No One Beyond God’s Reach

December 24, 2014 11:47 pm

Today I came across an incredible testimony of how Living Waters’ has impacted this man’s life, and the difference that biblical evangelism can make (in contrast to the water-downed “gospel” message that is being taught in so many churches in the US. Truly mind boggling: 

Letter of Appeal to Todd Friel: An Analysis of the new Biggest Question DVD

December 23, 2014 8:59 pm

Todd Friel

The Biggest Question (by Wretched Radio) is a short film known for presenting one of the clearest, most straight forward presentation of the gospel. Just recently, Wretched released a new version of The Biggest Question, which, in Todd Friel’s observation, is suppose to be a better version than the already stellar original. This DVD can be found at www.wretchedradio.com, in the store section. 

Having heard this, I was excited for this project. I thought that the new version would perhaps improve on some of the minor issues with the first one by Todd, Kirk Cameron, and R.W. Glenn, and be an even more ideal, if not powerful, documentation of the gospel message to unbelieving receivers of the DVD. I remember when I saw the original Biggest Question for the first time last year at a church Bible study, I was blown away. It was, without a doubt, the greatest explanation of the gospel message, which covered everything from God’s attributes to an in depth discussion of repentance and faith. It even had a surprisingly helpful explanation of sanctification, which I had never seen in any evangelism DVD. All of these factors caused me to start giving out The Biggest Question DVDs to unbelievers, replacing the DVDs I used to buy from Living Waters (most specifically The Greatest Gamble).

I got my new Biggest Question DVD (by Friel, Ray Comfort, E.Z., and Voddie Baucham) in the mail and watched it immediately. However, this new version did not have the same impact on me than the original. In fact, I felt curiously umoved by the new version. It wasn’t, by any means, bad. It was a sound explanation of the gospel with great insights and exhortation to the unbeliever, but it just didn’t have that same sense of awe factor that I felt when I watched the original for the first time last year. The new version is pretty much a butchered down version of the original, with less heart and soul.

Biggest QuestionNow I’m going to analyze the pros and cons of both versions. The new Biggest Question has some features that were better than the original. For one, the production value was better. I’m speaking about the sets, and even the opening sequence that asked the question, “Why do we…” The opening was better not so much because of the questions, but because it introduces the film in a way that does not seem overtly “Christian” from the get go. The original version had Todd starting out with the question, “You went to church as a child, but quite frankly, not a whole lot of it made sense.” This was one of the features that could have been changed in the original, because if I were an atheist or even a Jew, I would automatically stop the movie because I know it is was going to proselytize me. The new version improves on this in that it starts the light dim before turning it up moments later instead of identifying the viewer as a former churchgoer, which is not true of some people.

The new version is also better than the original in its exposition of God’s Law and justice. Ray Comfort does the same explanation than Kirk, but adds the powerful verse of 1 Corinthians 6:9 to it. E.Z.’s explanation of God’s coming justice is also convicting and thought provoking. The ending exhortation for the audience to come to repentance and faith is also a highlight of this new version, which is more direct and clearly communicates the application of the gospel for an unbeliever. And finally, the new version contains both the English and Spanish, which makes it easier to give out instead of having to buy two separate DVDs.

However, the pros of the new version pretty much end here. Many features of the original were lost in the making of the new version. One of the best features of the original was the video montages (“O Sacred Head,” the doctor interview concerning the crucifixion, the “you are not too dirty” sequence, and the excellent “Jesus, I Love Thee” video). These video illustrations are what added emotional depth to this film. Without it, all we have in the new version is an endless series of lectures, each taking their turn. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it just doesn’t seem to communicate the depth and story quite like the original. The original was a little more creative and inspiring in this department, whereas the new version felt like it was merely going through the motions. Even the presentations by Voddie Baucham (an excellent preacher and theologian) seemed passive compared to the excitement and clarity of R.W. Glenn’s presentation in the original.

