I just received these titles from Crossway and, like I did last time, wanting to know if there were any that you, the reader, would like me to read first for review. Also, if there are any books from Crossway that you are interested in me reviewing, please let me know and I will request it for review. They are very helpful at Crossway and will allow me to review whatever I desire. So, just let me know.
Coming in mid March is the one that I am probably most excited to read. It is the latest from Stephen Nichols:
Friday, February 27, 2009
I just received these titles from Crossway and, like I did last time, wanting to know if there were any that you, the reader, would like me to read first for review. Also, if there are any books from Crossway that you are interested in me reviewing, please let me know and I will request it for review. They are very helpful at Crossway and will allow me to review whatever I desire. So, just let me know.
Vintage Church sets up to be the continuation of where Vintage Jesus left off. Vintage Jesus upset some people as they thought that Driscoll took too many liberties in describing who Jesus was. Although I disagree with them, it is hard for me to see where those same people will have issue with this book. This book is set up to be an open an honest discussion of what the church is. At some point, if you are a pastor of a church, you will be challenged by Driscoll and Breshears and even rubbed the wrong way in their description of what a church should look like.
This is not because they are purposely trying to demean churches, but they are taking the modern church and testing them to Scripture. Driscoll himself even shows in some places that he wishes that they were better at, or where they have corrected Mars Hill over the years. Again, this is exactly what makes Driscoll so attractive, he is honest with his mistakes while pointing out others. He hammers on emergent church designs and also the traditional fundamental churches, to make sure they return to the true calling of the church as a whole.
What I believe this book will turn out to be is a handbook for church planters or those who are desiring to test what they are doing within their churches. The book is set up like the others that Driscoll has done in recent years. Meaning, he puts forth a topic through the Scriptures and culture and then Breshears answers commonly asked questions on that topic of the chapter. Vintage Church sets up everything from answering questions on preaching, ordinances and church discipline to how to utilize technology as a church. This book is very practical and reminds me of "The Deliberate Church" by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. The difference is that Driscoll and Breshears cover more ground and looks more into the culture and missional aspects of the church.
In the end, the readers for this book will be pastors and elders, and not as many congregants will enjoy this book like they did with Vintage Jesus. This doesn't make the book bad, it just makes it targeted. I felt that the book was really a grown up version of Confessions of a Reformissional Rev. That book told the story of the beginning of Mars Hill, and this tells the current story. This is my only "gripe" with this book is that it seems to more of a polemic for the current way that Mars Hill is doing things. So, when you get to topics like "What is a Missional Church" and "What is a Multi Site Church" the descriptions are more of what Mars Hill is doing and less of a general look into these topics. But, should I really expect anything less of a book written by a pastor who believes (as do I for the most part) his church is doing the correct mission of Christ?
I also did enjoy the reminders to big churches that not all churches should be big, and the reminder to small churches, that not all churches should be small. Criticism of each other usually comes from each side of the issue, but Driscoll and Breshears really exhort each one to do the calling that Christ has called them to. But, because Driscoll's church is huge, some of his practical wisdom on how to live out church are going to fly over the head of those pastors in small churches. Some of the things discussed in technology and multi site are just not going to be able to be utilized by small churches. This is fine though, because the book is for all to read, not just big churches or small churches.
Although this book could have been titled, "Vintage Mars Hill" or "Confessions: Part II", the book delivers a very good understanding of the church. My favorite part of the entire book was simply, "What is a Christian Church?" Driscoll puts to shame those who believe that online churches, or coffee shop churches are true churches. Driscoll walks through what a church should include to be a true Vintage, or Scriptural, church. I very much enjoyed this description so that one does not get together with a friend for coffee and call it church, or a church gets off target and loses focus of what a church should encompass.
If you are a church planter, or one that is about to engage in new church plant, pick up this book. If you are a leader in a church that is looking to restructure or desire to test yourself to make sure that you are a biblical church, pick up this book. If you are a dated church that desires to reach today's generation, pick up this book. You will not be disappointed. I would also highly recommend that one pick up The Deliberate Church and The Master's Plan for the Church
alongside Vintage Church for great study and great resources on the Christian church according to Jesus. Highly Recommended.
Link to Buy
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
There are many problems with this thought process, including the fact that God revealed to Peter that nothing was unclean to eat in Acts 11 and that Jesus said it wasn't what entered the man that made man profane, but what came out of the heart and mouth. Not only this, but this site tries to dismiss Paul's teaching against homosexuality and put forth that since Jesus said nothing against it, it must be fine. This is what happens when ones exegesis is combined with scissors and the thought process of Thomas Jefferson. You cut out whatever you don't like.
Beyond all this, their logic doesn't make sense. I must ask, if we don't allow Leviticus to rule our morals in any way because Christ is silent on such matters in the New Testament, can people now freely have sex with animals?
‘Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Jesus never mentions sex with animals, so why not? Can we now eat shrimp, wear polyester, get tattoos and have sex with animals? (of course 3 out of the 4 are not sinful) Or, are we to take a look at the laws in the Old Testament and use them how they were supposed to be used? Meaning, separating the moral laws for men and the national laws for Israel. The biblical response, and intent of God, is to look at the moral laws in the Old Testament and still apply them for today. Morals do not change, but historical national laws for Israel do, since we are not Israelites living under the Theonomical rule of God. Of course this understanding only works if one believes in absolutes, which I am assuming those at this site do not believe in, as other post moderns are adopting.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Tonight I witnessed the power of His name
All for the glory and praise of his fame
Bought with a price before they were born
Beaten, spit on and sneared at with scorn
Christ went to the cross with them on his mind
Once they were lost but not left behind
Washed in his blood, cleansed from above
Thoroughly understanding the depth of his love
Tonight I saw 6 teens though once bound
Once they were lost, but now they are found
Thank you Ron, Jared, Laura, Sammy, Sam and Zach
Your stories are perfect, because they are His
Posted by Seth McBee at 2/22/2009 08:16:00 PM
Saturday, February 21, 2009
In keeping with Saturday stealings, I have stolen once again from my buddy erik over at Irish Calvinist. This one you might hate me for afterwards, but I figure if I have to have this stuck in my head for the rest of my life, so should you. So, hate on.
Posted by Seth McBee at 2/21/2009 11:44:00 AM
Friday, February 20, 2009
This book put together by Carolyn Larsen covers many topics. I couldn't imagine putting together so many topics to convey what the Bible says about these things. Ms. Larsen puts together 340 things that the Bible speaks on. Although I believe she stretches it a bit to try and say the Bible speaks on certain things when, in reality, the Bible is silent.
