Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

What Is Your Bible-Reading Plan for 2015?

Tim Challies rounds up a number of really great Bible reading plans for the coming year.

Social Media Fruit of the Spirit

Aaron Earls:

One of the most unfortunate, but telling aspects of social media is the way many Christians use it with no concern for how it reflects on them or their Savior.

Many believe (wrongly) as long as they speak the truth, nothing else matters—even, especially, when talking to or about other Christians.

However, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15 that we keep unity within the body of believers by not just speaking truth, but by doing so in love.

5 trends that will shape 2015

Josh Linkner at Forbes has a few interesting ideas about trends we’ll see in the business world in the coming year. I’m skeptical on the last one, though.

Don’t Get Too Familiar with the Bible

Peter Krol:

Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are.

Why You Should Read Bavinck

Derek Rishmawy:

This past January I embarked on a Saturday reading plan of the Dogmatics. Now roughly halfway through the fourth volume and on track to complete the set by the end of December, I can safely say this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my theological life. Bavinck’s accomplishment in the Dogmatics is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The expansive, nuanced, and deeply trinitarian theological vision is both intellectually challenging and spiritually nourishing. I anticipate turning to these volumes regularly in the years to come.

I’d like to offer up six reasons you ought to consider picking up the Dogmatics and working through them yourself.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few for the history buffs among you (thanks to Tim Challies for the head’s up on these):

And finally, several editions in B&H’s New American Commentary Studies on sale for $4.99 each:

On Newsweek’s desperate swipe at the Bible

Michael Kruger responds to this fairly awful article at Newsweek.

Is your church functionally liberal?

Ray Ortlund:

The liberal churches I’ve known are not openly hostile to the Bible.  They like the Bible.  They want their preacher to use the Bible.  They have home Bible studies.  What makes them “liberal” is that the Bible alone is not what rules them.  They allow into their doctrine, their ethos, their decisions, other complicating factors.  The Bible is revered, in a way.  But it is not the decisive factor.  It is only one voice among others.

The Time Is Ripe for Radical Generosity

Dan Olson:

Today we pray for revival, but are we living lives of radical generosity in the same manner that our forbears did? Put another way, is true revival stifled by our comfort and affluence?

When I describe radical generosity, I’m talking about joyfully giving all of one’s time, talent, and treasures for the sake of God’s kingdom and a heavenly reward, without expecting any (earthly) return on investment.

You Ask Not Because You Have Received Not

Lore Ferguson:

When I was young I asked for something specific from my parents. They were always generous parents, as generous as they could be in a family of ten. But in this they said no, that one of my younger brothers would be the recipient first for various reasons. But then that same brother died in a sudden accident and our world shattered in every direction. No one was thinking of promises made to children, we were all just trying to survive the catastrophic blow that kept on beating us from every side. Not until a friend asked me this year did I realize I still carry with me a post-traumatic-stress from those few years. I encased myself in getting through it, being strong, protecting my youngest siblings, protecting myself, most days just surviving. My dead brother would never receive the gift, but I would also never receive the gift, because who thinks of gifts when the ground is coming apart around you?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Immanuel, the story of the Bible

This is a nice piece by Ryan Higginbottom.

What are we teaching our kids to treasure?

Jeff Hutchings:

Many of us have spent time and money meeting with lawyers to ensure our treasures/property is inherited by our children. It is important that we identify what we value and how that plays out in our lives, because our kids will value what we value.  My hope is that as I raise my kids I will be able to lead them towards things of eternal value rather than just an earthly value. I want them to have eyes that turn away from earthly things.

How can I help my children understand eternal values?

 How to Change Your Mind

Joe Carter:

After reading the entire post the vast majority of readers will snicker at such a hyperbolic claim and never implement the method I outline. A smaller number will consider the advice intriguing, my assertion only a slight exaggeration, but will also never implement the method. A tiny minority, however, will recognize the genius behind the process and apply it to their own life. This group will later say that my claim was an understatement.

This post is written for those people.

The Deep Magic of Christmas

Barnabas Piper:

Christmas hurts. “The most wonderful time of the year” is not for many people. And all the sentiment and smiles we can muster do nothing to dull the pain; they merely mask it.

10 Ways We Can Remember to Be Christians this Christmas

Kevin DeYoung:

We love Christmas. We can’t wait for the day to come, and many of us can’t wait for the season to be gone.

But whether you love every nook and cranny about the holidays–or consider most of it “noise, noise, noise!”–there is no excuse to be grinchy and scroogeish. Here are ten ways we can remember to be Christians this Christmas.

On Being Extra-Scrooge-y

Catherine Parks:

But now I see myself–I’m a cynical 80-year-old in a 31-year-old’s body. I hear about Santa bringing toys to children around the world, and wonder why he doesn’t visit the slums of Mumbai. My Facebook feed is an absurd string of terrible news from all over the world mixed with videos about how to tie a ribbon or fold a napkin. (And let me tell you, nothing brings out the self-righteousness in me quite like social media.) But I know cynicism and a critical spirit are not the answer to over-sentimentalizing Christmas. These things just increase my awareness that I lack love–it’s easy to think I love strangers in Iraq, and yet the truth comes out as I have no love for those who don’t think like me in my own social circle.

HT: Tim

We trust God when we trust His Word

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I’m doing something kind of dumb (again): reading too many books at one time. At the moment, I’m only seriously reading two, but still, I should know better. That being said, one of them happens to be Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(Which I think makes it cool, right?)

Regardless of the wisdom of my reading habits, there is a great deal of wisdom in this book. One of the things I absolutely love so far is Keller’s understanding of where we encounter God (which has massive implications for our prayer lives, but that’s another post) and how we know we can trust Him.

We often like to think of esoteric, mystical “whispers,” when we think of God speaking to us, or even speaking to us without words—impressions and that sort of thing. Yet, Keller reminds us that God’s words  (and thus God’s Word) also represent His active presence in the world. God acts through speaking:

“We humans may say, ‘Let there be light in this room,’ but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing,” Keller explains. “To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something.… If God’s words are His personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God” (53, 54).

This is why many Christians get so jittery when we see people playing a bit loosey-goosey with the Bible, whether with the meaning of a passage or how we should understand it. It’s not because we’re worshipping our Bibles, but because of whose Word it is and whose words are recorded there.1 We keep pushing back to the Bible because we know there is no other way to actually know who our God is in a truly personal, meaningful, relational way. We learn who God is from His Word. And we learn to trust Him by learning to trust His Word.

Links I like

The Most Neglected Part of the Pastor’s Job Description

Thabiti Anyabwile:

But in all of this talk over the years, I’ve come to believe that the most neglected aspect of a pastor’s job description is the command for pastors to disciple older women in their congregations. It’s a massive omission since in nearly every church women make up at least half the membership and in many cases much more. And when you consider how many ministries and committees depend upon the genius, generosity and sweat of our sisters, it’s almost criminal that most any pastor you meet has no plan for discipling the women of his church apart from outsourcing to a women’s ministry staff person or committee.

What Is Reformation Day All About?

Robert Rothwell:

On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Friday is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

This argument has reached retirement age

Good stuff here from Brian Mattson.

What “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” Does Not Mean

Barnabas Piper:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus gave us this as the second of the two greatest commandments. Paul described it as the summation or fulfillment of the whole law. No complicated explanations, lists of caveats, or endless parsing – just “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And we westerners have taken it to heart. Sort of. It’s more accurate to say that we have taken it and fit it to our hearts.

It has morphed from “Love your neighbor as yourself” to “Love your neighbor because you love yourself” to “Love yourself so you can love your neighbor.” Instead of reflecting the one who gave the command it has been, to create a term, Gollum-ized into a twisted, nasty, self-focused, inverted mantra. We have made ourselves the focus of the love.

The Most Underwhelmingly Astounding Fact

Tim Challies:

Tyson says our significance comes when we understand that we are made of the same stuff as the stars—we are one with the universe and part of the big picture of the universe because our bodies are composed of the building-blocks of the universe. That may seem compelling and it may seem encouraging, but if this is the most astounding fact he can come up with, he is a fool. He is a brilliant fool, a man who uses his intellectual gifts to express folly.

The Bible has far better news.

Believing the Wrong Story

Eric Geiger:

Many in our churches believe the wrong story. They have an erroneous view of the Lord and of His world. When we believe the wrong story, there are devastating implications. We chase things that don’t matter. We fight battles that are meaningless. Many in our churches even believe the wrong story about the Bible. Even among people who read the Bible every week, who sit in a kid’s ministry, a student ministry, a Sunday school class, or a small group—some fail to see the real story of the Bible. Church leaders are constantly teaching a story, and there are two common, yet inaccurate stories heralded in churches.

Links I like

The Expulsive Power of New Affection

Dan Kassis, a voice-over artist in Spring Hill, TN, recently recorded Thomas Chalmers’ sermon, The Expulsive Power of New Affection, as a birthday gift for his pastor. He’s since made it available for $3 to raise funds for The Bridge’s relocation efforts. I’d highly encourage grabbing a copy of this, as well as keeping your eyes open for more recordings of great sermons and essays from Dan in the future.

God Is in the Grocery Aisle

Lindsey Carlson:

It’s sad, but sometimes I allow the food in my cart cart to label me. If I walk down the organic aisle with its pesticide-free, non-GMO, “real” food, I feel good about myself and my mothering. My pride gladly wears the labels “informed”, “wise”, and “caring”. But if my shadow darkens the aisle of the processed, chemically-bathed “non-food,” my fearful heart wants to hide in shame.

Help publish the next book from Michael and Hayley DiMarco

Michael and Hayley DiMarco are preparing to publish their next book and curriculum, House of Grace: Big sinners raising little sinners, but they’re taking a different approach: instead of going through traditional publishers, they’re publishing it themselves. The manuscript is written, and they’re trying to raise enough funds to edit, design and print the book. Take a look, and if it’s something that appeals to you, I hope you’ll contribute.

Working on Learning to Rest

Nick Batzig:

If you’re anything like me, you know that you have to be intentional about learning how to rest. It’s hard for some of us to downshift. Some have a bent toward laziness and others a tendency to overwork. Phil Ryken has made the helpful observation that busyness stems from the same sinful root as laziness. Both are sinful manifestations of an idol of control. When we overwork, we try to control of our own lives and guide it to a selfishly motivated outcome. We are trying to secure what makes us feel good in life. Those who are lazy do exactly the same thing as those who overwork. If Satan can’t get us to try to do so by the vehicle of laziness, he will do so by tempting us to burn the candle at both ends. There is a sense in which just as those who are lazy need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and work hard at learning to work, so those of us who are inclined to overwork need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and work hard at learning to rest. In order to grow in our ability to rest, we must know ourselves. We must be able to examine the patterns of our thoughts and actions. After all, the Proverbs tell us that “the prudent considers well his steps” (Prov. 14:15).

Some Uncomfortable Questions

Kevin DeYoung asks some uncomfortable—but important—questions.

Does 1 John 2:27 Mean I Don’t Need My Sunday School Teacher?

Mike Leake:

In 1 John 2:27 the apostle tells his readers, “you have no need that anyone should teach you.” He says this because they have been “anointed by the Holy One”. As a result of this anointing they don’t need anyone to teach them.

What about us?

Is this an affirmation that if I have the “anointing of the Holy One” that I’m fine missing Sunday School? After all, if I’ve got God Almighty teaching my heart then, I don’t need nobody teachin’ me nuthin’.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The theme of this week’s Crossway deals is pretty transparent (but very welcome):

Also on sale:

What We Can Learn From Gamergate

Richard Clark:

It all started with a scandal. One woman slept with other men, and one man took umbrage, posting personal chat-logs with her as “proof” of videogame nepotism and corruption. The result was “Gamergate,” a videogame-related witch-hunt the likes of which none of us have ever seen before.

Gamergate is an online controversy centered around both the treatment of women in videogames and ethics in videogame journalism. The active campaign operates primarily out of the concern that there is a general “groupthink” in videogame journalism centered around feminist and generally progressive concerns.

Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard

This is so good.

Bible Ignorance

Mark Jones:

People who have an excellent understanding of the Scriptures really impress me. If there’s one thing I detest, besides Manchester United, it’s Bible studies or theological discussions where the Scriptures function like the crumbs in a bag of chips: you get to them only if you’re desperate.

As someone who has had the pleasure and displeasure of examining candidates for the ministry, I can tell you that many candidates suffer from a lack of basic bible knowledge. They (kind of) know their five points of Calvinism – I wish they knew the other twenty – but they have no idea what the five Levitical offerings are. They know two Latin words (duplex gratia), which they say ad infinitum, ad nauseam, but they don’t even know whether the cupbearer, the baker or the candlestick-maker forgot Joseph in prison.

The Church and Women at Risk

Lindsey Holcomb:

Violence against women is a global epidemic that affects women and girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. Some women and girls, however, are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The phrase “women at risk” or “at-risk women” is used to describe women most susceptible to exploitation and violence, such as women and girls living in poverty and girls younger than 18.

Because life can be tragic for women, it is crucial to have a biblical understanding of how the church can protect and care for women at risk.

Abraham, Cultural Distance, and Offering Up Our Moral Conscience

Derek Rishmawy:

All too often in these discussions of troubling texts, we collapse the cultural distance between us and the biblical characters. Human nature is, in many ways, constant. Conscience is one of those basic human features. Across cultures, everybody has a clear sense of right and wrong, norms against which we must not cross, and an internal compass about these sorts of things. That said, any student of culture knows there are some significant variations across cultures as well. “Self-evident truths” held by post-Enlightenment Americans are not all that apparent to equally intelligent Middle Easterners or citizens of the Majority world. The conscience of a 1st Century citizen might be very sensitive about an issue you and I wouldn’t blink twice about, and vice versa. Our cultural presuppositions and plausibility structures do a significant amount of work here.

Where does this come in with Abraham? Well, I think it becomes a factor in two ways: cultural distance and revelational distance. These two are bound up with each other.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

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This past week, the folks at Hillsong found themselves in a bit of a pickle as founder Brian Houston, when confronted on the question of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In attempting to provide a winsome answer, he said that it’s too important to reduce down to a “yes or no answer in a media outlet,” which many conservative evangelicals took to mean Houston and Hillsong are fudging on what the Bible says.

Fast forward a couple of days. Houston clarified, saying, “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Houston’s not alone in doing “the dance”—not wanting to deny the Bible, but wanting to keep entry to the faith as free from obstacles as possible. Tons of pastors (and “pastors”) have faced this. Even Joel Osteen (who has the most inoffensive to unbelievers personality on earth!) has been ambushed on the question. In the end, he said he didn’t believe it to be God’s best for people.

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

Now, I get it. Many people want to avoid putting up a stumbling block to unbelievers coming to faith. They don’t want to be seen as “those Christians”—the ones who are always fighting about this or that, or who are considered hateful or bigots. But dancing around the Bible isn’t the answer.

We don’t really need to do the dance. We don’t have to be backed into a corner where we begrudgingly accept what the Bible says. Not if we are viewing the Bible as we are meant to.

If the Bible is the word of Truth (James 1:18; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), shouldn’t we be more comfortable standing by it? Not with a begrudging acceptance, but with a heartfelt confidence?

Shouldn’t we be willing to treat God’s word as, well, God’s Word?

Links I like

eBook deals for Christian readers

As part of Pastor’s Appreciation Month, Impact members can save 60 per cent off six of their best pastoral resources this week (in print and eBook editions). These titles include The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, One with Christ by Marcus Peter Johnson (which is also on sale for the Kindle this week) and Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.

On the Kindle deal front, here are a few new ones:

Completing not Competing

David Murray:

When we look at the nut and bolt, we don’t think one is superior or inferior to the other, we just see different designs for different but complementary purposes. We don’t try to make the nut into a bolt or vice versa; that’s just a waste of time and effort. And when we see them working well together, we may want to compliment the inventor of this complement. 

There is Glory in the Details.

Erik Raymond:

Consider a newly engaged couple, do you have much trouble getting them to tell you the story about how they met and fell in love? Not likely. Or, how about new parents? Many will gladly recount the details of their birth story for you. How about a little kid who just saw something surprising? I think of my little 5-year-old daughter who recently told me the whole story of how she got a princess dress at Goodwill and how it really is an Elsa dress because of these 5 things… We love details when we love the topic we are describing.

God is no different. He loves details, especially when describing who he loves. He is very thorough, precise and passionate to communicate the intricate beauty and diverse glories of his Son.

Why I Don’t Typically Argue About the Rapture

Mike Leake:

Rarely will I challenge a persons belief in a pre-tribulational rapture. But there are at least four times when I will speak up:

  1. When their belief makes them swallow other silly things.
  2. When their belief is giving them a dangerously wrong view of suffering.
  3. When their belief is negatively impacting the way they follow Jesus.
  4. When they are obsessed/distracted to the detriment of themselves or others. Usually in the form of being divisive and argumentative.

I’ve found only a handful of instances in which one of these is present that would necessitate my speaking up. For the most part there isn’t much benefit in arguing about the timing of certain eschatological events—this includes the rapture.

Should Giving Always Be Kept Secret?

Randy Alcorn:

We need to stop putting giving in a class by itself. If I give a message on evangelism, biblical interpretation or parenting, I run the risk of pride. But it may still be God’s will for me to share with the church what God’s taught me in these areas. Paul spoke of himself as a model—”Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). I could write books for the wrong reasons, even though I seek God’s face and ask that this wouldn’t be the case. I could send every email with the wrong motive, to seek man’s approval, not God’s. But I write books and send emails anyway, partly because if we refrain from doing everything we could do with a wrong motive, we’ll never do anything at all. (If your pastor only preaches when there’s no temptation to pride, he’ll never preach.)

Practical Principles of Biblical Interpretation

R.C. Sproul:

It has often been charged that the Bible can’t be trusted because people can make it say anything they want it to say. This charge would be true if the Bible were not the objective Word of God, if it were simply a wax nose, able to be shaped, twisted, and distorted to teach one’s own precepts. The charge would be true if it were not an offense to God the Holy Spirit to read into sacred Scripture what is not there. However, the idea that the Bible can teach anything we want it to is not true if we approach the Scriptures humbly, trying to hear what the Bible says for itself.

Why is it so tempting to toss the Bible?

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out where to start with a review of God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. Like I seriously don’t even know where to start. It’s the same problem I have with trying to read and thoughtfully critique anything by Rachel Held Evans or the folks involved with Christianity21… all of whom claim to take the Bible seriously, yet routinely reimagine what it says.

(This is not the beginning of a book review, by the way.)

Believe it or not, I actually get where they’re coming from. I remember some early conversations I had as a new believer where I would say some pretty stupid and arrogant things—more than once the phrase, “Well, that was just Paul’s opinion” came out of my mouth. This wasn’t because I didn’t believe the Bible, I just didn’t understand it.

Over time, I got a better sense of what was going on in the Bible, but challenging passages still present themselves. How do we deal with the Bible’s contention that Christians should not intentionally become romantically involved with non-believers? Or that marriage is strictly to be kept between one man and one woman? Or that we’re to forsake all—even our families—in order to follow Jesus?

Honestly, there are times when I can see why it’s tempting to adopt a more novel reading of some of these passages (or abandon them altogether). I mean, who really wants to tell the Christian woman with a non-believing boyfriend that they shouldn’t be dating? Who really enjoys the scorn that comes from being against every “reasonable” person in the West (in the eyes of the media, at least) on the issue of same-sex marriage? Who looks forward to the awkward moments at get-togethers when family members’ eyes glaze over when you talk about what’s going on in your life?

And so the temptation comes to light. And far too many of us—whether willingly or out of sheer exhaustion—give in. We reinvent ourselves as “doubt-filled believers,” which too often seems like choosing to be blown about aimlessly by the wind. We try to maintain our identity as evangelicals, even as we saw off the branch upon which we sit. We try to do what we can to get along with everyone, but in the end please no one.

We’re too Christian for some, but not enough for others. You can’t win playing that game.

Which takes us back to the question: why is it so tempting to toss the Bible? Because it’s easier. The Bible is dangerous and obeying is it costly.

When “fighting the good fight,” it’s often us who take a beating. When running to “finish the race,” we hit a wall that’s almost impossible to push through as every muscle in our bodies screams for us to stop.

But even then, we don’t give up. Tossing the Bible might seems like the easy solution in our moments of weakness, but it’s a losing proposition. We may not want to be on the wrong side of anything, but if I had to choose, I’d rather not be on the wrong side of Jesus. I’d rather, in as much as the Lord strengthens me, to say with Paul:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

What about you?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Get Mark in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Mark, from the St. Andrew’s commentary series by R.C. Sproul, for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Recovering the Beauty of the Arts teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Contending for the Truth conference series (DVD)
  • By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

Barnabas Piper:

Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It’s annoying. It’s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a “poor leadership style” or “ineffective management.” It’s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn’t work, and that’s mainly because it’s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

Sexual Sin and the Single

Lore Ferguson:

What if it is true that any sexual act outside of marriage is in some sense the physical embodiment of those other sins? I want what is not mine—envy; I want it now—impatience; I want pleasure—selfishness. I am committing what St. Augustine—the father of sexual ethics and self-professed great wrestler of them—called “disordered love,” placing any desire above God, which is sin.

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

Nancy Guthrie:

Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because . . . well . . . because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons — not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top ten list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.

A Time To Dance: A Christian Defense of Pop Music

Steve McCoy:

I cannot get over my love for pop music.

This is a problem. Well, it’s a problem for me. You see, I pride myself on being an indie music snob. I like quirky, creative music from people you probably don’t know. Or, if you do know them, you’re probably an indie music snob too.

As you might guess, I closely identify with this label. My wife, for example, bought me a t-shirt I proudly wear, one whose enigmatic epigram draws many questions: “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.”

Can I Really Trust the Bible?

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There are a lot of really great books out there on the trustworthiness of the Bible. Some of these tend to be on the academic side, demonstrating the historical reliability of the Scriptures, the formation of the canon and so on. Others are more devotional in nature, designed to edify and encourage believers as they seek to have confidence in this book which is so important.

These approaches are good and helpful, but many readers want something that’s a bit more direct and to the point. This is what Barry Cooper offers in Can I Really Trust the Bible?, the latest in The Good Book Company’s Questions Christians Ask series. Over the book’s five chapters, Cooper offers compelling answers to three key questions:

  1. Does the Bible claim to be God’s word?
  2. Does the Bible seem to be God’s word?
  3. Does the Bible prove to be God’s word?

The inescapable force of circular logic

These three questions absolutely essential to any serious study of the nature of the Bible. If the Bible does not claim to be, seem to be, or prove to be God’s word—if it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny—then we must reject the notion of the Bible being God’s word. If it’s a duck, we cannot call it a swan. And so we are wise to consider what the Bible says about itself in order to verify its nature.

Which, of course, leads to that common critique many Christians face—the charge of circular reasoning. But, Cooper notes, “When you think about it, it’s impossible for any of us to avoid this kind of circularity in our arguments: we all appeal to authority of one kind or another, even when we don’t realise it.” He continues:

…if I say: “The Bible is my highest authority because it can be proved rationally”, the argument would be self-defeating. I’d be appealing to an authority other than the Bible (rationalism), implying that it (and not God’s word) was the real measure of trustworthiness.”

This level of candor is refreshing to read in any book on this subject, and very much needed. We don’t need to deny that, yes, we’re use circular logic—why? Because (as Cooper notes above) appealing to anything other than the Bible implicitly places authority over the Bible in something other than the Bible.

Authority and evidence

 

This doesn’t mean, though, that appeals to outside evidence are invalid. For example, one of the most common challenges to the Bible today is whether or not we can know for certain what it said in its original manuscripts. If we can’t have any certainty on this, we can’t have any real confidence that what is found in the Bible as we know it today is what was intended by its original authors. But the embarrassment of riches we have in the form of ancient manuscripts—some dating back to within just a few decades of the events described—are a wonderful example of how God’s people have faithfully maintained the message.

…although we no longer have access to the original biblical documents, all is not lost. The truly enormous number of surviving copies enables experts to reconstruct the original with great accuracy. This process of comparing copies is called textual criticism, and as a result, scholars are able to say: “For over 99% of the words of the Bible, we know what the original manuscript said.”

 

It’s appropriate to mention evidence like this, not as a gotcha, but to help illustrate the point: if early Christians didn’t believe the Bible was God’s word, why would they have been so meticulous in making copies, so much so that the variations that exist affect no major doctrine of the faith (and most are limited to things like typos)? Evidence of this sort doesn’t prove the point, but it does lend additional credibility to the point the Bible itself makes.

Breaks no new ground, but refreshing nonetheless

Having said all that, readers should be aware that they’re unlikely to find anything they’ve not already read in any number of other books on this subject. The arguments are as solid as what you’ll find in Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word, R.C. Sproul’s Can I Trust the Bible? or Michael Kruger’s Canon Revisited. And while Cooper may not break new ground, Can I Really Trust the Bible? is a refreshing and encouraging read that would be excellent to share with those looking to study this important topic.


Title: Can I Really Trust the Bible?
Author: Barry Cooper
Publisher: The Good Book Company (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Four books by Francis Chan are on sale (not sure how long this will last):

A conversation with Jared Wilson

What If the Worst Happens?

Vaneetha Rendall:

The uncomfortable truth is, any of those things could happen. No one is free from tragedy or pain. There are no guarantees of an easy life. For any of us. Ever.

I was considering this sobering reality a few months ago. Over the course of several days, I had brought numerous longings and requests before the Lord. I wanted them fulfilled. But the unthinkable question haunted me: What if my inmost longings are never met and my nightmares come true?

Can Facebook Really Ruin Your Marriage?

Aimee Byrd:

I remember hearing on the radio that employers will one day use “Facebook scores” to evaluate whether or not someone is worthy to hire as an employee. Yep, the compilation of your posts, friends, and likes say something about you that technology turns into a number, just like a credit score.  Facebook exposes what is already there.
I often have to remind myself that things are not as they seem. That’s a major theme we find in Revelation. In fact, the title Revelation explains an unveiling of something that is already true. In this era of technology, we have a small taste of this reality. People are not always as they seem.

Does God Let His Kids Lie About Him?

Derek Rishmawy:

Does God let his kids lie about him? That’s the question I found myself asking after reading this interview of Pete Enns by Rob Bell. Enns has a new book on the Bible coming out, and it promises to be the new progressive-Evangelical handbook for scrapping your old doctrine of Scripture, so, of course, Bell pulled him onto the blog to chat. Unsurprisingly the issue of ancient science and Old Testament violence came up.  I’ll quote Enns said about it at length, because why not?

10,000 Little Moments and the Minute Particulars

Lore Ferguson:

A friend and I have been talking about the little moments, the decisions we make with each movement, namely that necessary organ we generally consider the seat of our emotions: the heart. He quoted Paul Tripp the other day: “The character of your life won’t be established in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments,” and I couldn’t help but think of the 9,999 little moments in my life and day that seem to careen me completely opposite from where I want to go.

Your Gospel Probably Lacks Judgment

Joey Cochran:

Recently, I wrote an article about how “Your Judgment Probably Lacks Gospel.” Essentially, I said that we live in a critical world that often lacks gospel in our approach to handling social media, personal relationships, and rebuking sin. I argued that in the gospel you have this indelible link between justice and grace. You can’t really biblically define one without the other because they always come paired. Really, justice and grace are like peanut butter and jelly, Mickey and Minnie, or Simon and Garfunkle. You can’t have one without the other, and if you do, you intuitively know that there is a gaping rift in the cosmos.

Which leads me to this point: just as your judgment probably lacks gospel, there is a solid chance that your gospel lacks judgment. And I’m not the first to say this. Multitudes of pixels have been published (that’s right folks, we’re not spillin ink anymore) on this subject.

New and noteworthy books

New-Noteworthy-09-2014

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:


You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan

In his latest book, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar: How do I have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

100% of the net profits from You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will go towards providing food, shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of orphaned children and exploited women in partnership with global charities.

And if you needed an additional reason to pick this one up…

You’re welcome.

Buy it at: Amazon


ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

The latest edition to the ESV Bible family:

Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper

From horror flicks to rom-coms, the tales we tell and the myths we weave inevitably echo the narrative underlying all of history: the story of humanity’s tragic sin and God’s triumphant salvation. This entertaining book connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one great Story—helping us better understand the longings of the human heart and thoughtfully engage with the movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Edwards on the Christian Life by Dane Ortlund

Dane Ortlund invites us to explore the great eighteenth-century pastor’s central passion: God’s resplendent beauty. Whether the topic was the nature of love, the preeminence of Scripture, or the glory of the natural world, the concept of beauty stood at the heart of Edwards’s theology and permeated his portrait of the Christian life. Clear and engaging, this accessible volume will inspire you to embrace Edwards’s magnificent vision of what it means to be a Christian: enjoying and reflecting of the beauty of God in all things.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw

Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes a closer look at the key arguments skeptical scholars such as Ehrman keep repeating in radio interviews, debates, and in his their popular writings. If you are looking for insightful responses to critical arguments from a biblical perspective, easily accessible and thoughtfully presented, this book is for you. This is the first book to provide a comprehensive response to Ehrman’s popular works. It is presented in such a way that readers can either read straight through the book or use it as a reference when particular questions arise. Responding to skeptical scholars such as Ehrman, Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes readers on a journey to explain topics such as the Bible’s origins, the copying of the Bible, alleged contradictions in Scripture, and the relationship between God and evil. Written for all serious students of Scripture, this book will enable you to know how to respond to a wide variety of critical arguments raised against the reliability of Scripture and the truthfulness of Christianity.

Buy it at: Amazon


God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger

This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Tom Jones by Fielding

This one’s a bit of a cheat since it’s about 200 years old and I bought it. But I bought it on the recommendation of Karen Swallow Prior.

Tom, a foundling, is discovered one evening by the benevolent Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and brought up as a son in their household; when his sexual escapades and general misbehavior lead them to banish him, he sets out in search of both his fortune and his true identity. Amorous, high-spirited, and filled with what Fielding called “the glorious lust of doing good,” but with a tendency toward dissolution, Tom Jones is one of the first characters in English fiction whose human virtues and vices are realistically depicted. This edition is set from the text of the Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding.

Buy it at: Amazon