Don’t divorce Christianity from the Body of Christ

My thanks to Todd Pruitt for this: Trevin Wax has posted a very helpful review of the late Michael Spencer’s recently released “Mere Churchianity.” While Trevin finds some very helpful moments in the book he takes issue with what seems to be the recurring problem: “pitting a Jesus-shaped spirituality against a church-shaped spirituality.” Spencer not only does not blame Christians for abandoning the church, he seems to encourage it. On page 57 he writes, “For many of you, leaving the church may have been the most spiritually healthy thing you ever did.” Spencer also seems to have had a deficient view of the very nature of the church. On page 6 he refers to the church disparagingly as a “religious institution.” On the one hand, I suppose you could call the church a religious institution. But the Scriptures call the church the Body andBride of Christ. What is more Spencer states that, “Life as a Jesus-follower grows out of Jesus and

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God without truth!

From Nathan Heller’s article, “Why We Love The Shack” (June 3, 2010): When every publisher turned down the book in its current form, [William] Young and some friends founded their own firm, Windblown Media, to fill what they considered “a big hole” in publishing: Although there were “religious” books and “secular” books, they thought, there were no titles in the middle ground, no “spiritual” novels that cast God as a path to happiness without serving up dogma. The Shack is just that book, and its success proves not how much this country loves religion but how far from mainstream faith the nation’s aspirations have shifted (emphasis added). O, for The Courage to Be Protestant in our day. (HT: Mike Pohlman)

“O my! O my!”

Among other things (serious masters reading), when enjoying a break from ministry here in Rwanda, I’m reading Kenneth Graham’s, ‘The Wind in the Willows.’ I love the colourful descriptions of the country-side and close friendships. One line caught my attention near the beginning of the book, and literally took my breath away. Mole is unpacking a picnic basket, filled with all kinds of, previously un-experienced, morsels and delicacies. In shear delight he exclaims, “‘O my! O my!’ at each fresh revelation.” It struck me that this is exactly the kind of fitting response of the believer, who, upon opening the word of God is impacted, over and over again, with fresh revelations of the Saviour. I don’t think we begin to worship worthily until revelation of God and the gospel of Christ causes us to gasp a fresh, ‘O my! O my!’ or some such spontaneous ejaculation of praise.

The Cross and Christian Ministry

I totally agree with Justin Childers: Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry is must reading for all Christian leaders. This book is basically an exposition of the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians. Carson shows how the Cross of Jesus Christ must be the content and method of our preaching and ministry. The Cross stands as the test and standard of all vital Christian ministry. In every generation, the gospel is in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy. Carson calls us back to the centrality of Christ and Him crucified. One of the many things I have found helpful about this book is in the way it presses home some of the foundational characteristics of a Cross-centered leader. Here are a few examples: A Cross-centered leader focuses on the content rather than the form of preaching. A Cross-centered leader ties every subject to the Cross. A Cross-centered leader follows the crucified Messiah in to suffering. A Cross-centered leader

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Tim Keller’s impressions of The Shack

From The Gospel Coalition. Over the holidays I read a good (and devastating) review of William P. (Paul) Young’s The Shack in the most recent print edition of Books and Culture: A Christian Review (Jan/Feb 2010.)  It was a reminder that I was one of the last people on the planet not to have read the book. So I did. So why write a blog post about it? It had sold 7.2 million copies in a little over 2 years, by June of 2009. With those kinds of numbers, the book will certainly exert some influence over the popular religious imagination. So it warrants a response. This is not a review, but just some impressions. At the heart of the book is a noble effort — to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form. The argument Young makes at various parts of the book is this. First, this world’s evil and suffering is the result of our

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Teaching through Romans

Tonight I begin teaching through the book of Romans at our church. I have recently started reading R.C. Sproul’s new exegetical commentary on Romans and can recommend it as a helpful verse by verse guide. It’s not technical or verbose so is a great introduction to the great book of the gospel. I particularly appreciate how Sproul integrates aspects of church history – especially the Reformation – into his exposition. Here’s a nice video clip of RC introducing his book: . (HT: Justin Taylor)

Does the Centre Hold?

