Dr. Robert Sumner passed away in December 2016. The Biblical Evangelist newspaper is no longer being published and the ministry of Biblical Evangelism has ceased operation.

The remaining inventory of his books and gospel tracts was transferred to The Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles and may be ordered here.

Book Reviews
Dr. Robert L. Sumner

THE ORIGIN OF THE RACES by Sun Ming; Seedsower Publications, Erie, PA; 16 Chapters, 214 Pages; $15, Paper

The author has been teaching in a university in China (where it is against the law to teach anything but evolution in its science classes) for many years, but considers his main job that of working with pastors of the underground churches (called ‘house churches’) in that county. Since he is a big fan of Dr. Henry Morris, he obviously can’t be all bad. And his evaluation of “Saint” Augustine is right on target. Ming doesn’t mind figurative language (which always, in Scripture, has a literal meaning), but allegorizing Scripture makes “his blood boil.”

Ming who started out an evolutionist until he saw the light, bases his “origin” theories on Peleg (lit., earthquake), the Tower of Babel, and a three-fold judgment whereby God divided the human family by languages, continents and multiple racial differences. In short, they were divided into continental, language, and racial boundaries, as outlined in Genesis 10:5, about 250 years after Noah’s flood. He not only thinks they immediately had new languages, but new skin, new bodies.

His argument is that since it took a miracle to “over night” confuse the languages, it could have also produced a miracle the same night to confuse the “race” matter. While that is certainly true, it is also true that God has never performed miracles that were unnecessary and science has shown that the races could have developed naturally. I recall hearing Ken Ham lecture on that at some length a few years back.

You can decide whether all Ming’s conclusions are correct, but he certainly has presented a strong, thoughtful argument for his position. As the author notes, purpose is a whole lot better than chance. Or, to put it another way, the design of an omnipotent Creator is better than the happenstance of evolution.

And, understand, Ming is a strong creationist who believes the Word of God implicitly. We thought his section “Draw Near or Draw Back,” in which he deals with Darwin and his plagiarism from his grandfather’s work published threescore years earlier, was especially interesting and enlightening.

[See ad on page11]

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JESUS IN BEIJING by David Aikman; Regency Publishing, Inc., Washington, DC; 15 Chapters, 344 Pages; $27.95

What’s going on in China’s religious community? The subtitle of this book, written by the former Beijing Bureau Chief for Time magazine, is How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. While certainly not written from a Fundamentalist viewpoint, it is a very interesting volume. It was given to me by Dr. R. L. Hymers the last time I preached for him in Los Angeles.

Aikman makes clear the China Christian Council (CCC) controls China’s officially approved Protestant churches and the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) is an organization set up to make sure the Protestants conformed to the party line’s political and social objectives. CCC claims about 15 million baptized Christians are on Chinese church rolls, which doesn’t seem like much of a splash in a land of a billion souls.

Aikman identifies many of the leaders there and explains what is going on in different areas. The book is well written and well documented. There are two appendixes and a complete index. As noted above, we certainly don’t endorse all the things in it, but it is a very enlightening volume for those interested in China today.

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SIGNS OF THE COMING OF CHRIST by Gary Frazier; Discovery Ministries, Arlington, TX; 7 Chapters, 210 Pages; $15, Paper

Although the author is billed as a prophecy specialist, perhaps saying he travels the country lecturing with Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson in the ‘Left Behind Prophecy Conferences’ will tell you more than a reviewer could. The seven signs Frazier discusses are The Rebirth of the Nation of Israel, The Reunification of Europe, The Rise of Radical Islam, The Revealing of the Antichrist, The Rush to a One World Religion, The Rebuilding of the Temple, and The Rebellion of Armageddon.

Does he predict dates? No. Tim LaHaye makes a good point in the Foreword: “Just because there are a few misguided folks among us who have speculated incorrectly about these signs does not mean we should stick our heads in the sand and ignore the signs completely.”

