Archives For Books

A-Long-Faithfulness-coverThe publishing of McKnight’s new essay is particularly relevant in light of the latest John Piper Tweet firestorm — enflamed by tweets which, it has been blogged, he intended as comfort for people in Moore, OK. This ‘tweet comfort’ after the brutal tornado that wreaked destruction on the Moore community. (Wade Burleson’s response to Brother Piper and that of Chris Hubbs are two of the best I’ve read.)

I would suggest that Pastor Piper has been consistent in his theological response to this and other tragedies. Would the key to understanding his response be his belief in what Scot McKnight says “might be called “meticulous” (or “exhaustive)” sovereignty“? (Note: I wrote about a Piper response to the 2007 I35 Bridge Collapse tragedy.)

Scot McKnight’s latest eBook/essay, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance, engages Piper’s understanding of God’s sovereignty. McKnight does it in an irenic manner. ( I purchased and read the essay yesterday. It is available in Canada here, and in the US here)

He says this about the purpose of his essay:

This essay ultimately contends for a generous evangelicalism, one in which each of our theologies is represented fairly and is accepted as a genuine element. This essay is not an argument for Arminianism, which ironically is itself–as Roger Olson has clearly stated over and over in his excellent books, including Arminian Theology and Against Calvinism–a development of Calvinism. Instead, this essay is designed to cut the nerve feeding only one kind of resurgent Calvinism: the meticulous sovereignty sort. I hope to convince the reader that meticulous sovereignty conflicts with the Bible’s presentation of human freedom, namely, the ability to choose and un-choose God. If my argument is accurate, then we are set free to explore other options for tragedies and injustices in this world besides meticulous sovereignty. The heart of this resurgent Calvinism is found in the singular, clear, and passionate vision of John Piper. There are other theologians and pastors around him, including Mark Driscoll, D.A. Carson, David Wells, and many others. Alongside these key, articulate, and passionate voices are institutions that prop up these voices: places like Southern Seminary (led by Al Mohler), Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and other lesser known but serious seminaries, colleges, and conferences (like the Passion Conference and The Gospel Coalition). [emphasis added]

I would strongly suggest that using the warning passages in Hebrews — 2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, 5:11-6:12, 10:19-39, 12:1-29 — McKnight accomplishes what he sets out to do. He ‘cuts the nerve’ that feeds “meticulous sovereignty”. He also challenges and corrects those of us who’ve bought into the “once saved/always saved” cheap grace of American evangelicalism.

I look forward to my friends and others in the Piper/TGC/T4C universe giving this essay an honest assessment — actually wrestling with McKnight’s argument — treating it and Scot McKnight with the respect deserved.

I’m about to read the essay through again. I doubt it will be the last time. I do hope you will read it, as well.

UPDATE: Chaplain Mike @ Internetmonk: John Piper, Miserable Comforter

My friend, Lance Ford, wrote a note on my Facebook wall today reminding me that I haven’t blogged since March 21.

So.

I opened up Dragon Dictate and discovered a number of half-written posts that I thought I’d finish. But I didn’t.

Perhaps tomorrow.

Instead, as my first post back after far too long way, let me point you at three books I’m reading that I have found particularly helpful.

Make Your Own Application

The first is from my friend, Michael Newnham, a.k.a. Phoenix Preacher. It’s called Make Your Own Application. I’ll let Michael explain it in his own words,

A couple of years ago I started writing a weekly column on Fridays I cleverly called “TGIF”

What actually happened was that I woke up one Friday morning and had no idea what the hell to write and something fell out of my head and onto the keyboard. It had to have a title…and it was Friday, after all.

After some hits and misses, I found my voice writing about what was going on in my daily life and drawing scriptural applications from the same.

I wrote about my son and the skateboard park, I wrote about my doubts, I wrote about my faith…and I wrote about my cats. Miss Kitty and Squeak became regular guests of my readers as I chronicled how God speaks through critters.

This book is a collection of those writings. 

Let me just say with all the crap that I see happening in the church — crap that I need to admit is having a significantly negative impact on my faith, Michael’s book is fresh water in a dry and thirsty land. My recommendation is you buy the book. You won’t regret it.

Three Free Sins

The second book is one that Michael recommended, Steve Brown’s Three Free Sins—God’s Not Mad at You. Steve and Michael are both Reformed in their theology. I won’t hold that against either of them. :-)

Three Free Sins had me laughing out loud in many places — which scared the dog. 

I received this from a friend: “You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I’ve ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They’re slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of love . . . no, wait! I was thinking of Labrador retrievers!”

It also often hit me where I needed to be hit, which I greatly appreciate.

Forgiveness was the focal point in Christ’s teaching because he knew that without profound “to the bone” forgiveness, there is no freedom, no real joy, no peace, and no release from the pain and the root of bitterness that destroys nations, families, and individuals. He understood that the key to everything important in life is forgiveness.

And the final book of the three, equally as good as the other two, is Kathy Escobar’s Down We Go: Living Into the wild Ways of Jesus.

Down We Go

Like me, Kathy spent too much time inside the “much sound and fury signifying nothing” world of the North American mega-church, before finding herself on the outside of it.

This book is her story of experiencing Jesus in the midst of people most middle-class Christian folk would attempt to avoid. It is a story of full bandwidth Christianity—a combination of incredible highs and painful lows along with everything in between.

When we put relationship with people above everything, we will cultivate authentic transformational community—little pockets of love—instead of spending our energy, building ministries or lifestyles that don’t reflect the humble spirit of the Beatitudes. These pockets of love help teach us interdependence, a critical characteristic of Kingdom living.

Another critical element we can’t forget as we engage a life of downward mobility is dreaming. Big or small, dreams are part of Kingdom living. They inspire us to try scary things, meet new people, jump into the deep end, or put our toes in the water. Without dreams we can’t make “what could be,” a reality. At the same time, I continue to learn that dreams are often much prettier when they are just dreams.

Life down here doesn’t always turn out the way we think it should be, that’s for sure. But that’s the beauty of downward mobility. “Pretty” and “easy” aren’t the goals. Transformation is. And one thing is clear: Down here, there’s a lot of room for transformation.

It is a must read book for those of us tired of consumer Christianity — who have that sense, as Bruce Cockburn would say in More Not More, that “there must be more…” 

If, like me, you find yourself in a thin space when it comes to your faith, I would highly recommend any or all of these three books.

Sex – The Missional Position

kinnon —  January 10, 2012 — 6 Comments

It’s true. I live for terrible puns and dubious double entendres. But what better place for a bad pun than a blog post on Celebrity-Driven Ministry Leaders selling their opinions on sex?

So, apparently this week Junior Ed Young and his dear wife are going to spend 24 hours in a bed on the roof of their church talking about sex – as a way to help market their book on marital bliss – Sexperiment. One might reasonably ask, “How ridiculous is that?” Or “Why didn’t they set their bed up on a wing of their private, French-made, jet?”

And, of course in that same bringing-sexy-back marketing space, Rupert Murdoch’s Zondernelson has released Pastor Mark + Wife’s Real Marriage. Or, as I like to call it, TMI from the Driscolls.

Since I doubt I will ever read the Driscolls’ book, let me direct you to a number of good reviews/critiques/comments of/on said book; this review from Rachel Held Evans, an oblique critique from Emerging MommySarah Bessey, Susan Wise Bauer’s very well-written review, and this excellent non-review from Chaplain Mike at the InternetMonk. As well, I simply must link to the brilliant commentary from Eugene Cho — one which has generated 72 comments at this point in time.

