Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Book Review - Why God Created the World - A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation (12/8)


This is a question that every christian would have asked, ‘Why did God create the world?’ The young asks in curiosity and the old asks in bewilderment, their advances in years have seemingly not helped them much on this question!

But, Jonathan Edwards has done A LOT of thinking in this question, and has even written a book on it! But, sometimes people have complained about how difficult it is to read Jonathan Edwards. So what can these people do? (Other than persevering on and reading it!) A good alternative is now available, Ben Stevens has paraphrased and modernised Jonathan Edwards’ ‘A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which the World Was Created’ into this easy to read work.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of abridgement or paraphrasing or anything of that sort. To me, if you really want to know what someone has written, you should be prepared to work hard at trying to understand what he’s actually saying! But alas, some works prove to be really tough, and only those who are already well-motivated to read that particular work/author would be prepared to work through it. Most would be turned off and would never again go back to such wonderful works. (John Owen would be one such example)

As I read this book, I was quite marvelled at how well and systematic and comprehensive Edwards was in thinking through this question. No doubt, being able to read this text at such a fast and easy pace made it easy for me to follow the argument that Edwards was making. (I doubt I would have been able to if I was reading the original work, you can try it yourself too! The 1st chapter of the original work is found at the appendix)

Ben is highly commended for the excellent job he has done especially with this very tough assignment. He is really able to allow Edwards to speak to us, in no way does he tries to interject his ideas into the readers but really allows the readers to come away with a deep appreciation of Edwards, and to spur readers to then dive into Edwards’ own writing.

I foresee this work will spur even more readers to be exposure to Edwards, and also encourage them to read Edwards’ in his original form. This book is really a good primer for anyone who wishes to have a feel of how Edwards is, and will act like a ‘hook’ to hook others to read Edwards even more after they’re done with this book and I look forward to future such adaptations!

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Book Review - Healed at Last (10/8)


If only I had enough faith, I would be healed by now’ or ‘You just need to believe, then you’ll be fully healed’. I don't know about you, but I’ve heard this being reverberated around even in the conservative circles I’m in. So what would you do if you hear someone who walks up to another person and says, ‘You know, you can be fully healed?’ or if a sick church member is asking on your opinion on the healing services that’s being held down the street. How would you response to them?

For some time, I’m quite sure of my own stance towards these ‘miraculous’ healing, yet am not able to articulate it out well to others. Now, I’m quite sure I’ll be able to explain why I think these aren’t necessary biblical. Scott Blackwell, in this very helpful book explains why this is so.

First, Scott gives a quick introduction on himself, and how he could have personally been able to ‘attest’ to such healing, yet because of God’s clear Word, is unable to. Scott then analysis the scene and seeks to explain why some within the christian circles are so keen/eager to witness to such ‘healings'. Scott does spent a bit of space on this topic and though I do not fully agree with his analysis, I think overall Scott has made an accurate and clear analysis of what is happening within these circles currently. One other point that Scott made clear within this section is that life is hard. Too many a times, Christians ‘forget’ that life in this sinfully world is hard! Why should we be so surprised at some of the suffering we would have to go through in this world?

Next, Scott looks into the bible, and from there defends why he thinks such healings are not warranted by the bible. I found this section particularly strong and well worth the price of the book (though the wording of one particular chapter is rather misleading). This section does make any Christian wrestle with these texts themselves, ‘Does the bible gives us warranty for such miraculous healing?’ Now please don’t misunderstand me or Scott, we are not saying we believe in a deist, one who has created the whole world and has now left the world running on it’s own. We do believe God can, and might heal, but that is His prerogative, He might, out of His grace, but no amount of ‘work’ we do will expedite or ‘direct’ such healing.

Lastly, Scott very wisely, deals with the question of promises, what promises does the christian today have? This I thought was a very good ending to the book. Not only does Scott aim to answer against these miraculous healing, but he also aims to build christians up in the correct direction and base their trust in the correct promises. This is commendable and wise, and will definitely be helpful to many christians.

Scott has done an superb job especially in the tone of the book by not outrightly arguing with christians who might have been firm believers in healing, but has gently tried to show them what he thinks is a more biblical way towards this topic and calls them to turn to what the bible says.

Great book, really suited to a topic that’s happening in our day and age, yet not too overly technical or difficult. Recommended for pastors, church leaders and Christians who are interested to think through this issue biblically.

