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  • The 20 Most Helpful Books I’ve Ever Read

    Top 20 Most Helpful Books

     

    It has been said that you will be in a year who you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. If this be true, then what we read is of first importance.

    The following list contains the ten most helpful books I’ve ever read. They may not be the best, the most technical, or the most scholarly, but each of these books I found to be the most HELPFUL at where I was at that particular point in time. This list is in no way comprehensive and contains only non-canonical books.

    Desiring God by John PiperChristian Hedonism – If the term Christian hedonism doesn’t mean anything to you, then you need to read this book. Aside from the Scripture, no single book has had a more profound impact on my life. Desiring God was my front door to the reformed tradition. Desiring God was my back door to the Dispensational-Fundamentalist morass of my childhood. The idea that my pursuit of pleasure and my faith were not at odds radically and fundamentally changed how I saw every aspect of the world, from the loftiest matters to the most mundane minutiae.

    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey – Worldview – Hands down the most clear summary of both the Christian worldview and the history of philosophy. Nancy’s writing is a brilliant, clear, and winsome.

    Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray – The Atonement – Murray gives a crystal clear, text-driven, thorough, and eminently faithful play-by-play of what Jesus actually accomplished in the cross and resurrection and the precise mechanics of how that work actually gets applied to His church.

    No Place for Truth by David Wells – Evangelicalism – Wells gives a clear and excellent history of evangelicals and examines some of our weaknesses as a group.

    Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington – Foreign Policy – Huntington’s thesis is that the world is broken down into 9 different civilizations that each have a different main worldview/religion and that wars are most likely to occur where several civilizations come in close contact with each other – due to the friction created by mutually exclusive ideas. Huntington’s work has proved to be a solid predictor over the last 20 years.

    The Road to Serfdom by F. A. HayekEconomics and Capitalism – If you are tired of the same old Keynesian, too big to fail, and central-planning type ideas, then Hayek’s book should come as a welcome counterpoint. Hayek presents a winsome defense of supply-side economics and capitalism.

    Let the Nations Be Glad by John PiperMissions – Piper single-handedly and radically changed how I viewed other cultures, God’s heart for the nations, and our strategic obligation as the church. A notable honorable mention would be Operation World by Jason Mandryk which provides the most helpful prayer guide for the various peoples of the world.

    Church History in Plain Language by Bruce ShelleyChurch History – Now in it’s fourth edition, Shelley has written a classic, readable, and simple, yet thorough, book on church history for everyone.

    Holiness by J. C. RyleDevotional – I’ve never read a devotional book that was so challenging to the idols of my heart. An honorable mention would be The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer which had a similar impact as Holiness at a very critical time in my life.

    Tactics by Greg KouklEvangelism – Koukl presents a very practical and helpful approach to having conversations about Jesus with the people already in your life.

    When Helping Hurts by Corbett and FikkertPoverty – Corbett and Fikkert present a more Biblical and holistic approach to poverty that avoids the over-simplistic models presented by the current political polarities. Poverty is much more than a lack of resources, a lack of education, or lack of anything – poverty is about relationships that are broken and don’t work.

    The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert ColemanDiscipleship – Coleman simply examines Jesus’ method for discipling his followers. The book is very helpful in giving categories with which to think about the disciple-making process. Justin Taylor has a solid review of the book here.

    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John FrameTheory of Knowledge – Before you build a worldview it would be wise to understand how to lay a foundation, frame out the house, and lay the trusses. How you arrive at “knowledge” will largely determine what “knowledge” you affirm. Frame provides very helpful categories with which we might arrive at more responsible, true, and balanced beliefs.

    Baptism and Fullness – John StottHoly Spirit – Stott examines what the Scripture has to say about the Holy Spirit and in the process helps untangle a lot of untrue and dangerous views on the Holy Spirit.

    Social and Cultural Dynamics – Pitirim SorokinSociology – I am constantly amazed at how few people, scholars included, have read this book or even know who of Pitirim Sorokin. He was a Russian thinker who founded Harvard’s sociology department. No one has more thoroughly studied the historical sociology of Western civilization. In it he outlines the pendulum swings of Western civilization back and forth from periods of idea-driven culture to sensate-driven culture.

