Modern Cloister: Study Bibles

Studying The Bible: Commentaries Modern Cloister

In this episode, we discuss Commentaries, including their importance and history, the different types and focuses, and recommendations for what to look for and consider when getting one – especially for those who are new to the world of commentaries. This is the 3rd episode in our series on studying the Bible. Listen to the 1st here –> Studying The Bible: Translations Listen to the 2nd here –> Studying The Bible: Study Bibles ** If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our other series via the links below and listen to our introductory episode (Welcome to the Modern Cloister) to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast. A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Studying The Bible: Commentaries
  2. Studying The Bible: Study Bibles
  3. Studying The Bible: Translations
  4. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  5. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms

We are continuing our Study the Bible Series over at the Modern Cloister. Catch up by listening to our first episode on Translations, and check back in next week when we discuss commentaries. You can find my post on Study Bibles here. Let me know which Study Bibles you use or any that I left out. 

On Study Bibles

Almost six year ago, I wrote a post called, Why You Need A Study Bible, which was much shorter than anything I write now, but the point still stands. I think that having a study Bible (or two) is crucial for someone wanting to take the next step in Bible reading. Simply put, the Bible can be difficult to understand. Not the basics – our sinfulness, the death & resurrection of Christ, and God’s redemptive plan for humanity – those are clear. However, the Bible was written thousands of years ago across more than thousand years of time, to different cultures in different languages. So, in wanting to get a better understanding of some of the intricacies of the writings, there is probably no better first step than reading the Bible with good study notes.

Study Bibles are technically nothing new, arguably the Geneva Bible, published in 1560, was the first of what we’d consider a study Bible. Of course, most people couldn’t read or afford any books, so they really didn’t take off in the post WW2 era. A plain ‘reader’ or ‘thinline’ Bible is going to be about 1,000 pages and have nothing else other than a few translation notes. Study Bibles will range from 1,500 to almost 3,000 pages and will include cross references, intros to books (or categories – wisdom, gospels, etc. – or testaments), maps, photos, reconstruction/drawings, articles, reading plans, and, of course, study notes.

The biggest impact to the size/depth is going to be those notes, which can range from a few sentences at the bottom of the page that might only cover a section or chapter to verse by verse exposition that can take up more than half the page. Similarly, book intros can be a paragraph or two to multiple pages, and the range for articles seems to be about 20 to 100, with length varying wildly depending on the study. 

I just pulled up ChristianBook.com, went to Bibles, then to the Study Bibles category. It says they have 2,053 for sale. Now, this doesn’t actually mean there are over two thousand study Bibles, there is certainly an amount of duplication, due to ‘studies’ being offered in different translations (if you haven’t thought much about the different translations or have questions/want recommendations, read my post on it here or listen to the Pod for more information), different bindings (hardcover, fake/real leather, etc.), and font sizes (compact, ‘comfort’ – which is just standard, large, and for Nana – giant). Also, some listed as such are not really true study Bibles, more on that below. All told, I would venture a guess of over 100 individual study Bibles, I can think of about 30-40, and I own about a dozen (with hopes of only buying two or three more). So, let’s jump in to some broad categories in which the studies can be grouped, pros/cons, and some recommendations. 

Topical – Archeology/Bible Backgrounds, Apologetics, Complete Jewish

This is an interesting category, as it is obviously varied, and is probably the smallest. That is my Apologetics Bible in the picture. This was the first (well, co-first) study Bible I bought for myself when I first started trying to read/understand the Bible better and started look into translations. The pros and cons for these types of studies are the same – they are narrowly focused. Almost all the articles and the majority of the focus of the study notes are going to be on the topic. 

For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first/only study Bible. It is better to have a broader understanding. The exception would be if a particular topic just really excites you/someone you know and you use it to jump into deeper study. Finally, these types are typically going to be more scholarly, which can put them on the larger size (usually around the 2,000 mark, give or take a few hundred). 

Life Stage – Mens/Womens, Teens/College, etc. 

