Review: No Quick Fix

Have you ever been so sick of your sinful self that you tried just to let go and let God? Did your walk with God become easier? For how long? Did you find yourself bewildered and delirious at the remaining sin and your continued struggle against it, disappointed that God didn’t take it away? Did you declare Jesus him as your Lord again? Are you afraid that you’re a carnal Christian instead of a spiritual Christian who pleases God?

No Quick Fix is an abridged version of Andrew Naselli’s book Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology (revised from his PhD dissertation). The academic language has been stripped down, and the book has been repackaged for thoughtful lay people.

Higher life theology (coming from the early days of the Keswick [pronounced KEH-zick] theology, though distinguished from the Keswick Convention today) promotes a quick fix to the Christian life. Rather than growing in one’s sanctification and walk with God, Higher life theology says that you can be with out (intentional) sin now if you would only consecrate your life to Jesus. He may be your Savior, but he needs to be your Lord.


Naselli divides his book into two parts, two chapters per section. Part one explains the story and history of higher life theology (ch. 1) and what this theology teaches (ch. 2). This is no witch hunt. Naselli isn’t writing this book to disagree with a theology that’s different from his own. In part two, Naselli looks at the fundamental reason why higher life theology is harmful (ch. 3) and follows up with nine more reasons why this theology is harmful for the Christian life (ch. 4). Naselli wants to help those who have taught or have been taught higher life theology to know what the Bible teaches about the Christian life, and he wants to expose higher life theology to those who have no experience with it so they can better minister to those who have been influenced by it.

Higher life theology has two main influences: Wesleyan perfectionism and the holiness movement” (8). For John Wesley, a Christian could receive a second work of grace that would bring “salvation from all sin” along with “entire sanctification, perfect love, holiness, purity of intention, full salvation, second blessing, second rest, and dedicating all your life to God” (9). Later Christians believed Christian perfection began “the instant a believer experiences the outpouring of the Spirit, is baptized with the Spirit, is filled with the Spirit, or receives the Holy Spirit as the promise from the Father” (10).

Higher life Theology was popularized by many people, some noteworthy ones being Charles Finney, H. C. G. Moule, F. B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Frances Ridley Havergal (who wrote “Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace” [1878] and “Take my Life and let it be” [1874]), D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, and even Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary (though not anymore). At DTS, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, and Charles C. Ryrie promoted these teachings. Chafer taught that “Believers are in one of two distinct categories: (1) those who are not Spirit-filled and (2) those who are Spirit-filled. The first are powerless, and the second are powerful (21-22). However, “unlike Moody, Torrey, and Meyer, he insisted that Spirit-baptism occurs at conversion for all Christians” (22).

In higher life theology, there are three kinds of people in the world:

  1. natural (unconverted)
  2. carnal (converted but characterized by an unconverted lifestyle)
  3. spiritual (converted and Spirit-filled)

Unfortunately, a Christian who consecrates his life to Christ, received the filling of the Spirit, and is relinquished from a life of sin can still choose to unconsecrate his life. This is strange considering what Naselli says later, that “after you ‘let go and let God,’ God is obligated to keep you from sin’s power” (40). When the Christian is loosed from sin how would he be able to intentionally choose to not be under the Lordship of his Savior and, thus, sin? And why would he want to?). Doing so stops the sanctification process and will lead to the believer needing to consecrate his life to God again.

“A Spirit-filled Christian must not ‘relapse’ and experience spiritual leakage.’ That would require ‘a refilling.’ There is no guarantee that a Christian who is Spirit-filled will remain Spirit-filled” (43).

The biggest reason why higher life theology is harmful for Christians is its division of Christians into “carnal” and “spiritual” categories. Carnal Christians have the Spirit, but spiritual Christians are filled by the Spirit. Again, Naselli is not on a witch hunt. He presents five commendable characteristics of higher life theology: It exalts Christ, it is warmly devotional, it emphasizes spiritual disciplines, it affirms fundamental orthodoxy, and it has a legacy of faithful Christian leaders.

However, Naselli spends the second part of his book explaining higher life’s theology  defects. He lists ten reasons (though I’ll only give a few of them). Higher life theology emphasizes passivity, not activity, as God is 100% the one who keeps us from sin. there is truth to this, but it severely downplays our role in fighting against sin. “It portrays the Christian’s free will as autonomously starting and stopping sanctification” (a form of Pelagianism, though not the full-fledged heretical Pelagianism) (48, 84, 99). It does not interpret and apply the Bible accurately, and it assures false “Christians” they are saved by telling them they are just carnal. It frustrates those who aren’t “filled” with the Spirit because they still struggle with sin (which is actually normal to every Christian). It also misinterprets personal experiences. Sometimes a Christian may have a spiritual experience of some kind, a great sense of God’s overwhelming presence. Just as one remembers Christmas dinner more than Tuesdays leftovers, these experiences leave a lasting impression on our lives. Yet that doesn’t mean that we have received a second filling or are now free from sin. Naselli looks at texts in Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 2–3, 12, Ephesians 5, and John 15 for evidence of progressive sanctification in the normal Christian life and how all Christians are filled by the Holy Spirit.

