Review: A Serrated Edge

Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, 2013, 121 pages, 4 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-4-37-12-pmIs sarcasm, ridicule and scorn a valid weapon of communication for Christians? Erasmus tried it; Luther perfected it. But what about today’s Christian?

Is satire like formal debates: fun to do but not persuasive to the masses? It isn’t the argument people hate but the vehicle in which it is carried. Right? Maybe Erasmus would have changed had Luther not been so cheeky. Why anger your opponent by angering him with mockery?

Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church (Moscow, Idaho), argues satire is a lost art and is both legitimate and good. Jesus used it and so should we—provided we do so skillfully. He writes:

A common argument against the satiric approach is that it is counterproductive; it turns people off. The problem with this argument is that it is simply not true. A certain kind of person is turned off, that is true enough, but another kind of person is attracted to the ministry because of it and flourishes there (loc. 943).

Strengths and Weaknesses Continue reading

Review: The Gospel for Muslims

Thabiti Anyabwile, Moody, 2010, 177 pages, 3 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-10-35-26-pmIt is important to know where each Christian book on Islam fits. A Christian Guide to the Qur’an will help you interpret Islam’s holy book. James White’s books are more scholarly and help you prepare for debates. This paperback by Anyabwile is short, irenic, and personal—the kind of book you could give to your Muslim friend.

For those thinking, “I don’t even know where to start with my coworker Malik”, this book is simple and practical. It is first and foremost evangelistic. He even has a whole chapter on hospitality (“you coffee table should have an abundance of pastries…”). Continue reading

Review: Coming to Grips With Genesis

Mortenson, Ury, eds., Master Books, 2008, 478 pages, 5 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 4.59.09 PMThe book’s best line is actually from Gleason Archer—an old-earther—proving once again that the age of the earth debate is not an exegetical matter.

“From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author…”

Now let’s stop here for a moment. How do you think this sentence will end? Will biblical exegesis follow?  “…This seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago…” Continue reading

Review: Jan Christian Smuts, A Biography

 J.C. Smuts, Heinemann and Cassell, 1952, 568 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 4.04.57 PMJan Smuts’ son clearly portrays the brilliance of his father in this hagiographic biography.

Smuts (1870-1950) was a renaissance man. As soldier, at the age of 31 he was General of the Boers during the Second Boer War and later commanded Allied troops against German East Africa. As statesman he was prime minister of South Africa (his terms separated by 15 years!) and helped found the League of Nations. As author he wrote Holism and Evolution that no doubt colored his view of other-colored people.

During the Boer War in South Africa Smuts would used his rifle to kill Brits by day then rummage through his saddle bag and read his Greek New Testament by night. The British in turn put a monstrous price on his head, forcing upon him numerous narrow escapes. England “won” the war, felt guilty, paid millions of pounds in compensation and ended up giving South Africa an independent republic a few years later.

Smuts was Afrikaans but thought in English. His son paints his father as a moderate, separate from the Afrikaans “bitter-enders” and willing to work with the English. To the dismay of many, he and Botha were behind the 3000-carat Cullinan diamond as a gift to the English king. He was given the US Order of Merit and honorary degrees from 27 universities.

This was book was published in the heyday of apartheid, meaning all modern day politically correct speech is absent. The most alarming chapter was “The Native Problem”, where even back then Smuts said blacks could see “the days of emancipation approaching.” Everyone knew apartheid wouldn’t last.

Contrary to modern thought, Smuts most likely was not a Christian, though he was handy with his Bible and believed Jesus to be a remarkably gifted man. His son wrote of his father: “Whether he believed in God depends on the implications of the question. He certainly did not believe in a supernatural being in the form of a man…but he did believe in some deity” (292).

As a young man Smuts had studied and mastered Darwin and became a convert to his concept of evolution (336). Thus, it shouldn’t surprise us that he said: “The Bushman, like the Australian Aborigine, [is] a freak survival from some primitive age. We have never accorded this small evolutionary enigma an equal status” (305). He believed the facial bones of blacks pointed to Neanderthals.

