The Leadership Formula – Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez, The Leadership Formula (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2020), 208 pp.

The Leadership Formula: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders in the Church by Juan Sanchez is a book for our times. The aim of the author is to “encourage courageous, faithful leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders to whom we will entrust the gospel and our ministries.”

The book is arranged in three sections: Part 1: The Leadership Foundation establishes the crucial biblical groundwork that the author builds upon throughout the remainder of the book. At the heart of this section is the presentation of leadership roles and the importance of authority and submission.

Part 2: The Leadership Formula overviews the necessary ingredients of church commitment to the tenets of Scripture. “Biblical leaders,” writes Sanchez, “are men of godly character, who maintain biblical convictions, lovingly care for the congregation, and display a sufficient competency in handling the Bible.”

Part 3: The Leadership Formula Applied shows readers how the leadership formula works in ministry, the home, and other settings. Ultimately, the author seeks to “encourage churches and church leaders to be faithful in raising up the next generation of leaders so that those who come after us don’t merely assume the gospel. If the next generation assumes the gospel, the following generations will eventually deny it.”

The Leadership Formula is a fantastic book that should be devoured by every church leader and prospective leader. I found myself wondering throughout the book if Pastor Sanchez was “a brother from another mother.” The writing is solid, the theology is sound, and the approach to leadership development is practical in every way. Highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Everything is Spiritual – Rob Bell

Rob Bell, Everything is Spiritual (New York: St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2020), 310 pp.

In 2011, I reviewed Love Wins, my first book by Rob Bell. The piece prompted praise by conservatives and vicious scorn by progressive Christians and liberals. Whatever anyone thinks about Bell, one thing is for sure: the guy can write. He is a master communicator. And whenever he writes or talks, people listen.

Anyone familiar with Rob Bell knows that he is somewhat of a gadfly among evangelicals. And “gadfly” is a massive understatement. But there is something endearing about Bell. Some point to his skill. Others are impressed with his intellect. For me, I’ve always been drawn to Bell’s ability to communicate what he’s truly feeling – including insecurity, childhood pain, or unfulfilled expectations. He identifies a “generational lack of grace,” a trait that is found too often in the church. His transparency is refreshing and his candor is something that is greatly needed in our day.

While I applaud Bell’s transparency, I have expressed deep concern with some of the theological and philosophical assertions that he has proposed. His most recent book, Everything Is Spiritual is no exception. Michael Eric Dyson’s endorsement of the book provides a revealing summary:

“In Everything Is Spiritual, Rob Bell updates Teilhard de Chardin’s Catholic mysticism, makes sexier Werner Heisenberg’s quantum physics, and baptizes Jewish Kabbalah in an exciting vision of the future of human evolution. Bell challenges the notion that science and belief are at war, with his sublime fusion of Christian faith and modern evolutionary science. Bell’s book is the perfect antidote to the plague of an evangelical worldview that is captive to imperial dreams and a literalism that kills the spirit of Christianity …”

I will argue in this review that while Michael Eric Dyson truly does capture the essence of Bell’s intentions in Everything Is Spiritual, the end result is unhelpful and spiritually dangerous. Instead of illumination, readers will be left in a quagmire – with more questions than answers. And they will wander aimlessly in a spiritual wasteland, armed with an inaccurate portrait of God that leaves them hopeless without the biblical gospel.

No Final Answer

One of the common themes in Bell’s writing is ambiguity. He extinguishes certitude and exalts mystery (both of which are fundamental tenets of postmodernism). Careful readers will notice that the author is quick to pay lip service to Christian theology but swiftly degenerates into a subtle (or not so subtle man-made philosophy). The Bible warns, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4, ESV).

