Friday, February 27, 2009

Vintage Church

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


Westminster Books

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Does the Bible Say About That?

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:


The RED Letters

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:


Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

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:


Westminster Books

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Argue Like Jesus

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
12. Listen
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

God Gave Wine

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

Friday, February 6, 2009

Can God Be Trusted?

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

He doesn't defend Original Sin, but says that it has been debated historically

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:

His belief that the Protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15) was not really a pronouncement of the gospel, or meant to be understood spiritually at all, but should be taken as simply a curse on the snake. He says that "later interpreters have seen all of this as having to do with spiritual warfare between Satan and humanity, but the text itself is enigmatic. "

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.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Christian Mission in the Modern World

It's been a while since I have read John Stott, but this was definitely a book that will make me read more of him. This book is a necessity for anyone that considers themself a missiologist or is wanting a deeper look into what it means for us Christians to be in the world. Stott hammers away in only 190 pages so much depth that any review will leave the subject at hand wanting in a desperate way. It is still hard to believe that this was first written in 1975 as he hits some people today straight between the eyes with his theological and practical conclusions (myself included).

Stott hits on five subjects and really pinpoints them further for great discussion.

The Five Subjects that he hits are:

1. Mission

Stott breaks down the two movements that are most abused, which are evangelism only ministries and social action only ministries. After breaking down why neither of these are correct, he blends the two to show the biblical aspect of how these two need to work together, not separate.

2. Evangelism

Stott lays out what must be considered in evangelism. He shows the priority, the meaning and then unpacks what must be included while presenting the gospel according to Christ and the apostles.

3. Dialogue

In this chapter, Stott again shows the two extremes in dialogue. One where the dialogue is so open that you can't tell that a Christian is in the conversation and the other being where the Christian believes that no dialogue should be had with other religions. Stott shows a balanced view to this and gives great examples how this can work and has worked.

4. Salvation

Stott works to find the biblical answer to what this term means in the Scriptures. He works through what salvation truly is and the areas of difference within this. Some of these would be salvation from political oppression, salvation of sickness and poverty, etc. Then Stott answers the question of salvation theologically and shows why salvation is more than just what we see, but is really the salvation of what we don't see. Namely, salvation from God's wrath in regards to hell.

5. Conversion

In this chapter Stott gives a precedence for conversion to the Christian faith. He fights against the universalists and also those who believe that there is no need to be converted to Christianity because Christ can be found in other religions as well. After this defense, Stott then shows what one is converted to when converted to Christianity.

This book is so well rounded and Stott unpacks the extremes in each case above to even the heretical. He then gives the biblical reasons to balance the extremes or to deny the heretical and comes to conclusions. The arguments are very well thought out and linear so that the reader can follow very easily and understand the concepts and defenses put forth by Stott. I would urge any pastor or missionary to pick up this book. This book is something that would have helped the start of my study on the church's mission before going to deeper studies that I have already looked at. I would hope that people that are in the emergent circles (Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, etc) and also in the IFB circles would pick up this book to see their errors in the thought of Christian mission. Overall, this "introduction" is a great balanced approach to our mission as Christians as we work, minister, educate and evangelize the world as we know it today. Whether one is abroad or in their own back yard, this book lays a great foundation so that one sees their errors of extremism in any of the above named topics. Highly Recommended.

Buy at:

InterVarsity Press

Westminster Books

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism

This small book by Iain Murray is one that puts forth a history of Charles Spurgeon's preaching ministry in the midst of great fire against him by other churches in England that were Hyper-Calvinistic in their doctrines.

Iain Murray gives a quick biography on Spurgeon to give the reader a better understanding of where he came from and to catch the reader up to why this conflict was of a serious nature to the Baptist faith at the time. I found it amazing how much Spurgeon was having to fight off from guys that he deeply respected and found to be friends of some sort. The main quibbles that these men, James Wells in particular, had with Spurgeon was that Spurgeon believed in the following:

1. That the gospel should be preached to all men, not just those whom were the elect or had some sort of experience to tell them that they were being drawn by the Spirit

2. What we would call duty faith. Meaning Spurgeon believed in telling his hearers that they should repent, that it was their duty to believe in Christ, etc. Wells and others believed Spurgeon was charging men with something that they could not do.

3. Duty faith tied into human responsibility. Spurgeon believed that human responsibility was real and that it was their responsibility to turn from their sin and to love Jesus. Again, Wells and others believed that this responsibility was not for every man, only those who were "heavy-laden" and felt the Holy Spirit's working within them.

4. The last problem they had with Spurgeon was his belief that God desires for all men, not just the elect, to repent and be saved. This is still a huge discussion with many in the Reformed faith. Some siding with Spurgeon (myself included) and others still siding with Gill and Wells.

The book sets up to show the arguments against Spurgeon and the many writings against him in the various publications around England. There were many claims against Spurgeon because of the above stated beliefs. Because of this, many claimed that Spurgeon was an Arminian and did not believe in God's elected love or in total depravity.

After the charges are shown, the arguments are then put forth to show Spurgeon's responses to these charges, which mostly come from his sermons. I found this to be of great help in the understanding of God's desire for all and also a return to the days of old when verses that included the term "all" were not twisted to mean "some sorts" or "some sorts of different classes of men" etc. Throughout the book Spurgeon shows his honesty in the difficulty of putting all these doctrines together and that there is a good middle ground between the Arminian and the Hyper-Calvinist.

Spurgeon also shows great respect for both the Arminians and the Hyper-Calvinist. Where James Wells said that John Wesley went to hell, Spurgeon gives praise for the gospel preaching of Wesley. Also, John Gill is referred many times as the teacher for the Hypers and at one time called the proverbial head of Hyper-Calvinism, yet Spurgeon still shows much respect for him and also his contemporaries that held to Gill's positions.

The sub-heading for this book is "The Battle for Gospel Preaching" and I found it to be a very appropriate title. If anyone is interested in what historic Calvinism teaches, this is a great primer on the understanding. I would disagree with Spurgeon and Murray's thoughts on the extent of the atonement, but because of their graciousness and admittance that they didn't/don't understand how it could fit with the universal call, I can still recommend this book. They, Murray and Spurgeon, are very honest with their confusion of how limited atonement works within God's universal call for all to repent.

This book deals openly and honestly about the hard doctrines of the faith. It deals honestly with passages like John 3:16, Matthew 23:37; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3,4 and the hoops one has to jump through to make this fit within their theology if they don't take 'all' to simply mean, 'all.'

If you have been approached by a Hyper-Calvinist, want a defense against a Hyper-Calvinist, or you just want to understand more of the heart of true Calvinism, I would highly recommend this book. Spurgeon is very gracious in his defenses, yet puts forth the truth. Link to Buy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Christian Manifesto

This book was definitely one of the more political ones of Schaeffer's. This came towards the end of his life when he was very upset, understandably, over Roe v. Wade and the abolition of anti-abortion laws by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was done well and one that had many great arguments of why we shouldn't really be surprised at what is happening because of the allowance of secular humanism becoming so rampant in our schools and among our society as a whole (in practice anyways).

Like most of Schaeffer, he does very well at showing historically why we are dealing with these issues as a whole. He shows how this country was set up, although not as a Christian one, one that obviously drew from a distinctively Christian mindset. From there, he shows the historical shift that began to take place when the humanist manifesto made it's debut in 1933 and from there the downfall was set in motion. From there, the 1st amendment started to be interpreted differently than the Founding Fathers had in mind and then the 60's started living out the humanist manifesto and we, as a nation, never looked back.

Schaeffer shows why it is necessary for countries to believe in a moral law giver and not in the humanist call that every man decide, in their context, what is right and wrong. Schaeffer actually shows masterfully why abortion is the greatest way that the humanist manifesto has shown itself in our culture. What else should we expect from people who believe that it is up to the person to decide what is right and wrong? Now one can murder their child, because they deem that it is right within their context and for their life. Although deplorable, should not surprise us.

From there Schaeffer gives a historical and biblical understanding of when it is okay to show civil disobedience to a government who goes against God's decrees. Although I don't agree with all his points and he even admittedly states that some will take what he writes beyond the bounds he means them to go, I can see the fruitfulness of this discussion and his reasons.

The one thing that I found to be disturbing within the context of abortion is that he gives four defenses that all Christians should take up for the child. The problem is that these four defenses are all against the government and none against the actual people murdering their children. He points to how to try and fight against a government who allows this murder to happen, but does not show anyway to rise up against the actual murderers of their children. He does this throughout the book on the whole though. He talks about government as a whole, instead of the individual. This is definitely a short coming in the book. Until people are transformed, we can try and change as many laws as we want, but we will come up well short of the overall goal: transforming people to live for the glory of God.

Overall, the book is definitely a political one more than an apologetics book. It is a book where I found myself in agreement and also disagreement, but overall found it useful. As usual Schaeffer wrote this and it sounds like he was living today and not close to 30 years ago. Most of what Schaeffer has forecasted is now happening and it is very close to come to a place to where the Christian voice will be silenced completely. Until then, we must preach, teach and transform the lives of people, not just government. Recommended. Link to Buy