This category rightly gets a great deal of criticism, especially for become so narrow and niche, that it can be hard to get past what seems like a simple marketing ploy. I think that can be fair, one answer as to why publishers fire out new study Bibles every year is simply – because people buy them. However, I wouldn’t throw out the whole group, though maybe offer one caution, that if it has more than one modifier, it is probably too narrow/over marketed and may not be beneficial. I’d also recommend doing your research, as some aren’t actually study Bibles (more on that below). 

That said, some mens/womens Bibles can really function as a great starter Bible. The ‘Every Man’ in the picture is the other study Bible I bought when I first started studying the Bible. I’m not entirely sure why I bought this one, it might have been because it was NLT, and I was looking for one of those. Some of the articles are about being a man/husband/brother/father, but there are others as well. The intros are about a page each (and include estimated time to read the book), and the study notes are good section by section (or chapter by chapter) information with a pastoral feel. There are similar books for women. If all the articles/notes are about being a man/women, I’d put it in the topical section above and would likely recommend against it. 

A quick note on the teen/college, these are almost always reformatted (usually shortened/simplified) versions of general study Bibles (see next section for more info), usually with a different set of articles or verse call out that will focus on the life stage. Ignoring for a moment that too many of the articles/write-ups are going to be about sex/dating, I’d highly recommend these, especially the teen versions. In full transparency, Mrs. MMT and I both had the Teen Life Application Study Bible, which I’m fairly certain I never read. Just like I’m fairly certain I never used my Collegiate Devotional, pictured above. For college age, I’d recommend just a more general mens/womens, if the person doesn’t have a study Bible. The college ones can be a bit more marketed and often weaker on the study notes.

The strength of this category, when done correctly, is that it really functions as great way to wade into study Bibles. As I mentioned, the notes are going to be more concise and broadly applicable. For comparison, both my Collegiate and Mens in the picture above are around 1,500 pages. So, you get that extra info, but far more compact which is helpful in a daily reader or to carry around. 

General – Reformation, Quest, ESV, Biblical Theology/Zondervan, Life Application

This is probably what most people think of when they think of a study Bible. Obviously, these will be broader than the topical ones listed above, but also, much more in depth than some of the mens/womens one. Though the range is still quite large, generally speaking, these will be larger than the other types. Most are going to be in the 2,000+ range, but some will push or exceed 3,000. Bibles like Quest, Reformation, or Life Application will be on that smaller side and are great starter options. Reformation stands out a bit among that group, as it is pretty narrowly focused (while not quite topical, there will be an overriding focus on ‘Reformation Theology’). However, if you are already somewhat knowledgeable in theology, or want a more narrow focus, this one is great. I made the mistake of buying the hardback, which I wouldn’t recommend. They other issue is that it is only published in ESV and KJV. If you are truly starting out with your study in the Bible and theology, Quest/Life Application are highly recommended as they their focus in their articles and other call outs will be about asking questions or high to apply scripture in your life. I would put this subcategory as the best overall place to start with a study Bible. These come with great overall notes and articles, good depth, but not quiet as overwhelming as some of the larger ones can be. 20210702_183221

When looking around, most translations have their on study Bible (ESV, NASB, NIV, NJKV). Zondervan owns NIV, but also publishes one as a house. Crossway has essentially done this with ESV. If you enjoy a particular translation, then getting that branded study is probably a good bet. All will have multiple authors and include pretty much everything you’d expect/want in a study Bible. 

The ESV Study Bible and the Zondervan (now renamed Biblical Theology, from my understanding, they are the exact same, just rebranded, so if you can find an old Zondervan for sale, it will cost about half), stand out for being quite massive (see picture above, compared to the Quest and a regular Bible). As far as I know, these are the two largest study Bible that exist. 

