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The New American Commentary Volume 29 - 2 Corinthians
The New American Commentary Volume 29 - 2 Corinthians
by David E. Garland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great all-around volume with special attention to theological concerns, Sept. 24 2013
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Few commentaries successfully combine solid scholarship and depth of discussion with accessible and engaging writing but this volume on 2 Corinthians by David E. Garland takes a prominent place among them. While clearly on the technical side of the spectrum (537 pages of text), Garland’s commentary may be read front to back.

The NAC series is based on the NIV translation, but Garland lets the reader know when and why he disagrees with the NIV’s rendering of a particular passage. Interaction with the Greek text is split between the body of the commentary, where Greek words are always transliterated, and the footnotes, where they are not, making for a best-of-both-worlds approach and leaving the body of the text accessible to laymen. Though discussion of introductory matters such as historical-political context, Paul’s mission, chronology of events, occasion, purpose, unity of the letter, etc., is brief (a mere twenty five pages), it is sufficient to give readers a solid orientation before beginning the commentary proper.

This volume is grounded in careful exegesis, frequently working through various interpretive options and consulting the broader Pauline corpus, before arguing for the author’s understanding of the text. The author converses with ancient non-canonical texts, yet uses them without giving in to the temptation of many commentators to view Paul as beholden to the literary styles and rhetorical forms of his day. Never ignoring literary and rhetorical concerns, such as Paul’s use of inclusio and chiasmus, Garland nevertheless focuses more on the theological or pastoral point Paul is making than how Paul makes it. Garland gleans from past and contemporary secondary literature in a way that adds value to the discussion of 2 Corinthians rather than distracting from it and at no point, even during excursus on famously thorny passages, does the reader lose their place in the flow of discussion of the letter itself.

In the introduction, Garland argues convincingly for the unity of 2 Corinthians rather than seeing it as a compendium of various writings, such as portions of the lost “sorrowful letter” (p. 38-44). These discussions are fleshed out in the body of the commentary as context warrants. Garland identifies 2 Corinthians 1:12-14 as the thematic statement of the letter (p. 42).

Garland’s sensitivity to Paul’s tact and his awareness of the pastoral implications of this most pastoral of Paul’s letters shows in his frequent distillation of principles and crisp summary statements of the apostle’s argument. Garland’s applications never feel forced, preferring to keep them general, and thus they are seldom tied to current cultural phenomena in such a way as to render them unintelligible to readers in different historical or cultural settings. A good example of this pastoral awareness comes in the discussion of 2:4:

“Discipline is never painless – for the one who delivers it or the one who receives it. Calvin points out that godly pastors weep within themselves before making others weep. Paul is neither ironhearted nor ironhanded. His love for them motivated his actions entirely. If they were grieved, he leaves no doubt that he was grieved more” (p. 115).

There are some places where Garland’s interpretation seems strained, most prominently his take on the nature of the challenge to Paul’s apostleship. Garland doesn’t think that Paul’s apostolic authority was being questioned by the Corinthians, only his adequacy (p. 48-49); not his mandate, only his methods.

“The epistle is about Paul’s ministry, which the Corinthians fail to understand (not about the legitimacy of his apostleship, which is not in question). They understand him only in part (1:14) because they still evaluate things from the perspective of the flesh” (p. 32).

‘Amen’ to everything here, except what is between the parentheses. This stance resurfaces throughout the commentary and, to this reader at least, becomes somewhat tedious. Garland recognizes that some of the Corinthians, under the influence of the “super apostles”, have become “disgruntled with Paul” and have “belittled his apostolic gifts (10:10)...distrusted his motives (11:7-11)...accused him of unreliability, duplicity, and cowardice...” and “even began to call into question his gospel” (p. 55; see also p. 151, 312). In light of the varied and manifold ways Garland (rightly) sees the Corinthians’ calling into question so much of the Apostle’s person and ministry it seems like splitting hairs to repeatedly maintain that they weren’t questioning the legitimacy of his apostleship, only the manner of his apostleship.

