Quick Takes: Grace Defined & Defended by Kevin DeYoung, Josiah’s Reformation by Richard Sibbes, The Future of Everything by William Boekestein

One or two of these didn’t end up being as “quick” as I’d intended, but I still don’t think of them as full-fledged posts, I think I’d need another 3-6 paragraphs each before I’d think of them as done. Oh well, what’s important (to me) is that they’re done and I can move on to the next books under consideration.

Grace Defined and Defended

Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400-Year-Old Confession Teaches Us about Sin, Salvation, and the Sovereignty of God

by Kevin DeYoung

Hardcover, 95 pg.
Crossway, 2019

Read: May 5, 2019

Read the Official Synopsis here.

At their very heart, the Canons of Dort are about the nature of grace—supernatural, unilateral, sovereign, effecting, redeeming, resurrecting grace, with all of its angularity all of its offense to human pride, and all of its comfort for the weary soul. That’s what Dort wanted to settle. That’s what they were jealous to protect. Some words are worth the most careful definitions, just as some truths are too precious not to defend.

This is the second book about the Canons of Dort I’ve read in this 400th Anniversary year, and it’s (not surprisingly) a handy little book.

DeYoung starts off with an introduction sketching the theological and historical context for the Canons of Dort, and explains why we should care about them today. It’s called “In Praise of Precision” and sets the tone for the whole book (the above paragraph is from it).

Then he moves into an examination of each Main Point of Doctrine (what most translations call “Heads of Doctrine”), one chapter for every Point. DeYoung covers them concisely, but thoroughly (well, as thoroughly as you can while being concise). It’s polemical as it has to be, but no further. Honestly, DeYoung saves his most pointed words for those who (on paper, anyway) agree with the Canons, but don’t share the spirit of them.

I’d prefer something deeper, but that’s never what you’re going to get from a DeYoung book, I know it. So that’s not something I hold against it. Really, my only complaint is that there’s no conclusion. The book screams for one, if nothing else, just a couple of pages tying the Points back to the introduction. But other than that, I don’t think I have a bad thing to say about it.

It’s succinct, accessible, full of DeYoung’s typical charm and focused on the precision those assembled at Dort. It’s an entry point to the Canons of Dort, but there are more in-depth studies that readers should pursue (e.g., this)—but this will get you started in the right direction. I should add that it’d be a decent enough examination of them if you’re not curious enough to read more (but you totally should).
3 Stars

Josiah's Reformation

Josiah’s Reformation

by Richard Sibbes

Kindle Edition, 176 pg.
Banner of Truth Trust, 2011

Read: May 19-26, 2019

Read the Official Synopsis here.

For the longest time, Richard Sibbes has been my go-to Puritan. His writing taps right into my heart. The doctrine is strong, the application wise, but throughout it all he’s convicting and assuring (in the best way). This collection, sadly, just missed for me.

This is a collection of four sermons from 2 Chronicles describing the work of Josiah. It’s a call to sincerity in the faith, of killing hypocrisy within, of the change that the preaching of free grace can make in the heart which spills into our lives. First and foremost, the goal isn’t the benefits of Christ and desiring them, but to desire Him, to love Him—which will protect from hypocrisy and surface holiness by driving us to something deeper and truer. He then preaches about the art of self-humbling and mourning for our sin. The final sermon focuses on the true desire of the renewed heart—being gathered to Christ. Who doesn’t need to hear/read this message?

It was probably me coming to it when I did, and nothing off in Sibbes’ work. I can’t point to a problem with the book, I just never connected with it. I can see the encouragement, the comfort, the urging to pursue holiness—it’s all on-target, Biblical and well-written. But it left me feeling disappointed. Again, it’s probably really good, and in a couple of years when I try it again, I won’t understand my reaction.
3 Stars
2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

The Future of Everything

The Future of Everything: Essential Truths about the End Times

by William Boekestein

Paperback, 135 pg.
Reformation Heritage Books, 2019

Read: April 7, 2019

Read the Official Synopsis here.