At other times, however, he spoke positively of blacks, calling them “the only happy human I have come across” (307).

Regarding gun control, there is much alarm among Afrikaners these days. Bravo. But they must remember they were the first ones to initiative such measures. Smuts writes: “We must prohibit non-Europeans from possessing firearms, or the training in their use. Manufacturing industry, wealth and education must be kept in white hands” (306).

In sum, Smuts should be admired for his brilliance and accomplishments, while chastised for his foolish acceptance of Darwinian evolution and the even more foolish system of apartheid that flowed from it.

Review: Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Craig Blomberg, Apollos, 1999, 300 pages, Four of Five Stars

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 2.35.21 PMNeither Poverty Nor Riches is one of the many excellent books in the NSBT series edited by DA Carson. I have gravitated toward Systematic Theology because of champions like Grudem, Berkhof and Reymond.

But I am warming to the Biblical Theology. This method highlights historical context and inductive study by tracing important biblical themes throughout the whole Bible. Blomberg’s task here is to study money and possessions from Genesis to Revelation.

The author begins with two thorough chapters on the OT view of possessions, deftly addressing the major difference in principle between the testaments.

Never was material wealth promised [in the NT] as a guaranteed reward for either spiritual obedience or simple hard work. This omission flows directly from the fact that the people of God are no longer defined as one ethnic group living in one divinely granted piece of geography (242).

Again, he said: “Wealth as a sign of God’s blessing and as a reward for one’s labor, then, are the two major strands of Old Testament teaching that for the most part do not carry over into the New Testament” (83).

Chapters 4-7 are given to the New Testament perspective on money. His belief that the percentage of giving should go up in relation to one’s income was convincing.

Not surprisingly, Blomberg’s analysis on our Lord’s perspective of money is most insightful. His exegesis on fifteen of Jesus’ parables was marvelous. If one does not have time to read the whole book, his closing chapter of conclusions is well worth it.

This book is not without its warts. Blomberg is sympathetic to the free market but doesn’t go far enough. At times he seems to promote some kind of hybrid of capitalism and socialism (26). I disagree when he says no single economic system can be called “biblical”.

Contrast this with Wayne Grudem (Poverty of Nations) and his straight-to-the point opening quote in a lecture on the free market: “There is only one solution to world poverty. It is the only solution that has ever worked and will ever work. This solution is evident from economic history of every wealthy nation of the world today and this solution is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.”

There were a couple other unsightly stinkers. Blomberg suggests that if Southern Baptists want to boycott Disney because of their friendship with homosexuality, they ought to be consistent and boycott Nike as well, who pays Michael Jordan more in one year than its 18,000 employees in Indonesia (251). Not only are the vices hardly on par, but one wonders if Blomberg has forgotten that if Jordan wasn’t paid, neither would the majority of those Indonesian workers.

Elsewhere he’s misleading in saying a man as the primary breadwinner is “completely generic in the Greek” of 1 Timothy 5:8 (208). But just two verses later a godly widow is described as one that brought up her children, obviously making the man the primary provider.

I had to shield my eyes when he suggested world poverty could be eliminated if Western Christians would merely tithe, since foreign aid has never eliminated poverty except for a corrupt few. Overall, this book was one of the best reads of the year.

Review: Theonomy in Christian Ethics

Greg Bahnsen, Covenant Media Press, 2002, 610 pages; 3 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 6.00.36 AMI first heard of Greg Bahnsen in relation to his cult classic debate with atheist Gordon Stein. I’ve listened to that exchange a couple dozen times. When it comes to presuppositionalism, the doctrines of grace, and a high view of God’s Word, he and I are in lock step. Theonomy—the teaching for which he is most known—is another matter.