In the introduction the author tries to convey why she put these together. She tries to rid the thought that this book should be used as a list of "dos and don'ts" but in reality the book should be used to answer questions about every day life and how the Bible puts forth those types of answers. The introduction tells the reader that although there are many topics that the Bible does speak on, when you fall, know that God has grace for us all. The one thing that I thought of as I started to look at the book is although the author doesn't want to make a list of "dos and don'ts" that is just what is going to happen if Christ isn't the center. Even in the introduction, Jesus is never mentioned. This is a huge deal. Ms. Larsen puts forth what the Bible is about:
It's the story of God's love for you and how his Spirit living in you will guide, protect, love, forgive, and love you again.
Ms. Larsen forgot the third person of the Trinity. The Bible is about Jesus as well. Jesus' absence is hard to overlook in the opening of the book as one readies themself to read the rest of the topics laid out.
Each topic has four parts and only encompasses one page:
1. What does the Bible say about...(insert topic) (This is a quick commentary by the author)
2. What the Bible says (verses are listed)
3. Time to Face the Facts (Author puts forth a definite admonition and exhortation on the topic)
4. Today I will...(practical advice to follow because of the topic)
I believe that the book can be used by discerning parents to aid them in different topics of the Bible. But, the parent will have to be more gospel centered than the book can be as its purpose is to just show the topic at hand and not give a full commentary of the gospel each time. I understand that this is impossible with a book that covers 340 topics. I would not just give this out to kids and have them study it and read it as a manual of how to live their lives. Way too many mistakes will be made and little Pharisees will be raised up. But, that doesn't mean that the book can't be used by parents who use it for simple understanding.
I will point out that the parent must be discerning as a couple of the topics made me chuckle as they were so close together. They are smoking and snacks. Because the book is in alphabetical order these two topics are right next to each other and speak on the same topic: the physical body.
I found it interesting, because the reasons that the author says that smoking is wrong and God would consider it a sin is because the body is a temple of God and you wouldn't want to hurt the temple. Turn the page. This page follows and says that some snacks are good for the body and some are bad, so keep the bad snacks in moderation because the body is a temple. This logic doesn't make sense. If both are bad for the body, then both should be used in moderation or be completely abstained from, unless the Bible speaks definitely against one as sin. Now, with a child I would never tell them to go and smoke, as it is against the law, but I would also never act as if God hates it as though it was in the Bible. There are other topics in the book that are just like this that make me put forth again and again that the parent should not just hand this book over to a child for study, but should really be used by the parent to aid in instruction.
I don't believe this book is all bad, but I just worry on how it will be used. The top left of the cover has the words, "ages 8-12," making it seem as though the book is set up to be given to children and not the parents, which I just can't agree with. Again, if used correctly, this book can be of help, but I worry how this book will be abused and cause kids to just look up topics on certain issues instead of reading the whole of Scripture to understand the story of the Bible is not a "road map of life" but is actually the story of God, saving sinners through the cross of Christ, by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. Recommended with Caution to the Parent's Usage.
Link to Buy:
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I saw this over at Irish Calvinist and still have no clue what Clinton means when he says this. Take a look and give me some ideas, because I am stumped. But this does come from the same guy who "did not have sexual relations with that woman"...sooooo...
My in laws went to Disneyland last week and invited my 6 year old son to go with them. My son has been to Disney World and absolutely loved it. He knows the fun he would have and knows most of what he would find there. We told him that he could go to see Mickey for a whole week with his grandparents and his cousins. He was very excited and thought there was no reason why he wouldn't go. Then we told him, "Mommy and Daddy won't be there though. You will be just going with your grandparents and cousins." He immediately said, "I don't want to go then."
Although Caleb knew how fun it would, how many things he would thoroughly enjoy, he didn't want to go if we weren't there. This is a very independent 6 year old who was very excited to go to Disneyland. He loves his grandparents and he loves being with his cousins, but the second he found out that we weren't going, his mood changed, and he simply said, "no thanks." He wants to be where we are, not where the gifts and "fun" are. Caleb wasn't disappointed in any way, but simply wanted to be wherever his parents were, not where many people would consider to be "heaven on earth."
I know that illustrations are never perfect and this one is no different. But, the question comes that are we more like the world that just wants the gifts of God, or do we want God himself? Do we want all the other stuff that heaven promises, or do we want to simply be where Christ is? John Piper asks this question in his book "God is the Gospel" and my son gave me a great picture of what Piper is trying to convey:
The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?
John Piper, God is the Gospel
Where do we put our excitement and hope for our eternity? We must look forward to being with our God, not what he is going to give us. He is ultimate.
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit
1 Peter 3:18
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Red Letters, compiled by Tim Beals, for it is hard to say that he is the author as the author here is Christ as they are his words, is a book that, if used correctly, can be of great help. Tim Beals states at the end of his introduction that his "hope is that the red letters become the read letters."
What I really like about the book is that it sets up all the saying of Christ in chronological order in the first part and then by topic in the second part. He also makes sure that he only takes from one of the gospel accounts instead of all four when Christ's words are recorded by every author or multiple authors. Mr. Beals decided to do this to keep the book at a minimum and chose to take whichever account was most thorough in its recording of the words of Christ. I believe the book will be most helpful to take all four gospel accounts of Christ's words and put them in the order that Christ said them, as this can get quite confusing when trying to put them in order yourself. For this, it is quite helpful and will be used by myself when in need of this type of study.
The hard part of this study is that it is quite unreadable. The reason is that it is literally only the words of Christ. So, as one tries to read through it, they miss all the dialogue of the listeners or background information given by the gospel writer. So, while the book might be a great resource for a teacher or one studying the words of Christ, to simply read the book one will be quite frustrated.
The other part that sets this book up for question, but I don't believe is the author's intent is the movement of those who only rely on what Christ states, and dismiss the rest of the Bible as secondary because it isn't in "red letters." While I don't believe that Mr. Beals would accept this idea he does make the point to state that, "My (Mr. Beals) primary incentive is to provide a unique volume that will enable us to become better apprentices of the Master by allowing us to hear directly from him about what matters most." and "By looking at the 'red letters', Jesus' spoken words, we see what is important to him."
These two quotes seem to put forth that the rest of Bible isn't the spoken word of Christ. I have said before that just because it didn't come out of the mouth of Jesus while on earth doesn't mean Christ didn't say it or deem it as important. The danger with the thinking that the only importance that Christ deemed came from his mouth while on earth is that one will put these words above the rest of Scripture. This isn't okay. All Scripture is inspired by God, not just the red letters. While I do not know the convictions of Mr. Beals on this subject, I would suppose that he would not desire his book to be used by "red letter Christians" who put Paul's words, and the other writers of Scripture, as secondary to that of Christ's. This is my main concern with a book that simply puts forth Christ's words with absolutely no commentary on them.