Related to this, Garland feels that little can be known about Paul’s opponents. He does not see the “super-apostles” as related to the opponents Paul addressed in his Galatian or Philippian correspondence, a position which seems a bit too firm in light of the fact that they are clearly proud of their Jewish heritage (11:22). In Garland’s view, many commentators too often read into Paul’s arguments, assuming that he is either countering a charge against himself or some false teaching by an opponent (p. 213-4; p. 246, note 627; 272-3). Unless Paul clearly spells out the charge or opponent, Garland prefers to see Paul simply stating and clarifying the truth. Rather than building a case, however, Garland simply repeatedly reasserts this view, which leaves one with the impression that, where he accuses other commentators of assuming too much in one direction, he is guilty of assuming too much in the other. This assumption sometimes leads into false dichotomy, such as where Garland, commenting on 3:7-18, asserts that “Paul is not arguing against false apostles...He is defending his bold speech in correcting the Corinthians” (p. 167). One is left wondering why Paul couldn’t be doing both.

Garland summarizes Paul’s intentions in this letter as “defending his ministry”, accomplishing this in the main by clarifying “the implications of the gospel that they have failed to grasp” (32). He hopes the letter will move the Corinthian church to “become proud of him again (5:12)”, to give cheerfully and generously to the poor in Jerusalem, and to “understand the countercultural nature of the gospel” (32). Garland nails the concern of Paul’s heart for the Corinthians:

“If they cannot understand and appreciate his cross-centered life and ministry as demonstrated by weakness and suffering, how can they understand the cross and the weakness and suffering of Christ and apply it to their own lives?”...”Those who cannot see the glory in the cross of Christ because they are captured by the wisdom of this world will hardly see it in his suffering apostle. If they do see it, however, they will see how exceedingly glorious Paul’s ministry is. This letter is not just a personal defense; it is a restatement of the basic doctrine of the cross which Paul preached to them (1 Cor 2:2)” (32-3).

For Garland, this is at the center of the enduring relevance of 2 Corinthians.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Garland on a particular point of interpretation (and there is far more to agree with than not), one consistently comes away from this commentary edified and challenged. Any student or teacher of 2 Corinthians would benefit from having this worthy volume close at hand.

by Douglas Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars A much-needed finger in the eye of today's evangelical church, Sept. 20 2013
This review is from: Evangellyfish (Hardcover)
Moliere said "the duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them." He went on to say, "as the purpose of comedy is to correct the vices of men, I see no reason why anyone should be exempt." Douglas Wilson seems to share this conviction, but unlike so many who prefer to point the finger and make a joke at someone else's expense, Wilson points the finger firmly at the evangelical church, of which he is a part (most of his criticism is aimed at the mega-church movement, of which he is most definitely not a part).

Evangellyfish is a novel that has been described both as satire and as uncomfortably realistic: true on both counts. This book could only have been written by someone who has spent a lifetime ministering in the evangelical church, all the while grazing in the literary fields of Wodehouse, Menken, Bierce, Tom Wolfe, and P.J. O'Rourke. This story wades into the hypocrisy of the modern evangelical church, especially regarding its sexual sins and empire-building. Wilson combines the genius of Wodehouse's situational awkwardness, the needle-prick cynicism of Menken or Bierce, the cultural thermometer of O'Rourke and the hope of the Apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth, one hand on his forehead and muttering to himself, "I can't believe I'm having to explain this". This story should make evangelicals squirm, sweat, and hopefully repent. And that is Wilson's hope as well, because underlying the criticism and the punishingly unflattering portrait of the modern evangelical church (which one simultaneously hopes and doubts is grossly exaggerated) is the steady and jaunty note of grace.

Thirty-Nine Steps, The, Level 3, Penguin Readers
Thirty-Nine Steps, The, Level 3, Penguin Readers
by John Buchan
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars A-Thrill-A-Minute, Aug. 23 2013
OK, so this little adventure novel is light on character development and short on complexity. Current tastes seem to favor spider web-like plots and multi-layered subplots along with underlying and conflicting motivations in the respective psyches of the protagonists and villains and the resultant blurring of boundaries between good and evil. This is not that.

