Book Notes

Feminine Threads

Feminine Threads

I am slowly working my way through Diana Severance’s stimulating Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History. The preface traces the attempt of feminism to re-write Biblical and Christian history. Severance observes that in the process of viewing the Bible just as another myth, the feminists “found themselves back in the garden with Eve, questioning what God had said and deciding what looked best to them.”a. The author argues that there is a certain continuity of “Christian women’s experience through the ages”b and that “Christian women were integral to the life of the Church wherever Christianity spread.”c

The author relies on a traditional interpretation of women’s role in the Church in contrast to the revisionist perspective of many feminine writers. She traces significant female figures through Christian history and offers an overview of their particular theological and sociological contributions.

  1. Page 13  (back)
  2. 15  (back)
  3. 15  (back)
Brief Review of Bryan Chapell’s Holiness by Grace

Brief Review of Bryan Chapell’s Holiness by Grace

Bryan Chapell’s work is a tour de force. Pastorally and academically equipped, Dr. Chapel engineers his way through the topic of holiness. While he could easily fall into some of the theological traps along the way, he meticulously works through a myriad of texts and provides deep insight into the work of God in sinners. Holiness is not an impossible task, it is our calling. Holiness is not a legalistic demand of a holy God, but a holy God calls us to holiness because He is holy. But this holiness is not a joyless pursuit. It is a work of grace; the kind of grace that produces joy and promotes godliness.

Holiness is applied to everything we do from parenting to counseling. Filled with helpful insights and stories that engage the mind and the heart, Chapell equips the reader to see our status as saints, our journey as sinners and our destiny as recipients of glory. The book exalts the grace of God in our works by emphasizing that salvation is not by works, but salvation works. Or, as the Reformers stated, “Faith alone saves, but faith is not alone.” The antinomian tendency in certain groups derails our labors as Christians to obey and cherish God’s holy laws. Antinomian theology confuses the work of grace and fails to promote godliness. Our security in Christ is not an excuse to sin, but a call to grow in grace. On the other hand, individual calls to holiness rely too heavily on human ability to overcome sin. Both ideas—antinomianism, and neo-nomism—endanger the journey of holiness.

Ultimately, our holiness should lead us to repentance; a true life of confession. And this repentance should prompt us to doxologize (89). While we struggle with temptations and while God tests our faith, God daily provides the motivation and grace to delight us in our journey.

My Regrets

My Regrets

Piper’s words on the professionalization of the pastor are striking. In his revised edition of Brothers we are not Professionals, he details his pastoral regrets. He wrote these convicting words:

When I look back, my regret is not that I wasn’t more professional but that I wasn’t more prayerful, more passionate for souls, more consistent in personal witness, more emotionally engaged with my children, more tender with my wife, more spontaneously affirming of the good in others. These are my regrets.

Three Kindle Deals: TODAY ONLY!

Here are three kindle projects that I have been involved.

The first is the “Trinitarian Father.” I wrote this short work to encourage young and more experienced fathers in their calling to raise sons to be kings in this world. Download for $1.99

The second is “Christian Pipe-Smoking.” Here, Joffre Swait and I offer a brief apologetic of beauty for the art of pipe-smoking. This is the most downloaded project I have been involved with so far. Published by Kuyperian Press. Download for $1.99

The third is a work Kuyperian Press published entitled “You and Your Household: A Case for Infant Baptism.” Dr. Gregg Strawbridge offers a clear case for why infants of Christian parents should be baptized. Download for $3.99

They are heavily discounted only today. Download now on kindle!

Cyber Monday Deal for Christian Pipe-Smoking and The Trinitarian Father, $.99

Cyber Monday Deal for Christian Pipe-Smoking and The Trinitarian Father, $.99

As a way of saying thanks for your support over the last ten years, I am offering The Trinitarian Father and Christian Pipe-Smoking for $.99 each. Buy Now!

Christian Pipe-Smoking: $0.99

The Trinitarian Father: $0.99

 

Christian Pipe-Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense is NOW AVAILABLE!

Christian Pipe-Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense is NOW AVAILABLE!

Our first published kindle book from Kuyperian Press is now available for download!

It is but a booklet, some twenty-five pages, but each page will delight the Christian pipe smoker, enlighten his heathen fellow-enthusiast, crush the ambitions of the heathen teetotaler, and soften the heart of the Christian abstainer. All four of these good things are guaranteed to happen if you but promise to go onto your porch tomorrow with your pad or other device, light your pipe, and Tolle Lege.

Christian Pipe-Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense [Kindle Edition]

Uri Brito (Author), Joffre Swait (Author)

The Trinitarian Father is Now Available on Kindle for $3.99

The Trinitarian Father is Now Available on Kindle for $3.99

Many have asked whether my little book would ever make its debut on kindle. Well, it is now available for $3.99. Hard-copies are also available for $5+S&H upon request.

