Review: “10:10″ by Daniel Hill


51HJpHsSjbLDaniel Hill. 10:10: Life to the Fullest. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014. pp. 224. $14.99 Purchase on Amazon

One of the most commonly expressed problems with the church and Christianity is that there is just something that is missing. People grow tired of church politics and programs, and the church seems to give inadequate answers to life’s deepest problems. Because of a lack of sincerity and apparent empty religious rituals, many people say farewell to the church, while actually craving spirituality. It is this group of people who are not atheistic or agnostic in their thinking. They may believe in God or at least may be open to believing in God. They try church and leave wanting something more.

This tragedy is also felt by many believers who desire something more than what their church offers in the form of religious practices devoid of sincerity. All Christians are searching for a deeper, more intimate walk with God. We desire a relationship that is impactful and deep, and become frustrated when worldly elements within the church keep us from such a relationship.

It is out of a realization of this natural desire in both Christians and non-Christians alike that Daniel Hill writes 10:10. He has written this book as an encouragement to those struggling to find fulfillment in mediocre Christianity and are seeking to “live life to the fullest.” Though 10:10 contains a promising purpose and helpful stories, its flaws greatly overshadow its strengths. Weak biblical exegesis and the absence of the gospel leaves 10:10 with much to be desired.

Summary

Hill formerly worked at Willow Creek Community Church before becoming the pastor of River City Community Church in Chicago. He states that the purpose of 10:10 is “to paint a biblical picture of holistic, multidimensional faith, and to inspire and equip you to step into that as a new dimension of life in Christ” (33). Hill possesses a talent for painting a picture and telling a story, but it seems the book falls short of reaching this goal.

10:10 is a book about how faith fills the longing of the heart for something more. He bases the thrust of the book on John 10:10, which states, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Hill believes the key to a fulfilled life is faith.

Hill describes “holistic faith” in three sections. 10:10 begins with a lengthy introduction, which comprises four chapters where he details his own journey. The book is very autobiographical before getting to the subject matter of how faith brings fulfillment in life. Hill describes his own spiritual journey through various denominations when he realized that in every church and every denomination, the Christians he encountered seemed to be lacking the same thing—faith.

First, Hill spends time discussing how faith relates to fear. He writes, “[T]he fear of losing what we cherish most must loosen its hold on our hearts before we can surrender to the One who is offering us the fullness of life” (60).

Next, Hill discusses faith’s role in the Christian’s intimacy with God. He believes we must learn to “trust the One how has called us out of the darkness and into the light” and we must “allow him to lead us into that which our hearts most long for: spiritual intimacy with God” (109).

Finally, Hill discusses faith’s role in the mission of the church and every Christian. Hill intimates, “Saying yes to God’s mission may be the life-changing answer” to what is missing from your relationship with God (164).

Significant Voice to Practical Ministry

Even though I find many fundamental problems with 10:10, Hill has not written a completely unhelpful book. There are many strengths in the book worthy of mentioning. First, Hill is a tremendous communicator and storyteller. I found myself captivated by his personal experiences and those of the people in his life. His illustrations will refresh and inspire readers to consider places of lethargy in their faith while encouraging them to find new depths in their relationship with God and the practical outworking of their faith. As an example, Hill challenges readers to consider how their faith impacts their activity with the outcasts of the world. He writes,

In many Christian circles there is a strict adherence to the commandments associated with personal morality but a confusing absence when it comes to the orientation of God toward the poor. Many Christians face the same problem as the rich young ruler: we have observed one list of commands but correspondingly ignored another. This imbalance is problematic (56).

Hill’s concerns over lackluster ministry practices are valid and commendable. Pastors will especially be challenged by many of Hill’s thoughts about ministry. I agreed with Hill often in his indictment of mediocre Christian ministry that loses sight of the mission of the church. I especially appreciate his sentiment, “Mission is what connects the eternal, supernatural work of God with our everyday acts of love” (175). So, while calling for radical faith that leads to impactful ministry to the poor, outcast, and destitute, Hill sees this carried out in ordinary acts of love. Hills thoughts and words on ministry are significant and beneficial.

O, Gospel, Where Art Thou?

While I was sporadically challenged by Hill to evaluate my own heart toward the poor, there is a greater error at hand in 10:10 that constantly alarmed me. The message of the gospel is hard to find in the pages of this book. I find this to be inexcusable given the purpose and overall thrust of the book focusing on faith. How can a Christian book on faith leave out the gospel? Hill sought to invigorate what he feels is missing in the lives of many Christians, a holistic faith, yet he fails to discuss the only reality that makes faith worth anything.

I typically judge Christian books, sermons, and church services by at least one criteria—would someone who openly opposes the message of Christianity be offended or at least struck by what is being said? It seems to me that the message of 10:10 could easily be applied to numerous religions. Many religions care for the poor and seek to have a vibrant and intimate faith that deepens their relationship with the divine and spills over into good deeds. The staple in Christianity is the cross that offends those dead in their sin. Faith is not seen in 10:10 as a gift from God through the work of Jesus Christ. And that is alarming.

Hill brings out helpful aspects of faith, but he misses its very nature. Biblical faith is tied to repentance, and received as a gift from God by the blood of his Son. Hill totally whiffs on repentance. In fact, there is little to no mention of sin in his book whatsoever. This is a tremendous oversight, as biblical faith is unrealized without the atoning work of Christ, a reality Hill barely mentions in passing. Hill prefers to speak of our own fears and the activity of Satan as the primary inhibitors to a holistic faith. He writes,

I am convinced that these are the two barriers we must overcome if we are to experience authentic intimacy with God. First, we must trust Jesus to lead us past our own fears and insecurities around intimacy. Second, we must trust in Jesus to lead us past the deceptive techniques of the thief who prowls around looking to steal, kill, and destroy God’s vision for our lives (109).

Indirectly and unintentionally, perhaps, Hill proposes that we are able to obtain intimacy with God apart from the gospel. The atoning work of Christ may be subtly implied at best, but a clear presentation of the gospel in a section titled “the center of faith” seems all but necessary. Talking about faith apart from the gospel is inexcusable for a Christian pastor and author. Hill puts forward a call for spiritual intimacy by the means of faith apart from the cross.

It would have been nice to have the final section (which I enjoyed) prefaced by a gospel-centered look at what truly keeps our faith at bay—imbedded sin. There are other flaws in this book, such as weak exegesis that make some of Hill’s practical application questionable, but this flaw pales in comparison to the oversight of the gospel.

Conclusion

All in all, 10:10 will inspire readers in many places, but it fails to help readers realize what it means to live life to the fullest. This is because he misses the only means of a full life, the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are a young or new Christian, I cannot recommend this book with integrity because of the confusion it could create regarding biblical faith. Seasoned believers can be encouraged and helped so far as they take into consideration the above-mentioned flaws.


Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggershttp://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

 


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Reflections on Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will”


51DzquvzHyLMartin Luther is one of the most influential Christians in the history of the Church. He sparked what would become known as the Reformation with his 95 Theses. He heralded the Pauline theme of salvation by grace through faith alone. He also championed the supremacy and sufficiency of God’s revelation in his word, the Bible. He penned a bounty of works, including commentaries, a German translation of the Bible, treatises, and books on various topics.

In light of his vast array of works, Luther said if there were one work of his he would want to last, it would be The Bondage of the Will. Clearly, this work was incredibly important to Luther. The Bondage of the Will is a theological masterpiece that addresses both a theological and philosophical problem. It is in the form of a response to a work by Luther’s contemporary, Erasmus. Erasmus was a Humanist, semi-Pelagian, and one of the greatest scholars of his day, who wrote Diatribe on Free Will, a work that was rebutted by Luther throughout The Bondage of the Will. He felt Erasmus was dangerously errant in his view of the freedom of the will, so much so that he called on Erasmus to repent of his position.

One of the major themes in The Bondage of the Will is that man’s slavery to sin highlights and even makes sense of Christ’s work. It magnifies the glory of the cross. Luther argues that the God’s grace in the gospel is so great, precisely because it shatters the stone of our captive wills that inherently oppose him. Despite the claims of those like Erasmus who see the offer of Christ as a free gift of God’s grace, Luther believes unless you properly understand the sinfulness and helplessness of man, God’s grace will be greatly belittled. For Luther, what are at stake in the theological and philosophical debate over the will are God’s grace and the gospel of Christ.

Luther argues that if man has an innate ability to believe in Christ, then the work of Christ was needless to redeem that portion of man—his will. If man is totally dead in sin, enslaved to sin, and naturally opposed to God, this means his will is enslaved along with him. Luther’s primary concern is the gospel. He fears that upholding the free will of man is a denial of Christ. He writes, “I wish the defenders of free choice would take warning at this point, and realize that when they assert free choice they are denying Christ.”

A notable literary aspect from The Bondage of the Will worth mentioning is Luther’s incredibly strong language. It is so strong in fact that at times it makes reading uncomfortable. However, it highlights Luther’s passion for the glory of God, the integrity of correct handling of Scripture, and the gospel. Today we talk of engaging opposing positions in a winsome manner or with convictional kindness. Many of us believe this means compromising truth and arguing dispassionately. While we should graciously stand for truth, we would do well to learn from Luther’s unabashed passion for biblical truth and the integrity of the gospel.

Luther’s response to a work that he felt was harmful to the message of the gospel is similar to John Piper’s response to N.T. Wright’s theology of justification. Just as Luther responded to Erasmus concerned that he was doing harm to the gospel, Piper responded to Wright’s interpretation of justification with similar concerns. Unlike Luther, Piper demonstrates a restraint on his passion and true convictional kindness. However, the passion for not losing what the Bible teaches about a given topic is present in both Luther and Piper. As a brief example of the similarities in their passion for the withstanding of the true gospel, Piper writes, “My conviction concerning N.T. Wright is not that he is under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9, but that his portrayal of the gospel—and of the doctrine of justification in particular—is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize as biblically faithful.”

All in all, The Bondage of the Will is one of the most theologically significant texts that the Reformation birthed. Due to Luther’s recovering of the authority of Scripture, significant conversations about these issues could be had with integrity. While there are those who believe theological debate is nothing more than nitpicking, Luther shows that doctrines that contradict Scripture are serious gospel issues that carry eternal importance worthy of confrontation.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 11/21


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3 Suggestions for Supplementing a Student’s Education – One of my favorite reads this week. Many insights in this piece for anyone involved in student ministry in any way.

No, You Are Not Running Late. You Are Rude and Inconsiderate! – Tim Challies reacts to a recent rant about tardiness and character. If you are an on-time warden, this is a helpful post that highlights God’s action regarding time.

The Bechdel Test and the Byrd Test – A hearty “Amen!” from me! It is always refreshing to hear from women on much more than just “women issues.”

Why I am Thankful for Older and Younger SBC Conservatives – As a younger SBC conservative, I appreciated this post from David Prince and in this Thanksgiving season stand incredibly grateful for those older SBC conservatives who fought battles that created the SBC I now enjoy.

Stop Smurfing the Gospel – All I can say is, “Yup!”

3 Keys to Shaping Your Children’s View of Marriage – Daniel Darling: “Christian parents must teach the next generation about marriage. We can’t assume our children will automatically understand God’s creational design for men and women and why this venerable institution represents Christ and his Church.”

10 Reasons You Cannot Be a Missionary – As always, David Sills is excellent in this discussion of the most often-cited reasons for not being a missionary.

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A Story of Sin, Suffering, and Sovereignty


Damiano_Mascagni_Joseph_Sold_Into_Slavery_by_His_Brothers

We all love a good story. Children, adolescents, young adults, old adults and everyone in-between all love a good story. But it is not just any kind of story that sparks our interest. We love stories that captivate us; stories that strike our imaginations; stories that surprise us. Stories that include ironies or coincidences are always entertaining. And if there can be a “Cinderella” effect then that just makes it even better. One recent Cinderella story that made it to the big screens is The Pursuit of Happyness. In this movie, Will Smith plays a man by the name of Chris Gardner. This is the true story of a man who went from homeless to multimillionaire. The movie portrays him as a hard-working guy whose luck had run out. He worked as a medical salesman, selling medical equipment that was outdated. He barely made enough money to care for himself, his wife, and his son.

Throughout the film, Gardner’s wife leaves him, he loses his apartment, and he at one point in the movie ends up being homeless with his son—even sleeping in a public bathroom one night. I am not certain how much the movie actually aligned with what really happened, but the message was clear: Chris Gardner materially had nothing. During this time of real struggle, Gardner was accepted into an internship with a stockbrokerage firm. In the end, Gardner ends up being the only one out of the many interns to start working for the brokerage. Today he is a multimillionaire and the CEO of his own stockbrokerage firm. We love these kinds of stories, which is why they make it into books and onto screens.

The story that culminates in our passage today seems to present itself as a rags-to-riches story and it seems to be chock-full of coincidences. However, we will see that this is not the purpose of the story at all. The Joseph story has been called one of the most artistic and most fascinating of the Old Testament biographies; and for good reasons. In it we see the ultimate Cinderella story. If you thought Cinderella or Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness went from rags to riches, then the story of Joseph will blow your mind. This is the story of a poor shepherd boy who goes from being nearly murdered by his own brothers to second in command in the most powerful empire the world had seen!

However, the story of Joseph does not serve the same purpose of Cinderella or The Pursuit of Happyness. We are meant to admire Chris Gardner after hearing his story. However, we are not meant to marvel at the rise of Joseph from the ditch to the throne. Instead, the way this story unfolds in Scripture causes us to marvel at God’s absolute sovereignty instead. We see glimpses of this throughout the story, but it is at the end, where we will pitch our tents today, where we see the mysterious glory of God’s power and sovereignty.

At the end, after all the crazy turn of events; after all the sin of the brothers and Potiphar’s wife; after all Joseph’s suffering; and after Joseph’s rise to power and his salvation of his family and the Egyptians, it is God who is the main character. And it was God who was behind and above the events in the Joseph narrative. This story teaches us a few important truths that are brought out in Genesis 50:15-21. The thrust of this passage is that God is absolutely sovereign over all sin and suffering for the purpose of salvation.

God is Absolutely Sovereign in Suffering

The first thing this passage and the entire Joseph narrative teach us is that God is absolutely sovereign over all things. If a movie of the life and times of Joseph was created, we would marvel and point and nod and smile at the countless coincidences. That is how the natural man would initially interpret these events. As we are reading the story, it is easy to think something like this: “His own blood sold him into slavery only to be saved by him in the end? Classic!”

But Joseph knows better. And we know better.

The statement Joseph gives tells us a lot about who God is and how he works in our world and lives. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (v. 20). This is an interesting and important theological truth for us to understand. Despite the evil done to Joseph by his brothers, we see in the end that God is not a helpless bystander watching Joseph’s life with an all-knowing eye. God is actively working all things together for Joseph’s good.

This passage indicates that God does much more than use bad things for good. God’s absolute sovereignty in this passage indicates that God actively “means” all things, even evil things, for good. There is intent involved. God sends evil and even causes evil while remaining totally set apart from it for the good of his people and the glory of his name. In the end of Joseph’s story and all of your stories, God is totally in control.

Joseph’s brothers are now at the feet of their younger brother whom they had mocked, despised, and sold, and the revelation that it was God who sovereignly brought all of those things to pass is presented to them. This begs the question, why? Why did God intend the sin of Joseph’s brothers for good? For what purpose did he effectively cause Joseph to suffer? I see two primary purposes in God’s sovereign action in the suffering of Joseph that serve as a shadow of the greater reality of the suffering of Jesus.

Salvation of Life Through Suffering

God’s sovereignty in the suffering of Joseph served for the salvation of life. In verse 20, Joseph says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” This is not the first time we see this in the story of Joseph. Back in Genesis 45:5, Joseph tells his frightened brothers, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” The active God-language in this passage reinforces the point of the author that God sends suffering for the purpose of salvation.

It is through Joseph’s suffering that his people are saved from the famine ravaging the land. Through suffering, God sent Joseph to Egypt in order to save the ones who attempted to murder him. As magnificent and glorious is the grace of God in his salvation of life in his sovereignty over the actions of Joseph’s brothers, Psalm 105 teaches us that God’s sovereignty stretched even further. “When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave” (Ps. 105: 16-17). Again, God is not sitting on the bench watching these things play out in Joseph’s life. He actively sends suffering for the purpose of saving lives. Such is the mysterious and glorious grace of God.

The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of Christ

The theme of God’s sovereignty in suffering for a pointed purpose is weaved throughout Scripture and is on fullest display in the cross of Christ. In the life of Joseph, man designed for the purpose of evil while God designed those same things for the purpose of good, particularly the good of the salvation of those who would otherwise starve. Likewise, in the cross of Christ, men designed evil, namely the crucifixion of the innocent and righteous God-man. However, God designed the death of his Son for good, namely the eternal good of guilty sinners and the eternal glory of his own name.

Oh, don’t miss the glory of Jesus in the story of Joseph! The righteous suffers for the guilty and God turns evil plans for ultimate good. Salvation comes through suffering. That’s the pattern. That’s the agenda. Joseph was a righteous man who suffered on behalf of his people, so that one day Jesus would come from the tribe of Judah to be the righteous Lion who would be slain for his people under the sovereignty of God. God’s active sovereignty in suffering is not divine abuse, but is grace and love unfathomable. It is a grace and love that leads his people to sing,

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

God is absolutely sovereign over all suffering for the purpose of salvation. This is the story of Joseph. This is the story of Jesus. Where are you found in this overarching story of God’s salvation of sinners through the suffering of his Son? The ultimate question from Genesis 50:15-21 becomes, “Are you found in the blood of the One who suffered under God’s sovereignty?”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 11/19


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America’s Pastor – Billy Graham is one of the most influential ministers of the 20th century. Check out this review about a book about his life.

Ben Franklin’s Calvinist Sister – I love odd historical musings. Thomas Kidd of Baylor University has a knack for peaking my historical intrigue. Here he reflects on a book about the life of Ben Franklin’s sister.

What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy? – My one-time professor, Heath Lambert, offers a short, yet thoughtful biblical analysis of why reparative therapy is not the preferable option. Lambert concludes, “Christians should not claim RT therapy as the Christian approach to ministry with those struggling with same-sex attraction. Far from it. Instead, even as we give thanks to the Lord for the correct observations it makes, we should reject it as an approach to change that misunderstands the problems homosexuals confront, misunderstands the goals they should pursue, and misunderstands the need to lay hold of God’s grace in Christ through repentant faith.”

The New Era of Theological Education – “What do you think are the greatest challenges that seminaries in North America will face over the next 20 years?”

The Languages We Speak at Home – This is a very informative mapping of the languages spoken in the US.

Richard Dawkins Stands Behind Remarks on Sexism, Pedophilia, and Down Syndrome – The practicality of Dawkins’ Atheism, and all forms of Naturalism, is scathing and morally abominable.

How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Start Dating? – Short, helpful video from Matt and Lauren Chandler.

You cannot hand-wring and whine in Jesus name. Christians ought to be the most courageous & hopeful people of our time. –David Prince

15 Benefits of Preaching Verse-by-Verse Through the Bible


genesis-chapter-verses-bibleThere are many ways and methods of preaching the Bible. The majority of pastors preach through sermon series based on topics or issues. A four-week series on the family here. A five-week series on five biblical characters there. While there is nothing inherently wrong with preaching through topics, as it can definitely be done expositionally, I have been exposed to a method of weekly preaching that highlights expository preaching in ways that topical preaching simply cannot.

Lectio Continua is a method of preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible. Historically, this method of preaching was made famous by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Matthew Henry, among others. I have personally benefited from the preaching ministries of John MacArthur, John Piper, and David Platt who all use this method. While many church members and pastors cringe at the prospect of a sermon series lasting 8-12 months going through just one book of the Bible, there are at least fifteen benefits of preaching verse-by-verse through the Bible. Consider each of them and feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

15 Benefits of Preaching Verse-by-Verse

Preaching verse-by-verse through the Bible…

1. Helps the preacher grow personally in knowledge and obedience by his disciplined exposure to God’s Word.

2. Helps the preacher conserve time and energy used in choosing a sermon for each week. The text sets the agenda

3. Balances the preacher’s area of “expertise” and preferred topics with the breadth of God’s thoughts in the Bible. In other words, it combats one’s tendency to choose a canon within the canon.

4. Sensitive matters can be addressed without the appearance of pointing a finger at persons or problems in the church.

5. Gives the preacher accountability to not avoid skipping over what does not suit his taste or temperament on any given Sunday.

6. Promotes biblical literacy in the preacher’s congregation by teaching them through example how to study their Bibles. That is, it teaches a reproducible method of Bible study.

7. Forces the preacher to address a greater number of issues than what readily springs to mind.

8. Much research time can be saved because each new sermon does not require a new study of the book’s or the passage’s author, background, context, and cause.

9. Increases the likelihood of the pastor preaching the whole counsel of God over time.

10. Increases the pastor’s God-given prophetic authority in the pulpit by grounding his preaching in the divinely intended meaning of the text.

11. Increases the trustworthiness of the pastor’s preaching in the eyes of the congregation.

12. Increases the pastor’s God-given blessing in the pulpit by remaining faithful to the intention of the One who sent him to preach.

13. Increases the congregation’s trust in the inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and sufficiency of Scripture.

14. Decreases their likelihood of being deceived by false teaching.

15. Best communicates that we need all 1189 chapters and 31,012 verses of the Bible for our salvation.

–each of these points were derived from a lecture given by Dr. Brian Payne at Boyce College.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Review: “Truth Matters” by Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw


51Pu8Ep10ELAndreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw. Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World. Nashville: B&H, 2014. 208 pp. $12.99

Purchase from Amazon

As I approach the conclusion of my undergraduate studies, I have gathered from both my own experience and the experiences of friends that skepticism is all the rage, especially when it comes to Christianity. Skepticism is particularly abundant in American colleges, universities, and even some seminaries. The biggest culture shock that a Christian high school graduate will face is not life in an outdated dorm room, realizing cafeteria food will be a part of his life for the next four years, or being away from home for the first time.

