Onward, Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore

Onward was Christianity Today’s 2015 “Book of the Year.” It is written by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and a rising star in both the SBC and in evangelicalism. Onward, in essence, is an overview analysis of our times and especially of the Christian subculture. We, in America, live in a post-Christian (pp. 2-10, 24-26, 30, 32, 46), or perhaps pre-Christian (p. 218) era, in which the culture around us is becoming increasingly secular. Even the Bible Belt is collapsing, yet Moore is happy to see it go for a number of reasons (p. 3). First, much of the Bible Belt, and much of evangelicalism for that matter, preaches not the true gospel but the “almost-gospel” (see p. 172) in which Christian values have been misunderstood as the gospel (pp. 6, 16, 30, 178). Secondly, much of today’s church...

He That Is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

He That Is Spiritual is a classic book on spirituality that has shaped the Christian community’s thinking for almost 100 years. Much solid teaching on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and how it applies to the believer is found on its pages. Chafer devotes a chapter each to the filling of the Spirit, not grieving the Spirit, not quenching the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit. He concludes with a chapter detailing issues surrounding salvation and practical steps to take in applying all that has been taught. However, Chafer’s teachings are not without controversy. The three principle ones are: The existence of a carnal Christian. Drawing principally from I Corinthians 3, Chafer sees three clear classes of humanity: The natural, the spiritual and the carnal. The natural man is the unbeliever, the spiritual person is the one who is filled and walking in the Spirit. The carnal Christian...

The Resolution for Men by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

This book’s origin is found in the Christian movie Courageous. For those inspired by the movie to be men of God, or even for those having never seen the film, The Resolution of Men provides a helpful tool to place into practice certain resolves that characterize the man who follows Christ. The opening words set the pace: This book is an unapologetic call for men to live courageously for the faith and their families. It is designed to strategically challenge you to become the man God created you to be (p. 1). The means to accomplish this goal, according to the authors, is to declare and endeavor to keep, “The Resolution” which consists of 12 promises loosely based on Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (p. 5). Part one of the book is a challenge to commit to the resolution while part...

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J. D. Greear

Many Christians lack the assurance of their salvation, either as a result of faulty teaching, their own personal sins, confusion about saving faith, or a combination of all of these and more. Pastor J. D. Greear has struggled with the same doubts and writes this little volume to help others who are dealing with similar reservations. At the same time Greear wants to be careful not to give false assurances of regeneration. He believes Satan loves to deceive believers into being unsure of their salvation and delude unbelievers into thinking they are saved (p. 6). Faith, or the saving response, as the author sees it, is repentance and belief in the gospel (p. 7). But repentance and belief are not two separate steps, they are part of the same whole: “Repentance is belief in action” (p. 40). And while he cautions against an overly radical Lordship position that places...

What Does the Bible Really Say About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung has written this book to provide a biblical defense of the traditional understanding of homosexuality by Christians for 2000 years (p. 15). The book seeks to answer the following question: “Is homosexual activity a sin that must be repented of, forsaken, and forgiven, or, given the right context and commitment, can we consider same-sex intimacy a blessing worth celebrating and solemnizing” (p. 15)? In response the book breaks down into two parts, the first dealing with the five most debated and relevant biblical texts related to homosexuality (p. 19). These are Genesis 1-2, God’s design for marriage; Genesis 13, Sodom and Gomorrah; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, concerning the Old Testament’s condemnation of homosexual practices; Romans 1:18-32, the New Testament’s prohibition of homosexual behavior; and specific meaning of Greek words used for homosexuality in the Bible. Part two addresses seven of the most common objections to the traditional...

Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, Being Friends in Grace & Truth by Glenn T. Stanton

Glenn Stanton is on staff with Focus on the Family and as part of his ministry conducts lectures and debates on gender and sexuality. He is well equipped, both doctrinally and practically, to intellectually write a book on homosexuality and the church. He, as well as Focus, is 100% committed to the biblical view of sexuality (pp. 11-12). The question is how do we stay faithful to Scripture and deal truthfully and lovingly with those who believe that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle and should be condoned by the church? Stanton provides much to consider beginning with six fundamental truths: Everybody is a human person. No exceptions. Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions. Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions. Unfortunately everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions. All, as children of Adam, are...

Hearing God, Developing a Conversational Relationship With God

Hearing God was previously published by Regal (1984), then by Harper (1993), and finally InterVarsity (1999) under the title of In Search of Guidance.  This updated and expanded edition is published under the Formatio wing of InterVarsity Press which offers numerous books promoting spiritual formation and “Christian” mysticism.  At the heart of both spiritual formation and mysticism is God speaking beyond the pages of Scripture.  For this reason Hearing God is an important book, written by one of the premiere leaders within the movement.   That Willard is merely updating the same message he delivered nearly 30 years ago shows that the spiritual formation movement has not changed its basic teachings.  And what are they?  In essence, that we can live “the kind of life where hearing God is not an uncommon occurrence” (p. 12), for “hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship and obtaining guidance...

Pure Grace by Clark Whitten (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc, 2012); 171 pp., paper $11.49.

The basic concern of author Clark Whitten is that legalistic, performance-based “religion” has eclipsed grace-based Christianity in the lives of countless believers.  He calls for a return to what he terms “pure grace” and claims to see evidence of a “grace reformation” forming that will far exceed anything during the time of Luther and Calvin (pp. 23, 143-158). There is much to commend in Pure Grace.  For example, within its pages we find the following correct teachings: • Legalism is devastating, not only for salvation but also for sanctification (p. 18).• Christians are not under the Old Testament Mosaic Law (pp. 21, 55-62).• Church age believers have been given a new nature, such that they are now fundamentally saints not sinners.  This does not mean they no longer sin, but that they have been transformed so that they are saints who sin, not sinners who sin (pp. 26-27). • Jesus did not die...

The Sacred Journey, by Charles Foster (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 229 pp. plus xxi; paper $12.99

This book is part of The Ancient Practices Series, published by Thomas Nelson and edited by Phyllis Tickle.  The premise is that pilgrimage is essential to spiritual formation and Foster is seeking to provide answers to three questions: 1. How did anyone ever think that a journey, such as a journey made by a barn swallow, had any religious significance?2. Was he right?3. If he was, what should we do with the insight (p. xiii)? The author attempts to support the view that pilgrims and nomads are superior to city people and civilization in numerous ways: 1. Pilgrimage is what is meant by when Jesus said, “Follow Me” (pp. 25, 212).  2. Distorting biblical concepts, such as claiming Abel was a tramp while Cain was the founder of civilization (p. 37, 42), and Sodom is what happens when man stops wandering (p. 56).3. Terah, Abram and Lot were hippies (p. 57).4. God is a camper and...

The Prodigal God, Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller (New York: Dutton, 2008, 151 pp., cloth $9.99.

The Prodigal God has received much notice and praise in the evangelical community.  The editors of World Magazine even proclaimed it their “Book of the Year.”  The accolades are understandable given Timothy Keller’s helpful apologetic approach (see his Reason for God), his winsome evangelism methods and his ability to turn a phrase, causing some to compare him favorably to C. S. Lewis.  Keller is on the mark throughout much of the book.  He is correct, for instance, that the story of the prodigal son is about two boys who are lost, not one.  Both the rebellious, obviously sinful younger brother and the self-righteous, legalistic older brother were disobedient to their father and needed to repent and “come home” (pp. 10-11, 18, 36).  Both brothers wanted their father’s possessions but sadly not their father (pp. 18, 36).  Keller rightly points out that everyone is dedicated to a project of self-salvation...