Allen Raynor Weblog: “Recommended Reading from 2018” (Pt. 2)
(Dec. 19, 2018)
There are many great apologetic works available these days. Some are written by scholars for scholars. Some of these works are more geared toward pastors. While still yet others are oriented toward laymen. I have read many of these books over the last few years. They are full of facts that validate the key claims of Scripture like the Resurrection, and the historicity of the early church and followers of Jesus. Many of these books also examine scientific claims and examine them in light of reason, and even science itself. It takes a lot for one of these type books to stand out to me as I have read several. But I would give a 5 star rating to I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek. It is hard to put down once you begin reading, but it is important to read through it slowly and carefully in order to receive the full impact. I highly recommend this book be in your own personal library.
Many accusations are leveled against Christians by those who want to discredit them and label them as ignorant, non-thinking, anti-science, anti-knowledge, etc. Some of the myths that have been perpetuated have stuck and few know the real truth. One of the best examples of this is the fact many claim, and/or believe, that Christians once held tightly to a belief that the world was flat even when science was saying the earth was spherical. There is even an atheistic website where a group of people make fun of the “flat earth,” backward-thinking Christians. But this is a total myth. As early as the 4th century B. C. theists believed the earth was round and it was far more unusual throughout the middle ages and beyond for anyone, Christians included, to hold to a flat earth viewpoint. I read a book this year called Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians by Jeffrey Burton Russell. It is a fascinating, extremely well researched report of how this was all contrived coming out of a fictional work by Washington Irving and morphing quickly into revisionist history. It you want to know the truth on this issue, read this book. If you want to see how easily things can become distorted and true history be forgotten in favor of myth, then read this book!
I am a big fan of the “Answers in Genesis” (AIG) organization, headed by Ken Ham, and their museum in the Cincinnati, OH metro area which features a full scale replica of Noah’s Ark. They have put out numerous materials over the years including books, CD’s, DVD’s, booklets and tracts, and an information packed website. I read a booklet put out by AIG this year called Doesn’t Carbon Dating Disprove the Bible. This book is short and to the point. It will help you see the flawed presuppositions of those who trust the Carbon 14 dating method for determining the age of the earth. Many, in the camp of theological liberalism or accomodationist theology, even try to interpret the early chapters of Genesis by accommodating what science claims with the Bible when it comes to questions about the age of the earth. Longstanding reliance on faulty methodology and trusting without asking questions has led many believers astray on this issue. Christians do not, and should not have a “blind” faith but should ask questions in order to gain knowledge. Ironically, science purports to search for the truth and go where research leads them; however, there are certain things that are off the table to some scientist, such as intelligent design in the universe. When science takes anything off the table before it starts, science becomes more of a philosophical viewpoint and/or pursuit than actual science in the truest sense.
I really enjoyed a short book by author Peter Jones called The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture. It is densely packed with great information and is eye-opening. It offers to you the potential to gain a great working knowledge of postmodernism, polytheism, and Gnosticism which has its roots in the days of the early church and is still alive and well today in many religious expressions. You need to read this book, and ones like it, to get a handle on the world in which we live and are called to be missionaries.
Sadly many Christians do not know anything better than to either “run” or “roll over and play dead” when unbelievers challenge Christian thinking and worldview with their slogans, and poorly thought-out assertions. In his very helpful book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions Gregory Koukl shows how believers can easily maneuver through conversations with skeptics by simply getting them to think more deeply about what they are asking or asserting. Overwhelmingly the argumentation of unbelievers breaks down just below the surface and it is our duty as Christians to help them see where there reasoning if faulty, not just for the sake of winning arguments, but for the furtherance of the Kingdom. Through notable techniques such as “The Columbo Method,” based on the character from the popular television show, Koukl teaches believers to ask simple, non-threatening questions to expose what people really believe in such a way that they tend to realize for themselves that their story, or whole belief system, does not stand up consistently and reasonably.
During my morning devotional time I read a few books that were really uplifting and encouraging. One of those books was Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Life to Come by Derek W. H. Thomas. It is a heartwarming, non-technical portrait of Heaven and the life to come. Another book was Understanding the 66 Books of the Bible by David Jeremiah. The book gives a brief portrait of each book which starts with a timely, relevant illustration then a very brief overview of the content followed by the key theme and key verse. It was lite but encouraging to read one or two of these portraits each day. Perhaps my favorite devotional book of all this year was a book I have referred to often for many years but never read straight through. The book is called God’s Promises for Your Every Need. It is nothing more than a topical arrangement of very encouraging Scriptures that speak to a variety of issues and topics. This book helped me know Scripture better. It helps me see that yes God does have a lot to say about . . . It is a book everyone should own and refer to regularly. It will also help you in your ministry to others when someone at work, a family member, or a friend asks you “Is there a verse in the Bible that says anything about . . .? You will find the answer in this book easily.
During the summer and fall of this year I was privileged to teach through the book of Amos on Sunday Evenings. I am always drawn to the Old Testament Prophets simply because, as a preacher, I can often relate to them on a personal level. Also, as an American I can see enormous parallels between their day and our day. Among the prophets, Amos is one of my favorites. I was aided greatly in my study by J. A. Motyer’s book The Message of Amos in The Bible Speaks Today Commentary Series (BST). I also found great value in The Roaring of the Lion: A Commentary on Amos by Ray Beeley. The most helpful resource of all was Amos: An Ordinary Man with an Extraordinary Message in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series (FOTBS) by my former Hebrew Professor at Southern Seminary, T. J. Betts.
I began a study of the Gospel of Matthew in December, 2016 on Sunday Mornings. In June of 2017 I made it to the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7). In October 2018 I finished that very rich block of material taught by Jesus. In addition to several Matthew commentaries I read books that offered insight into the Sermon on the Mount specifically. Most of these were very helpful but my favorites among them were Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church by Charles Quarles; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount: God’s Character and the Believer’s Conduct by Oswald Chambers; Reading the Sermon on the Mount with John Stott by John Stott and Douglas Connelly; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple by Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary by Jonathan T. Pennington; and most of all Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (2 volumes) by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom by R. Kent Hughes from the “Preaching the Word” (PTW) Commentary Series.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor