This little book on what the cross of Christ means and what its implications are for believers (and unbelievers) is outstanding. Mahaney belongs to a...moreThis little book on what the cross of Christ means and what its implications are for believers (and unbelievers) is outstanding. Mahaney belongs to a dying breed of authors who understand the very heart of the gospel--Christ's death:
What we face is the righteous threat of furious wrath from a holy God. That is the threat faced by all who have gone astray, by each one who has turned to his own way.... We are indeed guilty of sin and deserving punishment. But the innocent One, the holy One--God the Son--stepped forward to die for the rest of us. On that cross the Servant suffered for sinners like you and me, because of sinners like you and me--and as the substitute for sinners like you and me. He takes the punishment that you and I richly deserve... [T]hose who have been granted new eyes perceive that He was indeed smitten by God and afflicted--not for His sin, but for ours.
Be Persuaded of His Love The motivation of God the Father in sacrificing His Son as our substitute is uniquely revealed--shockingly and startlingly exposed--in verse 10 of Isaiah 53: "It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief." The death of the Servant was not the fruit of human initiative and design; it was God's plan, God's purpose, God's will. .................................... Who killed Jesus? God did. God the Father was ultimately responsible for the death of His Son. God is telling us, "I purposefully determined to crush My Son with My wrath--for your sins, as your substitute." Why? "Because I love you." (pp. 55-56, emphasis his)
That is the gospel! I do, however, think Mahaney should've added Proverbs 17:15--"He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD" (NASB)--and Genesis 18:25--"Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"--to further elaborate "The Divine Dilemma" chapter.
And while Mahaney thinks that 1 Timothy 2:5-6--"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time"--"succinctly captures the main theme and essence of the entirety of holy Scripture" (p. 70), I think Romans 3:25-26--"God displayed [Jesus] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus"--better fits the description.
Mahaney also interprets 1 Timothy 2:4--"[God our Savior] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"--out of context, for "the LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Proverbs 16:4). The verse really means that God desires all kinds of men to be saved.
Additionally, He thinks that Christians still remain sinners to some extent (pp. 29, 117, 129-30) and, ironically, argues that the prostitute who visited Jesus in Luke 7:36-50 was already a Christian, though the Bible says that she was a sinner and that Jesus forgave her.
Overall, this book is an excellent presentation and explanation of the gospel. If Mahaney had included a chapter on how sinful man is compared to God's perfect law, this would be a nearly perfect book to give to an unbeliever. It is nevertheless a must-read for all Christians, especially new Christians, and for backsliders and false converts.(less)
It's not uncommon for scholars (especially liberals) who can read the New Testament in its original language to remain clueless as to what it teaches....moreIt's not uncommon for scholars (especially liberals) who can read the New Testament in its original language to remain clueless as to what it teaches. Gary Wills, a historian and classicist who is proficient in Greek, ironically wrote this book to dispel popular cultural misunderstandings of Jesus, not realizing that his polluted theological presumptions grossly distort Christ's teachings and promote a perverted anti-Christ agenda.
This book is awful, but I did like how Wills, a practicing Catholic, criticizes and rejects the papacy, knowing that Jesus would have too (15), and argues that the New Testament has no sacrificial system of priests like the Roman Catholic church does (67ff.). He also provides his own translations of all the New Testament passages he quotes, and sometimes, though not always, they are better than the popular translations, such as John 3:16: "Such was God's love for the creation [world] that he gave his only-begotten [unique] Son to keep anyone believing in him from perishing, to have a life eternal" (122). This does a better job of rendering πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων--"everyone believing"--into the present progressive, which delimits "the world" to refer to believers only.
Unfortunately, Wills doesn't know how to interpret the Bible, as we will see.
The Money-Hatin' Jesus
Wills rightly says "that Jesus wore no gorgeous vestments. He neither owned nor used golden chalices or precious vessels. He had no jeweled ring to be kissed" (44). But he goes too far, claiming that, "though the gospels make it clear that riches are the enemy of the spirit, they raise an even more urgent warning against power, and especially against spiritual power" (44). Riches are not evil; "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim. 6:10). Jesus even said, "There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).
