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Conviction to Lead, The: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
Conviction to Lead, The: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
by Albert Mohler
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 13.44

5.0 out of 5 stars The place to start for leadership wisdom, May 20 2014
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This book is very, very good. Most books on leadership are all about methods and management, and while the author admits those things are important and he speaks to them in this volume, Al Mohler very correctly explains that solid and effective leadership begins and ends with the leaders convictions. For leadership to truly seek and result in the success of the cause or organization being lead, that leadership must be based upon, nurtured through, and be measured against the truth-based convictions of the leader(s). If leading your organization or movement doesn't start with, persevere in and point toward firmly held convictions which are themselves based solidly in reality and in transcendental or "timeless" truths, no amount of pragmatic methods or strategic management will matter. While this book would benefit any leader at any level, it is particularly beneficial to those at the very top of their organizations and also those in some form of Christian ministry or endeavor as Mohler's biblical Christian worldview is the basis for his own firmly held convictions and comes out in all he writes. The reader benefits from Mohler's own experience as a successful leader in a few different contexts as well as from the wisdom he has gleaned from his own prodigious and varied reading. This book is (thankfully) devoid of corporate-speak, pop-culture and self-improvement jargon and is written clearly and argued plainly, making it accessible for anyone, including those for whom this is their first entry into leadership literature. This book will remain as relevant and timeless as the truths it is based upon. Very highly recommended.

A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home
A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home
by Jason Helopoulos
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.93
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your family and church will be happier and richer for this book, May 13 2014
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This is a really solid case for and practical introduction to the largely lost practice of family worship. I appreciated the author's focus on family worship as a gracious gift God has given to Christian families and the church, a "means of grace", rather than another duty to heap upon already busy families which weighs them down. Helopoulos makes a biblical case for family worship, then speaks of the practical benefits and rich spiritual blessings it brings to family life. He goes on to describe what family worship in the home can look like - mainly Scripture reading with some simple exposition and questions to promote understanding, prayer and singing Psalms, theologically-rich hymns, and God-honouring praise songs (along with some additional and optional elements that some families may want to incorporate). Also valuable is the author's discussion on the tone such times ought to take, calling families to joyful, reverent, regular and consistent worship. The section on what family worship is not is very important and every family seeking to make family worship a practice in their home would do well to keep these cautions in mind and be careful never to let this gracious gift of God degenerate into disciplinarian brow-beating, pet-doctrine soap-boxing, mere moralism, or an idol in and of itself, where family becomes the focus. Family worship, like private and corporate worship, must be Godward-focused and must never become a tool for parental guilt-tripping or emotional and behavioural manipulation, nor should it ever just become a casual family time which has some loose Christian association or vague biblical orientation.

The author includes some good testimonies and stories from families who have made family worship a regular practice. I also appreciated the very pastoral approach to encouraging families who are trying to begin this practice in their home. Helopoulos advises starting slow, small and keeping it simple and short. And when the inevitable days come where it gets missed, rather than feeling like a failure, he encourages families to just pick it right back up instead of beating themselves up. It is first and foremost grace after all, which means it is primarily a gift God gives to families, not a duty he demands of them. Yes, family worship is both commanded and exampled in Scripture, but so is Baptism, Communion, corporate worship, and loving your spouse and children, and the commands for these other things are only properly obeyed when they themselves are seen as gracious gifts from the hands of a loving Father, and when we do them out of love and joy, delighting in them, not chafing under them.

I highly recommend this book to all families and to pastors looking to recover this once common Christian practice.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
by Tom Standage
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.04
54 used & new from CDN$ 5.90

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting...ish, but pretty wooden, and the premise is cool, but a stretch, March 7 2014
This book was ok. You can get the gist of the book by reading the last paragraph of each chapter. There was some interesting history here but the premise - that these six drinks were somehow instrumental in directing the flow of historical progress - is a bit tenuous. These drinks were certainly linked to historical shifts and changes, but the author makes them out to sound considerably more of a key factor then they likely were. The first half of the book is about three alcoholic drinks (beer, wine and spirits) and the second half about three caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea and Coke). I would say the second half (or 2/3) was more engaging. Overall, clear, straight forward, but uninspired writing. Good reading if you are sitting in an airport. 2 3/4 stars.

Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
by N D Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.32
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5.0 out of 5 stars Life is meant to be spent..., Jan. 27 2014
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In this follow up book to his Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, N.D. Wilson reminds us that we are all characters in a grand story and most of us are not nearly as important in the grand scheme as we often like to think we are (you don't have to read Tilt-a-Whirl first as each book stands alone). But while we don't get to pick the role we play, we do get to choose how we will play that role. Will you be a hero or a villain, a noble or a petty character? Will you act as if everything is about you or will you open your eyes to see your bit part but choose to play it to the full? Will you be thankful for the part you play or will you go through life bitter and wishing yourself into the lead role of your own little imaginary universe? When you exit the stage, will others say that you played your role whole-heartedly, half-heartedly or hard-heartedly?

Like Tilt-a-Whirl, this book is part personal memoir, part family history, part philosophical reflection, part stream-of-consciousness (sort of) theological meditation, but it is 100% gratitude to God for life, for his gracious working in and through the lives and circumstances that touch each one of us, and a challenge to strip away the lenses we all strap on over our eyes which too often make life mundane and render our hearts ungrateful. I found myself laughing out loud at places where Wilson is recollecting a family trip to Europe with several small children on one hand, and nearly at the point of tears when he recalls a white-knuckled drive through a mountain blizzard through which his wife and children slept peacefully as he slid all over the road between snow banks and guard rails, firing prayers heavenward which alternated between profound gratitude for his family and intense pleas for their safe journey through the storm (I identified with both scenarios).

I found this book a little more jump-aroundy than Tilt-a-Whirl, something which will make it a tad difficult for some readers to follow in places as the author jumps back and forth between thoughts and themes. Also, there is more of Wilson's own experience here than the last book and a little less clarity in places about what point he is making. But if you enjoy well turned phrases springing from a heart of thanks, and if poetic meditations which turn the everyday into the eternally significant float your boat, you won't be disappointed. If you don't enjoy those things, your reading habits need to get out more. Either way, you will benefit from this book.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen
by Peter J. Leithart
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.50
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen 101, Jan. 27 2014
This review is from: Jane Austen (Paperback)
This is a brief, solid, interesting introduction to the life and personality of Jane Austen. It is meant as an "encounter" as the series title suggests, so don't look here for a thorough, minutely detailed biography. This book sets out to introduce the reader to "Jenny" Austen, and that it does quite capably. The reader will come away knowing a good deal about Austen's personality, her family, friends, life experiences, historical and cultural context, her writing career (which began at a very young age), her faith and her very good sense of humour, as well as how she was received and thought of by her contemporaries. For those wanting more detailed info, the footnotes point the reader to a gold mine of other sources. Recommended.

Between Heaven And Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death, JFK, C.S. Lewis  and  Aldous Huxley
Between Heaven And Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death, JFK, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley
by Peter Kreeft
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.55
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4.0 out of 5 stars Christian theism vs. Christian humanism and pseudoChristian pantheism, Jan. 1 2014
3.5 stars. I have wanted to read this book for years as I think the premise is good and I am a big Lewis fan. This is a three way conversation in an intermediate place - somewhere between this life and the next - between three very important and influential men shortly after their death within hours of each other (C.S. Lewis, J.F.K. and Aldous Huxley). Fictional conversation is not a favourite genre of mine but it is fairly well done here, particularly in its grasp of the topic of debate and the logic of each position (Christian theism, Christian humanism, and Christian pantheism respectively) and in keeping the pace of conversation going. The "voices" of each of the characters don't sound quite as individual and differentiated as one would expect. It is hard to imagine Lewis quoting his own books in a debate much less quoting himself multiple times. Its not so hard to imagine Aldous Huxley doing so. And the conversation doesn't feel truly like a real conversation, as it is without much reference to the lives the three men very recently vacated. One imagines much more illustration from Lewis, and the "real world" pragmatism of Kennedy backed up by examples from his very recent political career. This conversation feels much more like a formal debate in which all three participants have cordially agreed to self moderate and play fair. Also, it feels more like two separate conversations (Lewis and Kennedy first, then Lewis and Huxley) rather than a true conversation in which all three participate simultaneously. Of course that is to be expected in a Socratic dialogue but I just felt it needed a bit more "real life" feel to make it great. Lewis emerges as the far superior intellect, which I think is quite accurate but which I think would have come across not quite as blatantly with two men he didn't know personally. Neither Lewis nor Huxley have many quotable lines in this conversation, which was not the case for these two accomplished wordsmiths in real life and which makes this not feel like its really them speaking. All this is to say that the author's voice tends to have a levelling effect and make the three conversationalist's voices sound too similar and rather flat. So, while the message is quite a fair representation of the positions of the debaters, the medium doesn't quite ring of accuracy. Still, a reasonably good read that is worthwhile.

Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After
Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After
by Trevin Wax
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.79
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clear and honest answers to genuine thorny questions about the Christian faith, Dec 16 2013
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This book falls within one of my least favourite sub-genres of literature, personal conversation-fiction (not sure if that's an official genre or not), so I didn't have very high expectations for it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Trevin Wax's job of doing this genre well. This book is mainly a running conversation between an early twenties Christian young man and his 80ish year old former Pastor and very wise and winsome grandfather. The young man is questioning the truth and livability of the Christian faith in light of some pluralistic, relativistic, postmodern goo he received from his religion professor at college as well as some old fashioned relational issues with people he cares about but who reject some of the truth claims and moral stances of biblically faithful and orthodox Christianity or who have acted hypocritically and hurt him. Due to some (believable) life circumstances, the young man and his grandfather end up spending a New Years long weekend together and all the young man's doubts and questions come out and are lovingly, winsomely and confidently answered by his grandfather, but always within the context of a genuninely caring relationship and never in a condescending way. This book is strong on not giving typical or expected patt answers and almost never is the conversation clunky or wooden (though not quite feeling like real life at points), which was my biggest fear going in. This book is as strong in its example of how to relate to people who are genuninely questioning the Christian faith as it is faithful in the answers it provides to those questions. I recommend heartily.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
by Kevin DeYoung
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.46
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take time out of your busy schedule for this one..., Nov. 24 2013
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Right off, I highly recommend this book to Christians who are struggling with feeling too busy all the time, whether in some form of vocational ministry or not. You will not find three helpful hints or twelve easy steps or forty days to change here. But you will find a biblically based book that is one part genuine commiseration and nine parts wise, practical, God-centered and Bible-based help for people whose lives feel perpetually crazy busy. (If you are too busy to read the rest of this review, which is pretty long and detailed for such a short book – just 118 pages – go ahead and read the book...anyone can take away much that that they will find truly helpful. If you want more convincing, keep reading.)

Kevin DeYoung assures the reader early on in Crazy Busy that, although he is crazy busy, he doesn’t consider it a badge of honour or something to brag about. He then goes on to describe the various things that keep him busy and that have kept him busy in past seasons of life. (My favourite part of his litany of busy is his description of how in seminary, among many other things, he “sang in three different choirs at the same time.” I tried to picture singing in three different choirs at the same time. That’s quite a skill. If he would just have sung three part harmony at the same time in one choir he could have cut his choir practice schedule by two-thirds. But I digress...) The page and a half of this seems longer than necessary and I’ve read comments by some readers online who took this to be bragging and didn’t finish the book. Read on. The author genuinely wants to help Christians walk in Christ honouring obedience and true gospel witness. If the reader pushes past the first chapter (basically a justification for a book like this), you will be rewarded with much to help you with the pervasive problem of busyness. The author doesn’t claim to have it all together but readily admits his own struggles in this area. In fact, DeYoung used this writing project to wrestle with the issue of being crazy busy and to search for biblical and practical wisdom to help himself and others overcome this problem.

The second chapter warns that being crazy busy is a spiritual sickness which has real potential to wreck our lives. DeYoung warns that this kind of busyness ruins one’s joy, robs your heart, and covers up the rot in our souls. As DeYoung sums up: “The greatest danger with busyness is that there may be greater dangers you never have time to consider.”

In the third chapter, we are warned that often busyness is a manifestation of pride. That pride is often not recognized as such since our hearts can be so self-deceptive. Pride can take many forms, and DeYoung gives us a few, each starting with “P” to remind us these are all pride at heart: People pleasing, Pats on the back, Performance evaluation, Possessions, Proving myself, Pity, Poor planning, Power, Perfectionism, Position, Prestige, Posting (the blogging / facebook / twitter kind). While admitting there is more to it than this, DeYoung offers this diagnostic question to help us root out pride: “Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?”

Chapter four is called, “The Terror of Total Obligation”, and is all about “trying to do what God does not expect you to do.” DeYoung uses the life and example of Jesus to illustrate that God calls us to certain things in this life, not to everything. Jesus himself didn’t do all that could be done or minister to everyone in every way. There were many people he did not heal or preach to. But Jesus was conscious to do all that the Father had sent him to do, no more and no less. DeYoung warns the reader against developing a “Messiah complex” and about being sure to take time for our own spiritual enrichment just as Jesus himself did. There will always be more things, even good and worthy things, that need to be done, but we are not called to do everything. Only that which the Father has called us to do.

Chapter five develops some of the thoughts of chapter four further. DeYoung points out that we are actually ineffectual in our ministry and efforts to help others if we don’t set firm priorities for ourselves. Drawing on the gospel of Mark, DeYoung illustrates this from Jesus’s own life. He points out that “Jesus was so terrifically busy, but only with the things he was supposed to be doing.” And in all he was busy doing, he never lost joy and peace. We are encouraged to set priorities because we can’t do it all and because we must have priorities if we are to serve others most effectively. DeYoung also reminds us that we must not impose our own priorities upon others but must let them work out their own priorities with God. “Stewarding my time is not about selfishly pursuing only the things I like to do. It’s about effectively serving others in the ways I’m best able to serve and in the ways I am most uniquely called to serve.”

I found chapter six to be the weakest in the book, mainly because I think the problem that DeYoung points out is not nearly as widespread as he seems to think. The problem is that of freaking out because you believe your children’s whole futures, in this life and the next, all hang on your efforts at raising and training them properly. There certainly are folks out there who are constantly anxious and stressed out about every little thing and are always second guessing whether they’ve done things right or whether they’ve done enough. I believe that the author had this type of parent in mind, and such parents need to be reminded that God is sovereign and they are not, that he saves people and they do not, and that they can sow and water in the lives of their children but only God can give the increase. Such parents need to learn to stand on God’s promises and rest in his love. However, in my ministry and everyday experience I have run into more Christian parents who have the opposite problem.

Many parents, while verbally acknowledging God as priority one and incorporating some Christian aspects into family life (such as praying before meals), practically raise their children in much the same ways as the average parents in our surrounding society do, with the kids involved in umpteen different activities, rushing off in all directions, eating meals separately, consumed with screen time (be that TV, movies, computers, ipads, ipods, etc.) and not giving God the daily time together as family that he calls parents to (Deut. 6:4-9). While I fully recognize that DeYoung is addressing a real need and a danger some Christian parents fall in to, the pervasiveness of the other problem in Christian homes today makes me worry that many parents who read this book and who need to be challenged to drop most of their other activities and busyness and to slow home life down and return to actively discipling their children will instead feel justified in their various levels of parental negligence. It is certainly true that God is sovereign and that some children of Christian families will not “turn out”, but God in his sovereignty has also made it clear that the normal means he has ordained for children to be brought to faith is through the teaching, example, love and training of their parents. For this reason, I wish this chapter was more balanced or that there was a follow-up chapter called, “Stop charging off in all directions and stay home together for a change.”

The huge time-sink of various electronic media is the topic of chapter seven. DeYoung admits his own problems in this area, and is correct in pointing out that many people burn up a lot of time with their electronic gizmos. DeYoung tallies, “I have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a Bluetooth headset, an iPhone, an iPad, wifi at work and at home, cable TV, a Wii, a Blu-ray player, multiple e-mail accounts, and unlimited texting. Pride comes before a fall.” He points to a number of ways all this electronica harms us spiritually, and suggests some very helpful ways of mitigating the negative effects, the most helpful of which is to set up boundaries and strictly enforce them (eg. no texting at the table, no work emails after hours, etc.). This problem is bigger than many people are willing to admit. In this whole area, perhaps our first reaction to a new gizmo or gadget ought to be along the lines of, “just because a new technology exists doesn’t make it good and doesn’t mean I need it.” At the dawn of the PC, most people trumpeted how much time it would save and how much more productive it would make us. Being humans, we’ve figured out how to use modern technology to help us waste even more time than we used to. These technologies are not bad in themselves, but we must master them or they will master us.

Chapter eight is about keeping a proper biblical rhythm in our lives, which means that we must include rest as part of our weekly routine. DeYoung correctly acknowledges that Christians throughout history have taken different views on the Sabbath (Reformed Christians have varied too, from the Puritan view of fairly strict rest from all forms of work to Calvin viewing the Sabbath rest as basically fulfilled in Christ). Yet he reminds us that the church has consistently recognized the Lord’s Day as different from all other days of the week and that it is to be a day to worship God together with his people and to be a break from the normal routine of our daily labours. God built a natural pattern into humanity and we require rest. As DeYoung says, “Whatever your take on the specific dos and don’ts of Sunday, I hope that every Christian can agree that God has made us from the dust to need regular times of rest. He built it into the creation order and commanded it of his people...God gives us Sabbath as a gift; it’s an island of get-to in a sea of have-to.” This is possibly the strongest chapter in this book and the one, in my experience at least, that the church most needs to hear. DeYoung issues a much needed call for Christians to return to a Lord’s Day observance and rhythm of rest that in past eras was a given but which for the church today often looks little different from the surrounding secular society.

The next chapter looks at the burden of busyness from a different angle. DeYoung points out that often we make busyness seem so much worse than it really is by having unbiblical expectations and ideals for our lives. He reminds us that the American dream, with its heavy emphasis on leisure, pleasure and ease, has nothing to do with living faithful Christian lives in which Jesus promised that all of his disciples would face suffering and hardship. Clearly suffering will look different for Christians in different times and contexts, but one thing is certain: always getting whatever we want, being wherever we want, and doing whatever we want all the time is not a Christian ideal. Jesus calls his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow him. When our lives are consumed with obedience to Christ and serving others, we are often quite necessarily busy. But if we are constantly wishing for perpetual leisure or always coveting time to do all our favourite things and not the often hard things that self-sacrifice necessarily involves, busyness seems far worse than it is. Our lives are not our own and this life is not all about self-fulfillment but about faithfulness to God and gospel service for the sake of others. Such a life will be busy and tiring, but the burden will seem all the heavier for having an improper and unbiblical view about what life should be like. In God’s strength, this burden will be light, but it will still be a burden.

The final chapter is about exchanging the good for the best. DeYoung points to the famous story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha’s home (Luke 10). Here Martha hosts and serves while Mary sits at Jesus’s feet and listens to his teaching. Martha complains that her sister ought to be helping her but Jesus responds that Mary has chosen the better thing. To be clear, Jesus is not saying that being busy in the service of others is bad. Rather, he is saying that we need to have right priorities; we need to be oriented correctly. Jesus himself needs to be our highest priority, our main and central focus, around and after which all other things must fall into their proper place. The lesson is not that we should be seeking to get out of serving others, but rather that service and busyness must not be our primary focus. Our relationship with God must be first and foremost; we must learn to sit at the feet of Jesus. Only then will we be in the right place to go about all that we have to do. DeYoung calls Christians to carve out time for devotions, personal Bible study and prayer. After all, the Christian life is a relationship with our Heavenly Father and with our Lord, through the Spirit, and for this relationship to thrive, we must purposefully spend time with God. DeYoung ends this chapter and the entire book with this worthy wisdom:
“It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

The New American Commentary Volume 29 - 2 Corinthians
The New American Commentary Volume 29 - 2 Corinthians
by David E. Garland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.59
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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.

Evangellyfish
Evangellyfish
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.

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