Review: Hunting Eichmann

Neal Bascomb, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, 390 pages

eichThere will be a day when one of my sons will test the veracity of Numbers 32:23. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” I’ll tell him the story of Hunting Eichmann, a book full of spies and Nazi hunters and kidnappings and justice.

Who’s to blame for the holocaust, for the sixty-four pound bodies, and the 60,000 living skeletons? Whose deeds made General Omar Bradley speechless and caused George Patton to vomit against the wall? Whose atrocities drove Goebbels, his wife and six children to commit suicide? Who plundered Jewish property through terror and torture? Who denied enslaved Jews their rights as human beings? Who promised these same Jewish prisoners that they had nothing to worry about?

Among others, it was Adolf Eichmann. What set him apart was that when most of the notorious Nazis fell into Allied hands within the first weeks of occupation, Eichmann managed to escape. As the head of the Jewish branch of the Gestapo hired to rid Europe of Jews by extermination, he eluded justice for nearly two decades. World War II Germany had fancy titles for wicked deeds just like America does today. We call the organization that helps slaughter millions of innocent children ‘Planned Parenthood.’ They called the concept of annihilating the Jewish race the ‘Final Solution.’ Adolph Eichmann was the German version of Margaret Sanger and Cecile Richards.

Eichmann fled to Argentina and had a family but he was never happy–always looking over his shoulder as he worked a dead-end job. The book centers around the exploits of the Mossad, Israel’s young intelligence agency. They were to capture Eichmann, smuggle him back into Israel, and place him on trial. This they did and the trial was covered around the world. It ended with the first—and to this day only—sentence of death by an Israeli court.

At the commencement of the trial, attorney general Gideon Hausner spoke these poetic lines:

When I stand before you here, Judges of Israel, to lead the Prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger towards him who sits in the dock and cry: ‘I accuse.’ For their ashes are piled up on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka and are strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graces are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voice is not heard. Therefore I will be their spokesman. (337)

This book was much like Unbroken in that—despite the author—the sheer grandeur of the story kept the pages turning. Bascomb does not write with exceptional wit or insight. He was only quotable when quoting someone else. But the story yields several lessons.

  1. Your sin will find you out. For Eichmann, his sin was found by the Jews over fifteen years later. For my daughter, it may be by his mother the next day. For you, it may not be until the last day. “[Jesus] will bring to light those things now hidden in darkness” (1 Cor. 4:5).
  2. Appearance can be deceptive. The man who looked like a postal clerk, someone so average in temperament and appearance, was responsible for the extermination of six million Jews. The personification of evil worked 8-5 and had a family.
  3. Guilt over sin plays tricks. If we allow sin to fester unconfessed, it will play us for a fool. Just captured and head shrouded with a bag, Eichmann confessed in somewhat relief to the secret agents: “I am already resigned to my fate.” Then, “no man can remain vigilant for fifteen years.” But this was not true remorse, for only Jesus can change the heart. Till the very end, Eichmann remained defiant. Claiming innocence, he said: “I have no regrets.”

Review: What is the Mission of the Church?

Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, Crossway, 2011, 283 pages

missionI enjoyed this book. Here’s a whirlwind summary of the ten chapters. (1) The mission of the church is the Great Commission (i.e. making disciples, preaching the gospel). “Mission” is hard to define because it is not a biblical word and it is so broad. Don’t use “ought” for so many kinds of ministries. (2) Several of the most common social justice texts (e.g. Lk. 4:16-21) don’t stand up to scrutiny. The Great Commission is so important because it is a command, the NT has more weight than the OT, it contains Jesus’ final words and it sums up the gospel. “Missions” takes “mission” one step further.

(3) The gospel. (4) Wide and narrow focus on the gospel. (5) An already, not yet, George Ladd-like explanation of the kingdom. (6) A lengthy discussion on the 12 most common social justice passages: Lev. 19:9-18 (love and be generous but oppression doesn’t equal inequality), Year of Jubilee (this was given to a Jewish, agrarian society under the Mosaic covenant), Isaiah 1 (oppression is sinful, not inequality), Isaiah 58 (we should help the poor), Jeremiah 22 (kings should judge fairly and not exploit), Amos 5 (do not excessively tax), Micah 6:8 (don’t steal, bribe or cheat), Matt. 25:31-46 (care for God’s messengers and you’ll be caring for Christ), Luke 10 (don’t love according to race or gender), Luke 16 (don’t love money more than Jesus), 2 Cor. 8-9 (voluntarily be generous with the poor), James 1,2,5 (don’t show favoritism but treat the poor with dignity.

(7) Seven modest proposals on social justice. Help the poor but focus on Christians. A theology of money is complex. “Social justice” is nebulous. The closer the need the greater moral obligation. Capitalism is good. (8) Shalom. (9) There are many good reasons for doing good, such as love, obedience, the gospel and character. (10) The mission of the church is the Great Commission. The worst thing in the world is not poverty, contrary to common belief.

DeYoung is relentlessly biblical—something somewhat unexpected from a young evangelical. If nothing else they successfully hammer home the point that social ministry is secondary because if the church does not plant, nurture and establish new churches, no one else will.

Some of their assertions made me pause and consider and nod and shake. These would be good discussion points around the kitchen table.

  1. Is it true that the “poor in Scripture are usually pious poor”? (175)
  2. Is it true that “we are not told that the Kingdom grows” and that Jesus is not teaching (Mark 4:26-29; 4:30-32) about the growth of the kingdom but that though unimpressive now it will have a glorious end? (133)
  3. Is it true that Christians, regarding God’s good gifts, should “enjoy them the most, need them the least, and give them away most freely”? (179)
  4. Is it true that “supporting AIDS relief in Africa is a wonderful thing to do” (186)
  5. Is it true that “poor nations are not poor because they are less industrious or less capable than workers in the West [but because they live in a corrupt society]”? (189)
  6. Is it true that we must be on guard against the counterfeit gospels of affluence and asceticism? (264).

Review: The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage

Erwin Lutzer, Moody, 2010, 140 pages

lutzerThis book left me feeling short sheeted, as did Israel after putting false hope in the Egyptians (Isa. 28:20). Erwin Lutzer said some good things, as when he laid out the three-step game plan of the homosexual movement: speak of gays loudly, portray gays as victims, and solicit funds from big corporations. His quote of leading gay activists is frightening: “Almost any behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to it enough” (21). I only wondered why they included the word “almost”.

And there were several helpful takeaway points for parents as well. Some of the quotations will move me to teach my children: “My daughter, protect your purity, for not only does the sexual union physically unite, but emotionally unite as well. Mistakes in the back seat lead to mistakes at the altar.”

