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Sunday, August 7, 2011

How bad is YOUR preacher?



A Book Review on
Why Johnny Can’t Preach
By T. David Gordon


Is there anyone out there that has a pastor who they believe is a good preacher?  I’m not talking about being a good pastor, but specifically, a good preacher.  You can be a good pastor, but be lousy at preaching.  You can also be a great preacher, but be a lousy pastor.

I’ve known pastors who hated to visit the shut-ins, or would always find an excuse not to share in gospel reach-outs.  Some pastors have been known to be terrible at relationships.  I’ve even met one that was later to be found in a grave sin.  We would certainly not agree that these were good pastors.

Being a good pastor is something that every church needs, but being a good preacher is what every church wants.  What most pulpit committees fail to consider when they search for a pastor is whether the candidate is capable of not only interpreting Scripture, but being fully capable of formulating a message that can captivate the hearer.  A pastor must not only be a leader, but must be capable of instilling that sense of leadership.

God’s Word can be spoken standing on top of a milk crate to a public crowd, or it can be tattooed on the skin of scantily clad women.  The message is the same, but the changing medium (how the message is delivered) has the effect of nullifying that message, or otherwise eliminating the force of the message.

Gordon’s treatise is largely an anecdotal and subjective examination.  I say that with much reservation, because I don’t wish anyone reading this to think that Gordon is off his mark.  To the contrary, Gordon hits the proverbial nail on the head repeatedly, sinking the nail deep into the wood of mediocrity that we have come to expect from our preachers.

I think that preaching is a protected vocation, in that those who criticize Johnny the Preacher, do so against the majority of those who protect their preacher at all costs.  Preachers have become protected largely because they are viewed as “God’s man” for the job, and if you criticize the Preacher, it is believed that you criticize God, Himself.

Yet, God clearly outlines that there are qualifications for those who would pastor a church.  Some of those qualifications deal specifically in whether or not you get a mediocre “Man of God” or someone who is dedicated to furthering God’s Kingdom.  Of course, being a good preacher is not mentioned as one of the criteria in I Timothy 3.  But preaching was not necessarily a specific part of the “bishops” job in the first few centuries of Christianity.  However, the Bible is clear that Preaching the Word is not to be dealt with lightly, and those who do so carry a larger burden of responsibility.

Preaching has developed over the centuries, and is now indubitably a functional part of the Christian church and preacher.  The question that necessarily arises is:  “How important is it to have a good Preacher in your church?”  If you want Gordon to answer this question with reference to the Bible, you won’t find that answer fully explored here.  As I stated, this book derives its foundation from anecdotal and subjective examination.  This is regrettable, because there is plenty of solid Biblical material, particularly in Isaiah and Jeremiah, where a Bible student could learn that the Pastor is to be the Shepherd of God’s local flocks, and because of a lack of teaching, the people did not even know the basics of their faith.

The Old Testament taught that “without a vision, the people perish”, (Proverbs 29:18) and the sense of this verse is that the people perish because they are naked; and the nakedness is a lack of knowledge and performance of God’s law.  What an important job the pastor has in instilling the importance of God’s Word in the life of his listeners.

Where Gordon does excel is in his insight of some of the things that currently plague the Church.  For example, he outlines how it is that much of the Church is enamored with certain mind-sets, which he refers to as the “Four Failures.”  In this, he gives warnings of the traps that Christian churches can fall in to, such as Galatianism.

Unfortunately, he utterly fails in his examination of what he refers to as the “Culture War.”  He paints it as a total misperception of what Americans can accomplish, and what they should accomplish, extolling the failed virtues of socialism.  In reality, the Culture Wars should be framed about what Christians should want from Government, and that is what we should fight for:  not to coerce others, but to govern ourselves.

I would recommend this book to those who need encouragement in finding a preacher, or to those who are preaching and have lost (or perhaps never found) their way in the pulpit.  The anecdotal information contained in this book is impressive and provoking, and will leave you with a sense of where we need to go to with our preachers and preaching.