Two other notable options are academic study Bibles, published from universities. One is the Oxford, the other ie Baylor. I believe you can only get them in NRSV (though the Oxford also comes in Anglised, which is probably the best selling in the world). I have the Oxford, which is ecumenical and the standard for many denominations, including most mainline and the Catholic church. If you are used to evangelical style studies, it may seem overly scholarly and lacking in pastoral reflection. I am not as familiar with the Baylor (but it is on my list), but I believe it leans more towards the scholarly level. 

As I mentioned above, Quest/Life Application and Reformation are all great options and good ones to start. I have heard good things about for the NIV and would recommend that as well. I am not as familiar with NASB and NKJV, but based on the translation philosophy/issues, I probably would not recommend them, though I have heard a few good things from NASB. They are likely too narrowly focused. That is my main issue with the ESV as well, it is not one I would recommend (an unpopular opinion with my fellow evangelicals), and as noted in the translation post, I do not like the translation and typically try to avoid it. If you want a massive study Bible, go for the Zondervan/Biblical Theology one. It is more broadly evangelicals and will give you a better erray of articles (from most of the same writers) and with a better translation. If you are not evangelical or want a more scholarly option, go with the Oxford. Unfortunately, they do not publish nearly as many Bibles as the others, so they are most expensive, and springing for the leather instead of the hardcover is very expensive, but probably worth it in the long run. Finally, if you are Methodist/Holiness, you might want to try out the Wesley Study Bible (has his ’44 sermons’, but still a collaborative effort on the notes/intros), and similarly, if you are Southern Baptist, check out the CSB Study Bible from Lifeway (license holder for the CSB), which is the publishing arm of the SBC.

Celebrity Preacher – Ryrie, Scofield, MacArthur, Jeremiah

I would recommend against all of these for various theological reasons, but I’d also recommend against any single author study Bible. The biggest benefit of study Bibles is that you get commentary notes and articles from many people (usually over 50), many of whom have expertise in various subject throughout the Bible. You will miss something as one person cannot be an expert in the Ancient Near East, Hebrew Poetry, Greek Culture, etc. Now, most of these preachers are going to consult commentaries they way they do to prep for sermons, but it isn’t quite the same. It is for this reason that you are also going to get the most narrow theological stance and least amount of Biblical understanding. I would recommend against getting one of these, unless you already have a few and then agree almost completely with on of their stances. 

Not actually study Bibles – Systematic Theology, Creeds and Confessions, ‘patriot’, most Devotional 

There are a few options sold under the ‘Study Bible’ heading that aren’t really study Bibles. This is neither good nor bad, they are just marketed incorrectly. When I say the Systematic Theology one, I was expecting similar to the ‘topical’ above – short but solid study notes, and a focus on theology. Instead, it is a regular Bible with about 30 articles about theology. Kind of cool, if you looking for a regular reader and want some articles, but probably not the most economical option. This is the same with the Creeds and Confessions, which is a regular bible with various creeds and Reformed confessions as an index. For some reason, ‘Good Bless the USA’ and fake articles about American history were put into a Bible, this should certainly be avoided, for myriad reasons other than the lack of study notes. Similarly, when devotionals or popular Christian self-help books become best sellers, they often merge their daily devotions or summaries of the books into a Bible. Again, no study notes or intros, so this isn’t really marketed correctly. Finally, the Sportsman Bible (kind of my list, awaiting a better translation) doesn’t even offer articles (related to the Bible, there are, however, ones on treestand safety), but is waterproof and floats, which is cool, but not helpful for study. 

I’ll wrap up with a few helpful tips in deciding what you may want to pick: first, make sure it is a good translation and one you like, most studies are licensed to publishers, which are also the licenses holders or partners with the study Bible; second actually pick up the book and look through the pages (or use the view in your browser) and get an idea of the extent of the notes, is it too little that you fear it might not be helpful or too many that may be overwhelming; finally and probably most helpful, most have an about the series section (usually three to five pages), read it and see if that is your focus and what you want out of a study Bible. 

Hope this helps, leave any questions/comments below or let me know what you use and why. 