So, the book will be very helpful for those who desire to get to the point of what Christ spoke while on this earth and in what order that happened and the topics he discussed. I just hope that this book isn't taken to mean that the rest of Scripture is secondary and used to show why certain topics or convictions are okay because they aren't "in red" in the Bible. So, I would recommend the book for study and useful help, but would not recommend the book to base one's sole theology on. Recommended.
Link to Buy:
To know what I am talking about one only has to look around to see what local congregations and people are doing. It could be in the form of feeding the homeless, serving at soup kitchens, tutoring for free, supporting ministries like Living Water International or World Vision, etc. When one reads these things the first thing that will come is "What is wrong with any of these things?" The answer is, "nothing." But, I do believe that there is some positives and actually some negatives about the social gospel.
This almost seems retarded to have to state the positives, but to be honest, there are a lot of people that call themselves Christians who never do any of these things. Instead, they hand out tracts and scream through bullhorns letting the starving people listening to them know that they are headed to hell. The problem is that if the dude yelling like an auctioneer for Satan's hellhouse doesn't feed the people in front of them, the people listening might die before they have the chance to repent.
The positive aspects of the social gospel is it does try and serve those people around them for what they need physically. So, if it is school supplies for their kids, the church buys them. If it is food to feed their families, the church supplies food. If it is new coats, then a trip to Burlington Coat Factory it is. This is good to do. It actually lives up to the billing we see in Christ's ministry as Christ continually supplied the needs of those who followed him around. He fed the 5000...twice and he healed many people. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as we do ourselves, James and John (James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17) both tell us that if we see a brother in need and do not help them we do not have the love of God abiding in us.
The social gospel definitely allows people to see our good works to glorify our God and it is easy for the secular world to see our good works if they are providing for the physical needs of those around us. The social gospel shows those people around us that we, in actuality, care about them specifically and desire their well being and see that they are truly image bearers of God. These aren't all the good things associated with the social gospel but these hit most of the high points.
The Negative Aspects
The negative aspects of the social gospel is if it comes packaged only in the ways we see above. If the gospel is never preached, never entered into the conversation, then it is not evangelism, it is only part of evangelism. Now, there will be times we just help people for the sake of helping them. But, if that is all we ever do, aid people physically, we are not being faithful to the Christ who bought us. When Christ fed the 5000 (really around 15000), it was after he was done preaching and teaching to them. Most of the time that Christ healed people it was in the midst of him teaching and preaching salvation to them. This is the whole of Christ's ministry. He both aided physically and preached to them spiritually. This is how you love someone like yourself, if you are a Christian. Love is not merely physical.
If the social gospel is your sole way of sharing the gospel, you have to ask yourself, "What makes you different than Gandhi?" "What makes you different than any other non-Christian who shows compassion to his fellow man?" Without the Gospel, the answer is nothing. If you only aid people physically and never tell them of the glory of Christ and that the provision is not from your hands, but His, then you have missed the point of helping people physically. What good is it to keep a man from dying in this life and allowing him to die in the next? This life is temporary, but the life to come is eternal. So, you might say that you are doing the work of Christ, but without the Word being made manifest to the people through words, you are just a philanthropist, not an evangelist.
I hate to say it but you might be one of the ones that Christ mentions in Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Notice the focus in this passage is what the person says they did, not what Christ did. The very next thing mentioned in Matthew is the parable of the house built on the rock. The question has to come, "Is your evangelism built on Jesus, or merely social action?" Another way to ask this is, "Would those you are helping know that you are a Christian and the gospel message or could they mistake you for just another person helping them for the sake of karma?" If you continually help people without telling them the gospel message, you are not evangelizing.
The absence of the name of Christ and the proclamation of His Gospel to those who are perishing is a very grave sin indeed. But, so it proclaiming the gospel to those who are starving without providing them with the bread that fills their stomachs.
As we see the work of Christ and his apostles, we must marry both physical and spiritual aid together to truly help those who are perishing physically and spiritually.
Is the social gospel totally wrong? No. But it is missing the central reason to do it: The message of the glory of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This book comes out well before Easter to make sure that you are able to buy it, study it and then teach its truths to others as Easter comes about. The book is laid out to have 25 short teachings and thoughts on the cross of Christ. It has most theologians that you can think of in the Reformed and Calvinistic circles and then also includes at least one I know that wasn't a Calvinist (Adrian Rogers). Most of the chapters are about 3 to 4 pages which include many different angles to look at the cross. The topics range from Christ's humility in Gethsemane, silence among his accusers, our sin putting him on the cross, propitiation, forsaken by God, etc. I am not going to list every theologian and every topic, but I will say that this book is a very good one to help someone as they study further on the cross of Christ. This book is a book of quotable thoughts for any pastor.
Some of my favorites were Martin Luther, C.J. Mahaney, Tim Keller, Adrian Rogers and Augustine. Martin Luther is first up in the book, and in my opinion, it didn't get any better than Luther. I really enjoyed his chapter and found myself continually reading because of his start of the understanding of the "True Contemplation of the Cross." Here is an excerpt from Luther's chapter:
Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when the thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts. Consider that if one thorn pierced Christ you deserve one hundred thousand.
The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble. If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble. Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills it.
But if one does meditate rightly on the suffering of Christ for a day, an hour, or even a quarter of an hour, this we may confidently say is better than a whole year of fasting, days of psalm singing, yes, than even one hundred masses, because this reflection changes the whole man and makes him new…
Martin Luther, p. 12 (taken from Martin Luther's Easter Book)
Although there were some that stood out, there were also some where I couldn't wait to read and they seemed to fall a little flat. Not only tha, there were some that were just plain bizarre where I will either need to study further or just glaze over for the sake of the other chapters. The odd ones were John MacArthur's take on Christ's forgiveness on the cross. He believes that Christ was only asking for the forgiveness of those who would end up believing in Him and not everyone that was at the cross crucifying him. I believe he ends up making his theology read into this part of Scripture a little too much. The other two that I will have to study a little further were J.I. Packer's on Christ descending to hell and also Joseph "Skip" Ryan's chapter on Christ being thirsty. He takes this to mean that Christ was spiritually thirsty and not physically. My first take is that he is trying to stretch this text further than it allows.