Tragically, many have been deceived by Bell’s “spirit myths” over the years. For instance, in Bell’s book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, he argues that God is “with us, for us, and ahead of us – all of us.” The notion that God is “with us,” “for us,” and “ahead of us (every single one of us) may sound good initially but falls short of the biblical model. It is true that God is “with” his people. We see this especially in the incarnation of Jesus, the One who is named Immanuel – or God with us (Matt. 1:23). Yet God is not “with” the man who has rejected the revelation of God in Christ. God is not “with” the one who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel. “… Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

It is true that God is “for us” – that is to say, he is for his people. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39, ESV). Yet, God is not “for” the man who repudiates the promises and purposes of God. The holy God opposes the proud (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

I referred to Paul’s warning in 2 Tim. 4:3-4 again and again as I read Everything is Spiritual. Indeed, doctrine is downplayed and orthodoxy is questioned. But not everything is ambiguous. As he did in Love Wins, Bell dogmatically casts aside the doctrine of hell: “Because some stories are better than others. Stories about a God who tortures people forever in hell shouldn’t be told. They’re terrible stories. They make people miserable. They make people want to kill themselves. Stories that insist that a few human beings are going to be okay and every other human being ever is doomed for eternity are horrible stories.”

In a magical twist, certitude suddenly reappears! Alas, the painful reality is obvious here: Anyone who bemoans doctrine is in fact, dogmatic themselves! It appears, then, that the dogmatic bark is worse than the bite.

No Final Authority

To make matters worse, no final authority is offered in Everything Is Spiritual. It is difficult to determine if Bell embraces pantheism, panentheism or some other theological construct. Whatever the case, the book makes much of God’s immanence and downplays his transcendence.

But what is missing here is a distinction between the Creator and the creature. Missing is a Creator who is sovereign over creation and rules over all. Bell’s account of God is noted in the biblical exchange with Moses who refers to himself as I AM. So far so good. But notice how Bell’s understanding of God undermines the Creator/creature distinction:

“Moses wants to locate God, and what Moses gets is Everywhere. Moses wants something to wrap his mind around, and what he gets is All of it.

“What an answer. Another way you could say I AM is Being Itself.

“That’s past, that’s present, that’s future. All of it. Being Itself, the formless beyond any one form, animating all forms. The electricity the entire thing is plugged into. The water it’s all swimming in.”

“That’s every you that ever was and ever will be. All your yous.”

Later, Bell refers once again to “Being Itself. I AM.” He writes, “You ground yourself in that, and you’re all of it. You root yourself in the source and Spirit beyond all these forms and categories and labels, you listen to that and follow that and you keep going.” Bell refers to this as the “collective unity of humanity,” or “the body of Christ.” He adds, “All of us humans ever, across time, all together, adding up to something. The body of Christ.”

Not only does this line of reasoning militate against the Creator/creature distinction; it misleads readers into believing that they are members of Christ’s body, when the unbelieving world is described as enemies of God and under his holy wrath.

Acts 17:22-31 reveals a Creator God who is the cosmos shaper, the kingdom shaker who lives above creation. He is the all-sufficient Ruler, Life-Giver, and Destiny Maker. And he is the righteous Judge who “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed …” (Acts 17:30-31, ESV).

And Scripture speaks of the creature who was created by God (Gen. 2:7). The creatures (Adam and Eve) were originally free from sin but fell and as a result became sinners by nature and by choice (Gen. 3:1-7). As such, these sinful creatures have no inherent righteousness, no desire for God (Rom. 3:10-11). Subsequently, all creatures are born with a hatred in their hearts for God (Rom. 8:7-8). They are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), and they are enslaved in sin; totally unable to come to Christ apart from God’s empowerment (John 6:44). These creatures are dependent upon God for everything. While they have the ability to make free choices, these choices are determined in eternity past (Acts 17:26; Prov. 19:21; 21:1). And these creatures are accountable to a righteous and sovereign Judge (Rom. 2:5-11).

As such, there is no final authority in Everything is Spiritual. Bell writes, “God is not detached from the world, up there, or above, or somewhere else, that would make God a form like everything else.” So, we are left with the strange and unbiblical blending of the Creator and the creature.

No Exclusive Path

One of the reasons that people are drawn to Bell is because he refuses to be boxed in by a religious system or creed. He is quick to jettison the traditional path and proudly promotes another route: “And then there was soul. This deeper voice within me telling me another truth, coaxing me to rethink what success even is. I had my own path, and it wasn’t this, and what you do with a path is you walk it … But walking your path, when you’re surrounded by multiple voices with strong opinions about what you should be doing, that takes tremendous spinal fortitude.”

“Spinal fortitude,” is to be commended. The problem is that Scripture points to one path – the path that Jesus describes as “narrow.” Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14).

One of the primary arguments in Bell’s book is that “everything is spiritual.” He refers to Christ, who holds all things together: “All of it. All of us. Everybody, everywhere, in Christ.” He rightly notes how every person is created with dignity and honor and possesses “infinite worth and value.” But things take a tragic turn for the worse. For the one who pursues his own path, according to Bell, is something of a radical. In a stunning admission, Bell acknowledges: “The radical is not the person who wandered off the path into the deep weeds. The radical is the one who went back to the origins, to the roots, to how it all began. Sometimes the tribe has lost its way, sometimes the ones claiming to be orthodox, correct, pure ones have gone off the rails, sometimes it’s the mother ship that has lost its bearing, and it’s the radical who’s actually rediscovering the true path.”

Radicals like Jan Hus and Martin Luther rediscovered the true path when they embraced biblical authority and the gospel of Jesus. But Bell is not referring to these stalwarts of the faith. Rather, he is referring to those who dare to break free from the chains of orthodoxy. After all, writes Bell, “You aren’t an object, you aren’t a pawn … you possess Spirit. Personal, intimate, infinite, knowing, Spirit. You reflect the divine, present in each of us. You’re in Christ.

No exclusive path is necessary since we are “in Christ,” according to Bell. This theme emerged clearly in Love Wins as Bell undercut sovereign grace by arguing that God draws all people to himself. He writes, “ … We see that Jesus himself, again and again, demonstrates how seriously he takes his role in saving and rescuing and redeeming not just everything, but everybody.”

But Scripture stands in opposition to this theme. The Bible never declares that all people are “in Christ” as Bell supposes. Rather, each person is born in Adam and experiences death as a result (Rom. 5:12-21). Jesus never promises to rescue and redeem all people. Rather, people are assured that they will receive eternal life and forgiveness if they turn from their sin and trust the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:15-16; 6:37, 47; 7:38; 8:12; Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:9-13, 17). When a person trusts in Christ alone for their salvation, then and only then, are they truly “in Christ.”

Bell’s “gospel” is described as “the divine announcement that you are loved and accepted exactly as you are, that everything has been taken care of, that everything you’ve been striving to earn has been yours the entire time, that you belong, in exactly this condition that you are currently in, nothing additional required or needed.” Readers are left, then, with more ambiguity. Whose “gospel” is Bell describing? And does this “gospel” tolerate sin? Does this “gospel” lay down demands? Is surrender required? Belief? Repentance? Is this “gospel” inclusive or is it exclusive? Is this “gospel light?” Or is this the “gospel” that Scripture refers to as a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6)?

The matter of the gospel has eternal implications. The apostle Paul warns the Christians in Galatia to beware of those who “distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7). He continues, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9, ESV).

The biblical gospel or the “good news” of God begins with God. It declares that God is sovereign and holy. It tells us that God created people for his glory (Isa. 43:7). It tells us that people are sinners by nature and by choice (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). The gospel warns us that God is just and that he has the right to punish sin and that unrepentant people will endure the wrath of God for eternity (Rom. 6:23; John 3:36). The gospel tells us about a Savior who will destroy death and rescue his creatures from the power of sin and the penalty of sin. And one day this gospel will rescue followers of Jesus from sin’s very presence.

