See a rundown of the individual fallacies here.

9781433542404Kevin Deyoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing Michigan (home of Michigan St.). He blogs at The Gospel Coalition and has written several books in addition to Taking God At His Word (e.g. Crazy Busy and The Hole in Our Holiness). Here, he presents readers a brief primer on the doctrine of Scripture, which is more than adequately outlined in the subtitle of the book.

DeYoung explains his purpose in writing in the opening chapter of the book:

I want all that is in Psalm 119 to be an expression of all that is in our heads and in our hearts. In effect, I’m starting this book with the conclusion. Psalm 119 is the goal. I want to convince you (and make sure I’m convinced myself ) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day. Only when we are convinced of all this can we give a full-throated “Yes! Yes! Yes!” every time we read the Bible’s longest chapter. (Kindle Locations 145-149).

Having set out his goal, DeYoung explains using Psalm 119 what he thinks we should believe, how we should feel, and what we should do when it comes to Scripture. Toward this end he says,

While I hope this volume will motivate you to read the Bible, this is not a book on personal Bible study or principles for interpretation. Nor do I attempt an apologetic defense of Scripture, though I hope you will trust the Bible more for having read these eight chapters. This is not an exhaustive book, covering all the philosophical , theological, and methodological territory you might see in a fat, multivolume textbook . This is not an academic book with lots of footnotes. This is not a “take down” book where I name names and cite “chapter and verse” for current errors. This is not a groundbreaking work in exegetical, biblical, historical, or systematic theology. (Kindle Locations 239-244)

He realizes this might make it seem like it’s not worth reading, so he clarifies that all he is doing is offering a doctrine of Scripture from Scripture, and I would add, doing so in a highly readable way for the average person.

DeYoung takes different facets of the traditional doctrine of Scripture and devotes a chapter to each. The core of this is chapters 2-6 which cover the Bible’s trustworthiness, sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity respectively (the last four of which can be remember with the acronym SCAN). Chapter 7 looks at how Jesus viewed the Bible, while the final chapter offers encouragement to “stick with Scripture.” Ultimately,

Scripture doesn’t tell us everything we may want to know about everything. But it tells us everything we need to know about the most important things. It gives us something the Internet, with all its terabytes of information, never could: wisdom. The purpose of Holy Scripture is not ultimately to make you smart, or make you relevant, or make you rich, or get you a job, or get you married, or take all your problems away, or tell you where to live. The aim is that you might be wise enough to put your faith in Christ and be saved. (Kindle Locations 1453-1457)

The book closes with an appendix with 30 books DeYoung recommends on the doctrine of Scripture. Given the brief nature of this volume, readers who want to dig deeper into different aspects of the doctrine of Scripture have their work cut out for them. This may also help more skeptical readers find more of their questions answered. This isn’t to say DeYoung breezes over genuine difficulties (thought some might feel that way). Rather, he avoids some of the more technical issues when it comes to things like inerrancy and readers aware of those issues and wanting a more in-depth response will do well to look elsewhere. Though classifying this book as “preaching to the choir” is probably an unfair characterization, there is a certain sense in which DeYoung is writing to readers more or less on the same page as he is.

On the whole, DeYoung is right. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about his book. But, that’s ok. Not every book needs to reinvent the wheel or offer new and groundbreaking insights that will shatter the minds of theologians young and old alike. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a book that reminds readers of a long held doctrine, but does so in a fresh way. Or, it’s nice to have a book that you can give to someone who doesn’t particularly like to read but is interested in learning more about why the Bible is important.

For the most part, that’s the category I would file this volume into. I didn’t particularly geek out about it back at T4G when it first came out since I thought I could probably guess the way most of the arguments within would flow. After finally getting the eBook for review from Crossway, my initial assessment was more or less right, but that doesn’t diminish the general value of a volume like this. If you’re look for a book you could give a new Christian or a questioning Christian when it comes to the doctrine of Scripture, this is a great place to start. You may even have some questions yourself when it comes to words like “inerrancy,” and wonder if the Bible really is authoritative. DeYoung’s volume is a great weekend read on the subject and will deftly guide you through what Scripture really says about itself. And, unlike some more recent volumes on the doctrine of Scripture, this one won’t leave you on the wrong side of history.

Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why The Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means For You and MeWheaton: Crossway, April 2014. 144  pp. Hardcover, $17.99.

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Many people have found their introduction to hermeneutics in How to Read The Bible for All Its Worth. I was not one of them. However, when I saw a new edition of the book (the 4th) was being released earlier this year, I thought it might be a good time to check it out. I was able to get a hold of a copy, as well as the companion volume, How to Read The Bible Book by Book.

This edition was prompted by a need to update the bibliography, but that in turn led to other updates. Specifically, all of the verse references are now parenthetical at the end of sentences and the translations have been updated. Also, commentary recommendations are up to date (for now).

The flow of the book is till more or less the same (since the 3rd edition). The opening chapter explains the need to interpret. Then, readers are guided through selecting a good translation of the Bible for personal study. With the basic tools in place, the remaining chapters each tackle a specific genre of the Bible. This starts with two chapters on the epistles. One covers background issues of history and literary context, while the other introduces the basic hermeneutical questions. Since the epistles are probably the easiest entry point, this seems like a good strategy. The chapters that follow go from Old Testament narrative, Acts, and Gospels (chapters 5-7) to parables (chapter 8), law (chapter 9), the prophets (chapter 10), the Psalms (chapter 11), wisdom literature (chapter 12), and finally Revelation (chapter 13). An appendix explains how to evaluate and use commentaries properly.

After reading through this, I wish I had come across it sooner. I had certainly heard of it, but this was after taking Bible study methods classes in college and seminary. As a single, accessible resource, I think this might become my go-to recommendation to get you grounded. There are other books I like as well, but especially if you couple this book with its companion volume, which is essentially a book by book survey of the entire Bible (that gives an overview, reading advice, and section by section walk-thru for each book), it gives readers a great foundation in reading and studying the Bible for themselves. More advanced books should certainly follow, but these two volumes are an excellent starting point.

If I could make one adjustment though, I would have liked to have either a more extended opening chapter, or perhaps a closing chapter that integrated the insights for studying the Bible into a step by step method. Maybe this could have been a chart, but it was touched on to some extent in the opening chapter. Going genre by genre is incredibly helpful, but I would have liked an integrating chapter. As part of this, I think more could have been said about studying Scripture at the level of words and phrases. I realize this is done in the context of specific genres, so maybe that’s why the integrating chapter would work better at the end after you’ve read all the specific insights you need to keep in mind moving genre to genre.

In the end, I doubt it is worth making a 5th edition to accommodate something like this. Instead, it probably illustrates that even a great introduction to studying the Bible works well with other resources. There is really no stand-alone go-to resource for hermeneutics. But there is wisdom in a multitude of teachers and counselors, and this resource is definitely worth consulting on its own or with its companion volume. If you really want to read the Bible for all of its worth, this is a great place to start.

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its WorthGrand Rapids: Zondervan, June 2014, 304 pp. Paperback, $18.99.

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Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible Book By BookGrand Rapids: Zondervan, June 2014, 448 pp. Paperback, $18.99.

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18148522For my first year teaching Old Testament, I set my sights a little too high for a 9th grade audience. I really liked John Walton, and after looking at A Survey of the Old Testament (co-authored with Andrew Hill), I thought it would be a suitable textbook. I mean, it was glossy, full color pages and everything.

Within the first quarter, I knew I had made a huge mistake. There was simply too much information, and while it might have worked for college freshmen, it wasn’t well suited for high school freshmen. I reduced the reading load and dropped the textbook the following year. Since then, I’ve debating adding a textbook back into the class to supplement the primary reading of the Old Testament.

Though it wasn’t available at the time, I think I might have fared better that first year had the more reduced version of Walton and Hill’s book Old Testament Today been available. Actually it had been, I just missed it, but it came to my attention when the 2nd edition released last year. After getting a review copy, I ultimately opted to not adopt it, but it was more because of how I had structured the class, not that it was still too much information.