 

Studying The Bible: Translations

20210702_181106
The Modern Cloister is back with a new mini-series with help on picking Translations, Study Bibles, and Commentaries. We start it off with Translations, which is based on a post I wrote last year, cleverly titled – On Bible Translations

You can listen on the player below (if you are coming to this later, you may have to scroll), or on your favorite podcast platforms. If you prefer YouTube, we have a channel there, and you can listen to this episode here.

As always, we’d love to hear any thoughts or questions. 

Studying The Bible: Commentaries Modern Cloister

In this episode, we discuss Commentaries, including their importance and history, the different types and focuses, and recommendations for what to look for and consider when getting one – especially for those who are new to the world of commentaries. This is the 3rd episode in our series on studying the Bible. Listen to the 1st here –> Studying The Bible: Translations Listen to the 2nd here –> Studying The Bible: Study Bibles ** If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our other series via the links below and listen to our introductory episode (Welcome to the Modern Cloister) to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast. A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Studying The Bible: Commentaries
  2. Studying The Bible: Study Bibles
  3. Studying The Bible: Translations
  4. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  5. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms

2022 Reading List

Doing a reading list is a pretty lazy way for people who try to blog to get some extra content in. Anyway, here’s my 2022 Reading Goals:

If you saw my post from last year, you’d recognize three or four of the books that I didn’t get to. I actuallyPXL_20220108_184258782 still hit my goal as far as number of books, just didn’t read the ones I had planned, as I was sidetracked by the Five Solas series we read for the podcast (I’ve only gotten on review in so far, Scripture Alone). I have the same goal of 24 books, but have only called out 15 of them. You can see the Kindle in the pic, that is for Crossway Reviews, which seems to be on of the only active review programs left (not sure if Baker stopped, or just kicked me out).

Theology – I didn’t realize how many theology books I had planned to read until I was just looking at the picture. I’ve started Evangelical Theology, and hope to finally finish it in 2022; so far, it is probably my favorite Systematic. Biblical Theology and Practical Theology in the Classical Tradition are ones I’ve had on my lists for awhile, but never got around to. I read On The Incarnation during Advent, but wanted to try it out again, either same time, or maybe in Lent. Currently loaded on the Kindle is Tripp’s most recent book, Do You Believe?, which is supposed to be about Doctrines, so I guess it goes here, too.

History – Going to finally start the 2000 Years of Christ’s Power series, and having read On The Incarnation, I’ve been interested in reading more of the early church writings, so I picked up a survey on them called The Great Theologians (which has some medieval on early modern, as well).

Controversial – Jesus and John Wayne; Triumph of the Modern Self (not pictured, I hope I know where I left it); The Making of Biblical Womanhood. If you’ve heard of these, you get why they are on the list. I may also add Recovering From Biblical Womanhood, depending on the others.

Fiction – I do not read much fiction, but always somewhat plan to. I have two modern(ish) classics – Tale of Two Cities and To Have and Have Not

Non-Fiction – The Origins of Political Order has been on my list for awhile and is generally considered a major book on the topic, so I will hopefully get to it this year. A buddy gave me Tripp’s Lead, which seems like a good beginning of the year book. I’ve only read a few books on leadership, I don’t think any of them were ‘Christian’ based. Finally, I will continue to try to read some C.S. Lewis, not sure which book yet, but I’ll randomly pick on from the the anthology.

That is it for this year. Hopefully, I’ll get through them all and a few others. The hardest is part is deciding which ones to read first.

Update and Books

It has been about six months since my last post, which is probably the longest I have ever gone. Life has been a little off the past few month, so we haven’t done a podcast, nor have I written anything. So, we sat down and did a quick update, which you can listen to below.

I’m pretty behind on my books. I think I only read about 20 this year and I’ve only reviewed one or so of them. Hopefully, I’ll post more regularly next year and get back on track with the podcast.

