Logos giveaway: The Zondervan Theology Collection

zondervan-theology-collection

Logos Bible Softward has teamed up with a number of bloggers, including me, Lore Ferguson and a few others, to give away some of great resources. This month they’ve asked us to help give away Zondervan’s seven volume theology collection featuring:

  • The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way
  • Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
  • The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism
  • For Calvinism
  • Against Calvinism
  • Hell under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment
  • A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God

The winner will be chosen at random on August 1st and the collection will be sent to the winner’s Logos account. Don’t have an account? No problem! You can sign up for free here and download free apps to read your books on any device here.

How to Enter

Login below with your email address or Facebook account and follow the steps in the widget. That’s it! Each prompted action you follow will earn you additional entries. You can always come back and share a link to the giveaway with your friends for additional entries.

Note: By entering this giveaway you consent to being signed up to Logos’ “Product Reviews” email list. You’ll receive emails featuring content written by me and a few other Christian bloggers!

Know the Heretics

Know the Heretics by Justin Holcomb

“Heretic” is one of those words we struggle to use well. Often times, you see it used in one of two ways—either liberally or ironically. One equates all disagreement with apostasy, the other pretends disagreement doesn’t matter at all.

Both rob the word of its power.

Justin Holcomb understands the seriousness of heresy and what it means to call someone a heretic—it is “a weighty charge that [is] not made lightly, nor [is] it used whenever there [is] theological inaccuracy or impression” (14).

So how do we learn to use this word wisely? By knowing what heresy really is. And so, we have Holcomb’s newly released Know the Heretics. This short book introduces readers to several heresies that have threatened the church throughout history, and how the controversies surrounding each—whether it be the requirement to obey the Law, the existence of original sin, or the Trinity itself—helped shape the church as it is today.

Learning from the past to understand the present

It’s tempting to pretend that ancient heresies don’t matter anymore because, well, they’re ancient. But this tendency is our chronological snobbery at work. We like to think we’re beyond the problems of the ancient world; that because we are so much more advanced, we couldn’t possibly fall prey to the same errors our spiritual forbearers did.

You know what they say about those who ignore the past, right?

That’s why we need a book like this one. “This book is a case study of fourteen major events when the church made the right call—not for political or status reasons… but because orthodox teaching preserved Jesus’ message in the best sense, and the new teaching distorted it,” Holcomb writes (12).

These case studies confront readers with our core problem: apathy. Take Sabellianism—a form of Modalism—for example. The reason this error gained ground so easily wasn’t because it was intellectually sound or vigorously defended. It gained ground simply because we have a tendency to be apathetic. The idea of the Trinity as best we understand it from Scripture—that there is one God who exists in three persons (Father, Son, Spirit)—is one of the chief areas in which our apathy reigns.

It’s not that we don’t care, though. It’s just that the idea of the Trinity is too hard for us to comprehend fully. “Compared with the idea that God is merely one, the orthodox answer might seem overly complex and philosophical, or an unnecessary later addition to the authentic Christian faith” (85).

So we wind up not thinking about it too much, and use really bad analogies to describe it—often ones that themselves find their roots in Sabellianism. But, as Holcomb notes, “Trinitarian theology…takes seriously the idea that God has revealed himself in Scripture and wants to be known, and that he has revealed himself in a certain way” (85). And so, the Bible forces us to answer the question of whether or not God is one or three.

Just as practically, having a sense of the Trinity better helps us respond to the claims of other religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who actually view biblical Christianity as Sabellian:

Since many of the errors that these groups ascribe to mainstream Christianity are actually Sabellian in nature, it is useful to know the middle road that orthodox doctrine strikes between unity and distinction. Being able to articulate concisely what the Trinity is, how it makes the best sense of Scripture and how it affects our salvation and the worship of God can be valuable in witnessing to others as well as developing our own relationship with God. (86)

The Trinity also helps us see the power of the gospel at work—in fact, it’s safe to argue that without the Trinity, there is no atonement. Only if Christ is God as well as man could He pay for the sins of the world. Without the three persons of the Godhead agreeing from before the foundations of the world to redeem and rescue sinners, we’re left with a deficient view of the gospel that sees it as some sort of back-up plan.

These are the truths we ignore at our peril.

Understanding God’s purposes in heresy

Reading Know the Heretics is equally disheartening and encouraging. It’s disheartening simply because it’s easy to see the heresies of the past still making the rounds in our day, in one form or another, as (mostly) sincere people ask sincere questions, but accept wrong answers. These lies continue to be propagated, and men and women continue to be lead astray, thinking they know God when they are in fact rejecting Him.

But it’s also encouraging because, in learning more about the heretics of the past, readers gain greater insights into God’s purposes in allowing these aberrant teachings to exist—to strengthen the Church’s understanding of the truth about—and love for—God. “In order to love God, one must know who God is… right belief about God—orthodoxy—matters quite a bit” (156).

  • Without the Marcionites, we may never have formally developed the canon of Scripture.
  • Without the many heresies surrounding the nature of God and Christ, we might never have had the doctrine of the Trinity clarified.
  • Without the Pelagian error, we might not have as significant an understanding of the grace of God in saving sinners.

In that sense—and in that sense alone—we should be thankful the events and teachings Holcomb describes, not because falsehood is praiseworthy, but because the truth about God is.

Particularly valuable for those taking their first steps into studying church history, Know the Heretics offers powerful insights into the past and practical relevance for today. Read it carefully, learn from the past, and be encouraged for the future.


Title: Know the Heretics
Author: Justin Holcomb
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Raised? by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson

raised-3d

Oftentimes Christians are accused of being too confident in their beliefs, or using “faith” as a way to shut down questions or concerns from those exploring Christianity.

There’s no room for questioning. No room doubt.

Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson get this. They don’t want to scare off doubters or make people shy away from questions. But they do want them to be willing to do something with their doubts—find answers. Enter: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection.

In its four easy-to-digest chapters, Dodson and Watson offer readers an engaging look at what it means for Jesus to have been raised from the dead and why it matters, beginning by challenging the foundation of modern day skepticism.

Possibility before plausibility

For many who doubt the resurrection of Jesus, the authors argue, the problem begins with their foundation: do we have a category for the supernatural? By and large, we in the West have discounted such things as impossible. So when we hear stories of miraculous events, we automatically assume there has to be a natural explanation for them. The flood account in Genesis, the parting of the Red Sea, the virgin birth… you name it, there’s a naturalistic alternative.

But those who are truly looking for answers need to ask, “Is this position truly open-minded?”

It certainly seems biased and closed off to possibilities we may not have personally experienced. Shouldn’t we at least be open to the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead? In fact, many are willing to believe in the supernatural teachings of Buddha, Vishnu, and Eckhart Tolle, but what about Jesus? If we are to consider fairly the plausibility of the resurrection—whether it happened or not we must begin with its possibility. (19)

This is so important for those investigating the Christian faith to understand—if you’ve already discounted the miraculous, you’re going to be profoundly disappointed with Christianity, because it hinges on a miracle.

 

At the risk of belaboring the point (which itself is the foundation of the first chapter of Raised?, not the entirety of the book), we need to have to get this straight: If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all others because we’ve put our hope in something untrue (1 Cor. 15:19). And worse, if what we’ve put our hope in is a lie or a delusion, then we’re doing terrible evil to others by encouraging them to believe it, too.

But if we’re right, and the resurrection is true, it changes everything.

What the resurrection really means

The remaining three chapters of the book offer a look into the implications of the resurrection and how we move from doubt to belief:

  • Chapter two is an overview of the big story of the Bible using the “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation” paradigm (which is essential in a book geared toward non-Christians).
  • Chapter three examines what faith really is.
  • Chapter four looks at what happens when we trust in Jesus.

Each of these chapters is filled with solid, helpful material. Probably my favorite element of the three comes from the third chapter, where the authors press in a bit more on the nature of doubt. Doubt, they argue, isn’t the lack of belief—it’s just the belief in something else:

In his observations of pluralistic societies, Lesslie Newbigin noted that “doubt is not an autonomous activity.” What he means is that doubt is not self-sufficient—it cannot exist on its own. Doubt does not live in a vacuum. It is propped up by faith in something else. To doubt one thing is to have faith in another.… if you put your faith in one company or spouse, you are—at the same time—expressing doubt in other companies or potential spouses. You are doubtful they are the best possible fit, uncertain they are the one for you. Meanwhile, you have faith in the other company or spouse. To put it another way, if you doubt one thing, it’s because you believe in another. (61-62)

Can you tell discussion of doubt made an impression on me? The reason for that is simple: this discussion really is the strongest element of Raised.

There are a lot of excellent books dealing with the evidence side of the argument, but few address the epistemological side of it. How we know something and what we can know to be true is critical for us to deal with when faced with a generation that’s uncertain of what can be known at all. But Raised? offers a thoughtful and welcome apologetic for a newer generation of doubters. If you’re looking for a helpful outreach resource for your church or a book to give to an unbelieving neighbor, you’d do well with this one.


Title: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection
Authors: Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

14 books I want to read in 2014 (and think you should too)

Every so often, I wonder whether or not we really need more Christian books being published. After all, if we were honest, we’d admit that much of what’s being released is either entirely forgettable at best and trash at worst.

But even so there’s a glut of books that are the equivalent of cotton candy, there’s a lot of really, really good stuff being put out there. Here’s a look at a few I’m excited to read in 2014:

The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever by Thor Ramsey (Cruciform Press)

This one had me at the title, and it comes out soon (like, this week!). What excites me most about this book (aside from the title) is its approach to the question of Hell itself, asking: “What if Hell itself is good news about God?”


The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables +

The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles by Jared Wilson (Crossway)

These two are so closely connected I have to include them together. In the first, “discarding the notion that Jesus’s parables are nothing more than moralistic fables, Jared Wilson shows how each one is designed to drive us to Jesus in awe, need, faith, and worship.” And in the second, “Wilson shows readers how the amazing miracles described in the Gospels attest to Christ’s divinity, authority, and ultimate mission: restoring us and this world to a right relationship with God.”


Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles (Crossway)

This is one of several books coming out in the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series from Crossway. I’m particularly excited about this one because Mack Stiles is both a, a gifted evangelist, and b, incredibly passionate and articulate on the subject. If you heard him speak on this subject at TGC’s 2013 pre-conference, you know what I mean.


The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund (Crossway)

Another entry in the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series, “this short book helps readers experience the power of God as they are encouraged to trust in Christ and allow him to transform their beliefs, perspectives, and practices. For everyone who wants to be true to the Bible and honest with themselves, this book offers a practical guide to the fundamental teachings of the gospel and how they affect our relationships with others.”


The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper (David C. Cook)

I’m not a PK, but I know a number of them, and I know enough to know they’ve got a bit of a rougher go than the average Christian—largely because everyone is watching what they’re doing. Instead of venting about all the problems that come with being a PK, Barnabas “shares the one thing a PK needs above all else (as do their pastor/father and church) to live in true freedom and wholeness. With empathy, humor and passion, this book courageously addresses one of the most under-the-radar issues affecting almost every church and pastor, and their children.”


The Social Church by Justin Wise (Moody)

“This book is for Christians who are advocates of social media and who want to learn better about how to use these new technologies to further the Kingdom of God. Justin Wise speaks about social media as this generation’s printing press-a revolutionary technology that can spread the gospel further and faster than we can imagine.” I’ve heard Justin speak on this topic in the past and his insights are guaranteed to be worth your time.


Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (Moody)

The Holcombs’ Rid of My Disgrace is one of the most significant recent books on the issue of sexual abuse, and I have no doubt this will be equally as beneficial as it “addresses the abysmal issue of domestic violence with the powerful and transforming biblical message of grace and redemption.”


The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters by J.P. Moreland (Moody)

This looks fascinating. “Countering the arguments of both naturalists and Christian scholars who embrace a material-only view of humanity, Moreland demonstrates why it is both biblical and reasonable to believe humans are essentially spiritual beings.… [and] shows that neuroscience and the soul are not competing explanations of human activity, but that both coexist and influence one another.”


Know the Heretics by Justin Holcomb (Zondervan)

Part of Zondervan’s KNOW series, this one by Holcomb looks particularly interesting, especially for use in a small group setting, because when it comes to the subject of heresy, we need “a strong dose of humility and restraint, and also a clear and informed definition of orthodoxy and heresy. Know the Heretics provides an accessible ‘travel guide’ to the most significant heresies throughout Christian history.”


The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing by Jonathan Dodson (Zondervan)

Dodson can always be counted on for an insightful and thought-provoking read. “Showing readers how to utilize the rich gospel metaphors found in Scripture and how to communicate a gospel worth believing—one that speaks to the heart-felt needs of diverse individuals—Dodson connects the gospel to the real issues people face each day by speaking to both the head and the heart.”


Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway)

With the Bible’s authority under almost constant attack, this is a much-needed book. “With his characteristic wit and clarity, Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians and non-Christians alike.… Avoiding technical jargon, this winsome volume will encourage men and women to read and believe the Bible—confident that it truly is God’s word.”


Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? by Mark Jones (P&R Publishing)

This one came out in 2013, but didn’t show up on my radar until fairly recently (and now sits on my Kindle waiting to be read). “This book is the first to examine antinomianism from a historical, exegetical, and systematic perspective. More than that, in it Mark Jones offers a key—a robust Reformed Christology with a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit—and chapter by chapter uses it to unlock nine questions raised by the debates.”


Against the Church by Douglas Wilson (Canon Press)

This, again, is a late 2013 release that slipped by me (not surprising since it’s official release date was December 19th!). Wilson is always worth a read, if for no other reason than the way he writes. “Alongside a critique of philosophical assumptions about human nature, dualism, and grace, Wilson stresses the unavoidable and absolute necessity of individual hearts being born again.”


So those are a few books I’m excited to check out in 2014. What are some on your list?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan and Thomas Nelson have put a ton of titles on sale from their catalogue. Obviously, it’s going to be a bit hit-and-miss, but here are a few worth checking out:

The Culture of Like

Aimee Byrd:

Really, what’s going on beneath much of our playful, self-indulgent, liking banter ruse is the fact that it’s all a marketing ploy. Is it a coincidence that I liked a fitness website and now I get ads run on my page for losing weight and breast implants? I don’t know, maybe some comments I’ve made about exercise also contributed. But the point is, advertisers are trying to customize to our liking. Every commercial on TV now wants us to like them on Facebook. Their crazy computer spiders (how creepy is that?) skulk on our every cyber-move and pounce in with the customized add. Liking a website is their free ticket to advertise their latest sell.

Merry Christmas from Chuck Norris

Remember Van Damme’s ultimate splits commercial? I think CGI Chuck’s got him beat:

When nothing created everything

Joe Carter:

Throughout history people have been awed and thrilled by retellings of their culture’s creation story.

Aztecs would tell of the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes, Phoenicians about the Zophashamin, and Jews and Christians about the one true God—Yahweh. But there is one unfortunate group—the children of atheistic materialists—that has no creation myth to call its own. When an inquisitive tyke asks who created the sun, the animals, and mankind, their materialist parents can only tell them to read a book by Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins.

But what sort of story are they likely to find? Should they be told, as famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking claims in his book The Grand Design, that “the universe . . . create[d] itself from nothing”?

Since Hawking’s explanation is a bit too drab and not specific enough for bedtime reading, I’ve decided to take the elements of materialism and shape them into a purportedly accurate, though mythic, narrative. This is what our culture has been missing for far too long—a creation story for young atheistic materialists.

Get Saved From What? in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Saved From What? by R.C. Sproul (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Who is the Holy Spirit teaching series by Sinclair Ferguson (audio and video download)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (audiobook)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)

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

22 Productivity Principles from the Book of Proverbs

Eric McKiddie:

Some of these principles you can find in secular productivity literature today. (Indeed, many of the proverbs can be found in secular ancient Near East literature, verbatim.) But seeing them in God-breathed Scripture reminds us to adopt those principles with a God-centered perspective. Other principles in the list don’t get as much ink or pixels in productivity books or blogs. Let us consider how to incorporate those in our mindset and our workflow, so that we can glorify God all the more in the work that we do.

Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies

About a year and a half ago, work issued me my first iPhone. My wife and I to that point had been trying to avoid having a cellphone and were at a point where we couldn’t really do so much longer, simply because if I wasn’t at the office, she’d have no way to reach me (nor would anyone at work unless I was near a wi-fi connection).

Then the iPhone came home. And in some ways, it was glorious. We were able to communicate when necessary. Work could always find me when they needed me… Then we started to see the downside of this new device in that we became very, very aware of the connected-ness in a way that we hadn’t been before. Then there was the distraction. I’m naturally a fidgeter and began to find myself almost unconsciously grabbing my phone and begin fiddling with it. Before long, I found myself asking, “Who is in control here—my phone or me?”

Tim Challies gets this question. As a web developer and longtime blogger (in addition to being a pastor and author), Challies sees and interacts with digital technology on a regular basis—so much so that he’s found himself asking the same kinds of questions:

Am I giving up control of my life? Is it possible that these technologies are changing me? Am I becoming a tool of the very tools that are supposed to serve me?

These motivated him to write The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, where he seeks to help readers build not only a theoretical and experiential understanding of technology, but a theological one as well.

The first three chapters of the book are spent dealing with the theological, theoretical and experiential background of technology. On the theological side, Challies is quick to note that God’s command to the first man that he subdue the earth and have dominion over it (cf. Gen. 1:28) implicitly commands us to create technology, whether it’s a hammer or a computer, and this creative impulse is glorifying to God: [Read more...]

Book Review: The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms

The Psalms is one of the most read books in the Old Testament. It’s not hard to understand why since, in many ways, it is the most human book of the Bible. The Psalms are weighty and textured, showing God’s people rejoicing in faith and lamenting in despair. They contain some of the most comforting and provocative words in all Scripture.

Yet, because of the span of time between us and the culture in which they were written, there are a few things that gets lost in translation. When was Psalm 110 written? Why is Selah off to the side in Psalm 3:2? And what is a miktam, anyway? While there are a lot of resources out there that can help readers dig into the meat of the Psalms and clear up confusion about words, expressions and ideas, many are not terribly accessible for a popular audience. With The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms, authors Brian L. Webster and David R. Beach provide readers with a helpful introductory level companion to this beloved section of Scripture.

In many ways, The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms serves as an amped-up version of the introductory notes you’d find in your typical study Bible. They give a very brief overview of the background and structure of each psalm, as well its type and unique characteristics. For the average reader, this is tons of information, but it’s all valuable. There have been many times as I’ve read the Psalms where having some of this material would have been very handy.

A nice feature of the book is the “Reflections” section of each synopsis. These sections offer a devotional element as the authors share their own thoughts on the content of each psalm.

While there are a number of elements that I appreciated, there were a few things that stuck out as negatives. Some are simply preference issues (I thought the majority of the accompanying images were a bit on the cheesy side, for example). But there was one big miss for me, which is that some of the background notes lacked an appropriate connection to Christ. [Read more...]

Looking Ahead: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2011

Looking at the books I enjoyed over 2010 made me think about the ones I’m really looking forward to in 2011. Here are a few:

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father edited by Dan Cruver, with contributions from John Piper, Richard D. Phillips, Scotty Smith, Jason Kovacs, and Dan Cruver (Cruciform Press, January 2011)

One of the ambitious dreams that Reclaiming Adoption and its authors share with the Apostle Paul is that when Christians hear the word adoption, they will think first about their adoption by God. As it now stands, Christians usually think first about the adoption of children. Reclaiming Adoption sets out to change this situation by providing breathtaking views of God’s love for and delight in His children — views that will free you to live boldly in this world from God’s acceptance, not in order to gain it…

Dan Cruver and his co-authors are convinced that if Christians learn to first think about their adoption by God, and only then about the adoption of children, they will enjoy deeper communion with the God who is love, and experience greater missional engagement with the pain and suffering of this world. That’s what this book is about. What the orphan, the stranger, and the marginalized in our world need most is churches that are filled with Christians who live daily in the reality of God’s delight in them. Reclaiming Adoption can transform the way you view and live in this world for the glory of God and the good of our world’s most needy.

Order this book | Read a sample

Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb (Crossway, January 2011)

The statistics are jarring. One in four women and one in six men have been sexually assaulted. But as sobering as these statistics are, they can’t begin to speak to the darkness and grief experienced by the victims. The church needs compassionate and wise resources to care for those living in the wake of this evil. Other books attempt to address the journey from shame to healing for victims of sexual abuse, but few are from a Christian perspective and written for both child and adult victims. In Rid of My Disgrace, a couple experienced in counseling and care for victims of sexual assault present the gospel in its power to heal the broken and restore the disgraced.

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb present a clear definition of sexual assault and outline a biblical approach for moving from destruction to redemption. Rid of My Disgrace applies a theology of redemption to the grief, shame, and sense of defilement victims experience. This book is primarily written for them, but can also equip pastors, ministry staff, and others to respond compassionately to those who have been assaulted.

Pre-order this book | Read a sample

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (Crossway, October 2011)

We may know the gospel. We may believe it—even proclaim it. But we also may assume the gospel and become lethargic. In this book Jared Wilson seeks to answer the central question, how do we experience and present the gospel in a fresh, non-routine way in order to prevent ourselves and others from becoming numb? His answer may be surprising: “by routinely presenting the unchanging gospel in a way that does justice to its earth-shaking announcement.” We don’t excite and awaken people to the glorious truths of the gospel by spicing up our worship services or through cutting-edge, dramatic rhetoric, but by passionately and faithfully proclaiming the same truths we have already been given in Scripture.

Wilson’s book will stir churches to live out the power of the gospel with a fervent, genuine zeal. After an explanation of the term “gospel wakefulness,” Wilson unpacks implications for worship, hyper-spirituality, godly habits, and sanctification, as well as other aspects of church life. Pastors, church leaders, and all in ministry, especially those who are tired or discouraged, will be uplifted, emboldened, and empowered by this book.

(Not yet available for pre-order) [Read more...]

Book Review: Fatherless Generation by John Sowers

Fatherless Generation by John Sowers (Cover)

“Dad.”

It’s a word that brings to mind either some of your happiest memories… or some of your deepest resentments. For too many kids (and young adults) in North America and around the world, “Dad” is a shadowy figure, a fading memory, a hurt feeling; but never someone they knew deeply.

Some boys look for approval in gangs; others channel their resentment toward an unhealthy work ethic, wild behavior or excessive competitiveness. Many young women seek out affection from boys (and “men”) who are only too happy to oblige.

This fatherless generation has never been more unsure of their place the world and the results have been devastating

That’s why John Sowers, the president of the Mentoring Project, wrote Fatherless Generation. In this short book, Sowers relates the tragic experiences of fatherless boys, girls, men and women (including himself), while showing readers that there is hope to change their stories; to be a part of transforming their lives and helping them discover the God who is the Father to the fatherless.

Throughout the first half of the book, Sowers shares his experience growing up without a dad, along with those of several others who originally shared their story on his MySpace page. And the damage that’s been inflicted, the pain that all have suffered, is palpable. Young women share how they were Daddy’s princess—until he left. Some write that they don’t hate their dads, but they can’t forgive them either. Hopelessness and despair are the undercurrents of every story.

What I appreciate about how Sowers presents these stories, including his own, is that it’s not sensationalized, manipulative or voyeuristic. He is careful to protect the dignity of every person whose story he shares, as raw and often heart-wrenching as they are. This is extremely difficult to accomplish as, too often, in seeking to protect the individual’s well-being, their story can be reduced to emotionless propositions.

As careful as he is with the stories he shares, his use of statistics is equally so. Rather than overwhelming readers with data, he uses it to support the stories shared—the lives affected by not having a father in the home. They’re effective and disturbing.

For example, Sowers writes on pages 36-37 (perhaps the only really stats heavy section of the book), that children from fatherless homes account for:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides
  • 71 percent of pregnant teenagers
  • 90 percent of all homeless and runaway teenagers
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorder
  • 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
  • 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison

For those who have ever doubted the impact of an attentive father in the lives of children, one needs only look at this and see that dads really do make a difference. The impact of being fatherless is so overwhelming, that it seems like there’s nothing that can be done, doesn’t it?