No, the biggest culture shock for the Christian college freshman comes when an intelligent and overly confident professor shatters every Sunday School lesson the green student has ever heard. Things the student has always assumed. Things that are crucial to his worldview. These things are locked into the professor’s scope and are about to be blown to smithereens. And if the Christian college freshman is not careful and/or prepared to defend the faith, it will only take a few subtle questions and statements to destroy his confidence in the faith he has stood on for years.

In Truth Matters, two biblical scholars (Kostenberger and Bock) and one youth pastor (Chatraw) seek to give high school and college students a resource to show them that the skeptics do not have all the answers and that in fact many of the skeptical accusations they face are much more groundless than they appear. For anyone confronted with skeptical claims about Jesus and the Bible, Truth Matters stands as a unique and valuable apologetic resource.

Summary

Truth Matters seeks to respond to skeptical criticisms of Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible. The authors specifically respond to New Testament scholar and New York Times bestselling author, Bart Ehrman’s skeptical scholarship. The authors respond to Ehrman’s criticisms, but in doing so address the most common doubts regarding Christianity. In all, the authors approach six skepticisms: suffering (chapter 2), canon formation (chapter 3), alleged contradictions in Scripture (chapter 4), textual variants in Scripture (chapter 5), orthodoxy and heresy (chapter 6), and the resurrection of Jesus (chapter 7).

Great Guide for Students

However, the book is much more than a response to Ehrman. Ehrman directs his skeptical arguments to college students and while many responses have been given to Ehrman, none of them have been sympathetic to college and university students. Truth Matters stands as a guide for students navigating competing theories that seek to undermine their Christian faith. The book is much more than combative information. While the authors engage and rebut Ehrman’s claims, the book’s greatest strength is found in how the authors teach their readers how to listen to, approach, and respond to skeptical claims.

Truth Matters not only encourages, but teaches students how to ask the right questions about skeptical claims. Essentially, the authors urge students to borrow punches from skeptical religion and theology professors by doubting their doubts. As the authors write, “[Y]ou just need to be careful, listening, thinking…[D]igging for the deeper meaning of what’s being said is such a vital skill and exercise” (24).

Breaking Down he Skeptics

Truth Matters is one of the most practical apologetic books available for the college student. The authors carefully dissect the nature of the arguments of skeptics like Ehrman. Essentially, they show how the kind of language Ehrman and others like him use is crucial to their movement. They magnify the natural doubts of young Christians by creating their own version of Christian history, and asserting a confident level of authority all the while ignoring alternate perspectives. “That’s because to express doubt can sound subtly like the truth when it’s fashioned to speak the language of our hearts and of our common experience” (24).

The authors also break down skeptical arguments by showing just how forced many of them are. It sounds attractive and is even the rising trend to doubt and question the reliability of the Bible. It is quite popular to view the development of the canon and orthodoxy as a scandalous conspiracy. But when these skeptical claims are sifted for truth, the sifter comes up empty. Speaking to the claim that the Bible is unreliable because of text variants and the fact we only have copies of the original manuscripts, the authors write of skeptics:

Strange how some skeptics can be so assured of things like motives in the long-deceased mind of a second-century scribe, about whom they know nothing except what his handwriting may have looked like. Yet they can remain so unconvinced at what hundreds of ancient manuscripts offer as physical evidence for what the original Bible text said—manuscripts they could pull up and view on their computer tablets at home this very night (132).

Faith and Reason

One of the crucial premises of skeptics is that they are relying on reason while Christians rely on faith, which is why men like Ehrman just had to abandon the faith (and is why you should too!). They create an “artificial, scholarly boundary beyond which faith is not strong enough to travel” (14). However, the authors solidify the truth that faith and reason are not at odds in Christianity. This is demonstrated in their rebuttal of Ehrman’s “problem” with supposed contradictions in Scripture. Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw write,

Similarly, both the scholar and the student’s encounter with Scripture at times can feel discordant, unwieldy, hard to manage and understand. And yet by inviting truth into our exploration, we can find much peace in our struggle, both with ourselves and with others—not by believing just because we believe it but believing because it is entirely reasonable to do so (104-105).

The authors argue for a “reasoned faith” that “never asks anyone to believe something that’s not true just for the sake of believing” (174).

A Book for Youth Groups…And Any Doubting Christian

Truth Matters teaches younger Christians how to discern the skeptical claims of professors they will no doubt encounter, either directly at universities or indirectly and practically through the culture at-large. Truth Matters is a book for high school youth groups. Some of the most culture-shocking questions are about to be fired like missiles at the worldviews and belief systems of the young people in youth groups across America. This book will serve as a helpful buffer and will teach students how to go on the offense to break down claims from even the most ardent of skeptics.

After reading Truth Matters, students will see that the Christian faith is not blind belief, but entirely reasonable and has and will stand against the attacks of fierce skeptical arguments. For the college student, high school senior, and Christian struggling with serious doubt, grab Truth Matters and allow these authors to walk you by the hand through the wilderness of skepticism so that you may find yourself in the promised land that is confidence in the faith.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Review: “The Gospel According to Daniel” by Bryan Chapell


51d50BiSZOLBryan Chapell. The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014. 224 pp. $16.99 [Buy on Amazon]

B.B. Warfield famously described the Old Testament as a room “fully furnished but dimly lit.” In saying this, the great Reformed theologian of Old Princeton meant that the basic and crucial elements of the gospel were revealed in the Old Testament, but full revelation awaited the arrival of Jesus Christ, who would be the fullest revelation of God’s glory.

Author and preacher Bryan Chapell has given his life to Christ-centered preaching. He has written numerous books and has served the church both in the pastorate and in various academic positions, most notably as president emeritus at Covenant Theological Seminary and as professor of preaching at Knox Theological Seminary. Chapell is an incredibly gifted preacher especially with regard to exposing the glory of the gospel in the Old Testament. In his own words, “My passion and privilege for the past three decades have been to help others see the presence of the gospel throughout Scripture. My contention has been that Christ’s grace does not wait until the last chapters of Matthew to make its appearance but rather is the dawning light increasing throughout Scripture toward the day of the Savior” (7).

When it comes to the book of Daniel, Christians either focus too much attention on the example of Daniel or on the end times prophecies. This unbalanced focus usually clouds understanding of this remarkable book. Chapell believes there is a better way to approach Daniel. He brings his gifts to the book of Daniel in his latest work, The Gospel According to Daniel. Chapell unfolds the oft-misunderstood book of Daniel by taking into consideration biblical, theological, contextual, and Christological elements; and he constructs a bridge between this Old Testament text and the cross of Christ. The Gospel According to Daniel is a practical look with a Christ-centered lens into one of the most well known, yet confusing books of the Bible.

Summary

The Gospel According to Daniel is divided into as many chapters as is the book of Daniel itself; twelve. In the introduction, Chapell makes clear that he has not set out to write an exegetical verse-by-verse commentary. “Rehearsing the facts” is not why he wrote this book (7). If you are one to typically skip the introduction in a book, you should not miss this one. Chapell’s introduction is a valuable resource in itself for preachers and students of the Bible. In it he unpacks the importance of Christ-centered study of Scripture and gives a guideline on how a Christ-centered approach to Scripture is best.

Chapell exposes the gospel in each chapter and then makes multiple application points through healthy biblical theology and helpful stories and illustrations. The flow of this book is sermon-like. You will feel like you are reading sermons on Daniel, instead of an analytical commentary. Essentially, Chapell preaches the book of Daniel to his readers.

Helpful Format

The Gospel According to Daniel is a resource that should find itself on the shelves of pastors and lay people alike. While pastors will find an incredible help in preparing sermons on Daniel, lay people seeking to better understand Daniel will be able to see Christ in Daniel and make gospel applications to their lives. The format of The Gospel According to Daniel enables this. It is easy to navigate the book for help in studying various passages in Daniel.

While not every verse in Daniel is commented on and though there are things that are not addressed, the overall message of Daniel is conveyed and seen in a Christological lens. While The Gospel According to Daniel would fall short of serious theological and exegetical studies in Daniel, it is a valuable devotional guide and preaching resource The practical benefits for casual study of Daniel are far-reaching.

Right Hero Worship and Saving Faith

The greatest strength in The Gospel According to Daniel is Chapell’s avoidance of hero worship. It is so easy to approach a book like Daniel and come away with greater awe for the man than for his God. This is especially true in kids ministry. Many curriculums elevate men like Daniel as demigods to be worshiped. Chapell directs his readers to worship the true Hero, Jesus Christ.

