Thinking Out Loud

October 5, 2015

Eric Metaxas Gives the Women Equal Time

In a publishing environment where branding is prized, it was somewhat inevitable that at some point after the 2013 release of Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness (which we reviewed here) there would be a sequel. The former book was diverse: A President, two politicians, two athletes, a Pope, and a scaled down version of the author’s epic-length biography of Bonhoeffer. With Seven Women… the geography is perhaps more diverse, but the women all are crusaders of one type or another.

Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness - Eric MetaxasA book like this allows you the opportunity to read the sections in any order, but in the end, I proceeded in the order the chapters occur; partly because the first four stores — Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, and Maria Skobtsova — were less familiar to me. That left Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa, stories with which perhaps you also are more acquainted with.

Biographies by necessity entail a certain amount of biographical data. In this case, one encounters some of the dry stuff that Wikipedia pages are famous for, only to turn the page and discover Metaxas has linked some aspect of the woman’s life to things we experience in the 21st Century. So with Wesley,

Much of what she taught them [her children] was for the purpose of helping them see through — and therefore be able to resist — the secular doctrines of that time. So she may be regarded not only as the inventor of homeschooling, but also of what today is sometimes called “worldview teaching,” something modern Christian parents in the West have begun embracing as they raise their children in an increasingly post-Christian culture.

And if you’ve ever attended a church where the attendance dips noticeably on the Sundays the Associate Pastor (or Youth Pastor) is preaching, the paragraphs concerning her husband’s curate will certainly resonate. You might add to the above-mentioned accomplishments that she foreshadowed a time when those skipping church would stay home and listen to a podcast.

The story of Maria aka Saint Maria of Paris carries with it both Orthodox and Catholic history. (If you don’t know her, see the quotation we ran yesterday.) Of course, Mother Teresa’s story is overtly Roman Catholic, while Joan of Arc includes elements of Christian Mysticism. Her faith and prophetic gifts are rather amazing.

Hannah More is an inspiration to all the poets, playwrights, novelists and songwriters who wonder if they can make a difference through their art, but again, the story contains references to More’s ability to work the political system of the day.

Corrie ten Boom’s story is better known to Evangelicals, as Rosa Parks’ name is known to anyone remotely aware of U.S. history. You could make these into a movie. Oh, wait… And Mother Teresa’s life example never gets old.  Again, I found the people whose stories were new to me most beneficial, and plan to return to those first four chapters for a second round. 

Some have criticized Mother Teresa for being all about social justice with little attention to proclamation, even to the point of doubting her salvation. Metaxas gives us two insights on this however, one being “the fine line Mother Teresa had to walk as a Christian missionary in a Hindu country;” the other being quotations from a clear statement of the gospel given in her 1979 acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

What is the secret of the greatness of all these women? Often, Metaxas leaves it to the reader to infer or extrapolate such principles, though in the book’s context, their Christian faith is an obvious factor that goes without saying. He is content to wear a historian’s hat for this project, and to vary from that would probably result in a book double the size. As it is, the book gives each figure about 30 pages making this a practical resource for both adults and students.

Frankly, I hope the ‘brand’ continues. Seven More Women… or Seven More Men…? Based on the first two books, I’d place my pre-order today.

A copy of Seven Women was provided by Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publications in Canada. The Eric Metaxas Show airs Monday to Friday on the Salem Radio Network, or you can listen to past episodes at this link. Joan of Arc was, as it turned out, not Noah’s wife.

October 4, 2015

What Is a Saint?

Eric Metaxas, in the introduction to the chapter on Saint Maria of Paris, in the new book Seven Women and the Secrets of Their Greatness (Nelson Books).

Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness - Eric Metaxas[S]he was a poet who swam among the literary elites of St. Petersburg; then she managed her family’s award-winning wine estate on the Black Sea — and became the mayor of the town there. When the Russian Revolution made life impossible, she moved to Paris and became a nun. Finally, even as a nun she confounds our expectations: she smoked and drank. She did not live in a monastery but considered the whole world her monastery. She married twice, divorced twice, and had three children by two different men. Yet for all of this woman’s dramatically unorthodox behavior, the Orthodox Church recognizes her as a saint. Can we be blamed for being confused about this extraordinary woman?

