Friday, November 30, 2012

Killing Calvinism - Book Review

I just finished reading Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside. I found the title of this book to be alluring.  It snatched my attention from the first time that I heard of it.  It was on my watch list for books that I was hoping would go on sale eventually.  Strangely enough, when it did go on sale, it wasn't me that purchased it, but it was my wife who purchased this book. She saw it on the when she was browsing through the Kindle books and decided to pick it up.  I was surprised to see it listed with my books, but quickly started to read it.

Like I said, the title of this book is what drew me in, but what kept me reading was the openness and honesty of the author.  From the subtitle, How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, I could tell that this book was going to deal with the reality of people's reaction to, what is popularly called, Calvinism, and the difficulty of relaying that truth to others. There are so many knee-jerk reactions to salvation and the sovereignty of God that it is hard to get past all of that and into the actual teachings of Scripture.  The flip side to that coin is the pride, anger and arrogance that seems to go along with those who hold this view, whether that is a reality or not, many seem to detect a connection here.

Greg Dutcher shares a quote from John Piper regarding the anger:
When a person comes to see the doctrines of grace in the Bible, he is often amazed that he missed it, and he can sometimes become angry.  He can become angry that he grew up in a church or home where they never talked about what is really there in Romans 8, I Corinthians 2, and Ephesians 2.  They never talked about it -- they skipped it -- and he is angry that he was misled for so long.
I understand that sentiment.  There are so many passages of scripture that were never discussed or taught. I have seen this anger in me.  I don't want to do things that might hinder others from seeing and savoring the greatest aspects of God's amazing grace, and I definitely don't want my attitudes to dim their glory.  The author shared another Piper quote that really rang true:
I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love producing doctrines.  But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in a large matter, because of their intellectual rigor.  They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that.  And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative. 
So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn't tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender.  Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic.
So I don't go into a Piper-quoting frenzy, I will stop there.  I do appreciate how the author, through these quotes and through personal experiences and confessions, displays the typical dangers that seem to cloud the  teachings of these doctrines.  I was stirred, again, by the author's love, not of Calvinism, but of the Lord, to keep in mind God's wonderful grace.

If you are a Calvinist, 5-point or no... I recommend getting this book.  I found it extremely helpful and encouraging.  I will end this book review by sharing another quote in the book, this one by R.C. Sproul.  This quote is on that I found to be extremely interesting and full of eye-opening encouragement.  I concerns Sprouls acceptance of the teachings of Calvinism:
The combination was too much for me.  Gerstner, Edwards, the New Testament professor, and above all the apostle Paul, were too formidable a team for me to withstand.  The ninth chapter of Romans was the clincher. I simply could find no way to avoid the apostle's teaching in that chapter. Reluctantly, I sighed and surrendered, but with my head, not my heart.  "OK, I believe this stuff, but I don't have to like it!" 
I soon discovered that God has created us so that the heart is supposed to follow the head. I could not, with impunity, love something with my head that I hated in my heart.  Once I began to see the cogency of the doctrine and its broader implications, my eyes were opened to the graciousness of grace and the grand comfort of God's sovereignty.  I began to like the doctrine little by little, until it burst upon my soul that the doctrine revealed the depth and the riches of the mercy of God.
If I know you and you are interested in reading this book, and you have a Kindle, I think that I can "loan" this book.  I have never tried this before, but I would be willing to give it a shot.  Let me know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lay Elders eJournal

Click to Read
The new Nine Marks eJournal for November/December is covering the topic of Lay Elders.  I am looking forward to reading through this edition.  I always find their work to be both enlightening and encouraging.

I noticed that it was titled, "... part 1" so I am hoping for more on this topic.  As I looked through the table of contents, I didn't find anything about my situation exactly.  It is mostly geared toward elders in the church who are also holding down a full-time job.  That is me, but the journal isn't really dealing with Lay Elders who are the only Elder in their church.

It still sounds really interesting with articles titled:

  • A Job Description for Lay Elders
  • How Much Time Can a Lay Elder Give to Ministry?
  • Raising Up Elders: Three Areas to Address
  • Raising Up Elders: Four Foundational Principles
  • Four Ways to Equip New Elders
  • Besetting Sins of Lay Elders
  • How Pastor Mark Passes Out Authority
They have a printable pdf version available or a Kindle or epub version.  Click on through to download your copy today.

Seeing Through the Fog - Book Review

I finished listening to Christian Audio's version of Seeing Through The Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart, by Ed Dobson about two weeks ago, but I have been really busy and didn't have time to post a review.

This was a very interesting book.  It is sort of a memoir of Ed Dobson's after he found out that he had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.  ALS is a debilitating disease. As it progresses, more and more muscles lose their ability to work. This eventually leads to more and more important muscle groups ceasing to function, which eventually causes death.  ALS is, as far as I know, an incurable disease.

