Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John M. Frame

Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by John M. Frame

An excellent introduction to Systematic Theology could be the subtitle, so I will since he never would. The book is thorough enough to be used as a college-level textbook and still very readable and easy to understand. Unlike a more technical treatment of Christian doctrine like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (which I also highly recommend), Frame’s book can just be read through rather than be used as a reference book. He delivers the material in an engaging fashion.

Anyone would benefit from reading this book if they wish to gain a thorough understanding of Christian doctrine, particularly from a Reformed perspective.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

No Other God by John M. Frame

No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John M. Frame

Frame deals with many significant themes, such as God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, but with the added perspective of a response to open theism they have a new freshness. As with his other writings, Frame is even-handed, lucid, and complete. Open theism doesn’t stand a chance against such a clear and fair treatment of the material.

As this is highly specialized material, unless you have a need to study open theism, or an interest in it, you can pass this by.

5 stars, Recommended.

The Soul of Shame, Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson, MD

The Soul of Shame, Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, Curt Thompson, MD

The opening pages make me hopeful that Dr Thompson will be providing helpful insight into this pervasive and destructive force called shame. Alas, I find this is not the case.

In the introduction to the book only negative aspects of shame are listed. He notes this, but somehow it’s not satisfying that we will end up with a balanced product.

What follows here are notes taken from the pages referenced.
P16 ‘living a more fully integrated life’ sounds like psychobabble jargon. What even is that really?
He states he doesn’t address how shame is a good thing. I wonder how this can be a balanced, i.e., integrated, approach, although he admits to a lack of space to address this all.
P17 Thompson tells us he often has a hard time believing the truth of the Bible.
He speaks of a God who would rather die than have anything come between us and Himself. That’s not accurate theology. It’s not why Jesus died.
P27 The book is beginning to drift into a feelings-based tome. He is forgetting that feelings are supposed to follow, not lead. The last two people he talked about were believing lies. This was their problem. The feelings are just symptomatic.
P34 He writes that instead of turning away in shame you need to turn toward it in vulnerability. I agree but for a different reason. Being vulnerable, i.e., being honest and open, is facing the lie that you need to turn away from. Then, instead of believing the lie you need to be believing the truth and doing the truth.
P76 He speaks of the problem that occurs when the proper response doesn’t arrive and lists a number of types of persons from whom this supposed correct response should come, but neglects to list God as a possible source for that response.
P83 Amazing! He has actually connected the person’s problem with believing a lie…
P84 …and immediately wraps it up and throws it away in psychology. I wonder if he knows that it is the truth will set you free. I wonder if he knows that, it is lies that the truth sets you free from.
P99 He say that, “Shame is the emotional feature out of which all that we call sin emerges”. No. He’s wrong. That is just backwards. Shame comes from sin, not sin from shame.
P101 He astutely quotes Michael Polanyi who points out that doubt is simply the transfer of trust to something else, but then fails to understand that Biblically Trust, Faith, Belief, are all the same thing and so this transfer of trust is just unbelief on Eve’s part. She has sinned the sin of unbelief in what God said. This is the source of her later shame.
P102 He confuses doubt with insufficient knowledge, which someone of his training really shouldn’t fail to see, but if he understood it this way his story wouldn’t work.
P104 He observes (correctly) that Eve is now motivated by her feelings, but fails to inform the reader that this is exactly the problem. We must live by the truth, not our feelings. We must keep them under our control and not have them control us. Then on
P106 he points out that the Biblical narrative does not care about the development of her emotional state. Exactly. That’s because our emotions and feelings are not the important aspect.
P108 He points out their eyes were opened and asks how this can be unless they were active in the process. Well, the English and more importantly, the Hebrew is passive. They were not active. Cp Luke 24:31. Someone who gets simple matters as this so wrong is not in a position to be giving advice.
P110 He states that God is not asking where they are as in geographically, but where they are in their thinking. Unfortunately, the Hebrew word used here does not mean what he is trying to make it mean. He is just wrong.
P111 The progression into shame he again has backwards.
P112 A minor point, but he poetically says the horse of shame has left the barn. In terms of the metaphor, this would mean the shame is gone. Again, the opposite is true. Shame is in full force, something the author knows, but didn’t catch that his metaphor says something else.
P113 He says that evil uses shame not just to get us to do wrong (but see note on P99) and then goes on to say that is exactly what is expressed in the Genesis account. He then goes on to state what he believes the purpose really is while giving no support at all.
P120 Another small point, but a silly mistake nonetheless. He states that vulnerability is what we are. No. We can be vulnerable. We cannot be vulnerability.
P124 He, like so many others, succumbs to the false notion that God trusts us. God does not trust us. No where in the Bible does it say God trusts us.
He says that in creating us God risked everything. That is simply wrong.
P135 he says that Jesus knew he needed to closely engage Satan in order to recognize when shame was in play. This is patently ridiculous.
P136 he speaks of Satan’s attempt to convince Jesus that he was not God’s son. Again, patently ridiculous.
P139 he discourages analyzing why you feel shame. This is also wrong because it short circuits the defusing of the cause of shame. It is wrong because the Scriptures say we should examine ourselves for sin, and the shame we have is caused by sin.
P141 He doesn’t realize that Jesus could scorne the shame because he Himself was sinless.
P151 he says that it is bad to say we only expect you to do your best and he goes on to say that no one can really do your best. What he fails to understand is that doing your best can be done in the context of all things considered or all things being equal. See note concerning page 163.
P163 He says that the right type of praise is praise for making a good effort. How is this really different from doing one’s best, which on page 151 he said was not a good thing?
P164 He says ‘perseverance’ is the equivalent of ‘praise for effort’. It most certainly is not. Perseverance is very frequently continuing on without praise.

I will stop with these few examples. Glance again at the number of times I’ve marking in bold print where the author is simply wrong, or worse, has the point backwards.

One of the positive aspects of the book is drawing attention to the fact of How deeply pervasive shame is. As to describing what happens when shame hits, he is spot on. As to the reasons for it and why certain things help, he shows insufficient understanding of shame from God’s perspective to be used as a source.

His book is rejected.

No God But One, Nabeel Qureshi

No God, But One, Evidence For Islam & Christianity, Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi.

If you are going to have one book on understanding and responding to Muslims, you will be hard-pressed to do better than this. First rate apologetics, deep insights into the different mindset and worldview of Islamic thinking, short and concise chapters in a logical and easy to follow progression all make for a superb resource for anyone dealing with Islam or merely interested in understanding the religion.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias

Jesus Among Other Gods, the Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, by Ravi Zacharias

A general apologetic for the Christian faith, written in Ravi’s inimitable style. Delightful, caring, brilliant, sensitive. He makes an emotional appeal yet understands the arguments deeply and makes strong and compelling arguments.

Ravi deals with Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity as they are the leading religions by number of adherents. Being broad in scope and relatively short in length, the book necessarily lacks depth on any one area and may fail to answer enough of any one person’s questions.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a good, basic, current apologetic for Christianity which you could learn from and share with pretty much anyone without offending, this is an excellent choice.

4 stars. Recommended.

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.

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.