Posted in Books, General

A Preacher’s Library

Recently, a young minister asked for recommendations on “must have” books. My reply was more explanation of my philosophy of books than a list of particular titles to get. After sending it, I thought it might be good to work into a post. Libraries have seen a seismic shift since I was in school, with many preachers now preferring digital volumes on a tablet to hard copies on a wooden shelf. I haven’t gone that route, but perhaps these ideas could apply to both digital and paper book libraries.

My library is in sections. One is comprised of religious debates. I like as many of those as I can get that involve gospel preachers. You never know when you’ll have to deal with a particular thorny issue, and debates are a good way to bone up on controversial subjects. Plus, debates are historic (some, more than others) and you ought to know some church history.

Which brings us to the church history section. Get Earl I. West’s four-volume Search for the Ancient Order. Collect biographies of preachers from the Restoration era (1800’s) in American history. Many a self-taught, or formal education-deprived preacher of days gone by, somehow managed to learn far more Bible than too many present day college and preaching school graduates. Today’s church has preachers trying to pull us into the dark pit of error that preachers in the 1800’s were crawling out of and exposing with the gospel’s light. That saying about those failing to appreciate history being doomed to repeat it is more than a platitude. The church’s immediate future—at least in America—seems precarious. What will motivate us to fight for her uniqueness now if we’re ignorant of the ground gained in hard fought battles of the past, through the debating and preaching of men who could discern truth from error? Get some good books that cover church history in its early centuries, medieval times, and the Reformation. But, remember, God’s true church has always been a minority, and history is written largely about those who made the biggest splash. That means the history of the church after New Testament days is mostly a study of apostasy in its many forms.

Stock your library with good apologetics books. Have at hand major arguments for the existence of God, the deity of Christ, and inspiration of the Bible. Get a book or two on issues raised by skeptics, and on harmonizing alleged Bible contradictions. If you’ve never taken a class on logic, buy a good textbook and familiarize yourself. Preachers who are not good thinkers easily become misleaders of others.

Depending on your level of interest and ability, have at least a few Greek reference works. At minimum, know your way around an interlinear New Testament, Thayer’s lexicon, Vine’s dictionary of Bible words. If you can do more with the original languages, great.

I’ve got a number of brotherhood lectureship books, old and newer. Lectureships themselves seem a dying phenomenon (like public debates and gospel meetings), at least in comparison to the number that used to be held. The books published from such events are of uneven quality, by nature, since not all preachers are equally adept at thinking, researching, writing—skills requisite for composing a great chapter (and a great book needs multiple great chapters). Few brotherhood lectureship books, in my estimation, are towering contributions to the subject covered. That said, they can be helpful, and a book may be worth having for a single chapter by a certain author. After you’ve preached long enough, glancing through the writers in an old lectureship volume is a trip down memory lane.

Good commentaries are vital. My approach is eclectic, rather than monolithic. That is, I’ll buy a single volume from a particular set of commentaries because of who wrote it, and another volume from a different set, and so on. Thus, my Old and New Testament shelves are a hodgepodge from here and there, with many series represented, but very few series complete. An entire set, composed of an impressive row of identically clad volumes, looks nice on a shelf, but aesthetics is not the goal. Plus, that approach does not comport with my preferred method of arranging commentaries. I put commentaries on the shelf in Bible book order. I have a couple on Leviticus, and nearly a dozen on Revelation, but I can go right to them because, for example, the Revelation commentaries are all next to each other at the end of my New Testament section, and the Leviticus commentaries are right after the ones on Exodus.

A word on commentaries: never let your guard down. If you can find a scholarly commentary by a member of the Lord’s church, consider it. Denominational scholars will always outnumber those of the Lord’s church. Precious few are our brethren, such as J. W. McGarvey in his day, who are known and respected outside the church of Christ. If you limit yourself to books by brethren, you’ll cut yourself off from a great deal of conservative scholarship. At the same time, books by brethren can be just as wrong on a given point as something from an academic at a Baptist seminary (in fact, many books from our own professors these days may as well have been penned by denominational writers, given their ecumenical outlook and disregard for the uniqueness of the Lord’s church). If I know an author rejects the verbal inspiration of Scripture, that’s a non-starter for me: why spend time and money on that? For any given book in the Bible, there are commentaries which, at least, respect the Bible’s origin and nature.

