Saturday, February 27, 2016


by Simonetta Carr
2011 / 62 pages

One reason we should learned church history is to be equipped to fight errors our ancestors already countered. For example, what we learn in this brief biography is that the Jehovah's Witnesses are nothing new – already back in the 4th century a man named Arius was teaching that Jesus was not fully divine.

Another reason we should know our church history is to learn about and praise God for the mighty deeds He has done in the past. Arius' teaching confused many but Carr shows readers how God prepared another man to fight for the Truth with unwavering courage.

He was Athanasius, the man our Athanasian Creed is named after (under the mistaken idea that he wrote it – it is, however, an accurate summary of what he taught). He was an Egyptian bishop who through his lifetime had to deal with 9 Roman emperors. Three of these were pagan, and two supported Arius – that's five in total who thought Athanasius was a troublemaker. They banished him, and caused him to flee multiple times. Carr recounts one great escape story where Roman soldiers asked the man himself where Athanasius was. His answer: "He is not far from here." Nothing could stop Athanasius from teaching about God, explaining about Jesus and the Holy Spirit too. In the conclusion Carr shares Athanasius' apt nickname – contra mundum – which is Latin for "against the world."

This picture book is intended for children in Grade 2 or older, but adults will enjoy reading it too. What Carr has done here is condense a lot into a concise, beautifully-illustrated package – there are 40 pictures, many of which are full page. To date Simonetta Carr has crafted nine books in her "Christian biographies for young readers" series and this may be her very best.

You can buy a copy at by clicking here and at here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gospel Patrons

by John Rinehart
2013 / 170 pages

Are you a giant?

Church history is full of such people. William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. George Whitefield was used by God to spark the Great Awakening, while John Newton was the ex-slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace and helped William Wilberforce end the British slave trade. These were Christian giants; their stories well known.

But, as author John Rinehart notes, not all of us are called to these leadership positions. Many are called to supporting roles. In Gospel Patrons Rinehart tells the stories of three people who enabled Tyndale, Whitefield, and John Newton to do their work.

  • Humphrey Monmouth was the man who financed Tyndale’s translation work (and spent a year in the Tower of London as reward). 
  • Lady Huntingdon used her position and influence to have the richest in England come hear George Whitefield preach the Gospel and she funded his work reaching the rest of England and America. 
  • John Thornton placed John Newton in an influential church, and encouraged him to publish a book of his hymns, one of which was Amazing Grace.

Their stories are not well known, but their roles were vital too. Most of us are not giants like Tyndale, Whitefield and Newton, and we might think that we don’t have the funds to act like Monmouth, Lady Huntingdon or Thornton either.

But while few of us have the funds they did, most of us are in a position where we can spare money or time to support worthy causes. In sharing these three biographies, what author John Rinehart wants us to realize is the importance of this supporting role. God has a part for each of us to play. And if we understand how important the “lesser” roles are, perhaps we will more willingly take them on, sacrificially donating of our money, and our time.

This is a very readable book and very challenging too. I highly recommend it, for all ages. You can by a paperback copy at by clicking here or get the pdf book for free (by giving your email address and signing up for the author's newsletter) or get an audio download by visiting

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Justification by Faith Alone

by Charles Hodge
170 pages / originally published 1841 / reprinted 1995

Though I originally picked this book up to catch up on my reading of theological classics (and because it was the best item available on that trip to the thrift store), this little volume, while difficult, is not a dry and dusty tome. If anything, it has only become more relevant in the last few years.

Hodge's great concern is that, as the title puts it, we believe in justification by faith alone. In making this point, he contrasts the Biblical understanding of justification with the Romanist (Roman Catholic) formulation and the Arminian view.

The first part of the book carefully shows what the basic Biblical foundation is for believing in justification by faith alone, first examining "The Meaning of Justification" in Chapter 1, Next it stresses that Christ not only gave us an example or motivation, but paid the penalty for our sins, in the second chapter, "Christ's Satisfaction of the Law." Finally, Hodge emphasizes that the death of Christ provides "The Righteousness of Christ," in Chapter 3.