But if there was a missional position on sex, I’d want to point you to my friend, Dave Fitch’s post from last year, We Are Broken. Though primarily focused on the LGBTQ discussions within the church, Dave makes an important point when he calls us all to knowledge our own sexual brokenness regardless of orientation. He says,

By saying “we are broken” we are clearing the table… …When the leader confesses “I am broken” it forms the safety and the space by which we gather before the cross. Frankly, regardless of whatever sexual orientation we inhabit, if you feel like everything is perfect in your life in this regard, there simply is no need to discuss your sexuality in the church. Taking all particular sexual sins off the table, can we agree, together that WE ARE BROKEN? The gathering of people before Christ is for the broken. And …. “we are broken.” [emphasis added]

This isn’t the ”perhaps we were broken but we’ve been fixed and we can get you fixed too“ approach of the Driscolls and the Youngs. One which wants to get into improving the mechanics and frequency of sex. But rather it is an acknowledgment that we are all sexually broken people living in a sex-obsessed society. (I realize that certain of my cat and dog readers won’t appreciate the ”get you fixed” phrase. My sincere apologies.)

Marketing Sex

Madison Avenue Ad Men have known since before Mad Men that sex sells. Mark Driscoll and Junior Ed Young know it too and might I suggest they’ve been using it to market their ministries for a while now. See my 2008 post, Jr. Ed Young Knows — Sex Sells – a post which is waaaay more fun than this one. Never afraid to steal a good church marketing idea, Ed has drawn from the sexual marketing wellspring before – only this time he includes a book in the offer.

And through the 1st decade of this rapidly aging millennium, Pastor Mark has been doing his Christian sex therapist to thousands routine with his repeating series on Song of Solomon. It should be noted that his new book would apparentlysuggest that in spite of his “wink, wink, nod, nod, nudge, nudge” Pythonesque delivery of his 1st SoS series, things were not quite as peachy, personally, as Pastor Mark inferred — noted by my blogging friend, Wenatchee the Hatchet, a former Mars Hill congregant, in this post.

And in turning again to the Missional Position, in his We Are Broken post, Fitch writes,

Can we… agree among our missional communities that before anyone discusses this issue, goes public with a statement on the sexual issues of our day, before we get into the actual details, or any of the issues are to be determined, before we can even discern this among ourselves, before we can even examine ourselves before the Spirit, we must make way for a safe place that is comfortable, loving and supportive where we can mutually submit to one another and say “we are broken.” From here, we can love, care and have discernments about ANYTHING. But most importantly, from here we can submit one to another to Christ, allow His gifts, his discernments to take shape in a group. God by the Holy Spirit can work here.

Again, this kind of unusual place will probably have to happen in small missional communities (where you can avoid the ideology). Because we live in one of the most sexual charged, excessively sexually focused, sexually abused, sexually broken cultures (compare U.S.A. to Africa or even Europe), we will need to make way for these kind of places. And so to deal with any of this, we do not need a do’s and don’t’s list of what’s permissable and what is not. We need a place where the Holy Spirit can work in and among His people, a place of uncovering. Otherwise we will get no where in this mess.

So the first item for missional communities (and I would argue for the broader church as well) to accomplish in this day of controversy over sexual relations, is discuss how we can put ideology aside, and come together in small spaces where there can be redemption because “we are broken.[emphasis added]

Would that the stars of the Celebrity-Driven Church acknowledge their own sexual brokenness and quit offering themselves as leading exemplars of Christian sexual fulfillment.

JuniaNotAloneCoverI could write a long rant on the topic of women in church leadership. In fact, I probably have. I’m just too lazy to google my own blog to find my categorically egalitarian musings.

That short intro paragraph to say, whatever position you take on this issue, Scot McKnight’s essay, Junia is Not Alone is a must read. It’s a $2.99 eBook from Amazon – which some might consider steep for an essay.

But.

If you trust me at all, trust me when I say that it’s worth every penny and then some.

From Scot’s intro:

Moving toward my second decade of teaching college students, more than half of whom grow up in a church, of this I am certain: churches don’t talk about the women of the Bible. Of Mary mother of Jesus they have heard, and even then not all of what they have heard is accurate. But of the other woman saints of the Bible, including Miriam, the prophetic national music director, or Esther, the dancing queen, or Phoebe, the benefactor of Paul’s missions, or Priscilla, the teacher, they’ve heard almost nothing.