When the first sexual experience occurs outside the marriage covenant, the sexual bond can be so powerful that it can even determine the direction of the person’s sexual orientation. A boy recruited by an older homosexual may initially hate the experience, but because sex binds two people together, he may begin to feel a sense of security and fulfillment in the relationship. This also explains why a young woman may marry a man with whom she has slept even though he may be abusive. His soul is indelibly imprinted on her mind and heart, and she feels an obligation to become his wife. (64)

“My son, don’t buy the propaganda the world is selling. Gays are not as happy as they seem.”

Thus [in relation to Rom. 1:26-27], a homosexual is actually fighting against his own nature. This could be a part of the reason why homosexuals have a much higher rate of suicide than that of the population as a whole. (71)

“Children, look past the faulty logic when the world tells you Christians don’t have the right to dictate to the government their religious beliefs about who has access to civil marriage.”

That argument denies the church its rightful role as a contributor to and shaper of culture and as a moral compass to society. The church has every right to inform and influence laws and governmental policies. Also, we must ask: “Who is dictating what to whom?” The homosexual movement, with its stringent insistence that all opposition be silenced, has been ‘imposing” its agenda on society with a vengeance. (94)

Overall, Lutzer’s arguments were less than winsome. There were too many stats and surveys and not enough Scripture and verve. Someone has said that the besetting sin of Evangelicals is niceness. This book was nice.

Lutzer implies all sins are the same in God’s sight.

I cannot stress too strongly that we must not view homosexuality as a sin that is divorced from our own sins within the church—adultery, greed, gossip, and pornography. [Quoting Ed Dobson] If the church gets overrun with homosexuals, that will be terrific. They can take their place in the pews right next to the liars, gossips, materialists, and all the rest of us who entertain sin in our lives. (111)

He continues. “This is no time for self-righteous finger-pointing” (16) and “we must lower our voices in this debate, speaking with respect and dignity” (17). This is partly true; all sins grieve our Lord and break his law (James 2:10). But not all sins are the same. Some will be judged more severely on the final day (Mt. 10:15). If we can say that God was more outraged over child sacrifice to Molech than he was toward gossip (Jer. 32:35), why can’t we say God is more outraged over homosexuality than materialism (Rom. 1)? The reason is because we live in an age of equality, meaning all things—even sins—must be created equal.

This has practical ramifications. If we see all sins as equal, we’ll be less likely to fight any sins at all. And we’ll start to speak like Joe Christian who just voted Democrat. “I deserve God’s judgment just like anyone else, so who am I to say anything about homosexuals when I have sins myself.”

There were other lines that creased my eyebrows. “There is nothing wrong with a boy being effeminate” (109). In contrast, Paul said unmanly men will not get their prayers heard (1 Pt. 3:7). He implies that the “such were some of you” line in 1 Corinthians 6:11 does not mean that unbelieving homosexuals will be transformed into believing heterosexuals but instead into chaste homosexuals (90-92), as though leaving the act of homosexuality is the only goal. I wonder if he would agree that even homosexual lusts are sinful as well (Matt. 5:28)?

Review (pt.6): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsSixth Concern: Failure to Distinguish Kinds of Poverty 

“If you are a North American Christian, the reality of our society’s vast wealth presents you with an enormous responsibility, for throughout the Scriptures God’s people are commanded to show compassion to the poor” (13). Does it? Does the Bible talk about “the poor” in monolithic terms, or does it distinguish between the different kinds of poverty? Corbett says regarding 1 John 3:17 that no passage states the vital concern the church must have for the poor as this: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

But surely this command is not as simple as it appears. The verse just prior says that because Christ lovingly laid down his life for us, “we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Should we give our life for our uncle dying of cancer, the suicidal man who is jumping off the bridge, or the Aussie who is on death row? Doesn’t it mean, rather, that should the occasion present itself, Christians must follow Christ’s ultimate example of love by being willing to lay down our lives as well? In the same way, just as there are many occasions when it would actually be sinful to lay down our lives for our brothers, it would also be sinful to give to the poor in an improper way (e.g. he refuses to work, Gal. 6:10).

Moreover, there are a number of other observations in this verse to consider. The verse speaks about “brothers”, not the world in general. The verse specifically forbids deliberately ignoring our brothers who is in legitimate need when we have the means to do so. Yes. Help this poor man. But this is a far cry from a mandate to help single moms in Uganda.

Which brings us to the matter of why this person is poor. The answer determines how we give. If he refuses to work, he shouldn’t even be given food to sustain life (2 Thess. 3:10). Scripture gives many causes of poverty, such as laziness (Prov. 10:4; 20:4, 13; 24:30-34), pride (Prov. 13:18), and an over interest in get-rich-quick schemes (Prov. 12:11). The authors give some attention to this (ch. 4) but ignore many distinctions, choosing rather to speak of poverty without distinction, which the Bible certainly does not do.

Review (pt.5): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsFifth Concern: Short-term Missions

The first time I read the chapter on short-term missions, I really liked it. It encourages pre-planning, thoughtful use of money, and training. But the weaknesses became clearer over time. Here are two:

Critiquing Foreign Cultures

It is a healthy exercise to address not only the strengths in other cultures but also the weaknesses. If we agree that the gospel is not only able to transport our souls to heaven but also change everything about us, including the way we do business, family, education, and work, then we must also acknowledge that some cultures have had a greater influx of gospel intrusion within their culture than others. If the culture of Scotland was not superior to the culture of the cannibals on the New Hebrides when John Paton first landed there, then the gospel doesn’t mean much. Of course the Scottish culture was superior and we mustn’t be afraid to point this out. Christians must temper this with humility, prayer, and Scriptural warrant, but the deed itself is noble.

For example, suppose there is a godly Christian professor from the mountains of India who takes his wife and children to visit the US. As they sit in the JFK airport, they discuss the books they read on the plane and the goals they have for the trip. Then he calls his family’s attention to the American culture around them. “Do you see the families hardly speak to each other? He’s glued to the TV. She’s attached to her device. The 35 year-old over there has been playing video games for an hour. Rotten my children.” Who would fault such a scathing yet accurate critique of our culture? Who would deny this is healthy for his family?

The authors cannot bring themselves to point out the weaknesses in poor, foreign cultures. At one point they observe the different ways people view time. The monochronic view—which could just as easily be called the biblical view—“sees time as a limited and valuable resource.” This would be most Western nations. Where I minister, there is such a thing as “African Time” and anyone who has lived or worked in Africa knows about this.

