Dear Blog Readers,
I’ve decided to put an end to this book blog. The reasoning is quite simple – it isn’t working out. This blog just didn’t take off like I would have liked to see it. Of course, I could give it more time, but let’s face it, this blog just isn’t me. While I do enjoy books and will continue to do so, an entire blog dedicated to reading books of all types require constant updating is not what I really want to do.
However, I will continue to blog on my personal site – www.kevinjthompson.info. On this blog I will continue to post book reviews and free e-book alerts. The only difference will be that I will comment and review only the books that interest me. So, check me out there.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to read my thoughts and I hope you’ll keep following me on the other blog.
THIS volume is issued in accordance with a plan formed by MR. SPURGEON; indeed, he had already prepared for the press the greater part of the material here published, and the rest of his manuscripts have been inserted after only slight revision. It was his intention to deliver to the students of the Pastors’ College a short course of Lectures upon what he termed “that most royal employment”—SOUL-WINNING,—and, having completed the series, he purposed to collect his previous utterances to other audiences upon the same theme, and to publish the whole for the guidance of all who desired to become soul-winners, and with the hope also of inducing many more professing Christians to engage in this truly blessed service for the Saviour.
This explanation will account for the form in which the topic is treated in the present book. The first six chapters contain the College Lectures; then follow four Addresses delivered to Sunday-school teachers, open-air preachers, and friends gathered at Monday evening prayer-meetings at the Tabernacle; while the rest of the volume consists of Sermons in which the work of winning souls is earnestly commended to the attention of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
For more than forty years, MR. SPURGEON was, by his preaching and writing, one of the greatest soul-winners; and by his printed words he still continues to be the means of the conversion of many all over the world. It is believed, therefore, that thousands will rejoice to read what he spoke and wrote concerning what he called “the chief business of the Christian minister.”
Download the book here.
Today, we mourn the tragic bombings that took place during the Boston Marathon. For parents and teachers, not only must they grapple with this horrific tragedy themselves, they also face the added difficulty of explaining this event to children. Here is a helpful resource from Joni Eareckson Tada.
Recently I mailed our children’s tract (that tackles this sticky question) to a little boy in Japan – his mother, a missionary, sent me this charming photo and told me how much he enjoyed reading it. There are somany awful things happening in the world and kids have honest questions. So I reasoned, I ought to tell my friends on the blog and on Facebook about this special booklet. You can always write Joni and Friends to receive a free copy, or download it here from ourKids’ Corner to give to the children in your life – and tell them to visit Kids’ Corner, a wonderful place for boys and girls with lots of fun activities and videos!
There is no end of books, and yet we seem to need more every day. There was such a darkness brought in by the fall, as will not thoroughly be dispelled till we come to heaven; where the sun shineth without either cold or night. For the present, all should contribute their help according to the rate and measure of their abilities. Some hold up a candle, others a torch; but all are useful. The press is an excellent means to scatter knowledge, were it not so often abused.
All complain there is enough written, and think that now there should be a stop. Indeed, it were well if in this scribbling age there were some restraint. Useless pamphlets are grown almost as great a mischief as the erroneous and profane.
Yet tis not good to shut the door upon industry and diligence. There is yet room left to discover more, above all that hath been said, of the wisdom of God and the riches of his grace in the gospel; yea, more of the stratagems of Satan and the deceitfulness of man’s heart. Means need to be increased every day to weaken sin and strengthen trust, and quicken us to holiness.
Fundamentals are the same in all ages, but the constant necessities of the church and private Christians, will continually enforce a further explication. As the arts and slights [expertise] of besieging and battering increase, so doth skill in fortification. If we have no other benefit by the multitude of books that are written, we shall have this benefit: an opportunity to observe the various workings of the same Spirit about the same truths, and indeed the speculation is neither idle nor unfruitful.
-As quoted by Joel Beeke on his blog post here.
Taking God Seriously by J. I. Packer – Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know is primarily intended for those people: sincere, everyday Christians who don’t know why they believe what they believe or how that belief, generally speaking, translates into God-honoring behavior. In an almost too-quick 175 pages, the reader gets a thoughtful introductory foray into evangelical thought—“ventures in adult catechesis,” as Packer puts it. Or you could call it “mere Christianity.” – Alex Duke
Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher – Among the book’s strengths are its illustrations. For example, Dutcher compares Reformed theology to a windshield of all things. “I am concerned that many Calvinists today do little more than celebrate how wonderfully clear their theological windshield is. But like a windshield, Reformed theology is not an end in itself. It is simply a window to the awe-inspiring universe of God’s truth, filled with glory, beauty, and grace. Do we need something like a metaphorical windshield of clear, biblical truth to look through as we hope to marvel at God’s glory? Absolutely. But we must make sure that we know the difference between staring at a windshield and staring through one.” – Tim Challies
The Christian World of the Hobbit by Devin Brown – Brown explores the world Tolkien made in a new book The Christian World of the Hobbit(Abingdon Press, 2012). In this work, he demonstrates how Tolkien’s Christian worldview bleeds through his written works and permeates the world he made. This aspect of Tolkien’s work is puzzling to many. His books have almost no references to God or anything remotely similar to church or religion, and yet they are hailed by many as Christian novels advocating a Christian worldview. Sure there is a fight between right and wrong, and right wins — but is that enough to classify the book as Christian? – Bob Hayton
Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp – Every once in a while, I come across a book that changes my life. Not very often, but every once in a while. “Dangerous Calling” by Paul David Tripp is just such a book. If you are a pastor or in full-time ministry work, buy it….TODAY and then make it the next book you read. I have put this in my personal list of the Top 5 most influential books I’ve read. It’s that good. In fact, it is this important a book for pastors. – Dan Burrell
In my years of being a Christian School Bible teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “Why are there black churches?” Of course, this child is wondering why some African Americans tend to belong to churches made up of predominantly African American people with a distinct culture and tradition. To be honest, I don’t have a great answer to that question. Normally, I pivot back to slavery. I suggest that this goes back centuries ago when a predominately white nation chose to enslave an entire race of people and take away their humanity even. Of course they would never be welcome in white churches and were forced to start their own. Even after abolition and the end of slavery, racism and segregation continued throughout the South and other placed still not welcoming those of a different skin color into our churches. So, now – not that many years later – why would the majority of African American even want to try coming into our churches.
That answer usually suffices the student in the moment. However, I’ve never been completely comfortable with it myself. It was not until recently when I discovered the source of my dissatisfaction. In His grace, God has seen fit to place me in a congregation that is seeking to be multi-ethnic. Our once white, upper-middle class, suburban church has been radically uprooted and now finds itself in the middle of the inner-city with the ninth highest crime rate in the U.S. God has impassioned our pastor to break through our comfortable routines and begin to see God’s love for all people and His command for us to see our own sins in being so racially blind.
Being in this setting has forced me to think through things on a deeper level. This past week I began reading the book Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church by Mark DeYmaz. after only a few pages in, it finally dawned on me. The question “Why are there black churches” is a flawed question from the start. The question assumes the problem is with the black church. We still have a mentality that they need to assimilate into our church, adopt our culture and traditions. After all, why don’t those self-segregated churches want to be a part of our all-inclusive, Jesus-loving church? How offended would the questioner be if I asked “Why are there all white churches?” Or, “Why doesn’t your church set itself free from its distinct culture and way of doing things and instead work on attracting all of God’s children?” Why do we assume we (white evangelicals) are the ones in the right?
I’m looking forward to reading through this book and opening up this discussion in our church leadership meetings. Maybe then I’ll have some better answers for you…
My friend Trevor Hammack (Pastor of Victory Baptist Church – Ovalo, Texas; host of the News in Focus podcast) is giving away five free copies of Revelation: Four Views. In order to qualify for this free book, you must do the following:
2. Provide the definitions to Dispensationalism and Covenant theology mentioned in these messages.
3. Write down something about the histories of Dispensationalism and Covenant theology said in these messages.
4. List ten differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant theology.
5. E-mail Trevor at email@example.com.
You can listen to the audio version of these directions here.
Yesterday I heard the news that former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork died at the age of 85. The Bork hearings date me back to the earliest days of following politics. I was about ten at the time, but there I was watching the news coverage on TV. I doubt I knew much of what was actually going on, but I do recall wanting him to be confirmed, mostly because President Reagan did and Senator Kennedy did not. Anyway, you can learn more about the passing of Judge Bork here.
While I was probably too young to grasp the issues at state in 1987, I was old enough to understand and appreciate Judge Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. At the time (2003), it was recommended to me by several pastors I knew at the time. Maybe its time I blew off the dust and gave that book another look years later now that my political views have somewhat shifted…
Other books by Robert H. Bork:
I saw a slight criticism of Tim Keller’s book “Center Church” about a month after it was released in September, so there was no way that the critic could have read the entire book! So, that got my attention. After reading what Keller had to say about his own book, I decided to buy it and check it out. I had my reservations after having read a few comments from people who had some reservations about Keller’s direction. So, I want to lay out a report of what the book is about and what some of the key thoughts are that drive the direction of the book.
1. The Gospel
The first and most important issue that Keller addresses is the gospel, it’s content and it’s exclusivity. He also makes it clear that incarnational gospel living isn’t enough, words are necessary! It must be preached verbally. The gospel is a story that begins with creation and ends in the consummation. Different parts of the plot line of the story of the gospel are better starting points to share with unbelievers than others depending on the culture. There is no “one size fits all” presentation of the gospel that fits in every time and place. Neither is the gospel just a hoop we jump through to get converted:
“It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians and then Christians mature by trying hard to live according to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.”
As the gospel is understood more by believers, it will have an affect on every detail of their lives so that their lives become shaped by the gospel and it’s implications. This will lead to a gospel renewal individually and corporately. To my surprise, chapter 4 deals with the subject of revival and revivalism. This really grabbed my attention because I just spent the better part of this year digging into the past to learn about the great movements of the Holy Spirit. It was refreshing to read how we need to first begin with gospel renewal and the Holy Spirit’s power. He affirmed what Alexander, Nevin, and other 2nd Great Awakening “Old Schoolers” believed:
“A commitment to corporate and individual gospel renewal through the ordinary means of grace – is the work of the church…Revivalist ministry emphasizes conversion and spiritual renewal, not only for those outside the church but also for those inside the church…to kindle every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Edwards called “extraordinary prayer” – united, persistent and kingdom centered…revival occurs mainly through the instituted means of grace: preaching, pastoring, worship, and prayer. It is extremely important to reaffirm this”
As we pray and prepare for gospel renewal/revival in our church, we must preach the gospel to Christians and non-Christians alike. You can’t assume that everyone under your voice is a believer. So, although the worship service is designed specificially for believers, we must be sensitive to the fact that unbelievers will be present and what we say needs to be directed at them too.
2. The City
The next part of the book, deals with the importance of the city and how to bring the gospel to it. This is the section on contextualization. At the beginning of chapter 7, Keller acknowledges all the baggage that this word has from its origins in the World Council of Churches. He explains mainline denominational liberalism which forsook the authority of Scripture to define it’s mission and turned to see what the culture is doing as if it was God that was at work through it. The church then had to find out what God was doing and then get on that mission – human rights, emancipation of slaves, women’s rights, civil rights and now gay rights.
“Contextualization is not – as it is often argued – giving people what they want to hear. Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers (which they may not at all want to hear) to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking in language and forms they can comprehend and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them. Sound contextualization means translating and adapting the communication and ministry of the gospel to the particular culture without compromising the essence and particulars of the gospel itself….we show people how the baseline ‘cultural narratives’ of their society and the hopes of their hearts can only find resolution and fulfillment in Jesus. What do I mean by this? Some cultures are pragmatic and prod their members to acquire possessions and power. Some are individualistic and urge their members to seek personal freedom above all. Others are honor and shame cultures with emphasis on respect, reputation, duty and bringing honor to your family. Some cultures are discursive and put the highest value on art, philosophy, and learning. These are called ‘cultural narratives’ because they are stories that a people tell about themselves and make sense out of their shared existence. Whatever the story may be, sound contextualization shows people how the plotlines of the story of their lives can only find a happy ending in Christ.”
To do this kind of contextualization correctly, we must find out what parts of God’s naturally revealed truth does the culture reject and accept. Because of common grace and the image of God stamped into every person, there are parts of God’s truth that are readily accepted and others that are offensive. To engage these people well, we must affirm and begin with the “A” doctrines that they already accept and show them how they are inconsistent for not accepting the “B” doctrines that they reject. This approach as Keller explained it had a very Van Tillian apologetic flavor which resonated with me. The only way to know what questions and values these people have is to immerse yourself in their questions, hopes, fears and beliefs so you can give a biblical, gospel-centered response to the questions.
In the next chapters 11-14, he writes about the importance of Christians to do ministries in cultural centers called cities.
“The city is humanity intensified – a magnifying glass that brings out the very best and worst of human nature… Cities, quite literally, have more of the image of God per square inch than any other place on earth. How can we not be drawn to such masses of humanity if we care about the same things that God cares about?”
Rather than Christians leaving the cities as they get more corrupt and moving to the suburbs where other good people like themselves are living, he encourages us to be salt and light in the cities. The only way to reach the world is through the city and you can’t reach the city through the suburb, but you can reach the suburb from the city. This was Paul’s strategy in going to large cultural centers where he started churches. People are moving in and out of cities and contributing their talents to art, technology and ideas that shape the greater culture. Why shouldn’t Christians be in the very center of this, contributing what they have to offer in a gospel-shaped distinctive way? They can do so by showing the world around them what its like to be in the kingdom of God under the Lordship of Christ and make an impact.
This brings up the question of how to engage the culture. Everyone has different philosophies about how to go about it. There were basically four models in which any of us can find ourselves:
Relevance – These are the churches that rely heavily on common grace more than revealed truth and are very active in trying to adapt to the culture such as the liberal mainline denominations, emerging church and seeker sensitive churches.
Transformationist – These are people who believe in theonomy, Christian re-constructionism and the political religious right. They think that the way to engage the culture is to shape the government and cultural institutions into a distinctly Christian worldview. They are also very active, especially in politics.
Counterculturalist – These are the separatists who believe in withdrawing from the culture altogether and forming their own subculture as a distinct separate society that the world can witness as different. The people who would be included in this group would be the Amish, Mennonites, neo-monastics and Fundamentalists.
(Note: Keller never mentions that Fundamentalists belong in this category, but since he fails to mention it, I will, because they seem to fit somewhere between this category and the Transformationist category since many Fundamentalists are active members of the political religious right as well.)
Two Kingdoms – This view is Augustinian in its origins because there is the “City of God and City of Man” coexisting together. Believers are citizens of both cities, but hold their allegiance to the City of God and do what they can to shape the City of Man with the values of the City of God. The Reformed traditions and Lutherans would belong to this category. Most Dispensationalists would not find themselves here since they don’t believe there’s a Kingdom of God until the second coming. There is very little room for the “already, but not yet” paradigm. Although Keller does offer a few criticisms of this view, he seems to favor this one a little more than the others.
Yet, to be a “Center Church”, Keller explains that the right balance of all four views simultaneously is what we want to shoot for. We do need to acknowledge appreciate the common grace that the unbelievers enjoy and utilize while seeking to transform the culture into one that is governed by a Christian worldview. At the same time, we do need to be a separate people who are a distinct community under the Lordship of Christ that the world sees as an attractive alternative and realize that we are members of two kingdoms until the Kingdom of God comes in its fullest form to engulf the kingdom of man.
Finally, at the end of the book the last chapters are dedicated to the church being both an organism and an organization that have static and dynamic elements. The church is both a stable institution with inherited traditions and a dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit. We minister with balance, rooted in our ecclesial tradition, yet working cooperatively with the body of Christ to reach our city with the gospel.
In this section, Keller lays out what he defines as the Missional Church. He also talks about the history of the term Missio Dei and all of the liberal baggage that comes with it, but then how a guy named Lesslie Newbigin broke away from the more liberal World Council of Churches to redefine “Missional” as something that encapsulates both aspects of social justice and evangelism (incarnational and evangelistic).
Keller clearly plants his flag in the “Missional Church Movement”. There has been such a cultural shift in our society that the old culture of “Christendom” is gone forever. Christendom was theWest’s Christianized culture that has reigned since the middle ages, but today we are in a neo-pagan culture in which the assumptions that believer and non-believer alike once held in common are no longer there.
“Every part of a church’s life – its worship, community, public discourse, preaching and education – has to assume the presence of non-believers from the surrounding culture. The aesthetics of its worship have to reflect the sensibilities of the culture and yet show how Christian belief shapes and is expressed through them…A missional church is not less than an evangelistic church, but it is much more…”
This last paragraph is exactly what missionaries do when they start a church in another country with another culture. Their churches, dress, music, etc… are familiar to the surrounding culture without adapting the evil parts of that culture.
Keller gives the marks of a missional church:
1. A Missional Church, if it is to have a missionary encounter with Western culture, will need to confront societies idols and especially address how modernity makes the happiness and self actualization of the individual into an absolute: materialism, consumerism and greed lead to injustice. The doctrine of the atonement and justification provide a basis and internal motivation to live more simply and do justice in the world.
2. A Missional Church, if it is to reach people in the post-Christian culture, must recognize that most of our more recently formulated and popular gospel presentations will fall on deaf ears because hearers will be viscerally offended or simply unable to understand the basic concepts of God, sin and redemption…Christian communicators must now enter, challenge and retell the culture’s stories with the gospel.
3. A Missional Church will affirm that all Christians are people in mission in every area of their lives. We must overcome the clericalism and lay passivity of the Christendom era and recover the Reformation doctrine of “the Priesthood of all believers”.
4. The Missional Church must understand itself as a servant community – a counterculture for the common good. Churches used to be able to limit themselves to only religious concerns and function as loose fellowships within the wider semi-Christian culture…While the Christian Church must be distinct, it must be set within, not be separated from, its surroundings. The neighbors must see it as a servant society, sacrificially pouring out its time and wealth for the common good of the city…it shows the world a way between the individualistic self absorption that secularism can breed and the tribal self righteousness that religion can breed.
We must take these values and teach our people to live them out as informal missionaries in the world if we are going to have an impact and bring the gospel to them. We will have an impact for the gospel if we are like those around us yet profoundly different and unlike them at the same time, all the while remaining very visible and engaged. Christians must be like their neighbors in the food they eat, the clothes they wear, their dialect, general appearance, work life, recreational , cultural activities and civil engagement doing all things with excellence. But Christians need to be unlike their neighbors by being scrupulously honest, transparent, fair and generous. Evangelism is not simply information transmission, it’s pouring our lives into others with the gospel. The church’s objective is to connect people to God, connect people to one another, connect people to the city and connect people to the culture so that they will think “Christianly” about life. Christianity is more than a set of beliefs that achieve salvation for the soul, it is also a distinct way of understanding and interpreting everything in the world. We want Christians to be growing in maturity, working in their vocations with both excellence and Christian distinctiveness, seasoning and benefiting the culture in which they live.
At the end, he encourages churches to engage in church planting in cities as the best way to get the gospel to more unbelievers and the best way to revitalize dying established churches. If a city population can get to at least 10% Christian population, it can make a huge difference in the morals and the cultural expressions of that city.
Overall, this book resonated with me and gave me the most clear vision for ministry that I have ever read in one volume since reading 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. I was greatly encouraged by this book and would recommend any pastor to consider what Tim Keller has to say. There may be some philosophical differences on some points, but for the most part, I believe he sets a good direction for churches to follow into the future.
This book review was written by Pastor Will Dudding (Mission Peak Baptist Church in Fremont, CA) and was used with permission. This review also appeared on the SharperIron blog. You can read more of Pastor Dudding’s thought on his blog, Reforming Baptist.
During his accomplished career, Charles Ryrie authored dozens of articles in academic journals and popular periodicals. His articles deal with theological topics, biblical texts, contemporary concerns, and other subjects.
This resource includes the following articles:
Is Your Home Scriptural?
Should a Christian Be Afraid?
The Significance of Pentecost
The Cleansing of the Leper
An Act of Divine Healing
The Necessity of Dispensationalism
The Pauline Doctrine of the Church
A Trilogy of Theology
Especially the Parchments
The Importance of Inerrancy
Apostasy in the Church
Calvinistic Emphases in the Geneva and Bishops’ Bibles
The Mystery in Ephesians 3
The Bible and Evolution
The End of the Law
What is Spirituality?
The Christian and Civil Disobedience
The Doctrine of Capital Punishment
The Church and the Tribulation: A Review
Perspectives on Social Ethics, Part 1: Theological Perspectives on Social Ethics
Perspectives on Social Ethics, Part 2: Old Testament Perspectives on Social Ethics
Perspectives on Social Ethics, Part 3: Christ’s Teachings on Social Ethics
Perspectives on Social Ethics, Part 4: Apostolic Perspectives on Social Ethics
Some Important Aspects of Biblical Inerrancy
Biblical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage
You can download the book here.