Even with these three, the other 22 chapters far outweigh them to keep me from recommending this book. I would recommend this to any who would like a good understanding of the cross from a wide set of generations, convictions and theologians. Just know, that it doesn't get better than Luther's chapter, but that doesn't mean the rest of the book gets "worse." Highly Recommended
Buy the book:
Monday, February 16, 2009
“Legalists love to act like God by making rules. Legalists love rules about the rules. Legalists love rules about who gets to make the rules about the rules. Legalists love rules about who gets to enforce the rules made by the people whom the rules appointed to make the rules about the rules. Legalists really love rules about who gets to interpret the rules that rule. Legalists get perfectly euphoric when they get to enact the rules by punishing people who break the rules as interpreted by those appointed by the rules. In the end, legalsts want to rule through rules and wield their rules like weapons to divide the church body into bloddied parts.” (Mark Driscoll, Vintage Church pp. 143-144)
HT: Irish Calvinist aka erik raymond
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Let's Move On!
by Pastor Scott Thomas, Director of Acts 29 Network
I am deeply honored to serve as Director of Acts 29 Network and as a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I am witnessing God's blessings on both organizations in a way that I have never experienced and that few people get to witness in their lifetimes. Acts 29 just completed a Boot Camp in Raleigh NC last week where we united with the esteemed author and professor Dr. Wayne Grudem, Southern Baptist Seminary President (SEBTS) Dr. Danny Akin and SEBTS professor and author Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. These men served alongside the other Acts 29 pastors who presented the gospel as strong as any place I have been. Sin and fallenness were acknowledged repeatedly, the grace of Jesus was brightly illuminated and the message of Redemption through the blood of Jesus was consistently presented.
I saw Wayne Grudem set aside his academic brilliance and respond to the Holy Spirit's leading to shepherd a pastor through an issue. Unexpected. I saw speakers humble themselves under the grace of Jesus and admit that we are blessed to proclaim His Word as dying men to dying people. I am proud of Tyler Jones, Ed Marcelle, Daniel Montgomery, Jason Roberts, John Fooshee, Justin Anderson, Chris Atwell, Elliot Grudem, Jamie Munson, Taylor Roberts, Kevin Marshall and the 30 other Acts 29 pastors who came to serve sacrificially to help men to plant and thrive on the front lines known as church planting. I saw Mark Driscoll gave a final address to us envisioning our movement reaching 300,000 people in the next 7 years. You can download it here.
I saw men pray for one another, hug one another, counsel with one another, assess one another and love one another.
And then I saw the article from the official denominational press. Sad. (I refuse to reengage your mind with a link to their site).
I have had dealings with the editors of this publication in the past. I have challenged them to report news and not biased opinions. I have challenged them to do proper research BEFORE sniping another organization that loves Jesus, believes in the inerrant Word of God and is seeking to evangelize the lost for the glory of God. I have given them my cell phone number and asked them to contact me with any issues, questions or problems because we have many of our Acts 29 pastors who are affiliated with this denomination. My phone is silent, but their vulgar reporting skills are not.
Many people have commented to them and about them and I have a list of over 20 blogs that have criticized their "sloppy journalism," as one noted author put it. But, I am calling for all of us to ignore the innocuous criticisms and get back on the front lines of presenting the gospel faithfully to those who are desperately in need of redemption. The sniping of one publication has hindered our focus on the real enemy: Sin, Satan and the effects of a fallen humanity.
A movement does not stop to address every critic. It moves on in spite of critics and in expectation of critics. I'm bored with it all and my neighbor needs Jesus.
Let's move on.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Mark did what he could with the time he had with D.L. I hope that he had some off camera time with him to really speak to him. The best thing that could actually come out of this would be if D.L. started to listen to Driscoll's sermons. The reason I say this is because Driscoll didn't get that much time to speak about Christ with D.L. I also am tired of Ingrid over at Slice of Skubalon. She seriously needs to put a cork in it. She is a liar and one that spreads a lot of hatred. Dave has a good challenge to her.
There are many things that I do not agree with in regards to Rick Warren, but I believe that he hits how to respond to criticism on the head. This comes from Driscoll's book, "Vintage Church" and I found this to be quite helpful and insightful. The following is advice from Warren on what someone should do when facing criticism:
1. Turn your critics into coaches by hearing what they are saying and humbly considering if there is any truth to their criticism.
2. Never engage the critics on their terms because it only escalates the conflict and is not productive.
3. Be very careful about firing off emails or leaving voicemails and responding out of anger in a way that you will later regret.
4. Shout louder than your critics to define yourself, and do not allow them to define you.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
This book was the first one that I have read from Crossway since being given the chance to review books for them on a regular basis. I asked for this book because of the title. I was a little skeptical on what in the world the writers were trying to convey with the title. What I found as I started to read is that the main title, "How to Argue Like Jesus" was a little misleading and the subtitle, "Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator" was a more appropriate title for the whole of the book. But, the title did its job, because I wanted to read it. I know I am not the only one who felt this way as Frank Turk described this same frustration.
The book is co-authored by a blogger, Joe Carter which gives us all hope of someday taking our writing to the real world. After getting passed the title and understanding what the book was actually about, which was communication and persuasion, I found the book to be very well done and one that I will have to re-read in the future and use as a reference to make my sermons and teachings more on point of how Christ communicated his eternal truth.
The book is set up to really show you how to communicate effectively and then drawing from the Scriptures to show you specifically how Christ used the same techniques that were put forth in writing by Aristotle. Not only did the authors show forth Christ's words but they also drew from historical events to show the speeches, etc. to bring their points home. In other words, even in writing this book the authors used the techniques presented to display the effectiveness to the reader.
The book from the very beginning shows one the basics of logic and how to employ logic in ones presentation for ideas, whether pastor, businessman or soccer coach. This book is really widespread and for that I allow the small errors in theology to go unmentioned.
The book goes from the basics in communication to the importance of the communicator and his/her life and how they engage their audience. Again, very good practical advice that will aid anyone who communicates to do in a better style. Not only does the book span the normal ideas of persuasion, but at the end of the book they present those qualities of communication that was unique to Christ that we should also take note of. Some of these were (these are only explained in half pages so that is why there is so many):
1. Always employ some sort of good news, even when reporting wholly bad news
2. Start with your audience's needs
3. Start with examples your audience will understand
4. Speak your audience's "language"
5. Never speak about your speech
6. Use Witness
7. Communicate with confidence
8. Get it right
9. Do not boast; act with humility
10. Know when to speak and when to be silent
11. Be enigmatic
13. Ask Questions
14. Just ask (for what you want)
15. When appropriate, stand up to authority
16. Don't bend core principles or standards to gather disciples
17. Create a sense of urgency
18. Remember that a prophet is without honor in his hometown
19. Praise those who do well; express disappointment in those who disappoint you
20. Don't Fear Division
21. Don't Cast your pearls before swine
22. Words Matter
Overall, the last part of the book and the beginning, with logical analysis of Christ's words, were my favorite. The only downfall of the book is that sometimes it seems too mechanic. This is what will happen when trying to convey Jesus as something other than our Saviour. This book is focused on communication, so very little, if anything, is presented about his true mission, which was to save sinners. Because of this, some parts of the book made it sound as though if you do "A" then "B" will happen. Which we know of many pastors who labor long, communicate well, and still have very little in the way of converts or numbers in the congregation. I know that the authors try to convey this at the beginning in one or two sentences but it is hard to shake as you read throughout the book. But, through all this, it does show how complex, and on point, even Christ's words were apart from the work of the Spirit. Just Christ's mere language and communication was nothing short of brilliant, but as we know, and the authors know, we can't stop there with Christ.
