Category Archives: book reviews

A Review: Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema

Perhaps one of the most important truths we can ever know is the truth about ourselves. Knowing the truth about ourselves will determine the perspective we have on ourselves and on those around us. We cannot derive this truth from ourselves, but from God’s revelation in Scripture, because He is the God who has created us in His image. We are existent only because of Him and through Him, and it only makes since to glean the truth about ourselves from God. The doctrine of man seeks to explain who and what man is, where he came from, where he is going, and what he should be doing.

Created in God’s Image¹ is the magnum opus on this doctrine of man, authored by the well-learned professor Anthony A. Hoekema. He was a professor who taught at the esteemed Calvin Theological Seminary for several years. And this book is one of three volumes which Hoekema has authored that deal with some of the most major Christian doctrines. This book deals with the crucial doctrine of man, and it is easily visible that Hoekema knows what he’s talking about. It is evident from reading the book that Hoekema is completely suited to author such an exposition as this, for he is very acquainted with the Scriptures, with church history, and is skilled in countering the unbiblical perspectives on the Christian doctrine of man. The references to and exegesis of various passages of Scripture greatly demonstrate Hoekema’s careful analysis of all the biblical data concerning this doctrine. Also, in every chapter there are many interactions with the views and teachings on the various aspects of the doctrine of man by those throughout church history, and those who currently teach varying views of the aspects of the doctrine. But Hoekema notably counters the views and perspectives that are contrary to Scripture in a way that should convince any reader.

The main thesis of the book is clearly to accurately define and expound on the doctrine of man, and all of its implications. From the title alone, one assumes that Hoekema is going to deal with the doctrine of man in some way. It is evident from the book that Hoekema describes the three most basic and essential components of the doctrine of man. These three being: first man as created in the image of God, secondly man as corrupted and depraved by sin, and finally the unity of man or man as a holistic being. First, he expounds on the doctrine of man by explaining how man has been created in the image of God. Hoekema stresses the importance of understanding this doctrine, because it essentially answers the crucial question, what is man? He answers this from a Christian understanding by explaining who and what man is as a created person, having been made in the image of God. He examines the biblical teaching on this doctrine first, basically saying that man as he has been created in God’s image is a representation of God and is like Him in certain respects (13). Even though man is affected by the corruption and guilt of sin, the image of God in man is not lost but is distorted, and is being renewed through the process of sanctification (32). Hoekema then examines the understanding of this doctrine throughout history, noting the various views among different theologians, observing what is either right or wrong about their views in light of the testimony of Scripture. Then, he presents the theological meaning and significance of the doctrine, and the affect this can have on man’s perspective of himself.

The second part of the book focuses on how man has been corrupted and depraved by sin. He enucleates on the image of God as having been distorted by sin, and how God is renewing this image in the believer by His grace. Hoekema expounds on this central aspect of the doctrine by dealing first with the origin of sin, and strongly defends the historicity of Adam over against many opposing views. Then, he proceeds to explain how sin spreads to all mankind, noting how exactly the guilt of Adam’s sin is reckoned to our account (166), and that we sinned “in Adam,” therefore being born with a corrupt nature (167). After defining the origin and spread of sin, Hoekema takes on the nature of sin, noting several crucial truths that clarify exactly what sin is. Then he deals with the restraint of sin in the world. One may wonder, Why isn’t the world literally hell on earth if sin is as bad as the Bible teaches? And Hoekema answers by explaining the doctrine of God’s common grace. God’s common grace is the doctrine that deals with God’s restraint (to a degree) of human sin in the world.

Finally in the last part of the book, Hoekema explains the structural makeup of man—how he is both material and immaterial. How he has both a soul and physical body, but that the two are never meant to be seen as separate. He counters the unbiblical views on the human structure, views such as trichotomy (which teaches that man is fundamentally made up of body, soul, and spirit). Hoekema spells out the implications of why the unbiblical views on human structure wrong, and why a dualistic view of man (that man is fundamentally body and soul/spirit) is more faithful to the biblical information on man’s structure. The final chapter of the book deals with the question of human freedom, Hoekema explaining how man is both able to choose but in an unregenerate state is unable to choose good.