The Ahistorical Jesus
Wills imposes his irrational, mystical unbelief--"Jesus as a person does not exist outside the gospels, and the only reason he exists there is because of their authors' faith in the Resurrection.... So this book...will treat the Jesus of faith, since there is no other. The 'historical Jesus' does not exist for us" (xxvi, xxviii)--and his anti-Christian ethics into the Gospels, resulting in a pro-homosexual, social justice, pacifistic, egalitarian, inclusive, disobedient, rebellious Jesus who
went a different way,...neglecting (no doubt) the family business of cabinetmaking.... Though we are not explicitly told anything about "the hidden years" beyond Luke's description of his running away from his parents when he was twelve, the stance of the rebel who would not be contained in the expectations of his hometown comes out again and again when family ties are mentioned. (6, 7)
In an effort to criticize Christian leaders who "have often rebuked the rebelliousness of young people by offering them a pastel picture of the young Jesus as a model of compliance and good behavior" (7), Wills blatantly misreads the Gospels. The Bible never says that Jesus was disobedient and ran away from his parents: "[Jesus] went down with [His parents] and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:51-52). Jesus never broke God's law. He is the only person in existence that has kept the law fully and perfectly:
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.... For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.... For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Matt. 5:17, Rom. 5:19; Heb. 5:14)
The Cultic Jesus
Wills also claims that "when [Jesus] moved from the spiritual isolation of the Essenes to the activist denunciations of [John] the Baptist, that would have dismayed his family even more profoundly. They would have felt what families feel today when their sons and daughters join a 'cult' " (11). The Bible doesn't say anything about Jesus being an Essene, and why would Jesus' family think that Jesus joined a cult with John the Baptist if "everyone considered John to have been a real prophet"? (Mark 11:32) Prophets played an integral role in Jewish society. They weren't Essenic, cultic leaders.
Additionally, Wills claims that John the Baptist mentored Jesus, though the Bible says that they were almost the same age, and John even said he wasn't worthy to untie Jesus' sandals: "One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16). Wills promotes the typical Catholic portrayal of Jesus as a weak and frail ascetic, though neither He nor His disciples fasted (Luke 5:33); but He did do the hard work of a carpenter and was strong enough to turn tables over and whip money changers out of the temple (John 2:13ff.). Wills seems to forget that Christ couldn't carry the cross because He was beaten mercilessly beforehand, not because He was naturally weak (23).
The Pacifistic Jesus
Next, Wills claims that, "though [Jesus] is opposed to war and violence, he is choosing followers for a form of spiritual warfare.... Jesus consistently opposed violence. He ordered Peter not to use the sword, even to protect his Lord... he never accepted violence as justified" (25, 53-54). Jesus Himself, however, told the disciples to buy swords so that, when the time came, they could defend themselves, not Him:
"Whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'And He was numbered with transgressors'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough." (Luke 22:35ff.)
Wills, furthermore, doesn't believe in demons and tries to explain away certain passages which clearly show that demons exist and possess people: "Many of Jesus' miracles are worked for outsiders...with whom observant Jews are to have no dealings...with those made unclean by their illnesses (therefore "possessed").... He casts the uncleanness out of one man into forbidden animals, into pigs (Mk 5.13), to show that no person made in God's image should be treated as unclean" (30). But if demons don't exist, then why was Jesus "choosing followers for a form of spiritual warfare" (25)? Will repeatedly contradicts himself. I wonder, then: Was Jesus crazy for talking to Satan, who, according to Wills, doesn't actually exist because he is merely evil personified (120)?
