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Tim Challies

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October 2009

October 27, 2009
Open Tax Records
How strange is this? “In a move that would be unthinkable elsewhere, tax authorities in Norway have issued the ‘skatteliste,’ or ‘tax list,’ for 2008 to the media under a law designed to uphold the country’s tradition of transparency.” In other words, they release the income statements of everyone in the country.
Benny Hinn on Nightline
Benny Hinn tries to play the game on Nightline. He seems to be trying harder to be seen as a mainstream Christian preacher. And yet he continues to preach heresy and to enrich himself at everyone else’s expense.
Attack of the Ginormous Study Bibles
Broadman & Holman have a new Study Bible coming out, and they have a bit of fun contrasting it with the size of the ESV Study Bible.
October 26, 2009

Note (11/08/09) - This complete series is now available for free download. Click here to learn more.

This week I am going to devote most of the articles on this site to the topic of sex. I want to speak especially to young men, those who are teenagers or dating or engaged or newly married. However, I do hope that anyone can read and enjoy the series, even if the teen years are far behind you. I want to talk to young men as an older man. I would like to think that I’m in a sweet spot between young and old—where I am young enough to remember the troubles and travails of youth but old enough to bring a measure of maturity. I want to be forthright with you and yet I also want to be discreet; I often think we, as Christians, talk entirely too much about sex and in too much detail. You may accuse me of the former simply because I’ve written this series but I hope to remain innocent of the second.

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October 26, 2009
Teen-Friendly Dawkins
Atheist Richard Dawkins “is penning a new book which will target his most impressionable audience: teens. The controversial atheist, scientist and avid Darwin supporter, is planning to write, What is a Rainbow, Really?, an illustrated book which will take a myth-busting approach to questions about the natural world.” Dawkins ought to read Mark 9:42 before sending the book to his publisher.
The Next Fireproof
“The makers of the surprise hit Fireproof (Provident Films/Provident-Integrity Distribution) plan to reveal their follow-up to the top independent movie release of 2008 next month.” I find these words a bit troubling: “Their prayer hasn’t been for a good movie; it’s been for a God movie…”
Abortion and Genocide
This is both startling and sickening: “Abortion kills more black Americans than the seven leading causes of death combined, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2005, the latest year for which the abortion numbers are available.”
Deals of the Day
Here are a few deals that made their way into my inbox overnight. While We Sojourn is giving away t-shirts in honor of Reformation Day. 22 Words is giving away ESV Study Bibles an giving you 22 ways to win. And Monergism Books is offering free shipping on orders over $30 sent to US addresses. Use coupon code reformationday.
October 25, 2009

I realized the other day that I have a growing stack of CDs around here awaiting some kind of attention on the blog. So today let me draw your attention to a few noteworthy new albums.

Nate Fancher: The Cross of Jesus - I wasn’t quite sure how to describe the sound of this EP, but found some help at Nate’s site: “A catchy and classy pop/rock genre graced with rhythmic arrangements, ambient guitars, percussive keyboards, and soul lifting melodies might help describe the music of Nate Fancher. And if you call yourself a fan of ‘modern worship’, you’ll feel right at home.” That sounds about right. If the music reminds me of anything else in my collection, it is probably the Passion albums with their big choruses and “loud” instrumentation. You can hear several of the tracks at Nate’s MySpace.

Sovereign Grace Music: Sons and Daughters - You may well be familiar with the Sovereign Grace albums—there are quite a few of them now. As time goes on, it seems to me that the songs are getting a bit tighter and the instrumentation a little bit more varied. I take this as a good thing. For example, you can give a listen to “God Delights in You” and you’ll soon realize that this song would not have been likely to appear on any of their previous albums. There are some new songwriters and some new musicians and that is helping to keep this line of albums fresh. You can find information about the album here.

Sovereign Grace Music: To Be Like Jesus - One of the first Sovereign Grace albums I listened to was Awesome God, one that was targeted at children aged 7 and up. A thing I enjoyed about the songs on that album was that they were deliberately focused at kids who were raised in Christian homes but who were perhaps not yet Christians. So rather than having songs that said, “I’m so glad I’m a Christian” they were songs that simply spoke of how Christian kids ought to behave. In this way they leveled a real challenge to the children. The follow-up to that album, To Be Like Jesus, is much the same. It “contains twelve worship songs that teach the fruit of the Spirit in a creative and memorable way.Through these songs kids will learn that Jesus is our perfect example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. More than that, they’ll discover that we can’t be like Jesus unless we trust in the power of his cross to forgive us and the power of his Spirit to change us.” read more here.

Daniel Renstrom: On the Incarnation - As you may guess from the title, this is a Christmas album (which releases on October 27). Renstrom reminds me, both in voice and in musical style, of Derek Webb (though without the cussing). The new album has eight tracks split between originals and traditional Christmas songs. Be sure to also check out his previous album Adore and Tremble. Both of them are fantastic. You can read more at Daniel’s site.

Indelible Grace Music: By Thy Mercy - Surely you know Indelible Grace Music by now. They have just released a new album and this time around it is an acoustic album. As with the others, it features a series of hymns set to new or mostly-new melodies written and performed by a variety of artists. I am not the biggest fan of this kind of acoustic music, but still enjoyed this album. It’s a fitting addition to the series. Check it out at igracemusic.com.

