Designed for Joy – Owen Strachan and Jonathan Parnell, Ed

joyOwen Strachan and Jonathan Parnell, Ed. Designed For Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 144 pp. $10.92

Designed For Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice is an important book with a message for our generation. The editors, Jonathan Parnell and Owen Strachan team up with a well-seasoned team of writers that address the matter of gender from several different angles.

Topics range from masculinity and femininity to singleness and marriage. The subjects of parenting and purity are dealt with along with matters of gender and maturity. In one sense, this is a broad book designed to reach many people. In another sense, the book is very targeted as it subjects each subject to the gospel message.

The writing is clear and biblical. Each chapter hits the bullseye dead on, with stunning biblical accuracy. Each of the writers bring a perspective of complementarianism which views men and women as equals with specific roles to carry out to the glory of God.

It never ceases to amaze me that the most important books these days receive reviews that are critical and mean-spirited. One reviewer says this about the book: “This book is well-intentioned, but I feel it’s worth noting that the scholarship, particularly in the women’s sections, is very sloppy. There is little reference to biblical principles for the assertions they make around women’s roles …” To the contrary, the scholarship is commendable and designed to reach a popular audience.

Designed For Joy is a book for our day. May God raise up a new generation of Christian writers who bring a depth of clarity and God-centered wisdom to bear on these matters.

AWAKENING THE EVANGELICAL MIND – Owen Strachan (2015)

mindIn the late 1940’s, V.W. Steele resigned as the Senior pastor at Bethel Baptist in Everett, Washington. He stepped away from his pulpit at the height of a revival as he felt prompted by God to move to another ministry. He loaded up the car with his young family made the long journey to Los Angeles. Providentially, he was commissioned by Charles Fuller to partner together and preach the gospel in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. Pastor Steele was my grandfather, so I have a particular interest in his venture with Charles Fuller, the popular preacher on the Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio broadcast.

My grandfather pastored churches in a day where the battle lines were drawn. He lived in a day when men were willing to lose life and limb for the sake of doctrinal convictions. But he also lived in a day when the church was in a titanic struggle against the cultural monster of modernism.

Dr. Owen Strachan’s book, Awakening the Evangelical Mind provides an invaluable service for the church as he explores where the battle lines were drawn and introduces readers to the key players. These neo-evangelicals, including Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, Billy Graham, and others helped establish the Christian mind in a culture awash in a sea of modernism.

Strachan traces the evangelical trajectory of these seminal thinkers by guiding readers through key historical turning points and decisions that were decisive for the establishment of the Christian mind in America. The author demonstrates how select Christian colleges and Seminaries were launched and the men who envisioned them. These are important historical details that the author skillfully tells; stories that have either been forgotten or worse yet, never heard!

R.C. Sproul and Mark Noll have both lamented about the decline of the Christian mind. Strachan’s excellent work is a much-needed corrective and salve for the soul. Strachan is eager to prop up the long history of the evangelical mind and optimistic about its future: “If the evangelical mind is not always appreciated, this simply cannot be because it does not exist. It does exist, and its contributions over two millennia are monumental.”

The author argues that evangelicals face some important decisions in the days ahead:

The church faces a profound choice: it can retreat and huddle, nursing its wounds as it accepts its intellectual marginalization. Or, it can learn once more from Ockenga, Henry, Graham, and the Cambridge evangelicals, and promote outstanding education that not only engages the questing heart but freshly awakens the evangelical mind.

Awakening the Evangelical Mind is a call to the next generation of Christian leaders to lead with biblical conviction and bold courage; to continue the legacy that was established by some great men of the faith.

 

THE PASTOR AS PUBLIC THEOLOGIAN – Kevin VanHoozer and Owen Strachan (2015)

pastorAfter serving in pastoral ministry for nearly twenty-five years, I can testify that the most discouraging moments occurred when the people of God failed to look favorably on theology.  R.C. Sproul rightly laments, “We live in the most anti-intellectual period in all of church history.”  Frankly, many pastors have the battle scars to prove it.  I know I do.

Kevin VanHoozer and Owen Strachan serve up a timely antidote to this troubling, anti-theology age we find ourselves in.  The Pastor as Public Theologian presents a fresh vision; a vision for “reclaiming the vocation of the pastor-theologian.”  But the authors have a larger vision that unfolds throughout the book.  Their vision extends to local congregations.  They too need to reclaim the vision and vocation of the pastor theologian.

Part one explores biblical theology and historical theology.  Part two explores systematic theology and practical theology.  Each chapter is drenched in biblical wisdom with an eye on kingdom priorities.

This book stands in the same stream as David Well’s excellent works, No Place For Truth, God in the Wasteland, and The Courage to Be Protestant – to name a few.  The great strengths lie not only in setting forth a description of the problems in the church but in the prescription for moving forward.  Such a move entails  pastors who are theologically motivated and theologically driven.  These pastors offer up theologically rich sermons which equip, edify, and send the people of God to the nations.

The Pastor as Public Theologian is a sweeping book.  It is, in many ways an epic accomplishment. Indeed, VanHoozer and Strachan achieve their goal in setting forth the biblical case for recovering the biblical portrait of the pastor-theologian.

The Pastor as Public Theologian is a profoundly encouraging book.  Pastors who are serious about their call should read and devour this excellent material.  Some pastors will find themselves repenting for embracing a secularized model of the pastorate.  Others will be re-energized to boldly proclaim the truth for God’s glory and the good of God’s people

Highly recommended!

4.5 stars

The Colson Way – Owen Strachan (2015)

colsonGospel-spreading, Jesus-loving, and worldview-shaping.  These short phrases describe a special man.  This man was bold, unafraid, and merciful.   He was filled with compassion for people and longed to see social justice in America and around the globe.  These are only a few brief descriptions of the former hatchet-man.  This man served under President Richard M. Nixon.  This man served time in a federal penitentiary.  His name – Charles Colson.

Owen Strachan provides an invaluable service to the church in his latest book, The Colson Way.  While the primary target is American millennial evangelicals, the author’s message should reach all age groups and is destined to not only inspire a new generation of leaders but also warn against moral decay and worldview erosion.  The book is a primer on the importance of loving one another and making a mark for the gospel – a gospel which is characterized by truth, grace, forgiveness, love, and mercy.

Strachan explores the formative years of Mr. Colson and walks readers through his days in the White House which ultimately led to a short stay in the “Big House.”  The Providential path of pain that Colson traveled led him to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  As a result, his life was transformed by Jesus which resulted in a series of unexpected events that would have an effect on people around him and thousands of people who never met him.

The author chronicles the various ministries of Chuck Colson, especially Prison Fellowship which spans around the world and offers hope, peace, and forgiveness to prisoners.

Strachan summarizes the Colson life creed:

“His God-given role in the kingdom was to go to the needy, the suffering, and the forgotten, and to minister grace to them … As a former prisoner, disgraced in the public eye, he never lost sight of just how freeing the gospel truly was.  He knew what it was to have lost everything, to be at the mercy of routines and regulations that were not of his choosing, and to taste shame and guilt that left only to return.”

This fascinating book not only introduces readers to the life and legacy of Charles Colson; it also serves as a primer for living with a bold faith in the public square.  It is a clarion call to young evangelical leaders.  It is an invitation to proclaim, defend, and live the truth in a world which is hostile to the truth of the gospel.

This much-needed book will serve the church well and prompt much discussion and debate.  Better yet, it will lead a new generation of leaders to the front lines where the battle is fought, and where our Commanding Officer beckons us to heed His sovereign call.

Highly recommended – 4.5 stars

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