    Adopted for Life by Russell MooreAdoption – Moore’s book kind of defies categories in many ways. It was as helpful devotionally as it was helpful in either developing a theology of spiritual adoption or legal adoption. The book expanded how I saw myself in relationship to God as Father and the priority of adoption for local churches.

    Culture Making – Andy CrouchChurch and Culture – There are quite a few good books on the subject of Christ and culture and none of them are without their weaknesses. Crouch presents a fairly even-handed model for the church’s engagement with the world. Some other helpful works are Abraham Kuyper’s, Lectures on Calvinism and James Davison Hunter’s, To Change the World.

    The Freedom of the Will – Jonathan EdwardsGod’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility – This is the most difficult book to read on this list but it is the most helpful if you can slog it through. Most other books on this subject (J. I. Packer’s included) falls deeply into over-simplified understandings of the mechanics of how God orchestrates all things yet in a manner than that doesn’t assail the will or take us off the hook for our actions.

    Pensees by Blaise PascalApologetics – This is another book that defies categories as it is equal parts apologetics, cultural analysis, philosophy, and devotional. The nice thing about the Pensees (French for “thoughts”) is that it isn’t a book you read from cover to cover. It is more a book that you read one paragraph at a time and then chew on that for awhile. I recommend reading it over a couple years versus a couple weeks.

    The M’Cheyne Bible Reading PlanOne Year Bible Reading Plan – For the majority of my Christian life I have used the M’Cheyne reading plan to read the OT once and the NT twice in the year. If you’ve never read the whole Bible before or never read it through in one year, I highly recommend this method.

    There are quite a few categories that didn’t get covered here that are worth noting so I am listing for your benefit a few “Top 10” lists that I’ve written in the past:

    Top 10 Books by John Piper

    Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

    Top 10 Books on Missions, Evangelism, and Discipleship

    Top 10 Books on Church History

    Top 10 Books on Eschatology

    Top 10 Books on Culture

    Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

    Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

    Top 10 Books on The Church

    Top 10 Books on Apologetics

    Top 10 Books on Systematic Theology

    Top 10 Books on Christian Devotion

    Top 5 Books on Christian Worldview

    Top 15 Books on the Status of American Evangelicalism

    Top 40 Books to Read While in College

     

     

     

  • Best Links of the Week

    Dealing With Difficult People:  Narcissists.  The best article I’ve read this year.

    IBM computer to play against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.  Should be another interesting man vs. machine conflict.

    Doug Wilson piece entitled “Calvinism, Eschatology, and the New Media

    Andy Crouch, “Ten Most Significant Trends of Last Decade

    A number of people in California recently won $150 by correctly guessing 4 of the 6 numbers of the California Lottery.  The winning numbers were:  4, 8, 15, 25, 47, 42

    Apparently the Catholic Church is doing a realty series on exorcism, but I heard this was news to the Vatican.

    New US $100 bills to have 3-D technology.

    AIG is recapitalizing.  Unbelievable… have any lessons been learned?

    Banks repossess over a million homes in 2010.  Also, foreclosures rising.

    Drunk Scientists accidentally pour wine on semiconductors and make some scientific discovery.

    WSJ article entitled “Bye-Bye PCs and Laptops

    The Catholic Church and science.  Personally, I am a huge fan of science and think there is a fair degree of agreement between science and Christianity, far greater than many acknowledge.

    Green blob from Hubble Space Telescope.

    Major Dick Winters passed away earlier this month.  Thankful for this man and countless anonymous men just like him.

    China’s new stealth fighter.

    Haitian amputee soccer.

    Is the Black Church Dead?

    The precipitating event was an essay posted last February on the Huffington Post by Eddie Glaude, Jr., a young African-American religion professor at Princeton who gave his column the eye-catching title, “The Black Church Is Dead,” and continued that with an equally arresting lead:

    “Of course, many African-Americans still go to church,” Glaude began, noting surveys that track the higher-than-average religiosity of American blacks. “But the idea of this venerable institution as central to black life and as a repository for the social and moral conscience of the nation has all but disappeared,” he said.

  • Why the Final Episode of LOST was so Frustrating

    I feel like I’ve got to get this out of my system to justify spending 6 seasons watching a compelling narrative only to be severely disappointed.  WARNING, this will contain spoilers, read on at your own risk.