Selfish Salvation

Selfish Salvation

My friend Doug Jones–with whom I have disagreements, etc.–nails it on his assessment of Pilgrim’s Progress. I have never loved the book, but I understand that it is an evangelical obsession. Here’s Jones’ critique of the book in two paragraphs: a

Certainly one of the most misleading classics of the modern period was Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Its influence seeped deep into Protestant culture, so deep that recovery from it will take centuries. The book’s message wasn’t new in itself. It gathered all the worst emphases of the Reformation in one place and soaked our consciousness thoroughly.

Pilgrim’s Progress presents a deeply selfish vision of salvation. It pretends to be about self-denial all while forcing a radical self-focus. Selfish salvation assumes that each Christian stars as the main character in the gospel story. Selfish salvation believes that the gospel is primarily about getting individuals into heaven and that self-interest is the primary motivation that gets us there. Selfish salvation focuses on an individual’s struggle with personal sins over and above the community.

  1. Dismissing Jesus, chapter 9  (back)
Don Miller and the Institutional Church

Don Miller and the Institutional Church

The pastoral task has all the ingredients for abstractness. After all, we are constantly engaging dead people and throwing around foreign terms to most in the pew. In fact, many of the concerns I have heard over the years from parishioners of different traditions has been the concern that sermons and pastoral work do not reach the laity. Donald Miller manifested this sentiment in his now controversial blog post I don’t connect with God by singing. I connect with him elsewhere. The article received abundant criticism. Miller asserted elsewhere that he simply intended to start a conversation–and what a conversation he started. In another interview, Miller summarized his post:

And so I talked about the reality that I don’t get a lot out of church when I go. I don’t connect with God very well there, and I wondered if it wasn’t more of a learning style issue because it is a lecture format, and it’s not how everybody learns. a

Miller’s concern was not unique. Many have expressed this frustration with the intellectualization of worship. Rev. Jeff Meyers’ wonderful book “The Lord’s Service: The Grace of Covenant Renewal Worship answers Miller’s concern with clarity and with classic historical categories. Meyers argues that worship ought to have a wholistic vision prioritizing every detail as opposed to over-emphasizing merely the word preached.

Don Miller asserts that one of his struggles is that the worship service does not appeal to his style of learning. The worship service has as its emphasis a lecture model. Since Miller does not learn through lecture models, therefore Miller no longer finds appeal in the institutional church. b In his interview with The RELEVANT he asserts that he did not qualify things well in his blog post and that looking back he wished he would have not written it. But as the interview continued, Miller affirms the same sorts of things his critics condemned in the original blog post.

I actually believe Miller is on to something. The lecture model of doing church is not the one I advocate. In many ways, the Church–especially in the Reformed tradition, which naturally claims a more intellectual history–has become a magnified classroom with lengthy biblical expositions at its center. Whatever precedes the sermon is only pre-game information. And whatever comes after it is not as significant as the sermon either. But as Randy Booth rightly noted–quoting a portion of James Jordan’s work Theses on Worship– in his booklet A Guide to Worship, “the entire service is sermonic, not just the sermon.” c “The sermon itself,” he writes,” is very important, but it is not the all-important event. It is one important part of the many other important parts of worship.”

But if this is the case and any historical/liturgical tradition will attest, and since I am convinced Miller is aware of this historical precedent, then why not work to change this paradigm in the institutional church instead of generalizing it and bidding the historical ecclesiastical traditional adieu? With Miller’s book and lecture platform he could affect thousands of pastors who see worship as a lecture hall. That’s the reformer Don Miller the Church needs, not the one who throws away everything for a literal walk in the park on Sunday morning.

What is Miller trying to get rid of?

According to the author of best-seller, Blue Like Jazz, we have turned over the Acts church to the hands of professionals, known as the pastoral staff. Instead of doing that, we should simply hand out sheriff badges to everyone and say to them that they are all pastors. They are all in control. Sunday serves only to prepare these pastors–male and female–to go forth and be the church wherever they are. First Peter two does affirm our royal priesthood. We are all priests in the sense that we are no longer bound by bloody sacrifices. Christ’s redemption is accomplished, thus transforming us into agents of redemption in the world. However, what Miller fails to see is that Paul does not flatten the priesthood, he sees the priesthood operating differently in different spheres (I Tim. 3, Eph. 4:11-13). There is an office of priest (overseer) that is distinct from the general priesthood that we all inherit united to Messiah, Jesus.

Miller also wants to get rid of the institutional Church as center of community life.

I frequent a coffee shop weekly where one of the baristas is the leader of a church. When I asked him about the church, he told me that they meet at the same coffee shop on Sunday mornings to drink coffee and discuss the Bible. When I asked him to define a bit further what they do, he was quick to point to the flaws of the modern church. “We don’t need structure. We need to return to simplicity.” Since I have lectured on this topic before a few years ago, d. I can probably summarize this general view point as the “Romanticized Acts Church” movement. I am no opponent of coffee and Bible studies; in fact, I encourage them. But the idea that a return to the first century Church–as privately interpreted–is the solution to today’s ecclesiastical woes is overly caffeinated.