This is a great primer on Eschatology—it covers all the major points, develops them pretty well and shows how one can continue in the study of them as well as how they connect to the other points of the study of the End without losing sight of the rest of life and doctrine.

After setting the stage with a discussion of what Eschatology entails and how we can best understand prophecy, Boekestein moves on to Personal Eschatology—the death that waits everyone (barring Christ’s return) and then what happens between that death and The End.

Then he moves on to General Eschatology (the End for everyone as a whole), with chapters on Christ’s Return, the meaning of the millennium, the general Resurrection, final Judgement, Hell and the New Heavens and Earth.

The last two chapters involve applying Eschatology to the New Covenant and Missions. How are we to act, think, and live in light of the coming End? These are things that are too often ignored when it comes to the study of Eschatology and it’s wonderful when they’re focused on.

One thing I really appreciated about this was that with the majority (possibly all, but I didn’t take notes on it) of the references to the Psalms that he made, Boekestein quoted/footnoted the Trinity Psalter Hymnal that the URCNA and OPC published last year. It’s a great way to get those metrical versions of the Psalms into your head, and hopefully into your heart (and vice versa).

One other thought I had while reading this is that there’s no need for my pastor to write a book on Eschatology. From his frequently cited sources, his perspectives, and even some of his phrasing, this could easily have had my pastor’s name on it. This doesn’t help any of you, but it is something I couldn’t stop thinking about.

I do wish his coverage of Postmillennialism was a bit more nuanced (and positive). I’m not a card-carrying post-mill anymore, but I still know the position isn’t quite as deficient and problematic as he makes it out to be.

This would a great introduction to Reformed eschatology—I want to stress the Reformed part, because the tradition is rich in its eschatological vision. Not in a focus on the end of the world, the timing of it, and how that’ll look, etc., etc. But how everything since the Ascension has been moving toward this point under the Kingship of Jesus Christ. It’s an assuring book, a helpful book, a great starting point (or refresher) for anyone studying Eschatology. Particularly for those who have no interest in starting such a confusing and volatile subject.
4 Stars

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Have You Eaten Grandma? by Gyles Brandreth: A Funny and Accessible Guide to English Usage

Have You Eaten Grandma?

Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Good English

by Gyles Brandreth

Hardcover, 285 pg.
Atria Books, 2018

Read: September 12, 2019

…you don’t need to understand all the intricacies of English grammar to be able to communicate well. I use a computer, but I have no idea how it works. I have a wife, but I have no idea why she stays. I take statins, and while the doctor did explain that they inhibit the HMG-CoA reductase—that rate-limiting enzyme of the mevalonate pathway—all I need to know is that they should help lower my bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of a heart attack.

This book can change your life. For the better. Enjoy.

I’ve tried a few times to post about this, and it’s always come out as a mess. So, as I usually do in these circumstances, I’m just going to start with the official blurb:

For anyone who wants to make fewer (not less) grammar mistakes, a lively, effective, and witty guide to all the ins and outs of the English language, reminiscent of the New York Times bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.

That’s just what you get—a funny and accessible guide to grammar, punctuation, and the English language in general (at least in its present form). That’s a distinctively British English, it should be noted, but even those of us who’ve abandoned vestigial “u”s thanks to Noah Webster can profit from it.

A few highlights:
bullet The entire section on the semi-colon is pretty entertaining (and helpful); the entire section covering punctuation makes the entire book worth the purchase price (or library checkout) and the read.
bullet The joke opening his section on the colon is both painful, of questionable taste, and laugh-inducing.
bullet His summary history of the Exclamation Point does in one paragraph, what Shady Characters would do in a page (not saying one approach is better than the other, I enjoyed both books. That paragraph, in particular, made me think of Houston’s book).
bullet Brandreth gives a stirring defense for the correct use of the much-abused apostrophe, culminating with:

Give up on the apostrophe, and you’re giving in to chaos. Without the apostrophe, there’s linguistic anarchy. The apostrophe is the symbol of our cause—the mark we need emblazoned on our banners. If we go weak or wobbly in our defense of the apostrophe, we are on the slippery slope to incomprehensibility and confusion.

bullet Brandreth begins his section on the usage of brackets/parenthesis with:

What the British call “brackets,” the Americans call “parentheses”—when they are round brackets, that is. What the Americans call “brackets” are what the British call “square brackets.” It doesn’t cause as much confusion as the meaning of the word “fanny” on either side of the Atlantic, but it serves to underline the truth of the observation made by Oscar Wilde more than 130 years ago: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”

Which points to one of the great distinctives of this book—Brandreth spends a lot of time explaining/illustrating the differences in the English used on both sides of the Atlantic. He later devotes an entire chapter to British vs. American English (part of which found its way to a Saturday Miscellany post in August). It includes a wonderful table for finding equivalent words/phrases/spellings.

The Brandreth Rule is: when in Rome, do as the Romans do—speak English. And if you’re British, do so with a British accent and spell your English the British way. That isn’t always easy—particularly if you haven’t worked out how to opt out of American English autocorrect when using Microsoft Word.

(there are a handful of Brandreth Rules scattered throughout the book, but this is my favorite)
bullet I appreciated that more than once he got to the point where he had to say (paraphrasing), “I don’t know why this is why it works this way, but it does, just live with it.” Once he said to use the rule or you’ll “look an ignorant oik.” Which might be my favorite phrase of 2019, “oik” is likely my favorite new vocabulary word. I have to work it into more conversation/writing.
bullet The Scrabble help might be the most turned-to part of the book for most readers.
bullet The tips for increasing word power are fantastic.

I actually could keep going, but I’ve gone on longer than I thought I would when I started.

I had a blast while reading this—I honestly don’t expect everyone will, though. If you’re not a language-nerd, aspiring grammar Nazi, or an old-school English teacher, you probably won’t enjoy it as much as me. However, if you enjoy quality humor and could use some help with your writing—you will appreciate it. It’s handy, it’s helpful, it’s entertaining—and how many grammar guides can say that? It’s the kind of thing that my college-bound daughter could use on her dorm bookshelf (and will probably find), and I know more than a few people who find themselves writing reports and the like for work who could use something like that. If you need help, might as well have a good time while you’re at it—and Have You Eaten Grandma is just the thing.


3.5 Stars
2019 Library Love Challenge

I’m Sorry…Love, Your Husband (Audiobook) by Clint Edwards, Joe Hempel: Would-be Humorous Essays on Marriage, Parenting, and Family

I'm Sorry...Love, Your Husband

I’m Sorry…Love, Your Husband: Honest, Hilarious Stories From a Father of Three Who Made All the Mistakes (and Made up for Them)

by Clint Edwards, Joe Hempel (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 42 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2018

Read: September 23, 2019

The “Short Synopsis” for the book is:

In this inspiring and unconventional book of essays, Clint Edwards sheds light on the darker yet hilarious side of domestic life.

Which sounds pretty good, and is what led to my checking this book out. In the same vein, my “Short Response” is: nope.

The “Full Synopsis” is:

Marriage and Kids are No Joke

He may not win Father of the Year, but Clint Edwards has won the hearts of thousands—including the New York Times, Scary Mommy, and Good Morning America—thanks to his candor and irreverence when it comes to raising kids, being married, and learning from his mistakes.

Clint has three children: Tristan (the know it all), Norah (the snarky princess), and Aspen (the worst roommate ever). He describes parenting as “a million different gears turning in a million different directions, all of them covered in sour milk.” In this inspiring and unconventional book of essays, he sheds light on the darker yet hilarious side of domestic life.

Owning up to all his mishaps and dumbassery, Edwards shares essays on just about every topic fellow spouses and parents can appreciate, including: stupid things he’s said to his pregnant wife, the trauma of taking a toddler shopping, revelations on buying a minivan, and the struggle to not fight the nosy neighbor (who is five years old).

