I found the basic structure of the book really helpful. Since differing atonement views tend to overlap a lot with each other, it can be really difficI found the basic structure of the book really helpful. Since differing atonement views tend to overlap a lot with each other, it can be really difficult to pinpoint the substantial differences. To try and focus on the core of the issue, the editors presented each view as having different starting points or central focuses:
1) atonement as defeating satan/sin - Christus Victor 2) atonement as satisfying God's wrath/justice/honor - penal atonement 3) atonement as healing man - healing view 4) atonement with no one center/starting point - kaleidoscopic view
I found the healing view probably the most satisfying, but I found all the authors making good points to take away. Really worth the read.
Two problems though. First, the responses weren't always focused. I felt that I was just starting to narrow in on the substance of the dispute between two authors by the end of the response essay. This is more a complaint about the general structure of four views books, probably.
Second, the penal atonement view was really poorly represented. I'm pretty sure a much better, more charitable case could be more for it than what I found here....more
This is another one I didn't find all that helpful on the whole. While it has a good amount of helpful, practical tips on things like bible-reading anThis is another one I didn't find all that helpful on the whole. While it has a good amount of helpful, practical tips on things like bible-reading and prayer, in the end the book always left me feeling either bored or guilty, and I’m still sorting through why. There’s a different tone to it – something colder and less impactful than a writer like Foster or Merton – but I’ve had trouble figuring out if it’s a stylistic difference, or if there’s a more substantial difference in how Whitney frames our relationship with God.
Whitney, from the very beginning, is intensely focused on things we’re doing to push forward our sanctification. His book is based around 1 Timothy 4:7 – “Disicipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”, and his chapters are title “X For the Purpose of Godliness” (prayer, bible intake, etc.). He does make all the necessary theological qualifications, that sanctification comes from God and that our salvation is entirely by grace. But the emphasis is thoroughly on our actions, what we can do to attain to godliness.
This is also true in how he deals with the disciplines themselves. They come across as things we have to work really hard at, push ourselves to find all the time we can to perform. They’re not a refuge we flee to so we can find peace. Not that he wouldn’t consider them peaceful or a refuge, but that’s not in his tone in how he pushes the reader to do them. There’s a relationship aspect here. Other writers on this topic, I’ve come away from their books encouraged to prayer more, to read the bible more, etc. because I’m excited to spend time with God, because I’m wanting some sort of spiritual rest. It’s more like the way I try to carve out time to spend with Anna. I’m excited to talk to her, to go to dinner with her, not because I’m trying really hard to attain to marital excellence. It’s because I love her, and that time is restful and peaceful. That time is a deliverance from hard work, not more hard work.
This works into his concept of freedom, too. Freedom, to Whitney, is found in the disciplines because they give you the freedom to do great things, like practice gives the virtuoso the freedom to lay magnificent music. But what I’ve got in my read from people like Merton is that freedom is found in submission to the will of God. And what he means by submission is really a freeing from sin and the flesh (the false self). Freedom is a laying aside of our selfish ambitions, our pride, our false concepts of what our life should be like. It’s a freedom from sin, and also from death and oppression. We don’t attain to freedom by rigidly disciplining our schedules until they’re completely full of prayer and bible-reading. We attain to freedom by letting go of stresses, worries, pride, and collapsing into the arms of God.
This is still a confusing dilemma, though, because Whitney’s point is still helpful. You do have to make time for the disciplines, and that takes, well, discipline. It just doesn't seem like his angle is the proper focal point, the real center of spiritual disciplines. For example, Whitney fights against “spontaneity” as a rejection of spiritual discipline. There’s a good point to this – you shouldn’t not pray because you think real spiritual is exclusively spontaneous. But Whitney’s view of discipline here seems centered around scheduling. Discipline doesn’t seem here just a rejection of sin; it carries connotations of a precisely and rigidly ordered life, an image he even forces onto Christ, who Whitney claims was the “most spiritually disciplined man who ever lived”. I agree, but I don’t think I mean the same thing Whitney does.
