The age of the “Information Superhighway” was declared just as the 1994 publishing season was begun, leading some pundits and self-declared “futurologists” to predict the impending death of the printed page. Well, if the current season is any indication, that day is long in the future, if at all. In fact, even the gurus of high technology are now admitting that the printed page is not likely ever to give way to the digital revolution in absolute surrender. Evidence? Publishers of software have found that customers are unwilling to use electronic software manuals — they want to look at a printed page.
Furthermore, the experiences of reading a printed document and viewing an electronic screen are fundamentally different. No one wants to settle into bed with the glow of a laptop computer screen revealing the page of the latest best-selling novel — or of the Bible. Novelist John Updike has commented that his works would be “roadkill” along the information superhighway.
So the printed page endures. And much of its success can be attributed to preachers, who marketers and publishers know are among the most avid purchasers of current books, periodicals, and reference works. As has been our custom for a decade, we offer this review of recent religious publishing — written with the preacher in mind.
Biblical Studies
New works in biblical studies continue to proliferate, including commentaries, specialized studies, and general works on biblical hermeneutics. On the hermeneutical front, one of the most important recent releases is Biblical Hermeneutics by Gerhard Maier. Maier’s work will prove most helpful to students and preachers struggling with critical hermeneutical issues. Maier is currently a rector and professor at Tuebingen in Germany. The work was translated from the German by Robert Yarbrough of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Maier presents a confident and unswerving allegiance to the full authority and historicity of Holy Scripture.
Another helpful hermeneutical approach is offered by veteran writers Walter C. Kaiser and Moises Silva in The Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Zondervan). Interestingly, Kaiser and Silva differ on several issues, making the volume a unique intra-evangelical discussion of key issues where evangelicals differ.
Three well-established biblical scholars have joined to co-edit Foundations for Biblical Interpretation: A Complete Library of Tools and Resources (Broadman and Holman). David S. Dockery, Kenneth A. Mathews, and Robert B. Sloan are joined by over twenty additional writers to produce a volume of remarkable breadth and depth. It will long serve students and preachers alike.
Recent commentaries include Galatians by Timothy F. George in the New American Commentary series (Broadman and Holman). George presents a model for the faithful exposition of scripture which is deeply theological and genuinely faithful to the text. A professor of church history as well as founding dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, George traces the influence of Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia through church history — and applies its eternal message to the contemporary Church.
Book of the Year:
Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (baker Book House).
Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read:
1. Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (Crossway Books).
2. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans).
3. Warren W. Wiersbe, preaching and Teaching with Imagination: The Quest for Biblical Ministry (Victor Books).
4. Ian Murray, Revival and Revalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelism (Banner of Truth Trust).
5. George Marsden, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Unbelief (Oxford University Press).
6. Timothy F. George, Galatians, New American Commentary (Broadman and Holman Publishers).
7. Dean R. Hoge, Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens, Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of Protestant Baby Boomers (Westminster/John Knox Press).
8. Alister McGrath, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (basil Blackwell Publishers).
9. Robert Wuthnow, Sharing the Journey: Support Groups and America’s New Quest for Community (Free Press).
10. Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology (InterVarsity Press).
Other releases in the “New American Commentary Series” include Daniel by Stephen R. Miller, Jeremiah and Lamentations by F. B. Huey, Jr., Ezekiel by Lamar Eugene Cooper, Sr., and Deuteronomy by Eugene H. Merrill.
Leon Morris produced Expository Reflections on the Letter to the Ephesians (Baker). “The Bible Speaks Today Series” from InterVarsity released The Message of the Song of Songs by Tom Gledhill and The Message of John by Bruce Milne. Releases through the IVP “New Testament Commentary Series” included 1-2 Timothy and Titus by Philip H. Towner and James by George M. Stulac. The IVP “Old Testament Commentary Series” includes as recent works 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles by Martin J. Selman and 1 & 2 Kings by Donald J. Wiseman. Each of these IVP series is worthy of note, and the releases will continue the quality set by earlier volumes.
InterVarsity Press also released a “21st Century edition” of their New Bible Commentary, edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson, and R. T. France. The work is one of the best one-volume commentaries on the market.