    There were two things that were compelling about the LOST narrative:  it’s characters and it’s mythology.   I believe that humans are hard-wired for stories.  The most compelling stories are stories that illuminate some aspect of the Biblical storyline of creation-fall-redemption-re-creation.  LOST focused heavily on the brokenness, alienation, and self-destructive patterns of its characters/candidates.  We can empathize with the fallen condition of these characters – sons that didn’t measure up to their overly-expectant/deceptive/abusive fathers, addiction, purposelessness, and low self-esteem.  We can empathize with the arcing of their characters as they realize their brokenness is due to a lack of community and that when we ask for help, redemption comes.

    My frustration with the LOST narrative is its re-creation (I am not prepared to speculate about whether the flash-sideways end state of most of the characters is purgatory, a kind of heaven, or some sort of eternal recurrence, so no comments there).   The fallen condition was redeemed through community and I was tracking with the arc of the storyline until the re-creation narrative (the final 10 minutes of the show).   One of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed throughout LOST has been its intelligence and inter-textuality, continually making reference to excellent works of literature and philosophy.  I share the same love for many of the authors referenced:  Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Fyodor Dostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, and Søren Kierkegaard.  However, if the writers had even a cursory understanding of these writers (or philosophy in general), they would quickly dismiss the blatant syncretism of their own re-creation narrative.  Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, dismembers the ‘One God, Many Paths’ sentiment of our day, showing that it is reductionistic and dangerous to pretend we are all the same.  The quality of dialogue between Jack and his father was poor, the imagery was trite and reductionistic, and the final montage cliche.

    My two cents, feel free to disagree with me…

  • Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 2

    This lecture is an explanation of the Protestant Christian worldview from Genesis to Revelation.  Audio is available here.

    I.  Creation

    A.  Ex Nihilo

    B.  Out of God’s pleasure

    C.  Creation was good

    D.  Man made in image of God: male and female

    E.  Cultural Mandate

    F.  The task given Adam was to make the whole Earth like Eden by:

    “numerically and geographically expand God’s image over the face of the

    entire Earth”

    1. Covenant of Works (Hosea 6:7)
      1. Adam is Federal Head (Rom. 5:12-21)
      2. Blessings for obedience; curses for disobedience

    a.  Blessing – Life

    b.  Curse – Death

    c.  Divine benevolence, Human loyalty

    II.  Fall

    1. Serpent tempts Eve, questions God’s goodness
    2. Adam was there and doesn’t say anything
    3. Curse:
      1. All humanity fell in the Fall because of Adam’s representative nature
      2. All creation fell and feels the frustrating affects of the fall
      3. Proto-Euangelion – Gen. 3:15-20
    4. Seed of the woman vs. Seed of the Serpent

    Abel                 Cain

    Seth

    Enoch               Enoch

    Lamech            Lamech

    Noah

    Shem/Japheth   Ham

    Abraham

    Isaac                Ishmael

    Jacob               Esau

    III. Redemption

    A.  Covenant of Grace

    1.  Noah – establishes stability on the Earth (Gen. 6, 9)

    -Baptism:  deliverance from waters of judgment

    2.  Abraham – establishes promised offspring who will bless all nations                  (Gen. 12:1-3; 15; 17), (Gal. 3:16)

    3.  Moses – establishes law and order above natural law (Ex. 19-24)

    -“I will be your God and you will be my people”

    4.  David – establishes eternal king/throne (Psalm 89)

    5.  Christ – fulfillment of the covenant of grace (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36/37)

    B.  Historical Summary

    Creation, Fall, Expulsion, Cain/Able, Flood, Babel, Shem

    Abraham moves, Abraham/Lot, Abraham/Melchizedek, Abraham Covenant, Abraham buys land in Canaan/Eden

    Isaac, Jacob/Esau, Jacob/Israel, 12 Sons, Joseph into Captivity, Famine

    400 Year Enslavement/Exile, Moses/Pharaoh, Passover, Egypt to Sinai

    Sinai, Law at Sinai – Tabernacle, Priesthood, Purification, Yom Kippur, Feasts:  (Sabbath, Passover, Sabbatical year/Jubilee, Weeks, Tabernacles)

    Wilderness Wanderings, Encampment at Canaan, Canaan Conquest/Joshua, Jericho vs. Ai, Land Divided

