The Pilgrim’s Progress needs no introduction nor would any review do it any justice. However, this particular rendition of the classic-that word does not suffice for the second most sold book of all time behind God’s Holy Word, the Bible-is not a well know resource for children. With the help of illustrator Alan Parry, Oliver Hunkin set out to arrange the story of Pilgrim so that young children could meet with Everyman who journeys from this world to the next. Continue reading Dangerous Journey by Oliver Hunkin
Bull, Josiah. The Life of John Newton. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, reset edition 2007. 322pp. $14.00. Buy From Westminster Bookstore
As best I can tell, Josiah Bull only wrote this biography of John Newton and edited another book entitled The Letters of John Newton. This biography was first published in 1868 under the title But Now I See. It was first published by Banner of Truth in 1998 with the title But Now I See: The Life of John Newton. This particular edition consists of a resetting of the typeset; i.e., the font was changed.
Summary of The Life of John Newton
Bull breaks down Newton’s life into three parts: Early life and residence at Liverpool, Curate of Olney, and Rector of St. Mary of Woolnoth. In 20 pages, we move from his birth in 1725 to his marriage to Miss Mary Catlett on 12 February 1750. Glossing over some of the finer details of his life, we learn that he went to sea with his dad when he was only 11. His dad passed away and he later transferred to a slave ship where he was abused by the commander. He was rescued and became commander of his own ship. His conversion took place on 10 May 1748, a day he would celebrate for the rest of his life. He “quitted the sea” in 1754 where he had served as a slave trader due in large part to a serious illness.
By 1757 he was struggling with a call to the ministry upon which he answered that call in 1764 when he became the Curate of Olney. Josiah shares with us how Newton sympathized with the likes of Whitefield and Wesley and how he longed to be a part of spiritual awakening that was taking place.
Newton suffered much for his faith during this time. For example, he lost all of his property, his wife became very ill, he became extremely ill, he watched as his friends began to pass away from various illnesses, and he faced charges of meddling with politics (see Wilberforce). In 1779, he accepted a call to become the rector of St. Mary Woolnoth. Of special note to most readers is that it was during this time at Olney that Newton wrote Amazing Grace.
He continued his work for the final 27 years of his life at S. Mary Woolnoth where he died a gradual death in 1807. During his life, John Newton “ran with the big dogs” if I may use that phrase. He became friends with the likes of William Cowper, William Wilberforce, William Carey (a lot of William’s!), George Whitefield (who became a mentor of sorts to Newton), John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards though he really didn’t get to know Edwards as much as the rest. It was almost as if John Newton was a “Forrest Gump” type because he never sought to be what he became. John simply wanted to see the grace of God explode among the nations during the awakening that was happening during his life. The aim of his regenerated life was to share the gospel and give all glory and honor to God.
While Newton is most known today for his being a slave trader saved by grace and then writing the ultimate song about grace, there is so much more to the man that must be understood to better appreciate his works (especially his hymns).
Critical Evaluation of The Life of John Newton
Can one begin to be critical of a work such as this? I was unable to find anything that would pose a negative to the reading of this book. I am intentionally sketchy on the summary because there is so much in the book that I did not know that would be of interest to the modern reader that a simple summary would not suffice. It is my prayer that you would pick up a copy of this book to read.
Banner of Truth has done us the favor of keeping the original language from 1868. This helps us to “feel” the life of John Newton even if it may be difficult at times to read. By the time this book was written in1868 there were already a handful of biographies of John Newton. Josiah Bull felt it was necessary to write this one because a diary that was unknown to previous biographers had been found. Another element that Bull added was an oral history handed down by friends and family that the other biographers did not have access to. For these reasons, and the test of time, this biography of John Newton stands, in my humble opinion, over all the rest.
