Book Review Illusion

Posted by on Mar 31, 2012 in Book Reviews, Reviews

Book Review Illusion

Frank Peretti weaves an ingenious tale of loss and newfound joy with Illusion. Not since The Visitation have readers had such a thrilling journey of mystery and suspense. The story is set in beautiful Coeur D’Alene, Idaho—secluded from the rest of the world, allowing the characters even further secrecy. The plot follows the life of a man—Dane Collins—after the tragic death of his wife, Mandy. The mystery begins when Dane meets a young woman who has an uncanny similarity to his deceased wife. Despite the impossibility that the young woman could be anyone other than a complete stranger, Dane begins to notice personality quirks that make him wonder if he’s going crazy and begins to consider the possibility that it is more than just a coincidence.

Illusion gives the reader a chance to wonder “What if…?” What if death isn’t the end here on earth? What if our idea of time and space is wrong? What if the mercies of God can reach beyond our wildest expectations? Peretti’s gifts as a story-teller shine brightly in this stunning account of one man’s deep despair, shattered by a miracle so great it could only be classified as divine.

With the lines blurred between illusion and reality, Frank Peretti will leave his readers guessing till the end and astounded at the conclusion. It is the perfect display of how God can take a tragedy and make a miracle out of it. Illusion is a must read for fiction lovers of all ages.

Title: Illusion: A Novel Book Review Illusion

Author: Frank E. Peretti

Publisher: Howard Books (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Handlebar Marketing as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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II. A Detailed Description of Postmodernism from Stephen Wellum

Posted by on Mar 31, 2012 in The Gospel and the church, The Gospel and the Ministry

II. A Detailed Description of Postmodernism from Stephen Wellum

Part one of this series can be found here: “I. A Summary of Postmodernism from David Wells.”

This is part 2 of our 13-part series over “Postmodernism: the Air we Breathe.”  Today, we read a helpful, detailed description of postmodernism from Stephen Wellum.

20110512 0415 II. A Detailed Description of Postmodernism from Stephen Wellum

I have completed 4 courses under Dr. Wellum, 2 in my M.Div. and 2 in my Th.M.  I must say that he has a sincere, consistent passion to know God, and to make Him known.  He stands unashamedly on the inerrant Word of God as he preaches and teaches from its pages God the Son incarnate.  I appreciate Dr. Wellum’s willingness to stand and defend the faith once delivered to the Saints.  He has always shown me Christ-like kindness.  I’m indebted to his ministry, as are the Southern Baptists I serve as Pastor.  As a result, I asked Dr. Wellum 4 questions concerning Postmodernism in hope that he could help shed some light on the subject for us.  His answers are outstanding!  So much so, that there are many sentences he writes below that are quote-worthy. 

Dr. Wellum, thank you for participating in this interview.

Bio from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Professor of Christian Theology (1999); Editor, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

Dr. Wellum comes to Southern from Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary where he taught theology since 1996. He has also served as a senior pastor and interim pastor in South Dakota and Kentucky as well as a conference speaker at various engagements in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. Dr. Wellum has written numerous journal articles and book reviews for various publications including the Journal of the Evangelical Theological SocietySouthern Baptist Journal of Theology, and the Reformation and Revival Journal.

1. What is Postmodernism?

The term “postmodernism” has become somewhat of a buzzword today, at least for the last twenty years. It is used across the academic disciplines, primarily in the humanities and especially now in the theological disciplines including the study of hermeneutics. Interestingly in recent days, there are some who are now saying that “postmodernism” is on the way out.[1] Before we agree with that assessment it is necessary first to define clearly what we mean by the term, even though postmoderns strongly resist the notion that any description or definition of it can be given! Let us think of what postmodernism is in two ways.

First, in terms of the schematizing of western intellectual history, postmodernism is what comes after or post- “modernism.” Of course, this raises the important question: What precisely is “modernism” that “postmodernism” is reacting to? Generally speaking, “modernism” is best identified with the spirit of the Enlightenment, or the “age of reason.” Even here we have to be careful since “modernism” is not monolithic and it spans a long period of time, but there are some features of it which allow us to speak of “modernism” as an overall viewpoint.

