Review: Marriage as a Covenant

Gordon Hugenberger, Baker, 1998, 340 pages, 5 of 5 stars

Summary: Malachi 2:10-16 teaches conclusively that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.

Years ago I wrote my seminary thesis on polygamy. I thought the most difficult question would be: “What should I do with polygamists wanting to join my church?” I instead walked away from that paper scratching my head and asking: “What exactly is marriage?”

That is, at what moment does it officially begin?  Does marriage start when the bride price is paid, or when there are vows? What if a couple of four decades never exchanged vows? Is marriage an agreement between families, as many today in Africa espouse? What consummates a marriage, the vows or the sexual union? Do answers to these questions differ within various cultures?

Hugenberger–former longtime prof at Gordon-Conwell and pastor of the historic Park Street Church–has been an invaluable aid in helping me unravel these conundrums, especially in the African culture I reside in where the parameters of marriage are often unclear. Though he writes primarily to Westerners, the insights remain indispensable to my setting. Continue reading

Review: Friends of Calvin

Summary: Twenty-four biographical sketches of Calvin’s closest friendships
This wasn’t a page turner but I’d still recommend the book because the chapters are short and the topic of friendship is sparse today in Christian literature. I should say books on godly masculine friendship are rare, not this.
Friends are often best at pointing out another’s weaknesses. Calvin knew he didn’t always have an easy personality. His friends undoubtedly noticed as well. But Calvin also seemed to value friendship more than most because his marriage was short and he had no children. Friends filled in the gaps.
Strengths: There were a number of interesting points about Calvin’s friendships. For example, most of his friends were not from Geneva where he ministered most of his life. Many Genevans were his enemies. His bond with Viret (over four hundred surviving letters between them) was built on trust—Calvin confiding in him some of his most embarrassing sins.

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Review: God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel

Costi Hinn, Zondervan, 2019, 224 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Summary: an autobiography of Benny Hinn’s nephew and how he finally left the prosperity gospel and found Christ.

You want a history of the prosperity gospel (PG) in America? Read Bowler. A theological treatise against the PG movement? Read Strange Fire. But suppose you have a buddy at work with anointing oil in his cubicle and bumper stickers flashing Isaiah 53:5 (“with his wounds we are healed”). He loves TBN. He reads everything Crefloe Dollar and Joyce Meyer put out. He’ll never pick up a hardcover by Justin Peters or Johnny Mac.

This might be the book to give him. Sometimes stories that put you in the moment (“I carried cash–a lot of cash”, p. 57) can be more convincing than assertions. Benny Hinn is perhaps the world’s most well-known prosperity evangelist. Benny grooming his nephew to be his successor, only for Costi to abandon this teaching and move to orthodox Christianity would be like the brother of the infamous atheist Christopher Hitchens coming to faith in Christ. This happened by the way. God has a sense of humor. Continue reading

(10) Family Worship Creates Good Habits

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The tenth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it builds good habits.

Tradition!

Last week we learned the father should always lead in family worship, even if he’s not regularly the primary teacher. This will create family customs worth keeping.

Though the truths from Fiddler on the Roof came from “tradition”, they ultimately come from the Bible. It’s OK if a child says: “This is just they way we do things.” Later he’ll connect it to the Scriptures.

Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of consistent family devotions is that it makes the worship of God normal. It’s not unusual or forced. Parents must raise their children to feel a kind of uneasy grief (but not surprise) when they visit a Christian home where family worship is not present. Continue reading

(9) Family Worship Distinguishes Gender Roles

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The ninth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it distinguishes gender roles.

Why doesn’t mama preach?

A child may ask his father why women shouldn’t preach from the pulpit or pastor a church. He replies: “Because Scripture forbids it” (1Tm. 2:11-12; 1Cor. 14:34). Then he asks why mother or his older sisters sometimes teach the Bible story in family worship. He says: “Because the Bible encourages it” (Titus 2:4).

Family worship vividly applies the many Scriptural passages that speak about the roles of men and women.

The woman’s role in family worship

Scripture encourages women to help teach the family at home. Timothy was taught the Bible from his youth (2Tm. 3:15). These lessons didn’t come from his father, who was an unbeliever (Ac. 16:1), but from his godly mother and grandmother (2Tm. 1:5). The command to “train up a child” in the Scriptures is for both parents (Pr. 22:6).

Though women should not formally teach the Bible to an assembled group of Christian men, they may teach anyone in informal settings. Priscilla sat down with her husband at the kitchen table and helped teach Apollos in Acts 18:26. The woman at the well taught the whole town in John 4:28-30. Even there, however, she wasn’t leading. Women shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions or make comments at Bible studies. The family will see this at home worship. Continue reading

Review: African Christian Theology

Samuel Waje Kunhiyop, Hippo Books, 2012, 250 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Summary: a simplified and abridged theology covering the major themes of systematics and applied to African life today

Samuel Waje Kunhiyop (SWK) wants to be true to Scripture and writes African Christian Theology (ACT) in an effort to take the African situation seriously. This is a thoughtful yet rare contribution to the African church and deserves to be read carefully.

Strengths: (1) ACT interprets theology contextually. Why an African Theology? SWK is correct that “Scripture is always interpreted within a context” (p. xiii). Thus, John MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine written in 21st century America gives significant attention to doctrines like cessationism and gender roles when John Calvin’s Institutes does neither because it was written in 16th century France. SWK scratches where the African itches. He doesn’t waste time on proofs for God’s existence since rare is the African atheist. Continue reading

(8) Family Worship Improves the Nation

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The eighth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it Improves the nation.

You can’t straighten oaks

Individuals compose a nation. Godly individuals make good countrymen. Because family worship helps form godly individuals, it also improves the nation. A tree cannot be straightened 20 years out. So raise your saplings early at home with God’s word.

It infuses character in her citizens

Will a country not benefit when its citizens are learning daily character in the home like promptness, obedience, focus, and empathy. Won’t the streets be safer at night if the young men are at home being shaped by their fathers in prayer and Bible study? If children never learn to obey their fathers, they will struggle to submit to police, bosses and other authorities. Continue reading