John Paton Roundup

John G. Paton was one of the great missionaries to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. He labored during the Great Century of Missions at the same time as Adoniram Judson, William Carey and Hudson Taylor. His colleagues on the islands are lesser known because (1) many of them were killed and (2) those who survived were unable to publish an account as vivid and winsome  as Paton.

Improving upon Paton’s Autobiography is impossible–like trying to find an English word that rhymes with silver. Every page is special and deserves to be read by Dad at family devotions, missionaries before assailing the field, pastors in need of anecdotes, and kids in search of adventure.

But for those who cannot imagine reading a 500-page hardback published over a hundred years ago, consider my book on Paton’s life published by Banner of Truth.

Below are a few radio interviews I’ve had over the past year on the life of Paton. The programs cover Paton’s exploits and philosophy of ministry as well as some insight into our ministry here in South Africa.

  1. VCY America Radio
  2. Reaching and Teaching Podcast
  3. Janet Mefferd Radio

For some brief reviews of the book, check out Tim Challies and World Magazine.

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Review: The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed to Love Homosexuals

Tim Bayly, Joseph Bayly, Jurgen Von Hagen, Warnorn Media, 2017, 180 pages, 5 of 5 stars

As the car of American culture hurls off the cliff of biblical morality, it’s good to know there are still faithful men that can see through the fog of today’s sexual revolution.

One example is Tim Bayly and his book The Grace of Shame: Seven Ways the Church has Failed to Love Homosexuals. Bayly is a PCA pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana (one of America’s gay meccas) and a contributor at the insightful blog warhornmedia.com.

The subtitle makes one think this is just another liberal Christian apologizing for the church’s Neanderthal oppression of today’s sexual minorities. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Continue reading

Review: Only a Prayer Meeting

Charles Spurgeon, Christian Heritage, 2010, 254 pages, 4 of 5 stars

What happened to the prayer meeting? First we changed the name to “mid-week service.” Now it’s gone altogether.

It is common these day for churches to abandon the Sunday PM gathering. The prayer meeting is even less popular. Surgeon grabs us by the lapels and urges the reader never to abandon this sacred task. “I would have you vow that the prayer meeting shall never be given up while you live” (137).

This book is a series of studies on prayer meetings and prayer meeting addresses. Most people would yawn and close the book at this point, but Spurgeon is so full of verve, insight, color and illustration, the pages turn quickly. Continue reading

Review: Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad, Penguin Books, 1899/2007, 115 pages, 2 of 5 stars

This is a book about the darkness of the human heart. And while the book explores the depravity of specific social evils like colonialism and the African slave trade, this is really a work about man’s soul—the heart of darkness.

Marlow is the narrator who while resting on his steamboat in England tells his friends of his experience in “one of the dark places of the earth.” It appears he was given a job along the Congo River searching for ivory. His real task, however, was to track down an eccentric but savvy ivory trader named Kurtz.

While Marlow repairs his boat, he begins to learn the mysteries surrounding the man who dominates everyone he meets. He is powerful, influential … and evil. The suspense builds as Marlow labors to find the European genius forgotten in Africa, a man apparently near death.

Marlow discovers that it was Kurtz who ordered the natives to sabotage his steamboat. At first the reader is made to believe that Kurtz was “shamefully abandoned” (76), but soon discovers he attacked Marlow in an effort to remain in the heart of darkness as a god to the natives. Perhaps he played this game to obtain more ivory. Maybe he began to believe it. Witchcraft was involved (“it had horns—antelope horns, I think—on its head… some sorcerer, some witch-man, no doubt”).

Continue reading

Review: The Scripture Cannot Be Broken

ed. John MacArthur, Crossway, 2015, 336 pages, 4 of 5 stars

The Bible is without error, transmitted perfectly with the exact message God gave to mankind.

But the doctrine of inerrancy is under attack today like never before. Those in today’s religious (and evangelical) circles with a low view of Scripture are strangling the church, holding back from her the life-giving oxygen of an inerrant text.

From Spurgeon’s Down Grade Controversy, to German Liberalism, to Emergent Theology, the core argument remains the same: the human penman who transmitted Scripture must bring with them errors in biblical teaching.

The Scripture Cannot Be Broken champions a high view of Scripture. It compiles 14 of the greatest essays on inerrancy of the past 70 years, including authors like B.B. Warfield, J.I. Packer, and John Frame. It recounts the many ways people attack inerrancy, like nuancing inerrancy and infallibility, embracing pragmatic philosophy in the church, and promoting extra-biblical revelation. Often, this comes from the insatiable thirst for approval from academic elites.

The book also addresses a host of common objections to inerrancy, such as circular reasoning, human penman, presuppositionalism, the ambiguity of theópneustos, and the absence of the original autographs.

Conclusion: This book is applicable not only for Scriptural pessimists but biblical conservatives. Beware those in the latter camp. Rarely does one move from liberalism to orthodoxy. As Harold Lindsell said, it is often a one way street in the wrong direction (27).

I found the lists of what inerrancy is not in chapters 10 and 11 very helpful. The best chapter was “The Meaning of Inerrancy” by Paul Feinberg, with a close second going to author Robert Preus.

Excerpts:

  1. “It is impossible to avoid circularity of a sort when one is arguing on behalf of an ultimate criterion. One may not argue for one ultimate criterion by appealing to another.” (114)
  2. “One of the best ways to attack something is to demonstrate that it is unimportant.” (170)
  3. “In any realm of activity the supreme authority must be self-authenticating. It is impossible to get endorsement or confirmation of such utterances by appeal to some greater authority.” (207)
  4. “Although it is indeed a large and heavy burden to have to defend the Bible on all points, it is nevertheless necessary!” (269)
  5. “In Christ you have both the human and the divine without sin. In the Bible you have both the human and the divine without error.” (271)
  6. [By an honest critic of inerrancy] “The opposite of inerrancy is not errancy but the total infallibility of the Bible in matters of faith and practice [alone].” (282)

Review: Strange Fire

John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2013, 352 pages, 4 of 5 stars

As one author put it: the Prosperity Gospel is Christianity’s version of professional wrestling–you know it’s fake but it nonetheless has entertainment value.

As a missionary in Africa, I value this book because the errors it addresses are deeply embedded among our people. The slogan “What I confess, I possess” was first coined in the early 20th century by a white American Baptist but is repeated thousands of times over in innumerable 21st century African churches. Continue reading

Review: John G. Paton: The Autobiography of the Pioneer Missionary to the New Hebrides

John G. Paton, Banner of Truth, 1897/2013, 538 pp. 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of an island of cannibals, their journey out of darkness, and the man who led them to the light.

John G. Paton stands as one of the great missionaries in church history. He was an icon in his day—a household name in Great Britain and Australia. Contemporaries such as C. H. Spurgeon called him the ‘King of the Cannibals’. Continue reading