Why can’t I simply find community on my dinner table? or a pub? –because community life is complex. There is nothing wrong with finding community in these places, but they are all incomplete pictures of community life. They may be fine extensions of the community life, which the creeds refer to as “the communion of saints,” but to assert that that is a legitimate replacement for Word, Sacrament, and Discipline in the context of the gathered community is simplistic and dangerous. What then do we do with the adulterer? or the rich folks who are arriving at the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal and eating and drinking everything before the poor arrive? or the sexual abuse situations that are unfortunately prevalent in our churches? Miller has no answer. “I can maybe set up a board or something like that,” he said casually. But wouldn’t a board indicate some type of structure; the very same type you are attempting to eliminate?

Miller also says that he doesn’t find intimacy with God by singing songs to him.

As one deeply involved in ecclesiastical music, this concerns me. Miller is suffering from the psalmic-less nature of modern church music. What some of us treasure each Sunday through hymns and psalms of lament, imprecation, and overwhelming joy has been largely forgotten. The robustness of masculine voices and the beauty and nuance of female singing has become a forgotten history. All of it replaced by praise bands, and the few songs intended for congregational singing are quickly swallowed by the voluminous instrumentation.

If Miller is saying he simply does not like to sing, then he needs to re-adjust his biblical priorities. A quick search for the words “singing” and “music” will reveal their prevalence, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures. Because I don’t like to do something does not mean I should simply replace or eliminate it from the life of the church.

How Miller finds intimacy with God.

The answer is another example of a faulty ability to differentiate. Miller writes:

The answer came to me recently and it was a freeing revelation. I connect with God by working. I literally feel an intimacy with God when I build my company. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe God gave me my mission and my team and I feel closest to him when I’ve got my hand on the plow. It’s thrilling and I couldn’t be more grateful he’s given me an outlet through which I can both serve and connect with him.

I find his response a wonderful example of missing the point. We all find intimacy with God by working. We were created to work for six days, which means there is a great priority that God places on that. We all find hobbies and passions that fulfill us as men. We all agree with Eric Liddel’s wonderful attestation of the presence of God when he says in Chariots of Fire, “When I run I feel his pleasure.” When Miller works with his crew he feels God’s pleasure. But his intimacy ought to be the outworking of an intimacy that begins when by the Spirit we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).

Miller’s entire paradigm could be easily dealt with by reading an introduction to ecclesiology. e Don Miller is the product of modern individualism. And though he flees from that language with his post-modern categories, ultimately, he falls in his own trap. Miller believes that church is all around us. Yes, we go as church to the world. We carry the name of God. f But we go as church because we have already been fed by the head of the Church as we gathered as one body.

Conclusion

Miller’s platform is huge. His simple blog post, which he indicated took him about three minutes to write, led to a firestorm on the web. His attempt to start a conversation actually hinders us from having a more necessary conversation. The question should not be whether we worship in the traditional sense or simply find intimacy with God through other means, the question is “How has God called us to worship?” Further, whether you worship in a more lecture-style congregation or otherwise because of your learning style, what does your personal style of learning have to do with worship? What if God’s way of sanctifying you is by killing your learning style and causing you to appreciate God’s way of learning? What if the institutional church is God’s way of killing your wants so you may conform to his? What if attending church regularly is the way God intended to prepare you to understand intimacy?

I am not one to deny Miller’s connection with God via his work and habits, but I do reject his premise that abandoning the institutional church is the path to a deeper connection. The institutional church, I argue, is the deepest means of finding intimacy with God.

  1. Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/donald-miller-church#KDZHerDkw3EuWr6q.99  (back)
  2. If you do not have this book, please purchase Kevin DeYoung’s wonderful work found here: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Love-Church-Institutions-Organized/dp/0802458378  (back)
  3. see Covenant Media Foundation for copies  (back)
  4. My lecture at the Family Advance Conference in 2012; e-mail for a PDF copy  (back)
  5. Maybe R.B. Kuiper’s work “The Glorious Body of Christ  (back)
  6. This is the heart of the third commandment  (back)
Praise for “TheTrinitarian Father”

Praise for “TheTrinitarian Father”

The Trinitarian Father is not another work by an expert father to the rest of us — no, it’s better than that. Rather than offering his own wisdom, Uri Brito guides fathers through the whole biblical sweep of our Heavenly Father’s redemptive wisdom in his Son in order to unfold to us what true fatherhood is. In this work, we learn that the future of the church and of the culture is fathers — fathers who instruct their children from the the wisdom, example, and self-sacrifice of their Trinitarian Father.

John Fraiser, Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in La Grange, Kentucky