Book Reviews

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.

Brief Review of Marva Dawn’s “A Royal Waste of Time”

Brief Review of Marva Dawn’s “A Royal Waste of Time”

 

Marva Dawn says that worship is a “royal waste of time.” Of course, she is not referring to worship being purposeless, she is speaking of worship as a way of losing our lives (Mat. 10:39). Worship is royal because it invites us to the throne room of God. But worship is a waste of time because in the eyes of the world it is a trivial pursuit. Worship as a royal waste of time enables us to keep heavenly time and forget earthly concerns. A royal waste of time is what we need to do more not less. We need to spend our sense of self-righteousness and gain more from the heavenly clock which calls us promptly to see our unworthiness in the splendor of God’s holiness.

Throughout these many sermons, the writer speaks profoundly to the sense of loss in evangelical worship. Not only has the church over-hyped technology (85) but she has also lost her sense of wonder (118). Dawn addresses the central need of the church which is to restore the centrality of worship and a vision for the God of worship. She works through various components of church life and urges the church to restore what’s been lost with the church’s worldly infatuation. With deep personal care and pastoral tenderness, Marva Dawn addresses a series of letters to concerned parishioners and overwhelmed pastors. The reviewer strongly encourages distributing such letters to pastors.

Filled with a healthy dose of theological insight, Dawn presents a God that is beyond our reach and within our grasp; immanent and transcendent. The church’s loss of identity comes when she believes her time is better spent inventing new ways of worship.

This reviewer did not agree with all her exegesis (especially of Col. 3) but found Dawn to be a unique and necessary voice for our age. Further, there is no greater beauty than the beauty of God’s holiness. Each church needs to be aware that worldly perceptions of the church are not nearly as important and a royal waste of time in the things of God is our urgent cry. Another great addition to this masterful piece is that she speaks from a Lutheran perspective which means part of this royal waste is to see the church calendar as a fundamental way to keep time. Dawn urges the church to sing a new song, to catechize our imagination with wonder for the Triune God.   

New Kuyperian Press Publication! Taking Your Faith to Work: How Christians Can Succeed in Secular Careers by Dr. David Goetsch

Kuyperian Press is proud to announce our third publication.

Dr. David Goetsch has been in the academic and business worlds for over four decades and has become a prized consultant in those fields. This latest publication–originally published by American Visiona–is an accessible treatment for the young and older Christian. The question of how we should take our faith to work is an especially salient matter at this day and age. In this work, the author offers not only wise insight into how a Christian ought to conduct himself in secular environmentsb, but also lays out a vision for a disciplined Christian pattern of work.

You can order the kindle edition NOW!

You can hear my interview with Dr. David Goetsch here.

  1. they no longer do printed works  (back)
  2. by secular I am simply referring to environments that are not explicitly Christian in orientation or in vision  (back)

Review of Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

Book Review: Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent

We intended to finish this on Christmas Day, but then sickness came over our home and we only finished it up on December 31st. But the story was so compelling that I was determined to finish it even out of season with the kids. Jotham’s Journey is a dangerous and lovely story of a young boy whose disobedience to his father led him on an adventure he wished he never began. Filled with villains and plots of vengeance, Jotham journeys in search of his father in the days before the birth of Messiah Jesus.

The narrative unfolds beautifully through the landscape of the arid and deserted terrain of Israel in the first century. The story introduces the readers to a diverse group of sects in the first century and how they interpreted the coming Messiah in the prophetic writings.

The story takes us through each day in Advent culminating on the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. Each portion of the story takes about 10 minues of reading with an additional Bible passage and short reflection. It is succint and captivating. It is splendidly written and written about the Splendor.

Rabbis, caves, fights, swords, shepherds, innkeepers, wise men all join to make Jotham’s Journey an adventure worth telling during the Advent Season.

The writing can at times be difficult to follow for little children. It is helpful to pause at times during the reading to offer a few definitions.

Jotham’s Journey is the first in a series of Advent stories. I highly recommend it.

Engaging “Against the Church” by Douglas Wilson

In this book, Doug Wilson does what he does best. He offers a return to ol’ time religion, but without altar calls and endless refrains of Just As I Am.  The book is divided into four sections. The first, the most controversial, is entitled Against the Church (also the title of the book). In it, he attacks liturgy, sacraments, infant anything, tradition, systematics and doctrine in favor of the new birth. Wilson’s central premise is that “it is only possible to be for the church in this effectual way if you begin mastering the case against ita. We, in liturgical traditions, value holy things and holy means. Doug writes that “God does not show sufficient respect for our holy things.” He means that our liturgical services are less than appetizing to God if God is not directing the holy.