But there is a solution: caring men and women becoming mentors to a fatherless generation.

In part two of Fatherless Generation, Sowers shares how godly mentors spoke words of life and encouragement, taught him to be a man and ultimately transformed his life.

“Both of these men sacrificed their time in order to be mentors and father figures in my life, and because of their sacrifice, I came to see that being a man was not really as intimidating as i had made it out to be. I learned that i didn’t have to be afraid of other men. I learned that I didn’t have to be afraid of becoming a man myself,” writes Sowers (pp. 91-92).

The love that Sowers has for these men is obvious, as is his passion for seeing Christians take on the role of mentoring a younger generation. In doing so, by showing love to those who believe they are unloveable and modelling maturity to them, there is a powerful opportunity to be a witness to Christ and see lives transformed both in the temporal and eternal.

In this way, the book carries through it the implicit reality of the gospel (which, in terms of presentation, has its strengths and weaknesses). Sowers touches on aspects of the gospel to be sure (see pp. 82-84), and does speak of a desire to see the fatherless come to know the God who is Father to the fatherless, but it’s something that I would have preferred to see beefed up a bit more.

Reading Fatherless Generation hit close to home on a number of levels. The first is that I could relate all too well to the stories Sowers shares, because they were my story, too. I grew up without my dad being much of a physical presence in my life and that led me to try to be his opposite, or at least what I perceived his opposite to be. In doing so, I also sinfully treated him with thinly veiled contempt. In recent years, by God’s grace, our relationship has experienced much healing and I’m thankful for this. But not everyone has that opportunity.

Secondly, I have three boys living near me who don’t have a dad, and I don’t know how much interest their dads have in them. Perhaps they’re waiting for someone to speak words of affirmation into their lives?

Finally, as the father of two young girls, it reminded me of the powerful influence I am on Abigail and Hannah (for good or bad). I pray that my girls truly know how much their daddy loves them, and that my influence will be a godly one.

Fatherless Generation shines a light on the trials of all who are going to bed tonight without a dad. Their challenges are real. Their pain is deeply felt. But they don’t have to live their lives feeling shame, anger or resentment. This book offers its readers an opportunity to be a part of transforming the lives of a fatherless generation. Are we willing to take the first step?


Title: Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story
Author: John Sowers
Publisher: Zondervan (2010)

Book Review: Different Eyes by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann


Title: Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully
Authors: Steve Chalke and Alan Mann
Publisher: Zondervan

As the world’s morality and ethics grow increasingly “gray,” Christians need to know how to respond to moral dilemmas in a way that reflects Christ to the world. To be “salt and light,” as it were. But how do we do it when there seem to be so many issues that the Bible doesn’t speak explicitly about?

“How do those who follow Jesus live distinctly in a time of uncertainty?” ask Steve Chalke & Alan Mann in their new book, Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully.

A Worthy Attempt…

The big idea behind the book is important. Christians need to know how to interact on a moral/ethical level with the world around us in a way that reflects Jesus. From what I can see, Chalke & Mann don’t want people to simply read their book, but engage with it. To actually try to put Christian ethics into practice. As they rightly say, “Our faith may be personal, but it can never be private” (p. 102).

This is an important point because it is essential that Christians think and act Christianly within our spheres of influence. When we fail to do so, we fail to be salt and light in the world. The discussion questions on four selected topics are also useful for thinking through the reasons why we believe what we believe about issues of homosexuality, war, euthanasia and the use of wealth.

Where we start running into problems is when we start seeing everything as being potentially gray, forgetting that where the Bible is clear, we must be as well.

…That “Misses the Mark”

Honestly, I found this book to be a mess. Throughout there’s a relatively low-view of Scripture presented that simultaneously affirms its truth as a narrative, but suggests that many of its commands are not binding. “The Bible is first and foremost a story-based moral vision rather than a list of universal rules,” Chalke & Mann write. “Believing that the whole of life is somehow covered by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament Law is even more unrealistic than it is optimistic” (p. 38). [Read more...]

Christmas Daddies: A Gift Idea


An interesting challenge is finding gifts that are just right. As fun as things like Dora, Diego, and the Little Einsteins are for my daughter, it’s also important that I’m getting her gifts that are interesting, engaging and edifying. So if you have the same kind of trouble I do, I wanted to try to help out with a gift idea.

Here’s one: The Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition


Here’s the product description:

Every Story Whispers His Name…

Written for children ages four and up, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the one story underneath all the stories of the Bible and points to the birth of a child, the Rescuer, Jesus. Complete with 44 Bible stories, The Jesus Storybook Bible paints a beautiful portrait of Jesus and invites children to see that he is not only at the center of God’s great story of redemption—he is at the center of their story too. Children and adults alike will be captivated by the beautifully written narrative and the original and unique illustrations by accomplished artist Jago. Lloyd-Jones’ powerful gift of storytelling draws the reader into the greatest adventure of all time in an exciting page-turner that kids (and adults) find hard to put down.

Since its release in 2007, The Jesus Storybook Bible has become a must-have for children and adults and has grown into a brand that includes: a Spanish edition, an ebook for large and small group presentations, and the new Deluxe Edition, which includes the complete book on audio CD, read by award-winning British actor David Suchet. The audio from the Deluxe Edition is also available separately.

I bought the regular edition of the book for Abigail last Christmas. It’s still a bit above her comprehension level (it’s intended for children over age 4), but it’s far and away the best children’s Bible I’ve seen so far. The stories have depth but are easily understandable and all remind children (and parents) that Jesus is the Hero of the Story.

It’s really great stuff.

If you’ve got some great gift ideas, pass them along in the comments section.

Around the Interweb (12/13)

Tim Challies: The Next Story (His Next Book)

Tim Challies, the world’s most famous Christian blogger and author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment announced his next book this week.

The working title: The Next Story. The publisher: Zondervan.

True story. Here’s what Tim had to say:

Since I wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I’ve often been asked the obvious question: what next? That’s a good question, of course. I have deliberately been biding my time. I’ve been in no real hurry to jump into my next project. A few ideas have come and gone, but none have been intriguing or original enough that I’ve wanted to dedicate a year of my life to them. The commitment to a certain topic is really a commitment to spend at least six months reading and writing about it and then a further six months (at minimum) doing interviews about it, speaking about it, preaching about it, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was find a topic that would bore me and leave me dreading it.

[...] The book’s working title is The Next Story. I’m really pleased with the title, but it does have a downside in that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce (try saying it out loud). It is a book about technology in general and digital technology in particular. Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by technology. Like it or not, we rely upon it in unprecedented ways. Many people feel that they are analog creatures in a digital world. Christians are beginning to awaken to this reality and are trying to think critically and biblically about many new realities brought about by technological developments. Yet, there are few helpful and sympathetic voices for those who wish to do so but have no idea how. I’m hoping to fill this gap, creating a book that will help Christians think well about technology. I do not intend to discuss Facebook and Twitter and whatever will be big and popular next month. I want to discuss technology in the bigger picture so that the book will be applicable today, tomorrow and ten years from now.

If all goes well, the book will be published in hardcover in the spring of 2011. And it will be published by Zondervan. I’m guessing that this will be a surprise to a few people. Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise to me. But in the end it was clear that Zondervan had the best all-around offer, from the financial, to the marketing, to the audience. Zondervan will take the book to a whole new audience, I’m convinced, and will work hard to help me find interesting speaking opportunities. They put together a fantastic proposal and I had no hesitations in signing on with them.

This is very exciting news and I’m thrilled for both Tim and Zondervan (and a very wise move on Zondervan’s part).  I’ve no doubt that he’ll bring the same thoughtfulness to this book as he did his first.

Look for The Next Story in 2011.


In Other News

Molly Piper cordially invites you to break your heart

Kevin DeYoung on The Christian Century and the New Calvinism

Michael Hyatt believes the SI Tablet might be the end of book publishing as we know it (and he’s excited!)

Trevin Wax reminds us that contextualization goes both ways


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Andy Deane’s very helpful book, Learn to Study the Bible

Building Christmas traditions with my family

Ed Stetzer points us to a study on the effects of pornography