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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

theology

8 years 7 months ago
There is any number of books available today that serve as introductions to Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. While some of these leave much to be desired, many of them are excellent and do justice to the topic. One might ask, then, why someone would want to write (or read) yet another one, and that would be a fair question.

What attracted me to The Doctrines of Grace is that it was the final book written by one of our generation’s great pastors and teachers, James Montgomery Boice. Having been diagnosed with cancer and knowing that he had merely a few months or weeks to live, he dedicated himself to hymn-writing and to writing this book. He lived for a mere forty two days after receiving his diagnosis, and though he was not able to see it to completion, he turned it over to his colleague Philip Ryken who completed it after Boice’s death. In the foreward R.C. Sproul writes of Boice: “Here was a man who not only believed in the doctrines of grace but also loved those doctrines and had fire in his bones about propagating them. I knew Jim Boice for more than thirty years and never saw that fire diminish. His soul was held captive by the doctrines of grace. His ministry was an ongoing doxology to the doctrines of grace because they so clearly manifest the God of that grace…It is not surprising that the last literary work of James Boice would focus on his first love, the doctrines of grace.” This book, then, contains the last words of an eminent pastor, theologian and teacher who dedicated his life to the very topic at hand. It would be foolish for us to disregard such a message.

The book begins with an examination of the current state of the evangelical world and traces some of the history of Calvinism and great Calvinists of the past. The reader is introduced to Arminianism and sees how the two systems of doctrine are at odds. We see how a rediscovery of the doctrines of grace is the antidote to the current sorry state of evangelicalism.

The author then moves to an in-depth examination of each of the five doctrines of grace. Eschewing the traditional TULIP acronym, Boice chooses instead to speak of Radical Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Efficacious Grace and Persevering Grace. Each of the points receives a full examination, but one that is targeted at the layperson so that even a young person or someone with little theological background could easily understand. Each of the points is supported with Scripture and even the passages that seem to contradict the doctrines are examined and dealt with. As one would expect, the Arminian opposites of each doctrine are considered as well.

The final two chapters speak of rediscovering God’s grace. Calvinism is not a system of doctrine that impacts only the mind. While it is based on theological distinctions, this theology should spur us to action. One who considers himself Calvinist but sees no reason to take the gospel to the world or to be involved in the betterment of society has not truly understood the words of God. The true Calvinist should be a leader in issues of evangelism and social justice.

This book provides a beautiful and captivating introduction to Calvinism. Combined with Boice’s prior volume Whatever Happened To The Gospel of Grace? one receives a solid introduction to the doctrines of grace and to the five solas of the Reformation. I recommend this book as heartily as I recommended Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?. Both are excellent studies and deserve to be read and appreciated.

8 years 8 months ago
Putting Amazing Back Into Grace was the first book I have read by Michael Horton. It will certainly not be my last. On the cover of the book J.I. Packer declares the book “a breaktaking workout” and his praise is justified. This book points us back to the Reformation and ultimately to the Bible itself as the source of an amazing grace that much of modern Christianity seems to have lost. He presents timeless truths as being as relevant to us today as they were when they were first discovered.

Horton redraws the standard TULIP acronym using modern terms. Total Depravity becomes Rebels Without A Cause, Unconditional Election becomes Grace Before Time, Limited Atonement becomes Mission Accomplished, Irresistible Grace becomes Intoxicating Grace and Perseverance of The Saints becomes No Lost Causes. While the terms may have changed, the truth behind each is defended and, perhaps best of all, made relevant to life. More than a theological treatise, this book contains an element of intense practicality where Horton shows how these doctrines are relevant to everyday life.

Among the other topics Horton covers are dispensationalism which he bravely attacks and the sacraments which he describes as being two keys to spiritual growth. I found the chapter of sacraments the weakest part of the book. While he has given me some food for thought, I do have to take issue with some of his statements. He takes a firm stance for paedo-baptism as well as a sacramental view of the “ordinances,” so be prepared for that. His comments about Evangelical churches adding extra sacraments (ie recommitment) are well-taken.

