Andrew Klavan has written a terrific book (Amazon link and two videos are below). His keen insights and marvelous writing are on full display.
Instead of a typical book review, I am going to list six things that I appreciated about The Truth and Beauty:
*Klavan is an honest, but not cynical writer. It’s not easy to write truthfully while still holding to a compelling hope, but Klavan does.
*There is a winsome and penetrating critique of materialism.
*Good sketches of key individuals and historic movements like the French Revolution provide helpful context.
*Klavan’s book contains a convincing account of how the Romantic poets (even the godless ones) have much to offer Christians.
*The author clearly did his homework by familiarizing himself with solid scholarship, but he does not write about pedantic details that most people do not care about.
* Last, and hardly least: there is a joyful confidence in the Bible. Klavan is an adult convert to Christianity, so he takes nothing for granted. His thoughtfulness and child-like faith in God are edifying.
Some of my reflections on why sharing the gospel is so difficult today:
The combination of globalism and connectivity via media makes this generation much more perplexed, even immobilized to know how or whether to share the gospel. Sharing the gospel seems more scandalous than ever. We are more proximate to other religions and have a growing difficulty in believing we are right and everyone else is wrong.
For the first half of this book, I felt the author was a bit redundant. That criticism probably still stands, but I found the second half of the book terrific. It’s not that the first half is worth skipping over. It still offers much, but I think the examples of dying and rising with Christ could have been reduced.
I greatly appreciated the illumination Miller brought to bear from ancient history. His exegesis of some key passages is also well done.
I imagine many of you are aware of the recent unpleasantries (yes, a mild word!) between Beth Moore and John MacArthur. I thought you might find my letter to Pastor MacArthur of interest:
Dear Pastor MacArthur,
I heard you preach in person right after Christmas 1977. I was with fifteen friends. We were on our way to a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in southern California. I was a young convert to Christianity. Your message clarified that my faith in Christ was real. Thank you!
In my twenties and early thirties, I was the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at Stanford University. I went through some deep waters of doubt during that time. During one of my lowest moments I heard you deliver a message over the airwaves. It was a great encouragement to me. I wrote you a letter saying so. To my surprise, you wrote back…a personal letter. I still have that letter. Thank you!
In my late thirties and early forties, I had a radio show here in Austin. Most of the time I interviewed authors and leaders of various backgrounds. You were one of my guests and stayed for the entire hour. That alone is quite a commitment, but my show was on Saturday afternoons. Since Sunday is a big day of ministry for you, I was impressed you would give me the entire hour. Thank you!
Most recently, I met one of your sons. Business brought him to Austin. We had breakfast together. I couldn’t believe how much he looks like you! I thought I was looking at the man I heard preach when I was that three-month old Christian. Your son said you are the real deal: a great dad who is uncomfortable with the praise of men. I was tremendously encouraged to hear all that. Thank you!
My own convictions about men and women in the home fall roughly in the complementarian camp, though I might be one of the “softer” types that seems to be a non-category for you. I won’t get into the hermeneutical weeds on that issue because this a short letter not a theological treatise.
I humbly ask you to reconsider the tone of what you said about Beth Moore. For the record, I’ve had my own concerns about her teaching as well. However, your tone came across dismissive and condescending. At the very least, it seems one of you should have mentioned to the chortles of the crowd that this was no laughing matter. Instead, it seemed that you, Todd Friel, and Phil Johnson had no problem with the loud laughter of those gathered that day.
I am now sixty-one and the beneficiary of over forty years of your ministry. From listening to you over the years, I have every confidence that you will seriously consider what I say in light of Scripture. Thank you!
David (George) Moore
I had my regular meeting with my friend, Warren, today. I told him that many of us Christians believe the gospel is summarized in the following line:
God gives us inspiration for what we already want to do.
Basically, it is the “American dream” with some Christian terminology thrown in.
The real gospel invites us to a story that is not being written by us. We have to submit to the Storyteller to be part of the story He is telling. It is a ghastly idea to autonomous Americans, but the best thing going in the universe even if marked by a life of suffering. Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world where open hostility to Jesus is the norm know this is the REAL story worth being part of!
