Books Read in 2013: No. 8 – Inerrancy of the Bible: A Book for the Common Man

inerrancy

Title: Inerrancy of the Bible: A Book for the Common Man
Authors: Dr. Johnson C. Philip and Dr. Saneesh Cherian
Date Completed: April 20, 2013

This book serves as decent introduction into the Doctrine of Inerrancy. If I’m being honest, I’ve read better defenses of inerrancy and I doubt this little book will change the minds of anyone who is adamantly against the concept. However, this book does present the subject in an accessible manner that is fairly easy to digest.

Lessons from Genesis: What Can We Learn From Jacob's Wrestling Match with God?

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Jacob’s Wrestling Match

Frederick Buechner’s Secrets in the Dark contains a sermon he preached titled ‘The Magnificent Defeat’ that details the story of Jacob’s all-night wrestling match with God:

22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. (Genesis 32:22-31)

If I’m being honest, I’ve always had a little trouble grasping this passage. Buechner’s take on it, however, is beautiful and spoke to me a great deal. Jacob is a man who has always gotten ahead by being just a little crafty and devious. If you recall, he caught his brother Esau in a moment of weakness and essentially tricked him into trading his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). He then set about with the help of his mother to trick his father into granting him a blessing that was intended for Esau (Genesis 27:1-29). Jacob was a little devious … and here’s the hard part to understand – his deviousness worked for him.

Jacob got ahead as a result of his trickery. He gained his brother’s birthright and blessing and, although he had to flee before Esau exacted revenge, he enjoyed the benefits of his deviousness. Buechner writes:

… the shrewd and ambitious man who is strong on guts and weak on conscious, who knows very well what he wants and directs all his energies toward getting it, the Jacobs of this world, all do pretty well.

Jacob is the guy at your workplace who gets ahead on the backs of his coworkers. The guy who isn’t afraid to sacrifice others on his way to the top. But it is essential for us to remember that such trickery will only get us so far. Look again at Jacob’s wrestling match with God. The battle goes on for the entire night. Though Jacob struggles in all his might he is unable to get the advantage. He battles and battles until God finally reaches out and cripples him by simply touching the socket of his thigh. One can only wonder why God didn’t do this from the beginning. Why did God allow the wrestling match to wage for the entire night when He could win so easily. Perhaps there was a greater lesson for Jacob to learn.

Once crippled, Jacob grows desperate. He grabs on to God and begs, “I will not let go unless you bless me!” Jacob knows he is losing the wrestling match. He is crippled. God can’t be taken advantage of like Esau or duped like his father Isaac. Buechner writes:

[God’s blessing] is not a blessing that he can have now by the strength of his cunning or the force of his will, but a blessing that he can only have as a gift.

Once Jacob gets desperate, God extends His grace, “So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:27-29). 

God’s blessings are a gift and they reach a crescendo in Jesus Christ “… that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We can not trick, demand, or force our way into eternal life – we must humble ourselves and accept the free gift of Jesus Christ.

Not in our strength, but His.

Books Read in 2013: No. 5 – Culture Shift by Albert Mohler

cultureshift

Title: Culture Shift
Author: Albert Mohler
Date Completed: April 3, 2013

How should our Christian faith impact our lives within the context of the culture we live in? This is the question Mohler addresses in this short book. Essentially, this is a collection of short essays addressing topics, such as politics, education, terrorism, and abortion. As such, the book is relevant and needed. I love to read Mohler’s commentary as I have always found him to be concise and too the point. I must admit, however, that I was slightly disappointed that this book didn’t address each topic in more depth. Some chapters were approached with much more care than others which left the book seeming a little unbalanced to me, however, it is still a great. I appreciated Mohler’s take on the subject of abortion a great deal and would recommend this book to anyone who struggles to discern how their faith should play out in their daily lives.

Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 3 (Habakkuk 2:2-5)

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Before reading this post, you may want to get caught up by reading  Parts 1 and 2.

God’s Second Response

Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, So that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, And he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations And collects to himself all peoples (Habakkuk 2:2-2:5 NASB).

I find it so interesting that God instructed Habakkuk to inscribe the vision he was about to receive on tablets (v. 2). The vision was meant to be shared. Those who read it were to run and tell others. This is true of all God’s Word. It is meant to be shared. Christians are meant to share the Gospel of Christ just as Habakkuk was meant to share this vision.

God then warns Habakkuk to be patient (v. 3). Though the vision he receives concerns the future, Habakkuk is to exercise patience when waiting for it to come to pass. He was not to waver should it seem like God was taking His time. The writer of the Book of Hebrews would echo this sentiment some seven hundred years later when he reminded the Christian to exercise endurance, “For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay” (Hebrews 10:37). God’s plan has been unfolding for thousands of years and we are called to remain confident that it will all come to pass according to His plans and on His schedule. Like Habakkuk, we must not waver or grow impatient.

God then directly responds to Habakkuk’s query concerning the Babylonians. How can God be silent as the Babylonians swallow up the righteous? God points out that the Babylonians are sinfully proud and their souls are not right (v. 4). God contrasts the Babylonians’ posture with that of the righteous who live by faith. This implies that Babylon, despite its strength and might, will not live because they fail to trust in God. In his commentary, Dr. Thomas Constable explains that 2:4 is pivotal in understanding the Book of Habakkuk:

This is the key verse in Habakkuk, because it summarizes the difference between the proud Babylonians and their destruction, with the humble faith of the Israelites and their deliverance. The issue is trust in God.

In verse 5, God compares the Babylonians to the public drunkard. He staggers about exposing his appetite for all to see. He is never satisfied … never sated. The Babylonians may be hungry to gather all peoples and nations to themselves yet it is all in vain for they have failed to put their trust in God. Their fall is inevitable. God justice will prevail in time.

Principles for Christians Lives from Habakkuk 2:2-5

  • God’s Word is meant to be shared: We are commanded by Christ to share His gospel with others. His Word is essentially a love letter to mankind. We shouldn’t study it solely to build up our knowledge – we should study it to share it.
  • God’s plan will come to pass in His time: We should not grow weary or waver. Rather, we should have faith that God’s plan will come to fruition just as He has promised. In the meantime, we are to exercise patience and live in faith.
  • God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6): Knowing this, we should posture ourselves humbly before God. We should recognize that He is God and we aren’t.

Related posts: Part One and Part Two

 

 

 

 

Books Read in 2013: No. 3 – Beauty and the Mark of the Beast: A Dispensational Thriller

15783013Title: Beauty and the Mark of the Beast: A Dispensational Thriller
Date Completed: January 20, 2013

I am a big fan of the books Ted Kluck wrote with Kevin DeYoung (Why We Are Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church) so I eagerly picked up this book. Doing so was a tragic mistake. I found no enjoyment whatsoever in this whimsical tale. Kluck’s goal is to address dispensationalism and premillenialism with his tongue firmly in cheek, however, the book comes off as mean-spirited to me. Perhaps Kluck’s humor is just lost on me or perhaps I am just too serious by nature, but something here didn’t work for me.

For instance, one of the main characters of the book is Ted Strongbow. Strongbow is clearly a parody of Tim Tebow and is presented in a rather unflattering light. The whole time I was reading the book I was wondering how the real Tebow would feel if he read it. I just found the whole thing unbecoming of Christians.

In addition, I found the author’s writing amateurish and difficult to follow. The book describes itself as being “written by committee” with several contributing writers. This, I believe, is one of its problems. The transitions from chapter to chapter are jumpy and un-smooth and there is a sense of piling on. I can imagine the writers sitting around over some brewskies making fun of the Christians they disagree with. Their humor would have been best left in their basement.

There just isn’t much good to say about this book. If given a second chance, I would avoid it.

Books Read in 2013: No. 2 – Killing Calvinism

14760916Title: Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology From the Inside
Date Completed:
Jan 15, 2013

This is a wonderful little book that I recommend to anyone who considers themselves a Calvinist or is interested in Calvinism. Calvinism is a wonderful theology when placed within the larger context of Scripture, however, those of us who consider ourselves Calvinists have a tendency of allowing it to play out in our lives in unappealing ways. Dutcher manages to expertly expose and examine the mistakes Calvinists often make.

Contemporary Calvinists would do well to read Dutcher’s book and to avoid the pitfalls he has revealed. Killing Calvinism works well because Dutcher is speaking as a Calvinist to Calvinists. He is transparent enough to share his own theological journey in a way that shares with (rather than preaches to) his audience.

I highly recommend this book.

It's All Greek to Me

I am nearing the end of my quest for a Master of Arts Bible degree. While part of me would like to think I am finally about to reach the end of what has been a very long tunnel, to reach my academic goals there will probably be more education in my future. Ideally, I would like to study on the doctoral level in either Philosophy or Apologetics. However, there is just one problem – Greek.

Most doctoral programs require either a number of classes in Greek or Hebrew or that the applicant passes a proficiency exam. Unfortunately, I do not know either. When I am conducting an in-depth study of Scripture, I often rely on a free program called E-Sword that allows me to look up passages in their original language. The program is a great tool, however, I have yet to develop any skills at reading the Bible in its original language without the assistance of technology. So, I’ve decided to change that. I’m currently looking around my community with the hope of finding someone that teaches Greek. In the meantime, I purchased a textbook by William D. Mounce titled ‘Basics of Biblical Greek‘. The book comes with a workbook and a DVD for video lessons and flash cards and such. The first lesson is for the student to learn the Greek alphabet (uppercase, lowercase, and pronunciation). I’ve almost got it down. Years ago, I was required to memorize the Greek alphabet as an initiation for a fraternity I was in, but the alcohol-fueled activity was probably more of a hindrance than help in my latest exploit.

Basically, I just printed out the following chart and have been memorizing it by rote.

GreekAlphabetI’ve almost got the whole alphabet down. I wonder, however, if there is anyone out there that has learned beginning Greek on their own and if they have any tips or recommendations (strategies, books, or study plans) that they would be willing to share with me.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

The Source of Hope: My Response to Anderson’s “No Kingdom Come”: Part 2

nokingdomC.J. Anderson’s book, No Kingdom Come, ironically opens with a chapter titled “Awakening.” It is ironic because rather than depicting something gained – as the word “awakening” would suggest – the chapter depicts a loss. Anderson has closed his mind to the possibility of God. He writes, “My soul was gone and what I feared most was true: we are all just evolved animals, and life is just a cosmic joke.”

The realization that mankind was nothing more than animals pushed Anderson to the brink of suicide; he likened his situation to that of a wounded soldier who wakes up in a MASH unit to discover the loss of his legs. Anderson had lost his faith. Crushed, suicidal and hopeless – adrift in the knowledge that fourteen years of following Christ was a “beautiful lie.”

Does this really sound like an “awakening?”

Anderson writes that he was suddenly aware there was “No eternal life, no Heaven, no Paradise. Just death.” The curious reader must ask where this sudden realization originated. What was the source of this awakening? The answer to these questions are not addressed in the first chapter of Anderson’s boom, yet the conclusions he offers are uttered as if they are irrefutable facts. God does not exist! The promise of an afterlife is a sham! Anderson is awake while those still lost to the sham of Christianity still sleep. Blissfully unaware everything they hold dear is a lie.

Mankind has been struggling to understand their role in the world and their relationship with a Creator for thousands of years and all it took for definitive answers was for C.J. Anderson to suddenly wake up.

I don’t mean this to sound insulting; rather, I hope to expose a flaw in Anderson’s logic. Throughout his book, Anderson calls into question beliefs that have been forged by thousands of years of philosophical discourse, Biblical study, and thought based on the simple claim that he woke up. I wonder where his sudden knowledge came from. Who shared with him the secrets that have eluded mankind for so long?

Simply put, I question Anderson’s credentials. By what authority does he declare Christianity dead? These issues will be explored in more detail as we progress though his book.

For now, however, there is a more pressing issue. The first chapter of Anderson’s book opens by depicting him struggling to unload a handgun that had presumably been pointed at his own head. His “awakening” had led him to the edge of suicide. Somehow, thankfully, he restrained himself despite his newfound revelation that God doesn’t exist. It would seem worthwhile to take a moment and examine how one’s worldview influences their decisions in such moments.

Anderson writes, “… we are just dust in the wind, and that death is truly the end.” Imagine if this were your worldview. Imagine briefly that there was truly nothing after death. Anderson adds to the picture, “Every part of me wanted to die. There was no more hope …” I would humbly suggest that finding a loaded .45 pointed at his head should have been Anderson’s first clue that his “awakening” was not a positive shift in attitude. It wasn’t fourteen years of Christianity that loaded Anderson’s weapon, but rather the sudden cessation of belief – yet he’s bold enough to refer to his shift as an “awakening?”

If you’re reading this, or Anderson’s book, and find yourself considering suicide, please stop immediately and seek out help. Tell a loved one, friend, or professional. Ultimately, however, I believe it is evident the Christian worldview offers more hope to someone that is suicidal than does atheism. Thomas Kennedy writes in Christianity Today:

“We must understand suicide as free and uncoerced actions engaged in for the purpose of bringing about one’s own death. Once we define it this way, it is easy to grasp the church’s clear teaching throughout the centuries that suicide is morally wrong and ought never to be considered by the Christian. Life is a gift from God. To take one’s own life is to show insufficient gratitude. Our lives belong to God; we are but stewards. To end my own life is to usurp that the prerogative that is God’s alone. Suicide, the church has taught, is ordinarily a rejection of the goodness of God, and it can never be right to reject God’s goodness.”[1]

While Christians often make the mistake of coldly judging those who commit suicide, in truth, a Christian worldview provides the ultimate motivation to live. Christians see life as a gift from God. We are called to respond with gratitude by committing that life to serving Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches that we are created in the image of God, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). As such, our lives should be cherished and are inherently of value. One doesn’t need to debate the merits of Christianity verses atheism to admit that a Christian worldview is more conducive to life.

I think it is striking that Anderson’s “awakening” led him to the brink of suicide. The first chapter of his book serves as the perfect example of why a person who is hopeless, lost, and depressed should investigate the claims of Jesus Christ. The “awakening” atheism offers is akin to hopelessness. Christ is hope.


[1] Kennedy, Thomas. “Suicide and the Silence of Scripture.” Christianity Today. July, 2000. Web.

Books Read in 2013: No. 1 – Toward a Theology of Pipesmoking

Yunker
Author Arthur D. Yunker – taken from lutheransonline.com

Toward a Theology of Pipesmoking by Arthur D. Yunker

This was actually a bit of a second read for me, but my first go around was more of a skim and I enjoyed the opportunity to take a closer look at this short work. Yunker wrote Toward a Theology of Pipesmoking with his tongue firmly in cheek and the result is a charming and engaging little book. The author begins by refuting the traditional arguments against pipesmoking and then makes a case for the practice. He also includes a myriad of practical advice for those who engage in the practice.

Best of all, Yunker writes all of this using the language of theology. while his work is meant to be humorous, he makes an honest argument that pipesmoking, when practiced ethically, is an “eloquent witness to the whimsy of our Creator” (p. 11). Christians who have reduced their faith into mere moralism may find Yunker’s book off-putting – which is probably why they should read it.

As far as I know, this book isn’t available for purchase anywhere, however, it can be found for download if one is willing to look around the web a bit.

Books Read in 2012: No. 24 – Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community

Total ChurchI really enjoyed this book by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. It actually helped me redefine my vision of the Church’s mission as well as my own role within my local church. The authors drive home the theme that church should be focused on the Gospel of Christ and on community. I must admit I was convicted when I read that Christian community should go beyond what is considered normal as church members are sharing an identity with one another that is found in Christ. The concept of community in the local church should go beyond ice cream socials and mere friendships; rather, Christians should see one another as integral to the Church’s mission within the framework of God’s plan and apply that focus to everything they do.

Many readers will be turned off by the notion that Chester and Timmis are “home church” leaders, however, there is no reason why much of what they are saying can’t be applied within the traditional local church body. I highly recommend it for Christians who want to find their identity within the church or fail to understand why belonging to a church community is important.