Truth Unhinged in Edinburgh Square

My wife and I recently spent five days in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there is much to commend in this very beautiful city, it did not take long to realize that God is no longer welcome for many of the inhabitants there.

On the last evening in Edinburgh, I watched a young street preacher proclaiming the gospel from a makeshift podium on Royal Mile Street, which stands in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral. Here, the mighty John Knox wielded the mighty sword of God’s Word, which brought reformation to Scotland in the sixteenth century. Knox prayed, “Give me Scotland or I will die,” demonstrating his great love for God and his countrymen.

However, the days of the Reformation are long gone in Scotland. The scoffs of the crowd which were directed at the street preacher bore witness to that:

“Who created God?” one man shouted. “What about the holocaust?” another queried. “Who wrote the Bible?” questioned one of the street performers. “How could anyone believe in a talking serpent?” “Where did evil come from?” “What about the dinosaurs?” “What about the other religions?” And, “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?”

These emotionally charged questions were all hurled at the street preacher who merely sought to proclaim the simple message of the gospel.

I stood and prayed for the young man who heralded the truth. I asked God to soften the hearts of this angry mob. In the midst of my petition, the thought struck me, This is the same kind of crowd that Noah encountered. These are the same kinds of people who spewed their venom at Jeremiah and Jonah. And these are the kinds of people who hurled their hate against the New Testament apostles.

Nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun. The hearts of men are continuously evil (Gen. 6:5). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Ever since the fall of man, sinful people continually suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).

Every person carries a bag full of presuppositions. Atheism, evolution, immorality, homosexuality, and relativism. These are only a few of the presuppositions that I saw in the Edinburgh square. The people who embrace these worldviews are unwitting worshippers. They worship the false god of success. They worship the false god of autonomy. Or they worship the false god of another religion.

The angry mob who squared off against the preacher in Edinburgh willingly exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The Bible says unregenerate people realize that God exists; yet they refuse to acknowledge him: “For although they knew God, they did not honor God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21).

And so I watched a tragic scene unfold on Royal Mile Street in Edinburgh. I watched a frenzied mob reject the truth from a “voice in the wilderness.” I gazed upon a group of worshippers who willingly turned from the God of the Bible to a god of their own making.

A few thoughts echoed in my mind and pressed against my heart as I stood on Royal Mile Street in the heart of Edinburgh:

First, the unbelieving world who preaches “tolerance” fails to be tolerant when the truth is proclaimed. Tolerance is only a virtue when it lines up with a worldview that rejects God, turns from his law, and marginalizes his Word. The “tolerance mantra” is a smokescreen, in the final analysis. Anyone who repudiates the truth claims of Scripture is tolerated. But anyone who embraces the propositional truth of God’s Word is cast aside and criticized.

Second, followers of Jesus Christ are called to faithfully proclaim the truth. Most will be unwilling to stand on a makeshift platform and herald the gospel to a hostile crowd. But how many of us could utter the claims of Christ over a cup of coffee? How many of us could share the love of Christ in the workplace? Who among us could challenge the pagan mind with the gospel truth in the marketplace of ideas? Paul understood this mandate to faithfully proclaim the truth: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Rom. 10:14-15).

Third, when the truth is faithfully proclaimed, the unbelieving world will invariably become offended. The Edinburgh preacher recognized this reality when he stepped upon his makeshift platform. He realized that he would be opposed. He realized that he would be scoffed at. And he realized that the crowd would laugh. Scripture warns us that in the last days, people will not put up with sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3). The Bible says people will “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Tragically, we will not only find these kinds of people in the public square; we will also find them in the church.

In his book, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day, John Leonard argues that people have stopped listening to the gospel “because we want to share it in the least inconvenient, least costly way. We want to save dirty people at a distance.” Leonard has touched upon an important truth. And we can certainly do a much better job of sharing the gospel up-close. But the real reason for their resistance to the truth is a rocky, stubborn, and unbelieving, sinful heart! Our task is to faithfully share the truth and trust the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and effectually draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44).

Finally, bold proclamation invites persecution. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet Scripture reminds us, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10–11, ESV) The promise of persecution should not hinder our passion to proclaim the truth. Rather, this reality should embolden our efforts to wield the mighty sword of truth!

Was the angry mob who ridiculed the preacher a fair representation of the feelings of the Scottish people? Were their harsh words and cackling laughs an accurate portrait of the people living in Edinburgh? Since I only met a handful of people in our brief stay, I cannot answer this question with any clarity. However, the Word of God informs us that what I saw on that cold winter afternoon is representative of the unbelieving world.