This comment from Lloyd-George, British prime minister during the First World War, shows us the importance of speaking God’s Word, especially at opportune times:  “When the chariot of humanity gets stuck…nothing will lift it out except great preaching that goes straight to the mind and the heart.  There is nothing in this case that will save the world but what was once called, ‘the foolishness of preaching.’ ”

For those who are looking for a thorough, biblically oriented approach, I would recommend W. A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors, which not only gives a great outlook for the job of the preacher, but gives a thorough view of the characteristics of a good pastor/orator.  However, the main difference between Criswell’s approach and Gordon’s is that Criswell’s approach is purely mechanical, and assumes that the preacher’s heart is already melted in God’s hand.  On the other hand, Gordon assumes that preachers are in varying stages of relationship with God, some perhaps completely out of fellowship, and others simply ignorant of what God expects of them.

In any event, I wish and pray the best for you.  Above all, I pray that if you are searching for a means of preaching quality sermons for your hearers, that your motivation is pure, and that your results are God’s.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Worship includes singing TO God, not to the pew-sitters

                  Book Review of
What is Worship Music,
By Paul S. Jones


I purchased this not realizing that it was not a full-length book.  It’s actually a pamphlet in a series called “Basics of the Faith”, by Paul S. Jones.  It’s a primer on the basics of worship music.  Without the end notes, this booklet is 38 pages, but they are packed with solid Biblical reasoning and references.

Jones establishes through Biblical references how worship music is essentially nothing more than prayer, or preaching/teaching put to music.  Whereas prayer is typically one person speaking praises to God, hymn music is a means for the people, as a whole, praying to God collectively as one.

As Jones says, “Any communication to God (verbal or nonverbal, spoken, sung, written, or thought) is prayer.”  This distinction is important, especially in light of today’s contemporary worship services where much of the “communication” that takes place in today’s churches is not directed toward God, but toward the pew-sitter, in the form of entertainment.

Jones goes on to say: “…the rise of music as entertainment within the church undoubtedly contributes to…” a false understanding of the purpose of worship music.  Jones argues that if we understood church music properly, we would understand that worship music is nothing more than praying to God.  This is why he then boldly asks, “How many spoken prayers end with applause…?  It’s a rhetorical question, because it’s clear that you could attend church all your life, and never hear applause for a prayer.

Yet in a plurality of churches in America today, it is uncommon to NOT hear clapping and applause for music performed in worship services.  That’s because the people incorrectly assess worship song and singing to be a lower-tiered religious exercise.  Jones clearly shows that worship in song is no different than prayer, or preaching, or teaching, because each of these activities is speaking to God what we have learned, or asking His favors, or glorifying who He is.

When we pray, or listen to a sermon, it is incumbent upon us to engage the words mentally, so that we properly immerse our hearts in the doctrine that is being presented.  The same is true of worship music, or attending a Sunday School class.  This is why Paul admonishes us: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”

The bulk of today’s improper worship music arises from a singular focus of today’s churches on attracting new members.  As Jones puts it, “Another mistaken notion is that worship music’s purpose is to attract the unsaved, and then the teaching ministry will take care of the rest.”

I heartily recommend this little booklet, as an excellent primer on worship music.  Other books that go into greater depth are noted in the end notes, but I would additionally recommend Tim Fisher’s book,  The Battle for Christian Music.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Before anyone can critique Timothy Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods, they must first define and acknowledge a Biblical definition of idolatry.  Most people rightly understand that idolatry is what we learned in Sunday School, where people made gods from wood, or gold, or some other earthly material, and then sought favors and bestowed honors and rituals upon these inanimate objects.

When my pastor first introduced me to this book as a study, I was quick to reject its primary thesis as Biblically untenable.  In fact, I even wrote my own thesis in rejection of Keller’s book, and sent it to my pastor.  He graciously offered a few counter points, and left it at that.

Now, after more than a year, I finally went back to the book, fully intending to understand who was right – me or Keller.  So, I forced my preconceptions to the background of my thought, and caused myself to question my own understanding.  I needed the truth, and if my own preconceptions were wrong, the only way I could know the truth was to assume that I was hugely ignorant.

Now, after several weeks of study, I can honestly say that I was hugely ignorant.  Keller was most definitively correct.  It is very true, that ANYTHING can become an idol.  I suppose that part of my entrenched ignorance was due to my perception of Keller’s theological position as a closeted leader of the emergent movement.  When you think the worst of people, you seldom give them props for anything.