Biggest Question 2The explanation of the gospel, along with the illustrations and theological insight, seemed more interesting in the original. Some of these include Kirk Cameron’s illustration of sacrificial atonement and God’s kindness when he spoke about the adopted boy in Washington D.C., Todd’s explanation of Rahab the prostitute, and R.W. Glenn’s explanation of the cross (“done religion versus do religion,” the doctrine of imputed righteousness which results in one not having to feel like he is “better or worse” than others), which definitely hit home in a way that was somewhat missing in the new version. In a nutshell, the original version’s explanation of the atonement, propitiation, imputed righteousness, and repentance was more interesting in the original than in the new. It was also a little easier to follow. Voddie Baucham’s use of terms like “federal headship” and “active and passive obedience” can really fly over the heads of unbelievers who may not know what these terms mean. I can understand these because I am a Christian and a seminary student, but most people do not.

This is not to say that the original version is not without its cons. One of the feedbacks I’ve heard regarding the original is that it is a bit long. The new version capitalizes on this (although I think by cutting it down to 27 minutes, it is a bit too short now). The original version could have easily curtailed the discussion of Jesus’ beating and crucifixion, the false views of “accepting Jesus” (which the new version did wonderfully), and the discussion on the meaning of sanctification (because unbelievers are not quite to the point where they should be taught about sanctification. They need to be saved first). However, these quibbles are pretty minor compared to the overwhelming pros of the original.

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about the new version. I suppose God will still use it to accomplish His purposes (since it is the gospel that is the power of God onto salvation, Rom 1:16), but I don’t think the film is as convicting, interesting, and moving as the original. Even the ending of the new version (“Why? Why would you reject it?”) with the closing soundtrack left me feeling clueless as to what to think of the gravity of the message I heard, in contrast to the inspiring close of the original.

It’s unfortunate that we may never see the original distributed again, partly because of the R.W. Glenn incident. But my appeal to Mr. Todd Friel and Wretched radio is, if possible, have the original available as an option or remake the new version so it contains the wonderful elements that made the original so good. Because as of right now, it is a good gospel DVD, but not a great gospel DVD. I don’t think I would have felt the same way about the Biggest Question had the new version been screened in my Bible study last year. I probably would have continued to buy the Greatest Gamble DVDs. 

Once again, this is not intended to be a harsh rebuttal of the efforts in putting together the new version (because I am giving them out to unbelievers as we speak). Just a suggestion for Mr. Friel concerning the merits of the original. Because if I were an unbeliever, I probably would be more impacted and be willing to consider the gospel through the presentation of the gospel through version one.

Your friend, Steve

Exhortations to the Children of Hope: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 Sermon

December 18, 2014 12:45 am

Lifelines

 

Currently Reading:

Lifelines for Tough Times: God’s Presence and Help When You Hurt

by Mike Fabarez

Category: Christian Living

2014, Harvest House

 

 

 

 

Here is a sermon titled Exhortations to the Children of Hope, which I think is probably my best sermon yet (in terms of clarity, content, and practicality). I hope this message is beneficial and edifying for you: 

That Time of Year (Again)

December 6, 2014 10:19 pm

Charismatic

 

Currently Reading:

Charismatic Chaos

by John MacArthur

Category: Theology / Christian Living

1993, Zondervan

 

 

 

 

When you see decorations like these in public places, you know it’s that time of the year again. Christmas. These sights just make me happy. I wish it could last all year.

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” – Luke 2:10-12

unnamed

Ask Steve: What is Truth?

November 30, 2014 10:15 pm

Reformed

 

Currently Reading:

What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics

by R.C. Sproul

Category: Theology

1997, Baker Books

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, can you define truth and explain how we can know it?

Answer: Shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, Christ engaged in a brief conversation with Pontius Pilate about the nature of His identity and mission on earth. Pilate asked Jesus, “So you are a king?” Jesus replied, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” To this, Pilate comments sarcastically, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:33-38)

The question “What is truth?” has been a matter of debate through the ages. It is still an issue now in a postmodern era, which does not believe in absolute truth and error. The idea of real, defined truth is under attack because of society’s ever-increasing tendency to promote tolerance amidst different religions, ideologies, philosophies, and lifestyles. It appears that the only thing we can know for sure is that there is no such thing as absolute truth. No doubt, this statement is itself an absolute statement claiming truth.