In truth, it is precisely because of all these things that she commands our attention. Her life was messy and complicated, as most of ours are messy and complicated. By breaking every mold in which we would put her, she shows forth the beauty and the full-throated reality of the Christian life in a way that few in history have done.

Many of us are from religious traditions that do not confer sainthood, so the very notion is foreign to us. However scripture reminds us:

Col 1:12 Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

Eph 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.

The definition varies among denominations, but God is looking for people who live “set apart” to Him and for Him.  Even in the messiness of your life, you can live as such a saint.

The seven women featured in the book are: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks

September 28, 2015

Resolving the Four Different Versions of the Sign on The Cross

sign on Jesus' cross

A few weeks ago here I reviewed the new book by J. Warner Wallace God’s Crime Scene and back in 2013 we looked at his first book Cold Case Christianity. Of all the various possible approaches to Christian apologetics, the methodology used by this cold case detective is really resonating with reviewers and readers as the internet is abuzz with positive responses from the denominational spectrum.

Still there are times when I look back at my reviews — especially after a book really takes off — and wonder if I could have done more to whet my readers’ appetite for the author. So when I saw this excerpt sitting unattended in an unlit corner of the blogosphere, I figured, ‘Hey, Wallace is all about crime, let’s do some stealing.’ I think you’ll agree what follows is worth reading, and since my own detective work reveals you guys don’t always click through, the excerpt is here in full. (Click the title below to read at source.)

Why Are There Four Versions of the Sign on Jesus’ Cross?

It’s not uncommon for skeptics of Christianity to point to differences between the New Testament Gospel accounts as evidence of corruption or unreliability. I’ve discussed many of these alleged contradictions in my talks around the country, and I’ve written about many of them here at One example sometimes offered by critics is the sign posted above the cross of Jesus. The simple, brief message of this sign is recorded by all four Gospel authors, yet none of them record precisely the same words. How could these four men fail to record the same sign, given the importance of the moment and the brevity of the message? Look at the variations offered by the Gospel authors:

“This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37)
“The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26)
“This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38)
“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19)

In evaluating alleged “contradictions” of this nature, I think it’s important to remember a few overarching principles related to eyewitness testimony (I describe many of these principles in my first book, Cold-Case Christianity). Even though I accept and affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, inerrancy is not required of reliable eyewitnesses. In fact, I’ve never had a completely inerrant eyewitness in all my years as a homicide detective. In addition, I’ve never had a case where two witnesses have ever agreed completely on the details of the crime. Eyewitness reliability isn’t dependent upon perfection, but is instead established on the basis of a four part template I’ve described repeatedly in my book and on my website. But beyond these generalities, much can be said specifically about the variations between descriptions of the sign over Jesus’ cross. I take the following approach when evaluating multiple eyewitness accounts, and the same methodology can be used to evaluate these signs:

• Identify the Common Details
When interviewing multiple eyewitnesses, I listen carefully for common features in their testimony. In every witness observation, some details are more important than others; some aspects of the event stick out in the mind of the observers more than others. In this case, one expression is repeated by all four authors: “the King of the Jews”. Why does this one aspect of the sign appear repeatedly without variation? These words describe the crime for which Jesus was executed. Jesus was crucified because He proclaimed Himself a King; He was executed for His alleged rebellion against Caesar. This is consistent with the trial accounts we have in the Gospels and also accurately reflects the actions taken by the Roman government against other popular rebels. While we, as Christians, now understand God’s plan related to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the authors of the Gospels are simply recording the one most prominent feature of the sign: the description of Jesus’ crime.

Cold Case Christianity• Recognize the Perspective of Each Eyewitness
Every witness offers a view of the event from his or her unique perspective. I’m not just talking about geographic or locational perspectives here, but I am also talking about the personal worldview, history and experience every witness brings to the crime. All witness testimony is colored by the personal interests, biases, aspirations, concerns and idiosyncrasies of the eyewitnesses. In this particular case, an important clue was recorded by John to help us understand why there might be variation between the accounts. John said, “Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” The sign was written in a variety of languages and we simply don’t know how much variation occurred between these translations. The perspective and life experience of each author now comes into play. Which translation was the author referencing? Even more importantly, what were the concerns of the author related to the event? Some witnesses are more likely to repeat a victim’s name than others (if, for example, they knew the victim personally). Others will focus on something about which the witness had firsthand knowledge. I’ve seen an incredible amount of variation between reliable accounts on the basis of nothing more than personal perspective.