For fourteen dollars, this is a must own biography of one of the giants in the faith. It is important that the modern Christian understand that John Newton was more than a slave trader who wrote a great song. By reading this biography, they will quickly see what drove the man to do such great things. John Newton can be called as David was, “A Man after God’s own heart.” His entire regenerated life had the aroma of a living sacrifice as per Romans 12:1. To be able to peer into the life of John Newton is amazing grace indeed.
Duriez, Colin. Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 221pp. $24.99. Buy From Westminster Bookstore
Colin Duriez was fortunate enough to not only have studied under Schaeffer when he was younger, but he was also able to interview him about his life when Schaeffer was near the end of his time here on earth. In this authoritative biography of one the great philosophical minds of the 20th century, Duriez writes from much oral history from many around the world who knew Francis Schaeffer. He also used the archives found in the Presbyterian Church of America as well as the many other writings by Francis Schaeffer and other family members. Needless to say, the subject of this book was studied and researched exhaustively before pen was put to paper.
Colin Duriez has written numerous other books ranging from literary works (six books) to biographies (three if you include this one) and a history book entitled AD 33: The Year that Changed the World. When Duriez writes a biography, you get the feeling that he attempted his best to walk a mile in that man’s shoes.
Summary of Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life
The book is a bit different in that it approaches the earlier life and “career” of Francis Schaeffer with much more detail than most other biographies. The chapters are broken down chronologically into eight sections. The first six sections comprise the first forty-eight years of his life (before L’Abri) while the final two chapters blitz one through the last twenty-four years of his pilgrimage.
Colin spends a chapter detailing his childhood leading up to Schaeffer’s role as a pastor and denominationalist in what would later come to be known as the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). Of interest to some readers may be learning how much J. Gresham Machen influenced the young Schaeffer in his ministry. During this time in his life, he resided in St. Louis, Missouri.
The middle chapters detail the travels of the Schaeffer family from Holland to Switzerland and stops in between. By the end of the book, we wind up in L’Abri where Schaeffer set up a school of sorts to teach people how to wrestle with the culture and to look at situations from another’s point of view.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the book is at the very end where Duriez shares his interview with Schaeffer from 10 September 1980. In this interview, Schaeffer takes a very introspective look back at his life. This conversation is an interesting peek into the person we know as Francis Schaeffer. What is most amazing is to see how Schaeffer lived what he believed and how what he believed impacted his worldview thus changing his life forever.
Critique of Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life
I thought Duriez did a wonderful job of showing the early life of Francis Schaeffer to an audience that may not be aware of how the man came to be the man we know. What I would have liked to have seen is a bit more detail on the final twenty-four years of his life. I realize there is quite a bit of writings regarding this time frame in Schaeffer’s life, but I believe we all would have been blessed all the more to have read it from the detailed mind of Colin Duriez.
The writing style was extremely engaging. I could tell that much of what was written down came through oral history and conversation. Rarely was there a dry paragraph in the book. What I mean by “dry” is that most biographers feel the need to quote extensively from the works of the person about whom they are writing. While Duriez does quote extensively from Schaeffer, he does so strategically and with great care.
This is a must read for anyone who wants to know what made this prophet of the 20th century tick. Not only is this book a quick read, but it could easily serve as a devotional of sorts. Many Christian college students would do themselves a favor if they were to pick this book up and read it from cover to cover and plumb the depths of one of the greatest minds (not limited to just Christianity) in the 20th century.
Francis Schaeffer still helps people understand what they believe and why they believe it even 25 years after his death. We would all do well to sit at his feet and learn how God used this man to reach so many people.
Kraus, Harry MD. The Cure: The Divine Rx for the Body of Christ-Life-Changing Love. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 187 pp. $14.99. Buy From Amazon.com
Harry Kraus, MD, is a general surgeon who practices his discipline with the African Inland Mission in Kenya a the Kijabe Hospital. He has written a total of eleven books to date, including this one. He is married with three sons.
Summary of The Cure
Using Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 as a spring board, Dr. Kraus explains how the church is best able to fulfill the mandate of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. His biggest charge against the church is that we have forgotten that love is the most important quality of a Christian.