Clint’s funny, heartwarming account of the terrifying yet completely rewarding life of a parent is a breath of fresh air. Each essay in I’m Sorry . . . Love, Your Husband will have you thinking finally, someone gets it.

Which brings me to a “Fuller Response” (I’ll keep my “Full Response” up my sleeve). Those of you who are too young to remember the 1991–1999 Prime Time hit, Home Improvement, may not appreciate this, but I kept thinking of it as I listened to this book. In almost every episode, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor does something that exasperates and/or disappoints his wife, messes things up with his kids or coworkers in the first act (generally it’s family, but occasionally it’s friends/colleagues). Things get worse during Act Two, leading Tim to get some advice from his wise neighbor, Wilson, and then implement this advice to patch things up with whoever he’s in trouble with and become a better father/husband/friend/colleague. Along the way, America laughed at Tim’s foibles and follies—and at some good comedic moments that had nothing to do with the main plot—and then had their hearts warmed by the ending. That equation worked well for 203 episodes (eh, probably 170 or so, really).

Every essay in this collection reminded me of that outline—except for the comedy. There’s no fictional Tool Time TV show to entertain, there are no actual laughs (maybe 3 bits that made me grin in the 4.75 hours), just frequently preachy lessons about how to become a better man/husband/father (most of which are repeated at least 3 times in the book, almost word-for-word).

The descriptions of his three kids that show up in the synopsis are repeated throughout the book, which is good—because otherwise, I wouldn’t have known this about them. He doesn’t show this at all in his essays.

Hempel does a fine job with this. My problems with this aren’t about him, it’s the content. I can’t say his narration is great, but it might have been. Everything’s colored by the content.

The amount of mild and casual profanity from someone who mentions church as often as he does was a little incongruous. Maybe today’s Mormons are just different from the ones I grew up surrounded by. This isn’t what led to my low rating, it’s just something that chafed a little while I listened to this (and really, it’s the only thing that stuck out to me about the book as a whole). My objection along these lines is that the phrase, “it was a d*$# move” gets tired as a constant evaluation/summary of his actions. If that’s all he can say, maybe he should focus a bit more on the writing and a little less on the self-improvement.

In the end, it wasn’t the triteness, it wasn’t the preachiness, it wasn’t the redundancy of these essays that turned me off (although none of that helped). It was that there was nothing in the essays to make me interested. It was just dull. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t get inspired, I wasn’t entertained. It just was. The only thing that got me through the book was a lack of options that day and a need for something to listen to at work. I’m sure Edwards is a nice guy and a swell father, but he’s just not funny or insightful. Or if he is, he’s left it outside this book.


2 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Relief by Execution by Gint Aras: Reflections on Societal Woes from a Different Angle on the Holocaust

Relief by Execution

Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen

by Gint Aras

eARC, 94 pg.
Little Bound Books, 2019

Read: September 21, 2019


This is a short book (long essay), that to really get into would render the reading of the content pointless, so I’ve got to hold back some of what I want to say. The official blurb is a good starting point for a few thoughts I have in reaction to this essay:

Between the years of 1996-1999, Gint Aras lived a hapless bohemian’s life in Linz, Austria. Decades later, a random conversation with a Polish immigrant in a Chicago coffeehouse provokes a question: why didn’t Aras ever visit Mauthausen, or any of the other holocaust sites close to his former home? The answer compels him to visit the concentration camp in the winter of 2017, bringing with him the baggage of a childhood shaped by his family of Lithuanian WWII refugees.

Thus far, I’m on board with it—Aras blends recollections of the visit with glimpses of his past—the racism, the abuse, the ways of thinking that he was raised in, and then applying that to American society. I think this is a solid idea, but not terribly uncommon. What makes this better is the perspective Aras brings to it. Rather than identifying with the inmates, the victims of the holocaust; he puts himself in the shoes of the guards, of the soldiers carrying out the orders that those of us separated by a distance of miles, years and context can’t imagine.