Eerdmans has produced a remarkable two-volume set on the historical background to the New Testament Church in The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Volume 1, Ancient Literary Setting, edited by Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke is joined by volume 2, Graeco-Roman Setting, edited by David W. J. Gill and Conrad Gempf. The unprecedented series will eventually include six volumes — all on the background to the Book of Acts. This is a remarkable achievement and investment by a major publisher, and the works will open entirely new avenues of understanding for students and preachers.
Recent reprints of note include Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi by T. V. Moore and I John by Robert Candlish (Banner of Truth Trust), both published under Banner of Truth’s “Geneva Series of Commentaries.” The volumes are well worth the investment in any preacher’s library and they represent the faithful interpretative approach of the English Puritans. Also of note are two volumes released in “The Crossway Classic Commentaries” series: John by John Calvin and Romans by Charles Hodge (Crossway Books). Both are genuine classics which deserve the preacher’s attention and shelf space. The two volumes are excellent examples of faithful biblical interpretation and each gives evidence of concern for the Church.
Theological Studies
Theologian David Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Eerdmans) was one of the most controversial works published last year, has continued his argument in God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Eerdmans). Wells argues that popular religion has been transformed by modernity into something far removed from classical Christianity. It has followed a trivializing trend which has left the Church numbed into superficiality. As he argues, God’s holiness and sovereignty have been lost on the Church: “His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.” Both volumes should be found on the preacher’s reading list.
Major systematic theologies have been rare in recent years, especially multi-volume offerings. Series recently completed include Thomas Oden’s three-volume work, Systematic Theology (HarperColins), steeped in the apostolic and patristic traditions. Works in progress include Systematic Theology by James Leo Garrett (Eerdmans), of which the first volume is available. This past year included the release of the third and final volume of Integrative Theology by Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce Demarest of Denver Seminary. The volume deals with personal transformation, social transformation, and final culmination in theological perspective. The authors have produced a work that is evangelical in conviction and creative in presentation.
Continuing his “Christian Foundation” series, Donald Bloesch has written Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration, and Interpretation (InterVarsity), a work of over 350 pages which reflects a clear Barthian influence.
In Continental theology, the only major systematic project of international significance has been the three-volume work of Wolfhart Pannenberg of the University of Munich. Evangelical theologian Millard Erickson has identified Pannenberg as “the greatest theological mind of our time at work doing genuine systematic theology.” The second volume of Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology (Eerdmans) is now available in English translation. The work will long be debated, and the critical questions concerning Pannenberg’s method and content remain, but the work is undoubtedly significant.
On the American front, theologian Richard Lints of Gordon-Conwell has produced what he characterizes as a prolegomenon to evangelical theology in The Fabric of Theology (Eerdmans). The work is solid both in historical and theological content.
From the west coast comes Redeeming the Routines: Bringing Theology to Life (BridgePoint/Victor) by Robert Banks, professor of the ministry of the laity at Fuller Theological Seminary. Banks is determined to relate theological issues to life, and the organization of the book follows contemporary concerns such as reality and credibility rather than traditional doctrinal issues. Banks’ goal is the development and maturation of a genuine lay theology. Preachers, who face the challenge of communicating theological truth in an atheological age, will find the volume of interest.
Perhaps no living theologian has produced a body of written work to match the sheer weight of that produced by Oxford University theologian Alister McGrath. McGrath’s one-volume Christian Theology: An Introduction (Blackwell) may prove among the most popular recent offerings. The work is a survey of sorts, and it is not intended to serve any specific tradition. Another major one-volume work was produced by theologian Stanley Grenz of Carey Hall in Vancouver. Theology of the Community of God (Broadman and Holman) is a massive survey and exposition in the form of a one-volume systematic. The shifts in Grenz’s own thinking about the purpose and method of theology are evident in this volume.
In other noteworthy developments, a revised edition of the late George Eldon Ladd’s A Theology of the New Testament (Eerdmans) was released, updated under the direction of Donald A. Hagner. Two new chapters by scholars R. T. France and David Wenham are additions to the classic text. Ralph Smith, distinguished emeritus professor of Old Testament at Southwestern Baptist Seminary has produced Old Testament Theology: Its History, Method, and Message (Broadman and Holman). The work is the culmination of a lifetime of scholarship. Boyd Hunt, distinguished professor of theology at Southwestern Seminary, has released Redeemed! Eschatological Redemption and the Kingdom of God (Broadman and Holman), by which he surveys the entire spectrum of theological issues through the doctrine of redemption.