Why the silence?

Why do we consider the mother/wife of Proverbs 31 an ideal female image but shush the language of the romantic Shulammite woman of the Song of Songs? Why are we so obsessed with studying the “subordination” of women to men but not a woman like Deborah, who subordinated men and enemies? Why do we believe that we are called to live out Pentecost’s vision of Spirit-shaped life but ignore what Peter predicted would happen? That “(i)n the last days… your sons and daughters will prophesy. .” and that “(e)ven on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit.”

Why the silence?

Why the silence, indeed?

I found out about this essay when I took a moment away from working on a script. As is my wont, I checked my RSS feed and saw Scot’s post on Junia is Not Alone. I immediately bought it at Amazon, and thought I’d glance at it before I continued with my work.

Well, that glance turned into reading it all. It’s not that long as mentioned.

I finished it with tears in my eyes.

Scot has written a number of important books. This essay is right up there with the best of them.

And, no matter where you are in the complimentarian/egalitarian discussion, this book is truly a must read.

UPDATE: Read Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s review.

WhoWins

I find this confusing.

And please don’t read this as a defence of Charlie Bell or Rob Sheen or whatever strategy of Winning of which one wants to write.

But.

Isn’t it a little weird that TULIP-waving Calvinists get all bent out of shape about a book that denies the eternal flames of hell? (I should say "apparently denies" – haven’t read it and I doubt I ever will – I’m no fan of Charlie Bell or Rob Sheen or whatever his name is)?

One goes so far as to dramatically state,

…The theology is heterodox. The history is inaccurate. The impact on souls is devastating.

If depravity is total.  If election is unconditional. If the atonement is limited (to whom it applies). If grace is irresistible. And the elect were predestined from the foundations of the earth.

Then.

How in hell can the impact of a book written by a “rock star” Christian minister 'devastate souls'?

Doesn’t a TULIP-loving Calvinist believe that those whom God forechose and foreknew will be saved regardless? Or am I missing something in their theology?

One would think Arminians like me would have more of problem with the impact of books by Charlie Rob Sheen Bell than those who believe God only Wins those he pre-chose to be his prizes.

If I were even more of cynic than I already am, I might think that certain folk are being paid by HarperOne to keep the CharlieRobSheenBell controversy as front and centre as possible. It will certainly help book sales, n'est-ce pas?

(Please note: I not only love all the Calvinists I know, I greatly like them and enjoy their company – whether virtual or in the flesh. Even if some of them might believe my Arminianism could confine me to the eternal fires of hell.)

Quoting Chesterton

kinnon —  February 21, 2011 — 3 Comments

I did not intend to once again wander away from this humble corner of the interwebs. Would that I had an intriguing and marvellous reason for not writing. I don’t. The deep-hued, mid-winter blues are not intriguing. One does not marvel at laziness.

And so. Here I am. As faint hints of Spring reveal themselves in longer days. And shorter nights.

And I return to the pushed pixels of blog thoughts by quoting Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. . . . It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom—that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.

From Orthodoxy, Chapter 6, The Paradoxes of Christianity as quoted by Kevin Belmonte’s Quotable Chesteron

I’m reading, and enjoying Belmonte’s Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton. The wonderful book blog of Byron Borger (of Hearts and Minds Books) makes me aware of a lot of very good books. I wish there was a way to purchase Kindle books from Byron’s store. (And since much of Chesterton’s writing is available for free or quite cheaply, I’ve loaded up said Kindle with GKC.)

And I will be back on Wednesday to celebrate the 6th blogiversary of what were once “achievable ends.”

It’s true. Photo evidence below. More comments after the photo.

NakedPastoronCoffeeTable.jpg

David Hayward’s book of his great cartoons arrived a few weeks back and I’ve been remiss in blogging about it. It has provoked much conversation around the Kinnon coffee table – and that alone makes it a smart purchase.

Some might be tempted to call David a cynic. They would be wrong.

