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A Concise Summary of Reformed-Evangelical Spirituality

May 11, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Peter Adam, seeking to show that the shape of Evangelical and Reformed spirituality corresponds to revelation, both in content and in form:

  • Christ is the mediator of the revelation of God, so this spirituality is Christ-centred, responding with faith in Jesus Christ, and especially to his saving death and resurrection.
  • Christ has revealed the Father, so this spirituality is that of trust in God our Father, his love and kindness in Christ, and his sovereign and providential rule over everything.
  • Christ has sent the Spirit, so believers are sealed or anointed with the Spirit, the Spirit witnesses within them that they are the children of God, and they use the gifts of God in the service of God.
  • The response of trusting Christ and obeying him, of loving God with heart, mind, soul and strength is common to all believers, so spirituality is not just an option for the advanced but is required of all the saints. It is a spirituality common to all the people of God. It is a spirituality of normal humanity, of daily life and duties, or work and play, of family and society.
  • God’s grace and acceptance of us in Christ means that we do not have to search for God, find him, ascend to him or journey towards him. God has come to us in his Son Jesus, spoken to us in the gospel, and welcomed us into his presence through Christ our High Priest. We stand now in God’s grace, we are now at peace with God, we can now have assurance of final salvation, through trust in his promises.
  • The great barrier to true spirituality is not the lack of technique in spiritual aptitude, but sin. Sin is the state of humanity in every aspect of life and personality, and the wages of sin is death. But God has dealt with our sin by the sacrifice of Christ, and has accepted us as his children. His holiness and righteousness are demonstrated in the death of Christ, our sin is atoned for and we are forgiven. We stand in his grace, and he works in us by the death and resurrection of Christ and by his Spirit, to change us into the likeness of Christ. God gives us faith and obedience, God trans- forms us, and God does his good works through us.
  • God has provided ‘means’ by which he works in us for his glory. We must make good use of the means provided by God, and not replace or supplement them with means that we devise. The means provided by God are explained in the Bible, namely the Bible itself, the fellowship of the people of God, prayer, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and a right use of the creation. We should not neglect these means, nor use other means, such as statues, pictures, icons, silence or impressions of God’s will. We should not over-value the sacraments, those visible words of God. While we will hear echoes of the Bible in our inner selves, the God-given and certain place to hear God speaking is in the Bible.
  • The great means is the Bible, in which we find Christ clothed in all his promises. To love God is to love his words, and to be alert to the Spirit is to receive the words of the Spirit in the Bible. In the Bible we find God’s self-revelation, God’s character, God’s will and God’s plan. In the Bible God’s mystery, Christ, is now revealed. A corporate and personal spirituality of the Word is at the heart of biblical faith and life. We do not know everything about God and his plan, but what we do know is found in the Bible.
  • Prayer is an expression of our trust in God, and our dependence on him. It is gospel-shaped: we come to pray to God our Father through the power and goodness of Jesus’ death on the cross. This is the means of our access to God. We pray in response to God’s words in the Bible, so that we know the God to whom we pray, and what he has promised. As we read his Spirit-inspired words, the Spirit also works within us, prompting us to know that God is our Father, and that we may approach him with boldness because of Christ’s death for us on the cross. We pray to God alone, and not to saints, because we pray as instructed by God in the Bible.

—Peter Adam, Hearing God’s Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality, New Studies in Biblical Theology, ed. D. A. Carson (Apollos/IVP, 2004), 39-40.

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What Are the Roots of Law?

May 09, 2015 | Justin Taylor

My FAQ summary of J. Budziszewski, “The Roots of Law,” Religion and Liberty 11 (September-October 2001): 8-10.

What is the root of the enacted law?

The moral law.

What is the root of the moral law?

The design of the created order.

What is the root of the created order?

The Creator.

What is the enacted law severed from the moral law?

Tyranny.

What is ethics severed from the moral law?

Chaos.

What is the creation severed from the Creator?

An idol.

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John Updike’s 6 (or So) Rules of Reviewing Books

May 09, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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John Updike, who reviewed “nearly every major writer of the 20th century and some 19th-century authors,” once offered some guidance on book reviews in the foreword to his 1975 collection of essays, Picked-Up Pieces:

1. Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.

