Friday, January 02, 2009


Thinking through Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Moody, 2008

In the chapter, “Journey: Are the Pilgrims still making Progress?” the authors discuss the tension between the journey itself, and the destination. They quote a sentiment which is widely accepted, and perhaps especially in the emergent church that “The destination matters little. The journey is the thing” (p.32)

Here’s where it’s fun to blog through a book, not critiquing the book necessarily, but looking for application for oneself. I’m going to talk about a direction that the chapter doesn’t really go. The authors go the direction of “certainty/uncertainty,” and even get around to discussing the emergent handling of homosexuality. I’d rather talk about heaven.

The pendulum still swings, though it is hard to tell when it has reached bottom (to borrow a market term). When I was growing up, we were all going to heaven. Now, we are living the Christian life. When I was growing up, people were living the Christian life on their way to heaven. Now, we are living the Christian life, and heaven will happen eventually. See the difference?

My pastor used to refer to people who were “so heavenly minded they were no earthly good.” I’m not sure I know anyone like that these days. We may now be so earthly minded, we are no heavenly good. And the trends in the American church are further toward friendship with the world, and enmity toward God (James 4).

This is not an us vs. them problem. This is a virus the emergent church caught from the evangelicals, and now the tumors are breaking through the surface. All of us need to catch a hunger for heaven that begins to break the attachments we have to this world.

Let me take a breath and clarify. When I say “heaven,” I don’t mean an escape from God’s creation into something else. No, I understand 2 Peter 3, where he speaks of “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2Peter 3:13 ESV) I know that God’s creation is good, and that it awaits final redemption, though it will be dragged through the purging wringer in order to ready it for that day. Also, I am not advocating isolationism. We must break with the world even as we love sinners and sacrifice and suffer for them.

Our problem is our attachment to this world, and the current state of things – to its comforts; its prosperities; its entertainments; its coolness; its congratulations. We seem not to believe the following biblical phrases: “the present form of this world is passing away.” (1Corinthians 7:31 ESV); “And the world is passing away along with its desires,” (1John 2:17 ESV). Our journey seems to have lost its destination, and we think we can settle here, comfortably.

I want to affirm the importance of the journey. God uses the journey to prepare us for the destination. Each test; each gift; each trial is used by God to wean us from the world and make us thirsty for Christ. But somehow, we seem to be missing the lessons.

And I also want to affirm the importance of the destination. So let me go back to those intriguing words from 2 Peter: “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2Peter 3:11-12 ESV).

The American church is way out of balance, and we are veering away from center.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Reading List from 2008

Here are books that I read in 2008, along with a few random notes.

I started the year with a book edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World.

I ended the year (today) with The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What a challenging book, all the way to the end, like his life.

Graham Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Books by D.A. Carson - Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, The Gagging of God (2nd time reading through this 900 pager, Christ and Culture,

The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes. Someone related to Southern Serminary put together a book-of-the-month list for old Puritans. I read most of what he recommended (a couple I had read before). Thomas Boston, Repentance. Flavel, The Mystery of Providence. Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture. Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus. Owen, Mortification of Sin. Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (I think my favorite of the whole Puritan collection). William Guthrie, The Christian’s Great Interest. Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

St. Augustine, City of God. I had read this years ago. To think that what he said then is still important now.

Greg Beale, Temple of God (Biblical Theology). I love the books in this series.

Paul Tripp, A Quest for More. A helpful book that I’ve recommended to many, and which I gave to my wife for Christmas. Actually, I gave her my copy for Christmas. I also read Tripp’s How People Change, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

N.T. Wright, The Resurrection fo the Son of God. I finally finished this third volume of his series. Though I don’t follow everything, the guy is brilliant.

Rasenberger, America: 1908. A fascinating look at America 100 years ago.

Erickson and Taylor, eds. Reclaiming the Center

Feiler, Abraham. This guy shows Abraham in relation to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. And I’m not sure he understands any of them.

Guiness, The Call. I’ve read this twice, and still feel like I’m missing the point. It makes me feel thick.

Kistler, ed. Feed my Sheep, a book on preaching. Great chapters.

Harris, Slaves of Christ. This will deal with that triumphal streak in you. Very biblical, and a needed emphasis.

Packer, Dever. In My Place Condemned He Stood. Dense argumentation, but rich.

Paul Stiles, Is the American Dream Killing You? How the Marken Rules our Lives. I read this in the first half of the year. If I had waited to the second half, I probably would have wanted it to say, “how the market ruins our lives.” But it doesn’t, does it? It can’t. It doesn’t have that kind of power.

Mike Fabarez. Preaching that Changes Lives, borrowed from a friend at church. I wonder, now why was he so willing to share this with me?

Alex and Brett Harris, Do Hard Things. I have some blog entries running with a few threads from this book.

Henry Cloud, Integrity. This guy goes deep with the concept. I think he might be “Christian”, based on how he approaches or explains different concepts. But his failure to point to Christ anywhere in the book seems like, well, a lack of integrity.

DeYoung and Kluck. Why We’re Not Emergent. I’m currently blogging through this book, though not very energetically.

Newton, Elders in Congregational Life. A very good, brief treatment of the subject by a Baptist pastor. I liked his careful treatment of Acts 20; Hebrews 13, and 1 Peter 5.

Tim Challies, The Discipline of Spirit Discernment.

Ronny Russel, Can a Church Live Again? This SBC pastor is a “can-do” sort of fellow, and helps give hope and direction to moribund churches. It is not biblical, in that sense that he draws more from experience than from biblical teaching.

Machen, The Gospel in the Modern World. Of all the postmodern stuff out there, this book seemed pretty relevant. The labels change, but the truth stays the same.

Roy Hesson, We Would See Jesus. This old guy just takes the “I Am’s” literally, and helps me to see Jesus.

Timmis and Chester, Total Church. This is fresh, and does not bash traditional church, though what they are doing is anything but. Helpful insights.

Neal Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death. I felt like I should have read this book years ago, but finally got to it this year, and its still relevant.

J. Hudson Taylor. Union and Communion with Christ: Thoughts on Song of Solomon. This was one of my favorites of the year. I know that the pendulum has swung in S of S studies, from Christological, to some kind of marriage manual. But I think I liked the pendulum back the other way.

Bowman and Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case fot he Deity of Christ. This book was full of Biblical argument, but I found it very warm and encouraging for myself, as it caused the Person of Jesus to grow before my eyes.