A pastor from Zambia spoke at our church recently and he said: “What is this I hear about African time? Nonsense! You simply do not value time. You are sitting with your friends chatting when your neighbor calls and asks why you haven’t arrived yet with the shovel and you say, ‘Oh, I’m on the way’ when you know very well you are not on the way.’ African Christians should be ashamed of African time.”

It is common for pastors to give the starting time of church an hour before it starts so that people will arrive on time. But how do the authors define the alternative view: the polychronic view means tasks typically take a backseat to forming and deepening relationships.” Right. Can’t we acknowledge that actions take so long in the third world because time is not valuable? Weekly, I have church members slither into church an hour or two late. I guarantee they were not digging deep into their mother’s family tree. They over slept. They weren’t watching. Time is limitless. That is a weakness and we should call it such. There are weaknesses in every culture, some more than others depending on how aligned that culture is with Scripture. It is not judgmental or racist to point these out.

The purpose of STMs

The authors assume that STM trips will be social in nature and they rarely even mention evangelism or other gospel work. They then say, “[the STM trip] is not about us. It is about them!” (172) If the trip is social in nature, I agree. But what if the primary purpose in taking a one month trip to Senegal is to (1) see if you are compatible with the mission team (2) see if you are deft at picking up the language (3) see if the spiritual needs fit your goals (4) see if you are gifted to minister in that area. All of these goals are self-centered in a sense. Churches should keep a watchful eye on gifted young men and push them to STM trips with these goals in mind.

Review: Delighting in the Trinity

Michael Reeves, IVP, 2012, 135 pages

trinityDelighting in the Trinity gives an introduction to the Christian faith through the lens of the triune God. Michael Reeves draws heavily from church history—with generous quotes from the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Luther, and Calvin. To show the importance of the Trinity, he quotes the Athanasian Creed that says whoever does not hold to the Trinity will “perish everlastingly”. Imagine that being said from the pulpit today.

Reeves is cheeky and witty but not so as to forget the Scriptures. The Christian life could not exist without the triune God, he says, and then gives some examples. Only the triune God (as opposed to Allah) can inherently love, for apart from the Godhead there would be no one for God to love (Jn. 17:24) before the world began. Only the triune God can atone for sinners, for if there were no sinless Son sinners would have to atone for themselves.

The last two chapters were a bit disjointed but this short book succeeded in proving its thesis: “the triune being of God is the vital oxygen of Christian life and joy.” (18)

Excerpts:

  1. The Trinity is not a problem. In looking at the Trinity we are not walking off the map into dangerous and unchartable areas of pointless speculation. Pressing into the Trinity we are doing what in Psalm 27 David said he could do all the days of his life: we are gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. (12)
  2. The Lord God in Isaiah 42 is not a single-person God, desperately hugging himself and refusing to share as he whines: I will not give my glory to another.” Far from hoarding his glory, the Father gives it, freely and fully, to his Son. It is simply that he will give it to no other than his Son. (70)
  3. The Qur’an is a perfect example of a solitary God’s word. Allah is a single-person God who has an eternal word beside him in heaven, the Qur’an. Thus when Allah gives us his Qur’an, he gives us some thing, a deposit of information about himself and how he likes things. However, when the triune God gives us his Word, he gives us his very self, for the Son is the Word of God. (80)
  4. John Owen [was said to have had] as much powder in his hair as would discharge eight cannons. (97)
  5. We cannot choose what we love, but always love what seems desirable to us. Thus we will only change what we love when something proves itself to be more desirable to us than what we already love. I will, then, always love sin and the world until I truly sense that Christ is better. (101)

Review (pt.4): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsFourth Concern: Mis-defining the prosperity gospel

It was painful to see how the authors defined the prosperity gospel. There is no greater deterrent to the gospel in sub-Saharan Africa than the Health and Wealth message. One missionary syllogized it as follows:

  1. Prosperity theology is the most common expression of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Prosperity theology is not Christian.
  3. Therefore, sub-Saharan Africa’s Christianity is actually not biblical Christianity.

The sons of Sceva have reached our continent in the form of Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Fredrick Price, Joel Osteen, and TB Joshua.

I was thrilled, then, when I saw the heading “Repenting of the Health and Wealth Gospel.” Finally, something I’ll agree with. But in the end, the authors define the PG not as the false notion that Jesus came to earth to make us healthy and wealthy, not as the promise to heal us of all our diseases, but rather as the failure of genuine (yet wealthy) believers to trust God in everything (68-70). This, friends, is the prosperity gospel.

Seth Meyers says regarding When Helping Hurts: “This book will not help us to plant churches or evangelize like the believers in Acts, and yet it wants to pretend that the emphasis it places on poverty alleviation is rooted in the NT model of the church. There may be some temporal pain caused by placing the great majority of our resources into church planting in contrast to helping unbelievers out of poverty, but if we believe the NT model is best, then there will be little helping without it.”

Review (pt.3): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsThird Concern: Mis-defining Poverty

The authors apparently see poverty as a disease. On page 56 they ask: “how can we diagnose such a complex disease?” Later on the same page they refer to the “disease of poverty”. They say, “reconciling relationships is the essence of poverty alleviation” (130). Again, the book is filled with schemes and charts and diagrams but surprisingly, very little Scripture.

Just imagine John Paton’s pastor saying this to him before he reached the shore of the New Hebrides, where the cannibals there had cooked and eaten two missionaries several years earlier: “A significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time! This should give us a sense of humility and awe as we enter poor communities, for part of what we see there reflects the very hand of God” (60). Corbett and Fikkert refuse to assert that there may be some people groups that are godless in every sphere of their society. This would imply inequality, which they are against. Were Jewish and Amalekite cultures equal?

Who are the poor? “Every human being is poor in the sense of not experiencing these four relationships in the way God intended.” To say that only some are poor would make them feel bad. So, we’re all poor! (62) Poverty is “broken relationships”. Its not until page 71 that they finally acknowledge that the poor are “those who are economically destitute.”

“If anyone dares suggest to me that the poor are poor because they are less spiritual than the rest of us—which is what the health and wealth gospel teaches—I am quick to rebuke them.” Mr. Corbett, is the poor lazy man in Proverbs 10:4 less spiritual than the wealthy hard worker of character?