No Quick Fix ends with a lengthy and solid afterword by John MacArthur and an appendix with a list of twenty-eight resources on the Christian life.


With numerous charts throughout Naselli’s book which helpfully portray the beliefs of both higher life theology and what the Bible teaches, Naselli’s book is short enough to get a hold on what higher life theology is and why one shouldn’t hold to it. Higher life theology is pervasive, but the Bible shows us a better way: walking and growing with the God who saved us, redeemed us, walks with us, and promises to return for us. This God can be understood and known (Jer 9.24), and he is fighting for us and with us. 

After commending higher life theology’s emphasis on the Christian’s devotional life, J. I. Packer, says,

It is not much of a recommendation when all you can say is that this teaching may help you if you do not take its details too seriously. It is utterly damning to have to say, as in this case I think we must, that if you do take its details seriously, it will tend not to help you but to destroy you. (98)

This is a book I wish I would have had in high school. I heard it occasionally in school, in church, and a bit in Bible college too. Knowing what higher life theology is and how to reason against it biblically will save you and others a lot of worry over having to “consecrate” themselves all over again… again. 


Buy it on Logos or from Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255


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Review: Paradoxology


What if this ancient faith we call Christianity has survived so long not in spite of but precisely because of its apparent contradictions? . . . What if it is in the difficult parts of the Bible that God is most clearly revealed? What if it is in and through our doubts that we learn the meaning of true relationship with the God who created us — of true worship? What if Christianity was never meant to be simple? (5)

In the introduction to his book Paradoxology, Krish Kandiah begins with a personal story etched into his life. Sitting in the hospital with a family whose one-year-old son was suffering after a routine surgery, the elephant in the room is the question: Why does God allow such meaningless suffering? How do we understand an omnipresent God who we can’t see or feel? How can we love a God who needs nothing but asks everything from us? How can he be so inactive while equally actively holding up the world? Who speaks silently? Who “wins as he loses”? Just who is this God whom we serve?

Kandiah doesn’t try to guard anyone from the Bible’s own questions and difficulties. If God needs no sacrifices, why did he ask Abraham to sacrifice his own promised son? Does he determine our free will? Is he really so compassionate when we consider the wars in Joshua? For Kandiah, working through these difficulties instead of shying away grows our faith. It requires us to pay attention to the Bible to see God’s just and righteous character. Kandiah looks at the Bible characters (such as Abraham, Job, Habbakkuk, Esther, and Jesus!) and how they remained obedient and faithful to God even in the midst of despair.


Kandiah structures each chapter in the same way. First there is a current story or circumstance. Why, after having already lost his wife and baby, did poor Geyoung’s father decide to return to North Korea to preach the gospel, only to be arrested and never heard from again? Second, the story brings up problems. Why does God require so much from us? Was it correct for Geyoung’s father to leave her to preach the gospel in North Korea? Does God want to watch us struggle? If he has everything, is he greedy for wanting more? Third, there is the biblical story. Abraham and Sarah are barren, God promises Abraham many descendants, and they believe him. Sometime after Isaac is born, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Looking at the broader story, Kandiah draws out a few points of reference for the reader over how Abraham could have trusted this God. I don’t want to give too much away, but Abraham’s belief in God was not a leap of faith. Abraham had already spent years seeing that God is true, just (“shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen 18.25), and worthy to be praised.

God is not an idol who is here to give us the good and prosperous. No relationship should work like that on earth, and neither does our relationship with God work like that. God smashes our idols and wants us to know him. Abraham had already experienced the miraculous life of Isaac coming from the deadness of himself and Sarah (Heb 11.12). Abraham knew that God could bring life out of death (11.19). There was a relationship between Abraham and Yahweh. Abraham had seen that Yahweh was just and righteous time and time again.

Fourth, Kandiah closes with some concluding concluding thoughts, sometimes tying them in with his opening story.

The Chocolate Milk

Every chapter pretty much follows this structure, which means you know what to expect with each chapter. He brings up the challenges that many people think when they read the bible, and shows how God is trustworthy, just, and faithful.

Some paradoxes have to remain as paradoxes and simply be held together. For example, scientists have one theory for how light consists of solid particles that can hit objects, and they have a separate theory on how it is a wave and can be in two separate places at the same time (219). Scientists have to acknowledge that their brains are not wired to put these two theories together, so, rather than emphasizing one theory over the other, they hold them together. Similarly, when it comes to the Trinity, how Jesus is both man and God, and how God’s divine sovereignty and man’s free will correspond to each other, these things must be held together. We work through them, read books about them, and understand and explain their nuances, but we will never completely understand these paradoxes in this life. And that is OK.

