Yours, till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon – Ray Rhodes Jr.

Ray Rhodes Jr., Yours, till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2021), 208 pp.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Affectionately referred to as the “Prince of Preachers.” He is the most influential English-speaking preacher in church history. He is known around the world for his evangelistic zeal and his love for training pastors and planting churches.

Most Christians seem to know all about C.H. Spurgeon. But very few are acquainted with the love story between he and his wife, Susie. Dr. Ray Rhodes Jr. introduced Spurgeon’s wife in his outstanding book, Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, Wife of Charles H. Spurgeon. Rhodes picks up where he left off in his latest work, Yours, till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon.

The author sets out to show readers the “depth of Susie’s commitment to Charles and consider how her devotion to him helped to make him the man we admire.” It appears the adage is true, “Behind every good man is a godly woman.” Such is the case here.

Rhodes chronicles the Spurgeon romance, engagement, and marriage. Readers who are unfamiliar with the depth of suffering that both Charles and Susie endured throughout their lives will be humbled and encouraged to see how they navigated thirty-seven years of marriage and managed to grow through every season of adversity. The Spurgeon marriage, while not perfect, is one that should be emulated by every Christian couple.

The Spurgeon’s modeled a deep love for the gospel, the church, the Word of God, family, and of course – one another. The mutual support they showed throughout their marriage is unrivaled and inspiring. I commend this work wholeheartedly and trust that it will receive a wide readership.

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

What the Bible Says About Divorce and Remarriage – Wayne Grudem

Wayne Grudem, What the Bible Says About Divorce and Remarriage (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2021), 110 pp.

The Bible describes marriage as a God-initiated union established before witnesses, a union that is indissoluble. Indeed, God’s plan is for a man and a woman to enter a marriage covenant that lasts a lifetime. Jesus told the inquisitive Pharisees, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 19:6b). The only event that may break the covenant is death (Rom. 7:2) at which point the living spouse is free to remarry.

Wayne Grudem’s book, What the Bible Says About Divorce and Remarriage attempts to navigate a biblical path for people in search of answers. As stated above, Dr. Grudem holds to a marital union that is lifelong and monogamous. Since we live in a world which is polluted by sin, the standard that God expects is often jettisoned and disobeyed.

While the author has a high view of marriage, he does maintain that in some cases, remarriage may be permissible – even when the previous spouse is still living. He sets forth his case in a clear and gracious way and notes his objections to authors such as J. Carl Laney.

The great strength of this work is its brevity and readability. Even though I deeply respect Dr. Grudem and have been impacted by his life and writing ministry in a multitude of ways, my convictions are closer to those outlined by Carl Laney in his seminal work, The Divorce Myth.

I encourage readers to wrestle with Grudem’s position and contrast it with competing others such as Laney, Heth, and Jim Ellif.

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

The Wisdom Pyramid – Brett McCracken

Brett McCracken, The Wisdom Pyramid (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2021), 188 pp.

The rise of social media and the internet is slowly chipping away at the evangelical mind. A subtle erosion has set in and rendered people incapable of thinking Christianly. In the end, this tragic turn of events has led many to jettison the path of wisdom.

Brett McCracken address this epistemological shift in his book, The Wisdom Pyramid. The author passionately argues that “we need a better diet of knowledge ad better habits of information intake.” The ultimate aim of the book is to present a strategy for developing wisdom. McCracken anchors the purpose of the book in the mind of his readers:

It’s a plan for stabilizing a sick society by making Christians wiser: God-fearing, trustworthy truth-tellers and truth-livers. Salt and light. This is what we are called to be. This is what the world desperately needs us to be.

Part one examines the sources of our sickness. Nothing is surprising here but the accumulated evidence that is presented is overwhelming. A nod of approval is given to Neil Postman’s classic work, Amusing Ourselves to Death. While originally penned in 1985, Postman’s thesis is proven to be accurate is most people in the west are drowning in a sea of information and have nothing to show for it. Tribalism and triviality reign – and the effects on culture are troubling.

The author presents a cogent case for our changing brains. This thesis, popularized by Nicholas Carr in his seminal work, The Shallows demonstrates how our minds are being manipulated by media and hardwired by a plethora of digital distractions. McCracken rightly notes, “We are digital wanderers, and this is a dangerous thing to be.” Even worse, very few seem to care.

Part two examines various sources of truth that lead to a life of wisdom. “Our sources of intake are vitally important,” writes the author. He continues, “They can make us healthy, or they can make us sick. Bad intake can make us unwise. Good intake – from trustworthy sources of truth – can make us wise, inoculating us against viruses of deception and error.”

Six sources are presented that offer sources of wisdom – Scripture, the church, nature, books, beauty, and the internet. Scripture is placed at the bottom of the pyramid and utilizes the well-known “Food Pyramid,” which was first introduced by the US Department of Agriculture in 1992. In this model, Scripture must be the basis of one’s diet in order for healthy growth to occur. But the other areas are not minimized. Rather, they are placed in their proper order. The purpose of this placement is the accumulation of wisdom which is defined as, “knowing what to do with knowledge gained through various means of education: how to apply knowledge and information in everyday life; how to discern if something is true or not; how to live well in light of truth gained.”

The Wisdom Pyramid is a helpful book are is sure to help many people, especially young people who are trapped in the quagmire of digital/social media. It is a solid antidote for Christians who seek wisdom in a culture of quick answers and digital “fast food.” McCracken draws deep into the wells of Christian theology and invites readers, in the end, to taste and see that the Lord is good.

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

Biblical Apologetics: How Shall We Respond to Unbelief?

photo of three person sitting and talkingUnbelief is in the air.  Unbelief is gaining ground in postmodern culture.  Over 100 years ago, the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great innermost corruption, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means is poisonous, stealthy, subterranean, small enough – I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.”

The bankrupt philosophy of the so-called four horsemen of atheism continues to gain in popularity.  Why?  Apparently, unbelief is in.  Unbelief is hip.  But the question that is burning a hole in the table for Christians is this: How shall we respond to unbelief?  How shall we who have a heart for lost people answer when they malign the Christian faith and mock the very foundations of historic Christianity?

The apostle Peter instructs believers to respond rightly: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).  In other words, we must develop the mindset of an apologist (ἀπολογία).  John Frame’s definition of apologetics of helpful: Apologetics is “the discipline that teaches Christians how to give a reason for their hope … it is the application of Scripture to unbelief.”  Cornelius Van Til writes, “Apologetics is the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life.”  Tragically, the mandate to engage in apologetics often turns ugly.  Well-meaning Christians have turned apologetics into a nasty slug fest.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Notice six crucial principles of biblical apologetics.

1. Apologetics involves verbal proclamation

Christians are commanded to proclaim the good news.  The Greek word, “proclaim”  (κηρύσσω) means to announce or proclaim; to preach or publish.”  St. Francis of Assisi was on to something when he quipped, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.”  The point: Make sure your life matches the gospel.  However, actions alone cannot convert.  Actions must be backed up with verbal proclamation.  “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, ESV).  Simply put, the gospel is meant to be published.  The gospel must be proclaimed.  Postmodern gurus and emergent sympathizers may be quick to downplay preaching and promote a “deeds not creeds” mentality.  Jesus disagrees: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14, ESV).  The first principle of apologetics involves verbal proclamation.

2. Apologetics involves bold proclamation

The New Testament apostles boldly proclaimed the truth.  Paul prayed for an extraordinary boldness (Eph. 6:19).  And Luke made it clear how bold proclamation characterized his ministry: “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31, ESV).  We too, must boldly proclaim the Word of God without apology.  Now is the time for bold and courageous proclamation.

3. Apologetics involves logical proclamation

Peter argues that we must “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)  “Reason” (λόγος) involves a word, an utterance or reasonable speech.  The apostle Paul was quick to reason with the thinkers that flooded the first century marketplace of ideas:

  • “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2, ESV).
  • “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17, ESV).
  • “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4, ESV).

