Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. Zondervan. 256 pages. 2019

This was a difficult book to read, as it should be. In his “Foreword”, Lecrae writes that the author challenges us to take history seriously and account for it. He warns us that the account we are about to read is sobering and challenging. I would add to this that it is heart-breaking. I believe that it is an account that all Christians should read, especially Christian leaders. It is a well-researched survey of racism in America, what the author refers to as more than 300 years of race-based discrimination. The author tells us that this history of racism and the church shows that the story is worse than most imagine. He states that the stories in the book tell the tale of racial oppression. It is up to the reader to determine whether the weight of historical evidence proves that the American church has been complicit with racism.  Although the entire history is essential to know, I focused on the author’s emphasis, that is, the role of the church in racism.
The author focus is primarily on Protestant churches, and when he talks about the “Religious Right”, he focuses on those white evangelicals that align with the Republican party. The book focuses on prominent figures, precipitous events, and well-known turning points in American history. He writes that, historically speaking, when faced with the choice between racism and equality, the American church has tended to practice a complicit Christianity rather than a courageous Christianity. Even if only a small portion of Christians committed the most notorious acts of racism, many more white Christians can be described as being complicit in creating and sustaining a racist society. Christians deliberately chose complicity with racism in the past, but the choice to confront racism remains a possibility today. The book is a call to abandon complicit Christianity and move toward courageous Christianity. The author tells us that it is time to practice courageous Christianity.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…And reviews of Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain H. Murray, and How Can I Be Blessed? (Crucial Questions No. 24) by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading

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J. C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain H. Murray. Banner of Truth. 275 pages. 2016

I was excited to read this new biography of J.C. Ryle, a respected 1800’s theologian/author, published on the 200th anniversary of his birth by Iain Murray, an author who I always enjoy reading. Ryle was born into a family that were leaders in the emerging new merchant class in Macclesfield, England, his grandfather having built a prosperous silk mill, and upon his death left an immense fortune to his son, John, J.C. Ryle’s father. John would become one of the best-known figures in the county, being elected to Parliament.
J.C. was raised in the greatest comfort and luxury, and had everything that money could buy, but his father took little notice of his children.  He would be sent to a private preparatory school for three and a half years, twenty miles from home.  He would next go to Eton College, which was twenty-one miles west of London, where he spent nearly seven years and begin his love of the sport of cricket. In 1834 he entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he spent three years. During his first 18 years he writes of being barely exposed to biblical Christianity in his home.
He did not know the exact date of his conversion, but his turning point took place in 1834. He would return from Oxford a different man.
He was attracted to the legal profession in London, where he stayed for just six months due to poor health.  His father’s bank would be ruined and all of his wealth would be lost – his properties, bank, and silk mill. J.C. writes of his life being turned upside down and thrown into confusion, stating had he not been a Christian at this time, he may have committed suicide.
He became a clergyman because that would bring him some income. At Exbury, he would visit each home in his parish at least once a month, but stated that he didn’t really learn how to preach until he was 50.
Resigning due to poor health, he would be offered the rectory of St Thomas, Winchester, serving some 3,000 people in 1843, where he would stay for only five months.
He would meet and marry Matilda in 1845. She would die just three years later of lung disease. He would marry Jessy in 1850, who would become ill six months into the marriage, dying just ten years into the marriage. He would again become a widower with five children.  He then married Henrietta in 1861, and they would enjoy long years of happiness together before her death in 1889.
Of the significance of Ryle’s writing (tracts, addresses, books), Murray writes that they must be appreciated in their wider historical context. He states that at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were few popular writers in the Church of England.  Most of his books came about in the same way: Holiness in 1877, Old Paths in 1878, Practical Religion in 1879, Coming Events and Present Duties in 1879. All brought together material previously published as separate tracts. By 1888 it is said that between 200 and 300 tracts of various lengths had been published, with over 12 million issued. From his first tract at Helmingham in 1844, the primary intention was evangelistic and pastoral. He produced a large amount of writing in his difficult years at Helmingham. Murray writes that he could produce so much of enduring value, and that in the midst of many trials, is indication enough that he was himself being fed from rich sources. Ryle would become the vicar at Stradbroke in 1861.
In 1869, he would become a rural dean of Hoxne which involved a measure of oversight for twenty-five other parishes, and in February 1872 he was made an honorary canon of Norwich.
At age 63. Ryle would become the Bishop of Liverpool. Murray writes of challenges that Ryle faced in his leadership. For the sake of unity and better relationships with other Churchman, he urged toleration over what was not fundamental. He encouraged attendance at mixed gatherings such as Convocations and Church Congresses.
One of the greatest disappointments in his life, would be his son Herbert aligning with the opposition theologically. His father saw the strength and unity of the Church in a return to definite evangelical doctrines. Herbert saw the Church attaining peace and unity by the allowance of a broad doctrinal liberty. Murray writes that despite their differences, the bond between father and son had not failed, and that they would remain close.
Ryle was to express regret that he had not come to Liverpool as a younger man when he would have been able to do more. By the beginning of 1899 Ryle’s health was in evident decline. On January 8, 1899, he preached at St. Nathaniel’s on John 17:15. It would be his last time in that pulpit. Passing his 84th birthday on May 10, he would die on June 10.
The book includes appendices on extracts from Ryle and on son Herbert. Continue reading

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Book Reviews

Amy Carmichael by Iain MurrayAmy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Iain H. Murray. Banner of Truth. 192 pages. 2015.

I have read several fine books by Iain Murray, the most recent being a biography of John MacArthur (whose wife Patricia wrote the Foreword to this book). I also saw him speak on revival several years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed this short biography of Amy Carmichael, someone I was aware of, but did not know much about prior to reading this book.