Truth 1

Is there truth and can we know it? We certainly can. We know it not only because Scripture says so and demonstrates it (through Christ), but also because it is seen in every aspect of life (physics, chemistry, biology, morals, mathematics, etc). It is important to establish this idea of absolute truth, because without it, a person lives in delusion. He lives a misguided life. But most importantly, his eternal welfare is on the line.

Before I explain what truth is, it is best to have a discussion on what truth is not. Truth is not pragmatism. It is not what best works or what is most efficient and productive in a given situation, whether it involves vocation or relationships. Truth is not what makes feel people good. Just because people enjoy doing drugs, eating like a glutton, living a sinful heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle, or participating in a feel-good religion does not make it right or true. Truth is not simply our own personal beliefs. It is not subjectivism. We can sincerely believe that no harm will come to us when we cross a street with racing cars or that a futile vaccine can actually cure our deadly disease. But it does not change the reality of what will inevitably happen because of our choices. Truth is not what the majority of the population believes. A majority of the people can believe that slavery and racial genocide is right, but it doesn’t make it true. A majority of the people can believe that abortion and homosexual marriages are right, but it doesn’t necessarily make it true. Truth is not defined by a particular person’s stance or beliefs, such as the Pope, Oprah Winfrey, or the President of the United States. Truth is also not measured by intention. Someone may have good intentions for murdering a particular person (for the cause of a greater good). But that doesn’t make his actions, or the principle behind it, right or true.

So what is truth? Truth is whatever corresponds to reality. It is simply what is real and defined. It is the way it is, regardless of what one thinks about it or tries to redefine it. Truth is unchanging. It is absolute. It affects all people and sectors of life. No one or nothing is excluded. Therefore, anything that contradicts what is true is false and erroneous. As it regards morality, the opposite of truth is evil and sin.

Truth 2

In order for truth to be defined, real, and objective, it must be based on a transcendent source. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as truth, because every man would define what is right and wrong. No one can claim monopoly on truth. However, if there is an author of life who has designed and instituted fixed laws that govern the universe, as well as morality, ethics, and social relationships, then there exists truth. That source is God, who is author and definer of truth. He is the ruler, canon, and standard. In essence, God is truth.

John MacArthur provides a solid definition of truth as it relates to God: “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God.” Dr. MacArthur also accurately describes the origins of truth when he states: “The one most valuable lesson humanity ought to have learned from philosophy is that it is impossible to make sense of truth without acknowledging God as the necessary starting point.”

Because God created and sustains the world with fixed laws of nature (Gen 1; Col 1:16; Heb 1:3), there is such thing as truth. Because God operates in the moral realm by implanting His law into the hearts of all men (Rom 2:14-16), there is such thing as truth. Because there is truth, there is also falsehood. It is true that reptiles can never have dog offspring. It is true that 2 + 2 can never equal 5. It is true that the current orbit of Jupiter stops space material (like asteroids) from bombarding and destroying life on earth. To think otherwise would be ludicrous, because it has no basis in reality. The same applies to morality. God has a real code for human conduct, which governs the earth as much as the laws of nature timelessly govern the cosmos. Murder will always be wrong. Kindness will always right. Adultery will always be wrong. Marital faithfulness will always be right. Lying will always be wrong. Truthfulness will always be right. Covetousness will always be wrong. Gratitude will always be right.

Where do we find this standard of truth? It is in God’s word. It is in the Bible. The Bible is the revelation from God Himself concerning His being, character, attributes, and will. Man must come to it in order to learn how to be reconciled to a holy God and to live in a way that is pleasing in His sight. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Furthermore, He says of the Father, “…Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and all-sufficient word of God which alone guides people in how they are to conduct themselves in life, as the Creator and Author intended.

Truth 3

Although the Bible speaks important truths concerning science, geography, and history, it speaks ultimately of man’s main problem (sin) and where the solution is (Christ). Every man needs to heed the message of Scripture because it reveals the way of salvation. That is the ultimate truth that men need to hear – that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and eternal life (Jn 3:16; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:19). There is no other way to salvation, or even proper worship life, other than through Jesus Christ. Therefore, other religions, and their teachings concerning salvation, are false and even dangerous. There is no such thing as “all roads lead to Rome.” It is salvation either through Jesus Christ, or no salvation. This is truth, according to God’s word.

