Posts tagged ‘Book review’

March 28, 2014

The Song of Solomon

by Aaron Dunlop

037899This thin 98-page paperback is a reprint by a small publishing house called Bottom of the Hill Publishing (with no functioning website). It is laid out in a very basic format with no frills. The type has been re-set from the original 1879 edition in a larger and easy-to-read font. The spelling and language of the original has been preserved (although interestingly enough, the Scripture has been changed to more modern English). The original edition was arranged in 52 sections for Sunday reading. This edition is divided into eight chapters and the divisions correspond with the chapters and verses of the English text.

Henry Law interprets the Song of Solomon as “allegory follow[ing] on to allegory” (p. 11) by which he means that the relationship between Solomon and the Shulamite represent the love and relationship between Christ and His church. However, while many holding the allegorical interpretation distract from the simple beauty by letting their imaginations run away with them. Henry Law is moderate, discreet in his explanation, and draws from the rest of Scripture to help open up the Song of Solomon.

Of particular interest are the four descriptive songs, which are perhaps the most difficult, often embarrassing and regularly avoided. There are four of these songs in the Song of Solomon, one describing the male’s body (5:10-16) and three describing the female’s body (4:1-7; 6:4-7; 7:1-7). These songs (called wasfs) were common in the Ancient Near East and are intended to show attentiveness to beauty rather than human sensuality. Law treats these songs masterfully. Without getting caught up with the details of every body part, Law shows that these are intended instead to present a “portrait …[of] the charms” (p. 70) and a “general description … of beauty” (p. 75 see also p. 83).

This commentary is a simple verse-by-verse treatment of the book. It is concise, devotional, and above all Christ-endearing—the best in its class. This little commentary will lift you up to Jesus. It will “give wings to piety and warm utterance to prayer” (Preface, p. 9). You can buy Henry Law’s Song of Solomon at Christian Book Distributors. It is also available on Google Books as a PDF.

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March 22, 2014

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart

by Aaron Dunlop

9781433679216_cvr_webStop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J. D. Greear was published in February 2013 by B&H Publishing Group. In this neat little hardcover, designed in a funky yellow with a bold, all-caps title, J. D. Greear chastises the revivalistic, fear-mongering and guilt-driven type of gospel preaching that demands of the listener an in-the-moment “decision for Jesus” and then leaves them confused.  All of the clichés of this type of evangelistic preaching—“the sinner’s prayer,” “asking Jesus into your heart,” “getting saved” (p. 41), etc.,—are dealt with in a balanced and biblical presentation. I know of no other book that does this in such an easy-to-read and simple manner but also in a weighty, instructive, faith-building style. Pastors who labor to get people into the kingdom but lack ability in teaching them how to live in the kingdom need to read this book.

The main thesis, argued in different ways throughout the book, is stated in the first chapter like this: “Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life” (p. 5).  Greear goes on to show that assurance and obedience will flourish if it is rooted in this soil of true conversion (see p. 109-110).

What makes this book compelling is it was born out of hard, personal experience. The first chapter sets the scene with a little bit of history about the author, his church/spiritual background, and the reasons he wrote the book.  Greear says that before he was eighteen he “probably asked Jesus into [his] heart five thousand times” (p. 1), and he “prayed the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again” (p. 2).

Something else I like about this book is that Greear, frustrated with the shallow decisions pried out of a guilty and eager ignorance at an altar call, does not go to the other extreme. He believes that the sinner’s prayer is a biblical concept and that asking Jesus into your heart is not wrong in itself or un-biblical. His concern is that it is grossly misleading because it leaves so much more out of what happens at conversion that is equally important, the sealing of the Spirit, the washing of the blood, one’s name being written in the Lamb’s book of life, etc.  (p. 8–9). These are the aspects of conversion that bring me comfort and assurance. Greear assures us that “salvation comes, not because you have prayed a prayer correctly but because you have leaned the hopes of your soul on the finished work of Christ” (p. 11).

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart is an excellent presentation of the gospel, or—as Page Patterson put it in the forward—“a profound reflection on the nature of salvation” (xiii). This is a book to give to seeking sinners. It will draw them in to Christ to take refuge in Him. It will encourage you not to presume on the doctrine of “eternal security” but to understand it correctly; “it’s not incorrect to say; “once saved always saved.” It’s just incomplete. It is also true “once saved, forever following” (p. 86–87), because “faith that fades is not saving faith” (p. 79). This book will encourage you not only to look for evidences of salvation but also to rest continually in the accomplishments of Christ. Buy it, read it, live it, and pass it on.

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February 28, 2014

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

by Aaron Dunlop

MIS85-2The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is the title of one of the most significant Christian books in decades. It is the story of Rosaria Butterfield in which she chronicles her journey from being a lesbian feminist to a follower of Christ—the “details of the inner landscape of [her] conversion to Christ.” It is a remarkable story in itself, but this book is much more than a conversion story.

In reading this book one is overwhelmed with a sense of God’s purpose and providence in the conversion of a sinner. When the Lord saved Paul on the road to Damascus He saved a mature, informed, and articulate sinner, proactive in his hostility against Christ. The same is remarkably true of Rosaria Butterfield. But the important thing about Mrs. Butterfield’s conversion is that, like Paul, the attributes that made her a significant sinner also make her a very useful saint. Her involvement in the GLBT community, her unusual introduction to Christianity, her refreshing view of the gospel, and her insightful understanding of evangelicalism are all very well articulated because—in the providence of God—she was an English professor at a major university in the United States.

All 148 pages of this book are weighted with thoughtfulness. It is witty and sober, reflective and insightful. As you read this book you will be moved by the warmth of the gospel at work in the mind and heart. You will be overwhelmed with the sheer power of God to “overhaul” the “soul and personality” (p. 34). Most of all, this book will make you think. It will cause you to reevaluate your Christian worldview and force you to face your secret sins with biblical honesty rather than with the self-preserving pretense that our Christian culture has encouraged. Parents will be confronted with the increasing need to instruct their children for the sake of the world rather than insulate them out of fear of the world.

The broader evangelical church will find in this book a corrective to modern evangelism and the fluffy, cheap-grace presentation of the gospel that denies the expectations that the gospel makes on the life. The cruelty and dehumanizing that many evangelical Christians have manifested in the name of piety and social morals towards the GLBT community is exposed. You will be forced to acknowledge that the homosexual is actually a human being and an image bearer of God, and you will see that to reach this community you must make the biblical distinction between acceptance and approval. Rosaria Butterfield refreshingly speaks of “my friends in the GLBT community.” Rosaria graciously offers a shot in the arm to the one who would dare to be like Jesus and be a “friend of publicans and sinners.” This book will both bring you to tears and give you a chuckle; it will inspire you, inform, and instruct you in how to live as a Christian in a culture that needs real Christians. You will want to buy this book and read it a second or third time. You can buy the book here.

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