If there was one addition I would appreciate seeing, it would be a section on recommended resources either after every chapter or at the end of the book. Some of the chapters here summarized ideas that I’ve read in other books. For instance, because I’ve read quite a few books on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (chapter 10), there wasn’t much new here for me. It’s a similar case with chapters 3 (the Joshua Paradox) and 4 (the Job Paradox). These chapters weren’t intended to cover every detail, but having a reference tool to point readers to other books would be helpful. And though we have Amazon at our fingertips, recommendations for further reading from an author are always warmly welcomed. 


For the high school or university student, to the layman, Bible teacher, and pastor, this book provides a helping comfort to know that the Bible’s paradoxes aren’t a problem—but a gift to be received, wrestled with, befuddled over, and a cause to rejoice. The God we serve has hidden himself in plain sight, and because we have his Spirit, we can read his word and we can understand him.


    • Author: Krish Kandiah
    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Books (February 14, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Table of Contents

The Preface (paradox)

1. The Abraham Paradox: The God who needs nothing but asks for everything
2. The Moses Paradox: The God who is far away, so close
3. The Joshua Paradox: The God who is terribly compassionate
4. The Job Paradox: The God who is actively inactive
5. The Hosea Paradox: The God who is faithful to the unfaithful
6. The Habakkuk Paradox: The God who is consistently unpredictable
7. The Jonah Paradox: The God who is indiscriminately selective
8. The Esther Paradox: The God who speaks silently 

Interlude at the Border

9. The Jesus Paradox: The God who is divinely human
10. The Judas Paradox: The God who determines our free will
11. The Cross Paradox: The God who wins as he loses
12. The Roman Paradox: The God who is effectively ineffective
13. The Corinthian Paradox: The God who fails to disappoint

Epilogue: Living with Paradox

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How Spoiled Milks?

If you’ve been unlucky enough to read my previous posts about how I came to use the name SpoiledMilks, I’ll explain why I started using it for my non-MySpace/Facebook blog name, and what in the world I’m doing with my blog.

Why I Blog

After I graduated from CCBC York, my friend/teacher Lindsay, who blogs at MyDigitalSeminary (he’s more clever with names than I am, as you’ll see below), told me how he got into blogging and that I should consider doing it too. Simply enough, there are bloggers who review books for free. They request a book from a publisher, read and review the book, and they get to keep the book for future reference or sharing.

In the middle of Bible college I realized I wanted to teach the Bible, which requires books. No matter who you are, nobody knows everything. We learn from the writings of others. We stand on the shoulders of giants (but we shouldn’t forget the little people too). If others have spent more years than I in the Bible, then I should (and do) consider their thoughts and conclusions as worthy enough to read and to help guide me in my own reading and teaching. We are a community of believers. Biblical authors write so that they can help others outside of their immediate community.

Studying the Bible to the point where I can teach it well would require purchasing books, and good theology books aren’t cheap (and neither are the lousy ones). Christians come to the Bible from different perspectives, and if they come to the Bible humbly, the Bible leads them to remove certain perspectives and it reinforces others. Yet the fact remains that I don’t want to follow one person and their own single perspective.

I grew up in a non-denominational church which was closest to Baptist theology (which makes sense since it had previously been a Baptist church). From my studies, I have only grown more firm in my stance on Baptism, but now I can explain it better than I could have previously. On the other hand, I’ve changed my mind on other points (like eschatology). I’ve become both more discerning and (hopefully) more gracious. I’ve seen good arguments, better arguments, and just plain bad arguments.

Why read so much?

Think of what it means to run a business, or run for office, to be a chef, a mother, a manager, a home owner. Business owners must be very nuanced in knowing economics, finances, law, etc., so that they can make a profit (and not be sued—(way to go America)). Home owners need to know how to cook (to stay alive) and how to keep their house in good shape (to avoid experiencing the stress of a busted pipe). One’s view on politics will affect who he votes for and will affects how society will be run. The better one understands politics, economics, and human behavior, the better they will understand how they should vote (whether or not they make the correct decision is another matter).

Theology isn’t a mere theoretical matter (though it is all too easy to keep it there). Theology has a massive affect on how we live. It shapes our worldview, something the  biblical authors were well aware of. The Bible’s story shapes how we think and live, and knowing it accurately leads to more wisdom. To know the Bible means we have to know how to read the Bible. Growing up I had a very bare-bones knowledge to the Bible (Adam-Eve, Abraham, Moses, sinners, Jesus, resurrection, Paul, heaven), but I didn’t know how much (of anything) fit together. “Be like Abraham because he was good” (except when he wasn’t). Jesus spoke nice things (except where it’s difficult), and Paul told us to love one another (and sometimes harshly demanded strict obedience or expulsion from the church body).