• Consider the Conditions of the “Interview”
In working cold cases over the years, I’ve read my fair share of investigative supplemental reports containing eyewitness accounts. I’ve come to recognize the role interviewers have on the accounts given by eyewitnesses. Years later, when re-interviewing these same eyewitnesses, I’ve uncovered additional information simply because I asked questions neglected by the first interviewer. When evaluating an account from the past, it’s important to recognize the location, form and purpose of the interview. This will have a direct impact on the resulting account. Something similar must be considered when evaluating the description of the sign on Jesus’ cross. We simply don’t know precisely the purpose of each author or the conditions under which each author wrote his Gospel. Why, for example, is Mark’s version of the sign so brief? Why, for that matter, is Mark’s entire Gospel so brief? Was there something about Mark’s personality accounting for his brevity (there does seem to be some evidence of this given the short, emotionally charged nature of his account), or was something even simpler involved (like a shortage of papyrus)? We’ll never know for sure, but we simply cannot assume each author was writing under the exact same conditions. No two witnesses are interviewed in precisely the same way.

• Differentiate Between Complimentary and Conflicting Accounts
When comparing two eyewitness accounts, I am more concerned about unresolvable contradictions than complimentary details. In fact, I have come to expect some degree of resolvable variation in true, reliable eyewitness accounts. While there are clearly variations between the sign descriptions in the Gospels, these dissimilarities don’t amount to a true contradiction. Consider the following reasonable message on the sign:

“This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”

If this was the message of the sign, all four Gospel accounts have captured a complimentary, reliable summation of the sign, even though there is some expected variation between accounts. None of these accounts contain an unresolvable, troublesome claim like:

“This is Judas Iscariot, the King of the Jews”

If one of the accounts contained this information, we would truly have a conflict worthy of our attention. There’s a difference between complimentary variation and conflicting description.

• Assess the Opportunity for Collusion
Whenever I am called to a crime scene as a detective, the first request I make of the dispatcher is to separate the eyewitnesses before I get there. I request this so the witnesses won’t have the opportunity to talk to one another about what they’ve seen. Witnesses will sometimes try to resolve any variations before I get there. I don’t want them to do this; that’s my job, not theirs. Instead, I want the messy, sometimes confusing, apparently contradictory accounts offered by every group of witnesses in such a situation. There have been times, however, when witnesses have the opportunity to consult with one another for several hours before I arrive on scene. When this is the case, and their individual accounts still vary from one another, I usually have even more confidence in the reliability of these accounts. When people have the opportunity to align their statements, yet still refuse to do so, I know I am getting the nuanced observations I need to properly investigate the case. The Gospel authors (and the early Church) certainly had the opportunity to change the descriptions to make sure they matched, but they refused to do so. As a result, we can have even more confidence in the reliability of these accounts. They display the level of variation I would expect to see if they were true, reliable eyewitness descriptions.

If the four authors of the Gospels had written precisely the same words throughout their Gospel accounts, skeptics would be no more confident in their content. In fact, I suspect, critics of the New Testament would be even more vocal in their opposition. The Gospels are appropriately varied and nuanced, just like all multiple eyewitness accounts. The variations between the sign descriptions is further evidence of this expected variation. This level of dissimilarity should give us confidence in the accounts, rather than pause. Why are there four versions of the sign on Jesus’ cross? Because the accounts are written on the basis of eyewitness observations. They demonstrate the characteristics we would expect if they are reliable descriptions of a true event in history.

~J. Warner Wallace

Both Cold Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene are available from David C. Cook Publishing where you buy quality Christian products.

September 25, 2015

Acts and Adoption: Lisa Harper’s Newest Tells Two Stories

I’m not a huge fan of plot contrivances in fiction, or some types of literary devices in non-fiction, so when it became apparent that Lisa Harper’s commentary on the Book of Acts was using the story of the adoption of her daughter as a motif, I was a little skeptical.