We are awash with conferences and filled to the brim with discussions about methods for effective evangelism, contextualization, cell churches, culture-appropriate dress, and techniques for language acquisitions…Don’t misunderstand. There are other important components of effective ministry…But it’s still not the main thing…What am I talking about? Agape. Love? Yes, love…It’s the most important component of effective evangelism (p. 12-13).
In part one, Dr. Kraus explains that what sustains the Great Commission mandate given to us by Christ is nothing less than agape love. He uses wonderful life experiences that we can all relate to and shows how we all crave that love that can only be filled by Christ and can only be shown by one who has been born again in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Part two shows how the church, comprised of individual bodies, must maintain a proper balance of health and nutrition if she is to remain viable. With chapter titles like Anorexia and Spiritual Insomnia, Dr. Kraus shows how we must intake food (the Bible), maintain proper rest, hydration (soul-thirst), and oxygen (breathing grace).
Whenever we skip a meal, our stomach lets us know in short order. A lack of rest over a period of time takes a toll on the health of the entire body. If we go without water for three days, we will die and if we do breathe in oxygen in a few minutes, we will cause major damage and ultimately death. Using these analogies, Dr. Kraus implores us to maintain a healthy “diet” in our spiritual life so that we may survive as a church and be more able to help those who are in need.
The third part is the prescriptions for the church. You go to the doctor because you recognize certain symptoms as being wrong and unhealthy (part one). He then begins asking questions to see what may be the root cause of those symptoms (part two). Finally, the doctor prescribes whatever is needed to get you back onto the road to health (part three).
In one chapter, he discusses the approaches to cancer. We have allowed many various cancers into the church today. The only way we can get rid of a cancer is through treatment or surgery if it does not respond to treatment. The most radical procedures include cutting the cancer out of the body. In so doing, usually there is some healthy material cut away as well. This is to assure that the cancer is completely removed with nothing left behind upon its removal. We must be aggressive in dealing with these cancers before they deal with us!
In perhaps the most important chapter, Dr. Kraus deals with loving our enemies. We usually define our enemies as those people whom we do not like. However, that is not true. An enemy is someone who hates us-sometimes for no reason at all. We are called to love that person. Unfortunately, the church does not have that reputation today. His prescription is that we must strive to get love back as our identity.
This book is cross-centered in that Dr. Kraus says over and over that we are unable to love without Christ. He points us to the cross in each chapter and explains that that is where we are to find the source of our love so that we may love. His view of the human body is heavily rooted in the design of God. Nowhere does he stray from the fact that God designed the body. He explains that because we were designed, God has given us a manual on how to make the best use of our body-the Bible. Our biggest problem is that most of us do not use our manuals.
At the end of each chapter, there are discussion questions that are great for small group study. His engaging style of writing is quite honestly amazing to me. He discusses some pretty heavy medical jargon but then explains it in such a way that even I can understand it. I would recommend this book to anyone (I have already to quite a few of my friends). I think this book would serve as a great tool for those thinking about missions work as well as those contemplating church planting. The cry for love in this world is perhaps the loudest cry that is most often ignored. If you do purchase a copy of this book, please buy one for Kevin as well.
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 407pp. $26.00 Buy From Amazon.com
Many have come to know of William Lane Craig when trying to find an apologetic against the accusations of a false Christianity. Reasonable Faith has become Dr. Craig’s signature book and has just been re-released in a third edition. The book was released at about the same time as the launching of a website (www.reasonablefaith.org) which is their web-based ministry where much supplementary material may be found for your benefit.
Fortunately, there were no retractions from the previous two editions. What you will find is that the chapter on the existence of God has been split into two chapters and the chapter on the historicity of the New Testament has been removed.
The book is separated into five parts: De Fide, De Homine (life), De Deo, De Creatione, and De Christo. This book is not for the faint of heart as it is over 400 pages of “thick” philosophical talk. However, it would be a great addition to any thinker’s library since it discusses in detail both the arguments for and against God as well as the author offering his own argument.