The lion’s share of my commentaries are by denominational scholars. Before letting yourself be overly influenced by the learning, reputation, or seeming erudition of such a writer, remind yourself that he likely wouldn’t have the right answer to the most basic question: “What must I do to be saved?” Read denominational writers with that in back of your mind, and it should foster a healthy perspective. I think of a late denominational academic who has very helpful things to say in his Old Testament commentaries. Yet, he compromises with theistic evolution. The works of man are often a mixed bag, so keep a weather eye. Never believe everything anyone says just because of who wrote it. Likewise, don’t discount something simply because the author is not a member of the Lord’s church. Always, if it comes to it, let Scripture be correct, and every commentator a liar.

I’m not a fan of broad, general commentaries (such as a one-volume treatment of the Bible, or a two-volume set covering the New Testament). These may help those without a background in preaching school, but more depth is called for if you’re preparing to teach an adult Bible class. Matthew may take up less than 40 pages in your Bible, but you should read hundreds of pages during class prep. Get the best commentary you can find that’s just on Matthew. Make it a habit to read at least one good commentary (if not two) when teaching through a Bible book (if you don’t know more than the rest of the class on the subject at hand, why are you teaching?).

Decades ago, in preaching school, I wanted as many books as I could get hands on. Age and experience reversed that thinking. Now, I don’t want as many books as money or space allow. I have a lot of shelving in my office, and a lot of that is empty, by choice. After decades having them in possession, not long ago I threw away dozens of books I never use (and didn’t want others to have, for example, due to error they taught). Dozens more, I donated to the church’s library. These days, basically, I want as few books as will give what I need for preaching and teaching. Whatever books you include in your own library, in the end, as my grandfather would say, there is no substitute for being familiar with the actual text of Scripture.

[Note: This article was first published by Tennessee Bible College on Sept. 8, 2020]

Posted in Announcements, Books

Back in print: “Ascertaining Bible Authority”

IMG_3797Roy C. Deaver’s much-used little book on how the Bible authorizes is now available for purchase online here and here. It is ideal for congregational study or in the preacher training classroom, where he spent so much of his life. Thanks to Stephen Bradd for getting the book in digitized form. Info for the book will be permanently listed on our website.



Posted in Announcements, Books

New Book: The Hopelessness of Humanism

unnamedThe Warren Christian Apologetics Center has released a brand new title by Mac Deaver critiquing the shortcomings of the humanist outlook. Their website describes it:

This 82 page book is a response to James A. Haught, Editor Emeritus of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia’s largest newspaper. For several decades, Haught has published materials advocating a skeptical philosophy of life. Mac Deaver, in The Hopelessness of Humanism, has shown the logical implications and the practical results of a society based upon atheism and agnosticism.

Published in April 2016 by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center, it can be ordered from them at this link.

Posted in Books, Christian Living

Nothing But Good

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris describes Roosevelt’s 1898 campaign for Governor of New York. Earlier that year, he had left his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to organize a volunteer regiment for the Army—what became known as the Rough Riders—in view of coming hostilities with Spain over the island of Cuba. Roosevelt was 39 years old and longed to experience battle. He got his wish and led the Rough Riders in taking Kettle Hill, followed by San Juan Hill, overlooking the city of Santiago. All told, the Rough Riders were organized, trained, sent off to war, won, came home, and were disbanded in less than five months’ time. Colonel Roosevelt was now a national hero, and next sought the governorship of his home state.

Barnstorming the Empire State by train, he gave speeches at dozens of whistle stops. For added effect, he took along a small cadre of former Rough Riders who would talk about the Colonel, providing more color for his campaign. At one depot, a Rough Rider named Buck Taylor attempted a speech about his fearless leader’s courage in Cuba, praising him in these words:

“I want to talk to you about mah Colonel. He kept ev’y promise he made to us and he will to you….He told us we might meet wounds and death and we done it, but he was thar in the midst of us, and when it came to the great day he led us up San Juan Hill like sheep to the slaughter and so will he lead you” (Morris, p. 720).

Roosevelt was not much bothered by the misguided comparison. Afterward, he remarked on Taylor’s well-intentioned effort, “This hardly seemed a tribute to my military skill, but it delighted the crowd, and as far as I could tell did me nothing but good” (ibid.).

We try, as Christians, to do good for the Lord. Unlike Jesus, we don’t always have the perfect word at precisely the right moment. We don’t always know exactly what to do, or the wisest way to go about it. With our own glaring imperfections, we seek to praise the One who is perfection personified. But, that is the way Jesus wants it. He is content to take us along the journey. He doesn’t mind our company. He wants us with him. And, though Jesus could always say it best, he asks us just to do what we can—even if we stumble over our words or mix up a metaphor. He who became for us “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7, ESV), now leads us on to highest reward as we try to spread the news about the victory he won us. Or, as Paul put it, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). May the Lord help us to do him “nothing but good.”