The general feeling I got from this book is that people are poor because of outsiders. The problem is without and not within. Now that is partially true. Jesus, the sinless man, was poor. Scripture speaks of poverty as a result of wicked resources and natural disasters. But there is also a wide swath of verses pointing to laziness, poor planning, deception, broken families and a host of other sins as the root of economic poverty. After living nearly a decade within a poor village, my conclusion has been that much of the poverty is due to an unbiblical worldview. Polygamy, sleeping around, and child grants to 16 year olds has pushed the HIV rate in Mbhokota to 50%. My unemployed neighbor got his teeth kicked in last week, but when I went to visit him his wife said he was back at the same bar where it happened. Roads are in disarray as the contractors use half the materials in order to pocket the rest. President Zuma has built himself a multimillion-dollar compound on taxpayer money.

Instead, the authors rebuke churches with “god complexes” that are trying to help.

Review (pt.2): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsSecond Concern: Naivety

I wrote “naïve” in the margin of the book over a dozen times. Because many of the authors’ conclusions were based off observations from short-term mission trips and slanted statistics, many of his comments made me roll my eyes. He said Africa will replace the United States as the center of Christianity in 2025. I live in Africa. They are as one African theologian said, “incurably religious”. But a deeper analysis tells us that the foundation of most churches is rotten to the core due to syncretism and the onslaught of the Prosperity Gospel.

The authors tell us as story of a tall and muscular man crying because the missionaries did not teach him social justice (47). He paints most missionaries in the 20th century as only concerned with people’s souls but not interested in making disciples of all nations, later defined as no classes on business and farming.

Another example of naivety came in the final chapter on Business as Missions (BAM), which represents businessmen businesspeople who want to establish corporations abroad to help the poor. Apparently, BAM “is as old as the New Testament” (216) and “finds its roots in the ministries of Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, who used tent making as a means of supporting their missionary work” (215). The authors give four benefits to BAM and I would like to go through each one.

(1) Gaining access to a closed country. This is a valid reason. When I visited the Comorian Islands, which is just a tiny Lilli pad of lava floating in the Indian Ocean, there is no chance of entering the country as a missionary. Evangelism and churches are illegal. NGOs appear to be the route many missionaries must take to gain access to the most closed countries in the world.

(2) Providing the income needed for a ministry. This reason is surprising since this book is specifically addressed to North Americans. The authors have taken much of the book to show how Americans are the wealthiest people ever to live on planet earth. This indeed is an immense responsibility. We should be sending out church planters by the thousands. But I don’t see how getting an 8-4 job selling vacuums in Honduras is any different from the man who buried his talent in the ground. Weekly I tell my wife how thankful I am for the stateside churches whose generous giving allows us give all of our time to the ministry. According to 1 Corinthians 9, Paul The Tentmaker is the exception and Paul the Church Planter is the rule.

(3) A natural context for relationships. The utopian view is that we manage a hardware shop where people come in to buy a pickaxe and instead sit down for an hour of evangelist and leave with a MacArthur Study Bible. But businessmen know that running a company well takes lots of time and headaches. So Paul said: “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14).

(4) Poverty alleviation. Here, the business is not a cover for the real thing. The business is the real thing—the missionary’s goal is the business itself to help the poor. If a family that moves to Ecuador for the primary purpose of giving employment to the poor are called “missionaries”, then the word has lost its meaning. Moreover, let me give an example of how BAM would need to start in our village. Take a year to get the proper paper work. Spend $7,000 for plane tickets and another few thousands to send your stuff. There are no places to rent in the village, so you’ll need to live outside of town until you can find a place to build a house. This will take a good year. In the mean time, take a couple of years to learn the language, since you won’t get far selling in English. Three years later, in a village of 60% unemployment, you get your hardware and agricultural plantation started. Most of your stock is stolen the first week…and I could go on and on. Would it be easier to do in the big city? Of course, but that is where the jobs are and then you’re not needed. The point: since working in a poor, destitute place is very difficult, put all of your time into gospel-centered work.

Review (pt.1): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsA sober review of When Helping Hurts is important because the book accurately presents how many evangelicals think about poverty. It is published by Moody, recommended by David Platt, and promoted in World Magazine—ministers and ministries for whom we cheer and pray. So a critique of the book is really a critique of the social ministry movement.

The twenty recommendations are telling. Most are CEOs or presidents of colleges or para-church aid organizations. There are only three pastors and no missionaries, though this latter group would be most familiar with working alongside the poor. There are no recommendations from people living among the poor, only from those—including the authors—who are analyzing poverty from a distance. Three-week trips to Uganda don’t count.

My comments here may carry some unusual weight for at least two reasons. First, if modern US statistics are accurate, the salary of my family and I may put us under the poverty line. I do not say this for sympathy; there is not a day in Africa we don’t feel rich. But this point is crucial because one of the arguments the authors’ imply is that rich Americans are to blame for much or the poverty in the world. Since I do not fit in this category, I’m safe from the charge.

Second, I have something Corbett and Fikkert do not possess, something that cannot be bought or obtained in a short time: interaction and ministry among the world’s poor after the novelty of my western-ness and whiteness has worn off. I do not doubt that their conclusions after short-term visits with the poor are sincere and with conviction, but I deny those convictions would be the same had he lived with them for ten years.

I reviewed this book back in 2012 and gave it a positive review. The authors should be commended for devoting an entire chapter to short-term missions (ch. 7), distinguishing between different kinds of poverty relief (p. 104) and acknowledging that not all poverty is created equal (ch. 4). Nonetheless, more experience on the field and a second run through of the book has changed my perspective. I’ll begin a brief series of posts with some concerns.

First Concern: Lack of Scripture

Outside of chapter one, where they explore why Jesus came to earth, the authors reference Scripture only sixteen times in the remaining 180 pages, and only one passage is given any kind of explanation. The chapter on short-term missions didn’t reference a single verse. Money, Possessions, and Eternity this is not, where Randy Alcorn references that many Scriptures on a single page. What is the Mission of the Church? has 48 columns of texts in the Scripture index.

The only passage that is given any kind of extended explanation is Colossians 1:19-20: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Indeed, God in Christ has come to set everything right on earth, but this is his work alone. Paul is not imploring Christians to partner with God by addressing social problems.

Directly before their definition of poverty alleviation, they then inconceivably reference 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul speaks of our “trespasses” (19) and the old things passing away (17) due—on the human level, to preachers persuading people (11) and on the divine level due to the work of Christ on the cross. While Paul makes no mention of material poverty alleviation, the authors make no mention of the cross or sin.