You can download a study guide from the website above along with a “practical application” for each chapter from the same page. While this may be a thick book, I would highly recommend it for those wanting to have a philosophic answer for the questions you get while in college or the work place.
Piper, John. Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007. 76 pp. $7.99. Purchase at Westminster books for $5.99.
Introduction and Background
John Piper, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has become a noted biographer in recent years because of his 4-volume Swan Series books where he takes a quick look at the lives of some of the saints that have gone before us as well as his more in depth looks at the life of Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller just to name a couple. This book on the life of William Wilberforce is along the lines of the others. It is short and full of information. In no way does John Piper pretend that this is an exhaustive sketch of the life of Wilberforce.
Summary of Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce
Piper introduces this biography by asking the question, “What made him tick?” The answer, “was a profound biblical allegiance to what he called the ‘peculiar doctrines’ of Christianity” (p.20). These peculiar doctrines were so important to Wilberforce that he wrote a book entitled, A Practical View of Christianity, that set forth the necessity of these doctrines for the Christian believer. He then spent the rest of his life and career seeking to establish these as a way in which one should live their life at all times.
Wilberforce’s early life was a bit troubling. He was orphaned at age nine and sent to live with his aunt and uncle. It turned out that God was in this, as Wilberforce would later acknowledge, because one of the family friends wound up being a man they called “Old Newton.” This was none other than John Newton.
The story of how he met his wife is impressive to read because of how fast it happened. He had been a believer for about 12 years when he met a woman named Barbara on 15 April 1797. “He fell immediately in love. Within eight days he proposed to her, and on May 30 they were married, about six weeks after they met” (p.28). They stayed married until William passed away. “In the first eight years of their marriage they had four sons and two daughters” (p.28).
His conversion came about during a time of travel with a friend, Isaac Milner, in 1784. It was at this time that Wilberforce reached a biblical view of man, God and Jesus at an intellectual level. However, his intellectual assent slowly became deep conviction. He later referred to this move from intellectual assent to deep conviction as “the Great Change.” After his conversion, Wilberforce struggled with whether or not he should leave politics altogether and go into the ministry.
A visit to “Old Newton” helped him to see that he was better able to serve God in politics than if he were to leave politics. Through this meeting, Wilberforce began the process of the abolition of slavery in Britain. Though this is what he is most noted for, Wilberforce was involved in much, much more. He was active at one point in his career in sixty-nine different initiatives. He also sought to evangelize his fellow politicians with the gospel.
Getting back to the abolition of slavery, Wilberforce began his quest in 1787. After numerous defeats, he witnessed the abolition of slave trade in 1807. He was able to see a complete abolition of slavery in 1833 just before his death in the British colonies. Thus, William Wilberforce was allowed, by the grace of God, to begin and see the completion of the total abolition of slavery in Britain.
Critique of Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce
Though this short biography was very informational, I did note two areas that I thought detracted from the book as a whole. First, there is a discrepancy in terms of the timing of the complete abolition of slavery and the death of Wilberforce. Jonathan Aitken, who writes the foreward says that Wilberforce died three months after slavery was outlawed (p. 15). John Piper says that his death took place three days after the abolition of slavery (p. 19).
I do not believe this would have been noticed had it not been for the mere four pages between the two statements. However, since it occurs so close to the beginning of the biography, it can cause a little bit of concern as to the historicity of all the facts presented. This is especially true because Aitken is Wilberforce’s biographer and Piper has become known for his biographies. I was unable to find much resolution as to the date of the abolition of slavery in relation to Wilberforce’s death, but am not too concerned because they all have the same year (1833).
I offer the second critique with the qualifier that I completely agree with the doctrine of Calvinism that John Piper discusses in the context of his biography. However, I do not see why he believed this to be necessary to insert into the biography-especially in the context that he did. In discussing what other people thought about William Wilberforce, John Piper says the following:
Hannah More, his wealthy friend and a co-worker in many of his schemes for doing good, said to him, ‘I declare I think you are serving God by being yourself agreeable…to worldly but well-disposed people, who would never be attracted to religion by grave and severe divines, even if such fell in their way’ (p.61).