Wills also argues that the Father's "love is undiscriminating and inclusive, not graduated and exclusive" (29). But doesn't God love Esau and hate Jacob and make vessels of wrath (Rom. 9)? Wills asks:
Why did the payment [of sin] include Jesus' death, and such a horrible death? Was the creditor so exacting? Behind this conclusion lies the imagery of an angry God, hard to appease but by the most terrible of sacrifices. This is a view that some people call 'gruesome.'... If we talk of salvation as sacrificial in the sense of appeasement or propitiation, there is a note of assuaging an angry God. If we talk of it as rescue, the power from which mankind has to be rescued is not God but the forces at work against God--all the accumulated sins that cripple human freedom.... He sheds his blood with and for us, in our defense, not as a libation to an angry Father.... God initiates [Christ's sacrifice] to conquer sin, not to placate himself.... it is a proof of God's love, not his anger. (115, 121, 122)
Wills sound extremely confused, but he's not; he tries hard to impose his passive god into the Bible. He completely ignores all the verses that speak of God's wrath. I would like to see how Wills would reconcile his pacifistic Jesus and Father with passages like Romans 12:19--"Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (NASB)--2 Thessalonians 1:7-9--"the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power"--2 Peter 3:7--"But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men"--Jude 14-15--"the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him"--and Revelation 19:11-16:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
Oh, and let's not forget the passage where Jesus violently whips the money changers out of the temple (John 2). And this one: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Or this one: "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:9-10). This one too: "The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity" (Ps. 5:5). And last but not least: "God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day" (Ps. 7:11).
Wills doesn't like the word "propitiation" either, even though it's a Bible word, because it means that God is angry at unrepentant sinners, and the only way He can forgive them is by crushing His unique Son: "The LORD was pleased To crush Him [Christ], putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering...whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness" (Isa. 53:10; Rom. 3:25) and to satisfy His wrath, the wrath that we deserve, so "that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
The Social Justice Jesus
Wills asks another important question but gives another horrible answer:
What are the tests for entry into the reign or exclusion from it? They are very simple. One will not be asked whether one voted, whether one was a good citizen, or even whether one dealt justly. That is not enough.... The simple test is this. Did you treat everyone, high and low, as if dealing with Jesus himself, with his own inclusive and gratuitous love... "Whenever you did these things to the lowliest of my brothers, you were doing it to me." [This] means that...those who despise the poor are despising Jesus. Those neglecting the homeless are neglecting Jesus. Those persecuting gays are persecuting Jesus.... Our test for entry into heaven's reign is whether we fed Jesus in the hungry, clothed him in the naked, welcomed him in the outcast. (58, 137)
So, according to Wills' social justice Jesus, if we don't love everyone, help the poor, and affirm homosexuals, we will not be saved. (What about the thief on the cross?) But it gets worse: "How can we tell who among us is securely affixed to the Vine? We cannot. He [Jesus] told us as much" (140). The real Jesus, however, told us, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37). And John the apostle wrote his letter "to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).
Wills continuously misapplies verses to make them fit his fictional Jesus. Matthew 25:35-40 does not obligate Christians to help the poor; it commands Christians to help other Christians--brothers--when they are in need, especially during persecution. Jesus also said,
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'... For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. (Matt. 7:21-23, John 6:40)
According to the Bible, salvation is by grace "through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10).
The Unclean Jesus
This is one of the worst parts of the book. Wills asks:
Who are the Jews of our day? Who are the cursed? Some Christians tell us who. At the funeral of a well-known gay man who died of AIDS, a "Christian" group showed up with placards saying "God hates fags." In the San Diego diocese, a Catholic bishop forbade Christian burial to an openly gay man. Is there any doubt where Jesus would have stood in these episodes--where, in his mystical members, he was standing then? He was with the gay man, not with his haters. This is made all the clearer by the fact that gays are called unclean for the same reason as were other outcasts of Jesus' time--because they violate the Holiness Code of the Book of Leviticus. (32)
Unless they become new creatures by repenting of their sins and believing in Christ, God is with neither the gay man nor his haters, "for unless you believe that I [Jesus] am He, you will die in your sins...unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (John 8:24, Luke 13:3). And if gays are called unclean (an abomination, actually, cf. Lev. 18.22, 20.13) because they violate the Holiness Code of Leviticus, then why does God still condemn homosexuality in Genesis 19, Ezekiel 16:50, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:8-10, Jude 7, etc., none of which are a part of the Holiness Code? Because homosexuality violates God's natural order and is done outside of the Biblical definition of marriage. Wills, however, doesn't even address these passages.
The Heretical Jesus and Heroic Judas
Wills also makes a blunder I'd never seen before. He claims that Jesus shared His divinity with the Father:
[Christ's] own divinity is a divinity in the Father, not apart from him. He will not test the Father, because he is too closely identified with him. It would be putting himself on trial. As he says in John's gospel: "The Son, I tell you the truth, can do nothing but what he sees the Father doing. And whatever he does, the Son does in his turn. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him whatever he does" (Jn 5.19-20). (16-17)
Wills doesn't seem to understand basic theology. He completely distorts this passage, which actually teaches that the Father and the Son have one divine will, not a shared divinity. Christ Himself is fully God, just as the Father and Holy Spirit are, "For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form...and He is the head over all rule and authority" (Col. 2:9, 10). Wills should reread the Athanasian Creed:
We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Wills doesn't just fictionalize Jesus; he turns the traitorous thief, Judas Iscariot, into a good guy as well:
There must have been some good in the man for Jesus to have chosen him not only to follow him but to be one of the Twelve and the trusted bearer of the common purse (Jn 13.29). Judas is a practical man, who deplores the waste of money on precious oils, but he seems idealistic as well, wanting to save money for the poor (Jn 12.4-5).... Jesus knows that Judas is fulfilling the plan of the Father, which leads to the disgraceful death and burial of both men. He says of his followers in general: "Not one of them is lost but the one marked out to be lost to fulfill the scripture" (Jn 17.12). Judas is involuntarily following the will of the Father, as Jesus does voluntarily. (101)
Wills doesn't understand that all men are naturally evil (Rom. 3). Jesus chose Judas to fulfill the prophecy, not because there was something good in him: "I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition [Judas], so that the Scripture would be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Judas was not an "idealist" either. The reason he didn't want the money to be wasted on precious oils was "not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it" (John 12:6). Judas was not "involuntarily following the will of the Father" because he himself "was intending to betray Him [Jesus]" (John 12:4). It's astonishing how Wills flatly contradicts the Bible. He also says that Judas
killed himself for having killed God. It was an act of contrition that redeems him, makes him a kind of comrade for all of us who have betrayed Jesus. He is our patron. Saint Judas.... I believe the Shepherd [Jesus, when He supposedly descended into hell after He died] was first seeking out his special lost one, Judas. (104)
Blasphemy! Judas was not redeemed; he was the "son of perdition," which means he was damned to hell for being a wicked, God-hating sinner who betrayed Christ. "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place" (Acts 1:25 NKJV).
What Jesus Meant is the worst interpretation of the Gospels I've ever read. I find it fitting to conclude with a message for Gary Wills from the historical, complementarian, divinely just, exclusive, obedient, King of kings and Lord of lords Jesus: "You blind guide, who strains out a gnat and swallows a camel!" (Matt. 23:24) That's what Jesus meant.
This is one of the best books I've read about writing. Unfortunately, I disagree with Trimble's endorsement of foul language. He evidently thinks prof...moreThis is one of the best books I've read about writing. Unfortunately, I disagree with Trimble's endorsement of foul language. He evidently thinks profanity can make writers more expressive and "raw," and quotes other famous writers who use it unapologetically.
But foul language is inappropriate in any context (Prov. 4:24, 17:20, 19:1; Matt. 5:21-22, 15:11, 16-20; Ecc. 5:6; Eph. 4:29, 31-32; Col. 3:8; James 3:5-12). Rather than making him more sophisticated, refined, or expressive, foul language makes the writer look vulgar, intemperate, and dumb. It reveals that he lacks either the sense, the prudence, or the restraint needed for refining his language.(less)
For those who wish to better understand Christianity fundamentally as a system of doctrine rather than an ideal lifestyle; the difference between inte...moreFor those who wish to better understand Christianity fundamentally as a system of doctrine rather than an ideal lifestyle; the difference between intellectualism and mysticism; the social gospel and the Biblical gospel; nature of conversion, particularly amongst those raised within Christian homes; the difference between good shepherds and false teachers; the deceptive tactics of wolves; the relationship between one's church to other denominations/ministries; and much more, this book is just for you, written by a mature, sound Christian thinker.(less)
To start, I don't appreciate Piper's irrational emotional appeal for writing this book:
[T]here is another way to commend the vision. A person also wan
...more To start, I don't appreciate Piper's irrational emotional appeal for writing this book:
[T]here is another way to commend the vision. A person also wants to know, Is the vision beautiful and satisfying and fulfilling?... Commending Biblical truth involves more than saying, "Do it because the Bible says so." That sort of commendation may result in a kind of obedience that is so begrudging and so empty of delight and hearty affirmation that the Lord is not pleased with it at all.... Not only must there be thorough exegesis, there must also be a portrayal of the vision that satisfies the heart as well as the head.... This little book is meant to fit mainly into the second category. (15-16)
The Bible contrasts the mouth (what one professes) and the heart (which really means the whole person--the true, inner self--not just emotions) rather than the head and the heart. This is why Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me'" (Mark 7:6). The modern psychological distinction between head ("intellect") and heart ("emotions") is unbiblical, which leads Piper to overemphasize emotions and create a false dichotomy between obedience and desire. Much of what John Robbins said in his review of Colson's Loving God applies to Piper's book as well:
...in your [Colson's] book and tapes you attack creeds and philosophies and emphasize the Person and cross of Christ. You contrast a “magnificent philosophy” with a “living truth,” and “academic theory" with a “living Person.” But the Bible makes no such contrast. Indeed, it teaches the opposite: As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Christ said, “My words are spirit and they are life.” The words are the Spirit. The Gospel, the truth, the words are powerful. There is no contrast in the Bible between words or teaching or doctrine or philosophy and Christ. There is a contrast between profession of belief and actual belief, but not between Christ and his words. The contrast is a figment of modern psychology. We know Christ only insofar as we know about him. One cannot know Christ, or any other person, except by knowing propositions about him. Knowledge is always knowledge of a proposition. Saving faith is always assent to one or more Biblical propositions. Therefore, please do not disparage knowledge or teaching or doctrine, for by doing so, you are disparaging Christ. As Calvin put it, we owe to Scripture the same reverence that we owe to God. (http://www.trinityfoundation.org/jour...)
Jesus also said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:21). Believers keep God's laws because God said so. Period. Not because we find them "satisfying." "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law" (Romans 3:31). "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). A true believer desires to obey his heavenly Father because he's been forgiven by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Law of God is only burdensome and "empty of delight and hearty affirmation" to unregenerate sinners because it condemns them. We don't need to somehow be emotionally convinced in addition to "thorough exegesis": "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord" (Isaiah 1:18).
Piper also confused me when he, seemingly referring to Emil Brunner and Paul Jewett--who were liberal theologians--claims that "our best Christian thinkers claim not to know what masculinity and femininity are" (20). But anyone who studies the Bible can know exactly what true masculinity/femininity are.
Moreover, the book's misleading subtitle is "Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible." I disagree. He defines manhood and womanhood as the following:
At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships.
At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationships. (22)
A more appropriate subtitle would be "Manhood and Womanhood defined in relation to each other." Although Piper is a complementarian (20-21), his definitions of manhood and womanhood overlook the fundamentals: God's order and creation roles. And why does a woman, according to Piper's definition, seem to have more than one head? 1 Corinthians 11:3-13 reads:
I [Paul] want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.... For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
Piper doesn't explain that man was made for God and woman for man. And although spiritually "there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), Christ explains why there is a prescribed natural order:
The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34-36)
So in this life, God institutes an order for us to follow until the resurrection comes because we are still in the flesh and marry and have kids...and die. Women should "have a symbol of authority on their heads because of the angels"--i.e., a woman's "hair is given to her for a covering" (Eph. 5:16), and the man also covers her because even though women are spiritually equal to men and to the angels in heaven, they are still in the flesh, so they must "submit to [their] own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands" (Ephesians 5:22 ff.). This order won't be necessary for believers after the resurrection because they will no longer marry and die, and because there will only be one marriage in heaven: Christ (the Husband) and the church (the bride, Revelation 19.7-9). This also shows why God has historically destroyed societies that embrace homosexuality: it violates God's natural order and unravels the moral fabric of society; the most fundamental institution of society is the one that God Himself established first and foremost--marriage.