2. Give him enough direct quotation—at least one extended passage—of the book’s prose so the review’s reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste.

3. Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy precis.

4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. (How astounded and indignant was I, when innocent, to find reviewers blabbing, and with the sublime inaccuracy of drunken lords reporting on a peasants’ revolt, all the turns of my suspenseful and surpriseful narrative! Most ironically, the only readers who approach a book as the author intends, unpolluted by pre-knowledge of the plot, are the detested reviewers themselves. And then, years later, the blessed fool who picks the volume at random from a library shelf.)

5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s ouevre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?

To these concrete five might be added a vaguer sixth, having to do with maintaining a chemical purity in the reaction between product and appraiser.

Do not accept for review a book you are predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like.

Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an idealogical battle, a corrections officer of any kind.

Never, never (John Aldridge, Norman Podhoretz) try to put the author “in his place,” making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers.

Review the book, not the reputation.

Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast.

Better to praise and share than blame and ban.

The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.

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An Interview with Collin Hansen about Blind Spots

May 08, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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A Simple Thought Experiment on Abortion

May 08, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Photograph of Dr. Joseph Bruner, surgeon at Vanderbilt University, who was fixing the spina bifida lesion of 21-week-old Samuel Armas.

Photograph of Dr. Joseph Bruner, surgeon at Vanderbilt University, who was fixing the spina bifida lesion of 21-week-old Samuel Armas.

Suppose, in the encounter between doctor and child [in an abortion], the child won half of the time, and killed the doctor in self-defense—something he would have every right to do.

Very few doctors would perform abortions.

They perform them now only because of their absolute power over a small, fragile, helpless victim.

—Stephen D. Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990), 143.

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How Can Jesus Be Tempted “In Every Respect” and Yet Not Experience My Greatest Challenge in Temptation? My Question for Ask Pastor John

May 08, 2015 | Justin Taylor

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Here is a question—prompted by dialogue with my friend Bryan Root—that I submitted to the popular Desiring God podcast, Ask Pastor John.

We are told Jesus was tempted, and that he can sympathize with our temptations as a result.

But doesn’t it seem like the point of commonality between my temptation and Jesus’s is external? That is, the devil offered him the kingdoms; someone could walk up to me and offer me stolen money. Both of those are external temptations—even if they don’t personally draw us to evil. But with a Christian, temptations seem deeper, on account of indwelling sin (which of course Jesus never had).

So can Jesus really identify with me when he doesn’t know the experience of indwelling sin raging war against the Spirit? Aren’t our temptations more powerful than those faced by Christ on earth?

This morning John Piper answered the question. You can listen below.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, go here.

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6 Aspects of “Psychology”

May 07, 2015 | Justin Taylor

In Psychology & Christianity: Five Views , ed. Eric Johnson (IVP), David Powlison cuts the “semantic pie” of the word “psychology” and looks at various aspects of the term.

Psych-1: How You Work

A. “You in interaction with your entire life situation.”

B. Most like what we think of as a good novel or film (a story that brings significant complexities to light).

C. What is the bottom line regarding Christianity and Psych-1?

Like good art, like the modern Western psychologies, and like the world and local religions that take the place of Psychology in non-Westernized places, Christian faith is about Psych-1. That’s why Jesus, Luke, Paul, David and the writer of Job are so often recognized as master psychologists. They know people. It’s why the Bible speaks with such vigorous immediacy to modern readers.

Psych-2: Detailed Knowledge of Human Functioning

A. “Refers to organized knowledge, to close observations and systematic descriptions of human functioning.”

B. Most like what we think of as science (the intentional pursuit of organized knowledge).

C. The bottom line regarding Christianity and Psych-2?

We can learn a great deal. But bear in mind how faulty assumptions variously overemphasize, exclude, distort or falsify information.

Psych-3: Competing Theories of Human Personality

A. “An interpretive and explanatory model that organizes and weighs the torrent of Psych-1 experience and Psych-2 information.”

