Wilson, Penelope. Hieroglyphics: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
OUP’s Very Short Introduction series provides excellent introductions to a wide variety of topics. They beautifully made and are a handy size for carrying around. The few entries that I’ve read have all been excellent. This introduction won’t teach you how to read hieroglyphs, But it does provide some basic discussion of script and grammar. It also discusses the history of the development of hieroglyphs, their use alongside everyday scripts, the role they played religion and art. The story of how hieroglyphs first began to be deciphered and the present state of the discipline are also summarized.
Maier, Paul L. Eusebius: The Church History. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999.
Eusebius is the first Christian to write a church history. Paul Maier provides an excellent translation. Footnotes indicate points at which later scholarship believes Eusebius to have been inaccurate. At the end of each book within the Church History Maier has added his own commentary, which may provide more background information about the era of Eusebius’s discussion. Sometimes the commentary provides some evaluation of Eusebius’s history and the state of scholar discussion. My edition is a hardback with glossy pages and full-color photographs of significant places and artifacts related to the history.
Brauns, Chris. Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
The thesis of Chris Brauns’s work on forgiveness is: “God expects believers to forgive others in the way that he forgives them” (44). That thesis may seem fairly basic until one begins to probe how God forgives believers. Brauns defines God’s forgiveness as: “A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences” (51). Note that God’s forgiveness is freely and graciously offered, yet conditional upon repentance and belief. Note also that when God offers forgiveness, he is committed to pardon and to reconcile with the sinner. But Brausn draws a distinction between punishment and discipline. Thus forgiveness does not mean that no consequences follow for sin (Brauns points to the consequences David faced for his sin with Bathsheba even after he repented and was forgiven).
Given this, Brauns defines human forgiveness as: “A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated” (55). The very NT word that Paul often uses for forgiveness indicates that forgiveness is offered graciously. “Christians should always have a disposition of grace towards those who offend them” (55). Yet, the Christian cannot actually forgive, that is pardon and reconcile with, an offender apart from that person’s repentance. The offer of forgiveness needs to present, but the actual forgiveness is conditional. On the other side, if the person is repentant, Brauns teaches that forgiveness is more than a promise to let things pass. It is a commitment to reconciliation.
Brauns contrasts this understanding of forgiveness with what he calls “therapeutic forgiveness.” Therapeutic forgiveness is an effort to free oneself from bitterness. There are no conditions placed on the offender, and it can be done within the mind of the offended individual. There is no reconciliation required. Brauns lists a number of objections to therapeutic forgiveness. The most significant, apart from the fact that it does not align with the biblical model, are that it fails to reckon with the seriousness of evil and that it fails to force Christians to deal with their own sin.
Brauns’s understanding of forgiveness raises a number of important questions. Forgiveness is more difficult under the biblical model than under the therapeutic model. It cannot be done merely within one’s own mind. It involves interaction and reconciliation between two people. So what if a person is not willing to forgive? Matthew 18 provides the answer to this question. First, Jesus teaches that there should be no limit to the forgiveness offered. Second Jesus teaches that no matter how bad the offense is against us—and Brauns does not minimize the awful sinful ways that some people have been treated—God has suffered the far greater offenses. As God forgives, so must we forgive. Finally, Brauns notes the severe warnings given to those who will not forgive in Matthew 6:14-15; 7:1-2; 18:34-35. “Those unwilling or unable to forgive should fear for their salvation” (123).
On the other hand, if forgiveness is only rendered when a person repents, how should the Christian respond when a person will not repent. Brauns turns to Romans 12::17-21 to answer this question. He discerns three principles in this passage: “Principle #1: Resolve Not to Take Revenge” (130; Rom. 12:17a, 19, 21). “Principle #2: Proactively Show Love” (134; Rom. 12:17b-18, 20). “Principle #3: Don’t Forgive the Unrepentant, but Leave Room for the Wrath of God” (143; Rom. 12:19). When a Christian does this Brauns says he should not “be overcome by hatred.” Instead the Christian must warn the offender that he places himself in the path of God’s judgment. “There is a way to lovingly remind people that God’s judgment is certain (Hebrews 9:27)” (144).
Those who have been grievously sinned against often struggle with bitterness. Brauns also provides biblical counsel in this matter. First, “Wait for God’s justice, and trust his providence” (155; Ps. 73:4-9, 17-27; Prov 24:19-20; Rom. 8:28). Second, “Listen to wise people” (160; Prov. 19:20). Third, “Pursue God’s blessing for yourself and those close to you” (161; Ps. 73:15; Heb. 12:15-17)/ Fourth, “Call bitterness what it is. . . . It may seem like stating the obvious to say that bitterness is sin. But it needs to be said” (162).
Closely connected to bitterness is the mind that often goes back to think about the wrong. Brauns provides counsel on how to not dwell on past wrongs. First, “Burn into your mind what the Bible teaches about forgiveness” (171). Here Brauns summarizes the basic teaching of the book as the primary way to stop thinking about the wrong you have suffered:
“The most basic forgiveness principle is that Christians should forgive others as God forgave them. (See Matthew 6:12; 7:2; Ephesians 4:32.)”
“Christians should have an attitude or disposition of grace toward all people even as God offers forgiveness to all who receive it. God does not forgive all people, but he does offer grace and forgiveness to all. (See John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9.)”
“Therefore, Christians must be willing to forgive all who ask for forgiveness. (See Luke 17:3-4.) Remember: whatever anyone has done to offend you will always pale in comparison to what you have done to offend God.”
“Christians can conquer bitterness by trusting in the justice and providence of God. God is just. Vengeance belongs to him. He will repay. God providentially works all things together for good for those who know him. This includes the // acts of people who intend to harm us. You are not ultimately a victim (See Romans 12:19; 8:28; Genesis 45:5-7.)
“Never excuse bitterness or an unwillingness to forgive. Those unable or unwilling to forgive should question their salvation. Read this sentence aloud: ‘Saying ‘I cannot or will not forgive’ is another way of saying ‘I am thinking about going to hell.’ (See Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35.)” (171-72)
Second, “Take a look at Christ in his Word . . . stop scrutinizing your own situation” (172; Heb. 12:1-3; Ps. 77; 121:1-2). Third, “Pray, pray, pray” (173; Phil. 4:2-7). Third, “Say and do the right things” (174). Brauns’s point is that apart from seeking counsel or prayer, “talking about a wrong done to you will make it far more difficult to stop thinking about the matter.” Fourth, “Participate in the God-given means of grace” (174). By this Brauns means fellowship with the people of God, haring the ministry of the Word, worshipping with God’s people, studying the Bible, and praying.
Finally, Brauns looks at Acts 15:36-41 as a case study in what to do when good Christians don’t agree.
This is a careful yet highly accessible book on an unescapable topic. Since every Christian will be faced with the need to forgive and be forgiven, this is a book that is easy to recommend to every Christian.
Haykin, Michael A. G. Rediscovering the Church Fathers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
Michael Haykin provides a helpful non-technical introduction to the church fathers. After a chapter discussing why evangelicals should be interested in the fathers, Haykin discusses Ignatius, The Letter to Diognetus, Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and Patrick. He concludes with an autobiographical chapter about his interest in the church fathers (which could profitably be read before the other chapters). The book also includes two appendices. The first is a guide to more reading both in secondary sources and in the best patristic writings to begin reading for one’s self. The second appendix is a more academic evaluation of Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, 100-600. It is well worth reading, though it is probably of most interest to those for whom the rest of the book is too basic of an introduction. Nonetheless, for someone who knows little about the early church and who desires an evangelical introduction, this book is a good place to start.
Whitney, Donald S. Family Worship: In the Bible, in History, and in Your Home. Shepherdsville, KY: Center for Biblical Spiritually, 2006.
This brief booklet will take very little time to read. But it has the potential of profoundly shaping a family’s walk with God. This is a book that every family should read and consider together.
Gregory of Nyssa, The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes. Translated by Hilda C. Graef. Ancient Christian Writers. Edited by Johannes Quasten and Joseph C. Plumpe. New York: Paulist, 1954.
When I was younger I wondered why certain parts of the Bible were highlighted by Christians historically. Why choose these particular portions of Scripture and not others to include in Bible textbooks or to write a book about. I now realize that there are certain passages which draw a great deal of basic truth into a brief space. The Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes are two such passages. Gregory of Nyssa betrays the strengths and weaknesses of patristic preaching. Here you will find profound insights that had not occurred to you before, but it will come mixed with some dross.
Edwards, Jonathan. Ethical Writings. Edited by Paul Ramsey. Works of Jonathan Edwards. Volume 8. Edited by John E. Smith. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. [Read sections of the editor’s introduction, “Love the Sum of All Virtue,” “Heaven Is a World of Love,” Dissertation II: The Nature of True Virtue, “Unpublished Letter on Assurance and Participation in the Divine Nature.”]
“The Nature of True Virtue” is one of the two great dissertations written at the end of Edwards’s life and published posthumously. Edwards argues forcefully that there is no true virtue without love toward God, and aspects This is surely right, and aspects of this argument are forcefully argued. On the other hand, the argument that greater amounts of love are due to those with greater degrees of being and that God is thus most deserving as Being in general seems to run into difficulties. Though I do not think Edwards intended a pantheistic meaning to Being in general at all, such phrasing lends to that misunderstanding. In addition, our moral obligations in Scripture do not seem to be tied to being.