Perhaps my greatest praise is that this book challenges so many assumptions and so many of the words and phrases Christians use all the time. Horton traces the evolution of many of these phrases and shows how they are unbiblical at best, and heretical at worst. Some examples of this are “let go and let God” and “the Spirit’s leading.” Common phrases, but ones we use without really examining their underlying theological implications.

I do not use the term life-changing easily, but I do not believe it would be unfair to say that this book can change a life. It is a stunning portrayal of the doctrines of grace and one I know I will return to often. I give it my wholehearted recommendation for all believers. If you do not know the doctrines of grace, read this book and discover them for yourself. If you do, read this book to rediscover their greatness. This book will leave you in awe before the greatness of our God.

8 years 8 months ago
I do not always choose the books I review. Sometimes I am able to request specific titles from publishers but other times titles arrive unannounced. This provides me with the opportunity to review books that I would not, under most other circumstances, read. Such is the case with Feminine Appeal, written by Carolyn Mahaney. I left the book in my shelf for several weeks before I dared to open it up. I was gratified to see that it was endorsed by many men far more godly (and masculine) than myself, so if someone is going to laugh at me for reading it, they will also have to mock John Piper, Josh Harris, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem, Dennis Rainey and Randy Alcorn. I feel that I am in good company, and so much so that I can even admit that I found the book tremendously enjoyable.

Feminine Appeal is, of course, written primarily for women. Having prepared several audio tapes which examined Titus 2, Mahaney was challenged (apparently by Mark Dever) to publish these presentations in book format. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says that as she listened to these tapes “my heart rejoiced at her evident love for the truth and her clear, compelling presentation of this passage that outlines the ” curriculum” that should be at the heart of all ministry by and to women. I was delighted when Carolyn agreed to put that teaching in book form.”

Mahaney extracts seven feminine virtues from verses 3 to 5 of Titus 2. The verses read as follows:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

The seven virtues are:

  • The delight of loving my husband
  • The blessings of loving my children
  • The safety of self-control
  • The pleasure of purity
  • The honor of working at home
  • The rewards of kindness
  • The beauty of submission

Each of these topics receives a single chapter in the book which concludes with a reflection on Mahaney’s own mother, Margaret, who evidenced so many of these graces. Appended to the book is a study guide prepared by Nicole Mahaney Whitacre, daughter of C.J. and Carolyn.

There were at least two aspects of this book that stood out to me. First, in a book of this type it is always easy for an author to present herself as the example of all that is good and worthy. It is easy for an author to show how she has overcome the difficulties of life and now exemplifies the virtues of godliness. This is particularly prevalent in certain areas of the Christian world where Christian writers, speakers and singers feel they need to display the evidences of a type of anointing that transcends what the rest of us experience. I was glad to see that Mahaney is honest and humble. She humbly admits her own faults and her own shortcomings. She does not hold herself as the example of all that is good. At the same time she does not heap scorn upon herself. She is honest with those areas in which she has, by the power of the Holy Spirit, grown and developed. Yet she is also more than willing to admit where she still struggles and where her sinfulness has affected herself and her family.

The second aspect of this book that stood out to me was how closely Carolyn’s life and ministry parallels that of her husband. The final words of the book could just as easily have been drawn from C.J.’s later book, Humility. Carolyn writes of her mother, “Although it’s true, by worldly standards, that Margaret never accomplished anything great, in God’s eyes she has achieved true greatness. Her life can be summed up by the words of our Lord: ‘Whoever would be great among you must be your servant…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:26,28).” This tells me that Carolyn and C.J. are not merely building a facade - a fictitious persona which they present to the public while in private they are far different. It is clear that they truly do walk together and minister to each other. It is clear that they first apply what they learn to their own lives before sharing with others.

Not too long ago I expressed my belief that men do not mentor one another in the way the Bible encourages us to. I am sure that the same is true of women. A book like this can allow a woman to receive some encouraging, biblical mentorship. As John and Noel Piper express in their endorsement, “Feminine Appeal may be an excellent stand-in for the mentor they lack right now. For others, it will wonderfully complement the relationship they have with an older friend of the Titus 2 sort.”

This book was a valuable read, even to one who has no feminine appeal! As I read I was challenged in the ways I understand my wife and was provided with much wisdom which I can share with her and even apply to my own life. I was given a greater appreciation for the precious gift God has given me in Aileen. I give this book my unreserved recommendation for men or women.

