Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Christless Christianity by Michael Horton

Horton is always thought provoking. This book is no exception. Horton argues that much of what we read in popular Christian books (such as Osteen and Schuller) and see on TV (such as Osteen and Schuller) is "feel good" Christianity, a sort of moral therapeutic deism. The salvific work of Christ is missing.
Horton is also critical of the "emerging" and "missional" concepts. He declares, "The church has a very narrow commission. It is not called to be an alternative neighborhood, circle of friends, political action committee, social club, or public service agency; it is called to deliver Christ so clearly and fully that believers are prepared to be salt and light in the worldly stations to which God has called them." (Pg. 228) At the same time, Horton does acknowledge that, "...the Emergent church movement has reminded us that there is a serious call to discipleship in the New Testament." (Pg. 234)
Horton is Reformed and therefor emphasizes creeds and community spirituality (as opposed to private spirituality).
Even though I am thoroughly Reformed, I did not agree with everything Horton advances. I think he makes an unreformed distinction between the sacred and the secular (pg. 207). I was disturbed that he used a Barna report published in 1996 to "prove" that the church growth (or seeker-driven) movement (with emphasis on its missional aspect) shows no growth in professed conversions. (Pg. 227, footnote 44.) Not only is that data 13 years old, the term "missional" did not become prominent in church growth circles until the 1998 publishing of Missional Church, ed. by Darrell Gruder (Eerdmans Pub.).
Nonetheless, Horton is good for stimulating thought and lively discussion.

Monday, January 5, 2009

For These Tough Times by Max Lucado

Tragedy happens. We experience loss. We begin to wonder where God is in all of this.
Lucado reminds us that God’s thoughts are very unlike our thoughts. “We aren’t even in the same neighborhood.” God’s goals for our lives are not those of physical comfort but are of eternal consequence. God lives in a different dimension yet He bends down to be a part of our lives.
Just as small children do not understand the decisions and actions of their parents (say, to withhold a high sugar treat), so we do not understand the ways of God. Our small minds cannot comprehend how God’s actions are truly acts of love.
Lucado reminds the reader that God is for us (Rom. 8:31). He sent His Son to die for us. Should we fret over lesser things?
We are reminded that God’s goodness prevails, even in the midst of something evil. “Satan is still a servant of God…He is pressed into service to do God’s will in the world…” God used Satan to refine us, to wake us up, to provide an opportunity to encourage others, to learn to forgive, and to dwell in the silence where we can hear God. Lucado assures us that when we cry out to God He will answer.
Lucado is a wordsmith. Using examples from Scripture, he provides encouragement and strength for tough times. This is not a theological treatise as to why God does what He does. You won’t find any deep answers to persistent question of why bad things happen to people. This short (80 page) book will, however, provide encouragement to keep believing that God loves us, is for us, and will bring good out of evil.