Piper also argues that "It is not primarily the responsibility of women to build procedural and relational guidelines to protect themselves from the advances of ill-behaved men. Primarily it is the responsibility of mature manhood to establish a pattern of behaviors and attitudes" (45). It is primarily the responsibility of both! Not just the man's! A woman's only head is her husband; she does not need to rely or depend on any other man to "establish" boundaries. Piper later on claims that "the natural expression of...womanhood will be hindered by the immaturity of the man in her presence" (55). This makes no sense. True womanhood is affirmed by God and the husband and is only hindered by other immature men if the woman is insecure. But even a mature married woman, according to Piper, "will affirm and receive and nurture the strength and leadership of men in some form in all her relationships with men" (59). These comments make me very uncomfortable, for the only man a woman needs to "affirm and receive and nurture" is either her father if she's single or her husband if she's married! Not every "worthy" man she comes across!
Lastly, Piper believes that men and women should be "totally committed to ministry" (73) but seems to disassociate ministry from family. Family is ministry. Every parent is a youth pastor. "For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5, cf. the entire book of Proverbs). Your kids are your responsibility, your legacy, your purpose, your calling, your ministry. You had 'em, so raise 'em!
The book had some helpful points, but overall it confuses rather than clarifies biblical manhood and womanhood. I would recommend Gary Smalley's If Only He Knew, Pastor Tommy Nelson's teachings on marriage and the Song of Solomon (http://dbcmedia.org/), and Pastor G. Craige Lewis' teachings on creation roles (http://www.exministries.com/true-church/) instead.(less)
Though I disagree with Sproul's philosophy on certain points and definitions of faith and of the will, this book discusses heavy duty theology in a ve...moreThough I disagree with Sproul's philosophy on certain points and definitions of faith and of the will, this book discusses heavy duty theology in a very readable manner without watering them down. It not only covers TULIP but also historical theology and the historical and theological context of the Reformation.
Sproul is an outstanding theologian, but his philosophy can be pretty bad. He relies too much on Thomas Aquinas for his philosophy. "Our theology should be informed by both the Bible and nature" (18). I think Gordon Clark gives the best, most biblical and consistently Reformed philosophy (see http://www.trinityfoundation.org/arch...).
Sproul claims that "the presence of both notitia [understanding the Gospel] and assensus [assenting to or agreeing with the Gospel] is still insufficient for justification" (74) because "a third element must be present...fiducia, a personal trust and reliance on Christ... Fiducia also involves the affections" (74). I disagree, for the Bible simply says to "repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15), i.e. know the Gospel and agree with it.
When describing the will of man, Sproul disagrees with determinism--that "our choices are controlled by external forces [including God]" (134)--and, in accordance with Jonathan Edwards' "self-determination," explains that "we choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment" (135). However, this makes God more of a "roof" that limits our wills but doesn't affect them directly. The Westminster Confession's and Gordon Clark's determinism sounds more Biblical: God is the ultimate cause of all things, including sin, but uses secondary causes (such as our wills) to accomplish His good purpose.
His chapter on the Atonement ends abruptly too, and I think he should've quoted Roman Catholic sources directly when addressing them. Nevertheless, Sproul offers a great intro to Reformed theology, and I learned a great many things pertaining to covenant theology, historical theology, and more. Read it!(less)
I was a little surprised and disappointed by Stott. I thought he was a Calvinist, but he sounds more like an Arminian with sparse Calvinist moments. W...moreI was a little surprised and disappointed by Stott. I thought he was a Calvinist, but he sounds more like an Arminian with sparse Calvinist moments. While some parts of the book are very helpful, like his discussion of sin, he attempts to present Christianity to unbelievers on "neutral" ground (contra Matt. 12:30) by allowing the sinner to judge whether God even exists, arguing that Christianity is "very likely to be true," and going as far as to suggest a ridiculous prayer: "God, I don't know if you exist, but if you do..." which flies in the face of what the Bible teaches about unbelievers being "without excuse" for hating God and suppressing the truth they already know (Rom. 1:18ff.).
His definition of faith is also off. Stott claims that understanding and believing the Gospel is not enough because you must have a personal "trust" in Christ as well. And while he discusses hell to some extent, he never mentions the wrath of God (from what I recall), which makes me wonder if this has something to do with his annihilationist views. I would not recommend this book as an introduction to Christianity for unbelievers or new believers, but rather to discerning Christians who already have a firm foundation of sound doctrine. Chew on the meat and spit out the bones!(less)