But to blog one needs a name.

Why I used “SpoiledMilks”

  1. Some were already familiar with the name.
  2. I couldn’t think of anything better.
  3. I don’t write well enough for people to remember some generic theology blog name in the midst of all the other blogs with better writers (who wants to read “Theoretical Theology”? “Theology Thoughts”? “Theolocajun”? “Stop Eating Rice Krispies“?)

But I realized I could implement “SpoiledMilks” into my blog. When I reviewed a book, aspects of the book that were very good were placed under a “chocolate milks” section (because everyone likes chocolate milk). Parts that hindered the book were placed under a “spoiled milks” section. I added a Lagniappe (“a little something extra”) section for book details and a place to thank the publisher. Today I don’t use the Chocolate/Spoiled milks sections so much because it can tend to divide my thoughts too much. Often the same place in a book that I think was well written will also have a “spoiled” aftertaste to it. So now I just do whatever I want.

I’ve been able to review over 160 books for roughly 20 different publishers, lectures in six different courses, and have had views from 138 countries. I haven’t had an incredible amount of views in my four years of blogging, but I have saved more money that I would have had to spend, I have learned more than I thought I could know, and am excited to continue to learn and draw closer to God through his normal, boring, exciting, supernatural Word. And since Mari is pregnant with our first(!), the weight is only growing as to how I will image Christ to both my wife and my child(ren). This doesn’t mean that I need to read even more, but that I need to think deeply about what I read, about what our Father is like, who this Jesus is whom we worship, and how that should influence our lives in every aspect. We are not Americans/Norwegians/men/women/parents/children/students/teachers who are Christians, but we are Christians first who live out Christ before those who are Americans, Norwegians, men, women, children, students, teachers, etc.

Hopefully what I read comes out well on my blog. Writing so much has only helped my writing style (which has gone from terrible to… better). I hope to be writing on this for years to come. Sometimes frequently; sometimes not. But this blog is an outlet for me to remember something I read, to share something with you so that you don’t need to read every book I read, and to share it with you in the hopes that you grow in your love for God and his word.

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Review: Introverts in the Church

Introverts have been quietly making their entrance into the reaches of society, as introverts tend to do. We’ve always been here, but not everyone has taken notice. Susan Cains’ book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Amazon’s #1 seller in their “Behavioral Psychology” section) has been a big success. Movies with introverted characters, such as It’s Kind of a Funny Story, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Donnie Darko, She’s All That are nothing new. But introverts are not topics only for books and movies. They are real people, and they are in (or they lead) your churches.

In the revised edition of his book Introverts and the Church, Adam McHugh explains the general personality of an introvert, how they are often perceived and understood in church, how they ought to be perceived and understood in church, and how introverts can minister to others given through their unique personalities.


“The extrovert God of John 3:16 does not beget an introvert people,”

-Richard Halverson, The Timelessness of Jesus Christ

I was quite introverted as a teenager, though I didn’t know there was a title to it. I’ve heard plenty of quotes and ideas like the one above and always felt like there was something wrong with me. In his first chapter, McHugh “paint[s] with broad strokes” features of evangelical churches which are unnatural for introverts: equating spirituality for sociability, “chatty” churches before and after the service, and personal evangelism (at least the emphasis to always be “on” and ready to talk to anybody and everybody).

After covering the church’s extroverted roots and introverted ancestors, McHugh (chapter 2) defines the “introvert” (talking briefly about the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator) and the general differences between introverts and extroverts so that, by reading this, the extroverts can understand their quiet friends better and the introverts can understand themselves better. McHugh says, “While extroverts may gauge their day by the quality of interactions and experiences they had, introverts often gauge their day by the thoughts and reflections they had” (45). He lists seventeen of the most common introverted attributes, most of them I embodied all too well at one point or another.

“Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves,”

-Susan Cain

The third chapter is about healing, mostly figuring out life knowing it is not bad to be introverted. We should be careful not to make our introversion an excuse to avoid sacrificially loving others around us. Chapter four looks at an introverted (or ‘contemplative’) spirituality. We enter into solitude to set our eyes on the God whose ways are higher than ours so that we might be transformed. Since introverts “live in their heads,” McHugh’s suggests we go about our day paying attention to our inner thoughts and desires to see what God is doing in our lives. Because much of the western world is taken up in living a maximum-efficiency lifestyle, introverts need time to recharge. When ministering to others, it is often the case that there is always someone who needs ministering to whether it be inside or outside your home. McHugh provides a few questions for you to ask yourself to figure out the best times when you have the most energy. He suggests developing a daily/weekly schedule so you know what to expect in your day and can plan for the times you will need to recharge.