But in fact, author Lisa Harper really had won me over by the second chapter.

Believing Jesus - Lisa HarperBelieving Jesus: A Journey Through the Book of Acts is for certain a book about the fifth book in the New Testament, but it’s a different kind of approach, and if you can buy in to its premise, you will enjoy this immensely. So Peter, Phillip and Paul share the spotlight with Missy, a little HIV-positive girl from Haiti who has rocked the author’s world.

Granted, I’m not a frequent reader of women’s interest titles, but this is a story that offers surprises at every chapter. Not knowing much of the Women of Faith speakers, apparently this several-years-long adoption process resulted in Harper, who has reached the half-century mark in life, becoming a single mom. She’s very candid about the challenges that brings.

So how exactly does Ms. Harper bridge the 2,000 year gap between the early church and an orphanage in Haiti? The answer is: Very well. I don’t want to be the spoiler king, but this is a book like nothing else I’ve read before. What’s really happening here is that upfront you’re tracking the story of Lisa and Missy, meanwhile a solid theological lesson is sneaking in the back door. This is an author that knows her way around Bible reference materials, word-study books in particular. (Or conversely, you’re following along with the chapters in Acts and seeing touch-points of relate-ability you never considered.)

All of which to say that with Believing Jesus we have something that you could give to that woman in your church or small group that perhaps has never read a Christian book before. Maybe even one who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith. With its Facebook and Instagram pictures of the journey from Haitian orphanage to America, it’s also a great gift to a woman who has become a new parent through adoption, a single parent, or someone who has had a child later in life.

Warning: Lisa Harper’s treatment of some of the text in Acts makes Eugene Peterson sound like the KJV. (And I love it!)

September 24, 2015

Tolkien and Lewis Unlikely Choices for Sci-Fi and Fantasy

by guest book reviewer: Ruth Wilkinson

A common piece of advice given to young writers is, “Write what you know.”

So how did a couple of turn of the century, word-geek, English academics become the preeminent fantasy and science fiction writers of the modern era?

Joseph Laconte - A Hobbit A Wardrobe and a Great War - Thomas Nelson In A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War (Thomas Nelson) History professor Joseph Loconte traces the parallel stories of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien through the cataclysm that was World War 1 and beyond to their shared discovery and exploration of epic fiction and alternate history.  Drawing from many sources – including historians, biographers and original writings – he connects the two young men’s experiences in the trenches, mud, fire and disease of The Great War with themes, characters and landscapes found in the Narnia series, Lord of the Rings and their other writings.

We come to understand what the fierce friendships, values and personal strength of the characters they created have to teach us about being human and at war.  Quoting Lewis, “For let us make no mistake.  All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service.  Like sickness, it threatens pain and death.  Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst and hunger.  Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice and arbitrary rule.  Like exile, it separates you from all you love.”  And when Tolkien writes,”I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.  I love only that which they protect,” is he writing about England or Middle Earth?

And we see the world through the eyes of Lewis, a teenager who had written off Christianity as “ugly architecture, ugly music and bad poetry”, and Tolkien, a young man of faith whose Catholicism survived the war intact, when his peers and culture had found God to be uninterested and absent, and therefore nonexistent.

Loconte examines the spirit of an age that worshiped science, eugenics, industrialization, technology and related forms of ‘progress’.  He lays out how those forces were put to use in a war that was more destructive and devastating than any in the past, and the profound disillusionment and cynicism that were born out of it. And, yet, Lewis is able, through his friendship with Tolkien, to rediscover “…the myth that has really happened” – the story of Jesus Christ – to turn from his skepticism and to write stories that “offer the only possible escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable.”  Loconte writes, “Against the temper of their times, these authors dared to reclaim some of the older beliefs and virtues.  Their common Christian faith had much to do with this…”

This book challenges:  both to look back at the horror that humanity is capable of, and to look forward to the hope that Christ brings – when “everything sad will come untrue.”

September 22, 2015

Max Lucado Visits Israel’s Best Days

Glory Days - Max LucadoWhether it’s a specific time-frame in music history, the winning-est season for a favorite team, or maybe even a season in the life of your church; everyone knows what it means when you say “it was a golden era in the life of…” music, the team, the church.