Is this saying that there is no truth apparent anywhere in other religions, philosophies, or ideologies? No. There is true statements and teachings in other sources. Buddhism teaches that suffering is bad and needs to be rid off. That is true. Islam teaches that there is only one God, and men need to worship God. That is true. However, the only reason these observations and convictions are true is that they are based on what God has revealed in His general revelation, which every person on earth has access to. The whole world knows that there is a Creator who designed the world and empowers life (Rom 1:18-20). The world knows that there is a real moral law that governs human behavior, which is apparent in social relationships and government statutes (Rom 2:14-16). This general revelation testifies to God so people are without excuse on Judgment Day, yet the truths apparent in general revelation do not save people or make their paths straight. That can only be done through God’s special revelation, which is in the Bible. Thus, things in life are true in so long as they do not contradict what God has revealed in Scripture. And the most important truth which men must heed is the message of salvation.

Truth is God, and He reveals Himself in Scripture, which is the source of truth (Ps 119:60; Prov 30:5). Men ignore, distort, and malign this truth everyday because of their sinful, depraved nature. If they were without sin, then they would come to God in humble, true worship. However, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), and they will be justly judged by the Creator someday, being held accountable to what God has already shown them in general revelation (and maybe even special revelation). That is why it is important to discover truth and to respond to it before it is too late.

Recommended Resource: The Truth War by John MacArthur

Book Review: Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear

November 28, 2014 12:14 am

Jesus Continued

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is ever present, but at most times misunderstood, unfelt, and sometimes ignored. Is having the Spirit inside you better than having Jesus beside you? This is the discussion of J.D. Greear’s new book, Jesus, Continued, which is a Christian living book that deals with this important and much needed topic in pneumatology. The aim of Greear’s book is to discover the Holy Spirit and to reconnect with Him in a biblical, yet vibrant way. It is a book about both knowing the theology of the Holy Spirit as well as a proper relationship with Him that leads to Him unleashing His power through a Christian’s life.

Greear begins by first discussing the Spirit’s lack of power, and sometimes presence, in the life of the Christian and church. That is the aim of Part One, which describes the problem, and the reason why the author writes this book. The Holy Spirit is described as an Advocate (Jn 15:26), a Teacher (Jn 14:26), and one who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8). The author describes how the Spirit’s ministry is so important to the life of a Christian. He is not only a down payment of the Christian’s eternal salvation, but also the agent of sanctification in a believer’s life. He helps the Christian grow in His salvation and uses Him effectively in the Great Commission. However, His power is curiously missing in many Christians’ lives. He is misrepresented and misrelated to. The author teaches that the Spirit and the Word of God (The Bible) must go hand-in-hand. The Spirit uses the word to sanctify the believer (pg. 25). Without the word, there is no power in the believer’s relationship with God or mission in the world, but only a misguided sense of mysticism and subjectivism.

Greear explains how a Christian sees the Holy Spirit’s ministry at work, which is the main theological discussion of the book. He works in the gospel, first and foremost. Without the gospel, there is no salvation. There is no Spirit working in a believer’s life. Then there is the word of God (Scripture), the believer’s spiritual gifts, the corporate church, and our everyday circumstances. The author ends by discussing how the believer seeks and takes hold of a vibrant relationship and leading of God the Spirit, which is through the word, prayer, and repentance (pg. 14).