Within community, introverts can find it difficult to say ‘no.’ If this continues, they may find themselves in the “introvert spiral” where they use a lot of social energy and then “spiral out” to recharge for a period of days or weeks (a form of “burning out”). Introverts have plenty of gifts to offer, one of them being the ability to listen and give space. Certainly there are extroverts who are good at listening, but for an internal processor as myself, if someone wants my advice on a matter, I appreciate when they give me as much information to work with as they can. I sit back and let them talk so I can take the whole gamut and give my opinion.

On the flip side, we need to be available to our community. We need to ask questions, over-express ourselves, and reveal the inner workings of our minds to people. For myself, I don’t like when people look over to read an email (or a sermon) I am writing. I may want them to read through my finished rough draft, but I don’t want them to see my poor thinking in my rough rough draft! We need to be able to be vulnerable before our family in Christ and share with them who we really are.

“Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.
Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self,”

-John Calvin, The Institute of the Christian Religion

One big question I had throughout high school and college was: as an introvert, how can I lead? My wife? A congregation? A field trip? Anyone? McHugh spends two chapters dealing with the misconception that introverts can’t lead. Period. But what is a leader? McHugh says, “Leaders give people a lens and a language for understanding their work and experiences in light of larger purposes” (134). As Christians, we are living lives of “day-to-day monotony and ordinariness.” We living in the kingdom of God under the resurrected and ascended divine Son who redeemed us through our sins through his death and poured out his Spirit into us. God’s presence is always with us. That is not ordinary.

To know God, you must know who you are. Extroverted or introverted, you are a redeemed sinner. To lead as an introvert, you should have a good understanding of yourself too and what introversion is. I can’t rehearse all that McHugh says here (though I wish I could), but in leading, teaching, evangelism, and communal life, you will be operating out of weakness and relying on the sacrificial Son we serve.


McHugh’s first edition came out 10 yeas ago, right around when I would have graduated high school. I wish I would have known about it then. Not only is it not wrong to be an introvert, it is actually a good thing! There are traits that I have that come more naturally and more easily than they do to extroverts (in general). If you’ve taken the Myers Briggs test you’re certainly aware of the many personalities people can have, yet still we are more complex than merely 16 personalities. People of all personalities ought to sit back, listen, and relax as they humbly figure out and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of others and yourself. Christ’s body needs one another. The extroverts certainly need the introverts, and the introverts certainly need the extroverts.


  • Author: Adam S. McHugh
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; Expanded, Revised edition (August 1, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Review: Going Deeper with New Testament Greek

Not long ago a series of commercials ran where a salesman of some kind was trying to sell an expensive product to a customer. The customer was at a loss because directly to the side of the expensive item was the same item a few dollars less. The point of the commercial was not to pay more when you could get the same thing for less.

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (KMP, an acronym of the authors’ surnames) is a catch-all kind of intermediate Greek grammar. The authors (Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merckle, and Robert Plummer) have written this grammar with the student (and their wallets) in mind. KMP has grammar and syntax, a chapter on textual criticism, and vocabulary and practice exercises with almost every chapter. There is a built-in reader with portions of Scripture for the student to work through and read “detailed notes to guide the student in interpreting each text” (5). Another feature to this grammar are the chapters (written by Plummer) on sentence diagramming, discourse analysis, word studies, and encouragement to continue with Greek. Since all of these features are found in this one book, why buy five books when you can save money and buy only one?

There are also helps to aid instructors with teaching and grading. At the Deeper Greek website teachers can find weekly quizzes, the midterm, the final, powerpoint presentations, and more.

Unfortunately, I am no expert at Greek. I haven’t even attended an elementary Greek class (I studied it this past summer to test into Greek Syntax). On the other hand, because I am the kind of person this book was written for, hopefully I can provide a helpful perspective. I am not a Greek scholar who has been working with these texts and syntactical ideas for years, nor am I a student at the end of his academic career. I am a beginning student being stretched and pushed into the deep end.1


First, besides being a catch-all intermediate grammar, KMP prepares you for Daniel Wallace’s deep end grammar (860 pgs versus KMP’s 550 pgs). In KMP you get 16 uses of the genitive; Wallace gives 33. I would much rather wade through KMP first, develop my sea legs, and then swim over to Wallace. That isn’t to say KMP is easy to read. In fact, I disagree from other reviewers who say that it is easy to read, or especially that it is extremely readable.2 Even the authors themselves acknowledge that their book, a grammar, is dry (“writing a Greek grammar is a dry affair,” 127, fn. 24).

Plummer’s chapters (1, 12-15) were the easiest to read, and I am not saying that simply because he was my teacher. Plummer teaches clearly, and it is also seen in his writing. Now, of his five chapters, only one deals specifically with Greek Grammar (12, prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, and articles), which is easier to write about than verbal tense. However, in his endorsement, Tom Schreiner said that if it could be said that “a Greek grammar is a delight to read,” it “applies to this book.” I believe I would agree with that statement if more chapters could have been written by Plummer. As it stands now, the other chapters are dense and dry.

