Review: The Courage to Be Protestant

David Wells, Eerdmans, 2008, 253 pages, 5 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2017-03-06-at-10-47-47-amThe Courage to Be Protestant condenses the central points of the author’s previous four volumes (No Place for TruthGod in the Wasteland, Losing Our Virtueand Above All Earthly Powers) and emphasizes the same five themes: Truth, God, Self, Christ, and Church.  Wells argues it takes no courage to call oneself a Protestant but much of it to live Protestant truths. This book is a damning and unfettered critique of modern-day evangelicalism.

Overview

In chapter one, Wells divides evangelicalism into three teams so the reader knows who Wells is scoring against. The first group he calls “classical”, the deeds and creeds of fundamentalism/Neo-evangelicalism that held tightly to sola Scriptura and penal substitution but lost its way by discarding secondary doctrines (viz. Christianity Today) and minimizing the local church. Second are the marketers comprising the fashionable world of Hybles, Warren and George Barna. Third are the emergents (i.e. doctrinal minimalists). Wells asserts that all three of these groups in American Evangelicalism–now more ubiquitous than ever–are in differing degrees more interested in sola cultura than sola Scriptura.  Continue reading

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If Polygamy Is Wrong, Why Does God Commend It?

image-2-22-17-at-6-18-pmNot only does God condone polygamy, the story goes, but he actively promotes it.

Exhibit A: The Lord’s words to King David in 2 Samuel 12.

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ (2Sm. 12:7-11).

Many of Israel’s rulers were polygamists–most in rebellion against God. Discrediting their marital choices, then, is not difficult. If the kings couldn’t figure out a stump was not celestial, surely they aren’t models of matrimony.

But there are three apparent exceptions. Solomon, Joash, and David were good kings– the latter being a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).  Continue reading

Review: This Horrid Practice: The Myth and Reality of Traditional Maori Cannibalism

Paul Moon, Penguin, 2008, 304 pages, 3 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-10-28-29-pmExactly 130 years ago some Swiss missionaries living just a stone’s throw from our village drew attention to some particularly gruesome scenes of cannibalism in Elim.

The missionaries recorded most of these accounts in their private journals. And yet, the modern author (and revisionist) I was reading–now looking back at such claims–believes this material was most likely invented. “Missionaries embellish,” he would say cynically. “Foreign churches expect dramatic stories.” On and on.

Fast forward now to this book. I typically read the last chapter first. It’s one of the privileges of reading non-fiction. So when I picked up This Horrid Practice, I was struck by Moon’s conclusion about modern historians who like to whiteout the ugly parts in foreign cultures:

The revisionists would argue that reports of cannibalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were frequently made to excite audiences back in Europe–that their creators used the widespread ignorance of many indigenous cultures to conceal their falsifications….It all seems to make sense, but it is all totally wrong.

Anyone who takes jabs at post-modernists and multi-cultural progressives has my ear. So I decided to start from the beginning and read the whole thing through. Here’s what I found. Continue reading

Missions Myths: Antioch is the Model Sending Church

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-6-14-53-pmPaul’s missionary endeavors did not begin in Antioch but well over a decade earlier. The apostle’s mission exploits are commonly divided into three journeys: first (Acts 13-14), second (Acts 15:36-18:22) and third (Acts 18:23-21:16).

Since Paul and Barnabas began the first journey in Antioch, and Acts 13:3 says the church “sent them off”, this assembly is often considered the model mission sending church.
Not only is this assertion be misleading but it could also mask a valuable application for the church. Here are two reasons Antioch is not the model sending church.

Paul arrived in Antioch as a veteran missionary

Most people estimate Paul’s conversion around A.D. 32 and his departure from Antioch around A.D. 45. What was he doing in the thirteen years between his conversion and his “first” missionary journey in Acts 13? Missions! Let’s follow his itinerary. Continue reading

Review: Pulpit Aflame

Eds. Beeke and Benge, Reformation Heritage, 2016, 188 pages, 4 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-01-53-pmWe named one of our sons Lawson, so I was eager to read a book penned in Steve Lawson’s honor. Foundations of Grace is among the most influential books I have read. He is in the top three preachers I have ever heard and has always been a model of kindness in his conversations with me.

Most striking about Pulpit Aflame is the lineup of contributors. It’s an All-Pro of preachers, a roster including MacArthur, Sproul, Ferguson, Beeke, and Thomas. Chapter one is a biography of Lawson’s life and ministry, with the next twelve chapters discussing the mandate, meaning, motivation, and method of preaching.  Continue reading

Missions Myths

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-1-40-17-amBefore we set out on a little expedition through the Scriptures over the next few weeks, hacking our way through the jungle of Missions Myths, I thought it would be valuable to lay down a few presuppositions. I come to the table with some assumptions. Let me show a few of the cards in my hand.

First, I consider Paul the missionary par excellence. This is not because he is an exemplar for modern missions in every way. He certainly is not. Nonetheless, he is unquestionably the best the church has to offer. There are a number of reasons for this.

Continue reading

How Should Calvinists Plead?

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-2-47-12-pmIf you want your son to be a great evangelist, give him the sermons of eminent preachers like Jonathan Edwards, John Paton, John Knox, John MacArthur, John Chrysostom, John Bunyan, John Piper, John Calvin, John Wycliffe, and John Hus.

Also, name him John.

Breaking the mold is George Whitefield, probably the greatest evangelist since the Apostle Paul. His sermons on both sides of the Atlantic are estimated at 30,000. God used Whitfield during the Great Awakening to bring about one of the greatest revivals in the history of the church.

He wasn’t just a Calvinist, he was a high Calvinist. He held the doctrines of grace to the highest degree, including the doctrine of reprobation. “I have never read Calvin,” he said. “My Calvinism comes from Jesus himself.” Elsewhere he remarked: “We are all born Arminians and it is grace that makes us Calvinists.” Continue reading