His cartoons reveal the humour and the pathos in what we call the church. Some of them make me laugh out loud. Others make me acknowledge my own pain. A number make me angry – but many more help me understand that anger.

This will make a very good Christmas present for anyone who has spent significant time in the church. Buy early. Buy often.

DH-Bear-Girl-TeddyBear-1.jpg

You might also consider David’s original artwork, also available from his site.

The one on the right, of the girl holding a Teddy Bear and showing it to a rather large bear is one of my favourites.

Clicking on the picture will take you to a much larger version of it – where you can purchase a print if you so desire.

You can view more of David’s artwork here – including much more of his fine art.

Two of my favourite people on the planet are Dick Staub and David Fitch. They both have significant history in the city of Chicago – though Dick lives way out west now. And they both have roots in the C&MA. (And Fitch even has roots in the CM&A – that's a Chicago financial sector joke, in case you were wondering.) If you read to the end of this post, you'll discover they also have another connection.

DickStaub-FullyHuman-Cover.jpg

Dick's book is the one to buy right now, About You: Fully Human, Fully Alive. This isn't a Christian self-help book. It's not about Living Your Best Life Now™.

This is a God-centered book that takes Hans Rookmaker's famous quote as a starting point:

Jesus didn't come to make us Christian; Jesus came to make us fully human.

From the book's back cover, Imbi's and my friends, Scott & Pam Nolte (theatre artists and co-founders of Seattle's Taproot Theatre) say this about Dick's book,

Dick Staub's insight into our present age and our deep longings lead us on a 'rowdy pilgrimage' to discover the riches that lay within our unique design while pointing us to the fully human life.

Artist Bruce Herman adds,

…Why does God love us? What is wrong with the current picture of our lives? How can it be painted more beautifully and truly to match the vision of the Artist?

Poet and Author, Luci Shaw writes,

…Dick Staub offers us the coherent narrative of the Why of humanity, the How of healing, and the Who of the Creator, giving firm ground for thoughtful questioners to stand on.

Your humble servant, a pygmy on this back cover of giants, adds,

Dick Staub is one of the few people I've met who truly cares about people becoming fully human. He is an effective and faithful guide on the journey to do just that.

He is indeed. Dick writes this at the beginning of the book,

…I have written this little book to share what I’ve learned about becoming fully human. I’ve studied this question academically, completing graduate studies with a concentration in the humanities (philosophy, the arts, religion), because, after all, the humanities are the study of humans and the culture they create, and that is what I was interested in.

And later,

Everything I know about becoming fully alive and fully human starts with a simple but profoundly important idea: God created humans and God created us in the image of God so we can enjoy a rich intellectual, creative, relational, moral, and spiritual life. You are not the accidental result of a random, purposeless process but, in fact, were created by a loving, personal God who had you in mind before the beginning of time. This is an essential and reasonable but embattled truth.

Dick's book effectively helps us come to grips with that truth. It is more than worth reading. (I'd also strongly recommend Dick's previous book – the one with a title and cover that doesn't do it justice, The Culturally Savvy Christian.) You should also become a regular listener to Dick's podcast, The Kindlings Muse.

FitchEndEvangelicalism-1.jpg

Though I have no doubt that Dick would be quite capable of discussing the philosophies of Slavoj Žižek – and probably would have little problem pronouncing this Slovenian Political Philosopher's name – Žižek does not show up in About You.

He does show up, however, in Dave Fitch's latest opus, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission – coming in January of 2011 from Cascade Books – Theopolitical Visions series. Dave has yet to show me the book, so I'll need to let him write about it himself;

It’s the culmination of my efforts to write a political theology for the church of my heritage: evangelicalism in North America. I admit this book is a bit intense – theologically and otherwise (be forewarned). Nonetheless, I think it gets at something extremely simple and intuitive. It asks how does the way we articulate our beliefs (doctrine) and then practice them shape us evangelicals as a people in the world? Has the way evangelicals articulated and practiced their belief in Scripture, Salvation in Christ and the Church in the world shaped us in certain ways to be inhospitable to God’s Mission in the world?