Frazier documents a lot of things and has a good number of interesting quotes. We were especially interested in one from Paul Henry Spaak, former United Nations Secretary-General, that if a man could arise to hold the allegiance of all, “be he God or the devil, we will receive him.” My dad used to tell me the same thing about how easy it would be for the Antichrist to take over control if he came up with a plan for peace – and that was before World War Two.

The messages are interesting and helpful. The boxes inserted throughout the book, where the author gives some of his main points, may be the best part – at least for preachers and teachers.

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PERSPECTIVES ON CHURCH GOVERNMENT, Edited by Chad Owen Brand & R. Stanton Norman; Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN; 5 Chapters, 353 Pages; $19.99, Paper

Subtitled, Five Views on Church Polity, the theme is “How does God intend His people to be governed and guided?” The five contributors and their positions are as follows: Daniel Akin, for the single elder-led congregational; James Leo Garrett, Jr., for the Democratic Congregational; Robert L. Reymond, who defends the Presbyterian pattern; James R. White, who holds to a plural elder-led congregational position; and Paul F. M. Zahl, who advocates an Episcopal model.

We previously (March-April 2005) reviewed Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: 5 Views, which Brand edited. Norman, the co-editor for this one, teaches at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The format is the same as the one on the baptism of the Holy Spirit; that is, each sets forth his teaching and the others try to shoot it down. As we said then, we are not sure this is the best way to handle a sensitive theological subject.

The best part of this book may be the Introduction, where early church polity is discussed. (And the illustration given there from a scene in Fiddler on the Roof regarding Perchek may be a good reason why this type of book is not the answer!)

Our position is best represented by Akin in the opening chapter!

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WITHOUT A DOUBT by Kenneth Richard Samples; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 3 Parts, 20 Chapters; $15.99, Paper

The subtitle describes it adequately: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions. The material is divided into 3 major sections: Thinking Through Questions about Faith in God (6 chapters), Thinking Through Questions about Faith in Jesus Christ (5 chapters), and Thinking Through Objections to the Christian Faith (9 chapters). There are 3 Tables within the book, plus Name, Subject and Scripture indices in the back. Notes are also in the back for you to hunt, rather than on the page where referenced.

The author, an adjunct instructor at Biola University, founded and leads the Augustine Fellowship Study Center, and is vice-president of philosophical and theological apologetics with Reasons to Believe. This qualifies him to write this type of book. He writes basically for Christians to help with fulfilling I Peter 3:15, but it is for the skeptic as well. By the way, he calls Augustine “the greatest theologian of the first one thousand years of Christian church history.” We couldn’t disagree more and a host of erroneous teachings (especially in Roman Catholicism) must be laid at his door.

This is a very fine reference book for pastors and teachers. It might also serve well in an apologetics class as a textbook. While it is not the best on the subject we’ve perused, it is very helpful and we recommend it.

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BECOMING A WORLD CHANGING FAMILY by Donna S. Thomas; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 17 Chapters, 159 Pages; $11.99, Paper

Subtitled Fun & Innovative Ways to Spread the Good News, the author’s aim is to get families interested, concerned and involved in worldwide evangelism. We all know the responsibility given by God to parents regarding teaching their children, but in this hurry-worry-bury world it isn’t always easy. This book purports to help. And since “mission statements” are in vogue today (and that’s good), she suggests writing one for your family (and that’s good, too).

At the end of each chapter is a section: What You Can Do Today as a Family, brimming with ideas. There are also games to play, e-mail program for the kids to get involved in, and many other suggestions – even for a trip around the world without leaving home.

One thing we can assure you: if you follow the principles in this book your family will never be the same. Nor will it have a hum-drum existence.

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SONG OF SONGS by Richard S. Hess, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 8 Sections, 285 Pages; $29.99

This is the first release in Baker’s Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, Temper Longman III, Editor. The author, who earned his Ph.D. at Hebrew Union College and should be able to move comfortably through the Old Testament, currently serves as professor at Denver Seminary. As for authorship, he is not sure Solomon wrote it; in fact, he isn’t at odds with the thought that a woman penned it!

After the Introduction, the 7 sections are: Title (1:1), Prologue: First Coming Together and Intimacy (1:2-2:7), Lovers Joined and Separated (2:8-3:5), Love and Marriage at the Heart of the Song (3:6-5:1), Search and Reunion (5:2-6:3), Desire for the Female and Love in the Country (6:4-8:4), and the Epilogue: The Power of Love (8:5-14).

The author bases his comments on his own translation, given at the start of each section, and he uses the Masoretic Text to do so. He has read widely and quotes profusely, presenting a scholarly work, well documented. The targeted audience is described as “scholars, ministers, seminary students and Bible study leaders.”

While the Song of Solomon is a difficult book to exegete, we feel Hess has done a commendable job. As with any commentary, especially of such length, all will not agree with everything. We do think pastors and teachers can find considerable help herein, however.

In addition to an explanation of abbreviations used, the book contains a lengthy Bibliography (over 16 pages), Subject Index, Author Index, and Index of Scripture and other Ancient Writings. Notes are where they belong, at the foot of the page referenced.

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WESLEY COUNTRY Compiled by Richard Bewes; Christian Publications, Inc., Camp Hill, PA; 22 Sections, Pages Not Numbered; $29.99

This is subtitled, A Pictorial History based on John Wesley’s Journal, and the compiler is rector at the All Soul’s Church at Langham Place, England, the son of East African missionaries (his grandfather was saved in a D. L. Moody crusade). After a brief Introduction, in which the compiler described the miraculous rescue of the subject from a blazing parsonage at age 5, the volume is based on select quotes from Wesley’s Journal starting in 1738 with his days of unbelief at Oxford, and closing with his final days in 1790. It concludes with a Table of Places, People and Illustrations.

The “pictorial” comes from the more than 250 excellent woodcuts and steel engravings found from cover to cover, illustrating the places where Wesley went and of which he wrote in his Journal.

Evangelical Methodists, Nazarenes, Free Methodists and other in the Wesley lineage will love this book. It is approximately 9½” x 12” in size and would make an excellent coffee table item.

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SNOWBLIND by Catherine Farnes; Journey Forth, a Division of BJU Press, Greenville, SC; 19 Chapters, 108 Pages; $7.49, Paper

This is young adult Christian fiction. The Craigs – consisting of the dad, Hayden; son, Dakota; and daughter, Jacy – own a resort called Back Trails in the Montana wilderness. Enter the Wheatleys – the father, Trevor; son, Cullen; and daughter, Amberlee – who want to purchase or become partners with the Craigs in Back Trails. The Craigs are Christians; the Wheatleys make no bones about not believing, and they are your typical rich snobs.

Is the Wheatley offer accepted or rejected? When one of the youths “wipes out,” what happens?

This book will hold a teen’s interest.

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JOSHUA: AN EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY by James Montgomery Boice; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 17 Chapters, 151 Pages; $19.99

When an author dies, the value of his books drops almost out of sight. For a publisher to republish his works means it feels there is real value in what he wrote. Boice, who succeeded Donald G. Barnhouse at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, went to Heaven half-a-decade ago. We recently favorably reviewed his Nehemiah by the same publisher.

We agree with the publisher. This volume has merit and is worthy of your study. We recommend it.

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WHAT’S A CHRISTIAN TO BELIEVE ABOUT CREATION AND THE FLOOD by Donald R. Suttles; Pleasant Word, Enumclaw, WA; 10 Chapters, 206 Pages; $16.99, Paper

The author of this work believes in an inspired, inerrant Bible. He is pre-tribulation, pre-millennial, and holds to the views those terms express. He maintains the truth of Heaven, Hell, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ and the other cardinal doctrines of the Word of God. He is not an evolutionist of any form.

That makes it very difficult for us to refuse to endorse his book, but we have no other choice – and the pain in so doing is doubled since the author is a subscriber to this paper. Suttles holds to an old earth, “maybe 15 billion years, since the creation of the universe” (we hold to a young earth); he argues that the days of creation were 1,000 years each (we hold to solar days of 24 hours; it is pretty hard to hold otherwise since those days consisted of an evening and a morning); he supports men like Hugh Ross and puts down scientists like Ken Ham (a columnist in this paper) and our friend Henry Morris (we hold the opposite about all three of these individuals).

Because of his belief in a creation involving unlimited years, he says, “I have no problem believing that God began His creation with some kind of activity that agrees with the concept of a big bang and that He did it in preparation of what He planned to do on the earth.” We could not disagree more! As for creation itself, according to Suttles, the 6 days “took a maximum of 6,000 years.”

It seems to us that Suttles’ time problem relates to his misunderstanding of the Hebrew word for “day” (yom). For example, he says, “A case in point is the claim that the interpretation of yom is a 24-hour day everywhere that it appears in the Bible.” Most creationists do not say that, but when it comes to creation, yom is interpreted by God as a period of “evening and morning.” The creation days have the clear explanation: “the evening and the morning were the [first/second/third/etc.] day,” something very difficult to understand as “a thousand years.” In our judgment, the “evening and morning” is a statement of fact, not open to interpretation. And when yom is identified by a number, that is when it always refers to a solar, 24-hour day.

Strangely, in his comments on Noah’s flood, he mentions several times that “Noah’s day” was “not a 24-hour day, but a period of over a hundred years” (we don’t know of anyone who claims otherwise). However, when it talks about it raining for “40 days and 40 nights,” those were solar days of 24 hours each, evening and morning – not long periods of time! Suttles does, however, hold to a “global” flood, not a local one. We agree on that.

We made an exhaustive study of this “days of creation issue” 40 years ago when it was a big, divisive one at the college where we served on the board of trustees. The unanimous conclusion of the trustees, after months of diligent research and study, was that the days of creation were solar days of 24 hours each – and I’ve never seen anything to convince me otherwise, including this book.

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FAMILY 15: Building Christian Families 15 Minutes at a Time; Nelson Reference & Electronic Publishers, Nashville, TN; 8 Sessions; $29.99

FAMILY 15: Building Christian Families 15 Minutes at a Time, Volume 2: The Life of Christ; Nelson Reference and & Electronic Publishers, Nashville, TN; 8 Sessions; $29.99

The aim of these productions is to encourage and develop family worship (what we used to call “family altars”) and we are certainly for that. In fact, anything that would encourage such we would have a hard time knocking.

Both consist of a Leader’s Guide, a Prayer Journal, an Interactive DVD, an Audio CD, and a Teen CD-ROM. The format is the same in each. At the start of each devotional one can click on “questions” which are the heart of the devotion. Clicking on the video brings the co-hosts, Kenda Benward and Jeff Wilson (the host for the teen CD is Pete Wilson). They interact and then questions about the subject are asked the “man (or woman, or child) on the street.” Their answers are about what you would expect (most have no clue) and then the hosts get serious about the subject. All Scripture quotations are taken from The Message, which is a 1-man translation/paraphrase. By the way, the Prayer Journal has a pull-out section called “Follow Up Cards” containing what might be called homework for each of the 8 weeks. There are 5 things to do on each card.

Volume 1 is probably intended as an introductory set of devotions. The first four weeks are about the Person and Work of God: Discovering God (“Overwhelmed by Love,” “Generously Forgiven,” “Unconditionally Accepted” and “Blessed by God”). The second four are about prayer, Communicating With God (“What’s Up With Prayer,” “Two-Way Street,” “On the Job Training,” and “I’m the Last Person in the World Who’s …” We had a little trouble with their “two-way street” session, fearing that immature Christians will decide God is saying a lot to them while they are being quiet that will be strictly their imagination – and then get upset when it doesn’t pan out, saying, “God told me to do it!”

Volume 2 consisting of the Life of Christ is divided into two sections, the first four weeks dealing with Learning About Him (“The Difference Christ Makes,” “The Son of Hope,” “The Light of Christ,” and, “A Friend Like No Other.” The next four are Living for Him (“Beyond Labels,” “Worry Free,” “The Compassion of Christ,” and, “Christ Impression”). It has the same general features as Volume 1.

We think families looking for something fresh for family worship might be helped here. Since $30 (less 1¢) is a lot of money, we suggest that if they are interested they get the first volume and see how they like it. We used our computer to play ours, but I think they would also work on your television equipment.

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“HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE NOT WRONG?” by Paul Copan; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 17 Chapters, 269 Pages; $14.99, Paper

This book of apologetics by a philosophy professor is subtitled, Responding to Objections That Leave Christians Speechless. In our judgment, he has not written for the common man, but for his peers in the ivory towers of academia. After an introductory section, “Part I: Slogans Related to Truth and Reality,” his two main sections are “Part II: Slogans Related to Worldviews” (8 chapters) and “Part III: Slogans Related to Christianity” (7 chapters).

We checked and noted that we have reviewed two of the author’s previous works, That’s Just Your Interpretation and True for You, but Not for Me. We didn’t recommend either title. Nor will we recommend this one!

We don’t mean that he doesn’t have any good thoughts; he does. In fact, he has some very good thoughts in his final chapter, “Isn’t the Gospel of Thomas a Legitimate Source About the Historical Jesus?” And of his three books we have seen thus far, this is the pick of the litter.

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AVOIDING JESUS by Michael Green; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 14 Chapters, 189 Pages; $12.99, Paper

Subtitled, Answers for Skeptics, Cynics, and the Curious, this is a volume originally marketed under the title, You Must Be Joking, published in 1976 by Hodder & Stoughton, and was “read worldwide in repeated editions and scores no languages.” Since the 75-year-old author is described herein as “one of the world’s leading evangelists,” we decided to check and see what we had reviewed in the past of his works. (We do keep records!)

Here is what we found: he was the editor of The Truth of God Incarnate (he wrote the opening chapters) and which we reviewed over a quarter of a century ago, calling it “a tremendous defense of the Deity of Christ,” but noting it was weak on inspiration, denying the literalness of Acts 4:12 (Christ, the only way of salvation). About that same time we saw his I Believe in the Holy Spirit (Revised Edition) and noted he was much more charismatic on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit than we. Later we reviewed his I Believe in Satan’s Downfall and noted it had many good things, but it was very ecumenical, took an amillennial position, and was heavily involved in charismatic theology. About 20 years ago we reviewed his New Life, New Lifestyles, a book for new converts. We called it what you would expect from an Anglican writer: very weak on baptism, implying amillennialism, strong on ecumenism, and weak on holy living. He also penned Volume 18 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries on II Peter & Jude, but while we received a copy we did not review it.

So what about this latest offering of an old book in new clothing, a work Chuck Colson calls “refreshing candor and careful reasoning,” and Alister McGrath describes as “an outstanding book.” Naturally, in light of the above about God Incarnate (it was he who wrote the offensive words denying the literalness of Acts 4:12) we turned first to the chapter in this, “All Religions Lead to God.” He offered “two reasons [the nature of God and the nature of man] why it is impossible for us to find God through whatever religion you care to name.” He declared, “All religions do not lead to God. None of them do.” And then he pointed out that there is only one hope and a “revelation” is needed. So far, so good.

Next he asks, “… are all non-Christians inevitably lost?” and immediately replies “…the answer is no” (our emphasis). He then quotes Romans 2:14-16, written to prove all men guilty, to suggest some of them are innocent (an old trick of reading something into the passage that isn’t there). Then he quotes I John 2:2 about Christ dying for “the sins of the whole world,” points out that this included Old Testament saints, and theorizes it ought to include others who never heard the Name of Christ as well. His conclusion is that the only ones lost will be those who heard and rejected. He calls this a “wider hope”; we call it “heresy!”

That was enough. We didn’t read the rest of the book. We can’t recommend a work wrong on the main theme of the Word of God, soteriology, no matter how right it is on other subjects. By the way, his basic text is the original (faulty, we might add) Revised Standard Version of 1952.