I certainly believe that Hoekema’s explanations and arguments are solid and biblically supported. Hoekema is skilled at illustrating difficult aspects of the doctrine of man, and he is able to exegete passages very well, and to show how they form the various facets of the doctrine of man that we hold to and teach today. He is also very good at explaining the obvious faults from the arguments of those who oppose the biblical doctrine of man. However, at a few places throughout the book, I believe he could have done better at explaining and expounding. These are only minor discrepancies in my estimation, but they still are discrepancies nonetheless. First, on the covenant of works he deals with in chapter 7. I’m not convinced that referring to God’s covenant with Adam and Eve as a “covenant of works” is necessarily insufficient, as Hoekema argues. A few of his arguments on pages 120-121 weren’t explained well enough for me to be convinced that this cannot rightly be called a covenant of works. Second, I believe Hoekema wrongly used Romans 1:24-25 as a scriptural proof for God’s common grace. He uses this passage in support of God’s common grace to restrain evil to a certain degree in the world, but even he admits that this passage implies that God has taken His restraint away from sinful man to let him have his way (195). It certainly can’t support both! Of course, God restrains sin by His common grace. There’s no denying that this doctrine is biblical. But this passage in Romans teaches that God withdraws His common grace and gives man over to the dominion of sin. And Hoekema argues strongly for the doctrine of God’s common grace, and expounds on it well, but I believe he could have at least expounded on this passage from Romans a bit more. Finally, I feel like Hoekema quotes theologian Herman Bavinck excessively too much. In a few areas in the book, I feel I would have benefited better had Hoekema put forth his own thoughts instead of Bavinck’s. Though the quotations and references from Bavinck’s many works are true and helpful, it seems that at some points Hoekema is running completely on Bavinck’s own work, and not his own.

Overall, when comparing this book to other literary works put forth throughout history on the doctrine of man and all its implications, Hoekema’s book rests proudly on the zenith of biblical accuracy and exposition. I believe Hoekema expounds best and most exhaustively on this biblical doctrine of man, better than any other book in his time or in our own. He is excellent in nuancing all the biblical data, whereas many other works deal with only portions of Scripture and base their entire theologies from those. Hoekema makes an irrefutable case for the doctrine of man as he has been created in God’s image, corrupted by sin, and holistic in his structure.

The greatest benefit I have gained from this book concerns my dealing with people as a pastor. My line of work requires me to be consistently involved with people. I talk with them, I know them, and they come to me for spiritual advice in their personal problems and trials. I preach from God’s word regularly that deals precisely with who man is and what he is in relation to God. Because of all of these reason (and many more), I am compelled to have an accurate, clear, and biblical view of the nature of man! I cannot deal and interact with people correctly if I do not understand them in the way Scripture portrays them. Further, I cannot even know what or who I am if it weren’t for God’s revelation. So as Hoekema has presented the doctrine of man in Scripture, I have been encouraged to value others because their worth and value is inherent, for they have been created in God’s image. I am also more aware of my own need for the Spirit of God and a perfect Savior to redeem me and others from the depravity and destruction of sin. And finally, I have been encouraged to address others in a holistic manner—applying Scripture to both the physical and spiritual.

Knowing the biblical doctrine of man, as Hoekema has faithfully presented will affect the way we minister to people, as we understand that they are holistic beings as we are, created in the image of God with value and worth. It will affect our involvement in the world, as we seek the best interests of all those in our community, country, and the world. Anyone desiring a concise, clear and comprehensible understanding of the doctrine of man, Hoekema’s book is the one to get.