Speaking of Verb Tense and Aspect, there is a chapter (7) dedicated to it in this book. Ben Merckle writes about (1) verbal aspect, the author’s perspective on a given action, (2) the time of the action, and (3) the type of the action. This is an important chapter because the Greeks looks at the timing of verbs in a different way (e.g., aorist tense, imperfect tense, etc.) than we do (present tense, past tense, etc.). Knowing how this works is critical to proper interpretation. We can’t look at verbal words (infinitives, participles, etc.) as 21st century readers.

Though, in the end, I didn’t learn much more about Tense & Aspect than I did in the beginning section og David Alan Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek. An example of how aspect is analyzed on the discourse level in John 2.1–11 is given on page 235. Main verbs which carry the story forward are cast in the past perfective aspect (aorist tense-form). All throughout this paragraph I kept asking “Why?” Why is this important? Why is this happening, and what different does this make? Why is the presence of Jesus’ mother and of the six stone water jars “indicated by past tense forms of the verb εἰμι,” and why and how does it provide “important supporting material” while not “advancing the mainline of the narrative” (235)?

How do we know?

There are other times when a grammatical fact was given without explaining how we know that it is this way. How do we know when an adjective is elative instead of superlative (173)? Or that a positive or comparative is meant as a superlative (175)? Or how we know that an adverbial participle is one of cause (331) or condition (332)? Or how some participles can have an imperatival force (339).3 Of course, as you will probably be learning this in a classroom, you should ask your teacher about any matter which confuses you. But when it comes to reading the book on your own, students may be left frustrated and wondering how they can ever know they should translate a participle in a certain way.

There are two additions that I think would be helpful in a second edition. First, in Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek (mentioned above), his vocabulary lists would often have a Greek word such as χρόνος, provide the gloss (“time”), and then connect the gloss to a word the modern reader is already familiar with (chronology).4 When (and if) possible, this is better than whatever random pneumonic the student can think up to pass his vocabulary quiz.

Second, the vocabulary lists place the words in alphabetical order, but they give no distinction to verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, or conjunctions. More distinction between the parts of speech will help impress the vocabulary into the student’s mind.


Unlike Hebrew, Greek hasn’t quite clicked with me yet, and that may be why I found this book difficult whereas others will not. KMP is a better grammar than others, and it’s authors can be trusted, even if it takes time to understand all that they are saying. Greek, with it’s abundance of grammatical nuance, takes time to learn. Students who have the luxury of learning second-year Greek within an actual year will profit from this book. Students who have it in one semester, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, had better buckle up. Many of the examples given for the different syntactical categories have new words that the second-year Greek student will be unfamiliar with. As a result, these examples will be more difficult to learn if you don’t translate the sentences yourself (the sentences are already translated, but because there isn’t a 1-to-1 correspondence between Greek and English it is difficult to know how some words function). I would suggest buying the book far in advance and working through it immediately. You will learn much through that practice.

One note: While it may seem arduous, reading through KMP while marking the given examples in your Greek Bible is a helpful way to process the grammar of the text. If you only read this book cover to cover just to get through it, you will retain very little—if anything. The study of Greek is a lifelong process, and this book is a reference tool. Seeing the examples “in action” will help you to better understand and retain the information.


  • Authors: Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merckle, and Robert Plummer
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (June 1, 2016)
  • A Quick Chart for Intermediate Greek Grammar and Syntax

Buy Going Deeper with NT Greek from Amazon or B&H Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

1I am more of a Hebrew guy. The two Hebrew classes I had have been my favorite classes overall so far in seminary. I can spend hours in Isaiah (because that’s how long it takes) and enjoy it. Greek, on the other hand, hasn’t clicked yet.

2My wife had Greek Syntax in the spring and I had it this semester, and there were students in both of our classes who didn’t think this was an easy read either.

3On this last point, it is pointed out that some believe the participial form communicates a more gentle appeal than the imperative mood. Travis Williams is noted as having challenged that notion. Yet, aside from his push back, no other reason is given as to why we would translate the participle as an infinitive (cf. 1 Peter 3.1 ,7).

4Or τόπος = “place” (topography).


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Review: John (CFP)

Professor of New Testament Interpretation (2000) at SBTS, William F. Cook III serves as the Lead Pastor at Ninth and O Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. After a brief introduction (6 pages compared to Klink’s 54), Cook lays out John’s Gospel, the “mature reflections of the last living apostle,” in 36 chapters (p. 7). This volume (and series) is written to the non-specialist, the lay person, and even the pastor who wants an easy read (for once) through a commentary while he is preparing.


Favors two temple cleansings. Here, Jesus, the new temple, is “arriving at the temple for the first time since inaugurating His messianic ministry (Mal. 3:1)” (50).

Cook frequently points out how often key words occur in John. Many of these words occur so frequently, we often miss themes sitting directly in front of us!