8 years 8 months ago
I can’t think of too many books I’ve enjoyed reading as much as The Rest of God. I am not even talking about the content but just the book. I know nothing about the author, Mark Buchanan, beyond what he reveals within the book. I haven’t Googled his name and did not read the fancy little printout the publisher sent along with the book. What I do know is that this guy can write. Publishers Weekly says “His prose is fresh and immediate, earnest and self-effacing at the same time.” I couldn’t agree more. His prose is poetic. It is a joy to read.

But of course the actual writing is only one component of a book and, to be honest, a component that is of lesser importance. Of far more importance is the content. I’m glad to say that, on the whole, I found this a compelling and challenging book. Buchanan argues that as Christians we have lost “the rest of God—the rest God bestows.” “In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth.” Our culture expects us to work constantly. But God provides us rest in the Sabbath. “Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both a time on the calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.” The purpose of this book is “to convince you, in part, that setting apart an entire day, one our of seven, for feasting and resting and worship and play is a gift and not a burden, and neglecting the gift too long will make your soul, like soil never left fallow, hard and dry and spent.” He seeks to help Christians understand the importance of developing not just the desire to maintain a Sabbath day but also develop a Sabbath heart.

So how do we do this? Well, that is the subject of the book’s fourteen chapters. Each chapter concludes with a brief “liturgy,” a chance for the reader to practically apply what he has learned. Buchanan begins by setting out a theology of work. He teaches that, because of the fall, some level of discontent with our jobs is inevitable. God made it that way. “In order to keep the Sabbath well—to embrace the rest of God—we need a right view of work. Without a rich theology of labor, we’ll have an impoverished theology of rest. We’ll find that both are hectic, sporadic, chaotic. We’ll find no joy in either.”

Sabbath is not a day for mere leisure, which is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to santify time. “Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred.” Buchanan teaches that there are two Greek words which we translate as “time” in English. The first refers to the time of clock and calendar. This is time in a profane, cold sense. It is the endless, inevitable march of seconds, minutes, hours, days. The second refers to time as an opportunity, as a gift. This is time in the sacred sense, time which has been entrusted to us by God. It is time that must be sanctified on the Sabbath. Sabbath-keeping requires two orientations. One of these is Godward and the other timeward. “To keep Sabbath well—as both a day and an attitude—we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time. We likely, at some level, need to change our minds about both. Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we’ll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath.” Our trust in God’s sovereignty allows us to take a day in which we cease from all that we need to do and instead focus on feasting, resting, worship and play—those things we rarely make time for on the other six days.

So what does Sabbath look like? What can we do on the Sabbath? Buchanan points out that, while God spared no detail in describing Old Testament dietary laws, laws regarding hygiene and laws regarding sacrifices, He provided only a bare outline of Sabbath-keeping. Buchanan does the same. He warns against legalism which, despite its complexity, is mindless, requiring little or no personal engagement. Legalism is “sheer mechanics, simple arithmetic, no more difficult than cranking a hoist or measuring a length of board. You just follow orders.” “Sabbath-keeping is grounded in a stark refusal we make to ourselves. We stand ourselves down. We resist that which six days of coming and going, pushing and pulling, dodging and weaving, fighting and defending have bred into us. What we deny ourselves is our well-trained impulses to get and to spend and to make and to master. This day, we go in a direction we’re unaccustomed to, unfamiliar with, that the other six days have made seem unnatural to us.” If the grass needs to be cut because you did not have a chance to do it on Saturday and you have a busy week approaching, leave the grass. But if the grass needs to be cut and this is one of your favorite, most relaxing chores, than by all means, cut the grass on the Sabbath.

The book isn’t all good. Buchanan quotes a few of the usual suspects we might expect in a book dealing with this type of subject matter: Henri Nouwen and Brother Lawrence among them. He has a chapter on listening to God which should have been left out as it contributes very little to the book and introduces the flawed concept of prayer as communication from God rather than prayer as communication to God. Some of his biblical interpretation is a mite suspect and I wasn’t quite able to figure out his theology of Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. But I still found this a tremendously enjoyable book and one that dealt a fresh perspective on an old, old issue. Buchanan paid scant attention to the standard arguments for and against Sabbath, opting instead to show that it is a human necessity and that Sabbath can become a time of unparalleled joy, beauty and rest if only we will slow down long enough to enjoy it. It challenged me and has given me much food for further research and meditation.

I still don’t know who this Buchanan guy is, but I am going to have to track down his other books. If they are anything like The Rest of God I’m sure I will enjoy reading them, even if only for the experience.

 

8 years 8 months ago
I recently heard someone say “I follow all 9 of the 10 commandments.” It is true, isn’t it, that we continue to regard each of the other 9 commandments as being integral to the Christian life, but have disregarded the fourth. A few years ago I read an article written by an unbeliever and published in a major newspaper where she questioned how Christians could simply disregard this commandment. Her conclusion was that it was mere disobedience - that Christians disregarded the commandment simply because following it would conflict with our lifestyles. Was she on to something, or did she merely misunderstand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New - a very common problem with believers and unbelievers alike?

Call The Sabbath A Delight is the first book I have read dedicated entirely to the subject of Sabbath observance in the post Old Testament era. I have read bits and pieces of information regarding why we should or should not continue to honor the fourth commandment, but never a book-length treatment. This particular book is published by Banner of Truth which should give a pretty good indication of which side the author will take. He represents the view that I was raised with. I was raised in a Presbyterian home and attended Reformed schools and churches and was continually admonished to keep the Sabbath holy. I spent one year of my life in Scotland and there we were taught that we were not even to play with friends on Sunday, but were instead to read our Bibles and study our Catechisms. While the author, Walter Chandry, may not be that strict, he clearly believes that Christians have abandoned a practice which we need to rediscover out of obedience to God.

A common argument against observing the Sabbath in our time is that Christ did away with the moral Law when He died for us. Underlying this observation is a belief or assumption that the Sabbath was somehow a burdensome obligation for God’s people, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Sabbath was a creation ordinance, for even in a perfect world God rested on the seventh day and declared it as being set apart to Him. So when we examine this issue we need to do so free from a bias that the Sabbath was an obligation. On the contrary it was a wonderful privilege, given by a loving God. Any harm that befell the day was the fault of sinful humans who are adept at turning anything wonderful into something burdensome.

The author covers the following topics:

  1. The Commandment is Holy
  2. The Commandment is Spiritual
  3. The Commandment is Good
  4. Does the NT Teach the 4th Commandment?
  5. Sabbath Observance: Mosaic and Christian
  6. Motives for Sabbath-Keeping
  7. Which Day of the Week in the Sabbath?
  8. Difficult Cases of Conscience

I will leave you to read his arguments on your own if the topic interests you. His conclusion is that the Sabbath, as a creation ordinance, continues to this day so that God requires that we continue to honor it even today. “No age has ever more intensely needed Sabbath-keeping than ours. Attempts to scrap God’s moral law and to replace it with institutions and schemes of human invention are miserably failing. Sabbath-keeping in isolation is not an answer to all man’s ills. Yet, this law is intimately related to all others and has a necessary connection with the other branches of God’s moral code. Where even small segments of mankind have succeeded in implementing a joyful observance of the Sabbath, they have reaped enormous benefit. It is time for us, too, to call the Sabbath a delight and to return unto the Lord.”

While his arguments are compelling, I am not sure that they are strong enough to convict the evangelical who has never even considered that the Sabbath may extend to our day. His argument is valuable, though, for it represents the view held by many Presbyterian and Reformed believers. Their belief is one which many, if not the majority, of Christians held until recent times.

As for me, I admit with some shame that I do not honor the Sabbath as I used to. I refrain from working and try to set the day apart, but certainly do not treat the day in a way which would make my Presbyterian friends proud. Do I believe that the church would benefit from returning to honoring the Sabbath? I certainly do. But do I truly believe this is an obligation? That is where I am not quite so sure. I struggle with this issue and intend to keep reading about it, studying both perspectives.

8 years 9 months ago
It took me twenty five years to read Jerry Bridge’s book The Pursuit of Holiness. A short while ago I received the “25th Anniversary Edition” and devoted much of this weekend to reading and absorbing the book. This book has become something of a modern day classic. Having read it, I know why! It is a deeply challenging book and one I’m sure I will read again before another twenty five years have elapsed.