Posted in Announcements, Books

Kindle version now available for new Acts commentary

Mac Deaver’s new commentary on Acts, I Will Pour Forth of My Spirit, is now available in paperback and Kindle editions. Order your copy if you haven’t already.

Though they do not generate email notices to your inbox, we are constantly adding sermons to the “Audio” section (Mac Deaver’s sermons are added weekly). There are also a couple of debates you can listen to.

We encourage readers to know about two great resources. For online Christian education, check out Tennessee Bible College. An excellent resource in the ongoing war between Christianity and our increasingly secular culture is the new Warren Christian Apologetics Center. Take a look at what they have to offer.

If you find a Biblical Notes article helpful, please do hit the “like” button and/or share it on your social media sites. Encourage your friends to subscribe. This month has already set a new record for visitors, page views, and shares. Also, remember that there are articles in the archives going back over five years. You can search the archives by category, by month, or by keyword.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-31, ESV)

Posted in Announcements, Books

Announcing: A New Commentary on Acts by Mac Deaver

I Will Pour Forth of My Spirit is a new commentary on Acts by Mac Deaver, published in May 2015. Its 246 pages cover each of the 28 chapters in Acts, with an outline, commentary, and study questions for each chapter. Two appendices offer discussion of the fulfilling of the Great Commission, and a helpful, explanatory outline of what was happening in Acts 2. The author’s preface states:

“I hope the reader finds his excursion through this little book both enjoyable and profitable and that he is encouraged in truth and comes to a better understanding of the New Testament book of Acts, which Luke so long ago by inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote. And I sincerely hope that he comes to comprehend that all men who have ever entered the kingdom (the church) of our Lord in the first century as described by Luke in Acts have, with regard to the essentials mentioned by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3, entered in the same way. Furthermore, it is very important that we all see that if anyone enters the kingdom today in the twenty-first century, then, if the words of Jesus to Nicodemus hold true regarding all men of our time as well, we enter just as did those whose entries are recorded for us by Luke in Acts, when they entered during the first century by birth of water and Spirit.”

Paperback copies can be ordered from CreateSpace or Amazon. A Kindle version will soon be available, as well.

Posted in Announcements, Books

Deaver-Till Debate (on the alleged moral atrocities of the Bible)

On March 25-28, 1991 Mac Deaver debated the skeptic, Ferrel Till, on the campus of what is now Texas State University in San Marcos. Propositions centered on alleged moral atrocities in the Bible, whether they are real, and whether they disprove the Bible’s inspiration. The transcription has recently been reprinted by Christian Researcher Publications as a paperback book, including the four nights of speeches and charts. Copies can be ordered here.

Posted in Announcements, Books

BACK IN PRINT: The Holy Spirit (Center of Controversy – Basis of Unity)

Originally published in 2007, Mac Deaver’s book, The Holy Spirit (Center of Controversy – Basis of Unity), had sold out and become unavailable (unless you could find a used copy). We are very pleased to say that, thanks to the great work of our friend, Stephen Bradd, the book is available again. It is a slightly updated edition, but essentially the same in content. However, the two formats are new: paperback and Kindle. Paperback copies can be ordered at this link. And, the Kindle Edition can be ordered here. This is the first Biblical Notes book to be offered in digital format, and we hope to make others available in the future.

This book gives historical background to the controversial issue of the Holy Spirit in the church of Christ in the last half of the twentieth century to the present. Deaver’s follow-up book, Except One Be Born From Above, came out in 2013 as a much more thorough study of the question of what it means to be born of water and Spirit. He is currently writing a study guide to the book of Acts, which should be published in 2015. Refer to for details as they become available, and please encourage your friends to subscribe (free) to the website.

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Reviews

God’s Undertaker (Book Review)

By Weylan Deaver

Richard Dawkins, irascible critic of the Creator, says “I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing upon religion” (p. 8). He would like nothing better than to banish theism and religion to the ash heap of historically bad ideas. But, has science buried God? That question is the subtitle of God’s Undertaker, a Lion Hudson book penned by John C. Lennox. With three doctorates, Lennox is a mathematics professor at Oxford and a philosopher of science at Green Templeton College. His twelve chapters are a volley of withering fire against pseudo-science masquerading as the real thing.

Is a Dawkins an atheist because of the evidence, or because of a worldview, not founded on science, which he carries with him to the microscope? Lennox’s thesis is that real science actually points toward an intelligent Designer. That some scientists are so vehemently opposed to God speaks more to their unscientific prejudice and presuppositions than it says about God. The degree of atheistic animosity toward theism is itself a curiosity to Lennox, begging investigation why, if God were fiction, anyone should hate Him so. Lennox gives the much needed reminders that “Statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science” (p. 19) and “you cannot deduce a worldview from a science” (p. 121). Worldviews are not mixed in a test tube; they originate outside science, but end up influencing the conclusions of scientists.

