Books Read

Gods Good Design, by Claire Smith

God’s Good Design, What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women, by Claire Smith

Smith shows that if the passages in the New Testament are taken at face value, they aren’t hard to understand at all.

Having just finished a book with highly questionable scholarship, the book is refreshing in its clarity. The audience seems to be people who are familiar with the topic, are able to understand the relevant Scripture, and can follow straightforward logic. The writing style is friendly and engaging.

Right from the start, she jumps in and tackles the difficult passages. The exegesis is lucid and fair to the text, aware of all the current controversies, and honest to the text. While not paving much new ground, Smith establishes or re-establishes the core, central, and clear meaning of each of the texts dealt with. Interpretation of the particularly thorny passages are concluded confidently, but not dogmatically.

While I would not consider Smith the most exacting exegete, the questionable pieces are free and small, really only opening a door to problems more than being actual error.

Overall, recommended as a first book on the topic. If you have already done reading in this area you can safely pass it by.

Why God Won’t Go Away – Alister McGrath

A book that seemed easy to write as the new atheists provide so much material from which to choose to show their biased, but non-rigorous position.

Deals with their inability to find a moral basis
Deals with blind faith
Debunks a lot of urban myths about religion
Heavily footnoted

It may not be needed as New Atheism seems to be doing this on its own, having failed to deliver the knockout blow to theism.

Recommended to anyone wishing to become conversant with new atheism and strengthen (not create) their response to those who hold such views.

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Yes, I had never read this. Not because it is long, but just never had the motivation. A Russian friend requested I remedy that, so I have.

For interesting insights into Napoleon’s war with Russia, it is excellent. For equally engaging thoughts on the human condition, free will, and the like, also excellent. But it is long. And much of the material is difficult to relate to and it ends up being just a story. I hear that it is much better in Russian, as the quality of the prose comes more to the forefront. Alas, since time is finite, I likely will not be learning enough Russian to do this myself.

Overall, recommended if you are interested in this period of history.

God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas J. Köstenberger

An excellent treatment of the subject material, deals fairly and graciously with alternate viewpoints. At points it suffers from assertion without proof or assertion with inadequate proof, but this is rather minor and the points where this happens are not seriously under dispute by people who would be making use of the book either for themselves or counseling others. Difficult subjects, like divorce are examined head-on and all of the relevant positions and Scripture are discussed. The authors place themselves solidly at one place in the spectrum of options and show clearly why they have come to that position. Thus the book is quite helpful in helping a person come to a reasoned conclusion.

Well recommended.

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

In what he considers to be his magnum opus, Guinness makes the case for re-thinking the way we approach evangelism and more broadly how we engage our non-Christian world. He supplies a fresh perspective on a wide range of topics relative to Christian persuasion in a thought-provoking, yet highly readable fashion. I think it’s one of the best things he’s written. Highly recommended.

Supernatural, by Michael Heiser

The popular-level version of The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser, which I reviewed early. Much shorter, less footnoting, simpler reading, more straightforward, but covers pretty much all the same material about the supernatural world from a Christian perspective. Answers a lot of questions about passages that were hard to fit in and raises a lot of questions about what is really going on in that realm. As this book is easier to take it or leave it and is designed for the broader audience, I recommend it for anyone interested in understand the supernatural realm without getting into speculative nonsense. Good book, good read, thought-provoking.

Bible Translations

The first thing to remember is what my most favorite New Testament scholar said, “All translation is treason.” Once we have that out of the way we can proceed with proper caution.

I prefer a translation that is more literal. I want to be as close to the original as I can and still have something readable. Here is a chart showing where the various versions fall on the spectrum.

From the list, here are my comments.

  • LB – Living Bible. This is just a paraphrase and not really a translation at all. Kenneth Taylor started with an English Bible and re-phased things
  • NLT – New Living Translation. A real translation this time still along the same principles as the LB. I know a number of the translators and they are real men of God.
  • NIV – I just can’t grow to like this version. It is the classic thought-for-thought translation and there isn’t a word in the English that can be trusted. Maybe OK if you’re only reading in really large chunks at a time.
  • NET – As we spoke this morning, the real value of this version is the translator’s footnotes which give insight into the whys and wherefores of what they put into English. A decent translation and I use it.
  • NRSV – A clean-up of the RSV from a theology standpoint. A good translation. I just don’t think it will ever be widely used and so doesn’t have a lot of relevance.
  • RSV – Good, a little dated, a little liberal in bias.
  • ESV – Highly Recommended. Modern. In constant revision. Excellent scholarship. More readable than the NASB.
  • KJV, NKJV. Uses the Majority Text, which I think is not wise. KJV is dated English. NKJV is a good translation.
  • NASB. Highly Recommended. Probably the most faithful and consistent in translation, but does so to a fault at the cost of readability in the English.
  • ASV – Dated. Good translation. Quite literal, with the associated shortcomings.

Unseen Realm, by Michael Heiser

An explanation of the supernatural realm using mostly the text of Scripture. Not recommended for the easily convinced as it makes a compelling case on material that is not (yet) widely supported. Sometimes strains the intent of the Biblical text. Borders on eisegesis at times. But overall presents a plausible and basically satisfying understanding of the supernatural side of reality.