Vacation Reading | Overview

One of the things I look forward to on vacation is some good time for reading.  Over the past two weeks I went through:

Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell Moore Total Church:A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester Vintage Church:Timeless Truths and Timely Methods by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

I’ll be posting short reviews of each over the next few days…

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Refreshing Perspective | The Blueprint

I’ve really enjoyed reading Jaeson Ma’s book The Blueprint: A Revolutionary Plan to Plant Missional Communities on Campus.

Jaeson is certainly cut from a different theological tree than I am, but I have been challenged and refreshed by his perspective.  The book is essentially broken down into three sections: Prayer, Evangelism, and Missional Community.  The whole book is saturated with the Holy Spirit, and it has been a good challenge to me to consistently pray for the presence and power of the Spirit in my life.

I just finished the second section, which is an application of a life that is solely fueled by the prescription of prayer that he outlines in the first section.  The section focuses on practical demonstrations of the Spirit’s power on campus through worship, evangelism, prophetic preaching, and healing.

Although I’m not sure I agree fully with the strategy Jaeson advocates, it’s a great challenge for me to consistently push myself and students to be more bold in their witness and take much greater risk with the gospel through demonstrative action that is Christ-exalting.

I’d recommend reading this book, simply because it is a refreshing challenge and a great story of what God has done through Jaeson’s ministry.  Bottom line, he’s in love with Jesus and desperately wants to see campuses transformed.

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The Reason for God | Chapter 4

I just finished chapter 4 last night, which wrestles with the challenge of the church perpetrating so much injustice in the world.  Keller approaches the question in a couple different ways:

  1. He addresses the common argument that Christian nations have been responsible for war, genocide, slavery, destruction of culture, and a host of other evils.  Keller appeals to the universality of these injustices throughout secular and religious governments alike (using the examples of communist states, imperialist Japan, and few others), and ties this universality to the human propensity for evaluating some belief to supremacy, whether God or an ideal.
  2. Secondly, he takes the opportunity to speak about the comparative morality of many within the church, and their deficiency relative to secular counterparts.  His argument leans essentially on one important point of doctrine: common grace.  The idea that all good things flow from God, including those which lead to social and moral stability, is the explanation for how a completely secular individual could appear so much “better” than a Christian.  Coupled with the inherent attractiveness of the gospel of grace to those who are broken, and the long road of sanctification, it is easy to see how this picture could form
  3. Finally, Keller deals with the idea of fanaticism by essentially pointing out those who practice the condemning form of faith do not have a full comprehension of the gospel.  He does this biblically through the Sermon on the Mount, pointing out Jesus’ treatment of the “religious”.

The close of the chapter discourses through the idea that the capacity to critique the Christian faith comes mostly from within the faith itself, not outside it.  A purely secular worldview has abject poverty to critique the faith because it is based upon self-driven motivation, which manifests itself in an honor/shame-based culture.  This concept of selfish motivation has no intrinsic motivation to seek justice on behalf of the weak, and it is only because our cultural worldview is deeply built on a historical Christian base that we have any value for the poor and oppressed.

This chapter was an excellent, yet short dialectic that answers many common objections to rational assent to Christian faith.  Keller has a way both intellectually and pastorally explaining his ideas from a position of great humility, and I have appreciated both the soundness and tenor of his ideas.  This is indeed a great book thus far!

books christianity theology

Reading “The Reason for God”

I’ve found myself needing to repent of my lack of reading actual books as of late, so I’ve got a few things on the docket I want to read.  I just picked up and started Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, and I must say it’s a good read.  Although the concepts aren’t mind-blowing, Keller has an aptitude for communicating simple answers to complicated questions.

Chapter 1 was about the exclusivity of the Christian truth claim, and how ultimately every person has an exclusive claim, regardless of their faith or skepticism.  I thoroughly enjoyed his simple response to the fact that everyone adopts a world-view or a fundamental narrative, whether they claim to or not.  Whatever grounds an individual has for denying an exclusive claim is in fact still making an exclusive claim.  My presumption is that he will answer doctrinally later on in the book the basis for the Christian world-view as the inspired Word of God.

