Visit to learn about the ESV Bible

Logos Bible Software

Powered by Blogger

Ignite Church Planting Ministries

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill He treasures up his bright designs, And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan his work in vain; GOD is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain.

--William Cowper

Sunday, December 31, 2006


2006 A Year in Books

Books are listed in alphabetical order, by author’s last name, with brief commentary/synopsis. I hope you are encouraged to read some of the books on this list and I would love to hear what you are reading.

My Top Ten

Edwards, Jonathan. A Jonathan Edwards Reader ISBN: 0300098383
This is a wonderful selection of the writings of Jonathan Edwards. The selections are divided into public, personal, and private writings. Much of what is included is obscure, aside from various abridgements of larger works, and it introduced me to a side of Edwards that I had never seen before. Through this I came to appreciate the literary ability of Jonathan Edwards and above the meticulous logic and profound insight into Scripture I was impressed with what a vivid writer Edwards was. The book features a brief biography that is mainly bibliographical which does well to introduce the reader to the various works included in this book although it does a poor job of introducing Edwards. If you are looking to an introduction to Jonathan Edwards I would recommend reading God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, by John Piper ISBN: 1581340079. Piper’s opening biography of Edwards is thorough yet brief; however, his lengthy footnotes added to The End for Which God created the World make it unnecessarily lengthy so my recommendation is that you skip Piper’s footnotes and just read Edwards’ original text your first time through.

Pearcey, Nancy R. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity ISBN:
Building upon the arguments of Francis Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcey presents the Biblical worldview within the framework of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. This book is very multifaceted; it presents an academic apologetic, which shows the shortcomings of non-Biblical worldviews and the superiority of the Biblical Worldview. It presents a historical recollection of the cultural and philosophical environments that have polluted the modern “Christian” worldview. It also presents the Biblical worldview and its practical applications that move us towards cultural engagement. This book, while difficult to read at times, is a must read for evangelicals.

Schaeffer, Francis A. The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The Three Essential Books in One Volume (The God Who Is There / Escape from Reason / He Is There and He Is Not Silent) ISBN: 0891075615
I am hoping to finish this compilation next year; as of now, I have only read He is There and He is Not Silent. I would actually recommend reading this before reading Total Truth, because Schaeffer presents the philosophical argument/necessity of a Biblical worldview, which Pearcey uses in her book. Schaeffer does this in a most simplistic way allowing this apologetic to be easily understood. If you were going to pick between the two I would recommend this over Total Truth for its simplicity and Total Truth for its thoroughness and push for cultural engagement. The choice is yours but I would recommend both.

Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren ISBN: 1579789358
This book was phenomenal. I do not think any book has so radically shaped my understanding of history, namely the reformation era, and my understanding of the relationship between the church and state. This book tells the story of the “second front” of the Protestant Reformation. These “radical reformers” were hated and considered heretics by both Catholics and the mainline Protestant Reformers; however, time has proven their position to be the orthodox one. Due to immense persecution, little is known about the radical reformers, however, thanks to his linguistic expertise and research abilities Verduin brings much to light and gives us the leading text on this subject.

Mahaney, C. J. Humility: True Greatness ISBN: 1590523261
Just watching C. J. preach is enough to make me nauseous over my pride and this book is no different, it will cut and convict you.

Nofer, H. Fred. New Testament Greek Made Functional ISBN: N/A
I doubt anyone expected to see a Greek grammar in my top ten; however, I have taken Greek before and read Greek grammars before but none that are this simple. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of the Greek language. This was the text for Gladiator Greek, an eight week class, by then end of which we were reading out of our Greek New Testaments. I was shocked at how fast I was able to pick this up, with an absurd amount of time spent in study that is, but if you spend a week or two on each lesion I think you will pick it up quite easily. If I were to teach Greek in a local church this would be the text of choice. (Available for purchase here.)

Olson, Roger E. The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform ISBN: 0830815058
The title explains it all; Olson does well to present church history in narrative form. The book is massive; however, its narrative quality makes it a pleasant read. Olson hits the highlights and key figures of church history and presents their theologies in a simplified form. I knew little, if anything, of church history prior to reading Olson and this text served as a wonderful introduction to the subject.

Piper, John. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry ISBN: 0805426205
The same themes that tend to arise in most books by Piper are presented as personal letters and pleas written to the reader calling them to “radical ministry.” I love John Piper and very much enjoyed the way this book was written. While none of us will ever be able to be mentored by Piper this book is a personal effort where he does just that.

Stetzer, Ed. Planting Missional Churches ISBN: 0805443703
This book started great and was loaded with great practical advice. I think the overall theme and aim of this book is one that needs to be proclaimed and embraced in our churches, however, I was hoping the book would be a bit more radical. It issues a method and a call to plant missional churches however I feel that much of what is presented exists within an unbiblical church paradigm that has been engrained in the minds of modern evangelicals. If we are going to plant truly missional churches then we need a missional paradigm. Despite its shortcomings this is the best work on the subject and it is loaded with practical advice, based upon Stetzer’s years of teaching, preaching, and church planting experience.

The Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 10 Number 2 Fall 1999 (See Here for Purchase or Free Download)
This Journal presents the Biblical covenants and is a great read, especially if you know little of Israel’s history or want to gain a better understanding of the Old Testament.

Honorable Mentions

Adams, Jay Edward. The Christian's Guide to Guidance: How to Make Biblical Decisions in Everyday Life ISBN: 1889032069
Most of this book was spent telling stories and it took several chapters before he began to address the guidance, there are probably better books on the subject.

Augustine, Aurelius. Confessions ISBN: 1565634519
A definite classic and a good read; despite its Catholic overtones and exhortation toward an allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament.

Calvin, John. The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life ISBN: 0801065283
My translation was slightly annoying, due to the unnecessary, morphing of this doctrinal treatise into a devotional form. This book is Calvin at his simplest. He lays down an argument for his understanding of the Christian life and gives application from that argument. Another great short read.

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon ISBN: 0801025869
Read the final section of this book first as Chapell fails to begin by defining what Christ-centered preaching is and why the expository sermon needs redeeming. This book has noble intentions but fell short of my expectations.

Dana, H. E. and Julius R. Mantey. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament ISBN: 0023270705
I enjoyed the setup of this book and its individually numbered paragraphs allow for simple use in the classroom. Their prolific quotation from numerous other grammars make this a great source of information.

Dever, Mark and Paul Alexander. Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel ISBN: 1581347383
Dever lays out an understanding of what the church should look like and then gives practical insights from his pastoral experience.

Driscoll, Mark. Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church ISBN: 0310270162
Driscoll offers a no-holds-barred recounting of the planting and growth of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, while offering advice along the way. Parts of this book were laugh out loud funny and others were gut wrenching Driscoll paints a vivid picture of church planting and the struggle that it entails.

Edman, V. Raymond. They Found the Secret ISBN: 0310240514
A great collection of short biographies that will definitely encourage you as it introduces the lives of numerous individuals from diverse religious backgrounds.

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards (In Two Volumes) ISBN: 1565630858
Dissertation on the End for Which God Created the World (Vol.1)

Simply phenomenal, when I first read this it was one of those life-altering books. The most accessible copy of this text is probably God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, by John Piper ISBN: 1581340079, which features a biography of Edwards by Piper, the full text of The End for Which God Created the World, and includes both Edwards’ original footnotes and footnotes by Piper as well.

A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (Vol.1)
I think this is a much-needed message in our time. Our tendency is to lean towards either mindless emotionalism or dry scholasticism. In this treatise Edwards sets out to define what religious affections, or passions, are and guarding against the previously mentioned inclinations Edwards calls for passionate intellectualism, arguing that right knowledge should lead to right passions.

The Preciousness of Time (Vol.2)
This is my favorite sermon by Edwards, which is odd because I am a terrible procrastinator. I will likely post it on the blog soon as it is a fitting message for the New Year.

Edwards, Jonathan. A Treatise on Grace ISBN: 0227679059

Ferguson, Sinclair. Heart for God ISBN: 0851515029
I read this during a Dodgers game so it is short. Ferguson does a short, yet deep study through some of God’s attributes. Its length and set up would make this great for devotional use.

Jefferson, Charles. The Minister as Shepherd: The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership ISBN: 0875087744
More so than the central message of the book, I appreciated his insights into culture and anticipation of the ideological and cultural consequences of modernity. Too often we are playing catch-up with the culture at large developing apologetics for ideologies that no longer hold a prominent position in society; when we should be looking at the current cultural environment and preparing to engage and reach the emerging and yet to emerge cultures of the future.

Kantenwein, Lee L. Diagrammatical Analysis ISBN: 0884691500
A short book on sentence diagramming and analysis.

Kempis, Thomas. The Imitation of Christ ISBN: 0375700188
Considered a “Christian classic” by many this was the most annoying book I have ever read. Above the Catholic and mystic overtones is the annoying literary device where he frequently speaks as Christ.

Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism ISBN: 1589600568
I honestly read this book just to find a quote. There are some strange things coming out of his preference for the magisterial reformation, but overall I really enjoyed this book on a Calvinistic worldview.

