Book Reviews

Robert L. Thomas. Evangelical Hermeneutics – The New Versus the Old. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002. 524 pages. Reviewed by Fred Moritz.

Post-modernism has affected the thinking of evangelical theologians, and it bleeds down into their writing and thus into the pulpits and churches across America and around the world. Much of the argument over theological positions is the result of a marked shift in the way present day evangelicals interpret Scripture. Thomas, who teaches at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California, has given us an excellent insight into the issues of hermeneutics and how these issues affect current thinking about Scripture. He writes for the preacher who labors to preach the Word to his people weekly.

Part 1 of the book contains eleven chapters and deals with the role of revisionist hermeneutics in altering interpretive principles. He describes for us the shift away from the traditional grammatical-historical methods of interpretation and where this shift has led. He also reiterates the importance of this traditional method of interpreting the Bible.

In this first section of the book, Thomas also deals with issues that affect everyone in ministry. He spends an entire chapter on the dynamic equivalence theory of Bible translation. He devotes another chapter to the place of general revelation in hermeneutics.

Part 2 of the book covers the role of revisionist hermen­eutics in fostering new doctrines. Six chapters apply the issue of the new hermeneutics to progressive dispensa­tionalism, evangelical feminism, evangelical missiology, theonomy, and open theism. Two chapters deal specifically with issues that impact you on the mission field. Chapter Four examines whether dynamic equivalence is a method of translation or a system of hermeneutics. Chapter Fourteen explains how the hermeneutics of evangelical missiology deals with issues that affect modern missionaries. The entire book deals with issues of relevance to every day study of the Word and ministry.

The issue of hermeneutics has been a battleground for a number of years. Thinkers such as Gadamer and Thiselton, men not very well known to us, have influenced better known evangelical leaders and writers like Grant Osborne and Eugene Nida. The destructive results of these men’s thinking filter down to the average pastor and church member without many even knowing it. Thomas has researched this field and has made it practical for all of us, but especially those in ministry.

Every preacher would profit from the reading of this book. Additionally, any who are working in educational endeavors are encouraged to read and assimilate Thomas’ work. He will be of help to you as you train others for the ministry.

Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke. Dallas and the Spitfire. Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2012. 184 pages. Reviewed by David Lingle.

I first saw this title advertised in the winter or spring of 2012 and was looking forward to reading it. It looked like it might be a good read. Having read it, I think it was a good read, though there are some caveats.

This book is about discipleship. Actually, it is an abbreviated account of the discipleship of a young man whom God saved out of a life that most of us can scarcely imagine let alone relate to. Ted Kluck reached out to him and patiently and sacrificially helped him grow in his faith. Ted helped Dallas survive a year of Bible Institute training with its attendant “culture shock” and many personal crises (relationship issues, financial issues, authority issues, etc.). One of the great things about this book is that it is a great testimony to God’s saving grace, and that His saving grace can and will powerfully transform a person’s life. It is also a good reminder that this saving and transforming grace does not accomplish its work overnight, and that it also does not accomplish its work without our cooperation. And it is a good reminder that God wants to use all of us in discipleship ministry.

This is not a “how to” book. It is just a testimony about how God worked in the author’s life to minister to Dallas, and how God worked in Dallas’s life, in part, through the author. Perhaps the greatest take-away is that God is alive and active and we can and should rejoice at His power and desire to save. This account also serves as a convicting reminder that we all need to be actively discipling. Discipling ought to be inherent in whatever ministry or ministries we find ourselves in, and discipling does not necessarily occur in some sort of standardized format (though some of it might). Discipling should be an outgrowth of the “one another” ministry outlook that all believers should have.

Be warned though. The author considers anyone or any ministry with standards to be legalists or legalistic. Fundamentalists are referred to mockingly as “fundies.” The author seems to enjoy making it clear that his superior understanding of Christianity allows him the liberty to smoke a good cigar, drink in moderation, and listen to seriously worldly music. In fairness, he makes some snide remarks about his own church as well. Often these remarks smack of a sense of superiority or arrogance. I know I have to be careful not to be judgmental, but that is how he comes across; it is both bothersome and distracting from what is otherwise a good read. Probably his complaint and mine are the same: Neither of us have attained to the other’s level of understanding and spiritual maturity. And perhaps there is an element of truth there. Frankly it may be that some of his criticisms of the “fundies” have at least an element of truth to them. I wonder, e.g., how effectively many of our churches would have been at reaching out to and discipling a Dallas Jahncke. We tend to be most comfortable in working with those whose lives have been redeemed from the depths of respectable sins, as opposed to those whose lives have been redeemed from the depths of debauched sins. But sin is sin and we all need to learn more about loving as Jesus loved. Still, given Dallas’s former addictions, it is difficult to see how listening to hip hop, especially an album that is all about pot (see p. 14), lives up to a Philippians 4:8 approach to life. Or how advocating and allowing for drinking and smoking in moderation would be helpful to an individual whose pre-conversion life was characterized by substance abuse.

If you choose to read this book, I would encourage you to think about how you might have approached Dallas’s needs for fellowship and discipleship. Where you differ with the author, think carefully about your own values, as it relates to how sound they are biblically and as it relates to how they should be connected to real life. Often, we have a tendency to want and expect that a young believer immediately accept and conform to all of our expectations, when practically  they may need some time to grow in their faith and understanding (just like we did!).  My dad trusted Jesus later in life and was a heavy smoker at the time. My home church accepted him as a member. I was a little surprised: Didn’t they know, or care, about his smoking habit? After about a year, he quit smoking and has never gone back. I think my church was right and my initial response was incredibly immature. The church, after all, isn’t just for those who have “arrived” spiritually! Practical sanctification is, after all, a life-long process. We do well to remember that! Finally, reflect on how God may want to use you not only in the great work of communicating the message of salvation, but also in His work of transforming lives. We are called to both.