Jesus, Continued is a solid book that speaks about the Holy Spirit’s ministry and how to best benefit from the Spirit’s work in your life. Because of that, it is both theologically informative and highly practical in a believer’s life. That is one of the book’s main strength. It identifies the problem (Part 1), explains the solution (Part 2), and gives application of the solution (Part 3). The author does not shy away from speaking about issues concerning the Holy Spirit, and provides practical guidelines on how to commune properly with the Spirit. The book is commendable in how it does not glorifies charismatic theology (since it speaks about many of the misconceptions and fanaticism of the movement). At the same time, it is a not a book that praises hyper-cessationism as well. Greear believes that the Holy Spirit works in miraculous ways now like He did during the apostolic period. Even though his definition of cessationism is not totally accurate (He claims that cessationism believe in the cessation of all modern day miracles, when this is not the case. Cessationism believes in the cessation of sign gifts by individuals, not miracles themselves), he nevertheless paints the sign gifts in ways that do not cater to the subjective and emotion driven whims of charismatic theology. He compares everything the best he can to Scripture, demonstrating the guidelines and caution surrounding the sign gifts in our times.

This is a book that I would recommend for reading if you not only want to grow closer to God, but also understand what it takes to excel as a man of God in ministry, and in the pursuit of the Great Commission. Like I said, it is biblical and practical, one that every person will benefit from.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary copy from Booklookbloggers.com. I was not obligated to write a good review, but only my honest opinion. 

 

This book was reviewed by Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible:

The Biggest Question: An Evangelism Resource to Consider

November 27, 2014 11:22 pm

Evangelism is important to the Christian life. It is our mission; what we’ve been called to do (Matt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15). Yet, many of us miss good evangelistic opportunities to speak to random people we meet in everyday life. The least we can do is give them a tract or DVD if we don’t have time to talk to them, or vice versa. 

Looking for that perfect DVD that proclaims the gospel in a simple, powerful, and accurate way? This may be what you are looking for: The Biggest Question. The gospel presented by Todd Friel, Ray Comfort, Emeal Zwayne, and Voddie Baucham. For information on how to get copies, visit: www.wretchedradio.com.

Give it out to a friend. Give it out to a co-worker. Give it to the cashier in restaurant or supermarket. Give it to a bank teller. Put it on a car windshield. It’s that simple. Do what you can to get someone saved. 

 

Grace Life London

November 26, 2014 11:01 pm

This is one of the most beautiful portrayals of a church plant I’ve come across. Commitment to the preaching of the inerrant Scripture, gospel in every message, holiness, close bond of brethren, and evangelistic desire. If ever I were to be a pastor of a church plant, I would definitely want it to be something like this. Keep these London guys in your prayers:

Ask Steve: The Christian Worldview

November 23, 2014 9:18 pm

Jesus con

 

Currently Reading:

Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You

by J.D. Greear

Category: Theology / Christian Living

2014, Zondervan

 

 

 

Question: Can you give me a broad explanation of the Christian worldview and what makes it so unique and better than other worldviews?

Answer: A Christian worldview is an indispensable one to have in order to live the proper, God-glorifying Christian living. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). The degree to which you understand the commands of Scripture will influence how you live your life. Without a proper understanding of Scripture, you will not have a proper worldview – one that will benefit you in the long run. 

The term “worldview” comes from the German word Weltanschauung, which literally means “to look onto the world.” So a particular worldview is how you look onto the world. It refers to the overall perspective from which a person or group both consciously and unconsciously understands and interprets the world. Of course, understanding and interpreting the world depends on the type of glasses you wear and look onto the world with. In other words, it begins with the laws and convictions you understand to be true, agreeable, or affirming. From this, you make decisions in life – social issues, politics, lifestyle choices, religious issues, and even liberty issues. A worldview takes into account a person’s presuppositions and beliefs about such issues as the existence of God, the meaning of life, the essence of right and wrong, and the fate of a person after death. How one understands these issues affect how he views reality and responds to it.

What makes a Christian worldview and how is it better than other worldviews? Like most other religions, philosophies, and ideologies, the Christian worldview seeks to provide answers and convictions concerning core life issues like ascertaining the truth of an absolute (“Is there a God?” “What is this God like: personal or impersonal?), humans (“Who is man?” “Is he any different or superior than other living things?), the universal problem (“Why is there evil and suffering in the world?” “Is there a solution?”), the solution (“Do I need to be reconciled to God?” “Do I need to be one with the universe?”), ethics (“How should I live morally?” “Is there such thing as real right and wrong?), life after death (“Is there a heaven or hell?” “Is it just non-existence?”), and other religions (“Are other religions wrong?” “Is there such thing as one true worldview or system to live by?). There are many modern religions and ideologies that compete with the Christian worldview, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, New Age, Scientology, Wicca, atheism, and even ideologies from within heretical Protestantism (liberal Christianity, Faith Word, etc).