The doctrine of sin, which has not received a major evangelical treatment since Bernard Ramm’s Offense Against Reason (Harper and Row), has now been addressed again by David L. Smith in With Willful Intent: A Theology of Sin (BridgePoint/Victor).
Preachers who are not well-armed with apologetic literature will be especially challenged by the intellectual currents of the 1990’s and the emergence of postmodernity. Recent apologetic offerings include Reasonable Faith: Basic Christian Apologetics by Winfried Corduan of Taylor University in Indiana (Broadman and Holman). The work is solidly evangelical and it is addressed to the thoughtful reader among either ministers or the laity. Another helpful apologetic approach is offered by Alister McGrath in Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths (Zondervan). McGrath seeks to build “bridges to faith” through apologetics addressed to the nonrational fears and anxieties of modern life.
Peter J. Leithart, pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, has produced a clear and straight-forward affirmation of the Church in the plan of God in The Kingdom and the Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church (Presbyterian and Reformed). The nature of true, biblical anthropology is considered by Richard L. Pratt in Destined for Dignity: What God has Made it Possible for You to Be (Presbyterian and Reformed).
Certain to be long remembered among the most controversial works of the year — and the years to come — are two volumes for which Clark H. Pinnock is a primary author. The Openness of God (InterVarsity) is written by Pinnock in concert with four other authors. The volume is, as advertised, a challenge to traditional theism. The work would attract little attention within mainline Protestantism, but the authors put forward their vision of an “open” God as an alternative theology for evangelicals. Their vision of a “give-and-take dynamic,” for which the authors claim biblical warrant, is likely to leave the majority of evangelicals shaking their heads. The volume is likely to set off a firestorm among American and Canadian evangelicals, for it is perhaps the clearest evidence yet of a major theological transition among some revisionist evangelicals.
With similar arguments but a wider range of concern, Pinnock has joined with Robert Brow to offer Unbounded Love: A Good News Theology for the 21st Century (InterVarsity).
Current questions raging on the ethical front are considered by John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg in Ethics for a Brave New World (Crossway Books). The Feinberg brothers have produced a thoughtful, reflective, and contemporary treatise which does address itself to the ethical perils and perplexities of our brave new world. The book includes helpful considerations of issues ranging from abortion, genetic engineering, and euthanasia, to homosexuality, and the problem of divorce.
Another volume worth the preacher’s notice was directed toward a specific denominational family, but the issues addressed are of pressing interest and concern to almost all Protestant denominations. Reclaiming Faith: Essays on Orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church and the Baltimore Declaration, edited by Ephraim Radner and George R. Sumner (Eerdmans) is an important set of essays which should prompt much helpful discussion among those concerned with the theological integrity of the churches.
Another work of note: Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Zondervan) by Ronald H. Nash of Reformed Theological Seminary. The book is a brief but thorough affirmation of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — one of the most pressing issues within the culture.
Historical Studies
Among the jewels of the 1994 publishing season is Iain Murray’s Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858 (Banner of Truth Trust). Murray, who directs the work of the Banner of Truth Trust in Edinburgh, has written a masterful survey of 18th- and 19th-century American evangelicalism, tracing the determinative influence of revivalism on the frontier and in the established states. Murray demonstrates a keen theological mind as he distinguishes revival in the biblical sense from the excesses of revivalism, as those excesses became determinative for much of American Christianity.
Preachers unfamiliar with this period will find the narrative force of the book will carry them through the century of study with great interest and illumination. Those with an established interest in the period — and in the impact of revivalism — will find the volume indispensable.
Preachers will also find of interest two new volumes on the history of American and British evangelicalsm. Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond (Oxford University Press), edited by Mark Noll, David Bebbington, and George Rawlyk, grew out of a conference on “Evangelicalism in Trans-Atlantic Perspective” sponsored by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. A companion volume, Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States (Baker), co-edited by Rawlyk and Noll, broadens the survey through much of the English-speaking world. Both are interesting volumes worth reading.