Or, as the blurb concludes:

The result is this meditative inquiry, at once lyrical and piercing, on the nature of ethnic identity, the constructs of race and nation, and the lasting consequences of collective trauma.

It’s this part that I found wanting. The length of this essay didn’t work for me — Aras either spent too much time on things he didn’t properly develop, or he spent too much time talking about things that didn’t add enough value to the essay. Either fully developing things—which would probably take another 50 or so pages (just a guess)—or trimming about half the length to give a tighter, more controlled argument would have made this a stronger piece of writing.

I enjoyed the writing generally, but too often (not really frequently, but not rarely enough) his writing got in the way of what he was trying to do. His style was too elaborate, his vocabulary obfuscated, and he just got in his own way.

Lastly, I think the essay would’ve been better served with more about his actual time in Mauthausen.

In summary, I think this is a great concept, but I couldn’t get behind the execution—often overwritten, and either too short or too long. Still, this is worth your time. You’ll end up thinking about things in a different way, which is always beneficial. It’s a short read. It’s a compelling read. Sure, it’s a problematic read—but the positives outweigh that.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the author via Lori @ TNBBC Publicity in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this.


3 Stars
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Audiobook) by April Peveteaux: Laughing through the Pain of Gluten Deprivation

Gluten Is My Bitch

Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free

by April Peveteaux

Unabridged Audiobook, 3 hrs., 44 min.
Tantor Media, 2017

Read: September 6-9, 2019

Here’s the thing about going gluten-free, whether you’ve been given a celiac disease diagnosis or just know you feel better when you’re not enjoying cinnamon rolls for breakfast, flatbread pizza for lunch, and a pile of spaghetti Bolognese for dinner: It’s f******g hard. I won’t sugarcoat that for you . . . Smiling through the pain of watching your friends enjoy unlimited breadsticks while your plate sits empty does not change the intensity of our shared gluten-free torment. Let’s own that pain and complain about it until we’re asked to leave the party. It’s not all about wallowing in self-pity, though plenty of that is certainly in order. You are giving up chocolate croissants, after all.

This was a fun, fun, book that I’m glad I gave a shot to. I stumbled onto it while browsing my library’s audiobook collection. I don’t have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance or anything beyond a strong tendency to over-indulge, but I do have a child who was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease—and she has not enjoyed the last 10 months at all because of it. I thought I’d try the book to see if I could find any tips for her.

What I found was a laugh-out-loud (multiple times) funny book about the trials and tribulations—plus the occasional triumph—of having Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, or in her words:

a little guidance, maybe some crazy delicious recipes, and a whole lot of poop jokes.

We haven’t had the chance to use the supplement, “Recipes for the Downtrodden (AKA The Gluten Free)” but they look good. But I can say she takes care of the other two goals just fine.

Starting with talking about her own diagnosis, and some signs that others might look out for, as a way of establishing that she’s coming at this from someone who needs to be gluten-free and understands the plight of her readers, Peveteaux then moves on into the life of the gluten-free eater. She covers a lot of the changes that people have to make—including ones that are not obvious—the struggles to eat at a restaurant or a friend’s/relative’s house, where gluten can hide (on ingredient lists as well as the kitchen), how to raise a gluten-free kid (whether or not the parent is), travel tips (largely based on her own trip to Paris, I can’t imagine trying that), and a look at some of the treatments that are being worked on by medical researchers (and some loons). She closes with some thoughts on gluten-free resources/foods/sources, to help the reader out.

One of the chapters I enjoyed the most was where she discussed the overlap between the gluten-free crowd and Vegan, Crossfit and Paleo eaters (if the book was written now, she’d also include Keto, I think). She manages to poke fun at the groups as well as embrace them as allies and co-belligerents in the restrictive eating trenches. The other thing I appreciated was the encouragement to advocate to yourself without being obnoxious (or realize you’re coming across as obnoxious and at least be aware of it to diminish its impact) in various spheres of life—when it comes to something as vital as the food you put in your mouth, and the ubiquity of gluten, you’ve got to.