By Keith Mathison: If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.” This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.” But is this true? The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods. It is inconsistent, for example, with the emotionally manipulative methods created by revivalists such as Charles Finney. But these manipulative methods are themselves inconsistent with Scripture, so it is no fault to reject them. In order for evangelism to

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My top fifteen reads of 2009

1. Finally Alive – John Piper A definitive teaching on regeneration. 2. Bookends of the Christian Life – Bridges and Bevington Justification and the grace of the Spirit combine to empower the Christian life. 3. Outrageous Mercy – William Farley Cross-centred living. 4. Religious Affections – Jonathan Edwards Edwards’ classic treatise on genuine Christian spirituality. 5. Counsel from the Cross – Fitzpatrick and Johnson Application of the gospel to all areas of life. 6. The Prodigal God – Tim Keller An expose of the older brother syndrome of relying on religious practice to please God. 7. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards – George Marsden A bite-sized (but not diminished) biography of the great man. 8. Signs of the Spirit – Sam Storms Helped me get to grips with Religious Affections! 9. Unfashionable – Tullian Tchividjian Counter-cultural, kingdom-living, for the sake of the culture. 10. A New Inner Relish – Dane Ortlund The heart of regeneration is a new taste

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“The Gospel-Driven Life”

Michael Horton’s follow-up to his excellent “Christless Christianity” is now available. “The Gospel-Driven Life” promises to be an important book. From the Publisher: In his well-received Christless Christianity Michael Horton offered a prophetic wake-up call for a self-centered American church. With The Gospel-Driven Life he turns from the crisis to the solutions, offering his recommendations for a new reformation in the faith, practice, and witness of contemporary Christianity. This insightful book will guide readers in reorienting their faith and the church’s purpose toward the good news of the gospel. The first six chapters explore that breaking news from heaven, while the rest of the book focuses on the kind of community that the gospel generates and the surprising ways in which God is at work in the world. Here is fresh news for Christians who are burned out on hype and are looking for hope. “Mike Horton has once again hit the nail on the head. With engaging clarity he demonstrates

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Counsel from the Cross

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – here’s a good review by Ron Reffett of Books that Matter: Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson have written one of the most gospel centered books on counseling that I have ever seen. It’s not another 12 steps to your best life or self help disguised in a “christian” wrapper, Counsel From The Cross is a practical “how to” in applying the gospel not only in your life but also in other people’s life. I loved the quote from B.B. Warfield that starts the introduction, ” There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all….This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as

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What the church is here to do

Todd Pruitt posts: From J. Gresham Machen’s provocative 1933 essay “The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age”: “The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life–no, all the length of human history–is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the

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Guy Waters on Tom Wright

Guy Waters thoughtfully reviews N. T. Wright’s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. His conclusion: Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision is the most comprehensive and current statement of N. T. Wright on justification to date. Justification is largely a restatement of Wright’s views, with some amplification and rhetorical refinement. It is not a detailed textual and theological interaction with his Reformational readers’ concerns and objections. To the degree thatJustification summarizes and synthesizes nearly three decades of Wright’s publications on justification, the book is useful to the student of Wright’s work. To the degree that Justification has failed to engage criticisms of Wright’s formulations on justification in such a way as to advance the discussion, the work is a missed opportunity. What is clear from Justification is that the fundamental concern of Wright’s Reformational readers remains unallayed and firmly in place: Wright’s views on justification have parted company with the teaching of the apostle Paul. (HT: Andy Naselli)

Free D. A. Carson Books

Andy Naselli has posted a comprehensive bibliography of D. A. Carson’s wittings. He also links to seven free PDF books. Enjoy: Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1993) Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century (Baker, 1994) For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Vol. 1. (Crossway, 1998) For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Vol. 2. (Crossway, 1999) The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway, 2000) Love in Hard Places (Crossway, 2002) Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson(Crossway, 2008) (HT: Tony Reinke)