In this book, Ed Dobson shares his struggles and thoughts on the disease and on struggling in general.  It was a very honest book.  It was easy to listen to, and you could sense the author's desire to be as transparent as possible.  He shared his ups and downs, the highs and lows.  His honesty was refreshing and encouraging.

My one complaint is his, for lack of a better way to describe it, his theology of suffering.  About midway through the book he attempted to deal with the question of suffering, if there is a good God, why would we suffer?  The Bible doesn't avoid this question, but even though Ed Dobson is a Pastor and I have no doubt that he loves God as his greatest treasure, I still think he missed the mark on this one... and it just makes me sad.

He captured my sorrow in the chapter dealing with the source of suffering.  He shared how he heard about someone giving a testimony on dealing with cancer.  The individual talked about how he was thankful for the cancer.  Dobson questioned the thankfulness "for", wondering if that was necessary.  We are clearly to give thanks in...(I Thess. 5:18) but should we give thanks "for" everything?  My first thought was, "hmm.  I think there actually is a verse that says to give thanks for everything.

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
But what really got me was when he started talking about whether or not God had anything to do with his disease.  And then he said it... "I don't think God had anything to do with it."  I can still hear those words ringing in my ears.  I actually stopped my mp3 player and paused for a moment.  I couldn't believe that he had said it.

Please, don't get me wrong.  Identifying the source of suffering can feel like a quirky theological maze, but the Bible is clear that God is not set apart from our suffering. Thinking that God had nothing to do with the suffering is surely not the best or the right way to look at it.  For example, that was not quite the sentiment of Job.  That man, after losing everything stated,

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
(and just in case you might think that Job got it wrong, the author quickly adds...) In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
(Job 1:20-22 ESV)
Job didn't accuse God falsely.  When he stated, "the Lord has taken away..." he was right!  This may not seem like a huge deal to some, but I believe that understanding God's central role in all of my suffering is something that is not only theologically correct, it is something of immense encouragement while in the middle of the trial.

I do not doubt Ed Dobson's faith, his view just seemed surprising to me.

The book was well written, and I would still suggest reading it.  It isn't my normal sort of read, but I found it to stimulate my thoughts on suffering and encouraging to hear how he has dealt with the challenges.  The voice talent is one that I am familiar with, and he did a great job at portraying the author.

Desktop Background for December 2012

I love to change my desktop background on my computer every so often.  I used to post my backgrounds on the blog, but fell out of the habit.  Thought I would pick this habit back up, I am not ready for my blog do die!

Here is December's background... via 22 Words.  A little bit of a retro poster that goes along with my love of books.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kidnapped Devotions

Every once in a while I will be reading a book or listening to a speaker and I will hear a phrase that cuts me to the quick.  This morning I was listening to the Christian Audio version of Paul Tripp's new book, Dangerous Calling .  It was already challenging me with the openness of the author, but then he said something that stuck in my mind the rest of the ride.  He said that a Pastor's...
"... preparation will regularly kidnap their devotional time."
Whoa.  Absolutely guilty here.  I have even purposely done that.

My excuse has usually come in the form of understanding that a Pastor's preaching should flow from their devotional time.  I don't necessarily think that my devotions should stand as a completely seperate entity, but I will quite often feel that I've spent some personal time with my creator if I have been studying for a sermon. Quite frankly, it is not the same thing.

I only have the audio version right now, through Christian Audio's wonderful reviewer's program.  I think that I am going to have to purchase the book in print or for my Kindle.

Monday, November 19, 2012

God is Good

From the Desiring God Blog:

On January 4, 2011, on Twitter, Pastor John wrote: 
Marriage. The roots are deep. The covenant is solid. The love is sweet. Life is hard. And God is good
The quote is a rewrite of what Pastor John wrote in 2003 to Noël in the preface to his book Desiring God
But when the quote appeared on Twitter in 2011, a woman named Patty Hurtarte copied it into her journal with no immediate purpose for it. But almost two years later she returned to the quote, used her artistic skill to turn it into a design, framed it and gifted her illustration to her pastor and his wife, Joshua and Shannon Harris.
I found these words felt especially profound after my Ordination Ceremony this weekend.  My wife has been with me every step of the way.  She makes everything special.

Here is that design:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In the Catalog!

I made it into the Maranatha Baptist Bible College Catalog!

I am on page 95 of the catalog.  I am in the Math Education section.

I knew that they were thinking about putting me in there, but I hadn't heard whether or not they had actually done it.  I sent them my "teacher photo" from the school.

Click this picture to read my little write-up.  (Or you can click here to look at the education section of the school's catalog and scroll down to page 95.)