Many things could and should be said about Josh Harris’s announcement that he has left both his wife and Christian faith. I offer here a few things that strike me as underappreciated by many Christians. More seriously, I also think the case can be made that these areas completely pass under the spiritual radar for far too many of us.
Be Sad, but not Surprised
The Bible makes it clear that you can cast out demons and not be a Christian (Mt. 7:21-23). Since that is true, it means that you can be a pastor, missionary, memorize lots of Scripture, lead people to faith in Jesus, and a whole bunch more, yet not be a Christian.
We American Christians are impressed with behavior. Our models for Christian growth tend to focus on what people do, not who they are. Don’t misunderstand. I am a big believer in sharing my faith, memorizing Scripture, and reading the Bible. However, Scripture warns me that these important practices for Christian growth can also be done for less than honorable reasons. Though terribly misguided, it is impressive to see someone who pours gas on his own body and then lights himself ablaze as a human torch. We’ve seen this occur from time to time in various protest movements. Such a stunning sacrifice, yet the Bible makes clear that this incredible act can be done completely devoid of love (I Cor. 13:3, NASB).
I’ve done open-air preaching on the campuses of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve also done open-air preaching on the streets of Boulder, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. Impressive, eh? I can tell you, however, that these were much easier to do than gladly serving my family when I am tired physically. People may be wowed by the public preaching, but I can attest that it was much easier to do than serving my family in obscurity.
Biblical Illiteracy is Causing Much Damage
I’m sixty-one years old. I’ve been in various ministries for over forty years. In many places where Christians congregate, I’ve seen a precipitous drop in biblical literacy. A few months ago, I asked a group of ten college students, all from evangelical backgrounds, whether they had heard at least one sermon on the book of Lamentations. Not one of them had. Here you have a book of the Bible that has much to say in our current cultural moment and yet many are unaware of its riches. I should add that the book of Lamentations is not difficult to understand. The message of Lamentations is certainly difficult to accept which maybe offers some reason why so many preachers steer clear from preaching through it. Sadly, many miss this life-giving book of the Bible that offers unvarnished language for grieving when the unthinkable happens in our life.
Taking Every Thought Captive
In II Corinthians 10, we read that we are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The battle always begins with our thoughts. All of us marinate on things that are ungodly. More than a few of these would be embarrassing to admit to anyone, but a loyal friend. Even then, it is risky. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who will provide a godly and safe environment to give voice to your darker thoughts? Answer: you are left to your own devices, and Scripture makes clear that going it alone is deadly.
I’ve seen this scenario play out before. A person has certain gifts that many are unwisely enamored with. The gifts cause the person to be elevated far past their maturity in Christ. In too many cases, the “indispensable” person is promoted to a position of Christian leadership when their own faith in Christ is uncertain. This, in most cases, only becomes evident later on when the damage is done.
During my various interviews for pastoral positions at four evangelical churches I was never asked about my own walk with the Lord. Everyone seemed quite happy that my two seminary degrees came from the right schools. One evangelical pastor, also with the right pedigree, only asked me about my ministry strategies for motivating church-attending men who are apathetic. In all the interviews, only one asked me about my relationship with my wife, but rather predictably, he is a professional counselor!
Where to Go from Here?
Instead of offering a grocery list of suggestions, and there are several things to consider, allow me to give one. When you think of your own life and the lives of the Christians in your orbit, focus on one thing: Who/what is loved most and why? If our communities are getting healthier, we should be free to say, “I love ministry more than God. I get more excited about shopping or golf more than anything else. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. Please help me with this.” May this be the kind of Christian communities that we build to His glory and our good!
This came to mind the other day:
The combination of globalism and connectivity via media makes this generation much more perplexed, even immobilized, to know how or whether to share the gospel. Sharing the gospel seems more scandalous than ever. We are more proximate to other religions and thus have a growing difficulty believing we are right and everyone else is wrong.