Chapell’s explanations of saving faith in Daniel 3 and 6 are insightful and were my favorite parts of his book. I left with a deeper understanding of saving faith. Instead of simply calling for following the example of the young Judean men in their relentless faith, Chapell describes what true saving faith looks like while also observing what it is not. For example, Chapell writes on the resolve of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 in the following ways:

“Biblical faith calls for each of us to acknowledge God’s provision as sufficient, loving, and good even if it falls short of, or contradicts, immediate desires that cannot fully anticipate his plans or fathom his wisdom” (55).

“True faith simply acknowledges that God knows and does what is right. True faith does not pretend to know all that must be done. Any faith that insists God must do things our way in order for him to be truly faithful does not fully trust him” (56).

“Teaching that some heroic degree of faith will inoculate us from trial or tragedy destroys the faith that we actually need in the midst of such afflictions” (58).

The emphasis throughout the book is not on the faith of Daniel, but on the grace of God in the gospel as it is seen in Daniel. This grace-centered, Christ-centered format allows readers to rightly understand Daniel while avoiding the error of hero worship.

Conclusion

It is often difficult for Christian pastors and lay people alike to see Christ in the Old Testament. So, pastors often do not preach Christ-centered sermons from the Old Testament and many Christians struggle to know how to study the Old Testament. In the end, best efforts at understanding a book like Daniel boils down to hero worship of a biblical character. Bryan Chapell offers a better way to approach not only Daniel, but all of the Old Testament; in a Christ-centered way that leads to worship of the only true Hero.


Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggershttp://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 11/14


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“If Only…” Christianity – Casey McCall: “‘If only…’ Christianity is the belief that there’s some point in the future when all of one’s life circumstances will finally become ideal in enabling him or her to live faithfully for Christ. It’s a view of life with a future focus, but it’s not the type of future focus that is rooted in the kingdom of Christ.”

4 Dangers for Complementarians – Gavin Ortlund: “Of course, many people will disagree with complementarianism—often quite vehemently—no matter what we say or do. But the truth is offensive enough without our help. We don’t need to add to its offense with our own faults and foibles. I therefore list four dangers to which we should be particularly sensitive, even while we stand firm in the face of pressure from our more aggressive critic.”

Not that Kind of Homosexuality? – Kevin DeYoung: “The revisionist case can take many forms, but central to most of them is the ‘not that kind of homosexuality!’ argument. We can safely set aside the scriptural prohibitions against homosexual behavior because we are comparing apples and oranges: we are talking in our day about committed, consensual, lifelong partnerships, something the biblical authors in their day knew nothing about. Despite its superficial plausibility, there are at least two major problems with this line of thinking.”

Rand Paul and Pacifism – Slightly surprised at Sen. Paul’s pacifism, yet it creates interesting possibilities for 2016.

Emmanuel Encounter – “The problem of the church is not ‘non-church going’ people but non-going churches.” Check out this exciting new movement.

Timeline of Biblical Inerrancy – Interesting timeline of biblical inerrancy.

Essential Southernisms Any Yankee in the South Should Know – You can’t survive in the South without knowing at least these twelve Southernisms.

We are not saved by our understanding…We are saved in spite of our ignorance. –D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

10 Quotes from “Burning Hearts” by Josh Moody and Robin Weekes


815AD6kR4LLJosh Moody is the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Robin Weekes serves as a minister of Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon, London.

Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections was published by Christian Focus.

Here a ten helpful quotes from the book:

1. Affections are the movement of our thoughts, feelings and will towards a desired object, person or event. (14)

2. Affections are more than emotions (15).

3. Preaching to the affections is ‘affectional preaching’. Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart (15).

4. Preaching is the God-ordained means by which He meets with His people through His Word and by His Spirit in such a way that His people’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and be captivated by Him (25).

5. Christ is the context and the goal of our preaching, but more than that, we actually encounter Christ when the Word of Christ is preached (31).

6. A ministry of preaching to the affections is a ministry that is aiming to do the gospel work of softening the heart of God’s people so that they will follow God’s Word. Preaching God’s word with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit softens hearts and changes lives (42).

7. Preaching to the affections maintains the purity of the church (49).

8. Good biblical preaching then will always probe the workings of the heart (56).

9. Preaching the character of our great and glorious God will touch people’s hearts (97).

10. We should not lower our commitment to biblical scholarship, critical thinking, careful exegesis, one iota. Instead with that in place, and constantly emphasized, we should direct that message, according to the authentic genuine message of the passage, towards the hearers so that they (and we) have our hearts warmed, changed and moved towards life, to the praise and glory of God (136).


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.