It seems fitting to begin with Begin. Before going into what Begin specifically offers, it is probably best to first talk about the role of abridged Bibles. There are some well intentioned individuals who no doubt see abridging the Bible as something horrible. However, in a day where Biblical literacy is becoming less and less there is clearly a significant role to be played by these abridgements. Obviously, the hope is that they play the role of a stepping stone to all of God’s Word. Let’s be blunt, the Bible is intimidating…it was written in multiple foreign and ancient languages to people living in various cultural situations far removed from our own. To take someone with little to none background knowledge of Scripture and toss them into Leviticus is to ask for a disaster.
Moreover, people expect that a book is best read from start to finish, but many people stop (and not all of them new believers) before getting through the Pentateuch. That is why these abridged versions are so helpful. They really are meant to be read through from start to finish. Some focus on the overall narrative of the Bible (see for instance The Story) and take various selections in a chronological order.
Begin takes a different approach…one that seems more foundationally focused. Begin contains the complete text of Genesis 1-11, Exodus 20:1-17, John, Romans, and Revelation 21-22. Whenever one does an abridgement the question is always what to cut and what to keep. I would have liked to have seen a bit more material from Genesis (Abrahamic covenant for instance), material from Deuteronomy (summaries of history, the Shema, etc.)…and I could go on, but perhaps that tells you why I haven’t written a widely selling abridged edition.
In addition to the Biblical text there is also some commentary, some helpful historical summaries, and a list of 10 things “every Christian must know”. Most of the commentary concerns Young Earth Creationism…which isn’t necessarily surprising from the publisher, though clearly other things need explaining too to new believers. I wish the list of 10 things was titled differently…for instance, as a missionary working in North Africa, my top 10 list for new believers didn’t include knowing that there were dinosaurs on the ark. It would have been more accurate to portray the list as 10 essential positions held by Young Earth Creationism…obviously a Biblical worldview includes creationism, but also a whole lot more and that would be my one critique of this project…it could convey that a Biblical Worldview is simply YEC and that would certainly be an impoverished understanding.
Nevertheless, the book does have much to commend it and using it in the context of a small group where the leader could takes things a bit further would be an excellent use for this resource.
How Do We Know the Bible is True? vol 1
Although the essays throughout the book could be seen as mostly related to the title…the title really comes from the title of the first essay. There are 28 essays in all and they cover a wide variety of topics. From basic questions such as “Is the Old Testament Reliable?” and “Did Miracles Really Happen?” to more complex questions like Mosaic authorship vs JEDP theory and even to the mundane (but thoughtful article) concerning the shape of laminin.
The articles are concise (about 10 pages long), so they don’t go into any topic in great detail, on the other hand they are probably about the length that most lay people in the church would want to read concerning the topic.
This isn’t a book written for skeptics…there are few scholarly footnotes and no bibliography for further research, but it is a book for the person in the pew who has some questions and wonders what the answers might be.
Here is the list of topics treated in the book:
- How do we know the Bible is true?
- Is the Old Testament Reliable?
- Is the New Testament Reliable?
- Did the physical resurrection of Christ really happen?
- Is Genesis a derivation from ancient myths?
- Is the trinity three different gods?
- How were people saved before Christ died on the cross?
- Did Moses write Genesis?
- Did Miracles really happen?
- How to do “foolproof” apologetics.
- How should we interpret the Bible?
- What about the factual claims in The Da Vinci Code?
- How did we get the Bible in English?
- Polygamy in the light of Scripture.
- Evolution and the challenge of morality.
- Three days and three nights.
- Framework hypothesis.
- Laminin and the Cross.
- How can we stand on Scripture in an evolution-pushing culture?
- Is the perpetual virginity of Mary a Biblical view?
- Why should we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture?
- Are there contradictions in the Bible?
- Is there purpose and meaning in life?
- Evolution—the anti-science?
- What is wrong with atheism?
- Other religious writings: Can they be from God, too?
- How to properly view evidence.
- Is the age of the earth a salvation issue?
The Life of John Newton
They say that you can’t judge a book by its cover…but in this case it seems that you should. The contents of the book come from a book originally published in 1831 and the publisher has done his best to make you feel that you have an original (in pristine condition) in hand. The paper is rough cut on the edges and the font looks like the original one. The binding, itself, has the look and feel of an old book.
C.S. Lewis once said that you should read two old books for every new one. This would be a great place to begin if you are looking for an old book. If you have seen the movie “Amazing Grace” why not consider reading the story of the man who wrote that hymn.
* I received all three books from New Leaf Publishing for the purposes of this review…I received no other remuneration and the content of the review is completely mine.