  1. Hoekema, Anthony A. Created in God’s Image. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986).

A Review: Business for the Glory of God, by Wayne Grudem

I’ll have to be honest, I’ve not always considered the activity of business and all that it entails to be particularly glorifying to God. As many times as I (along with many people in the world) have been deceived, cheated, or suffered hardship in employment, business has not always been viewed as a positive field to pursue or participate in. One certainly does not think of glorifying God when he hears the term business. But in his book, Grudem applies one of the most fundamental doctrines in all of Scripture to the practice and convention of business. This foundational doctrine is being created in the image of God, and Grudem shows how this doctrine is illustrated through the means and activity of business. In fact, not only is business an excellent way to demonstrate this truth, it is even a necessary way to demonstrate it. The basic premise of the book is that the various aspects of business provide many opportunities to glorify God (because we are created in His image), but also many temptations to sin (because of the Fall). The many components that make up what we consider to be business are clear expressions of the responsibilities and privileges that come with being created in the image of God. Grudem deals with all of the individual aspects of business, expounding on how each of them reflect God’s perfect attributes that were meant to be displayed in us because we have been created in the image of God. According to Grudem, being created in the image of God (as Genesis 1:27 portrays) is imitating Him and having His wonderful attributes reflected in us. And in more ways than many of us have ever considered, business accurately and vividly displays God’s attributes, as we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects His character in us.

First, Grudem explains how ownership of possessions imitates the character of God. Basically, it does so because just as God exercises absolute sovereignty over the entire universe, we as humans created in His image can also exercise sovereignty over a tiny portion of the universe. But as with anything that God created good, and because of the effects of the Fall, ownership of possessions can also provide many temptations to sin. Second, he discusses productivity and how it reflects the character and nature of God. It does so because just as God has wisdom, knowledge, skill, strength, and creativity, we can also imitate those attributes by inventing and creating goods and services that will be beneficial to others. Again, there are also temptations to sin in productivity, such as focusing on material things for their own sake. Third, he deals with how even employment exhibits God’s character. We can glorify God in our employer/employee relationships by imitating the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The temptation to sin in this way comes from an improper exercising of authority in employer/employee relationships. Fourth, he analyzes the subject of commercial transactions, and how they relate to God’s character. We can imitate God’s character every time we buy and sell, if we do so with honesty, faithfulness to our commitments, fairness, and freedom of choice. We can even reflect the interdependence and interpersonal love among the members of the Trinity by doing so. Still, temptations to sin are very present. We can sin by being greedy, or having our hearts be overcome with selfishness.

Fifth, he points out how making profit(s) from business portray God’s attributes and character. It goes back to being created in the image of God, for through obtaining profits, we make good and efficient use of the earth’s resources. We exercise dominion over them. Additionally, we can reflect God’s attributes such as love for others and wisdom as we make profits from our goods and services. Once more, there are temptations to sin in making profits, just as there are in any other aspect of business. Sixth, he describes how money relates to reflecting God’s character. It is a means to invest and expand our stewardship and imitate God’s sovereignty and wisdom. Through it, we meet our own needs and imitate God’s independence, and we can even give it to others, reflecting God’s mercy and generosity. And as Grudem points out in every chapter, the temptation to sin is prevalent with the use and possession of money. But the distortion of a good thing like money should not lead us to believe that it is inherently evil. Seventh, he explains the issue of the inequality of possessions, and how it can be glorifying to God. Grudem points out how God has unequally entrusted stewardship to various people. This is because He has gifted everyone in different ways. Eighth, he deals with competition and how even this can glorify God. It does so by providing many opportunities to manifest the God-like abilities that we’ve been granted by God. What competition does is enable each person to find a specific role in which they can contribute to society and the good of others. Ninth, he discusses borrowing and lending and how they relate to the glory of God. Borrowing and lending are closely related to the use of money, for proper practice of the two actually multiply the usefulness of money many times over. It multiplies our ability to enjoy God’s material creation, and thus increases our opportunities to be thankful for those things. In addition, we can show forth God’s trustworthiness, His honesty and wisdom, as we borrow and lend. But there are several temptations to sin, but nonetheless, it is a good thing fundamentally.

