St. Athanasius On the Incarnation | Book Review


There are three good reasons to read this edition of Athanasius’On the Incarnation.

First, the Introduction by C. S. Lewis is worth the price of the book. “There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by professionals,” he writes, “and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.” He goes on to give reasons why that “strange idea” is a mistake, as well as to make the case for the importance of reading old books. “The only palliative [to modern prejudices] is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.” And, of course, he praises the translation itself: “I do not think the reader will find here any of that sawdusty quality which is so common in modern renderings from the ancient languages.”

The second reason to read this edition of On the Incarnationis the argument Athanasius makes. Athanasius is the bishop of Alexandria who led the fight for Nicene Christianity against the Arian heresy throughout the middle of the fourth century. It is from that fight he earned the moniker Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” But On the Incarnationwas written prior to Nicea. It summarizes orthodox Christian teaching regarding the person and work of Christ. It breaks no ground theologically, which is why it is so valuable. It lays out clearly and compellingly what Christians continue to believe about the nature and purpose of Christ’s Incarnation. The only false notes I detected in the overall argument were when Athanasius offered a “refutation” of the Jews (Chapter VI) and Gentile polytheists (Chapters VII and VIII). Especially with regard to Jews, Athanasius’ refutation seemed directed at a Christian caricature of Jews rather than at fourth-century Jews themselves. And his refutation of Gentile polytheism in Chapter VIII, wherein he cited the decline of paganism and the rise of orthodoxy as proof of the latter, was too triumphalistic. Today, Alexandria is a majority-Muslim city. That doesn’t prove the truth of Islam.

The third reason to read this edition is its inclusion of the Appendix, “The Letter of St. Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms.” I read the Psalms daily, and I resonated with nearly every word Athanasius offered in praise of routine Psalm-reading. He wrote: “Son, all the books of Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction, as the Apostle says; but to those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure.” Yes, it does.

So, five stars for this edition of On the Incarnation.

Book Reviewed
St. Athanasius On the Incarnation: The Treatise De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, trans. and ed. by a Religious of C.S.M.V, with an Introduction by C. S. Lewis(Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. The edition I reviewed is no longer in print. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press newer editionof On the Incarnationincludes Lewis’ Introduction with a new translation of the work by John Behr. It does not include Athanasius’ letter to Marcellinus. It is also available with the original Greek textand new translation on facing pages.

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Why Missions Needs Missionaries | Influence Podcast


This past summer, thousands of Assemblies of God churchgoers went on short-term missions trips. These trips often do much good. They certainly change the people who go on them for the better. But is it a good idea to shift a church’s missions strategy to short-term missions?

Similarly, churches are increasingly supporting “social justice” causes such as anti-human trafficking initiatives and water well drilling as an important part of missions. Granted, these are great causes, but are they missions?

In today’s episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk with with Doug Clay and Greg Mundis about what missions is and why missions need long-term missionaries. Doug Clay is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA), and Greg Mundis is executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions.

Five Tensions Churches Must Manage to Successfully Engage Millennials | Influence Podcast


America is in the midst of a generational sea change. Baby Boomers are no longer the nation’s largest generational cohort. Instead, Millennials are.

Unfortunately, Millennials are the least religious generational cohort in our nation’s history. If the Church wants to reach Millennials, it cannot rely on strategies that worked with Boomers. The generations are simply too different.

In today’s episode, Influencemagazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Geoff Surratt about five tensions churches must manage to successfully engage Millennials.

Together with his wife, Sherry, Geoff is the founder of Ministry Together, which “partners with “ministry leaders for relational health, organizational growth and Kingdom impact.” He is also author of the free e-book, The Church Will Thrive.

The Other Woman | Book Review


When Daniel Silva publishes a new Gabriel Allon novel, I read it as quickly as I can. I get up early to read it, catch a few pages during breaks throughout the day, and stay up late until it’s finished. Some people binge-watch their favorite shows on Netflix. I binge-read spy books.

And so it was with The Other Woman, the latest installment in Silva’s long-running series. In it, Gabriel Allon, chief of Israel’s Mossad, discovers there’s a mole near the top of a Western intelligence agency. Discovering who the mole is and what agency has been compromised before any more damage can be done is the engine that drives the plot forward.

As with all murder and suspense books, my chief criterion of a well-told tale is whether it keeps me turning pages. If a suspense book especially doesn’t grab my attention and force me to keep reading because I absolutely must know what happens next, then it’s not a very good suspense book. By that criterion, The Other Womanis a success.

The book also kept my attention because the plot hinges on Cold War history. I can’t go into detail without spoiling things, so I’ll just say that James Jesus Angleton’s description of counterintelligence as “a wilderness of mirrors” is an apt description of The Other Woman’s plot. Angleton was obsessed that Russia had a mole in the CIA, an obsession grounded in the all-to-real treachery of Kim Philby and the other members of the infamous Cambridge Five, but his obsession also tore relations between Western intelligence agencies apart. That kind of obsession is in play here too.

One of the downsides of page-turners is that you often only see the plot’s weaknesses in hindsight. That was the case here too. In the moment, I thought the Cold War-related plot (again, no details because…spoilers!) worked well. But on reflection, I started to think it was highly implausible. Once you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Even with this caveat, The Other Womanis an entertaining read, a trip down Cold War Memory Lane, and a reminder that in the real world, the New Boss of Russia is the same as the Old Boss, and neither is the good guy.

Book Reviewed
Daniel Silva, The Other Woman (New York: HarperCollins, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Servant Leadership in Action | Book Review


Servant leadership is a term coined by Robert Greenleaf to describe leadership concerned with people development, not just profit maximization. Servant Leadership in Action presents state-of-the-art thinking about the concept. Editors Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell curate 42 short essays developing various aspects of servant leadership. Contributors include business leaders, organizational consultants, and Christian ministers. The editors acknowledge Jesus Christ as the fundamental influence on servant leadership — as do many of the essays’ authors — but they write: “a major goal of this book is to prove that servant leadership has application in both secular andspiritual leadership in every kind of organization.”

Book Reviewed
Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell, eds., Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

A Debt of Death | Book Review


A Debt of Death begins with Adam Lapid looking at his friend’s body in a Tel Aviv gutter. A friend who helped him survive Auschwitz. A friend whom he worries he might’ve gotten killed.

This is the fourth installment in Jonathan Dunsky’s series featuring Israeli private investigator Adam Lapid. Almost no one escapes suspicion in this hardboiled tale mixing love, obligation, hope, despair, counterfeiting, the black market, and murder. And just when you think Lapid has collared the perpetrator, he reveals a new layer to the mystery.

To my mind, this is the best of the Adam Lapid mysteries published so far, though all have been page-turners, which is my basic rule in reviewing fiction. It fully merits a five-star review. I only hope Jonathan Dunsky has more stories in the works. Having read through the first four books in the last two weeks, I’m already jonesing for another.

Book Reviewed
Jonathan Dunsky, A Debt of Death: An Adam Lapid Mystery (Charlotte, NC: CreateSpace, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Preaching with Cultural Intelligence | Book Review


America is increasingly diverse, and so are American churches. Matthew D. Kim wants “to prepare twenty-first-century preachers for the realities of congregational diversity in North America and beyond.” To do so, he outlines a “homiletical template” to help preachers more effectively take into account their communities’ diversity in their preaching. He focuses specifically on diversity of denominations, ethnicities, genders, locations and religions. Preaching with Cultural Intelligenceis a must-read for preachers who want to effectively minister to people different from themselves.

Book Reviewed
Matthew D. Kim, Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.comwith permission.

P.P.S. Check out my Influence Podcastwith Prof. Kim about the book!

How to Be a Man-Friendly Church


Roughly half the U.S. population is male, but fewer men attend church on average than women do. In the Assemblies of God, for example, the latest statistics indicate that men account for 31.5 percent of Sunday morning attendees, while women account for 40.4 percent. This gap in attendance reveals a ministry opportunity.

Earlier this year, Michael Zigarelli — professor of Leadership and Strategy at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania — conducted a qualitative survey of seven Protestant churches with greater parity in attendance between men and women. His working paper, “Churches that Attract Men,” identified transferable principles of man-friendly churches and is the springboard for today’s Influence Podcast conversation between him and me.

Topics of conversation include why attracting men is a good church-growth strategy and what man-friendly churches have in common. But Zigarelli also addresses “pushback questions”: Why are we talking about man-friendly churches in a culture that’s talking about “toxic masculinity”? Does being man-friendly trade on shopworn gender stereotypes or complementarian views of church leadership? And does attracting men create a void of ministry to women and children?

It’s an interesting, informative conversation, so make sure to listen to the entire thing!

The Auschwitz Violinist | Book Review


When a man greets Adam Lapid on the streets of Tel Aviv, Lapid recognizes him as a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz named Yosef Kaplon. A few days later, Kaplon slits his wrists and a friend asks Lapid to figure out why. His investigation opens a window on Holocaust survivors, collaboration, and vengeance.

Before the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial, many Israelis poorly understood the experience of European Jews who had survived the Shoah, and the survivors rarely spoke about their experiences.

Some Israelis—sabras, “natives”—felt that European Jews had been too weak and compliant in the face of oppression. The “new Zionist man” would show the world that Jews couldn’t be pushed around. Survivors felt differently, of course. There had been little they could do, and there were few Gentiles willing to help.

After the war, radicals began targeting Nazi officers and camp guards for assassination because the Allies were doing relatively little to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. This the background leading up to the Mossad’s capture of Eichmann in 1960. The radicals also took a dim view of European Jews whom they felt had collaborated with the enemy: the Judenrat(ghetto police), Kapos(concentration camp supervisors), even musicians forced to play in camp orchestras.

Dunsky uses this mix of survival, collaboration, and vengeance as the background to The Auschwitz Violinist, which is the third Adam Lapid novel. On the whole, he does a good job. I will note, however, that when Dunsky introduced a particular character in particular, I had a premonition he would turn out to be the bad guy. And I was right. I can’t say whether this was because I have read too many mysteries or because Dunsky telegraphed the ending unwittingly. Probably the former.

So, three stars for The Auschwitz Violinistfrom me, but it’s still a page-turner, and I look forward to the fourth novel in the series.

Book Reviewed
Jonathan Dunsky, The Auschwitz Violinist: An Adam Lapid Mystery(Charleston, NC: CreateSpace, 2016).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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