Michael Kruger – Surviving Religion 101 — A Review

Michael J. Kruger. Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College. Wheaton: Crossway, 2021.

Keeping the faith once you leave the home is a challenge for any young person. It is harder to live in a world full of skeptics, hardships, challenges, and temptations. Students need to know that, while there may be many questions they face, all these questions have been asked before. Students need to grasp that there are thoughtful answers to their toughest questions. Michael Kruger, in Surviving Religion 101, offers students such answers.

Michael Kruger is no stranger to thoughtful argument. Having written on issues as complex as biblical canonicity, Kruger is not afraid of challenges. But unlike a seminary level treatment of complex theological or historical issues, this new work from Kruger is written for a person just headed off to college and it would certainly be accessible even to students a bit younger.

One of this books’ most excellent attributes is its sweet tone throughout. Unlike some apologetics works that aim to demolish enemy arguments, Kruger’s writing is soft and sweet. This is not because Kruger is soft on truth. Rather, Kruger has written each of the book’s chapters as a letter for his own daughter beginning her collegiate career. Kruger writes as a dad to a young lady he loves. He treats her potential questions seriously but never harshly. His arguments are thoughtful and helpful without resorting to sarcastic belittling.

A look at the table of contents will show the reader that Kruger walks through a variety of objections to the faith as well as personal struggles a Christian might face. The author understands that, as a young person walks onto the college campus, she well may be faced with difficult questions raised by people who are much smarter and much more well studied. As any faithful dad would want to do, Kruger reminds his daughter that there are answers available to her if she will take the time to think and to work a bit. He assures his daughter that she does not have to fear being around smart professors who do not believe, being faced with questions about the authenticity or reliability of Scripture, or being faced with the world’s moral objections to the morality of the faith.

As a pastor, I would strongly recommend Surviving Religion 101 to pastors, parents, student ministry leaders, and young people preparing for college. This book could be a great help to believers of any age who are facing the difficult objections that the world throws their way. I’m personally considering using the chapters of this text as a helpful outline for an adult Sunday School class in our congregation. My recommendation is that you buy this book, give it to students, and enjoy the strong argument and sweet tone as you take a stronger hold on your own faith.

*** I received a free eBook version of this book in exchange for an honest review. ***

Greg Gilbert – Assured — A Review

Greg Gilbert. Assured: Discover Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest in Your Salvation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. 157 pp.

How do I know that I am saved? Should I question or even doubt my salvation? What do I do with my own fears about my salvation? Questions like these and others are what Greg Gilbert answers in a helpful and winsome way in his latest book, Assured.

What I enjoyed most about this work is Gilbert’s constant, clear focus on the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Unlike many authors who drive people only to check for good works to find salvation, Gilbert urges readers to focus strongly on the gospel first. The first question that a doubting person should ask is whether or not they believe the truth of the gospel. Do you believe in Christ? Do you know of your own sin? Do you believe that Jesus died to pay for your sin and rose again? Do you desire to surrender your life to Jesus in faith? Such questions are more important than other measures that often leave us doubting.

Gilbert is not at all promoting an easy believism in this work. On the contrary, he is quite clear that genuinely saved people will have lives that show that genuine faith. The point that Gilbert is strongly making, however, is that our focus should be far more on Christ than on self as we seek to be able to rest in God’s grace.

In this work, Gilbert will deal with the issue of assurance from a variety of angles. Gospel is first and foremost, but the author does not ignore the witness of the Spirit, good works, or the promises of God. He also addresses several mistakes that people often make that make assurance more difficult. Gilbert does not ignore the big problem of besetting sins but deals with the concept in a biblical and pastoral way.

I read through this book quite quickly, and I found it both helpful and enjoyable. This would be a great book to work through with a friend who is struggling with assurance, or even for you to read if you have your own doubts. It also might be a helpful tool for a short Sunday School series or home study.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for agreeing to post an honest review.

D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers — A Review

D. A. Carson. Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, 2018. 157 pp.

Balance in Christian training can be tough. Some books or sermon series can take up a great deal of one’s time without imparting anything beyond the simplest of truths. Other writings can go so deep into minutia that they discourage readers and offer next-to-nothing for our daily lives. Teachers and authors who have the gift of true teaching, a gift that both shares information and promotes transformation, they are a treasure to the church.