    Judges-Ruth – ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 17:6)

    Eli, Samuel, Rejection of YHWH as king, Saul

    David – covenant – line/throne, unification, conquest (iron), Bathsheba

    Solomon – Temple, wealth/wisdom, Phoenicians, foreign wives/gods

    Divided Kingdom – Rehoboam (S – Judah), Jeroboam (N – Israel/Ephraim)

    North – Babsha, Omri, Jehu, Ahab/Jez/Baal vs. Elijah, Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, 3 kings –  Menaham, Pekahiah, Pehah, Hoshea… Assyria/exile

    South – Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manassah, Josiah – Amon/Jeremiah, Jerusalem Sacked – 586

    Cyrus’ Decree, Return from Exile, 2nd Temple/Wall (Ezra-Nehemiah),

    Late Pre-exilic

    -Nahum – God’s wrath on Nineveh

    -Zephaniah – The Day of the Lord

    -Habakkuk – Resolving questions about God’s justice

    -Joel – Day of the Lord is both near AND future

    -Lamentations – God as source of both good and hard providence

    -Obadiah – pride goes before a fall

    Exilic

    -Ezekiel – Judgment and restoration of Judah

    -Daniel – God’s rule and care for his people

    Post-Exilic

    -Haggai – setting priorities

    -Zechariah – God’s restoration of zion

    -Malachi – Honoring God

    400 years of silence

    C.  Prefigurations

    1.  Melchizedek

    2.  Angel

    3.  Manna

    4.  Rock

    5.  Tabernacle

    6.  3 fold office:  Prophet/Priest/King

    D.  Jesus

    1.  Virgin birth

    2.  Hypostatic Union – God/man

    3.  Prophet/Priest/King

    4.  Law – civil/ceremonial/civil

    5.  Penal Substitution – great exchange – my sin for his righteousness

    -New Record

    -New Heart

    -New World

    6.  Death/Resurrection

    7.  Ascension

    8.  Enthronement – Intercession

    IV.  Consummation

    1.  Redemption of all of creation

    2.  Redemption of the church

    3.  Inauguration/Continuation/Consummation

  • Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 1

    Here is the AUDIO for the first lecture.

    I was struck by a few things in doing my research on the life, thought, and influence of Nietzsche.  First, I am struck at how dark, bleak, and sick was Nietzsche’s early world.  Second, I was struck by the damning affects of the poison that flowed from the Tubingen School, particularly in the thought of Strauss, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer (Tubingen was the school that started all of the criticism of the Bible that eventually led to the splitting of Protestantism into its conservative and liberal branches).  Third, I am struck by how different Nietzsche’s thought changed over time and how he moves beyond all of his influences.  Fourth, I am struck by both the radicalness and the consistency of Nietzsche’s atheism, he is the one atheist who says that morality is contingent on the existence of God.  Fifth, I am struck that Nietzsche is really a kind of Greek thinker in the vein of Dionysus and that the goal of his whole philosophy is life affirmation.  Sixth, I am struck by how much I agree with Nietzsche both in what bothers him and what he affirms.  Finally, I couldn’t agree more with David Hart when he says, “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists, it seems to me, is rereading Nietzsche.”

    Below is the outline and audio from the first lecture:

    I.  Biography and Psychology

    A.  Death

    B.  Boarding School at Pforta

    C.  Chronic Illness

    D.  Bonn/Leipzig

    E.  University of Basel

    F.  Franco-Prussian War Medical Orderly

    II.  Intellectual Influences

    A.  David Frederick StraussDas Leben Jesu

    B.  Ludwig von FeuerbachThe Essence of Christianity

    C.  Friedrich LangeHistory of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance (Geschichte des Materialismus)

    D.  Dionysus

    E.  Arthur Schopenhauer

    F.  Richard Wagner

    III.  Nietzsche’s Thought

    A.  “The Death of God”

    B.  Nihilism

    C.  Master and Slave Morality

    D.  Übermensch

    E.  Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht)

    F.  Eternal Recurrence (ewige Wiederkunft)

    IV.  Nietzsche’s Influence

    A.  William Butler Yeats

    B.  Martin Heidegger

    C.  Albert Camus

    D.  Michel Foucault

    E.  Jacques Derrida

    F.  Martin Buber

    G.  Adolf Hitler (sort of)

  • “Waiting for Armageddon” Movie Trailer

    I ran across this movie trailer today on Hulu.  It is a film analyzing the impact of classical Premillenial Dispensationalism on Israel, American culture, neo-conservativism, American foreign policy, Islam, and Mideast peace.  Suffice to say, without having seen the film, I most likely agree with the disturbing affects of classical Dispensational Premillenialism on all of the aforementioned spheres.