I try to get us evangelicals to think about more than whether our doctrine is orthodox (indeed I assume it is). I try to get us to think about how our belief and practice shape our lives together as a people of God in the world. The ultimate question is – are the “kinds of people we have become” congruent with the gospel we preach?

I borrow some simple ideas from political philosopher Slavoj Žižek (his earlier work) to help us see that a politics in the world can either be shaped out of antagonism (we define ourselves by who/what we are against) or it can be shaped out of who we are in our relationship with God. (OK I just simplified it way down for Žižek purists out there) For Žižek of course, the latter is not possible. Nonetheless, he describes viscerally how politics works when it is formed around an emptiness, a core birthed out of antagonisms. For Žižek, this is how ideology operates. For me the question is, has evangelicalism taken on the shape of such an ideology in the world? Have we somehow lost our way and become a politics of emptiness/antagonism? If so, how do we restore ourselves to a politic of fullness in Christ for God’s Mission in the world.

greatgiveaway.jpg

Fitch's first book, The Great Giveaway (released on my 50th birthday, oddly enough), was a book that should have been read by a lot more people. It was the first book that I added to my Amazon aStore.

It's still an important read and I'd challenge you to pick it up. The new book is aimed more at a theological audience – I'll be buying a copy or two and getting Imbi to explain it to me. (And maybe my Slovenian sister-in-law can help too.) It's not yet available for pre-order, but, as noted, it's part of Cascade Books Theopolitical Vision series (and also not yet listed on their site as of mid-November 2010.)

Oh. And that other connection between Staub and Fitch. Dick was the Youth Pastor at the east coast church where Dave was a teenage member of the youth group. Which explains an awful lot to me. :-)

Wright-MissionOfGodsPeople-1.jpg

I’ve begun reading Chris Wright’s The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (on my Kindle) partially as a result of hearing him @ Tyndale on Monday – partially in prep for an interview with him in a couple of hours @ Wycliffe College – and largely because it’s a very good book.

The Mission of God, one of Chris’ earlier books is “theologically denser” than this one – more for a Master’s student, perhaps. (Our copy was given to Imbi by friends who thought it would be an important read whilst she worked on her MTS. It was.)

The Mission of God’s People is written for God’s people – in a winsome and engaging style as Chris begins to answer the question:

“What do theology and mission have to do with each other?”

Chris addresses why there sometimes appears to be suspicion between theologicans and missional practioners;

…theologians may not relish their theories being muddied by facts on the ground and the challenging questions thrown up by the messiness of practical mission. Practitioners of mission, in quick riposte, may not wish to see their urgent commitment to getting on with the job Christ entrusted to us delayed by indulgent navel-gazing about obscure long words ending in – ology.

I’m not far enough into the book to give you a complete review, but I will say that, so far, the book has been more than worth the price of the Kindle edition.

Tired of Turning Pages

kinnon —  October 20, 2010 — 6 Comments

This is somewhat pathetic.

Or.

Rather.

I am somewhat pathetic.

I'm a fan of C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. I devoured the first four books in the series – after Ben Witherington wrote about them. Most of my family and many of my friends have become Sansom fans because of the pleasure we have all experienced in the good reads he has provided. The next book in the series would only add to that pleasure.

At some point in the last year, when Amazon announced the fifth book, Heartstone, I must have pre-ordered it. Long before I ever considered becoming a Kindle-ite.

The book arrived two weeks ago. Imbi has already read it. And thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've read a bunch of other books on my Kindle 3 – but have resisted picking up the new Shardlake book. And not because I don't want to read it. But simply because I'd rather read it on my Kindle – and I'm just barely smart enough NOT to order and download it onto my device when we already own the Hardcover.

I just whined at Imbi about not wanting to read it as an actual book.

"I'd prefer to read it on my Kindle."

"What, have you forgotten how to turn physical pages? Are you too weak to pick the book up?"

"Sigh."

But. Look. The book IS really big. And I'm old.

SansomAndKindle.jpg