This is a simple, straight forward, face value story where the good guy is not only good but honest, noble and innocent and the bad guys are not only bad but scheming, persistent and mysterious. Far from being a weakness, this is perhaps the central charm of this tale. This story is thrill-a-minute, good clean fun, with coded messages, agents in disguise, foot chases through London streets, and hide and seek on the sprawling Scottish moors (perhaps the inspiration for the ending of "Skyfall"). It is light but good quality entertainment sprinkled with some genuinely charming mood and description (good cinematography, to mix mediums). Is it a classic? In its way, yes. This would have fired the imaginations of every boy from 10 to 25 (and up) when it was published. If you are still boyish at heart and would like a good escapist read that feels like a spy film from the 30s - 60s (reminiscent of The Man Who Knew Too Much), this is it. And its short enough to read in one or two sittings.

The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia
The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia
by Rowan Williams
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and enlightening read for fans (and critics) of Narnia, Aug. 8 2013
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Former Arch Bishop Rowan Williams really gets at the heart of much of what Lewis wants to reveal about God and ourselves in the Narnia books (and, in broader discussion, his other works).

Williams draws out three overarching themes from the Narnia books. First, that when we encounter Aslan (or God, in our world), we are invited to join a resistance movement, a rebellion against the power and control systems and value structures that currently hold sway in the world. On this first point, I wish Williams would have been more clear in drawing the connection between the White Witch (and other enemies of Narnia) and included the biblical terms for the equivalent in our world of what is being resisted (sin, evil, Satan, idols, etc.). Not that he avoids it completely, just that he focusses on certain ways those things manifest themselves in the world without always clearly putting them in biblical categories (I know, some of you are thinking, "surprise, surprise", this comes from being in the very political possition of Arch Bishop of a denomination falling apart). However, the book has the feel of being intended primarily for lovers of the Narnia books who are not Christians or who might be scared away by a volume too packed with the "language of the church".

The second point is that, as we begin to labour on Aslan's side, we soon realize that one of the things we are resisting and fighting against is our own natural selves which, whether we recognize it or not, are in league with the enemy and in fact is one with the enemy. Williams points out the many meetings characters have with Aslan where just being in his presence or looking into his eyes (or being looked at by his eyes) brings all kinds of realization and true self-knowledge and, ultimately, repentance. This self-knowledge is not that of psychoanalysis, going deeper and deeper into the self to discover who you really are, but rather that of seeing yourself from outside, through Aslan's eyes, for the first time, and knowing that this is the true you, stripped of all excuses which seemed so reasonable but not any longer, under Aslan's gaze. We see this in Peter as he admits that he was too hard on Edmund and that is partly what drove Edmund away, and we see it in Jill Pole, who isn't as brave when the Lion lays between her and the stream as she pretended to be on the edge of the cliff with Eustace, who fell off the cliff ultimately as a result of Jill's pride.

And the third point that Williams makes is that, far from what many expect when they meet Aslan (or God, being convinced that religion is all about rules), joy is the overwhelming response. Whether it is the teacher in the boy's school or the student in the girl's school at the end of Prince Caspian, when Aslan calls you to follow him, the sense that overwhelms is sheer, massive joy. Williams quotes the famous passage from the Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape writes to Wormwood that the enemy (God) is above all a hedonist, and that there are all kinds of things in the world that serve no other purpose other than that they bring enjoyment to people's lives. This was Lewis's own experience with coming to God, as referenced in the title of his autobiographical Surprised By Joy.

Further to the idea of joy, Williams also zeros in on Lewis's concept of "bigger inside than outside". Unlike many people's conceptions of the Christian faith, which is that it is constrictive (as in many false iterations it has been), Williams shows that Lewis saw faith as much less restrictive and much more freeing than unbelief. Whether it is entering Narnia through the wardrobe, entering the true Narnia through the stable (in Last Battle), or entering the walled garden (in Magician's Nephew and Last Battle), we see that each is bigger on the inside than on the outside, and that each successive world is more real, not less (think also Great Divorce), as we grow in our maturity and walk with Aslan or as we move on to the ultimate eschaton from this life.

Williams has a pretty good feel for Lewis. Williams recognizes the debt Lewis owes to Chesterton and is himself familiar enough with Chesterton to recognize similar themes in their writing (incidentally, I'd love to see a book by Williams which dives into G.K.C.'s The Man Who Was Thursday). He also draws on Lewis's personal letters to give further glimpses into Lewis's thinking. And Williams points out how much Charles Williams' thought worked its way into Lewis's thinking and writing as well, knowing enough of C. Williams' own writings to recognize where the cross-polination happens (again, perhaps R. Williams could be enticed to examine C. Williams' novels also, particularly The Place of the Lion, which displays some of the same underlying themes as the Narnia stories, particularly the Platonism in Magician's Nephew and Last Battle).

