For a book directed at "New Theologians", there's some pretty deep stuff here. Now I'm not saying it's a difficult read, but there are some ideas hereFor a book directed at "New Theologians", there's some pretty deep stuff here. Now I'm not saying it's a difficult read, but there are some ideas here that may force a new theologian to slow down and really pick a sentence apart. Not a bad thing, mind you, but still a potentially intimidating book for first timers. ...more
Temptation is common to the human experience. And how we handle it is all too common as well, often either quickly caving or white-knuckling through iTemptation is common to the human experience. And how we handle it is all too common as well, often either quickly caving or white-knuckling through it in sheer self-determination. So when we read the biblical account of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, it is easy to see the overt supernatural elements at work, the magnificent scope of the seductions, and Jesus' flawless victory and see no connection between his testings and our own.
This is a mistake. In Tempted and Tried, Russell D. Moore magnificently draws the lines between the common temptations of the sons of men and the Son of Man. In his own words, "You will be tempted exactly as Jesus was, because Jesus was being tempted exactly as we are . . . You will be tempted to provide for yourself, to protect yourself, and to exalt yourself." Not only that, but he shows how the victory of Jesus reveals a power and promise of our own victory once we see it rightly. Again from Moore: "The same Spirit who led Jesus through the wilderness and empowered him to overcome the Evil One now surges through all of us who are joined by faith to Jesus. We overcome temptation the same way he did, by trusting in our Father and hearing his voice."
Russell structures the book around the three different temptations: self-directed provision, protection, and exaltation. Every enticement from Satan (and our own sinfulness) essentially tells us to cut God out of the loop and take matters into our own hands regarding our desires, our identity, and our future. Without getting clunky or wordy, Moore has crafted a book that is theologically rich, easily accessible and—more often than not—practical.
If I had one gripe about the book, it was structural. While I read quite a bit, the chapters felt too long (there's only seven chapters for a book of almost 200 pages). Publishers use tricks like short chapters and frequent section breaks within chapters to make a book feel more readable and friendly, but there are few of both here. It almost felt like a sermon series turned book where every chapter is a sermon.
That critique aside, Tempted and Tried is well worth the added work and discipline it takes to get through the long chapters. There are unique insights and deep wisdom that hold the gospel up as the only answer to true victory against our temptations—victory that exceeds white-knuckling it through our illicit desires and avoids jury-rigging the heart with fear or pride.
"The gospel exposes you as a sinner, and the gospel embraces you as a son or daughter."...more
Not as expansive as the size led me to expect, but presents a tight linear argument starting from the existence of God and leading up to Jesus' diviniNot as expansive as the size led me to expect, but presents a tight linear argument starting from the existence of God and leading up to Jesus' divinity and the Bible's reliability. ...more
Tim Keller defines defeater beliefs as any culture's "'common-sense' consensus beliefs that automatically make Christianity seem implausible to peopleTim Keller defines defeater beliefs as any culture's "'common-sense' consensus beliefs that automatically make Christianity seem implausible to people." If I may be so bold as to add to the wisdom of Tim Keller, I would suggest that any belief that makes Christianity unnecessary or inconsequential would fall into such a category as well. And of all the beliefs that make Christianity unnecessary or inconsequential, there is perhaps none more common than the one confronted in this book: "all good people go to heaven".
In How Good Is Good Enough?, Andy Stanley spends the first two thirds of the book dismantling this defeater belief, clearing the way for a clear and compassionate gospel presentation. The dismantling of the "good people go to heaven" belief is surprising simple, primarily because it is so often assumed and so rarely analyzed. The frailty of this assumption is quickly revealed as Stanley begins measuring it against a few questions (the first of which is the title of the book).
Consider. How do you know when/if you're good enough? According to whose standard of goodness? Jesus? Buddha? Mohammed? And if God is good, shouldn't he have communicated a little more clearly that standard and where exactly the cut-off line is? And the kicker in my mind: no matter where the line is, what do you say to the poor sap who falls below that line by one measly good dead? That he missed the cut-off for heaven and is now in hell because of one white lie? One errant word? One stolen piece of candy as a child?
To put it another way: if a passing grade is 3.0, what do you tell the schmuck who scores a 2.999? "Sorry chump, to hell with you and Hitler and Pol Pot"."All good people go to heaven" is often touted as a much fairer option against the Christian view of the afterlife. Yet, like a good apologist, Stanley shows that this approach to eternity fails at its own test of fairness and equality.
I can't decide if How Good Is Good Enough? is a really short book (92 small pages) or a long gospel tract, but either way it's well worth adding to your library so that you are ready to loan it or cite it next time someone says "Well that's great if Christianity works for you, but I'm just trying to be a good person"....more
Every year there's a book that comes across my desk of which I have little or no expectations for but ends up being one of my favorite books of the yeEvery year there's a book that comes across my desk of which I have little or no expectations for but ends up being one of my favorite books of the year. In 2009, it was Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. In 2010, it was Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles. In 2011, it was A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester and Red Like Blood by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington.
