Book Review: God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement is by Dr. James (Jim) Hamilton, Jr., who  is associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is published by Crossway.[1]

I must begin by saying that I enjoyed this book immensely. But I enjoyed it differently than most other books. I enjoyed this book like I would a rich, decadent peanut butter pie (one that my wife will eventually blog about). The first way to enjoy any food is to look at it (If you never stop to appreciate the beauty of well-prepared food, you are missing out one of the delights that God has given to us). As you can see in the cover art to the left, the cover of the book is striking. The title of the book layered over a foreboding painting of Israel escaping the judgment handed out to the Egyptians gives you a pretty good idea what you are in for when you crack this book. The second way you enjoy a rich, decadent peanut butter pie is slowly and in small portions. If you try to jam the whole piece in your mouth, an overwhelming sensation will surely follow. The richness of the pie will overwhelm the senses to the point of revulsion. It will not taste good. However, if consumed slowly, the richness still floods the senses, but it does not overwhelm. You are enjoying this pie differently than you might enjoy other desserts, like cookies. This book is a rich, decadent biblical theology that seeks to find the center of the entire redemptive story that God is telling. This is no light afternoon reading. It’s best enjoyed slowly, deliberately, with pen and highlighter in hand. So if you pick up this book, remember, it’s rich and decadent. Read slowly.

Now, a more specific reason I liked this book was how it helped me better see the flow of the Bible. I was able to see how God was weaving a cohesive and coherent story within the Bible. I think my favorite parts were Dr. Hamilton’s surveys on Chronicles and the Gospels. I learned a lot about Chronicles I never knew before (like how it was written later than Samuel and Kings, most likely during the time of Nehemiah, with a much different agenda). And I appreciated the surveys on the Gospels, because I was able to see how each Gospel author presented Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises that were laid out in the OT surveys. The story of the Bible became more real to me as Dr. Hamilton pointed out the specifics I had never seen before.

I did feel at times that Dr. Hamilton was stretching to make his argument. The whole book is seeking to argue that the center of the Biblical story is that God is glorified by saving people through judgment. While most of the time, I think he makes strong arguments, there were the occasional moments where I didn’t see what he was trying to show me. Perhaps that’s my fault and not the fault of the book. I may lack the smarts necessary to understand what he was saying!

In the end, I cannot more highly recommend this book. Just remember, it’s a peanut butter pie, not a chocolate chip cookie. You’ll need time to enjoy this rich and decadent work of biblical theology. But it’s worth all the effort.

~sdg

Footnotes

Back to Post[1] – Crossway provided me with a free copy in exchange for reviewing the book.

Foodies Rejoice

Fajita Turkey Burgers from Aromatic Delights

Foodies rejoice, for my wife has launched a food blog. It’s called Aromatic Delights and I highly recommend you check it out. I have personally tasted every thing that will be going up over the coming weeks and it’s all excellent. The first post is especially delicious. If you like burgers and fajitas, here’s a healthy way to combine them both.

~sdg

Bloodlines

A new book by John Piper has recently been released by Crossway. It’s called “Bloodlines: Race, Cross & the Christian.” Crossway describes it this way:

Genocide. Terrorism. Hate crimes. In a world where racism is far from dead, is unity amidst diversities even remotely possible?

Sharing from his own experiences growing up in the segregated South, pastor John Piper thoughtfully exposes the unremitting problem of racism. Instead of turning finally to organizations, education, famous personalities, or government programs to address racial strife, Piper revealsthe definitive source of hope—teaching how the good news about Jesus Christ actively undermines the sins that feed racial strife, and leads to a many-colored and many-cultured kingdom of God.

Learn to pursue ethnic harmony from a biblical perspective, and to relate to real people different from yourself, as you take part in the bloodline of Jesus that is comprised of “every tongue, tribe, and nation.”

They also put together a book trailer which is very well done. Check it out below.

John Piper: Bloodlines Documentary Trailer from Crossway on Vimeo.

I’m looking forward to reading this whenever I get my hands on a copy.