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility by D. A. Carson – some quotes

“The sovereignty-responsibility tension is not a problem to be solved; rather, it is a framework to be explored.” (2) “Once again, then, the divine activity calls for a response, not fatalism; while human calling and seeking do not make the divine activity contingent.” (14) “The point is so obvious that it scarcely requires making. From the first prohibition in Eden, through commands to individuals like Noah and Abraham -whether commands to build an ark or to walk blamelessly- to the prescriptions laid on the covenant people, human responsibility is presupposed.” (18) “Men are not held to be responsible in some merely abstract fashion; they are responsible to someone.” (19) “It is difficult to find an adequate word or phrase to express this ‘ultimacy’ in God. The crucial point is that his activity is so sovereign and detailed that nothing can take place in the world of men without at least his permission; and conversely, if he sets himself against some course,

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Why We Love the Church

A couple of advance blurbs for Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s next book, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (due out at the end of the month): Well, they’ve done it again. The two guys who should be emergent, but aren’t, have followed up their first best seller with what I hope and pray will be a second. In Why We Love the Church DeYoung and Kluck have given us a penetrating critique of church-less Christianity and a theologically rigorous, thoroughly biblical, occasionally hilarious, but equally serious defense of the centrality of the church in God’s redemptive purpose. In spite of her obvious flaws, DeYoung and Kluck really do love the church, because they love the Christ whose body it is. You don’t have to agree with everything they say to appreciate and profit from this superbly written and carefully constructed book. This is a great read and I recommend it with unbridled enthusiasm. Sam Storms,

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Biblical Preaching is Spiritual in Its Essence

This is one of the most vital truths about biblical preaching. Let me explain what I mean: the task of true preaching is not essentially intellectual or psychological or rhetorical; it is essentially spiritual. Left to ourselves, we may do many things with a congregation. We may move them emotionally. We may attract them to ourselves personally, producing great loyalty. We may persuade them intellectually. We may educate them in a broad spectrum of Christian truth. But the one thing we can never do, left to ourselves, is to regenerate them spiritually and change them into the image of Jesus Christ, to bear his moral glory in their character. While that is the great calling of the church of Christ, it is essentially God’s work and not ours. So it is possible to be homiletically brilliant, verbally fluent, theologically profound, biblically accurate and orthodox, and spiritually useless. That frightens me. I hope it frightens you, too. I think it is

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Collision Movie Trailer

A preacher and an atheist walk into a bar… Preview of the first 13 minutes of the forthcoming documentary “Collision”. The film follows renowned author and anti-theist Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson as they debate the topic: “Is Christianity Good For The World?”. A Darren Doane film.

Al Mohler’s New Book

Al Mohler’s latest book, “The Disappearance of God”, can be ordered HERE . From the Publisher: For centuries the church has taught and guarded the core Christian beliefs that make up the essential foundations of the faith. But in our postmodern age, sloppy teaching and outright lies create rampant confusion, and many Christians are free-falling for ‘feel-good’ theology. We need to know the truth to save ourselves from errors that will derail our faith. As biblical scholar, author, and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, writes, “The entire structure of Christian truth is now under attack.” With wit and wisdom he tackles the most important aspects of these modern issues: Is God changing His mind about sin? Why is hell off limits for many pastors? What’s good or bad about the emergent movement? Have Christians stopped seeing God as God? Is the social justice movement misguided? Could the role of beauty be critical to our theology?

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Job – book trailer

With moving illustrations by Christopher Koelle, John Piper unfolds the story of Job in beautiful, compassionate poetry and revels in God’s sovereign and surprisingly joyful purposes in allowing exquisite suffering in the lives of his saints. An uplifting book, especially for those experiencing great suffering and loss.