We must be able to spell out the gospel message.  We must clearly and logically explain how a holy God created men and women in his image.  These image-bearers fell from God when they sinned which separated them from a holy God.  But God in his mercy, sent Christ – born of a virgin to live a perfect life, obey the law of God and die on the cross.  Christ satisfied  the justice of God and extinguished the wrath of God for every person who would ever believe.  On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, opening the way to a restored relationship with God for anyone who would repent of their sin and turn to Christ alone for forgiveness.  It is our privileged responsibility to proclaim the truth of the gospel in a logically compelling way.

4. Apologetics involves hopeful proclamation

We offer a message of hope!  We offer a message that promises liberation (John 8:36).  It tells  sinners they can be forgiven; that they can be delivered from the penalty and power of sin; and one day they shall be free from the presence of sin (Luke 1:66-67; Acts 5:31; Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13; Rom. 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:9).  Apologetics involves hopeful proclamation.

5. Apologetics involves faithful proclamation

This message of hope is for everyone.  Therefore, our task is to share this hope with people as we are given opportunity:  “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation'” (Mark 16:15, ESV).  The Great Commission involves faithful proclamation to all peoples (Rev. 5:9).

6. Apologetics involves Christ-centered proclamation

Peter makes it clear: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).  First, we must maintain an attitude of gentleness (πραΰτης), which implies humility or an unpretentious spirit.  It involves a kind answer.  Additionally, we must be respectful (φόβος) as we engage in apologetics, a term that conveys deep admiration for another person.

Our response to unbelief is crucial.  The world is watching.  May our apologetics match the biblical model.  And may we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in a winsome and compelling way.  For in the final analysis, all of God’s elect will hear and believe.

“Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:28).

Standing on the Authority of God’s Word

As we embark on yet another year, the challenges before us may seem daunting. We live in a culture that relies heavily on hunches, intuitions, and feelings. The emphasis on the subjective has led many to deny biblical Christianity and reject any notion of truth. The witty British writer, G.K. Chesterton poetically described the plight of postmodern culture: “Once people stop believing in God, the problem is not that they will believe nothing; rather the problem is that they will believe anything.” 

Given the dismal postmodern attitude toward authority, where are we to turn? Perhaps more than ever, we as disciples of Jesus need a solid rock to stand on or the waves of syncretism, pluralism and false teaching may sweep us away. We must, therefore, begin and end with the Bible as the source of divine revelation from God.

The Word of God is our highest authority. Therefore, we also need to become acquainted with the supreme value of Scripture and the benefits it brings to our daily lives. Understanding the transcendent worth of God’s Word not only helps us grow more deeply in love with the Savior; it helps point our generation to the truth that can be found in Jesus Christ alone. Consider a few valuable qualities of God’s Word found in Psalm 19:7.

God’s Authoritative Word

First, the Word of God is perfect. Psalm 19:7 plainly says, “The law of the LORD is perfect.” The Hebrew word translated perfect means “complete, whole or sound.” It is in accord with what is true. So we can confidently approach God’s Word with the full assurance that the truth presented corresponds to reality. God’s Word is not a trifle or a fad. It is perfect in every way and demands our unwavering allegiance.

Psalm 19:7 secondly reveals that God’s Word is the means of conversion. “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” In other words, apart from God’s Word, conversion is impossible. Calvin indicates that while God is revealed in general revelation, the “spectacles of faith” are needed to rightly perceive and receive God. “It is needful that another and better help be added to direct us aright to the very Creator of the universe . . . So the Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness clearly shows us the true God.” Spurgeon adds force to the argument that God’s Word is the means of conversion: 

The great means of the conversion of sinners is the Word of God, and the more closely we keep to it in our ministry the more likely we are to be successful . . . Try men’s depraved nature with philosophy and reasoning, and it laughs at your efforts to scorn, but the Word of God soon works a transformation. 

So people everywhere must submit to God’s Word and recognize the biblical truth that salvation belongs to the Lord. 