One such teacher and treasure to the church is D. A. Carson. Carson’s book Basics for Believers is an excellent example of teaching that is both easy-to-understand and certainly not shallow. Carson has a way of writing that is clear and helpful even as he opens our eyes to important truths from the word of God.

Basics for Believers is a book that arose from a series of 4 sermons that Carson preached through the book of Philippians. Carson’s messages have been adapted to make five chapters of helpful and enjoyable reading. This book walks verse-by-verse through Philippians. Carson is not here writing a scholarly commentary. Nor is he simply summarizing the text. But, as a good preacher would try from the pulpit, Carson is working to communicate important truths to believers in ways that will encourage, convict, and change them.

I would recommend the use of this book in a couple of ways. Basics for Believers would be a fine read for any growing Christian. This work would also be a helpful resource for a Sunday School teacher or group leader wanting to walk a group through Philippians. I believe that anyone who reads this book will walk away with an appreciation for the grace of God and a challenge to live to his glory in all things.

** Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing an honest review.

Andy Crouch – The Tech-Wise Family — A Review

Andy Crouch. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017. 224 pp. $11.00.

Modern families who care about their children must consider how technology impacts their lives. Andy Crouch recognizes this truth, and shares with us some strategies that he and his family have tried to implement in order to manage the challenges of 21st century living.

I read this book upon my wife’s recommendation. She had heard Any Crouch on a podcast, and she thought that his book could offer our family some well-needed guidance. We have 3 little ones in our home, all of whom love their devices. How can we help to keep our house from becoming one of those places where a family communicates more through texts than through conversation?

Crouch offers some lovely and lively looks into his family and their decision-making process regarding technology. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this book is that Crouch suggests a God-centered approach to keeping all of the parts of life in their place. It is wise for a family to determine how, when, and where they wish to use technology. Once those decisions are made, it is helpful for a family to structure their home, even in its shape, so as to make this strategy more possible to pull off.

One example is that the Crouch family has made parts of their home sort of tech-free zones. In those places, the family makes sure to have other things available to occupy minds. Musical instruments, art supplies, and books to read help make certain parts of a home places where a child may not feel the immediate pull of a device on his or her young mind.

Another beauty of this book is that it is not a couple hundred pages of horror stories. Yes, there is a chapter on the dangers of sexually explicit content on the Internet. But even that chapter does a great job of pointing out that the heart behind being careful here is a heart of godliness.

The weakness in this book is a weakness that I find almost unavoidable in such a work. Crouch, as he shares his family’s standards, can tend toward a tone of legalism. For example, the book demonstrates a Sabbatarian shape, and the rules that he promotes regarding tech and the Sabbath are surely not for everybody. At the same time, as a non-Sabbatarian, I find Crouch’s handling of that theological topic unconvincing.

Other categories of Crouch family rules could be made legalistic if readers are not discerning. The author tells us of their family standard of 1 hour per day, 1 day per week, and 1 week per year when technology is put away. This is a good practice, but readers will need to be careful not to receive it as a universal rule. Similarly, the Crouch family tries to avoid tech while in the car. Again, this is a good rule, but it may not work for every family.

If you can read this book without receiving recommendations as rules, The Tech-Wise Family will be of great help. The ideas are creative. The concept of having everything in its place is wise. And, for sure, Christian families need to do some very real thinking about how to manage their technology instead of letting their technology manage them.

Schreiner – Run to Win the Prize — A Review

Thomas R. Schreiner. Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 128 pp. $10.61.

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is an important teaching in the word of God. At the same time, this doctrine is often misunderstood or caricatured to the detriment of those who misunderstand it. Thomas Schreiner, author and seminary professor, attempts to clarify this doctrine in a simple and accessible way in Run to Win the Prize.

Run to Win the Prize is a condensed and simplified version of a larger work entitled The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance by Schreiner and Caneday. At the same time, Run to Win the Prize is an attempt by Schreiner to respond to some misconceptions about the conclusions of the larger and more exhaustive work on the topic. But readers need not fear that this shorter version is unhelpful. Schreiner uses the smaller book size to great effect as he helps readers to consider some very important perspectives on perseverance.