Without a doubt, the strongest contender for the title so far this year is A Shot of Faith to the Head by Mitch Stokes, PhD. While I had heard nothing about the book (or the author, for that matter) before receiving it, once I had picked it up and started in, I couldn't put it down.
"Finally," I thought to myself as I read, "someone who's matching the atheists not only on the level of arguments (which many good Christians apologists have done), but also on the level of wit, sarcasm and biting intellect." After all, if the New Atheists have done anything well, they have so ridiculed the supposed anti-intellectualism of Christianity that even smart Christians feel they must compromise or live a contradiction. Stokes has now begun to level the playing field and not only show that we have reason on our side, but that the New Atheists should be ashamed of their scathing condescension and perhaps consider their own contradictions for once.
If I may give a spoiler by way of summarizing the book, A Shot of Faith to the Head broadly covers three areas: rationality, design, and absolute (moral) standards. Stokes shows how the atheist depends on one or more of these ideas every time they present their arguments, yet all three of these ideas have no grounding in the atheist's world, only in the theist's. As Stokes concludes:
"The notions of design, rationality, and absolute standards cannot exist in a naturalistic world, the world of the atheists. Without absolute standards—of which there must be many—their worldview would entirely collapse.
"And this poses a serious problem for any atheist who claims that belief in God is irrational. In fact, it takes the legs right out from under such a claim. If there is no designer, then there is no proper function, and therefore there is no such thing as irrationality. But then there’s no such thing as rationality either. There’s only a sterile, impersonal “desert landscape. Beliefs are neither rational nor irrational. They just are."...more
The Explicit Gospel is vintage Matt Chandler all the way. I really wanted to love this book. It had everything going for it: a dynamic pastor in his dThe Explicit Gospel is vintage Matt Chandler all the way. I really wanted to love this book. It had everything going for it: a dynamic pastor in his debut print offering, a trusted publisher, and the hottest topic in Christian literature right now. Alas, the book I hold in my hands is not the book I had dreamed up in my head, and thus I had to settle for merely liking the book.
Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and worth the price of admission. However (as a subscriber to Matt's sermon podcast for years now) I was hoping that sitting down and writing out his content would force Chandler to reign in some of his rabbit-trails and awkward trains of thought. Unfortunately, this was not the case. And only adding to the confusion, Jared Wilson's name also appears on the cover, but I finished the book still at a loss as to what exactly his contribution was (even after a prolonged search).
But—and this is a huge "but"—if Matt Chandler's clarity in his train of thought suffers at times, his clarity about the gospel stands out all the more starkly. Matt Chandler bleeds the gospel. When he gets excited, he gets excited about the gospel. When Matt Chandler goes off on a rabbit-trail, he rabbit-trails to the gospel. If we must choose to sacrifice clarity regarding something, it is better by far to sacrifice clarity on a train of thought rather than clarity on the gospel. Only one thing is needed. Matt has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from him.
In the end, I am happy to recommend The Explicit Gospel because it has a burning center of gospel heat. While it didn't always suit the tastes of my logical, linear, Enlightenment-addled mind, my heart was inflamed at the beauty and the sufficiency of the gospel. I'm sure Matt would be the first to say along with Paul, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." If that's not the explicit gospel, I don't know what is....more
Some people try to course-correct Christianity from within (reformers, etc.). Others try by distancing themselves from it ("follower of Jesus", etc.).Some people try to course-correct Christianity from within (reformers, etc.). Others try by distancing themselves from it ("follower of Jesus", etc.). Medearis is of the latter sort. If you are inclined that direction, you may enjoy his book more than I did.
I feel, for all the mistakes, misunderstandings, and misuses of Christianity, somewhere inside her is still the bride of Christ. And if I'm going to love the church, if I am going to call others into the body of Christ, it seems much harder to do the further one distances oneself from Christianity. I would rather err on the side of loving the unlovely (the church) than keeping her at arms length....more
Solid with reformed theology. However, the central premise of a book surrounding passages that have "but God" in them seemed a bit arbitrary and forceSolid with reformed theology. However, the central premise of a book surrounding passages that have "but God" in them seemed a bit arbitrary and forced at times. Enjoyable all the same....more
Good book. Humorous reflections from a Creative Arts director and a couple of his friends. If I had one critique, the title isn't really fitting. ButGood book. Humorous reflections from a Creative Arts director and a couple of his friends. If I had one critique, the title isn't really fitting. But while "Pursuing Christ" represents half the title, it represents less than half of the book. Light on the Christian element, heavier on the creating art and working with artists and your pastor element....more