Category Archives: Christianity

STUCK IN THE PRESENT

When I wrote Stuck in the Present, I was not thinking about megachurches per se, but this excerpt describes a concern that seems more formidable in larger churches:

“A community, especially a Christian one, is a group of people who share something in common that transcends socioeconomic or racial backgrounds. What Christians share is a common history—a living tradition. When we lose sight of this living tradition, we put ourselves in a perilous situation. With a sketchy understanding of our common identity as Christians, we are no longer able to have true community with one another.”

David George Moore, Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians, p. 93.

WHEN EVERYTHING’S ON FIRE

There is much to like about this book. It is well-written, insightful, and winsome. Zahnd demonstrates his pastor cum theologian strengths with this clarion call that those tempted towards deconversion need not do so.

The author’s view on Scripture (he is indebted to Barth and Brueggemann, among others) leaves me wondering who I can recommend this book to. I have recommended it already but will only do so to those who have more grounding to find the significant wheat among the possible chaff.

CHRIST AND THE KINGDOMS OF MEN

This is a lucid and thoughtful engagement with how the so-called political is to be understood by Christians. Those from a Reformed tradition will resonant most closely with it, but it offers a small c catholicity so all Christians can benefit.

One small bugaboo: I wish the author had not quoted Metaxas on Bonhoeffer without a caveat lector. It surprises me that the author, clearly a very literate scholar, would not be aware of the problems with Metaxas’s work.

THE WHOLE CHRIST

Ferguson write with great skill about why an older debate is worth our careful attention. Some background will be helpful in this semi-technical book, but the author writes lucidly and offers many pastoral nuggets along the way.

If you are looking to clarify what legalism and antinomianism are all about, this is a study worth considering.

 

THE TRAGEDY OF AMERICAN COMPASSION

This is the third Olasky book I’ve read. Though they are very different books, all three have been terrific reads. 

The Tragedy of American Compassion is the book that Olasky is best known for. Even though it was published thirty years ago, it stands up very well.

A compelling case is made that the prior ways of understanding compassion and therefore dispensing aid are superior to our modern policies and programs. By “prior ways,” we are talking about the nineteenth century.

Books like this can so easily fall prey to trotting out an endless stream of statistics. Numbers matter to be sure, but they don’t tell a story. W.E.B. DuBois learned that lesson in a graphic way when he realized that his fascination with numbers could not adequately convey seeing “the barbecued parts of a lynched man.”

Olasky peppers his seminal book with loads of stories that help us better understand what true compassion entails. In other words, Olasky appropriately moves both our minds and affections to consider a wiser approach.

Highly recommended!

MOTHER OF MODERN EVANGELICALISM

I already knew a fair bit about Henrietta Mears prior to reading this book. My familiarity was due to the stories Dr. Bill Bright used to share about Mears. Bright along with Billy Graham and a coterie of other notables, fell under the spell of Mears.

Dr. Bright highlighted various things about Mears but sadly failed to emphasize her desire to offer rigorous education to Christians. Mears believed it was scandalous that schools offered detailed instruction while the Christian education in many churches was haphazard and superficial.

J.I. Packer used to regularly say that the glaring need of the church was for catechesis or Christian education. I very much agree with Packer here and Mears modelled what this would look like.

Not only were thousands involved in the various Sunday school ministries of First Presbyterian, Hollywood, but Mears provided depth, ministry to the whole person, and engagement in all sorts of ministries.

This is a well-written and compelling account of Henrietta Mears’s approach to Christian education in the local church. We desperately need to listen to her today!

BULLIES AND SAINTS

I have read many books on history and the history of the church. Church history was also my minor or cognate field of study in seminary.

There is much to like about John Dickson’s Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History. Sometimes instead of a regular review, I like to offer five things I appreciated about a book. Here goes with Bullies and Saints:

*Dickson is balanced in laying out the good, bad, and downright ugly or evil. He does not fall prey to either the cynic on one hand or the hagiographer on the other hand.

*There is a responsible engagement with the best scholarship, yet the book remains accessible.

*Dickson is a lucid writer who knows how to find the telling anecdote or illustration.

*Unlike some Christians, Dickson does not go back to the past to find talking points he already agrees with. He allows the strangeness of the past to speak to him and by way of extension, us.

*It is the kind of book that a Christian could comfortably give to a thoughtful non-Christian. I think many non-Christians would be pleasantly surprised by Dickson’s fair-mindedness.