Peveteaux is serious about the disease/intolerance, but not about anything else. She makes fun of herself, her inclinations and suffering—helping her readers to do the same for their struggles. The book is a great mix of advice and laughs, guidance and goofiness.

It’s read by the author, and she does a great job with it (as is so often the case). She comes across as the friendly guide to the life sentence that is a gluten-free life from someone walking the same path, so she knows where the potholes are as well as where the best views can be found.

Yeah, it’s a bit dated—thankfully, there are more options in the market now than there were at publication (conversely, there’s a lot more hidden gluten sources, too)—and once or twice it steps over the tasteful line (and does the cha-cha down it most of the time), which makes it hard for Dad to hand to his daughter (who probably hears worse multiple times before her first class starts, but is wise enough not to tell her Old Man). But, I am going to buy a copy of this and put it in her hand. I think she’ll like the approach to the subject, the voice, and tips, but most of all just knowing that she’s not alone in her suffering—but seeing that you can laugh at it, too. I know I did.


3.5 Stars

2019 Library Love ChallengeHumor Reading Challenge 2019

Heaven on Earth by Thomas Brooks: A Classic Examination of and Exhortation to Assurance of Faith

Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth: A Treatise on Christian Assurance

by Thomas Brooks

eBook, 325 pg.
originally published 1654

Read: July 14 – August 11, 2019

Assurance is not of the essence of a Christian. It is required to the well-being, to the comfortable and joyful being of a Christian; but it is not required to the being of a Christian. A man may be a true believer, and yet would give all the world, were it in his power, to know that he is a believer. To have grace, and to be sure that we have grace, is glory upon the throne, it is heaven on this side heaven.

I am his. I am as sure that I am his, as I am sure that I live. I am his by purchase, and I am his by conquest; I am his by donation, and I am his by election; I am his by covenant, and I am his by marriage. I am wholly his; I am peculiarly his; I am universally his; I am eternally his. This I well know, and the knowledge thereof is my joy in life, and my strength and crown in death.

Here we have a description of assurance, and then an expression of the assured heart. Brooks’ Heaven on Earth is both an explanation of the doctrine and an exhortation to pursue it. Quotations like this are just a hint of that. Brooks is one of the best Puritans on this topic—and everything the Puritans wrote about the doctrine is head an shoulders above their Continental brethren. This is pure gospel gold.

I liked my post about it last time more than anything I’d say this time, so let me just use it (the final paragraph is new):
I just might have myself a new favorite Puritan (I’m not the only one who has a list, right?). I’m kicking myself for not getting to Brooks earlier in life. What a wonderful book—I’m looking forward to getting to read more by him.

Aesthetically, this is fantastic. The language sings—the book begs to be read aloud (and I frequently did so, interrupting whatever anyone around me was doing). You can feel the passion, the fervor throughout. A few paragraphs from different chapters illustrate this:

Divine light reaches the heart as well as the head. The beams of divine light shining in upon the soul through the glorious face of Christ are very working; they warm the heart, they affect the heart, they new mold the heart. Divine knowledge masters the heart, it guides the heart, it governs the heart, it sustains the heart, it relieves the heart. Knowledge which swims in the head only, and sinks not down into the heart, does no more good than the unicorn’s horn in the unicorn’s head.

The only ground of God’s love is his grace. The ground of God’s love is only and wholly in himself. There is neither portion nor proportion in us to draw his love. There is no love nor loveliness in us that should cause a beam of his love to shine upon us. There is that enmity, that filthiness, that treacherousness, that unfaithfulness, to be found in every man’s bosom, which might justly put God upon glorifying himself in their eternal ruin, and to write their names in his black book in characters of blood and wrath. God will have all blessings and happiness to flow from free grace.