They then quote passages from Isaiah 1 and Isaiah 58 where Judah is essentially on trial for their sins of injustice. The authors write: “translate this into the modern era, and we might say these folks were faithfully going to church each Sunday, attending midweek prayer meeting, going on the annual church retreat, and singing contemporary praise music. But God was disgusted with them, going so far as to call them ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’! Why was God so displeased? Both passages emphasize that God was furious over Israel’s failure to care for the poor and the oppressed.” (40) Is it true this passage is speaking of the faithful church attender who is not actively involved in social ministry? I agree that Christians should hate injustice and love to help the poor, but many of the author’s conclusions are built on the faulty premise that oppression and economic inequality are synonymous. God did not rebuke Israel because poor people existed but because the greedy and corrupt were stealing and taking bribes and profiting from the poor. “Everyone loves a bribe” (v.23).

This is significant because if God wants us to be wise stewards of our money and if we are considering gearing a large portion of our time, effort, and finances toward social ministry and poverty alleviation, then we better know that this is what Scripture has commanded us to do. Helping is filled with bold, yet unproven assertions like that on page 46: “The Bible teaches that the local church must care for the both the spiritual and physical needs of the poor.” They gave far too little Scripture to substantiate such a claim.

Review: Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?

Roland Allen, Eerdmans, 1962, 130 pages

Missionary MethodsRoland Allen was a missionary in China for eight years at the turn of the 20th century. He was a minister in the Anglican Church and was nurtured in the Catholic understanding of churchmanship though—surprisingly—this background does not come out in his writings as one would expect.

Allen observes that St. Paul had immense church planting success in a relatively short time—about ten years. Though most missionaries today have not replicated this level of success, they argue it is because Paul had special advantages like background, calling, and gifts. Allen argues against this. After all, there were others in the NT besides Paul who were also successful. Modern man has several advantages that Paul did not. And even if Paul did have an advantage, it was not so great as to except the modern missionary’s lack of success.

Allen’s thesis could be syllogized as follows. Paul successfully planted many churches in a short amount of time. Missionaries today do not. Therefore, missionaries today must not be following Paul’s example. Or, in Allen’s words, “I propose in this book to attempt to set forth the methods which [St. Paul] used to produce this amazing result.” (7)

It will not be long until an angry choir rails with shouts of “yeah but”. In fact, the majority of Allen’s book is an answer to all of the “yeah buts”. He anticipates the arguments that point out certain advantages Paul had which missionaries today do not.

The format of Allen’s book is simple and I shall try to do the same. He rebuts 10 apparent advantages, offers three conclusions, and closes with several applications. Below I will summarize Allen’s perspective on five of the apparent advantages and applications and insert my thoughts below each one.

  1. Strategic Points: “Was Paul’s success due to the strategic places he went?”

No. Paul was not deliberate and didn’t even plan his journeys ahead of time. The Spirit led and forbid him. He went to provinces that were Roman (and thus had protection), Greek (and thus had no language barrier) and Jewish (and thus had a familiarity with their religion and culture). His strategy was to assail the centers of world commerce.

These are major advantages afforded to Paul that led to his immediate success. Unlike Paul, most missionaries go to places where they have to learn a new language from ground zero. Unlike Paul, John Paton and Jim Elliot and thousands of others do not have political protection by birth. Unlike Paul, modern missionaries enter a completely foreign culture and religious worldview. Thus, Paul had advantages in the four major obstacles missionaries face: language, culture, religion, and government.

  1. Audience: “Was Paul’s success due to a special kind of audience or class of people?”

No. It is true that Paul always started by preaching to the Jews in synagogues. But after he was rejected, he went to the Gentiles, most often of the lower class. Therefore, we can’t excuse our poor results because Paul had a synagogue or special group.

To minister in a culture where a location is set aside in every town for the public reading and discussion of the Law is a tremendous advantage. Paul shared the same background and esteem for the law. Hebrew and Greek had vocabulary that could carry the heaviest of theological terms. Jewish roots were in a book. I minister in Tsonga, a culture rooted in oral tradition. The language does not have words for adoption, redemption, and propitiation. There is no way to say “justifier”. There is one word for want and need; for leg and foot. Continue reading

Review: The Essential Guide to Speaking in Tongues

Ron Phillips, Charisma House, 2011, 129 pages

TonguesOn the declining scale of literature, there are good books, there are bad books, and then there is The Selective Writings of Schleiermacher. Speaking in Tongues may not have reached that level of schlock, but its certainly on the same podium.

Were all of Phillips’ errors addressed, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (Jn. 21:25), but I shall spar with a few. Here are six weaknesses of the book. First, Phillips ignores the gospel. He asks the question: “How does one receive the Spirit?” (10), then fails to give the way of salvation. Nowhere do we find the message of sin, judgment, and the sacrificial death of Jesus. This is standard procedure among the prosperity crowd.

Second, he admits that God decides who gets which gift (12), but later says speaking in tongues “is a sign that accompanies not simply apostles but also those who are people of faith” (27). So does everyone have the gift to speak in tongues or not? He often implies everyone should speak in tongues.

Third, he often asserts with no proof. He avers that the “spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19 includes singing in tongues, but never shows why. And since this singing is for the purpose of “addressing one another”, wouldn’t that mean an interpreter would be needed? And how could this be done with multiple tongues at the same time? Again, he says that all “prayer in the Spirit” includes tongues, but again, never proves this.

Fourth, he overemphasizes the disputed ending in Mark. Most conservative scholars believe that chapter 16 ends with verse 8, a significant point because the text after this verse is where Phillips draws many of his arguments (most of chapter 4). He points to v. 17 and says: “Let me say unequivocally that Jesus endorsed and prophesied about speaking in tongues” (21).

Fifth, he discounts the evidence of history. “There is not a single shred of evidence in Scripture or history in support of [the cessation of tongues after the apostles” (29). Not a shred? That none of the church fathers, Reformers, and great 18th century evangelists spoke in tongues is insufficient evidence for Phillips. Besides giving only one citation in his entire historical survey (brotherMel.com), he presents the heretical Montanists, the schismatic Donatists, and the Red River Revival as historical evidence for tongue speaking.

Sixth, he misrepresents the cessationist position. In opposition to John MacArthur’s assertion that the three seasons of miracles in Scripture were during Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha, and Christ/the apostles, he points to other “miracles” in other epochs such as the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But Cessationists do not define a miracle proper as anything supernatural; in this case, every time a person is converted is a miracle. Rather, we define a miracle narrowly as the supernatural done by the hand of a human being.

Finally, in his tenth chapter on tongues and order, he almost completely ignores the four guidelines for tongue in 1 Corinthians 14: at the most two or three total (27), one at a time (27), use an interpreter (27), and no women (34). While he did briefly address the matter of women speaking in tongues, I would argue that the even if tongues do exist today, I have never been to a church that advocates tongues that follows these four indisputable guidelines.