First, Schreiner insists that the New Testament does teach perseverance. He argues that a person genuinely saved by God will remain saved. At no point does Schreiner allow for a view that holds that we keep ourselves saved by good works—a form of legalistic works righteousness. Nor does Schreiner ever offer a view that Christians who are genuine Christians can ever end up ultimately lost.

Sometimes, when people hear a strong message of eternal security for the saved, they will respond with a twisting caricature of the doctrine. Opponents will claim that a person can pray a prayer, be saved, and then live however sinfully they want without consequence. Schreiner’s work speaks boldly against this view by arguing that the warning passages in Scripture are very real, very serious, and intended for believers.

Many Christians interpret passages such as the opening verses of Hebrews 6 as passages intended for people considering Christianity, but who are not yet converted. They, if they turn from grace, will be lost. Others suggest that the warning texts teach that someone can lose their salvation by intentionally walking away. Schreiner offers a third option.

Schreiner suggests that the warning passages are genuinely for Christians. He argues that the passages say exactly what they want to say, warning that a believer who intentionally turns from Christ and walks away will be lost. But Schreiner adds the biblical perspective that no genuine believer actually will make such a turn against the Lord. Schreiner argues that the warnings, genuine warnings, are means that the Lord uses to keep genuine believers. Like warnings on bottles of poison that declare to a person, “If you drink this you will die,” the warnings in Scripture, Schreiner argues, tell believers that if they turn from Jesus they will die. And, Schreiner argues, just as you and I would never drink the poison because of the warning, neither will genuine Christians ever turn against Christ so as to fall away eternally.

Schreiner also addresses briefly the misconception that an understanding of the doctrine of perseverance of the saints leads to a Wesleyan doctrine of perfectionism. The author is clear that he is not in any way teaching any form of sinless perfection among saints before the eschaton. Instead, he argues that believers are warned by God and kept by God. Believers will grow and be sanctified. But Believers will not be perfected until they leave this life.

I found Run to Win the Prize to be thoughtful, encouraging, and helpful. Personally, I am not certain that I agree with Dr. Schreiner regarding the audience for all of the warning passages. I believe it is possible that some of the passages are for those who have been exposed to Christianity, are considering it, are understanding its truth, but who are tempted to reject Jesus and walk to the Jewish temple religion (obviously pre AD 70). But, even if I disagree there, I must be humble enough to allow Dr. Schreiner to cause me to think my conclusions through thoroughly.

For sure, this book is a great help for believers in showing us that a true understanding of eternal security, perseverance of the saints, does not do away with our call to obedience and sanctification. Schreiner’s book sounds a clear call for all saints to recognize that God warns us sternly to remain in the faith, and God works in us, even using those warnings, to keep us in the faith.

Carson — The Farewell Discourse of Jesus — A Review

D. A. Carson. The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Evangelical Exposition of John 14-17. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. 242 pp. $13.89.


As a pastor, I have taught through the Gospel According to John at least twice, and of course have gone back to the text many times. Whenever I study this book, I eagerly refer back to D. A. Carson’s commentary in the Pillar set. So I am a fan. And thus I am a fan of this shorter work by Carson aimed at helping anyone in the church body to gain a greater understanding of John 14-17.


Carson is a brilliant writer. He can move from faithful exegesis and examination of Greek on the one hand to citing the lyrics of sweet old hymns on the next. He can go from heavy argument on more difficult verses on the one hand to talking us through what it means that Jesus calls us his friends on the next. Carson knows how to be the scholar and he knows how to right as a fellow believer with all the rest of us.


Carson’s work on the farewell discourse feels much like his commentaries, though the heavier lifting is not there. Unlike a scholarly commentary, when Carson runs across a debated point in the text in this work, he will not offer 4 or 5 alternative views before making his argument for his preference. Instead, he simply gives us the argument he believes is correct. This is no weakness to this book. Rather, it is a product of the purpose of the text. Carson is writing here for pastors and laypersons who want to go deeper in their study but who do not want to purchase a $50 commentary on the subject. He wants to be readable and understandable without bogging people down in minutia. And Carson, as always, does an excellent job of finding the balance between heavy scholarship and readability.