In fact, I think one of the reasons Wilberforce did not like to use the word “Calvinist,” is although the faith and doctrines he expresses seem to line up with the Calvinism of Whitefield and Newton, was this very thing: Calvinists had the reputation of being joyless (p. 61-62).
Piper gives a lengthy footnote as to the use of the word Calvinist as well as to the friends Wilberforce kept. The last sentence of footnote 17 found on page 62 says, “As I completed his book, A Practical View of Christianity, I could not recall a single sentence that a Calvinist like John Newton or George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon could not agree with” (p. 62).
As I said, I am in complete agreement with these doctrines myself; however, I do not see how this is important to the context of the life of William Wilberforce given that this is only a 76 page introductory biography. It gives an appearance that John Piper wants Wilberforce to be a Calvinist even though he never came out and said as such.
As a short biography of one of the great Christian men in the history of the world, I would recommend this book. It is extremely readable and can be read in one sitting perhaps during an evening. I also think it would serve in a school situation where a student is learning about slavery and/or a history of Britain.
This book has whet my appetite personally to learn more about William Wilberforce and to read his book A Practical View of Christianity. This short biography can also interest the reader into wanting to know more about great men (and women) of the faith throughout history. Piper’s writing style is just conversational enough and full of just enough historical information that you feel as though you are dialoguing with a historian.
Alcorn, Randy. Tell Me About Heaven. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007. 59pp. $19.99. Purchase at Amazon
Randy Alcorn was a pastor before founding Eternal Perspective Ministries in 1990. His ministry is dedicated to teaching Biblical truths. According to their website, www.epm.org, the ministry exists “to meet the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled and unsupported people around the world.” Randy has and his wife, Nanci, are the parents to two grown daughters, Karina and Angela. They have four grandsons, Jake, Matthew, Ty, and Jack.
Tell Me About Heaven is a children’s book by Randy Alcorn and illustrated throughout with the paintings of Ron DiCianni. This book can be read to your children or can be read by your children. It is designed to explain the doctrine of heaven in such a way that even the smallest of minds will be able to capture the grandeur and awe of God’s home.
Summary of Tell Me About Heaven
Jake’s Grammy has recently passed away and now he is on his way to spend two weeks with his Papa like he does every summer. This time, though, it will be different because Grammy will not be there. Immediately, we see Jake struggling with what happened to Grammy as well as how this particular visit is going to go with Grammy not around.
Over the course of the two week visit to Papa’s house, Jake asks a lot of questions about heaven and Grammy. Jake begins with hesitation as he first states that he doesn’t think he would like heaven. However, as Papa explains from the Bible what heaven is all about, Jake begins to understand that life in heaven is going to be so much better than life here on earth.
The book concludes with Jake confessing to Papa that he does not want him to ever die, but is now looking forward to learning more about heaven and can’t wait until his whole family is reunited there-Grammy and Papa and everyone.
Critique of Tell Me About Heaven
I must confess that I was skeptical about a children’s book that would attempt to explain what heaven is like. Given all the recent discussions of how much a kid can learn and should know about Jesus, his crucifixion, and other biblical truths, I was afraid that this book was going to be a disappointment even though it is authored by Randy Alcorn. I was extremely impressed with what I read in the pages of Tell Me About Heaven.
In this children’s book, the reader (or hearer) is introduced to the doctrine of inherited sin, the Incarnation, Penal Substitution, Hell, resurrected bodies, and more. The central theme of the book is that heaven and earth will pass away and God will replace them with a New Heaven and New Earth. Papa quotes scripture heavily (especially Rev. 21 and 22) in explaining what heaven is like to his grandson, Jake.