Studying The Bible: Commentaries Modern Cloister

In this episode, we discuss Commentaries, including their importance and history, the different types and focuses, and recommendations for what to look for and consider when getting one – especially for those who are new to the world of commentaries. This is the 3rd episode in our series on studying the Bible. Listen to the 1st here –> Studying The Bible: Translations Listen to the 2nd here –> Studying The Bible: Study Bibles ** If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our other series via the links below and listen to our introductory episode (Welcome to the Modern Cloister) to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast. A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Studying The Bible: Commentaries
  2. Studying The Bible: Study Bibles
  3. Studying The Bible: Translations
  4. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  5. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms

Book Review: Reformation Anglican Worship

Reformation Anglican Worship: Experiencing Grace, Expressing Gratitude (The Reformation Anglicanism Essential Library, Volume 4)

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Short, mostly easy read (occasional Latin thrown in).

Summary

The book is generally what the title says. For those confused from the ‘Reformation’ part, I was, too. I’m not sure why the author(s, it is a series) didn’t use Reformed, as this seems to be what they are discussing. Canmer (who wrote the Book of Common Prayer, and was the main influence on Anglicanism) was heavily influenced by the Reformation and it’s new focus on Biblical reading in the vernacular and Justification by faith. 

Jensen focuses mostly on the Reformed, as opposed to Anglo-Catholic, side of Anglicanism. He makes a strong argument for it being the way Anglicanism started, but does a good job of putting things into a historical context as well as modern impacts. 

This is a short book broken into six chapters – The Heart of Christian Worship, Worship in the English Reformation, Reading and Preaching the Scriptures, The Gospel Signs: The Sacraments, Prayers of Grace, and Music: The Word in Song. There is also a brief introduction where he lays out his goal for the book. Chapter one, lays a basic theological groundwork on worship, based on the Trinity. The remaining five chapters are pretty clear by the title. 

My Thoughts

This was an interesting book to me. I am not an Anglican, but am in the Reformed tradition (though I understand there is a good bit of difference between the two). I’ve recently gained some interested in the Anglican tradition, mostly due to my recent discovery of the use of the Book of Common prayer. Jensen does a great job of weaving thoughts/writing from Cranmer and portions of the Book through each chapter (for those wondering why the BCP didn’t warrant its own chapter).

He doesn’t rely solely on Cranmer, but points to other Bishops at the time and even some writings from the royalty. I thought chapter three (Read & Preaching Scripture) was the most interesting. Knowing a good bit about the Reformation and continuing in the tradition, I was familiar with the focus on the Word Preached. Much less focused on, but apparently quite important in Anglicanism (especially as exhibited in the previous version of the BCP) is the direct reading of scriptures. This includes multiple readings from throughout the Bible at each service, as well as a reading plan that takes you through the OT once and NT three times a year; and the Psalms once a month. 

Sacramentalism is one of the divergent points between Anglicanism and Reformed traditions, but the chapter was interesting and informative. The Music chapter was the shortest, but was quite powerful. This is especially true if you are a member of church that freely uses ‘modern worship’. His critique is harsh, but completely accurate. He points out the irony of the fact (which I was unaware) that Reformation era churches were heavily focused on the performance of music, specifically coral music which can be hard to sing. Now, we’ve moved back to performance. The irony being, we fought to have the congregation be able to sing, to now, being focused on entertainment, with many songs that are not made for congregational singing (or are often hard to sign, but hey, guitar solo). 

The interest on this book would be fairly narrow, btu I do think everyone who cares about proper worship would benefit from this book. If you are interested in worship, you should certainly buy this book.  If you are Anglican, or Reformed, or have an interest in church history or the various aspects of the Reformation, put this on your list. 

