A Theology for Christian Education

ALLISONA Theology For Christian Education, edited by James Estep, Michael Anthony, and Gregg Allison is a well-rounded primer which is suited for pastors in the local church and Bible College/Seminary professors in the classroom.

The first five chapters are foundational in scope. They deal with questions that concern:

  1. The Nature of Theology and Education
  2. What Makes Education Christian
  3. Biblical Principles for a Theology of Christian Education
  4. Revelation, Scripture, and Christian Education
  5. The Triune God and Christian Education

One might consider the first five chapters as the backbone of the book. These chapters help shape the philosophy of education so that the educator has biblical framework for building into the lives of students.

The remaining chapters deal with the finer points of Christian education and address matters of Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, hamartiology, soteriology, and ecclesiology. Students of systematic theology will be familiar with these categories which run through the fabric of this excellent work.

Pastors and professors will be challenged and encouraged by the content here. There is plenty of encouragement in these pages; encouragement that most pastors and professors could benefit from.

The End of Creation: Soli Deo Gloria

The first verse in the Bible is a monumental statement that reverberates with earth-shattering implications for the formation of a Christian worldview: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, ESV). Do not miss the magnitude of this statement. Do not downplay the significance of this vital piece of revelation. And be careful to embrace what the Scriptures affirm. Ignoring the clear revelation of God’s truth, in the final analysis, proves to be a costly mistake that will have consequences that extend into eternity.

The German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, accepted biblical revelation and understood the importance of giving credit where credit is due: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God.”1To do any less would be tantamount to theological treason. So Kepler does not minimize God’s creative activity; he magnifies it. He does not marginalize the miracle of creation; he marvels at it!

Tragically, some thinkers have not followed Kepler’s lead. These skeptics have discounted Genesis 1:1 and cast the revelation of God into the cosmic rubbish bin. Charles Darwin, who popularized the notion of “natural selection” in his book, Origin of Species also rejected the clear account of creation. Ironically, he is buried in Westminster Abbey. Darwin may be gone but his atheistic ideology continues to dominate the thoughts of many minds, especially in the university.

Carl Sagan, who was a great champion of Darwinian evolutionary theory penned these well-known words: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”2 He continues, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory.”3 Such banter may appeal to the itching ears of evolutionists but fails to hold up when scrutinized at the tribunal of truth.

Or consider Richard Dawkins, another defender of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. His rejection of the creation account leads him to a view of God which is blasphemous at best: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”4 The Word of God offers a stern rebuke to this kind of unbelieving thought.

It doesn’t take long to discern some of the catastrophic consequences of giving God’s revelation a vote of “no-confidence.” Francis Schaeffer understood the vast importance of Genesis 1:1. He understood that if we set aside the reality of creation, our worldview collapses. He writes, “Unless our epistemology is right, everything is going to be wrong.”5 The discipline of epistemology addresses the matter of knowledge. That is, it helps unpack what we know about what we know. Schaeffer continues, “The infinite-person God is there, but also he is not silent; that changes the whole world.”6Schaeffer helps us understand that God exists and he has revealed himself, that is, he has spoken. Or to use Schaeffer’s words, “He is not silent.”

That fact that God not only exists but has also revealed himself is a massive reality that every person must come to terms with. This stunning truth should find us on our knees with outstretched arms. It should prompt a humble offer thanksgiving to the living God. But there’s more – Jonathan Edwards understands the motive behind God’s act of creation. He argues that the end for which God created the world was self-communication: ”Seeing that Christ created the world only to communicate his excellency and happiness, hence we learn, that all the excellency, virtue and happiness of the godly is wrought in them by Jesus Christ.”7 The implication of this Edwardian vision of creation are far-reaching and have important practical implications.

So the end of creation is uniquely focused upon God. That is, creation is Godward. Creation is God-centered. In one of his greatest literary achievements, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards demonstrates this God-centeredness: “What God says in his word, naturally leads us to suppose, that the way in which he makes himself his end in his work or works, which he does for his own sake, is in making his glory his end … God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God; and in giving the creature happiness, chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fulness called in Scripture, the glory of God.8

Consider three important implications of discounting the biblical creation account:

First, discounting the reality of biblical creation leads to a skewed epistemology. And a skewed epistemology, will by definition, influence the way we think about everything else. When God is taken out of the picture or removed from the marketplace, we are left wandering in a wasteland in search of answers. “If God does not exist,” writes Dostoevsky, “then everything is permitted.” The eclipse of God leaves us helpless, hopeless, and lost in a quagmire of meaninglessness.