B. Most like what we think of as worldview or theology.

C. The bottom line regarding Christianity and Psych-3?

The personality theories systematically differ from the Christian gaze. Secular Psych-3s diverge from the Christian Psych-3. We will be stimulated and challenged by the questions they ask and by the realities they seek to account for. But they offer false and shallow views of humanness, and we must better account for human experience and offer better answers.

Psych-4: Practical Applications to Psychotherapy

A. “Various psychotherapeutic models and skills aiming to redress problems in living.”

B. Most like what we think of as cure of souls.

C. The bottom line regarding Christianity and Psych-4?

We must do better and different than the secular pastorates. We are glad when they accomplish common-grace goods—restraining a suicide, sweetening a marriage, sobering a drunk, walking through a rough patch with a troubled person—just as we are glad when an imam, a self-help guru or mere willpower accomplishes good
things. But these other “pastorates” heal lightly the woes and wrongs of the human condition. The competencies of other psychotherapies will stimulate and challenge us, but our calling is to build distinctively Christian counseling ministry that fulfills the mission God has given his people.”

Psych-5: A System of Professional and Institutional Arrangements

A. “Institutional and professional arrangements.

B. Most like what we think of as church or parachurch.

C. The bottom line regarding Christianity and Psych-5?

Build ministry institutions and roles that can mediate the life-rearranging truth and love that is in Christ.

Psych-6: A Mass Ethos

A. “An ethos pervading popular culture, a zeitgeist.”

B. Most like what we think of as pop culture or the world.

C. The bottom line regarding Christianity and Psych-6?

Form a counterculture that breathes the fragrance of biblical wisdom. Our constructive wisdom qualitatively differs from the wisdoms of a psychologized culture. Our truth qualitatively differs from the therapeutic truisms in the air we breathe. The ethos of dependency on a Savior and of speaking truth in love offers a startling contrast to the ethos that dominates the popular mind and media.

Powlison summarizes:

Though interrelated, these six meanings of psychology highlight different aspects—a person’s dynamics, detailed information, explanatory theories, interventive practices, social institutions, and enculturated values and beliefs. It is important to see how Christian faith and practice relate in different ways to each aspect of what comes under the monolithic heading Psychology.

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So What Happens When the Pragmatic Church Stops Working?

May 07, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Jared Wilson’s The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo:


You can download a sample of the book here.

“Jared Wilson provides a stern warning against the excesses of pragmatic approaches to church growth while reminding us that if the power of the gospel is not driving our ministries, we may build a crowd, but we are not building a church.”
Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources

“Jared Wilson paints a vivid picture of the grievous outcome of church centered on programmatic pragmatism instead of the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. His critical analysis and probing confrontation, coupled with his personal encounter with grace, has the potential to bring the church to her senses and usher her back to our Father’s restorative embrace. The Prodigal Church is a desperately needed wake-up call.”
Jeff Vanderstelt, Visionary Leader, Soma; Pastor, Doxa Church, Bellevue, Washington; author, Saturate

“Jared Wilson writes that we’ve forgotten ‘who the church is for.’ He rightly, and with a kind spirit, questions the status quo in this book. The church is not a consumer experience. It’s not supposed to be a volunteer-draining, CEO-driven business. No, it’s much bigger, better, and more beautiful than that.”
Brant Hansen, CURE International; storyteller; radio host; author, Unoffendable

” I am fully confident that what he has written here will save some weary pastors from burning out and will make The Village Church a healthier place.”
Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network

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Why the Strategy of Conformation Is Socially Ineffective and Self-Destructive

May 06, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Miroslav Volf:

In contemporary de-Christianized, pluralistic, and rapidly changing Western cultures, only those religious groups that make no apology about their “difference” will be able to survive and thrive.

The strategy of conformation is socially ineffective in the short run (because you cannot shape by parroting) and self-destructive in the long run (because you conform to what you have not helped to shape).

A good deal of courage in nonconformity is needed both to preserve the identity of Christian faith and to insure its lasting social relevance.

