Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Biography of J. I. Packer

I've always enjoyed biographies. The best ones tell the story of a person's whole life, not just the moments they were famous for or the times they did something that received worldwide attention. In fact, some of the best biographies I've read were about people I knew little about.

Take the book J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken. I had read some of Packer's books, and I knew that he was British but lived in Canada. Thanks to Ryken, I know a little more about the fascinating man who wrote Knowing God and whose contributions helped provide one of the clearest evangelical statements on the inerrancy of Scripture, the English Standard Version, and the ESV Study Bible. Events during Packer's childhood directed his life toward academic pursuits. His emphasis on ministry and his concern for the church at large heavily influenced his writings and the audiences he targeted with them. His involvement in controversy was borne out of deep conviction, which in turn encouraged others to take similar stands for the faith.

Ryken is a gifted communicator, which one would expect from a professor of literature. His talent combined with the interesting life Packer has lived combine to produce a tribute to the man and an appreciation of who he is and what he has done. Packer is interesting. Ryken is a good writer. That alone should warrant a look at this biography. Add a good narrator like David Cochran Heath, and you have something to listen to as well.

I received the audiobook from christianaudio in order to provide this review.

A Great Textbook Survey of the New Testament

Kregel's What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About is a survey of the New Testament in a textbook layout like you'd find in a high school entry-level college course. I'm finding it useful for gaining an overview of larger chunks of Scripture and recognizing the big picture the New Testament authors are trying to paint, which can often be lost in books and sermons that attempt to skip straight to application without fully understanding the text.

Rather than following the traditional book order of the New Testament, the chapters of this book are arranged around the various authors, which means Luke and Acts are treated consecutively, as are John's Gospel, his epistles, and Revelation. It's a novel idea, but somewhat unnecessary; the New Testament is mostly arranged by author.

As a textbook, What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About hits a home run. Each chapter begins with a summary of the main headings. Key words are identified in bold font and listed in a review section at the end of the chapter. Tables summarize data (like major sections of a book) and pictures help illustrate main ideas (like where the sermon on the mount may have taken place or what the shore of the Sea of Galilee looks like). I also appreciate the spacious margins on every page perfect for taking notes.

It's the kind of textbook I would love to teach out of. I only wish it came with more teaching resources, like chapter questions or tests and quizzes. I'd highly recommend it for use at a Christian school, but as a preacher and teacher of the word, I'm finding it useful in my own study and preparation as well.

I requested a copy of this title from the publisher in order to provide this review.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dinosaurs, Science, and the Bible

I’ve been a fan of dinosaurs ever since I was a kid. One of my earliest memories is my fourth birthday when I got two large plastic dinosaurs: a stegosaurus and a brachiosaurus. As an adult, my interest in dinos has waned with the exception of a Jurassic Park movie now and again, but Dinosaurs: Marvels of God’s Design reminded me of why I found them so fascinating.

Dr. Timothy Clarey, a former professor of geosciences and current staff member at the Institute for Creation Research, has put together a mini-textbook of sorts chock full of pictures and diagrams pertaining to dinosaurs. The book is visually stunning and my children, aged 4 and 2, like looking at the pictures with me. It’s very much like some of the better quality magazines I used to get in the mail that coupled graphics and articles in such a way as to keep all ages interested.

Dr. Clarey writes as one who believes in a literal seven-day creation as described in Genesis, but his aim isn’t merely to argue for a young earth. He presents the prevailing views of the secular scientific community along with his arguments for his own convictions, which leaves readers well equipped to engage others who aren’t operating from a biblical worldview.

As the title suggests, most of the book focuses on these amazing creatures we call dinosaurs. The author gives special attention to various species, genera, families, and orders of dinosaurs, such as the famous T. Rex, Sauropods, and the Ankylosaurus. I had never thought about how scientists estimate their weight or determine bite strength, but Dr. Carey explains not only how, but highlights key historical developments that led to the techniques used to make these estimates.

Dinosaurs truly are marvels of God’s design, and this book justifies it’s title.

I received this book from the publisher in order to provide this review.