From a Christian view, modernism reflects the Enlightenment spirit that man has come of age, thrown off the shackles of the “dark ages” (associated with the medieval era and primarily a theological interpretation of reality), and now made himself the ultimate starting point in how to determine the true, the good, and the beautiful apart from direct dependence upon the Christian God and his Word-revelation. Instead of attempting to ground all knowledge in God, the “age of reason” walks the road of human autonomy as it famously “turns to the human subject” as the ultimate starting point for human knowledge.

In this regard, modernism is often associated with the French philosopher, René Descartes, whose “first philosophy” was epistemology since he was concerned with how one knows what we know and thus the grounding of human knowledge. For a variety of reasons, he was concerned to justify his beliefs in order to become certain in regard to his knowledge. His epistemology is associated today with what is called foundationalism of the “classic” variety—a view which sought to provide justification for one’s beliefs by demonstrating how derived beliefs are grounded in what is basic or beyond dispute. By providing such a justification and evidence for one’s beliefs, an individual not only arrives at knowledge which is objective and universal but also free of doubt and uncertainty. Descartes believed that he could “peel off” pretty much everything – e.g. his previous beliefs, his place in history, and so on—in order to discover what he believed was bedrock. In fact, when Descartes followed this procedure, he discovered that his own existence as a thinker was most foundational and from this sure starting point (so he thought), he sought to build the house of knowledge and arrive at universal truth, step by step in a neutral, objective fashion.

This is not to say that all Enlightenment thinkers followed the exact same approach as Descartes. The Enlightenment was associated with two competing schools of epistemology—Continental Rationalism (René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz) and British Empiricism (e.g. John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume) who disagreed in how to obtain and justify truth claims. Yet, both schools had this in common: they were foundationalist in their approach and agreed with Descartes’ “turn to the subject” by making the individual the ultimate starting point in the pursuit of knowledge. In this way, the Enlightenment spirit, as represented by numerous thinkers, took the path of human autonomy as they sought to discover universal, objective truth apart from dependence upon God and his revelation.

Another way of stating this approach is that the Enlightenment believed, in starting with the human subject, they could discover a unified field of knowledge, what is often called a “metanarrative,” i.e., a grand theory or explanatory scheme which could ultimately explain reality (metaphysics) and provide the grounds for the good life (ethics). Examples of these “grand stories” modernism produced are well known: Idealism, Marxism, Darwinism, etc. Each of these “metanarratives” served as universal explanations—“worldviews”—by which all life was viewed and interpreted. In this way, “modernism” affirmed that by human reason alone and by following the correct methodology, one could obtain a “God’s eye viewpoint” of the world which is simply another way of saying that humans could gain objective, universal truth and thus achieve certainty in their thinking. It is this project, as epitomized by the Enlightenment, i.e., the pursuit of universal, objective truth, that postmodernism rejects, hence the use of the prefix “post” in their self-identification.

Second, in order to explain what postmodernism is we must say more than it merely comes after “modernism” in western history. That is no doubt true, but in postmodernism’s rejection of the Enlightenment project, we gain a better understanding of what precisely it is. It is best to view postmodernism in all of its varieties as more of a “mindset” or “mood” which denies the possibility of gaining a “God’s eye viewpoint” or being able to describe the world in one, authoritative way. This is why the famous statement by Jean-François Lyotard nicely captures the mindset and mood of postmodernism: “incredulity toward metanarratives.” Postmoderns, in rejecting “modernism,” believe that the Enlightenment ideals of rationality, individual autonomy, and the ability to gain universal, objective truth are simply not possible. It is important to note from a Christian view that in their rejection of modernism they do not reject the Enlightenment’s “turn to the subject.” Instead, in a more epistemologically self-conscious way, they start with modernism’s starting point and then conclude either that there is no universal truth at all (often tied to a naturalistic understanding of the world), or there is objective truth but we have no way of accessing it or justifying that we know it. In fact, given our human finitude and situatedness, for us to think that we have the Truth, so they argue, usually leads to nothing but disaster and tyranny as the group who thinks they have the Truth attempts to dominate over the “other” which is simply reflective of our own myopic, ethnocentric, intolerant attitudes. In this way postmodernism, in contrast to modernism, affirms that finite, human subjects cannot achieve a unified field of knowledge since reason is rooted in shared experience and shared logical categories, not universal ones. That is why humans can never achieve a universal or “God’s eye viewpoint;” they can never say in areas of ultimate concern, “This is the way it is,” since all human beings are limited in our understanding, rooted in a particular time and place in history, and thus unable to grasp of the whole, assuming that there is even a whole to grasp.