This sort of thing comes out in how guilt-trippy Whitney is. His book is guilt-laden, and I usually came away from it with some thought along the lines of “I’m not doing enough.” That seems pretty intentional on Whitney’s part. He says things like this:
“I’m sure I don’t know a single Christian who would be as evangelistic as they say, ‘I’m as evangelistic as I should be.'” (99)
“Men and women of God are always men and women of prayer. My pastoral experience concurs with the words of J. C. Rye: ‘… He quotes J. C. Ryle, saying “I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.'” (82)
In other words, “Not praying enough? Not holy enough? Then your pastor thinks you’re not a child of God.” Whitney wouldn’t want the reader to take it that way – he’d want to respond with some gung-ho “time to alter my schedule to pray more!” – but in practice? That’s some thick guilt.
From other writers, I feel encouraged. I feel like they’re saying to me, “Struggling with sin – with anger, depression, anxiety, envy, etc.? Take rest in God. Talk to him about it and listen. He’ll free you from those things.” But Whitney? I came away with something more like this: “Struggling with sin? Did you read the Bible today? How much? Only 15 minutes? Tsk… tsk… I bet you could have spent 30 minutes, maybe 45. Jonathan Edwards would have spent an hour. You should be more like Jonathan Edwards.”
Whitney does have some good observations, though, for how much I’m hammering him. He has plenty of practical suggestions on prayer and bible reading. There are helpful reminders, like the idea that the flesh loathes serving. When you’re feeling tired in a lazy way, it’s when you’re “tired” of serving and helping. If you're not too tired to help yourself, though, there's probably an element of sloth creeping in. Whitney has a straightforward way of talking that’s great if you’re feeling distracted or legitimately lazy in regards to the disciplines, if you need a push to try them more. But if you're feeling overwhelmed and like you need encouragement, the guilt-tripping is incredibly unhelpful....more
I didn't find this very helpful. I went in looking for a book on the practical end of santification - advice on how to improve and mature in my ChristI didn't find this very helpful. I went in looking for a book on the practical end of santification - advice on how to improve and mature in my Christian walk - but it ended up being mostly a theological work on justification and sanctification, one I actually didn't find all that helpful even in the theology.
When Bridges does get to the disciplines section of the book, instead of dealing with traditional spiritual disciplines, he deals with the disciplines of commitment, convictions, choices, watching, and adversity. Some of these had some helpful advice, but overall I found the division confusing, and the it got pretty redundant by the end. The chapter on adversity also didn't really do much for me.
Helpful to see this perspective, since I got the impression his writing was pretty popular, but I didn't personally find myself affected at all....more
Anna recommended this, and I've found it really helpful so far. It's targeted specifically at adoption, especially of special needs/vulnerable childreAnna recommended this, and I've found it really helpful so far. It's targeted specifically at adoption, especially of special needs/vulnerable children, but the principles are definitely applicable across the board.
The principles revolve around showing respect (parent to child and child to parent), walking the child through how to behave in certain circumstances (e.g. giving the child the chance to re-try, giving them constructive choices), and constant encouragement/praise to build self-esteem. Some of that is pretty obvious, but they're fleshed out with specific suggestions that have helped a lot with us.
Specifically the method of giving your child two choices when you're anticipating a conflict or wanting to teach them some independence/responsibility. It's been really helpful if done in a way that doesn't back down from the point of conflict (one of the choices isn't "okay, we'll do what you want"), but still gives the child some freedom and responsibility over the situation. It's seemed to work well with us.
It did seem to fall short, like other parenting books, in the examples. At times they didn't show an example (fake dialogue between parent and child), and others, the example was too idealistic. Overall they were helpful in illustrating a teaching suggestion, and some felt real and genuine, but I get the impression these are really hard to write, because they just weren't consistent. Again, that seems common to other parenting books, so hardly a big complaint....more