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I felt that same delight while reading Tim Keller’s Prodigal God, which is also on Luke 15:11-32. Keller begins by explaining why he doesn’t call this passage the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He notes that the word “prodigal” means “recklessly spendthrift” and the term is “therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son” since the father “was literally reckless because he refused to ‘reckon’ or count his [son’s] sin against him or demand repayment.” Thus Keller arrives at his book’s title, Prodigal God.

But that is still not what he calls the parable. He calls it the parable of “The Two Lost Sons.” Two lost sons? Wasn’t there just one? After all, the older brother never left home! 

But as Keller explains, the older son was just as lost as the younger. The younger son’s rebellion was more obvious, but the older son shows that he isn’t interested in his father’s happiness either. If he had been, he would have rejoiced when his father rejoiced. Instead it becomes clear that he has only been obedient with the expectation of reward, so when that reward doesn’t come to him like he expected, he gets bitter. 

Keller argues there are a lot of older brothers in the Church. We all know we are sinners, but because we don’t fully understand how all we receive is a matter of grace, we still find ourselves looking down on “younger brothers” caught up in “big sins” like homosexuality or prostitution (we may be sinners, but at least we don’t sin like that!). This is rebellion of a more subtle kind – it is a form of works righteousness, because even as we acknowledge we aren’t sinless, our gracelessness to those caught in “big sins” shows we think ourselves in some way deserving of the goodness God has showered on us. 

Prodigal God is very engaging and quick read. I believe it is a very relevant and challenging book for our churches and would recommend it to anyone 16 and up. The only caution I would note is an echo of my brother’s (see his review of Counterfeit Gods): the care, rigor and reverence with which Keller plumbs the depths of Luke 15 here is absent in his treatment elsewhere of Genesis 1 and 2. So I would recommend this book without reservation but not its author.