Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

This book is a testimony to the grace of God, the power of His word, and the hope of the Gospel. Dr. Butterfield was a tenured professor at Syracuse University teaching Literature and Women’s Studies. Her research focus was a form of post-structuralist criticism known as Queer Theory. She was in a committed lesbian relationship, was an outspoken supporter of the LGBT agenda, and served as an advisor and mentor to homosexual students. As part of her research on the “Christian Right” she began reading the Bible and conversing with a local pastor who lovingly challenged her presuppositions and stereotypes. By the grace of God, she became a believer in Christ and began the difficult process of having her life transformed. She describes her conversion as a train wreck and the book records the long and ongoing process of her being transformed by the renewing of her mind.

The first part of this book, particularly the first chapter, is one of the most compelling things I have read recently. She highlights how the failure of the Christian community to think carefully about the ideas we proclaim and to demonstrate love marginalize those whom we proclaim a desire to reach. Many of Dr. Butterfield’s observations are an indictment against our lack of commitment to open our doors to those who are broken and in need of the Gospel. The implication is perhaps we are content to settle for sloganeering and public positioning because we are content to engage in a discussion about theoretical people rather than in discussions with real people.

Homosexuality is obviously a major issue facing the church in our time and Christians are grappling with the appropriate way to engage the culture. Dr. Butterfield, however, reminds us that homosexuality is only a symptom of a more significant issue that Christ calls us to address; namely sin. The good news, as she reminds us, is that God has equipped the Church through His word and the message of the gospel to do precisely that. She emphasizes that most of the helpful progress be at the individual level as local Churches reach out in truth and love, engaging those in the homosexual community as real people rather than projects, and patiently sharing the gospel.

Her story is also a powerful reminder that we often do not realize what the people sitting next to us in Church are struggling with or who is not there because they felt too uncomfortable to come. It is a reminder that the first word of the great commission is “go”. It is often not enough just to put an invitation card in a mailbox. We need to be willing to take the message of the Gospel outside of the walls of our meetinghouses.

The latter part of the book is a recounting of how significantly her life has changed since her conversion. It covers a number of different topics and includes mild apologetics for adoption, homeschooling, exclusive psalmody, and hospitality. At times, the latter part of the book is a bit like a proud mother rifling through her purse to show you photos of her children. The tone, however, is always sincere and highlights the fact that Dr. Butterfield and her family are real people who are prayerfully continuing on their journey of faith and confidence in Christ.

This book really challenged me to ask if my Church and I are really committed to engaging with those that are different and may make us uncomfortable. Are we confident enough in the Gospel to share it with the outcasts and those on the margins of society? I recommend this book, particularly the first chapter, to anyone who may be asking these questions, and especially to those who are not.

 * I received a free copy of this book from as part of their Reviewers Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Review: Peace, Classic Readings for Christmas- by Stephen J. Nichols

693010: Peace: Classic Readings for Christmas
By Stephen Nichols / Reformation Trust Publishing

Each of us is on a search for peace. During this season, we bake cookies and play music, but such comforts only hint at a much greater peace in the distance. The good news of Christmas is that we can stop searching, because we already know the One who is peace. This new book reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas, a world-changing event that reaches beyond December 25th and affects every life, every day, for all of time. Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14a). Meditations, Bible passages, and hymns unite with beautiful illustrations inviting you and your family to enter into the true peace of Christmas.
Dr. Stephen Nichols has collected a series of meditations and reflections on Christmas gathered from throughout the history of the Church. This collection does a wonderful job of placing Christmas into its proper place within the context of God’s plan of redemption that He is working out in history. Christmas, Nichols highlights, does not begin in Bethlehem. It begins at creation. It does not end with the wise men; it ends in heaven. Dr. Nichols has organized all of the writings around the central theme of “peace” but the book is anything but redundant. He has done a wonderful job of selecting writings that reflect on various different aspects of the incarnation and work of redemption so that the reader’s attention is continually directed to a different aspect of the Christmas message. The book includes an impressive array of perspectives from Leo I to Bonhoeffer, from Ambrose to Wesley, from Augustine to Wesley, from Luther to Piper, and many others.

The result is a book that has an almost devotional quality. Rather than a systematic presentation of doctrine beginning with A and working through to Z, the great and deep truths of Christmas are examined like a precious stone that is turned all different directions so that the light might glimmer and refract off of each surface and angle. It more closely represents a classic liturgy than a modern study. In fact, the book ends with an adaptation of portions of historical liturgical readings and songs for use in either church or home.

Although the book will no doubt be beneficial to any Christian who wishes to gain deeper insight into the Christmas story, I think its main benefit may be as a resource to preachers looking to expand the scope and depth of their Christmas or Advent sermons. The meditations in the book are so rich that I found myself repeatedly wanting to preach on the underlying scriptural passages so I could share the themes and truths highlighted in the book. I think many preachers will similarly be encouraged to dig a bit deeper into a number of scriptural passages with their congregations.

While I have always celebrated Christmas, I have never been a fan of how it is usually done. I recall teaching my children when they were younger that there were two distinctly different holidays that were celebrated at the end of the year and that unfortunately sometimes people (even in church) get them a bit mixed up. What Dr. Nichols has done in this book, however, is to call our attention to the true wonder of Christmas that should characterize the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. That wonder should be with us every single day of the year.

* I received a free copy of this book from Reformation Trust Publishing as part of their book review program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan

I suspect that most modern audiences would find the intense religious self-reflection of Bunyan, which was typical of the Puritans, somewhat neurotic and maybe even misguided. This, however, may reflect shallowness in our examination of life in light of the Word of God as much as it does excess on the part of the Puritans. This book is a window into the Puritan mind as it examines life in light of the Bible. Despite our modern conveniences, nothing fundamental has changed in human nature and so this book remains a treasure trove for any who struggle with reconciling what they know of the Holiness of God with the realities of their own thoughts and actions. Bunyan colorfully illustrates the various phases of the Christian experience through the lens of his own remarkable life.

This audiobook version was excellent. 17th century English can be a distraction for many listeners but the narration by Simon Vance was wonderful. Vance’s clear command of the rhythm and flow of the language highlights the beauty of Bunyan’s prose and adds warmth and depth to the work. Unlike some other readings from this period I have heard, this one was a pleasant listen.
The fact that Bunyan first published the book in 1666 and it is still being read gives us a hint as to its insightfulness. Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography is among the classics of Christian literature. Standing in the tradition of Augustine’s confessions it is an object lesson using the life of the author to illustrate great and urgent theological truths. We may wince at Bunyan’s occasional allegorization and his frequent proof texting but there is no denying the power of his lesson. He not only describes how the Word of God converted him, shattered the pride of his shallow confession, terrorized him, and finally comforted him, but also ministers to us where these same needs are present in our own hearts. It is an honest and practical, yet theologically deep examination of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

The authorities ordered Bunyan to stop preaching and imprisoned him because he refused. In the providence of God, this gave him time to write Grace Abounding and other works (while he was not preaching to the other prisoners) that have blessed generations of readers. Grace Abounding has reached far beyond the audience he had for his sermons. This book will be a great blessing and help to any believer who wishes seriously to examine his or her own faith and life. It will also be a help to any who are struggling with spiritual depression over their own sinfulness. Bunyan addresses all ends of the spectrum and leaves the reader/listener focused on the love of God and His Word. I recommend it and pray it is an encouragement to you.

* I received a free copy of this book from as part of their Reviewers Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Is God a Bloodthirsty Killer?

As long ago as the year 177, the philosopher Celsus attacked Christianity using the argument that the Old Testament describes a murdering, bloodthirsty God who is very different from the loving, merciful God Christians like to talk about. The argument has remained in the arsenal of critics ever since. Steve Wells, the author of the Skeptics Annotated Bible, has been particularly influential in popularizing this argument on his blog Dwindling in Unbelief and in his book Drunk With Blood: God’s Killings in the Bible. Wells seems to take pleasure in the apparent shock value of comparing the number of people that God has killed or ordered killed vs. the number that Satan has. In his book Drunk With Blood, Wells explains his purpose in making these comparisons. On the first page he writes, “It is my hope that as God’s killings become better known, people will know better than to believe in the Bible.” According to Well’s calculations; God is responsible for 2,476,636 deaths in the Bible while Satan is responsible for 60. Wells argues that if the prophesies of Revelation are included, the Bible presents 24,634,205 scriptural deaths at the hand of God verses 60 at the hand of Satan.

Is Wells correct about these numbers? If so, is it a good argument against believing in the God of the Bible?

Wells uses estimates to develop the numbers, as the Bible often does not record exact figures in these cases. I have not bothered to evaluate the estimates but it is clear even from a cursory reading that the Bible attributes far more loss of human life to the agency or command of God than to anyone else. If this is shocking, it is only because of a deficiency in the popular understanding of God’s character and holiness. In fact, the actual number of deaths attributable to God is far higher than Wells estimates. Death is the result of God’s judgment of sin (Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5:12, Jas. 1:15). Every funeral home, every cemetery, and every mausoleum is a testimony to the sinfulness of humankind and the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). It is therefore wise to live tempered by the knowledge that we too will die and face judgment (Eccl. 7:2, 11:9). The sovereign God determines when our earthly lives will end (1 Sam. 2:6, Job 14:5). Therefore, in an ultimate sense, God has taken the life of every person who has ever died.

Since Wells seems to be correct that God takes human life and even sometimes uses other humans to do so, is it true that God is immoral? Is his argument against Christianity persuasive?

Although it may have emotional appeal, it is not a very strong argument. As Dr. William Lane Craig observed, “it [is] ironic that atheists should often express such indignation at God’s commands, since on naturalism there’s no basis for thinking that objective moral values and duties exist at all and so [there is] no basis for regarding the Canaanite slaughter as wrong. As Doug Wilson has aptly said of the Canaanite slaughter from a naturalistic point of view, “The universe doesn’t care.” So at most, the non-theist can be alleging that biblical theists have a sort of inconsistency in affirming both the goodness of God and the historicity of the conquest of Canaan. It’s an internal problem for biblical theists, which is hardly grounds for moral outrage on the part of non-theists.”

The argument must assume some standard of morality by which to judge God. Atheistic materialism can support no such standard. Ironically, the standard often assumed is the moral standard derived from the Bible. If the argument is intended to charge God with moral inconsistency then it is necessary that each of the events be considered within the broader context of the biblical teaching.

First, the Bible teaches that God is the creator and His character is the source of truth, love, and justice. As a result, it is not possible to appeal to any moral standard outside of God without first denying the biblical understanding of who He is. It is impossible within a Christian worldview to define any moral standard apart from God Himself. God, Himself, is the ultimate basis upon which any judgment of truth or morals can be made. We simply have no standard by which we could judge what He Himself does. Whatsoever He does is assuredly just on the basis that He does it. On this basis, the argument ultimately degenerates into more basic questions of apologetics, namely, is the Bible true and does God exist.

Second, the most violent Old Testament events that these critics call attention to occur within a particular context within the broader story of God’s plan to redeem a people for His own glory. None of those whose life God takes was “innocent” or undeserving. Rather than be shocked by their judgment, we should be amazed at His patience with us. The transgression of men and women brought about curse and only the guilty fall under its power.

Furthermore, God in His gracious love has saved from this curse those who by faith are united to Christ who paid the penalty of death we deserved while we were still His enemies (Gal. 3:13, Rom. 5:8). Keep in mind that God repeatedly warns people that He will judge sin. The coming judgment is usually not immediate, giving people an opportunity to repent. Eventually, the judgment comes, but in each case, God spared a remnant of faithful people. These historical events are a foreshadowing of God’s final judgment and salvation. We do well to recognize that we are currently living in a period of restraint whereby we have an opportunity to join to the faithful remnant. It is because of God’s grace that He records His terrible judgments for our instruction.

God is not bloodthirsty but He is holy. Well's argument is only persuasive if we, who are sinners, are bold enough to put ourselves in a position to judge God rather than accepting His judgment and appealing to His loving mercy with faith and repentance.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Could He Have Called 10,000 Angels? Modality and the Mission of Christ

Ray Overholt had a successful career as a songwriter and performer; he was one of the original singing cowboys of the early television age and was the star of the Ray’s Roundup TV show. In time, Ray realized that the lifestyle of drinking and partying was empty and while still performing on the club circuit he decided to write a song about Christ. He knew that in order to write a song about Jesus he had to learn something about Him and his first serious exposure to the Bible was the reading he did as research for the song. After reading about the arrest and execution of Jesus, still not a believer, he wrote the song He Could Have Called 10,000 Angels. One evening, however, after singing the song at a church and listening to the sermon that followed, Overholt became a believer in Jesus Christ and accepted the message he had been proclaiming through his own song.

The song was inspired by Matthew 26:53-54 where Jesus rebukes Peter for cutting off the ear of one of the arresting officers saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Overholt later said that he did not realize at the time that 12 legions would actually be around 72,000.

When we consider that a single angel was powerful enough to destroy an entire city (1 Chron. 21:15) and see what they are capable of in the book of Revelation we realize that anyone who commands a group of either 10,000 or 72,000 possesses unimaginable power. The point is that Rome, even had they assembled all of their legions, could not have taken Jesus by force. He went voluntarily. It is this willingness of Christ to refrain from using His power so that He might redeem men that Overholt captures in his famous song:

He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But he died alone, for you and me

This raises an interesting theological question. Was it actually possible for Jesus to call for these angels and avoid the cross? Had He done so, all of the Old Testament promises and prophesies would have been invalidated and God’s word would have been false. If He could not do this, then it seems His claim is either incorrect or a lie. If that is true, He could not be who He claims to be and the promises of God have been invalidated and God’s word is false.

The word of God, however, stands on both accounts. We need to recognize that the terms “possible” and “impossible” function on multiple levels. As a result, certain things can be both possible and impossible depending on the sense of the terms. The study of statements and propositions about possibility, necessity, contingency, etc., is known as modal logic and is an important supporting discipline for theology and apologetics. One of the most important things to keep in mind when thinking about modal statements is the distinction between the real world and the world of concepts.

Many things in the real world could be different from the way they are. Anytime we are imagining a world where something is different than it actually is, we are no longer talking about the real world but are thinking about a conceptual world. Philosophers often refer to these conceptual worlds as “possible worlds”. There are an almost infinite number of possible worlds but only one, the real world, is actual. When we ask if something is “possible” we must distinguish between it being merely possible if the world were different, or possible in the actual world, given the way things are. The reason is that for something to be actually possible it must be conceptually possible but certain things that are conceptually possible are not actually possible.

There are certain things that are not possible in any world because they involve logical contradictions. For example, all triangles must have three sides. Triangles must have three sides in every possible world. Since a four-sided triangle is conceptually impossible, it is also actually impossible. Just because something is conceptually possible, however, does not mean that it actually exists. For example, it is conceptually possible that Bigfoot exists but as far as we know, he does not actually exist.

Of course, it is possible that Bigfoot could actually exist. He is both conceptually and actually possible. There are certain limitations within the actual world, however, that make it impossible for some things that are conceptually possible to be actually possible. For example, it is conceptually possible that someday a person could be born who had the ability of unaided flight. Human physiology, along with physical laws in operation in the real world, however, makes this an actual impossibility. Unaided human flight is therefore conceptually possible but actually impossible (we might say reality has an opportunity cost).

This brings us back to the statement of Jesus about calling the angels. If we look carefully, Jesus makes it clear that He is distinguishing between the actual world and a conceptual world. Jesus said:

“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

In the first part of the statement, He is telling Peter that if He wanted to He could ask the Father who would send the angels. It is His choice to make. It is therefore conceptually possible for Jesus to have called upon the Father to send angels. The second part of the statement, however, begins with the word “but” and imposes certain limitations associated with the actual world. His mission was the redemption of humankind at the cross. His greatest desire was to fulfill the scriptures and submit to the will of the Father. Jesus and His sinless nature are a part of the real world. This creates certain limitations on which conceptual world He can possibly actualize.

Jesus is therefore telling the truth that it was possible for Him to call upon the Father but to actualize that choice is impossible, not because of any limitation placed upon Him from outside but because of His own identity and nature. God cannot lie and His word stands forever (Num. 23:19, Heb. 6:18) therefore there was no possibility that Jesus would actually call for those angels even though He had the power to do so.

The short answer then is that yes, it was possible for Jesus to do what He claimed but it was not possible for Him to do so and also accomplish His purposes. His faithfulness to the Father is why He overcomes at Gethsemane and why the Bible calls Him the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. It is the same reason that we can have complete confidence in our Savior to keep God’s promises to us.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"As oft as ye drink it": How Often Should Communion be Celebrated?

Churches vary widely as to how often they celebrate the Lords Supper. Often, there are differences even within the same denominations and affiliations. There are churches that have a communion service at every meeting, some just once per year, and just about everything in between. I was asked what frequency I thought was best and why? My answer was that weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper is preferred. In this post, I hope to give some insight into why I think that.

Before I do that, I want to point out that there is so much variation regarding how often churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper because the Bible does not give an explicit command about how often we are to do it. As a result, each church must decide based upon the examples and instructions found in the Bible, their understanding of the purpose of the celebration, and the needs of their congregations. As a result, we need to be careful about becoming too dogmatic. In fact, I hold a minority view among the elders of my own church where we celebrate monthly.