Chapter 2 delved lightly into the question of suffering, and the supposed challenge that it is to the existence of an omnibenevolent God.  Keller answers this challenge by pointing out that anyone who claims God cannot exist because of evil has a concept of just and unjust that presupposes an extrinsic concept of justice.  To be logically consistent with a self-driven, Darwinian world-view, you cannot uphold this idea of justice.  He then goes on to understand that the Christian narrative is probably a better apologetic for the existence of God.

I’m looking forward to reading more…

Any thoughts from you who have read the book?

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unChristian 7, 8, 9

I stalled in my review of unChristian because I lost some interest in the book as a whole.  I occasionally do that…

You can find my thoughts here: Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

Alan Hirsch pulled a number of quotes from the book here, so if you’re curious how it finishes up, check it out.

Here are his quotes from chapters 7 through 9:

7. Too Political
“Perception: Christians are primarily motivated by a political agenda and promote right-wing politics.” (153)

“Christians have made a concerted and coordinated effort to engage the political process in recent decades, their activity in the political realm can be hard to miss.”

“We must realize that our political activism, if expressed in an unchristian manner, prevents a new generation from seeing Christ.” This reputation “affects their ability to connect with new generations who are innately skeptical of people who appear to use political power to protect their interests and viewpoints.” (156-57)

Being politically engaged is more important than ever. We should be “known as engaged, informed, and on the leading edge, offering a sophisticated response to issues.” (157) “Political involvement…is an important avenue of influence within our community, nation, and world.” (158)

Explanation of how evangelicals are classified by Barna Association, p. 159

Among the evangelical segment only a slight majority (59%) are registered as Republicans. (160)

When we talk about “warfare” we are usually thinking of a cosmic struggle, as in Ephesians 6Open Link in New Window, but outsiders may hear alarming militaristic talk. (161) The things we say end up in the internet world of blogging. We must be careful how we talk and engage in self examination, humility, and appropriate engagement. (162)

8 Judgmental
“Perception: Christians are prideful and quick to find faults in others.” (181)

“To be judgmental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized.” “Being judgmental is fueled by self-righteousness….” 90% of outsiders say Christians are judgmental. (182)

“Judgmental attitudes come across as overly simplified, old-fashioned, and out of step with their diverse world.” (183)

“Are we more concerned with the unrighteousness of others than our own self-righteousness?” (184)

“A critical distinction for Christians is the difference between condemning people (i.e., being judgmental) and helping them become soft-hearted–aware of, and sensitized to God’s standards.” (184)

Four forms of judgmentalism surfaced: wrong verdict, wrong timing, wrong motivation, and playing favorites. (187)

“Pride fuels judgmental attitudes. Arrogance is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of sin in the church today.” (191)

“Human beings are attracted to acceptance and genuine respect; they are repelled by rejection and an air of superiority.” (194)

Guidelines suggested by outsiders:

  • Listen to me.
  • Don’t label me.
  • Don’t be so smart and pretend to have all the answers.
  • Put yourself in my place.
  • Be genuine.
  • Be my friend with no other motives. (194-95)

9 From UnChristian to Christian
How will we respond? (205) Four suggestions:

  • Respond with the right perspective (like Jesus. He considered the below-the-surface issues.)
  • Connect with people. Jesus influenced people through relationships and friendships.
  • Be creative. Jesus attracted people in creative ways and connected with the heart. Look for new stories, parables and ways of communicating.
  • Serve people. Cultivate deep concern and sensitivity to outsiders. Learn to listen.
  • Life a lifestyle of compassion.

Overall, the book was a decent read, but not necessarily earth shattering. It stimulated some great thoughts, but left a lot to be desired for me.