Update: Bethke has since responded to Kevin DeYoung’s critique.
This week my Facebook newsfeed was booked solid with this guy’s face. It’s a 4 minute spoken-word poem by a fella named Jefferson Bethke titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. After about the zillionth repost of this thing I finally watched it. I’m sure you’ve probably seen it by now, but if not you should go take a look before reading on. It’s gone viral—at the time of my writing YouTube had it listed at just shy of 7 million plays.
I really dig Jefferson’s passion, his strong affirmation of the gospel, and his rejection of self-righteousness. BAM, nailed it! There is so much to be praised in this poem, and I do praise it, but I did feel a little irked by a couple things in the video. It took some time to sort through exactly why I felt that way… Read More…
I’ve said before that I believe a misunderstanding of faith is behind much confusion concerning Christianity, both from those who don’t know Christ and those on the inside. Here are two articles I saw this week that deal with the topic of faith vs. reason.
The first is from Stand to Reason:
First, we don’t know about Christianity by faith. Everyone knows about the claims of Christianity and the Bible in the same ways other things are known. Faith isn’t a way of knowing. It’s trusting in what we have come to know to be true. Faith is laying hold personally of what is true in the Bible. Knowledge is the first step and it’s no different than coming to know about anything else. So it can be discussed between those who have faith and those who don’t because they’re both operating in the same way to evaluate truth claims. Faith comes after knowing.
Read more: Faith isn’t Knowing
The second is from Pyromaniacs:
even among Christians who are not anti-intellectual jellyfish, I’ve met some who very reverently think that some of our beliefs simply are not rational. They’re mysterious, they have to be held by faith, not reason.
To this I’d just begin by noting that the opposite of faith is not reason; it is sight (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7).
But are some of our faith-tenets irrational? Two that I hear cited specifically are the Trinity, and the Virgin Birth.
Read More: Is Christianity Rational?
Just wanted to check-in and tell you that yes, I am still alive. These last few weeks have been busy, but fear not, there will be new content coming this week and much more in the future as I am planning out a schedule to blog with more frequency.
So stay tuned! If you aren’t subscribed, I recommend that you do so without delay.
Meanwhile, here’s a Spurgeon quote that I saw over at Challies this morning about the issue of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility:
“That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and I find that in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”
With a new year comes new resolutions, and if you are like me you are resolving to get more reading done. My friend Adam Ford suggested making a top 10 list of books, so here I will commend some titles to you that have had a big impact on my understanding of and walk with the Lord over the last several years.
This was a tough list to whittle down, but I made my selections based on the following criteria:
- Was this book so good that I’ve felt compelled to read it multiple times?
- Which books have had the greatest influence on me?
- Is it easily accessible?
- I wanted books that cover a variety of subjects (i.e. not all books on the attributes of God—I all but failed in this).
NOTE: If I don’t offer this disclaimer someone is going to be breathing down my neck, “What, the Bible didn’t make your top 10 list?” So besides the Bible these are my top 10 book recommendations. The Bible is #1! Okay. We good? Good.
10. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
This is the go to book on personal one-on-one discipleship. It’s just a goldmine of Biblical principles and practical advice on how to intentionally come alongside a brother or sister and help them to grow in understanding and obedience to God. I highly recommend this one if you are seeking to have a discipleship ministry.
9. The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
I admit, this classic seemed daunting to me at first. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up. Thankfully, Luther’s wit made it an engaging as well as informative read.
8. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
This is just a magnificent work. Sproul demonstrates how God’s glorious righteousness and His complete other-ness is distinct from His other attributes and really lies behind who God is. I love this book because it awoke in me a feeling that I can only describe as holy dread as I comprehended just how righteous God is and how despicable sinful me is. Oh, but how much sweeter the gospel becomes in light of such an understanding!
7. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders
This is just a very practical guide on what it takes to be a leader. Actually, one of the most influential parts for me was the section on the discipline of reading. If you are in a leadership position or are moving that direction this is a prime piece of papyrus.
6. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Now here’s a book among books! I have read this one almost a dozen times. Reading Lewis was the impetus that first started me down the road of thinking more deeply on divine things. Besides the woman who later became Lewis’ own wife, more than a few well known Christians attribute their conversion to the reading of this book—Charles Colson and Francis Collins (the geneticist who lead the team that mapped the entire human genome) to name two.
5. What is Faith? by J. Gresham Machen
This one will probably earn a higher spot with time, but since I just finished it I feel like I should give it a bit to simmer. I can never resell this book now because of how much I marked it up, not that I would want to! Machen’s work is defined by his battle against modernism, yet the words of this defender of the faith seem almost prophetic today as our generation bears the consequences of not heeding his warnings.
4. Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
This is a book about the attributes of God. I remember reading this one night while laying in bed and just crying in fear—more of that holy dread—as I read Tozer describe God’s holiness and immense power. This book helped me to better understand who this God is that I worship.
3. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
What can I say about this book? It is mostly in the line of “attributes” books like #4, but it delves into other areas too. This was one of those books that almost every time I picked it up I found myself saying, “that’s so true! How did I not see that before?”
2. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Personal holiness seems to be a theme that is almost absent from today’s Christianity. I struggled for a long time in trying to understand the difference between fighting sin under grace and legalism. Bridges helped me to understand how that works (the answer isn’t “a healthy balance” between law and grace). You will not walk away unchanged after reading this book.
1. Desiring God by John Piper
As we work to understand God’s Word we develop a sort of framework as to where certain doctrines sit in relation to one-another. This framework is ever evolving as we grow in our understanding of doctrine and the amount of emphasis Scripture puts on each specific theme. Desiring God played a very large role in erecting my doctrinal framework. Not only because it was my first serious introduction to Reformed Theology but also because of Piper’s ability to clearly communicate complex ideas with appropriate passion.
It’s Very Lonely With No Comments:
- What books do you recommend for 2012?
- Is there a book that you have been meaning to read for along time but have never got around to it?
Couldn’t quite finish the top 10 list today. It will be delayed until Monday.
Have a wonderful Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior!
As promised, here’s numbers 26-50 of the one sentence book reviews. Make sure you check out Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet.
26. Fish out of Water by Abby Nye – A must-read for any high school senior graduating from a Christian school who plans on attending a secular university. Wish I had read this before I went away to college.
27. Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray – A call to total dependence on God.
28. Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle – Another one that I wish I had read when I was younger; it might have saved me some pain.
29. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain – Hilarious!
30. A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada – What a testimony this woman continues to have as she enters a new stage of suffering in her life. Great example of dependence on God’s sovereignty, promises and character.
31. God Wins by Mark Galli – Christianity Today’s senior managing editor responds to Bell’s Love Wins. I recommend this one over Chan’s response (#41).
32. The Millenials by Thom S. Rainer & Jess W. Rainer – A report based on their research of the generation born between 1980 and 2000. Don’t be fooled, it is very engaging and quite informative. I recommend this over UnChristian.
33. Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith by Kirk Cameron & Ray Comfort – Who better to teach you to share your faith than the child star of Growing Pains and a Kiwi? There’s a lot of good tips on evangelism and street preaching, but I’m a little wary of Comfort’s insistance that you must always use the 10 commandments in personal witnessing.
34. The School of Obedience by Andrew Murray – Wanna feel convicted?
35. The Other Side of the River by Kevin Reever – First hand account of a guy who got burned bad by hyper-Charismania invading his church. His experience seemed almost archetypal to what I’ve heard from from friends who have encountered similar situations.
36. Knowing God by J.I. Packer – Seriously, go to amazon and buy a copy. This is just an EXCELLENT book on the attributes of God.
37. Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur – You don’t need to sit around and wait for a mystical voice to know God’s will for your life (he wrote it down already).
38. All of Grace by C.H. Spurgeon – Hey… that title sounds familier. Spurgeon explains in plain language (for his day) how the gospel, from start to finish, is all a work of God’s sovereign grace.
39. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I WAS ON MY HONEYMOON! So give me a break. It was a fun read.
40. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Well, I couldn’t just stop in the middle of the series! Oh the shame.
41. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle – Another rebuttal to Love Wins. Some good content, but overall I thought it was pretty weak.
42. Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur – The sacrifices we make in the name of pragmatism and engaging the culture betray something much deeper; we are ashamed of the gospel.
43. How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer – Interesting to read this work from today’s vantage point. Though mostly brilliant as far as cultural criticism goes, it helped me to understand why Schaeffer’s ideas are often pointed to as source of much of modern Evangelicalism’s mission-shift.
44. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek – One of the finest, most accessible and thorough apologetics works I’ve read.
45. Beautiful Outlaw by John Elderidge – The point of everything Jesus did was just to goof around with disciples—that’s honestly the gist of the book! This guy is literally insane. If you make the mistake of reading this, do me a favor and count how many times he says, “That’s sooo Jesus!”
46. Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard – History has never been so exciting!
47. What is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert – A persuasive and much needed defense of the gospel as the central mission of the Church.
48. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung – In the same vein as #37. Worth a read.
49. The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Stephen J. Lawson – An edifying exposition of Edwards’ famous resolutions.
50. What is Faith? by J. Gresham Machen – Just an incredible book defining faith from the Bible. It’s my belief that a misunderstanding of just what faith is is behind much of the error in the Church today. Read it!
So there you have it. I hope that this list has been informative or at least humorous for you. Tomorrow, I will be writing a top 10 list of books I recommend and why.
Leave a Comment
Have you read any of the books on the list. What did you think about them?
Are there any books you would recommend for next year?
Was I unfairly critical of any of the titles? Let me know.
Currently I have 2 jobs. By day, I work in social media for the cause of world missions. By night, I clean toilets. One of the advantages of working a job at night that requires little cognitive exertion is that I am able to occupy my mind however I wish. In the early days of cleaning offices I started by filling my iPod with my favorite jams and singing along at the top of my lungs (I’ve been surprised more than once by late-working employees in the midst of belting my off-key renditions), but when you are working 6-8 hours alone at night music can get kind of boring. So I eventually switched to prayer, listening to sermons, and audiobooks. Over time, my attention span has expanded and I am now able to consume an insane amount of content each week. Read More…