Second, discounting the reality of biblical creation impugns the character and trustworthiness of God. Scripture is clear about the creation account:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

““Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,” (Job 38:4–6, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

Anyone who discards what God has made plain calls God’s character into question and heaps a great insult upon the worth of his name. Anyone who dares impugn the character of God stands on the precipice of eternal judgment.

Third, discounting the reality of biblical creation fails to glorify God, which is the end of creation. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Think about the tragic irony of rejecting the creation account. The creature who was created to glorify God stands in defiance and mocks the One who gave him breath.

The glory of God is the end of creation. The heavens declare his glory (Ps. 19:1). Is it any wonder that sinful men seek to distort what God has made plain in Scripture?

Soli Deo Gloria!

  1. Johannes Kepler, Cited in Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1999), 51.
  2. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine Books Trade, 1980), 1.
  3. Ibid, 27.
  4. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 31.
  5. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume One, A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982), 275-276.
  6. Ibid, 276.
  7. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, The “Miscellanies,” ed. Thomas A. Schaefer, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 277.
  8. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, ed. Edward Hickman (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth, 1834), 107, 119.

The Heart of the Church – Joe Thorn (2017)

a heartJoe Thorn, The Heart of the Church, Chicago: Moody Press, 2017, 108 pp. $11.95

The first review I read of Joe Thorn’s new book, The Heart of the Church was decisively negative. This specific reviewer awarded the book with a dreaded “two stars,” which in the land of book reviews is something akin to wandering through a barren wasteland without water. But nothing could be further from the truth. My aim, therefore, is to set the record straight and give Thorn’s work the credit it deserves.

The Heart of the Church is the first in a series of three, which were all recently released. The first book guides readers on a fascinating journey – the history of the gospel, the doctrine of the gospel, and the God of the gospel.

Part 1: The History of the Gospel

The author anchors some of the key themes of Scripture by pointing to creation, covenant, sin, and salvation. The covenants point to the great arrival of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the One who “came to take away sin, fulfill all righteousness, establish a kingdom, and conquer the devil.”

Thorn presents the gospel simply and biblically alerting readers to the great reality of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only set forth as our example. Indeed, he is our substitute and righteousness as well. Thorn’s insistence on the substitutionary atonement is refreshing in the face of recent denials of this crucial doctrine. “All of this is the gospel,” argues Thorn. “It is history, and it is foundation for our doctrine.”

Part 2: The Doctrine of the Gospel

Part two is the “meat and potatoes” of this excellent book. Here, the author unfolds the crucial gospel doctrines of justification, forgiveness, faith and repentance, reconciliation, sanctification, and good works. These short chapters are basic enough for new believers but also contains substantial spiritual food for more experienced believers.

Each doctrine is explained and defended with basic biblical rationale. Readers will appreciate Thorn’s ability to articulate these weighty doctrines with great precision and profundity. While each treatment is short, there is a theological fuel here that will help feed the “spiritual fire” of growing Christians.

Part 3: The God of the Gospel

The final section builds upon the previous section and explores the important subjects of God’s justice, sovereignty, the atonement, irresistible grace, and particular redemption. Again, the author provides short explanations with strong biblical support.

Summary

The Heart of the Church is written for new believers but should be devoured by all believers. Joe Thorn has a unique gift of teaching which is warm, relational, and theologically rigorous. Pastor Thorn has a passion for the doctrines of grace that is apparent throughout the book. Readers will be deeply encouraged by Thorn’s labor – for the gospel is at the very center of this outstanding work. May this gospel continue to transform lives as people pour over this excellent work. Highly recommended!