Worldview

Even though it is popular in postmodern times to believe that all religions are true, or that they at least contribute something to the overall puzzle of reality, there is good reason to believe that the Christian worldview is the best and only viable option. This is obvious when one acknowledges the inspiration of Scripture. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). His words provide “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). History, archaeology, science, prophecy, and geography also attest to the total truthfulness and historical reality of the Bible, more than any other existing or non-existing religions, philosophies, or worldview. Aside from empirical evidence and philosophical logic, God’s Word also holds incredibly strong and logical when it is used as the starting point in explaining reality. If this is true, that that presupposes that whatever contradicts the Bible is erroneous, inconsistent, and does not adequately explain the mysteries of life.

For example, atheism strongly proposes to give solutions to the answer of the origins of life and, to some degree, how men are to live. All within this camp agree that “science” is the starting point and evidently explains everything there is about life’s existence. Some atheists and agnostics even believe that there is real right and wrong. Yet atheism cannot explain where everything in the world (and the universe) came from. Where did all the matter originate? How did it originate? How did everything in the world become so orderly and sustainable for life on earth? Atheism cannot account for why nature runs by certain laws that are timeless and immutable (ex. law of gravity, the rotation pattern of the earth, the survival skills of insects and mammals, the DNA cell which contain the blueprint for the person’s physical makeup). Atheism claims to believe in morality that leads to the common good and survival of humanity, but it cannot account for why people need to abide by a certain code of morality or ethics, especially if we all evolved from some impersonal force. Why should people be selfless and giving instead of selfish and self-surviving, especially if this life is all there is? Why do parents give up their lives for their children, and not vice versa? Why do people believe that hatred, racism, and genocide of others (even weaker and deformed ones) are wrong, even if an entire society deems it acceptable (ex. Nazi Germany)?

The only solution that reasonably answers this topic is the existence of a personal God who puts His law into the hearts and minds of people so they know what is objectively good and evil; right and wrong. God’s Word affirms what is observable in reality, as it regards objective, unchanging morality, when it says “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…” (Rom 2:14-15).

Worldview 2

If we stopped here, then we would acknowledge the reality of a Creator God, but not know who He is exactly. Which religion speaks truth about God’s essence and character, since there are quite a few monotheistic religions out there? The truth of Scripture stands in its ability to answer questions about God and to even reveal inconsistencies and/or lack of answers in other religions. For example, Islam claims that there is one God. He is Allah, who created the world and everything in it, commands how people are to live, and will judge the righteous and the unrighteous on Judgment Day. They insist that Allah is one Person within the Godhead, yet they cannot account for how this leads to the unity amongst diversity that exists in the world, whether with people or animals. Why are there people of many types of personality who unite in one movement or cause? The theology of God also does not really explain the reason why there is such thing as love and submission that is evident in government, religious organizations, family, and marriage. Why is it timeless and proper for women to submit to men, while men faithfully lead the marriage? Why do children submit to their parents, and not vice versa? Why is it proper for subjects to submit to the governing authorities?

Even though Islam, or even Judaism, does not give an obvious answer, the Bible does. It teaches that God eternally exists in three separate Persons (diversity), yet they are all one God (unity). Within this Godhead is a defined pattern of responsibility and function, in which each Person knows their role and acts it out perfectly. The Father plans and leads and the Son and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father (Luke 22:42; Jn 5:36; Jn 14:26, 16:7). In this perfect relationship, we see the perfect love of God expressed, and everything it entails (kindness, humility, service, selflessness, faithfulness). This explains why there is unity amongst diversity, defined roles, and even the existence of love, which is a big mystery if the world merely evolved from merely water and matter, or if God were only one Person (because the Father would have no one to show and exercise perfect love to for all eternity).