This book also does an admirable job, albeit a brief and partial one, of refuting some of Lewis's most recent and strident critics (Phillip Pullman, for example), and showing how much of what moderns don't like about Lewis is really their misunderstanding or misrepresenting him, or their unwillingness to cut Lewis any slack for being a product of a different time and cultural context, one actually far older than even Lewis's own times (Lewis self-identified as one of the last of the Old Western Men, a Medieval - descriptions which are swear words to his critics but which are not the backward and monstrous caricatures that those critics have made them out to be). A good example is Lewis's supposed misogyny, the supposedly classic example of which is Lewis's comments about Susan now only caring about her appearance and social life in Last Battle. As should be apparent to any reader of Narnia, and as Williams points out, Lucy is steadily portrayed as the most faithful, brave and spiritually sensitive (which is to say, wise) of the human characters in Narnia, excelling any of the male human characters. Though not perfect, she consistently shows faithfulness to and trust in Aslan to a greater degree than any of the boys in the Chronicles. Readers and would be critics of Narnia ought to take Lewis's perspective on the sexes more seriously and examine it on its merits rather than firing off salvos of criticism that have to ignore more than they examine of the stories in order to make their points.

Another criticism I have with Williams is his treatment of the theme of the goodness of creation. Williams rightly points out the love and value of creation, of plants and animals, that is a running theme in the Narnia books and that was dear to Lewis's own heart (he was a great lover of plants, animals and the outdoors in general and was never happier than when on a good long walk through uninhabited countryside). He shows how Lewis puts forth a serious idea of stewardship of creation in his stories and how it is the villains that pillage and destroy nature and the heroes who protect it. But Williams goes further in this theme than Lewis does, arguing that in Narnia, people often find themselves on the same level with the animals. While he points out the difference, he doesn't do quite enough digging to expose why Lewis didn't himself treat all the animals in Narnia equally. Of course Aslan, being the Christ figure, is actually above the human characters, but there are many non-talking beasts in Narnia that, while having value because they are Aslan's creations, are also a food source for both the human characters and the talking beasts of Narnia. Williams finds this an odd feature of the story rather than seeing Lewis's theology of creation and his anthropology at the heart of it. The talking beasts are the "people" of Narnia and so, in some ways, are the equals of the human characters, but on the other hand and as is apparent in the stories, Aslan purposes for representatives of the human race to rule over the animal kingdom of Narnia as vice-regents beneath him. So, I'm glad that Williams discusses this theme, but it will be left to others to open it up more fully.

All in all, a good read. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to Christian and non-Christian readers of Narnia alike. For another great study that focusses on other levels and themes, see Doug Wilson's book What I Learned in Narnia.

Weakness Is The Way: Life with Christ Our Strength
Weakness Is The Way: Life with Christ Our Strength
by J. I. Packer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.99
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Practical Exposition of Strength in Weakness through Christ from 2 Corinthians, July 16 2013
Anyone who has seen the publisher's promo video for this book might be forgiven for thinking it is a brief autobiographical sketch of the life of J.I. Packer. It is not. This is a relatively short but very practical, devotional, and edifying exposition of the main themes and thrusts of Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church.

2 Corinthians is usually considered the least understood of Paul's letters, perhaps because it is his least didactic and most intimately personal letter. 2 Corinthians has typically received less attention that Paul's other epistles, but for the student of Scripture willing to dig deep it is a gold mine, especially for someone involved in or contemplating pastoral, church planting or any type of missions ministry. It is also a work of great comfort and encouragement for the Christian who feels ineffective or ill-equipped for the gospel work God has placed them in or called them to. Conversely, 2 Corinthians should provide a sobering warning to anyone who never faces opposition or affliction in their Christian life. This is a letter of encouragement in the midst of weakness, knowing that God himself provides the strength to do all that which he calls his people to do.