If you would like a solid book to help you to do an in-depth Bible study with other believers on the farewell discourse of Jesus, this would be a great tool for you. No, it is not a fluffy work. No, it does not offer you study questions and outlines for the study. This book simply takes you through the text, shows you its meaning, and draws for you helpful application. If you are interested in such things, this book is a good one.


** I received a free copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Willing to Believe – A Review

R. C. Sproul. Willing to Believe: Understanding the Role of the Human Will in Salvation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, (1997) 2018. 240 pp. $12.18.


What is the role of man’s will in his salvation? How fallen is fallen man? Has the fall ruined our ability to respond to God, or has the fall merely damaged that ability greatly? These questions have been asked throughout theological history, and the debate still carries on.


In Willing to Believe, R. C. Sproul does the scholar’s work of gathering for his readers the arguments of a set of theologians throughout the history of the church regarding the issue of the human will. Each chapter of this work summarizes the view of a different important figure in the development of theology. Some names are more familiar and some less so. But all the men mentioned in this work have brought something new to the table, for good or for ill.


Where this work is valuable is in the summary of the development of Christian doctrine. If a reader wants to see how people from as early as the 4th century or as late as the 20th century have thought about the issue of man’s will and the impact of the fall, this work is very helpful. Students needing to write about the issue of free will could not have a much more helpful volume. And any Christian who hears a name such as Edwards, Calvin, Augustine, or Pelagius, could quickly turn to the appropriate chapter in this book to find out how each figure contributed to the development or confusion regarding the issue of God’s sovereignty and our salvation.


This work could, however, leave readers disappointed. If a student wants to see how Sproul would interact with each scholar, she might find the treatments thin. While Sproul points out errors from time-to-time, he does not thoroughly critique each man’s view in such a way that the critique is simple, clear, and powerful. Other works by Sproul offer his own take on the issue of man’s will. And, yes, this book will let you in on Sproul’s view, but there is not, as one might have wanted, a nice summary chapter from Sproul to help his readers wade through the controversy to a simple and clear conclusion.


** I received a free copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

50 Core Truths – A Review

Gregg R. Allison. 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. 448 pp. $19.36.


We do not often find a book that does something that other books are not also doing. This is especially true in the world of systematic theology. But Gregg Allison has given us something fairly unique in 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith.


What makes this book different is not that it covers a variety of important theological truths. What makes it unique is that it prepares us to teach these truths to people in our churches. Allison did not intend to give us another twelve-hundred-page theology textbook or another abridged version of such a work. Instead, Allison gives us a teaching tool that is designed to prepare pastors, Sunday School teachers, and small group leaders to help learners make their way through the key truths of the Christian faith. This book is a springboard for teaching, not an attempt to be the end of any discussion.


In each chapter of the book, Allison introduces an important doctrine and gives a brief explanation of the concept. If there are differing views on the doctrine among orthodox believers, Allison offers explanations from each point of view. The author also gives his readers examples of major errors that Christians and cults sometimes fall into. He shares with readers ways to live out important truths of the doctrine in their lives, giving us practical implications of some pretty big truths. And Allison presents, in each chapter, an outline of how to teach the doctrine to others along with resources for further study.


What is best about this book is its potential to be useful to a great variety of folks. If you want to get a basic understanding of the issues being discussed in a particular doctrine, this book is for you. If you want to know how to communicate the components of a particular doctrine to others in an understandable way, this book is for you.


If you are looking for a book that solves for you the debated topics among evangelicals, this book is not for you. Allison will help you to see how different Christians make cases for issues such as baptism, charismatic gifts, election, or end times. But the author will, in the end, instruct you to teach the doctrine in accord with your church’s official stance.


I believe that Gregg Allison has done the church a service by writing50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith. This book is easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, easy-to-use, and sure to be helpful to those who want to learn or teach doctrine. I would recommend this to pastors, small group leaders, and students. It is a useful resource to pull off your shelf if you need a quick summary of a doctrine, arguments surrounding that doctrine, and further resources. The fact that Allison has given useful teaching outlines for each doctrine means that this book contains at least 50 solid small group sessions or discipleship classes.


** I received a free copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for writing an posting an honest review.     

The Complete Seminary Survival Guide — A Review

Mark Warnock. The Complete Seminary Survival Guide. West Palm Beach, FL: Seminary Survival Strategies, 2017. 147 pp. $9.99.  