    Should a 150 year old doctrine that isn’t taught at any seminary drive American foreign policy?  Your thoughts?

  • Why Socialized Health Care… is Unbiblical

    Bronze Serpent in Wilderness

    I have heard a lot of talk and conjecture here recently about social justice and national health care.  I agree with Kevin DeYoung when he says the term “social justice” should never be used unless it is defined.  Perhaps a lot of the discussions concerning a national health care plan are futile with the “Ted Kennedy” seat going to Scott Brown.  However, it is important for Christians to be able to think about everything from a Christian worldview.

    Are we thinking with a Christian or Republican worldview (aren’t they the same)?

    I have been a bit saddened by the lack of evangelical disagreement with the socialized healthcare debate.  For the most part, all I hear is that I am a conservative and/or republican… and my party disagrees with that.  This may be true but it does not get at the heart of a Christian view of government.  Now, there is substantial disagreement of what the proper relationship of government is to the church and vice versa.  Much of this disagreement comes down to one’s eschatological position (some Postmillenialists favor theonomy, Dispensational Premillenialists favor Neoconservativism and pro-Israel).

    Why do we have human kings?

    Before we delve into what the Scriptural principles given to non-theocratic governance, we must first look at the history of the Hebrew people.  Up until Saul, Israel was a theocracy where God was King and the Mosaic Law was its governance.  God’s people rejected YHWH’s kingship and instead wanted a human king like the cultures around them.  God warned them of the error in asking for this but granted them Saul.  Saul’s regime was oppressive and tyrannical (especially in comparison with his predecessor YHWH).  He imposed hefty taxes on Israel.  The question of church and state was not a question until Israel asked for Saul, ever since, it has been an issue.  We shall examine the issue of church and state at more length in a later post.  However, suffice to say that I think it good for the state to keep their nose out of the church and for the church/Christians to have a worldview – a worldview that includes political thought.

    What does the Bible say about human governments?

    Romans 13 is clear that God’s sets up and takes down rulers.  They are not somehow outside his providence.  This does not mean that human rulers are just, righteous, or equitable.  This does mean that they are accountable to God for their actions and that God will use their actions, moral good or moral evil, for His purposes.  The Scriptures do establish a non-theocratic (civil) government’s authority to establish certain rights for its citizens.  The Scriptures establish a civil government’s authority to protect negative rights.  Negative rights are rights that prevent harmful or morally evil things from happening to its citizens.  For example, the civil government is obliged to protect its citizens from murder, theft… etc.  It does so by establishing and enforcing laws that punish moral evil.  In my view, the Scriptures do not establish a civil government’s authority to protect/assert positive rights.  Positive rights are rights that affirm that some beneficial thing ought to be provided for its citizens.  In other words, Scripture does not affirm that it is a civil government’s responsibility to care for the sick.  Scripture does not affirm that it is the civil government’s responsibility to give alms to the poor.

    If not the civil government, then whom?

    It is principally the church’s responsibility to care for the sick and the poor amongst us.  During some points in our history Protestants have been good at doing this through the establishment of hospitals and such.  However increasingly these hospitals have come out from under the care of denominations and become secularized and institutionalized… succumbing to all of the ails of reactive health care, pharmacological manipulation… etc.

    Final Thoughts

    The church needs to take better care of the widow and the orphan.  Our churches have become so narcissistic and inward.  Caring for others is a blessing.  If someone is truly in need (and not all with an open hand are…) then we ought to be caring for them.  I would strongly recommend reading When Helping Hurts:  Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Ourselves.  I would also recommend forming a partnership with organizations that have experience in Biblical community development (vocational, health, counseling…).  One such organization for Biblical vocational community development is Jobs For Life.  I can wholeheartedly affirm their ministry firsthand.  I would also recommend reading Marvin Olasky’s books The Tragedy of American Compassion and Compassionate Conservativism.