-Miroslav Volf, “Theology, Meaning and Power,” in The Future of Theology: Essays in Honor of Jűrgen Moltmann, ed. Miroslav Volf, Carmen Krieg, and Thomas Kucharz (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 100.

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Lane and Ebeth Dennis: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

May 06, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Lane-and-Ebeth-Dennis-300x200From the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association:

 For their remarkable contributions to Christian publishing, and in recognition of a lifetime of service to Christ and excellence in gospel ministry, ECPA President/CEO Mark Kuyper presented Dr. Lane T. and Mrs. Ebeth Dennis the industry’s Jordon Lifetime Achievement Award on May 5 in Murfreesboro Tennessee, at the ECPA Awards Banquet held in conjunction with the ECPA Leadership Summit.

Dr. Lane T. Dennis is president and CEO of Crossway. His wife, Ebeth Dennis, serves on Crossway’s board of directors and as senior vice president over the publishing ministry.

“For 50 years, Lane and Ebeth have led Crossway in the proclamation of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word through the publication and distribution of millions of Bibles, gospel-centered books, tracts, and other resources,” presented Kuyper at the event.  “Their years of dedicated service have impacted countless lives for the sake of the gospel, delivering to current and later generations the great treasure of God’s Word through the English Standard Version of the Bible, as well as writings from some of the foremost voices of classic evangelicalism, including Francis Schaeffer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. I. Packer, Joni Eareckson Tada, John Piper, and many others.”

“On behalf of the ECPA, Crossway, and the entire Christian publishing industry, we thank Lane and Ebeth for their faithfulness to God’s Word; their love for the gospel of Jesus Christ; their service to his church; and their commitment to bear witness to God’s truth, beauty, and holiness through their lives and the publishing ministry of Crossway.”

For the 40th anniversary of the ECPA, Lane recounted some of the story behind the founding of Crossway:

As we often remind ourselves, it is a miracle of the Lord’s hand that Crossway exists today.  Although Crossway was founded in 1979, the Crossway not-for-profit book- and Bible-publishing imprint grew out of the original Good News Publishers ministry, founded in 1938—that is, out of a $20 tithe—saved up by [his parents] Clyde and Muriel Dennis and dedicated to the Lord for the publication of the first gospel tracts 75 years ago.

It is remarkable now to reflect on how the Lord has multiplied that first $20 gift—through the distribution of 2 billion pieces of literature worldwide; through tens of millions of Crossway books published, with 800 titles by 350 authors currently in print; and through the 100 million-plus ESV (English Standard Version) Bibles distributed via print and digital media since 2001.

I have had the privilege of working for Lane and along Ebeth for nearly a decade. Their steadfast faithfulness and integrity is truly a remarkable gift of grace. In the hundreds of meetings led by Lane, I can hardly remember any in which Ebeth was not by his side as contributor and counselor. And I cannot remember a single meeting in which Lane did not begin by reading from the Word and praying over our time together. They are a living parable of Eugene Peterson’s description of the Christian life: “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Earthly awards are encouraging but not eternal. But I have no doubt that when they rise up to meet their Maker on the Final Day, they will hear the only approbation that truly matters: “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

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What It Says that We Gather

May 05, 2015 | Justin Taylor

going-to-church2I found this simple reminder from James K. A. Smith moving:

The very fact that we’re here—that on a Sunday morning, one of the few times that the city’s streets are quiet and even the steady hum of consumption and production gets a bit quieter, here we find people streaming into a space to gather for worship of the triune God. Singles and families, seniors and toddlers, make the effort to gather together at an appointed time not of their choosing.

We could be still snug in our beds at home, or enjoying the New York Times Magazine with a coffee on our front porch. But instead we are part of—let’s be honest—a rather motley crew that has made its way here.

Families have wrestled with children to make them presentable, and some probably argued in the car on the way here; students have perhaps only just felt the warmth of bed after a Saturday night of entertainment when they “have” to emerge, bleary-eyed, to “go to church”; senior citizens who find themselves secluded in nursing homes have been craving this day all week, when a deacon or friend drops by to pick them up to gather with the saints for worship. . . .