The gospel distinguishes between the Creator and the creature. Peter Jones adds, “The Bible warns us not to worship the creation but to worship and serve only the Creator. The starting point of gospel truth is that God the Creator, in the three persons of the divine Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the one and only God and that all which is not God was created by him … The Christian faith maintains a separateness between God and His creation.”1 The gospel makes provision for sin, exalts the crucified and risen Savior, and reconciles sinners to a holy God.

Tragically, the biblical gospel is jettisoned in Everything is Spiritual. The gospel is reduced to a “divine announcement” of acceptance. This soft, inclusive “gospel” is a different gospel that Scripture condemns (Gal. 1:6, 9).

Summary

“Everything is spiritual.” The very idea sounds so very, well … spiritual. And people who flock to read the musings of Bell continue in a trancelike state like they’ve been doing for years. But the author makes a very revealing statement near the end of the book. He writes, “I want to help people rediscover the wonder and awe of their existence.” Yet, no final answer is given. No final authority is offered. And no exclusive path is revealed. Instead of rediscovering “the wonder and awe of their existence,” readers are left wandering in an existential fog, unaware of the Creator God who made all things for his glory; the transcendent God who sovereignly rules and reigns; the God who sent his Son to rescue sinners, redeem them, and bless them with eternal life.

Michael Eric Dyson refers to Bell’s book as “a perfect spiritual antidote to the plague of an evangelical worldview that is captive to imperial dreams and a literalism that kills the spirit of Christianity.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The message that Rob Bell presents in this book is anything but spiritual. Instead, it offers a syncretistic concoction of worldly philosophy that leads the unsuspecting on a path to divine judgment. That’s a far cry from an antidote. Poison doesn’t cure disease. Poison kills the unsuspecting.

  1. Peter Jones, Gospel Truth, Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference? (Enumclaw: Winepress Publishing, 1999), 23-24.

JOYFUL CALVINISM IS THE ONLY KIND OF CALVINISM

reinke

Tony Reinke. The Joy Project. Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2015. 122 pp. $8.99

Every human being searches for happiness. No one is exempt. The Creator of the universe has hardwired human beings to be joyful. Tony Reinke makes this argument the centerpiece of his excellent book, The Joy Project. The thesis is simple and breathtakingly profound: “Making glad worshipers out of spiritually dead sinners is the grand design of God’s Joy Project.”

Reinke’s undergirds his thesis by making a case for historic Calvinism. He refers readers back to the Synod of Dort where the doctrines of grace were systematically spelled out by our theological forefathers. What grew out of the Synod was the well-known acronym, TULIP. The author puts the five points of Calvinism on display in vivid terms:

  • TOTAL DEPRAVITY is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy.
  • UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION is how God planned before we existed to complete our joy in Christ.
  • LIMITED ATONEMENT is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of Jesus.
  • IRRESISTIBLE GRACE is the sovereign commitment of God to make sure we hold on to superior delights instead of the false pleasures that will ultimately destroy us.
  • PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS is the almighty work of God to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of pleasures at God’s right hand forever.

The author proclaims, “Our eternal joy will flourish when we are the objects of God’s sovereign grace. So the remainder of the book is devoted to unpacking the doctrines of grace (otherwise known as the five points of Calvinism). Critiques of Reformed theology will no doubt be drawn to Reinke’s winsome approach, an approach which is drowning in grace and Christ-saturated joy. Folks who are already convinced of Reformed theology will walk away with warmed hearts and drawn to the heart of the Savior.

The Joy Project could be viewed in many ways as the cliff notes for John Piper’s best-selling book, Desiring God. Tony Reinke should be commended for articulating the doctrines of grace in such a creative way, without losing any doctrinal punch. I recommend The Joy Project to anyone ready to be captivated by sovereign grace.  Readers will certainly discover that joyful Calvinism is the only kind of Calvinism.

Download a free version of this book at [http://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-joy-project]

4.5 stars

Is Jesus Truly God? – Greg Lanier

Greg Lanier, Is Jesus Truly God? (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 144 pp.