Review: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Thomas Brooks, Banner of Truth, 1652, 253 pages

Brooks’ greatest strength is his ability to support his arguments with texts from every corner of Scripture. He shows it is no disparagement to seek reconciliation first because Abraham the elder did so with Lot the younger in Genesis 13. To prove that self-seekers are self-destroyers, he points to prideful men like Judas, Absalom, Saul and Pharaoh who killed themselves. To demonstrate that the smallest sins bring the greatest punishment, he references the eating of the apple, the touching of the ark, and the picking up of sticks on the Sabbath. These men knew their Bibles indeed.

Another strength, as in all Puritan books, is the large number of lists. This allows the busy reader to maximize the 15 minutes he has by following a complete thought on, say, the importance of keeping a great distance from sin.

A giant in metaphor Brooks in not, but his assault upon Satan’s devices is peerless.

Review: The Doctrine of Repentance

Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth, 1668, 128 pages

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Thomas Watson is my favorite Puritan because of his unrivaled usage of metaphor. “Your Best Life Now” just isn’t winsome after reading “the sword of God’s justice lies quiet in the scabbard till sin draws it out” (49) or “there is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears” (63). The pastor who dwells with such men is bound to preach like them.

This book is great for its endless lists: the six ingredients of repentance, the six qualifications of godly sorrow, the nine ways sin brings shame, the ten impediments to repentance, the sixteen motives to excite repentance. It is also holistic in scope–when is the last time you heard a preach urge you to “repent of…your non-improvement of talents” (71)? Like tuxedos and Converse All-Stars, Puritan sermons are timeless. I could preach through this book to my rural African congregation and they wouldn’t be lost or lethargic.

This is because the Puritans placed all of their sermons on accessible pedestals. Pedestals in that everyone could see and understand them. Grannies can comprehend propositions like “It is not falling into water that drowns, but lying it” or “turning from sin is like pulling the arrow out of the wound; turning to God is like pouring in the balm.” Their sermons are accessible in that they are on matters to which everyone can relate. For example, his fifth ingredient of repentance is the hatred of sin. “Christ is never loved till sin be loathed” (45). Then he argues that if there is a real hatred, we must not oppose sin in ourselves only but in others as well. Then he gives five passages to prove this. Who cannot relate with that?

Review: Turning to God

David Wells, Baker, 2012, 192 pages

TurningThis is a book about conversion—turning to God. Wells recognizes that because people have so many different backgrounds and Scripture uses a host of different terminology, there are a myriad of ways conversion can be expressed. So we shouldn’t necessarily panic if the testimonies of Margaret Jones and Mzukisi Quobo sound very different because while conversion stories differ not in what Christ has done they do differ in how a person turned to him.

In chapter one he tracks down the meaning of epistrepho (conversion), metanoeo (repent), and pisteuo (believe), then uses the rest of the book to distinguish between insider (much Christian knowledge before coming to Christ) and outsider (little Christian knowledge). For the former, the gospel is the last piece needed for the puzzle. The latter needs a fresh start.

There were a few areas of concern. At times Wells seemed to sympathize with paedobaptism, though elsewhere he says: “There are no people whom we can predict will be believers.” But isn’t this exactly what paedobaptists believe? Doesn’t it symbolize probable future regeneration? Another point giving pause was his answer to the question: “Are certain people (based on environment, personality etc.) more susceptible to conversion than others?” Wells says no way, and uses a little Scripture (the stories of Jews and pagans believing) and lots of psychology to prove this. This seems to be at odds with 1 Corinthians 7:14, where the believing spouse makes the other unbelieving family members “holy”. Their chances of conversion are greater within the marriage than without. Moreover, don’t those in Winston Salem have a greater chance than those in Dubai? The matter of personality types in relation to conversion is more difficult to answer. I wish he had taken this further.

Overall, however, there is much to like. Wells defines his terms well. “If [your conversion testimonies] do not involve turning from sin to God, on the basis of Christ’s atoning blood and by means of the Holy Spirit’s work, they cannot be called Christian” (13). Again, everyone must “see Christ as their sin-bearer, must repent of their sin, and must in faith entrust themselves for time and eternity to him” (24). He also attacks “decisions” emphasized in revivalistic churches and says pushing children for such decisions “even if this is done with the best of motives” is not the best” (68).

Review: Withhold Not Correction

Bruce Ray, P & R, 1978, 144 pages

WithholdLuther said that sin is like a man’s beard. You can shave it today, but it will be back again tomorrow. Parenting is tough because the sinful tendencies of our children are always before us. Ray authors a helpful little book on parenting that I would recommend. Here I’d like to devote a little time to three of his issues.

The first point relates to how parents should address the matter of grounding. Ray says that teens are not exceptions to spankings and shouldn’t be grounded because grounding is (1) impossible to enforce and (2) allows sinful tension to remain. While its possible for parents to handle grounding poorly, I don’t see why it has to be this way. If 12 year-old Jeff steals $10 from his mother’s purse, why couldn’t a wise parent say: “You sinned by stealing and deceiving. I accept your apology and will not bring it up again, but you’ll not be going to the basketball game tonight”? And I would generally be opposed to spanking teenagers. Parents discipline for the purpose of teaching their children. For small children, pain on the rump usually gets the point across. But if I’m training my boys to be strapping young men—“plants full grown up in their youth” (Ps. 144:12), then a childish whipping that stings a few seconds won’t mean much.

Continue reading

Review: Strengthening Your Marriage

Wayne Mack, P & R, 2nd ed. 1999

StrengtheningThis was originally a doctrinal thesis at Westminster back in 1977. The book is unusual because Mack writes in outline form but he covers the standard topics helpful for premarital counseling such as the husband and wife’s responsibilities, good communication, finances, sex, and raising children. In this volume there is nothing avant-garde seeking to capture the zeitgeist of the Millennials. Mack is a Reformed complementarian.

This is the first book I go to for pre-marital counseling because of the questions at the end of each chapter. The questions are loaded with Scripture, thoughtful (“list some ways you can correct your husband without being bossy”), and thorough (the chapter on children is 35 pages, 15 of which are questions).

Some highlights of the book were his sections on what it means to leave your parents (2-3), ways to determine if your wife has first place (45), practical suggestions for good marital communication (73-74), and the twenty-two questions on financial agreement (115-117). The final chapter on family religion is weak.

It would be difficult for couples who want to read a marriage book together to find a marital guide with more Scripture than Mack’s Strengthening Marriage.

Review: Deep Preaching

J. Kent Edwards, B & H, 2009, 211 pages

Deep PreachingA few years back I read Unbroken, and while it was an exciting story, none of the author’s lines were memorable—way too many yawners. Deep Preaching is the opposite: Edwards really knows how to turn a phrase. His thesis is that sermons gain their greatest depth through “closet work”: prayer, meditation, fasting, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. “Deep sermons cannot be preached by shallow people. Profound sermons only come from people who enjoy a profound relationship with God” (43).

Run Through

Preaching today is more difficult because of people’s higher expectations and the information overload (ch.1). We know that preaching is really important from Scripture (3) and history (4, like Calvin preaching 170 sermons per year—two on Sunday plus every day at 6 a.m. on alternative weeks). Preaching should be expositional (he gives seven reasons to preach through books) and aimed at one big idea (5; per Jowett: “[no] sermon ought to be preached or even written, until that sentence has emerged clear as a cloudless moon”). The secret to deep preaching is the Spirit’s aid in sermon prep (6). There are harmful implications if the preacher doesn’t fast (7). He demonstrates why preachers avoid the closet (people are fearful because they hate solitude and love multi-tasking) and closes by giving lots of questions and methods to use (8-9). He drives the point in every page that sermon preparation should not be rushed. Deep preaching means long meditation, fervent prayer, and intense study.

But…

The book certainly had some silly-isms. Edwards footnotes all the biblical texts, references ad nauseum pop culture, and inserts some cartoons captions that doesn’t exactly help his thesis of ‘deep preaching’. He lost me on page 178, suggesting we should do anything to communicate effectively (no matter how embarrassing or humiliating), such as giving church members free gift cards to Starbucks and emulating Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.

Continue reading

Preaching Pure and Simple Review: A Drive-Thru for Preachers

41V1EXKYYJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Someone once said he’d prefer Uriah drunk to David sober. If Stuart Olyott was asked, I’m sure he’d prefer an engaging sermonette to a boring sermon. Preaching Pure and Simple is written in Olyott’s usual easy-to-understand style. He emphasizes exegetical accuracy (ch. 1), doctrinal substance (2) and clear structure. The best chapter was on supernatural authority, where the author argues that while unction is sovereignly given, it is often obtained by holy preachers who ask for it.

Points of Departure: Ollyot argues that if I do not preach Christ in a sermon, not only have I not preached, but I shouldn’t preach (24). But he didn’t convince me that, for example, if I implore teens from Proverbs 5 on the dangers of adultery and the beauty of marriage but do not point to Christ that I have not preached.

He says the meaning of Genesis 24 is not that God the Father brings a bride home for his Son, but it can be illustrated that way. He seems to makes too big of a distinction between meaning and illustration. Later he says that a good sermon length is 30 minutes, then for some reason tries to substantiation his point by quoting liberal womanizer/preacher H.W. Beecher.

Finally he says, “the minimum you are likely to get down to [in sermon prep] is one hour of preparation for every five minutes preached.” So if I preach three 45-minute sermons per week, I must carve out a minimum of 27 hours of sermon prep time? How are the majority of Third-World pastors who work other jobs not to be discouraged by this?

Quotables

  • Millions of believers limp along in spiritual weakness because they have never understood that it is impossible to make any real spiritual progress without being members of a gospel church (71).
  • We should stop laughing about preachers who have three divisions. Three-point sermons have been a very good teaching tool through the centuries (84).
  • Sharpen the arrow! Carefully prepare your sermon’s conclusion! Write down precisely what you want to leave ringing in people’s ears (88).
  • What people see, they remember (97).
  • Spoken English is simple when (1) we make one point per sentence (2) most of our sentences are about ten words long (3) 90 percent of our words are of one or two syllables (133).
  • Quoting Cicero: The secret of rhetoric is…the pause (137).
  • Dress as a man who has something important to say (140).
  • A man with a message speaks with his whole body, and not just his head and shoulders. The time has come to give the traditional pulpit an honorable burial (142).

Conclusion: this book is like a drive through at a steak joint: Short and quick, but solid and healthy. This is an excellent primer for preacher upstarts.

Crazy Busy Review: The One Thing You Must Do

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.50.40 PMThe strength of this book is all the things it leaves out (how-to tips) and the one thing it says we must do (more on that later).

Kevin DeYoung is clear, humorous, self-effacing, honest and transparent. He seems like an intelligent, normal guy. Writing as a pastor, he deals with the spiritual dangers of busyness. He is not writing a how-to manual.

Why write a book on busyness? Hasn’t every generation been tempted with overwork and stress? DeYoung argues that our modernized, urbanized, globalized world has two elements that the rest of human history could not fathom: complexity and opportunity. Even the ability to stay up past sundown is relatively new. “The result, then, is simple but true: because we can do so much, we do do so much.”

His outline is simple: three dangers to avoid (2), seven diagnoses to consider (3-9), and one thing you must do (10). Here are some ways this book can help you.

1. For Christians:

Let’s face it: people feel sorry for us when we’re busy. If we get our lives under control, we don’t seem nearly so impressive and people won’t ooh and aah over our burdens. Many of us feel proud to be so busy, and we enjoy the sympathy we receive for enduring such heroic responsibilities.

2. For Wives and Moms:

Too often hospitality is a nerve-wracking experience for hosts and guests alike. Instead of setting our guests at ease, we set them on edge by telling them how bad the food will be, and what a mess the house is, and how sorry we are for the kids’ behavior. We get worked up and crazy busy in all the wrong ways because we are more concerned about looking good than with doing good. So instead of our encouraging those we host, they feel compelled to encourage us with constant reassurances that everything is just fine. Christ hospitality has much more to do with good relationships than with good food.

3. For Pastors:

Along with some of the advice I’ve gotten about pastoral ministry: make sure you do a few hours of counseling a week…working to develop leaders…doing one-on-one discipleship…do a few hours of evangelism…reserve a half day for reading…spending time in Greek and Hebrew. Who is sufficient for these things?

Solution: “We have to be okay with other Christians doing certain things better and more often than we do.” Here is where John Frame’s arguments freed me from ministry guilt. Just because God has give us commands doesn’t mean He has given us unlimited time. He understands our finitude. He expects us to know our calling, embrace our strengths, and prioritize His commands.

4. For Parents: Kids gave their parents high grades for making them feel important and attending events but very low on controlling their tempers. Children are suffering from “second hand stress.” The way to have a better life and a bigger family is by doing less. What is interesting here is that DeYoung (a PCA pastor) acknowledges the common plight of Christians with unbelieving and wayward children, a different perspective taken by another Presbyterian pastor I addressed yesterday.

5. For Family:

We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about.

That is, we buy the lie of the digital era that we can be omini-competent and omni-informed. But we must choose our absence, inability and ignorance wisely and only then will we be free.