In the final part of the book, Grudem deals with the most fundamental facet of doing business: the attitudes of our heart. If all the activities of business are to be glorifying to God, then we must engage them all with a heart attitude that is pleasing to God. All business activity tests our hearts, according to Grudem. While ownership, productivity, employment, commercial transactions, profit, money, inequality of possessions, competition, borrowing and lending all provide the opportunities to glorify God and demonstrate His character—the temptations to distort those things (which are fundamentally good) are very present. But if we love God above all, we will reflect the character of God in all of the aspects of business. And finally, in the last chapter, which serves as sort of a footnote to the entire book, Grudem discusses the impact that business can have on the poverty-stricken world. He argues that the practice of business, of selling goods and services for a profit is the only way poverty can be defeated in places where the economy is very poor. Having read the entire book, I highly recommend it to not just people with a negative view of business in general, but also to Christians who seek to understand what it means to be created in the image of God.

Hardcover for $10.18

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John D. Hannah on the Centrality of the Gospel in Christian Proclamation

As a Bible-believing Christian, it is my conviction that there should be doctrinal unity among Christians in the local church (Eph. 4:1-6). There are, of course, things we can differ on. There are minor issues that we can hold differing views on, that should not divide us. If we can’t accomplish the mission of the church together because of our differing views on minor issues, something had better change; either our character or conviction(s).

I have been reading Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrineby scholar John D. Hannah. It has been a great read thus far. It is an exhaustive read on the history of the development of doctrine. But what makes this book different from any other book on Christian history, is that it contains practical applications about what we can learn from church history and it’s developments. I am finishing up this 395 page book, and read something about doctrinal unity that caught my eye, and I felt it was worth sharing with you. Here is a lengthy portion from John D. Hannah’s brilliant book:

“Doctrines are not all created equal; some are more important than others. Consequently, the Christian theologian finds it useful to talk of gradations of convictions. Think of three concentric circles.

First, in the center ring, there are the essential beliefs of Christianity. These are the core doctrines of Christianity—those beliefs without which there can be no Christianity; those beliefs so central that one should have willingness to die for them. Among these, in my view, are the existence of God, the deity of Christ, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and salvation by grace without any human merit.

Second, moving outward by ring one, there are beliefs that are reckoned to be important but about which there is legitimate debate among Christians. Examples of these convictions might be particular views of baptism or the Eucharist, church polity, or the chronology of last things. While Christians may hold such convictions with a significant degree of fervency, they are nonetheless subject to a variance of opinion and are not issues that should divide the fellowship of the saints in the broadest sense. Nor should such doctrines hold center stage in our discussions of the Bible. The central things, the topics that should be our most frequent, fervent topics are those in the center circle.

Third, in the outermost of the concentric circles, there are distinctly personal beliefs. They are neither core doctrines of Christianity nor those embraced in a creedal statement by any particular Christian group. They are simply private, personal views that arise from the study of the Bible and the experience of life. Traditionally these have been defined as adiaphora, “things of difference.” They might have to do with certain moral issues that are neither prohibited nor propounded by the Scriptures.

While it is useful to think of concentric circles of beliefs, these three categories are often blended in practice. Sometimes, for example, mere personal beliefs are treated as core truths. My plea is that these distinctions be recognized and that our Christian pastors, teachers, missionaries, and laity make sure that the central truths be foremost in our proclamation of Christianity.

The most important person in all of history is Jesus Christ; he must always be the passionate message of the church. Without Christ, there can be no gospel that is really good news. While there are teachings that are important, greatly adding to the maturity of the church, Christ is the keystone of all.”

Very powerful and practical.

What do you think about doctrinal unity, and the centrality of Christ in our beliefs?

1. John D. Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), pp. 342-343.


A Review: What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About, by Jason S. DeRouchie

Not Your Ordinary Textbook

Jesus read the Bible. Have you considered this fact before? When you think of the earthly ministry and life of Jesus, you probably think of His teachings and miracles—and you likely haven’t reflected on the fact that Jesus read the Scriptures. We can safely assume that Jesus was faithfully taught the Scriptures by Mary and Joseph as He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). Also, it was Jesus’ custom to attend temple worship and read the Scriptures (Luke 4:26). And clearly Jesus read the Bible if He taught His disciples all about it (Luke 24:27). Today, in seminary and Bible college classes, it is not unusual to be assigned a book on the survey of the Old Testament. While there are many great textbooks available for surveying the Old Testament, this book focuses distinctly on Jesus’ version of the Old Testament. Isn’t that the one we should be studying? Of course, Jesus read the same Old Testament that we have today, but it was organized in a different order. Considering that fact, our study of the survey of the Old Testament should conform to the order in which it was originally organized. That’s one of the many things that this textbook accomplishes. This is not your ordinary Bible survey textbook. Not only does it focus on the Bible that Jesus Himself used, but it focuses on what really mattered to the authors of the many books of the Old Testament. What did they really care about? What was near to their hearts? DeRouchie answers these questions and more in his marvelous work, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible.