October 24, 2009

The Case for GodIt is a rare occasion that I find it difficult to point out any redeeming features in a book-when I struggle to find a single positive to write in a review. Unfortunately Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God is one of those books-one that is so monstrously bad, so hopelessly awful, so wretchedly miserable, that it took concerted effort just to finish it. Heck, even the cover stinks-a pile of religiously-significant books hovering at a strange angle over a plain background. I tell you what: I will concede the font. The book is set in Granjon, a very nice, classical font that is very consistent with the earliest Garamond type faces. It is classy and classical but without being antique. But that is as good as the book gets.

October 23, 2009

Free Stuff Fridays

Well, another Free Stuff Fridays is upon us. This week’s sponsor is Evangelical Press, a non-profit publisher whose mission “is to place sound Christian books and sound biblical teaching within reach of as many people as it can across the world.” Today they are offering to place a brand new book with five readers of this site. The prize they are offering is the newly published Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything. This is a 304 page hardcover book that goes head-to-head with today’s popular new atheists.

Who Made God?The author is an esteemed scientist (just check out the list of letters that follow his name: Professor Edgar H. Andrews BSc, PhD, DSc, FInstP, FIMMM, CEng, CPhys.) who is Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and an international expert on the science of large molecules. Says the publisher, “If you’ve been waiting for a really effective riposte to the ‘new atheism’ of Richard Dawkins and others (or even if you haven’t) here it is - gently humorous, highly readable, deeply serious, razor sharp, and written by an internationally respected scientist. Who made God? dismantles the arguments and pretensions of scientific atheism and presents a robust biblical theism as a positive, and altogether more convincing, alternative.”

The book has already been widely praised and looks primed to make a splash. You may like to read more about the author and his work at whomadegod.org. “A book written by a distinguished scientist about the existence of God, which has chapter headings like ‘Sooty and the universe’, ‘Steam engine to the stars’ and ‘The tidy pachyderm’, has to be different. It is. Addressing profound questions of science, philosophy and faith with an amazing lightness of touch, Edgar Andrews exposes the pretensions of the ‘new atheism’ of Richard Dawkins and others, blending incisive arguments with gentle humour. As Fay Weldon writes, the result is ‘Thoughtful, readable, witty, wise …’”

Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.


October 23, 2009

If you were one of the four million people to read the bestselling book Freakonomics, you will pretty well know what to expect from the long-awaited sequel SuperFreakonomics. It has five chapters, each of which stands on its own and each of which ties varied economic data into some kind of a cohesive whole. It is just as interesting as its predecessor and sticks very closely to the formula that made the first book such an unlikely hit.

The first chapter is titled “How Is a Street Prostitute Like a Department-Store Santa?” and this chapter is a lengthy look at the economics of prostitution. The authors draw out all kinds of interesting conclusions about prostitution and especially about how prostitution has changed over the years. For example, they show that the wages for prostitutes have fallen drastically over the past hundred years. The reason is pure economics and goes back to the law of competition. “Who poses the greatest competition to a prostitute? Simple: any woman who is willing to have sex with a man for free. It is no secret that sexual mores have evolved substantially in recent decades. The phrase ‘casual sex’ didn’t exist a century ago (to say nothing of ‘friends with benefits’). Sex outside of marriage was much harder to come by and carried significantly higher penalties than it does today.” In other words, in decades past women held closely to their virginity and were unlikely to give it away to anyone but their husbands. Today a man has, in the words of the authors, “a much greater supply of unpaid sex.” According to the laws of supply and demand, prices must then fall. In our generation only 5% of men lose their virginity to a prostitute; in days past it ran as high as 20%. Today more than 70% of men have sex before marriage; in days past it was just 33%. Premarital sex has proven a free substitute for prostitution. Once the domain of the professional (at one time one in every fifty American women in their twenties was a prostitute!) premarital sex is now the realm of any woman. This has driven down wages through a strange but sad kind of free market force. I guess this gives us something to think about the next time we hear about the falling levels of prostitution. Though we rejoice when prostitutes find another line of work, it does not necessarily mean that we have cured one of society’s ills. It may point to changing market forces based in turn on declining morality.

There was something else in this chapter that gave me a lot to think about. In their research the authors found that certain sexual acts have always commanded a premium; some are more costly than others. That is no surprise. Acts that are taboo in society are going to cost more than acts that are considered “normal.” What is interesting, though, is to see that this is a moving standard. As society has become increasingly sexualized, acts that were once taboo are now considered bland or boring. What once commanded a premium is now considered barely worth thinking about. This got me thinking about sin and about the very nature of sin. Have you ever had one of those moments where you found that sin was suddenly taking charge of you? If you think about it I’m sure you can come up with a moment when you realized that it was no longer you who was in charge, but sin. Sin had taken over; sin was taking the lead and you were just following along. It is a terrifying place to be! Sin always wants more, always demands more. It is progressive, beginning with something small but always demanding more and greater. Give it an inch and it will take a mile. The economics of prostitution shows the progressive nature of sin. Just in a brief look at rates and wages we can see how society has changed as women have become more willing to give their bodies away and as the vulgar and invasive and degrading has become mainstream.

This book illustrates why I love reading and why I always seek to read widely. I rarely regret reading Christian books and have benefited from such books immeasurably. But I would be impoverishing myself, I think, if I were to read only Christian books. Here in a book that is not in any way “Christian” I found all sorts of interesting facts, interesting ideas, that I can grapple with. They are issues that I can think about within my Christian worldview and use them to uncover great truths about people and about the God who created them.