There are many more examples that can be given when it comes to using the presupposition of the Bible to answer questions and refute error, but this exercise ultimately demonstrates that God’s Word is not only true, but a necessary guide to one’s life. It is the only logical and safe one to put on, in regards to both salvation and Christian living. Failure to exercise a Christian worldview will not only lead to wrong answers about life’s questions, but a wrong lifestyle that is displeasing, if not abominable, to a holy, righteous, and true God. If there is a God, then there exists truth, which means there is real error. If God’s Word is true, then there exists falsehood in other religious books and ideologies. This is why a Christian worldview is important to hold, because a slight deviation away from it can lead to misguided, futile, and even dangerous choices in life.

Recommended Resource: Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Book Review: Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

November 22, 2014 11:12 pm

Vanishing

Philip Yancey’s new book, Vanishing Grace, answers the question, “How can Christians present truly Good News amid the changing landscapes of our time?” It is in response to the issue of why the reputation of Christians how been going so bad over the years. Yancey issues a call for Christians to be “grace-filled” in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs. He asks why “Christians continue to lose respect, influence, and reputation in our modern culture?

In many ways, Vanishing Grace explores similar themes to Yancey’s most renowned book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? This new book speaks about the Christians need to be dispensers of grace in a world thirsting, searching, or needing it, and how many believers have failed to live up to the task. The author does so by dividing the book into four sections: A World Athirst, Grace Dispensers, Is it Really Good News?, and Faith and Culture.

This book has both strengths and weaknesses. I say this not so much from a literary point of view, but from a biblical and theological one. This book is insightful in how it tackles the obvious trends of increasing antagonism against the Christian faith. This begins in Chapter 1, which states that popular opinion regarding the church was mostly favorable in the 1990s, and now only 16 percent has a favorable view of Christianity. What caused this downfall? It is based on many reasons, one of which is the church’s apparent failure to be dispensers of grace. Instead, they are deemed as judgmental, harsh, and untactful when dealing with major social and political issues.

Yancey is correct when he states that the church needs to be salt and light to the world. They need to be conduits of gentleness, meekness, forgiveness, and mercy. To that end, this book is pretty inspirational and convicting. As usual, Yancey masterfully includes many illustrations and stories from history, and from his own life’s observations, in support of the many themes that he talks about in the book.

As well-written, insightful, and convicting as this piece is, it is not without its flaws. The first one I’ll begin with is Yancey’s theme of “communicating faith in an appealing way to future generations.” Even though I agree that Christians are not called to be a stumbling block or add offense to an already offensive message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), this is not the same as toning or watering down the message itself. There are many instances in the book where Yancey seems to imply that the Christian message of the gospel is not suppose to be offensive to a watching world as long as it is presented with tolerance and gentleness. There are even times when the author seems to say that direct evangelism is not tactful, or is even too forced. On page 115, using the example of a Buddhist Soho Machida, Yancey quotes, “If they (Christians) have the slightest consciousness of themselves as the superior helping the inferior, or the faithful saving the unfaithful, they immediately lose their Christian dignity.”

So evangelizing those who are on their way to God’s end times judgment and hell is apparently something that is without dignity? I don’t know where Yancey was going with this comment, but it is an obvious sign that unbelievers (whether Buddhist or atheist) are offended by the gospel message because it is meant to be offense (1 Cor 1:18-31). Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt 10:34). The whole point of the gospel is that it will offend and bring division between people, which is why Christians have been widely persecuted, from Stephen (Acts 7:60) all the way to our present day. There is no way, no matter how one presents the message, will it always seem agreeable, or give Christians a better standing, in front of the secular world.

Another issue that is somewhat troubling about the book is the author’s definition of “grace.” What exactly is this grace that he talks about and where does its inspiration come from? From Christ obviously. But Yancey seems to define this grace as showing mercy and high tolerance towards others of different beliefs and lifestyles, with no room to confront sin or wrong doctrine when necessary. However well intentioned this sounds, it is not the biblical definition of grace. The Bible’s definition of grace is showing unmerited favor towards others, but not compromising the gospel or righteousness. It is based on the sacrificial death of Christ, in which He shows us grace by giving us the eternal life (and salvation from eternal hell), which we didn’t deserve. That is why we preach the gospel. Yet it seems that the author’s definition of “grace” is so pliable that it could make it seem like he is advocating for Christians to accept homosexuality, or even the fact that people of other religions will not be eternally damned for their actions. He blames the church so much for being intolerant and judgmental. Although it is true that some churches have indeed preached false doctrine and been harsh in their approach of sinners, preaching the gospel as it is (even if analyzing and confronting sin) is not being intolerant or judgmental. It is biblical (Rom 3:20; Gal 3:24).

