Category Archives: book review

Free Evangelical Books Online

I ran across a website called The Evangelical Christian Library.  They have 120 free books online, on numerous topics of interest.  There is a nice cross section of Evangelical thought.

Here are some titles that look interesting to me:

The Best of DL Moody, ed Ralph Turnbell, 1971

What the Bible Reveals About Heaven, Daniel Brown, 1999

Evangelical Affirmations, ed Kenneth Kantzer, 1990

The Islam Debate, Josh McDowell, 1983

The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer, 1970

Prayer, Conversing with God, Rosalind Rinker, 1959

The Top 10 Ways to Drive Your Wife Crazy (and how to avoid them), Hans & Donna Finzel, 1996

A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church, C.S. Cowles, 1993


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Book Review: John Calvin Goes to Berkely

Theology Made Accessible in a Novel.

John Calvin Goes to Berkely (author’s website)
John Calvin Goes to Berkely (Amazon link)

This book is the first in a series from University Christian Fellowship. It is a novel that weaves the age old questions of predestination and election into an interesting story line. The local University Christian Fellowship in Cal Berkeley is fractured. One of the members is a staunch high Calvinist. He is attempting to “convert” the rest of the leadership to his point of view, and is receiving outside pressure from his pastor to make this happen. The story revolves around the UCF leadership. Can they be salt and light? How does the fellowship respond to the challenges of a secular university? Can they understand the mystery of predestination? Is it solvable? How will the president Alex Kim cope with the division this issue causes? Can he bring peace and make everyone in the fellowship happy? Or is conflict and separation unavoidable?

The author James McCarthy does a fine job in presenting the major points of Calvinism and Arminianism, and the history behind these movements. The story is written in such a way that these theological points of view are made interesting and accessible to the average reader. It is fair to state that the author comes to basically Arminian conclusions regarding the issues at hand. The book also contains a bit of interesting history about Berkeley. The motto of Berkeley is: Fiat Lux. “Let there be light”. The author is obviously familiar with the campus. The reader will come away with a better understanding of how this rather unique college works.

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Book Review: The Shack

What would you do if you were invited to spend a weekend with God? What questions would you ask him? Maybe why evil exists? Why is there pain? That is the background for the book “The Shack” (Author: William P. Young).

The Shack has become a phenomenon. As of today (9-8-08) it is ranked #6 in sales on Amazon.com, and has over 1,200 reviews.

There is a dual reaction to the book in Christian circles. People either love it or despise it. I fall into the former category, with a reservation. I enjoyed the story. It brought me to tears a number of times. As the father of two girls, I empathized with the main character, “Mack”.

The Shack is about the problem of evil. Why does God allow for terrible things to happen? Mack’s youngest daughter Missy is brutally raped and murdered. This causes a rift in his relationship with God. Mack cannot trust a God who would allow such a terrible act. In the story God invites Mack to come to meet him at the site of the murder. Mack goes to meet God, and so the story continues.

The Trinity is represented by three persons: Papa (who is a black woman), Jesus (as himself), and Sarayu (an Asian woman). Some people have been bothered that the Father and the Spirit were represented by women. However, in the storyline it is made clear that they are not really female, they are simply an anthropomorphism of God – much like “Aslan” represents God in the Narnia books.

What I liked about the book was how well the author illustrated the loving nature of God. This aspect of God’ s character shined through. God deeply loves Mack. He desires to heal Mack, to be in relationship with him, and to set him free. God loves all of us that way, the author makes it clear. A phrase that is repeated is that God is especially fond of you (each of us).

In the story God does not desire evil, it is not ordained by him. Yet God is able to accomplish his purposes through the way he responds to evil – with his unconditional love.

One concern I have about the book is that it seems to imply universalism – the idea that everyone will be saved in the end. This concept is not explicitly stated, but I can see readers arriving at such a conclusion.

The outright hostile reviews of the book are unwarranted. They seem to primarily come from Calvinists who have an ax to grind with the (Arminian) theology of the author. This is unfortunate.

In conclusion, I recommend this book. However, it should not be taken as “gospel”. It should not be read in place of scripture. In the end it is simply a story – but a very moving one at that.

Some other reviews:
Greg Boyd (positive)
Tim Challies (negative)

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Book Review: Passion for the Heart of God

Passion for the Heart of God, by John Zumwalt

Zumwalt makes the case that the reason the church exists is to fulfill the great commission. God loves people. It breaks his heart that there are so many who have never heard his name. He yearns to be in relationship with the unreached people of the world. What grieves God ought to grieve us too.

Zumwalt argues that much of the problem with the Western church is that we have lost focus on what matters to God, and instead focus on ourselves. He argues that the Christian walk is not meant to be easy. Blessings that we receive aren’t meant for us to be used selfishly, but are given so that God’s name will be known among the nations. The same is true of the nation of Israel. Israel was chosen not just to be blessed, but instead to be used by God as part of his plan to reconcile every nation to him.

This is a challenging book. It is easy to understand, but it is not so easy to apply.

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Review of Roger Olson’s Book: Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

Review of Roger Olson’s Book: Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

The Calvinist/Arminian debate is often conducted in a way that is hurtful and lacks grace. If you are looking for a book that explains the Arminian view and at the same time treats the Calvinist view with respect, then this is for you.

This book is not a rejection of Calvinism, but instead is an explanation of why Arminians believe the way they do. Olson does not set out to disprove Calvinism.

I appreciated that Olson is not afraid to tackle those from his tradition if he believes that their theology is flawed in any way. For example he points out some of the shortcomings of the later Remonstrants (like Limborch) and he also points out some of the weaknesses of John Wesley.

The book was not an easy read. It was written at a level where I had to struggle at times to fully comprehend. The chapter on the theories of atonement was the most difficult.

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