In this pared down version, the material is also slightly re-organized. The book is split into six sections:

  • Orientation and Fundamentals
  • The Pentateuch
  • Old Testament Narrative
  • Prophets and Prophetic Literature
  • Wisdom and Psalms
  • Epilogue

Within sections 2-5, the authors give a big picture overview of the literature and theology of that section of the Old Testament. Then, they give a book by book survey, followed by a section on relevance and application. The overall effect is that this is an accessible, practical survey of the Old Testament. It is still maybe a bit beyond 9th graders, but if one was teaching in a 5-day a week environment (I’m not), it could probably be used well.

9780830810512Another resource that looks useful, but that I haven’t integrated yet, is Tremper Longman’s Old Testament Essentials. This book is setup like a guided inductive Bible study. Longman divides the Old Testament into 17 sections:

  • Creation
  • Fall
  • Abraham
  • Isaac and Jacob
  • Joseph
  • Exodus
  • Wilderness Wanderings
  • Law
  • Priests, Holy Place and Sacrifices
  • Conquest
  • Judges
  • Saul, David and Solomon
  • Psalms
  • Wisdom
  • Divided Monarchy
  • Prophets
  • Exile and Return

Each section opens with a Bible study guide that offers passages to read and questions to answer. Then, Longman provides an essay that gives more detail about the high points of the texts being considered. This is followed by additional questions to unpack further before moving to some brief reflections and questions that connect the section of the Old Testament to the New. Then, Longman wraps up with a section that looks at practical implications for our lives today and suggests resources for going deeper.

There is much to commend about this format. This is definitely not a book you would just read through since most of the book is questions for you to answer after you’ve read the biblical texts in each section. It is suitable for a class like mine, or even a guided Bible study in a church small group. The only downside is that the overall study is disproportional. On the one hand, this is entirely understandable. My own class spends almost the entire first quarter on Genesis and Exodus, before picking up speed through the next three. Longman’s study devotes 11 sections to Genesis through Judges, and then 6 for the rest of the Old Testament, with only one chapter on the prophets. I think it would have been better to taken 2 or at least 3 chapters to cover the prophets, dividing them either thematically, or my major and minor. Instead, the chapter that is present focuses almost exclusively on Jeremiah and Daniel, with Ezekiel making a brief appearance in the following chapter on exile and return. In terms of capturing the flow of the storyline, this probably works fine. But, the downside is that much of the prophetic material will remain a dark corner in people’s understanding of the Old Testament.

All that being said, I’ve found with the Old Testament you can’t do everything in a single book. What Longman does focus on is excellent, and certainly his study could supplemented with something like Nancy Guthrie’s The Word of The Lord. Small groups or Sunday School classes that really want to study the Old Testament together will greatly benefit from Longman’s guided tour. Though I haven’t done it quite yet, I plan to incorporate some of Bible study into my class or maybe even add it as a textbook for next year. If you’re looking for Old Testament resources that can help raise biblical literacy, this is one to add to your library.

John H. Walton & Andrew E. Hill, Old Testament Today: A Journey from Ancient Context to Contemporary RelevanceGrand Rapids: Zondervan, February, 2014. 480 pp. Hardcover, $44.99.

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Tremper Longman III, Old Testament Essentials: Creation, Conquest, Exile, and ReturnDowners Grove, IL: IVP Connect, December, 2013. 215 pp. Paperback, $18.00.

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9781433537080Last time, we looked the core part of Mike Cosper’s The Stories We Tell. Now, we’ll go back and hit chapters 3-4 before finishing up with the last chapter. From what I can tell, you can still get the eBook of this for free as a Christ and Pop Culture member. That probably won’t be true forever, so better join and take advantage while you still can!

Chapter 3 in Mike Cosper’s The Stories We Tell covers three interconnected themes. First, Cosper examines stories that look back to an idyllic time now lost. Second, Cosper looks at stories that take place in what seems like an idyllic environment but in reality have a darker underbelly (the Truman Show for instance). Lastly, Cosper looks at stories where humanity tries to play God and it invariably goes wrong. The chapter is aptly titled “The Ghosts of Eden.”