The premise of Bridge’s book is that holiness, like almost everything else in life, is something that we must strive for. Holiness is a gift of God and is something that can never be accomplished apart from the work of the Spirit. Yet it is our responsibility to strive for it and to work towards this goal. Bridges illustrates this by writing of a farmer.

A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates - all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.

Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his responsibilities.

 

Just as farming is a joint venture between man and God, in which man cannot do what God must do and God will not do what the farmer should do, so too is the pursuit of holiness. God will not bestow a life of holiness upon us the day we are saved. He requires that we pursue holiness with the confidence that He will work with us and empower us to achieve the desire of our hearts. He gives us the power to do what he requires and expects of us.

The rest of the book is, then, an exhortation to holiness and practical advice on how to attain the holiness God requires of us. On one hand we face an impossible task, for we shall never be perfectly holy in his life. Yet on the other hand we face a task that brings great benefit, for God rewards those who diligently seek after Him. Holiness brings great joy.

There were a couple of areas in which this book challenged me in a way that was unexpected. First, I came to see that much of my pursuit of holiness has been on a macro level. I have looked at my life and seen progress on a grand scale. I have seen areas where I have made much progress and have seen certain sinful habits and desires fall away. For this I am very thankful and acknowledge the Spirit’s work. But the book helped me understand the importance of examining my life on the micro level. While I have certainly made great strides in some big areas, I continue to be amazed at my propensity for sin in small areas. There were several times that I was led to stare my sin directly in the face and react with amazement at just how polluted my heart has become. Perhaps one of my greatest sins, and the greatest sins of all humans, is to trivialize sin. But, and this has been on my heart many times in the past months, I have come to see that to trivialize sin is to trivialize the love of God. For several months I have had a slip of paper on my desk on which I wrote, “When we make light of sin, we make light of the love that saved us. The greater our appreciation of our sin, the greater our appreciation of God’s love.” The Pursuit of Holiness helped me understand just how true this is. When I examine the Scripture and understand what God demands of me, I also understand how far I fall short and how great a Savior was required to save a sinner like me.

The second area this book challenged me was in understanding the relationship of desire and reason. I know from my experience in life that, while God works primarily through reason, Satan focuses his attacks primarily through my desires. I can think of hundreds of times where my desires have been opposed to what I knew was right. There have been countless times when I have fallen into sin because I allowed my desires to have their way over reason. Truly Satan has a powerful weapon at his disposal! Yet how often has my reason had to overcome my desires? How often do I have to interrupt a truly sweet time of fellowship with the Lord because I know I have work that must be done. Certainly not nearly as often as the times I have decided to forsake my time with the Lord because I have desired to do something (anything!) else. While I have always known this to be true, this book has helped me understand the necessity of realigning and training my desires so that I desire what is good. When my heart truly desires obedience I will remove a sword from Satan’s hand.

And so I commend this book to you. You will not have to look far to find testimonies of the power of The Pursuit of Holiness. It has endorsed by, among others, John MacArthur, John Piper, J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul. And perhaps more importantly, it has been endorsed by hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ who have been challenged by it to live lives of holiness. This book is a classic and, to echo John MacArthur, is well deserving of the honor.

8 years 10 months ago
Of the several hundred books I have read in the past few years, there is one which I have recommended more often than any other. I recently revisited this book and decided that I would post a review of it, though I did so several years ago on this site. It was a groundbreaking book in my life and know that God has used it mightily in the lives of other believers.

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace is the first book I have read by Michael Horton. It will certainly not be my last. On the cover of the book J.I. Packer declares the book “a breaktaking workout” and his praise is justified. This book points us back to the Reformation and ultimately to the Bible itself as the source of an amazing grace that much of modern Christianity seems to have lost. He presents timeless truths as being as relevant to us today as they were when they were first discovered.

