Books & Culture

Posted by Ken

Gregg Allison is currently teaching theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  I had never heard of him before I signed up to take a theology course that he was teaching.  It was one of the best decisions I made while at seminary.  He is not only a top-notch theologian, he is very pastoral.  He really cared about each student and he cared about the people we would be shepherding in our churches.

He has a new book out.  I am looking forward to reading this great book that has been described as a companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.


Posted by Ken Schmidt

I think this is my last post concerning the Rob Bell controversy.  It has served as a good test case for discernment.  I have posted two videos featuring Rob Bell.  Both have to do with his book Love Wins.  The first is the promotional video sent out byhis publishing company.  The second is an interview on MSNBC.  As you watch both videos, I want you to notice how easy it is to make an argument sound good and reasonable.  In the first video, Bell masterfully controls the conversation with questions that make you come to the conclusion he wants.  The second video demonstrates how silly a position is that is built upon questions (and no answers).

The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.   Proverbs 16:21

Posted by Ken Schmidt

Hell is real.  The reality of hell impacts every single human-being.  Those who neglect or soften the teaching on hell do so to the peril of the people with whom they interact.  At some point, we are going to have to talk about hell to our kids, family members, co-workers and friends. Our understanding of hell and our motivation will set the tone for our conversations.  Anger and harm will be the products of a foolish motivation.  Godly sorrow and life result from a wise and discerning motivation. 

We are to be God-like in our attitude towards people and hell.  We should not wish hell upon anyone!  Note these words from God in Ezekiel 18:21-23,

 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does  what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

A godly person is pro-life.  We take no pleasure in death of any form (expect the death of sin and death).  We do not celebrate the death of Hitler, Hussein or the child molester.  We pray for life from death.  We pray for our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to turn away from their rebellious sin and turn to Jesus Christ and his righteousness that he gives to those who trust in him and his work on the cross.  We weep as passionately at the death of the wicked as we do for our own family members. 

We pray for life!

Posted by Ken Schmidt

Dean and I are obviously troubled by Rob Bell’s new book that muddies the waters on hell.  I recommend checking out the sermon Dean referenced yesterday.  I would also recommend two books that will answer Bell’s questions and bring clarity in this important topic.

These books can be found here and here.

I try and vary my reading.  In the Bible, I try and read from the OT, a Gospel and an epistle.  Theologically, I try and read a book that I generally agree with and one that I will most likely disagree with the author’s point.  I am currently reading Radical by David Platt (with whom I basically agree) and Love Wins by Rob Bell (with whom I am generally troubled). 

The last few posts I have written have dealt with discernment.  I am very troubled with Rob Bell’s writing because I think it shows a lack of pastoral discernment.  He has a large audience that listens to him.  He is artsy, edgy and hip.  He is also intentionally provocative and ambiguous.  He exalts questions, mystery and conversation above answers, clarity and authoritative teaching.

I like the quote below from Keving DeYoung as he blogs about the danger in this pastoral practice:

At some point, people need precision in our thinking.  Provocation has its place.  Ambiguity serves a purpose.  But the work of the preacher is to present the gospel in an open statement of truth (2 Corinthians 4:2).  Sooner or later people in the media, people in the hospital bed, people in the pews want to know what we think.  Conversation works in the foyer, but behind the pulpit, clarity is king.

You can read Kevin’s review of Love Wins here.  I would also recommend Tim Challies, Al Mohler, Christianity Today and Russell Moore’s as well.

Post by Ken Schmidt

Disclaimer:  I am going to brag about my godly and lovely wife.  With joy!

2 Cor 10:5 speaks of taking every thought captive to obey Christ, and Ephesians 5:15-16 challenges us to make the best use of our time.  My wife has an amazing gift of discernment.  So often we think of discernment in terms of making a wise decision or choice.  Kim’s discernment consists of this facet and more.  The discernment that I love in my wife is  the way she is able to examine the details of life and understand and explain the gospel implications.

An example of this discernment applied in everyday life happened last evening.  She attended a coupon seminar.  In the midst of this seminar, the leader told them that it is best to leave your children home when grocery shopping.  Enter Kim’s discernment.  She takes our boys grocery shopping with her.  Because it is easier? NO!  She takes them grocery shopping because it is an opportunity (i.e. a chance to redeem our time with our boys) to teach the boys about self-discipline.  We can’t afford to have every food or treat we want.  We must plan or discipline ourselves (budget, shopping list) to use the resources God has given us. 

It is taking root.  Last week, I asked our 4-year old to make sure that a jar of pickles ended up in the cart.  He said to me in a very serious tone:  “Daddy, pickles are not on mommy’s list.  If it is not on mommy’s list, we don’t get it.”  He is learning self-discipline!  The gospel teaches self-discipline.  The gospel says seek to make every thought captive to obey Christ.  We are seeking to instill in our boys a love for and obedience to the gospel.  Kim’s gift of discernment is helping us as gospeling parents to see and seize every opportunity to gospel our children.

I thank the Lord for giving me a wife who sees and seizes opportunities (and not run from them because it makes it more difficult) to gospel our children.

Post by Ken Schmidt

I hope you are a reader.  Books, magazines, blogs, etc. occupy much of our time.  I have a plea.  Use discernment when reading.  There are many good books out there…and numerous ones that are not so good.  A year ago, I won a free book from a book website I frequent.  When I received the book, I read it and laughed harder than I have ever laughed reading a book.  The problem was that the book was supposed to be a theological memoir of a modern-day prophet.  This is an example of a book that impacted very few people.  It would be a dangerous book if it had wide readership. 

Why bring up this subject?  There are some authors that label themselves Christian who are having a major impact on the church.  They are hip, artsy, anguished.  They are concerned with reaching the lost without offending the lost.  The problem is that they appeal to a broad spectrum of people who are not using discernment.  They are throwing out the offensive or scandalous teachings of the gospel (the exclusivity of Christ is an especially offensive topic).  And they are doing so with deliberate ambiguity.  It is hard to pin them down on any doctrine because they love asking provocative questions (answering them with  more provocative questions) and hate labels. 

This plea comes in light of the newest book by Rob Bell.  In this book, Bell questions the biblical teaching of hell.  He is the most frustrating of all the Emergent authors because he does questions and ambiguity better than any contemporary author.  In this book, he is at his best.  Check out this thoughtful review of his newest book by Tim Challies.  In this review, Challies takes his artistic ambiguity to task.

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