Book Breakdown

Each chapter is broken down into a manageable and easy-to-read way. First, each chapter begins with some introductory information about the Old Testament book(s) that will be discussed within that chapter. In only a few paragraphs, organized neatly on the page, the author answers the basic fundamental questions of purpose, authorship, and date by asking Who? When? Where? , and Why? Second, each chapter of the book begins with a section titled, “Carefully Crafted Verses from (the Book(s) Being Studied).” Found in this section are powerfully packed verses found in the book that is being surveyed. There is also a helpful chart on the first page of every chapter with bullet points that summarize the theological convictions that lay behind the author’s pen of every book in the Old Testament. These theological convictions are then unpacked in detail throughout the rest of the chapter in individual sections.

Also, pasted throughout the chapters of the book, there are striking historical images pertaining to the culture, practices, and history of that particular book being surveyed. Similarly, there are small text boxes scattered throughout the chapters that offer insightful reflections on the concepts being discussed. Additionally there are charts that provide good visual aids to capture the outline of the book(s), the chronology of certain events, and more. The chapters usually end with a summary of the concepts discussed in that chapter. That is followed by a “Key Words and Concepts” section that identifies some of the important terms and ideas discussed in the chapter. Finally, the chapter concludes with a suggested reading section that displays the names of commentaries, scholarly works, and other books that will help with studying the particular book(s) discussed in that chapter.

Strengths and Weaknesses

There are many strengths within this book, and it is safe to say that there are far more strengths to this work than there are weaknesses. First of all, one strength to this book is the range of scholarship employed. This theological survey of the Old Testament was not compiled DeRouchie himself or a few other authors. This book was compiled by seventeen scholars and professors of the Old Testament from some of the world’s leading seminaries and Bible colleges. Another great strength in this book is its visual aids. Everyone can benefit through the visual aids in DeRouchie’s book. The charts and icons that are found throughout this book help the reader to grasp the concepts that are being discussed. While the visual aids are descriptive and informatory, some of the charts could be expounded on a little better. Some of the figures (like on pages 182-183, and 236) are in need of better explanation. This book is intended to be a simple, practical help for students and some further explanation on some charts and figures would serve to that purpose. Also, study or reflection questions at the end of each chapter probably wouldn’t hurt. I understand that this book isn’t written as a normal theological survey of the Old Testament, but regardless a few questions to test your knowledge would aid the student—and that is lacking from DeRouchie’s book.

The Best Survey Textbook on the Old Testament

What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About is the most manageable, user-friendly survey of the Old Testament that a student or layperson can read. The various authors will cause you to ponder on the greatness of God’s glory revealed in the Old Testament for the good and satisfaction of His people. With the compelling visuals, clearly outlined theological concepts, and the other great resources offered in this book—you will find yourself soaking in the rich theology of the Old Testament. Still, the paramount concept that sets this survey apart from hundreds of others is that it is a survey of Jesus’ Bible—and if this book is read correctly, your mind will be informed and you will be drawn closer to the glorious God of the Old Testament.

You can purchase What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About on Amazon for $34.78 today.

A Review: Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael A. G. Haykin

The significance of studying the church fathers cannot be measured. Their defenses of Christian doctrine against the earliest heresies, their rich interpretation of Scripture, and their brilliant philosophies are definitely worth careful consideration. Rediscovering the Church Fathers is a great place to start. As Michael A. G. Haykin walks you through the lives of the most important key figures in church history, you will find yourself captivated by the godly lives of these men who devoted their time and effort to edifying the body of Christ. This book is for anyone desiring to have a beginner’s understanding of the lives and writings of the early church fathers.