Lennox claims the biblical worldview, grounded in the ancient Hebrews’ concept of a single, omnipotent Creator has done more to advance science than any contribution from the ancient Greeks. Far from stopping scientific investigation, it was belief in an orderly universe created by God which initially propelled the discipline. Theism gave science its beginning; atheism gives science a black eye.

Lennox takes evolutionary theory to task, pointing out there is an “edge to evolution,” beyond which it cannot go. This is why small changes within species are observed (i.e. microevolution), but evolution across species (macroevolution) has never been observed, much less duplicated by science. Gaps in the fossil record tell an embarrassing tale too often buried as science’s dirty secret.

Further, as science is able to see increasingly on a microscopic level, it is becoming more difficult to argue against design in the universe. Lennox discusses the marvel of DNA from a scientific and mathematic perspective, adding up facts that make it impossible for life to have arisen on the basis of mindless chance. And, as information theory begins to blossom, he draws a striking point on the biblical teaching that, prior to the incarnation, Jesus existed as the “Word” of God. Information is real, but not physical. And there is nothing anti-science in recognizing divinely-put information in a cell, which gives design to an organism (especially when evidence points to the impossibility of its being undesigned).

Rejecting the popular concept that faith is not evidence-based, Lennox gives a cutting edge, refresher course on why we need not bow to brash scientists who overreach into metaphysics and stake claims far too weighty for science to bear. The last chapter is a devastating critique of David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher who did much to destroy belief in biblical miracles.

Lennox is an engaging writer, pulling the rug from under atheism with true British courtesy. But his kindness does not disguise the tatters in which he leaves materialism. His final two sentences are worth the book’s price: “Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second” (p. 210).

[This review was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Sufficient Evidence (pp. 56-58), the journal of the Warren Christian Apologetics Center.]

Posted in Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians

By Weylan Deaver

[Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Sufficient Evidence, the journal of the Warren Christian Apologetics Center].

The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians. By Thomas B. Warren. Glasgow, KY: National Christian Press, 1986. 217 pp.

Thomas B. Warren was a premier Christian philosopher of the twentieth century, and his influence in apologetics is still felt. More than a theologian and philosopher, he was a gospel preacher. And what happened when he turned his logician’s mind to the subject of the church was a book titled The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians.

In this case, the title really does say it all, and serves as the book’s central thesis. Its focus is neither the existence of God, nor the deity of Christ, but, rather, an all-out defense of the uniqueness of the Lord’s church. It is an honor to review, in part because my grandfather, Roy C. Deaver, is one of the preachers to whom the book is dedicated.

As an accomplished debater, Warren knew the power of precision. His terms and propositions are sharply defined. His arguments are cogent and unambiguous. With a rare combination of facts, force and feeling, Warren demonstrates concern for souls while marshaling the muscle of Scripture to wield his thesis with the subtlety of a sledge-hammer. Those used to hearing anemic religious claims may be shocked at his vigorous writing, ignited by his understanding of just how high the stakes are: Every reader will spend eternity in heaven or hell, based on his relationship to the church of the New Testament. Warren wrote to win souls, not to entertain.

The book is composed of eleven parts which are divided into thirty-seven brief chapters. It ranges over epistemology, ecclesiology and soteriology. Firing both barrels at the denominational concept of the church, Warren leaves it unable to give more than a dying gasp. With an arsenal of logic and hermeneutics, he operates as a biblical surgeon, severing denominational from divine doctrine, cutting away the cancer of religious creeds, exposing the healthy tissue of a body nourished by Jesus’ blood because it is governed by naught but the simple New Testament.

Warren did not intend his thesis be refuted, and this affects the style with which he wrote. His arguments and analysis benefit from verbal precision, repetition, and the inclusion of numerous Scripture citations. Those same qualities can also be tedious (chapter 35 repeats much of chapter 26), but, in this case, with Warren treating a topic so vital to us all, we affirm unhesitatingly that the tedium is worth the trouble. This is not light reading before bedtime. Nor is it for the spiritually spineless who cannot abide the staunch claims of Scripture. But, for the reader truly interested in discovering or defending the church about which the apostles preached, then this book is a veritable tour de force on the composition and uncompromising stance of the church of Christ. Those who agree with Warren will applaud his contribution. Those who disagree will find precious little with which to defend themselves against the relentless case he builds. None will have difficulty seeing exactly where he stands.