The topic of Christ’s deity has been a hot topic for over two thousand years. Christ’s divine nature has been debated in church history and affirmed in the ecumenical councils. In our day, the deity of Christ is a hotly debated subject that occupies the attention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims. Each group denies the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.

Greg Lanier’s book, Is Jesus Truly God? wrestles with this important issue. The author presents a robust, biblically-charged Christology that focuses on six major issues:

  1. The preexistence of Jesus.
  2. The Sonship of Jesus.
  3. The Old Testament assertion of Christ’s deity.
  4. Worship ascribed to Jesus.
  5. The relationship of Jesus to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
  6. Jesus as theos.

Each of the six issues noted above is set forth in a chapter where the author affirms the divinity of Christ in a winsome and understandable way.

The great strength of Lanier’s book is its brevity. The arguments are tight, clear, succinct, biblical, and even devotional.

Readers who dig deeply into Dr. Lanier’s book will be challenged, informed, and refreshed. They will also be better prepared for their next encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, or Muslim.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Planation

Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation by Candace Owens will irritate and offend many people. But this is a book that needed to be written. More importantly, this is a book that deserves to be read and internalized.

Owens explores how liberals have consistently manipulated and marginalized black Americans. She tackles controversial subjects ranging from family, faith, and feminism. But she also focuses her attention on socialism, education, media, culture, and slavery.

Owens is an unashamed black conservative woman. She has a dizzying intellect and a charismatic personality. But the most impressive thing about Owens is that she is bold and courageous. She is willing to tell the truth about the liberal elites and is more than prepared for the fallout.

The author is deeply in touch with the plight of the black community. And she links that plight to the purposeful ploy of leftists who have and continue to pander to blacks and hold them captive to their liberal worldview and ideology.

Owens passionately encourages black America to stand and be counted. She urges black America to make its second escape from the Democrat plantation: “If black America finds its free voice; if there is a blackout from the liberal establishment, and if the occasional voices of those freed from the mental slavery of the left turn instead into a chorus, then black America will finally find that its suffering may turn a corner …”

Owens raises the banner and admonishes black America to reclaim their freedom and move forward with bold and courageous resolve:

The gates of the castle are under attack. We must now batter them down and storm the fortress of the liberal order. Join the ideological battle now. Let us turn the lights off in the liberal establishments of America as we shut the door behind us. Let us make this blackout a reality.

Blackout should be required reading for every thinking American – both black and white and everyone in between. It should certainly be read by every high school and university student. Those who read with an open mind will be challenged and moved to action.

Thanks to Candace Owens for courageously wielding the sword of truth in these perilous times!

He is There and He is Not Silent- Francis Schaeffer (1972)

I first read He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer in 1992.  Multiple readings have ensued and I turn back to Schaeffer’s book again and again for help with apologetics. Readers will be pleased to see this new edition by Crossway Books with a revised cover in time to meet the current needs of our time.

Schaeffer argues for three basic areas of philosophical thought: metaphysics (being or existence), morals (the dilemma of man), and epistemology (the problem of knowing). Philosophy and religion are essentially devoted to the same questions, namely, metaphysics, morals, and epistemology.

Philosophy is concerned with either an academic subject or a person’s worldview.  It is the later, that Schaeffer is concerned with in this volume.  Schaeffer contends that every man is a philosopher of sorts because it is impossible for humans to live without a worldview.

Metaphysics

There are three basic answers to the question of metaphysics.  The first answer is that “everything that exists has come out of absolutely nothing.”  Naturalism’s answer suggests no energy, no mass, no motion, and no personality.  This answer is, as Schaeffer calls it, “nothing, nothing.”

The second answer is that everything had an impersonal beginning.  This answer leads automatically to reductionism.  “Beginning with the impersonal must be explained in terms of the impersonal plus time plus chance,” writes Schaeffer.  This answer poses many problems.  But the two primary problems fail to answer the major philosophical question: the need for unity and the need for diversity.