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

Without Warning (2017)

rosenbergJoel Rosenberg, Without Warning, Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017, 451 pp. $14.16

Without Warning is the third and final installment of Joel Rosenberg’s in the J.B. Collins Series. Collins, a New York Times journalist finds himself in the middle of a spine-tingling plot that involves the United States President, ISIS, and a host of other details that will keep readers awake deep into the night.

As one who reads the great thriller writers like Daniel Silva, David Baldacci, John Grisham, and the late Vince Flynn, I can say that Without Warning is on par with these authors. The characterization is through and the storyline is compelling. Rosenberg has proven himself in an elite field of experienced writers and will no doubt, continue to churn out books that not only entertain but also educate.

There is so much that good be said about Without Warning. But underneath the story lies a crucial lesson that the author clearly communicates in a winsome way:

Terrorism is an existential threat that must be dealt with bold resolve and decisiveness. Appeasement has never worked and will never work in the future. Terrorists cannot be negotiated with or paid off. Only swift and courageous military might will render terrorism impotent. The policies of the Obama administration are a testimony to the negative impact of political appeasement. Such a strategy only weakens a nation and endangers her citizens.

I commend Without Warning to a wide variety of readers and trust that many will devour Rosenberg’s top-notch writing.

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

Unshackled: The god of WM. Paul Young

liesWM. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God, New York: Atria Books, 2017, 273 pp. $13.48

Lies We Believe About God is the latest book from the author of The Shack, WM. Paul Young. The author originally penned The Shack at the request of his wife as a Christmas gift to his six children. First published in 2007, this book has sold over 20 million copies and was recently unveiled as a feature film.

The Shack struck a central chord in people, many of whom confess that the storyline helped them overcome personal pain and tragedy, what the author refers to as, the Great Sadness. Wes Yoder, who endorses The Shack summarizes the ideas in this story. He writes, “The Shack is a beautiful story of how God comes to find us in the midst of our sorrows, trapped by disappointments, betrayed by our own presumptions.” Eugene Peterson adds, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good.”

But many reviewers of The Shack were less sympathetic. In the minds of some, the nature of God was compromised and the boundaries of orthodoxy were broached. But since The Shack is a novel, the line between fact and fiction became blurred and the theological intentions of the author were difficult to discern.

Young’s most recent offering, Lies We Believe About God, puts to rest any speculation about his views of God and Christian theology. The truly impressive feature about Young’s most recent offering is its transparency and honesty. The author presents twenty-eight “lies we believe about God” in terms that are unmistakable. Readers will no longer be able to sweep the theological statements in Young’s previous novels under the carpet. His views concerning God are set forth in plain terms, giving readers a better understanding of what was proposed in his previous novels.

The question for discerning readers to ask is whether or not Young’s views measure up to the scrutiny of God’s Word. Three critical areas of concern surface in the book, Lies We Believe About God.

A Flawed View of God

It is a great irony that a book which sets out to challenge the so-called “lies we believe about God,” does in fact, promote views of God that fail to match the biblical record. First, Young promotes a soft view of God. Specifically, he argues that God is not in control.

Instead of accepting God’s will of decree, which is settled in eternity past, the author questions God’s sovereign control: “Does God have a wonderful plan for our lives? Does God sit and draw up a perfect will for you and me on some cosmic drafting table, a perfect plan that requires a perfect response? If God then left to react to our stupidity or deafness or blindness or inability, as we constantly violate perfection through our own presumption?”1 John, one of the characters in Young’s novel, Eve concurs: “When it comes to plans and purposes, God is not a Draftsman but an Artist, and God will not be God apart from us.”2

Instead of accepting a sovereign God who ordains everything that comes to pass, Young posits a God who reigns by love and relationship alone. “The sovereignty of God is not about deterministic control … Love and relationship trump control every time. Forced love is no love at all,”3 writes the author.

Yet, Scripture contradicts what Young would have us believe. The Bible presents a God who exercises control in creation, providence, and miracles. Proverbs 21:1 illustrates the control of God in vivid terms: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” In Ezra 6:22, the LORD “turned the heart of the king of Assyria.” In Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, God’s providential control over all things is clearly illustrated: “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” And Ephesians 1:11 shows us the overarching purposes of our God: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Indeed, God exercises sovereign control over all things.