Rating: 4.25/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi. [sorry, only kindle version available for now]

Friday, 8 August 2014

Book Review - Poverty of Nations (8/8)


Why are some nations so rich, and some so poor? Why do some nations — improvised in natural resources — yet can become so rich, but some blessed abundantly with natural resources and still remain so poor? Or think about it this way, what can nations (even those deprived of natural resources) do if they want to move out of poverty into prosperity?

The answers (un)surprisingly lies mostly within the system in which the country run by, economist Barry Asmus and theologian Wayne Grudem combine in this book to promote and defend their concept of free-market economy as the only solution for any nations to move out of poverty.

So steps can a nation take to move out of poverty? The main thesis of this book is that there is only one way for nations to do that — by producing more goods than they consume. However the book is not just about economics, good governance which this book see as fundamental to good economy are also entailed within this book.

This book is a tour de force of exceptional good writing, even with a minimal understanding of economics none of the concept was too hard to understand. Asmus and Grudem does show their depth of research and thinking through the solutions they propose which aim to help every nations. I cannot recall any other book which is so comprehensive and detailed in it’s depth which aims to explain how nations can start to be prosperous.

One minor areas that I thought might be good to be raised here in this review, although the book claims to be “Christian” with Grudem on board to explain the theological basis for such a system, I found some of the verses to be more of proof-texts in the initial chapters. I felt that the model proposed was more economically driven that theologically driven, though I do not disagree with the theological basis raised within the book. What is more, in the last chapter, I think Grudem has done a superb job of proving, explaining and defending the theological basis of the model especially in the cultural values. The other point is, some of the points can be rather repetitive, especially the point about private property (p. 140-149, 191-192, 325, etc), although they might be sometimes viewed from other perspectives on this issue, it was a bit too repetitive on this one point. These minor points does not in any way makes the book any less helpful and useful for nations though. Although this may be a bit of a long read, this book is easy to follow and comprehend. I highly encourage those who wants to have a good concept on economics or wishes to help their nations be prosperous to read this book, I’m sure you’ll see that these points are valid, practical and feasible.

Rating:4.5/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Book Review - Yawning At Tigers (5/8)

When was the last time you heard a sermon or read something remotely close to God’s holiness? How about the last time prior to that? I bet that will probably leave you scratching your head for a little while. Now compare that with the love of God, i’m sure that would be an easy question to answer, but wouldn’t it surprise you that God is far more often praised for his holiness in the bible? What’s with this skewness in our churches today?

With this concern in mind, Drew Dyck hopes to remind today’s christians that God is holy, and a untameable God. Dyck introduces God as a being who’s holy, one who’s set apart, one who’s the ‘other’, and fully worthy of praise. He mentions the importance of having the vision, the vision of God’s holiness which no doubt will shape and mould our lives. I agree with him on this point, as the common aphorism states ‘your attitude determines your altitude’, so much of weaknesses in today’s christianity often lies in the low, trifling view of God.

Dyck also brings out the point of the relief of holiness in this book. RELIEF you say? How can holiness be relieving? Well, it can, because you and I are meant to be holy, and by being holiness we will find relief from our greatest enemy: sin. (You have to read the book for this and many more! I shall not reveal too much)

Often as I read, I find my self thinking, have I have too low a view of God? Have I been worshipping a puppet God? And this is the strength of the book, it help us to reflect on what kind of God we’ve been worshipping, is that the same God as the God described in the bible? Far too often we want a tame down version of the God of the bible, but that will only be to our detriment. We need to recover a right of God, and soon, because God is far, far too valuable to be tamed.

This is a great book for all christians, but especially preachers or small group leaders. Ask yourself this, does your church treat God as holy? If not, read, be enthralled and repent.

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping)

Friday, 1 August 2014

Book Review - Philosophy (Faithful Learning Series) (1/8)


Whenever you see this word philosophy you often get a very polarising response, some are thrilled with it, some run away in horror and the rest are just ambivalent towards it. So how does one approach this topic?

James Spiegel attempt to show why christians need to understand and study philosophy in this short introduction on this topic. Spiegel begins with the age-old question of what Athens has to do with Jerusalem, and attempts to convince his readers that rigorous philosophical study is critical for a christian so that he will not held captive to hollow and deceptive philosophy (Col 2:8).

Spiegel then goes through a quick history of how the christian faith has suffered abuses and attacks from non-christian philosophers through rationalism and positivism, and how the notion of God has been attacked vigorously by them. Christianity appears to have no answers with regards to these 2 areas until….. Alvin Plantinga comes into the scene and begins to challenge their claims.

The challenges that Plantinga raises are then explored and explained and shown how these claims are not unreasonable or irrational, in fact, it was shown how it would be irrational and unreasonable for the claim of God’s existence to be argued on the same plane as other topics.

Following which Spiegel brings up several arguments that supports the existence of God and also encourages future christians whoa re students of philosophy to do the hard work of studying philosophy with a christian worldview in mind, so that we can able to give a defence for the reason of our hope (1 Peter 3:15).

Lastly, be prepared to work through this deceptively small booklet. This will not be a park through the park but you will be rewarded for your hard work, especially recommended for those who are interested or are studying philosophy.

Rating: 4/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping) [Sorry, can't seem to find it]

The Kindle version is only $0.99

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Book Review - Sociology (Faithful Learning Series) (29/7)

Have you ever notice when someone is acting out of the social norm? Maybe it’s a tourist, an immigrant or even yourself! But have you every wondered what made you felt that way? One helpful area to explore would be the topic of sociology. And Matthew Vos has done a great job in this book which seeks to help students who are studying sociology to look into this topic from a christian perspective.

Some may be intimidated by this topic, or even scoff at this. But Vos has managed to be able to raise up several strengths that sociology can provide for the church, likewise Vos has shown the limitations of sociology alone.

Vos also does a good and quick introductions to the who’s who in sociology and also brief introduction to some of the concepts that are commonly found in every introduction to sociology 101 courses. Lastly, the book also directs the believer to well-know christian sociologists which will help provide a source of relief for the christian who sometimes feels so beaten down by the secular scholars.

This is a great book as a primer for those who wants to find out more about this topic, or before you start your undergraduate studies on this particular topic, I can only hope I had read this book before I had studied sociology module, it would be so helpful for me.

Rating: 4/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping) [sorry can't find it]

The kindle version is only $0.99!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Book Review - The Pagan Heart of Today's Culture (25/7)

What do you think atheism, postmodernism and gnosticism have in common? On the surface they might seem to be poles apart but Peter Jones thinks otherwise, and attempts to shows it in this booklet.

First Jones goes through each of the terms, stating the definition, explanation and a brief history into each of them. Then Jones introduces the term ‘perennial philosophy’ which binds all of them together. Briefly it is a system of Oneism, where everything shares the same nature and are essentially one, as compared to Twoism, where the creator-creature distinction is apparent and distinct.

Jones then argues how atheism, postmodernism and gnosticism all belong to the Oneism sphere, and then responded with the christian Twoism claims and how these 2 systems will always be at odds with each other. Finally Jones ends why showing that although these 3 worldview (postmodern, gnosticism and atheism) looks really different, they are not really ‘new’ in the sense that they are really bring us back to the garden of Eden, where these two are clashing against each other yet again.

Those who would really gain from this booklet are those who are willing to put in the hard work to think. interspersed within the booklet are numerous discussion questions that encourage the readers to digest each small section and think about what they have read. Do not aim to look to the booklet for answers, it’s not meant to do that, it will guide you in the right direction through.

One weakness for this booklet is that I found the arguments not very convincing, however, the grouping of the three worldview under Oneism certainly is something very new and ought to be further explored to strengthen the claims. Recommended for those who would like to explore within this area, and likes/hopes to think deeply over what he has read.

Rating: 3.25/5

Not sure where you can get it other than on the publisher's website. If you're aware of any, do let me know!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Book Review - God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History (22/7)

Who likes history? Honestly, I think not many will thrilled at this particular topic. However, Brain Cosby has attempted to make church history something interesting to the kids/youths with this book.

First Cosby defends the need for us to know our history well, the common adage ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ has proven to be true numerous time. But christians has an even more important reason to know our history well. We each come from a particular denomination and they have existed for a particular reason, it would be wise for us to know why. Secondly, history is really His-Story. When we know about our history we can rejoice what God has done, and trust in what he will do in the future.

Cosby then explains and teaching church history chronological, starting from the very first church! Those that are started in the apostolic times and working across the centuries and millennium, Cosby brings out the ‘big players’ during the particular eras. No particular person was given extra attention, though John Calvin did received slightly more attention.

What Cosby did excellently in this book is how he approach the topic on ‘Crusades’, this is a dark history in the church’s history but Cosby does not sweep things under the rag, he slowly tease out the issue, and explains how christians can answer those who questioned the atrocities committed by the church.

Cosby did give more content in this book to the reformation and those reformation era, which was covered in greater depth than the eras before that.

This is a relatively easy book to read too, it can easily be finished in a few sitting, however since it is published by CF4kids, I do question at what age is it especially pitch at? I feel that kids that are younger (12 and below) would most likely not read this book, and unless for teens who are deeply interested in this topics, the rest might not be engaged enough in this book to read it through. However, this remains to be a good primer for those who wants a quick, brief, succinct introduction to church history (even for adults!). You might be surprised at how much you’ll actually learn from this thin book. [Update: It's meant for teens 14-16!]

One tiny complain for this book, a little too much self-promotion of the previous books the author has written (no I don't dislike the author!). But maybe also include references to other books by other authors too.

Rating: 3.75/5

If you're interested, you can get this book here, and here (free international shipping)



Here's the book trailer.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Book Review - Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (18/7)

I thought for a muslim to convert to Christianity was hard, I just didn't know it was that hard… Even for a muslim who live in the land of the free. That’s my initial thought when I was about 3/4 through the book, truly every conversion is only possible because God is working in the hearts of man (Matt 19:26)

Nabeel Qureshi recounts his story of how he converted in this book. The strengths of this book are numerous.

First, it is very engaging, each chapter is relatively short, and it does not hit the readers to too many technical terms at one go (although the first few chapters do seem to contain a little more).

Second, Qureshi chooses not to use only english within the book, inside Qureshi decides to use the actual Arabic words or Urdu words (I think?) within the biography. This is good because it actually puts you into his setting, and you really get to slight feel how it is like to be a muslim in his world.

Thirdly, many of the stories were very personal and very moving, for every muslim as he himself explains within the book has A LOT of respect for the prophet Muhammad and very obedience to Allah. But many a time as he slowly discovers the truth of his belief, he often has a knee jerk reaction against these accusations. Slowly, bit by bit…. part and parcel of his world crumbles down. It is indeed hard for us to enter into the kingdom of God (Matt 7:13-14).

Fourthly, Qureshi shows very clearly what we as christians need to do if we want to reach out to them. Far too often, those who want or who has converted over just find themselves literally alone in a brave new world. Christianity used to be known for their hospitality, what has happened to us? There is a great need for us to recover this.

Lastly, this book is able to explain much of the religion of Islam to readers who are very new to it. It does not just gives you the bare bones which others have often tried to do, nor does it gives you a detailed exposition to everything within Islam, it does equip you with a reasonable amount of the Islamic religion to allow you to have meaningful conversions with other muslims.

Highly recommended if you would like to ‘feel’ what’s it’s like for a muslim to convert to christianity, or if you want to have a reader’s friendly start to knowing more about the Islamic religion.

Rating: 4.75/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Book Review - What's Your Worldview? (15/7)


This is a really good book. Not only is it concise, informative, and well written, it’s actually quite fun to read it! Anderson was done something that few authors have done — a book that’s for everyone. This is literally such a book, no matter what worldview you may hold, you will find this book helpful and informative.

The concept of the book is very simple, make a decision at every section and at the end of it all, you will find out what worldview you have. At the ‘end’ of each route, you will have a summary of the worldview and also a quick evaluation of its strength and weakness of the particular worldview.

Anderson should be praised for the comprehensive scope of the number of worldviews covered, each and every summary Anderson almost always points out succinctly some of the problems of each worldview.

This is a great book for christians who wants to share with people of other faiths (or with no particular faiths). This would help the christian have a brief understanding of what others believe, and also what are some things that the Christian can ask in response to what they believe. Sure these are not silver-bullet questions, but I do think they are able to good conversion starters. It would also be good christians to give to non-christians who wants to know what kind a worldview he has, and whether he is able to live consistent with his belief.

Rating: 4.75/5


If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping).

Here's a video (unrelated to the book) that explains what a worldview is.