Third, the Word of God is reliable and trustworthy. “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7b, NIV). “Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true” (Ps. 119:142). “O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised good things to your servant” (2 Sam. 7:28). God’s Word is the anchor of truth for believers who live in a world that balks at the notion of truth. It is the firm foundation where believers may confidently rest, knowing that the sacred Scriptures will never disappoint for they are utterly reliable and trustworthy. 

When Luther stood before the Diet at Worms and was asked to repudiate his books and the “errors they contain,” he replied:

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is held captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me, Amen. 

May God grant us the rigor and courage of Luther as we hold the authoritative Word of God high in the unique culture where God has providentially placed us.

Stand Strong for Christ

man wearing brown leather dress shoes stepping on brown wood

We are living through one of the most tumultuous times in American history. It seems like every day a new challenge surfaces. We face trials, temptations, suffering, and grief. We hear rumors about the fate of our Republic. Conspiracy theories are at a fevered pitch. None of this should surprise us. In Jesus’s day he told his disciples:

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:6–14, ESV).

Jesus has a way of bringing us back to ground zero. He always tells the truth and he always has our best interests in mind. Is it any wonder that Paul admonished the Ephesian believers to put on the armor of God? He writes:

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:14–20, ESV).

In order to be battle ready, we need the courage of Christ. We need to put on the armor of Christ. And we need to stand strong for Christ.

The Puritan William Gurnall writes, “To stand is the opposite of to flee or to surrender. A captain who sees his men retreating or on the verge of surrender gives the order, ‘Stand!’ and every soldier worthy of his calling responds at once to his captain’s voice. In like manner, every Christian is to respond to God’s call to ‘Stand!’ – or, in other words, steadfastly to resist and never yield to the attacks of Satan.”1 Taking such a stand means that we not only stand for Christ; we also stand against some things. We stand against:

  • An ungodly world. Paul warns us about the kosmos (world) in his letter to the church in Colossae. He writes, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
  • An ungodly agenda. Scripture describes the essence of this agenda in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. I encourage you to read through this section of Scripture and become familiar with this ungodly agenda.
  • An ungodly enemy. Satan is our enemy, a foe who is backed by a horde of evil demons. They are Satanic ambassadors who do the bidding of the prince of darkness. They seek to hinder the work of the ministry (1 Thes. 2:18). They work with all their might to stir up pride among the people of God. Ultimately, their aim is to destroy (John 10:10).
Prepared for Battle

Are you battle ready?

  • Do you have the courage of Christ?
  • Are you wearing your spiritual armor each day?
  • Are you standing strong for Christ?

J.C. Ryle reminds us, ““Take away the gospel from a church and that church is not worth preserving. A well without water, a scabbard without a sword, a steam-engine without a fire, a ship without compass and rudder, a watch without a mainspring, a stuffed carcass without life, all these are useless things. But there is nothing so useless as a church without the gospel.”2

Let us stand strong for the sake of Christ.

  1. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1655), 285.
  2. J.C. Ryle, Light From Old Times (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 2015), 45.

Corporate Worship – Matt Merker

Matt Merker, Corporate Worship (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2021), 170 pp.

Corporate Worship by Matt Merker is the most recent installment in the Building Healthy Churches series of books. This series helps Christians obey the biblical commands that are an integral part of the process of growing a healthy church.

This volume addresses the matter of worship. As such it focuses issues that revolve around participants at church and the specifics of worship in the local church setting.

Merker sets the stage by revealing some helpful word pictures that show the importance of corporate worship. First, a local church is “an outpost of the kingdom of heaven.” Second, the local church is “a holy temple.” The key here is to understand that corporate worship is a matter of feasting. “Christ himself hosts us at his banquet table. We gather in his honor to delight in the richest of fare. And he expects us to meet together, as one family.” This critical foundation establishes the necessary biblical base for what follows.

The reason for corporate worship is three-fold: “God gathers us unto his glory, for our mutual good, before the world’s gaze.” Merker’s exposition of these important points are to the point and biblical throughout.

