Mini-Reviews #6

November 15, 2011

I’m back with another batch of mini-reviews. Today I discuss three outstanding books:

King Solomon by Philip Graham Ryken.

Solomon is not a Bible character typically covered in depth, so this book by Philip Graham Ryken is a welcome one. Ryken is the former pastor of the historic 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the new President of Wheaton College. I found this book readable, meaty, theological, and practical. It’s rare a book hits all those high notes, but King Solomon does. What is particularly valuable about this book is that Ryken gives good historic and cultural background, fairly looks at Solomon’s life, both good and bad, and always finds the signposts to Jesus. He preaches Christ in the life of Solomon, but does it in a way that is not forced, not over-reaching for typology, but always directing the reader to “the better Solomon.” He also draws out terrific and practical life lessons from Solomon’s successes and failures. This is a rich and practical read. Highly recommended.

Walking the Spirit by Kenneth Berding 

This is a great little guide to walking the Spirit. It’s much-needed. Even though we talk much of living, walking, talking in the Spirit–what does this look like? It’s often tough to nail down. Berding does this with a deft touch. What I enjoyed about this is that Berding skips discussion of cessation and doesn’t cover the spiritual gifts. I like that because often talk of the Holy Spirit goes only to those places. Either an apologetic for or against the sign gifts or a discussion of finding your spiritual gift. Actually walking, obeying, and living in the Spirit in a practical sense is given short shrift.

The other great feature of this book is that it is concise and eminently readable for the lay person. Berding is a scholar who can write for the common man in everyday language. And yet he communicates profound and wonderful theology. I actually liked this book so much I ordered copies to sell in our resource center at Gages Lake. It’s a book I can give to Christians to help them know what it looks like to live in obedience to the Spirit. Highly, highly recommended.

Earthen Vessels by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is a brilliant young thinker and the proprietor of the website Mere Orthodoxy. In Earthen Vessels, Anderson has given us a profound scholarly work on the relation between the body of and our faith. Evangelicals often practice a form of Gnosticism, in which we don’t fully realize the importance of our bodies to our relationship with God. In this book, Anderson covers all the topics related to the body, including subjects like human sexuality, homosexuality, tattoos, online church versus bodily presence, worship, and a host of other topics. It’s a thorough treatment of a subject not often discussed.

Anderson writes with clarity and authority. He has done his homework. What I enjoyed about Earthen Vessels was the depth. Often writes fill pages by employing the lazy tactic of straw men, creating caracatures easily toppled by our own shaky arguments. There are not straw men in Earthen Vessels. Anderson gives fair coverage to the ideas he opposes. He fully fleshes out the biblical and logical facts on every subject.

I suspect Earthen Vessels will be used as a textbook in many Christian colleges and will be a ready resource on the shelves of many pastors. This book is a gift to the Church.