The third answer is the biblical answer.  The third answer is the only rational and satisfying answer.  This answer suggests that we must begin with a personal beginning.  And to have an adequate answer of a personal beginning, one must have a personal infinite God, and personal unity and diversity in God (found the holy Trinity).

Schaeffer concludes: “The reason we have the metaphysical answer is because the infinite-personal God, the full Trinitarian God is there and he is not silent.”

Morals

There are only two basic answers to the question of morals.  The first: Everything had an impersonal beginning.  The is the answer of atheism.  Schaeffer never minces words.  He writes, “Beginning with the impersonal, there is no explanation for the complexity of the universe or the personality of man.”  When one begins with the impersonal, one eliminates the possibility of morals or ethics.

The second answer is the biblical reality of a personal beginning.  Man was created by an infinite-personal God.  Man sinned or “made a decision to change himself” as Schaeffer notes.

“The starting point,” writes Schaeffer “to the answer (of the question of morals) as with metaphysics is the fact that God is there and he is not silent.”

Epistemology

Schaeffer concludes by setting forth the problem concerning epistemology and the epistemological answer.

The epistemological problem concerns the tension between nature (particulars) and grace (universals).  When nature becomes autonomous, the universal is lost with the hope of giving the particulars meaning.  The problem is that when nature becomes autonomous, nature “eats up” grace.  Schaeffer argues that when we are left with only particulars, we become lost in the areas of metaphysics, morality, and epistemology.

The epistemological answer was summarized by the Reformers.  The Reformers did not allow for a dichotomy between nature and grace.  The reason: they had verbal propositional revelation.  The Reformers were vocal about the reality of God’s existence and the reality of his revelation.  Schaeffer popularized this view in the title of his book, He is There and He is Not Silent.  God has spoken truly about himself.  However, he has not spoken exhaustively about himself.

Schaeffer urges readers to come face to face with two gigantic presuppositions – “the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system and the uniformity of natural causes in an open system and in a limited time span.”  Ultimately, readers must determine which worldview fits with the facts.

Schaeffer summarizes, then, the basic presuppositions in historic Christianity.

1. God is there.

2. God is the infinite-personal God who has made man in his image.

3. God made man a verbalizer in the area of propositions in his horizontal communications with other men.

4. God communicates to us on the basis of propositions, viz, he is there and his is not silent.

Schaeffer maintains, “Under the unity of the apex of the infinite-personal God, in all of these areas we can have meaning, we can have reality, and we can have beauty.”

He is There and He is Not Silent is an essential work of apologetics.  It should be required reading for every Bible College/Seminary student.  Schaeffer put his finger on the essential issues of the day – even in the early 70’s and especially in our day.

Center Church – Tim Keller

I have been reading books about the church for almost thirty years now. Most of the best material is being churned out by Mark Dever and the boys at 9Marks. Tim Keller’s, Center Church is a welcome guest in the growing list of books on ecclesiology.

Dr. Keller sets out to communicate one central message which is summed up in the subtitle: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Center Church is encyclopedic in nature. It covers every subject conceivable and is a helpful tool in every pastors prospective tool chest.

The discussion about gospel contextualization (chapter 7) is deeply encouraging and highly instructive. The author notes, “Contextualization is not – as is often argued – ‘giving people what they want to hear.’ Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them..”

Keller warns against the temptation to use contextualization as a clever means of compromise (which I find many pastors doing). He adds, “The call to contextualize the gospel has been – and still often is – used as a cover for religious syncretism. This means not adapting the gospel to a particular culture, but rather surrendering the gospel entirely and morphing Christianity into a different religion by over adapting it to an alien worldview.”

Center Church is packed with helpful instruction on doing gospel ministry in the city. It is a long read but worth plodding through for the treasures along the way.

Highly recommended for pastors who love the gospel!

Born Again This Way – Rachel Gilson

Rachel Gilson, Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next? (The Good Book Company, 2020), 146 pp.