~sdg

(HT: JT)

Book Review: With

With: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God is by Skye Jethani, an ordained pastor, author, editor, and speaker, and is published by Thomas Nelson.[1] I must begin by saying that I really enjoyed reading this book. I read the majority of it in one sitting. The prose is readable and easy. The text flows and so the pages turn quickly. The book does have one annoying feature: endnotes. I hate endnotes. So be warned, if you hate endnotes, you will be slightly annoyed as you read this book. However, the content is more than worth bearing the endnotes. I give the book 4 stars and will heartily recommend it with a few reservations.

Review

Jethani begins the book by looking at the world as we now see it. We live in the time after Eden, after man walked with God. Rather than wholeness, what we find is brokenness on every level. And because this world is broken, we all have fear and we all seek some way to gain control of our world to mitigate the fear that burns in our hearts. All human religions are born from this reality. And this is a key component necessary for understanding the rest of the book. Jethani categorizes all religious expression into five camps, or five ways we can relate to God. All five ways of relating to God promise to deal with our fears, yet four of the five do nothing of the sort. The four ways of relating to God that do not remove our fears are Life Under God, Life Over God, Life From God and Life For God. Jethani shows us that not only do they not remove our fear, they only serve to make us more fearful, more desirous of control. The only way of relating to God where our fears melt away and our need for control vanishes is a Life With God. But what does Jethani mean by the other postures mentioned? Let’s take a look.

Life Under God

Life Under God is the primary way that most people in the world understand their relation to God. There are divine rules and if one wishes to avoid calamity and suffering, one must strictly adhere to those divine rules. If you break the rules, disaster will follow. However, Jethani points out that a Life Under God is actually quite ironic. While adherents to this posture are under these divine rules, they assume to exert control over God through their obedience. Since control is still an issue, that means fear has not been removed. Life Under God fails to do what it promises.

Life Over God

If Life Under God is the primary understanding of most people in the world, Life Over God is probably the primary understanding of most people in the West. While the obvious target here is atheist, Jethani takes a different approach. Before exploring this new direction, Jethani does briefly deal with the atheist position. Secular humanism is responsible for increasing fear and strife just as much as Life Under God. But the surprising route Jethani explores is that there are many who claim to be Christians who subscribe to a Life Over God posture. What would cause Christians to accept such a tenable posture? The Enlightenment. According to studies cited, most people who claim to believe in God hold to Deism, rather than Biblical Christianity. This posture promises that if you understand and obey the principles that govern this world, you can mitigate your fear. Control comes via the mastery of the principles that the Great Watchmaker set in place. You can see this in play in how churches operate like corporations and how many treat the Bible like a set of divine principles. Too often God’s revelation of Himself becomes God’s revelation of divine principles for living. When reduced in this manner, the Christian Deist can put the principles into practice without the need for God at all. Again, this posture fails to deliver what it promises. Fear remains. Control remains an unattainable struggle.

Life From God

This posture assumes that God is a lot like me. So that probably means that He wants me to happy. This posture seeks to get from God all the things that we naturally desire. This is appealing to us because it does not require us to change. Now, Jethani is careful to say that God indeed does give us all things. However, the problem with a Life From God posture is that it gives one dynamic of the divine-human relationship a primacy it was not meant to handle. Further, it turns God into a divine butler. This posture does not seek to remove fear, but rather numb us to it. Life From God fails to deliver what it promises, because we may gain the whole world, but our fears remain.

Life For God

Life For God relates to God by how much we do for Him. What matters most is the mission. Did you share the gospel with people on the mission trip? Did you work for justice in the urban core? If so, then you matter. That is when your life has significance. The problem with this posture is that, like the others, it does not remove our fears. If we relate to God in this way, our greatest fear will be not doing enough. And the terrible truth is, you will never know if you have done enough. So fear remains. Another broken promise. Another failed attempt at removing our fear.

Life With God

Life Under, Over, From and For God fail to do what they promise. But Life With God does not fail. For it is fundamentally different that the others. Jethani shows us how Jesus related to God and how that was completely different from the other postures. While other postures seek to use God or control God, Life With God is about communing with God. It is all about relationships. For, at the core of universe, we find the Trinity. The mysterious truth of one God in community with Himself. “God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit.” The goal of Life With God is not to use God, but treasure God. God is the end that we seek. Jethani goes on in subsequent chapters to examine a Life With God by exploring three vital aspects; Faith, Hope and Love.

Concerns

While I enjoyed this book immensely and would recommend it, I have a few concern that I could not let slide. For a book that I found profoundly simple[2], there were a few moments of simplistic thinking that bothered me. First, when discussing a Life From God posture, Jethani seems to equate consumerism with capitalism. I always get nervous when the theologically trained began talking economics. They do exactly what Jethani has done, which is make surface observations and come to simplistic conclusions that are just wrong. Jethani states that our current economic system needs a complete lack of self-control. On the surface, this sounds right on. Steve Jobs Tim Cook wants me to buy Apple products. Therefore, I must lack self-control so that I go buy all the new Apple products and make Tim Cook a lot of money. Now, the problem with this understanding is that it’s just patently wrong. Self-control is the foundation for our economic model, rather than an inhibitor. Just look at our current economic problems. What’s the issue? Our government lacks self-control. It has spent us into a debt my grandchildren will be paying for. On an individual level, the person who lacks self-control, racks up mountains of debt and can no longer pay their obligations becomes a drain on the economy. In the short-term, yes, the LED 3D television he bought on the credit card helped, but in the long-term, he is an unstable drain on economic resources due to his mountainous debt. You can’t cook dinner over firecrackers, which is exactly what Jethani is trying to do when he says our economic system requires those who lack self-control. A properly cooked dinner requires a stable, controlled fuel source. Same is true for our economy.

Second, and more importantly, when discussing the Life With God posture, Jethani again slips into a simplistic mindset. Jethani keeps talking about helping people see a greater vision of Jesus. The problem that most people have with living a Life With God, is that they have never captured a vision for it. True. Amen. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”[3] However, Jethani leaves out a key ingredient. The Holy Spirit. Unless the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the people to see the vision of Jesus that I am desperately trying to get them to see, they will not see it. The reason that some people fall into these competing postures is not that they have never been presented with the whole gospel. They fall into these postures because their eyes have never been opened. Jethani makes a big deal out of prayer (as he should) when talking about communion with God. So I found it so curious that this one aspect went undiscussed. Without a prayer-soaked presentation of the gospel, eyes will never be opened and hearts will never be changed.

Overall, this is a great book. It deserves a wide reading. If you are struggling with a dry spiritual existence, perhaps you might find that you are trying to live a Life Under, Over, From or For God. With may very well be the catalyst that God uses to draw you into a life of communion with Him.

~sdg

Footnotes

Back to Post[1] – Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a review.
Back to Post[2] – Simplicity in and of itself is not always a bad thing. In fact, the ability to make complex subjects appear simple is a great gift that requires skill. In the words attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
Back to Post[3] – Proverbs 29:18

Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl

Cover Art for the DVD

As I was hurdling over the Pacific Ocean in a steel and aluminum box, sitting in a cramped, 20″ excuse for a chair, I did the only thing that would keep me sane. I read. The book I chose to bring along for this 13 hour trip to the other side of existence was Notes from the Titl-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. And how shall I describe this book? Hands down the best book I’ve read this year. Fascinating. Funny. Frightening (reading about death at 37,000 feet with nothing but the sea below is scary). Fiendishly facetious (Kant followers beware). Feel-good. Okay, I’m running out of “F” words. Buy the book. Read the book. And open your eyes to the crazy, carnival-like world we live in. You won’t look at the sea or a line of scurrying ants the same again. And that’s a good thing.

Well, not only is there a book, there is now a film. And Westminster Theological Seminary bookstore has it at 60% off this week only! The film looks amazing. I can’t wait to get my copy and watch it.

Here is the trailer for the DVD:

Here is a clip from the film:

~sdg

Arousing Ourselves to Death

Russell Moore writes:

Pornography, by its very nature, leads to insatiability. One picture, stored in the memory, will never be enough to continue arousing a man. God, after all, designed the man and the woman to be satisfied not with a single sex act but with an ongoing appetite for each other, for the unitive and procreative union of flesh to flesh and soul to soul. One seeking the mystery outside of this covenantal union will never find what he is looking for. He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.

Yes, pornography is an issue of public morality. We have spoken to this repeatedly. A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this. We agree with those—often even secular feminists with whom we disagree on much—who say that a pornographic culture hurts women and children through the objectification of women, the trafficking of children, and the commodification of sex.

But before pornography is a legal or cultural or moral issue, it is an ecclesial one. Judgment must, as Scripture tells us, begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). The man who is sitting upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs their children to soccer practice might well be a religionless, secular culture warrior. But he is just as likely to be one of our church members, maybe even one who reads Touchstone magazine.

Read the whole article here.
~sdg

No Woman, No Cry?

When it comes to chilling out at the beach, nothing beats listening to Bob Marley. He is the epitome of beach life. I’ll even listen to him in the dead of winter as a way to think warm thoughts. Despite my admiration for Marley’s talent, I have to ask myself if he speaks truth. I was recently listening to his song “No Woman, No Cry.” I used to love this song. I thought, “How true is this song?!” Most of the memories in my life that involved pain involved women. I thought Bob Marley was a genius. For many years, this was my anthem, No woman, no cry. Don’t let them get close enough and you can’t get hurt. Well a funny thing happened to me. I met a really awesome young lady and now we’re getting married. I couldn’t be happier. God has truly blessed me. I’ve begun to prepare for marriage by reading all the books I can on marriage. Everyone tells me marriage is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. I want to be as prepared as possible.

I stumbled across this book that I have learned immensely from. It’s called When Sinners Say “I Do”. One of the more provocative insights I found was this: Marriage is a revealer of sin, not creator of sin. Even though I’m not married, I’m still finding that having another person around who is intimately involved in your life really reveals another side of you. For most people, including myself, it is shocking to learn that there is this dark other side of you that you’ve never struggled with before. For example, I’ve come to realize that I can get really angry over very insignificant things. I’ve just come to this realization. Mostly, because my fiance asked me one time after a little tantrum why I get upset over small things. I had no idea. The temptation is to blame her for my anger. I could use the powers of deduction and come to a conclusion that is wholly wrong. I could say, “I never got angry over little things before I met her. I get angry over little things now. Therefore, she is the reason I get angry. It’s all her fault.” From my reading and from my limited experience, I am finding this to be the case in a lot of relationships. I see a lot of blame going on and not a lot of responsibility being accepted. The truth of the matter is, that sin was always there. My anger has always been there. My mini fits of rage have always been there. I’ve just never had anyone close enough to notice and call me out on it. Dave Harvey, who authored the book I mentioned above, likened marriage to a big oven and we are like unrefined gold. The fire of marriage brings to the surface our impurities…impurities that have long existed within us. Harvey’s point is this, one of marriage’s purposes, as designed by God, is to reveal to us our sinfulness. It is a tool for sanctification. We should expect that sin will exist within our relationship. It is not meant to be tolerated, but dealt with. That is God’s purpose. He wants to bring the sin to the surface so that he can properly deal with it. We must not ever blame the problems we face in our marriages on our marriage or our spouse. You are the biggest problem in your relationship. I wonder what your conflicts might like look if you and your spouse both approached it thinking that the other was the innocent party. What if we took to heart Jesus’ parable of the log and the speck. If both parties think the log is in their own eye, there will be a lot more grace, mercy and forgiveness offered and offered quickly. I hope so much to approach my marriage conflicts that way!

So, if that’s the right way, why are we so prone to want to think the other way about sin within the marriage. Why do we find the need to blame? Why do we blame our marriage or our spouse? I believe it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of man’s condition, his moral state. The Bible is very clear about man’s moral state. Man is corrupt. His nature is sinful. His bent is rebellion (while this is all true, we must not lose sight of the truth that man is also created in God’s image). Our world preaches the opposite. Man is basically good, perfectible (and not created…in anyone’s image). If we believe as the world does, we will easily fall into the trap of blaming our marriages and spouses for the sin in our lives and relationships. If we hold to the truth of Scripture, we will understand that although I am created in God’s image and a Saint because of what Jesus has accomplished for me, sin still dwells within my flesh. My sin becomes mine and the fault of no one else. I begin to own my sin, which is the first step to freedom from it. Once I own it, I can take it to Jesus and exchange it for liberty. We need the Gospel every day! Our marriages should be gospel-saturated marriages. Ones that turn to Jesus every day, laying those new impurities we’ve discovered at His feet and trading them for a life of freedom from the bondage of shame, dishonor and disillusionment.

I pray you begin to approach the sin revealed in your marriage as opportunities for greater growth, not reasons to blame your relationship or spouse. May God give you a heart to see and know the truth about yourself and that your greatest need is Him.

~sdg