When truth is unhinged, we will face an intolerant audience. When truth is unhinged, the unbelieving world will be offended which will prompt persecution. But when truth is unhinged, some will hear and respond. Some will be cut to the quick. Hearts will be softened. Minds will be sharpened. For the truth of God’s Word will unlock the most resistant and callous heart. Truth unhinged will transform lives as God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed.

Meet Generation Z (2017)

zJames Emery White, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 219 pp. $10.11

Most people are familiar with the respective generations which are generally designated as the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Older Millennials (born 1981-1989), and the Younger Millennials (born 1990-1996). But a new group of people is emerging: Meet Generation Z. Born after 1996, this fascinating people group is the first truly post-Christian tribe. And as the author ofMeet Generation Z says, they “will be the most influential religious force int he West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the Christian church.”

James Emery White is the author of Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. The author alerts readers to the growing secularization of culture. Built within this unique secular culture lies the “squishy center,” which includes people who are shapable but bear little in the area of convictions. These people have a propensity to move in the direction of the prevailing culture winds, which creates a special challenge to Christ-followers who long to make an impact on this generation.

James Emery White writes with urgency and passion. But he also writes with a sober-minded concern. His chief concern is that the church is missing an opportunity to reach Generation Z: ”But this is about more than losing an ideological bridge. We are also losing a relational bridge – one we can walk across to reach the largest generation in American history.”

The book is divided into two parts. Part One explores the New Realityand captures the pertinent demographic data that concerns Generation Z. The author introduces readers to the nones, that is, people are have little to no religious affiliation. This growing group represents one of of every five Americans. The nones are characterized by their commitment to secularism. They have been influenced by an age pummeled by economic recession. They are linked to computers and Wi-Fi. They tend to be multi-racial and sexually fluid. That is, they offer strong support to social causes such as transgender rights and “gay marriage.” They are, for the most part, biblically illiterate, that is, they fail to understand the redemptive themes in the Bible, let alone the basic stories in the Bible. And the nones, as described above, are radically post-Christian.

Part Two explores A New Approach. The author reexamines ways of reaching Generation Z and encourages pastors and Christian workers to think outside the box. He cites Ron Dreher approvingly: “Christians must pioneer new ways to bind ourselves to Scripture, to our traditions, and to each other – not for mere survival, but so that the church can be the authentic light of Christ to a world lost in darkness.” Our task, then is to be truly Christ-centered by modeling the gospel to a lost generation.

There is a plea here for “finding our voice,” something that appears to be increasingly difficult for many evangelicals: “There is a thin line between maintaining an earned voice through which to speak to culture and compromising the very message we long to share.” Ultimately, our task is to communicate the gospel in an uncompromising way to a generation that does not understand the Bible. The problem is that many people are compromising. The author notes, “If we harden ourselves against revelation’s voice, then again, like clay, we can only crumble in response to its touch.”

Finally, there is a challenge to rethink apologetics and evangelism directed to the Generation X generation. James Emery White offers these wise words: “At the most basic level, the goal is to hold both grace and truth together. Truth without grace is just judgment. Grace without truth is license. Only authentic Christianity brings together both truth and grace … The only kind of voice that will arrest the attention of the world will be convictional in nature, clear in its message, substantive in its content, and bold in its challenge.”

Meet Generation X is a much-needed book, especially in light of the challenges we face in the days ahead. For me personally, there are some things in the book that could be discarded. But to throw out the baby with the bathwater would be a huge overstep. Much of the wisdom here is sound and biblical. I commend this book to a new generation of pastors and Christian workers who have a heart for building a bridge to the next generation, namely, Generation X.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Story of Reality (2017)

a-reality

Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017, 198 pp. $9.31

Reality is a subject that every person should be interested in. Reality stares us in the face each day and reminds us of the bare facts. Perhaps the most important reality to come to grips with is the Christian worldview. Gregory Koukl presents the major components of the Christian worldview in his newest work, The Story of Reality.

Every worldview has four important ingredients: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Koukl adds, “Every worldview means to tell a story like this one, a story of reality. It means to make sense of the way the world actually is – the world as we find it – not simply the world as we wish it to be.”

After Koukl orients the mind readers to the importance of reality, he weaves five critical subjects into the fabric of the Christian worldview described above. These subjects include God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection. Each topic is explained in detailed and opposing worldviews are challenged along the way.

At the center of Koukl’s argument is the Story:

That is the Story about how the world began, how the world ends, and everything deeply important that happens in between: the beginning filled with goodness, the rebellion, the brokenness, the rescue, the trade, the mercy, the final justice, the end of evil, the ultimate restoration to perfect goodness, and – for those who trust the Rescuer – the unending friendship with a Father who, finally, satisfies the deepest longings of their hearts.

