Book Review: The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee (five stars)

Book Review: The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee (five stars)

“God has only one answer for every human need—His Son, Jesus Christ.”

Nee’s classic study of the book of Romans. Published after his death, these lessons were drawn from his lectures in Europe in the 1930s. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome provides the outline of Nee’s study.

“I need forgiveness for what I have done, but I also need deliverance from who I am. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin.”

These lessons are not easily read and absorbed. Readers are advised to proceed slowly. Worth the effort. Nee outlines the foundation and application of Christian living in a straightforward, understandable narrative. Recommend the print, rather than ebook format for referencing and highlighting. (The ebook edition I read was incomplete compared to the print text.)

“Our work for him springs out of our ministering to him. The first thing for us must be the Lord himself, not his work.”

Watchman Nee was a giant of the Christian faith in the twentieth century. His personal story is the stuff of dramas. He died in 1972 under mysterious circumstances while imprisoned by China’s Communist regime on counterrevolutionary charges.

“Living in the Spirit means that I trust the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself.”

Book Review: The Sinless, Sickless, Deathless Life by Frank Neiman Riale (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Sinless, Sickless, Deathless Life: God’s Glory-Goal for All by Frank Neiman Riale

(Three Stars)

“Man was not made to die … but to be ‘clothed upon’ with glory that cometh down from on high.”

A seminal work in modern Christian mysticism, published in 1913. Riale argues that the hereafter begins now for the believer and that not only is sin forgiven, but sickness and death defeated. (Riale died in 1935.)

“The second coming of the Lord has already begun in me the moment I have accepted by faith that by his indwelling and outworking Spirit I will, by God’s Spirit, be over all the great race foes forever triumphant.”

Many contemporary Christian movements hark back to Riale’s thesis, if not his writings. Like moderns, he quoted from then-contemporary secular works to buttress his arguments.

“The Spirit of life that raised Christ from the dead swells in us to life us into the same almighty triumph also.”

Quibble: Understandable that Riale quotes from the King James Version of the Bible, less excusable that he occasionally writes as if he lived in the seventeenth century.

“All that I desire I shall have. God withholds nothing from the child of his likeness and the child of his love.”

Book Review: The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith

(Four Stars)

“Perfect obedience would be perfect happiness, if only we had perfect confidence in the power we were obeying.” Hannah Whitall Smith

First published in 1874, Smith’s classic of Christian living pre-dates many subsequent Christian works.

“It is a fatal mistake to make our emotions the test of our oneness with Christ. If I have joyous emotions, I may be deluded by thinking I have entered into Divine union when I have not; and if I have no emotions, I may grieve over my failure to enter, when really I have already entered. Character is the only real test. God is holy and those who are one with Him will be holy also.” Hannah Whitall Smith.

Readers must understand that Smith defines happy differently than many of her contemporaries and many of us. If anything her life was far from easy or happy in the sense we use that word. Nevertheless this book has influenced Christians since.

“In 1870 Hannah Whitall Smith wrote what has become a classic of joyous Christianity, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. The title barely hints at the depths of that perceptive book. It is no shallow “four easy steps to successful living.” Studiously, the writer defines Continue reading

Book Review: The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray

(Five Stars)

“The indwelling of the Holy Spirit must become the distinguishing feature of the Christian life. We must learn to wait more earnestly for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the selection of men and fields of labor.”

One of the best books on this vital and often controversial topic. (I may lower my ratings on other similar books because this is so much better.) If you only read one book about the theology and practice of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, read this one.

“Prayer teaches us that it is only to spiritual understanding that the knowledge of God’s will can be given. Spiritual understanding only comes with the growth of the spiritual man and the faithfulness to the spiritual life. The believer who wants the leading of the Spirit must Continue reading

Book Review: The Grace Awakening by Charles R. Swindoll (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Grace Awakening: Believing in Grace Is One Thing. Living It Is Another by Charles R. Swindoll

Four Stars

“[The] moralizing and legalizing of the Gospel of God’s grace is a dull heresy peddled to disappointed people who are angry because they have not received what they had no reason to expect.” Richard J. Neuhaus

A rousing call to replace the Pharisee-ism of modern Christianity with the freely-given grace of God. Easy to read and understand.

“Love that goes up is worship; Love that goes outward is affection; Love that stoops is grace.” Donald Barnhouse

Filled with short, pithy thoughts to break our religious bonds and free us to love God and our neighbor.

“[Jesus] is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought … into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.” C. S. Lewis

Book Review: The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul

Three Stars

“Our marks of piety can actually be evidence of our impiety.”

Disappointing for a supposed classic of theology. Expected better from R. C. Sproul. An important topic for Christians. Even given Sproul’s well-known Calvinist orientation, his writings betray poor scholarship and bias. Good discussion of meanings of original texts, such as the same word being translated as truly and pray.

“The justice of God is always and ever an expression of His holy character.”

His theological gaffs are funny. He reports Romans 8 “renew the mind” means “nothing more and nothing less than education.” He tells us “we are called to strive with all our might to produce this fruit [of the Spirit].” Strive? He reports to “make decision” to be born again is a “delusion.”

“Don’t ever ask God for justice–you might get it.”

The above errors can be excused as partisan politics (yes, theologians do it), but his attempt to discredit Arminian theology by labeling it semi-Pelagian is disingenuous. Masking the Arminian versus Calvinist dichotomy under different labels does nothing for Sproul’s credibility.

“If man is not made for God, why is he only happy in God? If man is made for God, why is he so opposed to God?” Blaise Pascal

Despite all that this text has many good thoughts and arguments.

“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he will escape it.” Jonathan Edwards

Book Review: Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson (Four Stars)

Book Review: Hosting the Presence: Unveiling Heaven’s Agenda by Bill Johnson

Four Stars

“Someone who celebrates before the answer … is someone who is about to experience the answer. Faith looks ahead and lives accordingly.”

An excellent resource for Christian living. Johnson challenges believers to new levels of surrender and relationship with God.

“Light drives away darkness without a fight. I can’t afford to live in reaction to darkness. If I do, darkness has a role in setting the agenda for my life. The devil is not worthy of such influence, even in the negative. Jesus lived in response to the father. I must learn to do the same.”

Well presented. Logical and forceful. The second half lacked the punch of the first. It’s as if he ran out of message before he had filled the page goal but kept writing.

“So much of the increased favor we get from God is really according to what we’ve done with the favor we already have.”

Book Review: The End of Christianity by William B. Dembski (Three Stars)

Book Review: The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World by William B. Dembski

Three Stars out of Five

“God’s dealings with nature parallel his dealings with humanity.”

Interesting. Entertaining. But not compelling.

Dembski deconstructs many historic and current theodicies (reconciliations of God’s goodness and the existence of evil) and creates his own, pivoting on the retroactive tainting of creation by human disobedience, AKA The Fall. He takes on both classic and neo-atheists, young and old-earth creationists, and even classical philosophy. He’s better at disassembling than building.

Of course, the Judeao-Christian God could act retroactively. “God doesn’t live in time. He invented time for us,” said Gerri Dickens. And the redemption bought at the cross is explicitly applicable to those who died before Jesus, but possible doesn’t mean necessary and sufficient. Like all logical arguments for or against the existence of God, Dembski’s fails.

Dembski like many others in this debate equates “evil” with all disasters. I’m not so sure. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and the like are bad. They are destructive and deadly. But are they evil? I’m not sure. To me Continue reading