Smith also looks at the contrast with those who aren’t gathering and what that implies:

There is a certain hint of scandal here, of a reality that cuts against the grain of our late-modern liberal sensibilities: for as we’re making our way to worship, not everyone is coming.

Our neighbor’s home might still be quiet and darkened; folks down the street might already be mowing their lawn; we might walk softly through the dormitory hall because many of our peers won’t emerge for hours; we may even be leaving family members in our own home who don’t answer this call to worship, this summons to gather.

Since we, on our own, don’t have the inclination or ability to answer the call, our response in gathering is already a sign of God’s redemption and regeneration at work. But the neighbors and strangers we pass on the way also remind us that God’s peculiar people is also a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), called out from among the nations, graced “without why,” elected to be a renewed people for this still-sleeping world.

—James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 161.

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Apocalyptic Literature: Purging the Imagination and Refurbishing It with Alternative Visions

May 04, 2015 | Justin Taylor

James K. A. Smith provides a concise overview of apocalyptic literature:

Apocalyptic literature—the sort you find in the strange pages of Daniel and the book of Revelation—is a genre of Scripture that tries to get us to see (or see through) the empires that constitute our environment, in order to see them for what they really are. Unfortunately, we associate apocalyptic literature with end-times literature, as if its goal were a matter of prediction. But this is a misunderstanding of the biblical genre; the point of apocalyptic literature is not prediction but unmasking—unveiling the realities around us for what they really are. So apocalyptic literature is a genre that tries to get us to see the world on a slant and thus see through the spin.

I imagine it as a bit like the vertical louvered blinds in my room: if the blinds are tilted to the left on a 45-degree angle, then from straight-on they’ll appear to be closed and shutting out the light. But if I move slightly to the left and get parallel to the louvers, I’ll find that I can see right through them to the outside world. Apocalyptic literature is like that: the empire (whether Babylon or Rome) has something to hide and so tilts the louvers just slightly to cover what it wants to hide. But apocalyptic is revealing precisely because it gives us this new perspective, just to the left, which lets us see through the blinders. Thus Richard Bauckham observes that the book of Revelation was meant to provide a set of “counter-images” to the official image purveyed by the Roman empire:

Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world. Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of the cleverly engineered “miracles” (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples—all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion. In this context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4. The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.

—James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 92, quoting Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 17.

For several talks and resources on interpreting and preaching apocalyptic literature, go here.

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An Interview with Bruce Ashford on Christian Cultural Engagement

May 04, 2015 | Justin Taylor

everysquareinch

Bruce Ashford—provost and dean of faculty, and professor of theology and culture, at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary—has written a new, short, introductory but meaty book entitled Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians.

He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and his approach.

What is the argument or thesis of Every Square Inch?

In Every Square Inch I am arguing that absolutely everything in life matters to Christ. His Lordship is as wide as creation and therefore is as wide as culture. We should seek to bring every aspect of human culture—the arts, the sciences, politics and economics, scholarship and education, business and entrepreneurship, sports and competition—under submission to his Lordship.

The book works off of that thesis and seeks to equip a broad readership to engage in cultural activities in a meaningfully Christian manner.

In the first part of the book, I interact with competing theories of culture and then build a basic theology of culture.

Next, I provide six case studies of historical exemplars:

  • Augustine
  • Hübmaier
  • Kuyper
  • Lewis
  • Sayers
  • Schaeffer.

Finally, I give introductory treatments of five aspects of Western culture:

  • the arts
  • the sciences
  • politics and the public square
  • economics and wealth
  • scholarship and education.

Does this make you a transformationalist, to use Niebuhr’s famous category?

Yes and no.

Yes, if I have to pick one of Niebuhr’s categories, I pick Christ the transformer.

But no, I wouldn’t fit neatly into that category.

One reason I wouldn’t fit neatly is that I don’t think “transformation” is our ultimate goal in this time between the times. Our ultimate goal is to glorify Christ through witness and obedience, in the hopes that we might actually transform our culture. Our culture-making and culture-shaping should be done in obedience to Christ and can be a powerful witness to him, but we should not expect to be able to transform our culture in a comprehensive or final manner. Culture won’t truly or wholly be transformed until Christ returns to make all things new.