This book was compiled from course lectures but in spite of this, it nowhere feels choppy or disjointed. There are tiny tidbits of Dr. Packer's life experience mentioned in the book, as well as some other illustrations used to flesh-out the various points of teaching, but not so much as one might have expected from the publisher's promotion. This book is accessible to new believers and lay people and is not intended to be a deep, scholarly treatment for students and pastors only. (Having first received this material in a lecture setting, I know that Dr. Packer's intention is not to teach to the intellectual top 20% of the class and leave the rest behind. Packer teaches so as to leave none behind.) That said, his very accessible treatment of 2 Corinthians is nevertheless based on thorough and careful exegesis of the Greek text and deep theological and pastoral reflection upon it, all in light of Paul's other writings and in the context of the Bible as a whole. Weakness as the way of ministering the gospel in particular and living the Christian life in general is variously, and sometimes simultaneously, the subtle underlying theme of the whole epistle of 2 Corinthians as well as in places the overt and direct focus of Paul's teaching. Packer opens up Paul's running theme of personal weakness but strength in Christ faithfully and applies it helpfully to today's church context.

Of particular note is the very helpful section on Christian money-management and giving. While all parts of this book are eminently helpful, this particular section itself is well worth twice the price of the book, partly because money is seldom taught on in the church today and partly because, when it is, so much of the modern church's teaching on money is patently unbiblical. Paul deals with the very ticklish subject of money in this letter and Dr. Packer boils his teaching down to some very succinct, very practical and applicable principles that the wealthy North American church would do well to put into practice, especially in light of the easy access we have to information about our poor and suffering Christian brothers and sisters in churches around the world.

All in all, I highly recommend this small book. It would make a great small group or Bible study guide and for anyone preaching or teaching through 2 Corinthians, this would be an excellent supplement to more scholarly treatments. And as with all of his teachings, Dr. Packer's modus operandi comes through loud and clear: that theology is for doxology (that studying Scripture in depth ought to result in a response of worship). For those wishing to study 2 Corinthians in depth, I recommend the following commentaries: Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 CorinthiansThe Second Epistle to the CorinthiansThe New American Commentary Volume 29 - 2 CorinthiansNiv Application Commentary 2 CorinthiansThe Message Of 2 CorinthiansThe Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
by David Berlinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.79
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Scientism of the New Atheists, June 3 2013
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This was really good. David Berlinski is a self-described secular Jew, but not a very good one in my estimation - he sounded more convinced of the reality of the God of Scripture than most modern day pastors (which is pretty sad). Not only does Berlinski dismantle the so-called scientific arguements of the "new atheists" but he shows that what is masquerading as science is really a religious philosophy. While that is no surprise, this book puts forth its argument with thorough understanding and truly fine word craft. The tone is something like what I imagine Christopher Hitchens would sound like if he had switched sides or what Ann Coulter and G.K. Chesterton would sound like had they collaborated (admittedly, two posibilities which history makes impossible). You can tell the argument of this book has struck a nerve by the way the atheists addressed in it have responded. In typical fashion, they are calling names, mocking the author's associations and questioning the author's qualifications to speak on the subject. It goes without saying that this is not the reaction of open minded scientists but of stuffy cardinals and bishops who smell heresy. Highly recommended.

Father Hunger
Father Hunger
by Douglas Wilson
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars In desperate need of fathers..., May 2 2013
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This review is from: Father Hunger (Paperback)
In this very timely book, author, pastor and professor, Douglas Wilson, identifies fatherlessness as a critical issue, perhaps the critical issue, of present-day Western society. Fatherlessness pervades not only the culture of the West but also the sub-cultures of the churches of the West. And fatherlessness can run rampant even in traditional, two-parent homes, when dads are disengaged or when they are more focussed on career, money and material possessions, "the guys", themselves and their pass times (surfing the web, TV, video-games, etc.), than they are in proactively providing for, protecting, and lovingly raising their children.

Wilson shows how many of the systemic and perennial problems our society battles actually stem from weak, disengaged, abdicating, abusive or non-existent fathers. He shows how the effects of father-hunger are broad and deep, and are measurable in many ways including ultimately contributing to higher crime rates, lower education standards and achievement, lower average earning ability of kids who grow up and move into the work force, lower overall societal morality, lower levels of personal responsibility, etc. Wilson discusses how government programs are not and never will be the answer to this problem. State programs are simply an impersonal attempt by the state to step in and father children in the absence of their true fathers. Many families then become reliant on the state, even many families with a father who is physically present at home but who is emotionally and provisionally tuned-out to his role of caring for his family. But the state cannot be a real father to children because, while it might send a cheque every month for groceries and day-care, such "provision" is effectively the same as an alimony payment; it is a reminder of the father-hunger, not a solution to it. The child needs more than a cheque in the mail. Children need the love and care and security of a responsible man who loves them and loves their mother in front of them.