Although we do not have an explicit command in the Bible, we should nevertheless attempt to base our view on what scripture does reveal. Probably the most important verse on the matter is Acts 20:7 which says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” The reason they were gathered together was to “break bread”. If gathering on the first day of the week to break bread is a reference to a celebration of the Lord’s Table then this is a clear indication that at least one of the congregations in the early church met weekly to celebrate communion. We know that the early church used the phrase “break bread” to refer to devotional meals. For example, in Acts 2:42 we learn the apostles devoted themselves to teaching, the fellowship, breaking bread, and prayers. All four things were associated with the worship of the church. The problem is that the Bible also uses the phrase “break bread” for the sharing of regular meals.

Even so, I do not think Luke is talking about common meals in Acts 20:7. First, Luke tells us it is the first day of the week. The only specific day of the week mentioned in relation to Christians gathering for worship in the New Testament is the first day of the week. In the context of this verse, we learn that Paul was with them for 7 days and surely he spoke to them throughout that time but only the first day of the week receives special mention. The day described obviously involved a meeting for fellowship and worship. Since they gathered to break bread, we assume that occurred. We also see them receiving the ministry of the Word from Paul. The apostle makes it clear in his letter that when the church gathers it is not for a common meal but rather for a fraternal meal (1 Cor. 11:33-34). It seems unlikely then that the church would gather on the first day simply to eat.

While I find the evidence from Acts 20:7 compelling, it is not definitive. Acts is a narrative. As such, it describes what happened but we cannot assume that this is what always happened or was always supposed to happen. Still, I think it is significant that the one New Testament reference we might have regarding the frequency of communion indicates that at least some apostolic congregations celebrated weekly.

Another passage that is important to the discussion is 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 where Paul says “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” and “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup…”  Many use these verses to support the idea that the frequency of the celebration is up to the discretion of the church. Indeed, this entire section (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) is Paul teaching on the Lord’s Supper and nowhere does he give a command that it should be done on a particular day. The phrases “as often as you drink it” and “as often as you eat this” seem to leave it open for the church to decide.

The context of the passage, however, places the emphasis on the fact that they should not use the fellowship meal as an occasion to make fleshly distinctions within the church. The point is that every time they must celebrate the meal in light of their relationship to one another in Christ. The point is how, not how often they had the meal. Although it is not specific, the context indicates that the celebration was frequent. In verses 17 and 18 we see that Paul uses the phrase “when you come together” in reference to their gathering as a church to worship. This same phrase appears in verse 20 when he says, “when you come together it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat”. It is reasonable to assume that the communion meal was therefore something they did whenever they met together as the church to worship.  The phrase appears again in verse 33 where Paul instructs them, “when you come together to eat, wait for one another” These commands make more sense if the coming together is related to gathering for worship and is frequent. At the very least, the Corinthian passage shows that we should not neglect the celebration of the Lord’s Table and should make it a frequent part of our worship.

Another reason I think “frequent” should be “weekly” is liturgical rather than exegetical. The communion is to be an anamnesis. The word comes from the Greek word Jesus used when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. He said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in [anamnesis] of me.” The word means to remember or memorialize and it seems Jesus intends a specific type of remembrance. The situation surrounding His institution of the communion provides a clue that Jesus is commanding more than the simple recollection of a past event.

Jesus is drawing upon the context of the Passover celebration. Most of us are familiar enough with the Passover Seder to know that at a particular point the youngest person asks the father the famous question “why is this night different from all other nights”. The father then shares the mighty works God has performed to save His people. This recounting of salvation history is the “remembrance” or “memorial” but it is not simply a list of historical events. The Seder itself is a celebration of those events and faithful celebrants are identifying with them not as mere historical facts but as participants through their identity in the group. God’s actions were therefore acts of salvation for them as well as their ancestors. The Lord’s Supper is the culmination of the Passover meal because His sacrifice is the greatest of all redemptive acts. When he calls us to “do this in remembrance” of Him, he is asking us to celebrate Him as the mighty work of God in redeeming His people and keeping His promises. Through our identification with Him and His people, we are not only recalling what He did as a historical fact but are also testifying to our participation in it. God, through the sacrifice of Christ has saved us.

I believe a similar memorial & celebration should accompany the preaching of the Word, which is the proclamation of God’s mighty acts to redeem His people and keep His promises. Understood this way, the communion is not a somber meal but is truly both a celebration and a memorial. Combining the preaching of the Word with a time of personal identification of believers with the sacred history provides a liturgical coherence to the worship service. The elements of preaching, prayer, praise, and the Table compliment one another to provide an unmistakable Christ-centered focus to the service.

Some argue that celebrating too frequently can cause a loss of reverence for the ordinance and it may degenerate into empty ritual. Empty ritualism, however, is a matter of the heart rather than the schedule. Most who make this argument would never suggest that we should not have weekly prayer, praise, or sermons for the same reason. I believe the pattern we see in the Bible is that a celebration of the Lord’s Supper was part of the regular worship services in the apostolic church. Although not explicitly commanded, this practice provides a depth and unity to the weekly worship service reminding us that Christ stands at the center of the promises and it is through our union with Christ that we become partakers in them. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crosses Along the Highway

I am one of those strange people who enjoy hours of uninterrupted driving (as long as traffic is moving) because it usually gives me a long stretch of time where I can think. Obviously, while driving I have to stay focused on the road and what is going on around me. The result is a unique interplay between a series of immediate observations, related to the world that is quickly moving past me outside the vehicle, and whatever idea I am trying to focus on. It makes for some interesting connections! Last week, I spent a lot of time driving and I was particularly encouraged by the repeated site of three crosses along the road at irregular intervals. I have seen these kinds of crosses before but I became particularly aware of them on this trip because of the frequency with which I encountered them. I was encouraged because it was a repeated incentive for me to connect whatever I was thinking about at the moment to the most important truth I know, namely that Jesus Christ died for my sins.

Each cluster was comprised of a larger gold cross, flanked by two slightly smaller blue crosses, always placed so that they are easily seen from the road. A little bit of internet research revealed, the crosses were the work of Pastor Bernard Coffindaffer of Craigsville West Virginia. Bernard Coffindaffer was a WWII veteran of the U.S. Marines who served in the Pacific at Iwo Jima and Nagasaki. After the military, he earned a business degree and went on to become a successful businessman.

When he was 42 years old, Coffindaffer converted to Christianity and eventually became a Methodist minister. While still running his business he served several small churches in West Virginia. After encountering health issues pastor Coffindaffer decided to sell his company and focus his remaining energy on ministry work. A couple of years later he had a vision that convinced him that God wanted him to plant crosses. He had earned a good deal of money from his business and in 1984 he used his own funds to start the Crosses Across America project.

He set up an office in his home, hired a secretary, and employed seven work crews to travel across the country erecting the crosses on land donated for the displays. From 1984 until his death in 1993, pastor Coffindaffer spent over $3,000,000 of his own money and erected 1,864 clusters of crosses in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the countries of Zambia and the Philippines. Dedication services were held at each site that included scripture reading and prayers. Pastor Coffindaffer explained the meaning behind the crosses saying, “They're up for only one sole reason, and that's this- to remind people that Jesus was crucified on a cross at Calvary for our sins, and that He Is soon coming again.” If there is a single message we all need to be reminded of constantly, it is that one.

I do not know much about pastor Coffindaffer or his theology but I appreciate the simple yet profound reminder that the crosses he planted have offered me in my travels.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

King David's Righteousness

One of the fundamental assumptions of conservative Christians is that the Bible is the Word of God. As such, it must be without error and contradiction. This does not mean, however, that it is easy to understand how every passage fits together. Many things in the Bible are difficult to understand because they create tension in our fallen minds. I have found, however, that studying and meditating upon these difficulties often results in a deeper appreciation for the unity of the Bible and the depth and power of its teaching. I recently came across an example of this when thinking about God’s assessment of King David.

David is such a major example of faith in the Bible that he serves as a type of Jesus Christ. God often mentions David favorably. He is called a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22), he is commended for keeping the commandments and walking in the way of God (1 Kings 3:14), and the general pattern of his life was to worship and glorify God. In 1 Kings chapter 14, however, God says that king Jeroboam was not like David who “… kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes…” (1 Kings 14:8).

If asked to list the heroes of the faith I am sure most of us would list David but how can God say that he did only what was right? After all, David violated the law on multiple occasions. He was an adulterer (2 Sam. 11:4), a murderer (2 Sam. 11:15), was prideful (1 Chron. 21:1, 7, 8), and a negligent father (1 Kings 1:6). His sins caused tremendous pain and anguish for himself, his family, and the nation. We know that God was aware of David’s sin and He cannot lie (1 Jn. 3:20, Heb. 6:18). We also know that God could not simply overlook the sins of David because of who David was (Acts 10:34, 1 Jn. 1:6). How then could God refer to David as someone who did only what was right?

The answer is great news for David and for you and me. Indeed, it is The Good News. God does not declare David righteous based on his keeping of the law. He does so based upon David’s connection to Jesus Christ through faith. Paul helps us to understand this in his letter to the Romans where he explains, 

“…the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." (Romans 3:21-28)

David lived before Jesus was crucified but Paul explains that God had passed over former sins. He made His grace available to those who believed prior to the cross even though the sacrifice had yet to be made. It is because of people like David, just as much as you and I, that the cross was necessary. The cross is a vindication of God’s righteousness in light of His acceptance of sinners like David on whom God showed favor. The cross, as just punishment sin, means that God’s declaration about David is true because through faith God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). David, through faith, was a partaker in the promise to stand holy and blameless before God in Christ (Eph. 1:4). Christ was his righteousness.

Although Christ was not yet crucified when David was alive, the sacrifice was a certainty. So certain that it is often described as made before the foundation of the world. The very identity of God Himself was the basis of its inevitability. He is all knowing, all-powerful, all merciful, and his grace endures forever. Because of this, His promises are absolute certainties. David believed in the promises and trusted God. God’s declaration that David is righteous therefore stands on the same foundation as His declaration of the righteousness of sinners who believe today. 

We are also sinners who deserve punishment and yet are declared justified by God if we are united to Christ through faith. David knew he was a sinner saved by grace through faith. David understood that the righteousness credited to him was an act of grace through faith and was unearned. This is why Paul says “David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Rom. 4:6-8)

God is just in not counting these sins because Christ has paid the penalty for them on behalf of those who believe (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18). What a blessing it is to have such hope through the work of our wonderful savior. Jesus Christ saved David. We see the evidence of David’s faith in that although he sinned, he was repentant (Ps. 51:1-2). He was a child of grace whose desire was to glorify God and to worship Him alone. He was not a perfect man but was perfected through his union to Christ in faith (Heb. 10:14). I pray that the same is true for you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Authorial Intent in Christ Centered Preaching, Part 2

In the previous post, I tried to show that although Christ centered preachers are often criticized for disregarding authorial intent in order to “make” every text about Jesus, a christocentric emphasis is not so much the result of exegetical method as of hermeneutical convictions. If Jesus is the culmination of all that the Old Testament writers said then applying their words to Christ and His work is recognizing rather than disregarding their original intent.

Nevertheless, the Bible is not a wax nose to be twisted into any shape that one desires, even if that shape is the shape of the cross. In this post, I would like to argue for a balanced approach to preaching Christ from all of the Bible while not ignoring the authorial intent of Old Testament writers. After all, if the Old Testament writers intend to present Christ then a faithful exegesis will be Christ centered and yet never disconnected from the purpose, structure, and context of their words.

If we take a balanced approach and explain the plain meaning of the text before making application of Christ, we will avoid many of the deficiencies of the positions at the extremes of either position. For example, some critics of Christ centered preaching accuse it of being light on practical application for a life of holiness while supporters criticize exemplary preaching of the Old Testament as bare moralism. The approach I am advocating allows for exemplary preaching within the context of redemptive-historical application. Some advocates of Christ centered preaching insist that every Christian sermon must explicitly present Christ while critics assert that the purpose of every sermon is to explain the meaning of the passage and that not every passage explicitly focusses on Jesus. The approach I support allows for the preacher to present Christ while explaining the plain meaning of Old Testament passages. I believe that these applications develop naturally from the text because Jesus and His work are the culmination of all Old Testament teaching.

There is not room here for a detailed analysis of the topic but a few basic concepts help provide boundaries for balancing authorial intent and Christ centeredness. First, as Walter Kaiser Jr. argues, we must read the Bible from front to back rather than back to front. Many advocates of Christ centered preaching insist that the fullness of New Testament revelation should inform our understanding of Old Testament passages. Some Christ centered advocates such as Ed Clowney and Graeme Goldsworthy argue that the full meaning of particular Old Testament texts may transcend the language and context of the original passage. Certainly, we should not read the Old Testament as if we do not have the New but as Kaiser points out, to disconnect the meaning of a passage from the actual words, context, and structure of the human author is to undermine the Bible as a standard of truth.

If, however, this is the case then how is it that I can claim that every passage is about Jesus Christ if many Old Testament texts are not explicitly messianic? The reason is that every passage to one degree or another connects to a series of trajectories that culminate in Christ and His work (past and/or future). Every text is related to God in some way, whether it is His kingdom, His promises, His people, etc. These grand themes such as God dwelling with His people, the coming King, the blessing to the nations, God creating for Himself a holy people, run throughout the Bible from start to finish. The connection between God and the full revelation of Himself to human beings in Christ is the basis for a natural application of Old Testament passages to Christ. If we are preaching with the whole Bible in mind and yet are reading it from front to back we can clearly explain the natural meaning of the Old Testament passage based upon the context and purpose of the human author and then make legitimate application to Christ and His work. Since Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God, we are to understand God the Father through Him (Jn. 14:9, 2 Cor. 4:4, Heb. 1:3). We therefore are able to make the proper and intended application of the Old Testament without reading meaning back from the New Testament. The New Testament revelation is the culmination rather than the foundation of the Old.

If the preacher faithfully preaches the meaning of the Old Testament passage, there will be a natural pathway to Christ or His work. The text does not have to be explicitly messianic in order for the application of the text to be legitimately Christological. The reason is that even the non-messianic texts work together to build toward a fulfillment in Jesus and His work. Here are just a few of many examples that would encompass a wide range of Old Testament texts.

  • The Kingdom / Christ is the promised king
  • The Law (holiness of the people of God) / New Covenant in Christ’s blood & His perfect righteousness
  • The Wisdom of God / Christ the divine Logos & wisdom of God, also Christ who applied the Law perfectly and is the wise teacher who is greater than Solomon
  • Defeat of the enemies of God / the Cross & the 2nd coming
  • God dwelling with His people / the incarnation & new Jerusalem

We can preach wisdom and exemplary points and still connect the texts to their culmination in Christ through either promise-fulfillment or a redemptive-historical approach. Many strong authorial intent advocates are critical of the methods of the redemptive-historical school but if you agree that the intent of the Old Testament prophets was to point to Christ, (1 Pet. 1:10-12) it is possible to incorporate much that is valuable in their methods without abandoning a commitment to a plain hermeneutic.

For example, Ed Clowney is well known for his triangle diagram that shows the relationship between a particular Old Testament event and its typological reference to Christ. Clowney argued that many Old Testament events have symbolic references to broader themes that then develop throughout the history of redemption until they finalize in Christ. His method was to preach those typological references to Christ always emphasizing an organic relationship between the promises and their fulfillment.

Many criticize the direct move from Old Testament symbol to New Testament referent because it opens the door to potentially disregard the Old Testament passage in its own context and the symbolic connections can only be certain if they are explained in the New Testament. I agree with Clowney that there are many more typological connections between the Old and New Testaments than are directly explained by the New Testament writers and I think it is legitimate to preach them. Clowney’s method is very helpful (as are his oft-ignored guidelines on identifying legitimate O.T. symbols). However, in order to maintain control of the exegesis it is more helpful for the preacher to walk the congregation through the process of moving from passage to symbol to fulfillment than moving direct from symbol to fulfillment (move along the 90-degree turn rather than along the hypotenuse). That way, the typological insights are clearly presented as arising from the relationship between the Old and New Testament passages in their natural contexts with the Old culminating in the New.

Other advocates of Christ centered preaching have suggested additional approaches that can be used while remaining true to authorial intent. For example, Bryan Chappell suggests that we pay particular attention to what he calls the fallen condition focus. This means that every Old Testament text in some sense reveals something about a particular sinful condition. By examining that condition, we can demonstrate that our contemporary congregations struggle against the same fallen condition. We can examine God’s response to that condition in the Old Testament and place that response in the broader story of God’s ultimate solution to the problem in Christ. Sidney Greidanus also argues for the need to build from the Old Testament text and suggests seven legitimate ways to move from the Old Testament message to Christ. These include:

1)      Redemptive-Historical Progression
2)      Promise-Fulfillment
3)      Typology
4)      Analogy
5)      Longitudinal Themes
6)      New Testament References
7)      Contrast

It is true that sometimes preachers use Christ centered approaches in ways that fail to honor authorial intent, but the blame lies with those preachers and not the general conviction to preach Christ from all of scripture. It is possible to take a balanced approach that allows us to draw out the Christological focus already present in the Old Testament (as well as the other lessons) without superimposing the New Testament over the Old. Rather than following any particular preaching fads, we are called to present the Word of God in a way that honestly emphasizes both the unity of the scripture as well as the unique contribution of each part.

“… our concern is not to preach Christ to the exclusion of the “whole counsel of God” but rather to view the whole counsel of God, with all its teachings, laws, prophecies, and visions, in the light of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, it should be evident that we must not read the incarnate Christ back into the Old Testament text, which would be eisegesis, but that we should look for legitimate ways of preaching Christ from the Old Testament in the context of the New.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Authorial Intent in Christ Centered Preaching

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (Jn. 17:7)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (Jn. 14:6)

One common criticism of Christ centered preaching is that it fails to pay enough attention to the authorial intent of Old Testament passages. What many critics of Christ centered preaching fail to appreciate; however, is that the exegetical conclusions of Christ centered preachers are based upon a hermeneutical principal that is deeper than simply inserting Jesus into their sermons. The argument of Christ centered preachers is that the Old Testament authors’ original intent was for their writings to be understood and applied christologically. They argue that we do not need to read Christ back into the Old Testament because He is already there. The debate should not be about the contrast between an emphasis on authorial intent and Christ centeredness, but rather on the degree to which the authors intended their writing to be about Jesus Christ.

 Before we begin, I would like to make a couple important points. First, authorial intent and context are essential to a proper understanding of the Bible. Allegorical or mystical interpretation is improper and undermines the authority of scripture. It is simply not appropriate to ignore the words, structure, and context of the Old Testament passage in order to have Jesus pop out of every story. Second, there are many examples of irresponsible exegesis in Christ centered tradition just as there are in other traditions. I am not defending irresponsible applications of a Christ centered reading of the Old Testament.

The Bible itself teaches that the Old Testament is to be understood christologically. As a result, interpreting an Old Testament passage without regard to its function in the broader redemptive narrative that culminates in Christ and His kingdom is to ignore the larger context of those passages and the intent of the human authors. Jesus taught that the writers of the Old Testament were speaking about Him. He criticizes the Jewish leaders for their misunderstanding of the scriptures in that they did not recognize that they spoke about Him (Jn. 5:39). He tells them that Moses is the one who accuses them before the Father because had they believed Moses, they would believe in Him because Moses wrote of Him (Jn. 5:46). The implication is that the authorial intent of Moses was to speak of Christ and that those who read his words without a christological focus misunderstand him.

Jesus does not only make this claim about Moses, He says similar things about all of the Old Testament writers. He said that Abraham saw his day and rejoiced (Jn. 8:56).  After His resurrection when He appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus he calls them fools because they did not recognize the Old Testament teaching regarding the messiah (Lk. 24:25-26). Luke then records that He then gave them a Christ centered interpretation of the entire Old Testament (Lk. 24:27). We should not assume that he simply pointed out a few messianic passages because we are told in verse 32 that He “opened” the scriptures to them and again in verse 45 that “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk. 24:32,45).  Jesus is teaching them that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

This teaching is central to the ministry of the apostles. Indeed, it would not be an overstatement to say that to a large degree the New Testament is a commentary on the Old Testament. Peter explains to the crowd at Pentecost that David spoke about the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:25,31). Like Jesus, he does not limit this claim to one prophet but also claims that all the prophets spoke of Jesus (Acts 3:18). Later, when he writes 1 Peter he makes a claim that has astounding hermeneutical consequences regarding authorial intent. He says,

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Peter is writing to those who have believed the Gospel and says the prophets wrote about the salvation that was to come to them, that the prophets inquired about this, that the prophesy came through the Spirit of Christ working in them, and that they predicted the sufferings and glory of Jesus. He also says explicitly that it was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but “you” (believers in Christ)! This is astounding because it reveals that not only is Jesus the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies but that the prophets knew that. Of course, they did not have a complete picture and they inquired about the timing etc., but they intended their words to refer to something beyond their immediate circumstances.

In a similarly amazing statement, the author to the Hebrews tells us that the great heroes of faith in the Old Testament did not receive what was promised. In fact, apart from those who have trusted in the Gospel of Christ they would not be made perfect (Heb. 11:39-40). The coming of the kingdom of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ is the culmination of all the promises and faith of the Old Testament.

Paul likewise assumes that the Old Testament writers intended to speak about Christ. His references to this are so numerous and so intertwined with his writing that it would be nearly impossible to list them. It is clear that he understands his ministry as building upon what the Old Testament taught (Acts 24:14, 26:22-23). Paul describes his ministry and that of the other apostles as preaching Christ crucified, or preaching the riches of Christ (1 Cor. 1:23, Eph. 3:8). It is interesting to see how he actually did this.

One of the best examples is Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:13-43. He was in Pisidian Antioch and after the reading of the Law and Prophets; he was invited by the leaders to address the congregation. He begins with the Old Testament and works through the narrative of redemptive history right into the New Testament. While connecting all of this material he presents Christ as the central theme. I just quickly looked over that sermon and I counted between 18 and 20 distinct references to the Old Testament. This sermon is saturated with the Old Testament and is designed to present Jesus Christ and the Gospel explicitly. There is no allegory; Christ is presented as the intended focus of those texts. This is apparently not a unique sermon for Paul because he delivers it extemporaneously and we are told that it is Paul’s normal approach to go to the Jews first and reason with them from the scriptures (Acts 17:2). Remember, that “the scriptures” means the Old Testament.

All of the apostles used preaching opportunities to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ and they usually do this by showing that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. It is the assumption of the New Testament writers that Jesus is very much present in the Old Testament and is in view when the prophets are writing. The authors are so confident of this that on occasion they attribute the very words of the prophets to Jesus Himself. Just one example is found in Hebrews where the author quotes Psalm 22 as being the words of Jesus (Heb. 2:10-12, Ps. 22:22).

Hundreds of other examples could be given but I hope this is sufficient to show that a commitment to preaching Christ from the Old Testament is not simply the result of disregarding authorial intent. Rather, redemptive historical preaching assumes as a hermeneutical principal that the Old Testament authors intended their words to be applied to Christ. The question is therefore not if it is OK to ignore authorial intent in order to present the gospel (it is not), but how we can understand and apply the Old Testament to Christ and the church properly. I plan to examine this exegetical question in the next post.  

Read Part 2

Sunday, June 2, 2013

For No Word of God is Impossible

The Bible teaches that God is omnipotent, meaning that He is all-powerful. This truth is a great comfort to believers not because power itself provides comfort but because it means that God is capable of doing what He promises. Our only hope in salvation is trusting in the promises of God, that He is willing and capable of keeping His word. The idea that there is nothing in the universe powerful enough to thwart the purposes of God is the reason for the hope that sustains the Christian life.  

The Bible emphasizes the connection between the power of God and the performance of His word in various ways. One of my favorite examples I first heard in a lecture by Dr. Edmund Clowney as he was commenting on the Christmas story.

In the first chapter of Luke, after the angel explains to Mary that she will have a son who will be the fulfillment of the messianic promises, Mary asks how this is possible since she is a virgin. The angel explains that the child will be the child of God and then he says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:34-38)

We might read this as a simple statement about the power of God but the statement is not merely an assertion of the omnipotence of God. It also highlights a connection between what God promises and His ability to bring it to pass. What the angel actually says is ὄτι [For] οὐκ [not/nothing] ἀδυνατήσει [shall be impossible] παρὰ [with] τοῦ [the] θεοῦ [God] πᾶν [every] ρῆμα [thing spoken or uttered]. The word ρῆμα (rhema) literally means that which is spoken or uttered.

The usual translation that no-thing is impossible draws upon a Hebrew pattern where a reference to a spoken work can either mean the word itself or the thing the word refers to. The typical translation communicates the main point that God has the power to bring this to pass and so is not a bad translation. The phrase, however, can also be translated “for no word of God is impossible” or “for no word of God will fail”. Translating the statement more literally highlights a number of important connections both in the immediate text and in the overall Biblical story.

The angel has just explained that Mary’s child is the fulfillment of the prophesies of the Old Testament. He is declaring to her that all of those seemingly impossible promises in which Israel had placed its hope were to be fulfilled in her child. These prophesies and promises were the words that God had uttered. To trust in the promises is the same as trusting in His word. Notice the way that Mary responds. She says, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She is essentially saying that the words she just heard sound impossible but she believes them because she is a servant of God (Lk. 1:38). The emphasis of this dialogue is not God’s power as an abstract concept. What is emphasized is the connection between the power of His word and His faithfulness in acting to bring those promises into reality.

The phrase the angel uses also highlights a particular connection between the ultimate fulfillment of the promises in Mary’s child with a previous promise that pointed toward it. Remember that God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that the world would be blessed through his seed. When he was 99 years old, still without the promised child, The Angel of the Lord visited him and told him that Sarah would have a child the next year. Sarah, who was listening to the conversation, laughed because it seemed absurd that she would have a child at her age (Gen. 18:12-13).  The Angel knew she laughed, and asks Abraham “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). This is the same statement made to Mary but in question form. The Hebrew word dabar, translated as “anything” literally means a word that is spoken. As mentioned above, it often refers to the thing spoken about rather than the statement itself but in this case, the question could be translated “Is any utterance (word) of Jehovah too marvelous?”

The statement of the angel to Mary is not just information, but is also intended to remind us of God’s previous faithfulness to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah thought that an old barren woman having a child was impossible but God showed His power in keeping the promise when Isaac was born. The name Isaac means laughter so the very name of her child was a reminder of the answer to the question that the angel had asked, “Is any word of Jehovah too marvelous/difficult?” The promise to Mary is even more unlikely than the one given to Sarah so it is understandable that Mary asks how it is possible. The angel’s answer, while sufficient in itself, would almost certainly have reminded Mary of the story of Sarah and the birth of Isaac. Her attention is therefore called not only to the power of God but also to His history of keeping His promises.

While Isaac was a partial fulfillment of the promise, final fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham would not happen until Jesus Christ came. Christ is the ultimate answer to the question about God’s ability to bring His word into reality. The answer to Mary’s question is also the answer to the question that The Angel of the Lord asked Abraham. The answer is that no word of God is impossible and the proof is God keeping His promises in Jesus Christ. Jesus and His work secures the fulfillment of all the promises to the patriarchs and prophets (1 Pet. 1:12, Heb. 11:39). The power, grace, mercy, and love of God are made apparent through His sure word “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

What an encouragement this is to us! The angels who visited Sarah and Mary did not encourage them by pointing to their unique experiences or circumstances. They were encouraged by a reminder of the trustworthiness of God’s word. We have hope because the marvelous promises of God’s word are 100% certain because they are secured by His sovereign power (1 Pet. 1:3-5, 1:23-25). 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley has recently released Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley. In the book, well-known pastor Andy Stanley teaches five traits that he sees as essential to the development and success of any leader. As the title suggests, the book is aimed to provide helpful advice to those who are emerging as, or desire to be, the next generation of leaders. The book is clearly written, easy to follow, and the narration by Lloyd James is excellent.

Stanley explains and gives examples of the following five essential leadership traits:
  1. Competence
  2. Courage
  3. Clarity
  4. Coaching (even leaders need coaches)
  5. Character

Much of the advice found in the book is helpful and practical. The lessons are good but anyone who has read almost anything else on the subject of leadership will have heard most of this already. There is nothing revolutionary about Stanley’s suggestions.

As someone who is both a business manager as well as serving in ministry, I was disappointed that Stanley indiscriminately applied general leadership ideas that are common in the business world to ministry. He used the Bible more often to furnish illustrations of how to apply common management wisdom than using it as the source of a distinctively Christian view of leadership.

* I received a free copy of this book from as part of their Reviewers Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.