Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

A Charlie Brown Religion
November 19, 2015

Like countless millions of people of my generation (and the one before and the one after), I grew up reading Peanuts. I loved reading stories and gags based on Charlie Brown and his gang. Charles Schulz had a gift for creating lovable characters and for communicating real ideas through the simplest medium—three or four small squares on newsprint. One thing that always fascinated me about Schulz was his references to the Christian faith. Hundreds of his strips and many of his television specials included subtle and sometimes blatant quotes from the Bible and musings on faith. Why did he include these? Was he a Christian attempting to share his beliefs through his medium or did he just find the Bible an interesting and inspiring work of literature?

Like me, Stephen J. Lind grew up in a Christian home, reading and enjoying Peanuts. He, too, had an interest in Schulz’s religious beliefs. And he has just released A Charlie Brown Religion, a fascinating spiritual biography of Charles Schulz.

This book concerns the thematic thread of religion in Sparky’s life and work. It does not have much to say about his love for hockey, golf, or chocolate chip cookies (all of which were important in various ways to him), but the book has plenty to say about the importance of Charles Schulz’s faith. The reader of this book should not see such a focus to be an indication that Schulz’s life was entirely consumed and driven by religious thought. It wasn’t. Yet such thought was deeply interesting and personally important to him, with a breadth and depth of context and performance that more than justifies a complete volume devoted to its history.

This work tells the story of Schulz’s life and times while keeping the focus on his faith. His faith was as complicated as the man himself and developed a great deal over the course of his life. Lind says, “One might see this book as weaving together answers to two primary questions—‘Was Charles Schulz a religious man?’ and ‘Is there really much religion in Peanuts?’ The simple answer to both of those questions is ‘Yes.’ But the simple answer is rarely the truest answer in history, and you may find that the questions themselves need challenging as we search for thicker answers.”

Schultz was raised in a family that put little stock in religion. As a young adult he came into contact with members of a Church of God in Minnesota and eventually professed faith in Jesus Christ. “He was fully committed to his spiritual beliefs, having developed what others in the church might describe as a ‘personal relationship’ with God through his faith in Christ, but Schulz had not yet developed his own personal spiritual voice. Instead, the language of the Church of God would provide the structure for his thought.” He came to love the Bible and rose to a leadership position within his church, often leading Bible studies, preaching, and doing street evangelism. “Over the years, Sparky [his nickname] would mark nearly every page of his Bible with a pencil or pen, underlining meaningful passages, transcribing timelines, and circling key words, so much that he would naturally forget what had inspired him to do so for certain passages. He filled the margins with explanations drawn from his commentaries and scrawled out personal insights in the blank space left at the end of an Old or New Testament book.” He later moved to California where he joined a United Methodist Church and became active as a Sunday school teacher.

Through this time he was gaining fame as the creator of Peanuts, quickly rising to become the world’s most popular cartoonist. From the beginning, he incorporated spiritual themes into his comics, sometimes quoting the Bible directly. Most famously, he had Linus quote an extended passage from the Bible in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

But sometimes things are not as simple as they seem. Schulz married Joyce Halverson who had no interest in religion and who refused to attend church with him. By their twentieth anniversary their marriage was in trouble and Schulz was engaged in an extra-marital affair. His marriage and affair both ended, and he soon re-married, this time to Jeannie Clyde to whom he would remain married until his death. Like Joyce, Jeannie had no interest in the Christian faith. By this time Schulz was no longer attending church and had lost much of his early enthusiasm for the Bible. Lind speculates “that within the tumult of a failing marriage and while in the midst of a private romantic affair, he no longer felt comfortable leading a study of the Bible.” He soon began describing himself as a “secular humanist,” though Lind points out that “Schulz’s statements reflected something more like a biblical humanism—merely a loosening of the already open, thoughtful faith that he had held since before leaving Minnesota. It was not a reversal of his faith, nor was it a signal of a personal religious crisis.” But it was also a clear sign that he did not hold to orthodox Christian beliefs. Over time, he came to hold to something closer to universalism, believing “there were others who were part of that Kingdom without even knowing it, without believing in Jesus. They were worshipping God through their heart attitudes and their merciful actions, regardless of their theological beliefs.” He died in perplexity and despair, grieving that he had not been given more years to live.

And yet through all of this evolution of his beliefs, or perhaps the clarifying of his existing beliefs, Schulz continued to share parts of the Bible through his work. At a time when culture, and especially entertainment culture, were openly hostile to Christianity, Schulz would include references to the Bible and have Linus boldly recite the meaning of Christmas. Even today, millions gather around their television sets to hear this monologue. While Schulz personally turned away from many core Christian beliefs, he at the same time brought Christian ideas back into the cultural mainstream.

A Charlie Brown Religion is as interesting a biography as I have read this year. It is just long enough to do justice to its subject without adding too much detail, and it moves at just the right pace. It describes a man who found joy and comfort in Christian beliefs, but who never fully appropriated those beliefs—not to the fullest degree. Attempting to understand his faith and its place in his life is equal parts perplexing and fascinating.


November 19, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include 5 volumes in B&H’s New American Commentary Studies at just $0.99 each: God’s Indwelling Presence by James Hamilton; Believer’s Baptism by Thomas Schreiner; The End of the Law by Jason Meyer; The Lord’s Supper by Thomas Schreiner; That You May Know by Christopher Bass; Enthroned on Our Praise by Timothy Pierce. Many of the volumes in the Perspectives series are also $0.99: Perspectives on the Sabbath; Perspectives on the Ending of Mark; Perspectives on Your Child’s Education; Perspectives on Family Ministry; Perspectives on the Doctrine of God; Perspectives on Election; Perspectives on Church Government; and Perspectives on Christian WorshipPerspectives on the Extend of the Atonement and Perspectives on Our Struggle With Sin are $2.99 each. James and Colossians & Philemon in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series are $0.99 each.

Read Scripture Series: Psalms

I continue to enjoy The Bible Project. Their latest video provides a great overview of the book of Psalms.

U.S. Christian Groups Prioritize Muslim Refugees over Christian Ones

Here’s why Christian refugees are overlooked: “Their plight involves a nightmarish catch-22. When Christians flee as refugees they cannot go to UN-run refugee camps because there they face the same persecution and terror from which they fled.”

Only Two Religions

This is a helpful introduction into Peter Jones’ teaching about oneism and twoism—very helpful categories.

Brother, Where Is Your Identity?

David Powlison reminds you of important truths about your deepest identity.

IGNew Album. Today marks the release of a new album from Indelible Grace, the seventh in their history. It is titled Look to Jesus. As with all of their previous albums, this one features a collection of retuned hymns. You can listen to and buy the digital version at Bandcamp or pre-order the CD at their store.

Nobody Deserves That

It’s always fun when Adam4d uses one of my articles to draw a comic. He did that with “Nobody Deserves That.”

Stay & Wander

There is some amazing footage of the Alps (and the people who live deep within them) in this short film.


A child who knowingly sins can savingly believe. —C.H. Spurgeon

Satans Great Trick
November 18, 2015

One of Satan’s greatest tricks is to convince you that the sin you are being tempted with is a very small sin. “This is just a little one. It’s not like you’re going to kill anyone. It’s not like you’re committing adultery. You’ve done it before and God didn’t strike you down. The joy will by far outweigh the risk. We will keep this one between just you and me.” And too often you believe his lie. You indulge in what seems like just a little sin, a harmless peccadillo.

One of Satan’s greatest delights is to convince you that the sin you have just committed is a very big sin. That same sin that was so small in the future looms so large in the past. Now he whispers, “Oh, you have sinned so badly. You have sinned so big. How could you have done this? You’ve gone and done it this time—you’ve sinned beyond his grace.” And again, you believe the lie. You wallow in guilt and sink into despair.

