Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Epic: An Around-the-World Journey through Christian History by Tim Challies. Zondervan. 175 pages. 2020

In this book, Tim Challies shows us a unique way to look at Christian history. Rather than just visiting historical sites, over the course of a year, he chose to focus on objects, key artifacts that had been preserved. His hope in approaching the project in this manner was that by listening to the small stories told by these remnants of Christian history he would begin to understand the larger story and its epic unfolding. In other words, he wanted to “experience” the history of Christianity.
As he planned for the project, which was generously funded for him, he had a few restrictions. First, he wanted to focus on objects rather than locations, buildings, or memorials as we often do when we go to historical sites. Second, he wanted to focus on objects that are available to the general public. In the book, you will read that he found exactly the kind of objects he had wanted to see. He discovered links to the past, historical artifacts he could see and study and sometimes even touch and hold, each telling him (and the reader), a different chapter of a much greater story.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity by Michael Kruger and A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy by Trudy Cathy White
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

His original vision was to create only a book, but in the early stages he met filmmaker Stephen McCaskell, who caught the vision for the project and decided to travel with him to film a documentary, which you can watch on Amazon Prime. My wife and I have watched a few of the episodes in which he travels to places that we have also travelled to. In addition, you can watch the episode on India free by going here. Challies tells us that the book focuses on what he found, and the documentary focuses on how he found it.
The book is comprised of relatively short chapters about the artifact that Challies was searching for. In each chapter, he gives the historical context for the artifact. I enjoyed the entire book, reading about items that I wasn’t familiar with, those that I was, and also those that I had actually visited and seen myself (Martyr’s Monument in Oxford, St. Giles Church in Edinburgh, Calvin’s chair in St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, and the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.). I read with interest about the Book of Kells, Jan Hus’s cell door, the Gutenberg Bible, an indulgence box, Tyndale’s New Testament, the Whitefield Rock, Charles Wesley’s organ, Nate Saint’s plane, Billy Graham’s travelling pulpit, and much more.
This is a very interesting and informative book that I recommend, especially if you are interested in church history.

The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity by Michael Kruger. Cruciform Press. 58 pages. 2020

The author, president and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, writes of a daily devotional from Richard Rohr that listed ten principles he thinks modern Christianity needs to embody. Those ten principles were drawn from Philip Gulley’s book, If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus. In his devotional series titled “Returning to Essentials”, Rohr sets forth the ten principles as a kind of confessional statement of modern liberalism. Kruger tells us that they are in effect, a “Ten Commandments” for progressive Christianity.
Kruger tells us that each of these commandments is only partially true. And that is what makes the list, and progressive Christianity as a whole, so challenging. The author tells us it is a master class in half-truths that sound appealing on the surface until you dig down deeper and really explore their foundations and implications.
In this short book, he diagnoses and critiques each of the “commandments”, offering a biblical and theological response to each, dipping occasionally into J. Gresham Machen’s classic volume Christianity and Liberalism, written in 1923. In that book, Machen argued that the liberal understanding of Christianity was, in fact, not just a variant version of the faith, nor did it represent simply a different denominational perspective, but was an entirely different religion. He was saying that liberal Christianity is not Christianity.
The ten commandments of Progressive Christianity are:

  • Jesus Is a Model for Living More Than an Object for Worship
  • Affirming People’s Potential Is More Important Than Reminding Them of Their Brokenness
  • The Work of Reconciliation Should Be Valued over Making Judgments
  • Gracious Behavior Is More Important Than Right Belief
  • Inviting Questions Is More Valuable Than Supplying Answers
  • Encouraging the Personal Search Is More Important Than Group Uniformity
  • Meeting Actual Needs Is More Important Than Maintaining Institutions
  • Peacemaking Is More Important Than Power
  • We Should Care More about Love and Less about Sex
  • Life in This World Is More Important Than the Afterlife

I found this to be a very interesting book, not being familiar with either Rohr or Gulley before reading this book. Here are some of my takeaways from the book:

  • By removing the person of Jesus from the equation as an object of worship, it essentially makes Christianity a religion of moralism. What matters most, we are told, is not doctrine or theology, but behavior. Deeds over creeds.
  • Jesus’ moral teaching only works when we retain his identity as Lord. The two should never and can never be split apart.
  • We must affirm both our deep depravity and the amazing potential we have as God’s image-bearers. The two belong together.
  • Teaching people good theology is a vital, essential way of caring for them.
  • In the end, it’s clear that right behavior is not more important than right theology. Both are important.
  • Progressives are quick to condemn all sorts of behavior they see in the world around them, while insisting that Bible-believing Christians are wrong when they do so.
  • Christianity is not about mankind’s never-ending “journey” to God, but about God’s completed journey to us, to save us from our sins.
  • Much of the problem with Gulley’s account of the church is that he views it as having a purely horizontal purpose—that is, how humans relate to humans. Entirely missing from Gulley’s account is any vertical purpose for the church (how humans relate to God). The biblical view of the church does not choose between the vertical and horizontal dimensions. It affirms both.
  • Gulley sometimes has the right diagnosis but the wrong (or woefully incomplete) cure.
  • Progressive Christianity is decidedly moralistic: what matters is not what you believe, but how you behave. This approach is absent when it comes to issues regarding sex. When sex is in view, suddenly progressives are for moral freedom and moral choice.
  • The hallmark of progressive Christianity is a deep commitment to being “good” and doing “good” things.
  • Gulley’s final commandment masterfully encapsulates three hallmarks of progressive Christianity. It focuses on man instead of God, downplays doctrine for morality, and claims uncertainty while all the while being very, very certain of itself.

A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy by Trudy Cathy White. Forefront Books. 207 pages. 2020 

This book is a loving tribute from the author – the only daughter of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy and his wife Jeannette Cathy – to her mother. The book is filled with heart-warming stories about Jeannette, who was known as the “First Lady of Chick-fil-A.” The book will be a treasure for the members of the Cathy family for generations to come, but I also enjoyed finding out about the wonderful woman who was behind the founder of Chick-fil-A, having read much about Truett Cathy, but almost nothing about Jeannette.
Trudy tells us that her mother never knew her earthly father, as he left just three months after she was born. Her parents had only been married a year. Her father never came back, never called, never wrote.
Jeannette was very talented, and would win local dance competitions as a child, even being named the best dancer in Atlanta at just six years old. By the time the Depression hit, Jeannette and her mother were living with Jeannette’s grandparents. Any money young Jeanette won from dancing competitions went straight to supporting the family.
The book is filled with wonderful stories, none more important than the amazing story of when five-year old Jeannette accepted Christ and then led her mother to the Lord. Years later they were baptized together.
Jeannette would attend seminary in New Orleans. She began her courtship with Truett when she returned home after completing her studies in 1947. Truett proposed on Georgia’s Lookout Mountain, and they would be married in 1948.
Trudy writes about the family moving from Atlanta to a 262-acre piece of property in the country in 1957. Music and animals were a big part of their lives. Both her mother and father taught eight grade Sunday School classes at their local church for many years. Her mother also played the music for the worship services.
One of my takeaways from the book was “The Three M’s” (Master, Mate, Mission):

  • Who is going to be master of your life?
  • Who will be your mate for life?
  • What will be your mission in life?

The book is filled with stories that will bring a smile to your face. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Great Bee Debacle of 1957
  • A lesson about a penny
  • The Great Motorcycle Incident of 1964
  • Joy’s polka-dotted, chicken-pox birthday party
  • The Chick-fil-A pin
  • Her parents daily breakfast date

Trudy writes that her mother was in every way, a servant. While not diminishing her father’s faith, her brothers and her always saw their mother as the spiritual center of their family. She was committed to Bible study, Scripture memorization, prayer and openly talked to her heavenly Father each day.
For those who love Chick-fil-A, as I do, I think you’ll really enjoy reading about the “First Lady of Chick-fil-A”.

  • Called to Lead. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Read a free sample (Introduction through Chapter 2).
  • The Reformation Study Bible, Spanish Edition. Ligonier recently announced the release of the Spanish edition of The Reformation Study Bible in a variety of formats.
  • Free Audiobook: How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? offers six practical recommendations for Christians who are divided on political issues. Authors Jonathan Leeman and Andy Naselli propose that Christians should learn how to disagree on many such issues with a spirit of gracious understanding by recognizing the importance of what binds us together as a local church body.
  • The Book Tim Keller Says We Can’t Do Without. Tim Keller reviews Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Lovelace. Written 40 years ago, and now available in a new edition, Keller writes that the book is still one of his top recommended resources for pastors and lay leaders to study so they can more effectively foster gospel renewal.
  • What Puritans Books Should I Read? The Puritans have left us a wealth of timeless writings on doctrine and the Christian life. Which of their books should we read first? From one of the Ask Ligonier events, Stephen Nichols offers several suggestions to get us started.
  • We’re All Children of the Sixties. Enjoy this excerpt from the 50th anniversary edition of Os Guinness’s book The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever.
  • New e-Books from Banner of Truth. Banner of Truth recently released 31 new e-books, from authors such as R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, John Calvin and others.

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur

We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”?  MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer.  For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges.  The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?

This week we look at Chapter 17: The Call to Repentance. Here are some takeaways from the chapter:

  • It is not fashionable in the twenty-first century to preach a gospel that demands repentance.
  • The gospel according to Jesus is as much a call to forsake sin as it is a summons to faith. From His first message to His last, the Savior’s theme was calling sinners to repentance — and this meant not only that they gained a new perspective on who He was, but also that they turned from sin and self to follow Him.
  • Note three elements of repentance: a turning to God, a turning from evil, and the intent to serve God. No change of mind can be called true repentance if it does not include all three elements.
  • Where there is no observable difference in conduct, there can be no confidence that repentance has taken place
  • Repentance is not a one-time act. The repentance that takes place at conversion begins a progressive, lifelong process of confession (1 John 1:9).
  • If repentance is genuine, we can expect it to produce observable results. There must be a sincere change in one’s lifestyle.
  • Repentance has always been the foundation of the New Testament call to salvation.
  • No message that eliminates repentance can properly be called the gospel, for sinners cannot come to Jesus Christ apart from a radical change of heart, mind, and will.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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