A second reason I don’t prefer Niebuhr’s categories is that they don’t get to the bottom of the issue. The deeper question is the relationship of nature and grace, and the nature-grace question is really a matter of discerning the meaning of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, and the relationship between those doctrines.

Could you give us a brief summary of the main views on nature and grace and the one you find most persuasive?

One view (often associated with manualist Thomists) is “grace above nature.” In this view, God’s gracious salvation is something that adds to, and fulfills, the natural realm.

Another view (often associated with certain Anabaptists and Pietists) is “grace against nature.” In this view, the Fall corrupted the natural world ontologically in such a manner that God’s salvation causes Christians to withdraw from the world and live a Christian life separate from it.

A third view (associated with Luther and some Reformed evangelicals) is “grace alongside of nature.” In this view, the natural realm and the realm of grace each have their own integrity, existing alongside of one another.

A fourth view, and the one I prefer, is “grace renews and restores nature.” This view is associated with Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck and, I think, is the best way to describe the views of Irenaeus and Augustine. In this view, sin does not have the power to corrupt the natural realm structurally. Instead, it corrupts the natural realm directionally. God’s still-good-structurally creation is misdirected toward false gods and idols. When Christians receive God’s grace in salvation, they are liberated from their idolatry, liberated to shape their cultural activities toward Christ rather than toward false gods and idols. Their cultural activity is redirective.

What are the doctrinal building blocks for your view?

To be selective and concise to the extreme, the building blocks include:

Creation: one of the distinguishing characteristics of Christianity is its teaching that creational life is deeply and profoundly good. Unlike many pagan philosophers, biblically shaped Christians will not try to escape from their bodies or from the created realm. Salvation is not the liberation of the soul from the body. The creational realm, including our bodies, is created by God and it is good. At the time of creation, God instructed his imagers to “till the soil,” to make something out of his good creation, to bring out its hidden potentials. In other words, he instructed them to make culture. Culture-making and cultural engagement are constitutive of what it means to be human.

Fall: sin and evil do not have the power to make bad what God has made good. God’s good creation remains God’s good creation, even after the fall. God does not abrogate his cultural imperative in the aftermath of the fall. In fact, the cultural imperative is all the greater after the Fall because there is the added complexity of having to deal with the misdirection caused by sin.

Christ: all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. All things were created through him and consist in him. He saved us in order for us to bring all things under submission to his Lordship. And “all things” includes cultural things.

Redemption and New Creation: Christ’s salvation extends beyond his anthropos to his cosmos. Not only does he redeem his people from their slavery to sin, but he will redeem the cosmos which groans under the weight of sin. In other words, in the end, God will not carpet-bomb the created order. Instead, he will renew and restore the created order. He will make all things new rather than making all new things.

Should cultural engagement be viewed as part of the Christian mission, a part of every Christian’s vocation?

Absolutely. Every square inch of this universe is rife with potential for Christian mission. Every aspect of society and culture has been misdirected in some manner or another, and should be redirected toward Christ. Our cultural words and deeds should combine to form a powerful preview of the coming Kingdom, a Kingdom in which there will be no more sin, no more cultural misdirection of God’s good creation. For a Christian, all of life should be the argument of a thesis: Jesus is Lord! And the cultural aspects of life are no exception.

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David Brooks on Two Ways Social Media Challenges Us

May 01, 2015 | Justin Taylor

From an interview with David Brooks, author of a new book on The Road of Character:

I’m not a technophobe. I think it helps augments our friendships and keep in touch with people. I don’t think there’s evidence that Facebook makes us lonely. If you have friends, you use Facebook to build friendships. If you’re lonely, you use Facebook to mask friendship. It’s not the technology, it’s the self.

There are two ways social media challenges us.

The first is, the idea of broadcasting yourself all the time where we create an avatar of ourselves that is the fake person of ourselves. It’s the highlight reel we put on Instagram. That’s an act of propaganda. The fatal line of propaganda is, the only person it persuades is the author of propaganda. As we put fake images on Facebook and Instagram, we come to believe that’s who we are.

The second is the distraction factor. I find it very hard to sit down and read books and read important things because I waste so much time answering e-mail and on Twitter. It’s like candy that’s always there, mental candy, and makes you shallower because you don’t carve out the time to read something that would make you spiritually enriched.

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“The Baptist Story” and “Baptists in America”: Two New Histories Coming This Summer

May 01, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Readers interested in the history of Baptists are in for a treat this summer, as two new books will appear.

First, there is Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins’s Baptists in America: A History, due out in June from Oxford University Press, focusing (as the title) says, on Baptists in the United States.

Second, there Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin’s The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, due out in August from B&H, focusing on the English-speaking world but also integrating stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.

I’ve copied below the publishers’ descriptions and the endorsements for these two books.

 


 

9780199977536

The Puritans called Baptists “the troublers of churches in all places” and hounded them out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four hundred years later, Baptists are the second-largest religious group in America, and their influence matches their numbers. They have built strong institutions, from megachurches to publishing houses to charities to mission organizations, and have firmly established themselves in the mainstream of American culture. Yet the historical legacy of outsider status lingers, and the inherently fractured nature of their faith makes Baptists ever wary of threats from within as well as without.

In Baptists in America, Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explore the long-running tensions between church, state, and culture that Baptists have shaped and navigated. Despite the moment of unity that their early persecution provided, their history has been marked by internal battles and schisms that were microcosms of national events, from the conflict over slavery that divided North from South to the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 80s. Baptists have made an indelible impact on American religious and cultural history, from their early insistence that America should have no established church to their place in the modern-day culture wars, where they frequently advocate greater religious involvement in politics. Yet the more mainstream they have become, the more they have been pressured to conform to the mainstream, a paradox that defines—and is essential to understanding—the Baptist experience in America.

Kidd and Hankins, both practicing Baptists, weave the threads of Baptist history alongside those of American history. Baptists in America is a remarkable story of how one religious denomination was transformed from persecuted minority into a leading actor on the national stage, with profound implications for American society and culture.

“Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins are two of the most respectable church historians in the academy today. Their work is always incisive and illuminating—as in reading this book you will soon discover.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“‘Baptists,’ the authors say, ‘are notorious for two things–evangelism and schism.’ Baptist successes as evangelists since the colonial era are the basis for their immense influence in American life. Their proneness to schism makes for good stories and is a reason why we need a clear and engaging account such as this. Baptists in America is both readable and fascinating.”
George M. Marsden, author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life

“In clear and compelling prose, filled with enlightening anecdotes, this book tells the amazing story of how a persecuted minority of Christians, who rejected infant baptism and state control of the church, grew into the largest denomination in the United States with culture-shaping consequences. An important contribution to American Religious History, this book should be widely read by anyone interested in the history and present state of religion in U.S. culture and politics.”
Albert J. Raboteau, Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion, Princeton University

“Some books on Baptists in America sprinkle the reader with superficial simplicity, focusing on only one tribe or one aspect of the Baptist experience. Others drown the reader in historical narrative, but with no clear connection as to why non-Baptists ought to care. This book is different. This history offers a full immersion in the Baptist story, in every stream and fork of the Baptist river. This volume connects the Baptist experience to larger trends in American culture, politics, and theology in a way that informs both insiders and outsiders. This book is, without doubt, the definitive work on Baptists in America for this generation.”
Russell D. Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission


 

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 9.41.44 AMThe Baptist Story is a narrative history of a diverse group of people spanning over four centuries, living among distinct cultures on separate continents, while finding their common identity in Christ and expressing their faith as Baptists. Baptist historians Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin highlight the Baptist transition from a despised sect to a movement of global influence. Each chapter includes stories of people who made this history so fascinating. Although the emphasis is on the English-speaking world, The Baptist Story integrates stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions, all within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.

This volume provides more than just the essential events and necessary names to convey the grand history. It also addresses questions that students of Baptist history frequently ask, includes prayers and hymns of those who experienced hope and heartbreak, and directs the reader’s attention to the mission of the church as a whole. Written with an irenic tone and illustrated with photographs in every chapter, The Baptist Story is ideally suited for graduate or undergraduate courses, as well as group study in the local church.