I would recommend this highly to any who would like to communicate better to their audience whatever their profession or ministry. I very much liked the book, now it will be about going back for further study on the methods of communication that they put forth. Highly Recommended
Links to Buy:
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I first read the review of this book over at Bob Hayton's blog and really enjoyed the review and the seemingly thoroughness that Gentry seemed to put forth in the discussion. Because of that Bob and I did a book swap (he received The Reason for God from me) and what I found is exactly what I was hoping.
Kenneth Gentry is a Presbyterian, theonomist and preterist. So, while I don't agree with all his theological convictions, I was still interested in his understanding of this sometimes sensitive topic among Christians. While he doesn't drink anymore because of a medical condition, when he was able to, he only drank about 4 to 5 glasses of wine per year. The reason I say this is that Gentry's book is not put forth for him to be able to continue in a habit that wasn't breakable. This book is simply to show what the Scriptures say about wine and strong drink.
If I were to ask Dr. Gentry to outline the book how I would have desired, I don't think I would have any changes in how he specifically lays this book out. It is exactly what I was looking for.
The chapters are as follows:
1. Introductory Matters
Here, Gentry simply lays out the three main convictions on Alcohol: prohibitionists, abstentionists and the moderationist. He also tells a little about the three authors that he will be refuting throughout the rest of the book as they have been the ones to most loudly try and refute the biblical understanding of drinking and the Bible.
2. The Bible and Alcohol Abuse
Gentry makes sure, in this chapter, that he speaks out against alcoholism and drunkenness. He lays this out so that no one confuses the moderationist as one who condones drinking without regard.
3. The Old Testament and Alcohol Use
This chapter is exactly as the heading alludes to. Gentry goes through the three different terms that are used for alcohol in the OT: yayin, shekar, tirosh and 'asis. He shows how each of these are alcoholic and that none of them simply mean grape juice or some watered down wine.
4. The New Testament and Alcohol Use
This chapter flows directly from the previous one. Here Gentry speaks on the verses that use the two terms for wine in the Greek: oinos and gleukos. He then goes into showing that the Lord's Supper used alcoholic wine, that Jesus drank wine and that Paul and apostles never allude to the prohibition against wine. He spends some time on the miracle of Cana and dispels any myths regarding the "old wine" vs "new wine."
5. Alleged Negative Passages
Gentry takes head on the passages that might seem at first glance to be in the negative, but in fact are far from it. The passages that Gentry spends time on are Leviticus 10:8-11; Numbers 6:2-6; Judges 13:4; Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:31-32; Isaiah 5:21-22; Jeremiah 35:6; Hosea 7:5. He takes each one of these and makes sure the reader sees the context and points to the overall understanding of them. Very good chapter.
6. Bible Teaching on Christian Liberty
After one is done reading the previous 5 chapters, one could still appeal to the fact that it isn't whether or not we can drink alcohol, but should we drink because of our culture and weaker brother. Gentry spends much of this chapter in Romans 14 breaking down the understanding of this passage and also Pauline theology of weaker brothers elsewhere. He also draws from the fact of Christ drinking and the apostles drinking for further reason why total abstention isn't the answer to this.
7. Common Objections Considered
The objections after all else is said, have almost been answered already. Here he handles the objection of the following:
The Potential Alcoholic
How Much is Too Much?
Alcohol and Health
Alcohol and the Christian Witness
Thinning Wine with Water (he destroys this notion and makes it almost laughable from a Scriptural standpoint)
Overall this book is very well done. Gentry takes the reader to almost, if not every verse that deals with wine and strong drink in the Bible. The conclusion one should come to after the reading and understanding of the Hebrew, Greek and context should be that the Christian is not to be held to a prohibition of alcohol. I personally know of some who have decided to abstain for their own reasons and that is their conviction and one that they hold for themselves and not others. But, to preach against alcohol and plead with Scripture for proof, one will come away looking quite silly. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know what the Bible says about alcohol and how it was used in the Scriptures. Highly Recommended
Buy from Kenneth Gentry's Site
The question has to be, What place do tracts have in evangelism? Do they have a place? Are they outdated? Let's take a quick look at some positive aspects of tracts and then also some negative aspects.
The positive aspect of a tract, if it is well done, is that it presents the gospel in a compact format. In the age of visual and audio learning and entertainment, reading is lame and laborious for most. So, when trying to convey in written form what the Scriptures say about sin, Christ and salvation, it is very difficult to persuade someone to read a leather bound 1000 page book written 2000 years ago. We call it the word of God and it means much to us, but to the person making their way to Starbucks, trying to overpay for .25 cent coffee, all while drinking themselves to hell, the Bible doesn't look all that enjoyable to read.
So, a well done tract can get done in a few pages what would take a lot of reading and studying and page turning for a normal Bible study. Now, I am not saying that using the Bible is wrong or laborious, but it can seem that way for the person who doesn't know Jesus.
Tracts can also be a very good way to leave someone something to read after a good discussion on the Gospel. It can really enhance the discussion that you had with them and also can open up further discussion for later conversations. Again, this is all dependant on the tract, because there are terrible tracts out there that will only serve as comedic relief.
The negative aspects of tracts are usually how they are dispersed by the person. If we are speaking of only those tracts that are done well and present the gospel clearly, then we can move on to why "good" tracts still have negative aspects. The reason that they have these negative aspects are because of how people use them. Tracts should not be used to hand out like porn in Vegas. If you have ever been to Vegas the immigrant workers slap little porn flyers on their legs and hand the flyer to "innocent" men who don't know any better. This is almost how I have seen some people with tracts. They are just annoying people on the corner trying to sell Jesus to anyone who has a hand to take the tract.
Most people are just annoyed with this fact and end up throwing the tract away or using it as kindling later. Some will say, "well some might read it and be saved!" If that is the case, then why not just throw them away and hope that the garbage man pulls one out and reads it instead of the porn magazine that he found laying beside it? We don't evangelize for the mere fact that someone "might" turn and be saved. We have to ask ourselves, "what is the most effective way for me to share the gospel with someone?" If handing out tracts on the street corner or placing one next to the toilet in a public bathroom was the best way, then why don't major corporations figure this out and do the same? Instead the only people who do this are those businesses where the guy wears the sandwich sign showing they are going out of business. Handing out tracts on the corner is a sign of us giving up. Of Jesus going out of business. Of us being so desperate that we have no friends or those close to us to share the gospel with. Because our churches are not filled with sinners looking for Christ, we have to go and sell our "crap" on the street corner.
