Sunday, May 25, 2014

Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb

book cover
Know the Creeds and Councils
by Justin Holcomb

ISBN-13: 9780310515098
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: April 29, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher through

Book Description from Back Cover:
In every generation, the Christian church must interpret and restate its bedrock beliefs, answering the challenges and concerns of the day. This accessible overview walks readers through centuries of creeds, councils, catechisms, and confessions - not with a dry focus on dates and places, but with an emphasis on the living tradition of Christian belief and why it matters for our lives today.

Know the Creeds and Councils is designed for personal study or classroom use, but also for small groups and Sunday schools wanting to more deeply understand the foundations of the faith. Each chapter covers a key statement of faith and includes a discussion of its historical context, a simple explanation of the statement’s content and key points, reflections on contemporary and ongoing relevance, and discussion questions.

My Review:
Know the Creeds and Councils is a summary of the historical discussions around what Christians believe. This wonderful, short book very effectively communicates the information. A layman--even a teenager--can understand the issues being discussed and why they were and are important. The author did an excellent job at defining (and continuing to define) theological words and explaining complex theological issues in an understandable way. I think this would be a great study for high school- or college-age church groups.

The book description very accurately describes the book. The author moved through history, from the first known creed ("I believe...") to recent meetings that issued statements of belief. He doesn't cover every council, but he picked important ones that give an idea of the discussions going on at the time and how they were resolved. He explained the main issues being discussed, why it was an issue, what statements of belief came from the meeting, and why it's relevant to us today. He also included some discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

I'd recommend this resource to those interested in knowing more about the history behind certain doctrinal statements, especially those people intimidated by "theology" or "doctrine" books. (Note: This book doesn't cover the Scriptural basis for the various beliefs, which probably should be studied first so you know why you believe what you believe.)

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Spirit of Hinduism by David Burnett

book cover
The Spirit of Hinduism
by David Burnett

ISBN-13: 978-0825461101
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books
Released: August 15, 2007

Source: Bought through

Book Description from
Hinduism is a complex faith, rooted in the Indian subcontinent and finding many forms of expression. David Burnett brings together a vast array of information concerning the history of Hinduism, the role of various deities, the nature of Hindu worship, the role of ghosts and spirits, and more. This new edition includes updated text and added Web-based resources for every chapter, along with learning objectives and topics for discussion.

My Review:
The Spirit of Hinduism is a book describing the development of different religious ideas found in Hinduism throughout its history. The author started back before recorded history and discussed the writings and developments made at different times. Since Hinduism seems to borrow religious ideas from any religion it comes into contact with, it almost seemed like it'd be easier to describe what it isn't than what it is.

I wanted to know how a Hindu lives out his faith--as in, how it effects or influences his everyday life--and how a Christian could effectively communicate what we believe to a Hindu. I don't feel like this book really helped with that. It did have some interfaith discussion questions and occasionally compared Hindu beliefs to Christian or Muslim beliefs. But generally the author tried to approach Hinduism from a non-critical viewpoint (as in, not questioning the beliefs). It was also focused more on what was taught than on how it's actually lived out.

While I probably understand Hinduism better now, I'm not sure I'm any better prepared to talk religion with a modern Hindu. This probably wasn't the ideal book for my intent as it's more about Hindu thought throughout history than modern Hindu ideas which I might actually encounter.

Update: I've read a few "what various religions believe" books now that tried to explain Hinduism. I realized that they were so simplifying the religion that they weren't much help. This book gave me a foundational understanding, and I probably just need to talk with any Hindu I come across about what variation they believe and go from there. So, in the end, I think this was a more useful book than I'd originally thought.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Candle Bible Handbook by Terry Jean Day, Carol Smith

book cover
Candle Bible Handbook
by Terry Jean Day,
Carol Smith

ISBN-13: 9781859855867
Paperback: 239 pages
Publisher: Candle Books
Released: March 14, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Travel through Bible history with this comprehensible exploration of the Bible, following the key narratives from Genesis to Revelation. Perfect as a child's first Bible reference, he will travel through Bible lands and times and discover how the people lived: the foods they ate, the homes they occupied, the clothes they wore, and the work they performed. There are sections of study questions throughout to further learning, as well as glossaries and FAQs to help understanding.

My Review:
Candle Bible Handbook is a Bible handbook that is suitable for children and adults. Certain events were summarized in a vague way to make it suitable for children (as in, Esther is 'entered in a contest'). The handbook did a good job of summarizing events, including how God interacted with His people.

There were many full-color photographs, maps, and drawings to illustrate important things or what an event might have looked like. There were colorful 3D "overview" illustrations of various cities, like Jerusalem at various times, Ephesus, Rome, and Athens, and of places like the Tabernacle Tent, Solomon's Temple, Herod's Temple, synagogues, and villages. I thought that the pictures were well-chosen and well-done.

For each book of the Bible, we're given an outline of what happened in which chapters, a summary of the main events in the book, information on some unusual things mention in that book, frequently asked questions about certain events (with brief answers), repeated themes in the book to look for when reading it, and several Study Questions to help bring out important points in that book. There's also a Who's Who and a glossary in the back.

The handbook focused on what is actually in the Bible rather than on speculation or controversy about that book of the Bible. I think most Christians would find this a useful, engaging handbook. I'd recommend this handbook to anyone wanting a basic Bible handbook, especially for tween- or teenagers.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg

book cover
Arms Open Wide
by Sherri Gragg

ISBN-13: 9781400323463
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: May 6, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher though

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Sherri writes in fictional narrative form while mixing biblical history with scripture, creating a setting that transforms readers back in time and places them right in Jesus’ presence. For thirty-five days readers walk with the Savior to witness miraculous healings and events, and give fresh insight into His power by thinking and feeling with people whose lives became instantly transformed by His love and grace.

Readers journey with Jesus and His disciples in the most important time in history. Hearts will be stirred and lives will be changed as readers draw near and walk with the Savior as never before.

My Review:
Arms Open Wide is a 35-day devotional that truly has you spending time with Jesus. Each devotional started with a quote from the Old Testament related to or which is fulfilled in the gossip passage. The author then took an event from the gospels and filled in cultural background and fictional elements to create a narrative. You're directed to read the Bible account and then a fictional recounting of the event as seen through the eyes of a person whose life was transformed by an encounter with Jesus. The author invites you to be transformed along with them, offering a heart-felt prayer that relates to how the "viewpoint character" was changed.

I liked that the author focused on Jesus and that she stayed true to the Biblical accounts. And it's a unique and enjoyable way to learn Bible background information that provides further insights into a passage. I'd recommend this excellent devotional.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.