Faith is the first pin which moves the soul; it is the spring in the watch which sets all the golden wheels of love, joy, comfort, and peace a-going. Faith is a root-grace, from whence springs all the sweet flowers of joy and peace. Faith is like the bee, it will suck sweetness out of every flower; it will extract light out of darkness, comforts out of distresses, mercies out of miseries, wine out of water, honey out of the rock, and meat out of the eater, Judg 14:14.

But beyond that, the book is sound, it is orthodox, it is Biblical—throughout Brooks points the reader to The Book and The One Who inspired it. His aim is to show “that believers may in this life attain unto a well-grounded assurance of their everlasting happiness and blessedness.” He then goes on to examine the nature of that assurance, hindrances that keep believers from it, reasons to encourage believers to seek it, and how they can go about it, the difference between true and counterfeit assurance, as well as answering questions about assurance. Examining the doctrine from so many angles, you really feel (and probably do) that you come away from this book having an exhaustive look at the doctrine.

Chapter 6—which takes more than its fair share of space, almost half of the book—is an extended detour from the point of the book, but it still serves to support the theme. He begins by saying, “In the previous chapter, you saw the seven choice things which accompany salvation. But for your further and fuller edification, satisfaction, confirmation, and consolation, it will be very necessary that I show you,” these seven choice things. Which are:

(1.) What knowledge that is, which accompanies salvation.

(2.) What faith that is, which accompanies salvation.

(3.) What repentance that is, which accompanies salvation.

(4.) What obedience that is, which accompanies salvation.

(5.) What love that is, which accompanies salvation.

(6.) What prayer that is, which accompanies salvation.

(7.) What perseverance that is, which accompanies salvation.

It is such a great chapter, and would make a remarkable little booklet unto itself that I really can’t complain too much that it’s such a departure from the rest of the book (though it did take me a little bit to get used to the notion).

Banner of Truth puts this out in paperback, monergism.com puts this out as a free e-book. Either way you go for it, this is a treasure I heartily suggest you grab.

When I read this five years ago, it struck me like a breath of fresh air, it was precisely what I needed at the time. I read it again last month, looking for the same thing. I didn’t find it—don’t misunderstand, it was very helpful, inspiring, and insightful. I was reminded and grew in my understanding of assurance. And, I collected a handful of great quotations from Brooks. But…the book as a whole didn’t sing for me. The first time, I didn’t know what to expect. This time, I probably came in with expectations that were too high. Last time I read it, I gave it 5 Stars. This time, I logged it as 3 Stars. So…let’s call it 4, shall we?


4 Stars

2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

Life of Christ by J. Gresham Machen: Short, Helpful, to the Point

Life of ChristLife of Christ

J. Gresham Machen

Kindle Edition, 50 pg.
Monergism Books, 2015
Read: August 18, 2019

This short work is extracted from the 1922 work A Brief Bible History: A Survey of the Old and New Testaments by Machen and James Oscar Boyd, and it felt similar to portions of Machen’s New Testament Introduction: An Introduction to its Literature and History. I think I’ve heard of the former, I’ve read the latter a couple of times. So, that took a little bit away from the experience for me.

But that doesn’t take away from the value of it—a concise summary of the Life of Christ (harmonized) and the beginnings of the Church in Jerusalem. I’m guessing this was some of the Sunday School curriculum material written by Machen while teaching at Princeton Seminary, and it includes study questions. There’s not a lot of interpretation or application (except in the questions), it’s largely just a boiled down run-through of the gospel accounts.

Machen’s possibly my favorite twentieth-century theologian — he’s definitely the clearest and crispest (with the possible exception of R. C. Sproul). All the things people like to say about C. S. Lewis’ popular apologetics apply to Machen (without the stumbling into troublesome weirdness), and his more academic apologetic work still holds up. This isn’t Machen at his best, but it still displays his style and approach (even if only a little).

Really not much to say about this, so I’ll just recommend it for a nice refresher.

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3 Stars
2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge