Reading While Black, African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope by Esau McCaulley

The recipient of Christianity Today’s 2021 Book of the Year award, Reading While Black, enters the Social Justice/woke debates via hermeneutics. Esau McCaulley, a Black priest in the Anglican church and professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, contends that Black Christians often approach and interpret Scripture differently from others due to their lived experience. While the statements of faith found in Black denominations are largely orthodox in theology, nonetheless Black theologians often find themselves “thrust into the middle of a battle between white progressives and white evangelicals” and not fully at home in African American progressive circles (p. 5). McCaulley recognizes and promotes a fourth “thing” he calls, “Black ecclesial interpretation (BEI).” It is this fourth thing the author wants to explain and promote (p. 5). While acknowledging that the Word of God gets the final word, the author writes, “What makes Black interpretations Black, then, are the...

By What Standard, God’s World. . . God Rules by Jared Longshore

Eight authors contribute to this work published by the SBC Founders movement and dedicated to critiquing Critical Race Theory (CRT) in light of biblical understanding on Social Justice. Several authors explain CRT including excellent materials from Voddie Baucham and Tom Ascol.  Ascol lists three problematic principles of critical theory (pp. 22-23). Identity – we are not who we are as individuals but our identity arises from the groups to which we belong. Duty – Under CRT our duty is to work to liberate oppressed groups—which amount to any group except straight white males. Experience – Our lived experience far outweighs objective evidence and reason. Bauchan links CRT directly to Cultural Marxism.  In contrast to Classical Marxism, which is an economic ideology that leads to an uprising of the masses to overthrow capitalism (pp, 32, 88), Cultural Marxism is concerned with cultural injustice. Cultural Marxism can be traced to the...

Diary of a Pastor’s Soul by M. Craig Barnes

M. Craig Barns offers this fictionalized depiction of a pastor nearing retirement looking back over his years of ministry. Barnes, is currently the president of Princeton Theological Seminary and a professor of pastoral ministry. Coupling his 37 years of pastoral experience with stories from an untold number of pastors he has ministered with and taught, gives him plenty of material to compile a realistic look at the life of a pastor. The storyline is of a 68-year-old pastor who has served at the same church for 28 years and plans to retire in 12 months. The book is comprised of weekly entries in his diary. Subjects covered are the typical encounters, experiences and ponderings that pastors face in church ministry: difficult members, sermon preparation, troubled souls, heartaches, joys, disappointments, unrealistic expectations, faulty ambitions, the privilege of preaching and yet, the challenge of trying to present the twins of beauty...

Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers

Alisa Childers was well grounded in orthodox Christian beliefs when she began attending a class at her local church led by a progressive pastor. “Progressive” is the contemporary word for “emergent” as in the Emergent Movement led by Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Tony Jones and others, earlier in the 21st century, which has been absorbed into much of evangelicalism today. By whatever name, progressive Christian leaders seek to deconstruct long-held and cherished essential doctrines and replace them with liberal views and doubt. Childers’ involvement in the class nearly upended her faith but, rather than become another scalp for progressive teachers, she dug in, did copious research and ultimately found her faith strengthened. She writes this book, not only to tell her story but to offer insight, a way forward, and resources for others being drawn into the progressive camp. The author demonstrates how progressive Christianity attacks...

Broken-Down House, Living Productively in a World Gone Bad by Paul David Tripp

Paul Tripp uses the metaphor of a house, desperately in need of repair, and about to collapse, to describe our sinful, fallen world.  Christians are dwelling in this broken-down house; how is it that we should live?  The author states his thesis clearly: So, that’s what this book is about.  What does it look like on a practical level to live well in a broken-down world that is being restored?  What does it look like to live a restoration lifestyle—to live productively in a broken place?  What does it look like to function as one of God’s tools of restoration? Tripp gets lots of things right in this book, covering numerous subjects such as God’s sovereignty, anger, the need for activism, community, and grace.  The reader will resonate with different themes based on their particular needs or place in life.  My favorite discussion wrapped around hope and waiting.  “Hope...

Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice, An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis by Scott David Allen

Scott Allen is president of the Disciple Nations Alliance which exists “to equip the church to rise to her full potential as God’s principal agent in restoring, healing and blessing broken nations” (p. 250).  Allen’s goal is to demonstrate that social justice, or what he terms “ideological social justice,” (pp. 3-4, 38, 43-44) is not the same thing that Scripture describes as justice.  It is important, the author maintains, that we use the same dictionary if we are going to be able to communicate (p. 1) and, unfortunately when it comes to social justice, that is often not the case.  The author describes biblical justice as living out the Ten Commandments in our everyday relationships (pp. 23-24), while ideological social justice “is based on the belief of dominant groups who create systems and structures which marginalize others and promote their own interests” (p. 38).  (A helpful chart outlining numerous...

The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray

Nineteenth Century English pastor Charles Spurgeon is well-known to Christians today, especially those of the Reformed persuasion, who see him as a champion for Calvinism.  Others point to his passion for “soul-winning,” still others love his sermons and highly quotable comments.  Murray endeavors to move beyond what is commonly known about the influential pastor (this is not a biography, the author tells us, p. 5) to discuss the man revealed in his sermons—the forgotten Spurgeon (p. 4).  This work actually centers around three major controversies in Spurgeon’s ministry. The first, early in his pastorate (1855-1856), involved Calvinism, as Spurgeon preached it, and Arminianism which he strongly opposed.  He desired to reintroduce and strengthen the theology of Augustine, Calvin, and the Puritans, and in his early years met with considerable success—and powerful opposition.  It was during these years that Spurgeon’s reputation as a warrior for biblical truth, as well as...

Overcoming the World, Grace to Win the Daily Battle

Joel Beeke’s thesis is that the time is “right for us to biblically expose and condemn worldliness, and to promote the alternatives of genuine piety and holiness” (p. 9). As the author addresses his subject he turns repeatedly to the Reformers and Puritans for quotes and examples. Beeke is pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, and his unique twist on Reformed theology and ecclesiology is evident throughout the book. Nothing new is found in this work, but some good reminders and excellent quotes are to be had. by Joel R. Beeke (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2005), 201 pp., Paper $24.95 Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel...

God’s Forever Family, The Jesus People Movement in America by Larry Eskridge

God’s Forever Family tells the story of the rise, development and influence of the Jesus People (or Freaks, as they were called at the time).  The actual movement was short lived, being birthed directly after the 1967 “Summer of Love” in Haight-Ashbury.  As the hippies flocked to San Francisco to smoke weed, take LSD, engage in immorality and live on the streets, the Christian community began to seek ways to reach those young people for Christ.  At first a few who were saved out of that culture began to form ministries and they were soon joined by some churches that caught the vision.  As many hippies came to Christ the efforts to reach them snowballed and the methods became more creative.  It was determined early on that hippies would most effectively respond if the conservatism methodology of the church was abandoned and music, messages and programming that mirrored the...

White Fragility, Why It’s Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

White Fragility is one of the most popular books spreading the worldview of Critical Race Theory and reshaping Western thought concerning racism. DiAngelo’s thesis is that white supremacy, as well as racism, is a social constructs baked into the American culture. Very little can be done to improve the socialization of America, but perhaps a little progress can be made if whites would learn to listen, study, attempt to understand black people, as well as their own perpetuation of racism. The problem is that whites are too fragile and defensive to accept their culpability. This book is designed to nudge whites toward being less fragile. Such is the big picture but Robin DiAngelo, a consultant and trainer on issues of racial and social justice and formerly a professor of multicultural education, also unpacks many of the ideologies behind critical theory. As she does so, the reader can quickly discern...