Book Notes: Preaching in an Age of Distraction / Taking God at His Word / How God Became Jesus

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Preaching in an age of distractionPreaching in an Age of Distraction J. Ellsworth Kalas

Distractions aren’t new to preaching. From crying babies to weather interruptions and the drowsiness that summons the farmer, preachers have long dealt with distractions as they’ve proclaimed God’s Word.

Veteran preacher J. Ellsworth Kalas believes today’s challenge is magnified. We live in an “Age of Distraction,” in which the speed of distraction is accelerating.

I picked up this book expecting a number of tips on how to hold an audience’s attention span. What I discovered instead was a book that was as much about the preacher as about the congregation.

The preacher who wants to cut through distraction and deliver a Word from the Lord must be the kind of person who does not succumb to the spirit of this age. If our souls are adrift, how can we minister to those God has entrusted to us?

The book isn’t overly negative toward distraction; Kalas devotes an entire chapter to ways in which distractions can be to our benefit. He sets forth a hopeful tone, taking into account the challenge of preaching today, while remaining optimistic that preaching will endure because of the power of God’s Word and the importance of pastoral presence. This is a challenging book chock full of wisdom and insight.

Taking God at His WordTaking God At His Word Kevin DeYoung

Every generation faces a crisis of confidence in God’s Word, as the serpent’s old line is reemployed again and again: Hath God truly said?

Kevin DeYoung’s new book is written to strengthen our confidence in the truthfulness, clarity, and goodness of God’s written Word to us. He also wants us to delight in God’s Word and desire it. “Psalm 119 is a love poem, not a checklist,” he writes.

In this brief book, Kevin explains what evangelicals believe about the Bible and why it matters. Most helpful in contemporary debates is the chapter on the clarity of God’s Word – a gentle rebuttal of the idea that because there are various interpretations of Scripture no one has sufficient grounds to know whether an interpretation is right or wrong.

Also helpful is Kevin’s demonstration of Jesus’ high view of Scripture, something all Christians will want to emulate.

How God Became JesusHow God Became Jesus Michael Bird

It may sound sacrilegious, but there’s a part of me that rejoices every time Bart Ehrman gets ready to release a new book. Yes, I know that Ehrman has positioned himself as the perennial skeptic, forcefully arguing against traditional Christian interpretations of the Bible and our origins.

And yes, I’m sure that some are led astray by the rhetorical flourish in his argumentation. But I can’t help rejoicing a little because every time Ehrman writes a book, top-notch evangelical scholars take up their pens and write rebuttals that are constructive and informative in their own right. Darrell Bock did a fantastic job responding to Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus a few years back. And similar scholarly hot flashes over Gnostic “lost” Gospels were the impetus for N.T. Wright’s marvelous little book Jesus and the Gospel of Judas.

This time, Mike Bird has joined up with Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles Hill, and Chris Tilling to thoroughly refute the claims in Ehrman’s latest. Instead of How Jesus Became God, they give us How God Became Jesus.

Even without Ehrman’s book prompting a response, this is a worthwhile read – not just because we get Bird’s dry wit and Aussie humor (there’s plenty of that), but also because the apologetics won’t go out of date.

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