The author traces the problems of societal and individual father-hunger to the root cause of abandoning our belief in a Father-God. When people no longer recognize that there is a God-the-Father and that his nature and works are spelled out for us in the pages of the Bible, and when people no longer recognize that this is the example after which all human fatherhood is supposed to be patterned, we are set adrift with no true model to base human fatherhood on. Wilson calls fathers back to Biblical faith and imitation of God the Father, in practice and not just in word. Only when the fathers in our society repent of the abdication of their proper roles and of the abandonment of their wives and children (even abandonment where the father still physically dwells with his family), and only when fathers turn to the one true pattern of Fatherhood, God the Father, in confession and faith, through the saving work of God the Son...only then will father-hunger begin to be repaired.

One issue with this book: I think that readers who are familiar with Wilson's other written works, whether his books or his blog, could get more out of this than those who have never read anything by him before. Wilson has a unique way of stating things and he can bounce quite quickly back and forth between serious and sarcastic. He can also sometimes assume too much of the first time reader of his works, for example that they know more of where he is coming from or share his presuppositions. Many do, I'm sure, but many more may not and for them, this book will not be as convincing or helpful as it could have been if it had been written from the perspective of speaking to a particular audience for the first time. Personally I don't find this a drawback or distraction as I am quite familiar with his works and communication style, but over the years I have received feedback from folks who have never read anything by Wilson before, and this has been a fairly consistant critique. However, it is not a major issue and in no way would I want to disuade anyone from reading this timely, helpful, and to be frank, crucial book for fathers as they fulfill their critical role in the home, the church and the world.

I highly recommend this book to all current and future fathers!

Holy Subversion (Foreword by Ed Stetzer): Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals
Holy Subversion (Foreword by Ed Stetzer): Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals
Price: CDN$ 12.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Subverting allegiance to everything but Jesus, April 26 2013
"Lord" is the title that the New Testament writers repeatedly assign to Jesus Christ. Lord ("Kurios" in Greek) was also the title that Caesar took for himself. This is no coincidence. The original preachers of the gospel understood that at the heart of the message they were called by God to proclaim was the fact that God the Father had given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. Caesar was not the ultimate authority but King Jesus was. Caesar was not to be worshipped, although he demanded it, only God was. Whenever Caesar's commands conflicted with those of Jesus, the disciples and apostles of Jesus obeyed God rather than the civil authority. Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord of all.

Trevin Wax has reminded us of this truth, a truth which must have come as a startling and disconcerting fact to the original hearers of the gospel message. The gospel of Jesus subverted the authority claims of Caesar over all of life. There could only be one ultimate authority figure in the life of a Christian and it had to be Jesus. He demanded to be Lord of all. Jesus does not share the throne of the universe with any other power and he will not share the throne of your life with any other power. Jesus demands total allegiance of his disciples. He is not satisfied with lordship over your religious sentiments and your Sunday mornings. To be a true Christian (Christ-one) means to have Jesus and only Jesus as master of your whole life in all its aspects.

Rome fell long ago, but we still have many "Caesars" calling for and demanding our allegiance. Just like the emperors of the Rome of long ago, there are many things which demand our time, energy and affection. When we give our allegiance to those things, when they become a central focus to us, we are ultimately and effectively rendering them our worship rather than rendering it to the Triune God alone. The author identifies some of the main competitors for our allegiance today as being self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power. Trevin points out that these things are not bad in and of themselves any more than legitimate civil authority is, but it is when we elevate these things to the place of control over us and allegiance to in our lives that we have effectively given them the lordship of our lives that only Jesus ought to, and rightfully does, have. This book is a call to a whole-hearted return to Jesus alone as Lord of all for the church. This return will affect every aspect of our lives - family, marriage, leisure, work - ultimately everything. This is a call to recognize that Christ is the foundation and center of all things for his people and that this fact ought to affect how we think and act in all areas of our lives.

Trevin concludes this book with a challenge to make this very public call to allegiance to Jesus as Lord central to our evangelism as it was to the evangelism of the early church. After all, this is the pattern we see in the apostolic proclamation of the gospel. We proclaim Jesus as Lord over against all else which demands people's allegiance and worship in our culture today.

This is a relatively short and very accessible book. It is not only for pastors and students but could be profitably read by any Christian. I highly recommend it. For further and more in depth study, see also
Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture.

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky
by Peter J. Leithart
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not documentary, but fine dramatic sketch, Jan. 15 2013
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This review is from: Fyodor Dostoevsky (Paperback)
I have to admit that when I first started into this biography of Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart, I wasn't all that impressed by the format. Rather than a traditional biography, where biographer looks into the subject's life from the position of a time-removed, omniscient, supposedly objective third party, this was done as a long running conversation between the great writer and a friend. In it, Leithart has Dostoevsky recounting his life, his work, his relationships, his opinions on literature, religion, politics, culture, Europe and Russia, all within a conversational context. There are flashbacks in which we go to the events as they unfolded, but those flashbacks happen as Dostoevsky reminisces with a good cigar in one hand and a glass of vodka in the other. So, if you crack this book expecting a documentary, you may be disappointed to find a dramatic monologue interspersed with dramatic reenactments. However, Leithart (who has taught on Dostoevsky for several years at the college level) has done a lot of research to ensure that, even though the conversation that carries the flow of Dostoevsky's recounting of his life was fictional, the details of that life are accurate, drawn from various biographies, contemporary journals, diaries of family and friends, Dostoevsky's own writings, etc.

I had a change of heart about a third of the way through this book. Initially not a fan of the format, I realized part way in that, though the format of this book didn't present quite as clear a chronology or give as much outside commentary on the psychology of the subject as most, I was getting a far better feel of Dostoevsky's own perception of himself and his times as well as other's opinions of him. I have read biographies of several people and I can honestly say that with this one, even though it is among the briefest biographies I've ever read, I believe I have a better "feel" of the subject than I have ever had before. There may not be the bulk of sheer facts that one normally encounters in biography, but I feel like I have gotten inside Dostoevsky's own head, viewing his life and times through his own eyes.

This biography is part of a series by Thomas Nelson called "Christian Encounters". I couldn't think of a more appropriate term for the reading experience afforded by this book. I feel as though I have truly "encountered" Fyodor Dostoevsky. Thank you, Peter Leithart, for a beautifully written encounter. I believe it has served manifold purposes, for this reader anyway, as it has given me the urge to read more of Dostoevsky's own works, a rich context within which to read them, and a desire to pick up a lengthier treatment of his life.

Canada and Other Matters of Opinion
Canada and Other Matters of Opinion
by Rex Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.17
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars No one says it like Rex, Jan. 7 2013
This is a compendium of Rex's opinion pieces from radio, newspaper and TV. When Rex is good, he is eloquently good, like when he is critiquing the vacuousness of our celebrity culture or the oxymoronic human rights commissions in Canada or taking on one of the reigning orthodoxies of our age, like global warming. But when he is bad, like when he is gushing about the public speaking skills of Barack Obama or when he is hanging all the Liberal's hopes on Michael Ignatiff (boy, did he miss call that one), at least he is still eloquent. Rex is an old school liberal, which is to say he is more conservative than most Democrats or even many Republicans (for a state-side comparison). He is great on his critique of the so called "arts" community and the work they frequently produce, but then mysteriously inconsistent when he criticizes the Conservative government for wanting to cut or eliminate tax-payer funding to "the arts" in Canada when they so often produce the unmitigated crap (in many cases, near pornographic) they do. But, by and large, Rex is a far better guide through the moral and political morass of modern politics and culture in Canada (and occasionally abroad) than the majority of pundits out there and he is far more down to earth and "everyman" and balanced than most editorial or opinion piece writers. Rex clearly loves his country and his province. Overall there is more good sense here than one usually finds in someone who has to write a regular column. I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could. Several of the pieces deserve a 5, some a 2. But there are more chapters worthy of a 4 than there are worthy of a 1 or 2.

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