The Westminster Catechism argues, “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby for his own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” That is, God is the sovereign king who does as he pleases (Ps. 115:3). God reigns (Ps. 99:1-5). His control knows no boundaries. God acts in order to advance his glory (Exod. 14:4). And we rest in the infinite wisdom of God’s plan, knowing that his purposes can never be thwarted (Isa. 46:9-10; Job 42:2).

Charles Hodge has a sharp disagreement with the soft view of God presented in Lies We Believe About God. Hodge argues,

“This is the end which our Lord proposed to himself. He did everything for the glory of God; and for this end, all his followers are required to live and act … If we make the good of the creature the ultimate object of all God’s works, then we subordinate God to the creature, and endless confusion and unavoidable error are the consequence. It is characteristic of the Bible that it places God first, and the good of the creation second.”4

The errors which result from promoting a God who is not fully in control, as Hodge maintains, will have serious consequences and have tragic consequences on one’s perception of God.

Second, Young presents a God who submits to people. The notion that God submits to the creature emerges in The Shack as well. The Holy Spirit figure, Sarayu, tells Mack, “We have limited ourselves out of respect for you … Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself.”5 And Papa sympathetically responds to Mack who is reluctant to demonstrate emotion: “That’s okay, we’ll do things on your terms and time.”6

The Jesus of The Shack confesses to Mack, “Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”7

In Young’s novel, Eve, Adonai says to Adam, “Our Love will not withhold from you the consequences of your choices. We honor and respect you, so We consent and submit to you” (emphasis mine).8 Later in the story, Adonai makes a similar remark to Lily: “Look up and into My face. I am here and will never leave you. In any dance you sometimes lead, but always both submit. So now, dear Lilly, you must choose, and I submit to you.”9

In Lies We Believe About God, the author maintains that the word control is not a part of God’s vocabulary: “God submits,” writes Young “rather than controls and joins us in the resulting mess of relationship, to participate in co-creating the possibility of life, even in the face of death.”10

Yet, we never find God submitting to the creature in Scripture. To the contrary, the creature submits to the Creator. Job learned a quick lesson when he tried to turn the tables on God. He learned the importance of submitting to God, not the other way around (Job 38-41).

John Frame helps us understand the importance of God’s authority and the proper response of the creature: “The first thing, and in one sense the only thing, we need to know about God is that he is Lord …This is a confession of lordship: that Yahweh, the Lord, is the one and only true God, and that therefore he deserves all of our love and allegiance.”11

The soft view of God who submits to the creature must be rejected as it fails to stand the test of biblical faithfulness.

A Fallacious View of Humanity

Young rightly holds that humans are created by God in the imago Dei. Since humans are created in God’s image, they have inherent worth and significance. The author should be commended for highlighting this important aspect of anthropology, which admittedly, is neglected by some Christians.

Additionally, the author believes that humans are sinners. However, sin is redefined and fails to measure up to the biblical test. “Blind, not depraved, is our condition,”12 writes Young. He continues, “Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is.”13 Such a view find no biblical support and is a foreign concept in Christian theology.

Young acknowledges that sin involves “missing the mark.” But he adds, “The mark is not perfect moral behavior. The ‘mark’ is the Truth of your being.”14 But Young goes one step further in his redefinition of sin: “And what does the truth of your being look like? God. You are made in the image of God, and the truth of your being looks like God.”15

Now that Young his redefined, sin, he is in a position to pose an additional question: Does sin separate us from God? Young argues that the notion of sinners being separated from God is a lie: “A lot of ‘my people’ will believe that the following statement is in the Bible, but it isn’t: ’You have sinned, and you are separated from God.’” 16 The biblical proof he offers is Romans 8:38-39, that is, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Such an explanation, however, fails to consider the context of Romans 8 which is a clear promise to the elect of God, not the entirety of the human race.

Two responses are in order. First, Young’s reformulation of sin is inadequate as the Bible clearly teaches that all people are sinners by nature and choice. John MacArthur sheds light on the real meaning of sin:

“Sin must be understood from a theocentric or God-centered standpoint. At its core, sin is a violation of the Creator-creature relationship. Man only exists because God made him, and man is in every sense obligated to serve his Creator. Sin causes man to assume the role of God and to assert autonomy for himself apart from the Creator. The most all-encompassing view of sin’s mainspring, therefore, is the demand for autonomy.”17

When sin is redefined from a man-centered viewpoint, this only strengthens the resolve of his quest for autonomy. Yet this is exactly what we find in Young’s version of sin – a Creator catering to the needs of the creature and satisfying his autonomous bent.

The Scriptures paint a portrait of sinful creatures which is undeniable and devastating: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5, ESV) Indeed, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9, ESV) Edwin Palmer writes, “Total depravity means that natural man is never able to do any good that is fundamentally pleasing to God, and, in fact, does evil all the time.”18 The biblical evidence for total depravity is overwhelming and conclusive (Ps. 51:5; Isa. 53:6; 64:6; Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3:23; 5:12).

Second, the Bible clearly teaches that sinners are separated from God. Apart from grace, sinners are without hope and are utterly cut off and separated from God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul demonstrates that sinners are separated from Christ. He refers to them as “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Our only hope, then, is found in Christ alone who came to forgive us and reconcile us to a holy God (Eph. 2:13-22).

A Faulty View of Salvation

Two major problems can be summarized here. First, Young promotes universal reconciliation. In The Shack, Papa answers Mack’s questions concerning the efficacy of the cross. Papa says, “Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.”19 Mack asks, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?”20 Papa answers resolutely, “The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two-way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally.”21

In a stunning admission, Young says,

“The Good News is not that Jesus opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit … God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind.”22

If there is any question about the universalism here, the author removes any cause for doubt: “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying?”23 He continues, “Here’s the truth: every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, and resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God ‘dragged’ all human beings to Himself.24

The Bible paints a very different portrait. The Bible speaks of people apart from grace who are enemies of God (Col. 1:21; Rom. 5:10) and children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). Only the redeemed are reconciled to God.

Appealing to passages like John 12:32 is insufficient and fails to build the case for universal reconciliation. Jesus says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” All people must either mean “all without exception” or “all without distinction.” As we compare Scripture with Scripture, clearly the later is in view.

Jesus proclaims, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14). ). Jesus speaks of two trees, the healthy and the diseased. Speaking of the diseased tree, Jesus says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 7:19). Moreover, Jesus teaches about two kinds of houses, the one that is built on the rock and one that is built on the sand. “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it tell, and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:26-27). Indeed, every person who refuses to build his “house” on the rock and build his or her life on the promises of God; every person who rejects the Son and his work on the cross will endure an eternity of wrath (John 3:36; Rom. 2:8; 2 Thes. 1:9). “At the end of the day, there are only two ways – the way of the kingdom or the way of death.” Scripture is clear: not everyone will pursue the way of the kingdom. Universal reconciliation is a lie.

Second, Young argues that the cross was not God’s idea. The author poses the question, “Who originated the Cross?” Young’s answer is disturbing, to say the least: “If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner … Better no god at all, than this one.”25 In a few words, the author not only repudiates the reality of God’s involvement in the cross of Christ; he casts aside penal substitutionary atonement.

The apostle Paul speaks of the power of the cross (1 Cor. 1:17-18), “making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20) and even boasts in the cross (Gal. 6:14). However, Young says, “Nothing not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a cross.”26

When we contrast the Bible with Young’s view, we find that the cross was God’s idea after all. Two passages in the book of Acts show the sovereignty of God in salvation and demonstrate God’s involvement in the cross from start to finish:

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:23–24, ESV)

“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27–28, ESV)

The faulty view of salvation which is promoted in Lies We Believe About God is deeply troubling and must be rejected by discerning Christians.

Conclusion

Paul Young has shared openly and honestly about some of the hurts in his life. Pain and suffering, while inevitable in this life are regrettable realities. The dark night of the soul will likely affect most of us. And so we sympathize with Young and his Great Sadness and pray that God will minister in deep and abiding ways. But no amount of personal tragedy or loss can excuse the propagation of false views of God.