What, then, is postmodernism? It is the mindset and mood that argues that there is no one way either to gain a universal perspective or to demonstrate that one has it. It denies that Truth is universal and objective, rather truth is always perspectival, provisional, incomplete, and what a community most values. It is at this point that for all the legitimate insights of postmodernism regarding our finitude, social location, and so on, it is in direct contrast with Christianity since at the heart of Christian theology is the affirmation (to paraphrase the words of Francis Schaeffer) that the Triune sovereign-personal God is there who has not remained silent but who has spoken to us so that we may know truly and objectively—especially in areas of ultimate concern—but not exhaustively. In other words, we as image-bearers and creatures of God can have a “God’s eye viewpoint” (objective and universal)—not exhaustively as God has it—but as finite, even fallen creatures who are dependent upon his spoken Word. At the end of the day, Christian theology stands against both modernism and postmodernism (even though both of them may have legitimate insights at certain points) as two expressions of idolatrous attempts to de-throne God and to set the human subject in an autonomous direction which leads to a denial of the truth and disastrous consequences, especially vis-à-vis the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Is it important for the church to understand Postmodernism today? Why?

In my view it is vitally important that the church understand postmodernism for at least two reasons. First, the church must always seek to understand their times rightly in order to minister the gospel effectively. Postmodernism as a mindset is everywhere around us, whether people self-consciously think they are postmodern or not (and most people do not!). The loss of truth in our larger society is literally the “air we breathe.” In poll after poll, people in our society do not think there is a basis for Truth whether that is in the philosophical, religious, or moral realm. No doubt, people do not consistently live in light of these beliefs and no doubt one can argue that the mindset of postmodernism is ultimately self-refuting, but it still is a fact that everywhere around us the ethos of postmodernism runs deep. As many have documented (e.g. Charles Taylor, Peter Berger, Os Guinness, David Wells), the entire plausibility structures of our society have changed so that a vast majority of people believe there is no longer a basis for universal, objective truth, at least in the ultimate questions of life. That is why statements that postmodernism is coming to an end are somewhat overblown. Until something else takes it place, the mindset continues with disastrous consequences both individually and corporately in terms of our political life together. In terms of the latter, for the last half a century we have sought to build a society on the mood and mindset of postmodernism as represented by multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and the outright acceptance of philosophical and religious pluralism, and we are now seeing the frightening consequences of such actions. The western world is now in the midst of its own implosion—economically, politically, culturally, morally, spiritually—and much of this is due false ideas bearing bad fruit. The “turn to the subject” in the Enlightenment and its rejection of the grounding to human knowledge in the God who is there and who is not silent, and the extension of the Enlightenment spirit to the postmodernism mindset has left us in the dust of death that is now settling everywhere around us. Ironically and sadly, postmodernism in all of its claims to humility and its rejection of what it perceived was the hubris, dogmatism, and totalizing metanarratives of modernism, has simply replaced modernism with its own “absolute” creed, namely, that everyone must view the world in their way and no other! As Christians we need profoundly to understand what is happening around us, to analyze it correctly, so that we are able more effectively to minister the gospel in the day and age we live.