Lutzer, Erwin. Pastor to Pastor ISBN: 0825431646
It seems to me that most books on the pastorate do more to exposit the prevailing paradigm rather than Scripture and this book was no different. I keep hoping to read a book dedicated to expositing what Scripture has to say about the pastorate and all I seem to find are what amount to cultural essays.

McIntosh, Gary. Biblical Church Growth: How You Can Work With God to Build a Faithful Church ISBN: 080109156X
A practical book on church growth, that builds upon the popular church growth paradigm.

McManis, Cliff. Christian Living Beyond Belief: Biblical Principles for the Life of Faith ISBN: 0977226220
A great little book laying down the basics of Christianity that I think everyone would benefit from.

Mahaney, C.J. Why Small Groups? ISBN: 1881039064
This book is both simple and practical and arguably the definitive work on small group Bible study.

Mahaney, C.J. Sex, Romance And The Glory Of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs To Know ISBN: 1581346247
C. J. takes the reader through the Song of Solomon and will have you laughing out loud as he shares what Scripture has to say.

Showers, Renald. There Really Is a Difference!: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology ISBN: 0915540509
I would not really call this a comparison. Renald is clearly a Dispensationalist and a book that simply presented Dispensationalism and analyzed Covenantal Theology, rather than attempting to present an unbiased view of both, would have better served the reader.

Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures to My Students ISBN: 0310329116
This remains the classic work and must read for everyone considering fulltime ministry. Spurgeon brings a level of sobriety and wisdom to a subject that we should all take seriously.

The Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 17 Number 2 Fall 2006 (See Here for Purchase or Free Download)
All I have read so far were the book reviews, which are always helpful so you can be aware of the underlying theological themes of a book prior to reading it.

What I Look Forward to Reading Next Year

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards (In Two Volumes) ISBN: 1565630858
A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Prevailing Notions of the Freedom of Will (Vol.1)
A Dissertation on the Nature of True Virtue (Vol.1)
A History of the Work of Redemption (Vol.1)
Inquiry Concerning Qualifications for Communion (Vol.1)
Narrative of Surprising Conversions (Vol.1)
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (Vol.2)

Finger, Thomas N. A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive ISBN: 0830827854

Goldsworthy, Graeme According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible ISBN: 0830826963

Lawson, Steven J. Foundations of Grace 1400 BC - AD 100: A Long Line of Godly Men (Volume One) ISBN: 1567690777

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


A Biblical Understanding of Church/State Relations

There are three possible approaches to this subject from an understanding of the nature of the church, from an understanding of the nature of the kingdom of God, and from an understanding of the nature of the Gospel. There are numerous perspectives concerning the nature of the church and the nature of the kingdom of God; however, I think most reasonably minded individuals can come to a consensus on the nature of the Gospel. Because of this, I will approach the subject from an understanding of the nature of the Gospel. Ultimately, all theology comes down to one thing, the Gospel. Central to ones understanding of the church is the Gospel. Central to ones understanding of the kingdom is the Gospel. The Gospel is the wellspring of all Truth and so it is fitting that we both begin and remain there.

First, the very nature of the Gospel is that it makes society pluralistic; this is what it means for the gospel to be exclusive (Matthew 10:34-37). Wherever the Gospel goes pluralism, if not already present, is introduced. The Gospel is an exclusive message; this means that there are those who are included and those who are excluded. This is also the nature of the church and the nature of the kingdom of God, there are those who are included, and those excluded. This means there will always be at least two groups and that is plural. If society was monocultural, then we would all be damned. Pluralism is part of the good news of the Gospel; that God has chosen and redeemed individuals within a unanimously rebellious world; thereby making the world pluralistic. This relates to politics because Evangelical political activism seeks to singularize society (an Evangelical monoculture) while the Gospel makes society pluralistic.

Second, the very nature of the Gospel is missiological. What do I mean by that? At the heart of missions, or being missional, is contextualization, of both the message and the messenger (I Corinthians 9:22-23). If you disagree with that last statement, go look at your Bible. If your Bible is in a language other than Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic then you are a product of contextualization. Men and women have died, been burned at the stake, drowned, disemboweled, and undergone the most unimaginable torture so that the Gospel can be contextualized. This relates to politics because Evangelical political activism seeks to conform the culture to the Gospel, while missional contextualization seeks to contextualize the Gospel within a pagan culture. The two stand in direct opposition.