The second and last part of the book is more argumentative. Hodge shows the unity of historical Protestantism on the meaning of justification by faith alone, by quoting from the Westminster Standards, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession, and the works of Jonathan Edwards. He demonstrates that justification is not mere pardon, but is "a forensic act" (an act of God the judge accepting Christ's satisfaction of His justice). He also defines what it means that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.

Of course, Protestants are not the only ones who talk about justification. Hodge contrasts Protestant doctrine with Arminian and Roman Catholic doctrine regarding the place of works in justification: only Protestantism insists that our works (including the "work" of accepting Christ) are not the ground of justification.  Once the conflict of Protestant doctrine with Romanist and Arminian doctrine is out in the open, Hodge makes even clearer the Biblical proof of the meaning of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to His people, and traces the consequences of justification - the forgiveness of sins and the title to eternal life. Just as justification by faith alone involves different understandings of the value of works in different doctrinal systems, so Hodge also demonstrates the radically different understandings of  how faith relates to justification. He also counters the objections that those with a different doctrinal basis have to the Protestant doctrine of justification.

Of particular relevance to our current situation is Hodge's last chapter, in which he devotes 13 pages to the meaning of, and problems with, Arminian doctrine. Most evangelical churches hold to Arminian doctrine, and it is a temptation for every Christian to accept that his or her own faith is of some value in justification. On the other hand, Hodge stresses several times throughout the book that mature Christians cannot and will not come before God with their own works or faith as the ground for His acceptance of them, and that all the great Christian hymns always turn to the blood of Christ as their hope in the midst of their sins. In this sense, by God's grace, our hearts yearn for true doctrine, because only true doctrine truly shows God as He truly is, and bring us true peace in His presence.

If you believe that Hodge's explication of the beauty of God's work of justification from first to last will help satisfy that yearning, you can order it here.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Biggest Story

How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
by Kevin De Young 
120 pages / 2015

In 10 short chapters that can be read in an hour, Pastor Kevin DeYoung takes children and their parents on a journey through the whole Bible. My kids and I read this over three nights and even my four-year-old, who normally doesn't have the attention span for a continuing story, was locked in – she remembered what happened the previous night and was eager for more.

On every single page of the book illustrator Don Clark squeezes in more vibrancy and color than you'd ever thought possible (see the picture below). That's what will strike you first when you get the book; it is gorgeous! It's also quite odd looking - none of the pictures are realistic: cubic trees, men with impossibly pointy beards, Mary with neither nose nor mouth. But this highly stylized type of illustration grabs young eyes.

And it has some distinct advantages when it comes to the section of the story about Jesus' birth and time here on Earth. Clark's style allows him to depict Jesus without really depicting Him. This matters because there is both a theological argument (based on the Second Commandment) and a practical one (based on the confusion caused and the damage done by visual misrepresentations of Jesus as a Anglo-Saxon hipster) to be made against visually depicting Jesus. But in Don Clark's pictures we see, for example, the silhouette of a man with a crown of thorns, but not his eyes, nose, mouth, etc. In other pictures we see only His hand or his foot. So this is very carefully and reverently done.

If the pictures are amazing, the text is even better. Kids can easily mistake the Bible for a book of stories, some about judges, some about kings, some about Jesus. What Kevin De Young does in this overview is make it clear to even the youngest children that the Bible is one story, all about Jesus and God's plan to bring "us back to the garden." He shows how it all ties together. Here's a short example from midway through the book:
Great blessings. But not-so-great people.
Isaac was sort of a weakling.
Jacob was a selfish trickster.
And Judah did such dumb stuff, we don't even want to talk about it.
And yet, again and again, God kept his promises all the same. He bless the whole lot of them despite themselves.
This would make a fantastic supplement to daily Scripture reading with your kids - you can use it, maybe every year or so (it is well worth rereading) as a reminder that the passage of the Bible being read that day is tied into a whole over-arching narrative - just one part in God's big story!

You can buy a copy at by clicking here or get it at here.