“This is the Baptist history textbook I have been waiting for since I studied the subject in seminary. It actually makes the subject interesting! This work has been long overdue.”
Daniel L. Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Respected church historians Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin have served the church well with their book The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement. Though intended as a textbook, their fine work is accessible to most every reader, including those in nonacademic settings. For all interested in Baptist history, I heartily recommend The Baptist Story.”
—Jason K. Allen, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“The Baptists have grown from a small and mainly marginal body in seventeenth-century England into a strong and sometimes influential set of denominations across the world. While the core of this account of their development concentrates on the history of the two-thirds of the world’s Baptists who live in the United States, there is also coverage of England, Canada, Germany, and the rest of the world. So this volume provides a concise but comprehensive summary of the course of Baptist life over the last four centuries.
David Bebbington, professor of history, University of Stirling

“The Baptist story is long and often convoluted. Numerous histories have been written over the course of their 400 years. Each new volume proffers its own interpretation of the data and furthers the cause and concern of the author. While honest, this has not always been helpful, and often fails to provide today’s Baptists with a modern account of their tale that informs the mind and encourages the soul. The Baptist Story, as told by Haykin, Chute, and Finn, changes all that. The authors give us an irenic yet thorough reading of our collective past. They admit the nuances of a faith that boldly defends and exemplifies liberty of conscience while explaining the facts. While the authors concede that their goal was not to provide the definitive telling of the Baptist story, they may have done just that. Haykin, Chute, and Finn are to be commended for their effort, thanked for their grace, and congratulated for their contribution to the cause of Christ and the history of the Baptist people. The Baptist Story always encourages, sometimes challenges, and never disappoints.”
Peter Beck, associate professor of Christian studies, Charleston Southern University

The Baptist Story is a masterful work by three superb Baptist historians. Tony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin are to be commended for providing us with an even-handed, incisive, well-organized, and accessible survey of the larger Baptist family. Readers will be introduced to both general and particular Baptists, as well as revivalists and landmarkists, fundamentalists and liberals. In doing so, they will gain a fresh appreciation for the contributions of thoughtful theologians, practical pastors, along with faithful missionaries and martyrs. This full-orbed, carefully researched, and well-written look at the expansion and development of Baptists over the past four hundred years will certainly become a standard resource for the study of Baptist history for years to come. It is with much enthusiasm that I gladly recommend this work.”
David S. Dockery, president, Trinity International University

“Being a Baptist is about more than bearing a denominational label. It’s about affirming a doctrinal distinctive and embracing an identity based on historical precedent. This superb volume will help you appreciate what it means to be a Baptist and celebrate the unique contributions we have made to global Christianity. Read it with holy awe at how God has used Baptists to make a difference in his world!”
Jeff Iorg, president, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

“This textbook originates from within but expands beyond the Southern Baptist tradition to narrate the Baptist story in a way readers will understand and appreciate. Images, primary source quotations, and review questions make the book especially useful for the undergraduate or graduate classroom.”
Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies, Howard Payne University

The Baptist Story reflects well on the gifts and expertise of three distinguished Baptist historians and professors. They have written an eminently readable, thorough, and well-balanced account of the Baptist past from its roots in English Separatism to the modern context where the Baptist movement has become truly global. The authors respect the diversity and complexity of Baptist history, and they judiciously avoid any partisan agendas. In addition to providing the vital factual information about Baptist history, they suggest some important interpretive and analytical perspectives that enrich their narrative. This textbook should be widely adopted for use in relevant college and seminary courses, as well as in church study groups.”
Jim Patterson, university professor and acting dean, School of Theology & Missions, Union University

The Baptist Story is meticulously researched, well written, and full of insight into the history of the people called Baptists. This will be the textbook in Baptist history for the next generation of conservative Baptist students and scholars.”
Andrew C. Smith, assistant professor of religion and director of the Center for Baptist Studies, Carson-Newman University

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