    I think it is also important for us to remember that human kings will always be imperfect and will never be fully just. Human kings ought to make us long for the perfect king in Christ whose kingdom is righteous, just, and perfect.  His administration is flawless.  His world, Universe, and creation redeemed.  His Kingdom and His government need no alms.  His Kingdom and His government needs no health care.

    Post-Script

    For point of clarification, the church (nor the people of God) does not have a monopoly on common grace.  The government can be an agent of common grace in a culture, society, or world.  However, civil governments are not Biblically mandated to be the institution that provides all the “good” things in that culture.  If anything, the Biblical narrative presents civil governments in a very negative light that is nearly universal:  The Egyptians, the Canaanites, Saul, Jeroboam/Rehoboam, Judah/Israel and almost every king in the divided Kingdom period, the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Roman occupation.  The few kings that are presented with any measure of high regard are David, who prefigures Christ, at points Solomon, and Cyrus, who God raises up to release Israel from exile.  But even those kings all had major blunders that hurt both their people and the perception of those people.  I do not think it is a huge interpretive jump to say that the Biblical narrative supports smaller government.  It is really quite simple, if civil government is run by fallen humans and the Biblical/historical record shows a pattern of oppression and tyranny, then we can expect tyranny from human governments unless we afford for checks and balances to their power.

    Another point of clarification, I think socialized health care is unbiblical in our present American context.  The church and the private sector have the ability to provide these means of common grace.  There is no reason to cross pollinate our hospitals with the ills of the DMV or the Postal Service.  In entirely different, largely secular contexts, pragmatism will win the day (for better or for worse).  If a country has the economy to support it, then health care will/ought to be taken care of by the private sector.  If a country is small enough a social health care system could theoretically ‘work.’  Least common denominator services help no one.  Hospitals already don’t turn people away.

    Things such as roads, or city infrastructure (water, sewer…) are drastically different cases than health care.  The U.S. Interstate system was built initially primarily for military purposes.  Sometimes roads are built by the private sector also though (toll roads, turnpikes, some bridges…).  Pragmatism can dictate (and this is not always evil) that the government, local or federal, take on some project that is beneficial to all of the society.  The critical distinction between these infrastructural elements to society and a socialized health care system is that no one is ‘hurt’ if a new interstate is built, or you now have water/sewer access to your home/business that was not their before.  Whereas, with health care, substantial harm could be done to the quality of one’s own health on the altar of “social justice” or “equality.”  Laying pavement is much different that a quadruple bypass.  Laying pipe is much different than cancer removal.  In my view, federal-government has the anti-Midas touch.  We all like our roads, but even the DOT is quite a mess.  If the private sector can provide a product that the federal government is monopolizing and disallowing competition, I think a strong case be made (both through sound reason and moral principles) that privitization is the right thing.  Further, I think the burden of proof rests on big government folks and not small government folks.  I see no Bible verses commanding that government be large and tyrannical.  The Biblical burden of proof is on those who play the ever-so-vague “social justice” card.

    Evangelicals have shirked and punted many responsibilities to the federal government.  Previously (here and here), I have traced this habit back to the split of Protestantism into liberalism and conservativism (the fundamentalists originally, who are now called evangelicals) .  I do not think it would be all that massive of an undertaking for evangelicals in the country to completely eliminate the foster care system.  This would take 250,000 families adopting one child into their family.  I think this is feasible.  Elders at local churches would vet potential families, and the deacons at those local churches would oversee the transfer of children out of government foster care and into adoption into elder-approved families.  I think the whole process could take less than 10 years.  It is highly idealistic with regards to the current status of American evangelicalism but, in my view, entirely possible.

    Unless, non-governmental institutions step-in to provide value-added social care for a nation-state, one runs the risk of the endless march of bigger government and tyranny, as its government continues to expand its power and control by nationalizing previously private businesses and service sectors.   It is one thing to keep a wealthy nation with a small military of 10 million people in check… it is entirely another thing to keep a nation of 350 million (with a strong monopoly of violence) in check.  Evangelicals cannot think that merely voting will stem the tide of bigger government and/or socialism.  If you do not want to see this happen, then I suggest we corporately affirm James 1:27:

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

    January 20, 2010 • Culture, Eschatology, Ethics, Obama, orthopraxis, Politics, Social Gospel, Worldview • Views: 874

  • Avatar Causing Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

    Pandora: The Fictional Utopian World in Avatar

    Disclaimer: I have not seen the film Avatar.  Here is a link to a story about audience members who have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts, due to the fact that they cannot live in the utopian Pandora.   My initial thought was this is completely pathetic…  it is just a movie promoting pantheism (or perhaps panentheism) while bashing American imperialism.