Haykin begins this book by stating its purpose in the first chapter: the need for studying the fathers among evangelicals. Haykin states that we should study the church fathers for such reasons as freedom and wisdom, understanding the New Testament, correcting mistaken views about the fathers, apologetic reasons, and for spiritual nourishment. The second chapter considers the life and thought of Ignatius of Antioch. He was known mainly for his martyrdom, and some even call him insane for the way he viewed his sure death. As Haykin brings out, Ignatius was willing to die by martyrdom because he “is certain that his martyrdom will please God” (p. 42). The argument of this chapter is that the Christian message was “so central [to] Christian orthodoxy, that it was worth dying for” (p. 48).

Chapter 3 is an examination of the apologetic writing, The Letter to Diognetus. Haykin walks you through the significant points of this letter and demonstrates how apologetically minded the author of this letter was and how this letter contributed to the shape of the early church in that it “permeated the ancient church’s witness to a sin-shaped culture” (p. 67). Chapter 4 is a study of the life and thought of the great exegete, Origen. Haykin gives a detailed biography of Origen’s early life and his contribution to the life of the early church by writing commentaries, books, and pioneering interpretation of biblical texts. This is one of the best balanced treatments of Origen that I have ever read. Chapter 5 is a look at the lives of two men who helped thrust religious piety towards the Lord’s Supper: Cyprian and Ambrose. Haykin shows the ways in which they both contributed to a biblical understanding of the Eucharist. Cyprian’s contribution was that he viewed the Eucharist as “a place where the believer knows afresh the forgiveness of the Lord and as a result is suffused with joy” (p. 97). This, of course, is the more reformed view of the Lord’s Supper. Ambrose’s contribution however, was that he identified “Christ’s words of institution as the means by which a change is effected in the elements of bread and wine” (p. 100). Ambrose’s thought would lead to a confusion of symbol and meaning, but nevertheless, both Cyprian and Ambrose are good representatives of the shifts in thought about the Lord’s Supper during that time. Haykin brings this out very well.

Then chapter 6 is a lengthy examination of the life and thought of Basil of Caesarea. This chapter is full of great quotes and rich writings from the pen of Basil, and Haykin shows what a great monastic reformer he was. Haykin mentions Basil’s defense of the Holy Spirit’s deity, during a time of controversy by noting the greatest work from the pen of Basil, namely On the Holy Spirit. This too, like the treatment of Origen, is one of the greatest readings on Basil of Caesarea. Chapter 7 is the last of the church fathers that are studied in this book, and it consists of a brief biography of Saint Patrick. Haykin tells us what the economic and social setting of that time was, and then proceeds to talk about Patrick’s career and his conversion. This is one of the most beautiful conversion stories in the history of the early church. What Haykin writes about Patrick’s conversion is worth getting this book. Haykin also notes what Patrick is most known for: his great missionary efforts. And Haykin concludes this chapter with a brief look at the impact he had on the Celtic church.

In chapter 8, Haykin gives a personal testimony to his encounter with studying the fathers. He talks about his honored mentors who introduced him to Patristics (the study of the church fathers), and encouraged him to further study. Then Haykin describes his doctoral studies on the life and thought of Basil and Athanasius. The appendixes of this book are also helpful. Haykin asks the question, “Where does one begin reading the fathers?” (p. 157). He then lists a number of helpful books that would aid anyone in their understanding of Patristics. Haykin concludes this book with an examination of one of his mentors, Jaroslav Pelikan, and his thought in Patristics. This part of the book is very touching because you get to see the personal life of Dr. Haykin.

What Haykin attempts to accomplish throughout this book is to give an outlook of how these early Christian figures have shaped our understanding of theology. They have contributed through their preaching, their many books, and in some cases their deaths. Haykin gives a new perspective on these great Christian thinkers by showing the different ways in which they have shaped contemporary Christianity.

Get Rediscovering the Church Fathers $9.39 for Kindle, or $13.82 Paperback.