The story is very believable and at one point, I began wondering if this was a rehearsal for Randy Alcorn as he may have this discussion with his grandsons. The story line is pretty forthright and does not dance around the issues. Nowhere does Papa state something as truth if it is not based in the Bible. At one point, he corrects Jake and says that he is to always pray to Jesus and not Grammy. It is subtle, but significant in that many young children are told to pray to their loved one. However, that is not in the Bible and therefore, Papa (Alcorn) explicitly says that this should not happen.
The greatest aspect of this book is that the gospel message is presented clearly and concisely in the story itself. However, at the end of the book is a page devoted to the Roman Road along with a brief explanation of the gospel. It is very clear that the goal of this book is to be used as a tool for evangelizing children (and perhaps the adult reading to the child) as well as explaining what awaits them in the life to come.
If there is a negative to be found in this book, it is of no significant value. There are some assumptions made that I do not personally agree with, but nothing that causes any concern. For example, in a discussion about pets and animals in heaven, Papa tells Jake that he thought Moses (the dog) would be in heaven because animals were in Eden. I don’t see that as biblical precedent, but I also do not see that as a bad thing. On page 32 of the book it is said, “It’s always about God, isn’t it?” That is perhaps the best way in which to explain the book: It is always about God, isn’t it.
In asking my pastor and some other men in the church I attend about how much their children know about heaven, they said not much. I admit that I have not told my son much about heaven, either. That is, until now. I have already told a these men I talked with to pick up this book and am telling you that if you have children or are involved in children’s ministry, this book is a must own. It explains the doctrine of heaven in a way that a child can understand and a parent can be interested in. The book is solidly rooted in the Scriptures.
Also, throughout the book, there are hints (I say ‘hints’ because certain phrases like “penal substitution” and “inherited sin” do not appear) of other doctrines as mentioned above that will help to lay a foundation for biblical doctrine to be learned as the child grows. As a seminary student, I appreciated Alcorn’s ability to break down systematic theology into easily understood doctrines that do not require a degree to understand.
The conversational tone makes for a good story time book to be read at night, as part of family worship, or during story hour at church or a daycare. I would also highly recommend this book for a young child grieving the loss of a grandparent or parent. It would be a great resource for those who council children after the death of a loved one. This book is worth owning multiple copies of to give away during these times.
This is the third part of our team book review & forum based on The Courage To Be Protestant by David F. Wells. (series index here) It was written by Terry Delaney, an M. Div. student at Southern Seminary who writes here, and at Going To Seminary and in his Diary.
The classic definition of truth is, “the correspondence between an object and our knowledge of it” (72). However, we live in a post-modern world where truth has no absolutes. Because we live in a post-modern world, we should not be surprised that the erosion of absolute truth has found its way into the church. In chapter three, Dr. Wells looks to answer five questions:
- What in the culture has led us to such a jaundiced view of truth?
- Why do so many Americans believe neither in truth nor in morality that is absolute?
- How should we think about truth?
- What is the biblical teaching on truth?
- Why is the church that professes this truth (question 4) so untouched by it?
Wells contends that our understanding about the self is the thread that connects the Age of Enlightenment to today’s post-modern age. This thread of how we understand the self also impacts every chapter that follows in this book.
Unfortunately, with the decline of the community, we have lost the ability to transmit important ethics and values from generation to generation. The past, our heritage and tradition, has no value to much of the population today. It is in this context that truth has become less important and more suspect. It is in this context that we see a clash of worldviews on a daily basis that can easily lead one to a relativistic understanding of truth. After all, we coexist with those who have completely opposite beliefs than we do. Therefore, not only is truth relative, but there is no need for an absolute truth claim. It is no longer needed.
Perhaps the most glaring problem in the church that is founded upon the loss of truth is the struggle for power. Wells contends that today, “everything is about power. Everything is about control, manipulation, domination, using or being used for someone else’s purposes” (71). Post modern (as well as the emergent church) speech is intentionally confusing. Even though most people want to deny absolute truth, they still live in a world where they expect a proper correspondence between what is said and what is. By that, I mean that the truth corresponds with reality.