Chapter 4 looks at the search for love through the lens of shows like How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock. the former of which would have been more interesting had Cosper written his analysis in light of the show’s series finale. Cosper also examines reality dating shows, specifically, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?

While his analysis is thought provoking, I came away feeling like much more could have been done with the topic of both of these chapters. Specifically in chapter 4, the point could be made that the Gospel itself is a romantic comedy and our desire to watch essentially the same story over and over again shows an innate longing within us. Cosper examines this longing well, and in the end does foreshadow the Gospel (90), but he could have taken his analysis deeper by pointing out all these stories teach us ultimate fulfillment is found in another person and from the Christian point of view, that person is Christ. Romantic comedies aren’t wrong in the essence of their story, just the object of their affections.

When it comes to final chapter, provocatively titled “Honey Boo Boo and The Weight of Glory,” Cosper offers some keen cultural analysis. Especially now in the wake of the show’s cancellation, his insights are worthy of our attention. Before getting to Honey Boo Boo, Cosper examines the connection between reality TV and narcissism. Predictably, Kim Kardashian figures prominently. At the opposite end of the Kardashian family sits Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a show which “thrives on featuring the saddest elements of this family’s life” (202). What Cosper picks up in his analysis is savagely satirized in a recent Onion article. We have a “vulture-like attitude” in consuming and ridiculing the life of this backward family from the Deep South. We look. We laugh. We move on.

Cosper then shifts the discussion by connecting our fascination with reality TV to our obsession with social media. We’re fascinated with self-broadcasting and the rise of reality TV stars is just one way that facet of our culture manifests itself. We have the opportunity to glory in ourselves and bring an audience along for the ride. Cosper then notes that “Christian and non-Christian alike feel the dull ache of faded glory” (209). Our drive for glory isn’t wrong, merely misplaced, as C. S. Lewis has helped many understand.

This provides, I think, a fitting conclusion to the book. Cosper does offer a brief epilogue that includes a word to aspiring Christian filmmakers. But, by closing on a topic that other books on TV and movies might overlook, I think he shows that something that seems banal and not worthy of a second thought can be a pointer to deeper spiritual truth. In essence, Cosper’s book throughout is taking the everyday stories we encounter and probing their foundations to see what they provide evidence that the world we live in is the kind of world we would expect with Christian presuppositions. It provides a powerful case for what we believe but also models a way to open conversations with the wider culture about things that count.


Graham Cole is Anglican Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. Before that, he was Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS. He has written several books, and now with with The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation, he has two published within the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.

Although I had been aware of Cole as a theologian and writer, this was actually the first book of his I read. But, it was such an enjoyable experience, before I knew it, I had also worked my way through God The Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom (excellent) and He Who Gives Life in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series (likewise).

A big part of the enjoyability is Cole’s clarity of writing. He does this both from chapter to chapter, but often in making clear his assumptions that undergird his study. He does this in the introduction, and then says that

My hope is that by the time the reader closes this study he or she will have a deeper sense of the astonishing providence of God that subtly prepared the way for the mystery of the incarnation, a great appreciation of the magnitude of the divine stooping that in the incarnation saw God weep human tears, and a profounder joy at the depth of the love of God that sent no surrogate as the final revelation but the beloved Son who became flesh (25).

To accomplish all this, in chapter 1 Cole starts with Genesis and God’s preparations that would make the incarnation possible. In chapter 2, Cole traces the idea of an “embodied” God from Abraham on through Moses, Judges, and the former and latter prophets. In chapter 3, maps out the hope of Israel for a Messiah, including some intertestamental reflections. Chapter 4 moves into the New Testament material and chapter 5 takes up Anselm’s question of why God became man. The final full chapter explores the theological as well as existential significance of the incarnation. A conclusion ties all the threads together and then a brief appendix treats the relationship of theological interpretation of Scripture and biblical theology.