    However, on second thought, there is something more profound here.  It is not new or revolutionary for humanity to long for peace, prosperity, and flourishing life.  The people who are feeling these ‘side-affects’ are really longing not for Pandora.  They are longing for the Shalom that God will usher in at the Second Coming of Christ.  These people are longing for the fullness of the Kingdom of God where everything is made right, everything is made new, and there is no injustice.  Its the same longing for the end of winter in Narnia, the destruction of the ring in Lord of the Rings, or Christian’s journey to Mt. Zion and the Celestial City in Pilgrim’s Progress.  There is a palpable intensity to living in this broken world.  The reality of fallen creation can be bleak and depressing and promote both anxiety and despair.  All of man’s attempts at utopia have failed:  communism, capitalism, pantheism/panentheism/Walden’s Pond, communalism…  We need the reality of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, making peace through his propitiatory sacrifice the wrath of God towards the sins of man.  We need Christ’s church to do her work throughout the Earth.  We need Christ to return and establish the New Heavens and the New Earth.

    Come quickly Lord Jesus.

    January 12, 2010 • C.S. Lewis, Culture, Eschatology, Film, Gospel, Interesting Article, Soteriology • Views: 553

  • 3 Month Introspective

    Introspective

    So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

    Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

    Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

    Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

    Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

    Top ~10 Books by Topic:

    Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

    Top 10 Devotional Classics

    Top 10 Books on the Church

    Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

    Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

    Top 10 Books on Culture

    Top 10 Books on Eschatology

    Top 5 Books on Worldview

    Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

    Top 10 Books on Church History

    Top 40 Books to Read While in College

    Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

    The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

    Top 10 Apologetic Works

    Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

    Top 10 Books by John Piper

    Top 5 Children’s Books

    Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

    A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

    Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

  • Top 10 Books on Eschatology

    Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema

    These books represent the strongest cases for amillenialism, postmillenialism, and historic premillenialism.

    1.  The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema  [l, e, p, s]

    Solid amillenial defense.

    2.  A Case for Amillenialism by Kim Riddlebarger  [l, e, p, s]

    Another solid amillenial case.

    3.  Coming of the Kingdom by Herman Ridderbos  [e, p, s]

    Ridderbos is very helpful in explaining the ‘already, not yet‘ principle of God’s kingdom in redemptive history.

    4. Dispensationalism:  Rightly Dividing the People of God? by Keith Mathison  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Mathison does a great job dissecting classical Dispensationalism.  Also helpful on deconstructing classical Dispensationalism is Vern Poythress’, Understanding Dispensationalists.

    5.  Postmillenialism:  An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison  [e, p, s]

    I have yet to read this, but Keith is a thorough and sound writer.  I have also heard that this is one of the finest defenses of Postmillenialism.

    6.  The Book of Revelation:  A Commentary on the Greek Text by Greg Beale  [p, s]

    A very technical yet helpful commentary on Revelation.  Also helpful is Richard Bauckham’s, The Theology of the Book of Revelation.

    7.  A Case for Historic Premillenialism by Craig Blomberg  [l, e, p, s]

    Decent case for historic premillenialism by a solid scholar.  Also, G.E. Ladd’s, Presence of the Future and The Last Things:  An Eschatology for Laymen are also good.

    8.  The Returning King:  A Guidebook to the Book of Revelation by Vern Poythress  [l, e, p, s]

    Another helpful book on Revelation.

    9. The Israel of God by O. Palmer Robertson  [e, p, s]

    A solid explanation of the relationship of Israel to the church.

    10.  The Meaning of the Millenium (4 views) edited by G.E. Ladd  [l, e, p, s]

    A helpful introduction and dialogue between different eschatological positions.

    (c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

    December 1, 2009 • Eschatology, Recommended Books • Views: 878