For author Max Lucado, Israel’s golden era, or as he would say, Israel’s Glory Days were the time of entering the Promised Land as described in the first 14 chapters of the book of Joshua. This then, is the theme of his new book. Glory Days: Living Your Promised Land Life Now (Thomas Nelson).

Lucado books are often thought of as lite (sic) reading by those who prefer more scholarly and academic authors, but I found this one to be more substantive than some other books by him. Really, this is a commentary on the first part of Joshua, but it is a devotional commentary, in the same way the NIV Life Application Bible is a study Bible, just not the type of study Bible chosen by those who prefer the NIV Study Bible. I would contend however that without practical application, Joshua’s life — or the life of any other Bible figure — is simply facts on a page, which is fine for those of you who study history, but not enough for people who face real-life challenges and want assurance of God’s care and provision.

That is the appeal of his writing, and that shines through so clearly in Glory Days. Also apparent is that for a Old Testament study, there are numerous New Testament references which includes but is distinct from a Christocentric focus which also comes through in his writing.

The Lucado formula is evident in each chapter and has been copied by dozens of writers since. A contemporary story introduces a principle that is then discussed in the text. The difference that has earned Max the right to be heard over the years is the number of these stories that flow out of real-life experience and real-world contacts he has made.

The life of Joshua has inspired writers for generations. I can heartily recommend this to both veteran readers of Christian Living titles and those for whom this might be their first Christian book.

Note: A companion 6-week DVD-based small group study is also available for Glory Days.


September 12, 2015

Corrie ten Boom and her Interrogator

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

The following has been adapted from the just-releasing book, God The Reason: How Infinite Excellence Gives Unbreakable Faith by Craig Biehl (Carpenter’s Son Publishing). It appears on the blog Pilgrim’s Rock.

Corrie ten Boom Meets Lieutenant Rahms

God The ReasonShortly after her arrest and imprisonment for protecting Jews from the Nazi reign of terror, Corrie ten Boom met with Lieutenant Rahms, her pensive and troubled interrogator. He showed Corrie unusual kindness in his initial visits, though Corrie rightly suspected he was manipulating her to gain information about others involved in harboring Jews. Corrie spoke to the lieutenant about her ministry of preaching to the “feeble-minded” in what she called her “church for mentally retarded people” to which Lieutenant Rahms responded in typical Nazi fashion, “If you want converts, surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world!” Nervous and contrite, Corrie ventured a reply, “The truth, Sir…is that God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours—so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things.” Corrie “knew it was madness to talk this way to a Nazi officer,” but she continued. “In the Bible I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us. Who knows, in His eyes a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker. Or—a lieutenant.”[1]

In a later encounter, Corrie spoke to the lieutenant about the message of God’s Book. “It says…that a Light has come into this world, so that we need no longer walk in the dark. Is there darkness in your life, Lieutenant?” After a long silence, and in a surprising moment of candor, the officer admitted, “There is great darkness….I cannot bear the work I do here.”[2]

I do not know the fate of Lieutenant Rahms. We can hope that his earthly darkness drove him to flee from eternal darkness and embrace the Light of the World. Maybe we will see him in heaven. Or, sadly, like Pontius Pilate, maybe he traded justice and reverence for God for his short-term power and livelihood and became an eternal tragedy.

Many participants in the Nazi reign of terror likely struggled with the evils with which Lieutenant Rahms struggled. Many made eye contact with the precious people who were dehumanized as apes by a worldview that saw Aryans as the apex of evolutionary progress. Most could not distinguish Jewish children from their own. Many saw the disproportionate accomplishments of Jews in society, contrary to the assertions of the propagandists. Yet they participated in the murder.

What lives might have been spared the terror of the racist Aryanism if people were rightly treated as endowed with dignity, as created in the image of God. What concentration camps would never have been built and what trains would never have carried their priceless cargo if people acknowledged dependence on God for purpose, meaning, and a moral compass. What horrors might have been prevented if Nietzsche had bowed the knee to the “God of the weak” and had never penned his deadly philosophy. The Nazi god, the Aryan pinnacle of human evolution, was no god, with no ultimate standard of right and wrong, no ultimate accountability, and no ultimate consequences for evil behavior. As William Penn once said, “If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants.”[3]

Many were partners in the evils of the Holocaust, so beware—if you reject and ignore God’s moral compass, someone else will provide one for you…. And the prevailing winds will drive us where we never dreamed we would go.

