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December 04, 2007

We had a busy week over at Discerning Reader and I thought I’d fill you in one some of the new reviews you can find there.

Along with my review of Thabiti Anyabwile’s The Decline of African American Theology (which I posted here yesterday), I’ve also added a review of Edward Gilbreath’s Reconciliation Blues. Both books deal with racial issues and both are well worth the read.

From Mark Tubbs comes a review of the book that followed the 2006 Desiring God Conference, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. The book features contributions by John Piper, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, Voddie Baucham and David Wells. Leslie Wiggins has a review of what looks to be an excellent new Bible Study book for women, With the Master In the School of Tested Faith. She says, ” Susan Heck has filled the vacuum of solid Bible studies for women. I am so thankful for this Bible study and I am very happy to recommend it.”

From Scott Lamb comes a review of the newly published second edition of Paul House and Eric Mitchell’s Old Testament Theology.

Finally, we have reviews of two newly-published Study Bibles. The first, The Apologetics Study Bible, is published by Holman Bible Publishers and features contributions from Chuck Colson, Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, J.P. Moreland and others. The second is The Literary Study Bible which is edited by the father and son team of Leland and Phillip Ryken and published by Crossway.

November 29, 2007

Today we continue reading the classics together by turning to the second chapter of John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. The opening portion of the book, which we will complete next week, is based upon an exposition of Romans 8:13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Owen came to three conclusions: The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin; The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that is may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh, is the constant duty of believers; The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh. Last week was encouragement on the necessity of putting sin to death. This week we move to this portion of the exposition: “The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin.”

Summary

The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin

  1. Other remedies are sought in vain
  2. Why mortification is the work of the Spirit
    1. The Spirit is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work
    2. All mortification is from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ
  3. How the Spirit mortifies sin
    1. By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh
    2. By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin
    3. By bringing the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith
  4. If the Spirit alone mortifies sin, why are we are exhorted to it?
    1. All graces and good works which are in us are his
    2. It is still an act of our obedience

Discussion

First, and by way of observation, I’d say that this chapter, though significantly shorter, was considerably more difficult than the previous one. It seemed that there were more difficult words and tough phrases than last week. Just when I was starting to get cocky and thinking that Owen wasn’t so difficult after all!

I carried one main thought out of this chapter. Much of this portion concerned “papists”—hardly a term in common use these days. This may serve to antiquate the chapter a little bit, but I think there is still much to learn from it. After all, I think Roman Catholicism is a perversion of true Christian theology and a system that so carefully incorporates man into God’s work. Owen would agree. While I may not be Roman Catholic, I still feel the temptation to allow my man-centered desires to interfere with God’s gracious work. Maybe this is what Owen means when he writes of “the natural popery in man.” I may not wear rough garments or take vows and orders as an attempt to mortify sin, but I may still look to myself and my remedies rather than to God and His remedies. Just as Catholicism has invented ways of mortifying sin, I may also invent ways and means and find them just as powerless to bring about true and lasting change.

I may use and insist upon means that were never appointed by God for this purpose; I may ignore the means that God has, in His grace and wisdom, appointed for this purpose; and, like Luther, I may always mortify, but never come to any sound mortification. “They have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.” This is the mistake of men ignorant of the gospel, and too often it is the mistake I make. As Owen says, “Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no [remedy] for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation.” There is a lot to think about in those words. Do I turn meat into medicine; food into a cure? Do I misuse the wonderful means of grace God has given, thinking that they can mortify my sin when really they are meant to feed me, but not to cure me? Am I trying to “sweat out a distemper with working?”

I am looking forward to continuing with the book next week, but even more so, am looking forward to moving on to the second part where, I suspect, the rubber really begins to meet the road.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the fourth chapter of the book (which will mark the end of the book’s first part). We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been great and have aided my enjoyment of the chapter. I trust this week will prove the same.

November 23, 2007

I am not usually a big bargain hunter, but since we’re going to be down in Georgia for Christmas this year, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good deals at American-based e-commerce stores. After all, if we’ll be in the U.S. for Christmas, it means I can buy things online, have them shipped to my parents, and enjoy the deals that can be found online (deals that quickly become anything but when having to pay international shipping rates and duties).

Here are a few “Black Friday” deals I’ve found that may interest you.

Amazon is having a Black Friday sale and is offering a few good deals. To be honest, it is a little bit disappointing, but if you root around you can find a few really good deals. Some of them are available in limited quantities so you have to be fast. There are whole sections of books and software titles that are on sale.

Monergism Books is having a Thanksgiving Day sale and is offering quite a few good deals. The complete Calvin Commentary set for $169 seems particularly good to me but there are lots of other specials worth looking at as well.

Lifeway has a few deals including The Nativity Story DVD for $10, The End of the Spear for $5 and Tony Dungy’s biography for $13.49. There are also some good CD deals to be had for about $5. Some of these deals run only for a couple of hours so check soon if you’re interested.

Family Christian is having an “After Thanksgiving” sale. Though it’s dominated by ChurchMerch and garbage, there are a few notable items, including the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, a couple of audio Bibles, and some decent albums.

Christa Taylor is offering 20% off on everything in her catalog from today until the 26th.

If you come across any other deals on items that may be of interest to Christians, feel free to post a link in the comments section. As always, shop and read with discernment! There is far more bad than good at many of these places…

November 18, 2007

A question I am asked quite often goes something like this: “Do you ever have a day where you just do not want to write anything?” Are there ever days when the absolute last thing I want to do is to sit down and write? I can answer, quite honestly I think, that this happens only very rarely. There are definitely times where I don’t feel like I have much to say (and some would argue more than others, I suppose, about how often this happens) but there are very few days where I don’t care to write at all. The reasons is simple, really, and is something I’ve expressed often. Writing has become a critical part of my spiritual development. I write about things I’ve learned, and the desire to keep having things to write continually motivates me to seek to learn more. I think Saint Augustine said this best: “I am the sort of man who writes because he has made progress, and who makes progress by writing.”

I love those words. They inspire me to see writing not only as a way of gaining more knowledge, but as a way of marking the progress of applying any knowledge I’ve acquired. I do not want to be a person who knows a lot but who has little ability to apply what I’ve learned or to use it to draw closer to God. Intellectual development may be important and may be gratifying, but it is a lousy end in itself. Rather, I see the pursuit of knowledge as the means to a greater end—glorifying and enjoying God. I write when I learn and learn by writing. There isn’t much I know that I haven’t written about.

So no, there are few days when I just can’t consider writing…

(A person who argues that everything I wrote here was just an excuse to share the quote from Augustine would probably be pretty well correct.)

November 17, 2007

Last year around this time I began what I suppose is about to become a tradition—I made up a book guide to help people choose books to buy others for Christmas (or, of course, just to buy for themselves). As you know, I read and review a lot of books, usually around 100 per year. I have been pleased to find that others are able to benefit from my love of reading through these reviews. It has always been my purpose to help put good books in the hands of believers while helping them avoid ones that just aren’t worth reading. On occasion I’ve been told that people have difficulty navigating the large number of reviews on my blog. To alleviate that problem, I have created a mini-site in which I will list only books I recommend (I will not list books I do not recommend). I have shared my recommendations in a variety of categories. I hope and trust you will find this beneficial.

Click Here For The 2007 Book Guide

If you are after even more reviews, you could always visit my other site, Discerning Reader. Their you’ll find these reviews as well as ones written by some other talented reviewers.

November 07, 2007

Of all the questions that find their way into my inbox, I don’t know that any topic receives more attention than reading. I get a lot of questions from people asking if I’ve read or can recommend certain titles, but also a lot of questions just about reading—how to do it and how to do it more. A couple of days ago, a friend and long-time reader of this site (one of this site’s very first readers, in fact) asked me a few questions about my “excessive reading”—why and how I read and asked if I would address these questions in an article. Having nothing better to write about today, I thought I would do just that. His questions will be in italics and will be followed by my replies. I hope you are able to find this interesting and perhaps even helpful.

I don’t really know how much I read. I suppose it would probably amount to roughly two to three books per week when averaged over the course of a year. By the end of the calendar year I typically find myself burning out a little bit and may not pick up a book for even a few weeks at a time. I write reviews of the majority of the books I read, though there are some I choose not to review. Sometimes I simply do not understand a book enough to adequately review it or sometimes I can think of nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Some books I do not review because I doubt that anyone else would be interested in those titles. I do most of my reading in the morning and the evening. After I wake up and spend some time in personal devotions, I either hit the couch or my exercise bike and try to read for half an hour to an hour. In the evenings I tend to open up a book after I’ve put the children to bed and try to get in an hour or two of good reading.

Do you feel that your foundational convictions have been changed any or much by your reading? Do you think you have become more relaxed on certain doctrines than you once were or more dogmatic?

I do not think that my foundational convictions have changed much by reading, if by foundational convictions we mean the theology that lies closest to the gospel. I would certainly say that much of that theology has been clarified and strengthened in my mind as I’ve come to understand things better, but I have not had any huge epiphanies where I’ve laid aside any foundational theology. I am reasonably certain that my foundational theology is largely biblical. It is not nearly as deep or as solidly-formed as I might like, but I do believe it is biblical and is simply the doctrine that has been handed down to me as a person who grew up in sound churches.

To answer the second part of this question, there are some doctrines about which I’ve become more relaxed and others about which I’ve become more dogmatic. I’m not sure how much this owes to my reading and how much it owes to my times of Bible study, research and writing. But I’ve definitely come to see that there are some areas where I need to relax a little bit and to rejoice that people are following their biblically-informed consciences; there are some areas that I’ve found just do not merit a great deal of attention. People who have read this site for a long time will probably be able to see a difference between what I was writing in 2004 and what I’m writing now. The flavor has changed, the tone has changed, and I believe a lot of that is because of what I’ve learned through the books I’ve read. At the same time, I’ve learned more about the “hills to die on” and am more dogmatic than ever about the doctrines that lie at the heart of the faith.

My father-in-law once wrote a paper, when he was working on his MDiv., on the topic of “Wine in the Bible”. He came to the conclusion that every instance of the word “wine” in the Bible referred to non-fermented grape juice and insisted that total abstinence was the only Biblical position a Christian should take. I have a book by Kenneth Gentry entitled “The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages” that presents a different view. My father-in-law based his convictions on books that he had read and he refused to read anything that presented another position. I’m using this example to ask this: How much should we read of alternate points of view? Is it right to simply seek those books that present what we already believe in or should we read other works? Should we approach these books with an “Open Mind” or have our mind made up?

I believe there is great value in reading books that may not align with what a person already believes. Of course one rarely knows whether he will agree with a book until he has read it, but usually by looking at endorsements and researching the author we can have a pretty good idea of what an author will teach. I make a point of reading books I am quite certainly I will disagree with. I do this for several reasons. First, I think my convictions are strengthened when I read alternative points of view. In fact, sometimes reading alternative points of view really helps me understand what I believe in a way I did not before. There’s nothing like reading that penal substitutionary atonement is “cosmic child abuse” to make me sharpen my understanding of that doctrine. Second, I believe it is important to keep growing and to keep sharpening my beliefs. I am under no illusion that all I believe is entirely correct, so I am eager to read how other people interpret Scripture so I can test it and see if what I believe does adhere to the Word of God. And finally, I think it is important to know what other people believe.The books that I tend to agree with are books that represent the beliefs of only a small percentage of Christians and only the tiniest fraction of humanity. If I want to understand what others believe and to understand why they believe these things, I’m going to need to read the books they are reading.

I should note that, while all reading requires discernment, reading books that come from a theological perspective far different from my own requires an extra measure. I believe we should major on good books, but do not feel there is anything wrong with minoring on not-so-good books.

And, if you’re interested, I disagree with your father-in-law’s conclusion.

How much of a book do think you retain? Are they like episodes of “Little House on the Prairie?” You remember seeing them and you remember being moved by them but you can’t remember a single one of them now!

The amount I retain varies a great deal from book-to-book. If I am reading a book out of desire, because it is a book whose subject matter greatly interests me, I will tend to enjoy reading it more and will tend to remember more. When the book is one I am reading more out of necessity, feeling that this is a title that needs to be reviewed for one reason or another, I am less likely to remember a lot about it. I find reading with pen and pencil in hand and writing a review are both great ways of reinforcing what the book teaches and helping me file it away in my mind. I can always return to the review to refresh my memory.

I should say that my goal in reading a book is not necessarily to remember everything. I’m quite aware that I’m no Al Mohler and work within the limitations of my mind and memory. My goals are more modest and probably more realistic for someone who can only just manage to remember my own first name most days without first having to read the label on my underwear. I often read books in order to know what that book contains so that if I need to focus on a particular area, I can return to it as a resource. While I may not often remember the complete structure and content of a book, I’ll often remember the more important points within the book and can often quickly flip to the part of the book I want to reference, even months later. For some reason my brain often works in such a way that I can remember the place on the page that I read something. Thus I can skim a book looking only at the bottom right corners or the odd pages, knowing that I saw something down there.

I’ll shamefully admit that there are a few books (a very few) that I’ve noticed in my list of reviews of which I have no memory whatsoever. I’ve apparently read and reviewed them, but remember absolutely nothing of them. But this is definitely the exception far more than the rule.

Is reading a Hobby, a Pacifier, both or neither?

I still read primarily for my own benefit. It sounds selfish, I’m sure, but I tend to read mostly because I know there is so much to learn and I’m eager to learn it. Just last night my wife said to me (and not in a bad way), “You’re one of those people who always feels you need to improve yourself. No matter what you learn, you think you need to learn more.” And I guess that’s about it. The more I learn, the more I see that I need to still learn. This is not a burden to me, but a challenge. Reading and learning is a joy. It is a hobby of sorts and perhaps even a bit of a calling. I enjoy it more than I enjoy most other things I could do with the time. I enjoy the process of reading and love to see in my life the benefits of reading good books.

As I’ve become a book reviewer I’ve also had to begin reading books simply because they need to be reviewed. This has stretched me and has introduced me to some great books I might otherwise have overlooked. But it has also led me to some books that were terribly boring and which I did not enjoy at all. There are always a few books on my shelf that are “need to read” books. Some of these have been pleasurable, but some have been a fight from cover-to-cover. For some reason I enjoyed reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion but utterly despised reading Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. They are similar in their assumptions and similar in what they teach, but one was a chore while the other was a strange pleasure of sorts.

What is your ultimate aim in reading so much?

I suppose I’ve touched on this already. But my ultimate aim in reading is to bring glory to God. I do this first by delighting in reading—a gift from God. I do this also by reading good books and applying to my life what I’ve learned. And I try to do this as well by making other people aware of good books. This is an unexpected ministry God has given me and one I take seriously. I know that most people do not have the time to read as many books as I do, and neither do they have interest in doing so. So I make it a point to read a lot of books so I can recommend to other people a handful of books they may like to read. If a person is only going to read three or four books a year, I’d be delighted if he read my reviews and chose four good, solid, biblical books as the ones he is going to read that year. I am happy to do the screening work and to serve as a filter, separating the mountains of chaff from the few kernels of wheat.

I find that as I read a lot my praise becomes more sparse, but the praise I do give out becomes more meaningful. After all, when I had read just two books, I had only one way of seeing them—one was better than the other. As I’ve read more and more, the relationships have compounded and I become more and more difficult to impress. So now when I do come across a book that blows my socks off, I find that my recommendations mean more as they are made in the light of hundreds of other “competitors.” I believe that a positive review today means more than a positive review three or four years ago. And well it should. So if you read my reviews, keep an eye out for superlatives as they are becoming increasingly meaningful.

Read it and remains a pleasure. I hope and pray it remains that way to me.

November 01, 2007

A couple of months ago some of the readers of this site began to read some Christian classics together. We spent eight weeks reading through J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, covering one chapter per week and posting some thoughts about the book on Thursday mornings. I’m not quite sure how many people took the opportunity to read along with us, but believe it was in excess of one hundred. Holiness was a worthwhile read and we learned that it has rightly earned its position as a Christian classic. Feedback from readers assured me that this was a project we should continue as it benefited all who chose to participate.

It is time to think about our next effort. Having asked many of you what you’d be interested in reading next, I think there will be a good bit of interest in reading some John Owen. Owen is known as being one of the greatest theologians in the history of the church and certainly one who offered penetrating analysis of the human condition. His works are known as being difficult to read, but always worth the effort. C.J. Mahaney says, “No writer has taught me more about the dynamics of the heart and the deceitfulness of sin than John Owen.” Jerry Bridges writes, “To read Owen is to mine spiritual gold.” Mark Dever says, “Sin is tenacious, but by God’s grace we can hate it and hunt it. John Owen provides the mater guide for the sin-hunter.” And Phillip Ryken insists that, “John Owen is a spiritual surgeon with the rare skill to cut away the cancer of sin and bring gospel healing to the sinner’s soul. Apart from the Bible, I have found his writings to be the best books ever written to help me stop sinning the same old sins.” It’s hard to argue with all of those men!

overcoming-sin-and-temptationSo for the next classic we read together, I propose John Owen’s Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers. You will find this as portion of Overcoming Sin and Temptation, edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic. This edition maintains the unabridged text, but provides useful introductions and editorial assistance. For example, the editors footnote difficult or obscure words, update archaic language (i.e. they change “thee” to “you”), transliterate words that Owen provided in the original biblical languages, and so on. They maintain the full impact of Owen’s words while removing some of the hindrances experienced by the modern reader. It is this edition that I will be reading and I’d encourage you to do the same. If you order it from Westminster Books, the book should ship to you immediately and be in your hands in just a few days. It is also available at Amazon and just about anywhere else.

Those who do not wish to purchase the book, can find it at CCEL though not in the edited version.

The book is divided into three parts and fourteen chapters. The chapters are mostly quite short, though as the editors point out, the divisions are somewhat less than ideal as Owen did not use chapter divisions in the way we might today. Still, they provide useful breaks in the text and we’ll stick with them. We’ll read one chapter per week and meet right here at this site to discuss things on Thursdays.

I think we can begin with the first chapter on November 15. So if you’d like to read along with us and begin to tackle some John Owen, get a copy of the book and check in here on the fifteenth to begin some discussion. You do not need to write any discussion of your own—just check in to see what others are saying.

Please let me know if you’re interested in participating by posting a comment below.

October 26, 2007

It looks like Westminster Books is the first to receive copies of what is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated books this fall: Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. The book was previously available only in Europe, but Crossway secured the North American rights and has just published it. You can read my review of it here: Pierced for Our Transgressions.

For just one week the book is available at 40% off…so get it now while it’s cheap!

Reformation Day Symposium

I’d like to remind my fellow bloggers about this year’s Reformation Day Symposium. You can get the details simply by visiting that link. I hope you’ll participate!

Reformation Day Deal

I received an interesting note from Ligonier Ministries announcing a great deal on the Reformation Study Bible—the best Study Bible I’ve ever used.

A few of us spoke with RC recently and talked about a way to commemorate Reformation Day. We have decided to offer something special. Next Wednesday, Ligonier Ministries will offer the Reformation Study Bible for $15.17. This is the ESV, hardback edition. It’s a 1 day only sale and I thought you should know.

To quote Stephen Nichols, it’s been 490 years since “a monk with a mallet” nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. God used Luther to start the greatest revival the world has seen. Though there were many benefits to the Protestant Reformation, the publishing of God’s Word in common languages was united to a hunger for the right understanding of that Word. The year 1517 saw a display of God’s grace in human history and every year since we have the opportunity to remember. Let us redouble our efforts to be faithful to the historic Christian faith.

To this end they are offering the Reformation Study Bible on October 31 (Reformation Day) for only $15.17. You can order as many copies as you like at that price, provided you do not resell it. You can get details here: reformationstudybible.com.

October 19, 2007

This is a compilation of various things that caught my eye this week. They were things that needed more explanation than I could offer in A La Carte, but not enough that they merited an article of their own.

The Great October Giveaway Winners

The Great October Giveaway comes to a close today. I have already drawn the names of the winners and will be sending emails out shortly. So check your inbox in the new few minutes to see if you’re among the winners.

Amazon Reviews - They Matter

I post almost all of my book reviews at Amazon and, because I write so many reviews, have become one of the top reviewers there (ranked 335 out of approximately 1,000,000). It is always interesting to me to track the reactions to them. I post the majority of my most notable reviews here as well, but of course Amazon represents a much larger, much more diverse readership. What I say at my blog tends to go over well with the readers here, but often doesn’t go over so well at Amazon, especially when I write about Christian bestsellers.

Take my review of Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You. It got a fair number of mentions in the blogosphere (27 blog reactions, according to Technorati), the majority of which were positive. But at Amazon it has been voted on 91 times with only 54 of those people believing it is helpful (You can see it here). This tells me that there is a great deal of interest in this book (which there must be for a book with an initial print run of three million!) and that people are greatly divided on the book.

Then there is the review of Jerry Bridge’s Respectable Sins. It has been voted on 21 times, with all 21 people agreeing that the review was helpful (You can see it here). I take this to mean that the type of people who research and read Jerry Bridges’ books are from a fairly narrow slice of the Christian world.

And then there is the infamous review of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. It is registering 248 votes with 189 of them saying the review was positive. (You can see it here). Of course this book, as with all of McLaren’s, elicits strong reactions, both positive and negative.

What does all of this voting mean? It actually does prove important. The reviews that are deemed most helpful, purely by volume of helpful votes, are included on the main product page for the book. They are the first reviews people see. And since Amazon sells countless millions of books, a good or a bad review there can make a lot of difference as it will be seen by a lot of people. While customers vote on whether or not a review was helpful, in reality the votes are really about whether or not customers agree with the review (which is ironic, since most of these people haven’t actually read the book).

The long and the short is this. If you are an Amazon shopper, you should get in the habit of voting for reviews you find helpful. It really does matter.

The Forgotten 500

Some time ago, Al Mohler recommended a book called The Forgotten 500, a book that tells the story of an amazing but largely forgotten rescue. When he waxes eloquent about a book on the Second World War, I take it as a given that I am going to need to give the book a read. I immediately secured a copy for myself.

During the ongoing bombing campaigns against the massive oil refineries in Romania, a country conquered by Nazi Germany, hundreds of American bomber crews were shot down, far from lands occupied by Allied Forces. Though they had been warned of the risks they took in falling into the hands of the local populace, they were shocked to find the Serbian villagers embracing them and regarding them as conquering heroes. Serbian forces controlled by General Draza Mihailovich helped these American soldiers evade the Germans and eventually helped them organize an incredible rescue operation. Under the very noses of the German army they built an airstrip and landed plane after plane there, taking the Americans back to freedom. The Serbians did this despite knowing that it could cost them their lives. Had the Germans discovered what was happening, they would have tortured and killed entire villages.

This story is set against the backdrop of the Serbian-Croatian conflict with Mihailovich’s Serbian forces battling the opposing Communist Croatian forces, even while they both battled the Germans. The author, Gregory Freeman, shows how the Allied forces came to favor the communists, even after the Serbians saved so many American lives. The communist forces eventually destroyed the Serbian resistance and communism reigned in Yugoslavia for many decades. For this reason the entire operation was buried for years and was largely forgotten. The Forgotten 500, though, brings it all to light, shining some richly-deserved attention on the heroic Serbian forces who gave so much and received nothing in return.

The Forgotten 500 describes a fascinating piece of history and one that was, until now, almost entirely forgotten. And this, just when we thought that there was little new we could say about the Second World War. World War 2 enthusiasts will want to add this book to their collection! You can buy it from Amazon.

October 12, 2007

This is a compilation of various things that caught my eye this week. They were things that needed more explanation than I could offer in A La Carte, but not enough that they merited an article of their own.

Same Sex Blessings

It’s easy to write off the Anglican Church, and especially so up here in Canada where it seems that so few churches have really remained faithful to the gospel. So many churches, or at least the ones that get the publicity, have long since forsaken the gospel. But sometimes we receive a breath of fresh air. Such was the case when I read a three-part series called “Where Do I Stand (On the issue of Same-sex Blessings)?” Written by Mark Larratt-Smith (who, incidentally and according to my parents, used to attend a Bible study group they were part of back in their Anglican days), the article details his view on these same-sex blessings. He begins with an affirmation and defense of the Sovereignty of God and then moves to the authority of Scripture. He roots the issue firmly in God’s authority over us. “The central issue here really isn’t about same-sex relationships at all, but about God’s sovereignty and the creation of idols.” He gets it right as he cuts to the very heart of the issue:

In fact, what is involved is an attempt to redefine the nature of Almighty God, in order to make Him fit with our contemporary society’s view on a single social issue. In this it does not seem to me to be any different from any other attempt to create a tame god who will comfortably reflect and endorse our own sense of what is appropriate. It is just another example of making one of the gods of stone or wood that the Old Testament prophets denounced. Its implicit message is that, if I don’t agree with God’s version of reality, I will reconstruct a god who is more congenial with my own view of the world. As I have stated above, such a god is not worth worshipping and certainly not the source of any hope to rely upon.