Students of American Christianity will find a recent volume edited by Keith J. Hardman of assistance. Issues in American Christianity (Baker) is a well-edited collection of illustrative and formative primary sources. The volume contains offerings from authors ranging from Alexander Whitaker (1613) to Billy Graham and Carl F. H. Henry.
Ministry and Preaching
Preaching’s 1994 Book of the Year, Christ-Centered Preaching (Baker) by Bryan Chapell, will long stand as a masterful consideration of expository preaching. The year did not see the publication of many homiletical volumes of a general nature — most were specialized works.
Warren W. Wiersbe, one of America’s most recognized preachers, has produced another important work addressing expository preaching in Preaching and Teaching with Imagination: The Quest for Biblical Ministry (Victor Books). Wiersbe understands the power of pictures, and he demonstrates how preachers can create vivid pictorial imagery through preaching the biblical text with imagination as well as exegetical faithfulness. Wiersbe also released his memories, Be Myself (Victor), the title of which is only fitting, given his popular “be” series of books. Wiersbe, who has served numerous churches including Chicago’s famous Moody Memorial Church, has much to share with his fellow preachers.
William Willimon, the well-known dean of the chapel at Duke University and Preaching contributing editor, has produced The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized (Eerdmans). This book follows Willimon’s Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized (Eerdmans), a thoughtful consideration of the challenge of preaching to those within the church. In The Intrusive Word, Willimon considers how this is different from preaching to those who have never heard, or have never grown accustomed to hearing the biblical story.
A series of model sermons drawn from the history of preaching is offered by Thomas C. Long and Cornelius Plantinga in A Chorus of Witnesses: Model Sermons for Today’s Preacher (Eerdmans). Some appear to have been chosen because of their historic character, others for the clarity of presentation.
Ray S. Anderson of Fuller Theological Seminary has written Ministry on the Fireline: A Practical Theology for an Empowered Church (InterVarsity), rooted in the birth of the Church at Pentecost.
Speaking “Pastor-to-Pastor,” H. B. London and Neil B. Wiseman speak pastorally to pastors in The Heart of a Great Pastor: How to Grow Strong and Thrive Wherever God has Planted You (Regal Books). The book will offer encouragement and hope to pastors experiencing frustration and disappointment as well as those experiencing fulfillment.
Donald McKim’s The Bible in Theology and Preaching: How Preachers Use Scripture (Abingdon) is an interesting collection in an updated edition. McKim offers various alternative understandings of Scripture and demonstrates how these views of biblical authority affect preaching.
The work is illuminating, though some of the representatives of various positions may be dissatisfied with the presentation of their respective understandings.
Works related to practical concerns of ministry include two new releases in the “Mastering Ministry’s Pressure Points” series. Standing Fast: Ministry in an Unfriendly World (Multnomah), by Ed Dobson, Wayne Gordon, and Louis McBurney, and Dangers Toils and Snares: Resisting the Hidden Temptations of Ministry (Multnomah) by Richard Exley, Mark Galli, and John Ortberg will be of interest to preachers standing against the challenges of the secular age.
George Barna, who has become a growth industry in and of himself, has released Turn-Around Churches (Regal Books), which addresses the unique challenges faced by those who would lead established churches toward growth and change. Though almost 80 percent of American Protestant churches are plateaued or declining, Barna’s research demonstrates that this pattern is not automatic or inevitable.
Lyle Schaller continues his creative approach to church life in Innovations in Ministry: Models for the 21st Century (Abingdon). As always, Schaller is unpredictable and eclectic. Few observers offer such a long view of the contemporary context.
John MacArthur, senior minister of Grace Community Church in California and president of the Master’s College, has joined with Wayne Mack of the college faculty to write and co-edit Introduction to Biblical Counseling: A Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling (Word). The volume sets out the basic issues involved in counseling, and it will be recognized for its clarity and conviction. Chapters cover issues ranging from “Biblical Counseling in the Twentieth Century” to “Counseling and the Sinfulness of Humanity.” The writers also demonstrate historical awareness with chapters such as “The English Puritans: A Historical Paradigm of Biblical Counseling.” The contributors offer their own counseling model, complete with administrative and practical guidelines.