The LGBT airwaves are filled with opinions and books are being written from every angle – both conservative and liberal. Rachel Gilson adds her voice in her most recent book, Born Again This Way. What makes Gilson’s book refreshing is that she approaches the subject with biblical faithfulness and sensitivity. As one who formerly identified in the LGBT community, the author has much to say by way of experience and offers counsel to anyone who needs help with this controversial subject.

The writing in Born Again This Way is conversational in tone, gracious in spirit, and filled with a wealth of counsel that is grounded in sacred Scripture and the Christian worldview. Gilson does not come across as preaching or dogmatic but she makes her points clear from start to finish. She is honest about her struggles and offers hope and grace to anyone who will listen. Her voice is much-needed in a climate that tends to generate more heat than light.

There is no compromise here. Gilson never “sells the ranch” to gain a hearing from the LGBT community. But her style is down to earth and winsome. Such an approach is bound to draw people from all persuasions to join in the conversation.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Gathering Storm – Albert Mohler

R. Albert Mohler, The Gathering Storm (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2020), 223 pp.

The postmodern clouds loom large over our heads. What Francis Schaeffer anticipated in the sixties and seventies in now upon us – in full force. What was once suspected has now arrived. The full force of secularism has invaded our culture and is wreaking havoc in the church.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler addresses the theme of secularism, culture, and the church in his latest book, The Gathering Storm. Each chapter sounds a warning cry to followers of Jesus Christ as the author demonstrates how secular humanism has managed to essentially “dechristianize the culture.” I As Francis Schaeffer once wisely noted, “The tragedy of our situation today is that men and women are being fundamentally affected by the new way of looking at truth, and yet they have never even analyzed the drift which has taken place.”1 Over and over, Mohler demonstrates the radical nature of this seismic shift.

The central theme of the book is that the storm is real and unavoidable. In the eye of the storm lie several key issues – the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and matters that pertain to gender and sexuality. Ignoring the storm will not alter the forecast. Evangelicals, then, must refuse to plant their heads in the ground like the proverbial ostrich.

While the storm is alarming, Dr. Mohler is quick to leave his readers with hope: “The one true God is Lord over history, and he has now called Christians in this generation into the storm.” Anything less would be cowardly and unfaithful to God and his gospel. I commend The Gathering Storm to followers of Christ and also challenge them to pay careful attention to Al Mohler keen insight in this area.

  1. Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982 reprint), 5.

An Introduction to John Owen – Crawford Gribben

Crawford Gribben, An Introduction to John Owen: A Christian Vision for Every Stage of Life (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 190 pp.

John Owen is arguably one of the most influential Puritan writers and should likewise be considered one of the most formidable Christian thinkers in the history of the church. Crawford Gribben sets out to explore the life and ministry of this important man in his book, An Introduction to John Owen: A Christian Vision for Every Stage of Life.

A few short words in the preface nicely captures the core of the book:

For Owen, spiritual life was about increasing in grace and goodness, in fellowship with each person of the Trinity, in the local and visible, catholic and invisible fellowship of the church, in the context of an often hostile world … The good life would be enabled by divine grace and would extend that grace to others.

The author sets the tone in a stirring introduction that alerts readers to the high points of Owen’s life. Owen is presented as one who was reared in a politically charged environment. A serious man by nature, Owen is prepared for a life of scholarship and ministry. He possessed a stunning intellect but also may have battled depression – along with a host of other Puritan pastors of his generation.

A fascinating feature of Owen’s life includes living through the Great Plague (1665-1666) and the Great Fire (1666). The author presents Owen as one who continues to work, write, serve, and minister – even in the midst of the fiery storm.

The remainder of the book builds upon this grand theme of living the Christian life to the glory of God. Four basic headings guide readers through Owen’s life including his childhood, youth, middle age, and death, and the afterlife. Key works of Owen are mentioned briefly and highlights of his ministry are spelled out.

Overall, Gribben’s work is solid and informative. Students who are not familiar with John Owen will benefit greatly from reading this book. But longtime admirers of Owen will also be encouraged.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.