Although the church seems to espouse this low standard of truth, the Bible does not. I must include this paragraph simply because Dr. Wells says it so well.
In the biblical view, we know the truth and not just arbitrary rules and approcimations. This knowledge of what is “there” includes the truth about Christ (1 John 5:20), about God (2:13-14), his character (3:16), his redemptive purposes (3:5), our own nature (1:6, 8-11), and the (postmodern) “world” we inhabit that is filled with “the deisres of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” and is also “passing away along with its desires” (2:16-17). On all these matters we have God’s truth, and for the truth to be shy about saying “We know…We know…We know” is an act of self betrayal.
In keeping with the theme of the correspondence of truth, the Bible is unapologetic in declaring Jesus “the way, the truth, and the life.” The emergent truth cannot say this because they desire to put the world before the church and therefore call into question the validity of their Christianity.
Dr. Wells concludes this chapter with a discussion of the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-8; Mk. 4:3-8, 14-20; Lk. 8:5-8, 11-15) as well as a challenge to look at missionaries who go into foreign lands and adapt to a culture without accepting that culture’s worldview. The church must remember two points: “Christianity is about truth…and those who say they are Christians must model this truth by their integrity” (92).
Dr. Wells assessment of the erosion of the assimilation of the culture into the church is dead on. I would agree that the church seeks too much to be relevant to the world–how many churches cancel regularly scheduled services for holidays and/or special events (see Super Bowl Sunday)? By trying to be so relevant, the church loses not only its relevance but its credibility as well.
We, as Christians, must be unashamed of the Truth we claim to believe. Because of passages like Romans 1:18, it is safe to assume that everyone accepts absolute truth at some level and that the Bible is the only book that is able to answer all of their questions about life. There is an oft-quoted cliche that very much applies to Christianity today: If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. It seems to me that the church must once again take a stand for truth and do so unashamedly.
We must be willing to engage the emergent church at the foundational truths that are essential to Christianity. We must also be able to engage the likes of N.T. Wright at the elitist level of scholarship. It is at both of these levels (low and high) that we must take our stand all the while preaching the Scriptures faithfully and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to change the lives of your hearers.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- Do you think we as evangelical Protestants spend more time trying to convince our hearers that absolute truth does exist and that it is found in the Word of God rather than just preaching the Truth and trusting in the Holy Spirit to change the lives of your hearers? Do you? How would you go about changing the focus of arguing for truth to preaching the truth?
- In this age of post-modern Christianity, how does one go about deciding what is and what is not Christian? Are essential (foundational) truths necessary?
- On page 88, Wells says, “The church is, to put it charitably, very distracted right now.” How would you help the church regain its focus? What would/should be its focus?
PURCHASE THIS BOOK
About The Publisher
Before I introduce this particular book and author, I would like to introduce the publishing company behind the book since they are based out of Nigeria with an office in New York. I must admit that I chuckled at first at the name Baal Hamon Publishers for the (hopefully) obvious reason of the name “Baal.” However, the name is found in Song of Solomon 8:11 where it reads, “Solomon has a vineyard in a place called Baal Hamon. There are farmers who rent it from him; each one pays a thousand silver coins. (GNB).
I was pleasantly surprised to discover their views of publishing and their standard for what they will publish. According to their website, “publishing is not just business. It is ministry. Our ultimate goal in publishing books is not profit but to affect lives and the society positively for Christ.” Baal Hamon says they are an “imprint” of the Joy and Truth Christian Ministry, which “is committed to promoting non-denominational, non-discriminatory, non-racial brotherliness among Christians from ALL backgrounds.”
About The Author
Dr. James W. Bartley has a Bachelor of Divinity (1951), a Master of Theology (1965), and Doctor of Theology (1975) from the Baptist Theological Seminary though I am not sure where this seminary is located. I can only assume that it is Uruguay since he taught there as well as became a missionary in that country until 1993. He has taught at numerous Baptist Seminaries throughout the world and according to the back of the book, “has earned an enviable international influence and recognition.”