God is the ultimate iconoclast. The Church has become a place of idolatry masqueraded by the holy. Part of the thesis is that we have arranged our holy furniture after our own desires, and thus, used them for our own purposes and as a result have left God out of the equation. Our house is being left desolate and we kinda like it as long as “our” sacred means are left untouched.

Wilson’s goal is to stress that outwardly we have beauty, but inwardly our churches are dying a thousand deaths because of the stench of death that has permeated our furniture. Central to this analysis is the necessity of the new birth. According to Pastor Wilson, we have failed to stress the new birth and also failed to make distinctions that the Bible makes concerning who is in and who is playing like he is in. In other words, true baptism changes the stuff inside and without that you only have a “wet member of the visible covenant” (18).

Wilson is not contra institution, he is after an institution with an evangelical heart (35). We cannot affirm a religion where the outward controls the inward, but the opposite is desired. What flows from the heart produces the type of church/liturgy that is pleasing in God’s eyes.

Engaging Doug Wilson and Some Notes

I love Doug Wilson. In order to let the reader know what my samba dance looks like, I should say upfront, this man has changed the direction of my life. He is my presiding minister in the denomination I serve. I have spent much time with him in meals, private conversations, phone calls, etc. My admiration for this man is truly heartfelt. God bless him. To make it even better, may the whole Trinity bless him. He’s a man for such a time as this.

So, here it comes…

Actually, nothing comes. I learned long ago from John Frame that throwing mud at friends is a losing strategy. And if I were to throw mud it would be very little. In fact, it would be the type of mud that my little kids may accidentally eat on a rainy day causing no tummy pain. I would simply say, “Well, look at that honey: little Zeke had a little mud for lunch, but I think it will help him make better distinctions between good food and food that may look good, but is not.” Then, we would laugh for a bit and move on.

I rarely finish a book these days. In fact, I can honestly say this is only the third book I have read from cover to cover this year, and in this case, the cover and its title gave me a quick heartache. I spend most of my time reading essays, various portions of books, commentaries, and writing a fair bit, but finishing a book is rare. Maybe because of the nature of my relationship with Doug and our denomination, I was able to work my way through the 212 pages of this book. I confess: this is not my favorite of Wilson’s books, and many of his books have I consumed in this last decade. But still, it was a needed book to consume, if only to perform a type of pastoral introspection that is needed from time to time.

Wilson sees things most of us can’t. Maybe it’s his view from Moscow that helps…you know, he’s near Russia and stuff. But from my vantage point–and I kid you not I am staring at the prettiest Florida waves ever a I write–the world down here is not in need of liturgical iconoclasts, but of any liturgy worth a darn. The south is replete with happy-happy-joy-joy Christianity. And sometimes my desire as a zealous disciple of Calvin (God rest his soul) is to use my clerical garb (which is magical, I hear) and walk right to a certain campus in my hometown that rhymes with Pee-See-See and start going all Book of Common Prayer on them. But alas, I actually did that and the looks I got….my, oh my!

Seriously, Doug’s points are valid. I know the liturgical dangers of loving something so much that we end up forgetting the point of the means; and the point is to show us how terribly idiotic we are if we forget the Point of the point.

So, kudos to Doug for pointing us to Jesus more fully; for making us more aware that bad people hide behind bread and wine and peace be with you. Also, thanks to Doug for directing us to the regeneration…whatever that means, it means new life, new world, and new order. And I want me some of that everyday and hope that the people I minister to want some as well. Great thanks also for calling us to lively worship; the kind that makes the kingdom of darkness tremble and God’s people rejoice.

Finally, my thanks to Doug for getting me in such great trouble in the last 12 years. It’s been real. As a result, I’ve seen happy babies, communing babies, spitting up babies, screaming babies, halleluiah babies, and my own babies. But I’ve seen them all, as a friend of ours would say, through new eyes. And to me, that matters a whole lot. In fact it matters so much that I am up for a good beer right now; the kind that is dark and foamy. Cheers for iconoclasts and to hell with the Church choir if Jesus ain’t leading it.

  1. Introduction  (back)
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

 

Book Review: Fleeing Fundamentalism by Carlene Cross

Book Review: Fleeing Fundamentalism by Carlene Cross

This book should never have been written. Its ending is depressing. Its story is horrifying, though sprinkled with episodes of hope and love. Ultimately, this is a story about the loss of faith. Indeed one of the saddest accounts I have read in a long time.