MacArthur also released The Vanishing Conscience: Drawing the Line in a No-Fault, Guilt-Free World (Word). The work is an alarm addressed to the evangelical church confronted by a relativistic and therapeutic age. Also released from MacArthur’s pen is Drawing Near, a series of daily readings from MacArthur’s ministry, reminiscent of Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. The incomparable spiritual wisdom of the English Puritans is recaptured and republished in Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels (Banner of Truth Trust), edited by Edward Morgan.
Broadman and Holman Publishers has released a continuing series of serious works addressed to the tasks of ministry through their “Professional Development” line. Recent and worthy titles include Wayne McDill’s The 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching, The Antioch Effect: 8 Characteristics of Highly Effective Churches by Kenneth Hemphill (newly elected president of Southwestern Baptist Seminary), Power House: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Church that Prays by Glen Martin and Dian Ginter, The Issachar Factor: Understanding Trends that Affect Your Church and Designing a Strategy for Success by Glen Martin and Gary McIntosh, The Empowered Communicator by Calvin Miller, and Eating the Elephant: Bite-Sized Steps to Achieve Long-Term Growth in Your Church by Thorn S. Rainer, founding dean of the new Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The series promises to be among the most useful for preachers and other ministers.
General Reading
Works by sociologist Robert Wuthnow have been mentioned in this survey with regularity over the past several years, beginning with his seminal work, The Restructuring of American Religion (Princeton). That volume predicted and traced the new alignments among American Christians, and it has been validated, in the main, by the course of events in the years following the publication of the book. His most recent work is more narrow in focus, but it could hardly address a more contemporary development within the churches. Sharing the Journey: Support Groups and America’s New Quest for Community (The Free Press) traces the rise and spread of the support group movement in America — and in American churches.
It seems that Americans are being confronted with (or invited to) support groups for every purpose. Pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, the groups are now addressed to everything from co-dependency (so loosely defined as to include almost everyone), to the narrowest of shared characteristics, around which a group can be organized. Wuthnow argues that the support-group movement is America’s new means of establishing community amidst a culture of radical individualism. The book emerged from a major research project. A second volume, Support Groups and Spirituality (Eerdmans) is to be released this year.
Also emerging from Wuthnow’s fertile pen (or computer) this year was Producing the Sacred: An Essay on Public Religion (University of Illinois Press), the first volume in that publisher’s “Public Expression of Religion in America” series.
Another major research project which provides insight of keen interest to preachers is Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of Mainline Protestant Baby Boomers (Westminster/John Knox Press) by co-authors Dean R. Hoge, Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens. The three researchers have produced one of the most important works released during the last year, and every preacher should read the volume with care and profit. The portrait of the baby boomers which results from the study is not pretty. The generation is self-centered and generally relativistic in their understanding of truth. The title of the volume betrays the central thrust of the research: The baby boomers tend to erase all the boundaries between belief and unbelief — and they transform all questions of truth and meaning into questions of self-fulfillment.
Another volume rich with insights from solid research is Church and Denominational Growth edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway (Abingdon). Roozen and Hadaway cut through much of the fog surrounding questions of church and denominational growth, and their focus on congregations is a breath of fresh air in the current denominational research literature.
A fine presentation of Great Commission history is found in Evangelism: A Concise History (Broadman and Holman) by John Mark Terry, a professor of evangelism who also served as a foreign missionary. A consideration of current issues is offered by Leonard Sweet in Faithquakes (Abingdon). Sweet, one of the most interesting authors on the contemporary mainline Protestant scene, offers an unconventional book in unconventional times.
George Barna continues his annual review of American society and the church in Virtual America: The Barna Report 1994-95 (Regal Books). As always, Barna’s research is provocative and revealing.
For critical insights into the continuing American culture war, preachers should see James Davison Hunter’s Before the Shooting Begins (Free Press) and Michael Horton’s Beyond Culture Wars (Moody Press).
Finally, preachers perplexed by the dilemmas of postmodernity should turn to Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (Crossway Books). The volume, part of Crossway’s “Turning Point Christian Worldview Series,” is the best single volume on the postmodern challenge.

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