This work by Bahnsen is probably the most scholarly defense of Theonomy (i.e. Christian reconstructionism), the presumption that there is moral continuity between the New and Old Testaments. It teaches that “the Christian is obligated to keep the whole law of God as a pattern of sanctification and…this law is to be enforced by the civil magistrate where [Scripture stipulates].” (36)

Before getting into the text, John and Paul Feinberg’s brief summary of the four views of the law may help. (1) Theonomists hold a continuity position whereby all the OT applies today. (2) The moderate continuity position believes the OT applies generally but must be adjusted in relation to the NT. (3) The radical discontinuity position believes all law has been abolished and Christians should follow the leading of the Spirit. (4) The moderate discontinuity view believes that while there is great overlap between OT and NT laws, Christ and his teaching ultimately fulfills the law and thus determines which OT laws are valid.

Summary of Bahnsen’s Work

Mathew 5:17-20 is the key text pertaining to Jesus and his view of the law. Bahnsen’s interpretation of this passage is also the title of his second chapter: “The Abiding Validity of the Law in Exhaustive Detail.” That is, Jesus did not come to rescind any of the OT commands but instead came to confirm and restore them (plēroō) in full measure and these laws will not be invalid until the world comes to an end. Bahnsen’s exegesis of this passage is lengthy and vital to his position.

Assuming for now the tripartite division of the law (moral, i.e. The Ten Commandments; civil, i.e. Sabbatical Year; ceremonial, i.e. animal sacrifices) and acknowledging both sides of this debate generally agree that the ceremonial law is no longer binding but the moral law is, this issue really comes down to the civil law. Theonomy argues nations should be ruled by the standards of the Old Testament civil law. When it comes to difficult passages that imply Christians are no longer under the law, Bahnsen maintains the law is being renounced as a means to save, not as an obligation to obey.

Ten Points of Critique

Bahnsen should be commended for his exhaustive study. I agreed with many of his points,  including his chapter on the functions of the law. He was careful in his exegesis and insightful in his applications. Nonetheless, I did not find his arguments convincing. Here are ten reasons. Continue reading

Book Review: Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament

Richard Davidson, Hendrickson (2007), 880 pages, 5 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 4.39.16 PMAmbrose Bierce once criticized a book by saying the covers were too far apart. This book isn’t one of them. Davidson’s 844 pages (140 of them bibliography) were so good, I read it through twice.

With that glowing statement, let me start by giving a few negatives of Davidson’s thorough treatment of every imaginable sexual matter in the Old Testament.

First, the top three cited sources in his massive bibliography are feminists. Second, as you have guessed, he is friendly to egalitarians. He argues there is no inherent hierarchy between the sexes. He does in the end begrudgingly admit hierarchy exists between husband and wife, but only because of the fall. It doesn’t carry over to the church. Davidson uses heavily watered down language and wants to lead us back to the days with no hierarchy (76).

Third, he argues in his brief NT section that “mutual submission” in Eph. 5:21 speaks of equal and joint compliance between a husband and wife. He is correct that Christians should be “submitting to one another”, but Paul explains in the next paragraphs that this means everyone should be submitting to the one above them, not everyone submitting to everyone else in the same way.

But this work is a tour de force. He thoroughly exegetes every OT passage dealing with sexuality. Allow me to condense Davidson’s massive work into 1,800 words of summary on his most lucid conclusions. I’ll sprinkle some thoughts in between.

 Davidson on Homosexuality

First, he distinguishes between homosexual practice and orientation (propensity, inclination, disposition), the former a sin and the latter not discussed since “no Scripture passage addresses this point” (133). He says Scripture contains “no culpability for homosexual orientation per se”, just as it does not for tendencies toward heterosexual lust.

But if Romans 1 is correct and homosexuality is an unnatural sin and heterosexual lust a natural sin, how does a homosexual arrive at unnatural temptations? Accidentally? The passage says it is through a series of previous sinful actions. Furthermore, homosexual practice alone cannot be sin only, for Scripture says to lust in the mind is also transgression (Mt. 5:28).