And, yes, he is English, writing, “we have at last woken up to the fact… .” We could only wish he would “woken to the fact” that no one goes to Heaven apart from personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!

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SOUND BIBLICAL PREACHING: Giving the Bible a Voice, by Franklin L. Kirksey; BookSurge, LLC; Three Parts, 10 Chapters, 151 Pages; $12.99, Paper

The author, a pastor in Alabama, is concerned about the kind of preaching we have in pulpits today and wants a return to the days of yore. We agree! (His message, “Lord, Send a Revival!” appeared in our September-October issue.)

This book is divided into 3 major parts, “Accepting God’s Call to Preach” (3 chapters), “Affirming God’s Call to Preach” (3 chapters), and “Apprehending God’s Call to Preach” (4 chapters). Kirksey has researched widely and well. There are 225 “notes” given in the back of the book, where quotes are found, and his Bibliography is extensive (covering 15 pages). In fact, much of the book contains quotations by a tremendous number of experts on preaching, giving their views. My heart was stirred by them and yours will be, too.

There are 12 pages of commendations for the volume in the front, some of them from a number of America’s (and the world’s) finest preachers. One is from our friend and The Biblical Evangelist columnist, C. Sumner Wemp, who called it “one of the most intriguing books on preaching that I have seen in years.”

We are glad to add our endorsement!

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EXPLORING THE EPISTLES OF PETER by John Phillips; Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI; 14 Sections, 319 Pages; $24.99

EXPLORING 1 & 2 THESSALONIANS by John Phillips; Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI; 11 Sections, 319 Pages; $21.99

EXPLORING THE GOSPEL OF LUKE by John Phillips; Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI; 4 Parts, 15 Sections, 319 Pages; $23.99

These are reprints from the pen of a noble, good man, long associated with the Moody Bible Institute and its various subsidiaries, released now as The John Phillips Commentary Series. Of these three, we have reviewed Exploring the Future and Exploring the Song of Solomon previously (8/19/83; 10/26/84). In addition we reviewed Exploring the Psalms, Volumes 1-3 (11/16/85; 9/1/86; 3/1/87), Bible Explorer’s Guide (3/1/87) and Exploring the Gospels: John (1/1/90). All but Future were published by Loizeaux Brothers.

In Peter he launches the first epistle with an excellent detailed outline and then after a 2 verse introduction, explores the questions of Salvation, Scripture, Sanctification, Separation, Submission, Suffering, Shepherding, Satan, and closes with a 3 verse conclusion. The second epistle is handled the same way, opening with an Introduction and then looking at Faith’s Convictions, Contention and Consummation.

In this work Phillips opens the study of both books with a detailed, helpful outline. His main points in the first epistle, other than his Introduction and Conclusion, are The Lord’s Coming: A Saving Truth, A Stimulating Truth, A Stabilizing Truth, A Strengthening Truth, and A Sanctifying Truth. The exploration of the second epistle, other than the Introduction and Conclusion, relates to Paul’s Word of Admiration and Paul’s Word of Admonition. His two charts in the latter study of Comparisons and Contrasts between Christ and Anti-Christ (10 items in the first and 18 in the second) are excellent.

Luke has the usual complete outline at the start, then the material is divided into 4 parts: Introduction (3 Sections), Events Relating to the Savior’s Coming (4 Sections), Events Relating to the Savior’s Career (2 Sections), and Events Relating to the Savior’s Cross. The part dealing with His career (ministry) is the major section, of course.

In talking about divorce in Luke, Phillips said, “The Lord’s standard, as recorded by Luke, was absolute and without exception” (emphasis added). But then he went on and said there was an exception (about which Luke was totally silent and about which there is considerable controversy regarding its meaning).

To give an indication of the value of Phillips’ books, back in the 1980s, when we asked evangelical leaders to list the very best books they had read the previous year, Dr. Merle Hull, late editor of the Baptist Bulletin, listed Phillips’ Exploring the Psalms, Volume 2, as one of the seven best he had perused.

These are excellent books. We recommend them highly to pastors, teachers and lay folk alike!