We can argue all we want regarding whether my understanding of Keller’s position in the emergent movement is true or not, but this review deals specifically with Keller’s promotion of idolatry as being ANYTHING that takes the place of God.  In reading the Ten Commandments, we read the first commandment stating that, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

This is not the 2nd commandment which forbids idolatry, but we must remember that the Ten Commandments can be understood as two commandments, as instructed by Jesus:  “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

When you view the Ten Commandments, you notice that they deal primarily with two entities: God, and everyone else.  The first 4 deal specifically with God, and how we are to view Him, and respect Him, and worship Him, and love Him, etc.  The last 6 deal with how we are to view everyone else, and respect them, and love them.

Notice that God says that we are to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind.  This is what the first 4 commandments tell us.  The last 6 tell us that we must love our neighbors as ourselves.  Keller puts these two commandments into perspective by outlining the proper relationship that we need to have with God, not by denying all other relationships, but by keeping God in a proper perspective in our lives.

Keller shares from many perspectives how people take and place something or someone above God in meaning and care.  He shows us that when we do this that we take God out of our place in our hearts and souls and minds, and allow something else to take precedence.  This is why Jesus says, “For where your Treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)  Do you want to know what has your heart?  Look at what you treasure the most.

Basically, Keller introduces the concept of virtual idols.  In the introduction, he asks: “What is an idol?  It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” 

Keller shows us how it is that men take anything that can capture our hearts, and how we then set it up as a counterfeit to God.  The whole purpose of the book is summed up in the subtitle: “The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters.”

If you want a better understanding of what you view as important, and whether or not you are placing that as superior to God, then I highly recommend this book.  It will give you much food for thought, and guide you in looking at those things that you value.  It caused me to stop and view just where I placed God in my life, and to make some corrective moves to keep God first.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Social Justice with a Spiritual Jacket

                                                                         
In any literary undertaking, the premise of the book must be set out fairly soon, perhaps within the first dozen or so pages.  True to this format, Keller satisfies our curiosities.  He does so in the introduction to the book, where he begins by answering the questions that his friends and associates have asked him, “Who are you writing this for?” and, “How did you come to be interested in the subject of justice?” (pg x)  It is these questions that become the main subject of the book, and on which this review will consider.

As is the case with the church today, there has been much concern over the subject of social justice throughout her history.  Keller does an admirable job in showing us, through the Bible, how God’s people were to render justice, most specifically to the disadvantaged of their own nation.  However, he quickly takes those verses to bring us into the controversy that the church has reached in the debate over the concept of “Social Justice.”

And, indeed, there is a controversy over this subject between conservatives on the one side, and the more liberal wing of the church on the other side.  Almost immediately, many will jump to Keller’s defense as a modern-day conservative, evangelical.  Yet, in spite of Keller’s more conservative position on a host of subjects, Keller takes the side of the more liberal wing of the church, and defends THEIR view of social justice.  So, while he may have a collage of conservative credentials in his portfolio, it is clear that he speaks for the liberal wing regarding this subject.

It is toward this end that Keller seeks to influence minds to move toward the more liberal view of social justice.  It is incumbent upon conservatives to acknowledge and understand that this is Keller’s main purpose in writing this book – his intentions are to promote social justice.  If you don’t know what that means, or understand the argument on both sides regarding how social justice impacts the gospel message, then you probably won’t appreciate this review.  But, suffice it to say that this view which Keller promotes is antithetical to the historical, conservative, and evangelical position held today.

According to Keller, a key moment in the development of his social justice views came from his involvement in a discussion he had during the 1960’s.  Though Keller is not forthcoming in details, we are led to believe that he was extremely sympathetic toward the plight of blacks, and that this was the time when he first came to realize “that most older white adults in my life were telling me things that were dead wrong.” (pg.xvi)

On pg. xvii he relates his experience that he had with a black person (Elward Ellis) whom he met during his years at seminary.  Keller was flatly told by Ellis that he was a racist.  Like most of us today, Keller was initially taken aback by such an accusation.  Not one to offend, Keller allowed his guest to explain further:

“Oh, you don’t mean to be, and you don’t want to be, but you are.  You can’t really help it….When black people do things in a certain way, you say, ‘Well, that’s your culture.’  But when white people do things in a certain way, you say, ‘That’s just the right way to do things.’  You don’t realize you really have a culture.  You are blind to how many of your beliefs and practices are cultural.”

This is a very serious accusation and one that is often repeated even today, therefore we need to examine it most carefully, and because it is the main thesis which Keller bases his book upon.  Is what Ellis told Keller a true statement?  Is his comparison accurate, or is it an apples-to-oranges type of comparison?

To begin with, this accusation is centered on a key premise that cultures are nothing more than “a way of doing things.”  You know:  “You go this way, I’m gonna go that way, and we will meet at Peoria, Illinois.  The path that you take will be different, but your path is not evil or wrong, and neither is my path righteous or correct.  It is simply a path.”  But is this an accurate analogy of what is happening between two cultures?

Inherent in that question is the assumption that cultures are nothing more than a way of “doing things”, and the accusation is that “doing things” is a result of culture.  But the truth is that culture is not just an accumulation of “things that we do.”   In addition to the accumulation of the “things that we do”, culture is developed by what is predominantly viewed as “the right thing to do”, with emphasis being placed on the word, “right.”

In other words, culture takes into account those things that are right, and also those things that are wrong.  In a very real sense, then, culture is not only what we wear, and what forms of entertainment we engage in, but they also are the accumulation of what a society values, and how the members of that society have agreed to live between each other, by placing those things that are valued highly as “good”, and supported and practiced; and those things that are viewed as wrong and immoral, as “bad”, and being shunned and suppressed within that culture.

I’d like to take a moment here to characterize those who share similar views to Keller’s.  I speak only in general terms, because we all recognize that while Conservatives tend toward Fundamentalism, not all Conservatives are Fundamentalists.  The same can be said when viewing those on the more Liberal side of the spiritual spectrum.

Keller belongs to a rising group of Christians that are typically referred to as “Emergent.”  Now, Keller would most likely reject that label, and with good cause.  However, just as Autism is not defined as a specific disease, but is more accurately understood as a syndrome that slides the scale from Asperger’s on up to full-blown Autism, so too can Emergent be viewed on a scale from “Missional” to full-blown Emergent.

What this means is that in order to discuss and critique books written by those in the Emergent spectrum, it is important to understand that their world-views do not embrace the same ideals that those outside of that spectrum embrace.  It’s difficult to understand someone coming from a differing world-view, and I’ve heard it argued that you only waste your time when you do so.  However, there are always many that stand on the sides, trying to understand which way to lay anchor, and it is toward that end that people like me and Keller write what we do, in order to sway those individuals to our way of thinking.

Because Keller comes from a differing world-view, he will certainly understand and interpret the Bible differently than you or I might, and how you understand the Bible is a key aspect of what you will emphasize in your life and in your actions.  And, of course, Keller’s book is about actions – more specifically, the actions of social justice.

People tend to skew events to reflect their own world-views, and this is something that all people must guard against, even me.  What it ultimately comes down to is, how you view the subject of social justice will have a lot to do with how you view the Bible, and also what it is that you believe should be emphasized.  Keller emphasizes those things in the Bible that speak about social issues, because he believes that Christ’s purpose for coming was to bring balance and relief to life’s difficulties and that is accomplished by His people valuing the same things that He did – the relief of the downtrodden.

And so, to get back to Keller’s experience with Ellis, you should notice that what Ellis told Keller is not correct.  If we examine such cultural differences as how black men, in great numbers, abandon their families and children; or why it is that our jails are disproportionately filled with black men; or why does the Chinese government promote abortion of females, or suppress their citizens’ rights; then it becomes more apparent that there is a wide gulf between cultures on these specific issues, and that that gulf is not independent of our moral beliefs.

This is not to say that Black Americans, or Chinese people, are any more immoral than White Americans are (indeed, they are no worse, nor better), but that these are simply areas of morality that have been shown to exist within those cultures that are different than that in the White culture, and cannot be simply laid down to “Well, that’s your culture.”  But it is to say that Ellis’ claim that cultural differences are simply differences in “how we do things” is just plain foolish.

So then, it must be remembered that there are differing components to culture – some that deal with matters of no moral concern, such as what you eat, or the spices you use, or the utensils that you employ in your eating, or the way that you dance, or the type of music you listen to.  When Ellis told Keller that the main differences between two cultures have nothing to do with moral concerns, he was just plain wrong.  This means that Keller blurred the issue of culture by confusing those components, or he was woefully ignorant of the various component parts of culture.

Why do I emphasize this distinction in the differing components of culture?  Firstly, because Keller blurred that distinction; secondly, because Keller has attempted to build this scenario for white people (which, ironically, will be the majority of his readership) that portrays whites as living in a post-racial era where they are all still racist.  Imagine that!  You thought that White America had moved beyond racism, and had come into an era where Whites and Blacks were seeking reconciliation and coming to terms?  Not in Keller and Ellis’ world.  As a matter of fact, even if you THINK you aren’t racist, you are!