Do you see the pattern? Do you see the cycle? Do you see the sheer evil of it? Satan’s great joy is to convince you that the sin you are about to commit is very small and the sin you have just committed is very large. He convinces you of this even when they are the very same sin. Don’t believe his lie! Don’t fall for his trick! But if and when you do, don’t give him his great delight.

There is hope, even when you fall for his trick for the thousandth time. The terrible reality is that there are no small sins, no minor offenses. There are always grave consequences for recklessly disobeying God’s commands. But your glorious confidence is that those consequences have already been faced and met and paid by God’s own Son. There are no sins so small that you can enjoy them with impunity, but no sins so big that they can take you beyond God’s saving grace.

Image credit: Shutterstock

November 18, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include one of my favorite Michael Horton books, Putting Amazing Back into Grace ($2.99). Also consider Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God by C.J. Mahaney ($2.99); Going Public by Bobby Jamieson ($4.99); Scripture Alone by James White ($2.99); and these 3 from Christian Focus: Joseph by Liam Goligher, Jonah by Colin Smith, and Daniel by Sean Michael Lucas ($2.99 each). You may want to download Don’t Follow Your Heart by Jon Bloom which is available free at Desiring God.

10 Questions about Adventism

Nathan Busenitz is finding out what I learned a little while ago: That critiquing Seventh Day Adventism brings about some harsh responses.

What ISIS Really Wants

“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.”

If We Perish, We Perish

Amy makes an important point here: “It’s ironic that two months ago, when a drowned toddler was the Face of the Refugee, there was only criticism for those countries who didn’t open their arms wide.  Now, when the Face of the Refugee is a terrorist, those same doors are slamming shut.”

How One Man’s Face Became Another Man’s Face

(Note: Since I shared this today, NY Mag has added an inappropriate ad for another article in the right sidebar. My apologies.) “Patrick Hardison’s face was not always his own. Three months ago, it belonged to a young Brooklyn bike mechanic.” This article (which contains a handful of swear words) describes a procedure on the very frontier of medical science: a face transplant.

Christmas Books

Westminster Books has deals this week on Christmas books. There are some good choices there for individuals and families.

This Day in 1874. 141 years ago today the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in Cleveland. *

Talking with Catholics about Jesus

Mark Gilbert: “Here are my answers to some great questions a student at a theological college asked me about talking with Catholics about Jesus.”

For the Love

TGC has a helpful review of Jen Hatmaker’s popular new book For the Love. They point out strengths and weaknesses and make it sound like there are probably better books to read.


No man more truly loves God than he that is most fearful to offend Him. —Thomas Adams

Protect Your Family with Circle
November 17, 2015

The Internet has become an indispensable resource for the home and family, but every parent has grappled with properly managing and overseeing that resource. We all know the dangers that lurk out there, yet still believe in the value of maintaining access and the necessity of training our children to use it wisely. As the Internet matures, we are gaining some great new tools to help us.

DeviceCircle is an interesting new device and app that allows parents to manage all of their home’s connected devices. Recently Kickstarted into existence, it is now available to the public. Circle, which looks like nothing more than a tiny little white box, manages every device connected to your home network and does this by offering parents a collection of services that can reduce or deny the functionality of those devices.

The short form of my review is this: Consider buying it. I think it will prove well worth the $99 investment. (Also, it has a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy, greatly reducing any risk and allowing a thorough testing period.)

What follows is the longer form of my review. I will tell you about my experience with the product and suggest where it may be especially helpful.


Circle Setup Setting up Circle is quick and easy. While the Circle app which configures and controls the device is currently only available for iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad), Circle manages every device that connects to your home network, regardless of platform. In other words, you need an iOS device to do setup and management, but it will manage and oversee every kind of device—personal computers running Windows, mobile phones running Android, PlayStations, smart TVs, and so on. Circle does promise that in 2016 they will extend this management software to Android.

