HEAVEN – Peter Kreeft (1989)

Heaven, by Peter Kreeft seeks to recapture the longing of every human heart.  “Heaven is not in your heart but a picture of heaven, a silhouette of heaven, a heaven shaped shadow, a longing unsatisfied by anything on earth.”  The purpose of the book is to raise that picture to consciousness.  The author contends that one must first diagnose the cause of human hopelessness before a prescription can be offered.

Kreeft attempts to make an accurate diagnosis by pointing to broad historical movements that have engaged in a quest for heaven.  First, Kreeft points to the Renaissance which longed to return to Greco-Roman humanism and rationalism.  In contrast, the Reformation longed to return to simple biblical faith.  The two movements in history disintegrated into the medieval synthesis which produced modernity.  The author notes that “once modernity denies or ignores God, there are only two realities left: humanity and nature.  If God is not our end and hope, we must find that hope in ourselves or in nature.  Thus, emerge the two new kingdoms of modernity – the kingdom of self and the kingdom of this world.”  Both are clearly alternatives to the kingdom of God and result in idolatry.

The author goes on to show that every idol has “cracks.”  Hence, every idol, whether ancient or modern does not work.  Every idol fails to produce lasting happiness.  They make promises they can never deliver.  So every potential worshipper is faced with three choices: A turning to the true kingdom of God, a  turning to another idol, or a turning to nothing which leads to despair.

Kreeft proceeds to explore the heart’s longing for heaven.  “We find the presence of God by first finding the presence of the absence of God, the God-shaped hole that nothing else can fill.” Therein lies humanities deepest failure – to satisfy our deepest desire,  a relationship with God.

The author concludes that we are already in heaven in part.  The eschatological hope is not mere speculation or a flirting with eternal things.  It is now.  It is not only the future hope of heaven; it is the present reality of eternal life, living Coram Deo – before the face of God.

Heaven is filled with strong points.  First, the historical movements give the reader a context to understand modern day attitudes.  Second, the philosophical approach is commendable.  Rather than offer “pie in the sky” answers, the author deals with tough questions in a biblical fashion.  The author embraces the philosophy of C.S. Lewis which only enhances the book’s credibility.  Third, the author writes with precision and causes the reader to think deeply about the important questions in life.  Fourth, the book offers hope.  It is entirely positive and gives the reader hope for the future and a better understanding of the eschatological hope.  Further, it stresses the reality of eternal life in the here and now, not merely in the future.

4.5 stars

THE VERITAS CREDO

Cultivate the Christian mind and worldview (Matt. 22:37)

Understand a unified view of truth and a biblical epistemology (John 14:6)

Lead prisoners out of the darkness and into the light (John 8:34; Eph. 2:1-10)

Tell the truth by engaging people with love and boldness (Acts 17:30-31)

Undermine worldly ideologies (2 Cor. 10:5)

Recognize cultural trends and false worldviews (Col. 2:8)

Equip the Saints for the work of God’s kingdom (Eph. 4:11-16)

PREACHING AND PREACHERS – Martyn Llyod-Jones (1971)


Preaching and Preachers by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a wonderful book that emphasizes the man more than the art of preaching and spiritual preparation more than sermon preparation.  The author contends that the most urgent trend in the church and world is true preaching.  While the book was published in 1971, I believe the Doctor would cling to his original statement if he were alive today.

The author discusses the reason for preaching’s decline and makes the case for the priority of preaching based on Scripture and church history.  The Doctor contends that the primary task in preaching is to put man into a right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God.  Everything else in ministry flows from being faithful to the primary purpose, namely – preaching.

The author distinguishes between the kerygma – evangelistic preaching from the didache, or preaching that deals primarily with the edification of believers.  Either way, preaching must always be based on a theological foundation and must not violently impose a theological system upon the text.  Rather the system of theology should be used as a filter to check a particular interpretation.

All sermons should be expository.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones begins with the initial text and walks the reader through his exegetical procedure.  Once a doctrine is thoroughly explored, the preacher must consider the relevance of the doctrine and the people who will be listening.  He writes, “You are to show that this message is vitally important for them and that they must listen with the whole of their being, because this is really going to help them.”

“The chief end of preaching is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.”  The preacher must therefore stand in the pulpit with authority and exude a sense of seriousness, warmth, urgency, persuasiveness and power.

The author discusses how the preacher must prepare himself.  He contends that preachers must maintain a general discipline of life and an attitude of prayer.  He adds that serious preachers need to regularly read the Bible systematically and maintain good reading habits that include a study of theology, church history, biographies and apologetics.

This book has many strong points.  First, it is immensely personal.  The author truly shares from the heart.  Second, the section on “calling” is very helpful, especially to younger preachers.  Next, Dr. Lloyd-Jones encourages preachers to beware of extremes in our post-modern era. Further, the author’s passion for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ rings true on every page which motivates this preacher to do the same.  Finally, I especially appreciate the repeated emphasis on relying on the Holy Spirit.

With the rise of the so-called emergent church, watered-down teaching and preaching, doctrinal compromise, and the downplaying of authoritative proclamation, Preaching and Preachers is welcome and needed reminder of the necessity of Christ-saturated, uncompromising preaching.    Soli Deo Gloria!

4.5 stars

SPECTACULAR SINS – John Piper (2009)

Spectacular Sins is a breath of fresh air in a world that embraces the deistic notion that God has “left the building” and let the earthlings fend for themselves.  The opposite error of fatalism, where an impersonal force controls everything capriciously is also rejected.

Piper strives to answer four key questions:

1. Why does God want us to know his sovereignty over sin?

2. Why does God not restrain sin more often?

3. How can we have faith and joy during the severity of the last days?

4. How Christ is glorified in a world of sin?

The author navigates the so-called problem of evil by making an appeal to the sovereigny of God and rooting the reader in his all-wise purposes.  Piper ingeniously answers the questions above by illustrating how God uses sin through various examples such as the Fall of Man, the tower of Babel, Judas’ betrayal of Christ, and the crucifixion of Christ.

Piper argues,  “If you embrace the biblical truth that God ordains spectacular sins for the  global glory of his Son, without God in any way becoming unholy or unrighteous or sinful in that act, then you will not shrink back from the cross of Christ as a work of God.”

Spectacular Sins is one of the four required texts for the upcoming Veritas Class, “Mending the Achilles Heel” because it honestly answers one of the most thorny questions in Christian thought, namely, the problem of evil.

Read this book slowly and prayerfully.  Let it encourage you during difficult days.  Know that every sin is under God’s sovereign control and will somehow advance his kingdom purposes in his time and for his glory alone!

Five stars

TRUSTING GOD – Jerry Bridges (1988)


 

This week I re-read Jerry Bridges excellent book, Trusting God.   I had no idea what I was getting myself involved with when I first opened this book over twenty years ago.  Three years of Bible College had somehow blinded me to the precious reality of the sovereignty of God in all things.  Truth be known, my education can not be blamed for my ignorance concerning God’s sovereignty.  Rather, my pride got in the way of truth and hijacked one of the most incredible maxims in Scripture.

The author provides an “accessible gateway” for learning the doctrines of grace.  Admittedly, this gateway seems simple enough to begin with.  But by the end of Trusting God the reader is  launched to into the thin air of Mt. Everest!  Bridges introduces readers to the breathtaking doctrines of God’s decrees, providence, and his comprehensive sovereignty.  Thoughtful readers will linger at the summit longer than a climber on the real mountain.  And passionate Christ-followers  purpose to stay at 29,045 feet for the rest of their lives trusting in a God who promises to work for them (Isa. 64:4).

4 stars