Horton redraws the standard TULIP acronym using modern terms. Total Depravity becomes Rebels Without A Cause, Unconditional Election becomes Grace Before Time, Limited Atonement becomes Mission Accomplished, Irresistible Grace becomes Intoxicating Grace and Perseverance of The Saints becomes No Lost Causes. While the terms may have changed, the truth behind each is defended and, perhaps best of all, made relevant to life. More than a theological treatise, this book contains an element of intense practicality where Horton shows how these doctrines are relevant to everyday life.

Among the other topics Horton covers are dispensationalism which he bravely attacks and the sacraments which he describes as being two keys to spiritual growth. I found the chapter of sacraments the weakest part of the book. While he has given me some food for thought, I do have to take issue with some of his statements. He takes a firm stance for paedo-baptism as well as a sacramental view of the “ordinances”, so be prepared for that. His comments about evangelical churches adding extra sacraments (ie recommitment) are well-taken.

Perhaps my greatest praise is that this book challenges so many assumptions and so many of the words and phrases Christians use all the time. Horton traces the evolution of many of these phrases and shows how they are unbiblical at best, and heretical at worst. Some examples of this are “let go and let God” and “the Spirit’s leading.” Common phrases, but ones we use without really examining their underlying theological implications.

I do not use the term life-changing easily, but I do not believe it would be unfair to say that this book can change a life. It is a stunning portrayal of the doctrines of grace and one I know I will return to often. I give it my wholehearted recommendation for all believers. If you do not know the doctrines of grace, read this book and discover them for yourself. If you do, read this book to rediscover their greatness. This book will leave you in awe before the greatness of our God.

8 years 11 months ago
If the measure of a book that means a lot to me is the amount of topics it provides for writing then Rediscovering God’s Love by Frank Allred must be a very good one. As I read this book I was continually challenged and found myself constantly scribbling down notes about future topics I would like to discuss on my web site.

Frank Allred is a retired Anglican minister and author of How Can I Be Sure and Fix Your Eyes on Jesus. Beyond that I know little about him, except for what he reveals in this, his most recent book.

“My concern in this book is for the churches that call themselves ‘Evangelical.’ Evangelicals who are worthy of the name are concerned to spread the Good News of the gospel as it is revealed in the Holy Scripture, and that without bias or amendment.” The topic of the book is God’s love, a love that the author feels has “been disfigured and sentimentalised” by Evangelicals. There has been a price to pay for this. “Not only has it led to the trivialising of sin and repentance but it has created a climate in the church in which the call to holiness sounds extreme and out of place… Our understanding and appreciation of the costliness of God’s love, affecting as it does the quality of our worship, has also been adversely affected.” He goes on to warn that “Readers who are looking for something novel will not find it in this book. What you will find here is a restatement of some precious truths that have been treasured by the church for centuries but are now being forgotten. For this reason - since the decline has now been with us for a long time - they may appear new to some readers.”

Through about 250 pages the author goes on to expound upon God’s love. He does so in a way that is challening, biblical and consistent with Reformed theology. Divided into two sections, the book first explores and defines God’s love and explains how Evangelicals need to discover it in a fresh way. In the second part Allred explains how Christians are to put this love into practice through their lives.

As I read I was continually struck by the wisdom God has granted to Frank Allred. I found myself longing for the day when I am this wise, knowing that this wisdom comes only with much study, much work and many years of walking with the Lord. Surely Allred is living proof of the Bible’s exhortation that we are to honor the aged for their wisdom.

I thoroughly enjoyed Rediscovering God’s Love and found that it really did do what it claimed it would. It challenged me to rediscover what it means to love God and to be loved by Him. It challenged me to learn afresh a topic I ought to know more thoroughly. I am glad to recommend this book to you.

9 years 1 month ago
It seems that “theological novels” are becoming increasingly popular. Of course English literature began with a theological novel in the form of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In more recent years we have seen a series by Richard Belcher that has been quite popular in Reformed circles and Brian McLaren’s somewhat notorious series, popular in Emerging Church circles, that began with A New Kind of Christian. A recent addition to this list is Common Grounds written by Glenn Lucke and Ben Young.

Ben Young is a Southern Baptist who is associate pastor of worship at the inconceivably huge Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Glenn Lucke is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and leads Docent Communications Group. Their relationship and a common concern about the lack of theological understanding in the young people they interacted with, led them to write a book presenting the basics of the faith. As they began to write the book evolved into its current narrative format.