The author challenges readers to participate in this Story – for each person is an active participant whether they realize it or not. Each person will either find unending friendship with God through the completed work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Those who repudiate the offer of eternal salvation will bear the weight of their own sin – or as Koukl writes, “You can reject the gift, stand alone at the judgment, and pay for your own crimes against God, such as they are.”

The Story of Reality is a very important book. This book should be devoured again and again by Christian people. And this book should be gifted to people who have not yet embraced the Story. Koukl writes with an engaging style. He steers clear from philosophical buzzwords but never dumbs down the content. This is a Story that needed to be told. Readers who take the time to digest this excellent material will be blessed beyond measure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

EVANGELISM – J. Mack Stiles (2014)

The word, “evangelism” strikes fear in the hearts of many Christ-followers.  But 1433544652_bnothing could be more backwards, for the people of God possess the greatest news in the universe.  A holy God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus to die in the place of every person who would ever believe.  Sinners may receive the hope of eternal life by banking all their hope in Christ and the benefits he purchased for them on Calvary’s cross.

J. Mack Stiles helps Christians develop confidence in the responsibility to tell the nations about Christ in his excellent little book, Evangelism.  The author rightly responds to churches who turn the evangelistic endeavor into a mere program.  Rather, he encourages the church to develop a “culture of evangelism” which is “built on people filled with the power of God’s Spirit proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace in the context of their everyday lives and relationships.”  The main theme, then, is built around an entirely different paradigm; a mindset that can and should dominate every local church.

Stiles endorses a modified definition of evangelism that I rather like: “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”  Such a definition works well in the pulpit, classroom, local park, and coffee shop.  Francis of Assisi may have been well-intentioned when he quipped, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.”  But wordless evangelism is no evangelism at all (no offense to The Wordless Book – which actually uses words, in the final analysis).  Stiles speaks emphatically, “There is no evangelism without words.”  Such a gospel should include important words that include God, man, Christ, and human response.

The culture of evangelism that Stiles favors emerges clearly in chapter two.  The author dreams of churches committed to eleven ideals:

  1. A Culture Motivated by Love for Jesus and His Gospel
  2. A Culture That Is Confident In the Gospel
  3. A Culture That Understands the Danger of Entertainment
  4. A Culture That Sees People Clearly
  5. A Culture That Pulls Together as One
  6. A Culture in Which People Teach One Another
  7. A Culture That Models Evangelism
  8. A Culture in Which People Who Are Sharing Their Faith Are Celebrated
  9. A Culture That Knows How to Affirm and Celebrate New Life
  10. A Culture Doing Ministry That Feels Risky and Is Dangerous
  11. A Culture That Understands That the Church Is the Chosen and Best Method of Evangelism

Such a culture becomes a reality when God’s people put the gospel at the center of every activity.  The gospel emerges in every song, every sermon, and every classroom.  In this gospel-centered culture, people are equipped – prepared and passionate about presenting Christ to lost people.

J. Mack Stiles has written a fantastic book that I commend to Christians – not only to read, but also to absorb and apply.  Perhaps the harvest is just around the corner!

THE CASE FOR CHRIST – Lee Strobel

The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel, a former atheistic journalist turned pastor, retraces his spiritual journey by interviewing thirteen leading scholars and authorities.  Strobel asks penetrating questions and forces these scholars to defend their views with solid data and argumentation.  He plays the role of “devil’s advocate” and asks questions that a typical skeptic might ask.   The author hopes to challenge the presuppositions of the reader and force him to think through various questions that affect his eternal destiny.  He drives home the point that if Jesus is to be believed, then nothing is more important than a proper response to him.

Part one examines the Scriptural record detailing the life of Jesus.  Strobel examines  the biographies of Christ and challenges their veracity.  He determines whether the biographies of Jesus were preserved for modern readership.  He searches for evidence of Jesus’ life and teaching outside the gospel accounts.  And he sets out to verify whether archeological evidence exists that bolsters the claims of Christ.  Despite the Strobel’s rigorous questioning of the hard data, the case for Christ emerges victorious.

Part two turns from the record of Jesus to the man himself.  Strobel seeks to determine if Jesus was really convinced he was the Son of God (as opposed to films like The Last Temptation of Christ) which portray Jesus as a doubting, insecure person.  Strobel interviews Gary Collins to determine whether or not Jesus maintained his sanity throughout his life.  Was he a lunatic?  Was he crazy?  Or was he truly  who he claimed to be – the eternal Son of God.  In his interview with D.A. Carson, the author sets out to determine whether Jesus’ attributes really matched the attributes of God’s.  And finally, the author meets with Louis Lapides a converted Jewish pastor to determine if Jesus is really the long-awaited Messiah.