Equally, you’ll notice that Keller fails to acknowledge that Black people, or Chinese, or any other ethnic group can be racist.  This is a common practice of those on the left spectrum, to portray White people as the singular source of all social inequalities.  If minorities act evilly, it’s only in reaction to the evil that Whites have done to them.

We should really make no mistake about it, Keller’s thesis in this book is a promotion of social justice, but in order to do that, Keller must advance the notion on two fronts:

  1. The Biblical front – God commands us to in His Word, and,
  2. The Secular front – We are all still racist, and need to rectify this by making amends.  We make amends by delivering social justice (redistribution of the wealth).

By removing this distinction regarding the notion of culture having a moral component, Keller seeks to sway people into action by accepting the idea that minorities are in an inferior social position solely, or primarily, because of a lack of equal justice.

Another clue to where Keller stands on this issue is to consider his reading list.  All too often, we are finding a new suite of Christian authors who are promoting false concepts which they learned from the authors whom they personally read and quote from; and they in turn then recommend those same authors to their readership.  As Keller mentions this author, or the next, most people will not feel compelled to examine the author, or the book, but simply to take his word for it that the author is a Christian who walks the mainstream.  If all of those authors are mainstream Christians, then it ought to be evident that Keller’s argument carries much more authority and validity.  At least that is the purpose of citing other’s works – to give your own work more validity.

As it stands, those whom he quotes typically agree with him philosophically on this issue (as we should expect), such as Walter Rauschenbusch’s book, “The Social Gospel and the Atonement.”  Some of the works that he cites seem a shock, because they are not even written by Christian writers, and are written from a philosophy and world-view which is decidedly secular and antithetical to Christian thinking, such as Elaine Scarry’s little book, “On Beauty and Being Just”.  Scarry, not being Christian, writes from a purely anti-God position.

Take for example, his citation of Craig Blomberg’s survey of the Mosaic laws of gleaning.  How much stock should real conservatives place in a man who would allow the gospel to be co-opted by a Mormon, when he wrote the book, How Wide the Divide? An Evangelical and a Mormon in Conversation. Are conservatives getting an honest assessment by someone who would otherwise be considered a false teacher?

To be sure, the Bible is quoted often.  In Keller’s case, either the word “justice” is used, or the concept of justice is displayed in the verse.  However, as you examine the scripture texts that Keller utilizes for his argument, and when you consider the context of the admonitions upon which those Biblical texts are issued under, you begin to realize that the context which the Bible uses is much different than the context upon which Keller has based his argument.

The context which Keller presents in his argument is that Israel was commanded to perform “Social Justice” to the entire world.  Yet that is NOT the context of the Bible.  Any honest reading of the Bible shows that Israel is only commanded to perform justice toward her own people, within their own political borders.  God is not commanding Israel to go outside of her borders to other people and nations, and establish social equity with them.

It should also be noted that Keller actually admits in a couple of places that those Biblical commands are only meant for Israel to conduct social justice toward those within the political borders of the nation (on pages 21, 22, 23, 29, and 57).

He fully acknowledges the differences in that context on page 23, where he says,

Israel was a nation-state in which every citizen was bound to obey the whole law of God and also was required to give God wholehearted worship.  This is not the situation in our society today.”

The context of the Bible in regards to this question cannot be denied.  Yet Keller insists that the context can be expanded to include the whole world.  But, the reader should clearly note that Keller gives no Biblical justification for this expansion.  If anything, it becomes abundantly clear that this book is the result of Keller’s personal feelings regarding this issue, and has nothing to do with any Biblical mandate regarding social justice to the world.

In Keller’s mind, when the Bible says, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every person” (Mark 16:15), what it REALLY means is, to “go into all the world, and provide for everyone’s immediate felt needs, and then you earn the right to preach the gospel to every person.”  Oh, but if you preach the gospel, don’t offend anyone with controversial messages, like “homosexuality is a sin”, or “you’re going to hell if you don’t repent.”

Throughout this book, Keller repeatedly fails to recognize that all of the commands to God’s people to practice Justice and Mercy are always intended to be directed solely toward God’s people, and only within their immediate sphere of influence within those political borders.  In other words, God instructs His people to practice Justice and Mercy solely toward God’s people – not to the whole world.

More specifically, the command is made in order to show God’s people that among the people of the world, there are none that are any more important to God than His own people.  This was the manner in which God chose to promote His image to the world; as God presented Israel, and the values and morals she practiced, as a picture to the world of who He was.  Israel was God’s mirror, intended to reflect God’s character to the world.

So then, Keller takes a commandment of God which forms a key aspect of Jewish life and instruction, and is intended to promote God’s character to the world, and he confounds the teaching of this commandment to today’s Christians by reinterpreting its application and scope.  Let me give you an example of how this is accomplished.  On pg. 13 of his book, he states that one way of practicing what he calls, “primary justice” is to be like Job, and to be a “father to the needy.”

Keller reinterprets this to mean that today’s church is commanded to care for the needs of all the poor that are in AND OUT of their sphere of influence.  In other words, whereas the traditional application is that the Church should care for her own, in order to promote God and His gospel to the world, Keller takes it to mean that the church should reach OUTSIDE of the church to the community and care for their physical needs.

The traditional approach has always been to understand that those commands to care for the underprivileged were to be seen as “benefits of membership” to those outside of the nation.  In other words, as other nations viewed Israel’s internal workings, they would become envious because of the care that God’s people had for their own people.

So, let’s notice that in the Biblical context, Job’s sphere of influence was those people who were part of the Israelite nation, and more specifically, his close neighbors.  Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that Job was reaching out to other nations and areas outside of the political borders of Israel.  But also notice that Keller does not take that context and attempt to show Christians how to help other Christians in their own church community (as we see examples in the New Testament Church which cared for their own).  Instead, he expands it to teach that we must help all others OUTSIDE of the Church community.  This is THE central focus of his book.

What greatness could we achieve if we truly helped our Christian brothers and sisters, widows and orphans FIRST and foremost?  Jesus said that this was how others would come to know who He was, because they (the world) would see the love we had toward one another (John 13:34-35); not toward the whole world.  It was in the formative days of the Church that people sold their possessions in order that all Christians might share and not have any need; not so that the entire world might share and not have any need.  This was a clear picture of “primary justice”, and it was an excellent example to the world of how Christians loved one another.  This in turn caused the Church to grow mightily in those days. (Acts 4:4; 2:41; 2:47)

Another argument that Keller uses to justify his reinterpretation is where he uses Amos 1:3-2:3 as his example text.  Keller states that in this text, it shows where other nations were judged for the manner in which they treated the disadvantaged.  Yet a concise study of this passage will reveal that God’s judgment upon those nations was not because they ill-treated the down-trodden, but specifically for how they treated HIS PEOPLE who were down-trodden.  Even if we take this as a commandment that the whole world was expected to follow the same system that Israel followed, it doesn’t show that Israel was commanded to show social justice to the rest of the world.

Keller’s conclusion that “It is clearly God’s will that all societies reflect his concern for justice of the weak and vulnerable,” is not held up by the context of any Biblical text that he presents.  The context clearly shows that those nations were not being judged because they failed to have concern for the weak and vulnerable, but because they acted evilly against HIS PEOPLE.

Not to necessarily bash Keller for his views, but more to give an example of where he stands in the political/spiritual spectrum, we can see him on page 30 sharing with us his socialist vision for corporate America:

“How can business owners follow the same principles [Old Testament laws regarding redistribution of the wealth] today?  They should not squeeze every penny of profit out of their businesses for themselves by charging the highest possible fees and prices to customers and paying the lowest possible wages to workers.  Instead, they should be willing to pay higher wages and charge lower prices that in effect share the corporate profits with employees and customers, with the community around them.”

If I didn’t know any better, I might think this statement came straight out of Karl Marx’ manifesto.  To be sure, Keller (along with Craig Blomberg) understands that democratic capitalism is not conducive to the format of what he is proposing for redistribution of the wealth. (cf, page 32, 2nd paragraph)

Another concern I have is how Keller exploits racial tensions to promote his concepts of social justice.  For example, on pages 122 and following, he attempts to use the Bible to show racism.  On page 123, he makes the bold claim that racism was the driving factor for Miriam and Aaron to speak against Moses regarding his marriage to an Ethiopian woman.  Instead, the alternative interpretation is that Miriam and Aaron were speaking out against Moses based upon their historical practice of only marrying within their nation.  Not because Moses’ wife was black, but that she was an Ethiopian.