*I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Modern Cloister: Wisdom and Kingship in the Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Studying The Bible: Commentaries Modern Cloister

In this episode, we discuss Commentaries, including their importance and history, the different types and focuses, and recommendations for what to look for and consider when getting one – especially for those who are new to the world of commentaries. This is the 3rd episode in our series on studying the Bible. Listen to the 1st here –> Studying The Bible: Translations Listen to the 2nd here –> Studying The Bible: Study Bibles ** If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our other series via the links below and listen to our introductory episode (Welcome to the Modern Cloister) to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast. A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Studying The Bible: Commentaries
  2. Studying The Bible: Study Bibles
  3. Studying The Bible: Translations
  4. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  5. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms

Part six and the final episode of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out, you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Understanding the Psalms – here, Part 2 – How to Use the Psalms – here, and Part 3 – Praise and Thanksgiving in the Psalms – here, Part 4 – Lament and Confession – here or listen in the player below (I didn’t have a chance to do a write up on episode 5, but you can listen to it in the player.

In this Episode, we continue diving into different genres of Psalms. We have broken them into eight genres, and we cover Wisdom and Kingship, which are two genres people may not think much about. We also discuss the Hallelujah Psalms that end the book. 

Hope you have enjoyed the series. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Modern Cloister: Lament and Confession in the Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Studying The Bible: Commentaries Modern Cloister

In this episode, we discuss Commentaries, including their importance and history, the different types and focuses, and recommendations for what to look for and consider when getting one – especially for those who are new to the world of commentaries. This is the 3rd episode in our series on studying the Bible. Listen to the 1st here –> Studying The Bible: Translations Listen to the 2nd here –> Studying The Bible: Study Bibles ** If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our other series via the links below and listen to our introductory episode (Welcome to the Modern Cloister) to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast. A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Studying The Bible: Commentaries
  2. Studying The Bible: Study Bibles
  3. Studying The Bible: Translations
  4. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  5. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms

Part four of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out, you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Understanding the Psalms – here, Part 2 – How to Use the Psalms – here, and Part 2 – Praise and Thanksgiving in the Psalms – here,  or listen in the player below. In this Episode, we continue diving into different genres of Psalms. We have broken them into eight genres, and we cover Lament and Confession, which are related, but also a little different. I think most people are familiar with confession, but having Biblical examples are helpful. I do not think most people are familiar or comfortable with lament. Mostly because it seems like we are just whining and complaining to go. Fortunately, there are numerous examples of Lament in the Psalms. Many show how to appropriately bring complaint to God. We do always have to be happy or positive, but can readily bring real sadness and distress to God and plea for His help. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Father’s Day 2021 Recommended Reading

If you are a dad of a young child or a soon to be dad, I have a few recommendations for books to check out this Father’s Day. Or if you are someone related to one of these people and don’t have a gift yet, click the link and get it just in time (or go rent from the library, you’d be surprised at what they have).

Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Another good pregnancy/first few months book that has a great guidebook style (my review) – We’re Pregnant! The First-Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)

*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé

A few others to consider:
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less (my review) The flashcard trend has died down since this book was written, but the research into how children learn is quite fascinating.

The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

The suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and young children (added two since I first made this list three years ago, Sprout has aged out, so I may need to find some new books), so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more. For broader parenting books I’ve reviewed, but don’t necessarily recommend, check out my review of Fearless Parenting and my review of Talking with Your Kids About God.

Book Review: God’s Word Alone

God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – moderate (having a little knowledge church history is helpful), medium to long (just under 400, but longer than needed, as it was a bit redundant).

Summary

 If, based on the title and subtitle, you expected a book that mostly had a historical focus that placed itself in the time of the Reformation or a book that was mostly about the authority of the Bible, this is not the book you are looking for. More on why not in ‘My Thoughts’ below. The book is broken into three parts with three to four chapters in each. Part One is called ‘God’s Word Under Fire, Yesterday and Today’ which includes chapters on the Reformation, the modernist shift, and today ‘Crisis over Biblical Authority’ (which is mostly about inerrancy). Part Two is called ‘God’s Word in Redemptive History’, there are also three chapters and they go through the redemptive history of the Bible – these chapters have much of the internal apologetics you would expect to find in a book like this. Part Three, ‘The Character of God’s Word and Contemporary Challenges’, is four chapters – Inspiration, Inerrancy, Clarity, and the Sufficiency of Scripture. There is also an intro and conclusion, as well as a ‘series notes’ (this is book one of five on the Solas published at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation), and a forward. 

My Thoughts

This is probably the most mixed review I’ve ever written. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this book, nothing I would particularly disagree with (perhaps with the exception of a possible implication that you are not a Christian if you do not believe in inerrancy – as defined by certain people). However, this book really is a missed opportunity. Barret is a great writer and I’ve heard him in a few interviews, and always really like what he has to say. Part of my excitement for this series was based on him being the series editor. That being said, I can’t really recommend this book. The main issue being so much of the focus was on inerrancy. If you cut 100 pages of inerrancy discussion out of this, it would still be longer than any of the other four books in the series. The fact that Mohler wrote the forward should have made me aware what the real focus would be. Not that I disagree with inerrancy, per se, but if the you are going to make a book in a series longer than two others (Grace, and Glory of God) combined, it should really focus on Authority, which was the main issue during the Reformation. 

Inerrancy certainty matters, but I was expecting a book on the authority of Scripture, especially as it related to the Reformation. Of course, the view of inerrancy in this book is based on the Chicago Statement, which is often interpreted in extremes, being at once so narrow as to seemingly be an argument for the inerrancy of particular interpretation, or qualified and excused to be so broad as to be meaningless. I can’t be the only person who is tired of the Evangelical obsession with Chicago Statement inerrancy. Go read Five Views on Inerrancy , if you are unsure what I’m talking about (I’ve also written a longer post, On Inerrancy, if you have time). 

That being said, Chapter 1, ‘The Road to the Reformation’, and Chapter 10, on sufficiency of Scripture, are great. I’d recommend everyone read them. I also really appreciated Chapter 2, ‘The Modern Shift in Authority’, which dove into our time since the Enlightenment and the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy. I think that chapter is a value addition to the historical point of authority, as during the Reformation the issues was Scripture vs. Scripture plus Tradition/Councils, whereas now it is more of Scripture (or even Scripture plus) vs myself (self being the ultimate authority in modern life). He also does a good job throughout the book pointing out that Scripture alone does not mean only scripture, which I think is another important modern concern (as we so often in the American Evangelical streams are anti-intellectual and will often reject creeds and catechisms). 

Part two of the book was a little odd. It was well written and a great mini-study on redemptive history, but it didn’t really feel like it fit very well. Finally, Part 3 was what you would expect in this book, outside of more historical notes/narrative. I think there is an odd contradiction made in the sufficiency chapter vs the inerrancy, in that we are seemingly alright with one’s focus being only on spiritual matters while rejecting the idea that it wouldn’t be narrowed in another. The clarity chapter did well in pointing to the nuance in understanding scripture, maybe the best I’ve seen it handled. Inspiration was also well written, but I can see the critiques that we are arguing a circular logic in that we believe the Bible is true because it says it is.  It might have been nice to see some more apologetics on the trustworthiness of Scripture. 

Ultimately, the book fails in what is seemingly its purpose, to argue for the authority of Scripture. One of the reasons I mentioned above that Part Two didn’t seem to fit, is because there are many people who would wholeheartedly agree with everything written in this part, but they play little role in authority, with the exception of the last chapter, on Christ. Similarly, there are many who believe in inerrancy, yet not authority. Most Catholics believe that the Bible is the word of God, yet not the ultimate authority, as do many modernist or Mainline Christians who put their experience over and above Scripture (sometimes without even realizing it). This obsession with arguing the nuances of Chicago Statement inerrancy is really an intra-conservative (possibly, broadly reformed) protestant disagreement. In the grand scheme of life, this is a small segment, and we continue to ignore everyone outside at our own peril. While the book is good, it is mostly an apologetic for inerrancy, narrowly define, with some quality historical notes and other attributes of scripture discussed alongside. So, if you are looking for a book on Sola Scriptura that focuses on the authority of Scripture, this book is probably not worth your time.