It is a great tragedy when an author writes a book that minimizes God or misrepresents God. A.W. Tozer helps us understand the importance of understanding God rightly: “Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”27 How we think about God matters! For “there is nothing more important than knowing God.”28 Our view concerning his essence and attributes is not a mere academic debate among theologians. Our view of God affects how we approach him and how we worship him. Tozer continues, “For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”29

“God does not lower his standards to accommodate us.”30 Therefore, our responsibility is to view God rightly, worship God rightly, and approach God rightly and reverently. Indeed, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”31

The chief problem in Lies We Believe About God is an undermining of biblical authority.  It ultimately caters to the creature and encourages the autonomy that he craves. When the authority of the Bible is compromised the people of God always pay a price. It’s not too late to get unshackled.  True freedom is found in submitting to Scripture, trusting and obeying Jesus Christ who loves sinners, and worshipping God in the way that he demands!

  1. WM. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God  (New York: Atria Books, 2017), Loc. 329.
  2. WM. Paul Young, Eve (New York: Howard Books, 2015), 181.
  3. Ibid, Loc. 347.
  4. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology – Volume I (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint 1995), 536.
  5. Young, The Shack, (Newbury Park: Windblown Media, 2007)106.
  6. Ibid, 83.
  7. Ibid, 145.
  8. WM. Paul Young, Eve (New York: Howard Books, 2015), 239.
  9. Ibid, 258.
  10. Young, Lies We Believe About God, Loc. 355.
  11. John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2002), 21-22.
  12. WM. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God, Loc. 296.
  13. Ibid, Loc. 1645.
  14. Ibid, Loc. 1643.
  15. Ibid, Loc. 1645.
  16. Ibid, Loc. 1663.
  17. John MacArthur and Richard Mahue, Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017), 453.
  18. Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1972), 13.
  19. William P. Young, The Shack, 82.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Young, Lies We Believe About God, Loc. 889.
  23. Ibid, Loc. 898.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid, Loc. 1101.
  26. Ibid, 329.
  27. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1961), 1.
  28. John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2002), 1.
  29. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 1.
  30. R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995), 88.
  31. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 1.

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan (2016)

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Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016, 284 pp. $18.00

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard continue to mesmerize their reading audience with a new title in the ever-popular “killing series.” Unlike the other killing books which focused on specific individuals, O’Reilly and Dugard focus on a critical juncture in American history, a point where indecisive leadership or a policy of appeasement would have not only changed the face of America; it would have charted a new and tragic course in the history of the world.

Killing the Rising Sun explores the roles of a handful of American icons who faced a ruthless enemy, namely, the Imperial Japanese Army. Most Americans, it seems, simply do not know this story. They certainly do not understand the vicious nature of the enemy and the threat that the empire of Japan posed and the horrible consequences of defeat. Thankfully, under the leadership of FDR and Truman, America prevailed and effectively ended a 2,500-year-old dynasty.

A few features of this book are worth noting. First, the authors tell a fascinating story which is rooted in historical reality. One of the reasons that modern-day students recoil at the prospect of studying history is that many teachers and books are just plain boring. This is where O’Reilly and Dugard shine the brightest. They have an uncanny ability of weaving in the pertinent historical detail and simultaneously keeping the attention of readers. This feature runs through the other killing books and has proven to be a mighty boon for readers who might otherwise turn away from reading about history.

Second, the authors paint clear portraits of the key players during this period of history. They show the steadfastness of FDR, the bold resolve of Truman, and the courage of General MacArthur. But they also show the evil nature of the Japanese leader, Hirohito. Here is a man who portrayed himself as a “god-man” to the Japanese people, and in the final analysis, led them to the point of no return, which resulted in a decisive and historical defeat.

Finally, the authors help readers understand the importance of freedom; the priceless reality that Americans enjoy. We live in a country where the gift of freedom is taken for granted and even scoffed at by some social progressives. Killing the Rising Sun is a stark reminder of the sacrifice, bravery, and devotion of the American soldier. While much of the attention is focused on Truman and MacArthur, the real hero is the valiant American military man. Many of these brave soldiers paid the ultimate price of death. Some of them survived and bore the pain, either physically or emotionally which is associated with war. Now each American is the beneficiary of their devoted service. May we cherish the freedom we enjoy as American citizens and pay homage to those who went before us. They killed the rising sun. The world is a better place because of them.

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.