DeYoung offers nothing profound, just a lot of common sense. He doesn’t try to give us a list of ways to make our lives less crowded, just one goal that crazy busy people should have: make it your resolute goal to spend time every day in the Word of God and prayer. With this in place, our diet, entertainment, sleep and priorities would more easily fall in place and the world would become less crazy busy.

Swiss Family Robinson Review: 20 Lessons for Fathers

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 9.11.43 PMI’ve watched the Disney version of this book enough times to quote it by heart. It’s a good flick, but very different from the classic novel by Johann Wyss. Disney captures some of the family’s ingenuity and hard work, but ignores their fervent faith in God, strong family bond, and the father’s central role in every sphere of life. The movie is a sea, the book an ocean.

Fathers should read this book with their sons. Here are 20 lessons for dads:

  1. Give honest, insightful evaluations of your children. “Ernest, twelve years of age, well-informed and rational, but somewhat selfish and indolent” (8).
  2. Lead your family in worship. “Our first care, when we stepped in safety on land, was to kneel down and thank God, to whom we owed our lives” (9)
  3. Teach them to respect animals. “I was grieved at [Jack rashly killing a lobster], and recommended him never to act in a moment of anger, showing him that he was unjust in being so revengeful” (10).
  4. Rebuke them for uncontrolled anger. “Anger leads to every crime. Remember Cain, who killed his brother in a fit of passion” (13).
  5. Admonish them not to jest of sacred things. “I proposed before we departed, to have prayers, and my thoughtless Jack began to imitate the sound of church-bells—‘Ding, dong! To prayers! To prayers! Ding, dong!’ I was really angry, and reproved him severely for jesting about sacred things” (16).
  6. Bestow biblical wisdom. [After the boys resist looking for those who had abandoned them]: “We must not return evil for evil” (17).
  7. Expect more from the eldest. “I gave [Fritz] a hint of his duty in the position of elder son” (32).
  8. Reward character. “Fritz displayed a little jealousy, but soon surmounted it by an exertion of nobler feelings; and only the keen eye of a father could have discovered it. ‘I promise [you can accompany me next trip] as a reward for the conquest you have achieved over your jealousy of your brother” (66).
  9. Give them responsibility. [When everyone clamors for the turtle Fritz killed] “I said it belonged to Fritz, by right of conquest, and he must dispose of it as he thought best” (70).
  10. Disdain laziness. [After the family woke up late] “I gave my boys a short admonition for their sloth” (72).
  11. Challenge your sons to do hard things. “I gave my sons a charge to rise early next morning, as we had an important business on hand; and curiosity roused them all in very good time” (74).
  12. Protect them from danger. “I forbade them to taste any unknown fruit, and they promised to obey me” (75).
  13. Praise them for moral victories. “He was compelled to lower his pride a little… though I gave him much credit for his coolness and resolution” (98).
  14. Aim to please your wife. “My wife, all life and animation, explained to me all the machines I must make, to enable her to spin and weave… her eyes sparkled with delight as she spoke, and I promised her all she asked” (113).
  15. Organize the day. “I set out without breakfast, without giving my sons their tasks, or making any arrangements for the labors of the day” (139).
  16. Carry the emotional weight. “My wife soon was in a sweet slumber; the boys followed her example, and I was left alone with my anxieties; happy, however, to see them at rest after such an evening of agitation” (150).
  17. Listen to your kids. [After the kids beg to repair mothers garden first] “I embraced by dear boy, and promised him this should be our first work. A child of twelve years old gave me an example of resignation and courage” (164).
  18. Surprise mom a lot! “They requested me not to tell my wife, that they might give her an agreeable surprise” (161).
  19. Persuade your wife in private. “When we were alone, I seriously besought my wife not to oppose any occupations our children might plan” (193).
  20. Protect mother from undue worry. “I forbade my sons to mention this [dangerous] event, or our suspicions, to their mother, as I knew it would rob her of all peace of mind” (207).

Resisting Gossip Review: Lots of Juicy Lists

Mitchell_GossipI knew from the front and back covers of Resisting Gossip that I would like this book. On the first page Ken Sande, author of the life-changing book The Peacemaker, gave the recommendation. On the last page I learned Matt Mitchell graduated with a degree in biblical counseling from Westminster, todays bastion of the biblical counseling.

Overview

Mitchell’s definition of gossip (“sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart”) has three elements: content (“Seth is rude”), location (Seth is not around), and motivation (I’m not trying to aid Seth). This was helpful definition.

In case we memorized Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22 in the KJV, Mitchell wants to clarify: “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body (ESV).” This is quite different from the AV, which says “wounds” instead of tasty treats. “Wounds” makes sense (gossip hurts ), but the Hebrew root probably points to chocolate fudge that is difficult to resist—just like gossip.

He introduces five kinds of gossipers: the spy (loves to find dirt on people), the grumbler (loves to criticize), the backstabber (loves revenge), the chameleon (loves to fit in with the crowd),and the busybody (loves to gossip for titillation). I wasn’t sure into which category I fit but regardless, a key point is that we should assume the best, not the worst in another’s motives unless the facts are incontrovertible. He excels at giving the reader loads of lists and Scripture passages

I Liked… 

  1. That he gave us several options in dealing with gossip, like saying nothing at all, commending the commendable, and avoiding the topic (not necessarily the person).
  2. That sometimes apologizing to the person we gossiped about could make the relationship worse. Often its best if we apologize just to the person we gossiped to.
  3. That technology makes gossip a greater temptation (he should know: he subscribes to 357 blogs!).
  4. That discernment and weighing is necessary, not just cutting the conversation off:

Some Bible teachers and authors give the impression that whenever gossip starts to flow, the only proper response is a hand-raised, palm-outward sanctimonious announcement: ‘Stop! This conversation is not gossip, and I will not be party to it,’ as if we, as Christians, are called to be the gossip police.

 But This is What I Don’t Get…

Why didn’t he point out that the sin of gossip (as seen in both men and women) is a greater temptation and sin for females? If women balk at this line, why is it that everyone accepts lust and a bad temper to be sins most prevalent in men, but we cannot point to sins more common in women? Mitchell observes:

Women get blamed for being gossips more than men do because they are more relational by nature and more interested in the things that make up stereotypical gossip. Gossip, though, is a gender-equal sin.

Are dirty magazines a gender-equal sin? Over-work? Rape? Are there any sins on which women have a monopoly? If so, what are they if gossip isn’t among them?

Conclusion: Kudos to Mitchell for using so many Scriptures to tackle what Jerry Bridges calls a “respectable sin”.