Kindle Edition


Considering seminary? Already a student? How do you navigate the waters of the seminary environment? How do you manage schedule, family, spiritual life, ministry preparation, finances, and so much more? Answering questions like these with practical, simple, but not always obvious solutions is the point of The Complete Seminary Survival Guide.


Mark Warnock is a seminary graduate with both an MDIV and PhD. He has been a student on campus and a student from a distance. Even more importantly, He has served in a variety of ministry settings and has a solid grasp of concepts to help students make things work.


What you should love about this book is the practical approach that Warnock offers his readers for seminary survival. The author is not foolish enough to think that he can offer a one-size-fits-all approach to how you should handle your own personal navigation through seminary. Instead, he offers multiple, practical, and useful bits of counsel. Often he will offer several options, and then simply tell students to pick one and see if it works. This practical and personalizable approach makes this book a help to students from a variety of backgrounds and in a variety of life situations.


Another beauty of this work is the author’s sometimes unconventional approach to seminary. While encouraging students to get all they can from their classes and to take advantage of the glorious opportunity afforded them, Warnock knows that not all classes will be of equal value and equal weight to every student. Thus, he can tell students—perish the thought—that settling for a B in a less important class is worth it in order to succeed in a more important class, in ministry, or in marriage. One would think that such counsel would be obvious, but as a seminary graduate myself, I can say that this simple principle is often overlooked by eager students who are slaves to their GPA.


One final positive that I will mention is Warnock’s focus on real ministry. The book contains some incredibly valuable advice to students about doing real ministry while in seminary. The author suggests to students that they should take advantage of the opportunities around them to serve in churches, to do real ministry, to learn from experienced pastors, and to simply not waste their time in seminary sitting in Sunday School classes full of other seminary students. The author points out that seminary students need to learn to love people, and this is not going to happen in the classroom. That piece of counsel alone would make the book worth far more than its purchase price for any student who would take it to heart.


No, as a student, you will not always agree with the advice Warnock offers in his book. He suggests that you avoid living on campus in order to relate to people outside of the seminary bubble. This is good counsel for many, but it will not work for all. Warnock understands that even as he will prod students to consider things from a fresh perspective.


I would happily and strongly recommend The Complete Seminary Survival Guide to any students presently in or presently considering seminary. Beyond that, however, I would also recommend this book to simply any student. The priorities that Warnock sets forth for seminary students should ring true for students in any degree program. His counsel on time-management and life priorities is invaluable. This would be a great book to pick up for someone you know headed to seminary or perhaps even for someone starting another type of graduate program. Many of the chapters on academics would even be a great help to high-school students. If you are a student, give this book a try. If you are a parent or pastor of a student, do not hesitate to make this a valuable gift.

Favor – A Review

Greg Gilbert. Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. 178 pp. $9.85.


I’m growing to love the writings of Greg Gilbert. His work with Mark Dever devoted to helping us understand church health is highly valuable. His little book, What is the Gospel, is a wonderful tool in helping believers to understand a simple presentation of the true faith. And now Gilbert has produced a solid book on helping us to know how to understand, gain, and enjoy the favor of God.


In Favor, Gilbert takes on the false understandings of the favor of God that are often put forth by prosperity preachers and legalists worldwide. Then Gilbert shows how the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to the favor of god. As in What is the Gospel, Gilbert speaks to us clearly and relatably about the way of salvation in Christ. Then Gilbert spends half of the book showing us the glorious benefits of life in the favor of God.


As a pastor, I would quickly recommend this book to a variety of people in the church. Gilbert’s writing is so engaging and simple that any believer of any level could read and benefit from the book. Believers struggling with contentment or guilt could gain from the insights of the text. This book would make a fine tool in the toolbox of a biblical counselor who wants to help a person see that the gospel, and not our performance, is the source of our receiving favor from the Lord. Even non-believers who assume they must work their way into the favor of God could benefit from the clear gospel at the beginning of this work.


Are you struggling to actually believe that God loves you? Read this book. Are you wondering if your failures in the past are keeping you from the goodness of God? Read this book. Are you foolishly thinking that you have earned something good from God by your good behavior? Read this book. Are you wanting to know how to communicate the gospel of Christ and the sweetness of his Favor? Read this book.


•           I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.