The Brothers Karamazov

I had to read this great work of literture in high school but blew it off and just bought the cliff notes.  I am now atoning for that sin.  The sin of cheating myself of such a marvelous book.  Some have said that Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov is the greatest novel ever written.  While it is still to early for me to second this opinion I have already found it deeply profound and enjoyable.

Dostoevsky plumbs into the deepest questions of life in his novel as he tackles; the orgin of evil, nature of freedom, search for meaning, human nature and pshycology, and most important the existence of God.

Here is one line that has ruptured my thinking over the last day.

“Suffering is life. Without suffering what would be the pleasure of it?  It would be transformed into an endless church service; it would be holy, but tedious.”

I encourage you to pick this one up over the summer and enjoy.  While the book may be dense and consider a hard read, the reward is well worth it and given to those who willing.



Summer Reading List

My brother in-law and I recently had an email exchange in which I listed out some books I would recommend for summer reading.  Thought I would post my recommendations here for others in case your looking for some good books to read this summer.

1.  Displines of Grace by Jerry Bridges.  This is the best book I have read this year.  In fact it is so good that I never had to mark my page because I just had to find the last page that was highlighted.  I am planning to start reading again in the next month.

2. Prodigal God by Keller.  Not sure if you have read this but it has made the second read list for me.  It might be very helpful given your traditional culture you find yourself in as it has great insight into how to love the “older brother.”

3. Kingdom Triangle by JP Moreland.  Another great book about the culture we live in and the spirit-filled life God is calling us to.

4.  Finally Alive by John Piper.  This is the second best book I have read this year as it takes on the doctrine of Regeneration at a practical and biblical level like I have never encountered.  Sadly, many of us Christians understand how we are saved (the doctrine of Justification) but not what we are saved into (A new creation in Christ).  Read this book slowly and follow along with all the biblical references to see how regeneration is all over the Bible.

The Institutes by John Calvin.  The edition I am reading can be found here. I was told by some profs at seminary that it is the best one. and I have been deeply edified by reading The Institutes as I am now at the half point of my year long read through of the Institutes.



Francis Schaeffer On The Gospel And Christian Life

I know I have quoted from this book before but I must do so again.  Schaeffer was ahead of his time as he was thinking holistically about the Gospel before anyone else.  Francis Schaeffer was truly the epitome of loving God with all your heart, mind and soul.

As I was reading Schaeffer today I was stunned by how succinctly he summed up the Christian message; “The call to a non-Christian is to make Jesus the center of his life.  The call to Christians is to remember that He is the center.”

The non-believer is to end his rebellion against God and joyfully accept the gift of grace through the cross.  The believer is to constantly orient themselves around this same grace.

So ask yourself, is Jesus your center?  Is he first in your affections, relationships, and plans?  Jesus must be your center if you are truly his follower, because he is the vine and you are the branch, apart from him you can do nothing.


THE SHACK…Review Coming and some links in the meantime

As soon as I have some free time I intend to write my review of The Shack. I promised my Twitter followers that it was coming yesterday. Sorry, all of my free time this week is going to painting and flooring.

In the meantime, you can read Bob’s great review here.

Also, if you did not catch Driscoll’s series on prayer it is really good. Even though it won’t literally earthshaking for you as it was for Ryan, it is still really good. And here is a video for his new book, Death By Love.


Shane Claiborne And The New Evangelical Vote

Do you recognize this guy?  No he is not the guy who was asking you for spare change last week on your way to work, he is Shane Claiborne.  Claiborne is a young Evangelical leader involved in monastic movements and helping Christians think more holistically about their faith, this includes not being lock step with one political party or another.  His most recent book, Jesus For President, has become quite popular as a rallying cry for younger Evangelicals who want to consider issues such as the environment, social justice, health care, and taxes instead of just abortion and gay marriage.

CNN has a nice cover article on Claiborne and those who want consider how the Lordship of Jesus should effect not just where we spend an hour on Sunday mornings.  Many will read Claiborne and dismiss him as a utopian idealist, thinking that what he and his followers is advocating is to extreme and unrealistic.  After all, how many of us will ever participate in communal living or forsake almost all earthly possessions?  Not many of us.  But I think to wave Claiborne so easily aside is a mistake.  While I do not agree with all of his ideas or all the ways he thinks we must live out our Christian faith; I am sure of his authenticity, love for others, and passion for God.  Voices like Claiborne are good for all of us to hear and should be allowed ample room in all of our cushy lives to convict and stir up new possibilities of what it would look like for us to more seriously live out the Kingdom of God.

Oh yeah his previous book, Irresistible Revolution is amazing, though it does get somewhat repetitive the last 50 pages.  All of you should read it and be ready for God to rock your world.


Doug Pagitt and “A Christianity Worth Believing”

I do not intend to write a review of Doug Pagitt’s new book, A Christianity Worth Believing. But we will see what happens…

I am reading through it write now because I got a free copy of it. And of course other reason that are explained in the tab “The Theory” at the top of this blog. For those of you who do not know Doug is a leading voice in the Emergent church movement/conversation. I have heard him speak a few times and read some of his other stuff. Overall the guy is quite brilliant and is a gifted communicator.

I enjoyed the first few chapters as he talks about his own faith journey of growing up as an unbeliever and then becoming a Christian through a Passion play. Doug details how he was quickly immersed in the Christian culture and was quickly leading Bible studies and even involved in court cases for Christian rights.

Doug goes on to talk about how he went on to Bible college and then to be a youth pastor at a large megachurch. But all along he was still wrestling with what he calls the “uh-oh” moments of his faith. He talks about how he felt stifled to explore the the uh-ohs of his faith and that faith in Jesus was explained to him as this absolute finish line moment.  I relate to this as early on in my Christian life I hit a number of walls of doubt and frustration.  For me though, it was because I was void of any solid theology and began to think Christianity was too simplistic for explaining life.  I also intuitively knew there was a measure of understanding that sanctification was a process, that holiness and Christ-like formation was not completed at my conversion but something I needed to continue to workout.  These truths explain to us that the “uh-oh” moments of our faith are quite attested to by the Biblical narrative and just part of the Christian life.

Doug then engages in the regular emergent diatribe of how it was deeply unsettling to him the truth had to equal absolute. This is a massively false dichotomy that I do not want to fully get into here.  But all of us understand that while we know nothing absolutely, we can still and do know many things concretely. Just think about all the things you do in a day and how they are based on truth premises that you hold and operate out of.

From there Dough launches into how the poison of Hellenization has permeated into the story of Jesus. Doug really does not give any solid examples of this except to say that Greeks did not have a frame of reference or understanding of an intimate or personal God such as Yahweh. Given that the New Testament is written in Greek and there are plenty of words in our Greek New Testament that connotate these exact ideas I find this conclusion hard to accept. If Doug is making the point that the Biblical narrative has at points been contaminated with Platonic thought and worldviews, I would concur. but he is overstating his case to say that all church history has been asunder in Hellenization since the third century.

Truth is though I am just now getting to the good stuff. You know the reason people read and buy books like this, to see what provocative and blogworthy stuff Doug has written. Here is the first comment I came across that I am sure will have the folks at apprising ministries foaming at the mouth.

I think there are people who argue for an ‘inerrant’ authoritative understanding of the Bible to support their prejudiced feelings about homosexuals. I know they would deny it, and they have done so to me many times. They would argue that it works the other way–the Bible teaches certain ideas about homosexuality, so that’s what they believe. (p. 63)

First off who is “they?” This is classic straw man in which you rail against a faceless opponent. I am not doubting that there are indeed homophobic Christians, I have met some myself, but to say this is their higher priority over a genuine belief in the authority of the Bible is quite presumptuous. Also I just could not help of thinking how much assuming Doug is doing of their heart and true motives. How can a movement of emergent Christians claim to be generous and want conversation and then accuse those who they disagree with of being misleading and not truly saying what they mean? I will pause here and post some more thoughts as I get further into the book.



David Wells and the Death Knell of Willow Creek Ecclesiology

David Wells is a renowned theologian at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has written many books I have enjoyed including, “The Supremacy of Christ in a Post-Modern World.” I have been reading a few chapters from his new book, “The Courage To Be Protestant.”

In this book, he offers a bold stinging edict that the sun has set on The Willow Creek seeker-oriented, marketing approach to church, here is a bit of it.

“Not only are the bare bones of this approach now showing but it has to reckon with the fact that people have also become bored with it. They want something new. It has been mainstreamed. The marketing approach has become conventional in the American evangelical world, so now, people are thinking, it is time to move on. Frankly, there is no judgment more to be feared than this: you are now passe. That weighs more heavily even than words coming from the great white throne at the end of time. Imagine that! Passe.”

And if this critque were not enough Dr. Wells goes on to give us a helpful fashion/pop culture analogy to illustrate.

“What has happened is not unlike the way fashion migrates socially and than loses its attraction. Devotees of hip-hop culture, for example, are set apart by their getups, their tattoos, their piercings, jewelry, hoodies, off-kilter baseball caps, and pants that look like they were made by a drunken tailor. But what happens when the middle class– or worse yet, the middle-aged– also begin to sport tattoos on their sagging skin, let their pants sag halfway down their thighs, and sport hoodies as well? The answer, of course, is that youth culture has a legitimate complaint. They have been robbed! Their distinctiveness has been lost! Their cachet on the street has been diminished! It is time for them to move on, fashion-wise. So it is here.

When the evangelical world become Willow Creek-ized, the sun began to set on Willow Creek. Its cachet when down the tubes. If Willow Creek could not move on fashion-wise, others not so wed to its particular mode of doing things could.”

What does all of this mean? Well it means change is coming. It also partially explains the rise of the Emergent movement (and yes I know, they prefer the term “conversation”). Wells addresses that in more detail but I have not gotten that far yet.

I thought all of this was interesting though, especially in light of Willow Creek coming out last year in their “Reveal” study and admitting that much of what their church has done has not produced what they intended.