Continue reading

Book Review: Addictions

Edward Welch, P&R (2001), 320 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 4.26.50 PMVoluntary slavery. This is how Edward Welch defines addiction. His thesis: the root problem of our addictions is not genetic makeup but ultimately a disorder of worship. He centers on addictions like alcohol and drugs but also addresses lying, pornography, overeating, and laziness.

Regarding the last point, my wife once asked our neighbor if she has any hobbies. “Sleeping”, was her reply. This book could help her.

Welch gets the big issue right. Addictions are not the fault of chemical imbalances. The deepest problem is sin, meaning the greatest solution is the gospel. He also shines when digging deeply into the psychological nature of sin, by “psychological” I mean in relation to the mind, not lying on a couch hitting a pillow tagged “Dad”. He is a bit soft on Alcoholics Anonymous but that is quibbling.

Husband, Father, Pastor, Preacher

As father and husband, I was convicted that anger is an addiction (see quote #8 below). As a pastor, I was convicted for not being more approachable. “Ask family members. Are you perceived as humble and patient by those close to you? Are you quick to anger? If so, no one is going to be eager to speak honestly with you” (70).

As a preacher, I need to be more practical in the pulpit. Welsh gives 7 behaviors to spot addicts, 8 ideas for private worship, and 14 ways to remember you are in a battle. P-r-a-c-t-i-c-a-l. He uses every weapon available, be it role-play, homework, or illustrations. Who said Presbyterians aren’t teetotalers? He rails against gateway drugs like cigarettes and alcohol and reminds us that addiction is monolithic. “Everything is alcohol (drug, food, sex) soluble.” Whatever the addiction, it can dilute guilt, alleviate depression, bring pleasure and quiet loss.


  1. Perhaps no other narrative portrays the irrational nature of sin so clearly [than Samson in Judg. 13-16]. With Delilah his lust defied all reason. Over and over she was exposed as a betrayer, yet Samson was intoxicated with her. Although aware of her plotting, his desire still blinded him. (57).
  2. Satan and sin are like wild animals (1Pt. 5:8; Gn. 4:7). There is no subtlety here. No wooing, attractive women. No idol that holds out promises it can’t keep. This is just plain old in-your-face, rip-you-apart warfare. Sin and Satan victimize. They enslave. (60)
  3. Addicts must know that they are being given a gift, and those who are helping addicts must know how to give this gift in a way that reflects its cost and beauty. Beautiful gifts must be presented in the most attractive way possible. Ask the person, “Does what we talk about sound like condemnation, or does it sound like a beautiful gift?” (63)
  4. When an addict is caught, excuses are masterful. They are offered immediately, without hesitation. They are bold, without averted eyes or a hint of “I just got found out.” Inevitably, they will somehow make friends and loved ones feel guilty. (75)
  5. [Use a gentle tongue]. If there is going to be a battle, you want it to be between the person and God, not between the person and yourself. (94)
  6. Being rebuked is not the same thing as being hypocritically judged. (114)
  7. We can quickly identify [evil] temptations by asking ourselves which of our desires prefer to stay in the dark. Which desires do we want to hide from certain people? (230)
  8. Let’s say a husband and father is dominated by anger. When he gives into his rage, he verbally abuses his family and destroys property. Rage is his addiction; he wants it. (241)

Book Review: The Great Gain of Godliness

Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth (1682/2006), 166 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 8.59.36 AMThomas Watson squeezes the orange and yields more heavenly juice from three verses than many a modern preacher.

From Malachi 3:16-18 he writes 168 pages and 16 sermons. This small book would make an excellent Homiletics textbook. A young preacher wonders how he could get forty-five minutes of sermon material from, say, the story of the prodigal son. Here, in an obscure passage, Watson goes phrase by phrase and mines truckloads of truth. The word “then” receives one sermon. “Fear of the Lord” gets five. His lists are endless: four things to consider, nineteen ways it is important to fear God, and two cautions about deceit.