Again, on page 124, Keller claims that Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles was based upon racism, and not upon religious justifications as the Bible states.  Keller even goes so far as to suggest that there is a question about whether or not “white Americans today need to repent for the sins of ancestors and acknowledge the white privilege they have today.” (note 111, pg.211)

In the end, Keller’s book is an attempt to promote redistribution of social advantages to those who are less advantaged by instituting social programs, initially at the church level, and then by virtue of her (supposed) growing influence, at the community level and beyond.  He gives such an example on page 126 where he tells of “an effort like the TenPoint Coalition.”  Among other tactics, they “sought to stem the tide of gang killings in Boston….[by] bridging between institutions that previously had not worked together or that had even worked against one another.”

So what was the end result of this coalition of religious leaders?  Are gang killings no more?  Did the coalition produce any marked change in gang killings, or gang activity?  Just what is it about Keller’s suggestion that is supposed to have been so miraculous that we need to jump on this bandwagon?  Why did Keller not further develop this understanding that he so wishes to promote?

Some other pertinent questions to ask regarding TenPoint is: Why are all the staff of TenPoint black, if Keller’s point is to show how White America needs to give to their community through the church?  Why the name of God (or Jesus) is not mentioned in TenPoints ten points?  Out of all the things that could/should be emphasized, doesn’t God get a simple mention?

Another point of contention with Keller is his tendency to erroneously state the opposition’s case, as he does on page 138, where he claims that “Some have argued that Christians should only do justice as a means to the end of evangelism.”  But this is only a half-truth.  The chief end of any church is evangelism, which Keller refuses to acknowledge.  Any church program which fails to include this aspect in their outreach has failed to keep that in mind.

To close out this review, I would sum up Keller’s chief error by pointing out what he states on page 135 with the querying assumption that “if it is true that justice and mercy to the poor are the inevitable signs of justifying faith…”  But what of secular philanthropists who spend millions of their money aiding the poor, and attempting to restructure social forces in underdeveloped neighborhoods where resources are scarce?  If it is true that practicing justice and mercy is an “inevitable sign of…faith”, does this mean that Bill Gates and Donald Trump are born again believers?

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Road to Serfdom
By F.A.Hayek
with Introduction, and edited by,
Bruce Caldwell


To begin with, there is a very long introduction by managing editor, Bruce Caldwell. Caldwell brings us a lot of information which is extremely necessary to gain the proper context for the book, and he does an excellent job in bringing the reader up to date with Hayek's times, and providing a greater depth of understanding to much of what follows. I think it fair to say that if you fail to read the introduction, you will not grasp the importance of what follows as readily as you would if you had.

The Road to Serfdom is a book about the economy. However, it is not a book about the economy the way that we think economic books should be. Instead, it's a book about how governments spend money. It's a book about the economy of government - how governments choose to spend money, and how that translates into an ideological position of the people.

Since time immemorial, governments have been taking money from the people that they govern, and spending it in ways that they believe will best benefit and solidify their political power. With the exception of the U.S. Government in the first 200 years, there has never been a government which had limitations of their power built into a Constitution. I say "in the first 200 years" because it has become clear that this is no longer the case.

When we look at families, and how they spend money, we can get a picture of their ideological outlook on life. The toys they buy, the vacations they engage, the books they read, the vocations they pursue: all of these point to a philosophy of life, and how they view the world as they believe it should be.

Governments are basically the same, except that instead of the parents, we look at the leaders and elites of government: the toys that they buy, the books that they read, the vacations that they engage, and the votes that they procure for the people. How governments spend money indicate a generalized philosophy of the people, whether they are willing participants in that philosophy or not.

Hayek's book is about this economy of government, as an examination of their values by examining how and where they spend their money. Socialist governments spend their money much differently than capitalist societies. And in correlation to that, socialist governments harbor societies which are significantly less free than those run on capitalist notions.

Hayek's perspective was from events prior to, and leading up to the 2nd World War, as he had seen how socialistic agendas had ruined his homeland of Austria. Yet even with all the attendant evils of the 2nd World War looming large above the Western world, Hayek still saw that there were many in positions of power and elitism, who were embracing the very ideologies which were responsible for bringing such dictatorial governments to power.