Amy was born in 1867 in Ireland. She would meet Robert Wilson, who Murray writes gave Amy a closer knowledge of overseas missions. Amy left for Japan with the China Inland Mission in 1893, where she stayed fifteen months. Some of her experiences during this time would mark the rest of her life.

On October 11, 1895, she left Britain at the age of twenty-seven never to return. She moved to serve in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). She responded to an opening in the work of the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society in India. She would need to learn the Tamil language.

Murray writes of Amy meeting Thomas Walker, a clergyman of the Church of England, working with the Church Missionary Society in the Tinnevelly district of south India. The Walkers invited her to join them in Tinnevelly, to study the language. By the end of 1896 Amy was with the Walkers, beginning one of the strongest influences in her life.

Murray writes: “In 1900 Thomas Walker had decided that a disused Church Missionary Society mission station at a place thirty miles north of Cape Comorin—India’s southern point—would be a better and quieter site for the ordination classes he took for divinity students. This was Dohnavur, a ‘Christian’ village which he had first visited in 1886. The strength of Walker’s leadership in the early days at Dohnavur was vital but, before 1904 ended, Amy had to take on that role herself. Walkers left for England in December 1904.”

Carmichael’s most notable work, beginning in 1901, was with girls and young women, some of whom were saved from forced temple prostitution. By June 1904, seventeen children, six of them former temple children, were in Amy’s care, and even when the number was depleted by the death of three babies, Murray writes that it was clear that her evangelistic travels had to end.

To all the children Amy was known as ‘Amma’ (mother). The children came to nick-name her ‘the Hare’. She would use a tricycle to move even faster between the various buildings. Not a child went to sleep at night without a kiss from Amy.

Murray writes that Amy Carmichael’s life was one of times of refreshing and then of trials. In part she explained that demonic activity follows the work of the Holy Spirit.

Through the years of the First World War, and on into the 1920s, the work at Dohnavur grew, more land was bought, and by 1923 there were thirty nurseries, each with a mother for the children. By 1926 there was to be a boys’ compound with some seventy to eighty children. By the 1940s there were some 900 children and grown-ups, including between forty and fifty helpers. The hospital work grew to such an extent that a medical superintendent was needed, as well as three doctors.

Murray writes about Stephen Neill, who in 1939 would become Bishop of Tinnevelly. Neill didn’t adhere to the inerrancy of scripture. As a result, he was asked to leave by Amy.

At the age of sixty-three Amy broke her leg, dislocated an ankle and twisted her spine. After this time, her life would be spent very largely in her room. Through most of the years which followed she wrote a short daily message to the whole family with some scriptural truth and often bearing on the necessity of unity. Amy was a gifted writer who produced many books and hundreds of hymns and poems. Among the thirteen books Amy wrote after her accident, seven were on what it means to live with Christ in all the circumstances of trials of life.   Murray writes that in these she wrote not of her own experience but out of it.

A fall in her room in 1948 meant a virtual end of movement for the last two and a half years of her life. She turned 83 on December 16, 1950 and died on January 18, 1951. She was buried according to her instructions in the garden beyond her windows. It was ‘God’s Garden’, for here were buried the babies, children, and grown-ups who had gone before. There was to be no memorial stone.

Murray does address some possible concerns with Carmichael. One of them was in taking direction from a single verse of Scripture, rather than guidance from general scriptural principles and prayerful reflection.

Murray writes that two main features stand out both in Amy Carmichael’s life and in her writings. The first is the place of quietness in the life of the Christian. The second feature of her life was love.

Murray states that today, while rescue from temple prostitution in India is no longer needed, 15 million women in India are still living in slavery. As a shelter for needy children, Dohnavur continues its work, on the same principles with which it was founded, and is led entirely by Christians of Indian nationality. No appeal has ever been made for money, only for prayer, but many, through the years, have sent sacrificial gifts. Never has an unprotected child been refused for lack of funds: never has a patient needed to be turned away because he or she could not pay for medical help. You can find out more about the Fellowship and Amy Carmichael at the following sites:

 Prayer by Tim KellerPrayer Book Club

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Tammy and I are reading our fourth book since I graduated from seminary, one of Tim Keller’s most recent books. We’ll start by looking at the Introduction:

  • Recent writers on prayer tend to have one of two views on the subject. Most now emphasize prayer as a means to experience God’s love and to know oneness with him. They promise a life of peace and of continual resting in God. Other books, however, see the essence of prayer not as inward resting but as calling on
  • God to bring in his kingdom. Prayer is viewed as a wrestling match, often—or perhaps ordinarily—without a clear sense of God’s immediate presence.
  • What accounts for these two views—what we could call “communion-centered” and “kingdom-centered” prayer? One explanation is that they reflect people’s actual experience.
  • However, theological differences also play a role.
  • Which view of prayer is the better one? Is peaceful adoration or assertive supplication the ultimate form of prayer? That question assumes that the answer is completely either-or, which is unlikely.
  • Besides looking at the actual prayers of the Bible, we should consider also the Scripture’s theology of prayer—the reasons in God and in our created nature that human beings are able to pray.
  • Thus the Bible gives us theological support for both communion-centered and kingdom-centered prayer.
  • A little reflection will show us that these two kinds of prayer are neither opposites nor even discrete categories.
  • We may pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, but if we don’t enjoy God supremely with all our being, we are not truly honoring him as Lord.
  • This book will show that prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. These two concepts give us a definition of prayer and a set of tools for deepening our prayer lives.
  • The traditional forms of prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—are concrete practices as well as profound experiences.
  • We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.
  • Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality. These will not happen every time we pray, but each should be a major component of our prayer over the course of our lives.

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