I can imagine a homiletical exercise that asks for a sermon manuscript on Malachi 3:16. When the students return frazzled and empty of sufficient material, tell them to read Watson’s ten sermons on the same verse. It may be to them as scales falling from their eyes.

The Puritans teach us how to use word pictures in illustrating truth. Like an Eskimo his clothing, Watson layers his metaphors. “Profession is often made a cloak to cover sin” is followed by, “the snow covers many a dunghill”, which is followed by Absalom covering his treason with a religious vow (2Sm. 15). “The fear of God swallows up all other fears, as Moses’ rod swallowed up the magicians rods” (33). How to illustrate the need to share the sweetness of what you have read this week? “Samson having found honey did not only eat of it himself, but carried it to his father and mother” (68). Christian unity: “one single coal is apt to die, but many coals put together keep in the heat” (72).

The Great Gain is an excellent counseling manual as well, for it shows how to present Scripture winsomely to the hurting soul.


  1. Almost all court the Gospel Queen when she is hung with jewels. But to own the ways of God when they are decried and maligned, to love a persecuted truth, this evidences a vital principle of goodness. Dead fish swim down stream; living fish swim against it. (6)
  2. Reproaches are but splinters of the cross. (11)
  3. Be not laughed out of your religion. If a lame man laughs at you for walking upright, will you therefore limp? (11)
  4. Fear is as lead to the net, to keep a Christian from floating in presumption, and faith is as cork to the net, to keep him form sinking in despair. (15).
  5. A secure sinner lays in Delilah’s lap, yet hopes to be in Abraham’s bosom. (23)
  6. He who pampers his body and neglects his soul, is like him who feasts his slave and starves his wife. (34)
  7. A Christian should keep two books always beside him; one to write his sins in, that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, that he may be thankful. (108)
  8. God will not stretch the strings of his violin too hard, let they break. If God should strike with one hand, he will support with the other (Sg. 8:3). Either he will make our yoke lighter, or our faith stronger. This promise is honey at the end of the rod. (158)

Book Review: The Devil’s Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce, A Public Domain Book, 144 pages

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 10.11.45 AMHumorist Ambrose Bierce began writing this book of satire at the end of the 19th century. Douglas Wilson is a modern theologian who makes heavy use of satire and argues that Jesus used it often. Satire helps us to take ourselves less seriously.

Flannery O’Conner said: “Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.” Satire also is one of the ways Christians can attack false teaching—or at least blind spots of the guy in the pew next to us.

Keep this in mind as I list a few of my favorite definitions.

  1. Christian, one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.
  2. Exhort, in religious affairs, to put the conscience of another upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.
  3. Hospitality, the virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging.
  4. Logic, the basic of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion—thus: Major Premise: sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man. Minor Premise: One man can dig a posthole in sixty seconds; therefore—Conclusion: sixty men can dig a posthole in one second.
  5. Mouth, in a man, the gateway to the soul; in a woman, the outlet of the heart.
  6. Non-combatant, a dead Quaker
  7. Overwork, a dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go fishing.
  8. Plagiarize, to take the thought or style of another writer whom one has never, never read.
  9. Politeness, the most acceptable hypocrisy.
  10. Positive, mistaken at the top of one’s voice.
  11. Saint, a dead sinner revised and edited.

Book Review: Culture Counts

Roger Scruton, Encounter Books, 2007, 117 pages

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.57.04 AMThis book is a good exercise of “pulling myself up to understanding,” as Mortimer Adler has defined reading, since much of what Scruton says is difficult to understand. I took fifteen minutes to finish some pages. It felt like mental chin ups.

Scruton defines culture as the accumulation of a civilization’s elements that have stood the test of time, though these reach different heights. Civilization, therefore, must constantly choose what it thinks is best, including customs and traditions. If we agree with him here, then we are set up for the politically incorrect conclusion that has been hiding around the corner: all cultures are not equally good.