Part three examines the evidence for the resurrection.  Strobel’s interview with Alexander Metherell, M.D. is fascinating and convincing as they challenge the so-called Swoon theory and come to terms with the fact that Jesus really did die on the cross.  Strobel questions the eminent philosopher, William Lane Craig on the evidence for Jesus’ missing body.  The post-resurrection appearances is discussed with Gary Habermaas.  And the circumstantial evidence supporting the resurrection of Christ is supported by J.P. Moreland.

The author draws the book to a close by challenging the reader with the evidence.  He recalls his own personal story that brought him to this point: It would take more faith to adhere to atheism than trust in Jesus Christ!  In the final analysis, he lays the evidence at the feet of the reader and forces him to make a decision.  In light of the evidence for Christ and his unique claim to be God, a choice must be made.  Strobel presents a simple gospel message and the reader is left hanging in the balance.

The Case For Christ is a terrific  book.  Many strengths run throughout Strobel’s fine work.  First, he interviews credible scholars.  These men argue the claims of Christianity with clear and passionate argumentation.  The author’s selection of scholars is noteworthy.  He really picks the cream of the crop.  I was particularly pleased with his decision to interview D.A. Carson and J.P. Moreland.  Second, the book helps skeptics to see the issues and examine all the pertinent questions.  There is no hint of subterfuge in this book.  Not one hint of evidence is hidden from the reader’s eyes.  Third, Strobel’s book builds the faith of believers.  The evidence presented only bolsters one’s faith and confidence in the written record and unique claims of Christ.  Fourth, this work vividly shows the validity of classical apologetics, otherwise known as evidentialism.  Fifth, the book is intensely practical.  The reality of Jesus Christ and his claim to be God point to the practical effect of following him in daily life.  It really does help promote devotion on the part of the believer as well as foster decision-making on the part of the lost.

I am excited about using this book in the future as I dialogue with lost people and challenge them with eternal issues.  I am also excited about passing Strobel’s book to believers to build their faith and help them in the everyday challenge to evangelize the lost.

THE GOSPEL COMMISSION: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples – Michael Horton (2011)

Michael Horton has been on somewhat of a writing streak in recent days.  Earlier this year, he released his magnum opus, The Christian Faith, a systematic theology that ranks highly along with theologians such as Wayne Grudem and Robert Reymond.  In 2008 he embarked on an important study that included Christless Christianity and The Gospel Driven Life.  Horton completes this theological trilogy with The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples.

Horton’s work articulates the Great Commission in a compelling way that motivates followers of Christ to welcome others into God’s covenant family and challenges the presuppositions concerning the evangelistic task.  Horton wastes no time in critiquing ancient heresy and alerting readers to the  alarming contemporary trends associated with the emergent church.

The author helps recover the core elements of the Great Commission and invites readers to seriously consider the mandate before every Christ-follower.  The Gospel Commission is challenging and convicting.  It is an important reminder and calls God’s people to remain faithful to the task.

TELL THE TRUTH – Will Metzger (2002 Revised)

Books on evangelism are a dime a dozen these days.  Much of what passes for “evangelism” is watered-down, pragmatic, and in the final analysis promotes a different gospel (Gal. 1:6).  Tell the Truth by Will Metzger stands head and shoulders above every other book I’ve read about evangelism.

The subtitle is a nice summary of this excellent book: “the whole gospel to the whole person by whole people.”  Metzger’s Reformed approach to evangelism is saturated in Scripture and confronts the man-centered approach to evangelism with a vengeance.

The heart of the book is to communicate a proper view of God and a proper view man.  Metzger rightly adds, “We cannot explain the work of Christ unless we present a true picture of God.”  The author prizes God-centered theology and roots healthy evangelism in the biblical reality of predestination.  But note: there is no fatalism here.  Metzger embraces the notion popularized by Jonathan Edwards: “God ordains the ends and God ordains the means.”  To that end, the author promotes a rigorous approach to evangelism; a kind of evangelism that pleads with sinners to repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ alone for salvation.

Readers familiar with Spurgeon’s approach to evangelism will be instantly drawn to this work.  The sovereignty of God in salvation is emphasized.  As such, “sovereign saving grace gives power to obey, as well as grants a pardon for disobedience.”  But the responsibility of man is equally emphasized.  Simply put, the sinner (who is unable to believe apart from sovereign grace) must believe.

Metzger calls Christians to speak the truth in love (Eph.  4:15).  This is the high calling of every follower of Christ.  He reminds readers, “Action should be the fruit of sound doctrine.”  Tell the Truth is a powerful primer on the mandate to evangelize lost people.  Highly recommended!

4.5 stars