  • The theme of “water” (2:1–11; 4:7–14; 5:1–7; 6:16–21; 7:37–39; 9:6–7; 13:1–11; 19:34).
  • The word “must” suggests divine necessity (3:14, 30; 4.4; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9).
  • “To follow” (1:43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19-20).
  • The title “Son of Man” (13x)
  • “Eternal” (17x).
  • God’s initiative in salvation (6:37b, 44; 10:29; 17:6; 18:9).
  • John 3.16 is John’s first use of the word “love” out of 36 total times.

Cook sees the idea of newness early on in John’s Gospel. In John 1.47–51, Jesus is the one who connects heaven to earth. He is greater than Jacob as ‘the new Israel’ (38). “Jesus is described as inaugurating a ‘new age’ (2:1-12) and being the ‘new temple’ (2:13-25). Here [in John 3], Jesus explains to a leading rabbi the absolute necessity of a ‘new birth’” (55). 

6.16–21: Jesus, sovereign over the world created by him and through him, walks on the water, something said only about God alone in the Old Testament (Pss 77.16–20; 107.28–30). Also, the boat immediately arrives at land after Jesus walks on water. “If it is considered a miracle, it is a likely allusion to Psalm 107:23-32. Yet, if it is a miracle, John does not make much of it (6:21)” (111).

6:22-71: Just as Jesus talked about the two kinds of water in John 4, here he talks about two kinds of food. “Those who drink the ‘living water will never thirst’ (4:14), and those who eat the heavenly bread will live forever (6:51)” (114)

  • Jesus uses ‘truly, truly’ several times indicating the significance of His words (6:26, 32, 47, 53).
  • He makes repeated references to being the source of life (6:35, 40, 47, 48, 50, 51).
  • the importance of faith (6:35, 40, 47, 51).
  • the thought of a future bodily resurrection – ‘raise up on the last day’ (6:39, 40, 44, 54).
  • Jesus’ teaching on eating his flesh and blood (6.22-71) does not concern the Lord’s Supper.

7.53-8.11: Cook agrees with the wide swath of biblical (even evangelical) scholarship who say that John did not write this passage. It is not found in any manuscript earlier than the fifth century, the earliest church fathers make no mention of it, but instead move from 7.52 to 8.12, no Eastern church father before the tenth century comments on this story, and, when the story does begin to show up in manuscripts of John’s Gospel, it appears after 7.36, 7.44, 21.25, and even after Luke 21.38! Cook treats this section as a historical event, without trying to imply either Johannine authorship or canonical authority.

10.34-36: Jesus’ use of Psalm 82.6 and “gods” refers to Israel’s leaders (judges).

17.1-26: Forms of the verb “to give” in John 17 are used 17x. God has given Jesus the authority to give eternal life to those given to Him by the Father (17:2). “Believers are God’s gift to His Son” (252).


With study questions after each chapter, this volume, along with all of the other ones I have read in this series, is useful for the pastor, teacher, Bible study leader, and the layperson. Cook doesn’t cover every verse; that is not his intention. Cook gives his readers a panorama shot of John’s Gospel. Of what use are details when you don’t understand how John intends those details to be read? A knowledge of details requires a knowledge of John’s overarching presentation of Jesus, the son of God, the Word, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, and that information is packaged in just under 300 pages. This is quite shorter than many other commentaries on John, but still meaty enough to be worth your time.


Buy John (CFP) from Amazon or Christian Focus Publishing!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Christian Focus Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Review: John (ZECNT)

The Gospel of John is a favorite among many. Rather than reading short bits of narrative with generally short teachings, John is filled with long teachings and little narrative (take John’s Farewell Discourse, which extends from John 13-17!). John is shallow enough for a child to understand, but deep enough for scholars to spit out huge tomes and never know all that John means. Since each generation needs fresh exegesis, Edward Klink has given us his interpretation of John’s Gospel in the new ZECNT series. Klink reveals his theological cards early on in his 54 page introduction:

“‘Scripture’ is a shorthand term for the nature and function of the biblical writings in a set of communicative acts which stretch from God’s merciful self-manifestation to the obedient hearing of the community of faith.” While such language might not be common vernacular in an introduction to an exegetical commentary, it should be, for the object of interpretation demands to be treated according to its true and sacred nature. Not to treat this Gospel as Scripture is itself a form of eisegesis, and it is a disobedient hearing of the (canonical) text’s own claim and of the God by whom it was authored. (25)

Klink notes that the Scriptures have their own genre—holy Scripture. The way God (or, here, the Gospel) speaks determines how we read Scripture:

  1. The Gospel speaks in time-and-space history, and history must remain subservient to the God of creation.
  2. The Gospel speaks in literary form, and the words must stay subservient to the Word.
  3. The Gospel speaks about the things of God, and theology must be defined by the person and work of God himself, the true subject matter of the things of God. (25)

Our doctrine of Scripture guides us to see God through “the work and person of Jesus Christ by the empowering Holy Spirit” (31).