Third, the very nature of the Gospel is inferiority, namely that the Gospel is a foolish message proclaimed to foolish people (Matthew 9:11-13, I Corinthians 1:18). Contrary to what many self-righteous “Christians” believe the Gospel is stupid, it is idiotic, the Greek word for “foolishness” in I Corinthians 1:18 is the word from which we get moron, it is that dumb. Furthermore, in verses 26, and following, Paul reminds Christians that they are morons too! The simple fact is that you cannot embrace the Gospel if you feel morally or intellectually superior to the surrounding world; you can only embrace the Gospel if you are morally inferior. This relates to politics because Evangelical political activism seeks to create a morally superior culture while Gospel seeks out those who are morally inferior.

Fourth, the very nature of the Gospel is liberalism (Galatians 5:13). God liberally lavishes His grace upon us. God call us to proclaim the Gospel liberally. This may seem like a stretch but liberalism is the exact opposite of legalism, and God opposes legalism. Was it not the legalism of the Pharisees that kept them from loving liberally? Was it not the legalism of the Pharisees that kept them from proclaiming Truth liberally? Was it not the legalism of the Pharisees that kept them from living liberally? Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 9:22-23 is a declaration that Paul was culturally liberal. This relates to politics because Evangelical political activism seeks to enforce state-sanctioned legalism while the Gospel compels us to live liberally.

Fifth, the very nature of the Gospel is voluntarism, as opposed to coercion (Luke 10:16). The Gospel is a message to be proclaimed which subsequently means that it can be accepted or rejected. The Gospel is not a message to be enforced. In fact, the Gospel cannot be enforced and when ignorant individuals seek to have it enforced, it is no longer the Gospel.

This is where the apparent contradiction comes in. Because while the nature of the Gospel demands the strictest of separations between it and the state Scripture, however, is replete with commands ordering followers of Christ to submit themselves to the governing authorities (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-11; Titus 3:1). Paul even appeals to his Roman citizenship when arrested (Acts 22:25) and even to Caesar (Acts 25:11). Most profound of all is that Paul wrote his exhortation to the church in Rome around A.D. 56 two years into the persecution by Nero (A.D. 54-68). A persecution in which “Some Christians were arrested, confessed their faith, and were ‘convicted not so much,’ says Tacitus, ‘of the crime of incendiarism as of hating the human race (Does that sound familiar?) [1].’” Schaff continues, “A ‘vast multitude’ of Christians was put to death in the most shocking manner. Some were crucified, probably in mockery of the punishment of Christ, some sewed up in the skins of wild beasts and exposed to the voracity of mad dogs in the arena. The satanic tragedy reached its climax at night in the imperial . . . . Christian men and women, covered with pitch or oil or resin, and nailed to posts of pine, were lighted and burned as torches for the amusement of the mob [2].” It is clear that followers of Christ must submit themselves to the governing authorities, even if that means dying in the arena!

Before concluding it is important that we take note of the uniqueness of the American situation. The American situation is unique not only in our current global context but also in the context of history. America is unique in the freedoms and rights that it has bestowed upon its citizens and it is unique in its Democraticness, not that there are not other democratic nations but American Democracy is unique.

All of this has led me to several conclusions. First, the nature of the Gospel is unequivocally clear that it cannot be promoted by political means nor can it be enforced by a political power; furthermore, “Christian moral norms,” if there is such a thing, cannot be forced upon a culture nor can they be enforced within a culture where they are already present. Second, the “right to vote” is not a right; it is a unique privilege that has been granted to Americans. Since it is not a right it can, and I would argue will, be taken away.

Ultimately, our problem is this: we are more concerned with being American than we are with being followers of Christ. That is why the mission field is largely vacant; because as Americans we feel this is our home, when as followers of Christ we are sojourners and foreigners in every land. By mission field I am not speaking of foreign missions but all missionary activity; no concept of “home missions” can exist within a worldview where you are always a foreigner. Even here in comfortable America, the mission field is largely vacant of individuals who cease to be antagonistic towards American culture and contextualize the Gospel into it. There are plenty of people conforming the Gospel to American culture, thus loosing the Gospel. There are also plenty of people seeking to conform American culture to the Gospel, thus loosing the Gospel in legalism. There are also those who are honestly trying to share the Gospel and yet there efforts are largely misunderstood because they do so in ignorance of the culture. What we need are followers of Christ who will plant indigenous church planting churches by contextualizing the Gospel into the cultures, which they desire to reach.

I hope that all of you will respond in charity, as I am sure most will disagree and honestly, if I had read this a year ago I would have disagreed as well. If you disagree with my post and would like me to reply to your comment please state your argument or question concisely and I will reply in a like fashion.

[1] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 1
[2] Ibid.