The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘James S. Spiegel

Wider reading

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In By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me (Reformation Trust, 2010) we see Sinclair Ferguson in his best clothes, as pastor-preacher.  In this companion volume to In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust, 2007) we find nothing novel but much that is fresh and sweet.  Taking the hymn of African pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomana (“O how the grace of God/Amazes me”) as his Rough Guide to Christian truth and experience, the author guides us with a Scripture map more closely through God’s gracious dealings with sinners.  Addressing readers of all situations and circumstances, the exegesis is simple and thorough with occasional particular insights to ponder, and profundities into which we gaze, humbled.  This is more than a mere study of doctrine by a disinterested observer: a man captured by grace calls on us to know and feel the truth in its power – to taste, enjoy and live relying on God’s amazing grace in Christ.  Warmly recommended for those needing to arrive at or return to first things.  (Westminster Bookstore/Amazon)

Despite sounding like an invitation to some kind of evangelical Iron Man event, The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard D. Phillips (Reformation Trust, 2010) is an excellent contribution to the literature on Biblical manliness.  Phillips helpfully begins by considering man as man, called to ‘work’ and ‘keep’ as God’s image bearers on earth.  Only then does he consider that calling in the context of marriage, child-discipling and friendship, then more broadly in the church, making the book useful for men of different character and circumstance.  Phillips avoids the current trend in some circles to call upon men to summon up their inner cage-fighter, and produces a sane, balanced, and Scriptural approach in fairly brief scope that will be of help to many.  (Westminster Bookstore/Amazon)

In The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Moody Publishers, 2010), author James S. Spiegel sets out not so much to shift the goalposts as to choose a new playing field.  The aim is to get behind the protestations of intellectual difficulty to the (im)moral underpinnings of atheism.  With a thesis that may be familiar from more in-depth considerations of the motives and appetites of intellectuals of various stripes, Spiegel suggests that atheism involves a wilful rejection of God, often precipitated by immoral indulgences and typically a damaged or broken paternal relationship.  Atheism is revealed as a moral rather than rational stance which increasingly blinds the eyes and deadens the conscience over time.  The Scriptural basis for such assertions receives only a brief treatment, and for the most part the writer seeks to turn atheism’s guns back on itself.  Certain throwaway comments also raise the question of exactly what kind of Christianity the author would be inviting an atheist to.  Nevertheless, a provocative little book that may help Christians to look beyond the appearances and protestations of modern atheism and then to consider and address the folly in the heart of the natural man.  (Westminster Bookstore/Amazon)

A little cheesed off with material on bringing up children that seemed to miss, neglect or even bypass the gospel, I wondered if Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2009) would provide the answer.  There are helpful principles and wise counsel to be found here.  The material on legalism and moralism hits the spot, and the positive treatment of the fear of God, the power of example, and real holiness are profitable.  At the same time, I was left feeling that the book had missed its mark.  It was difficult at times to gauge the author’s assumptions about children (for example, when distinguishing between the converted and unconverted), and at times it seemed that the main concern for our children is to have them inherit a worldview rather than trust a Saviour.  Useful in parts, but not as satisfying as one would hope.  (Westminster Bookstore/Amazon)

No one will read C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermons Beyond Volume 63 (DayOne, 2010) and retain the idea that Spurgeon was merely a genial Victorian pulpiteer.  I would go so far as to suggest that there is an unusual degree of bite and drive in these sermons, with the cutting edge sharp and the pleading earnest.  All Spurgeon’s strengths and many of his idiosyncrasies are on display.  Hopefully very minor quibbles with the formatting of some sermon divisions can be cleared up in another printing.  Never just a collector’s item for those looking for a complete set, this is an excellent and highly-profitable showcase for the kind of trenchant, memorable, gospel-soaked sermons that Iain Murray was commending in the February 2010 edition of The Banner of Truth magazine (Issue #557).  If we read to profit, our souls will be fed.  (Amazon)

R. B. Jones: Gospel Ministry in Turbulent Times by Noel Gibbard (Bryntirion Press, 2009) is, for the most part, straight history.  The author seems to suspend the exercise of any critical faculty for the bulk of the book, concentrating on data without much analysis.  The result is a stream of information, some facts and anecdotes seeming more to impede than assist the flow.  We see determination and vigour, committed holiness and evangelistic zeal, and distinctive views (especially on sanctification, revival, and Christ’s return) vigorously defended by the subject.  Though few readers might agree with all those distinctive views, none will deny that here was a man of conviction, whose life reflected his faith.  Given the period in question (1869-1933) it is interesting to consider to what extent the context is formed by the consequences of the evangelical decline known as the Downgrade.  The critical faculty stutters into life in the final chapter, but gently and sometimes defensively of this “enlightened fundamentalist,” at heart a preacher, teacher and evangelist.  An interesting book on a singular man, probably most appealing to students of Welsh evangelical history.

Pastors looking for help in counselling might appreciate CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet by Michael R. Emlet (New Growth Press, 2009).    The author’s aim is to carry the man of God beyond shallow and temporary prescriptions of limited help for struggling men and women – considered as sufferers, sinners and/or saints – to a richer appreciation and application of Scriptural truth, seeing and pressing home the overlap between “the story of God” and “the stories of people.”  Emphasizing the redemptive-historical approach, the writing is clear and the suggestions are straightforward.  This book will help ministers of others (including but not exclusively pastors) to understand and relate truth to those who need it in particular ways, an approach at which the best Puritans were true masters.  However, despite the excitable flood of exclamation marks employed, the substance can feel a trifle obvious.  A useful primer, though perhaps not as profound as it hopes.  (Westminster Bookstore/Amazon)

This new edition of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, confidently ascribed to Edward Fisher (Christian Focus, 2009) is excellent.  Although the book may be well-known to some, the new format is of great help in reading.  The main text is clear; broad margins contain both shorter notes by Thomas Boston and references to his longer contributions, which are helpfully broken out into their own sections.  This assists the reader to follow the flow of the author’s main argument while benefitting as required from Boston’s elucidations.  Neither does one have to agree with every nuance of the author’s convictions to appreciate the rich substance of the book.  Written in the form of a conversation between a true minister of the gospel, a new convert, an antinomian and a neonomian, the whole is for the most part pitch-perfect, putting words into the mouths of the various contributors that sound as fresh and as accurate today as they did in the seventeenth and succeeding centuries.  This continues to be a vital contribution to a perpetual debate, and ministers would do well to advance their appreciation and understanding of the gospel by means of this Scriptural tuning-fork.  (Westminster Bookstore/Amazon)

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