Common Grounds is the story of three friends who are all at different places in life. Brad is a nominally Baptist investment banker; Lauren is an unbelieving former Catholic corporate attorney; Jarrod is a Charismatic graduate student in philosophy. These three friends gather each Sunday evening to talk and share their lives with each other. One day Brad meets a new friend, a semi-retired professor of theology. He invites this man to join their group and the professor begins to mentor them in the faith, presenting to them the foundations of Christian doctrine. These weekly conversations address critical doctrines such as sin, evil, revelation (both natural and special), sovereignty, and more.

This book is notable for at least two reasons. First, the doctrine presented is Scripturally-sound and consistent with Reformed theology. Second, the authors present a way of evangelizing people that is geared to a postmodern generation. They employ the twin concepts of narrative and story to present sound doctrine in a way that will appear to postmoderns more than the traditional abstract propositions one might find in a classic book like Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Today’s generation is less-likely to be persuaded by a cold, rationalist presentation of the facts, and more likely to be persuaded by the presentation of a person’s own testimony or story. Common Grounds will help believers understand how this can be effective.

My only concern with the book was that there was no clear presentation of the gospel. This postmodern method of evangelism can be effective, but only if it includes the gospel! My concern was alleviated, though, when Glenn Lucke sent me the following in an email. “The 3 key missing words on the last page are ‘To Be Continued.’ Book 2 is largely done but needs revision as MacGregor continues to teach Brad and Jarrod more deeply about the Christian faith and to explain it to skeptic Lauren.” Common Grounds is only the first chapter of the story. I look forward to reading the continuation of this fascinating dialogue. I echo Al Mohler’s endorsement where he writes, “If you want to reach the postmodern generation, read this book and give it to your friends.”

  Evaluation Support
Theology/Accuracy
Strong, Bible-based theology throughout.
Readability
Easy to read and understand.
Uniqueness
Unique in the consistently Reformed theology.
Importance
Well worth reading for adults and teens.
  Overall
It’s not the best fiction you’ll read, but it is compelling dialogue and sound doctrine.
More About Ratings & Reviews

 

9 years 2 months ago
Having written The Cross Centered Life, in which he exhorted believers to keep the gospel the main thing - the central focus of the Christian life - C.J. Mahaney now stops to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. Christ Our Mediator follows hard on the heels of many similar books timed to coincide with the popularity of The Passion of the Christ. Mahaney begins the book by asserting (correctly, it seems) that a visual presentation of Christ’s crucifixion simply is not enough - we must also be told about the content of the story of the gospel. “The gospel message isn’t visual; it’s truth. It is truth to be believed, not simply a collection of images to be viewed” (page 10). Knowing that many people have seen the how of Christ’s death, Mahaney sets out to bring sense to the why of it.

To explain the cross, Mahaney presents a handful of reflections or meditations on Christ’s suffering and death. Drawing on Scripture and the teachings of great Christians of our day and days past, he presents the gospel in all its force and power. He presents the message that people hate to hear, yet so badly need to hear. This message is the only thing that can save the soul, and Mahaney presents it with that sort of urgency.

This little book, weighing in at only 95 pages, will stir your heart with renewed love for Christ. We could wish that it was a little bit longer, but clearly it was meant only as an introduction to this important topic. Mahaney is sure to recommend, as further reading, other excellent books dealing with the subject. He recommends The Gospel for Real Life and The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Saved From What? by R.C. Sproul, The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper and The Message of Salvation by Philip Ryken. To that list I would add The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy, a wonderful book of meditations upon the cross.

Another challenging little book by C.J. Mahaney, Christ Our Mediator is a welcome sequel to The Cross Centered Life and one I heartily recommend. It provides a great introduction to the importance of the cross and will lead the reader not only to understand why Christ had to die, but to want to know more.

  Evaluation Support
Theology/Accuracy
Strong, biblical and challenging throughout.
 
Readability
Easy to read and understand.
Uniqueness
Unique mainly in its introductory capacity.
Importance
This is a book that will benefit every Christian.
  Overall
This is a great little book, though one limited in scope.
More About Ratings & Reviews

 

Pages