Carlene Cross tells her story in this 273 page book. Carlene was a dreamer. She hoped for a life where romance and the four spiritual laws would co-exist forever. In her pursuit, she meets a strikingly persuasive and zealous man named David. David wore his religion everywhere. It was tattooed all over his life. His evangelistic zeal and charm drew Darlene ijnto his world. They were eventually married. Their marriage, though carrying on the appearance of normalcy, became a nightmare of biblical proportions. While Carlene followed in the steps of submission of the fundamentalist variety, David followed in the steps of his lusts and passion for women, pornography, and strip clubs. While the young, striking orator delivered crowd-pleasing messages on Sunday morning, he found psychological and physical relief in strip clubs during the week.

Carlene’s life was a life that desired to keep her private life private, but all that began to unravel after David’s revelation of his lengthy addiction and deceit.

At that moment, Carlene begins to plan her escape from her tormentor. But her escape is slow and painful, and then only to be rushed by unforeseen events. Her three children become victims of a jealous and maniacal father who upon leaving his successful ministry plunges into theological despair. On the other hand, Carlene is also embracing liberal theology; the pop kind with foolish arguments lacking much serious historical support. In fact, the story ends with religious uncertainty. That is, I should say that Carlene is certain of one thing: that submission to a holy book is not an option.

With this brief summary in mind, here are a few observations:

First, religious zeal is only healthy when it is moderated by religious charity. Take charity away, zeal destroys.

Second, fundamentalism is deadly in every sense. It destroys a proper view of God and self and often leads many to abandon the faith once the door outside the fundamentalist world is open. Some embrace a bright faith, while most embrace darkness in all its misery.

Third, Carlene’s abandoning the faith is a result of being a part of a community where only the external matters. Questions of the heart are never addressed, but external appearance means everything. God says man looks on the outside.

Fourth, self-centered ministry is self-destructive. Any ministry based on man’s personality and style is doomed to failure. No man is called to such a self-centered mission. David lacked accountability in the most common of ways.

Finally, while this book offers a frightening account of spousal abuse and betrayal, we may be tempted to believe these are rare accounts in the Christian world. But the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, spousal abuse sometime is easire to hide in the Christian home, since people are never looking for it.

May women be courageous to find voices in their community and seek immediate help when they are suffering the pain of abuse. No woman–Christian or non-Christian–should suffer under the hands of tyrants, not for one night; not ever.

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)

Christian Pipe-Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense, From Kuyperian Press

Christian Pipe-Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense, From Kuyperian Press

Blogger and book reviewer, Joshua Torrey, reviews our kindle book that comes out tomorrow:

It is an interesting thing providence. My family was out for a couple days in advance of me for a much needed vacation (a longer one scheduled in November). One of my early stops after their departure was to the local liquor store for vodka and Djarum Blacks. Almost the same day this little book(let) entitled Christian Pipe Smoking, from Uri Brito and Joffre Swait, pronounced to my inbox its arrival pleading to “simply smell what we smoke and then make up your mind” (4, “Acknowledgements”). Since I have given up of even casual smoking with the birth of my second child, this seemed a valuable coinciding of thoughts, teaching, and behavior. After an initial reading, I stepped out of my house to strike matches more often than I had previously done the rest of the year while considering the concept of “holy incense.”

Despite the book’s short length, I was engrossed by the provocative application of Plato’s “three-fold division” to smoking (7-9). Once a regular smoker of cigars, I now only find myself smoking on rare occasions. For me it has never fit my schedule. Perhaps too closely, I reflect the archetype of a cigarette smoker (7-8), seeking the instant gratification of smoking. Christian Pipe Smoking invited me to think about smoking and particularly pipe smoking once again. The insight that “the pipe—can endure for decades” (10) unabashedly caused evaluation of my postmillennial paradigms. Quite seriously, I am persuaded that this earth has a long time to go (think 10k to 100k years). So, I should live in a way that reflects this truth in every facet of my life. Potentially, it has not entered many minds how these paradigms might apply pipe smoking. Yet Christian Pipe Smoking presents both an eschatological and theological world in which the distinct differences between pipe smoking and all other forms of smoking are clearly articulated. Not all smoke is created equal.

In conclusion, that “not everyone should smoke a pipe, but everyone should be encouraged to appreciate a pipe-smoker” (11) is successfully communicated via Christian Pipe Smoking. Smokers and non-smokers alike will enjoy this brief reflection on smoking, theology and liturgy. Many will be challenged by the simplistic thoughtfulness of the authors. I sat taking a drag of an eventually formless Djarum Black listening to the echo of words portraying a resounding rhythm of pipe smoking (12-17).  Perhaps some will even “discover that pipe smoking, for all intents and purposes, is a form of prayer” (17).

NOTE: Kindle Edition will be available for download tomorrow, September 26th.