Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Should Christians Fast Alongside Muslims?

Hard to believe this was actually a question on Christianity Today. Thank God for the voices of reason, especially Doug Wilson.

"It is not appropriate to fast alongside Muslims. I wouldn't make a point, if I were in a heavily Muslim state where everybody is fasting during the day, of fixing a hot dog and walking outside and eating it … but to observe Ramadan along with your Muslim neighbors and friends, letting them know that you're observing Ramadan as an act of some sort of religious or spiritual solidarity, is simply a fundamental compromise. They're observing Ramadan in the service of a false God and a false gospel, and we shouldn't be trying to express our solidarity with that."
Douglas Wilson, senior pastor, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho, and senior fellow of theology, New St. Andrews College

Friday, October 23, 2009

No Other Gods

The First Commandment: Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

"Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man's entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say; Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever [things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things."

The words above from Martin Luther's Large Catechism serve as a sobering reminder that idols are not made out of brick, wood, and stone alone - often, they are found in our heart. In Timothy Keller's new book, Counterfeit Gods, he lays out a case for idolatry in our current time that should pierce every Christian to the core. As Keller says in the beginning of his book, perhaps there is no better time to be reminded of the idols in our own hearts then in a time of uncertainty. The current economic crisis has stripped away our masks of religiosity and exposed idols that we did not know existed.

In Keller's second chapter, he focuses on love and sex. He specifically shows how our love for other human beings becomes an idol if we place our love for them above our love for God. Following that, Keller expands on the lust for money that is pervasive in our culture. Personally, I was especially convicted of the sin of greed when reading this part of the book. Greed is a subtle, deadly sin. It enters our lives unannounced and, if allowed to grow unchecked, is undetectable by those in its grasp.

After focusing on love and money as idols, Keller turns to politics. This book is worth the price for this chapter alone. It lays bare the misguided hopes and trust that Christians place in human government and brings one of the Enemy's most potent secrets to light. The warring factions in politics, especially among Christians, can reveal who are trust is really placed in. Individual Freedoms? Our Nation's Sovereignty? The Ability to Choose? Education for All? Healthcare for All? Or the Holy One, the Living God, Our Father in Heaven. Just as Nebuchadnezzar saw the statue built of human achievement crumble under God's power, Keller smashes the political idols in our own lives swiftly, painfully, convincingly.

No other Christian writer of our generation is on par with Keller's work right now. His ability to popularize Biblical truths without sacrificing any of their depth is unmatched. He has been called the C.S. Lewis of our time and it is an apt description. Though The Prodigal God is still his best work, Counterfeit Gods is a close second. You will not find a more enlightening, convicting book - it is must read for every Christian who desires to put to death the earthly idols that consume us.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Should have a review up soon for Tim Keller's new book, Counterfeit Gods.  As an introduction to the basic theme of the book, I thought that Mark Driscoll's recent appearance on Nightline's "Ten Commandments" segment would work well . . . hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Enemies - Book Review

Never saw the movie that was based on this book (also called Public Enemies) because of the mixed reviews that I heard.  Browsing in a bookstore one day, I ran across the book.  After reading the back copy and realizing that it was a non-fiction account of “America’s Greatest Crime Wave,” I decided to pick it up.

I started reading it that same day and did not put down the 500+ page tome until I read the last word.  This book is up there with the best of the fictionalized non-fiction genre (In Cold Blood, The Devil In The White City, etc.) and is fascinating from the first page. Reading the lurid tales of Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and many other gangsters through this turbulent two year period is an unexpectedly gratifying journey through history.

All of these gangsters rose to prominence in the same two year time period. It was the best of times for those outside the law. They had more money, guns, and better cars than most of the police. When this started to change with the creation of the FBI, and Hoover’s persistent expansion of its powers, the battle between the good boys and the bad was quickly reaching a crescendo in the early 1930’s.  Burrough’s thoroughly recounts the details of the gangsters’ lives, taking what most have been truckloads of research and condensing it into palatable chunks of information. 

As great as the book is, it does have one flaw in particular. It would have been nice to include more personal information about the FBI, especially Hoover. Both Melvin Purvis and Hoover get a perfunctory once-over compared to the gangsters, but the rest of the FBI agents hardly get a mention.  I was especially disappointed not to learn more about the rumors about Hoover’s personal life, which barely warrants one line in this book.

All in all, this is a must read for anyone remotely interested in this time period, the creation of the FBI, or 30’s era gangsters.  In addition to it being a good history lesson and a great book, it also offers insight into the phenomenon of the criminally famous and the blurred lines between the “good” folks and bad.  Dillinger’s portrayal was especially interesting and sheds light on the why he did what he did rather than simply recounting his deeds.  Reading about the ordinary men who entered a life of crime during tough economic times reminds us how close all of us are to desperation and wrongdoing unless we are grounded in something more substantial than financial comfort. Recommended.

An Evening of Eschatology

After the Desiring God Conference this year, John Piper asked a few of the participants to stick around and engage in a panel discussion on eschatology.  There is a representative from Postmillennialism, Amillennialism, and Premillennialism.

The discussion is very interesting and is available here.

Honest and open . . . refreshing for a debate on eschatology.  Each party respects the others views and each representative admits the weaknesses inherent in their own view.  The best speaker/debater on the panel by far is Doug Wilson, the representative of Postmillenialism, but everyone else holds their own as well.

Eschatology (the study of last things) is a fascinating subject in these times and fiercely debated among Christians.  What does one's view of the millennium matter as long as all evangelicals agree Jesus is coming back?  My honest answer is that I have no idea.  The Evening of Eschatology has whet my appetite, so to speak, and I am already starting to read books that will help explain the different points of views.  The first book that I am reading and reviewing for The Lucid Blog will be "The Millennial Maze" by Stanley J. Grenz.

In addition to reviewing eschatology books and materials, I will also attempt to define each position in layman's terms to provide a clearer understanding of what each viewpoint holds to.  As good as the Evening at Eschatology is as a launching pad into this subject, I came away with less clarity on each point of view rather than more clarity.

What are your thoughts on the debate?  What about eschatology in general?  Which category would you place yourself in?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting Started

The Lucid Blog, a service of Lucid Books, is launching today.

The Lucid Blog will:
  • Interact with Christianity, culture, and church in a meaningful way
  • Provide reviews for current and/or interesting products
  • Serve as a portal for Lucid Books Authors to introduce their new books
The Lucid Blog will be updated at least once daily.  The contributors are Brad Bevers and Casey Cease, co-owners of Lucid Books

The Lucid Blog:  Clear Thinking About Christianity, Culture, and Church