Setup involves plugging in your Circle, wirelessly connecting the device you will use to manage your Circle, and following a few simple steps to connect Circle to your router. This takes no more than 2 minutes and is guided entirely by the app.

Once that initial setup is complete, you will need to create a user account for each person in your home, a process that takes around 30 seconds per person. Then you simply browse through the listing of all the devices connected to your router and assign them to the appropriate users—your iPhone is associated with your account, your son’s PlayStation with your son’s account, your wife’s laptop with your wife’s account, and so on. Devices that are shared by multiple users are added to a general home account.

November 17, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include Christians in an Age of Wealth by Craig Blomberg ($3.99); Their Rock Is Not Like Our Rock by Daniel Strange ($4.99); John Wesley’s Teachings by Thomas Oden ($2.99); Urban Legends of the New Testament by David Croteau ($4.99).

Amazon also has quite a list of Ravensburger games and puzzles on sale today. They have some excellent ones.

Discipleship, Rest and Reading

It has been a while since Thabiti Anyabwile last updated his blog, but he came back strong with this article. It’s geared toward pastors but has wisdom for all of us.

When You Indulge in Porn, You Participate in Sex Slavery

Andy Naselli makes the case. I do not disagree.

We Cannot Look the Other Way

No, we cannot. David Altrogge wants to tell you about this documentary 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy about the infamous Kermit Gosnell case. I have seen it and recommend it.

Immigration Policy

Kevin DeYoung has penned a really strong article on immigration policy and some of the dangers of elevating compassion as the primary decision maker.

This Day in 3 BC. According to early church father Clement of Alexandria (c.155–c.220), Jesus was born 2,018 years ago today. Merry Christmas? *

Irony’s Dead And Planned Parenthood Killed It

Here’s a brief take on Planned Parenthood’s outrageous tweet.


God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. —C.S. Lewis

A Call for Christian Extremists
November 16, 2015

The effects of extremism have been on display all weekend. Even this morning they are splashed across every television screen, every news site, the front page of every newspaper. The attacks in Paris have shown us extremism at its most brutal and bloody, the kind that celebrates death, destruction, and mayhem.

But did you know that the Bible calls Christians to extremism as well? It calls Christians to be zealots in a cause, to go to great lengths to carry out extreme deeds in the name of Jesus. We see this in Paul’s little letter to Titus where we are reminded of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

We, too, are to be extremists. We, too, are to go to extreme measures to serve our God. And here are our marching orders: Do good. We are to bring glory to God by doing good for others. Allah may be glorified in maimed bodies and blood-soaked city streets, but God is glorified in acts of love and deeds of kindness. He is glorified in deeds done not to earn favor with God, but deeds done as an expression of gratitude because we have already received the favor of God. God is glorified as we serve others in his name. God is honored in the costly sacrifice of love.

Jesus himself spoke of the primacy of good works: “Let your light shine before others,” he said, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His friend Peter said it as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [those who do not adhere to Christian teaching] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). The Apostle Paul would also echo the theme: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The theme pervades and dominates the New Testament. Does it pervade and dominate your life?

We make God’s love and presence known in these good works, these deeds done for the glory of God and the good of other people. These deeds communicate something of the heart of God and his love for mankind. And so he calls us to take every possible opportunity to love others with the love of God. We are to be thoughtful and creative, to apply ingenuity in our attempts to shock others with our deeds of love and kindness. We are to give generously of our time, talents, money, and whatever else God has given us. We are to forget about ourselves in service to him, to be willing to face pain, harm, or even death as we do these deeds.

So Christian, with zealotry on every heart and in every mind today, perhaps this is a time to ask about your own level of extremism. Are you eager to do good for others? Is this what motivates you? Is this the natural expression of your faith in Jesus Christ? Could it be said that you are a good works zealot? God calls you to nothing less.

Image credit: Shutterstock