Archives For Book Review

Pierced for Our TransgressionsIn Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach have blessed Christian scholarship with a thorough, scholarly, and accessible contribution on the subject of penal substitutionary atonement. The book is divided into two parts—the first making the positive case for penal substitution on biblical, theological, pastoral, and historical grounds, and the second outlining and answering objections that have arisen against the doctrine.

While the authors acknowledge that there have been critics of penal substitution throughout church history, many of those critics have self-confessed outside the boundaries of evangelicalism and have largely been relegated to the upper echelons of academia. However, recent critics of the doctrine not only regard themselves as evangelicals committed to the authority of Scripture, but are also finding their material published in more popular and mainstream Christian literature—not the least of which works has been Steve Chalke and Alan Mann’s The Lost Message of Jesus, which styles penal substitution as “cosmic child abuse.” Given that penal substitutionary atonement “stands at the very heart of the gospel” (21), such attacks have resulted in the “confusion and alarm among Christians” (25), which makes such a treatment necessary.

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In honor of the Comrades Marathon, the world’s premier ultra-marathon (that made church impossible yesterday!) I have posted this excerpt from Holding the Rope: Short-Term Missions Long-Term Impact.comrades route closed

Spiritual Carbo-loading

The short-term missions (STM) trip is such a potent shot of spiritual adrenalin that the testimonies of those returning often sound like an over-zealous infomercial for how life-changing the trip will be. This may lead those you are waning in their zeal for the work of the Lord to think that going on this type of life-changing trip will make them more godly. Perhaps your spiritual walk with the Lord has slowed to a lethargic amble, or maybe your quiet time feels like a car that is puttering along haltingly in need of a tune-up. You see the STM trip as the spiritual recharging station.

In many cases the trip might be an event that escalates the seriousness about your faith like a quickened pulse, but that is not the reason we go on STM trips. I always told our STMers that the trip is not the time to get godly but to be godly. All STM trips are fraught with trip-wires to your godliness. You need to be on the alert, prepared for every temptation that might entangle you and trip up the ministry. If you find yourself cruising blithely on a plateau of apathy, the solution is to prepare your heart for the trip. You could memorize verses about dying to self and serving others. You should be in prayer for your own soul as well as for the other team members and those you will encounter in the field.

The church I serve in sits precisely on the route of the world’s most prestigious ultramarathon, the Comrades Marathon. Several members of our congregation have successfully completed the ninety-two-km race within the eleven-hour time limit [increased to twelve hours in 2003]. Besides the gruesome details they share with me about how the race affects the body (loss of toenails is the first one that comes to mind), they also share their secrets of preparation for going the distance. Any endurance athlete knows the importance of “carbo-loading.”

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VGTH coverThis is a snippet from my book A Visitor’s Guide to Hell. The book is meant to help unbelievers understand (or believers explain) why Christians believe in Hell, and what the Bible teaches about it. Here’a snippet, followed by a link to a video clip promo of the book (comments about my mongrelised accent will be deleted!!)

 

A History of Hell

As far back as recorded history takes us, in any and every culture that bothered to write down their beliefs, Hell has haunted mankind. It is not my intention to give a history of how the doctrine developed in literature, art, and religious belief systems. Others have done a fine job of that.

But frankly, learning about what different religions believed as well as how and when those doctrines evolved is not as fascinating to me as the fact that they all hold certain aspects in common. Here is a brief sample of some recognizable religions conceive as Hell. See if you can spot similarities.

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Historically, churches have not had what we call today “counseling pastors” (or for that matter, youth pastors, assimilation pastors, etc.). But today many larger churches have pastors that specialize in counseling. Why? What historical trends brought about the ecclesiological necessity for pastors specifically trained in counseling?

David Powlison’s 2010 book, The Biblical Counseling Movement—History and Context answers that question. In what was actually his PhD dissertation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, and New Growth Press has updated it to include more modern developments, as well as to make it readable for a broader audience.   Continue Reading…

Now that Presidents’ Day is behind us we can be sure of one thing: “Fifty Shades of Grey” brought in a whole lot of green. According to box office analysts, the carnally erotic full length motion picture brought in $94.4 million over the extended Valentine’s Day weekend.Thanks to mass marketing visionaries, it seems as if the bedroom of society has been transformed overnight into a chamber of bondage. It seems as if the American culture has finally learned to normalize darkness.

But there is also one more thing that we can be sure of with the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey:” the black and white clarity of the Bible has strangely turned grey in the lives of many in the church. Perhaps the most visible example of this has been Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who hasn’t allowed his professed Christianity to stop him from “enjoying” the film. But he is only an example of a much larger problem within cultural Christianity. Somehow, someway, those who claim Christ have rationalized perversion as being normal. How does that happen? Through the slow and indiscernible process of cultural assimilation.

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Today’s post is a book review written by my wife, Deidre, for our church’s women’s ministry newsletter (here it is on pdf). I too recommend the book, and hope this post spurs more people to read it. You can order it from Amazon or Westminster Books (its the same price both places).

The Discipline of Spiritual DiscernmentA successful counterfeiter needs to overcome two obstacles. First, he needs to design a forgery that looks plausible. Second, he needs to figure out how to get the counterfeit into circulation.

Tim Challies uses the dynamic of counterfeiting money to illustrate the necessity of the biblical mandate for discernment. His book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, argues that true wisdom is contained in Scripture. Yet the world is filled with false wisdom, cheap counterfeits that only barely look like the real thing. The goal of this false wisdom, Challies writes, is to get passed off into the church so that it is accepted by Christians.   Continue Reading…

Claims of sight-seeing return trips to Heaven and Hell are still in vogue among publishers today. However, I swear A Visitor’s Guide to Hell (Sterling Ethos, NY, 2014) is not a book vying to join that growing club. Launching from Jesus’ teaching about the rich man in Hell and Lazarus in Heaven the book explores the biblical descriptions of the afterlife.VGTH

Frankly, I’m surprised that the claimants of these apparent short-term visits to Hell don’t bother conforming their descriptions to what we have revealed in the Bible. It would make their stories more credible. If you were going to lie about a trip to Paris surely you’d at least peruse a guidebook to check your details line up with reality? Anyway, here is a brief excerpt from the chapter on Heaven titled “Alternate destination.”

(The ellipses represent large chunks missing for the sake of brevity; and so you’ll buy the book!)

Been there done that

Unlike Hell, the road to Heaven is not strictly a one-way street. There have been three credible people in history who have seen glimpses of Heaven, and been allowed to talk about some of what they saw. In this chapter we will draw from what these eye-witnesses saw.

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I didn’t realize my new book on Hell had hit the shelves until Tim Challies mentioned it on his blog.VGTH

Why a book on Hell? Interesting story:

Apparently some market research found that a trending topic is non-fiction “afterlife tourism” or first person narratives of people who claimed to have been to Heaven or Hell. This egregious genre is one of my pet publishing peeves (for evidence, see my review Heaven is for Real…Well Duh!) When my agent was approached by a secular publisher (Sterling Ethos, New York) looking for a book compatible with that genre, we instead pitched the idea of a non-fiction, biblical explanation of Hell framed in the first person of the Rich Man in Hades whom Jesus mentioned in his parable in Luke 16. Sterling loved the idea and the journey began. In keeping with the after-life tourism theme it is titled A Visitor’s Guide to Hell.

I should warn those who intend to read the book: though this sobering topic must never be treated flippantly, anyone who knows me understands that I can’t even preach a funeral sermon without using levity. This bugs some people, and I understand that. But I think in this book I avoid being glib while still being myself.

Also readers should bear in mind that this is not written only to an Evangelical market but is intended to be evangelistic. My intention was that the book could be given to an unbeliever, who would find it engaging enough to complete and be exposed to a clear explanation of the gospel.

Here is a snippet from the introduction, followed by the table of contents…

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The Great Divorce is C.S. Lewis’ most controversial work. It provides a vision of the afterlife where hell is a giant sprawling suburb where everyone gets what they want—except happiness. Heaven in turn is compared to towering mountains, where every blade of grass is filled with the glory of God.

The plot turns on a bus ride taken from hell to heaven—yes, there is a bus that connects the two—and the passengers are “ghosts” making their way from the bus to the threshold of heaven. Once there, glorified bodies meet these ghosts and seek to persuade them to continue up into the high country of heaven.   Continue Reading…

December 1, 2014

Why the Home Team?

by Clint Archer

People who know me well chuckle when they hear that I’ve written a book “about sports.” I am the least competent participant in any sport they’ve seen me attempt. But The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family is not about sports; it’s about the one-flesh union of a biblical marriage as it affects unity of the whole family.

The content is culled, not from my experience, but my inexperience.

As a young pastor I was forced to rely entirely on Scripture in order to provide guidance to people who had been married for longer than I had been alive, and who had kids older than me.

And yet, I found the Bible was all I needed to provide help to marriages and family situations I encountered. And it’s all based on the family functioning as a team.

Here is a video I did for Shepherd’s Press Publishers, explaining a bit more about the book….