When F.A. Hayek first published this book in England in March of 1944, America was fully embroiled in the 2nd World War. The Soviets had advanced into Poland, and the Allies landed in Anzio; the Soviets captured Odessa, and Rome was captured by the Allies; the Allies invaded Normandy, and the US Army captured Cherbourg; the Allies liberated Florence, Paris, Marseilles, and Toulon, and the Germans abandoned Bulgaria, and the Soviets captured Bucharest.

It would seem that the powers of good had overcome the powers of evil; that the socialist takeover attempt had been thwarted by the capitalist powers of the world. Communism was on the run, and ultimately would be defeated by the end of 1945. But even with the war looking better from our perspective, and with socialistic regimes being crushed and repudiated on the battlefield, there seemed to be an embracing of these same fiscal and ideological policies (which had clearly brought about this war) by the Western powers.

Hayek sought to warn and counsel the people against such notions, and to show them how embracing socialistic policies would require that our governments must pursue more direct and powerful means of carrying out their socialistic mandates. All governmental social policies require power to redistribute wealth - this is a fact beyond dispute. The degree to which a people allow such power in the hands of governmental officials is the degree to how much freedom they will relinquish for such "benefits" as will result from such an arrangement.

Hayek quotes Max Eastman, who was initially a supporter of socialism but later turned crusader against socialism and a supporter of individual rights, as saying: "socialism is certain to prove, in the beginning at least, the road NOT to freedom, but to dictatorship and counter-dictatorships, to civil war of the fiercest kind. Socialism achieved and maintained by democratic means seems definitely to belong to the world of utopias." (pg.79)

This book is Hayek's attempt to show how it is that well-intentioned, socialistic-minded individuals did not understand that by empowering their governments to pursue social projects that they were surrendering their freedoms in ever increasing steps. Most of the people that supported Hitler's rise to power did so in the belief that he epitomized a change that all people would come to embrace willingly. Just like today's economy, Hitler promised to eradicate unemployment through social programs and public spending on road projects, etc.

Today's renewed interest of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom will prove to be a powerful tool in enlightening the people of the dangers of pursuing socialistic policies which only build the power structure of power-hungry politicians, and create an upside-down society. Indeed, Hayek's belief was that most socialists were misguided, but sincere in their pursuit of redistribution of wealth for the sake of those less fortunate, but that they were simply unable to grasp the reality of where such a road would lead to - hence the title of his book.

The prescience of his claims ring oh-so-true, and we see that he puts ignorance squarely to blame for those on the left embracing this redistribution of wealth. He states in no uncertain terms that those who march forward with this agenda do so without a clue as to the eventually dangerous repercussions that will ensue. He claimed that you could yell at them till you were blue in the face, and that they still "will not believe until the connection has been laid bare in all its aspects" - In other words, until it was far too late to turn back. (pg.82)

The chapters are fitted into a progressive manner which outlines the road signs and the intersections of the Road to Serfdom, with each chapter building upon the previous, and helping us to see the danger of the route which leads us to totalitarianism.

I heartily recommend this book to all who purport to love freedom, and invoke a challenge to everyone to openly acknowledge the inherent differences between socialistic and capitalistic governments.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Evolutionary Icons to rival that of any church

Icons of Evolution
by Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells' research has uncovered a conspiracy of deliberate deception by those who hold the power strings in science halls.

"Icons" brilliantly exposes the false presentations of the 'creme de la creme' of evolution, leaving this theory of the examination of dead things dead in the water.

If you want to understand how it is that evolution is in dire straits, then this is the book that will expose it.

"Icons" is not a highly technical book, and does not require college-level expertise to read. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, you cannot deny that these icons will never be used again like they were before.

Where did it all begin?

A Case Against Accident & Self Organization


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book (Certainly, I received more pleasure than an evolutionist). The book was meant, IMO, to examine the possibility of life arising purely by chance, as opposed to one guided by an intelligent hand.

Dean Overman has an excellent grasp on the issues, and is able to command the proper usage of scientific terms. Equally, his grasp on mathematics in explaining the issues is firm.

Overman has examined many of the scenarios which have been offered up as explanations by naturalistic minds, in their endeavor to exclude any possibility of a supernatural Creator.

If you are looking for a book that validates the mathematical possibility of life arising purely by chance, then you will need to look elsewhere. It is not brutal in its assessment, but rather thorough.

Virtually anyone can understand the material offered in this book, even the more 'difficult' math. Overman does a decent job in keeping the material at the level of understanding of the general public.