If a society consistently chooses, for example, that the best way to appease the gods is by sacrificing children to Molech, then that culture is inferior (at least in that particular matter) to other cultures that, say, preserve their children at all costs. And if that same society continues to add checkmarks in the “evil” column, then we should not feel bad at all about saying that culture A is superior to culture B. No one is arguing that inferior cultures have only checkmarks in the wickedness column and that superior cultures only have checkmarks in the virtuous column, just that the when everything is added up, we shouldn’t expect a tie. Scruton gives the reader seven chapters of tools to judge the virtues of culture.

The chapter that struck me most was the fourth: “The Uses of Criticism.” Scruton jumps right into an insightful philosophical analysis of humor. “Comedy is a fundamental ingredient in every serious culture” (45). Humor has value because it unites people and philosophies, for aren’t our closest friends the ones with whom we can laugh about the same things? To agree in our laughter is to agree in our judgments.

My colleague Seth and I laugh about the kiosks in our villages, the materialism of America, the administration of the Zimbabwean government, and the missionaries from Wheaton that double as Abercrombie models because in laughing together we are concluding together.

But laugher should be inward too, meaning we should chuckle at our own American accents. “When you and I laugh together, we reveal to each other that we see the world in the same light, that we understand its shortcomings and find them bearable. We are jointly ‘making light of’ our burdens by vicariously sharing them.”

I doubt you have ever heard a Muslim laugh at his own civilization? Scruton says this is dangerous because the one who cannot laugh at himself lacks “the principal way in which people come to terms with their own imperfection” (48).

Short book, long read, but worth it.

Book Review: Christ’s Prophetic Plans

John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue eds., Moody Press, 2012, 220 pages

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.48.07 AMNo one today has been a greater champion of dispensational (called“futuristic” in the book) premillennialism than John MacArthur. He is also the best example today of one who has preached expositionally through all of the New Testament. Is this a coincidence? Those who agree with his eschatology say no.

Let me try to summarize the book in five points. If you and I were drinking coffee together and you asked me what is so convincing about futuristic premillennialism, I’d give five marks that encapsulate the core of this book.

First is Revelation 20:1-4. The fivefold action (seizing, binding, throwing, shutting, and sealing) of the angel toward Satan in order to forbid him from deceiving the nations has not yet happened, for presently he is the god (Rev. 9:1-3), ruler (1 Jn. 4:4), and lion (1 Pt. 5:8) of this world who snatches away the gospel (Mk. 5:15). The timing of this cannot be at the cross, for whatever was done in v. 2 will be undone in v. 7. John’s usage of “thousand” is literal, as are most of the numbers in Revelation and is happy to use generic terms for time elsewhere (20:2,8). The premill position does not recapitulate but moves chronologically right through the 2nd Coming in Revelation 19.

Second is the nature of election. All agree that the election of angels, Christ, and the church was divine, irrevocable and unconditional. So why is the election Israel not given the same definition?

Third is the nature of Israel. “Israel” is found over two thousand times in Scripture, 77x’s in the NT and always refers to “ethnic” Israel. The only two passages up for debate are Romans 9:6 and Gal. 6:16. At the outset, then, the burden of proof is upon those who define Israel differently. The context of these two passages makes “Israel” to refer to Christian ethnic Jews. The Bible teaches, then, that salvation and restoration of the nation of Israel will be a means of blessing. There is one people of God in the sense that there is salvific unity among all believers through Christ. But this doesn’t mean there is no distinction within that one people (like Israel and the church).

Fourth is church history. Essentially all the church fathers were premill. It began to wane with the rise of Augustine, allegorical hermeneutics and Platonic dualism.

Fifth is the New Testament view of the kingdom and the pre-trib rapture. The disciples still saw the kingdom as literal (Mt. 20:21; Acts 1:6). Jesus promised thrones (Matt. 19:28; Lk. 22:28). Paul too (Rom. 11:1, 25-28). Regarding the harpazō, 1Thessalonians and 1 Cor. 15:51-52 refer to the same event but not the same as Matt. 24-25. The church is not mentioned in Rev. 6-19 and John 14:1-3 parallels 1Thess. 4:13-18.

Book Review: I Write What I Like

Steve Biko, Picador, Africa, 243 pages

UnknownAt age thirty, Steve Biko was killed while in police custody. Before his demise he was known as a political activist and founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. But after his untimely death he became a symbol of heroic defiance against apartheid in South Africa. In his college days he wrote columns in the student journal under the pseudonym “Frank Talk”, which later became this book.

Biko writes intelligently and with conviction. On every page he fights against white supremacy and racism, defined as discrimination by a group against another for the purposes of subjugation. “Black Consciousness” (BC) encouraged blacks to take pride in being black. Even today, T-shirts with the BC slogan are everyone in our village: “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation—being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

There is biblical truth in this. Christians should seek unity with all races, because all Christians—regardless of skin color—will join the same choir one day (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Scripture doesn’t tell blacks or whites to give up their cultural identity in order to appear like another race or people (1Co. 7:18-19).

Let me make two points where Biko’s reasoning is flawed. Economically, I wonder how he can maintain the superiority of tribal land and the inferiority of private ownership and yet talk of “theft”. How can there be “theft” without private property? How can you say “our” land was stolen, if no one owns anything? And how does he determine to whom South Africa belongs? Those who were here at the creation of the world? Those who were here first? If the latter, then South Africa belongs to the Khoisan, whom the dominant Bantu of today’s South Africa displaced long ago. Biko also paints South Africa with utopian strokes, saying before the whites came, “poverty was a foreign concept”. History says otherwise.

Biko’s attempt to use Black Theology to make Scripture relevant to the African is the problem, not the solution. Indeed, the Bible is relevant to Africans! But Biko, instead of pulling out those applications already in the text, removes those items that do not fit the worldview Africans currently possess. This is exactly what the Prosperity Gospel does today, leading Africans to hell by the millions. Biko denies hell and man’s depravity and espouses the inherent goodness of man. He blames the weakening of cultural values on missionaries and calls Christianity “cold and cruel.” As a missionary in South Africa, that struck me as inaccurate.

No missionaries are perfect. If some were racist and refused to teach that all believers, regardless of race, are baptized by one Spirit into one body (1Co. 12:13), let history and Scripture pronounce them in error and sin. But I suspect that the vast majority of missionaries loved the blacks, leaving kin and country to show them Christ’s love, and should be lauded as the instruments God used to bring many of them to Christ.

Book Review: John Adams

David McCullough, Simon and Schuster, 2001, 751 pages

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 8.04.26 AMJohn Adams—America’s second president—is a man to imitate. Brilliant with an inexhaustible love of books (“let no girl, no gun, no cards, no flutes, no violins, no dress, no tobacco, no laziness decoy you from your books”), Adams, the son of a poor farmer, read Cicero in Latin, Plato in Greek, and was fluent in French and Dutch. He helped craft the Constitution and signed the Declaration of Independence. He wrote the Constitution of Massachusetts, the oldest functioning written constitution in the world. His son became the sixth president.

There are a heap of reasons to read this Pulitzer Prize winner. Here’s five.

First, it is important for us as Americans to be well-versed in our nation’s history. McCullough chronicles the birth of the United States from the start of the American Revolution up until America’s 50th anniversary, July 4, 1824—the same day both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Adams should be praised for proposing a government of “laws, and not of men” but rebuked for pushing non-elected, lifetime appointments of Supreme Courts justices.

On one side you have the Federalists of Adams, Hamilton, and Washington who wanted a strong federal government, on the other the Republicans of Monroe and Jefferson who were pro-French and believed that government is best which governs least. We’re given a tour of Robespierre and the French Revolution, Alexander Hamilton, the beheading of Louis XVI, the Louisiana Purchase, Bonaparte, the Reynolds Affair, and the yellow fever epidemics. Continue reading