Like most all the volumes in this series I have read, this book was richly biblical, theological insightful, and pastorally relevant. Those dimensions are not always present in even proportions, but they are present here nonetheless. Cole takes a significant, yet perhaps overlooked theme and traces it from Genesis to Revelation. He tackles some thorny theological issues, one of which I still wrestle with. In discussing whether or not the appearances of the Angel of The Lord or other theophanies (appearances of God) in the Old Testament are the pre-incarnate Christ, Cole says (after quoting Calvin along similar lines):

The suggestion that the anthropomorphic theophanies were actually appearances were actually appearances of the pre-incarnate Son of God is plausible and the idea is defensible. However, it must be observed that even though this proposition is consistent with the biblical testimony it is not demanded by it (120).

That’s more or less where I land at the moment, though David Murray almost convinced me otherwise. It would seem to diminish the significance of the incarnation in the Gospels if it happened at times in the Old Testament. Also “pre-incarnate” almost doesn’t make sense (think about it for a minute). Christ is either incarnate in his appearance to humans or not, there isn’t really an in-between ethereal state.

Even though it is a kind of side issue to the main study, I was intrigued by Cole’s appendix on theological interpretation of Scripture.He begins by explaining his understanding of the relationship of biblical and systematic theology. Systematic theology functions as a kind of shorthand for theological expressions, and often uses proof texts. As Cole sees it, “systematic theology’s proof texts, however, need to be derived from the application of a sound biblical theology method” (172). Likewise, biblical theology “helps systematic theology get the proportions right in its accents” (173). Cole suggests that “this is an exceedingly important contribution. In my opinion there is a crying need for a systematic theology text to be written that does just that.” Michael Bird has taken this to heart and tried to do just that.

After clarifying all this, Cole then asks how biblical theology and theological interpretation of Scripture are related. He distinguishes them as separate tasks, unlike Brian Rosner who sees them as synonymous. Cole explains, “biblical theology on the one hand helps me to know what I see, whereas the theological interpretation of Scripture helps me to know how to serve the church with what I see as I endeavour to bring the text and the present together in a meaningful fashion” (173). He thus sees the disciplines as complementary and indispensable. Ultimately he says, “when systematic theology uses biblical theology to connect text and present in a normative fashion, we are engaged in the theological interpretation of Scripture” (174).

The upshot of all this is that Cole, in the span of several short pages, explains how to connect systematic theology, biblical theology, and theological interpretation of Scripture in a way that affirms the place of each without eradicating the need for the others. I’ve seen people get burned out on systematic theology and opt to move to biblical theology as their new bread and butter reading. Often, I think this is because they grow weary of the proof texting and want to see more substantial exegetical interactions. And so they should. However, biblical theology isn’t aimed at offering summary statements, and also isn’t aimed at taking those summaries and connecting them to the present like theological interpretation of Scripture should be doing. If you really want to see this all done well, get Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings in the Brazos Theological Commentary on The Bible. Daniel Treier called it the best one in the series at the Southeast Regional ETS meeting. To paraphrase, he more or less said if you want to see theological interpretation done well, read Leithart’s volume. I did that in my quiet time during 1 & 2 Kings this fall, and I would have to agree.

All of this also illustrates why you should pick up every copy of a book in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. Though Cole’s book was focused on a biblical theology of the incarnation, there is always more involved. There are side roads along the way that prove to be fruitful explorations and that only strengthens the overall value of the book. Especially with Christmas right around the corner, you might want to look into adding Cole’s fine study to your library, and maybe even put several more volumes in this series on your Amazon Christmas list that I know you have.

Graham A. Cole, The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation, (New Studies in Biblical Theology). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, May, 2013. 240 pp. Paperback, $22.00.

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The other day I decided to rock an older album from my iTunes library, For Today’s Ekklesia. It was one of my go-to albums in the fall of 2008. They are thankfully still around making music and here is their most popular video off their most recent album Fight The Silence:

Also, here’s an interview with the vocalist:

And, while we’re at it, here’s the music video for the song using The Shema that I mentioned in an article over at Christ and Pop Culture: