Tag Archives: theology

Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith For a New Day, edited by Kevin DeYoung

I liked being able to read this book in bits and chunks over the past few months. Sometimes it helps to chew on things for a bit, and there is a good deal to chew on here. It works well as a resource to take off the shelves every now and then. Kevin DeYoung has a great heart for people and the gospel, and it shows here. His first essay on the secret to reaching the next generation was needed and timely for me. He writes about making sure to grab them with passion, win them with love, hold them with holiness, challenge them with truth, and amaze them with God. It is a good corrective for where much of youth ministry has gone. I also liked Jonathan Leeman’s piece about God. He deals with the Moral Therapeutic Deism that is prevalent. He says, But one thing is certain: every one of us, in our natural state, believes that God is pretty much like us.” He goes on to show how low our view of God can be and what the truth is. He also quotes Brad Pitt to make his point about our view of God, “Movie actor Brad Pitt, explaining why he abandoned Christianity, spoke for many when he said, ‘I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.’ Pitt’s operating assumption, as with every fallen human, is that he is “like God.'” Each author provides some resources for further reading after each essay as well. Russell Moore’s essay on the Kingdom, Tim Challies’ essay on Jesus Christ, and Tullian Tchividjian’s essay on worship were my other favorites. Tchividjian quotes G.K. Chesterton to help make his general point about the otherness of worship, “How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.” May that be our prayer in the presence of a holy God.

I would recommend this book for the reference shelf any believer that wants a quick but not so simple dictionary of the faith.

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Review of Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

A quick read dealing with the need to be explicit about what the gospel preaches. Chandler separates the good news into two categories: the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air. The gospel on the ground is basically the personal message that we share with our friends and loved ones. In this part of the book, the author works through the biblical teachings on God, man, Christ, and then our response as fallen people to that good news. The gospel in the air is then the wider good news that spreads to all of creation. God’s glory will not leave anything untouched. It is in this second section that Chandler touches on creation, fall, reconciliation, and consummation. He argues for a healthy balance between the two. Reading this book after Word versus Deed, by Duane Litfin, was helpful, as Litfin works through this same issue of social gospel versus the concrete message of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross.

In his section on man’s need for a savior, he deals with the severity of God. This, Chandler notes, is an area where many Christians have stopped being explicit. We don’t want a God who is severe. In one place the author writes, “…it makes no sense to run up a tree afraid of a kitten while walking up to a lion and slapping it in the face. Will we fear man while outing God?” Chandler offers us a healthy discussion of God’s wrath.

One of my favorite parts was his discussion of hardened hearts. He notes that the “gospel of Jesus is dangerous.” It has the power to put people in their place. Some people in Christian circles don’t seem to give the gospel this respect. They play around at church, being moralistic and commenting all about what Suzy is wearing to church.  I love this quote: “The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin; he’s found devastation. The moralism that passes for Christian faith today is a devastating hobby if you have no intention of submitting your life fully to God and chasing him in Christ.” How will we treat the dangerous power of the gospel? How will we present it to the youth we come into contact with? These are important questions that Chandler brought me to. I know for a fact that some young people go into a church and only receive a moralistic rant about their clothing and behavior. Chandler notes that the gospel will cut some people open; others it will only scar, further hardening them. Let’s be serious. Let’s be explicit.

Also, his application section at the end had some interesting stories and a good breakdown of moral therapeutic deism. Chandler talks about a VBS where he sang a song about liars going to hell. All he remembers from that VBS was that God hated liars. In another part, Chandler writes, “If you listened to Journey, you’re going to do meth and kill your parents. So don’t listen to Journey. If you like Journey, then you should like this Christian band.” He says that this was the main message he would get from Christians early on in his faith. The story about a dirty rose that he shares is also a powerful example of the problem of moralism. “Moralism doesn’t do that. (point to the beauty and glory of Jesus) The moralist tends to forsake sin so that God might love him, so that he might earn the favor of God. All of his effort and striving become his foundation of hope and comfort. And it simply doesn’t work. If anything, it’s shame upon shame upon shame as we continue to fail.” Wow.

Don’t assume the gospel, Chandler pleads, be explicit. The disciples of Jesus knew for certain that Jesus had the words of eternal life. May that be our case as we lead people toward the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ.

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Review of Word Vs. Deed by Duane Litfin

I received this book from Crossway through NetGalley.com. As I started reading this book, I knew that I was in for a thoughtful dialogue. Part of the reason I selected it, was that I had Brian Litfin as a professor at Moody, and I really respected his work. Also, I am a fan of language and words, and at the outset I felt that Litfin has a good grasp of using words to communicate helpfully. In this age of Facebook activism and Invisible Children hooplah, this book adds some meaningful truth to the discussion on preaching the gospel with concrete words vs. abstract actions.

Litfin writes that his goal is to…”lay out a more accurate map of what the Bible actually teaches on this subject.” Litfin wants to give us some directions and ideas that can help us be intentional and meaningful when communicating the good news. “Our goal,” says Litfin, “throughout this book has been to offer help in thinking biblically about the enduring question of “word versus deed” in the Christian’s calling. He writes, “All of the Bible can be arrayed, so to speak, up and down the ladder of of abstraction. The substance of the Bible’s message is theology (abstract) applied to life (concrete). There is not much in the Scriptures that cannot be located somewhere on this continuum.” Approaching the Bible with this map, largely realizing that the Bible is not about us, Litfin explains will help us live the gospel in our lives.

My favorite parts were as follows:

He deals with the idea of moving from abstract to concrete in thoughts and words. His examples here of how the Bible works on the abstract and concrete level were a great help to me. I had thought of this issue before, but having Litfin describe it here provided me with some needed foundation. In essence, Litfin points out that there are specific commands and directives in the Bible, mostly to the reader, his or her family, and the body of Christ, and there are abstract ideas that point us to loving our neighbor and right stewardship. To live what the Bible says, one must deal with the whole, and not just focus on “key texts” that aren’t very concrete.

I also thoroughly appreciated the ending where he deals with the key texts. I have heard these bible passages quoted by my college and young adult friends often. It is good to see them correctly applied. Litfin doesn’t grind his interpretation into the ground, but gives us a clear example of how to apply his lesson of word vs. deed. The texts he works with are Jeremiah 29:4-7, Luke 4:16-21, and Matthew 25:31-46. We are shown how to apply his earlier lesson to really interpret a passage and not just use it wrongly in our argument.

I paused often while reading to think of the youth culture, and how this book speaks to them. How does going from abstract to concrete work with them? How does verbal and non-verbal preaching look for them. How do we as youth leaders help students to move around on this abstract ladder. I think this is where we can teach theology to youth and expect more from them. Let’s get abstract with them in order to form their thoughts about God and His truth. I don’t know how often I’ve told boys to respect girls and save it for marriage, but they don’t get it in their hearts. Litfin concludes his book by calling us to meet the ultimate needs of the people we are with. We must point them to Jesus. In a concluding section he goes through a list of people and shares how we can encourage them to take another step closer to Christ. “A lonely teenager with few friends may need a patient, enduring friendship that models the love and grace of Jesus, leading ultimately, as God gives the opportunity, to a verbal witness of the gospel.” That part encouraged me as I work with those type of teenagers.

Litfin is correct in describing the culture, especially with young adult Christians. The quote so often attributed to St. Francis, about non-verbal preaching has come up in many conversations with friends, so Litfin helpfully dissects the thoughts behind some of this babble. When he writes about those that are always for the gospel as our deeds focus mostly on our work with unbelievers and creation. As a young adult male, I have conversations where guys are all about work in Africa but their inner life of the spirit seems lacking. Not to mention their care for family members or members of the body of Christ. They know all the lingo of activism and social Gospel, but they’re missing most of the concrete directives and truth about how they should treat their pastor and girlfriend. I recommend this book to any person that has an interest in the arena of preaching the gospel, or has had a conversation about what to do with the AIDS crisis in Africa. This book hit home for me because my wife is often asking about how we help people with all the needs that they have. She feels guilt because she is not giving out micro loans and sending money for water. Litfin correctly shows in this book that we should have a healthy view of what the Scripture calls us to in all of our complicated lives. We need to live as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and fellow believers, not just social activists. In these days of online quasi-activism and being “green,” it is good to have words that back up all the action. Live all of the Bible, from the abstract to the concrete. Don’t just focus on the celebrity of being an activist in Africa.

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Word After Word After Word

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” – C. S. Lewis

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C. S. Lewis

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” – C. S. Lewis

It is my hope that this blog will help both children and adults enjoy reading, and find truth.

C. S. Lewis has said much about the worth of books and words. His words have become important in my life. As a young boy, I was given the gift of words by my mom and dad. I can’t remember the times I was real young, but my mom said that I would sit on her lap for hours. As a public speaker, my dad showed me how words could be used also in large groups to bring truth and life to those present. Words have kept and guided me throughout my life.  There are the words of Jesus, that are spirit and life to our souls, the words of Dostoevsky that show us the truth in a deeper and artistic way, and there are the words of Jeffrey Kinney that make us laugh as kids and adults.

I just finished reading The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller. I highly recommend this book as one that uses words in the proper, life and spirit giving way. Keller has become one of my favorite communicators as his thoughts and words spill into my life. He has a way of making the deep truths palatable and just plain common sense. I checked the book out from the public library, so I wrote my notes by hand. At the end my notes totalled 8 pages.

The Keller’s come at this marriage issue from the right place. Basically, the author says that if I can treat my self-centerdness as the main problem in the marriage, I can have the prospect of a truly great marriage. There is no glossing over of the problem of sin and how God must be an integral part of all marriages.

Keller has paved new ground with his teaching on marriage. There is a plethora of marriage books out there, all with the same stories and the same steps. In The Meaning of Marriage, I found ideas and truths that I’d never read about before. His chapter on the power of marriage speaks about the covenant or promise that is made when we wed, and how that can be so life-giving to the whole of the union.

To anyone anticipating the joy of marriage or searching for greater joy in marriage, get this book.

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