The most helpful aspect of Corporate Worship is the explanation of the so-called “Regulative Principle.” A summary of our Reformed heritage is presented in simple terms. We are called to read the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word, sing the Word, and see the Word (the Lord’s Supper and baptism). This presentation is worth the price of the book and should serve many readers well and keep them linked to the Bible and God’s heart for worship.

Five principles are set forth by way of practical application which include 1) Stay focused on the gospel, 2) Pray for a healthier church, 3) Encourage the elders to lead, 4) Teach patiently, and make changes gradually, and 5)Trust God’s sovereignty.

Corporate Worship is a worthy addition to the Building Healthy Churches series and will encourage and equip a new generation of Christian leaders.

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

Spineless: Restoring Courage and Conviction to the People of God

Spineless: Restoring Courage and Conviction to the People of God addresses the insipid kind of “Christianity” that has subtly slipped into the church. It carefully diagnoses the decline of Christian courage and traces its tragic demise. The book sets forth a carefully crafted plan for recovering lost ground in our generation. And it presents biblical strategies for restoring our spiritual muscle and sets a course for moving forward with bold courage and conviction in a world that is hostile to the historic Christian faith.

Endorsements

“Every generation of church history demonstrates that the people of God must exercise courage and conviction in order to pass on the truth to the next. In our own generation, we have seen countless men and women capitulate God’s truth in exchange for cultural relevancy. Spineless is the manifesto we so desperately need. Thoroughly biblical, David Steele has served the church well by setting courage and conviction as the necessary virtues that will ensure that believers never surrender the high ground of God’s truth in Christ.”

DR. DUSTIN BENGE, Provost and Professor of Church History, Union School of Theology, Bridgend, Wales

Spineless is a call for courageous and convictional Christianity in the midst of an evangelicalism that is often more prone to capitulation than to fearless proclamation Author David Steele, identifies the problems afflicting both the church and the world but he is not content to simply “curse the darkness”; he shines the light back to the path of courageous Christianity. The need is great. The stakes are high. The time is now to stand up for truth and to stand confidently on God’s inerrant Word. Steele skillfully utilizes history, theology, and worldview scholarship as he illustrates the biblical call to courage. This book is biblical, timely, and needed. You will learn, grow, and be challenged to a life of courageous faithfulness. I recommend this excellently written work.”

DR. RAY RHODES, JR., Author of Yours, Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon and Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon.

“This is a timely call from Pastor Steele to avoid, in a time of great opposition to the Christian faith, the sin Christians fall into of passivity and cowardice. It is a helpful reminder of the importance of staying rooted in Scripture and being helped by the example of heroes of the faith, like the OT prophets, the apostles, the Reformers, the Huguenots, and the Puritans. Also being instructed by theologians like Luther, Calvin, Bavinck, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.I. Packer, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and Al Mohler in his book, The Gathering Storm. Specifically, strong Christians must settle the matter of worldviews, and be aware of the stark contrast between biblical Christianity and false religious and philosophical systems of our day, knowing that only the Christian worldview is sufficient.”

DR. PETER JONES, Director, TruthXchange; author of The Other Worldview, Escondido, CA

“My comrade in ministry has hit another home run with this book. One of the most detrimental quotes attributed to Francis of Assisi so many Christians have latched onto is the saying, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” Dr. Steele balances this ancient pragmatism with the facts that those who have most, and will most transform society are those who know the Word, are convinced and convicted of its authority and truth, and apply it daily in their thoughts, hearts, actions and proclamation of the gospel. Never more than today do we need men and women of conviction that know their Bibles and proclaim and live its message boldly with grace and truth. Thanks again, Dr. Steele for such a motivational manifesto to be theologically and theocentrically courageous in our time by speaking and proclaiming the gospel clearly and loudly.”

DR. DAVID P. CRAIG, Lead Pastor, Valley Baptist Church, San Rafael, CA

“In his latest book, Spineless: Restoring Courage and Conviction to the People of God, David Steele takes readers by the hand and guides them as only a pastor-theologian par excellence can into the rich soil of biblical-theological convictions that will help shape their lives. In our day, we need Christians who are unafraid of the truth and unashamed to stand upon God’s Word. David, in this work not only gives the correct diagnosis, but the remedy to the ills of why many Christians lack a backbone by steadying our gaze upon the biblical text and the person and work of Jesus Christ. By doing so, he helps his readers discover from the Bible and Church History how men and women of God have stood upon the truth of God’s Word with courage and conviction. Wherever you are at in your walk with the Lord and whatever station you have in the church reading, Spineless will help you grow and be shaped by the Word of God, for a life lived under the gaze of God, for the glory of God.”

DAVE JENKINS, Executive Director, Servants of Grace Ministries, Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine, Host, Equipping You in Grace, Teacher, Servants of Grace and Warrior of Grace Podcasts

“Drawing from the rich legacy of bold and courageous men of church history, and chock-full of sound biblical teaching, Spineless is a must read for all Christians who desire to boldly live with courage and conviction in an age of timidity and rampant compromise.”

JEREMY PICKENS, Senior Pastor, Good Shepherd Church, Ferndale, WA

“I not only highly recommend this book to you, but just as importantly, its author. Dr. David Steele doesn’t just write words well, he lives them out. His character is worthy of emulating and his writings should be read and reflected on. We need more men like Pastor Steele, men of Gospel grit, who confront our age’s spinelessness with courage and boldness.”

BRYAN PICHURA, Senior Pastor, Mount Olivet Church, Huron, SD

“The negative effects of pride and domineering church leadership have been well documented, but not enough has been said and written about the perils of cowardice and passivity. Drawing from Scripture, church history, and personal life experience, Dr. David Steele pens a well-researched book for Christians to get serious about being men and women of courage. The amount of relevant church history references in this book is stunning. It’s the kind of book that will be particularly suitable for young Christians.”

DAVID QAOUD, Associate Pastor, Blogger, Bethesda Evangelical Church, St. Louis, MO gospelrelevance.com

Available now on Amazon

Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe

Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe (Washington D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 251 pp.

Trouble has been brewing for some while now. Social justice warriors have taken to the streets, courtroom, and universities. Most recently, social justice has penetrated the church walls. While many applaud the social justice movement, including well-known evangelical leaders, a few are standing strong and voicing deep concern. One such man is Dr. Voddie T. Baucham. In his most recent book, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, Dr. Baucham exposes the underbelly of the social justice movement. He sees a looming catastrophe on the horizon as scores of professing Christians begin assimilating the tenets of social justice into the fabric of their lives and worldviews.

The Goal

Fault Lines has a specific goal in mind. Dr. Baucham speaks in clear terms:

I want to unmask the ideology of Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality in hopes that those who have imbibed it can have the blinders removed from their eyes, and those who have bowed in the face of it can stand up, take courage, and ‘contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3).

The author accomplishes his goal by beginning with a personal narrative. He reveals several pertinent points about his background, including family, faith, and some of the racial tension that was a regular part of his life as a young person. Readers unfamiliar with Baucham’s background will be humbled by his candor and encouraged by a marvelous story of God’s grace.

Grace is the theme that dominates in this book. While some parts may appear combative in tone, the author’s heart is revealed throughout. This is a man who has been conquered by the sovereign grace of God. This mighty work of grace not only saved Voddie from sin, death, and hell; it has propelled him to a platform where he is quick to warn people about the dangers of the social justice movement.

The Warning

Baucham clears up any misconceptions at the beginning of the book. When critics ask, “What does Critical Race Theory have to do with the church?” “What does social justice have to do with the church?” Baucham’s answer: “Everything.”

The author explains the origins of Critical Social Justice (CSJ) with the rise of Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School. He cites Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay who argue that these theories are “geared toward identifying and exposing problems to facilitate revolutionary political change.” Such an explanation puts “meat on the bones” and enables readers to see behind much of the social justice agenda.

The warning is set forth with evangelicals in mind. John MacArthur calls it “the greatest threat to the gospel in his lifetime.” Baucham’s task is to unveil the threat in a way that is understandable and compelling for people in the pews.

Baucham sounds the alarm, much like Paul warned the Colossian believers. He urged them to:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8, ESV)

Baucham reveals how the various fault lines are impacting the church as leaders succumb to the spirit of the age. He unpacks the false narratives that are being promoted in the media and willingly consumed by Americans.

The author sets forth the unbiblical underpinnings of CRT, intersectionality, white fragility, etc. In the end, what is revealed is a strategic worldview that is being propagated. At the heart of this worldview is the radical promotion of the hegemony – the group of people who are white, heterosexual, native-born, able-bodied, and male. Anyone not a part of this group is considered a minority. But more importantly, this minority is numbered among the oppressed. In classic Marxist fashion, the oppressed must rise up and overtake the hegemony.

In this fabricated arrangement, there is no forgiveness. There is no gospel. The only thing left are the oppressors and the oppressed. In this scheme, original sin is redefined as “racism.” The agenda of social justice, which is presented as a worldview renders the gospel invalid and impotent.

According to Baucham, the antiracist goal is “equitable outcomes.” Readers who are paying attention to the worldview shifts in our culture will recognize these themes. Gone are the days when equality is emphasized. The new buzzword is equity. The author maintains this goal “is neither biblical, reasonable, nor achievable.” Instead of grace, the only thing that remains is law.

Baucham cites Albert Schweitzer who said, “A heavy guilt upon us from what the whites of all nations have done to the colored peoples. When we do good to them, it is not benevolence – it is atonement.” Such a sentiment drill deep into the heart and soul of antiracism. Tragically, this worldview is invading the church. It is anti-gospel.

The Way Forward

Baucham believes that the coming catastrophe is unavoidable: “These fault lines are so deeply entrenched, and the rules of engagement so seriously complex, that the question is not if but when the catastrophe will strike.” The way forward will require clear thinking and Christian courage. The way forward involves faithful allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ringing in my ears is a line from a sermon that John Piper preached many years ago, where he exhorted his readers to “out rejoice all their enemies.” Like Athanasius, we must rise up and live contra mundum. But living against the world does not suggest that we stop loving people in the world. As Baucham notes, “We must love each other with a tenacious, biblical, Christlike love.”

The author concludes by urging his readers to 1) take every thought captive, 2) confront the lie and hold to the truth, 3) listen with discernment, and 4) correct people who are peddling a worldview that opposes the truth of the gospel.

Fault Lines is a greatly needed book. Dr. Baucham’s work is a true labor of love, which is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Readers should read this work carefully and thoughtfully and make it their aim to move into the marketplace of ideas, armed with the truth of God’s Word, and ready to make a difference in a world that is desperately in need of Jesus’s saving work on the cross.

Church: Living Faithfully as the People of God – A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer, Church: Living Faithfully as the People of God (Chicago: Moody Press, 2019), 164 pp.

Church by A.W. Tozer is a collection of essays that the well-known pastor penned in the twentieth century. Tozer is a beloved writer and has blessed the church with books like The Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God. Tozer combines a blend of biblical wisdom and warm prose that encourages and admonishes followers of Christ. He has a unique way of drawing readers in, cornering them with the truth, and sending them out equipped and encouraged. The Church is no exception.

This book addresses a series of topics, all related to the church. Tozer focuses on matters that pertain to leadership, organization, unity, and the purposes of the church – to name a few. The book is packed with important challenges that Christians should carefully heed. One such challenge rightly summarizes the essence and tone of the book. Tozer writes, “The Christian must not allow himself to be entrapped by current vogues in religion, and above all, he must never go to the world for his message. He is a man of heaven sent to give witness on earth. As he shall give account to the Lord that bought him, let him see to his commission.”

While Church is a deeply encouraging and challenging book, it is not without its weaknesses. Sadly, Tozer commends the writing of Charles Finney several times. Finney, of course, denied the doctrine of original sin and penal substitutionary atonement and should therefore never be commended. Someone of Tozer’s capabilities should know better.

Apart from this critique, Church is certainly worth reading and will no doubt encourage many readers. May the people of God live faithfully in a generation that has turned away from his Word and his gospel.

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