I think handing out tracts like this is degrading and should be stopped.
Another reason that tracts can be negative is that if someone uses it for their voice, instead of them actually using their voice. Instead of telling someone about Jesus, some will just give people that they know tracts. Tracts should be used for additional resources, not for a primary one. God said you are to be a witness for him, not a stupid tract. Imagine if a key witness got up and testified and instead of speaking, handed out to the jury a little booklet that wasn't written by them. Sound stupid? Don't make me say it. If this doesn't work in a normal court room, why should we think it should work for the most important news and testimony that one is to share? Tracts should be ancillary, not primary.
Tracts can be used in a way that glorifies God. But we shouldn't hand them out like we are handing out coupons for Burger King. Before you buy a tract, think about how you are going to use them and for who you are going to use them for. Let me give you a little advice as well. If they have a picture of the flames of hell on the front, go ahead and start your fire with them. Probably not a good start to tell someone about the Gospel and then hand them a tract that says, "You are going to hell, have a nice day!"
Do I hate tracts? No, but I believe most use them contrary to how we should be using them. We shouldn't order tracts and then hand them out to get our list checked off by the end of the day. Order them to aid you in your presentation of the gospel. Also, the longer they stay in the corner of your room should be an indictment on how often you aren't speaking about Jesus to others.
Do tracts work? Yes, but someone can also use a pencil to kill someone. The idea is to use the tool that will aid you in the best possible way for the realization of your goal. Tracts are not the best answer in the quest of turning people from death to life...you are.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I hope this update is helpful and also encouraging to see what is happening in some of the most dangerous areas of our world. I will be taking his name out of update and replace it with "JD" for John Doe. I hope this is a helpful reminder of God's work:
The time ministering in IRAQ was a great reminder of our AWESOME GOD'S FAITHFULNESS. God's work is advancing on many fronts. God's hand is not limited and people are being saved, growing in their faith and establishing churches. Yes, the enemy is at work, as well, but this is to be expected. JD travelled there in late January with another teacher from our former mission. It was a positive and productive experience. Here are some highlights we are able to share:
We spent time doing intensive teaching and training with 9 church leaders and workers. They completed the course and took the exam.
Most of those in the class have come to faith in Christ the last 3 years!
We met with numerous NGO leaders learning how their ministries are going and how we can encourage them.
We had meetings with various pastors to hear of their ministries and pray with them. This was an encouraging time.
JD spoke in a church in Dohuk area. It has grown from about 14 when he last attended to around 28 to 30 that night. It was encouraging to hear the testimonies of two people. One shared how he had come to faith in Christ in the last two years. He is now living in Aleppo, Syria. Another shared how he had been able to share his faith with someone from work.
We saw numerous students from past classes taught and were encouraged to see they are involved in full time service in the local churches.
We heard reports that many are coming to faith in Christ. Even in Iran many are accepting Christ, coming across the border to be baptized by some who have been trained by the mission and returning to start house churches.
We travelled across the country and met a government official to encourage greater religious freedom in the country.
JD was to go to Kirkuk but was unable to follow the plan due to security concerns. We are hoping to go there on the next trip.
The region is very stable at the moment. Pray this will continue as new policies are taken by the US government. There are many security forces out but no significant problems in the area where we work.
JD has been asked to go back in... (can't put date, but it is in the near future) Possibly Jane Doe, his wife, will go with him. We have been told it would be very helpful to the women if she could come as well. Pray with us about this possibility.
We praise God for the financial provision for this last trip. One church took this on as their project. Pray for the needed funds for the future. We have made a 3 year commitment to train a group if God should provide and the door stays open. The goal is that they have consistent teachers who get to know them, mentor them and help the churches in that region. We are able to do this from (their home mission, again cannot give details on where this is).
JD was able to spend considerable time with the Pastor who had been put in prison last year. Thank you for praying for him and his wife. They are both doing better and seeing God's hand in their situation. Their church is going well. He was able to be a good witness while in prison. It is quite a story of God's power, grace and help to them.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Please, everyone that is learning to preach, or wants to know how to exegete the word of God, go and watch this sermon and do just the opposite. It is astonishing to watch and listen this guy take Genesis 1 and just make stuff up. I hope that his other sermons aren't as poorly prepared as this one is. Seriously brutal.
What I want to do with this post is consider those evangelism techniques that involve scripting. I will focus in on The Way of the Master since I have seen many of the materials used, bought many of the materials used and participated in much of what they stand for.
There are other scripting techniques for sure, and they would probably have some of the same positives and negative aspects to them as well.
The Way of the Master, and techniques like it, gives the person a set of parameters to stay within as they teach the gospel to another. They have an almost definitive beginning and definitive end, whereas the one who is evangelizing has ways to ask questions to make sure that the listener gets to the “end” of the conversation. Usually these techniques have loose scripts to follow along with a visual to catch the eye of the listener as a conversation starter.
The Positive Aspects
The things that I like about this technique is that it gives those that aren’t sure how to converse about the gospel a way to engage those around them. Most of the time people aren’t sure how to engage or how to answer questions that some might pose if they start to evangelize. The way that these techniques are designed is to make sure you keep the listener on topic, so that you direct the conversation.
The Way of the Master presents the law well and gives the answer to our sin with the presentation of part of the Gospel. Not only that, they have a lot of ways to engage others to get the conversation started so that you are just running up to someone and saying, “How is your day, well…you’re going to hell.” Although it almost says this, it doesn’t quite go that far.
I do believe that these aspects of presentation is very faithful to making sure that those who don’t know their sin, will be clear on what the bible says about the law, hell and the gospel. For this, I am greatly encouraged by this method of sharing the Gospel.
The Negative Aspects
The parts I have a problem with in these methods is that the one who is being evangelized is ignored. The Way of the Master actually teaches its students to not answer the questions that are posed by the listener, but to get them back on track as far as the script is concerned. So, if you are presenting the gospel and they ask a question about the Crusades, you quickly defer and get the listener back to the method you are using. So, before the “conversation” is even started, the goal is presentation, not really the care for the individual. Jesus never did this. He cared for the listener and answered their questions, because he loved the person he was speaking to.
The Way of the Master would say that you are showing the greatest love to the individual because you are sharing the gospel with them. But, if you already have your answers ready, before the questions are asked, that is showing a huge lack of sentivity to the person you are speaking to.
"If one gives answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame" (Proverbs 18:13)
I think Proverbs speaks directly against this method in this way. We are to listen to those we are speaking to, not bringing a pre scripted design that makes sure that the listener doesn’t drive the presentation. I would ask, “Shouldn’t we know the gospel so well that we allow the listener to ask their questions and we show that we care that we answer them with a gospel centered answer?” Ignoring or carelessly answering their questions will just show them what they already thought, “The Christian doesn’t really care about me, they just care about pushing their gospel on me.”
The other part of this scripting that really bothers me is the fact that you don’t get to know the person you are speaking to at all. You just assume that they need to know that they have broken the law of God. But, what if they already know this? Further contempt of their sin will not be helpful and can actually be further damage done that isn’t needed. The person might need the encouragement of the gospel more than they need to know that they are a sinner. Whether we think it or not, some people already know that they are dreadful sinners and believe that there is no out, but that they are destined for hell. We must know our hearers and not take them for granted. Scripting does not allow for this and sometimes completely ignores the actual person we are talking to.
I am not sure about the other scripts provided, but The Way of the Master, that I have heard, doesn’t make the resurrection of Christ a center part of the presentation. This is why I said that the Way of the Master presents part of the Gospel. If we look at the presentation that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection is the very center of the Gospel, not just an aberration. Without the resurrection, we are said to be a people to be pitied and have no hope.
So, although scripting seems like a very sufficient way to present the gospel, I believe it leaves out a very intricate part: the one being evangelized. It seems like they just become a sidebar in the conversation. I don’t doubt that those who do the Way of the Master, or Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, have the best intentions, but I just believe that there are some glaring issues with this method as a whole. I believe we need to know more about those who we speak the gospel to by way of asking them questions and then just listenint to them. To many times I personally, and have seen personally, that evangelizing becomes a numbers game where those that are being evangelized become a number with no name and no soul.
Scripting definitely needs to listen more and speak less. Be ready to answer the questions of those that are being spoken to instead of being ready to ask your next question.
So, although there are some good aspects of scripting, or with the Way of the Master, I don’t believe it is an end all, and believe it actually has some very big holes that can’t go unnoticed.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
I have to be honest, I picked up this book for one reason: Ted Kluck told me to. Okay, well that was the start, then I learned of the 5 books that Kluck has written that this was his favorite and I, like every other kid in the 80s, loved to watch the craziness that was named Mike Tyson. I was pretty interested in reading this book as it was a book about an icon of my growing up and it was done by a Christian author. And when I say Christian author, I mean an actual Christian, not one looking for a niche market.
Mike Tyson, for me growing up, was this almost unreal demi god, like a Zeus or something, because I was a poor white kid in Oklahoma. Putting it simple, I was a poor PK and we could barely afford bread, much less $50 for pay per view. So, I would try and tag along anytime I could to watch the craziness of Tyson and the thirty or so seconds that he boxed before he nearly killed the poor schmuck that was in the ring with him.
I am honestly not a huge boxing fan, but was a huge Tyson fan. Well, as huge as I could be without taking my eyes off of the Boz and the Sooners. Needless to say, I was really excited to read about these opponents of Tyson and the stories they would tell about the man that beat their face in.
The book is old school. Ted Kluck does something that is just not seen these days. He flew and drove around the nation to try, as much as possible, to meet these boxers where they currently live and work. He really tried to get into their lives as they are now lived. So much so, that at times Kluck's wife and kid came along for the ride.
But, the best story by far is when he was riding with a crazy Pinklon Thomas. Thomas' wife was in the front seat and Kluck and Pinklon's daughters in the back seat. There is an hilarious exchange as Kluck spouts off some hip hop lyrics, as the radio is blaring, while arguments are exchanged with Thomas and his daughters all while Thomas speeds through traffic and yelling at other drivers. Whatever Kluck could do for an interview, I guess. Because of this, it was hilarious and made the book a whole lot better because of his hands on approach to interviewing these boxers.
The book is set up with 15 interviews of boxers that faced Tyson. The interviews were for the purpose of seeing what these guys were up to now and then any information that they would like to share about Tyson and their fight. It didn't seem like Kluck had anything in particular he wanted from the fighter about Tyson, just any information that they would like to share. I am guessing that this loose approach (which wasn't bad) was partly because it was hard getting retired boxers to give out their stories about Tyson for free. Most still looking to make cash, not off of their skills, but through the man that gave them their name...Tyson. I can't imagine the frustration that Kluck ran against. He does share some of it in his book with no-shows, runarounds and just plain craziness from some of these boxers. This book will seriously make you laugh out loud with what these boxers do. aka Mitch "the blood" Green
Overall, the interviews were very well done and very real. Kluck truly let these guys just talk about what they wanted to. I truly liked the fact that if the guys wanted to talk about Christ, he let them. Marvis Frazier was one of these guys. He continued to go on and on about his relationship with Christ and the cause of the gospel. Most authors would have left this part out of the book, but Kluck allowed Frazier to speak, as he did with the rest of his interviewees.
I think that Kluck hits the heart of what he was trying to find with this book: Stories from those who fought Tyson and what they thought of the man and the boxer. Some still talked smack, but most were honest about Tyson's skills and, believe it or not, the goodness and thoughtfulness of Tyson. Overall, if you are a fan of Tyson, or boxing in general, pick up the book. I think you will enjoy the realness of the sport behind the cameras, plus you can laugh as you picture Kluck flying around the nation hoping to catch up to guys who wouldn't be on time to their own mom's funeral. Highly Recommended.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
We mistakenly take evangelism to be manipulation. But that's what the world says. In truth, we're not trying to impose our beliefs on anybody. Biblically, we can't impose our beliefs on anybody. Force and coercion cannot finally bring about the change that God demands. You can't expand Christianity by the sword. Evangelism is not some sort of intellectual imposition.
To believe that something is true and to share that with others is not coercion. We don't impose when we evangelize. We freely offer it to all and do not, cannot, force it on anybody.
2) Personal Testimony
But consider John 9 and the man born blind. He gives his testimony but doesn't even know who Jesus is. His words glorify God, but they don't present the gospel. This is not evangelism.
Unless you're explicit about Jesus Christ and the cross then it is not the gospel.
3) Social Action / Public Involvement
Mercy ministries display God's kindness, and they are good and appropriate for the Christian to do. But such actions are not evangelism. They may commend the gospel to others, but only if someone has told them the gospel. They need to have the gospel added to them. Helping others or doing our jobs well, whatever they are, in and of themselves are not evangelism.
It's fine for us to talk with unbelieving friends about questions that they have, but our attempts to try and answer them without setting the gospel as the foundation does no good. Jesus must set the agenda for evangelism.
5) The Results of Evangelism
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
Note that the same ministry has two different effects. It's like the parable of the soil: same seed, different results.
We cannot finally judge the correctness of what we do by the immediate response that we get. The need for numbers puts an unnecessary stress on pastors and misunderstands the way that God saves.
We must practice our ministries realizing that some of us will be like Adoniram Judson or William Carey, who had no converts until after seven years of faithful gospel ministry. It's a fact that most people don't believe the gospel the first time they hear it.
Don't let the gospel that you preach be molded by what it is that gets an immediate response. Preach the gospel, trying to persuade--pleading for your hearers to believe--but knowing that you cannot convert a person. And then let God do with it what he will. He alone can call the dead to life. The gospel is powerful, and God is committed to using us to spread this good news.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Conner asked a question that I thought I would open up for anyone else to answer as well. I don't want it to get lost in the comments section, since the post that he comments on is from a post that I did a couple of years ago. Here is Conner's comment:
My name is Conner and i will be attending west coast baptist college this fall where i will be learning homiletics from Dr. Goetsch. so i guess i am what you call an "IFB." and there are many questions that i would like to ask you. first of all, seeing as you are a calvinist, what makes you think that you are one of the predestined ones that will be going to heaven?
This is a great question. I really like the honestly put forth and the challenge that sometimes catches Calvinists off guard.
Here is my answer in a nutshell. I would ask that anybody else that wants to comment, please do so.
Here is my answer:
Good question. And you can ask any question that you would like.
As far as how I know that I am predestined?
I know that I am one of the elect because of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Calvin said it very eloquently:
Jesus is the mirror of your election
Although, I believe in duty faith, it is all about Christ, not about me or my works. Although out of my faith, works will come because I love him. But my assurance of election is all based on Christ and what he has done, not based on what I have done.
Because let's be honest. The more and more we look to ourselves the more we see our sin.
This is what happened to Isaiah in Isaiah 6. He saw the Christ and fell to the ground saying, "I am undone."
So, the way I am assured of salvation is because of the work of Christ.
I received this book from InterVarsity Press and really had no background to the book or it's author. The full title is "Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil." This was one of the few times where I had no idea what theological convictions were of the author as he wrote. After reading the book, I am still left confused for the most part on his theological convictions on quite a few important orthodoxies.
The author, John Stackhouse, breaks the book down in two parts:
Part I: Problems (This is where evil is discussed)
Part II: Responses
I went back and forth with this book as I read it as to whether or not I would recommend it to anyone. Let me hit some of the strong points in the book and then I will hit some of the weak points.
Some of the strong parts of the book is that Stackhouse does a good job in defining and describing faith. One can tell that he has read some Schaeffer (or at least Schaeffer's sources) on this point, because his thoughts on faith remind me much of what I have read from Schaeffer on faith. Stackhouse does a good job of showing that faith is not a leap, but one that is based on at least some, if not quite a bit of, knowledge of the thing or person one puts faith in.
Stackhouse also does a good job of speaking to those whom the book is probably offered, which is the non-Christian. He speaks to them in their terms, gives respect to other religions where respect is due, and also is very open and honest about the struggles within Christendom. Within this, he also asks some very good questions to those who are non-Christians within the understanding of evil. He actually switches the question at one point to say if we think we can ask, "Why is there so much evil?" we have to also ask the question, "Why is there so much good?" I really enjoyed his discussion on that topic. He does open up some further questions for the skeptic, or the searcher, that they (actually all of us) need to ask at some point to come to an understanding of what we believe and why.
Those are the good points.
As a Christian, there was much to be alarmed at. I really don't know what theological convictions John Stackhouse has at this point. His answer to evil was quite troubling. He said that the reason there is evil was pointed to the fact of free will in all men. At one point saying that God "took a risk when creating humans with free will." This is a big stumbling block for me and this book. I am not sure how a sovereign God, who knows all things can take risks. His basic answer to why there is evil, is simply because of free will. He uses, somewhat, Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense to answer the question how God could be good, all powerful and still have evil exist. Free will in this book is taken as mere fact, with no Scriptural proof at all. The only time that predestination is mentioned is when speaking of the theologies of Calvin and Luther, as though it was their theology that wasn't found in the Bible. This mention lasts only 2 pages. What Stackhouse overlooks is the fact that predestination is mentioned in the Bible where the idea of moral free will is never mentioned apart from Adam and Eve. He continues this thought with the angels in heaven having free will and that is why they fell, and that while in heaven we will all have free will but will only choose good because of all the good before us. The question comes, "Does this mean we can fall like the angels did because of our free will?" The answer has to be yes in Stackhouse's system. Which is completely false. Quite the conundrum, especially when trying to defend that God is all powerful and evil can exist. I am not saying this makes the answer easy, but at least it is biblical.
The above is the one that really had me perplexed and one that made me question the book as a whole, but then it continued in other areas. Stackhouse would sometimes open up a can of worms without defending them but would just say, "a lot of Christians (or theists) believe..." and then leave it. He did this with the following things:
The doctrine of hell being annihilation
Whether the Old Testament should be taken as literally true. At one point saying he is just being candid and then adding, "Doesn't this all sound unbelievable, like a fairy story for kids rather than a serious explanation of reality for adults?"
The Idea of macroevolution being true
It was hard to hear him open up these topics without really commenting on them. He just would say something about them and move on (besides original sin, which he went on to describe a sort of middle ground), leaving the reader confused of why he would mention it in the first place. What then happens is one wonders what Stackhouse's actual convictions are in these areas.
Beyond those things, the things that had me concerned were his positive affirmations. Those were as follows:
He also states that he believes that although the Gospel writers agree on the whole and overarching understanding of who Christ was, that they sometimes vary and contradict each other in some details. Through this we can see that Stackhouse must not believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.
As an added frustration, there are times when Stackhouse seems to defend, or at least acknowledge in part, that Christians, Contemporary Jews and Muslims all worship the same God. This seems to be a case to bring parties into agreement when there are too many lines of separation to do so.
Overall, this book will frustrate many, as it did myself. Just when you think it is getting good, he throws some odd curve ball into the mix that confuses things. I just can't get passed the bad to see the good in recommending this book to people. Although the description of faith and the resurrection are well done, the discussion of God's risk with free will, annihilation, OT kid stories, original sin, macroevolution, the Protoevangelium and the infallibility and inerrancy of God's word puts too much junk into the discussion. I cannot in my right mind recommend this book for reading. There is too much other good reading on the subjects at hand to have to wade through the bad theology in this book to get to the traditional and correct orthodoxy. Not Recommended.