Book Review: A Foot in Two Worlds: The Joy and Struggle of the Normal Christian Life
- Written by: Adrian Lane
This attractive small book is the most recent addition to the Guidebooks for Life series from Matthias Media. In it John Chapman helpfully addresses the ever-present tension faced by all Christians: living as a Holy Spirit-filled believer in a fallen world and body. He clearly explains “the good and the bad mingled in me” (p22) and, in a particularly helpful section, the awful nature of the devil’s work (p22-28). He delineates the opposition of “the world, the flesh and the devil” (p43), noting the dangers of focussing on one to the neglect of the others. He also addresses the dead-ends offered by various Christian groups to relieve the tension: entire sanctification (an adaptation of sinless perfectionism), a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of physical healing and prosperity in this age. Chapman critiques these forms of over-realised eschatology which unsettle faith and assurance, causing doubt and despair, especially in new believers. The book concludes with a call to obey James’ command to “count it all joy when various trials come our way... because as we wrestle with them we grow stronger in the Christian life. Contemplating the end result gives us joy in the midst of trials.” (p75) We are to persevere, with our hope set on the living God and the new creation in the world to come.
The book’s great strengths are its Biblical and theological exposition of the tension experienced by Christians, the opposition faced daily from the world, the flesh and the devil, and the disabusing of the false answers and hopes offered. This is a timely contribution to our contemporary Christian culture, both in terms of its theological clarity and its pastoral use. Chapman and Matthias deserve much thanks.
The book’s pastoral theology could be read as a little under-realised and further treatment of the armour of God and the means of grace would strengthen it. The dynamic relationship of knowing God through the gift of His Spirit, the fellowship of other believers and the comfort we receive from His word and sacraments all bring deep joy. An additional chapter or two on accessing the power to resist temptation and the peace Christ promised would compliment the struggle exposed in the preceding chapters. What does Paul mean when he states that we have been given “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7)? How do we access this power at work in us (Eph 3:16, 18 and 20, 2 Tim 1:8)? And what does it mean to be “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18), praying “in the Spirit on all occasions” (Eph 6:18)?
The book is clear and readable, conveying many complex truths simply. It is well referenced from the Scriptures. It is an excellent resource for new Christians and those Christians who have not been adequately discipled in the nature of the daily Christian walk. It would also be ideal for Bible Study groups: straightforward discussion questions are included in an appendix. I highly commend it.
Adrian Lane is lecturer in ministry at Ridley Melbourne
Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Zondervan, 2008)
- Written by: Wei-Han Kuan
The Blue Parakeet is a popular level introduction to hermeneutics – or ‘how we read the Bible to get meaning – applied and otherwise – out of it’. McKnight establishes his evangelical credentials early and simply: he tells his testimony of a heart strangely warmed, and a Spirit-given desire to devour the Scriptures. But McKnight soon perceived that evangelicals don't apply all parts of scripture with equally direct force. What about the Sabbath? Tithing? Widows and orphans? Giving away all we own to the poor?
McKnight moves swiftly to his theme question: How, then, are we to live out the Bible today?
Parts 1 to 3 of the book contain his main argument:
1. The Bible is Story, or the grand metanarrative of God’s history with His people. It is not a source book of authoritative laws or a grab-bag of promises for autonomous individuals. This section would perhaps be the most familiar and unsurprising to EFAC readers. We seem to have a strong tradition of teaching biblical theology and salvation history in Australia, so although his language and terminology is different, none of the concepts are surprising.
2. Our reading takes place in the context of a love relationship with the living God. God loves us, and we (presumably) love him, and we love by listening and obeying. It sounds like a motherhood statement, and the section is brief, but it is a point well worth making. The action of obedience to the Word closes the hermeneutical loop – reading the Bible isn’t just an intellectual curiosity!
3. The Church has always practiced discernment over which parts of the Bible to apply and how, using various forms of reasoning such as theological development, historical and scientific development, deeper or underlying principles. It’s a messy process, but implicit in this part is the idea that faithfulness to the Story is key.
Part 4 of the book then applies McKnight’s methodology to the question of women in ministry. I rather suspect that here is the driving force behind the book (it takes up 100 of its 230 plus pages). McKnight argues that reading the Bible with rather than through tradition reveals that the Story of the Bible moves us towards an egalitarian view of women in ministry. He details his wrestling with Scripture, which is substantial and well worth reading, and sets the argument in his own relational context: having taught women at a more conservative institution and then moved on.
This book raises more questions than it answers, but this is not a bad thing for evangelicals today. There are many important questions about how we live out the Bible in sexual and economic ethics, for example. It is a popular level book with a clear agenda: arguing for an egalitarian view of women’s ministry; but it also raises important issues about how we read and apply the Scriptures, the place of tradition and reason; and, chiefly, the intellectual honesty and rigour we bring to the Word.
Evangelicals tend to Pharisaism (I know my own sins) and we need reminders like this book. The Bible isn’t a grab bag of rules and regulations – it’s a love story between our Lord and His people – yes including us! I liked McKnight’s humility and wit, but I didn’t enjoy being left with more questions than my lazy mind has time to work out answers to! This is a deceptively easy book to read, but a great one to chew on over a long weekend. Irrespective of your view on Part 4, the whole book could be usefully applied to help us think through our obedience to Scripture in any number of areas. I’m praying that The Blue Parakeet results in more love for the Lord and His Word, and a greater ability on the part of evangelicals to graciously and lovingly discuss issues that divide us.
Jonathan Wei-Han Kuan is the editor of Essentials.
The Curate s Egg: To be sure, to be sure
- Written by: Rob Imberger
Indeed the whole ‘selection for ordination’ process is designed to confirm the confident and alarm the antsy; designed to make you sure that ordination isn’t some self-deluded masterplan of your own mini-kingdom’s making. And, to be sure, I was left humbled, awed, charged with responsibility, and more or less certain that I was clear of such delusions.
Praise the Lord! He put it in my heart when I was just 15 to be a minister of his Word & Spirit. Praise the Lord for godly men and women who affirmed my gifts & call, from then till now. Praise the Lord for Ridley Melbourne where I was trained for ministry and mission (even when ministry and mission weren’t in the title!). Praise the Lord for employing me in His harvest field of Diamond Creek. To be sure, I was sure this was the Lord’s place for me.
The Practice of Puritan Meditation (Part 1)
- Written by: Jill Firth
The Puritans valued meditation on theological doctrines and key propositions of Scripture. They sought to fill their mind, imagination, consciousness and memory with God and his purposes. Richard Baxter (d 1691) is representative of the Puritans in seeing heaven as the foremost subject of meditation. John Owen (d 1683) particularly prized meditation ‘on the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s kingdom, and of His love’.
The Office and Duty of a Minister of the Gospel
- Written by: Wei-Han Kuan
Charles Perry was the first Bishop of Melbourne, consecrated on St Peter’s Day 1847. He arrived in Melbourne on 24 January 1848, the first, and until Barker’s arrival in Sydney, the only evangelical bishop in Australia. Perry delivered his first sermon in the new Diocese in St James’ Church on the 28th.
Perry was a definite and committed evangelical, and this sermon sets out his programme and priorities for ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Today, more than 150 years later, it still resounds with evangelical fervour, biblical clarity and humble devotion to the Lord.Although based, as sermons typically were in that time, on one verse the entire sermon is steeped in Scripture. There are no less than 20 different scriptures cited from both Old and New Testaments and numerous other allusions besides. Phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are not so much quoted, but woven into his sentences. His verse was 2 Corinthians 5:20 -
‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’
Book Review: Growing Women Leaders
- Written by: Katy Smith
Ward’s book ‘Growing Women Leaders’ argues for women gifted as leaders to take their place alongside men as equal partners in the Gospel. Ward is clear that her conviction of argument is primarily founded in biblical support rather than in ideas of justice and equality.
Ward launches first into a brief summary of the theological issues hindering women’s leadership in the church. The overall thrust of this survey is that the trajectory of Scripture is one that encourages both men and women to recognise and use their gifts of leadership and to work alongside one another to lead God’s church.
There is a brief survey of issues of translation and interpretation of biblical passages before Ward advances to examples of women in leadership positions throughout church history. Ward concludes from these examples of women answering their calls from God to lead that women have been constrained by man-made rules. The flavour of these chapters then seeps into Ward’s intention to explore the nature of leadership and whether men and women lead differently, concluding with the practical issues that women face in leadership within the church.
- Written by: Sam McGeown
It should have been a simple enough task: Go to the Christian book and buy John Chapman’s book “Know and tell the Gospel” and John Stott’s book “Issues facing Christians today”. Walking into the Christian book shop I glance along the long avenue of books on my left displaying the Top 20 Best selling books. I wonder if there is something wrong with me. I’ve only read two of them and have no desire to read the other 18. I randomly pick up one, “The author of this book is the pastor of the fastest growing church in the United States.” I wonder why every pastor in America claims to be the pastor of the fastest growing or biggest or second biggest….? Who buys this stuff anyway? I-”
“Excuse me, can I help you at all?”
I’m rescued by a fresh faced smiling sales assistant.“I’m looking for 2 books. The first one is by John Chapman.”