People who do not get right God’s sovereignty and God’s authority through His Word will never be able to get other issues right. Larratt-Smith goes right to the gospel—right to the source.

You can read the article here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

The Emergent Kingdom

Just a few days ago I was pondering the whole emerging and emergent Church movement(s) and began to realize that there is one issue the emerging people have been writing about a whole lot and that most traditional Protestants do not speak of nearly as often. I was thinking of the kingdom of God. Whether you are emerging or emergent, the kingdom of God plays a pivotal role in your theology. And yet it tends to be a mere footnote for most Protestants.

The very next day I received in the mail the latest copy of Gary Gilley’s “Think on These Things” newsletter and was delighted to see that the title is “The Kingdom of Emergent Theology - Part 1.” While Gilley approaches the issue from a dispensational perspective, already he has shared some valuable insights. While he acknowledges the differences between emerging and emergent, Gilley says “Since both emerging and emergent camps have the same view of the kingdom, I will be using the term ‘emergent’ throughout this discussion to refer to both wings.”

If there is one thing the emergent conversation has closed ranks around it is that the kingdom of God is on earth now, but it will progressively resemble God’s kingdom in heaven as Christians understand their true mission, which is to make this world a better place for all. The emerging movement sees itself as a wakeup call to those who would follow Jesus. It is our task to bring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven by aggressively challenging injustice, fighting poverty, aiding the sick, working on ecological concerns and, in general, saving this planet and everything on it. Emergent leaders believe that people are catching on to this new vision of the kingdom, and as a result, are optimistic about the future. No doomsday tribulation period is on their radar screen nor is Jesus coming in judgment upon the wicked. The kingdom, while already here, will progressively become like heaven as we attend to the social ills and needs around us. Tomorrow looks bright and the day after that looks brighter still.

Gilley continues to tie emergent theology into postmilleniallism and offers a brief critique. “Emergent eschatology is by-and-large identical to liberal postmillennialism which flourished prior to the mid-twentieth century.” Since I am not dispensational I know that I will have some disagreements with Gilley, but still look forward to reading the rest of the article when it becomes available next month. For now I’m hoping that someone from the non-dispensational perspective can also do some work on the issue of the kingdom. I think if we narrow in on that one issue, we’ll be in a better spot to understand much of the appeal of this whole emerging movement.

You can read Gilley’s article here: The Kingdom of Emergent Theology

Was the Father Smiling?

This came in to my RSS reader just a few minutes to late to include in today’s A La Carte, but it was too good to pass up. Mark Altrogge posted a great little article on The Blazing Center. Here’s a brief excerpt:

When in college, every Saturday after Thanksgiving, I played in the “Turkey Bowl” (the original and true Turkey Bowl, not one of the ten thousand played across the nation which are but cheap imitations). Before this collar-bone-cracking, skull-smashing game of tackle football, the 2 best players would pick their teams. I always knew I’d be chosen last, like I had some kind of disease they might catch from me if I were on their team. By the time the picks dwindled down to me, the captain with last pick would “choose” me with as much enthusiasm as if he’d just been asked to shovel a mountain of manure.

I’m glad God didn’t choose his children with such “enthusiasm”. I can see the Father smiling as he wrote the names of his chosen ones in his book. He elected his own with joy and excitement, not in compulsion. He saved because it brought him pleasure and joy. God inscribed his children’s names on his palms with a happy flourish. Jesus said it was his Father’s pleasure to give his children the kingdom.

Read the rest here

The New Monergism Books

Last week marked the launch of a new Monergism Books. Though I did not do all of the design work for this project, I was involved in various ways behind the scenes (configuring the shopping cart, adding functionality to it, and driving the project forward).

Some of the more notable new features, other than the new design, are: improved search functionality, book recommendations, customer profiles and wishlists, product ratings and reviews and even an affiliate program (which will launch very soon). There is also a new economy flat rate shipping option that will get your books to you for only $3.99 (provided you are shipping to a U.S. address).

Reformation Theology has a more complete explanation of the new features. And, of course, you’ll want to check out the store.

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