Second, building on the first point, we must not only understand postmodernism to grasp rightly the day and age we minister in, but we must also realize that this mindset is the great battle the church faces in proclaiming the gospel to a watching world. Martin Luther is famously quoted by saying that the church does not faithfully minister the gospel unless she proclaims the truth of God precisely at the point where the world and the devil are presently attacking. In church history this statement is borne out. In the Patristic era, the great battle of the day was over the doctrines of the Trinity, Christology, and so on, and the church faithfully proclaimed and defended the gospel at these points. In the Reformation era, the church stood for the full authority of Scripture and the great doctrine of justification by grace through faith. If she had stood for every other point of the truth of God’s Word other than those points which were under attack, she would not have been faithful. In our day, we must ask ourselves the simple question: Where today is the world and the devil most attacking? I am certainly not a prophet but I am convinced that the great battle of our day centers precisely at the point where the mood and mindset of postmodernism prevails, namely in the dismissal of the very plausibility of having Truth.

Yet, as noted above, it is at this point that postmodernism and the gospel most directly clash. If the gospel is anything, it is a glorious message that is rooted in an incredible claim to be the Truth. The Scripture presents us with a grand metanarrative which though not exhaustive in its content, truly gives us a “God’s eye viewpoint.” It is precisely because the true and living Triune God is there and he has spoken to us that Truth is possible and actual. In our Lord Jesus Christ we have one who is nothing less than “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The gospel which proclaims our human need and the depth of our depravity before the Judge of the universe, including the solution to our problem in entire cross-work of our Lord Jesus is the Truth. However, it is at this point that our gospel proclamation and the entire Christian faith stands in direct opposition to the thought and mindset of our day. And unless we understand this, we will be tempted to fight other battles which may be important but are not the central battle, and we will be tempted to relativize the gospel claim and to deny its exclusive nature. The church must be aware of this battle and fight it head on. We must not be caught off guard. We must prepare our people to stand in the gap and to use gospel weapons to fight this battle with integrity, courage, and gospel conviction, otherwise we will not be transformed in the renewing of our mind but instead be conformed to the patterns and spirit of the age (see Rom 12:1-2).

3. Concerning Postmodernism, what issues face the church today? What are some potential answers to these issues?

Postmodernism raises many issues for the church but let me give three issues. First, postmodernism by its very mindset leads to an undercutting of the truth claims of the gospel. In so doing, postmodernism does not merely reject this or that truth of the Christian faith, rather it rejects the entire metanarrative, theology, and worldview. Christian theology is a seamless whole which is rooted and grounded in the Triune God. At the heart of the Christian position is a truth claim of astounding proportions and it is this ultimate truth claim which postmodernism seeks to undercut. The church in response must not only disciple the people of God to know their times, to know their Bibles, and to know sound theology, but she must also engage in apologetics and worldview evangelism. We no longer live in a society which takes Christianity as a default position. Our society is very pluralistic which leads many to throw up their hands and to say that no one position is true. We as the church need to learn anew how to minister the gospel in a society that is philosophically and religiously diverse, that believes no one view is true, and sees in us people who understand their times and effectively minister God’s Word in truth, power, and conviction.

Second, in our preaching and living of the gospel we must clearly articulate that the gospel is not something merely to re-orient our thinking and that which is subjectively true “for me” and for “my community.” Rather, we must proclaim that the gospel is Truth and that the realities of the gospel are objective realities which demand our attention, obedience, devotion, and our entire lives and commitment. Too often in a postmodern society the gospel is only preached to meet our felt needs and not that which is true. This also entails that our lives must live out what we proclaim. In a world and society that is so cynical in regard to truth, it is not enough to say that we believe it; we must also demonstrate it in our churches, families, and everyday life. We must walk the talk otherwise we will sound like clanging gongs in the ears of those around us.

Third, we will have to learn how to pick up the pieces from the consequences of the mood and mindset of postmodernism. In evangelical circles, Francis Schaeffer was famous for articulating the phrase, “ideas have consequences.” In the case of postmodernism, which is certainly a whole set of ideas and a worldview perspective, the consequences of it are devastating. As people begin to live out in their daily lives a commitment that there is no ultimate grounding for the true, the good, and the beautiful, we should not be surprised the effects of this show up in the breakdown of families, in how we treat one another, in the loss of human rights, the loss of human dignity, and so on. The church will no doubt have to pick up the pieces not only in terms of people within the church seeking to teach, disciple, and demonstrate who to know and live out the truth of the gospel in every aspect of their lives, but also to help people outside the church. If we do not do it, who will?

4. Who are some theologians that have faithfully interacted with postmodernism that you would recommend? What are some books our readers might find helpful for understanding how Christians should respond to postmodernism?

A number of people come to mind who are helpful in thinking through postmodernism and how to respond to it. In biblical and theological studies the work of D. A. Carson is helpful, especially his The Gagging of God. I have also found the work of David Wells to be penetrating in its analysis and to point the way forward. In this regard his series of books analyzing the effects of postmodernism on theology are very helpful: 1. No Place for Truth; 2. God in the Wasteland; 3. Losing our Virtue; 4. Above all Earthly Powers. In terms of hermeneutics, I would highly recommend Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in this Text? In that work, Vanhoozer not only gives you a sense of where hermeneutical thought is, but how to respond to it as a Christian theologian. In regard to apologetics, I am convinced that a presuppositional approach as represented by people like Cornelius Van Til and his contemporary defenders such as the late Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Scott Oliphint, and others is the best way to engage our society in worldview evangelism and defense of the faith. I also like Part 1 of Tim Keller, The Reason for God, who helps the reader penetrate the mindset of postmodern thought as it shows itself practically in everyday life. In academic philosophy, many of the works of Alvin Plantinga are also helpful in thinking through the epistemological issues at stake, especially his Warrant trilogy and his Warranted Christian Belief.

Articles and Books from Dr. Wellum

1. “Baptism and the Relationship Between the Covenants” (Scroll Down for this article online) in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ

2. “Postconservatism, Biblical Authority, and Recent Proposals for Re-Doing Evangelical Theology: A Critical Analysis” in Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times

3. “The Inerrancy of Scripture” in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity

4. “The Deity of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels” and “The Deity of Christ in the Apostolic Witness” in The Deity of Christ (Theology in Community)

5. Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical Theological Understanding of the Covenants


Resources from Dr. Wellum Available Online

1. “Debating the Historicity of Adam: Does it Matter?”

2. “Reflections on the Great Commission”

3. “Learning from the Puritans”

4. “Reflections on the Importance of Galatians Today”

5. “Thinking Biblically and Theologically about Eschatology”

6. “Reflecting upon the ‘Theological Interpretation of Scripture’”

7. “John Calvin: Reflecting upon One of God’s Gifts to the Church”

8. “The Urgent Need for a Theological Anthropology Today”

9. “Preaching and Teaching the Parables of Jesus”

10. “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness to Southern Seminary”

11. “Articulating, Defending, and Proclaiming Christ our Substitute”

12. “Reflecting on our Christian Responsibility to the State”

13. “Divine sovereignty-omniscience inerrancy, and open theism: An Evaluation”

14. “Reflecting on the Kingdom of God”

15. “Implications of the Doctrines of Grace – Part 1 (MP3)”

16. “Implications of the Doctrines of Grace – Part 2 (MP3)”

17. “The Openness of God: A Critical Assessment”

18. “Panel Discussion – A New Kind of Christianity? – Brian McLaren Recasts the Gospel – Mohler, Hamilton, Ware, Wellum, and Wills (MP3)”

19. “Christ’s Resurrection and Ours (1 Corinthians 15)”

20. “Preaching and Teaching the Parables of Jesus”

21. “Reading and Applying the Book of Exodus Today”

22. “Baptism and the Relationship Between the Covenants”

23. “Baptism and Crucicentrism” Interview (MP3)

24. 25 Audio Sermons at SermonAudio (MP3)

25. “The Means of Grace: Baptism”

 

Future posts in this series:

 

III. What is postmodernism in Layman’s terms?

 

IV. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Academia?

 

V. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Media?

 

VI. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Urban Settings?

 

VII. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Rural Settings?

 

VIII. What are some examples of Postmodernism in the Church?

 

IX. How do we respond to Postmodernism in Academia?

 

X. How do we respond to Postmodernism in Media?

 

XI. How do we reach Postmoderns in Urban Settings?

 

XII. How do we reach Postmoderns in Rural Settings?

 

XIII. How do we respond to Postmodernism in the Church?

 

XIV. A Summary or our Conclusions



[1] See for example, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/08/23/postmodernism-dead-but-not-gone/

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I. A Summary of Postmodernism from David Wells

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 in The Gospel and the church, The Gospel and the Ministry

I. A Summary of Postmodernism from David Wells

This is the beginning of a 13 part series on the subject of “Postmodernism: the Air we Breathe.”  Today, we learn from Dr. David Wells.

(David Wells Interview)

 

david wells I. A Summary of Postmodernism from David Wells

Biography (From The Resurgence):

Dr. David F. Wells is a distinguished senior research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and conferences such as the Desiring God National Conference.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Wells is involved with a number of ministries. He serves on the board of the Rafiki Foundation, whose goal is to establish orphanages and schools in 10 African countries in order to raise and train orphans within a Christian framework. Rafiki’s hope is that the next generation of leaders for these countries will come from their orphanages. Dr. Wells travels to Africa annually to visit these orphanages. For a number of years, he was a member of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, its theology working group and its planning committee for the World Congress that was held in Manila in 1989. For many years, he has worked to provide theological education and basic preaching tools for Third World pastors.

He has also authored several articles and books (a list is included at the end of the interview).

1. What is Postmodernism?

Postmodernity is almost what anyone wants to say it is!  And the word itself hints at some of the conceit that often is a part of the definition. People are beyond the modern?  Neo, a character in A New Kind of Christian, one who sounds very much like Brian McLaren himself, adds a whole series of other “posts”: postmoderns are postconquest, postmechanical, postanalytical, postsecular, postobjectivist, postindividualistic, postProtestant and so forth.  But let us not indulge in fantasies.

Postmodernity is the mood that now hangs over the most highly modernized societies of the West.  In part, it expresses its disappointment that so many of the promises that the Enlightenment made about life that have proved false, most importantly the promise of progress.  The outward fabric of life, suffused with technology, is indeed progressing but the human spirit is not.  That promise was a fraud. 

But in part the postmodern is also the mood of the rich progeny, the children of affluence.  And let us not kid ourselves: we are affluent.  It is the mood that has gripped more of those in their teens and twenties than those who are older.  It is, therefore, a generational mood, too.  And right at its heart is what I have called the “autonomous self.”  That is, in its purest from, a self free from the past, from conventions, moral norms, social expectations, often from God and, in fact, from objective reality.  Everything outside the self is irrelevant to that self.

That may make sense at the level of self-reflection but it collides with the real world any time we run into an airplane schedule, or do our taxes, or look hopefully for a job in a corporation or in government, in the F.B.I. or in the armed services.

2. Is it important for the church to understand Postmodernism today?  Why?

It is.  It is important because this mood refracts the truth of the gospel.  In fact, the gospel is often misheard or discounted because of this posture.  It is important, therefore, to be able to understand the core assumptions and challenge them rather than capitulating to them in hopes of being “successful.”

3. Concerning Postmodernism, what issues face the church today? What are some potential answers to these issues?

The postmodern mood is mostly generationally located.  This is what has fueled the Emergent experimentation with doing church.  Emergents are catering to postmodern likes and tastes and acceding to all of the core, cultural assumptions.  The outcome will be a new kind of liberalism.  Already, the Pied Pipers of the movement, like McLaren, have softened the traditional sexual ethic or, like Rob Bell, the traditional doctrine of judgment and hell.  The biblical teaching on the “age to come” which is already penetrating “this age” evaporates and the whole preoccupation becomes this age, time, and culture.  The upside is a renewed sensitivity to the earth and to injustice but the downside is that this sensitivity begins to look no different from any other politically correct posture.  And this is Christianity?

4. What are some books our readers might find helpful for understanding how Christians should respond to postmodernism?

I don’t think evangelicals have really distinguished themselves in understanding this cultural mood.  Just this week I read James Livingston’s The World Turned Inside Out:  American Thought and Culture at the End of the 20th Century (2010).  It looks at the way the American cultural landscape changed in the last quarter of last century.  The book is irreverent and unsympathetic to Christian faith.  But it brims over with cultural insights.  Why hasn’t a literature emerged on the other side of the religious equation, one that is as insightful culturally but is written from within Christian assumptions?  Still, we are not entirely bereft.  Gene Veith’s Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture was a good start.  There are some useful essays in Millard Erickson’s Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation to Postmodern Times and David Dockery’s The Challenge of PostmodernismBut, as one might expect, for every Veith there is a Stan Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism or a Craig Detweiler A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Popular Culture which seem too anxious to get to the point, as soon as possible, when the Church’s distinctive, theological voice will be lost.

Dr. Wells, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview.  I appreciate your ministry immensely.

Resources available from Dr. Wells:

1. The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World

2. Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision

3. No Place for Truth: Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology

4. God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams

5. Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World

6. And several other books.

7. Free Audio, Interviews, and Articles from Dr. Wells (69 links from Mongergism.com)

Future posts in this series:

II. A detailed description of postmodernism from Stephen Wellum.

III. What is postmodernism in Layman’s terms?

IV. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Academia?

V. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Media?

VI. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Urban Settings?

VII. What are some examples of Postmodernism in Rural Settings?

VIII. What are some examples of Postmodernism in the Church?

IX. How do we respond to Postmodernism in Academia?

X. How do we respond to Postmodernism in Media?

XI. How do we reach Postmoderns in Urban Settings?

XII. How do we reach Postmoderns in Rural Settings?

XIII. How do we respond to Postmodernism in the Church?

XIV. A Summary or our Conclusions

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5 Attitudes for Christians in a Political Season

Posted by on Mar 29, 2012 in Contemporary Culture, Evangelism and Culture, What We Write About

So another Presidential campaign season is upon us and Christians are engaged at all levels and on both sides of most debates. As a recovering political junkie, I realize how easily my time, my energy, my attitudes can get sucked into the life force of Presidential politics. So here are a few attitudes that we might consider as we engage:

1) An Attitude of Prayerfulness for the Politicians (1 Timothy 2:2)

This is hardest to do and least obeyed command when it comes to our political leaders. Its easier to fire off a nasty email/tweet/Facebook post/blog instead of actually committing to daily prayer for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not. I must admit that I’m consistently having to repent of this disobedience.

We should pray for President Obama and his wife and children during a grueling season. We should pray for the Republican opponent and his family during a grueling season. We should pray for Congressman and Governors and Mayors and local school board officials, etc. And we should not just pray with a grudging, “These guys are idiots, boy do they need prayer” mentality, but genuinely pray with concern for their well-being.

2) An Attitude of Humility (James 4:6)

Politics feeds sharp debate among people who disagree on issues. These are deeply held beliefs. On certain issues, we feel, genuinely, that we are right and must stand up. But we can and should do that with humility. We’re not right on every single argument. We don’t know everything. Despite how we talk, we probably wouldn’t do better than the guys in office. We’re sinners like they are. And God loves them as much as He loves us. So as we engage, let’s try to avoid the kind of chest-beating rhetoric that tempts those who seek power.

3) An Attitude of Faith (2 Timothy 1:7)

Let’s be honest. Much of what drives elections is fear. Both sides gin up fear about the other side. All you have to do is read some of the mailers you get. “Did you know that my opponent was in favor of ___ or was supported by ___ or hangs out with ___? Vote for me. I don’t do that.” Politics is not so much about the good qualities of the candiate, its about “driving up the negatives” of the other guy. Fear also drives much of the programming on cable news programs and talk radio.

That’s not to belittle or dismiss the real fears we might have. There is evil in the world. There are concerns about our nation and about the world. But Christians can’t and shouldn’t be driven by fear, but by confidence in the sovereignty of God. Christians should live with an eye to the next world, Heaven. That doesn’t mean we should ignore injustice or do nothing, but we shouldn’t be driven by fear, but by mission.

4) An Attitude of Love (Ephesians 4:15)

It’s all too tempting to engage politics and check our Christianity at the door. We justify snarkiness and insults and half-truths and gossip about folks with whom we disagree. We justify it because “we’re on the right side.” But even if we are on the right side of an issue, that doesn’t give us the right to treat our enemies with disdain. I’m amazed at the stuff Christians post on Facebook about people with whom they disagree. This isn’t right. We can be stand firm in our beliefs and still show respect. Jesus’s ministry was all about the balance of grace and truth (John 1:14). In fact, I think we gain an audience when we demonstrate clear, logical, fair, reasoned arguments, rather than falling prey to the nasty rhetoric that passes for political dialoge these days.

5) An Attitude of Justice

What should drive our political engagement is the mission of God. This means we should be discerning about issues we engage, rather than accepting the entire matrix of issues offered by “our side.” Christians should fight for justice, whether that’s defending the unborn, defending the poor, defending righteousness. We may differ on solutions, etc, but we should be more engaged in issues than personalities. Sometimes we approach politics like we do American Idol. We grew to love our favorite personality and defend them to the death, at the expense of the issues. Or we oppose a politician to the death, dismissing the areas where they may be good on some issues. Perhaps Christians should take a more ala carte approach, speaking out on a few important issues and voting accordingly.

In Summary: Above all, Christians must first remember that they are Christians, that even in the rough-and-tumble arena of politics, we represent Christ.

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Book Review How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture

Posted by on Mar 28, 2012 in Book Reviews, Reviews

Book Review How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture

Recent years have seen been an increase in quality books addressing the Christ-centered nature of Scripture. Following in this tradition, Dr. Michael Williams wrote How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens. Written in the tradition of the best-selling How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth series, this book aims to help readers to read the Bible through “Jesus lens” which will help Christians to “keep our reading, understanding, teaching, and preaching properly focused on God’s grand redemptive that centers on his own Son” (9). The Jesus lens “ensures that our exegetical bowling balls stay within the lane and don’t go crashing over into areas where they can cause a lot of damage to the faith of believers and to our ability to use the Bible fruitfully in our service to God” (9).

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus lens is very well-written and easy to use. Each chapter contains some introductory comments on the book, a memory verse, the “Jesus lens”, explores the contemporary implications, and then concludes by giving hook questions. This approach is similar to that of God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgment A Biblical Theology, by Dr. James H. Hamilton Jr. While Hamilton’s book is more academic in nature, Williams’ serves as a lay-level introduction to how each book of the Bible points readers to Christ.

Christians who struggle to understand the Christ-centered nature of Leviticus, 1 & 2 Samuel, Kings and Chronicles will find How to Read the Bible through the Jesus lens a helpful companion on how to understand the way in which Christ is at the heart of every book in His Word. Williams’ explanation of Leviticus will help Christians struggling to read through the entire Bible as he points out that the sacrifices in Leviticus, “With their emphases on acknowledging, celebrating, deepening, and restoring our relationship with god, reveal aspects of a coming ultimate sacrifice when we view them through the lens of Christ” (22).

While the book seeks to explain the Scriptures and does so faithfully, its greatest strength is Dr. Williams’ pastoral approach. While over the years I’ve read many books in this genre, as I read this book I felt I was being shepherded to better understand the person and work of Christ in all of Scripture. At various points in my Christian life, like many Christians, I’ve struggled to read through Leviticus and other parts of the Bible, but during such times How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens will be a resource I turn to in my reading of the Word to better understand how Jesus is at its center.

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens is a good introduction to the Christ-centered nature of Scripture. For further study one should consider checking out Hamilton’s God’s Glory In Salvation through Judgment or any of the work by Graeme Goldsworthy. This book would make a great gift for the new Christian, and also a great resource for the advanced Bible student to get a quick overview of the Christ-centered nature of Scripture. Whether or not we are new or mature Christians, we would all do well to read How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens and learn how Christ is at the center of redemptive history and the Word of God.

Title: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture Book Review How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ Focused Reading of Scripture

Author: Michael Williams

Publisher: Zondervan (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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