Given all of his international ministry and teaching, he confesses that “This book is his confession [that] at 57 years of age and after 35 years of ministry, [he] came to discover for the very first time many of the biblical principles of worship” (p. i). That sentence is the second sentence of the Preface of the book and shows the reader the humility in which he writes. This humility is found on every page. His heart is to better equip believers to worship our awesome Triune God who alone is deserving of worship.
Summary of Worship that Pleases God
When I first picked up the book to read it for this review, I assumed that I would be reading an apologetic for the Regulative Principle of worship. In a sense, that is what I read; however, there was nothing about what we call the Regulative Principle to be found in the book. Dr. Bartley sticks to the scripture alone as his guide and offers a biblical theology for what kind of worship it is that pleases, and brings glory to, God.
The book is broke down into three sections: the Old Testament, the New Testament and a synthesis of the two. He breaks down both testaments according to the genres of books (OT: law, history, poetry, and prophets; NT: gospels, history, Pauline epistles and apocalyptic). He then systematically, and in canonical order, goes through each passage wherein the word worship is translated from the original languages. In Hebrew, the word is shachah. In the Greek, the word is proskuneo.
Dr. Bartley shows how the five modes of worship (response, dialogue, offerings, drama, and celebration) are found extensively throughout the Old Testament. He also shows how the Bible is clear in explaining what kind of worship is not pleasing to God and is considered idolatry. He has the same approach in the second section of the book looking at the New Testament.
In the final section, Dr. Bartley offers up a synthesis of what the whole Bible says regarding worship. He groups his findings under three general categories with subdivisions found in each. First, there is what precedes worship. This would include becoming aware of God and His nature. Second, there is what happens in the act of worship itself. Recognition of God’s glory and grace and man’s sinfulness are a couple of elements found in this category. Finally, there is what follows the act of worship. Here we discover God’s manifestations of pleasure (or displeasure with sin) and He is glorified further.
Critical Evaluation of Worship that Pleases God
I am not sure if Baal Harmon is a self-publishing company or not, but this book gives the feel of having been self-published. By that, I am referring to spelling and grammatical errors throughout the entirety of the book. They are not as glaring as many self-published titles, but they are present.
About the only other real critique, other than not always agreeing with his understanding of a few passages (this is to be expected for no other reason than we don’t all agree on everything), is his writing style. I realize this is more personal matter and therefore will not cause problems for others, but I found his style of writing a bit cumbersome at times. I only include this because I was asked to give the book reviewn In no way did it take away from the content of the book.
While I am highly suspect of smaller publishing companies who seem more along the lines of a self-publishing company, I found this book to be fairly sound theologically and exegetically. I find the subject matter to be unique in the sense that most people write for a particular historic understanding of worship with an appeal to the Bible. Dr. Bartley, on the other hand, appeals to the Bible in order that we may worship God according to what pleases Him.
I cannot recall seeing a book or bible study devoted to solely to understanding what the Bible says about worshiping God and therefore would recommend this volume to be added to your library for a couple of reasons. First, the author sticks to the Bible alone for his study material. Second, he writes with passion and humility on a topic that, while it has been divisive in the past, should be at the heart of everything we do in our lives. Obviously, you will not agree with everything Dr. Bartley says, but that is not the point of his book. His goal is to offer a systematic and biblical study of what kind of worship it is that God finds pleasing. I believe he met his goal.
Dr. Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is available for the first time in audio book format. Dr. Whitney is the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality (2005) and Senior Associate Dean of the School of Theology as well as the president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.
The book is read by Grover Gardner and is available as an MP3 download at ChristianAudio.com. If you would like to purchase the audio cd, you can purchase it at the Westminster Book Store or ChristianAudio.com, or if you would like to support Dr. Whitney’s ministry directly, you can purchase it from The Center for Biblical Spirituality.