Klink doesn’t try to historically reconstruct the event of John’s Gospel (besides John 2.1–11), because “each Gospel must be interpreted for the individual Gospel’s role or contribution to the one gospel, not in a manner that combines their events but in a manner that prepares to hear in unison their individual roles in the symphony of the gospel” (36).

Klink says (rightly) that the Bible is not a window to what is inspired; it “is the locus of revelation” (29). Our texts do refer to historical people, places, and events, but rather than seeing the Bible as a window to the inspired events, in God’s Word “God is giving divine commentary on his own actions in history” (29). “The meaning is derived from the text which speaks about an event” (34).

Commentary Divisions

The ZECNT commentaries divide each section into seven parts: Literary Context, Main Idea, Translation and Graphical Layout, Structure, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, and Theology in Application. I giver a fuller explanation of each section on my review of Grant Osbourne’s Matthew volume. Though I don’t always find the Translation and Graphical Layout section to be helpful, each of the other sections, especially the Main Idea (which compresses the passage into a brief sentence) and the Theology in Application (and which brings out helpful insights), are extremely useful.

Klink’s Interpretations

I can’t rehearse all Klink says, but here is a taste.

1.1: “The Word” is not common in the NT as a reference to Christ. John explains his use of the term throughout John’s whole Gospel (87).

Klink distinguishes historical contexts, narrative contexts, and cosmological contexts. In 7.27-28, Klink says

The reverberations from the prologue are crying out to the reader, who is well aware that Jesus is the Word-become-flesh, the light of humanity, the one “from above,” who was “in the beginning” with God. The cosmological identity of Jesus, so visible to the reader, remains completely veiled to the Jerusalemites. The one these interlocutors call “this man” the reader has been told is “God” from the very beginning of the Gospel (1:1). (370)

In the historical sense, the Jewish leaders know his physical ancestral lineage. In the cosmological sense, “they have no idea who he is or whose ancestral lineage they have challenged by their unbelief,” and within the narrative, Jesus rebukes their unbelief and prideful opposition to him. They should know better.

12.40:God is the cause of the unbelieving response to Jesus, not merely the judge of it.50 If the depiction of God as the cause of unbelief makes God look unjust, we must look not for resolution in the doctrine of God alone but in the presentation of God provided by his Son, Jesus Christ, who perfectly exemplifies the mercy and grace of God” (560). 

John 17: The pericope of John 17 “concludes Jesus’s farewell speech by setting the theological (cosmological) context of Jesus’s entire ministry and the work God will continue to do” (705).

Other Matters

Outside sources?

In his section on “Text Verses Event” (34-36), Klink says the location of revelation “is not the event behind the text but the text as Scripture, so that revelation is located in the text in a manner that includes not only the recorded account but also the interpretation . . . of the account” (34). As he goes on to argue, the author has included specific events, themes, and words for a reason, and as well that same author has decided not to include other events, themes, and words.

Klink says “To try to reconstruct what is not revealed in Scripture, unless the text gives implicit warrant, potentially creates a different story than the narrative.” (35). The author has already given us his perspective on the event in his narrative; why go looking for another perspective?

While I agree that “There is no better place from which to access what is real and true than from the words of Scripture,” and that “the reader is actually in a preferred position, beyond even those who were present at the historical event,what does this mean when it comes to using other documents to place the text in its historical timeframe (36)? Is it to the scholar’s detriment to use ANE documents to understand the thinking of the ancient Israelite? How much of the intertestamental period are we to (or not to) understand?

I am in much agreement with what Klink says here, but because he doesn’t give a specific example as to what he means (such as those seen in my questions above), I’m not sure how far to take what he says. Right now it appears to me that it is helpful to read historical documents (such as the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Greek and Roman writings, etc.) to situate us in the 1st century AD thought-world with the knowledge that Scripture is the revelation from God and of God.  


There are an enormous amount of commentaries on John, do we, do you, need another one? I’ll be honest, I haven’t read most of them, but “every generation must exegete Scripture in and for the church” (11). Klink emphasizes the use of one’s imagination (cf. John 7.1–13), and this is something that many theologians, commentators, interpreters, pastors, and Bible teachers need to learn (myself included). Imagination is required both in application and in interpretation. Klink’s commentary reminds me of Mark Seifrid–by looking at the text as a whole unit within the whole canon, Klink is able to see through and around the exegetical issues. He brings in nuances and twists of words (3.5–7). Klink is a humble interpreter, and he has written this volume primarily for pastors, bible teachers, and students. I hope this volume will be read widely.


  • Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Author: Edward W. Klink III
  • Hardcover: 976 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (December 6, 2016)

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255


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