[1] Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (Chosen Books, 1971; Bantam Books, 1974), 160.

[2] Ibid., 161.

[3] Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, rev. ed. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 34.



August 25, 2015

Review: NIV Zondervan Study Bible

It’s one thing to write an article about an upcoming Bible based on media releases — which appears in part at the end of this one — it’s another thing entirely to hold one in your hands. Such was the case last week when a beautiful bonded leather edition of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible was delivered.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible open

Opening the pages, it occurred to me that in another era, this was the type of product that a family would order by mail, wait weeks for, and upon its arrival the family would gather around the dining room table to check out the different features. It deserves a party!

This is very much an encyclopedic Bible taking the existing NIV Study Bible — which will continue to remain in print — and combining it with ideas such as the supplementary articles seen in the ESV Study Bible and the use of charts seen in the Life Application Study Bible, and the use of full color, in-text pictures first used in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible.

As you would expect, there are detailed introductions for each book, but also to each section of Biblical literature. However, the bulk of the supplementary articles are placed at the back, and these are topical but also tied to elements of systematic theology, though I’ve noticed the publisher prefers the term Biblical theology. There are many maps at the back; I also noted a full-page map embedded in the middle as well. A variety of scholars contributed to the project which was headed by D. A. Carson. The print version also includes a free digital download.

At 2880 pages this is a Bible packed with features. As such, I wish the font chosen for the notes was a little clearer, but I might upgrade to the large print edition. This may not be your take-to-church Bible edition, but it offers some great helps for both the new Christian who wants background information, and the veteran Christ follower. 

Below is the original article posted here in anticipation of this significant Bible release…

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

Opinions here are those of the author; this is not a sponsored post.

While the title may confuse some, you have to assume the publishers already sorted out that potential confusion and went ahead with the name anyway. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is releasing later this summer, and is certain to get mixed up with the classic NIV Study Bible which has been with us for several decades. The latter isn’t going anywhere.

At a major online Christian retail site, we read:

The NIV Study Bible will remain in print. With over 10 million copies sold over 30 years, this bestselling study Bible will continue to help readers come to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

And then it offers this chart which outlines the differences:

NIV Study Bibles compared

Looking closely at the author list above, methinks that that Zondervan is going after the same market as purchased the popular ESV Study Bible. Clearly, to some extent, the Reformed community is in view. However, by virtue of its weight, the ESV product attracted a broader audience containing features which had not heretofore seen in study Bibles. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the ESV Study did contain elements worth emulating.

Zondervan is quick to point out that this new project was not adapted from the present study edition, but was “built from the ground up.” 

Bonus: For those of you who’ve read this far, here’s a look at some of the extras in this Bible below which is a clue to where the advance peek treasure is buried:

NIV Zondervan Study Bible ArticlesClick the image above, and then click the “preview” tab to see the full table of contents and many of the introductory articles.

August 3, 2015

J. Warner Wallace: Another Cold Case Solved

Two years ago here I reviewed the book Cold Case Detective by J. Warner Wallace, in which the principles by which this police investigator has operated in his vocation are applied to fleshing out the reliability of the Bible’s gospel narratives. At the time I wrote,

Every decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience.

I enjoyed the book, and in the time that has passed since I wrote that review, have enjoyed recommending it to a variety of readers, though at times, I also feel it is Christian apologetics’ best kept secret.

God's Crime SceneA few weeks ago, Wallace returned with God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe (David C. Cook) in which he applies the same skills to the idea of God being behind what we might call creation. But we need to watch using the word creation in describing this book, since creation science is concerned with origins and answering the “How did we get here?” type of questions. Rather, this is more about intelligent design and bypassing the How? and When? questions to look more at What?; or more specifically the complexity that exists in the world pointing to a master designer; a designer who exists outside the realms we can observe or quantify.