Another somewhat troubling issue has to do with the gospel itself, this good news that we Christians are suppose to change the world with? What does Yancey think the gospel is? On page 253, the author says that the good news of the gospel is that “Christ died to save sinners, to free us from guilt and shame so that we can thrive in the way God intended.” A decent definition, but very general. The author never really sets out to define the “good news” and why we should care about it. There is no mention of depravity, final judgment, or even the issues of the substitution atonement, resurrection, or justification by faith. Without clearly defining this gospel, we not lose sight or even the definition of “grace” to an unbelieving world, but we have a misguided goal of what the Christian mission is. This good news that Yancey talks about fits very close to a social gospel/liberation theology, and we signs of it everywhere in the book. He quotes Rick Warren on page 125, which says, “The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what the church believes, but about what the church is doing.”

This seems to be the meat of the whole book, a “gospel” that represents deeds, social transformation, and healing of others, although there is never much mention of preaching the gospel (evangelism) that saves sinners positionally before saving them in the practical sense. That is why to the author, it is not such a big deal whether others don’t believe the same thing that Christians belief. Because it doesn’t seem to be about death and the afterlife, but about the here and now. It is helping people remove their guilt feelings and giving them a purpose as healers and restorers of the current world.

On page 190, we see a troubling statement. After famous pastor Bill Hybel invited a Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, and Hindu to the church he pastors at for an interfaith dialogue, he concluded, “We live in a very diverse world, and we have to learn to get along with and respect and show deference and kindness to people who represent different religions. I hope as we leave, you will leave with the words of Jesus on your mind: the highest kingdom law or value is the law of love. While we may disagree about where we drive our stake of conviction and belief, we are called to be compassionate, understanding, and respectful to those who believe differently.”

Seriously, did Bill Hybel (a Christian pastor) actually say this?! I don’t have to sit here and analyze everything that was unbiblical about this approach or statement, but Hybel’s words (and Yancey’s use of this quote) seems to suggest that people of other religions will find favor with God and salvation when it is all said and down. What it seems to suggest is that the highest priority for the church is not about the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15), but showing tolerant love towards others, no matter their religion and lifestyle. Christianity seems to be more about lifestyle and deeds, and not about seeking and saving the lost, which was Jesus’ passion on earth, and why He died on the cross (Lk 19:10).

In conclusion, I must say that I have mixed feelings about this book. Like I said earlier, it is a well-written piece that is gives great insight, at times, into the theme of unbeliever’s feelings towards Christianity and the proper Christian attitude in response. However, the book’s main flaw is that it does not do justice to the book’s main intent, which is to make the Christian “grace” appeal to the unbelieving world? There is really no way that this can be done unless the central message of the gospel is changed, which is for Christianity to be ecumenical. I am not saying that there is no place for good deeds in the Christian faith (since that is what we are called to show as an act of worship to God and as a testimony to the world in evangelism). However, this is different from saying that this is the good news, or the Christian’s main mission in life. Yancey’s intentions with the themes of deeds and behavior are noble and well intentioned, but he does not seem to realize that the Protestant Reformation didn’t happen because of Christians’ showing tolerance or city deeds. Rather, it happened because of the faithful exposition of the inerrant word of God and the direct evangelization of people, which the Holy Spirit uses to save and transform (sanctify) sinners. That is the good news of the gospel, to which not only Jesus and the apostles held to, but also Augustine, Irenaeus, John Calvin, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, Martin Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary review copy from Booklookbloggers.com. I was not obligated to give a good or bad review, but only my honest evaluation.

 

Book reviewed by Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible: