5 Stars Out Of 5
Overall Great Book with Good Theology
March 1, 2016
James Montgomery Boice was a faithful and passionate pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where he served for over thirty years. The vast majority of his sermons (if not all of them) were expository in nature, and some of the characteristics that made him such a beloved pastor/teacher (a high view of Scripture, attention to detail, and a love for God's Word) are evidence in this work: The Parables of Jesus.
The book's content was birthed from a series of sermons he preached in the winter of 1980-81 (9). By his own admission, Boice first approached the parables as a series of messages that could be crafted without the toil other passages might present, yet while in the series he became captivated by the parables and desired to treat them in a more comprehensive way (9). That desire would eventually give birth to this book, which is divided into five sections that correspond to the five categories of the parables: Parables of the Kingdom, Parables of Salvation, Parables of Wisdom and Folly, Parables of the Christian Life, and Parables of Judgment.
There is much to love about this book. As mentioned before, Boice was a passionate communicator of God's Word. I have often heard that a good preacher should not stand to speak until he has studied enough, and prayed enough, that his heart is gripped with both the truth of the passage and the hearts of those to whom he will speak. The author's passion for truth is something that has not been lost in the sermon-to-manuscript transition. While one reads this book, it is not hard to imagine him speaking to the masses, urging them to respond to the wisdom and truth of Scripture. He pleads with fathers to be intentional in leading of their families, with mothers to be tender in the spiritual care of their daughters, and for the lost to turn to Jesus and be saved (50-51, 244-245). His passion for others to live the truth is Scripture is demonstrated well in the parable on not giving up (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8), where he pleads with the righteousness to continue in prayer, if for nothing but revival alone (191-192). The author's heart for God, and for others, is an unmistakable theme throughout the text.
Boice also handles Scripture with integrity, a characteristic that seems to be increasingly scarce among those who occupy pulpits across America. I appreciate his care to differentiate between a parable, a fable, and an allegory (14). Such a distinction is important, as many have treaded into dangerous exegetical waters by trying to find a hidden meaning behind every little detail of each parable. When appropriate, however, Boice does not hesitate to dive into the details and demonstrate how the unique emphasis of each parable contributes to its overall message. A good example here is how he handles the parable of the dragnet, showing its particular emphasis is not what it has in common with other parables of the Kingdom, but in what it offers that is different (44-46). Likewise he does not shy away from hard subjects, like extending forgiveness to others even when that is difficult to do (215), or the narrow message that Christ alone can save and the finality of the eternal state of those separated from God (244).
It is hard to point out a glaring "weaknesses" of the book without feeling one is being too critical. It could be pointed out that the parables are interpreted and applied from a Reformed/Calvinistic perspective. This is to be expected, however, since the content of the book was birthed from a sermon series, and it is impossible for any pastor/teacher not to view Scripture thru the lens of his theological convictions. The book also fails to contribute any real academic value, but again, one could argue the intended audience is not the professor or researcher who is looking for a work that gives attention to grammatical construction. One would assume Boice gave consideration to such things during his own private study, but to expect those insights to be worked out in the final manuscript of a sermon is unrealistic.
The grouping of the parables into five categories can, at times, seem obligatory, and one could argue that it might cause the student of Scripture to read into a text what may not be there. On the other hand, the content of any book (or sermon series for that matter) must be structured in such a way that the reader can easily grasp the overall organization of the material.
Finally, it could be pointed out that the book ends abruptly. Boice offers no postlude, concluding remarks, or anything that may direct the reader on into a continuing study of the parables. It should be noted, however, that the book does include a Notes section (247). Here one could find authors and titles for additional study.
As previously mentioned, the professor or student researching a thesis isn't likely to find much value in this book. However, as characteristic of Boice, the book is scripturally sound, logical, and easy to understand. The reader will not find a bunch of theological words or concepts that is difficult to understand. If one is looking for help in understanding the nature many of the parables, and how they may apply to one's life, this work would be a great starting place.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.