The last distinction is important to Wallace’s argument; he compares it to cases where detectives would have to determine if the killer was in the room or came from outside the room. The analogy is very fitting, but the proof isn’t contained in one chapter or another, but in the aggregate of a case built on a foundation consisting of an amalgam of evidence and syllogistic logic.

The evidence “inside the room” points to a very specific “suspect.” He’s not a malicious intruder. Although I’ve titled this book God’s Crime Scene (in an effort to illustrate an evidential approach to the investigation of the universe), God hasn’t committed any crime here. In addition, God is not an unconcerned intruder; He isn’t dispassionate about His creation. (p. 201)

God’s Crime Scene is intended therefore to make the argument for the existence of God accessible to the average reader through the comparisons to anecdotal cold-case detective work, and the use of cartoon-like illustrations. But make no mistake, this is not light reading.

This time around, I found myself gladly absorbing the chapters that were more philosophical and epistemological in nature, but totally over my depth in the sections that relied more on biology and physics. I could only marvel that the author was able to present such a wide swath of material which was so multi-disciplinary.

Still there were elements of the argument that were not lost on me. Even a child could see the resemblance of a machine-like mechanism in the human body and a man-made machine that forms a similar function, the latter being something we know was intelligently designed. Or the logic that if we agree that the brain is distinct from the mind, then it’s not a huge leap to the idea that a soul exists.

This is a textbook-quality product that will appeal to a variety of readers with an assortment of interests in this topic and offers the additional payoff of further insights into detectives’ investigative processes. You don’t have to understand every nuance of every issue to both appreciate and learn from Wallace’s writing; and it is in the cumulative assembly of all the various subjects raised here that Wallace is able to mark the case closed.

I give this a very high recommendation both for Christian readers and those who doubt God’s existence. I’d be interested in seeing links to articles where non-believers have interacted with its various chapters, as I believe Wallace has been very thorough in his documentation and his logic.

At 340 pages in an oversize paperback, this book with ‘crime’ in the title is a steal at only $17.99 U.S.

July 21, 2015

Shack Author Paul Young’s Newest Releases in Two Months

Paul Young - EveAfter the huge success of The Shack, many publishers were after Paul Young’s third novel, Eve. When first released, The Shack was a game-changer for Christian publishing, its commercial success rivaled only by the controversy it created, with many of the negative responses coming from people who had never read the book. It also was put in the rare situation of having various other books written about it. 

Radio host Drew Marshall once quipped, “There are two kinds of people; people who like The Shack, and people who don’t like The Shack;” indicative of the great divide the book’s portrayal of God created.

After nearly five years, Young reappeared with Crossroads, followed by another three year gap that’s about to change on September 22nd when Eve, a 320-page novel releases simultaneously in hardcover and paperback from Howard, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

From the publisher’s blurb (excerpt):

…When a shipping container washes ashore on an island between our world and the next, John the Collector finds a young woman inside—broken, frozen, and barely alive. With the aid of Healers and Scholars, John oversees her recovery and soon discovers her genetic code connects her to every known human race. She is a girl of prophecy and no one can guess what her survival will mean…

…Eve is a bold, unprecedented exploration of the Creation narrative, true to the original texts and centuries of scholarship—yet with breathtaking discoveries that challenge traditional misconceptions about who we are and how we’re made. As The Shack awakened readers to a personal, non-religious understanding of God, Eve will free us from faulty interpretations that have corrupted human relationships since the Garden of Eden.

Eve opens a refreshing conversation about the equality of men and women within the context of our beginnings, helping us see each other as our Creator does—complete, unique, and not constrained to cultural rules or limitations…

You can read the full blurb at this link.

In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly published on Monday, Howard Vice President and Editor in Chief Ami McConnell said,

I think the thing that I am most proud of is that it’s the product of decades of thought and perhaps even pain on Paul’s part, and it’s a very rich experience. Every read that I’ve done has brought out new levels of awareness and understanding. This is a story that has never been told before. I have been working on just novels – no non-fiction – for a decade, and so I know the tropes. I know what notes you have to hit with certain kinds of stories, and I’m faithful to make sure that authors hit those notes. This is a story I have never read before. It’s a new approach to a story as old as our culture.

You can read more of that interview at this link.


Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at